Prophecy of Darkfire: Waking on Four Legs
by Fur and Fantasy
PG-13
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Arymah SwiftClaw ThuaFaren sighed to herself as she felt her mind come back on line before her body, and instinctively opened her empathy a crack in a passive scan for friend or foe.

The first presence she ghosted over, nearly 15 yards out, told her as sure as anything that she was not at home, or even any place she knew. Instead of the comforting background chatter of Cathedral's mainframe and the thousands of other machines that worked with and within the underground city-complex, there was a nearly mind-blind biological entity with the unique mixture of concern and detachment she associated with medics and healers.

At a thousand yards she’d come to the conclusion that wherever she was, it was very low tech; probably Stone Age, or possibly early in the soft metalsmithing, but unlikely anything more advanced than that. There was definitely nothing she’d categorize as ‘Technology’ to talk to. The trees were more coherent than the tools she found in her scan. There weren’t many advanced biological entities either, though lots of plants and primitive creatures.

She focused back on a closer examination of the female healer-type that was now coming closer, and extended her senses into active empathy and telepathy in the biological range.

’Of course she doesn’t speak any of the ninety-seven languages I do.’ Arymah mentally rolled her eyes as she began to get sensation from her body again and prepared to acquire her ninety-eighth language as gently as possible from her host.

"Tuki re you feeling, Mistress?" The kind, curious voice and the mind behind it most definitely belonged to a healer, whether titled or not. As did the gentle, searching touch along a large body that was finally starting to fully report in to her mind. "I could not find anything wrong, but I am afraid I have little experience caring for a Noble."

Arymah tried to smile as her voice wasn’t cooperating yet; guessing the first two sounds were to the effect of ‘how are’ and grateful once again that her father Nate had taught her that trick to learn a language in a few heartbeats. Though he’d be horrified at the modifications she did to it, by not giving a language in return, it was extraordinarily useful at times like this.

She opened her eyes very slowly, carefully taking in her surroundings, and grateful that it wasn’t too strange a world she’d landed in. At least she wasn’t aquatic this time, and she did have a body with hands and feet ... and feathered wings ... and two more feet than she was used to. Her tail felt about normal though. Breasts were on her upper body, but between her hind legs were definitely a dick and balls.

The taur standing before her, Kummata judging by her surface thoughts, had a half canine, half feline appearance, with thick gray fur with darker gray and white rosettes.

"Where am I?" Arymah smiled slightly as the words came out correctly.

Kummata bowed respectfully. "This is the Forest of Surynai, in the lands of Chieftain Sorranto, Mistress." It took great effort on Kummata's part to keep the anger out of her voice when speaking Sorranto's name, but it would be inappropriate for her to speak ill of one Noble to another. Not to mention dangerous if this one was anything but hem enemy.

Arymah covered the fact that it meant absolutely nothing to her with practiced ease and very carefully did a slightly deeper scan for as much information about this 'Sorranto' that angered a healer so, and what the hell the rest of it meant.

She easily discovered that the healer's mind was uncomplicated, with loneliness a dominant emotion. Sorranto was a relatively important Chieftain, reasonably attractive with the upper body of a male Grey Wolf Lupo, and the lower body of a Black Tiger, who had sought to take Kummata as a lover. Though she was attracted to hem physically, she did not care for hems violent, and often abusive personality. Hem had become outraged when she refused hem, and had attempted to force hems attentions on her.

Sorranto's attempt had been interrupted by the unexpected arrival of his mate. In order to 'explain' what hems mate saw, the chieftain accused the healer of trying to seduce hem, something commoners were forbidden to do. When it came to accusations, if a Noble accused a commoner it was no contest, the Noble won. For such gross impropriety, Kummata had been given the choice of banishment, death or being Sorranto's sex slave. She chose banishment, though she had since thought that maybe she had been too hasty. Kummata missed the company of the others of her tribe, especially her family.

As for the Forest of Surynai, it was a large, dense evergreen forest with an abundance of 'Surynai', which turned out to be a medium-sized quadruped similar to a deer or antelope. Sorranto's domain was only one of many within the forest, though an outcast from one tribe was normally not welcome in another.

"I'm called Arymah. What should I call you?"

"My name is Kummata, Mistress Arymah." She bowed from her forelegs. "Are you hungry, Mistress? I have fresh meat, bread and a hearty stew to offer, though I regret I have no wine."

"That sounds quite good," she smiled as she tried to get her still not quite coordinated body to move, and envied her host more and more for her native grace with four feet, two arms, and the strangest spine in the history of evolution.

With a frustrated series of growls Arymah made it to her feet and across the packed dirt and hide covered floor to the crackling fire -- literally one paw placement at a time. And to top it all off, her wings didn't want to cape over her shoulders.

Kummata finished spooning something dark and liquidly into a fair sided wooden bowl and handed it over. "I will fetch some fresh meat and bread for you, Mistress."

"It smells good." Arymah blew across the steaming concoction before sipping it, guessing that was procedure, since she wasn't given a utensil. "Tastes good too."

"Thank you, Mistress." The Wolf-Snow Leopard mix smiled shyly and dipped as she walked outside, returning shortly with a primitively baked loaf of bread and three thick stripes of raw meat on a wooden try.

"Please call me Arymah, at least when it is just the two of us." She smiled at the surprise evident for a moment on her host's face. "I was raised with more respect for Healers than that to be called Mistress by one."

"As you wish, Arymah." She smiled and relaxed slightly as she skewered the meat slabs and set them over the fire, then broke the bread into large chunks and set the tray next to her guest. "May I ask a question?"

"Certainly, though I may not be able to answer it." She smiled and soaked some flavorful broth into the bread.

Kummata hesitated for moment, still a little uncertain. "Which tribe is yours, Arymah? If I knew I could better help you return to them." In her heart she hoped that it would be no tribe she knew of. She had heard rumors of distant plains tribes who would accept outsiders if they could prove themselves useful, as a healer she knew she could do that.

"ThuaFaren." She spoke the word proudly, and without translating.

The healer signed softly. "I'm afraid you are likely very far from home then, as I have not even heard of them."

Arymah smiled sadly. "I don't know where Cathedral or the Alliance are relative to here, but you are right, I am very far from home, for I have not heard of this land either." She paused a moment, covering her hesitation by taking several sips of the soup. "What I am sure of, is this is another mission for me." She cocked something of a smile at the curious noise her host made. "The gods seem to have chosen me as something of representative, or messenger more likely. Waking up in a strange place has not been too unusual an experience for me. It means I have something to do here, before I am sent back home. The tricky part is figuring out what they want me to do."

Kummata nodded. She had heard tales like this when she was younger, though she had never thought one would enter her own life. She thought for a moment before speaking. "If I am not presuming too much, perhaps the gods have crossed our paths because I can aid you in some way. What meager skills and knowledge I have are yours to command, if you think they may help." She looked at the foreign Noble with faint hope in her eyes. In her heart she thought that perhaps the gods were offering her a chance for redemption.

She smiled. "I'm sure our meeting was not a matter of chance, the first I see when I wake are never far from the center of what I need to do." She licked her lips as the scent of roasting meat made her stomach, located in the beast part of her body, start to growl for it. "You could help me a great deal by telling me of this land, and what you will of yourself and Sorranto. And of a way I may repay your help."

She smiled at the denial her look stopped. "You are a Healer, Kummata, and you have taken me into your home. I was taught that such things should be repaid with equal respect." She chuckled softly. "And I have been among equals for far too long, I wish to be a productive member of this house while I am here." She cast a searching gaze around the hide and wood structure, decorated everywhere with beautiful, handcrafted objects. "I am a good hunter, once I find my balance again, though you are by far a better cook, and I can turn my hand at nearly any skill with a little instruction to a passable extent."

The wolf-snow leopard taur smiled shyly at the compliment. "I would be most appreciative of any help with the hunting you wish to give, since while I'm an adequate hunter ... I spend too much time to bring back what I do." She spoke quietly while turning the meat on the spit.

The healer told her Noble guest what she knew about the Forest, the twelve tribes that divided the Forest between them and the delicate balance between them, which was only broken occasionally by clandestine raids. Sorranto had ruled her tribe for twelve summers after the death of the previous chief, while hem was hunting krandor.

Krandor, she explained, was a powerful solitary predator larger than any of the People. For a chieftain to possess a coat of the silvery hide of a krandor brought hem great respect from the other chieftains.

The primary game animal in the forest was the burynai a fleet quadruped found in plentiful numbers. The male burynai had horns, which they used to fend off predators and to battle each other for leadership of their herds. Burynai horns made for excellent bows, and the sinews worked well as bowstrings. She described the other game animals including a large low-slung quadruped which was as aggressive as any predator. It was considered the sport of the young Nobles to hunt it in groups, usually somewhat drunk groups.

She described the burynai carefully from the perspective of one trying to hunt it, its habits, its preferred foods, and the predators that hunted it. Predators that could turn a hunter into the hunted, especially the Marluk, a pack hunting predator.

She paused in her telling as the meat was done, and served some to her Noble guest.

She looked down for a moment. "What happened with Sorranto was simple, hem wanted me, I didn't want hem. Hem tried to force his attentions, I resisted hem. For daring to resist hem, hem accused me of trying to seduce hem. It is forbidden for a commoner to do such a thing, and I was given a choice of death, banishment or becoming hem slave, to serve in whatever manner hem saw fit ... I chose banishment. There is no more to tell."

She looked at Arymah. "There is no debt for what help I have given. Indeed, I owe you for the honor you have done me by treating me as an equal, though I have done nothing to earn such favor. And more importantly, you have given me someone to talk to, to ease the loneliness, which has been a burden. If there is any debt here, it is I who owe you." She smiled sincerely.

"Company is indeed a great gift." Arymah smiled back. "I will make a deal with you, for company, if you are interested. A story for a story. I'll tell you something of myself, for each thing you tell me about yourself." She sliced a good-sized chunk of roasted meat with her teeth, appreciative that they were in a good, strong jaw, and swallowed the tasty flesh. "What is something you'd like to know about me?"

Kummata nodded agreeably, and then thought for several moments. "How did you gain the attention of the gods, that they send you to do their bidding? I've heard the old stories, but that's all I thought they were."

"I don't know for sure, but I have a few theories." She chuckled softly and took another bite of broth-soaked bread. "Top of the list is that both of my fathers have been of interests to various gods since long before my birth. One is the focus of a major prophecy, the other is a hero who has a habit of arguing with them, and winning. As for me, if nothing else has warranted this attention, it is that I accomplish my missions." She chuckled softly. "When three gods, the Triad of Felsinor, attended my birth, it was probably the end to any hope for a normal, calm life for me."

Kummata gasped in shock and amazement as she wondered if this foreign Noble could indeed be the legendary Emissary of the Three. She look among the various carvings she had done, ashamed that she had spent so much time on frivolous things until she found the right one. She still didn't know what had possessed her to carve three figures on the sides of a wooden bowl, but there they were; the healer, the hunter and the changeling.

With slight misgivings she showed the carving to her guest. Her voice trembled. "Are these the three? The healer, the hunter, and the changeling?"

Looking at the bowl, Arymah was amazed to see reasonable approximations of the Triad carved on its sides. "Yes." She murmured, matching her host's intent gaze. "You know of the Triad?"

"I have never heard them called that. Of the Three I know very little," the wolf-snow leopard admitted, "save that they and their emissary are mentioned in the Prophecy of Darkfire, and the story of Arzor's Luck and the Great Healer."

"Tell me of this prophecy, and the story." She focused with absolute intent on her host. "I will tell you what I know of Felsira, Keltin, and Caito."

Kummata made herself comfortable since it was a long tale. "My apologies if I do not get the story perfect, I am not trained as teller of stories and it is a long tale." She waited for Arymah to make herself comfortable.

When it seemed that her guest was settled, she continued. "The story takes place a very long time ago, in an earlier age before the People came to the Forest of Burynai. In what is now the Dragon Wastes, there was a great gathering of many tribes, with so many dwelling there that no one could know them all. Those who dwelled there were not like the People, they had only two legs and only male and female. None of them had wings, so they found other ways to choose those who would lead. And they dwelt in mighty places of metal and stone, constructed by magics that are lost now.

"At the edge of the wastes there was the hidden fortress of Hedra, the place of secrets ruled by mighty sorceress, Pa'Dyn'ra and her consort Arzor. Arzor was the greatest of the fire wizards and the father of the great dragons who protected the multitude who dwelled on the coast of the great ocean.

"Arzor first created the black dragon Tur'ca. But a wizard cannot control a dragon and cast his spells at the same time, so Arzor sought a warrior capable of controlling the dragon for him. He found his warrior among the elite of the coast dwellers warriors, the warrior's name is lost to us, save that he was always called Luck."

