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Whatever It Takes

Chapter Text

Like most Gelfling, Megna’s earliest memories were of her mother. Of her kind, open face, and pastel-pink braids intertwined with her long, russet hair. She remembered running her hands through that hair and tracing tiny fingers down those braids.

Her father was a warrior, the Captain of the Guard in the Skeksis’ castle. A busy man – an important man – concerned with the training and running of his men. Busy with the many tasks bestowed upon him by the Lords of the Crystal, with no time for his own childlings. Megna briefly saw him in the mornings and nights, and sometimes not even then.

Her mother, Candela of the Spriton Clan, sister of the Maudra Mera, was Megna’s whole world. And when Rian was born, three trine after her, he became Megna’s world, too.

Her last memory of her mother was one of blood and pain. Megna lost Candela only two trine after Rian was born, to an Arathim attack. They’d been visiting Stone-In-The-Wood when it happened. Ordon had been briefing the new Maudra, Fara, on news in the Castle while Candela took the children to play in a meadow nearby.

An Arathim attacked. Candela shielded her children. Her father and the Maudra had gotten there in time for Megna and Rian, but not for Candela.

No, she’d died with her arms around her children, bodily shielding them from the attack. Megna had felt her mother’s lifeblood bleed from her. She had held her brother while he squalled, her eyes closed tight at her mother’s frantic screams of “close your eyes, close your eyes!” for Candela hadn’t wanted her daughter to watch her die.

Megna hadn’t, but she remembered most intimately how it felt. Her mother’s blood spilling over her, the sounds she’d made as she died.

Then her father’s shouts as he ran to them, his noises of grief after he’d slayed the beast. By then, Maudra Fara had lifted Megna and her brother free of their mother’s body, pulled them away from the danger.

Megna would never forget it. Even twenty trine later, she could still feel her mother’s blood drying on her skin like it was yesterday.

Rian was lucky. He was too small to remember. He grew up carefree in a way Megna couldn’t. Even with their father determined to make a soldier out of him.

After Candela’s death, the next seven years were spent in the care of their grandmother, Sora, in Stone-In-The-Wood. Their father visited infrequently, until Megna was twelve and Rian nine. Ordon had decided they were old enough to return to the castle, without their mother, for the first time.

Megna remembered the harsh whispered fight her father and grandmother had had that day. Rian had played happily enough, ignorant of what was going on in the other room, but Megna had listened.

Their grandmother had thought them too young to go back. Ordon informed her Megna was old enough to care for herself and Rian in his absences. Sora had told him it wasn’t fair of him to ask.

Looking back, Megna knew that it hadn’t been fair. But she didn’t blame her father for wanting his children with him. He was a different man to them once they’d returned to the Castle of the Crystal. He made time for them where he hadn’t before. With Candela gone, Ordon knew they needed him.

Megna had only been five when her mother died, but it had been like her world was ending. She hadn’t understood how her father could return to the Castle of the Crystal only a few days later, leaving his children behind.

She remembered how Rian had been frantic when Ordon had tried to leave that day, and how she’d turned away when he’d tried to embrace her.

Her father had taken her into his arms anyway, pressing a kiss to her dark hair. “I’ll be back soon, my Megna,” he’d told her.

“I’m not your Megna!” she’d told him in return, with all the wrath of a grieving five-year-old.

Ordon had just smiled at her sadly. Then he’d left.

Megna had spent the next seven years hating him.

Chapter Text

Megna could not truly say she knew her father until she was twelve trine old. That was when Ordon had finally taken the time to sit down and get to know her. He’d been a father for twelve trine – and it’d been seven trine since his wife had died – but he was finally trying, at least.

Megna hadn’t made it easy for him. She was at a moody age, and she’d resented him for so many things. She’d rebuffed him at every turn for so long, but her father never stopped trying. Never seemed daunted.

And then, finally, things seemed to just fall into place after only a few months back at the Castle of the Crystal.

Without her mother.

The realization broke Megna’s heart all over again. She mourned her mother anew, and cursed the thought that anything could ever be alright without Candela there.

But Rian was there. Her father was there. And things were good. It hadn’t been easy, but Megna put aside her grief.

She’d wanted to be happy. And her father and brother wanted to make her so.

Megna decided to let them.


Megna visited Stone-In-The-Wood more often without her father and brother in the following years. Her father was busy with his work, and Rian was busy training to be a guard. She’d forged a close relationship with her grandmother Sora, and the Maudra Fara had taken an interest in her.

Fara said it was because her mother’s sister Mera had asked her to watch over Megna and her brother – but Megna knew it was really because Fara liked her.

She visited at least once a month, often spending a week or more in her father’s boyhood home. Her grandmother was getting older and needed the help Megna gladly gave. She loved Stone-In-The-Wood – the trees, the meadows, the babbling brooks.

The world outside the Castle of the Crystal.

Megna hated the cold, dark and dank place she’d been born. It had never felt like home. She much preferred the fresh air and the wooden homes where the Gelfling of the Stonewood clan dwelt. She preferred the sunshine and the flora and fauna that held a life that the Castle couldn’t possibly compare to.

If her father and brother hadn’t dwelt there, Megna would never return to the Castle of the Crystal.

But this outside world wasn’t perfect.

It wasn’t until she was older that Megna began to notice how the other Gelfling looked at her. At the sight of her, they’d stop and whisper. No one wanted to stop and chat, no one wanted to be her friend.

It hadn’t been until she’d confided in her grandmother that she’d learned why.

Megna had been the first childling born of two clans in over a hundred trine. Such a thing was looked down upon, apparently.

It hadn’t mattered that Megna had never met any of her mother’s relatives or even stepped foot into Sami Thicket.

It just mattered that Megna was different. Even if she’d been raised the same way they were, in the customs of the Stonewood clan. All they would ever see that her mother was not one of them.

That meant that Megna wasn’t one of them. She was an outsider, but not.

And it was even worse that Candela had been of the Spriton Clan, since every Gelfling knew the two clans were rivals.

Megna was of two clans, but belonged to none. 

Chapter Text

It was around the time that Megna turned eighteen that she decided to be proud of her mixed heritage. Her mother had been an amazing woman. Her father a good, strong man.

She loved them both and was proud to be their child. That had never changed. But Megna had decided that she didn’t care what anyone else thought of her, especially for who her parents were.

So why in all of Thra had she ever let some petty Gelfling change how she saw herself?

It was around that time that Megna decided to make a statement without saying a word. One night, on a whim, she’d put a pastel-pink braid into her hair, the exact same shade as her mother’s.

The other Gelfling had gawked at her and whispered the next day as she made her way through the village, but Megna had kept her head raised high. Her grandmother and Maudra Fara had both whole-heartedly approved, each in her own way.

When she’d returned home after that visit, her father had only smiled warmly, drawing her into his arms. “My beautiful Megna,” Ordon had said, a hand tracing the single pink braid in her dark hair, the tribute to her mother.

Rian hadn’t recognized the braid for what it was – not a simple aesthetic change – but he’d complimented her none the less. Megna hadn’t had the heart to remind him what their mother looked like if he couldn’t remember.


It’d been Megna’s task to prepare dinner for her father and brother ever since they’d returned to the Castle of the Crystal when she’d been twelve. She’d never mined much. Dinner was her favorite time. She didn’t often get Ordon and Rian to sit down together with her except to eat.

“Father, I need to ask you something,” Megna said suddenly, out of the blue.

Her father looked up in surprise. He set down the cutlery on the table to give her his complete attention. “Yes, daughter?” Ordon inquired.

“Grandmother told me that Maudra Fara doesn’t spend time with other Gelfling like she does with me. That our relationship isn’t typical,” Megna remarked. Rian, with a mouthful of roasted vegetables, looked between the two of them in curiosity. “I still don’t understand why,” she admitted quietly.

Ordon gazed at his daughter with that quiet, strong intensity that Megna had inherited. “First of all, my Megna, it is because you are an extraordinary gelfling and Fara has always seen that,” her father told her.

“Father’s right, of course,” Rian piped up between them, flashing his sister a charming grin.

Megna smiled at Rian, reaching over and squeezing her brother’s hand. “But that still doesn’t answer my question,” she said, looking back to her father.

“I suppose it doesn’t,” Ordon acknowledged. “It is my understanding that Fara has begun to think about a successor,” he told her.

Rian’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped while Megna’s brows merely furrowed. “I don’t understand – ”

“For Thra’s sake, Megna! For someone so brilliant, you can be daft sometimes!” Rian exclaimed.

“Rian,” their father said quietly, silencing him at once. “I believe Fara means to make you her successor, Megna,” Ordon said.

Megna sputtered in disbelief. “That’s impossible – it’s passed down from mother to daughter – ”

“And our Maudra has no interest in marrying or having children. She instead considers who would be the best candidate to lead our clan,” Ordon explained.

“Did she tell you so?” Megna questioned. Her father gave her another of those steady, searching looks. “She told me almost a trine ago that she was considering it,”

At that, Megna’s jaw dropped open. As the young gelfling stared off into space, her father and brother picked up their forks and began to eat again.


 

Later, once dinner had been cleared from the table and Rian had gone to bed, Megna slipped into the seat beside her father.

Ordon slid his arm around her, pulling his daughter close. “Will you go, be our Maudra?” he asked.

“This is all purely hypothetical – ” Megna began, only for her father to cut her off.

“I know you’re not happy here, daughter.” Ordon told her, his gaze turning stern. “I know you’re happier in Stone-In-The-Wood, Megna,”

Megna sighed. “I’m sorry, father,” she murmured, leaning her head against his shoulder.

