The next day, after a blessedly rock-free sleep, Tal and Aira arrived in a part of the forest unlike anything they’d seen previously. The trees were just as thick around them, but the ground they walked on was somehow tamer. Aira found herself stumbling over roots and rocks less. In fact, she realized, she didn’t see any on the path. And, moreover, the ground had become a path in truth. Perhaps even a road. As they continued, large paving stones dotted the way until finally they were all Tal and Aira were walking on.
The scents in the air changed. Where before, Aira could smell the leaves of the trees and small animals, she now smelled something musty and slightly burnt. Like the smell of cookfires and fur. She glanced at Tal and noticed a slight smile on his face. He seemed to feel her eyes on him because he looked over her and nodded.
“Good guess,” he said, “I do believe we are here. Look in the trees on either side of us. Do you see them?”
Aira felt her heart flutter, and her stomach jump as she looked. There, in the shadow of the trees, were figures carrying crossbows and spears. Some even had purple and teal glowing lights around their hands, obviously readying Nightforce to use against Tal and Aira should they prove hostile. Aira gulped and tightened the grip on her crossbow but resisted the urge to summon her Nightforce to her hands. She would not want to be the reason these figures attacked, though she would be prepared. Glancing over at Tal, she was surprised to see his smile fading and his eyes narrowing.
“What’s wrong?” she whispered, betting that he would be able to hear her. He was part werewolf after all.
He shook his head at her and motioned her to stay with him. Then he eased the sword from its scabbard, his stance becoming more guarded and somehow more athletic. Did he think they would attack?
Suddenly, a tall man appeared next to them and began walking alongside Tal. “Greetings, travelers. What brings you here?”
Tal flicked his green-black eyes down at the man, taking in the long dagger held ready in one hand and the purple glow of Nightforce cloaking the other. “I was summoned by the Alpha. I have traveled from Lartnek to meet with your leader.”
“Hmm,” the man sighed, tucking a strand of black hair behind his pointed ear, “I don’t suppose you have the summons on you? To verify that you are who you say you are?”
“I can share the memory of when we received the summons, but no. I do not have a physical copy.” Tal smiled, disgruntled.
“Then I must insist you wait here while I bring the news of your arrival to our Alpha. We have had some trouble with outsiders recently. I would not wish to harm you if you are speaking the truth. Could I learn your names? So that I can bring them to the Alpha?”
“I am Tal from Lartnek. This is Aira. She is a fellow werewolf and has come at my behest to help me on this journey.”
The werewolf nodded and gestured to a small clearing ahead full of moss-covered stumps. “Please, take your ease. I will return promptly.”
Tal groaned as he lowered himself onto one of the stumps, slamming his sword back into its sheath. Aira suppressed a smile and sat too, setting her crossbow on her lap and raising an eyebrow at Tal.
“Not quite the reception you were expecting?”
“No. I expected our missive had reached the Wolves far before we got here. We did walk most of the way. I hope it wasn’t intercepted.”
“Is there some group that wouldn’t want you to come?”
“Not that I’m aware. Can’t be too careful, though. And besides, if someone did intercept the messenger… well, who knows if they left him alive.”
Aira looked down. She hadn’t thought of that. The past few days she had been so wrapped up in her own survival, she really didn’t consider the survival of others. Before this week, she hadn’t really thought about needing to stay alive at all. That was a given. But now, on the run and this diplomatic mission, she was embroiled in more complicated situations than any other time in her entire life.
The leaves rustled behind her, and she whirled, bringing her crossbow up. How she had gotten to her feet, she could not remember, but now she was up and face to face with a young werewolf, wrapped in soft brown robes tied with a green sash.
“Aira. Settle.” Tal said gruffly, “I’m sorry, youngling.”
She shot Tal a glare, “What is he doing creeping around us?”
The werewolf bowed deeply, pressing his palms into his thighs, “I’m sorry if I have offended you, Warrior. I was curious about the visitors and came to see. I thought I might help with a tour if you are admitted.”
His speech was very formal and he kept his eyes averted, even after he rose. Aira frowned and looked at Tal, but he did not seem put off. In fact, he did not make direct eye contact with the boy either.
“Could we know your name? My name is Tal, and this is my traveling companion, Aira. She is a werewolf like yourself.”
“I am J’ander. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Are you not a werewolf, Warrior Tal? You smell like one, but then again not.”
