Prophecy Story Index

Of Life and New Beginnings
by Becky
May 1997

Andrel pulled back on the reins of his mount gently at the edge of the woods on the outskirts of Rosewood. A light breeze blew across his face, bringing with it the scents of the last of the late winter wildflowers decorating the field laying before him -- blue picants, red marmellas, and yellow tiraris. He smiled to himself as familiar birdsong drifted down from the treetops. It is good to be home again. The trip had taken a week longer than he had expected and he was very happy to be back in his hometown again.

Slight movement against his back and at his waist got his attention. He shifted slightly, turning his head to look over his shoulder at his female passenger. Taking a deep breath, she lifted her head from his back where she had been dozing. He patted her hands where he held them clasped at his front. "Welcome to Rosewood, Gwyna."

Blinking sleep from her eyes, Gwyna straightened and looked around at the trees and the field of flowers. A hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she commented softly, "So many flowers. It's beautiful, Andrel."

It was the first smile Andrel had seen in Gwyna since their abrupt and sorrowful departure from Bornath. He smiled back at her, not even thinking of the flowers as he replied, "Yes, beautiful."

She met his eyes for a moment in silence, then asked, "Are we close to your house?"

Andrel nodded. "Yes, it's just beyond the turn at the road ahead." He knickered to Teva who promptly obeyed and they headed down the road, out of the shadows and into the light streaming down on them from the bright sun above them in the cloudless sky.

Partway along the road, a figure stood up in the tall grasses and flowers in the field. Andrel squinted to identify the person as they continued on. A slow broad smile crept across his face as he recognized the shoulder-length bobbed black hair, dark eyes, and dusky skin -- Ryana. She was picking flowers, dressed in some long tannish skirt and a long-sleeved off-white tunic. He saw the answering smile go across her face as she recognized him and lifted a hand in greeting. He returned the gesture and nudged Teva to the side of the road to meet Ryana.

Gwyna's voice came quietly from behind him. "Who is that?"

Andrel answered her. "Her name is Ryana. I grew up with her. She's a few years younger than me, 19, I believe. I was an only child and she was like a sister to me. Her family keeps an eye on my house when I am gone on my trips."

Andrel pulled Teva to a stop at the side of the road and reached down a hand to Ryana who had just arrived. She took it and grinned up at him. "Andrel! You're back. We were a bit worried for you. We heard about the heavy storm that hit up north just yesterday from some traders going through town."

Andrel squeezed her hand. "That storm, yes, it was rather a surprise to me. But I'm back and in one piece."

Ryana's eyes shifted momentarily to Gwyna before going back to Andrel. "And with more stories than you know how to tell I bet."

Andrel laughed softly. "Maybe, my sister-of-heart, maybe." He turned slightly in the saddle and gestured to Gwyna. "Ryana, this is Gwyna, my wife. Gwyna, this is Ryana."

Ryana's eyes got large for only a second, then she smiled genially, keeping whatever thoughts she had about that to herself. "Nice to meet you, Gwyna. It's about time someone caught Andrel and married him."

Gwyna smiled slightly back at her, replying in a soft, somewhat hesitant voice. "It is good to meet you as well, Ryana."

Andrel said wearily, "Ryana, it has been a very long journey and we are both in need of a great deal of sleep. After Gwyna and I have rested, we'll come by and let the rest of your family meet her. I hope you understand."

She straightened slightly, nodding. "Andrel, of course I understand. I won't tell anyone you're back until you're ready for them to know. Your place is just as you left it. In fact, I think Mother just cleaned it yesterday in hopes that you would be returning soon. I'll drop some food off for you this evening so you won't have to go to market until tomorrow."

Andrel reached down again and touched Ryana's shoulder. "Thank you." His touch, his tone of voice, and the look in his eyes hopefully communicated to her that his thanks was for more than the promise of food and her silence about their return. She nodded once in understanding of his silent message that he was also referring to her silence about her curiosity about Gwyna, then stepped back to let them pass.

Ryana watched until Andrel and Gwyna disappeared around the bend in the road that led to Andrel's house set a little ways apart from the rest of the village. A wife and a different horse, if I'm not mistaken. Andrel, what have you been up to? And Gwyna's voice, that accent is definitely a northern one. But from where up north exactly?

Sighing and shaking her head, she dusted her hands on her skirt, making a face at the dirt and grass smudges on the material, imagining the look her mother would give her when she saw her. Well, it's an old skirt, which is why I wore it to do this. Jona is never gonna wear it -- she's way too tall already for it -- so why not do with it as I please.

She gathered up her bundle of wildflowers from the roadside and headed back to her own home, already making plans for what she could pull together foodwise for Andrel and Gwyna and how she could get it out of the house without anyone noticing what she was doing.

After settling Gwyna down in the main bedroom, Andrel headed back out to tend to Teva. He was more used to long trips by horseback and, while he was tired, he was not as tired as Gwyna appeared to be. He brushed down Teva in a stall of his small barn. The horse had come to like him rather quickly after realizing that Gwyna was in no condition to care for him after they'd left Bornath. Andrel filled the water bucket and then headed back to the house after taking a quick look around his property.

