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As Stubbon As Tinar

The Isle was deserted, as it rarely was. Tinar paced the shallow, exposed beach of the southern side, loneliness and pain gnawing at his soul. Five nights before, he had sensed disaster happening to his lifemate Aerva, and his grandson. Trusting that link between mates, Vrayl had led the remaining elves on a rescue mission. But that trust did not extend to inviting a crippled, useless elf to come along.

Reaching under the soft, rabbit-fur poncho to touch his wasted arm, Tinar considered seating himself and trying once more to separate his spirit from his body. He had been so close once. Following the hints found in memories of the Firstcomers -- memories of their words, memories of their memories-- he had several times managed to find a silence with in him. A silence where pain and worry did not touch him, a place that seemed to whisper of a vast freedom, could be but make the final step ...

Except the place had vanished. Ever since Nathiin --

No! Tinar wrenched himself around and stared out over the lake, trying to fight down the memories of his granddaughter's drowned face. It was not entirely his fault! No one had ever truly realized the dangers of swimming, or thought to caution the young twins about their favorite past-time. And he wouldn't have been left alone with them, if three consecutive years of bad hunting and worse gathering had not so completely emptied the storerooms that every healthy adult was spending every moment trying to obtain food. He had tried! But he been unable to do more than mind-link with her when muscle cramps caused her to panic. With his crippled arm, he had never learned to swim. He had never learned to glide. He had been able to force calmness on her, as Olath dove off the raft to go to his sister. But the next moment, in his thoughtless rush from his seat overlooking the beach to the waterline, a rock had turned under his foot, tripping him, and causing him to land on his bad shoulder. The lance of unexpected pain had ripped not only through his mind, but hers, and before he could regain control, she had gone back under. By the time he recovered enough to search for her mind again, her lungs were full of water. And by the time Olath found her and dragged her ashore, her spirit had fled. And the expression on Olath's face, before he had jumped on Tinar, pummeling and screaming...

Tinar bit his lip, fighting the scalding tears, fighting the memories of his grandson's expression of hatred. Olath had never forgiven him for his twin's death, never. And now Olath was dead. His only remaining grandchild, dead. And Aerva was in terrible pain.

Vision swimming through the tears, the white-haired elf stared longingly at the southwestern shore, desperately needing Aerva's soothing, comforting touch. The others could admire his "stubbornness" all they wanted, but Aerva was at least half his strength. Without her, the dream that kept him going was in ruins. Now more than ever, with the last of their offspring dead. She must live! If she died of her injuries, he would not be able to bear it, she was the only part of his dream left! Lifemate, beloved -- she had to live!

Motion flickered through his blurred sight: hastily wiping the tears away, he saw two boats moving out of tree-shadow into the nebulous light cast by the moonless star-glow. He started to send to Aerva, then, catching himself, directed his thoughts to the elves' leader.

**Aerva will live, the other two are well. Olath ... **

**Olath is dead,** Tinar made himself reply. For a moment, he felt the leader's burning regret and sorrow. But then, Vrayl's thoughts shifted rapidly to other matters, becoming hard and rapid.

**Give me the messages from the other groups. Where are the humans?**

Obediently, Tinar relayed the light-crystal messages. Diirla's group was still shadowing the humans, about half a day's walk south of the caves. The five-fingers gave no indication of abandoning their sky-demon hunt, despite blundering into several traps the elves had set. Therin's group, well to the northwest, had only signalled that everything was well. Vrayl's thoughts held an unvoiced growl of frustration over the former news, then cut off contact. Tinar eyed the canoes a moment, then reached out to touch Aerva's mind --

And started backwards, nearly falling. She refused him This close, there was no mistaking her reaction. Aerva, his lifemate, his beloved, she refused his touch! **Aerva, what is wrong?!** he sent with all his strength, as if she were still the length of the valley away, ignoring the answering flare of pain. **Beloved, answer me! Please, answer me!!**

