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The White and the Wolf

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I dreamed of a shining golden being and a ragged, starved wolf with blood and silver on his jaw. The two embrace and become one. I dreamed this when I was small. It is a good dream, but I do not think it will come to pass.
Fragment of the Dream Journal of Bee Badgerlock

Kettricken lengthened her stride. I was taller now than I had been when I first came to her, but it was still a struggle to keep up, so disparate were our heights. Still, at least her purple woollen hat was easy to spot through the trees. I had to smile at the oversized pompom atop it. On another it might be seen as evidence of an unskilled craftsman but she wore it proudly. I was as embarrassed as I was pleased- it was the first piece of knitting I had ever finished.

Soon the reason for the old woman’s speed became evident. We were nearing the garden. Sunlight spread dappled shadows across the marshy, verdant grass reminding me of a horse’s backside. That made me think of Per and I almost snorted aloud.

“You’re merry today” Kettricken had looked back to see if I followed and caught my grin. She was older than my father had been and her face was full of wrinkles, but a delighted child peered at me through those crows feet. She had her bow knocked at her side, held with the casual competence born of long experience. I don’t think she feared danger, she was just being practical. If it hurt her hands to hold it so, she did not show it.

I clutched the straps of my pack, suddenly nervous. “Do you think he… they… will be here?”
“Dear one, it would not surprise me if they followed us here.”
I had not thought of that. “But… I thought once the purpose of a stone dragon was fulfilled, they slept?”
Kettricken smiled a smile of unfathomable sadness. “It was so for my king. As the Seven Duchies prosper, he is not needed and so he rests.”
I put my hand on her arm. How odd that what she desired most would mean great disaster befalling everything she had worked so hard to build. The only words of comfort I could call to mind were hers.
“In this, you have been sacrifice.”
Tears pricked her eyes and she laughed brokenly. “Just between you and me little Bee, some days I grow weary of that word.” She wiped her eyes on the cuff of her sleeve and cleared her throat. “I do not know what purpose your father imbued his dragon with, so I cannot say if he fulfilled it. I have my suspicions though.”
She did not voice what those were and I did not ask. She wasn’t the one I wanted to answer me anyway. We carried on walking for a time- I found myself strangely shy after begging to be taken here for so long. Kettricken had promised she would take me on this pilgrimage as often as I wished it. We both disdained using the pillars, even though my sister assured us it was safe. Despite a more complete knowledge of how they worked, I sensed Nettle still feared them. As did I. Wolf father had never liked them anyway. I saw our fear as prudent.

At first the immense creatures seemed a trick of the light. The shine, the colours seemed so real that they couldn’t possibly exist outside the imagination. Kettricken lowered her bow and returned her arrow to its fellows. I saw tension leave her body like the receding tide. Her anxiety to reach this place had been lending her strength but with it gone she seemed very tired. I handed her her walking stick and for once she did not shrug me off.

“I go to my King. You will be alright for a time.” It was not a question. She was both an old woman of dwindling strength and a proud warrior. She barely looked at me and her voice was thick with tears even if her eyes were dry. She strode toward where I knew Verity-as-Dragon must be. It smote my heart that she could still be so moved after all this time. I selfishly wondered if it would be the same for me. I did not know if I hoped it would be or not. Best leave Kettricken to her peace, what little she would find here.

As for myself, I had no idea where they would be. I walked among the dragons for a time, slightly awestruck. My brother had sung the tale of these wild and still creatures rising up to defend the coast from Raiders. Though they were frozen in place, I could believe it. They thrummed with quiet life, in much the same way the trees did.

Nettle had sent some of my father’s writings to me after they had been ferreted out from behind the walls of Buckkeep Castle. Here was the winged boar and the blue stag he wrote of. A bitter smile twisted my mouth as I recalled his description of that bloody game of tag he and Wolf father had played to awaken such creatures.

That had been a shock to me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. That my father’s wit partner and Wolf Father were one and the same. Part of me had thought that Wolf Father was just mine, only existing for me. That he was a ghost of a ghost, darting between my father’s mind and mine… I wasn’t sure the old wolf described in the pages of my father’s journals would have entirely approved. Perhaps I would ask him. If his voice was still within my father at all. I think I hoped it was so. I trusted Wolf Father to look after Da more than I trusted his Fool to do the same.