Andrel stood a moment in the doorway of the bedroom. Gwyna was curled up on one side of the bed, facing the door, one arm stretched out on the empty side of the bed. He pulled off his boots and sat on the bed, leaning over and stroking back a few loose locks of hair behind her ear. She shifted slightly, but didn't wake up. He carefully stretched his body out next to hers, turning onto his side as she pulled near him and tucked her head against his chest in her sleep. He rested his head on the pillow and sighed, throwing his mind back to the last week.

Gwyna had cried for a solid day after leaving Dani in the forest with Arven's body. And then she'd become numb, only eating and drinking at Andrel's behest, crying in jags every now and then. He'd simply held her and let her cry, not knowing anything else he could do. Three days into Pakara, they'd stopped at a small village and had been married by a local priest that Andrel knew. The priest had asked no questions, just did as Andrel requested.

And then they'd started traveling again, staying away from the larger cities, stopping only to spend nights in small inns and wayside taverns in the villages along the treeline. That had been their life for the past week. Travel all day, stopping only to eat and sleep. Their marriage right now consisted of a small piece of paper tucked into one of the saddlebags that Andrel had dumped on the front room floor. He looked down at Gwyna's dark hair and smiled softly, rubbing her back with one hand.

For now, it is enough.

Gwyna woke several hours later to find her head pillowed on Andrel's chest, who was laying on his back on the bed, one arm around her shoulders to anchor her to his side, his head turned slightly downward to face her. She lifted her head and looked up into Andrel's sleeping face, feeling the rise and fall of his chest with each inhalation under her hand.

She laid her head back down and let her eyes roam around the room. It was obvious to her that Andrel had lived alone for many years. The decorations were next to nothing and the furnishing were just what was needed, nothing extraneous. But what she did see was tasteful. She could barely remember the brief glance she had of the front room and the kitchen as Andrel had steered her in here to sleep.

Andrel's voice suddenly came low in her ear. "So, is what you see acceptable, Gwyna?"

She turned her head again to look up at him, propping herself up slightly. His arm moved back to allow her room and then rested lightly on her loosely braided hair on her back. She smiled. "Yes, Andrel, very acceptable. As if you the silversmith who can make such lovely items of jewelry could live in a pigsty."

His brown eyes were concerned. "Well, I just wanted to be sure. It's a little bare, not what you're used to..."

She put a finger over his lips to stop his words. "No, Andrel, it's not, but this is a new life. Nothing is as it was. I can adapt. I can change. I have changed. And I have you. You are all I need."

He lifted his other hand and stroked one finger down the side of her face. "You will always have me, Gwyna, never fear."

She caught his hand and pressed a kiss onto his fingers, then said, "Right now I think I would also like a bath."

Andrel blinked and then chuckled softly. "A bath it is then, my lady Gwyna."

After they had both bathed and changed into clean clothing, they settled down to eat the meal Andrel had found waiting for them on the kitchen counter. A note had been left by Ryana with her welcoming greetings once again. She also had left a few other staples such as bread and milk, plus a small roundish vase with a pinkish cloth ribbon tied around it filled with wildflowers.

Gwyna said as she finished up her meal. "Ryana is a very good cook."

Andrel smiled. "She should be. She and I both learned from her father, the best cook for miles around."

She looked down at her plate for a moment, then back up at Andrel, a somewhat embarrassed smile on her face. "I'm afraid that I don't know the first thing about cooking."

He shrugged a little. "That's okay. I, um, figured you might not know. I could teach you, if you'd like, at least some."

She ducked her head. "I think I would like that."

Andrel waited a few moments, then began. "People will want to meet you in a little while, probably tomorrow. Even with Ryana's promised silence, word will get around that I've returned and brought someone with me. What do you want them to know about you?"

She didn't answer right away, and Andrel continued on nervously. "I mean, not that I'm saying you should be embarrassed or anything about who you are, I just didn't know what..."

Gwyna interrupted gently. "Andi, it's okay, I know what you're asking. Thank you for being so ... worried about me."

He reached out and touched her hand. "You are my wife, Gwyna, I worry about you all the time. I love you."

She smiled and squeezed his hand as she considered her reply carefully before saying, "Well, I think the best thing to do would be to keep it simple. You were traveling and got lost in the Forest of Nartha in Bornath. I found you. We fell in love, got married, and came back here. Gwyna is a common name in most of the northern countries, no one should make the connection." She hesitated, then went on, looking at the table. "And I do not want to put your village at risk for bringing me here. Although Seth cannot do anything while King Sonall is in power, I fear that he will eventually try to find me. The more ordinary my background, the less likely any news of who I am will make it back to Darcabé and to Seth."

Andrel pursed his lips, then nodded. "Okay." He stood and drew her to her feet as well. He wished he could erase the worry and stress from her face, from her life. He knew he couldn't, but he still wanted to have the ability to do so. He touched her cheek softly. "Gwyna, I wish..."

Gwyna reached up a hand and traced his lower lip with one finger. "Sh, sh, I know." She paused a moment, then continued. "I love you, Andrel." She stepped closer to him and framed his face in both hands as she drew his lips down to hers, kissing him. Her lips whispered against his in entreaty. "Love me?"

He paused only a moment before wrapping both arms around her waist. "Always, Gwyna, always."

