erva and Tinar were surprised to find themselves rousing from sleep. More to their surprise was realizing their state of dishabille was shared, and that their bed consisted of pieces of clothing from at least an eight of elves.
They stared at each other in the dim light filtering through the massive clear-crystals in the ceiling. They looked around the Hall which was their location. They looked back at each other. And began - silently - to laugh.
**Who was it who thought we were too ancient and solemn to be invited to a drum feast?** asked Tinar. **Would that person had woken before we!**
**Should any be so foolish to say that again, I shall remind them of this night,** murmured Aerva. **Do I remember wrongly, or did I hold at least three different bodies within my arms?**
**If your memory is wrong, then so is mine, or else your hair changed from brown to gold to black to red. But at least the final round was ours, beloved.**
**As well it should have been, beloved.** Reaching out, Aerva pulled Tinar down and half-rolled onto him, her elbows on either side and her hands laced over his chest. **And has sleep strengthened your rod, my beloved? Or must you longer rest?**
He smiled slowly, before reaching up to pull down the last braid that had not escaped the once-elaborate network of ribbons and pins. **Your touch would not doubt awaken the most tired, were it your will, beloved. The question is - is your mound as awake as your mind? After all, you are the elder of us two...**
**Why, you - cast aspersions upon your elder! Prepare yourself, one-who-is-shorter than myself! When I am finished with you, we shall see how long it takes you to rise!**
**Two heartbeats?** replied Tinar, grinning widely as he slid one hand between her legs. **Beware, one-who-boasts-of-being-tall! On the bed or the floor, we are all of equal height!**
With a mental chuckle for reply, Aerva rolled onto her side and pulled Tinar to her.
Sweat-soaked and replete, the two Elders found themselves unable to do little more than breathe for some little time. Aerva was the first to stir, groaning mentally and physically as she shoved herself to a seated position.
**Spry enough we may still be for a drum feast, but these bones have forgotten how to sleep on unyielding ground. I think I could actually sleep some more - but I would prefer to do it in the comfort of our bed.**
Tinar pushed himself to his feet, then winced. **Feathers instead of stones sounds wonderful. But I want a shower and soak, first.** Reaching down, he helped Aerva gain her feet.
**Such lovely ideas you have this morning, beloved.** She looked around at the limp bodies and scattered clothing. **Should we search for our clothing?**
**Leave it here as proof.** Tinar's dark eyes danced with laughter. **I never tire looking at you.**
**Complements will not increase your share of the covers,** she informed him archly. **I--** Her teasing expression went blank. **Oh!**
**Beloved?** Tensing, Tinar watched her face carefully. Her expression did not change for several moments, then relaxed into a radiant smile that verged on tears.
**Beloved, listen! Can you hear it - feel it? There is new life among us! New!**
Half-turning, Tinar stared at the bodies around him. Closing his eyes, he listened with his inner senses. Unheard songs - songs! - seemed to spiral through the air, carrying their message of joy.
**I do feel!** He turned back to her, tears blurring his vision. **And more than one! Oh, beloved - the Isle will be renewed! Renewed!**
Their bodies met in an embrace of pure joy, then came apart to exchange looks undimmed by the mutual fall of tears. **Will ever two years seem longer!** exclaimed Aerva.