Tal smiled, “Only half. My mother was a werewolf. My father was a Draconian.”
“That would explain it. How long have you known Warrior Tal, Warrior Aira?” J’ander asked, turning back to Aira.
“A few days, now, I suppose.” she sat back down, crossing one leg over the other, ‘J’ander, why do you keep calling Tal and me, Warrior?”
He blinked, looking between them, “You carry weapons and you wear trousers. If the weapons didn’t mark you Warrior, your dress does. Is this not your way?”
“My trousers mark me as a warrior?” she looked at Tal. “No. No, in my city only men wear trousers and women usually wear dresses.”
“Are all of your men warriors? That seems a waste. Not all men are strong enough to fight and protect the Pack. Why would they all need trousers?” J’ander shook his head. “I do not understand. If a woman wants to protect the Pack, why should she have to wear a dress?”
Thankfully, the werewolf that had escorted them to the clearing returned just as she opened her mouth to try and answer J’ander. She really did not know how to explain to this youngling that in Nefti, women wore dresses and men trousers regardless of their occupation. It wasn’t job-related.
“Tal of Lartnek and Aira. The Alpha will see you now. J’ander, since you are here, please escort our guests to the Alpha’s tent. Then find yourself back at your chores. Your mothers will not be pleased to see you neglecting your duties.”
“Yes, Thane,” J’ander bowed again, “Please follow me. I will take you to the Alpha.”
To be continued...
The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the core of the New Testament, which is the foundation of Christianity. We Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament based on the covenant that God sent his son to spread the word, or "good news", and the promise of eternal life. Out of the four gospels, most claim Matthew is the oldest; however, that spot goes to Mark. It has been dated anywhere from the 70's to the mid 80's of the first century. The way Mark arranges the story of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection is the main reason I count it as my favorite. But who wrote Mark?
CrossExamined.org had a similar question in mind when they wrote a piece reviewing various theories, of which can be found here. The traditional view is that the gospel was written by John Mark who transcribed the teachings of Simon Peter. John Mark is said to be the son of a window named Mary, as seen in Acts 12:12-17). The Bible doesn't give much away as to the author's identity, but there are several traits to the gospel of Mark one could decipher from. Mark is fast paced, focuses on the humanity of Christ, writes with a Latin audience in mind, references Rome, focuses on Peter quite a bit, emphasizes the Messianic Secret, and tells of an unknown man. The unknown man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52 was a strange incident depicting the Garden of Gethsemane. The man is caught when Jesus was arrested and escaped Roman guards but lost his clothing in the scuffle. Many believe this man is the author of Mark!
Now, something I enjoyed about our sourced article mentioned above is that they also looked at the external evidence. They mentioned a quote from the early church who was unanimous in their belief that John Mark was the author stating,
“And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.” - Papias of Hierapolis (A.D. 60-130)
Papias was a Greek Apostolic Father and Bishop of Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale, Turkey) as noted from GotQuestions.org. He authored the Expostion of the Sayings of the Lord in five books. This piece's purpose was to present an accurate record of the teaching and works of the apostles as reported to him by "John the Elder" aka the Apostle John. Irenaeus (A.D. 130-200) also confers with Papias stating,
“After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”
Irenaeus was a Greek Bishop who is best known for his role in guiding and expanding the Christian communities into the south of France, especially the theology.
If we are to take from Irenaeus' statement, "after their departure", to mean Peter's execution, then Mark was written in the mid to late 60's A.D, but possibly as early as 50 A.D. But what is clear, the gospel was written while the author was still in Rome, which was the audience of the time period. The sourced article by CrossExamined.org conclusion is something I agree with:
"From the evidences considered, John Mark is the only clear candidate for the Second Gospel. While John Mark was not a primary witness of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and while he does not necessarily record the events of Jesus’s life in chronological order, he does act as a scribe, or amanuensis, to Peter whom Jesus knew and selected to be an inner circle disciple. We have a great testimony preserved for us in the Second Gospel. I believe we truly have the eyewitness accounts of Simon Peter documented for us by his good friend John Mark."
I truly enjoyed researching this topic and would like to do something similar in the future. If you have any suggestions on my next subject, then let us know in the comments or send us an email at QueerChristianFamilyValues@Gmail.com.
See ya in the next one!
