She Said: A Story!

Tree bejeweled by moon (moon entangled by tree)

The Wu of Xiang Gu

     He insinuated himself into the room, weaving and turning, flowing and slithering. The moon was his friend, neither revealing nor hiding any aspect; it provided the perfect backdrop. She knew he was a Wu. Xiang Gu, named for the fragrant mushrooms that grew beneath the oak tree, had heard and remembered all of her Grandmother’s stories about the Wu, the Shamans who could enter your dreams, influence your life, and change shape at will. She was terrified, or was she thrilled? She wasn’t immediately sure.

     “You are young.” He stated it as if youth were her particular failing.

     “I’m a woman!” she heard herself tell him this sharply, and then felt herself blush, her courses had begun only a month ago and womanhood seemed a particular prize in her short life. She was, none the less, glad that her red face was hidden by the darkened room, as the moon was by a passing cloud.

     He snorted. “How many years? Eleven, twelve?”

     “It’s not your business! Leave my room.” Her voice ordered him like a clear chime, but she held her coverlet bunched at her chin, balled up hard in her fists to hide the trembling.

     He smiled at her and she shivered. “Already feisty, aren’t you? But this is useless, a useless excursion.” He turned his back on her and paced the small room, picking things up at random and setting them down with a clink, like men have always done in frustration, or through a dimly held rage. Then he turned back to her, and held out his hand. She shrank from him and he laughed again, the hand held steady, not touching, as if to cup the air around her. “They will bond you to the unworthy ones. Those will mark you for better things; your wounds will illuminate, you will SHINE!”

     Timidly she lifted her eyes back to his face and saw the light that emanated from his hand, reaching toward her through space. His eyes glinted and his face held something vital, so odd and confusing. Xiang Gu gasped. Not at his demonstration of power, though that was shocking enough, but at the uncanny feeling of knowing him, recognizing him from somewhere she could not place, as clearly as she might have known one of her father’s fellow merchants or a teacher from somewhere nearby in their province. As she drew the next breath, the breath that was filled with ‘who are you?’, he was gone.

     In the next month Xiang Gu’s life changed, again. Her mother had died the year before, shortly after her father brought Second Wife into the home. Her mother had only borne one child and that a girl, which had been bad fortune enough for all of them. Some said she died of that sorrow. Xiang Gu never agreed; her mother’s contorted face was caused by physical pain, the foam on her lips attested to the fact that something bad had entered there. Her Grandmother had agreed, but kept her council, carefully watching the new wife.      

     Things would have been very hard were it not that Xiang Gu’s grandmother loved her so well, and that her father treated her so kindly. She had been her father’s only child, and though a girl child, he delighted in her, he saw she was bright, curious, and laughed with ease, just like her mother. So, he gladly brought her into his life of merchant, letting her play in the boxes and bins of things ready to be transported to some far shore. Seeing her curiosity, he eventually taught her to read and write and add figures, to the outrage of his wife and mother. He shook his head at them, but agreed that it would be their little secret. 

     Her father, however, though still kindly, had grown distant, with her mother gone and the new wife at her own zenith, he stayed longer at his work, alone with his sorrow. Xiang Gu spent most her time now with Grandmother, she always knew she was safe with her. But, sadly, Grandmother died as well one night, the same month that saw her stepmother conceive. Bad luck, but after all, everyone said, she was a very old woman. Before the month was finished Xiang Gu found herself contracted as the third wife to a man whose life was all but spent. His first two wives were long gone and he lived with his eldest son and that son’s two wives and children. When her step-mother told her this, she wore a very happy little smile, as if she knew some small joke. Dancing a gold bracelet between the fingers of one hand, her step-mother displayed this piece of her mother’s jewelry and then hid it away, over and over; a mesmerizing sleight of hand.

     “I know your new husbands’ family very well. I am certain they will enjoy you.” The sound of her voice smooth and sweet; the mice in the walls huddled together and covered their eyes. Second Wife smiled her slim, uncomforting smile, and turned her back with a swirl of silk, to glide away.

     The day that she turned 13, Xiang Gu entered her husbands’ home. The eyes, of her new step-son’s first wife, were narrow and hard as they welcomed her, the second wife was quiet and distant. The step-son, the man whose home this really was, assessed her top to bottom, without any hurry. She drew her wedding robe close about her and stepped back, bumping into the chair where her husband had already fallen asleep. She could hear her step-mother’s tinkling laugh as she left by the door beyond, along with the departure the wedding party. Her father had held her hand and kissed her cheek, but she had not been able to reach him in his eyes.