She paused briefly, watching to see if her audience was bored or wanted to ask questions. When neither seemed to happen, she continued. "For years the pair fought the various evils that threatened the coast dwellers, and to all who knew them they seemed inseparable, but dark clouds were forming. Arzor had come to desire Luck not only as companion but as lover and mate."

"Luck would bed the wizard, but he would bed others as willingly. And he seemed unaware of the wizard's desire for a soul-bonding. For a long time the wizard despaired until the despair became too great and he sought to be free of such desires. Alone he challenged the Dark Lord, who has no other name, and would have perished save for the first emissary of the Three, the Great Healer."

"As the Dark Lord strode forward to claim the soul of the fallen Wizard, the Healer stepped between them. The Dark Lord could not contest the power of the Healer backed by the Three, and retreated. The Healer picked up the broken body of the Wizard and rising on the Hunter's Wind, he carried Arzor back to the Dwelling that Arzor, Luck and the Black Dragon shared. Thus the two became three, and the path of the world thus changed forever."

She turned to Arymah. "That is the first story of the cycle, do you wish to hear the rest?"

"Yes, please." Her mind was scrambling over the obvious corollaries to the stories father Nate told her, and random information form galaxies worth of travels and travelers she's met.

Kummata nodded. "For weeks the Great Healer tended the wounds of the angry Wizard, who resented the unwanted gift of life. But the Healer took no notice of the anger, and looked after Arzor with great care and compassion. As he tended the Wizard the healer found himself burdened by an unfamiliar sensation, as time passed he realized that he now loved and desired the Wizard.

"And yet he could not approach Arzor, until Arzor and Luck had healed the hurt between them. But the Healer was patient and could wait. Many times he calmed angry words between the two, and soothed the turbulent waters of discord. Often he found himself consoling the hurting wizard, and yet he could not let himself touch as he wished to. For a long time there was little happiness in the Estate of Arzor.

"Then came the day when the Great Healer was called away to a great meeting of Healers in a far distant land. He resisted going knowing he would be gone almost a full season, and he feared what would happen. But Arzor assured him that things would be fine until he returned, and that his duty as a healer was to attend. The Great Healer reluctantly agreed, and went, little knowing what would transpire before his return.

"The months passed, and the arguing grew steadily worse between Arzor and Luck, and the Wizard's despair began to grow again. One night after a terrible fight, while the Wizard was with one of his mistresses, a horrible demon subdued Luck by dark magics and took its pleasures of the helpless warrior in countless ways too horrible for mortal ears.

"By means unknown Luck escaped the demon and dragged himself back to the estate. Seeking to purge the nightmare images from his brain, he drank himself into oblivion. When the Wizard returned he smelled the demon on Luck, and was outraged that his companion had taken to consorting with demons, when he had refused the Wizard more than the most casual of bedding.

"The Wizard removed his belongings from the estate, and in a final act of friendship left both the estate and the great black dragon, Tur'ca, to Luck. He hoped that one day Luck might free himself from the demonic influence and return to his side, maybe even as mate; but a wizard can not afford to be polluted by demon influences so he left, returning to his mistress of the previous night."

She paused briefly. "That is the second story, one more remains, do you wish to hear it? It is perhaps the most tragic of the cycle."

Arymah could only nod, her gut twisting in recognition of a tale different from the one she assumed she would hear, one much closer to home, and distressing in the extreme in it's implications.

Kummata smiled appreciatively and continued. "So it was that Luck awoke from his drunken slumber to find Arzor gone, but the black dragon left to him. But the warrior had no wish to fly dragonback alone, he wanted the Wizard back; needed the Wizard to help him take vengeance on the demon for what it had done to him. But there was none in the Estate save him, so he went to vault where Arzor kept the magic weapons created by his fire magic selected something powerful enough to slay a demon, and went out to hunt the demon alone. He hoped either to redeem his honor by slaying the demon, or to die at its claws ... neither was preferable, he would regain his honor either way."

She paused. "Part of him preferred to death for it meant that he would not have to face a life alone. As he hunted the demon he began to realize what Arzor had really meant to him, and more importantly what Arzor had needed from him. But Arzor was gone, and there was nothing Luck could do about that.

"While Luck hunted the demon in the place of the coastal dwellers, the Great Healer returned to the Estate of Arzor to find none there save the Black Dragon, who had not been given the power of speech and could not tell him what had happened. As he drew upon the powers given him by the Three he discovered what had happened. In his rage and pain, the Great Healer was transformed for a time into the great Panther-Warrior S'Cla. When the transformation he went out to undo all the damage that had happened. He would slay the demon and he would heal the wounds between the warrior and the wizard. In that moment he realized that he loved them both, and he would not accept losing either.

"As he headed to Hedra to seek Arzor, who would surely go there as all Wizards do, the Three granted him the power to save those he loved. They granted him power unlike any they had ever granted before, and the like they would never grant again."

She paused dramatically. "The Great Healer walked the shadowy halls of Hedra seeking Arzor, but in the many shadows and secrets of Hedra he could not find the one he loved. But he found the secret place of the next generation of Dragons, and these Dragons Arzor had given the power of speech; a gift he had not given to Tur'ca. Then the Healer found something he could not believe; after all the years of pursuing Luck's affection and devotion, Arzor had chosen a new warrior to control his new breed of dragons. A full warrior, yet seemingly little more than kit.

"As the Healer tried to make some sense of this seeming abandonment, he was pierced to the heart by a fatal blow the warrior, Luck had taken in the process of slaying the demon. The Healer enraged became the great Panther and roared out of the halls of Hedra on the great Tempest Wind, scattering all before him and shattering the mighty doors of Hedra and exposing its secrets to the light of day."

"The Healer reached the dying warrior in time to hear his last words. 'Tell Arzor I always loved him, I just had to lose him to understand.' As the warrior's soul began to depart, the great Panther roared, a roar of rage and pain that shattered windows in the dwelling place of the coastal people, and that shook the foundations of Hedra itself, and woke the Sorceress from her sleep.

"Arzor awoke with a start from a nightmare, he felt his soul tear as Luck died, and then he was terrified by the roar of the great Panther. On the wings of small dragon he flew to Hedra to find it's doors broken, its people scattered and the Sorceress huddling in her sanctuary.

"Though the Healer did not know it, his roar had held the warrior at the very boundary between the lands of the living and the spirit world. In the same moment he was angry beyond reason at Arzor for abandoning Luck when Luck needed him the most. At the same time, he loved the Wizard with a love that could halt death itself. The tormented soul of the Healer could not resolve the pain, anger, and love and it shattered releasing the Tempest Beast.

"The Tempest Beast was all the healing power of the Healer twisted to death and was backed by the power of the Three, who were stunned by the sudden appearance of something that was Nightmare even to them.

"The raging Beast turned to the dwelling place of the coastal people and wreaked great destruction and misery upon them. Even their strongest warriors were of no avail. The lesser dragons given to them by Hedra were struck down like mere insects. The leader of the coastal people whose name is forgotten called upon Hedra to defend the coastal people, as Hedra had promised.

"Arzor came from Hedra with his new brood of Dragons to do battle with the Beast. And still they were no more effective than the lesser dragons, for what dragon can do battle with the power of death, backed by the power of the Three?

"Finally, it came down to Arzor and his new Dragon, Mr'ith to try and stop the Beast, though by this time there was little to save of the great buildings of the coastal people. The battle was great indeed and the clash of powerful magics shook the mountains of Hedra and cracked its foundations.

"But still, the Beast was like a Death god unleashed and Arzor was only mortal. The great claws of the Beast struck Mr'ith ripping her from sky and dashing her to the ground, where she perished. Arzor and his warrior climbed from corpse of the dragon to see the Beast descend on them. Blinded by rage the Beast struck out at the warrior who had dared take Luck's place, but Arzor was quicker and took the blow instead.

"The shock of striking the one he loved broke the Healer's madness but it was too late. He had done the one thing he had sworn before all the gods that he would never do; he had struck Arzor in anger. As the pain of the broken vow descended on him he carried the broken wizard to where Luck lay, and laid the wizard next to his warrior.

"As the Healer sobbed tears unnumbered, Tur'ca swooped down and carried off the still shaken warrior. Why Tur'ca came at that point, or why she chose to save that warrior is still unknown.

"As the wizard died, the heart of the Healer gave out, and with the last of his strength the Beast gave one final roar. This roar was not of rage or anger, but of love, pain, and a plea for forgiveness. In that moment all the power of the Beast exploded outward leaving only the Healer. The shattering power ripped through the land slaying the coastal dwellers to the last, so that their kind has never been seen again, and it turned the fertile lands within the circling mountains of Hedra into the barren waste they remain to this day.

"It is said that the Dragons were restored by the second Roar, and that they remain to this day guarding the valley as they have for time uncounted. It is also said that the Arzor, Luck and the Healer remain at the place where they fell, still caught between life and death unable to move on, caught in a triangle of unresolved love."

Kummata paused for a moment. "The Prophecy was supposedly left by Darkfire, the warrior who controlled Mr'ith for Arzor. Supposedly, he was also the first one to tell this story though no one knows for sure. It is rumored that he still lives waiting for the resolution of the prophecy, for it is said that he is bound to Arzor in some fashion and can not die before him.

"The Prophecy says that the tragic three will remain unchanged until Luck accepts the talisman of love that Arzor made for him. Then the three will be able to deal with what has held them to this world, and the expression of that love will make the valley fertile again. The prophecy says that the second emissary of the Three will be able to find the talisman, and that Luck will accept the Talisman from the emissary.

"There is one part of the Prophecy I have never understood. It says that the emissary will be the daughter of Arzor and the Healer, and yet the story is quite clear that neither had any offspring. Besides both Arzor and the Healer were males, incapable of giving birth."

She looked at a very shaken Arymah. "I have always been drawn to that story and Prophecy. So tragic and yet there remains hope that things may work out. Thank you for tolerating my poor skill as story teller with such grace."

"Thank you, Kummata." Arymah breathed in shock, even as her guts and mind tried to implode. "There is only one real difference between my father's tale and this one; one choice that destroyed a world here, and saved the one I would call home.

"Instead of seeking Jake out when he returned, he sought Chance out. It was not enough to save the fallen partnership, but it was enough to save their lives, and eventually, enough that neither resented the love Nathan held for the other." She shivered. "Even the names are very similar. Chance is likely Luck, Nathan is the Healer, Jake was also known as NightRazor. Their dragon, the TurboKat. And Jake did create a team to take the place of his dying partnership, Amerith his jet, and his new pilot a full grown kit, BlackFire.

"And what happened in your tale, would very much be what Nathan could do if things had been different." She took a moment to gather her scattered nerves. "Off hand, I have a very good idea what I'm looking for in that charm."

Kummata poured some water into two rough bowls and offered one to Arymah, when it was accepted she sipped from her own; story-telling was parching work. "Arymah, do you think that perhaps the gods sent you here to help the tragic three finally find peace?" The healer was hopeful, since the gods were said to show favor to those who helped the chosen.

"Even if it's not, it's a good place to start, and something I'd like to do while I'm here." She grinned slightly, beginning to recover. "For all they won't tell me what I'm supposed to do on any given trip, it's usually an obvious item like that. Something presented in the first day or so." She paused, and picked up a cooling slab of meat for a bite. "What kind of trek are we looking at to get to the Dragon Wastes?"

The healer smiled as she thought about the journey. "It is perhaps ten days to where the Forest meets the Hedra Mountains. I do not know long it will take to cross the mountains for I know of no one who has ever done so." She paused briefly. "The Dragon Wastes begin at the foot of the Hedra mountains far side."

"Sounds like we have some serious work to do before leaving, then. Oh, and can Nobles usually fly, or are these things mostly decorative?" She rustled the flame red, feathered wings set just below her shoulder blades. They certainly looked aerodynamic from her angle, much like those of the great predatory avians of many worlds, but the rest of her heavily boned and muscled body certainly wasn't designed with flight in mind, even if it was probably fast and agile on the ground.

Kummata was surprised at her Noble guest's question. "Yes, Arymah they can. Don't Nobles fly where you come from?"

"There aren't 'Nobles' where I come from." She smiled to take a little of the shock out of her words. "Those that can fly are built very differently that what I've figured out I am now. Wings and musculature would indicate I could now, but the rest isn't well suited to the physics of it."

She nodded, then paused, uncertain of whether her question would be impertinent. "Arymah, how will we get past the Dragons who guard the valley?"

"If they are what I think they are, they'll be happy to see me." She smiled gently. "If they are related to what I learned to call Dragons, I have a few other skills to use to get them to let us through. I'm far more concerned with provisions for such a trip."

The healer considered that for a moment. "Water will not be a difficulty until we reach the Wastes, since the Forest is blessed with many clear, natural springs so we will be able to refill the waterskins as needed. And we can follow the River of Tears up into the Mountains, it may even provide a pass through the mountains, though I do not know for certain."