The next morning, Andrel rose early, leaving Gwyna half-dozing in bed. He dressed quickly in the brisk cold, then started up a fire in the front room fireplace before leaving the house to go to market. While Gwyna had bathed yesterday, he'd gone through his cupboards and storage areas and made a list of what he needed in the house. Gwyna had added a few things to his list that she wanted. He wanted to get to the market and back before it got too late.

But first he needed to stop by the local gems merchant. He needed a stone and he needed it set. He patted again at his tunic pocket, assuring himself that the long, thin carved wooden box was still safely residing there.

Sometime after Andrel had left, Gwyna pulled herself out of the warm bed and bathed quickly before dressing into some of Andrel's clean clothing he'd pulled out of his closet for her. She would definitely have to see about shopping for herself soon to buy a few skirts and blouses and things. While Andrel's clothing was comfortable and not anything she wasn't used to, it was a little on the large side. But for the moment, they were warm and dry and clean.

Gwyna hauled her two small saddlebags into the bedroom and sat crosslegged on the made-up bed to unpack the bags. The first contained only clothes, all dirty and soiled. She dumped them all onto the ground into a pile, intending to take them later and put them in the dirty clothes hamper Andrel had pointed out to her in the bathroom.

Out of the second bag, she pulled a few other clothes and then her precious journal, its burgundy cover covered by a bit of matching burgundy silk. She ran her fingers over it and set it aside, then pulled out the last article in the bag -- her dark blue silk shift. She unrolled it carefully, exposing two smaller bundles of dark green silk. One had the rose pin that belonged to her mother inside it.

The other protected the sword cloak pin.

She unwrapped the second bundle and took the pin in her hand, running the fingers of her other hand over the silver sword and circle. The last person to wear this was her father, her real father, on the day he died. Sonall had never known about it, had never worn it. Dariella had kept it in her personal jewelry box, wrapped in the silk.

And now, it should be Andrel wearing it. I think you would like Andrel, Mother. He is good and kind and he loves me very much. He is a worthy wearer of this pin.

A few hours later, Andrel returned with bags of groceries and supplies. Laughing at the mound of foodstuffs and other supplies stacked on the kitchen table, Gwyna helped him find places to put everything, glad that Ryana's mother had already been by to clean just before they had arrived. Once everything was stored, they ate a late breakfast before Andrel took her on a tour of his small amount of property. Together they fed, watered, and brushed down Teva, who whickered happily at Gwyna, glad to see his mistress in such fine spirits compared to recent days.

Back in the house as they sipped at a light fruit drink, Andrel fingered the box in his tunic pocket. The gem merchant had exactly what he'd wanted and had set the stone for him while he'd gone on the rest of his errands. Finally he set aside his drink and turned on the couch to face Gwyna, who looked at him curiously. "What is it, my love?"

He smiled and blushed unexpectedly. "'My love'? A nickname?"

She tilted her had, a twinkle in her eyes. "A pet name. Mother told me once that 'my love' is what my father called her. It seemed ... appropriate that I give the name to you."

He pulled out the box and handed it to her. "Very well. Then I guess I can give this to you in return for the new 'pet name'."

She took the box from his hands and ran her finger over the carved rose before opening the lid. Inside laid a necklace -- a delicate silver heart on a silver chain. At the top of the heart was a small sapphire that glowed in the late morning light coming in from the window behind them. She whispered, "Oh, it's beautiful, Andi. You made this, didn't you."

He nodded, picking up the necklace and fastening it around her neck as she lifted her hair out of the way. "Yes, I wanted to give you something. I'd been working on it back in Bornath. It was going to be a going away gift. I had just finished when we left. So, today I had the gem set in it and now it's become a late wedding present."

Gwyna kissed him lightly, then reached into the pocket of the trews she was wearing, pulling out a small bundle of green silk. "I have something for you as well. It is not something I made, but it is important." She unwrapped the silk and gave him the cloak pin, explaining in a quiet voice. "This pin has been handed down in my family for many generations through the eldest daughter. It is to be worn by the betrothed of that daughter and then passed on down to that family's eldest daughter and so on. It is tradition."

Andrel looked at the pin, then back up at Gwyna. "I have the feeling there is more to this than just tradition."

Gwyna nodded. "Yes, there is." She continued, telling him the story of how the pin had been given to an ancestress by a being of light who had instructed the woman who was to wear it that the pin had a duty to perform, and that it was to be given and worn in love.

Andrel snagged his cloak from where he'd thrown it over a chair and attached the pin to it carefully, silently. Then he turned back to Gwyna and took her hands in his and kissed both of them. "Thank you, Gwyna." She only smiled and kissed him back.

Mid-afternoon arrived and Andrel convinced Gwyna to go with him to Ryana's house to meet her family. He'd met up with Ryana in the marketplace briefly that morning and mentioned Gwyna's lack of quantity in feminine clothes. Ryana had suggested that Andrel bring Gwyna over to the house that afternoon to see what her mother could find for her.

As they walked toward the house, Gwyna said softly, "Tell me about Ryana and her family, Andrel."

He looked down at her, then smiled as he began. "Her family. Well, to begin with, her family is one of the more ... wealthy in the area, though they have chosen to live in Rosewood and share what they have with others. Ryana's father Melanas is a portrait and landscape painter, a very successful one. Some of his paintings are hanging on the Crystal Palace's walls in Brightstar. He is also a very excellent cook, as I mentioned to you earlier. He is easygoing, probably the calmest in the family.