I suddenly knew that they wouldn’t be resting here. Those two had been solitary, secretive beings when they were alive. I searched for a spot Wolf Father might think was safe. Back to a wall, I thought. Easily defensible. Near water perhaps? I trekked away from the garden, hoping it would not be so far that Kettricken could not find me again. Calling her that had been odd at first- she had been the old Queen, the King’s Mother at court. She was neither my Queen, nor my mother though and so what was I to call her but her name? I think we both would’ve felt strange for it to be any other way. Kettricken cared for me well, though no one could ever replace my mother. Or my father.

I felt a presence then. Difficult to describe as it did not touch on my physical senses, with no smell to speak of. My skill told me it was strange, my heart told me it welcomed me. I saw them sleeping then. The Wolf of the West as Hap sang it… twice the size of a man grown and thrice the height of me. It’s nose was tucked under its paws like a young puppy, tail curled around itself. It’s sheer size gave lie to the innocence of that posture. At once my eye told me it was stone and fur, though the two couldn’t both be possible. As I thought they might, it was nestled with it’s back to an immense cliff face. I thought I could hear the trickle of water... there would be good hunting nearby.

I drew out my mother’s knife from the belt my father had bought me at Oakensby market, oh, centuries ago now. It fit, though it wouldn’t have when he purchased it. He must’ve thought I’d grow into it. Or perhaps he had planned to add another notch to it before he…. My mind shied away from that fateful day. Full of fate indeed. Teacher might’ve enjoyed that foolish word play.

I held the knife poised over my hand. Blood and Wit my father had written. That was how you wake a dragon. Well, I had no Wit that I could be sure of, but I certainly had blood. The knife tip hovered over my old scar, I hesitated for no reason I could name.

The Wolf opened on eye. A voice a smooth and warming as apricot brandy filled my mind, a rumble as loud as the grinding gears of time.

“No need for that cub. I will always awaken to your touch.”

“Da!” I cried and flung myself on his muzzle, flinging my knife to the ground. Heedless of the danger and with only a slight twinge of guilt at what Nettle would say, I poured forth my Skill into him, letting him know how much I missed him, telling him of my new life and adventures. I clung tightly, face buried in warm fur and wept for an age. Gently, incredibly gently for a being so large, he nosed me away. I was exhausted, but I had felt nothing from him in return. I splayed on the grass beside his great paw, suddenly unsure of myself.

“Why do you hold yourself back from me?”

That great head looked down on me with sad eyes. “I hold you in yourself little one. You are as reckless as we were.”

Angry tears tracked my cheeks. “Why awaken at all if you will not share yourself with me!”

My father looked out of those eyes, as broken hearted as he ever was when I had pushed him away. I had pushed him away because he bubbled over with skill. Was that why he held back from me? Or was it just like that night in the quarry, where he chose to be with his Fool over me?

“You know why little cub. We wished you to have a life. With those who could be better parents to you than we could....”

“Da! You were the best father! You and I stood together, back to back, against the world that sought to tear us apart.” Bitterness choked me. “I suppose it did… in the end…”

That voiceless rumble “We…”
“No we!” I stood, enraged. “I only want to talk to Da! Not you too. It’s your fault we’re not together anymore. We could’ve had forever. We could have…” My sobs made it impossible to speak. I was a jealous fool, but I didn’t care. I aimed a kick at the claw in front of me. I’m sure I would’ve injured my foot, had the Wolf not moved their paw to one side. I fell flat on my back.

“I am one. I have always been one.” My eyes were squeezed shut, but the words arrived in my mind anyway. I had my tent, as Thick had taught me, but they were not trying to breach my barriers. Like you can hear noises through the vibration of the earth, their voice was a vibration in my soul. Putting up my Skill walls was about as effective as covering my ears would’ve been.

“You were two… three even. You were three and you were mine and now you’re gone. We never… we never got to be a real family.” I sniffed noisily. Crying while lying down was making it difficult to breathe. I sat up.

“Get on my back.” The Wolf bent down to me so that I might climb up and sit behind his ruff. As I wiped my face on my sleeve, they spoke again. “We have always been a whole being. Divided as we were, we were miserable. We made each other miserable. So often… so angry we were to be apart.” I clutched their fur. At once it was the colours I imagined in Wolf Father’s coat, but it was also black stone, veined with silver. Staring at it reminded me of staring at the night sky. So many stars, whirling in the blackness. I was so small, so insignificant and they were a universe.