Written by Alexander M. Burchnell
Edited by Christopher J. Burchnell
Aira opened her eyes and groaned. The night had grown cold, and the ground was hard-packed. Was that a rock sticking into her side? She stuck her hand behind her and pulled out the sharpest, biggest rock that could have possibly found its way underneath her. What had she done, rolled around the whole camp in her sleep just to land on the worst rock possible? Aira shook her head and stretched. She had woken Tal up three hours after he had gone to sleep. He had grumbled at her sleepily, chastising her for not waking him sooner, but had sat up promptly, his sword held lightly in his hands.
That had been a slight surprise. Not, perhaps, that Tal had a sword, but that she hadn’t noticed it before. Where had he hidden it? Had he hidden it? Or was she being overly suspicious again? Ugh! She thought. Why can’t I trust him? Well, a quieter voice seemed to say, you did just meet him.
There was that. Speaking of… Where was the dragon? She looked around their campsite, craning her neck around the fire pit. There were their ashes, her cloak (she had used it as a pillow and, of course, had woken up five hundred feet away), and her water skin. No Tal. So he left her after all. Only to be expected. Well, she better pack up and figure out what she was going to do now. Can’t rely on--
“Good morning!” the sing-song voice floated over the trees toward her. Tal, a string full of rabbits held in one hand, his cloak thrown over his shoulder in the other, came striding out of the trees. “I thought we might need a good breakfast. I didn’t smell any food in your cloak, and I, frankly, was supposed to arrive with the werewolves last night, so I didn’t pack any food either. This should serve nicely. Why don’t you get the fire started, and I’ll skin these critters?”
And Tal, very matter of factly, sat down on a nearby rock (much bigger than the one that had jabbed Aira in her sleep) and began skinning the rabbits.
She blinked. What a strange Creature. Shaking her head, she began piling sticks and logs for fuel in the center of the stones she had found the night before. Then, she sat back on her heels and extended her hands toward the pile of wood. Closing her eyes, she reached inside for the flicker of Nightforce she had and sent it streaming through her fingers at the sticks, concentrating on fire. A dark green glow surrounded her hands, and suddenly fire sprang to life around the wood. Triumphant, she looked up at Tal, who had finished skewering two rabbits on a long, sharpened stick.
“Very good,” he said gently, “I usually use flint myself. Dark Power--uh, you Newlings call it Nightforce, now, I believe--takes too much out of me when I use it to justify lighting a fire with it.”
She frowned, “But it’s not that tiring for me.”
“You are a full werewolf, correct? You should have access to more Nightforce than I do. I prefer to use other tools,” he smiled, and suddenly the stick with the rabbits rose in the air and hovered above the fire, seemingly on their own. Aira didn’t see a glow of Night or Dayforce around Tal’s hands.
“How are you doing that?”
“I’m a dragon, remember? Telekinesis. Much easier for me than Nightforce!” Tal laughed at her expression and stretched his legs out. “Won’t be too much longer until the rabbits are ready. Then we better be on our way. I dare say it will take slightly more than a day to reach these werewolves on foot.”
“On foot!” Aira froze as she bent to pick up her cloak and gather her belongings, “Why aren’t we flying?”
“I haven’t had a rider for years. Very uncomfortable. No. We are walking.”
Aira protested loudly as she gathered her things and grudgingly took a rabbit on a smaller stick that Tal handed her. She complained as he kicked dirt over their fire and strode away, munching on his roasted rabbit. She protested as they walked until, finally, she merely grumbled under her breath, kicking up dirt as she trudged behind him.
The day wore on, and they headed deeper into the trees that had surrounded her clearing. The sun rose to its peak, and just as Aira began to feel hungry, Tal produced strips of dried fruit. They were tasty and rather tart. He said he had made it while she was complaining, citing some principal of water extraction she did not follow. Finally, she quieted and began thinking about her escape, and that led to worry. She had been very loud all morning. If they had been followed, someone could have heard her. Aira stole a glance over her shoulder and hurried closer to Tal, her heart beating. The shadows grew longer in the forest, and she imagined she could see soldiers with bows and swords sneaking along behind her and Tal. Had they been followed?
A bird fluttered out of the branches of a tree nearby, and Aira squeaked, latching onto Tal’s arm, then releasing it quickly, muttering an apology.
“It’s okay, Aira. You can hold my arm if it makes you feel safe from birds,” he said with a smile.
“I think we are being followed,” she whispered, hugging her arms close to her chest.
“I haven’t sensed another consciousness as we have been walking, but if you’re worried, I’ll keep a sharp lookout. Who would want to mess with a dragon and a dangerous werewolf, anyway?”
