(This story is part of the "Early Romance of Farscout & Brightwood" set of stories -- see listing for related stories.)
**Shai. Come. Look at this.**
Frost was sitting on her sister’s bed, stitching a wolverine fur into the lining of her winter hood. She glanced up to see her sister Easysinger gazing out of the window of the den-room and smiling a slow, proud smile. Frost put down her work and rose to step toward the window. Brushing one of her thick white braids back over her shoulder, Frost leaned to see what it was that Easysinger was smiling about.
Outside the Father Tree, Lynx was sitting on an exposed root that had been shaped into a shelf-like bench. He had a piece of rawhide blanketing his lap, and was putting the finishing touches on a new spearpoint. The long blade was fashioned from the cannon bone of a whitetail buck, and had been scored and ground into shape while still green. Lynx had then set the bone aside to age, knowing that fresh bones, like green wood, never took well to the finishing process. Now that the bone had aged adequately, Lynx was rubbing the long spearhead-point to an ivory polish, and staining the knobbed handle dark with oil.
Four-year-old Briar sat at the scout’s feet, watching Lynx at his work with a single-minded fascination. The boy had picked up a splinter of bone that Lynx had cast aside, and with grave attention was carefully hammering at it with one of Lynx's stone tools, seeking to split it into a chiseled point.
“He’s clever for his age,” Easysinger said.
“Don’t let my lovemate hear you say that,” Frost smirked. “Lynx's head is swollen enough as is.”
Easysinger chuckled and claimed her sister’s seat on the bed. “I meant Briar. He’s a clever child.”
“The boy takes too much after his mother,” Frost said. Easysinger rolled a droll look at her sister, recognizing the implied criticism. Frost shrugged, unrepentant. “I appreciate Ice’s pretty handiwork as much as anyone, but she’s a strange wolf, and her pup takes too much after her, and too little after his father. Maybe if Hawkcall had lived to see his son born and seen to raising him, the boy wouldn’t be so odd…”
“There’s nothing odd about little Briar,“ Easysinger replied sternly. “Just because the boy is quiet—”
“Quiet?” Frost snorted in disbelief. “I’d call him mute! I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I heard that boy cry as a baby,” she scoffed. “Briar’s just turned four this season, and you still can’t get two words in a row out of him. I’d rather he wailed and carried on a bit like a normal cubling does, but no – he’s too much like his mother. Ice’s never been normal – she doesn’t feel sympathy for other living things like you and I or everyone else in the tribe does. Nothing warms Ice’s heart but her hammer and forge. If you fell into her forge-fire, Ice would snarl at you for snuffing out her precious coals rather than show concern for your burns.”
Easysinger frowned at her sister’s sharp-tongued observations, but tellingly, the chieftess didn’t question or debate Frost’s summary of their tribeswoman’s temperament. Instead, Easysinger reached after Frost’s hood and picked up the stitching where Frost had left off.
**Admit it, Tyrlee,** Frost locksent to her sister. **You’re as worried about the boy’s silences as the rest of us. The boy doesn’t cry. He doesn’t talk. He doesn’t want to share in sendings – he squirms away from a send-touch as quick as he is to squirm off of your lap if you try to hug him. That boy doesn’t want to interact with most of us, just so long as his belly is full. He’s got his mother’s eyes, and he just stares through you as cold as Ice does, most days, like you’re an annoyance distracting her from more important things, like polishing her gemstones or sifting river sand for flakes of gold.**
Easysinger mulled that over for a moment before responding. **I can’t lie and say that I don’t watch little Briar for more signs of his father, or that his long silences haven’t worried me. But I do watch little Briar closely, and what I see is that he takes after his mother in good ways, as well. He’s clever with his hands. He’s an independent child and he doesn’t want coddling. He’ll be stubborn in his ways, same as she is. But he’s like his father, too. He is as observant as a little hawk. He’s got his father’s touch with sending, even if he doesn’t seem yet to want to learn to use it. And he’s got his father’s smarts, too – and not his father’s pride, or at least not as of yet. Briar is special, like all cublings are. He just calls for more patience and nurturing than most. Give little Briar time enough, and he’ll bloom, the same as every other child. Just watch and see.**
Frost snorted again and turned back to the view out of the window. Her eyes were drawn irresistibly to her mate. Lynx sat with his back to the Father Tree as he worked, and Frost could not see the scout’s face from the angle where she stood, but she still enjoyed the sight of how Lynx’s brindled-gold mane of curls was silvered by the moonlight. From the animated tilt of his head, she knew Lynx was giving young Briar a cheerful tip on the handicraft of splitting bone. Frost watched, and saw how the boy’s small, thin face was turned up toward the hunter, fixed in an attitude of total absorption, quite different from the child’s usual attitude of distant indifference.
