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Sweetness

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In the bustle of preparing to leave Sorrow's End, Redlance seemed preoccupied. Nightfall worked alongside Leetah, reading the little signs of anxiety hidden beneath her friend's determination, while wondering what lay beneath her lifemate's placid surface. Many things, she knew, and smiled.

A lull in the work became a time of rest, the Wolf-riders and Sunfolk sitting quietly in the night chill. Redlance touched her gently on the shoulder. "Come," he sent to her. She stood and followed. Pike's amused smile followed them. So many trails of thought in that one, some more closely trodden down than others; but it wasn't thoughts of joining she sensed in Redlance's sending.

They clasped hands and he led her into the rocks behind the village.

"Are we on a hunt, beloved?" she asked, sensing anticipation in him.

"Not exactly. More of a tiny quest before we undertake the great one." He gestured to a patch of ground and indicated that she sit. She sank onto the cold desert grit and waited patiently.

"When I heard about the time of fruit and flower, it made me wonder; all the hidden seeds lying in seemingly empty ground, waiting to sprout and grow in the great rains." He smiled in gentle wonder. Redlance found so many things wonderful, and a touch across her cheek reminded Nightfall that she was not the least of those wonderful things. "Sometimes I sit and touch the soil, trying to discern what seed hides there, what it might grow into."

She smiled in her turn; her curious tree-shaper. "And what have you discerned?"

Redlance held a small waterskin, which he poured out over the ground in front of them.

"Watch," he said, and touched the tips of his fingers to the mud. The luminous glow that expressed so much elfin magic sparkled from his hands to the earth, and within only a few seconds the ground stirred. Pale, green spikes poked languorously into the night air, growing quickly into a clump of many leaves, perhaps four or five handspans high. Redlance fingered the leaves as if he stroked the cheek of a cub and looked into Nightfall's face, before returning once again to concentrate on his work.

Another spike, darker green, curled from the middle of the leaves, unfurling to reveal buds all along its length. They darkened and grew until an eight of horn-shaped flowers stood along the spike, purplish-red like the gloss of dreamberries

"Skywise sees stories in the stars. And sometimes I see them in green growing things. Life is full of unexpected things. Sometimes it seems that it's nothing but prickles and struggles," his fingers caressed the spikes once more, "but unexpected sweetnesses bloom too." He sighed. "I felt this form in the ground, and it took a hold of my thoughts, for some reason. And I didn't want to leave without seeing if the form would match my fancy."

Nightfall touched the flower herself. "It is beautiful. Although it seems a pity that it should bloom without company or the chance to bear fruit."

"There are many others in the ground here. I wouldn't have done this if they were rare, but I wanted to share it with you before we left." He picked the spike of flowers. "We're about to travel. This can travel as far as Savah's hand."

He stood, and took her hand as she rose. She was no magic-user, but she felt the remnants of the power in him, flowing strong and sure as sap through the Father Tree. The Father Tree was gone, but Redlance stood beside her, accustomed sweetness.