“For what, my Megna? I did not expect you to stay here forever,” Ordon said.

“But I don’t want you to think I’m unhappy here, either,” she insisted.

Her father sighed. “You are, my dear,” he pointed out. “And it is nothing to be ashamed of,” Ordon continued before Megna could protest. “I know your brother and I make you happy, and that is what matters. But I also see that you want to make your home somewhere else. This is what all fathers hope for – when their childling realizes what they want and they can actually have it,”

“Perhaps,” Megna murmured more to herself than anyone, fingers combing through her dark hair.

Father and daughter sat in silence for several more minutes. “If Fara offers you her mentorship, will you accept?” Ordon asked finally, almost as if he’d been dying to ask.

Megna took a moment to consider, before slowly nodding. “I suppose I would,” she said.

Ordon nodded firmly, as if in agreement. “I cannot think of a better gelfling,” he said lowly, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

“Has it ever occurred to you that have too much faith in me?” Megna wondered quietly.

Ordon shook his head. “No. It hasn’t.”

Chapter Text

It was the next time Megna visited Stone-In-The-Wood that the Maudra Fara officially asked and she officially accepted.

“As honored as I am, Fara, won’t this be a scandal? The title is passed down from mother to daughter, and then there’s to consider that I’m of two clans as well – “

Fara cut off Megna’s babbling with a warm chuckle, reaching out to cover her hand. “Megna, my dear, by doing this I have taken you as my daughter, in a way. I take responsibility for you and for your education from now on. And as for your heritage, I thought you’d come to that enlightened decision that you didn’t care what people thought?”

“I don’t care what they think of me,” Megna clarified. “But what of your reputation, Fara? Won’t they think less of you for it?”

“Oh, my dear,” Fara said, smile only widening on her features. She reached over to the young gelfling, taking Megna’s face in her hands. “I have never cared what others have thought of me, and I do not intend to start now,” the older gelfling insisted.

“Now,” Fara went on. “Do not ruin this momentous occasion for us both with your silly doubts. I chose you for a reason, Megna, my dear,”


Becoming Fara’s successor meant Megna moved to Stone-In-The-Wood full time. Leaving her father’s quarters for the last time in the Castle for the Crystal, knowing she would never live there again had been bittersweet. She’d visit as she had Stone-In-The-Wood, but she’d never live there again.

Megna had been more than happy to leave the dank, dark castle behind, but her family? Not so much.

Fara had invited Megna to move into her household, but it had only seemed right for Megna to stay at her grandmother’s. Sora had cared for her for most of her life, and it was Megna’s turn to care for her.

Her grandmother could get around alright physically, but she was getting more and more forgetful. Some of the things that had made Sora uniquely Sora had begun to fade away.

Megna could tell she would be returned to Thra soon.

While the thought filled her with an immense sadness, her grandmother had lived a long, full life. Dying of old age was not the worst way for a gelfling to die – Megna had seen that firsthand.

It was why Megna resolved to go back to the Castle of the Crystal, to bid her father and brother come back to Stone-In-The-Wood and say goodbye to Sora.

It was her first trip back to the place of her birth in nearly four months. She’d missed her family immeasurably and had wanted to return for a visit sooner, but her father had made her promise to wait a little longer and give herself a chance to settle into her new home.

They’d settled on three months, with Ordon and Rian promising to visit her at the halfway mark. The visit had fallen through for one reason or another, and they hadn’t been able to make arrangements for another time.

At the three month mark, it’d been harvest time at Stone-In-The-Wood, and Megna hadn’t been able to get away. She and Fara had both worked the fields, helping their people bring in their crops.

So now Megna visited a month later than she’d meant to, with a grimmer purpose than she’d hoped for.

A landstrider had carried her to the Castle of the Crystal, where she’d sent word only a few days before departing. Her father or brother were not waiting to greet her. Megna didn’t mind that – they might not have even heard she was coming yet, and she knew they were busy.

Tolyn was stationed there at the entrance hall when she arrived, along with a Drenchen gelfling she didn’t recognize. “Megna!” the older gelfling greeted her warmly, reaching out to assist her down from the landstrider.

“Tolyn! It’s good to see you!” Megna called, taking his hands as she slid down from the tall animal and then tugged the stern gelfling into an embrace.

“How’s our Maudra-to-be?” Tolyn asked, once Megna had been settled on the ground.

Tolyn was a Stonewood gelfling of a stiff but honorable nature. He couldn’t have been more than ten trine older than her, but she couldn’t remember a time when Tolyn hadn’t been a guard at the castle alongside her father.

“I’m well,” she told him. “And you? And the guard?”

“We’re well, busy, but well,”

“And my father and brother?” Megna inquired.

“The Captain is in a meeting, and Rian is supposed to be down in the training hall,” Tolyn told her.

Supposed to be?” she asked, picking up on the tension in his voice.

Tolyn turned a disproving look towards the Drenchen gelfling who watched them with unbridled curiosity. “Ever since the Drenchen arrived, they’ve been nothing but trouble together,”

Megna turned to look at the Drenchen, her eyebrows lifting. “You’ve befriended my brother?” she questioned. Rian had always had a hard time making friends in the castle – they either didn’t have his same carefree nature, or they were much older. She and her brother had been so very close growing up.

The Drenchen looked surprised. “You’re Rian’s sister? The Captain’s daughter?” he said incredulously.

Megna sent a look of amusement in Tolyn’s direction, but the older gelfling merely looked annoyed. “Well, yes, I am… do we not look alike?” she suggested.

“No – well, you’re pretty!” he blurted out, cheeks coloring once he’d realized what he’d said.

Megna just chuckled, raising a hand to cover her mouth. “Megna, let me escort you to your father’s chambers so you can rest,” Tolyn cut in, eyes rolling at the exchange.

“Thank you, Tolyn, but I hardly think I need an escort to find my way,” she said with good humor, glancing back to the other gelfling. “What is your name?” Megna inquired curiously.

“Gurjin,” the Drenchen gelfling said, still looking almost stupefied from what he’d just blurted out.

“Well, I’m glad to meet you, Gurjin. I’m Megna. Any friend of my brother’s is a friend of mine,” she told him.

“Glad to meet you as well, Megna,” Gurjin said with a grin. “I can escort you to the training hall to meet Rian,” he offered.

Tolyn snorted. Gurjin flashed him a glare. “No thank you, Gurjin. I think I’ll head to my father’s chambers to rest, like Tolyn said. But if you see Rian before I do, tell him I’ve arrived!” Megna called as she headed for the corridor, leaving the quarrelling gelflings behind her.

 

Chapter Text

It was hours later when Ordon finally swept into his chambers, looking tired. Megna had been poking around as she waited, noticing that the room she had shared with Rian most of her life was empty of all but a few trinkets.

“Your brother has moved into the barracks, daughter,” her father’s deep voice echoed behind her.

Megna gasped, whirling to face him. “Father!” she cried, throwing herself into his open arms.

“My beautiful Megna,” Ordon murmured, holding her close. “I’ve missed you so,”

“I’ve missed you too, father, and Rian,” Megna told him.

“Your brother will be along shortly. His shift will end soon,” Ordon told her. “I’m sorry I was not there to greet you when you arrived. I received your message only an hour ago, and Tolyn passed on word of your arrival not long after,”

“Don’t worry about it, father. You look like you’ve had a long day,” Megna said, leaning back to regard Ordon’s tired features.

“I suppose it has been,” her father admitted.

“Then come and sit down. I’ve made roasted nebrie and tubers, just how you like it,” she directed, guiding him over to the table in the common area.

Ordon sat down as his daughter bade him, smiling as he watched her flit around the kitchen. “You should not have gone to such trouble, Megna,” he began. “Though I’m glad you did,” Ordon admitted as she set a heaping plate down before him.

“What? Was I just to loaf around while I waited? You know that’s not me,” Megna said, pouring a cup of ale and setting it before him.

“I know,” Ordon said warmly.

It was only once her father began to eat that the door to his chambers opened and Rian finally appeared. With the Drenchen gelfling behind him.

“Sister!” Rian cried jubilantly, lunging towards her with open arms. Megna let out a cry of her own, an empty plate clattering to the floor as her brother swung her into his arms.

“Rian!” she yelped as her feet left the ground.

“Put your sister down, Rian,” their father ordered. “You’ve made your point, we’re all glad Megna’s home,”

With a pout, Rian lowered her back to the floor. As soon as she caught her breath, Megna laid her hands on her younger brother’s shoulders. For the first time, her arms were extended in a distinctly upward direction. “Have I been gone so long that I missed you growing taller than me, brother?” she said in wonderment.

“I’ve been taller than you for a while now, you just hadn’t noticed yet!” Rian told her, his own arms circling her waist. “I’m so glad you’re home, Meg,” he said, quieter.

Looking up into Rian’s pale blue eyes – a reflection of her own – Megna saw just how much he’d missed her. She pulled him closer for a quick squeeze before stepping back. “As am I, brother. I’ve missed you,” she echoed, holding his gaze long enough to see his expression soften and understanding dawn.

Megna looked past her brother to the Drenchen gelfling in the doorway. “And you’ve brought your friend. Hello again, Gurjin,” she greeted kindly, hands still held in her brother’s grip.

“Evening, Megna – Captain,” Gurjin replied, shooting a saluting gesture towards their father.

“Gurjin,” Ordon greeted solemnly as he ate his supper.

“Oh, Megna, Gurjin told me you two met earlier. I thought you might not mind if he joined us for dinner?” Rian inquired hopefully.