"Ryana's mother Janessa is the local midwife. She delivers babies here and in several of the surrounding villages and towns, even venturing into Brightstar on occasion. Always in motion, mothering everyone, always busy, always trying to help everyone. When my parents died several years back, she sort of adopted me even though I had no need of such an adoption. She'll probably 'adopt' you as well.

"Ryana is the oldest of their two children. She is the one I know the best. Being an only child was a lonely thing sometimes. My parents were older when they had me; I was somewhat of a surprise to them. We lived in Brightstar until I was 10, then moved to Rosewood when my father wanted to be in the country. I felt out of place, alone, with no friends.

"Then two days after we settled in our new house, who should come skipping down the path but 6-year-old Ryana, holding a bunch of newly picked wildflowers in her hand as a welcoming gift. She was my first new friend. She introduced me to the stars and to the wildflowers, both things that aren't found that easily in the bigger city of Brightstar. And she showed me music. I can't sing or play an instrument, but Ryana has this little wooden flute that she plays and when she does, well, it's something you just have to hear to understand. Ask her to play for you sometime.

"Their other kid is their son Kavin, 17 years old. Tall, short black hair, dark eyes, loud laugh, loves to fish. When I left, the girls in town were really starting to notice him. And he was starting to notice the girls.

"In addition to their own kids, Melanas and Janessa tend to occasionally take in 'strays' or 'orphans.' Jona is one such like that. She's 14 and full of life and energy. Her parents both died in a freak accident about 10 years ago. She didn't have any other relatives, so Melanas and Janessa took her and raised her as their own. You'll know her in an instant. She doesn't look a thing like them. Straight light brown hair and blue eyes."

His recitation came to a halt as they arrive at a large two-story building. Giving Gwyna an encouraging smile, Andrel held her hand firmly in his as he knocked on the door to Ryana's house.

Ryana heard the front door open downstairs. A few seconds later, her brother's voice echoed throughout the house.

"Hey, everybody, Andrel's here!"

Ryana jumped off her bed, setting aside her flute, and dashed down the staircase, nearly running into Jona on the way, who decided the stair railing was a much faster route to take. Jona's feet thudded onto the floor only a few moments ahead of Ryana's though.

Janessa met everyone in the front room, wiping her hands on a towel. A smile lit up her face as Andrel came into the room, pulling a semi-stunned Gwyna behind him. Janessa exclaimed, "Andrel!"

Andrel stepped forward and gave Janessa a one-armed hug. "Hello, Janessa, it was a long trip and it's so good to be home." He tugged Gwyna forward. "Gwyna, this is Janessa. Janessa, this is Gwyna, my wife."

Janessa's mouth dropped open and then her eyes crinkled up with delight. "Your wife! My goodness, Andrel, what were you doing on this trip of yours?" She turned to Gwyna and gave her a warm embrace. "Welcome to the family, Gwyna. You could not have a chosen a better man."

Gwyna's eyes dropped for a moment, then she looked back up, smiling. "Thank you."

Janessa turned to look at her three children, all just standing there, waiting for who knew what. "Well, someone go run and get your father. He's in his workroom out back."

Jona took off, heading down a back hallway and disappearing out another door. Her voice could be heard floating back to them. "Father! Andrel is back!"

Janessa chuckled, shaking her head. "Well, the rest of the village knows you're back now."

Melanas joined them a few moments later and Andrel made the introductions again as everyone settled down on the couches in the front room. Andrel told the brief story that he and Gwyna had decided on for the version of how they met, fleshing out some details here and there to answer any questions that might be asked, but still keeping Gwyna's true identity a secret.

After a few more minutes of small talk and catch-up, Andrel said, "Janessa, Gwyna is a little short of clothes at the moment. Would you happen to have anything in your voluminous stores of extra clothing that would fit her?"

Janessa sized Gwyna up with a few glances, then nodded. "Most certainly. Gwyna, if you want to come with me, we'll see what we can do. Ryana, you come as well. I might need your help getting some of the stuff down."

Gwyna threw a nervous glance at Andrel and he squeezed her hand, whispering, "It's okay. Go on. I'll be here when you get back. Think I'll just sit here and catch up on old gossip."

She stood and followed Janessa up the stairs, Ryana behind her. Andrel watched her for a few moments, then turned his eyes back to Jona as she began to talk excitedly.

"Did you bring me back anything, Andi?"

Andrel smiled, reaching for the small pack he'd brought with him to the house. "Well, of course I did, Jona. Don't I always? Let's see, what do I have in here...?"

Several minutes later Ryana's bed was heaped with skirts, blouses, dresses, and underthings that Gwyna, Ryana, and Janessa bring from a storeroom at the end of the 2nd floor hallway.

Janessa dropped her last load onto the bed and straightened up smiling. "We're sort of the collecting house for extra clothing and such. Sometimes people outgrow things or they just don't want them anymore. So, unless they give them to someone else, we get them." She nudged Gwyna towards the piles of clothing gently. "Well, go on now, Gwyna, you just go right ahead and pick out what you need and make sure it fits."

Gwyna didn't dare tell them that she was used to having full closets of clothes of the highest quality, that the clothes stacked on the bed were so much different than what she was familiar with. The story Andrel told was calculated to have them believe that she was only a peasant from a peasant village. You are a peasant, Gwyna, just one raised among royalty. Get used to being a peasant for real now.