**Be still!** Vrayl's thoughts were a snarl of rage. **Wait!**

Tinar turned away from the shoreline, beginning to tremble, knowing that something was terribly, horribly wrong. Something worse than Olath's death, than Aerva's injuries. Something that was threatening to shatter the last shards of his dream. He gripped his useless arm until the pain brought fresh tears, but not even that lessened the growing fear. Aerva refused his sending. They were lifemates, and she refused his sending. And Vrayl knew what the thing was. And told him to wait. Part of him wanted to force his thoughts on Aerva, demand an answer, no matter what it cost her, but he could not bear to think of hurting her. He could only wait, shivering, refusing to let the little voice in him that knew what had happened speak to his outer mind ...

Tinar forced himself to turn back as the canoes reached the beach, and the other elves exploded into activity. Vaerrain floated up, then zipped towards the shaped cavern, trailing several hide-wrapped bundles behind her. Two others leapt out to pull the narrow prows onto the muddy beach, then splashed into the water, to help the others carry the remaining sacks and bundles to shore. Ignoring them, Tinar watched the left-hand boat, where Aerva's ruddy head rested against Vrayl's knees. Vrayl leaned forward to lay his steering oar in the bottom of the boat, then lifted Tinar's lifemate in his arms. As they drifted upwards, Tinar saw the wide, stained bandage about her ribs, and the rock-shaped brace about her arm. With every part of his being, he wanted to send to her, to share her pain; he wanted to be the one carrying her, holding her close. But he was only Tinar One-arm, Tinar the helpless, the elf who contributed nothing, the elf who partly caused the death of his grand-daughter. Aerva was his lifemate, and he needed her, wanted her, and yet --

As Vrayl landed, setting Aerva on her feet with gentle care, Tinar began to back away, trembling. He didn't want to know -- he didn't dare know! He could not stand to know what had happened between them!

**Beloved.**

No! Shaking violently now, Tinar continued to back away, trying to refuse Aerva's sending. But Vrayl, one arm wrapped around Aerva, leapt forward and grabbed Tinar's good arm, forcing contact. Tinar let out a cry and went to his knees, but he could not keep the two elves out of his mind. Minds locked together, Aerva and Vrayl pulled his awareness, struggling, into a three-way merge. For long instants, he was touched by nothing more than Aerva's deep love, and another's affection, respect ... and regret. And then ...

Memories. Olath wanted to test his budding talent for touching beast-minds and controlling them. With the rashness of youth, he chose the largest of the tall-horns descending from the high meadows. But he moved too soon, or his talent faltered. The huge male, newly-completed antlers ready for the approaching rut, bellowed and charged. Arrows and spears flew, but only to wound. Stunned or panicked, Olath made no move to avoid the maddened rush, and was flung aside.

Thinking only of saving her grandson, Aerva glided from her hiding. She reached the torn body bare moments before the raging buck. Grabbing Olath, she jumped sideways as hard and fast as she could. But the animal was too quick, and the huge rack caught her. A tree stopped her errant flight, breaking her arm, and through the haze of pain, she watched the approach of what seemed certain death ... until a spear, flung with a power available only with Therin's new spear-thrower, buried half its length between the buck's ribs ...

The next memories were hazed. Aerva remembered gathering her pain and fear to herself, and releasing it in a call to her lifemate. She remembered fighting off her own pains long enough to direct the two uninjured elves in their tending of Olath's life-threatening wounds. Not until they had carried Olath to a defensible point, well away from the dead animal did she give in, not until she had given assurance to the scared elves that Tinar would have heard her, and sent help, did she give in to darkness ...

She woke to the sharp bite of pain-ease, and she opened her eyes to see Vrayl looking at her, his arm supporting her, his hand holding the cup at her lips. And before she could ask him how Olath was, or how long it had been, their eyes had locked, and ...

Recognition.