"It is now the season of harvest, so many trees and bushes will be bearing fruit, so that foraging can supply some food." She paused. "If you do not mind some delay, then I could prepare travel bread, and smoke meat so that it will stay good longer."

"That would be a very good idea, as well a dried fruits, nuts and other travels supplies." Arymah nodded and cast a look at the door, checking for the level of light beyond the hide flap. "Would you help me out to see the stars?" She asked when it clearly was well into darkness.

"Of course." She looked Arymah, a little confused, but assisted the unsteady Noble to hir feet and outside. "What I do not know is how far we will have to travel through the Wastes, and what, if any, bounty the land will yield. If the story is true, then we will need to prepare for travel through a land that yields nothing save dust and sand."

"How long we'll have to do that is something I'm trying to check." She watched her hosts feet as much as her own, eventually figuring out that her rear end would just follow her around if she didn't think about it, and began moving with much more grace. "What season is it, Kummata?" She asked as she looked up towards familiar stars, though they seemed out of place a bit, but she knew that over long periods of time, star formations would change. Certain familiar stars left little room for doubt that she was looking into the night late summer sky of Aristal.

Kummata looked into the night sky, something she often did to pass time. "It is early in the season of harvest, in several months the season of frost will come."

"Early fall/ late summer." Arymah nodded before studying the shift in positions a little more. "Probably fifty thousand years up the timestream."

The healer was not sure what Arymah's words meant but she never understood the seer when hem looked at the stars either. "What do the stars tell you, Arymah?" She asked thinking that she had often looked to the stars for answers, but had only found their silent beauty as they moved in their endless dance across the sky.

"Well, I'd originally say that I am in the far future of the world of my father Jake, but given your story, it more likely a parallel world, where one choice long ago drastically altered the future." She sighed. "And I bet I just said something very confusing.

"The stars tell me we're in for a relatively short trek in the Dragon Wastes, though ... hmmm, do you know how many days it is to the great water to the east?" She pointed in the direction she meant.

Kummata considered for a moment. "Perhaps eight days to camp of the Sea Tribe's camp which lies at the edge of the great ocean. But the Wastes are northwest, why would we go to the ocean?" She asked confused by Arymah sudden interest in the ocean.

Arymah smiled understandingly. "We aren't, I was trying to get a feel for how far we can travel in a day. While ten days is a good way of describing how long it will take to get to the mountains, and I know how far it is from there to what I am looking for, and from there to the likely location of the spirits, I know distance in a different context than you. But I know how far it is from the mountains to the sea in this area, so if that distance can be traveled in eighteen days, I also know that we should assume we will have to travel for at least that many in the Wastes, and a better idea of where 'here' is, in my understanding of the area." She sighed. "I'm sorry. Did I just talk way over your head again?"

Kummata grinned. "You seem to know things about the Wastes than no one knows, so that is a little confusing. But Nobles often talk of things commoners like myself do not understand. It is simply the order of things. If you know how long we must travel in the wastes that is enough, since then we can prepare appropriate provisions for the journey."

She sighed. "We must also take into consideration that the story may not be true, or the Prophecy not what it seems and prepare sufficient provisions to get us back."

Arymah nodded, and cast a glance back up at the stars. "True, though the trek back will likely be shorter in the Wastes, and longer in the forest. We should bring provisions for at least forty days, preferably fifty, if we can." She turned her attention back to her companion. "Assuming I'm the decent travel-hunter I think I am, how difficult would it be to travel after the snows come? There is no hurry in this trek, and on principle, I would rather spend the last of it in the snow than go ill prepared because we rushed."

Kummata nodded. "The seer says that the snows will be light this year, but normally they are not that difficult, though they make foraging and hunting more difficult. I have heard it said that the snow in the mountains is heavier, and that there are places where it never leaves even during high summer. And I do not know what the weather in the Wastes is like, though the legend would indicate that is quite dry, and probably does not snow much."

She nodded easily and turned back to the sizable, freestanding shelter, finding her step significantly more coordinated. "We should be back in the forest before the snows, but in order to reduce our time in the Wastes, the trek through the forest will likely take closer to fifteen days.

The Wolf-Snow Leopard smiled. "This is a good time of year to prepare travel food, because the forest is at its most generous. We may even be able to find Burynai with horns suitable for bow-making. Bows make travel hunting much easier."

"You don't have one, but know how to make them?"

"I'm a better hunter with the spear, since my aim is not all that good. However, I have a good hand at crafts and making bows is a talent that is valued, sometimes even more than that of healer. I thought perhaps you might have better aim than I."

"Likely," she nodded easily. "I've always been a good shot."

Arymah watched as a meteorite burned up in the atmosphere. She turned to see the wolf-snow leopard bowing her head respectfully.

Kummata looked up to see the questioning face of Arymah looking at her. "It is said that the star sparks are one of the tragic three returning to mortal form for a brief time. The story says that Luck seeks to confess his love to Arzor who cannot hear him; the Healer seeks forgiveness for doing the one thing he swore never to do; and it is said that Arzor returns to the company of Darkfire to bed the warrior for a night. The legends say that Arzor needs the physical touch of a lover still, but that Darkfire is the only one he can touch."

Arymah couldn't help the shiver the cascaded down her L shaped spine as she ducked through the hide door. "Very likely true. Jake needed that, back then." She paused to consider the interior of the room more closely, taking in the decoration on everything, and the many objects that likely served nothing but decorative value. "You are quite an artist, Kummata." She smiled a little wistfully. "Of all the things I am good at, that is one I wished I could do better."

The healer did not look at them. "Thank you, Arymah. I waste much time on them that would be better used in other tasks. It is a vice that I have had for most of my life. The healer who taught me said that I needed to spend more time on practical matters, and less on frivolous things." She sighed. "But somehow I always find myself back at it."

"Muse-Bound." She smiled and placed an encouraging hand on her host's shoulder. "It is an honor, where I am from. To create something of beauty from nothing enriches all."

She took down a carefully smoothed piece of bark, which had the beginnings of a painting or drawing on. From a smaller shelf she retrieved a rough wooden tray, which had what looked to be pigments. She showed the picture to Arymah.

Arymah thought it a fair likeness of Jake, Nathan and Chance. It was a kind of group shot, with Nathan standing between Jake and Chance. The three were wearing clothing more appropriate to her hosts timeframe than the one they belonged in, but otherwise it was extraordinary for someone who likely had never seen a biped, much less a Kat or Felsin.

"I started that one last night." Kummata said quietly. "I think it is of the tragic three, but I am not sure what colors to use. You seem to know more of them than the story tells. Do you know what colors would be correct for them?" She asked curiously.

"Jake ... the wizard ... is ... I call it cinnamon. It's a sort of tan redish brown, with amber ... an orange tinged gold ... eyes. Chance, the warrior, is a light ocher ... a golden yellow, with dark brown stripes. Nathan, the healer, is a flame-furred tiger-tabby. He's a deep red-orange with black stripes and a white front, and bright green eyes."

"Thank you, Arymah." The healer said gratefully. She began carefully mixing pigments using meager amounts of water to moisten them. With a dexterous hand, precise eye and painstaking care she applied the primitive paints.

Eventually, she turned and showed the finished work to Arymah, who had watched the entire process with utter fascination. The colors were very close to what had been described, though somehow deeper and more vibrant than real life.

"Does my rough work do them justice, do you think?" Kummata asked looking to Arymah with faint hope in her eyes.

"Definitely," the Noble breathed. "You're interest does them honor, your skill ..." her voice trailed off. She shook her head to clear it and stared at the image again, then locked eyes with her host. "Never, never feel shame at creating such beauty in the world, Kummata. Yours is a great gift. Do not let small minded people tell you otherwise."

The wolf-snow leopard bowed gratefully to Arymah. "Thank you, Arymah. It is good to hear that someone say that what I do has value. You're the first to ever tell me that, and to it hear from a Noble," she paused momentarily, "makes me feel that I can enjoy creating them, even if no one else appreciates what I do."

"At least one will always appreciate it." She smiled softly. "Sometimes that is all we have."

She looked at her guest, and shook her head. "I am forgetting myself. You are only just getting steady on your feet and I'm keeping you from sleep because I have had no one to talk to for so long." She showed the Noble to a sleeping pallet. "It is rough and common, but I hope you will find it acceptable."

"Quite better than many a place I have spent the night, believe me." She assured the other taur with a grateful smile, and turned her attention to trying to figure out just how she was supposed to rest in this body.

"The morning will be soon enough to begin preparations for our journey. Concerns will wait until then. May the gods grant you restful sleep and pleasant dreams, Arymah." She lay down on a second pallet across the dwelling from the first. She gave silent thanks to the gods for sending this gentle Noble to ease her loneliness, even for a short time.

"May the gods grant you restful sleep and pleasant dreams as well, Kummata." Arymah repeated more on reflex than thought as she tried to settle to her side; similar to the position she was in when she first woke. Despite not thinking she was tired, awareness of the world outside her dreams quickly vanished.


Kummata woke to a still dark world; senses instantly on alert to find what had disrupted her rest. It did not take long to pinpoint the disturbance.

Her Noble guest was whimpering in hir sleep, a sound reminiscent of a lost cub mewing for it's mother.

She quietly got up, padded over to Arymah's side, and gently brushed back the Noble's hair in a way that often had a calming effect on cubs when they had nightmares. She glanced at the bowl with the Three on it, and silently asked the healer to quiet the disturbed dreams of her patient. The healer wondered what kind of nightmares could disturb one as calm and patient as this Noble seemed to be.

Her first touch seemed to settle her guest, but almost the moment she drew her hand away hir was restless again.

Kummata was puzzled, and somewhat uncertain. She thought perhaps her telling of the story and Arymah decision to fulfill the prophecy had awakened old spirits. It occurred to her that the demon might not want the prophecy fulfilled, so perhaps he was tormenting Arymah.

Kummata's mentor had shown her the way to ward of hostile spirits, so she quietly went over got the carefully prepared wax candles, stone bowl, and protective herbs. She placed the candles properly around the bowl, and lit them one at a time. When they were lit, she placed the herbs in the bowl, and touched a lit taper to them. As they burned she quietly whispered a prayer to the forest spirits to drive away any evil that might be lingering. She carefully visualized a dome of white light surrounding her dwelling and holding the demon at bay.

Having taking proper precautions she knelt down beside her guest and brushed her hand gently against hirs forehead, pleased that it apparently worked, though only as long as there was some small physical contact between them.

Accepting that her patient required her physical presence, she quietly moved her sleeping pallet close enough that she could maintain the required contact. In other circumstances she might have worried about the propriety, but Arymah didn't seem to care about the normal roles of Noble and commoner. Knowing that she had many busy days ahead she lay down to sleep keeping one hand in contact with her guest. Quicker than she expected sleep found her again.


Arymah contentedly drifted into awareness, relaxed on a level she hadn't known in years, not since her father Nate had soothed her to sleep with his telepathic safety blanket, and held her through the night when Jake was missing, or gone on some mission or another without them.

She opened her eyes to the early dawn filtering through the hide walls and looked down at her sleeping host.

"Thank you, Kummata." She brushed a gentle hand along the taurs lower shoulder before standing, and sought out breakfast makings as quietly as she could.


Kummata woke to the smell of cooking. When she opened her eyes she realized that Arymah must have awoken before her, and was fixing breakfast. The healer shook her head as she stood and stretched. Arymah behaved like no Noble she had ever known, and she thanked the gods for that. She went outside to find the winged tiger-caracal taur leaning over the outside fire pit with a sweet smelling stew bubbling away.

"Good morning, Arymah. Did you sleep well?" She asked brightly, seeing that it looked like it was going to be a beautifully sunny day.

"Very well." She returned an equally bright smile. "Thank you, for staying next to me last night. I hope you don't mind me dipping into your supplies, but I was up, and breakfast needed to happen ...."

The wolf-snow leopard taur smiled. "You're welcome, you seemed disturbed and I was concerned that perhaps my story-telling had given you nightmares. Some find the third story of the cycle very disturbing, indeed it is not told to children."

"It brought back memories." Arymah nodded a little sadly. "Though it's probably more that I inherited my father Jake's difficulties sleeping alone than anything."

Kummata nodded and sniffed at breakfast. "You're right that breakfast needed to happen, and its nice not to have to cook first thing in the morning for a change. It smells like you know what you're doing. While you finish, I'll go pick some fresh fruit from some trees nearby. I find fresh fruit goes well, with almost everything."

"That is does." Hir grinned at her.