     At first this new life had seemed easy, if lonely. Xiang Gu spent her days caring for her elderly husband as he told her stories (the same ones over and over) or gently stroked her hair as if she were a cat. She slept alone in the small chamber within his rooms. Her new husband seemed to never wish for more. She sometimes wondered if he knew she was his new wife, or thought she was his first one, long gone. The other wives in the house had chores and children, so they mostly left her alone with a single servant to clean and serve. 

     Xiang Gu was still a child when she arrived, for all her protestations of womanhood. She was small and thin like a child who might run through the house or climb a tree in the garden. However, she grew quickly in height and in curves over that first year, and her step-son began to notice. She would find him waiting for her in the hall or he would visit his father and watch her as he spoke. He would look at her as if she were a thing, not a person. He would run a finger down her neck and smile. It made her sick inside.

     Then change followed her here too. Xiang Gu began to read aloud to her husband. It was a simple thing; he had found her reading one of his scrolls to herself, and since his eyesight prevented him from working out the words himself, he was thrilled.

     “Read to me, Little Cherry (as he chose to call her, she decided he could not remember her given name), this story is old and full of magic. I always loved it!” 

     And so, they would sit for long quiet hours in mutual happiness as Xiang Gu read book after book, quietly finding more to read from the family library, so they were never, yet, forced to read the same story twice. Until something very bad happened. As she read aloud, a sound of something falling to the floor caused them to both look sharply up. Across the room stood the step-son. He had knocked his father’s walking stick from where it rested against the wall, but he did not bend to retrieve it. His eyes and mouth were open wide as if in some sort of horror, as he stood watching them. His father began to giggle.

     “Yes, son, she can read! You have given me a gift indeed in a wife who can match my mind.” For once her husband was not wavering or confused and his son’s face changed from horror to outrage. His father leaned forward as if to make sure of hitting the mark, “She reads far better than you ever did. I imagine she will be able to aid me in checking your book work as well. I know you have troubles with the numbers.”

     The son kicked the stick into the room and turned to depart, pulling a tapestry from the wall as he left. Xiang Gu felt a cold wash of fear as she sat, unmoving by her husband, who continued to chuckle to himself for some time, before falling asleep in his chair as he often did.

     That night was the hardest one of her brief life, not even the deaths of her mother and grandmother could match the pain of what came next. After the servant had helped her put the old man in his bed and cleared away their supper, Xiang Gu prepared herself for bed, alone. He was waiting for her within her alcove; the son and his lifelong hatred of his father, his fear of being unworthy, and a rage he could no longer house within himself, were all waiting to fall upon a girl who could read. 

     She did not call out, at least not that she remembered. A life of having been taught the movements of respect and honor, for family, for men, for elders, did not contain the instructions for fighting back. To cast your eyes down, to obey, to bow, to kneel, to self-efface; those were the actions of a good daughter, a good wife, a good step-mother. In any case, he was too unsure of what he wanted himself, for there to be some sense to his actions, something definitive which she might have acted against, or even objected to. He wanted to beat her, to rip her clothes from her, to own her, to destroy what she was, to bewhat she was. He was confused, and when there is no direct path, it is difficult to find your way to where you are going, or to avoid what is there when you arrive. In the end he raped her and this probably saved her life, since the change in his body chemistry brought him back to himself somewhat, and shocked at his own excesses, he departed, pulling his own torn robe, bloodied with innocence, about him. She lay there, bleeding from her mouth and a long cut by her ear, where she had fallen against something, and from between her legs, where the dull, then sharp, then dull, beat of having had everything intimate and sacred striped from her, refused to be forgotten.

   In the morning, the second wife found her, Xiang Gu chose to call this one ‘Elder Sister’; she was the kinder of the two, and so, out of respect and because the words ‘Second-Wife’ had already left a bad taste in her mouth, she had called her Jeh-je. Xiang Gu might have been surprised on an ordinary day, since Jeh-je had never entered these rooms since her wedding day. As it was, the thing that did surprise her was the gentle concern that creased the young woman’s face, and the sudden softening of her eyes.