Tinar screamed in his mind, struggling to break free of the sending-lock. No, no and no! Aerva was his lifemate, she could not have Recognized another!

**Be still!** sent Vrayl. **Lira always thought elves could Recognize a second time. Do you think we desired this, do you think we had a choice!? Recognition cares nothing for choice, only for the children it is meant to bring! I am not taking her from you!**

**Be still, my beloved -- listen to us!** Aerva wrapped her sending around him, denying his attempted refusal. **This is why I would not answer you before -- I could not have hidden my Recognition of Vrayl, and I did not want you to learn only that part, and not all of what happened. Do not struggle! Let us show you!**

They pulled him more deeply into the lock-sending; drew themselves about his soul until he could not feel himself. They were open to him as elves almost never were. Their memories and emotions were his. He saw through their eyes; felt their astonishment and dismay at the sudden demand of instinct. And even in the midst of that sudden demand, he felt their thoughts turning to him -- how could they do this, how could they keep from hurting lifemate and friend?

They had not yet joined: but the only question was when. They made no effort to hide their feelings for each other, the deep affection and respect, one for an elder, mother, innovator; the other for a father and leader. Their friendship was deep, made only deeper by their common memory of the Healer who had sacrificed her own life for them. But they also made it clear, in the deepest sending that needed no words, that the Recognition was no threat to the bonds between Tinar and Aerva.

As the link faded, Tinar found his self again. But the truth of their love could not ease the shattering pain in his soul, or change the broken dreams. **I know you didn't mean this to happen, I know you have to join, but let me go!! Everything's gone, the dream's gone -- let me go!**

With sheer effort, he tore away from them in spirit and in body, staggering to his feet, nearly blinded by tears. He felt Aerva reaching for him, but cut her off. "No! Leave me alone! Do what you have to and leave me alone!" And with that, he ran, his feet finding the western path, heading towards the wild, northern end of the Isle. Alone.

Vrayl stared, open-mouthed, as Tinar fled, not recovering from his surprise until the elf had disappeared. **He's gone mad! Aerva, I'll call Vaerrain and have her help you -- I've got to go after him, before he harms himself!**

**No!** Aerva grabbed his arm, and he swung to look at her, astonished. **Vrayl, there's nothing you can do for him! Leave him be!**

**But he could kill himself!**

He felt her shudder inside. **I know,** she sent, tears sliding down her face, **and I can't stop him if he does. There is nothing we can do for him, Vrayl, not without a Healer!**

Vrayl sank back on his heels, stunned. **Why?** he asked, finally, staring at her. **Why is he hurting so much he doesn't want to live? I know he was shaken by Nathiin's death, and Taiva's, but I thought he had accepted them. He's weathered so much physical pain and frustration, but he's always kept going. Why is he so ... so broken? I don't understand!**

Aerva shook her head slightly. **He's been hurting inside since the Crossing, and hiding it. Part of his stubbornness: not wanting to ask for help. He even tried to hide it from me. But, ever since Nathiin drowned, it's gotten worse. I think he could have accepted, if just one thing had happened. If just Olath had died. Or if just we had Recognized. But not both. Not together.**

He shook his head. **I still don't understand, Aerva. What happened that hurt him during the Crossing? Liria's death? I know it must have been hard, knowing there wouldn't be anyone to heal his injuries. But still ...**

**It ... wasn't that,** she sent with reluctance. **It's ... it's something Var did. Tinar tried to hide the truth from me, more than the fact of his hurting. I don't think he would want you to know. But ... but you have to understand ...**

Nighttime. All the elves slept, except himself and Var, their minds and bodies exhausted with grief. Var's eyes glittered in the faint light of the last of their wood. Tinar's shoulder and face were throbbing with pain, but, this night, at least, the worst pain was mental. Liria was dead. And with her, was his hope of healing. His hope for magic able to shape bones and nerves back into proper position and wholeness, his hope of one day being as he had been before the humans' torture.