There was a knock on the door and Jona poked her head in. "Mom, Megan's husband is here. Said Megan's gone into labor."

Janessa turned swiftly toward the door. "About time too. She's 2 weeks late. Ryana, I trust you can take care of Gwyna. Come, Jona, you can help me gather my things."

Gwyna stared down at the clothing piled on the bed for a few long silent moments before raising her eyes to look at Ryana on the other side of the bed. Ryana smiled at her, hoping it puts her at ease. She seems almost ... scared, like she's been hurt in the past, hurt very badly too.

Ryana reached down and plucked up a deep green long sweater tunic, plus a long full charcoal gray skirt. "I think these would fit and look very nice on you. And they're warm. It will be cool for a bit longer in Rosewood before spring really arrives."

Gwyna took the proffered clothing and fit them against her body, looking at herself in the oval mirror in the stand behind her. She nodded after a moment. "Yes, I think these will fit. Do you ... do you have any extra shoes or anything like that? All I have are these tall riding boots." She gestured to her feet where Ryana can see the brown leather.

Ryana turned and opened her closet, half stepping inside. "I think, yes, here, I knew I still had them." She came out and walked over to Gwyna holding a pair of creme-colored low walking boots, obviously new and probably never worn. She handed them to Gwyna with a shrug. "They're too big for me; they might fit you. And I think Mother has a few other pairs of boots, plus some sandals for warmer weather."

Slowly they picked out clothes and accessories for Gwyna and then packed her choices up in two small boxes that someone would deliver to Andrel and Gwyna's house later that day. Gwyna helped Ryana repack the stuff that remained and then straighten up her room.

As Gwyna helped Ryana smooth out the bedcovers, she said softly, "I wanted to thank you for the food and the beautiful flowers you left for us yesterday. And for today, helping me with this. You are very kind."

Ryana inclined her head. "You're welcome. I try to make sure that new people are always welcome in Rosewood. It's sort of my own mission in life."

There was a sudden scratching at the door and a plaintive yowl. Gwyna raised an eyebrow and Ryana laughed, explaining as she went to the door. "That's my cat, Dena. The ultimate spoiled pet." She pulled open the door just a little and what Gwyna could only describe as a large round ball of orange fluff came rushing inside, twining itself around Ryana's legs several times before taking a flying leap toward the bed.

Gwyna sat gingerly on the bed as Dena's green-yellow eyes saw her. Dena padded slowly toward her, sniffing at her outstretched hand, licking it a few times. She then began to purr as she rubbed her head on Gwyna's hand.

Ryana watched as Gwyna smiled widely in delight, her eyes fixed on the cat. I think that's the first full smile I've seen from her. For a moment, the sorrow was gone from Gwyna's eyes as Dena's purring becomes louder.

Gwyna laughed softly. "She's beautiful. And so friendly."

Ryana headed to her dresser. "Well, she knows she's beautiful, vain cat that she is. And, yes, she is friendly. I take her with me when I visit new families with children. She wins the kids over immediately."

Dena blinked her eyes slowly and looked toward Ryana, mewling expectantly. Gwyna commented, "Sounds like she's asking for something."

Ryana picked up something from the dresser top, saying, "She is." As she turned back, Gwyna saw that Ryana held a small wooden flute in her hands. She continued. "Dena likes music. I practice quite often when she's in here with me. I think she's so used to it that she thinks I'm playing for her." She was silent a moment, then raised the flute. "Do you mind if I play?"

Gwyna shook her head. "No, I don't mind. Go ahead." She continued to pet Dena who had stretched herself across Gwyna's leg, purring in a contented rumble.

Ryana lifted the flute and began to play a light-hearted, trippy little melody that made Gwyna smile despite herself. Dena's tail wagged in time with the beat, making Gwyna smile even more, bringing an answering twinkle in Ryana's eyes.

Once the tune had finished, Gwyna praised Ryana. "That was wonderful. So well done."

Ryana chuckled, breathing a little hard. "That was just the warm up. The piece I'm working on learning now is slower, but more involved. You might know it. It's called Seyna."

Gwyna stilled for a moment before Dena butted at her hand, wanting more petting. Then she said slowly, "Yes, I think I do. Seyna was a Rillandan princess who married Helv of Bornath, and then returned to Rillanda after he died, correct?"

Ryana nodded. "Yes. The song is a musical interpretation of her life that was written by the current Royal Bard last year. I think his name is Tulan. I've been trying to learn it ever since he wrote it. It's hard, but it's a lovely piece of music, going from her decision to marry Helv, to her reigning as Queen in Bornath, to Helv's death, to her return to Rillanda, to the start of the gardens at the Crystal Palace, to her prophecies, and to her death."

Gwyna nodded at her. "Play it for me, please."

As Ryana played, her eyes drifted closed; having already memorized the piece, she had no need of music. A minute into the song, Gwyna closed her eyes as well, letting the music fill her soul. It was beautiful. She could feel the emotions behind each section of music, feel them reverberate against her heart.

Ryana opened her eyes again during the melancholy section of music that described Helv's death and Seyna's mourning of the passing of her beloved. Tears were streaming down Gwyna's face, silent and unchecked. She wasn't even sure Gwyna even noticed them.