After a brief time, the wolf-snow leopard returned carrying an armful of fruit. They were roughly pear-shaped, about the size of two fists, and bright blue. She set them in a cleverly woven basket, and then handed one to Arymah. She smiled. "Obal pears, just coming into season now. Very good freshly picked, and they travel well when carefully dried." She bit into hers, and got sprayed with blue juice. "Very juicy as well." She grinned, while wiping her face.

"Sounds like a good appetizer." Arymah picked up one of the pears and munched on it hirself while tending the stew.

"What are Dragons like, Arymah?" She asked, curiosity and a little fear in here eyes. "The old stories say they had wingspans greater than even the mighty Speryan that dwell in the high mountains, and that they could breath fire and fly faster than any Noble can."

Hir grinned as hir ladled the rest of their meal into bowls. "There are many kind of Dragons, and some indeed match that description. Others stands on two legs and are likely not much taller than us. I've met ones that were smarter than me, and ones that a tree could outsmart." She considered for a moment while she finished off the pear. "There are probably as many kinds of dragons as there are looks among the People."

Kummata was amazed that there could be so many kinds of dragons. She quietly sipped at the stew, which she found to be quite good. She smiled at the Noble. "Very good."

"Thank you."

She looked down and saw a feather on the ground nearby; and picked it up to consider carefully. It was long, likely the tail feather of some large flier, and was mostly black with white markings. She turned to Arymah and smiled. "This is a good omen, black and white are mentioned as the colors of Darkfire, who gave us the stories and the Prophecy. And it is the tail feather of a flier, and Darkfire was a controller of dragons."

"Yes," hir whispered, "Patrik is one of the best." Hir paused to drink some of the stew before turning hir attention to hir companion. "What needs to be done to bring our supplies to a suitable level for the trip, and wintering?"

Kummata thought for a moment about things she did so automatically. "The first thing to do is gathering provisions, both hunting and gathering nuts, berries and roots. Then we will need to prepare them so that they will stay good over longer periods of time. Fortunately, hunting is still possible during the winter so we don't need meat for wintering as much as we need the bounty of the forest. If we divide the work it should go faster, and I think you are probably a better hunter than I am. I can show you how to find the Burynai, and other animals of use. I am fairly skilled at preserving food, and I know how to make a bread that travels well. I was also planning to skin some Burynai to make leather to reinforce my home for the winter."

She suddenly gasped reflexively as she realized she had been telling a Noble what to do. She paused nervously to see if Arymah had noticed her disastrous breach of manors.

"Sounds like a plan to me." Arymah stretched hir body muscle by muscle as hir stood, and reach hir hand out for Kummata's empty bowl. "If you'll point me in the direction of a creak, I'll clean up the dishes, so you can take a good inventory of what we have, and what we'll need for the next few months." She smiled as the bowl was handed over. "Preserving isn't my best skill, but I have a strong back to hall food and wood, and I haven't met the grass-eater I can hunt. Is there anywhere worth fishing in the area? That can add quite a nice variety of taste to our diet without much more work.

"I was serious when I said I was taught better than to treat a healer as a lesser, and on top of that, you know this area much better than I." She placed a gentle hand on her host's upper shoulder and watched her seriously. "As long as it will not get you in trouble with another, it is appropriate for you to be calling the shots in the areas you know more than I. It's how good teams are made, and how friends treat each other."

Kummata smiled shyly. "I'm sorry, it's just that we're taught from kits what our proper places are, and it's difficult for me to forget that." She paused briefly, and sighed. "I can't get in anymore trouble for forgetting my place then I already have." She looked at Arymah. "I am honored that you would consider me a friend, it just may take a little while for a lifetime of habits to fade."

"I understand." Hir smiled softly. "I wanted to assure you of your place with me."

She pointed across a clearing to large leaning evergreen. "There is a clear cold stream that flows on the other side of that tree. Keep your eyes and ears open for Rynar, who sometimes come to the stream to hunt Burynai who drink from it. They travel in packs, and can be quite bold if they have had less than successful hunting."

She considered the question of fishing. "I have seen fish in the river half a days walk to the east, though I have never really tried fishing. Do you know how?"

"I'm quite good with both spear, line and bare clawed techniques." She considered a moment. "Half a day? Perhaps if I have a good hunt or two we can take the time to try. I'd be happy to show you, if you're interested."

"I would like that, a change from Burynai would be pleasant from time to time." She nodded and they went to their separate chores.


Arymah crouched next to Kummata the next day as they watched a small herd of Burynai, smallish, red-brown spotted deer as far as Arymah was concerned, grazing in a clearing not far from their home.

"*Can you sneak around and scare them towards me?*" Arymah grinned sheepishly at the startled look she got at the first overt use of telepathy between them, but the wolf-snow leopard nodded and carefully headed off with her spear.

Arymah took in the five potential targets, and set her spear on the ground, ready to pounce with claw and jaw. Her selected the three least fit of them, two of the females and the male, as they began to prance nervously, scenting the female taur before she exploded out of the bushes with a bellowing roar.

In less than three slow heartbeats it was over in a flurry of brown, red and tan.

"Wow," Kummata stared in open awe at the two Burynai twitching in Arymah's grip; a male quickly bleeding to death by the neck in the Caracal-Tiger's jaws, and a female with a broken neck, hanging limply in her hands.

Arymah took a deep breath through her nose and released both captures and grinned, her flame-cinnamon, black striped fur soaked nearly the shade of her wings in blood. "Hunting I am good at."

The healer stared in open admiration. "Indeed, I've seen few Nobles do as well. I think we will be provisioned faster than I thought. You must be a very experienced hunter, Arymah."

She chuckled and pulled out her knife to begin preparing the catch. "I have more experience as a warrior than hunter, but much of it carries over, especially with a partner to work with."

She nodded as she set to work preparing the other. "Hunting like many things works better with a partner." She noticed several small star-shaped red flowers in the undergrowth. Examining them closely, she delicately picked them and placed them in a pouch she carried across her lower shoulders. She showed one of the them to Arymah. "These are starflower, ground in a paste they aid in wound healing. Dried and boiled in water they make an excellent tea to sooth the nerves."

She nodded and filed that information away.


"How about we go fishing tomorrow or the next day? If we can find the supplies we need." Arymah spoke when they were nearly finished dressing the kill.

"We can certainly spare the time. What supplies do we need for fishing?" Kummata wiped her blade off and stashed it on the belt she wore where hip and shoulder met.

"Depends on how we fish." Hir chuckled. "Optimally, I'd like to spend the night or two and show you all four ways I'm any good at. For that, we'd need two long spears, ones at least twice the length of these," she indicated the hunting spears, "a small mesh net at least my body length across, and a strong, supple branch, near-bow quality, and thin, strong line for it. Bait ... the depends on what the fish eat ... oh, and with a few days, I can build a fish trap that can fish for us while we're away, and keep them alive as long as it isn't left too long." Arymah wiped the hair from hir eyes as finished dressing the Burynai buck.

Kummata considered the supplies. "Longer spears are easily done. I know how make a net, though it is somewhat time consuming. The branch and string should not be difficult. I'm afraid I do not know what the fish eat, though I suppose I could ask them."

"You can talk to animals?" Arymah blinked in real surprise.

The wolf-snow leopard nodded. "Yes, though I have not always known how. Being alone, I found that even a Rynar to talk to was better than no one. If they are not hungry, they are even reasonably friendly. Some animals are smarter than others, and I imagine fish are not very bright, but I expect they know what they eat."

"No, fish are not generally very smart, though I have met a couple exceptions." Hir nodded to cover hir shock. Then thought for a moment. "How is the manner of your communication? Do you actually 'speak' to them, and they 'speak' back, or is it more in your mind, like what I did?"

Kummata considered for a moment. "I think to them, and they vocalize in their normal fashion, but I understand both what they are saying and what they mean. This can be important because the Rynar will sometimes say aggressive things, when they are in fact being friendly."

Arymah cocked her head. "Do you get that double message from higher animals, like me?"

"I've never tried with people, but I've had no real opportunities since I learned to talk to the forest creatures until now. It didn't seem necessary." She looked curiously at Arymah over the odd question.

"Would you try it with me?"

Kummata nodded hesitantly. "I will try." She opened her mind as she did with the Rynar she often spoke to. Her eyes what wide as she realized she could sense something from Arymah.

Arymah paused, composing a sentence across three languages with a mixed possible meaning, and set her mind to the least intense of them. ("Would you Bond with me?")

A mixture of uncertainty and confusion filled the healer's eyes. She attempted to send as she did to the Rynar but all she could manage was confused images that made no sense. Her voice wasn't working much better. "I ... I don't understand what you're asking, but I feel that I'm honored that you asked. What do you mean 'Bond with you'?" She waited nervously for Arymah's reply.

"Well, you got the words, to be sure." Hir smiled at hir stunned host. "Bonding ... the level I was thinking of, is called a working bond. It is a light link between two minds, and allows better communication, and knowledge to be passed between the participants. Stronger bonds are unbreakable, but a working bond can be dissolved if desired with little trouble."

Kummata relaxed, and nodded. She thought about it. "This working bond would be a great help in group activities such as hunting, and such. How is such a thing done, Arymah?" She smiled, clearly indicating her agreement as well as genuine curiosity.

"Well, since you aren't trained in such things, you need to know how to block access, shield thoughts and feeling from coming through the bond unless you want them too." Hir smiled. "Not that I mind the contact, but you deserve to choose the level of privacy you desire."

She nodded.

"Why don't we get these home, and I'll teach you while we do less dangerous work." Arymah chuckled. "This much blood is bound to attract something I'd rather not fight to keep my dinner."

Kummata grinned at Arymah. "Yes, and we should preserve what we will not be using fresh as soon as possible. The fresher it is when preserved the longer it stays good."


As they carried their catch back home, fastened securely to Arymah's long back, she noticed what appeared to be a medium sized black fox trotting alongside Kummata, after a moment the 'fox' disappeared into the underbrush.

The healer noticed Arymah watching her and smiled. "That was an Arzorfox, some consider them ill omens, but I've found they can be quite good company." She chuckled. "That one was telling me about a large black Speryan he saw flying over the mountains, early this morning. That is strange, since Speryan are never black, or at least I've never heard anyone tell of a black one."

"Arzor, as in the wizard?"

The wolf-snow leopard nodded. "Yes, according to the legend black was the favored color of Arzor. His dragons were black, and he often had black in his clothing. It is said that when the Beast roared the second time, Arzor's cloak was blown clear over the Mountains of Hedra and engulfed a mated pair of hill foxes who were immediately turned black. They and their offspring have been black ever since. It is also said that they were made more intelligent by this change, and it seems true ... Arzorfoxes are easier to 'talk' to, then common hill foxes. It is strange to see one awake during the day, they normally hunt at night."

"Considering the last day, I'd say it was not that unusual." She thought for a moment as they walked into the clearing where the healer had built her shelter. "Maybe we won't have to walk there after all."

As Kummata got out her tools for skinning and preparing the Burynai Arymah had caught, she looked curiously at her friend. "How else would we get there?"

"On dragonback." She grinned. "Maybe that black Speryan is really one of Arzor's dragons."

The healer looked stunned. "On ... On dragonback? If even it is one of Arzor's dragons, why would it help us? The legends say they guard the Wastes jealously. If we had a warrior trained to control dragons by some wizard there might be hope, but there have been no Wizards since Arzor's time."

"If it is a dragon of the kind my father raises, it will be easy for me to control." Arymah settled down and began cutting strips of meat from the carcass near hir for drying. "If it is another breed, between us, we are still likely to be able to get its cooperation, especially if you are right about why I'm here. They guard the valley for him, any who came to help would be welcome." She looked at the knife sadly for a moment. "And if not, I have little doubt of my ability to defeat them."

The healer nodded as she carefully set up the drying rack, and brought out the spices used in preservation. "You are probably right, it is just that dragons have always been a thing of legend. I hope we can get their cooperation, since I think it would be fascinating to talk to a dragon. The dragons of the valley are said to be quite wise, and it is said that they remember the years before the stories."

"Likely true." She nodded as they settled into the quiet companionship of work.


"Kummata?" Arymah's voice was uncertain as they settled for the night, thoroughly exhausted by a hard day's work.

"Yes, Arymah?" She looked over at her guest, and now work-bonded partner.

"Would it ... would you mind sleeping with me?" Hir patted the sleeping matt. "I'd rather not rest alone, if you wouldn't mind."

The healer smiled, remembering the difficulties of the last night. To herself she thought that it made sense to preempt that disquiet. "I do not mind, if it makes you more comfortable. Undisturbed sleep is needed to maintain both body and mind." She said as she joined the Noble for the night's rest.


Kummata awoke to early dawn light, Arymah's sleeping body curled up as close to hers as it could get, and the scent of the Noble's arousal thick in the air.