But, he tried to remind himself, it must be worse for others. Others had lost a mother, or a lifemate. Or one who had shared a past nearly incomprehensible to born-heres. Tinar tried to imagine the suffering the remaining High One must be feeling, and shuddered inside.

**Var,** he sent softly, trying to hide a pity he knew would not be appreciated, **if you want, I could take your watch. I ... I don't think I'll be able to sleep.**

**And you think I can, and should!?** Blue fire glared at him, and Tinar barely kept from flinching at the sending. **You think you can take my watch, one-arm and useless? Are you a fool?**

Tinar flushed, and had to struggle not to look away. **I only thought, if you could sleep, why should both of us stay awake?**

The blue eyes bored deeply into his own. **If I could sleep?! You think you can offer me surcease?! You think I can forget what I have lost, in sleep, as do you simple fools?! I am a Firstcomer -- the last Firstcomer! Liria is dead! And I am alone! Alone!**

The despair was as searing as the mockery. It struck deeper, and Tinar yearned to give comfort to the tormented other. **But you're not alone, Var, not entirely! You have your Recognized, and your daughters. And ... and us. We're not Liria, or Daleur, or any of the High Ones. But we're still elves. You're not alone.**

**Not alone?! You know nothing!** Tinar found himself shoved against the rock face. **You are a worthless fool, Tinar -- no, worse than worthless!** Tinar bit his lip to keep from crying out, as Var shifted his pressure and slammed the unhealed shoulder into unyielding rock. **Why are you still alive, Tinar? You should be dead! Look at your body! How much can you take care of yourself, how much time and effort must others spend on you, lessening their own chances for survival! How dare you ask them to help you, when you know you cannot survive this journey?! You should be dead!**

**No!** The thoughts clawed into his mind, hurting, but he struggled to deny them. **Who are you to tell me to die, when I want to live?! I take care of myself, I do not ask others to help me!**

With a silent move, Var was on him, hands around his throat. **Yet, they do help you, fools that they are. Why do you insist on living, little fool? Show me why!** Tinar barely kept from screaming as the hot touch raked his mind, and his body twisted in instinctive effort to escape. **So, the worthless one thinks to dream, does he? Of living in open love and laughter, without fear? Of watching children and grandchildren grow? Of gliding, and shaping, of being like the High Ones? Is that the best you can do, worthless one?**

**I - am - not - worthless!!** Somehow, Tinar found enough strength to open his eyes, and pull one hand away from his neck. Somehow, he managed to meet Var's eyes. **I am Tinar! I am a grandson of the Firstcomers, a descendant of Daleur who sacrificed himself to ensure the rest of us went free! I am the father of Aerva's child, and of any others she may have, after we reach the valley of Elzrian's vision! And even if I cannot dream as my grandparents could, still will I dream, as best I can, and I will make those dreams come true! I have not come this far, against this much pain, to give in now!**

Hesitation flickered in the cerulean depths, as if Var had not expected resistance. **But your dreams cannot come true, not in this world. Can you not see that? Can you not see, that we will die in these mountains, that Vrayl has led us with false vision? Elzrian saw no valley or lake, that would draw the spirits, or make magic stronger.**

**No! Elzrian was not wrong!** Tinar pulled down the other hand. **He shared his vision with me -- I know it was true! And my dreams are true!**

Clinging to a branch of the ancient, twisted pine, Tinar stared at the black water. He wasn't sure what impulse had stopped him, on the verge of throwing himself into the Lake, in an effort to end the pain. The agony was not lessening, and he had no strength. The dreams were gone: shattered. He had been wrong. The dreams, his words to Var, had not been true, but false. No children, no powers, no joy. And he could almost see Var in front of him, as he had been that night. Despair, mockery, hatred. And the words, and the mental voice that had driven them deep into his soul, and left them there, festering. The High One's voice, the High One's eyes; Var Strong-sender, Var the mad, insane -- Worthless / you should be dead / worthless / you should be dead / you should be Dead You should be dead!