    “Come, Little Cherry” (Did no one know her real name here? She thought wearily through the haze of pain.) “Come, I have dreamed of a Wu in the form of a snake. He told me how to save you.” The woman tenderly washed and bandaged her, then left to tell the household that Little Cherry had a fever and must rest. When the son woke at last, from his release of expansive fury followed by deadening alcohol, he did not question when Jeh-je told him Little Cherry was ill, nor when she informed him how much it would cost to obtain the correct medications. He hung his head. She wordlessly laid a cool hand on his neck for a moment, and then swept the coins briskly into her bag.

     It was said that Little Cherry died of her fever. Her husband was briefly, but sincerely stricken. Although she had never borne a child, he insisted that her name be included in the family records, an unheard-of concession. Confucius taught otherwise. His son did not object, which caused his father to draw his lips very thin, and to eye his son with a momentary and calculating contempt, before sliding back into his own distant thoughts. 

     Jeh-je had made many trips out of the home, during the time that Xiang Gu took to heal from her most superficial wounds. The scar by her ear would be spoken of all of her life as an identifying mark and sign of courage, the deeper, unseen, scars began the galvanizing that would make her into something powerful indeed.

     At the start of her 14th year Xiang Gu made a brothel in Canton her home. It was located along the coast and was patronized by a somewhat higher class of clientele than some, occasionally foreign, mostly not, nearly all traveling by sea and busy in the world of trade. Jeh-je paid the Madame well for the privilege of keeping Xiang Gu away from the customers until she was older, or until she, herself, agreed. The Madame was intrigued with Xiang Gu’s story and was happy to use the girls’ scholarly skills to maintain the other quiet business she kept: trade of luxury items, including, but not limited to, the unsanctioned trading of Turkish opium for tea, and providing miscellaneous silk, art, and trinkets of any kind for the foreign traders.

     Before she left, Jeh-je bent and kissed Xiang Gu’s cheek. She whispered, “I will think of you. Your Wu will protect you. Remind him that I did my part.” Xiang Gu nodded and her eyes filled with tears which she angrily wiped away.

     “I, too, will remember.” She told her. Then Jeh-je was gone, and only the story remained.

     It is an uncertain thing to have a Wu care for you; is it a gift or is it a curse? Do the attentions of a Wu lead you into more dangers or protect you from them? Xiang Gu thought about these things, but then she was a bright and resilient girl who thought about a lot of things. She found herself happy to be far from anyone who knew her, and her position of book keeper, gave her a new and pleasing status. She was asked by one of the lady workers to teach her how to add up her earnings, another asked her to write a love letter to a young man. In return they would tell her their own stories, each unique, they would bring her special treats, and include her in the few hours they had of ease. She had entered a world of family and friendship. She tried to forget the Wu.

     But a Wu is like a sliver in your thumb, or a grain in a back tooth that your tongue cannot dislodge. Xiang Gu would have dreams that she could not hold onto, that troubled or frightened her but refused the light of day. Once she saw a snake in her room and smacked it with a broom. This one got away, but at least it never returned in that form. In moments when she did not expect to see a Wu at all, such as in her bath, she would catch his face in a mirror and watched as he blushed and fled, or seeing him departing from one of the girls’ rooms, as he boldly frowned at her and stalked away, she would wonder what he wanted.

    “Who was that, just with you, Mei-mei?” She asked.

    Mei-mei laughed. “Him? Still a boy! But he brought me gold. She flashed the small ear hoops still in her hand. “Maybe he will come back. Why do you ask?” 

     “He looks like someone from home.”

     “Then maybe it is better to not be seen?”

     “Probably.” Xiang Gu nodded thoughtfully. She wondered if he meant to been seen, though, or not. Once again, she reflected, he had seemed flushed, as if caught out.

     Xiang Gu worked hard for the Madame. She not only felt grateful, but she loved the freedom to write and calculate, to use her mind. Eventually she saved enough earnings to purchase the narrow scrolls and ink for herself. There she wrote what few things she knew; the story of her childhood, the story of her brief marriage, the stories of each of the women with whom she now lived. She felt at peace, she was happy for the first time since before her mother died.

     Eventually, yet again, the one certainty of life caught up with Xiang Gu: change. Some men came in a group one night. There were six of them, all sunburned and strong from their shipboard life. They were generous, and the girls liked them. They came back two more times before leaving port. Xiang Gu mostly stayed above in her little work alcove and sleeping room, but on their last visit, on her way to the kitchen, she happened to pass the door of young Mei-mei, as one of them departed. He was beautiful and exotic in his way, wearing silks that clashed, but accentuated his slim form, and he wore gold on his neck and arms, as if it were of no account. Xiang Gu ducked her head and moved swiftly down to the lowest level where she shut and bolted the kitchen door, for this one had looked at her in such a way, and her traitor body had responded. With her back to the door, she placed a hand over a heart that beat too quickly. 