“Of course not,” Megna said quickly. “It’s only right that your friend bears witness to the rare family dinner before we all get busy again. Gurjin, sit,” she invited, gesturing to an open chair.

“Thank you,” Gurjin said, settling in the seat besides Ordon. The two traded an uncomfortable look as Rian sat next to his friend. Megna bustled about, preparing plates for the two. “Rian told me you’re a great cook. Everything looks great,” he said politely.

Rian shot his friend a strange look at Gurjin’s overly formal manner. The Drenchen merely shrugged. Ordon ignored them, focused on his meal.

“Thank you,” Megna said in reply, turning to place plates in front of both Rian and his friend before beginning to make up her own.

“Looks like father’s favorite meal,” Rian said, casting a discerning eye over the spread. “Suppose that means it’ll be peachberry pie for me tomorrow then, right?” he suggested impishly.

“Perhaps so,” Megna said nonchalantly, lips twitching with amusement as she sat down at the table with a plate of her own.

The table soon filled with happy chatter, Gurjin leading the conversation with anecdotes of his home in the Swamps of Sog and of Rian and their escapades. Ordon was quick to leave the table once the laughter grew boisterous, moving to recline on one of the lounges and picking up a scroll to read over.

When dinner came to a natural end, Megna rose from the table, heading over to the counter. Gurjin and Rian watched curiously as she lifted a white cloth off the counter, revealing a golden-baked pie beneath. Rian grinned.

Megna returned to the table carrying the peachberry pie, flashing her younger brother a knowing look. “I knew you loved me, sister,” Rian said gleefully.

“Of course, Rian,” she told him, rolling her eyes. Megna cut four generous slices, setting each on a plate.

“I don’t know how you expect me to go back to the mess hall after this, Megna. I’ve been spoiled now,” Gurjin joked.

Megna smiled, pushing a plate towards him. “Then I hope you won’t be offended that I ask you to take your slice to go, Gurjin,” she said apologetically. All three male gelfling in the room flashed her looks of confusion. “There’s something important I need to discuss with my father and brother tonight,” Megna gave as explanation.

The brief look of disappointment that flickered across Gurjin’s features quickly lit with understanding. “Of course. Thank you for having me, Megna,” the Drenchen agreed, getting to his feet and leaving with his slice of pie.

Ordon rose from the lounge and returned to the table, brows furrowed with concern. Rian watched her with an identical look as she pushed slices of the peachberry pie towards them. Then, finally, she sat with her own slice and looked to them.

“Megna?” Rian questioned, not daring to lift a fork to his favorite dish.

“What is it, daughter?” their father questioned, reaching out to lay a steadying hand on her shoulder.

“I came so quickly, so unexpectedly, for a reason, father, Rian,” Megna began, a knot heavy in her stomach. “You must come home to Stone-In-The-Wood,”

“Why? What’s happened?” Ordon asked.

“It’s Grandmother,” Megna sighed. Ordon and Rian traded a look of dread. “She’s not doing well… I think it won’t be long now. Grandmother will be returned to Thra soon – you have to come home and say goodbye,” she explained, feeling tears burn in the back of her eyes.

Her father’s hand on her shoulder grew heavier. Megna chanced a glance at him, seeing his features heavy with emotion. “Yes, of course,” Ordon echoed hollowly. “I’ll make arrangements in the morning,” he promised.

In utter silence and with a heavy sadness hanging over them, the three gelfling raised their forks and dug into the peachberry pie.

Chapter Text

Her grandmother held on just long enough for Ordon and Rian to arrive to say goodbye. The three of them had crowded around Sora’s bed, Ordon holding his mother’s hand as Megna held Rian’s.

She’d been so happy to have her whole family returned to her, if only for a short time. Sora had recognized them all – sparing Ordon and Rian a pain Megna hadn’t been. Living with her grandmother all this time during her decline, there had been times Sora hadn’t recognized the granddaughter she’d all but raised.

She was glad her father and brother didn’t need to know about that.

Megna had seen her grandmother’s death coming in her eyes.

She didn’t understand how she’d known, but she just had. Megna was quick to send Rian from the room on a needless errand for a cup of water.

In those next few moments, Sora was gone. Megna had stepped up beside her father, took his hand and then her grandmother’s – and that had been it.

Sora’s eyes closed. They didn’t open again.

A week later, once her grandmother had been returned to Thra, Ordon and Rian were preparing to leave Stone-In-The-Wood when Megna pulled her father aside.

She’d spent the week with tears misting her eyes, ready to break into full on hysterics at the drop of a hat. Her father and brother were treating her gently, looking haunted each time she began to cry.

She was crying now, quietly, tears tracing down her cheeks. Ordon looked frantic to make it stop. “Father, please,” Megna began. He leaned closer, putting his arms around her in a placating gesture.

“Anything, my Megna, anything,” Ordon promised.

“Don’t make Rian grow up too fast, please, father,” she pleaded quietly, eyes finding her younger brother a short distance away. Rian’s eyes were fastened on the ground, kicking at a rock idly.

Their father had lectured him the night before for an hour on how a proper gelfling should act and how Rian wasn’t one. It’d made Megna’s heart hurt to listen to them arguing. It made her hurt even worse to know she wouldn’t be around as a buffer between the two.

“He’s eighteen trine, Megna – and a guard –”

Megna shook her head, dark hair whipping back and forth. “There’s a difference between helping Rian become his best self and telling him to be someone else, father,” she told him boldly. Her father’s mouth opened to protest, but Megna hurried to cut him off. “Don’t make him grow up too fast like I had to, father, please,” she begged.

The mere mention of the event sixteen trine earlier – her mother’s death – had Ordon’s features faltering.

“He’s your son first,” Megna reminded him. “Not your soldier,”


 

It’d been three months since her father and brother had left Stone-In-The-Wood for the Castle of the Crystal. Her father’s letters had been few and far between since the harsh words she’d had for him the last time they’d spoken. Rian’s letters had been of the usual variety – brief and full of his stories and escapades.

Megna’s work with Fara was the only bright thing in her life right now, and even that was starting to become a strain.

Gurjin couldn’t have come at a better time.

His arrival had come as a complete and utter surprise.

Megna had arrived home late that night, only to find the Drenchen gelfling fast asleep against her door. “Gurjin!?” she said in surprise.

Huh? What?” Gurjin had shot up so fast his forehead knocked against Megna’s, sending her stumbling back a few steps. “Oh – Megna! I’m sorry!” he cried, reaching out and steadying her by putting his hands on her shoulders.

“Oh – it’s alright, no harm done…” she said, taking a moment to collect her thoughts. “Gurjin, what are you doing here? Is everything alright? My father and brother –” Megna went on, starting to spiral with unsubstantiated worry.

“Everything’s fine! Everyone’s fine!” Gurjin was quick to interrupt. Megna sagged with relief. “I was on my way home to visit my family, and I thought I’d come and see you on my way,” he said vaguely.

Megna’s brows furrowed. “Stone-In-The-Wood is hardly on the way to the Swamps of Sog,” she remarked. Gurjin rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, his cheeks glowing from the heat in the sparse light of the torch above her door. “Oh, oh,” Megna murmured in realization.

Her own pale cheeks burned with latent embarrassment. “I see. Erm, would you like to come inside? I’m sure you’re tired from your traveling,” Megna offered shyly.

Gurjin nodded vigorously. “Only if it’s no trouble,”

Megna sidled past him so she could open the door to her home, beckoning him inside. “Oh, no trouble at all. You’ll sleep on the lounge,” she decided, gesturing to the old, overstuffed piece of furniture before the hearth.

“Looks heavenly,” Gurjin said with a grin, setting down his bags and closing the door behind them.

“Well, have a seat then. It’s too late for a meal, but I can scrounge up a snack before bed,” Megna told him.

“Thanks again,” Gurjin said in all sincerity.

The dark-haired gelfling merely waved him off, disappearing into another room. Gurjin crossed the room and flopped down on the lounge, only to spring back up when sharp teeth embedded in his backside.

“Ow!” he cried, swinging around to find a growling fizzgig had emerged from the cushions where he’d tried to sit. “Megna, I didn’t know you had a pet!” Gurjin called as she came back into the room, a plate of bread and cheese in one hand, a pitcher on the other.

Even with his backside still smarting, Gurjin was quick to take Megna’s burden from her an set it own on a table as the fizzgig skittered over to her.

“I don’t,” Megna smiled, leaning down to stroke the fuzzball’s head as it nuzzled against her ankle. “This is Baffi, Maudra Fara’s fizzgig. He’s taken to following me around lately,”

“Why?” Gurjin asked with furrowed brows.

Megna shrugged. “He likes me, I guess,” she suggested as they sat on the lounge together, Baffi jumping into her lap.

“Well, that I can understand,” he said. Megna paused as she reached for the pitcher, her cheeks warming. She flashed Gurjin a quick glance. His features were calm and certain, nothing like her own. Megna’s was creased with surprise, her cheeks red.

Megna looked away, picking up the pitcher and pouring a cup of water for each of them. She picked one up, handing it to Gurjin. “How is Rian?” she asked, looking up from beneath her eyelashes, hoping he’d accept the topic change.

The Drenchen gelfling just smiled, as if reading her very thoughts. “He’s well. Says he’s in love, too,” Gurjin told her.

“In love?!” Megna sputtered, nearly dropping her own cup. “With who?” she questioned.

Gurjin laughed, reaching for a slice of bread. “A new guard. A Vapran named Mira,” he told her, tearing the bread to pieces before beginning to eat it.

“And does Mira love him?” she inquired. As if sensing her inattention, Baffi nipped at her fingers. Without looking down at him, Megna began to pet him again.