“You were never insignificant to us” They said, as if they could hear my thought. They probably could. It was dusk, the biting insects were rising from the grass, but my Wolf paid them no attention. I was filled with a restlessness, a need to move. The Wolf understood and leapt up, gouging the loamy earth beneath us. We bound away into the night.

*

I’m not sure how long I rode with them. They gave me images as we travelled, a waking dream. They showed me Clerres castle crumbling over our heads, Beloved laughing as they insisted I tell them what was wrong with Father’s nose. I remembered that moment. The rightness of us all together, the safety of being in their arms. We had slept, content in each other, in the most dangerous, horrid place I have ever been. The only time I had ever hugged them both at once.

The wolf shared other images- times I had never seen. Two boyhood friends leaning on each other, now old and scarred men, one in a skirt. They were abominably drunk and weeping over a book. My journal.
I shared my father’s wonder at Amber’s painted lips, the womanly grip on his arm. Their peels of laughter telling Per and Lant of Lady Thyme. I knew how they’d held each other, all those nights searching for me and for their vengeance. Neither one had truly given up on me. However they might’ve denied it, both of them had known in their hearts a small flame of hope that I might live.

Their memories stretched back before my lifetime. A cabin, a wolf, my father and his Beloved, drinking Bingtown coffee on the porch. A carver, whittling away on furniture. My father asking them to dance. The carver responded “But we already do”. I saw a pale jester, paler than I was now, singing a cruelly flirtatious song to a blushing young boy. I had not known my father could go so red. I saw that jester, free of their paint, atop a log “He loves me he says! And I love him!” they back flipped gleefully away. Had this once been my teacher? So sprightly and full of life?

I saw an injured man on his stomach. He gazed blearily at the hearth, soothed by the toymakers whittling. I saw their first kiss… before Beloved flew off seated behind a girl on a dragon. I felt my father’s surprise and his pleasure. A musical voice: “I shall call you Beloved and you shall call me Fool”

Two children and a wolf played in the water. The Wolf pushed my father in and tugged at his jerkin as he tried to scramble up the bank. They were so young....

“I have never been wise” My father’s crumbled letters in the fire. The silver fingerprints kissed from his wrist.

I knew darkness and cold. A dead body. My dream was dead in my arms. I saw how my father refused to give up. I saw him build the funeral pyre. I saw him fight inevitable fate and win. I saw them become one for the first time. I witnessed my father holding his Beloved, protecting them from the darkness as they wept. They were right. They had never been two.

“What do I call you?” I asked.

“We have had many names and faces. We have been he and they and she. We have been Keppet, Beloved, Fool, Boy, FitzChivalry, Nighteyes, Tom, Amber, Golden, Chance and Changer. We are your father, your teacher and your wolf. What would you like to call us?”

“It’s just… I’ve been thinking of you as one. When I simply thought of you as my father in my mind you were he. All of you is… they?”

They chuckled. It reminded me of my cradle at Withywoods, my mothers candles scenting the air. “Your father would’ve never considered asking that when he lived.”

“Well. My father could be a little dense sometimes.” I sensed vast amusement and slight affront. “It’s true Da and you know it!”

“He does. Now.”

I knew, through them, how confused my father had been and how merry Beloved had been to tease him. I think, in some ways, I might’ve understood Beloved better than he did. They wore costumes, performing parts of themself to the world and keeping others hidden. Much like my father had hidden himself to keep his loved ones safe, except Beloved was overjoyed to hide in others expectations. There was a freedom in being only that which others thought you should be- they would never find the real you if you showed them only what they wanted to see.

I understood too, how my father never realised that Beloved’s costumes were not lies. He saw only that they hid and assumed the truth of them would hurt. Because all of FitzChivalry’s truths hurt. He didn’t see that Beloved was telling him every part of his soul, one at a time. Beloved only saw my father’s mistrust and his clinging to what he thought a man ought to be. They never understood how every time they used their Catalyst, he went willingly, abandoning almost everything he cared for because it was how he showed his Beloved that he loved them.

I understood too, that all the limits and barriers between them had melted away. The confusion of their flesh, they rules of the world that had held them, the constraints of their destiny was gone now. They finally existed outside of time’s relentless pull, able to dwell in their memories of each other for eternity.

