I fell into The Dream and looked out over the landscape in front of me. It was flat and barren, the land cracked with sun.
“Westran,” I mumbled.
“So it is,” Cornan appeared beside me, he sounded amused, “hm, I didn’t recognize it before.” I stared at him. “Well, you’ll tell my sister’s girls won’t you?”
“Of course,” I said, “is that where you are?”
“Different from Cammadan,” he said, “that’s all I know. Far from the sea, which she hates.” I nodded. “So much power though.” I looked at him. “The battle will be hard, my champion.”
“I’m ready for it,” I straightened my shoulders. He closed his eyes.
“Yes,” he said, “you’d say so. I am tired now.” I understood and awoke gasping, and Aaron carefully brushing my hair off my face.
“It’s alright darling,” he whispered. I swallowed and pressed my head against his chest. “Was it bad?”
“No,” I said, “just, well, odd. He was distracted, confused.” He nodded. “I think they’re in Westran, Aaron, the gods.” He sighed.
“That’s complicated,” he muttered. “Couldn’t they be in Failor? Clarence is practically begging for Lisette to come and search. OR Rastan? If Lefty and Eric are to be believed they’re so obsessed with protocol they’d still be bowing when she raced of to do what needed to be done.” I laughed. “But Westran, the tribes don’t want us pushing past the border, Harran’s the only one who trusts her.”
“I know,” I said softly. “We knew it was going to be awful.” I muttered. He groaned and rolled onto his back.
“I can’t leave,” he said.
“We can’t go through this again,” I said softly, “you have to. You’ll come back and frankly, the gods have waited nearly a century, they can wait a few months.” He laughed at that. “Besides, I don’t know how helpful you’d be.”
“I’m a good fighter” he said, “and people like me.” I shrugged and kissed him.
“Yes, but you’re not Chosen, love,” I teased. He sighed and shook his head. “When you do come back, we should set the date. Grandfather will be somewhat occupied with Tristan, but not enough that he won’t keep insisting until our vows are said.”
“I would sooner die than antagonize your grandfather,” he smiled. I laughed. He slid a hand behind my head and pulled me close. “Do you need to go see Lisette?”
“It will keep until the morning,” I mumbled and kissed him again. He was leaving in a week, and I wasn’t going to waste a moment when I could be with him.
“Aaron,” I whispered, a few moments after we were done, he looked at me, “when you’re away, I mean, I know, that, well, since we’ve been together we’ve never been apart,” I trailed off.
“Yes,” he said, “though, and I hate saying it, but I imagine it won’t be the last time.”
“Yes,” I smiled, “and, as we’re neither of well, innocent,” he nodded, “I don’t want you to feel,” he pulled back and shook his head. “Aaron,” I whispered.
“Athena, I am not going to be with other women, even when I’m away from you,” he said, I nodded, “I’d appreciate fidelity in return.” I looked at him and pulled him close.
“I didn’t mean that,” I said, “but, well, I mean, Carlton is gone, and Warren is, well, Warren,” he nodded, “and you’re going to Pantona, and Kathy,”
“Athena,” he whispered, “I love you, and yes, I am going to have to deal with Kathy eventually, but I can assure you that it will not end with her in my bed.” I nodded. “My darling, please trust me, I’m begging you.” I sighed.
“I do,” I said softly, “I just, want you to know that should anything happen, I would forgive you. I don’t want to lose you.” He smiled.
“I understand, Thena,” he whispered and drew his hand to my heart, “I just thought we were past it, I thought you’d finally let me in.” He stood up and dressed. I swallowed and leaned back against the pillows as he left. I didn’t want to fight.
As the sun rose I walked to the training field. Martin was standing there, waiting for me.
“Early for you,” I said, as he tossed me a staff.
“Had some trouble sleeping,” he said. I nodded. “Did you Dream?”
“Yes,” I said softly, “did you?” He nodded. “When was the last time, before this?” He sighed and leaned against the staff.
“The day your parents died,” he said softly, “he told me I needed to take you both in hand. He hadn’t decided yet.” I nodded. “I tried communing a few times after that, but he was silent. Cornan’s a stubborn bastard.” I laughed.
“He’s in Westran,” I said softly, “and he’s weak.” He nodded. “What did he say to you?”
“He was pleased actually,” Martin was beaming, “quite convinced you’re up to scratch.” I nodded. “You’re concerned?”
“No,” I said, “not about that, I’ll speak to Marina and Lisette about it, they ought to know, it’s,” I frowned, “was I always hard?”
“Hard?” He asked. “You weren’t a difficult child. Headstrong, I suppose, but your mother handled it well enough, John was too soft with you,” I love the look on his face when he talks about my parents, he can’t keep the mischief out of his eyes.
“I didn’t mean that,” I said, “here,” I said put a fist to my heart. He frowned.
“Do you remember Dorian Forend?” He tried. I cocked my head to the side. “When I ended things with Trey, I took up with him briefly. It didn’t go well, but he did dote on you.”
“There were a lot of them,” I pointed out, “and they all doted on us. At least the ones we met.” He nodded.
“You seem to have reached the point.” He said, “I did my best by you both, but I don’t think I modeled love particularly well.” I smiled softly. “Aaron is a good man, better than me. He won’t hurt you, or leave, or drive you away.”
“He’ll get bored of me,” I said, “he’ll be away from me, we won’t be able to avoid it with our work, and he’ll meet and fall in love with someone else.” Tom cupped my face.
“Athena,” he said, “my darling, you have to let go of this.” I shook my head. “If you can’t trust him, you shouldn’t marry him.” I sighed. “I know it isn’t just him. It’s everyone, but you should trust him.” I sighed.
“And you never trusted any of them?” I asked quietly.
“Trey,” he said, “and Olivia both. I still trust them both, no matter what.” He kissed my forehead and I frowned. “Now do you want to train?” I nodded and we squared off.