“No,” Gurjin chuckled. “She’s only been at the castle for a few weeks. She thinks Rian’s a bother,” he told her.

“Well, that’s a shame,” Megna said, resolving to write her brother on the subject.

“I wouldn’t discount him too quick, Megna. Rian’s a charmer,” Gurjin advised, leaning back against the lounge.

“You’re right,” she said after a moment of consideration. “I’ve always thought so, but I figured I was partial as his sister,” she acknowledged.

Gurjin laughed. “You’re the rare sister, then. My sisters think I’m a dolt,”

“You have sisters?”

“I have three. Naia’s my twin, and we have two younger sisters, Eliona and Pemma,” he told her.

“And what are they like?” Megna questioned curiously. “I’d always wondered what it’d be like to have sisters,”

Gurjin snorted. “A whole lot of trouble, that’s my sisters. They’re all really smart – smarter than me, anyway. Pemma’s the youngest, she’s really flighty and light-hearted. Eliona, she’s rather serious, unlike the rest of us. Well, I suppose she’s most like Naia, and Pemma and I are more…carefree, I guess,”

Megna smiled, watching his features carefully as he talked about his family. Gurjin seemed the joyful sort, but talking about his sisters leant a depth and certain protectiveness about him. “And Naia?” she prompted once he’d fallen silent.

Gurjin lit up again. Megna couldn’t help but mirror him. “She wanted to be a guard at the Castle of the Crystal too, but my mother wouldn’t let her. My mother’s the Maudra, you see, and Naia’s the oldest so –”

“–your mother is Laesid? Maudra Laesid?” Megna interrupted, jaw dropping. Gurjin paused, puzzled, and nodded. “Maudra Fara speaks of your mother ever so highly – and she doesn’t speak of many others like that,”

Gurjin nodded consideringly. “I know, I remember my mother telling me about her. Rian told me you’ll be the next Maudra of your clan – it’s a great honor, and to be chosen –”

“It’s unorthodox,” Megna murmured, eyes lowering.

Gurjin stared at her for a long moment. “So is Maudra Fara. And you, from what I’ve seen,” he said. She made a small noise at the back of her throat but said nothing. “I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about you, Megna. Everyone at the castle has the highest opinion of you, I know, I asked –”

“The castle is different,” Megna argued. “It’s the people here at Stone-In-The-Wood that matters. And they don’t approve,” she told him.

“Why not?” Gurjin challenged.

Megna sighed. “Because my mother is Spriton. I’m of two clans, Gurjin. Most gelfling find that distasteful,” she explained.

“I don’t.” Gurjin insisted. “What does it matter, Megna? I think it’s far more telling that Fara chose you out of everyone.”

“They don’t respect me.” Megna said in a small voice. “That’s one thing now, but when I’m Maudra –”

“They will,” He interrupted. “Respect you, that is. Just give it some time, Megna. Don’t doubt your worth,”

Megna drew in a deep breath before nodding. “You’re right, Gurjin. Thank you,” she said quietly.

Gurjin reached out, placing a steadying hand on her shoulder. “I’d be your friend before anything,” he told her.

She managed a weak smile, shooting him a look full of thanks. “You are. As I’m yours,” Megna promised. She glanced towards the clock hanging above her hearth. “It’s grown late. I think it’s time to retire. Good night, Gurjin,” she said as she got to her feet, Baffi jumping to the floor to follow her.

“Good night, Megna. And thanks again for letting me stay with you,” the Drenchen gelfling told her.

Megna paused in her path towards her bedroom, glancing back with a more certain smile. “That’s what friends do,”

Chapter Text

Megna didn’t know when it happened. When Gurjin went from simply her brother’s friend to one of the most important people in her life. Someone she missed and desired to be near – all the time.

She hadn’t known what it was, but Gurjin called it love.

The label seemed appropriate.

A concept so big for such a small word.

This was Megna’s first crack at love and she didn’t want to mess it up.

She visited the castle as often as she could. Gurjin found excuses to visit more often than he really should.  Megna couldn’t help but be greedy, drawing each and every sweet moment to her heart to keep them safe.

She remembered the first time Gurjin had visited – how he’d shown up and fallen asleep against her door. The next morning they’d gone to Maudra Fara so Megna could request the day off to spend with her friend. Fara had smiled and sent them off, looking smug with Baffi curled in her lap.

They’d found a meadow to sit and talk after Megna had shown him the sights of Stone-In-The-Wood. The other gelfing had stared at him – at them – but Gurjin had shown no sign of noticing or caring. And while Megna had resolved long ago not to let the opinions of petty gelfling affect her – but it was easier said than done.

She felt their eyes and whispers like tiny daggers.

But with Gurjin beside her, completely oblivious to their stares and totally uncaring of their opinions – Megna felt stronger. Invincible.

That day in the meadow, Gurjin had held a hand out to her and asked her to dreamfast with him. He’d wanted to know her, see her. Very little else in Megna’s life had scared her as much as this had.

“What if you don’t like what you see?” she’d asked.

“I don’t have to like what I see to like you,” Gurjin told her. “I want to see you, know you, Megna. And I want you to know me, too,”

With those words, Megna had offered her hand. Gurjin had smiled and extended his so their palms might meet. A flurry of images followed.

Gurjin as a childling with his twin, Naia. Megna held in her mother’s arms, a waterfall of pastel-pink braids and russet hair surrounding her. Swimming in the Swamps of Sog. Play in the meadows of Stone-In-The-Wood with a toddling Rian.

After those flurrying rose-tinted memories came the horror. The one Megna had feared. The Arathim attack that left her motherless. She’d felt Gurjin’s shock and terror as surely as she felt her own, felt her mother’s blood raining down on her, drying on her skin. Rian crying in her arms.

Once the dreamfast had faded, Megna found that she was crying. Gurjin was, too. “Your mother…” he’d murmured. The words drew a wracked sob from somewhere deep inside her chest, and Gurjin had pulled her into his arms.

He’d held her with such care – rocked her gently as she cried, humming a Drenchen lullaby until she had no tears left.

In his eyes, Megna saw nothing but affection and understanding. She wasn’t sure she’d truly seen Gurjin until that moment. Not for who he truly was.

A gelfling of deep humor and empathy. A heart so large and full of love. A gelfling of true loyalty, without a single shred of doubt. A gelfling who’d die to protect those he loved, for what he thought was right.

In that moment, Megna knew her trust was well-placed. Knew that Gurjin would never betray her, never consciously hurt her. That she was utterly safe in his hands.

But, truth be told, it’d been Gurjin who’d put himself in hers.

He’d let her set the pace at every turn. From their first kiss to when she’d first called him her boyfriend (and consequently, Megna’d become his girlfriend), to when dreamfasting had become as natural as breathing.

Megna loved him. She knew that. And she knew that Gurjin loved her, too, just as deeply and madly.

She’d known that the moment he’d come to her, a new pastel-pink braid among his dreads. Megna had been so deeply moved by his gesture that she’d cried – again – and drew Gurjin into her arms as he chuckled, humming that Drenchen lullaby against her hair.

 The next time Megna had seen him, an azure-blue braid hung beside her pastel-pink one. Gurjin had grinned and laughed, taking her into his arms while Rian looked between the two of them with narrowed eyes.

Megna stood taller with Gurjin by her side. Held her head higher. With his voice in her head, Megna finally became the proud and self-assured gelfling that she’d promised herself she would be. Even when Gurjin wasn’t there, those tiny things that had so gotten to her before meant nothing now.

Just as he’d promised, the gelfing of the Stonewood Clan grew to respect her. Megna knew it was because she finally saw in herself what the people she loved saw in her.

A calm, reasoned gelfling full of quiet confidence. That was what her father and brother had always seen. What Maudra Fara and her grandmother had always seen. Megna hadn’t.

Not until Gurjin had shown her.  

Chapter Text

As time went on, Megna and Gurjin began to talk about the future. After more than three trine together, it only seemed natural.

Would they marry? And if they did, where would they settle? Stone-In-The-Wood or the Castle of the Crystal? Or the Swamps of Sog?

Could Megna really give up her position as Maudra-to-be? Would Gurjin give up being a guard?

With all those little uncertainties, they’d put off the discussion this long. The only thing they were certain of was that they wanted to be together. But that would require sacrifice.

Megna couldn’t give up her position, that was to be certain. Now, it was entirely possible for Gurjin to come live with her in Stone-In-The-Wood – but it wasn’t something she was sure she could ask. Just as Gurjin hadn’t asked her if she’d return to the Castle – or to the Swamps of Sog.

Megna found herself contemplating her options – her future – on a visit to the Castle of the Crystal. Gurjin was working, so she was in her father’s chambers, laying on the lounge.

It was unusual for her. Megna liked to keep busy. Usually Megna cleaned and prepared Ordon’s favorite meal, and Rian’s favorite pie.

But today she didn’t feel like doing anything.

When her father entered his chambers and found her just laying on the lounge, staring at the ceiling, he’d frowned. “Are you feeling well, my Megna?” Ordon asked.

“I’m well, Father,” Megna said as she sat up. “Just thinking,”

Ordon hung his helmet on the hook besides the door before coming to sit next to his daughter. “Thinking about what?” he inquired.

“The future,” Megna said. A quick look at her father revealed his confusion hadn’t abated. “Gurjin’s and my future,” she clarified reluctantly.

Ordon had never seemed comfortable with the idea of Megna being in a romantic relationship – and as expected, his expression betrayed a quick flash of unease before flickering back to his normal stern look. “What of it, daughter?” he soldiered on.