**Some of us just need more patience than most,** Easysinger continued. **We’re each of us dry tinder… some of us just take longer to take spark.**
Frost smiled wryly to herself, watching her mate’s lively one-sided conversation with the boy sitting at his feet. She watched as something fresh and keen seemed to take light in the boy’s face, while Lynx continued to shine his particular brilliance on the boy-cub like the daystar beaming down on the first bloom of a sungazer. And like a sungazer, little Briar seemed to begin soaking up some of that light.
As Frost watched, the boy nodded solemnly to something Lynx said, then held up his crudely-split point. The child’s lips pursed shyly, then moved as the boy murmured something in response to Lynx’s coaxing. Lynx took the scrap of bone and examined it, and whatever he said next made the little boy smile timidly. Briar nodded again, his eyes alight, and spoke in response again. This time, whatever the boy said caused Lynx to tilt back his head and laugh. Briar said something more, earning another hearty laugh from Frost’s mate, and then Lynx made a solemn exchange, his own skillfully-made spearpoint for the crude little bone splinter Briar had crafted. The boy clung to his new prize, smiling up shyly at the scout in mute adoration.
**Tyrlee, come and see,** Frost locksent. **Just look at this. My mate has little Briar talking!**
Easysinger glanced up from her deft stitching and smiled at her sister. “Aye, as I said. Ice’s son will thaw for us someday, if we’re patient enough to wait for him.”
There was laughter from the riverbank at his back, where many of the tribe were gathered during the sticky heat of the summer afternoon, to enjoy the cool water and the shade where branches arched over the Holt’s River. Briar had lurked along the edges of that gathering, watching as his elders swam, fished, and cleaned the fish they’d caught. But when sharp-eyed Summer had spotted him and called the boy down to join them, Briar had retreated instead.
He felt damp and sticky with sweat. Briar stripped off his tunic as he walked, and thought of how cool it would have felt to swim in the river. It would have been entertaining to fish for the silver salmon which were swimming this moon to their spawning grounds in the many streams and creeks around the Holt. The silvers were thick in the Holt’s River at the weir these past few nights. But the chatter of his kin was grating to Briar’s ears. He wanted quiet and stillness, not the busy demands of his tribesfolk. Gatherings like the one back at the river made him deeply uncomfortable. The boy never felt that he understood which conversations he should try to track. He never knew when he was invited to participate in the conversation, or even simply what others expected of him to say.
Briar skirted the edges of the work-den trees. He could hear the steady rhythm of his mother’s hammer down at her forge. Ice might welcome him there, if he would work the bellows for her. The boy hesitated for a moment, considering that. Ice understood his dislike of aimless conversation. She wouldn’t ask questions or expect him to chatter on. No, anything she had to say would be focused on the necessities of her work. Briar did find it deeply satisfying to do something useful, to know he was contributing in a tangible way to something that would prove useful for the tribe. But it was simply too hot for that kind of work now. Briar didn’t share his mother’s love for the craft enough to suffer for it on a sweltering high summer’s afternoon.
Fishing would be more welcome work, but Briar didn’t want the cheerful crowd back at the river. The boy knew he could roam either upstream or down, and likely find a lonely spot where he could take himself and the fishing spear Lure had made him. But last time he’d done that, Hailstone, Snaptwig and Tangle had found him there, and invaded his secluded spot, immediately making it much less quiet and much less lonely. No. The boy didn’t want to risk that again. He liked it lonely.
Briar already knew himself – his name was Seth, he had always known that to be so, and he accepted without question what he knew about himself that his kin found so strange. Unlike them, Seth didn’t want laughter and story-telling and companionship. What Seth wanted, he was still too much of a cub yet to have. Seth wanted the deep forest and the ever-changing hills and the horizon. He wanted to follow in the steps of his father Hawkcall, his grandsire Sentry and great-grandsire Bravestride before him. They had all been guardians of the Holt’s borders. More than anything, Seth knew that he wanted to follow Lynx when Lynx next left the Holt. He wanted to learn everything the restless scout knew, to see all of the landmarks Lynx had seen, and be as fearless and confident in his far-wandering stride as his idol. But it would be years yet, Briar knew, before he would grow tall enough and strong enough to realize that dream.