Feeling confused, and somewhat uneasy she got up as quietly as she could in an attempt not to wake Arymah. She quietly went outside, and began preparations for breakfast. As she picked some fresh fruit, she thought about the arousal she had smelled.

The healer was not innocent in such manners, having experimented in the way kits nearing adulthood do. But her experiences left her disappointed, she had wanted more intimacy, more cuddling than her partners had been interested in. And Sorranto ... she shivered, trying not to think about that.

She had wanted a mate, but had had no luck finding someone she wanted who wanted her. Many of her peers told her she was too demanding, wanted too much. She sighed wondering if wanting to be loved, respected and treated as an equal was so much to expect.

As she finished picking and started back for camp, she noticed a pair of bright eyes watching her from under a bush. She gently reached out her mind and discovered that it was the Arzorfox that had spoken to her the day before. As she bent down, the fox came right up to her. From his small noises and thoughts she realized he actually wanted her to pet him.

Amused, she did so while wondering why a wild creature was suddenly being so friendly. As she patted him, he chattered about various things of importance to foxes; food, how his kits were doing, making his den warm enough for the winter. He listened patiently as she talked about the strange way things were going, which of course brought up the large, Black Speryan he'd seen. She lost track of time, as she often did when talking to her forest companions.


Arymah stretched as she woke, pleased that this eight-limbed body was already starting to feel normal as long as she didn't think about it too much. Then she started tripping over the extra feet.

She quickly padded outside, more than a little surprised not to see her host, and quickly checked on the status of the other end of her working bond and relaxed when she found it fine.

"I guess I do the cooking again." She chuckled and started to humm an old tune from somewhere she no longer remembered where as she gathered the supplies to repeat the previous morning's concoction.


Kummata came back bearing a basket of fruits of various bright colors: blue 'pears', red, green and orange 'apples' and several bunches of deep purples 'grapes'. She saw Arymah cooking, and was mildly embarrassed. "My apologies, I intended to make breakfast but while I was gathering fruit I got into a conversation with him." She indicated the black fox at the edge of the clearing. "And lost track of time." She had a very sheepish look on her face.

"Don't worry about it." Arymah chuckled with honest amusement.

The fox yipped cheerily at her, and trotted away into the underbrush and out of sight.

Kummata began cheerfully separating the fruit into a basket of various kinds for breakfast, and into several other piles for journey provisions and wintering storage.

"Did he have anything interesting to say?"

Kummata smiled as she set out the fruit, and then filled a rough wooden pitcher with water from a cold spring at the edge of the clearing. "Mostly fox things; hunting, his mate, his kits, and of course, he needed to tell me about the Speryan again."

She paused briefly. "I'm not entirely sure why, but he was very insistent about my coming to his den after it after the sun begins to set, but before it gets dark. Something he wants me to see, I guess."

"Would this be a visit I'm invited on, or just you?" Only simple curiosity was in hir voice.

She gently reached out her mind until she found the fox, then she smiled. "He says it's okay if you come."

Hir nodded and smiled as they settled into breakfast. "So shall we go fishing tomorrow, now that we have what we need?"

She nodded. "We are well provisioned and wintered, I am interested to learn how this fishing works."


Just after dusk, the two taurs quietly approached a secluded hillside. Kummata tentatively spoke across the working-bond, like Arymah had showed her. "*The den is just the other side of this rise.'

As they approached it, the wolf/snow leopard spotted white flowers and gasped with amazement and wonder. She quickly padded over, gently picked one and showed it to Arymah.

It was a pure white bloom with a bright yellow edge to the petals. The center of the bloom was a deep shade of blue, and it had a gentle soothing scent.

"They are called Healer's Tears." Kummata said with something approaching reverence. "They are rare and grow only next to Arzorfox dens. It is said that the first Tears grew from the tears the Great Healer shed when he saw what his claws had done to Arzor. It is also said that the blooms only open when the male fox is away from the den. Some say that the blue center is one the Great Healer's tears shed because he misses Arzor."

"The stems make a poultice which will heal wounds, and numb the pain. The flowers have a scent which calms and soothes. Supposedly, dried Tear petals have a scent which will heal rifts between lovers. It is also said that a Healer's Tear tacked above the entrance to a dwelling will bar all demons from entering."

The healer knelt down respectfully, and gently gathered some of the blooms. "I would not normally take them save if the need was great, but perhaps they will be of aid in our quest."

She was about to get up when the vixen came out of the den carrying a small ball of fur, which she set next to Kummata. The vixen then looked at Kummata and whined quietly. The healer nodded, gently picked up the kit, and examined it while reassuringly stroking its black and white fur.

She took out a couple of small red berries and placed them in her hand in front of the kit. The kit looked up at her, and then hesitantly ate them. After a few moments, she gently set down the kit, who nuzzled her foreleg, and then ran back into the den.

The vixen yipped appreciatively to Kummata, who bowed respectfully, before the vixen turned and reentered the den. Kummata turned to Arymah who had been watching. "A favor for a favor, it's only fair, though I would have helped without payment." She said quietly.

Arymah only smiled. "So much like my father in that. There are some things that mark a healer no matter where they are from." Hir looked around for the Arzorfoxes for a moment before stepping a couple paces closer to the den. "Thank you for showing me your home." She turned to her companion. "Home?"

"Home." The wolf/snow leopard agreed as she turned to head back.


As Kummata settled for bed on the opposite side of the room Arymah asked hesitantly, "have I done something to offend you, Kummata?"

The healer shook her head quietly. "No, I ... I ..." she hesitated, not sure how to explain her confusion from the early morning. In her clumsiness with shielding, she let the confusion caused by that experience pass through the working-bond. She stared at the floor, feeling a bit lost.

"What confused you?" Hir spoke softly, sending a gentle wave of support along their bond.

The wolf-snow leopard sighed, trying to think how to explain without offending. "I did not know what to make of the scent of arousal that was thick in the air this morning, when I awoke." She said hastily, trying to say it before her nerve failed her, which it did almost immediately. "I still don't."

Arymah blinked in surprise, than chuckled softly. "It means two things. I find you attractive enough to desire, and I'm overly accustomed to being a mate to those I live with." She turned very serious. "Neither of which means anything more than you'll periodically smell my arousal unless you desire more. I can't help the physical reaction much ... I guess this isn't coming out very well, but I'm not like Sorranto, desire is only worth perusing when it's mutual."

Kummata relaxed. "I'm sorry I just, well ... such things have never gone well for me ... and there's been no one since ..." she paused again, and smiled awkwardly. "My words are clumsier than normal for this."

"It's not the easiest of subject sometimes." Hir smiled encouragingly.

She looked shyly at Arymah. "If you still wish my company for the night, I would be pleased to join you." The healer had felt an attraction before, but had reflexively suppressed it as her upbringing taught her. Now that the Noble had made her interest known, she felt a little more comfortable.

"I would like your company at night, as well as in the day." Hir smiled and patted the sleeping matt. "I can keep the bounds at any level you indicate. Was last night acceptable?"

As she joined hir on the sleeping mat, she nodded. "Yes, for now." She smiled encouragingly. "Who knows what the future holds?"

"Yes, who knows," hir smiled back as they settled into a comfortable cuddle. "Who indeed."


Kummata woke first again to the same scent of arousal from her bedmate. But this time the winged tiger-caracal's left arm, foreleg and wing were draped over her body, not in restraint, but to bring more of their bodies in contact. The hirs hard penis rested near her rump, and a deep, sleeping purr rumbled along the full length of hirs body.

She thought for a moment, and then decided breakfast could wait till they both woke up. The wolf-snow leopard decided she liked this closeness, and gently snuggled in to wait for her bedmate to awaken. As she drifted into light sleep she began to purr quietly.

"Good morning."

The softly spoken words and the broad, short muzzle nuzzling her shoulder quickly brought Kummata fully into the waking world again.

"Good morning." She rolled over to face Arymah, smiling. "Sleep well?"

"Yes," hirs voice was soft and slightly distracted. Hir eventually swallowed and started to stand. "Sorry, this is harder than I thought it would be."

Kummata looked at hir questioningly. "What is harder than you thought it would be?"

"Letting you choose how intimate we are." Hir smiled apologetically. "I said it was your choice and I intend to keep that promise, it just means that sometimes I'll need to put a little distance between us while I get myself better under control."

She nodded appreciatively. "I'm grateful for your allowing me that choice. There was a time when I would have been surprised by a Noble treating me with such respect, but I understand that you are unlike any Noble I have ever known, and for that I am thankful."

She paused briefly as Arymah nodded. "Part of me wants the intimacy you want, but part is still learning how to be with others again ... it has been a long time. My heart says that the two parts will be one before we see the end of this quest. I wish I could be more specific, but the heart is an uncertain guide."

Hir chuckled weakly. "Time and familiarity are likely to help."

The wolf-snow leopard put a gentle hand to Arymah's cheek. "I truly wish I had met you before Sorranto, this would've have been so much easier then."

"I have never turned away because something was difficult." Arymah rolled her head to put a light kiss on Kummata's hand. "Anything worth having is worth the effort to do properly."

She smiled, and turned toward the exit from the dwelling. "Enough of serious matters for now, I do believe it's my turn to cook breakfast."

"And then I'll show you how to fish."


Arymah tried not to stare at Kummata as the canine-featured snow leopard taur mixed the ingredients for their breakfast stew and tried to figure out exactly what was going on between them.

That Kummata at least thought she was interested in a relationship made plenty of sense. After all, just about any social creature would accept nearly any idea that would increase the odds of their only company staying. And maybe by local standards, this form was attractive. Plus, it was clear no one had treated the taur female with any kindness or consideration, so the first to do that would tend to gain favor.

Her feelings weren't so easy to understand. The lust, yes. That was simple enough. One of the more annoying traits she'd inherited from her father Jake; the need to include sex in the vast majority of her relationships made it common enough, and Kummata was attractive in an alien sort of way. Though the mechanics of sex in these bodies was still a bit of a mystery. She'd just cross that road when she had to; it wasn't like figuring out a new body was a new concept.

But this was beyond the lust she was used to. Well beyond it.

It reminded her far too much of the stories Jake had told her of the day he married Nathan.

And that had nearly started in rape.

She shook her head to shake off the effects of her musing.

That was the sickest part of her father's mind; the love could become that kind of need. Only her fathers had known each other for a year, and she knew Kummata barely two days. How could she love someone she barely knew?

Regardless, she just couldn't betray Kummata like that. The Healer had been hurt far too many times already.




Arymah was more than slightly grateful for both her hosts knowledge of how and what to pack for the long trip in these four legged bodies, and her own knowledge of using pack animals. It was strange to realize she was carrying at least a three hundred and fifty pounds of supplies on that long, horizontal back and barely felt the weight, but it definitely made the prospective trek that much easier.

As was the fact that Kummata apparently knew where they were going, though there was no trail in the evergreen forest that seemed to rain more often than not now that they couldn't retreat into her shelter.

"Is it always this wet?"

The healer chuckled softly and nodded. "It rains a great many more days than it does not. It's why I packed those extra hides, for shelter." Then she looked at her dripping companion. "Does it bother you, Arymah? I can create a waterproof cloak for you with the hides of your kills. It will just take day a day or two."

"It doesn't bother me, well not much, it's just I'm not used to this much rain." She looked sadly at the overcast sky. "I like the sun."

"We will see plenty of the sun once we enter the Wastes." Kummata offered as she shook the large drops of water from her thick fur and resettled the saddle-pack on her lower back.

"I suppose." Arymah nodded, and they fell into a companionable silence again.


Arymah followed Kummata out of the mossy forest into an open, grassy area bordering a small lake created by a river eddy as the sun finally poked out from the cloud cover.

Kummata carefully checked around the shoreline looking for tracks left by those animals that frequented it. She found the expected burynai, Rynar, a couple of Arzorfoxes, and the tracks of one large Krandor. From the size of the footprints she figured it was an adult male, but it had been here several days ago. Given the wide territories the males ranged over she did not expect it to be back.

She noticed a set of unusual tracks, and gestured urgently to Arymah who came over and looked at her curiously.

"See these tracks, Arymah? They were made by something that walked on two legs, not four, six or eight." Something shiny caught her eye and she bent to pick it up. "Look at this," She held up the small round metal disk. "This is worked metal, and a with very elaborate design."

"May I see that?" Arymah asked. The healer obligingly handed it to her. "Thank you." As hir examined it, hir recognized it as a MegaKat City coin. The date stamped on it was from the year before her fathers Joining.

"Oh, gods." The winged Caracal-Tiger breathed and knelt awkwardly to get a better look at the tracks, splaying hir fingers alongside the small, foot-shaped print. "A Kat." Hir swallowed as hir brain dredged up information on the trace of a scent still lingering in the damp ground. "Rik."

"Who?" Kummata looked at the prints again. "Someone you know?"