Megna shrugged. “We’ve been together three trine already, Father. It’s time. Gurjin and I… well, we want to…” she explained, feeling a certain uneasiness herself.

Her father nodded decisively. “You want to marry. I understand,”

“Yes,” Megna said lamely. “But it’s all so complicated, father! The logistics of it all, with him being a guard here, and me being in Stone-In-The-Wood…” she went on. “We need to decide what path to take, what to do,”

“Well, there’s only one obvious path, my Megna. You’re going to be a Maudra,” Ordon said, brow creasing. Megna sighed, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees. Her father placed a solid hand on her back. “Gurjin can’t possibly expect you to change your path, Megna. Being a Maudra is of the highest honor –”

“He doesn’t!” Megna interrupted. “He’d never do that, Father! Just as surely I couldn’t ask him to stop being a guard,”

“Of course you could, Megna. Gurjin can leave the guard once his contract is up. You can’t give up on being a Maudra,” Ordon insisted.

She sighed again, shaking her head. “You don’t understand,” Megna murmured.

“You think your mother and I didn’t have this discussion before we married, Megna? Of course I understand,”

“Mother wasn’t going to be a Maudra!”

“But she was a Maudra’s sister.”

“That’s not the same and you know it, Father!” Megna cried. His hand snaked away from her back as he looked at her in surprise. “Whatever happens, Father, Gurjin and I have to decide on it together. I can’t tell him that he must come be with me in Stone-In-The-Wood or else, that’s not how we are,” she explained.

Ordon sighed. “Promise me you aren’t going to throw away this opportunity, Megna. You will be the Maudra of our clan,” he said.

Megna shrugged again, heaving a sigh. “I can’t promise that, Father. I love Gurjin more than I want to be Maudra,” she admitted.

Her father stared at her for several long moments before rising and heading for his bedroom. He paused in the doorway, a hand on the doorjamb. “You know being Maudra isn’t about want, Megna. It’s about need. About what your clan needs. And your clan needs you.” Ordon said. He flashed a look full of disapproval back at her.

“I trust you will make the right decision, daughter,”


 

Megna had been waiting for him when his shift had finally ended. She sat on his bed in the small quarters he shared with Rian. Her younger brother had quickly made himself scarce once Gurjin arrived.

“Meggie,” Gurjin greeted, a grin curving his lips. He dropped onto the bed beside her, drawing Megna in for a kiss.

Her solemn look abated for a moment to return his kiss, her smile pressing to his cheek. “My love,” Megna greeted.

“I was going to change and then go to your father’s chambers for dinner, you didn’t have to meet me here,” he said.

“Well, I wanted to talk to you privately,” Megna told him. “Without my father there… he’s already made his opinion known,”

Gurjin tilted his head to the side questioningly. “About…?” he asked.

“Our future. Where we end up,”

“Oh,” he murmured.

“So what do we do?” Megna asked him. They were silent for a moment, knees knocking together.

Gurjin shrugged, threading an arm around her shoulders. “I don’t really care where we end up, as long as we’re together,” he told her.

Megna sighed, flashing him a weak smile. “I agree, completely, my love, but I don’t know if I can leave Stone-In-The-Wood, the Maudra –” she confessed.

“Then it’s settled. Stone-In-The-Wood it is,” Gurjin said, cutting her off before she could ramble any further.

She gaped at him for a long moment until Gurjin drew her in for a second kiss, absently returning it. “You don’t have to make things so easy on me, Gurjin,” Megna said, a hand stroking along his neck.

“Why not?” he challenged.

“Because you’ll have to leave the guard, Gurjin – and what about the Swamps of Sog –” Gurjin interrupted her again, pressing his lips to hers.

“You’re meant to be a Maudra, Megna. I know that,” he told her.

Megna’s shoulders slumped, looking up at him with sad eyes. “But what about what you’re meant to do, my love?” she asked.

Gurjin just smiled, holding her close. “I’m meant to be with you, Meggie,”

Chapter Text

Gurjin’s final year in service to the Castle of the Crystal had finally come to an end. In one short week, he’d arrive in Stone-In-The-Wood alongside her father and brother so they could finally marry. Finally begin their lives together.

Her father arrived first.

Bearing the worst of news.

Rian had allegedly killed his girlfriend Mira and gone on the run. Gurjin had been detained for helping him.

Megna’s life had fallen into ruin with a single moment.

“It can’t be true, Father,”

“Why would the Lords of the Crystal lie?” Ordon asked in response.

“I don’t know – but Rian would never hurt anyone, much less Mira! And Gurjin wouldn’t help him if he had!”

Ordon sighed, hands cradling his head. He’d never looked more his age than he did now. “You’ve always been too soft on your brother, Megna, and now here we are,”

Megna gaped, drawing away from her father. “You blame me?” she questioned incredulously.

“Of course not! I just mean that you have never seen Rian as anything but your brother, you have never seen him as who he really is,” Ordon said.

Megna got to her feet, hands shaking with anger. “And who is he, Father? A murderer? A liar? No, I refuse to believe that,” she insisted.

Her father began to reply, but Megna hurried to cut him off. “You’re his father! Not his captain! Tell me, do you really think that the gelfling you raised is capable of such a thing?”

“I don’t know what I think,”

“That’s because you don’t know Rian, Father! You never have! Grandmother raised us for most of our childhoods, and then I took over with Rian once you forced us back to the castle! You’ve never seen him as anything but a soldier!”

Ordon stood, facing her with a steely expression. “Is that what you think of me, daughter? A gelfling of such selfishness?” he questioned.

Megna drew in a deep breath. “It’s what you show me right now, Father. You hold your position over your children like you always have!” she accused. “You hear Rian did something wrong and you believe someone else over him! You don’t even intend to ask Rian his side, do you?!”

Ordon looked away.

She went to the door. “Think about this, Father – are you Rian’s father or his captain?”

A stifled sob left her father’s throat as Megna stormed out.


 

With few other options, Megna stood beside Maudra Fara as her little brother delivered his tale. When Rian had arrived, she’d wanted to go to him, to embrace him – but Fara laid her hand on Megna’s arm, effectively stopping her in her tracks.

Megna knew her father was there, in the shadows somewhere, listening to Rian’s tale.

Her brother could be a storyteller, sure, but he was no liar. Megna held onto that conviction as tightly as she could. She saw no deceit, no hint of guilt in her brother’s eyes as he spoke.

“Dreamfast with me. Learn the truth, and together we can stop the Skeksis,” Rian plead, holding out his hand to the Maudra.

Megna could tell by the blank expression on Fara’s face that she did not believe her little brother. “I will dreamfast with him,” Megna volunteered, starting to step forward. Rian murmured her name, eyes wide.

Fara raised her arm, barring her path. “No, my dear, you will not,” she decided. “You are right,” she said. The relief that washed over Rian’s face was obvious. Megna’s stomach was in knots – it was not what he hoped. “Your son is not well.”

Rian gaped as their father stepped into sight. “Father?”

“His condition is worse than I feared.” Ordon said, with a glance towards Fara. His eyes lingered on Megna for a moment, seeing her disapproval. “I must return him to the Castle of the Crystal at once.”

“No! Dreamfast with me and you’ll see.” Rian insisted.

“No. The Skeksis have warned us madness spreads this way,” Fara interjected.

“You’re very ill,” Ordon told Rian.

“I know what I saw,” Rian said.

“They have Gurjin. He confessed.”

“Gurjin?” Rian questioned, turning his eyes to his sister and found heartbreak in her eyes. “He’s alive?”

“He said you killed Mira,” Ordon claimed.

“Did you see Gurjin for yourself, or is this what the Skeksis told you?” Rian asked. “Megna, surely you don’t believe this!” he cried.

A wracked sob left Megna’s throat. Fara’s hand on her arm tightened. “Do not bring your sister into this, Rian. The Skeksis have promised mercy. Come back with me,” Ordon ordered. “Let them help, then everything will go back to the way it was,”

“Never!” Rian insisted. “Listen to me, all of you. The Skeksis are murderers!”

“Enough, Rian!” their father’s voice cracked like a whip in the room. Rian whirled to look at him. “As your captain, I’m ordering you to return with me to the castle.”

Another sob left Megna. “I see what you’ve chosen, Father,” she called, unable to help her petty dig. Ordon flashed her a wounded look.

Rian glanced between them. “You are my father. Why don’t you ever believe me?” he questioned.

“Enough!” Maudra Fara interrupted. “Escort Captain Ordon and his son back to the Castle of the Crystal.”

With the Stonewood guards closing in, Megna darted towards her brother, ripping her arm from Fara’s grasp. Before anyone could stop her, she threw her arms around her brother. Surprised, Rian could not help but return it.

“Megna!” their father and the Maudra cried.

“I believe you,” Megna whispered into her brother’s ear. “Meet me at the place where we once played,” she instructed, barely getting the sentence out before Ordon tugged her away. Rian could only give her a mystified look before he had to defend himself from the guards.

“Get your hands off me!” Megna demanded, jerking free of her father’s hands. Ordon only gave her a quick look as he pleaded with Rian to stop. “You are no father of mine!” she declared, turning her back on the chaos of the room and darted off into the corridor.

Chapter Text

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Megna paused in her tracks. She was clad in sturdier traveling clothes, a pack upon her back. It was nightfall, and she’d hoped to leave without her father noticing.

Ordon had been staying in her home – she hadn’t refused him that – but she’d been ignoring him ever since the disastrous meeting with Rian.

He was no father of hers, Megna had resolved.

“I don’t answer to you anymore,” Megna told him.

