He found them in Ofren, a small town four days northwest of the fortress of Fao. Shel had rented a house for them. An entire house for three people who, supposedly, would not be staying long in the town. Gray smiled to himself. Shel was crafty; that was simply the way of it.
The house sat on the Fransan River, the largest river in Ra-Faal. The banks were lined with rushes and flowering willows, and the air—for just a moment—reminded Gray of the islands he had recently left behind. The water glistened silver in the moonlight, and every rippling stroke of shadow made the silver gleam more purely.
She was sitting on the dock, her feet dangling near the water. Her hair was loose and spread across her shoulders, and the moonlight was her cloak.
He didn’t approach her, not right away. Instead, he stood on the river and watched the way she held her head, the way she toyed with the water at her feet, dipping her toes in and then pulling them out. It was a small, rather childlike activity that somehow was beautiful, because she was the one doing it.
On another dock, on another night, she had told him how much she missed the sea. That she had never been this far from her home. That the river water did not “speak” to her. Gray knew exactly what she meant. He could feel the water in whatever form he found it, and yet there was nothing like the sea. The words spoken by salt were real in a way other words were not.
He walked slowly up to her on the surface of the water and shifted when he was only a few steps away, suddenly casting a shadow.
Her head lifted and she saw him. Eyes wide, she held out her hands to him, and he pulled her off the dock to sit with him on the water, holding her in his lap.
He carried the river in his clothing. Every piece of fabric on his body could be wrung out and hung up to dry. But he was e’nethaine and surely water was expected; she did not complain as her own clothes grew damp against him.
She held him and didn’t speak, so neither did he. With one hand, he steered them around the edge of the dock so the current could carry them out onto the river, and there, on the water, he let her know how much he’d missed her. She replied in kind.
“Did you see him?” she whispered at last, her hand on his jaw.
“Yes,” he replied.
Her fingers stilled on his face, and her voice grew even softer. “What did he say?”
Hearing the uncertainty in her voice, Gray leaned forward and brushed his lips against her forehead. “He said he did not wish his unmarried daughter to travel with an e’nethaine who was not her husband.”
Nari took a breath. The warmth of her fingers on his jawline disappeared.
“And so,” Gray continued, “he commanded that Shel alter this situation as quickly as possible. Apparently, your father gave Shel your bride ring when he was last on the islands, so according to your customs, now that I have your father’s permission, Shel can marry us as soon as you desire. We could even marry tomorrow, perhaps, if that is your wish—”
He discovered it was.
(For real this time)
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Copyright notice: © 2019 by Lauren Stinton. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.