So being Briar, being yet still a child, meant being patient. Seth-Briar understood that, and struggled to make his peace with it. Someday he’d be big enough, old enough. Someday he would put the Holt behind him, and return to it only when he wished to do so, after he had roamed far enough and seen enough that he knew things worth sharing with his kin. But until then, the boy knew he simply had to practice being patient. He had to practice waiting. And maybe, by the time he had finally mastered that art, Briar would finally be big enough and old enough for the freedom Seth yearned for.
Until then – well, practice made perfect. And it was so much easier to practice his patience in solitude. So, not his mother’s noisy workdens, not the cheerful gathering down at the riverside. No. He wanted someplace quiet, someplace cool. The wolf den would be empty, in this season. Or better – the cool darkness among the roots and stone of the storage dens beneath the Dentrees. Briar nodded to himself in decision as he shifted direction and headed for the massive hometrees. That was his ideal solution – he could go to ground like a badger, and be confident that no one would think to look for him for hours. And with the celebration forming down at the riverside, it was unlikely that anyone would go there in pursuit of supplies or their own crafts. Peace and solitude. That was exactly what Briar needed. He hurried in his stride, wanting to reach his hiding spot before anyone could notice him or delay him—
It was the moment that followed which later, in years to come, Seth would think back on as the one moment that defined him and shaped who he was to be.
A shriek ripped out from among the tree limbs overhead. Startled by the sound, Briar looked up into the branches of the Mother Tree. It was Breeze. She was framed in one of the topmost den-windows, her round face distorted in horror as she stretched out, her body extended like a curving arch of a bow. A bundle was falling just out of Breeze’s reach, streaming pale ribbons behind it. Briar felt himself begin to blink, beginning to ask himself what Breeze had mistakenly dropped out of the window. Then Seth realized that it wasn’t ribbons, but the billow of curling hair -- and recognized the “bundle’s” flail of falling limbs. And in that half-second of a heartbeat, time stretched and contorted itself, much like Breeze’s desperate reach.
It wasn’t a carelessly dropped bundle.
It was a child.
It was Fawn. Lynx’s daughter.
No one else was close enough to do anything. Briar didn’t think, only acted. If he was fast enough, he might catch her. If he had a net, he would – most certainly could - catch her. He had no net, but he was still carrying the sweaty leather tunic he’d stripped off. Above him, Breeze was still shrieking. Briar threw himself forward, holding his tunic up and out with both hands to serve as a net. He saw just a glimpse of Fawn – all enormous blue-violet eyes – before she slammed into him.
Briar hit the ground hard, clutching his catch against him. He found himself on his back, his breath gone like he’d taken a blow to the chest from his mother’s hammer. He sucked after a breath, failed to find it, and felt his chest hitch uselessly. A mop of curls spilled over his chin, and then the weight on top of him moved. Little Fawn sat up, gulped after a breath of her own, found it, and began to whimper. Her shifting weight caused a blinding moment of agony. Briar looked down, and saw that his left arm beneath the girl was impossibly bent. He kept wheezing, struggling for breath – and when he finally found it, it hurt like skyfire to draw that breath in.
Fawn’s whimpers built into an outraged wail. She was bleeding from the nose where she’d hit Briar’s chest, and a trickle of blood leaked from the inside of her bitten lip. But she sat up and untangled herself from her rescuer’s makeshift net with healthy dispatch, treading hard on his broken wrist for good measure. Proving hardly the worse for wear, the child scampered for the nearest dentree door, possibly heading back up toward another window and another reckless leap.
Arm broken and ribs cracked, nine-year-old Briar lay where he’d landed, still struggling to draw air into his bruised lungs. Time returned to its normal streamcourse flow, and only then did the boy realize the enormity of Fawn’s near death – and his own role in saving her from it. Only then did terror catch up with him. Briar began to shake. Breeze had stopped shrieking, and dimly, he was aware of her calling his name, and calling for Owl the healer as well. Briar found another breath. He took it, and knew without question that his night’s hopes for solitude were justly ended.
Lynx hung back, waiting at the high tide mark on the beach, where flotsam from the last of the winter storms lay like the bones of one of the great humpback fish that rarely beached itself to die. Young Briar wasn’t yet ten years old, but he had begun to grow like a weed during the winter just-past – he would be tall someday, if the winter-weed growth spurt continued. The boy walked as far as the edge of the damp sand, then stood silent, his arms crossed over his chest, as the tide lapped over his booted feet.