A bitter snort of laughter left Ordon’s mouth. “Oh, yes, I know. I heard you, Megna. I’m no father of yours, after twenty-five trine of raising you.” He said derisively.

A sharp breath left her. “You think this doesn’t hurt me?” Megna questioned, turning to look at him. “I can’t trust you anymore, Father. You’ve chosen to be captain, not father,”

“I chose leniency!” Ordon barked. “I chose the avenue where Rian lives!”

“I believe my brother,” Megna said. “And that means you’re a fool to believe the Skeksis wouldn’t kill Rian to keep that secret,”

“So you’ll run away to help Rian. Betray the Lords, betray the Gelfling. Fara will not forgive you.” Ordon warned. “You will ruin your life, Megna,”

She just shook her head. “My life is already ruined. My brother is in danger. My fiancé is being held captive.” Megna retorted. She leveled one last look at her father. “You and I have always differed in that. I put love over duty,” she told him.

The look on Ordon’s face was one of open pain and doubt, but that was enough for her.

She opened the door and stepped outside. “Do not come after us unless you come to help. If not, just let the Skeksis hunt us down,” Megna called over her shoulder as she disappeared into the darkness.

She had no idea Ordon followed, just a few minutes later.


 

Megna found her brother right where she’d instructed – with the Podlings. He sat amongst the loud and busy bar, quiet and alone. She made her way through, sliding onto the bench beside him and tugging him into her arms.

“Megna!” Rian cried in surprise.

“I’m here, brother,” she reassured him. “I’ll protect you, don’t worry,”

“I don’t need you to protect me, just believe me, sister! Tell me, Megna, tell me you really believe me!” Rian protested.

“I know my brother is no liar. The rest you have to show me. Dreamfast with me, Rian,” she told him, holding out her hand.

“You don’t think I’m ill?”

Megna reached out, taking his face in her hands. “I all but raised you, Rian. I know you. You are traumatized, not ill. Show me what happened,” she ordered.

Rian had begun to raise his hand to meet hers when a dark-haired gelfling sidled up beside Megna, and another – a Drenchen – on Rian’s side. A blade slid from beneath her cloak.

“Don’t move. Hands on the table!” she ordered.

“Naia!” Megna cried.

“Gurjin’s sister?” Rian questioned in surprise.

The green-haired gelfling flashed Megna a furious glance, before looking back to Rian. “And this is Kylan,” she introduced.

“We’re not here for a fight,” the dark-haired gelfling said from besides Megna.

“But you are coming with us, traitor,” Naia insisted.

“I’m no traitor!” Rian said.

“I don’t care! The Skeksis want you, and I want my brother, so I’m going to make a trade.” The Drenchen replied.

“You can’t do this, Naia! He’s not a traitor!” Megna protested.

“Then you’re a traitor too, Megna. To my brother most of all,” Naia said, her expression cold.

A blade slammed into the table with a metallic clang, startling them all. A Vapran warrior stood before them. “I’ll take it from here, Drenchen,” she decided.

“You’re not taking anything, Vapran,” Naia snapped.

“I am the Princess Tavra, sent by the All-Maudra –”

“And I’m the eldest daughter of Maudra, Laesid, sister of –”

Megna traded a look of confusion with her brother as the two gelfling talked over each other. “Perhaps we should all take a deep, calming breath,” Kylan remarked.

“Rian murdered a member of my clan!” Tavra said.

“I didn’t!” Rian protested in the middle.

“He’s going to the Crystal Castle with me!” Naia insisted.

“You’re in over your head. Go back to your swamp,” Tavra exclaimed.

Rian got to his feet. “That’s enough!” he cried, silencing them all. Megna laid a hand on her brother’s shoulder as he took out a glowing vial and set it on the table.

“What is that?” Kylan questioned.

“Dreamfast with me, and I’ll show you,” Rian offered.

“Everyone knows your mind is infected,” Tavra said in disgust.

“That’s not true,” Megna cut in. “I will dreamfast with him first and prove it,” she insisted. “And if you weren’t all afraid, you would too,”

“The Skeksis spread the lie that I am sick to ensure the truth dies with me. The truth about your brother. About my sister’s fiancé. And what happened to Mira,” Rian told them, looking from Naia to Tavra.

“I’ll dreamfast with you,” Kylan offered.

“Kylan, no,” Naia protested.

“I am not afraid,” Kylan said with a look towards Megna. “The Skeksis may rule the land, but they do not rule my heart.”

Tavra sighed, her expression changing. “My mother would want to know the whole truth,” she admitted. They all turned to look at Naia.

“What’s the matter? Scared?” Rian challenged.

Naia sighed. “If I come out of this crazy, the last thing I’ll do before I lose my mind is take your life.”

Rian chuckled. “Sounds fair,” he agreed.

Naia found Megna’s gaze as they all began to raise their hands together. “You believe him?” she asked.

“I know my brother,” Megna said, as Rian took her hand. “As you know yours,”

With that, their hands came together and eyes closed.

No one saw when Ordon came in and raised his hand to join the Dreamfast.


 

In the end, Ordon decided to be a father rather than a captain. He sacrificed his life to save his children from skekMal.

It brought Megna no comfort.

It was the second time they’d lost a parent in a haze of blood and screaming.

Megna and Rian clung together in horror as their father was consumed by the Gobbles along with the Hunter.

Or so they’d thought.

The evil Skeksis had exploded out of the pit and snatched Rian from her arms and escaped before Megna could even scream.

Leaving her to be comforted by a strange but kind Grottan gelfling and a Podling bearing a spoon.

Chapter Text

Deet and Hup headed to Ha’rar, and Megna went home to Stone-In-The-Wood.

She was no warrior or hunter. She couldn’t track skekMal. She couldn’t save her little brother. Megna was no hero. Not like her father.

He could have found Rian and saved him.

Deet had asked her to join on her quest, but that wasn’t Megna’s mission. No, Megna had decided her mission was to bring the truth to her clan, to Stone-In-The-Wood.

They did not welcome her home. Even after she’d worked so hard to earn their respect and trust.

All of it lost in an instant.

Megna could not find it within herself to care what they thought. She was reeling from her loss and a bone-deep grief.

A guard took her to Maudra Fara after she’d walked circles through the village for hours somewhat absently, not knowing where to begin or what to do. She knew her goal, but not how to accomplish it.

The guard – a gelfling by the name of Sen – had stopped her more out of concern than anything. If Megna had had any family left, he would have brought her to them instead of Fara.

But – as it turned out – Fara was all Megna had. Unless some sort of miracle saved her brother. And Gurjin. Her dear Gurjin…

“Are you ill, child?” Fara inquired. Her expression had been etched with fury when Megna had first been brought before her, but it hadn’t taken long to morph into concern. Confusion.

“My father is dead,” Megna breathed. She swayed where she stood, an apprehensive Sen hovering behind her as if she might faint.

“No,” Fara gasped. “How?” she questioned as she stood from her throne and moved to approach her protégé. She waved the young guard off. Sen retreated a few steps, still looking concerned.

Megna stifled a sob somewhere deep inside her. “The Hunter…skekMal, he was hunting us… Father gave his life to save us,” she explained.

Fara took hold of her arms, her strength steadying Megna. “And Rian?” she asked.

Megna sucked in a harsh breath. “Taken,” she whispered.

The Maudra sighed, looking down at the floor for a moment before raising her eyes to meet Megna’s watery ones. “I’m sorry for your misery, my dear, but what am I to do with you? You betrayed the Lords, the Gelfling, trusting the lies of your brother,” Fara said.

“They weren’t lies. I saw it.” Megna insisted with a sniff. From somewhere inside herself she found a strength, meeting Fara’s gaze with absolute certainty.

Fara’s lips parted in surprise. “Please tell me you did not dreamfast with him,” she asked pleadingly.

Megna shook her head. “I did. But he was not sick. And neither am I,”

“How am I to believe you?” Fara questioned, eyes searching hers. “The love I have for you will not save you –”

“You know me, Fara.” Megna interrupted. “You’ve known me since I was a child. Ever since that terrible day twenty trine ago that took my mother from me. You were the one to pull me and Rian to safety,” she reminded her mentor, surging on despite the pain on Fara’s features. “Tell me, Fara, do I seem ill to you? Or is it just my grief, the losses I’ve suffered that make me seem different?”

“I – I do not know.” Fara admitted.

“Then trust in me,” Megna pled. “You have been telling me over and over for trine to trust myself and trust my instincts. Please, Fara – dreamfast with me,”

Fara drew in a shaky breath. “I do not know how I feel about you using my lessons against me,” she said weakly.

Megna laughed softly. “I thought you’d be proud of me,” she said. “You’re the mightiest gelfling I know, Fara. And you believe in truth. You should know it,” she pointed out, holding her hand out to her.

Fara turned her eyes heavenward for a moment before looking back into Megna’s features. Whatever Fara found there made her decision for her. Her hand rose – slowly – to meet hers.


 

When the windsifter arrived, carrying a piece of the All-Maudra’s crown, Fara had taken off in a hurry. And to most of the clan’s displeasure, she’d left Megna in charge.

They didn’t understand how Fara could forgive her so quickly. Trust her so quickly.

Megna understood how it looked. Like she’d betrayed them.

She couldn’t say it didn’t trouble her. But Megna had resolved not to let it affect her. She’d earn their trust back in time, through her steady resolve and loyalty.

Megna had spoken openly about why she’d left Stone-In-The-Wood. How her brother had been framed. How it was the Skeksis who’d murdered Mira. How the Hunter had killed her father and stolen Rian away.

They didn’t believe her. Most of them, anyway. There were a few of the young ones that did. Those around her and Rian’s age.