Ryana just closed her eyes again and continued to play.

A few hours later, Gwyna sat at the kitchen table in her new house, her open journal laying in front of her, a pen in one hand. Andrel had gone back out to market to catch up with old friends and to restock his silver working supplies. Gwyna had wanted a little time alone and Andrel, the understanding man that he was, didn't question her request.

She stared across the room, letting her eyes roam as they would. Eventually they returned to the small vase of flowers in front of her. She reached out one hand and lightly touched the petals of one of the tiraris. She smiled, then looked down at the blank page and began to write:

"I have a new friend. Her name is Ryana."

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Years passed in Rosewood. Andrel and Gwyna had a baby girl, whom Gwyna named Raven. After the birth of their daughter, Gwyna truly began to relax and let herself be happy again. Andrel could still occasionally see sadness in her eyes, but Gwyna refused to talk at all about Bornath or the death of her brother. So he abided by her wishes and did what he could to make her life the best possible.

Gwyna and Ryana became very close and spent a lot of time together, sometimes at one of their houses, other times in the wildflower fields either on foot or horseback. Ryana played her flute for Gwyna quite often, writing a few small pieces of her own and trying them out on Gwyna to see what she thought of them. Unbeknownst to Gwyna, several of the short tunes Ryana had written were part of a larger work that she someday hoped to complete which was based on what she knew of Gwyna's life and what she saw hidden behind Gwyna's eyes.

The year that Raven turned four brings new changes to Rosewood and to the lives of Andrel and Gwyna. Good changes, but changes nonetheless.

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Gwyna fingered the lightweight tan cloth thoughtfully, a small frown on her face. Andi really needs a new cloak, a lighter one, before spring begins. The heavy one will be much too hot for traveling once it warms up. She turned slightly. "Ryana, do you think I could make a spring cloak out of this material?"

Ryana stepped over to her side and smoothed down the cloth, then smiled. "Oh, yes, most certainly, and Andi would love it." She chuckled softly, her mouth quirking up in a smile. "Actually, I think he'd love anything that you made for him. I think he must adore you more every day."

Gwyna blushed and laughed. "Hmm. Well, I feel the same about him and you know it."

Ryana rolled her eyes. "Everyone in the village knows it."

Gwyna opened her mouth to reply when a sudden commotion from behind them made them both turn around. Walking into the open air marketplace, leading a slightly limping tall creamy white mare, was a woman of a tallish thin build, long blonde hair pulled back into a braid, dressed in snug fitting brown pants tucked into brown riding boots, a long-sleeved off-white shirt topped by a leather vest, and a dark green cloak thrown over everything.

Obviously she was a stranger and not anyone from Rillanda.

Ryana went over to her immediately, a pleasant smile on her face. "Welcome to Rosewood. My name is Ryana."

The woman tensed for a few seconds, then relaxed a little. She smiled slightly as she replied in a soft drawl. "I am Alissa. My horse, Sia, is injured. I need some supplies so I can tend her and some place I can stay a few days while she heals up."

By now, Gwyna had joined Ryana and Alissa. She went up to the horse and ran a hand down its neck. "Sh, sh, there now, Sia. Let me have a look at that leg of yours."

Before Alissa could utter more than a token protest of warning, Gwyna had run a hand down Sia's right front leg, touching it carefully, gently, talking calmly to Sia all the while. Ryana explained. "That's Gwyna; she has a way with horses. They all seem to trust her. I wouldn't worry."

Alissa nodded and looked back at Ryana as she continued on. "As for a place to stay, there is a small boarding house just down the street a bit. Doesn't have a name. It's a two-story red building with white shutters on the windows. Owned by Megan. She can fix you up with a room. She also has a barn for horses so Sia will be fine there as well. You can get healing supplies for horses from Berni. He's the man Gwyna's talking to."

Alissa turned back to Gwyna to see her standing next to a short, portly, balding man who was nodding rapidly at something Gwyna was telling him. Then he took off back into his store as Gwyna patted Sia's neck once more, then looked over at Alissa, smiling self-consciously. "Hi, my name is Gwyna. I could tell Sia was in pain and wanted to help her as quickly as I could. I didn't mean to..."

Alissa interrupted, raising a hand. "No, no, it's okay. I understand. If you can help Sia, then I am grateful. Thank you."

Her light blue eyes rested contemplatively on Gwyna for a few moments, then she blinked, and looked away as Berni came back with a few pots of salve and some bandages which Gwyna handed to Alissa, who paid Berni with the appropriate amount of silver coins. Alissa thanked them both and then continued on her way toward the boarding house owned by Megan.

Once she was out of sight, Gwyna grabbed Ryana's arm and hauled her to the side of the pathway, out of earshot of the shopkeepers slowly going back to their business. Her eyes were wide with suppressed excitement. "Do you know who she is?"

Ryana frowned. "No, do you know her?"

Gwyna gestured with her hands. "Not really, but I know her name and I recognized the markings on her saddle. That is Alissa, from Jourdain, the woman who raises, breeds, and sells the best horses around."