Lynx almost said something, to counsel the youth against allowing the salt water to ruin his boots. But the scout thought of the boy’s single-minded determination to reach the sea during his self-determined Very Long Walk, and Lynx decided to hold his tongue.
The Chieftess and the boy’s mother had both denied Briar this expedition, thinking a boy only nine-and-a-half too young yet for his coming-of-age journey. But young Briar had decided otherwise and simply set out alone and against his elders’ wishes. Easysinger had dispatched Lynx and Kestrel to bring the boy back. But Briar had proven himself canny enough to elude the tribe’s scouts almost as far as Elder Springs, and Lynx had taken pity on the boy and spoken up for his cause. With Easysinger’s grudging acceptance, Lynx had agreed to escort the boy as far as the boy thought himself able.
Those young, buckskin clad shoulders were tense now, as the boy stared out over the sea. The grey clouds hung low over the ocean, and a curtain of rain was blowing in, mostly hiding the distant shadow of one of the Far Islands behind it.
“It’s wet, and I’m getting cold,” Lynx said at length, watching as the rising tide pushed up past his charge’s calves.
“How far it is to the islands?” the boy asked, never looking away from that distant shore.
“Too far for us to swim today,” Lynx replied, smiling as he discovered he’d been expecting that question. “This is where Squall, Owl’s father, died, trying to make that swim. There’s a wicked current between us and the islands – you’ve got some growing to do before you can make that swim.”
The boy was silent for another sweep and flow of the incoming tide. “What’s out there?” he asked then, as the rainbelt reached them with a first cold spatter of drops.
“The Great Water – and nothing else, as far as the horizon.” Lynx nodded to himself, finding that he would have been disappointed if his charge had not asked. “I’ve swum from one island to next, til there was nothing else but the Great Water in front of me.”
“If I hollowed out the biggest cedar tree, I could paddle out there. All the way to the edge of the ocean. If I did that, what would I find?” the boy asked, his soft voice rough with yearning.
“More water, I suppose – and none of it fit for drinking.” Lynx walked down the beach and into the sea. He rested a hand on the boy’s shoulder, and squeezed it warmly. **But what you’re looking for isn’t out there, son-of-my-heart.**
Briar’s grey-eyed face turned Lynx’s way, with an expression both cautious and curious. His response was a wordless question. Lynx smiled at the boy, and nodded toward the distant rain-shadowed smudge that was the nearest of the Far Islands. **Your blood feels like the river – it never sleeps, does it? You want to see things, know things, and be the first to see them and know them. I know how that is. I feel that restlessness, too. I love my family, and our tribe. But that doesn’t mean I always want them around me, night and day. There’s always something more, something out there, isn’t it.**
Briar nodded solemn agreement, and Lynx squeezed his shoulder again. “Aye, I feel it too. We’ll talk to the Chieftess about that. Being a scout is cold business, and lonely business as well. It means you’re too often alone, freezing your tail in the rain or the snow and facing down some danger with no hope of help. If you die out here, like your father or your grandfather did, chances are we’ll never even find your bones. But you’ve got the restlessness in your blood, haven’t you? And you’re a keen tracker for your age. You’ll have to earn the Chieftess’s trust again, lad, after you kited off against her orders like you did. But if you apply yourself to doing just that, let’s see about talking with Easysinger and making you my apprentice.”
It was a homecoming Briar had dreaded since the evening he and Lynx had left. “Just wait and see,” Lynx had told him sagely. “After a long patrol like this, you’ll get a warm welcome, no matter what things were like with my daughter when we left. A leisurely stroll up to Snowcat Lake is more than enough time to for you to be missed.”
Briar had heard his mentor’s words, but he had not believed them. He had been grateful to put the Holt behind them – returning now only meant each step brought him closer to renewed misery. One step after another. He had tried to sink into the Now to hide from the fear and heartbreak of returning to the Holt, but even that marginal comfort was denied him. So he had simply focused on each step in its turn, and struggled to prepare himself for a simple homecoming, one that was just the same as any other of a hundred he had known, since Lynx had first taken him as an apprentice scout. A simple homecoming, no special welcome, just familiar faces glad to see them and the Chieftess and her mate the Hunt Leader waiting for a report of what Briar and Lynx had seen.
So when they had finally ridden back into the Holt, Briar had composed himself and was ready to endure nothing special. But what he had not prepared himself for was Fawn’s trilling cry of joy at the sight of him, or for the sudden warm weight of her, wrapped around him in welcome.