Sen was the first. His friends followed.

Sen was a steady comfort in the days that followed Megna’s return to Stone-In-The-Wood. The guard was a quiet and sensitive gelfling that reminded her of what her father must have been like in his youth.

When Fara left for Ha’rar, he’d volunteered to be Megna’s personal guard. The Maudra had been too distracted to give him much of an interview and had instead left it up to Megna.

Megna said yes. Their first meeting had been Sen noticing she was out of sorts and getting her help. She trusted the goodness of the young gelfling.

Sen stood at Megna’s side every day following. In the village, in the court, even when she sat on the Maudra’s throne. For every task that fell to Megna in Fara’s absence, Sen’s silent support was always offered. For every petition that fell to her ears, in kind words or cruel ones, Sen made his approval of her known.

He was a son of one of the Elders. His approval carried weight.

Megna knew she could do this without him, but in her grief and worry, she let him make it easy for her. One day when she finally knew what had happened to her brother and fiancé – and the Skeksis’ treachery had been settled – then Megna would worry about what people thought of her.

Until then, she’d make sure her people thrived.


 

Maudra Fara returned as quickly as she’d taken off. Whatever had happened in Ha’rar had been terrible. The All-Maudra had been murdered. And her heir, Seladon, had aligned with her mother’s murderers.

Seladon had burned her mother’s body so Mayrin could never be returned to Thra. Such a terribly hateful thing to do to the gelfling who had loved and raised you.

Fara was calling for war against the Skeksis. Against Seladon.

Mother Aughra had urged her to focus on the clan’s survival instead of its possible destruction. But gelfling of the Stonewood clan did not run – they fought.

And they’d had every intention of fighting when the Skeksis had come, leading an army of Arathim.

skekVar had come under dark of night, setting the gelfling off into a panic. Fara had ordered her people to defend their home, to get the childlings inside the court to hide.

“Megna, you’ll stay behind and guard the childlings. Lead them to safety if we perish,” Fara had told her.

“I’m of Stonewood, Fara! Gelfling of Stonewood do not run, they fight! I will fight beside you!” Megna protested, clutching at her mentor’s hand.

Fara shot a look over her shoulder, at the chaos outside. “Megna, you’re my successor. The closest thing I ever had to a child,” she said. “I must protect you, for the clan. And you will protect the childlings. Sen – he will barricade you all inside the court.” Fara directed, catching the young guard’s eyes over Megna’s shoulder.

Sen gave a grim nod.

“Fara, no!” Megna cried as Fara shook free of her grasp.

Fara ran for the door, shooting one last glance back at her. “You will take the childlings and take them to Great Smerth if we perish!” she called, her great axe in hand.

Megna sobbed as Sen closed the doors, barricading each entrance and ensuring each window was sealed shut.

The childlings surrounded her, little arms reaching out for comfort and reassurance. Megna was helpless but to placate them, even as their people’s words rang outside the court and then faded altogether.

 

I am the Ascendancy. I am the Ascendancy. I am the Ascendancy. I am the Ascendancy. I am the Ascendancy. I am the Ascendancy. I am the Ascendancy.

Chapter Text

 

There were thirteen gelfling left of the Stonewood Clan. The Skeksis had taken the rest of them. Megna could only imagine that the Skeksis were killing her people, just like they’d done Mira.

It’d been two days and her eyes still leaked tears continuously. She couldn’t stop crying. Even when she and Sen had eleven childlings to care for – all who had hundreds of questions.

 

Where is my mommy and daddy? Where is everyone? Why can’t we go home? Why? Why? Why?

Megna’s nerves were hanging by a thread, but somehow she managed to keep calm. Sen seemed to have a never ending well of patience within him, never seeming frustrated or anxious with upwards of six childlings hanging off him.

She’d asked him once, after all the childlings had drifted off to sleep for the night, how he handled them so well. Sen had just shrugged. “I have four younger siblings,” he’d offered.

Megna knew for a fact that none of the childlings in the room were his siblings. She would have seen such familiarity before. She would have recognized it. “Where are your siblings?” she questioned.

Sen shrugged again, a real pain flashing across his features. “One was a guard at the Castle of the Crystal. The other three were out there,” he told her, gesturing out towards the village. “They’re gone now, I suspect,”

Megna had placed a hand on his shoulder, giving a gentle squeeze. “I’m sorry, Sen.” The gentle gelfing had merely nodded, moving off to keep watch out the window.

Hours later, early in the morning, Sen jumped to his feet, eyes fixed on the window. Megna had been dozing in a puppy pile of childlings when she’d heard him hiss her name. She’d carefully extracted herself from the sleeping childlings and tiptoed over to Sen.

“What is it?” she murmured, rubbing her eyes.

“There’s gelfling out there,” Sen said, pointing out the window. Megna peered outside, seeing two familiar gelfling wandering the village.

“It’s Rian!” Megna cried softly, starting to cry in her relief. She went to the doors, starting to pull at the barricade before Sen joined her.

“You’re sure of this? It could be a trick,” Sen cautioned, helping her heave the drawbar from its place.

“What would the Skeksis want with us and a handful of childlings? We’re nothing to them,” she told him, pulling the doors open.

Megna could see her brother in the early morning light, only a few yards away. The creaking of the old doors made Rian whirl around and see his sister standing there. “Megna!” he cried.

“I should go first, I’m your guard,” Sen said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“No,” Megna said without looking at him. “Stay with the childlings. My brother is no danger to me,” Sen sighed but agreed, stepping back to cast a watchful eye over their charges.

The two siblings collided outside the court in a heap of limbs, crying and laughing at the same time. “Megna, oh, sister, I thought you gone,” Rian cried, arms wrapping tightly around her.

“And I you, Rian,” Megna said. “I’m so sorry I didn’t come after you when skekMal –”

Rian silenced her with a little shake, his eyes glistening. “You’re no warrior, sister. You would only have gotten yourself killed. Never apologize for that,” he insisted.

Megna smoothed a hand along her little brother’s cheek. “How did you get away, Rian? How –”

Rian gave her another quick squeeze before helping her to her feet. “I have so many things to tell you, Megna, so many tales –” he cut himself off with a quick shake of his head. “But the most important is that we’re both alive. And so is Gurjin,” he told her.

Megna couldn’t help the gasp that left her, a hand raising to her mouth. “Gurjin?” she questioned in a tremulous tone.

Rian nodded. “He escaped the Castle with Naia, Kylan and Tavra’s help. They’ve gone to spread the word amongst the clans,”

Overwhelmed, Megna laid her head against her brother’s shoulder. A shuddering breath left her as he rubbed her back comfortingly. “I feared for you both…” she murmured.

“As we did for you,” Rian said, casting a look around the village. “What happened here, sister?” he asked.

Megna raised her head, looking back to the court. Sen stood sideways in the open doors, so he could keep watch over the childlings and Megna both. “I have much to tell you too, brother… but suffice to say, there are only fourteen gelfling left of Stonewood, including you and I,” she said gently.

While her brother absorbed the terrible news, Megna’s eyes found the second gelfling over Rian’s shoulder. “Why, hello, Deet,” she greeted. “I’m so happy you two found each other,”


 

Gelfling began to arrive in Stone-In-The-Wood after Rian’s powerful speech to all of Thra. First amongst them was Gurjin and the Drenchen clan. She’d been trying to establish a chain of command among the new gelfling while two childlings hung onto her skirt.

“Is this a glimpse of our future?” a familiar, deep voice said behind her. Megna had gasped and whirled around. The two childlings squeaked in surprise. “Gurjin!” she cried, peeling their hands from her skirts. “Kurt, Maia, go to Sen,” she ordered as her fiancé closed the distance between them.

“No,” Kurt whined. “I want to stay with you,”

“I need a moment with Gurjin,” Megna said, pushing the little boy away gently.

“Is that your boyfriend?” Maia asked knowingly, taking Kurt’s hand as Megna laid hers on Gurjin’s arm.

“No,” Megna said surely, watching the confused crinkle appear between Gurjin’s brows. “This is my husband,” she decided, giving him a deliberate look before shooting the childlings a warning glance.

Kurt and Maia shot off towards her house, where they’d relocated after the Gelfling had begun to arrive.  Sen still helped her care for them, between his duties as a guard and helping the new gelfling settle once arrived.

“Husband?” Gurjin said in confusion as he pulled her into his arms.

Megna was not quick to respond. She smothered kisses all along his cheeks and forehead before decidedly landing on his lips. “I thought you dead, my love,” she said, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.

Gurjin wiped them away tenderly, with a seriousness unlike him. “I nearly was, Meggie. And I feared the Skeksis would come after you, for your connection to Rian and me,”

“They haven’t,” she tried to reassure him, rubbing a hand up and down his arm.

“They still could,” he pointed out, his hold on her tightening.

Megna sighed, leaning her head against his chest. “We must be thankful for what we have, Gurjin. We’re all together. Rian, me, you. Finally. My family is here. Safe,” she told him.

“Your father…” Gurjin began hesitantly.

She shook her head. “He loved us. He saved us. All I can do is be thankful Rian is here with us. That you survived, my love. I can grieve later,”

Gurjin sighed, laying his cheek against her hair. “Suppose you’re right,” he murmured, fingers tracing the pastel-pink braid in her hair. “Then I guess we oughta circle back to the husband thing, eh?” Gurjin suggested after a moment.

Megna couldn’t help the snort that left her. “Noticed that, did you?”