"Darkfire ... my father Jake's mate."

Kummata was no longer surprised when Arymah said this sort of thing, since she had managed to wrap her brain around the idea that somehow there was a second world with a second set of all the people from the legends. She nodded quietly. "There have always been rumors that Darkfire comes out from the Wastes at times, though the reasons are as varied as the story tellers.

She smiled. "Among the tribes whose territories run along the Hedra Mountains, there are occasionally born Nobles with wings of pure white and deepest black. Some say they are the children of Darkfire, though that is not widely believed." She paused dramatically. "What is true, though, is that they are some of the swiftest flyers.

"Perhaps it was one of Arzor's dragons that the Arzorfox saw." She smiled thoughtfully.

"Very likely." Arymah closed hir eyes and concentrated, casting around for the residue of the tom's passing. Hir opened hir eyes as hir locked onto it and moved along his tracks, not worrying about seeing them. "Come on."

Kummata nodded and followed obligingly, even though the tracks led in very different direction than their original course.


It was early dusk before Arymah slowed down to a cautious walk, then stopped completely, scanning with more than hir physical senses for the presence hir had known most of her life.

"*Patrik?*"

There was a long pause before a very tired mind-voice replied. "*I don't know you, do I?*" The mind was clearly on the edge of sleep, and also fairly rusty at mind-talking.

"*No, but I know you, sort of.*" Arymah spoke softly. "*May we camp with you tonight, and talk in the morning?*"

There was another long pause, then Arymah felt a strange mental 'look' sweep across her. "*I guess I can trust you, so I guess it's okay.*" The voice was hesitant, and more than a little nervous.

Kummata nudged her friend. "I just felt something very strange, kind of like when lightning strikes close by."

"It was just Patrik checking us out." The winged Caracal-Tiger smiled reassuringly at her. "*Thank you, BlackFire.*"

The tired mind-voice came back. "*You're welcome. Only one other Kat ever calls me that ... and I don't get to see him very often.*" There were strong currents of loneliness and sorrow in the voice.

Arymah nodded and headed towards the tomkat's camp.

Kummata put her hand on Arymah's upper shoulder. "You know Darkfire?"

The one where I am from, yes. He helped raise me." Hir nodded. "Your Darkfire seems to be very similar."

"What's he like? The stories don't say much about him save that he was Arzor's last dragon warrior." The Wolf-Snow Leopard's scent was heavily tinged with fear and uncertainty.

"He's very sweet, a perpetual teenager in many ways." Arymah slowed hir walk to give time to talk. "He loves Jake on a level few are capable of." Hir shook hirs head. "I would guess this Patrik has lost much of his innocence, but I doubt his basic nature has changed. He was always meant to be Jake's perfect mate."

Kummata nodded, and her fear diminished. "His love for Jake sounds like how the stories describe the Great Healer's love for Arzor. If this Darkfire is similar to the one where you are from, the long years alone must have been very hard on him." The healer's fear had been replaced by concern and sympathy as they entered the small night camp.

On the far side of the fire, resting half asleep against a fallen log was a petite black feline biped with a white chest and chin and long, flowing fur and hair that had seen better days. He was dressed in simple leathers and heavy boots, and watched the approaching Taurs with crystal blue eyes.

"Thank you for sharing your fire, Patrik." Arymah smiled and manage something of a bow before she settled down partially across from him and began to unpack her bedding, and some food. "Have you eaten?"

He shook his head. "No, I haven't needed to yet." He paused then looked at Arymah curiously. "How do you know my real names? No one does anymore."

He noticed Kummata looking at him appraisingly. He raised an eyebrow at her as though wondering what she was looking at.

Kummata began to unpack the healing supplies she had packed. She spoke to Patrik while she selected the proper supplies. "You didn't do a very careful job of caring for the wound on your leg where the Krandor struck you. Like most warriors you appear to think that if you ignore the wound it will simply go away.

She stared straight into his blue eyes, and continued speaking in a tone of voice Arymah recognized from when father Nate used it on Jake. "Well, it won't. If you don't treat it properly it may even become worse."

"I'll be fine, it'll heal in a day or so. It always does." He said in a tired, careless voice.

"Nonsense." She said in a remarkably firm tone. "I'm going to treat that wound properly, and then you are going to get some sleep, and I don't mean that one-eye-open-keeping-a-watch-out routine you warriors like to pull. There are two of us to keep watch, so you can close both eyes and sleep."

He looked up at Arymah. "Is she always like this? She reminds me of someone." His eyes began to drift closed, though he fought to keep them open.

"Of course." She chuckled, then spoke in their first shared language she was sure of. "(She is a Medic after all, just like Nathan.) And in the morning there will a decent breakfast for your hospitality." "*(Sleep, Patrik, mate of my father, this watch is mine.)*"

The little tom gave up fighting the sleep his body wanted. Just before his eyes closed fully, he thought quietly to Arymah. "*(Wake me, if Jake comes, I don't get to see him very often.)*"

"*(I will. Do not worry, you will not miss his visit for sleep.)*"

Kummata began gently examining the wounded leg, grateful that the little warrior's exhaustion made him unresisting. The leather had been shredded by one of the Krandor's front claws, and there was a badly bandaged gash beneath. Kummata thanked the gods that she had had the foresight to bring substantial healing supplies.

After considerable time, she finished and covered the wound with carefully woven bandages. She made sure he was sleeping comfortably before putting all her healing supplies away.

The healer turned to Arymah. "He must be far tougher than he looks to not complain of that injury."

"He is," Arymah nodded and spoke quietly as hir handed a wooden plate of dried meat and fruit to the healer. "He always has been."

She looked down toward her sleeping patient as she munched her dinner. "He looks so young, and yet I have never seen eyes so tired." She thought of what she suspected the cause was, solitude, and wondered how long before her eyes began to look that way, once her friend returned to hir far-away home.

"Life can do that to you, if you forget how to enjoy it." Hir spoke between bites.

Kummata nodded quietly. "How different the legends begin to seem ... when one of them is a solidly real patient."

"Yes, it does change the reality of it all." Hir sighed and took the plates to scrape them clean with a few leaves, as the river was too far away to be convenient. "I'll take first watch, if you want to catch some sleep before he gets restless."

Kummata nodded agreeably. "That does seem like the best idea, since I think he's tired enough to sleep for at least a few hours peacefully. But wake me if he gets too restless, before my watch begins."

"I will."


Arymah watched as another meteoroid blazed across the sky. Then she noticed a familiar figure in a very familiar white uniform sitting next to Patrik's sleeping form. The uniform was badly worn, scorched in places and an aura of sadness and loneliness radiated from the figure as he quietly stroked the little tom's hair.

"*Jake ... Clawson?*" She didn't move, though she shifted slightly to make herself more visible to her father from this realm. She couldn't help but wonder why he was wearing an Alliance uniform ... this Jake shouldn't even know what one looked like, much less identify with it enough to wear it.

The figure looked up and Arymah realized that it wasn't Jake, but her father Nate. He shook his head sadly, and whispered. "Not tonight, he needs a healer this time." He then looked at her curiously. "That's not a name you should know, young Noble. None of the stories mention it."

She blinked; seriously considering she might be hallucinating to have confused the two outlines, then shook her head. "I wasn't going on those stories, Nathan. I was going on memory and a little guesswork based on those stories." She took a deep breath. "*In another dimension, you sought Chance out first, and there was no great tragedy. And true to expectations when the Triad attended my birth, I get sent to do jobs for them. I know his name, and yours, because you are my fathers there.*"

The medic looked surprised. "Your fathers? Then somewhere, we did manage to find each other." He sighed deeply. "I always thought that somewhere in infinite universes, we must have ... doesn't help here though." He knelt down carefully examining Rik's wounded leg. "If you don't mind my asking, did I have to lose Chance to be with Jake?" He asked, in a voice that spoke of a very long sorrow.

"No," she shook her head slightly. "It was not an easy time though, from what little I was told. The hurt between them ran very deep, and is still not completely healed for Chance, even after all these decades."

He nodded, as he carefully removed the bandages and touched a glowing hand to the wound gently, which began to heal rapidly. "Good, I never wanted to lose him. Loving them both made it so very difficult being between them ... if I'd loved one less, there might not have been the tragedy."

He looked up at her. "Are you a shapeshifter? I can not imagine any genetic combination of Jake and myself producing a Taur, even an attractive Noble like yourself." He said making a pretense of good spirits. "The red though, does remind me of mother somewhat."

"I'm less of one than father Jake ... this is a 'borrowed' body, for lack of a better term." The winged Caracal-Tiger shrugged. "I don't really understand how it works, but my real one goes into a particular type of coma for a day or two while I'm away on the mission and in a new body, and when it's over I wake up back home and in my birth form."

The tiger-tabby looked up as the wound finished healing. "Fascinating concept ... do you have complete understanding of how the new body functions or do you have to learn that? How do you handle linguistic difficulties?" He paused for a moment. "Mission? So, what mission brings you to this unfortunate world?" He said quietly, sitting back down next to Rik.

"Unfortunately, I have to learn how to walk and talk and the rest, though it's always come fast, and gets easier with as many times as I've done this." She kept a careful eye open as she talked. "For language, if I don't have one in common, I use a variant of Linguistic Transference for it. Thankfully, that's getting rarer, with almost a hundred of them floating around my head.

"As for my mission, that's the irritating part. I don't get told." She shrugged. "I just get dumped onto a world in a new body and have to stay till I get whatever needs to be done, done. I'm guessing this one has something to do with you." She made a general motion that included Patrik and those not present. "It's the kind of obvious thing I get sent to deal with."

"Something to do with us, huh? You've heard the 'Prophecy of Darkfire', I'd guess. Well, it might be true ... and it might be something Rik made up to keep his spirits up. That's why I've never really questioned it ... he's had a tough life, and he deserves better. It's hard for him to be separated from Jake for so long, none of us shows that often, never for long, and never at the same time."

Nathan kissed the small tom's forehead chastely. "He's the only contact we have with each other any more, but we don't take advantage of it ... it's too much to ask of him. Not that he'd complain."

Arymah scrunched her muzzled face up, trying to put words to the critical thought in the front of her mind. "What brings you here, and what forces you to leave?"

Nathan concentrated. "I'm not sure really, but its not that it really brings us here ... we never left. It's a matter of assuming physical form to interact with the real world, or more accurately, with Patrik. Something causes a temporary weakness in the bubble of time that holds us where we are, a weakness that allows one of us to enter the physical world temporarily. When the weakness heals, we're drawn back into the bubble."

He looked at her. "You see, we're all still alive. But we're caught in that tragic moment, that happened so long ago."

"Oh, hellsfire," She shuddered. "Do you know if the bubble is predominately psychic, magical or natural in origin and structure? And what are its boundaries?"

The tiger-tabby considered. "I'm not sure, really. The 'cause' if you like, was my forcing time to run 'backwards', which I did twice. The first time to 'undo' Chance's death, and the second to take back the fact that I hurt Jake." He looked at the ground despondently. "That was never supposed to happen; I never wanted to hurt him ... and I broke time itself trying to undo it." Tears began to run down his cheeks.

"What's broken can be fixed." She stood and walked over to the Felsin to embrace him carefully across the shoulders, then licked the tears from his face. "Do you know if you are bound to Patrik, or to a location?"

"I think we're bound to where our bodies are, but we can chose to materialize elsewhere and that's almost always with Patrik. We try to keep him company as best we can, the jets mean well but he really needs the physical contact." He sighed. "For a while, we let Jake have all the physical time because he's the one Rik really needs, but then we realized that being physical is tiring and Jake couldn't handle it all."

"Can you show me where your bodies are?" She asked as a plan began to form.

"I would, but I lack the time. By morning, the bubble will have healed, possibly before then. But Patrik knows where our bodies are, he was the last living Kat to see them."

"All right." She nodded reluctantly.

He looked at her for a moment, as though he wanted to ask a question but was afraid of the answer. "In your world, did I ever keep my promise to Storm?" He shivered quietly.

"Before I was born," she smiled gently. "I grew up with his oldest son as an agemate."

Nathan relaxed significantly. "Good, I'm glad. Who knows maybe one day, I'll be able to keep that promise here."

A grim determination crossed Arymah's feline face. "You will. NightBlades take care of our own, and you are kin, as well as team."

The tiger-tabby smiled. "So I guess in your world I finally came to terms with who I really am."

"And Jake what he is as well." She nodded.

"That wasn't the easiest of journeys, but it was a way for me to kill a century or so. Well, maybe your father had it easier." A curious look crossed his face. "Do you happen to know if your fathers were just mates, or if they were actually Joined in the Felsin way?"

Arymah actually snickered. "They are Joined LifeMate, and the Joining took the record ... fourteen hours and facilitated by Felsira herself. My oldest sister was conceived during that Joining."