**A time worth waiting for.** Tinar's hands clasped hers. **Come on - I want to know who.**
Aerva leapt lightly into the air for an answer, Tinar less than a heart-beat behind her. Gliding upwards for a better view of the entire Hall, they almost immediately moved downward towards one of the shadowed crannies. Darter was nestled with her head on Found's shoulder, while Firefox sprawled over both. **Poor Found,** she chuckled sadly, **he looks just a bit confused, does he not?**
**At least he is part of the bond, and not left alone, outside. Perhaps, now, we can let him relearn himself at his own pace, and not force him to a role he does not understand.**
**To learn as a child learns ... would we had accepted Danaan's suggestion earlier...** Aerva shook her head. **Let's find the others.**
**Speaking of which,** Tinar sent with a grumbling undertone, **I wonder where that Firetop is? I almost expected to have to carry him to the feast, given what's happened to him.**
**We'll find him.** Aerva indicated she was not interested. **Let's find the other songs.**
Their drifting led them quickly to an entwined pair. Aerva snickered. **Oh, I should not feel this,** she sent, hovering, **but can you think of two who dislike each more? Cliffclimber - and Linefisher?! Oh, by the spirit of my mother! They will be horrified when they wake up!**
** Cliffclimber will be horrified,** Tinar corrected her, eyes glinting with unsuccessfully- suppressed mirth. ** Linefisher will gape, and then start laughing.**
**And she'll despise him even more, for laughing. Poor children!**
**Poor child, you mean. I wonder who'll raise him - it'll have to be one of the other. They'll never agree on anything. **
Aerva shook her head, mirth vanished. **A problem I have no wish to face before it is necessary. I think there are others - are there not?**
There were. The next pair was reassuring, being one of the few lifemated couples to survive. **I suspect their biggest problem may be simple envy,** Tinar observed sadly. **To survive the fighting with your mate, and then be blessed as well...**
**They lost Chena,** she reminded him softly. **No one is untouched by grief.**
Hazel eyes and almost black met for a moment, remembering. If they themselves had none lost who were close kin to their hearts, it was only because they had suffered such losses before.With both peers and children gone, all those who were left were in one sense or another their children. And mourned.
As if to lift their mood, they found the next new life singing among a virtual pile of slumbering bodies. **Catseyes is the life-bearer, but who is the father?** asked Tinar.
**She'll tell us, when she figures it out -- if she decides to. Truly, a child of a drum feast.**
**And one the Isle won't forget. Four lives starting in one night?!**
Aerva tilted her head. **The count's not done, beloved.**
The next breath of song gave them pause. **Ah, child! What will she say, when she learns?**
Square face intent, Tinar dropped to a knee and lightly caressed a tear-stained cheek. **And not just child-bearer: Recognized . What will it be for her, to lose and gain in such short time? Child and mate lost when they should have been safe, wounded and arm lost and wanting to die: and now to be gifted with soul-name and child again?**
**At least Recognition turned her to one who has always wanted her,** sent Aerva, kneeling to comb back a length of pale-blond hair. **Loyal Evergreen. As unchanging as his outer name...**
They shivered a little, as if cold, hands reaching each for the other as they drew away to let the pair sleep. 'Listening' again, they sensed one more new song. And were, somehow, not surprised to learn who the final mother would be. As for the father --
**Now how did she get Shadow to agree?** he wondered. **Vaerrain chased him for years, and never caught him.**
**Given last night, it would be surprising that she didn't catch him,** she returned wryly. **If anyone would guess how the night would end up, it would be our Planner - and who else has the will and the power to ensure her and her mate's fertility?**
**Hmph.** Tinar had his own memories of being 'chased,' of which he was less than fond. **I hope she has enough sense not to preen her success before his face. Should we remind her?**
Aerva rolled her eyes. **And be told to keep our noses out of her affairs? And then watch her behave exactly as we said she shouldn't? I've had my nose nipped enough times, thank-you.**
Tinar sighed. **I was just thinking of the children. Bad enough we know one couple won't get along. If we have two pairs arguing...**
**Which is why we encourage others to be involved. 'Parenting is easier when there's more than two.'**
A lopsided grin returned to his face. **It certainly took all three of us to keep an eye on Klayeka!**
**Which is when Vrayl came up with that saying.** Laughing silently, they shared a moment of fond memories for long-dead daughters and friends. **Do you sense any more?**
He considered a moment, then shook his head. **Isn't six enough?**
** Enough?! It's a bounty!** With a breathless laugh, Aerva leapt into the air, pulling him along. **Such joy there will be, when all awaken! Almost, I would wake them now!**
**Why lessen the fun by telling them?** he countered. **Besides, I think I hear a pool of hot water calling us. Don't you?**
**Water calling? Never.**
**You just don't 'listen' the right way. Come on.** Ducking away from her, Tinar dove straight towards the entrance that led to the shortest route down.
They both stopped short, however, at the sight of a fully-clothed figure crumpled in a shadow just past the entrance. **What in the name of all good lovers is she doing out here?** asked Tinar, dropping to his feet. **I would have expected to find her in the middle of one of the larger groups!**
Dropping to her knees, Aerva cradled Silvertree's head against her breast, touching the Healer's forehead with her free hand. **She's just asleep - I can't sense anything wrong, just exhaustion. But I thought she had agreed not to Heal for several days, to recover her strength.**
**Should we waken her? If she had reason to drain herself, we should know.**
**I don't --ah. She's waking.**
Silvertree stirred, forehead wrinkling into a frown. "Danaan," she muttered. "Have we done enough? I'm so - so tired. Danaan? It's sliding away. Everything's sliding away ..."