“Kind of hard not to,”

Megna leaned back to find his eyes. “We’ve been through enough. You’ve endured enough, Gurjin. And I fear it is not over,” she said quietly, a sharp breath leaving her at the pain in his eyes. Megna wanted nothing more than to take it away, but she wasn’t sure she could. “I can’t take another day where I’m not your wife, Gurjin,” she said.

Gurjin’s brows rose in surprise. “That is, if you’ll have me,” Megna said after a moment of his silence.

“Of course I’ll have you,” Gurjin said in a rush. “I would have married you the first time I came to visit you here,” he explained, diving down to kiss her soundly.

“Then let’s get married,”

“How? When?”

“There’s no time like the present. All I need is you and Rian, and a quiet spot,” Megna told him.

“And my sister and mother are here…” Gurjin muttered to himself. “Alright! I’m off!” he resolved, starting to extricate himself from her arms.

 “Off to where?” Megna questioned, holding him fast.

“To arrange things,” Gurjin said with a wink. “You proposed, Meggie, it’s only right I make the arrangements,” he said, slipping away in midst of her surprise.

“You proposed to me a year ago!” she called after him indignantly.

“That’s not what I heard!” Gurjin said in response, weaving through the village on a quest only he knew of.

The grin on Megna’s lips was so big it began to hurt. She turned back to the gelfling she’d been speaking to before the whole exchange. “Sorry about that, what we were talking about?”


 

Maudra Fara and her band of refugees arrived just in time. Only a handful of Stonewood gelfling returned out of scores. Only two of the childlings had family return. That left nine still under Sen and Megna’s care.

Megna wasn’t ashamed to admit she’d cried again, when she’d seen Fara return looking battleworn and weary. It was between holding Megna as she cried in relief that Fara delivered her long overdue apology to Rian for not believing him.

Her little brother had been overly gracious about the whole thing, especially since he’d only approached to deliver a message to Megna. “Naia and Laesid are waiting for you at home, sister, it’s time for you to get ready,” Rian told her.

Fara had given her a questioning look. “You must come too, Fara, I need you,” Megna insisted, taking hold of her mentor’s hand.

“For what? What are you doing?” Fara asked in confusion.

“Gurjin and I are getting married,” Megna answered with a grin. “And you’ve returned just in time. I need my mother for the ceremony,”

The older gelfling’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “My dear, I could never replace your mother –” Fara began uncertainly.

“I know that,” Megna interrupted. “But you’re the one I have. I would like you to take my mother’s part in the ceremony. I know she would have wanted you to,”

Fara only gaped in response.

“Our father would have wanted that, too,” Rian added with a grin.

“There’s so much to prepare – the Skeksis are coming for us –”

“What do you think I’ve been doing all this time, Fara? We’ve made fortifications, Deet is leading the others in building little explosives to use against the Skeksis, the warriors we have are training the inexperienced –” Megna cut in. “For the hour that the ceremony takes, Sen is more than capable of supervising in our absence,” she decided.

“It seems I have little choice,” Fara said after a moment, looking proud. “You’ve done well, Megna. A Maudra in your own right,” she went on, squeezing Megna’s hand.

Megna’s cheeks flushed red. “She’s had a good teacher,” Rian interrupted, taking the words straight from her mouth. “Off you go, ladies,” he directed, waving them off.

Megna shook her head at her little brother, starting off towards her home hand in hand with Fara.


 

The ceremony took place in the meadow where Megna and Gurjin had first dreamfasted together. Gurjin stood hand in hand with his mother Laesid, as Megna did with Fara.

The women had all congregated in Megna’s home and helped her choose her best dress, and then Laesid had weaved her hair into an elegant style, leaving only her two braids hanging free, the rest piled on top of her head.

Gurjin had found fresh clothes somewhere in the village – and had clearly bathed and groomed his dreads since she’d last seen him. He looked ever so handsome, even in borrowed, ill-fitting clothes.

Megna and Gurjin had simply stared at each other for several long moments once they’d come face to face in the meadow. Fara and Laesid shared looks of amusement without the couple’s notice.

“You look beautiful, Meggie,” Gurjin breathed, his eyes wide as a smile spread over his features.

She couldn’t help the pink flush to her cheeks. “So do you, my love,” Megna said coyly, looking up at him from beneath her lashes.

Their mothers handfasted them together – each taking the hand they held and pressing it to their intended’s. Once Gurjin and Megna’s fingers were entwined, Fara and Laesid stepped back – hand in hand – so Rian and Naia could approach, each with a ribbon.

Blue and pastel-pink, of course. Megna had pulled them from deep within a drawer and handed them to Naia less than an hour ago.

Gurjin had laughed when he saw them while Megna only smiled, looking smug. Their siblings wove the ribbons along the couple’s wrists and hands, crisscrossing many times and making as many complicated knots as they could.

Rian and Naia stepped away, both looking pleased with themselves as Gurjin and Megna chuckled.

Now truly handfasted together, they spoke their words to each other.

Gurjin raised his free hand to trace it gently down her cheek. Megna couldn’t help but shiver under the ghostly touch, under his intense eyes. “Meggie, I knew from the moment I saw you that you were made for me and that I was made for you. You are an extraordinary gelfling. You are kind, brave, and so very brilliant. You will be an amazing Maudra one day, and I will be there beside you to support you every step of the way. I love you, Megna,” Gurjin told her in all seriousness, unable to help the chuckle that escaped him as tears began to drip from her eyes.

Megna raised her own free hand to hold his to her face. “My love, Gurjin, you have made me happier than I ever knew I could be,” she began, turning her head to press her lips to his palm. “For so long, I felt alone and ignored by my people, except for the love of my family and my Maudra. You showed me how to be strong, and how I didn’t have to be strong with you, that I could let you take the weight from my shoulders so I didn’t have to bear it alone,” she told him, the corner of her mouth quirking up in amusement as he himself began to cry. “You taught me how to love, and how to love forever. I love you, Gurjin,” Megna promised, squeezing his hand.

Gurjin leaned down towards her, sealing their vows with a kiss.

“You are wed,” Fara and Laesid echoed each other, trading a proud look.

“You hear that, husband?” Megna teased with a grin against his lips.

“I hear it, wife,” Gurjin smirked.

“Alright, lovebirds, you know the deal,” Rian said as he and Naia stepped towards them.

“You must remain handfasted till midnight or your union will not be blessed by Thra,” Naia informed them.

“It’s just a superstition,” Gurjin pointed out with a roll of his eyes.

Megna drew his attention back to her with a noise at the back of her throat. “And yet, somehow I don’t think I mind being fasted to you for the rest of the day,” she said, drawing him down for a kiss.

“Mmm, I think you’re right,”


 

The second battle of Stone-In-The-Wood was wrought in horror and gore. This battle Megna had joined, despite her loved ones’ disapproval. They’d wanted her to stay with the childlings again, but she wouldn’t give up the chance to fight with her family, her people.

Megna was among the flying gelfling that dropped the smoke bombs on the Skeksis from above, disorienting them and harnessing the chaos so the warriors could strike. She saw the exact moment skekOk launched blades in the air towards the All-Maudra – she felt Fara leave her side – and saw her mentor’s wings sheared from her.

“No!” she’d screamed, darting over as quickly as she could. Baffi, that brave fizzgig, fended skekOk off until Seladon got to her. Megna landed just a moment later.

“Don’t you dare touch her!” Megna growled, pushing past the All-Maudra to help Fara up.

“She saved me! I’m just trying to help!” Seladon cried, taking Fara’s other arm and helping her get Fara to safety despite Megna’s cruel words.

“This happened because of you! You brought this on us!”

Seladon flinched but soldiered on. Once they’d gotten Fara to a safe alcove, she stood as silent witness as Megna held her mentor as she died.

It was the second time she’d lost a mother.

Megna sobbed, holding Fara’s cooling body close as Baffi whined beside her.

“You’re Maudra now, you have to be strong,” Seladon said gently, reaching out a hand towards her.

Megna sprang back before Seladon could touch her. “How dare you say that to me after what you’ve done! No, don’t touch her! You will not sully my mother the way you did yours!”

“I’ve made mistakes!” Seladon cried. “Terrible ones! But I’m here! I’m trying!”

Megna stared at her for a long moment. “So you are. But do not try to console me with an obligation that tastes like ash in my mouth,” she said quietly, turning her eyes down to Fara. She bent to press a final kiss to her mentor’s forehead. Then she took off into the air without another word.

Like all battle – like all war – their victory did not come without a cost.

So many gelfling lost. So many noble, kind people lost to the Skeksis’ greed. Too many to name.

In the end, the Skeksis had run back to their castle with their tails between their legs. Like cowards. It boggled her mind to think she’d been born there. In that dark and dank place of greed and cruelty.

Deet was lost to Rian, it seemed. She’d taken the Darkening into herself. Megna had seen the terrible purple glow of her eyes, the dark veins across the Grottan’s skin. Power came at a cost, and Deet had to pay it. She’d left almost immediately after the battle, Rian going after her as soon as he’d noticed.

Megna found her way to her husband, watching with both a heavy heart and a small amount of amusement as Gurjin hugged anyone who came to him, even a Spitter. Even the All-Maudra.

Once he saw her, Gurjin came to her, taking her hand. “You’re all right, Meggie?” he inquired, pressing a kiss to her hand.

“Fara is dead,” Megna said softly. He inhaled sharply, bringing her into the safe circle of his arms. “But I am alive. As are you. And Rian,”

“We will be alright,” Gurjin reassured her, giving her a squeeze.

“One day,” Megna agreed with a nod. Rian returned alone, looking downtrodden. She held out her hand to her little brother, and he took it without hesitation. “We will be alright,” she echoed, with a firm look to her husband. He nodded.

Whatever it takes.