Something hard and cold and wet slapped his face. Tinar breathed in, then choked and coughed, fighting for air. Dimly, he felt his body staggering to his feet, slipping and sliding in the mud, as he fought back towards the shore against the searing, clawing voice that urged him to turn back around, to let the waters cover his head, to die. But something beneath the searing pain and raw, poisoned wounds kept him crawling shorewards. Some final reason for stubbornness that would not let him simply give in and die.

His searching hand found rough bark, and he pulled himself to the tree trunk before his last strength fled. The clawing voice faded with his strength, but not the pain. Why? he wondered dully, too exhausted to do more than simply lie there, tears dripping. Why couldn't I end myself? I'm so tired of pain. The dreams are gone. Aerva's Recognized another, he will give her children. If I wasn't alive, she'd be free to mate with him, beyond Recognition. Maybe they could lifemate, once she got over the hurt --

No. He was wrong. That hurt would never heal. And that was why he couldn't just kill himself. "Aerva," he whispered. "My other self. I can't hurt you like that. I can't. I've got too much of you in me. You love me. You're part of me. I can't kill it. I can't kill you."

And yet the pain was almost beyond bearing. Shattered dreams, shattered hopes. No healer to take away the pain, inside or out. He was worthless, worse than worthless. How could he ever go on?

The answer didn't come until dawn streaked light across the waters. The only way to make living bearable was to find something that would his existence worthwhile. That would be a valid, obvious contribution to the well-being of the Isle. There was only one contribution that he could make.

That was to succeed in making Vrayl's dream of a farwalker come true. The dream of having someone capable of bespeaking an elf hunting at the very edges of the Valley, or even farther. A way of communicating that was faster and more accurate, and more secluded than using flash-stones or clear-crystals.

He had failed in his attempts so far.

He would try again.

Tinar pushed himself up with his good arm, then staggered to his feet. He looked at the brightening waters for a long while, then slowly, began to remove his clothes. Moving carefully, he walked into the cold water. When the water reach his chest, he held his breath, and ducked under. For a moment, the urge to let out the air, to breathe in water and end it, returned. He resisted. When his lungs began to burn, he breathed out, then straightened. The morning air was cold and crisp: almost painful. He turned around to face the Isle. Except for an occasional wisp of smoke, there was no indication of the elves' existence from this end of the Isle. Tinar considered. On the west side of the old pine tree was a spot between two roots, thickly spread with needles, that was a very comfortable place to sit and watch the northwestern part of the lake and valley. It would do. Wading out of the water, he picked up his clothes, but did not put them on. Instead, walking around the tree to his chosen spot, he draped the furs and leathers to protect his skin from the bark and needles. He was not sure why he was choosing not to put his clothes on, or why he had walked into the Lake. Perhaps, it was only a kind of madness. Or, perhaps, some dim instinct based on forgotten and half-forgotten lore handed down from the Firstcomers.

What he did know was what he intended.

He would learn to walk free of his body.

If he didn't learn in time, his body would die.

Vrayl dropped down beside Aerva and shoved a bowl in her direction. **If you won't come inside, will you at least eat something!**

She smiled briefly. **I do not feel hungry, but I suppose I should.** One-handed, she moved the bowl to a comfortable position. Vrayl watched, then shaped part of the lid into a spoon. He waited until she started eating, then shifted his gaze northward, to where Tinar's unmoving form sat beneath the tree.