     They came back periodically, but Xiang Gu stayed in her room with great care. One of these nights, Madame came to see her. She stood in the room and asked Xiang Gu to stand, nodding approvingly as she walked around her. Xiang Gu had grown tall and she held herself straight, her neck long and sinuous. She was not haughty, she was certain, and the certainty had grown, bit by bit, story by story, from each girl, from her own story, and showed itself in her posture and her eyes. Xiang Gu knew exactly who she was, and she had, consciously or not, made up her mind who she was going to be. Not. Property. 

     “Will you meet with him?” Madame asked carefully. She remembered this one’s story, and was ready, still, to let her choose. Xiang Gu spoke with much more certainty than Madame had anticipated. It made her smile. 

     “I will take tea downstairs. Will you join us?”

     “It will be my pleasure to watch you take tea, my child.” And she left with the message curling around her mouth as she went to find the man, who thought he owned his world, but was mistaken.

     Her second husband, the one who had captured her heart, once asked her as they rested in his bunk, sated and sweet, if she knew a Wu.

     She raised herself on an elbow and looked at him with a smile. “Why would you ask me such a thing?”

     “Because there was once a Wu who foretold my good fortune. He described you to a T.”

     “What did he look like?” Her husband wrinkled his brow and thought.

     “Strangely familiar.” He said at last.

     As her son bent over her to adjust the covers, Xiang Gu saw her Wu enter the room, weaving and flowing through the shadows, as was his way. She lifted a finger toward him to stop him from moving closer and he stopped short, a look of intense curiosity on his face. 

     “My Son” she said, her voice husky with the pain of cancer. “You have done enough.”

     “No, My Mother, you will be well again, let me care for you.”     

     She only looked at him, waiting, watching. At last, he finished with his pulling and smoothing of her coverlet and looked directly into her eyes. He saw something there so strange, that startled, he went to turn and look behind him. With an effort, she grasped his arm to prevent him, and her old strength rolled through her. He smiled to see it.

     “Ah, Mah-ma, see, you will grow strong again.”

     “No Son, you have been my guide and protector, but you are no necromancer. I will not allow it.” Her eyes were focused beyond him and she would not release his arm. “The time is correct for this. You have loved me well. Now go.” And her son, the Wu, turned and wove his way from the room, leaving himself at her bedside as he did so. She released his arm and her son turned slowly to see the empty air behind him. “Simply an error in timing, my darling child. You always had trouble with that.”

     “But Mah-ma!”

     “No! I have only one more wish.” And here she stopped to pull in enough breath to speak.

     “What is it?” He asked gently.

     She quirked up what she had left of a smile, “Teach your daughters to read!” 

     Some of this is history, a true story, if vague, contradictory, and hard to find (she was called by so many nick-names, you may not find her at first); read it if you like. Some of it is retold with a look to magic in the ordinary, not that Xiang Gu was ever ordinary.

     She negotiated her own marriage with the pirate she chose. She settled for 50% of everything. She spent her own, early life as a pirate, at sea, with hundreds of ships, thousands of employees. She made rules that honored women, as well as the rights of her employees, and she maintained the right to exact death if crossed; a pirate to her core. She ended her life where she began it, in Canton, now owning a brothel and gambling place, having married thrice, borne four children and obtained amnesty from the crown, (The Qing Dynasty who gave up trying to capture them), for herself and her crews. She negotiated to keep her gains and to allow her crews to find employment in the Navy. She flouted tradition and won, but was oddly lost to history.

     Xiang Gu was born in 1775, became a pirate around 1800, retired in 1810 and died at home with family in 1844. She happily raised that family on stories, including her own. She taught that to love life, was to embrace change. She also taught that to survive life was to bend just enough not to break.

Venus Rising

Sacred Journey of the Tree

Sacred Journey of the Tree

“These Things are One. They are Unity. They are Ourselves.”

These are the words of Ramon Medina Silva: The Mara’akame of the Huichol people of Mexico. He describes seeing the world reflected in ourselves. Seeing ourselves in all things; the collective dream.