Aira smiled weakly, but still tried to watch every corner. Something felt off. Maybe it was her imagination, but she really didn’t think so. It had to be real. The sun drooped lower, the trees blocking out all but the smallest streaks of light. She heard footsteps echo behind her. Were those theirs? Or the soldiers? Crying out, she whirled around, summoning her Nightforce to her hands and sending it straight through the trees.
To be continued...
Written by Christine Fritzine
Edited by Christopher J. Burchnell
Meet the Author:
C.F. is a math teacher in the northeast Ohio area. She enjoys reading, writing and drawing when she isn't playing games (video or tabletop) with friends and family. She has two dogs (a lab and a husky mix) and a partner who accepted her bisexuality before she did herself!
Aira peered up as the man sat cross-legged in the dirt across the fire.
“Okay. I came back. Shall we start with names?” The man spread his hands and craned his head down to look at her. “Hello?”
She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath trying to calm her beating heart. So much could go wrong here, and even if she transformed into a wolf to run, he could fly. She wouldn’t be able to escape.
Finally, she looked up, “I’m Aira.” Should she have given her real name? It was too late now.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Aira. My name is Tal Zee, though you may simply call me Tal. I am from a kingdom called Lartnek, far west from here.”
“Why are you way out here then?” she asked despite her worries.
“Good question,” he smiled, and once again, Aira saw pointed eye-teeth and felt her own with her tongue. At least that was something they had in common. “I am on a mission set by my granddaughter. She heard of a disturbance out this way and sent me to mediate. That’s my role in my old age. Mediator!”
“Granddaughter! You don’t look old enough for grandchildren!” Aira gasped, her eyebrows leaping up.
Tal laughed, “I appreciate that. I am several hundred years old at this point.” He tapped his chin. “Not quite sure how many hundred years. More than two, and I hope to Nailan less than 10.”
He blinked at her, “I’m a dragon. Well, half anyway, but that half is the important factor concerning my age. You see, dragons are what the academic world calls Immortal. My brother thinks that the name doesn’t really make sense because dragons can and do die. Sickness, battle, falling out of the sky after falling asleep flying, you know, the normal ways. But dragons tend to live hundreds of years more than most other races here on Lasrevinu, our lovely planet.”
Aira groaned, “Okay, you’re old. I get it.” No one who spoke like that was less than half a century.
“Mmhmm.” Tal leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, “So. Why are you way out here?”
She looked away from his green and black eyes, “Do I have to talk about it?”
Aira jerked her head up and frowned at the dragon. He asked a question, and she didn’t have to answer it? What sort of strange creature was this?
“Seriously, no. I truly do want to know, but you just met me, and I have found, over the years, that forcing someone to talk about something they do not wish to talk about is a terrible way to come to an understanding. I know that you are in some sort of trouble. I would like to hear what you have to say about it, but you don’t have to tell me.”
She sighed, “Well, my… my friend called soldiers to arrest me. Because of something I told her. Because of something I might be. I don’t know. Anyway, they chased me all the way to a river nearby, and I was able to escape over it. I ran until I couldn’t anymore, and then I made a fire, and then you showed up.”
Tal nodded, “Something you might be. That wasn’t a good friend, I suppose. Though when I was young, younger than you, I think, the very people who were supposed to care for me and keep me safe hurt me because of something I was. Or at least half of what I was.
Then, later, people who I thought bore me no ill will sent me away because of the other part of me.” He sighed and ran his fingers through his jet black hair. “Every situation is different, but if you ever feel like telling me more, I may very well understand.”
It was odd. Aira actually thought he might be telling the truth. It still seemed fantastic that a stranger appeared out of the darkness and wanted to not only help her, but listen to her story. That didn’t just happen. Ever since that robed man at the river had told her to trust him (was that Nailan?), everything seemed to be turned on its head.
“I hope you won’t suggest I go back,” she said suddenly.
“Of course not. In fact, I won’t suggest anything. I will share the watch tonight as we sleep, and then, in the morning, I have to continue on my way.”
“To be a mediator?”
“Yes. Some werewolves are squabbling over something or other. They weren’t very specific. I happen to have some experience in werewolves, being half myself, so naturally, I was the choice.”
“Oh! I”m a werewolf too, you know!”
“Really?” He smiled, “I suppose that is where the pointed teeth and ears come from then? One can’t assume, but I was hoping…”
“Hoping that I was a werewolf?”