Ryana blinked, her mouth forming into an 'oh' as she finally recognized the name. Gwyna would of course know about her, being that she owned Teva, a horse that any fool could tell you was not a horse that just any peasant could buy from the local horse market. No one had dared to ask how Gwyna managed to have such a highly bred racing stallion. She had never been very forthcoming with any information about who she was and where she had come from. Andrel hadn't either. So the townspeople had just accepted the silence and moved on.

Alissa salved and wrapped Sia's leg gently, then brushed her down before going back up to her room in the boarding house to freshen up. For a moment there when she walked into the open air market, she almost thought someone might attack her and had tensed up expectantly. She was a stranger and a woman dressed in clothes that obviously were not considered feminine by this town's standards. But then Ryana and Gwyna talked to her and helped Sia. The other townspeople seemed to take that as a message that she was safe and went back to their business.

She frowned to herself as she washed her face. Ryana definitely belongs in this village in Rillanda, but the other one, Gwyna, somehow her voice didn't quite match. Too ... cultured. The accent was wrong as well. Sounded northern, maybe, Pakaran or Bornathian perhaps?

Alissa shrugged and stretched out on the bed to rest. But sleep escaped her as her mind settled back on Gwyna. There was something important about her, something I should know. She could feel her sporadic and untrained gift of empathy and prophecy rising up in her, insistently wanting to tell her something. She made a face, but resigned herself to spouting off something she didn't understand in the next few days. She sighed and closed her eyes, breathing deeply to settle herself into a sleep rhythm so she could get some much needed rest.

Several hours later, after making a check on Sia, Alissa decided to take a walk in the early evening before it got too dark. She hoped to have Sia well enough to ride again in a day or so. She needed to meet the rest of her group in Brightstar to show her horses to the King and Queen and their guardsmen. Rillandan customers were her favorite customers. They really knew a good horse when they saw one and they treated their mounts so well. She always liked to save her best for them, or give them first choice as she went on her trading routes.

Alissa wandered past the town border markers and ended up near the forested areas, beyond which she could smell the scent of a lake and wildflowers and pollen. She picked up the sound of hoofbeats and then a voice, a woman's voice. As she stepped around a bend on the dirt path, she saw a woman riding a tall chocolate brown stallion through the fields at a fairly fast gallop. The woman's dark hair streamed out loosely behind her as she hunched down on the stallion's back, her laughter riding the wind.

Gwyna.

Alissa just watched as Gwyna expertly maneuvered the stallion into a tight turn and came back in her direction. As they neared Alissa's position, Gwyna saw her and pulled back on the reins, slowing the stallion to a prancing stop several feet from her.

As Gwyna swung down, Alissa walked over to her. "He's beautiful."

Gwyna, face flushed with exertion, smiled. "Thank you. His name is Teva."

Alissa looked sharply at Gwyna a moment, then said quite calmly, "That's an old Bornathian word for 'wind', correct?"

Gwyna nodded. "More or less, yes. Actually, it's closer to meaning 'strong wind that is wild and uncatchable', but most people just use it for wind."

Alissa ran a practiced hand down Teva's neck, sides, and flanks, feeling the muscles quiver at her touch. He shifted from foot to foot, obviously anxious to get back to running. She asked, "Have you ever bred him?"

Gwyna shook her head as she gathered her hair into a ponytail at the base of her neck and tied a short leather cord around it. "No, I had once thought about it, but Andi and I do not have the resources to purchase mares of the right quality."

Alissa nodded. "Hmm, yes, I can see that Teva is no ordinary horse. But it would be a shame to lose such a bloodline."

Gwyna stiffened. "I won't sell him to you, Alissa."

Alissa met her eyes. "No, no, I wouldn't suggest such a thing. No, Teva belongs with you; I can feel that." She paused, then cocked her head. "You know who I am, don't you?"

Gwyna lowered her eyes a moment. "Yes, I do. The markings on Sia's saddle, well, I know them. Traders go through Rosewood quite often and I hear them talk of a woman horse breeder from Jourdain whose horses, although expensive, are the best to found in any land. They described the signature mark I saw on the saddle. I think I may be the only one who recognized it."

Alissa smiled. "Well, as I was saying, it would be a shame to lose Teva's bloodline. I have several very good breeding mares in my trading stock that will be arriving in Brightstar in a few days. Perhaps I could pull two of them for you and send them up this way?"

Gwyna blinked. "I ... that would be wonderful, but I don't have a way to pay for them. Surely they are expensive."

Alissa touched Gwyna's arm. "Just as you know who I am, I know who your husband is -- Andrel Silversmith. He is rapidly becoming well-known, and not just inside Rosewood or Rillanda. I have heard of him in Jourdain as well. Your boarding house owner, Megan, talks a lot I noticed. I think I knew the town's history for the past 20 years in less than 10 minutes."

Gwyna laughed softly. "Oh, Megan, yes, once she starts, it's very difficult to get her to stop."

Alissa smiled wryly. "So I noticed. Wish someone would have warned me." The two women laughed together for a few moments. Alissa again was struck by a feeling that Gwyna was important, that she was the key to something, but was still unable to put her finger on it. Gift. Gift, my foot, why couldn't my parents have wished more specifically than just 'empathy' in her chosen craft. I never asked for prophetic abilities.

She pushed aside her mental annoyance for the moment and focused back on the conversation at hand. "Anyway, the point being is that I could trade you a few mares for maybe some silverwork. What I have is old and definitely inferior to what I've seen your Andrel can do. At least we could discuss it."