The Eldests stared at each other in shock. "Have we done enough what, Silvertree?" asked Tinar, leaning forward to touch the Healer's face. "What have you and the Firetop done now?"
Silvertree stirred. "Have to keep it turned. Keep it turning. Don't let it go. Don't let it ..."
"Don't - let - what?" Tinar began to lightly slap her face. "Silvertree, will you kindly wake up and tell us what is going on between you and Farseeker? Wake up!"
"Nothing's going on, we just -- oh!" Silvertree shook off the last traces of sleep abruptly, sitting up. She stared at Tinar for a long moment, round-eyed. Just as abruptly, she slumped back into Aerva's hold, wincing. "My head!" she whispered, bringing a clenched hand to her temple. "It hurts!"
"Try Healing," suggested Aerva.
"I'm trying! It's - it's not working!" Silvertree looked up at Aerva, frightened. "I can't feel anything - it's gone!"
The Elder pulled the Healer back into an embrace. "Don't panic, Silvertree," she said, combing the long hair back. "It's probably just exhaustion. You've been pushing yourself too hard." She held the shuddering Healer tightly. "Don't worry about it."
"Why don't you take her down to the warm pool?" suggested Tinar, climbing to his feet. "I'll go find that half-brained Firetop - when they're together, maybe they'll make sense."
"He's probably in the alcove nearest the Elders' Arch," said Silvertree, her voice muffled. "Oh, my head - Aerva, could we stop by the healcrafter room and get some willowbark tea?"
"Better make it enough for two," growled Tinar, shaking his head as he turned away. "At least."
inar glided into the smaller of the bathing rooms with a grim expression on his face, Farseeker's reed-thin body limp in his arms. "I can't rouse him," he reported in a voice rough with anger and fear. "Var's curse, Healer -- what were you two doing?" Aerva looked up, her fingers on Silvertree's temples not stopping their gentle massage.
"Get him into the water first, beloved--the heat might help bring him around." Scowling, Tinar did so, stripping the voluminous clothes protecting the limp body, then unfastening the carefully-shaped splints protecting the broken, unhealed feet. Despite his obvious irritation, the Elder moved slowly into the pool, careful not to jar the half-healed body. Silver hair piled haphazardly on top of her head, Silvertree gestured Aerva to stop, moving closer to Tinar and his burden. Long, slender fingers stroked the colorless, unresponsive face. The Healer closed her eyes for a moment, concentrating, then winced. "Ouch." Her hand went back to her own head. "It hurts just trying to 'feel' someone."
"Then don't." Aerva drew the younger woman back from the men. "Your mother can take over the healings for now -- and in winter we've time to heal."
"It's not the first time we've done without Healing, youngster," said Tinar, shifting his position. "Now tell us what you two were about, that left you like this."
Silvertree nodded her head after a brief hesitation, leaning against Aerva's willing support. "It was the remembering. The hatred came so close to consuming us -- even after it turned, even after Dwan's vision and Whlen's shaping, Danaan was afraid it would return." Opening her eyes, she stared at nothing, eye brows wrinkling. "It--it wasn't that he actually sent to me for help. But when the drums started ... the merge still wasn't completely dissolved, and he could feel that there was still need. For healing. For hope. He was trying to blend the magic into the drumbeat -- but he needed the Healer. I--felt the need, and I had to help..." She looked pleadingly at Tinar. "The remembering, the plans for the new Hall -- they aren't enough. If we don't have something to look forward to, if we don't have hope -- it will come back. All the rage, the hate--" she shivered, despite the heat. "I don't even know if we did any good-- and now, I can't Heal--"
Behind her, Aerva laughed gently. "I think six new lives will be counted worth the loss of Healing for a while." Silvertree gasped and jerked to her feet; Aerva's hands on her shoulders eased her back. "Just rest and don't worry, Silvertree. You've given us the hope, you and Farseeker. Now it's up to the rest of us, to renew Isle and Lake and Valley. Us and the children to be..."
If it could be done.