The tiger-tabby blinked a couple of times. "I expect there's a fairly long and complicated story behind that conception."

"Not really ... oh," she paused, "I guess you haven't learned about what Jake really is yet."

Nathan shook his head. "Not much at any rate, I know he's more than he appears because Mother told me he's basically immortal. It doesn't matter, not really. So the Joining took fourteen hours?" He shook his head. "I don't think anyone but Felsira could've pulled it off, but I'm not surprised that she did. She's always been there for me, even after what happened."

"She's your mother, as well as Mother." Arymah hugged him, then nuzzled his neck reassuringly.

Nathan nodded and relaxed a little more. "I can definitely see Jake's influence in you, that determined look usually meant he was going to pull another miracle out of the TurboKat." He smiled as he indulged in a pleasant memory.

"It's a family trait." She grinned with that same determination shining in her eyes.

He smiled. "Yes, I bet it is. Given that I've been told I get the same look at times ... and I don't imagine your father is much different."

The tiger-tabby looked down at Rik. "He's sleeping peacefully for a change. I would hate to wake him, but he'd be upset if he found out I'd been here and hadn't woken him." He sighed. "He told me once that Jake never slept much, he's much the same now. Doesn't sleep because of the dreams."

"Seems that is a family traits as well." Kummata's gentle voice startled both of them.

Nathan turned to Arymah. "Perhaps you could introduce us?"

"Of course," she inclined her head and moved to stand between them and to one side. "Medic Nathan SolGardin, this is the Healer Kummata. She has taken good care of me when I could not care for myself yet. Kummata, Nathan is one of my fathers, where I am from, and here he is The Great Healer of your legend."

Nathan stepped forward. "My thanks Kummata for looking after my other-self's daughter. And please, don't make too much of the legend. I'm a healer, much like yourself, who happened to get caught up in events."

Kummata looked surprised. "It was my pleasure, Arymah is my friend so it was no burden." She hesitated. "But the legend said you could bring back the dead ..."

He shook his head. "Only because of the Triad's power, I can't do that myself. I have some medical knowledge you don't, but that's because my people have been at it a long time. But then again, you probably know things about healing plants and herbs that I don't, because you are accustomed to them."

She smiled hesitantly. "Legends as real people, this has been a strange day. Will Arzor or Luck be along at any moment?" She looked beyond the tiger-tabby.

"As much as I might wish it, I'm afraid no they won't. Only one of us appears at any time. I have not seen Jake or Chance in a very long time." He sighed deeply, sorrow overwhelming his scent.

Kummata put a hand on his shoulder, a little disconcerted when she realized she was head and shoulders taller than him. "Arymah and I are going to help fix things for you and the others, aren't we?" She turned to her friend.

"That's the game plan." The winged Taur growled deep in her double chest. "NightBlades take care of their own, and I'm here."

Nathan smiled slightly. "My thanks to you both." He stopped and laughed. "Okay, Rik. You can stop pretending to be asleep now."

The petite tom opened his eyes, and smiled. "The lot of you aren't exactly quiet you know."

"Warriors," Kummata muttered under her breath.

"Sorry, Rik." Arymah smiled apologetically as she carefully settled next to him and hugged him across the shoulders. "Though you weren't going to sleep much longer anyway."

Rik returned the hug, smiled and then stood up. "I know. Hi, Nathan."

The tiger-tabby stepped forward and swept the small tom into a close hug. "It's been too long, Rik. I've missed you." He kissed him gently.

"Missed you too, Nate." The black and white tom said before claim a more passionate kiss.

"I can see that," Nathan said, as they broke off, "but we're not alone. And I think there are more important things in the works. You'll need to guide them Rik, since I won't be here when the sun rises ... and I don't know when the next window will be."

Rik nodded reluctantly. "But if we can fix things, then we'll have lots of time, right?" He looked at Nathan hopefully.

Nathan smiled wistfully. "All the time in the world, love." He turned to the two Taurs, and smiled apologetically. "My apologies for our acting like there's no one else present ... it's been a long time since we've been around anyone else."

"Don't worry about it," Arymah smiled and stood, "we'll be back in the morning, okay Patrik?"

Patrik nodded as he snuggled into Nathan's chest. "Okay." He said, with a grateful look on his weary face, though the eyes seemed significantly less tired then they had been.

Nathan looked at the two Taurs, and nodded. "Until we meet again." He said with a quiet certainty, as he turned his attention to the small tom he was holding.

"Until then, Nathan." Arymah nodded as she swung her supply pack over her lower back.

Kummata touched the work bond quietly as they trotted to a camping spot they had seen earlier. "*The legends didn't mention them being lovers.*" She still seemed a little surprised by discovering how real the Great Healer was.

"*It probably happened over time, considering they were each other's only real contact. Patrik was Jake's mate, as Nathan wished to be, and none of them really go for the single mate theory of existing.*" She explained as they settled down against a large rock on the forest edge near the river and started to build a small fire. "*Patrik was never interested in a single mate, and as the only tie to Jake available to him, I'm not surprised Nathan eventual became interested in him. It makes sense to me.*"

"*We have to fix this mess.*"

Kummata nodded quietly. "Yes, we have to. No one should be in such pain, but I wonder why the Three never did anything, it was their power that allowed the tragedy ... shouldn't they be able to fix it?" She asked as she settled near the small fire.

"Not necessarily," Arymah took longer to get her four legs into a comfortable configuration and leaned sideways against the rock. "It depends on what is holding the disturbance in place, and it may not be their power that did it, specifically." She dug out two chunks of dried meat and handed one to her companion. "Both Nathan and Jake have a tremendous amount of power, and there may be other factors involved. The Triad do not operate in a void ... there are other gods out there, and some of them rate obedience. We'll know more when we get there."

The healer sighed, as she once again realized that the universe was a far more complicated place than she had once thought. "Yes, I guess we will just have to wait. But we will fix this, I just know it." She said with quiet determination

The look of determination on the Wolf-Snow Leopard's face was familiar to make Arymah chuckle. "Sorry, but I know that look. This curse doesn't know what it just crossed." She glanced at the rising moon. "You still have a couple hours to sleep before it's your watch."

Kummata settled down to catch a little more sleep. "They're both rather attractive males, even though they're two-legs." She said to no one in particular as she drifted off to sleep.

Arymah kept the soft chuckle to herself as she pushed off to her feet to take a good look around and set up a perimeter. She shook her head with a low whimper as the soft sounds of lovemaking reached her ears. "Must be sharper than I expected." She cast a wistful look at the Taur by the fire. "If I wasn't on watch I could at least try to figure out jerking off in this form."


"Wakee, wakee, Kummata," hir tickled the female's nose with hir tail, "your watch."

The Wolf-Snow Leopard woke slowly and stretched quietly. As she stood, she sniffed at the air. "There is thunder-sign in the air, I believe we will have rain and lightning before high sun." She said with more confidence then many meteorologists Arymah had heard forecast the weather.

"Lovely," hir shook her fur to fluff it before settling down between the rock and fire and worked her way down to a sleeping position with hir body half way curled up and hir upper body curled against it. "At least we brought waterproof clothes." Hir sighed as hir body relaxed, even if hir mind couldn't figure out how it could be comfortable.

Kummata quietly stood watch, but remained close enough to help quiet her friend's often restless sleep. She maintained a careful watch on the surrounding area, and smiled at the sounds of lovemaking that emanated from the nearby camp. In her opinion the attention would do Patrik a world of good, and probably would be good for the Great Healer as well.


Arymah snapped hir eyes open just before dawn to find Kummata's eyes on hir between looks around the area. "Nathan left yet?" Hir asked as hir rocked hirself to hir feet.

The healer nodded. "I heard them say their goodbyes some minutes ago, and though I could be mistaken I believe I heard Rik crying." She said, clearly disturbed.

"I wouldn't be surprised." Hir picked up the stewpot and padded to the river and doused their fire. "I can't image what it must be like to only see your mate one day every so often."

"I think we should rejoin him, when you're ready." She was of two minds about the petite tomkat; part of her responded to him as a reasonably attractive male while another part responded to him as a lost kit in need of comforting. She wasn't quite sure what to make of the intersection of the two.

"Now," hir pulled the saddle-pack on hir's lower back loosely. "We'll eat with him."

As the Taurs came into sight of Rik's little camp, they could see him refueling the little fire, and generally doing morning camp work, but it was all very mechanical. The kinds of things one does when one doesn't really want to think and needs something to do.

Kummata looked at Arymah. "This is definitely a time when he needs company, though I would guess he has lived a long time without it." She said sympathetically, as they padded towards him.

"Come here, Rik." Arymah called to him as hir settled near the fire and patted the side of hir cat body. "Relax against me while we get breakfast ready." Hir set hir's pack nearby and pulled out fixings, handing them to Kummata.

The petite tom came over to hir, his action somewhat automatic though the expression on his face indicated he was glad to see hir. "Good Morning, sleep well?" He said quietly, as he gratefully relaxed against hir.

"Yes, did you have a pleasant night?" Hir shifted a little so hir could hug him, and curled a little more around his small body, bringing all eight limbs in to touch him.

He snuggled comfortably. "Yes, it was good to see Nate again." He smiled sadly. "But he and Jake need each other, and Jake needs Chance too."

"And you need your gunner." Arymah purred with another nuzzle.

"Do you really think you can help them?" He asked quietly, and hopefully as only one who has almost lost hope can.

"We will help." Kummata said emphatically from the other side of the fire, where she was preparing breakfast. "This has gone on too long." Her face was a mask of grim determination, as she selected makings for breakfast from what they had packed.

Rik looked up at Arymah, to see if hir agreed.

"My word as his daughter and NightBlade, Rik." Hir rumbled determinedly and pulled him into a tight embrace with a lick to the side of his head. "And we will be with you until your mates can be for good." Hir nuzzled him firmly. "You won't be alone again, unless you wish it."

He gratefully accepted the hug. "Thank you. Thank you, both. I don't want to be alone." He shivered. "Been alone too long, too much." He snuggled in tight to Arymah, almost as if hiding from something.

Arymah did hir best to give him as much physical contact as possible as hir groomed him affectionately until the meal was ready. "Turn around and eat, Rik. Then we'll figure out just how to handle this trek."

Rik nodded and accepted a plate from Kummata. As he ate, he relaxed noticeably; glad that someone else was taking charge. He felt much more comfortable with somebody else calling the shots.

Kummata watched the little tom relax during breakfast. It seemed that Arymah's promise not to leave him alone had done a great deal to refresh him. And it was a promise that the healer would keep herself if for some reason, the gods took Arymah elsewhere without Rik's mates being restored.

"Rik, do you have any need to return to your valley soon?" Arymah licked his face clean as they finished the simple breakfast. "We could really use a another hand or three of days to stock supplies for winter and the trip."

Rik smiled and shook his head. "No, I told the jets I'd be away for awhile. I like to come down into the forest during the fall, everything is so alive. I'll help any way I can, if you'll just show me what needs doing and how."

"We're here to fish, and gather what we can for drying of the forest's bounty." Kummata smiled as she scraped the plates clean. "Then we planned to return to our home to hunt and gather more. With a little luck, we should be able to start the journey in two or three hand of days."

"Kummata, would you repack all three packs so Rik isn't carrying anything, and he can ride me?"

The healer carefully repacked and slung things to accommodate Arymah's request. It made sense, since the small tom would not be able to keep up with them due to only having two legs. Watching him, she thought he would probably be a good hunter; he seemed to have keen eyes and reflexes.

Rik started to say that he was capable of walking, then he realized that his two new friends had an advantage of form. He'd have to ride, in order to not slow them down. Not that it would be a bad thing ... a nice change really.

Kummata turned to Arymah. "How do we chose where on the river to fish, or doesn't it make a difference?" She asked curiously.

"Well, the best places to fish are where fish go to feed." Then thought for a moment as hir settled hir saddle-pack on her lower back, the majority of the weight near hir hindquarters and patted hirs lower shoulders for Patrik to get on.

"I think this is where your talent for talking to them will come in handy." Hir regarded the healer inquisitively as she settled her own pack. "You don't mind killing and eating something you've just talked to?"

"Not when they're as dumb as fish." She smiled quirkily as they headed back to the river at a good clip. "But truthfully, I usually avoid excessive conversation with potential meals ... it feels like playing with my food."

"That's one way to look at it." Hir chuckled, then rumbled lower in hir's chest in pleasure as Patrik clung a little tighter.

The Wolf-Snow Leopard padded down to the edge of the river and stared at it for a little while, before turning to her companions. "I was right, fish are stupid. But apparently there's a deep place upstream where the river moves slow and the fish find food easy to get."

"Then that's where we fish."