Gwyna nodded. "Yes, we could. Andrel is back at our house, working on something right now. Come."

The discussion went well and an agreement was made between Andrel and Alissa that she would trade two quality breeding mares to Gwyna in exchange for silverwork details for the saddle and bridle she used for Sia, plus Andrel agreed to fashion what Alissa had named 'spurs' from a handdrawn design she showed him.

Two days later, Alissa's second-in-command rode into a Brightstar with two mares, each of obvious high breeding. Teva noticed as well and seemed to stand even taller in the fenced yard of the barn, preening before the two lovely mares. Gwyna and Alissa just had to laugh.

Andrel had finished the silverwork that Alissa requested and helped her affix it to the saddle and bridle, then handed her two sets of silver spurs with his thanks and good wishes.

As Gwyna and Alissa stood at the fence watching Teva dance around the two new mares, Alissa looked again at Gwyna's profile and then felt her prophecy gift rise up and grab her attention fully, demanding that she say what had come to her mind. All right, all right, enough already, I'll talk. She sighed and looked back at the horses, beginning slowly. "Gwyna, do you believe in foreseeing the future?"

Gwyna frowned and looked over at her. "What do you mean, exactly?"

Alissa turned and leaned against the fence sideways, arms crossed over her leather vest. "I mean as in prophecies."

Gwyna's eyes flickered for a moment and Alissa could see some past pain flash through her face before she said softly, "Yes, I believe there are such things. Why?"

Alissa breathed deeply to center herself and continued. "I have what you could call a fickle gift of prophecy. It pops up every now and again. It appeared when I saw you in the marketplace with Ryana. I've been getting flashes since then, nothing concrete ... until now. I can't force you to let me say what I feel, but if you would allow, I will tell you. I don't know how much sense it will make. It's mainly just images, feelings, a few phrases."

Gwyna hesitated, then nodded. "Go ahead, I'm listening."

Alissa closed her eyes and intoned quietly, "I see great sadness, loss, and despair in your past. But now all I see is joy. You are the first of the last in a long line of givers. Change is coming; change, destruction, and rebirth for Rill; change that centers around your family. From you comes the sword of hope for Rill, for all of us."

Alissa opened her eyes and gazed deeply in the dark depths of Gwyna's eyes. What pain has she felt in the past to cause such empathic despair in my soul? If only the joy I see could outweigh that pain, but it is too short, always too short. She blinked a few times, then finished. "Life is short, Gwyna. Live now; the past is forever gone and unchangeable; the future is unwritten and unknown. The present is all we have, all we can ever have."

Later that night, as Andrel was putting Raven to bed in her bedroom, Gwyna wrote in her journal as she pondered what Alissa said to her before she had left with her second-in-command for Brightstar.

"Such mysterious words she had for me. But somehow I feel she sees the truth. Even though I do live now, I do still cling to the past sometimes. Memories are strong in me, at times, too strong. No more. Raven and Andi are my life. Ryana is my closest and dearest friend. And Teva, Teva and his legacy will be my work. Next week I will go to the Winter Dance with Andi as he asked. It is time I begin to truly live again, to enjoy my new life, to truly, and fully, live now."

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Forty years later....

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The older woman's footsteps echoed down the long empty hallway as she slowly walked among the portraits of the Ancestor Hall. She straightened a frame here and there and pushed back a plant or small wall table that had been knocked into during the long day of tours. The portraits had only been rehung the last week and people were coming every day to see them, to remember the past.

Finally she stood before the picture she was heading for -- that of Andrel and Gwyna. A covered candlescone on the opposite wall casts flickering shadows below the picture, but she didn't notice. Many had commented on the oddness of having a picture of nonroyalty on the walls of the Ancestor Hall. But nonetheless, the picture was hung there, having been authorized by Randal and Tayna so many, many years ago, which was what she had been telling some of the more persistent ones who just didn't understand why the picture was there. But that was the advantage of being a guide through the Hall -- she knew all the reasons and the past history of all the pictures.

Being one of the bards who had been in the Bardic Academy 13 years before the war began didn't hurt either.

'Our honor and privilege' -- that was what she'd said to some who had asked about the painting. The words were definitely true and did well with those who didn't know Gwyna or even Andrel. So many have died over the last 15 years that she wasn't sure there were too many people left who did know Andrel. And since Rosewood had been burned to the ground as well, there were no memories left there of the great silversmith. And Gwyna only lived in Rillanda a very few short years before her death. Yes, 'honor and privilege' were good words to use.

But to those who had known them both, it was something more, something different.

The woman touched the frame of the picture lightly. Her husband Jeran would come looking for her soon -- her daughter Cristen would be arriving this evening in Brightstar; their two sons, Benjamine and Perryn, have already been found; the return of their daughter would make their family complete again.

And so she reached into an inner tunic pocket and drew forth a small wooden flute, saying softly, "Once, I thought after Tulan gave me your journal to read, that this song was finished. But now I have a new addition, Gwyna, a new ending, an ending of joy and peace and restoration."

And Ryana, now 66, writer and composer of the greatly loved Gwyna's Lament, a song of love, of sadness, of trials, of sorrow, of new life, of death, a song of life, lifts the flute to her lips ... and began to play.

- The End -


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