“Why, yes! How fortuitous it would be that I was on my way to help settle a problem with a group of werewolves, and I come across one on the way. It would be a great help to me if you decided to tag along.”
She pursed her lips. It might be a good idea if she could trust Tal. That way, she wouldn’t be alone, easy meat for the soldiers if they ever crossed the river. And it might be an interesting journey. She might find a place where she belonged. Trish’s face flashed in front of her thoughts, and Aira felt her stomach squeeze. She had thought she had found that with Trish.
“Okay, Tal. I’ll go with you!”
“Great! We’ll set off in the morning.” Tal stifled a yawn, “Now unless you have an objection, I will take the first sleep. Wake me in two hours, and I’ll take the rest of the night. Sound good?”
She nodded. Aira wouldn’t be able to sleep right now even if she wanted to. Tal smiled and curled up, using his cloak as a pillow. Aria looked at him for a long while before settling herself down to watch the night.
Written by Christine Fritzen, Partner Writer
Aira sat panting near her fire. It had taken her far longer than she had anticipated finding wood dry enough to catch and the night was cold. Her fire was not large enough to do more than warm her toes and her hands, which held her knees tightly to her chest.
Staring into the flickering orange flames, she tried to comprehend what had happened. Trish, her best friend and only confidant, had called the city guard. For her own good, she had said. As if being imprisoned and beaten until she resembled what her city thought a woman should be would benefit her in the slightest.
Her boots shifted in the dirt as she tried to compact herself tighter into her legs. It wasn’t her fault she felt this way, was it? And if Nailan hated what she was, why had he saved her? It didn’t make sense. Perhaps it had been a ruse, a trick, to make her vulnerable and then he would tell her how awful she was in his sight.
“I didn’t mean to. I really didn’t. She was my friend and I thought I could trust her…” Aira whispered to the fire.
It had been Trish that had pushed everything to a boiling point. Trish was a human, destined to live a short life without access to any Power whatsoever or the ability to shift into an animal. She was, by many standards, completely boring. Aira, herself, was a werewolf, able to turn into a wolf at will, able to access Nightforce Power. The only drawback was that during a full moon, Aira had to transform into a wolf whether she wanted to or not. Despite Trish’s boring humanity, Aira was enchanted by her. Her rounded ears, her flat teeth, her… Aira’s cheeks flushed and she squeezed her eyes shut.
That had been the problem. Aira’s heart had always fluttered near Trish, and her stomach always felt in knots. But she couldn’t stay away. They became fast friends and Aira began to feel herself relax more and more around Trish. The human didn’t mind that she wore pants, though she teased Aira mercilessly about how the trousers clung to her form. Aira’s stomach did somersaults for weeks after that. After Trish had offered her a bed in her house, Aira had hoped that Trish cared for her as Aira did. But that had been naive. No, worse than naive, stupid. Aira should have known it was too good to be true. She should have known!
“What are you doing out here?"
Aira leaped to her feet, her hand jumping to the long dagger at her waist, wrenched from her thoughts. A man stood on the other side of the fire, his black hair sweeping across green and black eyes. He smiled and Aira noticed that he had pointed teeth like hers. So, he was a creature.
“What are you doing walking up on my fire?” she snarled, easing her dagger in its sheath.
“I was taking an evening flight and spotted you. You seemed alone and out of sorts so I thought I’d come down and see if you needed help.” he shrugged and sat cross-legged in the dirt, adjusting his coat so that he did not sit on it. It was emerald green, and she thought she saw dragons embroidered in gold along his sleeves. Dragons and… wolves?.
“Hey! I didn’t say you could stay here! You make a habit of creeping up on women in the dark?” That would put him off balance. He would run away quickly once he realized she wasn’t a man! Either that or try to drag her back to Nefti and force her into a dress, or worse.
To her complete surprise, he did not start at the pronouncement of her gender. In fact, now that she thought about it, he hadn’t even blinked at her clothing. Had she crossed into some alternate plane of existence when she crossed the river? In Nefti, a man would be calling for the guards or trying to arrest her if he found out. This man though…
“Not particularly. As I said, I saw you alone, I thought you might need some help. Your mental state--”
“My mental state is none of your business! You can just jump back into the air and go back where you came from!”
He raised his eyebrows and tucked some of his black hair behind an ear she now could see was pointed. “As you wish. I just thought… No matter.”