"That was a nice change from meat stew." Arymah rumbled contentedly as hir dug a bristle-hair brush from hirs saddle-pack after dinner as they watched the misty rain soak the world outside their hide tent. "Mind undressing, Rik?"

"Urr?" He blinked at the Taur over his shoulder from where he was leaning against her lower ribcage.

"You haven't had a decent grooming in far too long from the look of you." Hir grinned and held up the brush. "And we don't have anything to do till the rain breaks but feel good."

The small tom undressed hesitantly, but he did like the sound of a good grooming. It had been a long time since another had cared for him like that, so he waited to see how the winged Taur wanted to start.

Kummata turned away to keep herself from staring. She barely knew him, yet there was something about him that fascinated her. It was different from her attraction to Arymah, which was based on a deepening friendship and partnership; she knew what it was, but she wasn't entirely sure what it was.

Arymah watched her friend turn away with concern and froze. "Is this a taboo?"

The healer spoke across their work-bond. "*No ... no taboo that I know of.*" Her mind-voice sighed. "*He confuses me, Arymah. And it wouldn't be proper for me to stare.*"

"*Ah, I'm used to him.*"

Kummata took a look at Patrik's torn pants. "I think I can fix these, shouldn't take too long." It wasn't exactly clear who she was talking to.

"Thank you," the petite tom nodded and settled chest down on the sleeping roll Arymah set out. He sighed happily as confident, proficient hands made easy work of his matted and messed fur, and was a little surprised not to catch a whiff of arousal from the hir, though the female was. It had been far too long since anyone had pampered him at all, much less to this level.

Kummata paused her mending to dig through her pack, she found the bottle she was looking for and handed it to Arymah. "Try this for badly matted spots and tangles, it's an herbal oil that works wonderfully." She smiled mischievously. "I'm not supposed to know how it's made, it's supposed to be a Noble's secret." She smiled pleasantly at Rik and went back to her mending, humming quietly.

"Thank you," the winged Caracal-Tiger chuckled, "I won't tell."

"*I'm liking her more by the minute.*" Patrik chuckled at Arymah as hir went to work on his fur again, with liberal doses of the oil as necessary. "Ohh, yes, thank you, Kummata."

The Wolf-Snow Leopard Taur smiled happily; glad that her fur hid the slight blush she felt warming her cheeks. "You're quite welcome, Patrik." She paused. "Do you prefer to be called Patrik or Rik? I've heard both."

"Mmm, Patrik is my given name, Rik is what friends call me." He raised his head to look at her with content, sleepy eyes and smiled again. "I'd prefer Rik."

She smiled agreeably, as expert hands worked independent of her talking. "Okay, Rik. I like it better, seems to fit you better."

"Mmm, Jake never called me anything else, once he accepted me." He didn't bother suppressing a yawn. "Wake me for my watch, okay?" He asked of neither of them in particular.

Kummata nodded. "Of course, but sleep now, you're still yawning pretty seriously. You clearly have some sleep to catch up on." She said in full medic mode, in spite of the fact that her hands were busy doing mending.

"*He does not have a watch tonight.*" Arymah sent the half statement, half question along their bond as she continued to groom the sleeping Kat.

"*Oh, he seemed to want to contribute. But it's probably best to let him sleep.*" She smiled mentally. "*His eagerness is somewhat contagious.*"

"*He's what kept us young, to a large extent.*" Hir smiled down at the sleeping Kat and continued to groom him. "*No matter what, some part of him always stayed perky and young, quite the contrast to the rest of us.*"

Kummata nodded and took a look at the leather vest Rik had been wearing, shook her head and began mending it. "*He either doesn't know how to take care of his clothes, or he chooses not to. But I suppose it probably doesn't seem that important to him.*" She thought quietly, in a voice heavily tinged with sympathy.

"*Probably not ... it's hard to care with no one to show off for.*" Hir sighed, then regarded hir companion. "*Are you interested in him, as a lover?*"

Kummata blushed visibly through her thick, gray fur. "*I think so, I'm guess I'm little confused.*" She hesitated. "*But I'm still interested in you, like I was before. I've never had feelings for two at the same time ... it's confusing.*"

Arymah stood and padded over to her, placed a reassuring hand on her upper shoulder and smiled when the other Taur looked up. "*Can I hazard a guess that this world doesn't go for polymory -- more than one lover?*"

Kummata thought about it. "Some nobles keep love slaves while having a mate, and I've heard that in some tribes the Nobles have more than one mate. But commoners don't, it's one of the things reserved for the Nobles." She looked up quizzically. "Would I be wrong to guess that your world does have this? Is it allowed for all, or just those in power?"

"It's normal where I'm from." Hir smiled gently. "The Triad ... three mates in an equal relationship ... that is the most common relationship we have for all classes, especially warriors. And it's normal for Rik to be even more casual if the attraction is there. For me too, for that matter." Hir added as an afterthought. "If you find him attractive that way, there is little harm in offering politely."

She thought about it. "Arymah, do you know if he is interested in females? The legends suggest that he's not." She asked quietly, as she considered the little tom more seriously.

"The Patrik I grew up around definitely was." Hir smiled at the memories that brought up. "Just as Jake enjoyed the affection of both, so he did. He may have a preference for toms, but it was hardly as strong as Nathan's."

Kummata smiled as she mended. "That's good to know, but I wouldn't want to rush. After all, he's been alone for a long time and he needs time to adjust to just being with us ... before I approach him that way, if I decide to."

The winged Caracal-Tiger nodded and settled back next to Patrik, smiling when the small Kat rolled and snuggled into hirs side. "*You take first watch?*"

She smiled looking at Arymah and Rik together, and nodded quietly. "*Sounds like the rain is stopping, perhaps the stars will be visible tonight.*"


In the late part of her watch Kummata observed a strange happening. One of the large dark brown mountain bears came near the camp, but before Kummata could act it was attacked by a large dark blue winged panther. After the bear was driven away she carefully examined the scene of the fight seeking proof that it had really happened, and found numerous dark blue feathers from the panther, and tracks from the bear.

Keeping all senses open for any other dangers, she began carefully weaving a charm from the feathers. She was still working on this task, when she gently woke Arymah for her watch, her voice apologetic. "*He looks very comfortable there against you, but it is your watch.*"

"*It'so'ka.*" Hir blinked hirself awake and stretched without disturbing the Kat nestled so comfortably against her feline belly. "*Would you mind letting him snuggle against you? The contact does him as much good as it does me.*"

She smiled pleasantly. "*I would be happy to.*" She said, with only a small trace of hesitation. "*Keep an eye out for a bear that came through earlier. A winged blue panther drove it away, but it may return.*"

"*Are they a native species?*" Arymah asked curiously as hir carefully exchanged places with Kummata, barely getting a stir out of Patrik for the shifting.

"*The bear was one of the dark brown/light brown striped ones that is native to the Hedra mountains. They are aggressive carnivores, but are often hunted for their pelts. They do not make good eating, however.*" She paused, as her hands quietly worked on the feather charm. "*I have never heard of a winged blue panther before, much less seen one.*"

Hir nodded and selected a small chunk of dried meat before heading out. "*Sounds like Keltin, or one of his WarCats. Wha'cha' doing with its feathers?*"

"*The panther's presence was fortuitous and I thought perhaps a good omen, so I am fashioning a charm from the feathers dropped during the fight. I think it will make an excellent warrior's charm.*"

"*Most likely,' The winged Caracal-Tiger smiled as hir took a fast tour of their immediate surroundings before settling into keeping both ears and an eye open for trouble and let hir mind drift.


Patrik woke with a start to realize that not only it was dawn, but he was snuggled up against a different Taur than the one he'd fallen asleep against. The smells of fresh, cooking fish and fruit drifted in to tease his nose.

"Hay, Kummata, smells like breakfast is in the works."

The healer turned her upper body so she could look at him. "Yes, Arymah is cooking, and she is fairly good at it." She bent down, picked up the carefully folded pile of mended clothing and handed it to Rik. She smiled. "Did you sleep well, Rik?"

"Thank you, and quite well." He smiled brightly at her and quickly dressed. "And I do like females, though I've never been with a Taur." He said over his shoulder as he headed outside to wave at their cook of the day. "Morning Ary."

Kummata very nearly fell over in shocked surprise, and blushed furiously. She'd have sworn he was asleep, but then again she should know that warriors are rarely as asleep as they seem. She became more than a bit distraught; she had wanted to broach the subject discretely.

It didn't help that he was so casual about it, as though he was discussing the weather. It did occur to her that he might very well be indicating his interest in her, which would be good thing. She felt somewhat adrift, as she realized that she wasn't used to dealing with this aspect of having other people around, and now she was interested in both the people she was around, and they, apparently, in her.


"How long you think it'll take her to come out?" He flopped down next to the fire and snagged a large Obal pear.

"My, my, you are quite chipper this morning." Arymah grinned mischievously.

"Helps to actually sleep two night in a row." He shrugged.

"It'll take as long as it takes her to get over the shock of having been told that." Hir chuckled. "I don't think she's had much of an openness in sexuality around her in a long time, if ever."

He blinked at hir and though about it. "I should probably apologize, shouldn't I? She just seemed worried about me liking fems ...."


Kummata quietly 'talked' with several nearby forest animals, something that always calmed her. And within a few minutes she felt much less confused, though still a bit like a cub around her two companions. But she figured if they could handle sex with such openness, then so could she. After all, she was a healer and understood it well enough. Just because she was rather inexperienced was no reason to let it throw her.

Having forcefully talked to herself, she went outside.

"Good morning, Arymah." She said brightly. "Breakfast smells quite good." She added as she grabbed an Obal pear to munch on.

"Thanks," Hir smiled, "grab a plate and dig in."

"Umm, I'm sorry if I disturbed you," Patrik spoke hesitantly as he took his fish, "I only meant to let you know Arymah was right about me. If you're interested, I'm willing."

Kummata was quiet for a moment as she helped herself to breakfast. She smiled shyly. "It's okay, Rik. I guess I was just a little embarrassed that you heard what I said." She looked down at her food. "I'm not used to dealing with what you both seem to handle so casually." She sighed quietly. "Trying to learn though."

"Don't be hard on yourself, Kummata." Arymah settled into hir meal. "Our casualness comes from a lifetime in a society and family that sees sex, and pleasure, as something casual, and shameless as long as both desire it. I know some societies are fairly closeted about such things, but I've found it healthier to have such things spoken about."

The healer nodded. "I could see that speaking of such things could make some things easier. Probably makes explaining things to cubs, much easier." She said with a slight smile.

"It does," Arymah chuckled.

She hesitated before speaking quietly. "I just don't want you to think my lack of casualness is a lack of interest." She said, mostly to Arymah.

"I understand," hir smiled reassuringly. "I realized the first time it came up you weren't from as open an upbringing as I am. Your words made your stance clear enough."

"Ary ... just how did you get your name?" Patrik regarded the Noble curiously. "It doesn't sound like anything Jake would come up with ... or is it a local one you're using?"

"It's my birth name," hir chuckled softly. "According to my family, Caito jokingly said I looked like an 'Arymah', and they should name me that. Jake whapped him across the ears for it, but it still stuck."

Kummata looked at Arymah curiously. "What is an 'Arymah' then? Or was the trickster merely being silly." She was more amazed then ever; her friend had actually been named by one of the Three.

"It's a babble-word, as far as any of us know." Hir shrugged. "Though it may be something he knows of, I doubt it is anything real."

The Wolf-Snow Leopard smiled seriously. "It may have been a babble-word, but its now quite real." She shifted to mind-voice. "*It will always mean 'friend' to me.*" Arymah was surprised to discover that Kummata put as much significance into the word 'friend' as father Nate did.

"*Thank you, Kummata.*" Hir smiled with sudden shyness and gathered the dishes. "Another half day of fishing, and head home? It should give us enough to vary our diet reasonably for a while."

Kummata smiled. "*You're welcome.*" She started giving thought to the best way to preserve and transport the fish. "Sounds reasonable."

Prophecy of Darkfire: Waking on Four Legs

PG-13
Het Level is None
Slash Level is
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is Low

130 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written October 11, 2001 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Galactic Alliance, Tauresia

Primary Races: Felsin, Kat, Taur

Contents: Furry. Herm. Slash (M/M). Supernatural

Pairings: Jake Furlson/Patrik Celest, Nathan SwiftClaw//Patrik Celest, Others

Notes: Set about 50 years after A Triad Through Fire, Darkness and Death as this is a story of one of Jake and Nathan's adult daughters. It's not really a sequel to that series so much as an inspired by possibility.

Blurb: Arymah is quite used to the idea of waking up in a strange body in a strange place. It’s part of the price she pays for her heritage, and she’d learned to welcome it as an adventure. Though she really wished they didn’t always come with a mission to accomplish to return home that no one will tell her about.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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