Their ears pricked up, hearing something I could not.
“My Queen… she calls us.” And with a joyous bound, we headed back to the garden.

I didn’t want to leave them just yet. I liked how happy they were, how at peace. They had never been so while they lived. Even Wolf Father, living in his now, had been anxious for me. I had one more question, though I think I knew the answer.

“Father… what purpose did you give your dragon?”

“To care for you my cub. It’s all we ever wanted to do.”

*

Kettricken looked tired but pleased. She had been weeping, I hoped they were good tears. She pressed her forehead to the wolf’s as I slid of their back.

“Well met, my friends.”

I sensed Wolf Father’s puppyish glee at seeing her again and my father’s joy in his friend. Beloved’s contentment that I would be well looked after and raised among simple beauty was evident too.

“Is my king well?” they boomed, knowing where she had been.

“As ever, I think you would know better than I.” I was glad she could hear them too, though I suspected she had less awareness of how they felt than I did. I tried not to be jealous. After all, Verity had not spoken to her. She deserved the comfort of old friends.

“Part of me always wished you could raise my cub you know.”
Wry amusement replaced the grief on her face. “I wonder which part.... Perhaps the Fool and I should’ve been more circumspect in our love.”

I was utterly shocked, but the wolf laughed heartily. They rolled over and scruffled in the dirt. Kettricken rubbed their immense belly. I remembered Wolf Father possessing me to speak with her one last time. He had always loved her, in his wolfish way.

The wolf rolled fluidly back to their feet, suddenly serious. “You who have had the raising of my pup… report!” A fair imitation of a great great uncle I had never met. I knew this because the wolf gave me images of a pock scarred man, with gleeful sparkling green eyes. I wondered if this great wolf could speak to him in the skill river he had drowned in?

Kettricken told them her version of my life so far. Though she knew I listened, she held nothing back, so honest a woman was she. She told of things I had not known she knew, such as how her bodyguard taught me to walk as a man and dress to hide my growing body. I don’t think Spark had shared that with her. She told them of my colourful dreams, my fine penmanship. She spoke proudly of my skill in gardening and how I was becoming a consummate horsewoman under Per’s watchful eye. I was learning the Skill with my sister, my niece grew well. Hope was a vivacious child, forever underfoot. She loved hunting and she admired me. I was the only one she listened to some days. Kettricken spoke of how Integrity and I played the stone game and how Lant tested our memories like my father had. She said I would’ve been far more skilled at quiet work than my father had been, but that I had not the heart for it either. She spoke of how I was a brawler and a performer. How often I had entertained Hope by juggling, or when I played the part of a character in Hap’s songs. She said I was distant with my other brother’s, but that they all thought well of me. She and Swift suspected me Witted as she was, but I wasn’t sure. She told them how she thought I might one day wed Per and I blushed to hear her speak so plainly.

Hearing her speak of me painted a picture of a wonderful, engaging person. I was not so sure I was she, but the Wolf howled their joy in me to the stars. They suffered Kettricken and I to sleep that night, snuggled against their belly. I was as contented as I have ever been.

The dream I had that night was not a Dream, but it was almost as vivid. I sat in a small cottage, opposite a golden whittler, a charging buck was carved into the table. The room shifted and I was in a white chamber filled with quiet elegance and a porcelain babe in the crib beside me. Again, the scene shifted and I was surrounded by brightly painted toys and soft quilts as the winds and snow howled outside. The golden figure spoke to me.

“Little prophet. I wanted to apologise.” They looked up from their carving with amber eyes. The room shifted around us and we were in an elderling city with goldfish darting across the ceiling. No, we were on an old gentlemanly ship’s cabin with blue curtains…

“You don’t have to apologise.” I said, without words. “You did what you could to teach me. You gave my father’s dragon life. You gave him peace.”
“I’m glad of that.” They sighed and stared into the fire in my father’s study. “I am sorry we never got to know each other apart from our misery.”

I was too. Though I think we both knew it could never be so, that I would never exist had it been any other way.

“We have now, teacher.”

“That we do.” They smiled. “What would you like to know?”

I hesitated, but not for long. Who else could I share this with? “...will Da know what I ask you?”

“It would be impossible for him not to, I think…” they chuckled kindly.