“Go on with you both!” the chieftess had laughed, giving them a gentle push toward the Child Tree. “Girl-cub, thaw him out for me sufficiently, but do bring him back to me before dawn!”
Dazed, Briar had followed after Fawn into the warmth of the dentree, and fallen eagerly into the sleeping furs of the first den they could reach. Then he had been too busy to do more than pleasure her, until they were both winded and spent.
“You goose,” Fawn laughed as she traced patterns with a fingertip against the sheen of sweat on his chest. “You could have at least found me to say goodbye before you left.”
Briar held her against him, her forehead pressed to his cheek, his eyes closed as he simply breathed in her perfume. “I did find you – you were in Blacksnake’s furs. Again.”
Fawn snorted contemptuously. “So? You should have come in and joined us then, not gone off in a sulk.”
“I wasn’t sulking.” Briar frowned, thinking even as he said it that there was no way those words could be spoken without sounding sullen.
Fawn laughed at him, not entirely kindly. “Don’t be a fool. You were, and you know it. You leave like that again, without so much as a goodbye, and I’ll hunt you down and hurt you. I swear I’ll do it, too.”
Briar couldn’t help but imagine her do it. He smiled at the image of her that painted in his mind, her pointed chin set just so, and her blue-violet eyes sparking with wrath. He chuckled at that as he toyed idly with a curl of hair at the nape of her neck, but the humor was short-lived. **I didn’t want to see you. Not in his bed,** he confessed. **I thought that you’d come to me. You knew it was my last day before leaving for a long patrol. So I thought you really meant it, what you had said. I couldn’t bear seeing you again. Not after what you’d said.**
Fawn took in the tangled emotions of his sending without a flinch. “You goose,” she said again as she nuzzled his cheek. “You silly goose. I only said that you didn’t own me – not that I didn’t love you still.”
“You said I bored you,” Briar whispered the words, the pain of that rejection still too raw and deep to be shared by sending.
Fawn propped herself up on an elbow and looked down at him in surprise. “I did not!” she said, aghast. But her horrified expression shifted then, as she thought about the last words she had had with her lovemate before his departure on the long patrol. “I said you were predictable. That’s not the same thing--“
Briar gave a ghost of a laugh. “It is. It is when you say it. I know what I’m not. I’m not clever like Blacksnake. He makes you laugh like no one else, he’s sharper than a good spear-point. I’m dull as river rocks next to him, and I know it. When you chose me for a lovemate, I knew it was only a matter of time before—
Fawn silenced him with her mouth. “Goose,” she murmured, when she finally stopped for a breath. “Silly goose. Don’t be such an idiot. I can share the furs with anyone I want. Doing that doesn’t change that I want you.”
Briar looked up at her, searching her eyes for scraps of hope. “You’ll tire of me. You can’t help it. You’re the springtime, bright with fresh, vibrant life, while I’m the tail end of autumn after all of the leaves have fallen in a cold rain. You’d be better off with him anyway—“
“Him?” Fawn gave a brief, hard laugh at that. “Again with the Blacksnake envy? Don’t be an idiot! Blacksnake’s always good for a roll in the furs, but if I spend too much time with him, he makes me want to break his tail.” Fawn shook her head, so that her thick mane of curls swayed around their faces. “You’re a fool to be jealous. Blacksnake may be fun, but he’s too much like me not to give me the hives. You are the one I want for more than just a roll in the furs. I want someone who’ll be a steady branch in a windstorm. I want what Father has with Mother. You know my father is always sharing furs, but my mother is the only mate in his heart. ‘My steady heart,’ he calls her. You’re that for me.”
Briar pulled her down into a hard embrace. **I didn’t know how to face each day without hope of you,** he sent fiercely. **I could share furs with anyone, too. But there is no one else I could ever want. I crave you like water in dry country. I don’t want anyone else. No one but you.**
**Idiot,** Fawn sent back, as they caressed one another with fresh passion. **You can be a dull-witted goose, but I do love you for it.**
And so it was, as Lynx had promised: a warm welcome, indeed.