**How much longer is he going to keep this up?** he demanded finally. **It's been days! I don't understand why he hasn't collapsed!**

**Tinar is in a very deep trance,** she replied serenely. **He has lost all sense of time, and I think his body has responded to that.**

Vrayl groaned mentally, and rubbed his face. **I wish he'd come back to his senses and come inside. You two are driving me crazy -- this Recognition has me so wound up I can't sleep! And Diirla's group hasn't signalled for two days ... why does everything have to come all at once!**

She responded with gentle, warming laugh. **You haven't sensed anything from Haliil, and I haven't felt anything from Diirla, so I suspect they just don't want to alert the humans. As for the Recognition, it can't be worse than when you Recognized Liria.**

He sighed ruefully. **No. At first, I just couldn't believe it, and then, I was afraid Var would attack me when he found out.** Vrayl looked down at his hands and scowled. **Sometimes, I've wished that I had left him to the humans that night. What he did to us -- what he did to Tinar --!**

**It was illness, Vrayl, you know that,** she sent, reproving him. **All the Firstcomers suffered, more than we'll ever understand. You like to tell the others they should be 'as stubborn as Tinar,' but think how stubborn our parents had to be, to live.**

He had no response to that.

Set emotions and memories aside.

That was the step that had always eluded him, the action that had always failed. Now, he knew why. Tinar considered what his search had uncovered. The words he had used as guide were not incorrect. They were simply incomplete.

Until he faced his memories and feelings, and accepted them, he could not set them aside.

That was the full measure of the truth, for him.

But did he have the courage to face his past?

What other choice did he have? Except to die, and that was a choice he had already rejected.

So. Recall everything that had ever happened to him, plunge into the emotions every event caused, and try to face them, accept them, set them aside. From the beginning? No, because he didn't remember that far. From the ending...

Aerva, meeting Vrayl's eyes, Recognition. Olath, flying through the air, limp and broken and bleeding. Other's memories, made his -- no! Pain, hurt, shattered dreams, shattered hopes, rising fear -- his child, his grandchildren, dead, all dead, and there would be no more! No more children -- his children -- to take pride in, to measure his sense of worth! Without children, without his children, he was worthless! Worse than worthless!

But, why? Tinar faced the fear he'd never defined before, and asked himself why he should frame the value of his existence only in terms of what children he might sire. What difference did it make, who sired or birthed children, as long as they were loved and cherished -- as long as he loved and cherished them, and did his best to help raise them. Yes, why?

Drift backwards through the memories. Voices. And sympathetic faces. Oh, Father, I know you couldn't help it. / You did the best you could / It's not your fault / It's not your fault / And one young face, white with shock and pain, eyes glazed with grief and hatred, young voice screaming, fists pummeling -- I hate you! I hate you! You killed her you killed her! You killed her!

Yes, I killed her! Tinar screamed the words to himself, almost losing control and turning away, trying to deny his feelings, then turning back to face what seemed almost unbearable. I am at fault for Nathiin's death, no matter what they say! I could have told them not to go swimming, when there was no one who could rescue them if something went wrong! I could have stayed where I was; when she panicked, I panicked almost as much as she! Oh, Nathiin, I failed you, and I couldn't even ask your forgiveness, because I couldn't accept how much I'd failed you! And poor Olath, so close to you, as close as lifemates, and so young, of course he hated me! I didn't want to accept your hatred, it was too close to my own, I hated/hate myself for what I did, I hate my crippled arm, I hate my crippled talents!

The self-hatred was searing; he could barely keep from flinching. But this was why he had lost all the ability to even come close to releasing self from body. This was why the wounds Var had caused festered so. Self-hatred was a poison, deadlier than any snake's, poisoning the self rather than the body.

But why did he hate himself so? Why had he let the poison grow so? He was not the only elf whose mistakes caused death: Morthrek bore the memory of his misunderstanding of the rotten ice, that had led to Liria's death; Vrayl felt the responsibility for all of the elves, and felt responsible for all accidents and deaths, whether he could have prevented them, or no. But why did he hate himself so? Why was his sense of self so low?

Backwards, ever backwards. There was no time in trance, and Tinar had no awareness of the passing days as he searched backwards through his life for the keys to himself. He relived the confrontation with Var, the wounds that the High One had clawed into his soul. The wounds were real enough, and yet, he realized, the flaws in himself had left him vulnerable to the attack. Var's thoughts would not have cut so deeply if he hadn't already believed that, of himself. He feared that he was worthless; he feared that without a healer to restore his arm, he would be a useless burden.