We gazed together at the man sleeping at the table surrounded by pestles and poisons in his cozy assassin’s den. An assassin would have to know this anyway, would he not?

“What Spark teaches me…”

“An assassin might practice different roles, but I don’t think he has the joy of it like you and I do.”

A comfortable tent, a small pot of tea brewing. They poured me a small cup while I gazed up at the dragons twining across the canvas ceiling.

“Honey?” they asked, calling me back to myself. I nodded mutely, accepted the proffered cup.
“Where are we?”

“At present? Asvejal. Shortly before I died. The first time.” they laughed ruefully, with the fragile tinkle of broken glass. So. That pain still haunted them.

“Why choose here for our conversation?”

“Ah. I believe this one is of Fitz’ choosing.”

My brow furrowed. “Why would he choose somewhere so desolate?”
Beloved shook their head. “He wouldn’t think it so. He never did believe I would die. We shared this tent the last time we travelled together, both of us whole and well. It was as content a place we could make given the circumstances.”

“You’re a lot more… forthcoming than I believed you would be.”
A small smile twisted their mouth. “I apologise for being so taciturn when I knew you.”
It was my turn to smile “My father being who he is, you know that wouldn’t bother me.” Their eyes widened in surprise. A delighted whoop escaped them and I saw for an instant the jester boy my father had loved.
It was good to hear them laugh, but still I had my questions. I strove for seriousness. “We were both wretched then, with my father gone. Still, you were… verbose. From my father’s writings I believed you would be… vague. Cryptic. But you’re being straightforward with me.”

Mischief lit their eyes and the bounded to their feet. We were suddenly in a red curtained chamber at Buckkeep, though not one I had known. “My dear Bee, there is nothing straight or forward about me” They cavorted gaily about the room, somersaulting and cartwheeling until they won my laughter. Pleased, the settled before me once more, hugging their knees to their chest. I toyed with a rat headed sceptre at my feet.
They gazed at me solemnly; “Nor is there, I think, about you.”

“What do you think about me?” I asked, turning their pretty words into a sensible question.
“I think Lady Bee finds that role confining. Just as the ragamuffin of Withywoods thought herself a Princess, the Farseer Princess finds court oppressive. You father was much the same. A stable boy longing to be a Prince and a Prince who desired freedom. Of course, he could never have both.”
They were right. I did find Lady Bee was a costume that had never fit well. That wasn’t all though.
“I find my life here in Jhampe rewarding. Kettricken is teaching me the ways of a sacrifice. It’s... fulfilling.”
“So you think yourself a fool, that you are not filled” They said it with such conviction that I didn’t bother to deny it. We were in the toymakers cabin again. My father snored fitfully on the pallet, a poultice across his back, I longed to speak with him but I knew that he was resting.

“We take turns. Keeping watch while we sleep.” They answered my unasked question.
“Why am I not satisfied teacher? Why do I chafe? Is it the Dreams?”

That piqued their curiosity. “Of what do you Dream destroyer?”
I shivered that they named me so. “I dream of dragons. I dream of a man on a crow with red and blue feathers soaring with dragons. He is tall. The tallest man I’ve known. And scaled.”

“What do you think it means?” their chin rested on interlaced fingers.

“Kelsingra.”

“But of course!” they spread their arms wide. We were seated by an icy creek, a wolf and boy gamboled beside it. “But that is not what you wished to ask me.”

I took a breath and looked at my father. The wolf had pinned him to the ground by his hair, he struggled to get up, not paying any attention to me.

“No. If I… you adopted many names and guises in your time. But they were not disguises, not really.” They held their tongue, but held my gaze knowingly. “I feel my time as Bee Farseer is almost done. Just as my time as Bee Badgerlock, just as my time as the Destroyer.”
“And what will you be now?”

“Spark has always had Ash. She can become him whenever she feels, no one questions it.”

“And…?”

“And.” Just say it. “If I wanted to become someone else for a time. A boy. Or someone who was neither boy nor girl.”

“You would not be lying. They would be just as much you as Amber was me.”
“But Da hated Amber.” We were in the cabin again. The wolf slept soundly by the hearth. My father emerged from the study and laid a hand on Beloved’s shoulder. They had begun whittling again.

