"War does not determine who is right - only who is left."
The light of the Blue Star seemed unusually bright that night.
Sleek, blue-white rays permeated through the small opening at
the front of the tent, dancing on Lycasa's face and keeping
her awake. Strange shadows raced above her, keeping her briefly
entertained as she tried to make pictures out of them. Bored
and tired (but not particularly sleepy) she rolled over and
looked at the empty side of the bedroll where her husband Cigol
should have been, had he not been on watch.
Sighing to herself and wishing she could doze off, she looked
over in the far end of the tent where their children slept.
She smiled fondly at their small forms in the dark; it seemed
just yesterday that they were born. She would occasionally admit
that she missed the days when they were infants, but seeing
how much they had grown-especially how many new things they
had learned and skills they had developed in their short lives-made
her proud. She knew that once they were old enough, they would
both become strong leaders of their tribe.
Perhaps it was her motherly instincts calling her to get up
and look at them closer, or perhaps it was her own restlessness,
but she nearly floated across the earthen floor and kneeled
next to them. Looking down at her son, a small smile of pride
grew on her face. He was their first-born, though only by moments.
She brushed aside a stray lock of his thick red-brown hair.
He kept it in the style of the men in the village-long and adorned
with a ceremonial plait and ribbons. His single braid worn to
the left side of his face let the world know he would some day
be a warrior, and the red and blue ribbons woven into it were
his tribal colors which he wore with pride.
She sat for a moment and thought about just how much he had
grown in all of his ten years. He was an exceptionally bright
child; he had mastered the language of the tribe and the language
of the surrounding villages at an age younger than usual. Lately,
with the guidance of his father, he had become quite proficient
with a bow. It had been his arrow that brought down the springbuck
the day before, and the entire tribe had eaten well that night.
She smiled thinking how his small stature would prevent him
from ever being a great swordsman, but he did not seem to mind
this fact. (She certainly did not-best to fight at a distance
than up close in your enemy's face!) She was impressed at how
he was mature enough to accept his shortcomings and focus on
his talents. And he is Gifted with the powers of the storms;
he will make quite a formidable opponent to his enemies, especially
when he masters controlling it.
With that thought, she turned to look at her daughter, and
sighed. Although twins, they had such different features, it
was hard to even notice the relation. The only common traits
they shared were their small frames and kindly shaped faces.
It's strange they are twins yet she looks like me and he resembles
Cigol so much. Except that hair. I don't know where that girl
got that hair! Lycasa studied the girl's bright red-orange locks
that had earned her the nickname Firetop. Such an odd combination-orange
hair and blue-green eyes. While her son had inherited his father's
charismatic brown eyes, Firetop held her gentle blue-but with
a strange touch of green. And that Gift of hers... how strange
is that one! A Gift or a Curse?
Lycasa rubbed her eyes the way she had many times while considering
her daughter's predicament. The girl's Gift wasn't elemental
like her brother's, but tied to her emotions. A respected mage
from a nearby village had called the girl an Empath. What that
word meant Lycasa didn't really know, but as she understood
it, whatever the girl was feeling (or whomever she was touching
was feeling) was changed in her body into some kind of tangible
force. This force could then be channeled into another person,
but strangely enough the girl could not use it on herself. While
this Gift could have its benefits-such as a tender thought and
pat healing a wound-it was also possible that with a loss of
temper, of control, the child could drop a man twice her size
with a casual touch and an angry feeling. But the price is too
high for using such magic-a temporary drain on her life-force.
At first, Lycasa didn't want to admit there would be a problem
with this Gift, but Cigol had always feared an accident would
result in the worst, and he was lucky to be proven wrong the
one time it did occur. While playing with her brother about
six years before--just about the time their Gifts had begun
to develop--she had gotten mad at him and grabbed his arm. The
force that coursed through the boy knocked him out for a good
hour, and she was ill and exhausted for days. Henceforth, she
was forced to wear soft leather gloves whenever in the company
of others, and she always kept them at no more than a hand span's
distance--even in her sleep.
On top of this challenge of raising the girl known to neighboring
tribes as 'The Death Child,' the poor girl always seemed distracted;
while her brother would concentrate on the chores that were
assigned to him, she would daydream or even sometimes just wander
off. Lycasa and Cigol had spent too many days and nights riding
the surrounding woods worried sick about their daughter. But
some way, some how, even if she stayed out overnight, the girl
survived without even a scratch on her. "Althena is watching
that one," Cigol had told her after it happened the second time,
and he was right. These "walkabouts" still made Lycasa anxious
though; no amount of faith in Althena, or any deity for that
matter, could truly still a mother's fears. However, no amount
of punishment had been able to deter this behavior, and it exasperated
the tribe and the family to no end.
A noise outside dragged her out of her thoughts--the sound
of a whistle. Once. Twice. Three times. Intruders! Instinctively,
she grabbed her bow from near her bed and started to head out
of the tent. A moment of intuition stopped her as she looked
back at her son, who was now awake as well. As her placid blue
eyes locked with his deep brown ones, a wave of unpleasantness
swept through her mind. She put her bow down and knelt next
to him, speaking softly, "Stay here. Wrap yourself in blankets,
and hide your sister and yourself. Do not come out until morning.
Your father and I love you. Do not forget that!"
The child looked at his mother strangely. Intruders were a
common occurrence on the Prairie, but never before had she made
such a request of him; never before had he seen that look of
pleading in her eyes. He nodded, something telling him not to
ask any questions. She forced a smile at him, trying to offer
some comfort, and then she pulled a piece of paper out of her
tunic and put it in his palm. "Take this. It will guide you."
Brushing some of his long auburn hair out of his face, she kissed
him on the forehead and said a silent prayer to Althena. With
a glance over at the sleeping form of her copper-haired daughter
As she was turning to leave, he thought he saw her wipe her
Wasting no time, the child gathered all the blankets from
the bedrolls and walked over to the corner in which he and his
sister had been sleeping. He started to nudge her, but her eyes
were already open; frightened and wide. She opened her mouth
to ask a question, but he held a finger to his lips. "Shh...
we can't talk. We need to hide."
"Like a game of hide?" asked the fire-haired child, pulling
on the gloves she had accepted as almost a second skin.
He thought for a moment. "Yes, like a hiding game. We have
to be very quiet and stay under these blankets. We can't go
out until the morning."
"But who will find us? You can't play a hiding game if someone
isn't looking for you."
He studied her face for a moment, thinking of an answer that
would satisfy her. Finally, he managed, rather lamely, "Althena
will look for us."
The girl glared at her brother. How dare he suggest something
so ridiculous? "Ashu! No really, silly! Who will look for us?"
He grimaced as she called him Ashu. He really did not like
that nickname, but then again, who gets to pick what their families
call them? Just like many others, his was an accident--when
they were babies, she could not pronounce his real name, but
only manage to run the middle of it together. Unfortunately
it had stuck, but at least no one called him that but her.
Losing his patience, he threw the blankets over her and then
wiggled down into them; trying to hide his form in the tangle
of wool. The girl started to count playfully, and he lifted
his hand to her face, covering her mouth. "Shh!"
The seriousness of his features, or perhaps just the fact
that he was touching her stopped her counting. She looked at
him with the same eyes he had just seen in his mother and said,
"I'm scared, Ashu."
He winced, pulling his hand off her mouth-it felt like a hive
of bees had just attacked his palm. Shaking it off, and trying
to ignore the sound of shrieks of steel on steel outside, all
he could think to reply was, "Me too."
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