The landscapes of dream are often where my clearest images erupt; transforming, healing, and integrating what has lain on the surface of my conscious mind, too thinly scraped to call attention. This realm is a place of understanding that is so very difficult to form into words. Sometimes I wonder if the Earth may be dreaming us in her attempt to understand. May she understand.

In Joan Halifax’s book ‘The Fruitful Darkness’, she shares her own understanding of the Huichol people:

“The myth of the journey to Wirikuta is at once a sacred journey and a collective dream. The history recounts how the Ancient Ones, the gods of the Huichols, fell ill through forgetting, yet, returning to the traditional ways, were healed. The myth is also a collective dream reminding the people of the value of the continuity of traditions, particularly as they apply to place, to sacred and real locales.”

So far removed am I from my traditions in the waking world, that when they call my name in the dairy isle of the market, I hear only the blare of music and read those mythic labels with dulled uncomprehending eyes.

The wonder and the mystery are so easily lost.

Carroll Cloar 1913-1993

So for the moment I will try to share that wonder, beneath the tree. I may be stricken, I may be wounded, but I still do dream. Small impoverished dreams perhaps, but even the smallest thing has its place in the grandeur.

Tree-friend

Part Six: What May Enter Here

Culley sat waiting for his grandmother’s attention, cross-legged before the fire in her private rooms. He did not mind. Time between both worlds moved for Culley in a way that neither world seemed to notice. He would have been hard pressed to put it into words, had anyone asked. No one did. 

     He had noticed a shift in his mother after the thing that had happened to her. It was as if she were more still, rather than different. Her tone and her manor had not changed much, but the time between her words seemed to rest within a plane of its own. She now seemed, to Culley, to be nearer kin to the trees than to their surrounding human neighbors. He did not find this to be a bad thing, having been friends with the trees for a very long time, but any change in ones own mother seems to be a cause for deeper attention if only to reassess that all is still well.

     Todd had become, if anything, a more vigilant and now insistent caretaker since that happening. He was soft spoken and humorous as always, but his word brooked no gainsaying when it came to the issues of safety. This had forced Todd to travel more openly in the world of man, since he would not leave Culley’s Mama to travel alone. At first Culley had been stunned to see such an unflinchingly courageous fellow change color and twitch when riding in the auto to the market, but Todd quickly adapted and even attempted to operate the hulking ancient Citroën his mother had kept from her fathers estate, long before Culley was even born. Considering the normal self-adjustment that takes place when a Citroën is ignited: a rising and shifting due to the hydro-pneumatic forces, which gives the impression of sentience, this was an act of true bravery. 

     Todd was only allowed to cruise the small road that bordered the fence of their property in the end. Culley’s Mama had to explain licensing requirements, and identification issues, to Todd in great detail, again and again, and how they prevented him from traveling farther afield. Todd seemed to think that there must be some sort of loophole that would allow an unremarkable fey fellow to trundle down the roads of man-kind. She eventually came close to losing her temper.

     “You are not The Doctor waving psychic paper!”

     “Sorry, what Ella? Not Who?”

     Culley knew exactly what she meant and smiled ear to ear to hear Todd step unerringly into the ‘who’ joke. Season’s 1 and 2 of ‘Doctor Who’ were the only DVD’s that his mother had ever owned. The tiny flat screen TV, and the DVD player, along with the two best seasons, were a gift from a college friend from long ago; before she had met Culley’s father. The entire device lived beneath a colorful Costa Rican tapestry and Todd had thought it was an art installation; so much of the house was scattered with such things. Culley took him by the hand, sat him down, pulled the cover off with a magicians flair, and then pluged the device into an electrical socket. Todd was delighted.

     “You have never seen a movie?”

     “I had heard rumors, but who would believe such a thing existed.” Todd leaned into the picture so as to catch every word, while Culley watched him with a smile. Ella was talking softly to the groceries in the kitchen. Since she always had done this, neither of them paid much attention.

     “Most of the neighbors have something like this. I think it is too noisy though.” Culley informed him.

     Todd cast him a worried glance. “Where does this man live? Is such magic common place, if so many have seen these things?”

     “Only the magic of the machine. This is merely a Bard’s tale, captured by the machine. Such magic is long gone from man’s world, if it ever were here at all.”

     “But the machine itself is magic, so why not the magic it portrays?”

     Culley paused, feeling an unusual sense of frustration. “Todd?” He tried at last. “When you encounter a sense a magic in yourself, can you say where it grew from?”