Father spoke. “I disliked Amber, yes. Only because I saw that my friend hid from me.”
“I never hid from you Beloved.” They simpered “You only saw what you wished to see.”
“Ah, Fool…” My father kissed the top of their head. “I know she is a part of you now. I simply resented her secrets.”
“Every part of me kept secrets.” They quipped. “As did every part of you.”

My father turned his eyes to me. I saw only warmth and love there.
“My dearest Bee. I have only ever wanted you to be free to be yourself.”
“So you wouldn’t think it odd…?”

Beloved stood in one fluid gesture, placing their finger tips on my father’s wrist for stability they did not need. “I don’t believe the Unexpected Son would find a son wholly unexpected. He is not as obsessed with plumbing now that he is made of stone.”

My father grinned fatuously and tugged Beloved’s arm so they whirled and met chest to chest. He kissed their nose. “To bed with you Fool. I would have some time with our child.”

Beloved placed something in my father’s hand and wrapped their arms about his neck, kissing his mouth soundly. I looked aside. Was this how they spent all their time together? Eventually, my father detached them fondly but firmly. “Dream of me Beloved...” he whispered in a mawkish imitation of them. He received a mocking smile in return. “I seldom dream of anything else these days. It’s becoming tiresome.” They capered off to bed, leaving my father shaking his head at them.

“So Bee. You’re off to Kelsingra, in the guise of a young mountain lad.” They truly did share everything. Wolf Father shifted closer to me and I leaned on him, burying my face in his fur.

“Per will come with me.”
“I would expect nothing less from your Catalyst.” He smiled, sitting across from me by the hearth, legs crossed. I wasn’t sure Per was my Catalyst, or my future husband as Kettricken thought, but I kept that to myself.
“I am pleased you have a true and loyal a friend as I did when I was a boy.” His eyes drifted toward the bedroom where Beloved lay, curled tightly under the covers.

“They know all we say, don’t they?”
My father looked back at me, surprised. “Of course.”
“Why pretend? I know you are one and the same.”
“We thought you might find it more comforting to dream us this way.” I did, even if the pretence of privacy irked me.
My father shook his head ruefully. “You are so like us at times. Everything secret, held close to your chest.”

“I would have your secrets now.”

“Oh you would, would you?” he quirked an eyebrow at me. “I have told you much, and I don’t doubt you have read even more.” I squirmed uncomfortably, but persisted.
“I know what you told me. But I did not know how you felt. All your feeling was going into the dragon.”
He smiled sadly and moved to sit beside me so I was held close under his arm with Wolf Father to my left.
“What would you wish to know?”
I was silent for a time, absently scratching Wolf Father between his ears. I wondered if he would talk to me as well.
Everything between us is said, cub. Don’t stop scratching.
I smiled and then asked, “Can we remember Withywoods for a time? And Mother? I wish to know every moment you spent together.”
“Even when she was mad at me?”
“Oh, especially those.”
And so I spent the rest of my dream getting to know Molly Redskirts the candlemaker. She was daring and strident and uncompromising. She was steel and smelled of flowers. I can see why my father loved her. I was impressed by her ingenuity, I laughed aloud at my father’s memories of Skill sharing with baby Nettle, and my Mother’s wit bees. I wondered if that was why she had called me so. My father, mother and I played in the fields of Withywoods. I hadn’t been able to talk then, but we didn’t need words- we had each other.

I thought if I could be even half the woman my mother was, perhaps I wouldn’t mind being one so much. I felt how my father was saddened that he’d had to keep her separate from all else in his life. It grieved him that his great loves could not all be with him at once. He always thought Mother would not approve of Nighteyes and Beloved. I wasn’t sure myself. Perhaps she would’ve resented sharing, as he resented sharing her with Burrich, but I think she would’ve liked them. I did. They were a part of my father and so just as lovable. He still wondered at that. That I could love all of him, so completely and miss him so terribly.

I drowsed on my father’s lap in his Withywoods study. I peered between lidded eyes up at the stone carving on the mantle, the three of them, together as they should be. As I drifted off, my father placed something in my curled fist.
*

I awoke to sunlight, leaning against the stone wolf’s hide. Kettricken snored softly beside me. She slept longer and more deeply now that she was old. I knew if we didn’t get back soon, Spark and Lant would come to find us. Although, knowing those two, they did not begrudge the time alone together.

Something small was digging into my palm. Slowly, I uncurled my fingers to reveal a tiny wooden bee.