When their moment came, it came near the top of Roaring Falls, where the Bounty River curved wide and crashed its water down against the rocks a tree’s length below with a constant thunder that could be heard for miles. Two-hands of the tribe had come here to greet the autumn surge of humpback salmon, which were struggling in their mindless rush upstream to their breeding shallows to the north. Like the rest of their party, Brightwood and Farscout were spear-fishing for the pink-fleshed salmon; there had been a wasting disease among the deer all that spring and summer, making for poor hunting, and the tribe needed to put away more of the humpback salmon than was usual. The entire party had been fishing for hours, taking turns between wielding their fishing spears on the slick rock ledges that had been shaped for that purpose, flanking the half-moon curve of the falls, and smoking their catch in the dry meadows beyond.
Farscout had just stabbed a big leaping salmon as heavy as he was himself, and wrestled it onto their ledge; as it flopped and flapped in a violent effort to escape its impalement, Brightwood had moved in and clubbed all fight out of the creature. The two life-long lovemates had looked at one another, an exchange of a glance as familiar as a thousand others that day had been. But the moment leapt and twisted, as silvery as the salmon, and in that single forever-lasting moment, everything and nothing was changed.
Farscout dropped his spear; at the same instant, Brightwood dropped her club. They reached for one another in Recognition. Farscout knew that he would never again feel the wet spray from the Roaring Falls against his skin without also tasting the hungry press of his beloved’s mouth against his own.
When Recognition’s immediate demands had been met, they lay tangled together in the bracken of the shelter they had sought. Farscout lay with his eyes closed, simply holding his lover close, soaking in the soul-baring truth of what they had experienced. At length, he felt Brightwood stir, and the touch of her cool fingertips tracing the bones of his face.
“Don’t move,” she whispered. “Let me fix this moment forever.”
Farscout’s smile betrayed him. **Aya,** he sent, reveling in the gift of her soul-name.
**Seth,** she replied, with equal wonder and satisfaction. Brightwood shifted again, pillowing her cheek against his shoulder. **You remember that day, when we were cubs? When you broke my nose?**
Farscout found her forehead with his lips. “You mean the day you broke my arm? When I caught you after you fell out of Breeze’s window.”
Brightwood gave a low, lustrous laugh. “I remember trying to catch a blue moth, and then I remember slipping. And then I remember thinking that this must be what it is to fly. The rush of it was exhilarating. And then you were there. The next thing I knew, I was seeing red and my face hurt terribly. It took me years to understand why Mother and Father loved you so much for ruining such exhilaration. I’ve always wanted to fly like that again, even if it was just falling in disguise.”
Farscout opened his eyes and looked at her. Brightwood’s luminous eyes were fixed on his face, but her expression was distant and dreamy. “You squalled when Owl went to set your arm,” Brightwood continued in a murmur. “I remember that too. I didn’t know what that sound was. You were always so quiet.”
“I don’t remember that part of it,” Farscout said.
Brightwood continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “I always knew it would be you,” she said, reaching again to tracing the arch of his brow. “Or, at least I always hoped,” she corrected herself, with a return to her usual humor. “You’d be in a fine long sulk if it were Blacksnake who Recognized me.”
Farscout closed his eyes and just held his Recognized close. **It would make no difference to me,** he sent after a moment. **You broke more than my arm that day, when we were cubs. I never was curious about anyone before then. But after I knew I’d done something special, that I’d saved you… you became mine somehow. I loved your parents, and I loved the Chieftess. I loved my mother and Uncle Turtle. But it was a distant-love, like you feel for your wolf-friends. You broke into me somehow. You woke me up. You changed me.**
Farscout opened his eyes and turned, shifting toward Brightwood so that their faces and eyes were level. **Sometimes, when we’re out on a long patrol, I feel as if I could just never turn back. The world beyond our little territory is out there. Sometimes I think I could just keep walking, and not stop until I’ve seen all of it. Your father feels that lone-wolf call at times. I know. I’ve seen it in his eyes. And you feel it too. There’s all the world out there, waiting for us to find it.**
An unspoken question hung there between them, until Brightwood finally moved and rested a fingertip against her lover’s lips.
“And Father teases me for being the restless one,” she smiled.
**Aya. You are my anchor,** Farscout said, caressing her face reverently. **You are my home. You always have been. Recognition has changed nothing for me. Nothing.**
Brightwood smiled at him and embraced him tightly in turn. **Your heart is my home, as well. No matter how far you roam, you know I’m always there with you, heart and soul. And I know that no matter how far I might fall, you’ll always be waiting there to catch me. Of course we’ve Recognized. The High Ones wouldn’t be fools enough to part us.**
Their embrace grew heated once more, and they gave themselves over eagerly to that coupling, as though they could mingle their bodies as fully as they had joined their souls.