He rose and stepped back from the fire, his green-black eyes taking on an amused light. Aira shifted her stance, grounding feet into the dirt and tightening her grip on her dagger in case he rushed her. What an odd creature. Suddenly, large black wings unfurled from his back. He snapped them open and Aira could see light green webbing on the underside of the wings. He bent his knees, turning his face to the sky and leaped into the air, his wings taking him higher and higher. What was he? Some sort of Shifter, obviously, but what? A dragon? A Polivorn, able to change into many animals and shapes? She had never seen this half-transformation before, however.
Aira followed him with her eyes as he rose into the air, higher and higher. He really was leaving. That made sense, of course. He said he just wanted to help her, but if he was from Nefti, he would want to take her back in chains, more than likely. If he was from Nefti, he would hate and revile her because she was dressed like a man. If he was from Nefti, he would hate and revile her for Trish. Oh, Trish. Why did you betray me? The thought ran across Aira’s consciousness and she felt a tear run down her face. No! Focus. If this creature was from Nefti, there was nothing to stop him from striking her down and stoning her. True, a soldier in Nefti would most likely jail her rather than stone her, but if he thought she couldn’t be changed, couldn’t be made to conform, she would be executed. A shudder ran through her. Why can’t I be true to who I am? Why do they hate me? Why does Nailan hate me?
What if, a small thought said in the deepest corner of her mind, what if this man isn’t from Nefti? What if he truly does want to help?
Her mouth was so dry as she opened it to cry out, “Wait! Come back!”
She sank to her knees and hung her head. It was too late. Of course it was. But Aira felt the air stir and saw the man’s boots right back on the ground by her fire.
Written by Christine Fritzen
Edited by Chris Burchnell
Graphic Designed by Alex Burchnell
Check out Christine's other work (click here)!
Aira ran. She ran as fast as she could, her breath coming in bursts as she tried to direct enough air into her lungs. It would not be enough. Despite her long legs, they were coming for her and they would catch her.
A small whisper on the wind caught her pointy ear, causing it to quiver. Turn here, it seemed to say. Why she should follow this voice was beyond her, but in a world of dragons and shifters and elves and magic, she had no reason to disbelieve that someone could really be talking to her.
She skidded as she turned, her short dark hair flopping in her green eyes before streaming back as she began to run again. She bared pointed teeth as she saw a river up ahead. Even from this distance, she could see the current rising up in wisps of white. How could she cross it? The voice had led her to a dead end!
Trust. The voice whispered once more, and Aira saw a man standing on the opposite bank of the river. She could make out a shepherd’s crook in one hand and a slight smile on his face.
Were they connected?
Why? She thought at the voice. Who are you?
I am Nailan. I am the beginning and the end. I am your creator. I am your redeemer. I am Nailan.
Shock nearly caused her to fall to her face. Just as she felt herself lose balance, something seemed to catch her and keep her on her feet. Nailan? Why was Nailan trying to help her escape? The kingdom of Nefti had strict laws, and her very clothing broke them. They said it was Nailan’s will that women wore dresses and men trousers. They said it kept things holy. Why would he be helping her?
A glance behind her saw the soldiers nearing. They would catch her against the river. They would reach her even if she tried to run along it. But the water was too deep, too wild, too wide. Even the rock that protruded above the water was too slippery, too far. If she reached it, she knew she would fall, that her foot could not grip the wet surface. Her eyes shot forward and saw Nailan on the opposite bank, a soft smile curving his lips, his eyes seeming to shine.
Aira inhaled deeply, reaching the near bank. Okay. She closed her eyes and jumped. Her body felt cushioned by something, held in the air longer than a natural jump would last, and suddenly her feet landed on the rock. Keeping her eyes closed, she trusted that Nailan would help her keep her footing and pushed off once more. She landed on the sandy bank and rolled, jumping up to her feet as fast as she could and looked around. Nailan was clothed in a soft tan robe, the shepherd’s crook at his feet, and he smiled at her. He had saved her. He had helped her escape. She shook her head, trying to rid her eyes of the tears that threatened to fall. He had saved her.
“Go, my child. You are not away yet. They will try to cross, but you have a chance now. Go and know that I am with you. Go.”
She nodded and began trotting away from the river, away from the shouting soldiers. She had a chance. Nailan had provided a chance, and she would take it.
Written by C.F. (Partner Writer)
Edited by Christopher James