     “No, not truly. I can remember the things that led to my knowing, but not the true path itself.” Todd was intensely curious about this and had pushed the system’s ‘off’ button on the block that Culley had shown him would control the device. “In other words, it seems unexplainable: true now, but hidden before,” he added.

     Culley nodded, still unsure of what he could explain. “When a human understands something in mans ‘science’ or ‘magic’, and sees how it works, he might feel the same way as you; shifting from not-knowing to knowing. However, he captures each part of the process, so that he can hand it to another human, sharing it with them as a practice of opening. He understands the physical properties of this world so well that he can teach their use, by repeating the process in tiny events, each entirely under his control.

     “So, there is no mystery?”

     “There is always a mystery. In Fey the mystery is held differently. Most men fail to hear it, or smell it, because the other ways they ‘know’ are not only very loud, but considered proper. To use the methods normal to Fey is considered either weak or perhaps mad.”

     Todd seemed to consider this deeply, silence resting with him for some moments, then he slide the remote over to Culley with a sheepish smile. “I believe I will help your mother prepare the dinner.”

      That had been last night. Culley still felt some sense of guilt. He had destroyed Todd’s wonder with simple unadorned facts. Even now he was not completely sure that he understood the whole of it. After all, his own knowledge of science came only from books, not experience. Behind him, he heard his grandmother rustle her papers and cork her inkwell. She now cleared her throat; a long standing sign between them that he would be given attention now. Culley smiled to the fire and stood, turning to face his Queen and kin.

     “Good evening Grandmother, are you well?”

     “Yes, child. As well as might be at my age.” She winked at him and he smiled back, meeting her eyes for a moment. “What is it you wish to speak to me about?”

     “I wonder if I might stay here in your home for some time to come?”

     She crinkled her brow and spread her hands in inquiry, but held her peace.

     “I have work to do of a nature that must be constantly attended to.” Culley looked down to gather his thoughts. “I believe it will benefit from the air of Fey.”

     His grandmother nodded slowly and thoughtfully. “I will inform the household. Will your mother be pleased with your choice?”

     Culley barely moved a shoulder in answer. “I will speak with her soon. She has always been my support.” Then he paused in a way that held his very heart in check for a moment before going on. “May you and I speak with ease in this room?”

     She watched him with the same still care. “Yes.” she answered softly, none the less, and then turned to close the door. She indicated the chairs by the fire and lifted a cordial in its cut crystal decanter from the table set between, filling one glass, then after a pause, filling the other by half as well.

     Culley smiled and tilted his head as he watched her. She returned the gesture as she handed him the full glass and seated herself to listen, taking a small sip. Culley also took a sip and set the glass aside as he curled his legs up onto the chair beneath him.

     “Who are they Grandmother? I need to know.”

She looked seriously at him for a few moments, with a thoughtful frown. “I suppose you are planning to tell the trees?”

Culley lifted a shoulder a fraction, in answer, as his grandfather was wont to do now and then.

Much later, as the queen still sat, eyes resting on the fire, but not seeing its flicker, a rap on the door brought her back into the room.

     “Enter!” she called a bit shortly, feeling startled and not liking it.

     “Only me, my dear.” Her consort stood leaned with one arm against the carved wooden frame, his stick thrust under the other arm, un-needed. He tilted his head and looked so much the rascal, that it forced a laugh from her. “Dinner?” he asked, the epitome of casual disinterest.

     “Have I kept you waiting?” Her eyes twinkled.

     “Only this last hour. Your cook is displeased, I am merely curious.”

     “Come in and shut the door. I have been talking with Culley.”

     “You are concerned?” He asked this with a sudden serious turn of attitude.

     “Not so much concerned as thoughtful, but yes, there may be cause for concern eventually. He is so much like his father.” Dain’s own father walked to the other chair and sat down facing her.

     “What has he discussed with you?” He was brisk and serious.

     “He wants to know who our enemy is and why.”

     “You have told him?”
     “What I have told is true.” She looked down, the glass still in her hand catching firelight. Her face folded in anxiety as she spoke.

     “What you must tell is all. He will suffer if he does not fully understand.”

     “What do any of us understand?”

     “Do not equivocate, my darling. We made a mistake in not fully warning Dain, in waiting. You must be blunt and clear.”

      “You are right,” sorrow and worry flooded her eyes. “I will speak with him when he returns.”

     Her heart’s love stood and bent to kiss her lips tenderly, before guiding her to dinner.