He moved back through the crossing that had seemed so endless, and saw his strengths, before the night when Var had turned on him and surfaced the fears that had from then on begun to sap his strengths. His joy in living, in facing challenges, and his determination to keep on living. His growing love for Aerva, the wise first-born who had nevertheless met his eyes and touched his soul, and willingly clung to him. And his love for the ones who had died, his acceptance of their sacrifice, for him and for others. Elzrian, taking a spear in the back as he strove to protect Tinar and Aerva from the men before them. Solarn, mother, standing above him, fighting to protect him as he struggled against the agony of a spear through his shoulder. Daleur, High One, overcoming his horror at killing, to save his kin.

Yet the flaws that were coming near to destroying him had been present even then, he realized. He had blamed himself a little, for his mother's death, and for Elzrian's. And, before then, before Haliil's Recognition, he had envied Elzrian. He had envied his older nephew, even though Elzrian was also his closest friend. Because Haliil had turned to Elzrian instead of himself, when they grew old enough for joining. Because Elzrian could lift things and shape trees. Because a High One condescended to teach Elzrian, but not himself. He had envied Elzrian because he thought Elzrian was was better than himself. But why had he felt that way?

He had almost reached the beginning of himself, Tinar sensed. He was slipping backwards through his childhood memories, but there was nothing there to explain where the self-doubting flaws had begun. True, his father was not there, but Diirla and his older brother Morthrek had been parents to him, along with his mother Solarn. But where did everything begin?

And then, he felt the barrier. Behind it, were his beginnings. But before he could reach his beginnings, he must face and enter the barrier -- a set of memories and emotions so terrible that he had made himself forget. He didn't know what the memories were, only that they were so terrible that the barrier was a wall of sheer terror. A terror that had been too much to face.

Tinar felt himself cowering before the fear. Whatever it was, he didn't want to face it -- he couldn't! The terror was reaching for him, and he wanted to run away, and forget! It was too strong! He could never face it, never! He must run away, forget the barrier, go back to what he was, forget his hopes forget his dreams, forget! He was afraid, he mustn't face it, he mustn't --

No! On the verge of losing control and falling out of trance, Tinar fought the fears and struggled to call on his deepest strengths. I am Tinar! he cried to himself. I will not give in! He repeated the words he had flung in a High One's face, long ago. I am Tinar! I am a grandson of the Firstcomers, a descendant of Daleur who sacrificed himself to ensure the rest of us went free! I am Tinar, and I will what I am, I will live and I will love and I will dream!!

He made himself approach the barrier. I have survived the madness of a High One and the hatred of humans,he told himself. They could not kill me, I cannot kill me. Only my fear can destroy me, and I will not let it! I will face this barrier, and it will not harm me!

The terror streamed over him. Terror of memories to awful to accept. But he must -- and would -- accept them! Tinar braced his thoughts, then reached forward with a mental hand --

And he was on fire! Memories and emotions that were not his, that he could not understand, were exploding in his mind and overwhelming him! Pain in his side, fear and shock, gliding upwards, rage and fear, Sayek writhing in agony, clutching the spear through his middle, Aelin and Maelin disappearing under a crowd of heavy, human bodies, --

Shock. Tinar found himself out of trance, panting, shaking with remembered terror and stunned amazement. Those memories, they had to be Var's! But where did they come from?!

**Beloved?**

The sending that touched his mind was filled with love and concern. Aerva. He welcomed her touch with relief. She would have the answer -- **Aerva, I found some memories I didn't know I had. They're aren't mine.** He showed them to her. **How did I get them?**

**Var sent them to you,** she replied slowly. **To all of us. When he came back, after those three were killed. He sent what had happened, to all of us, even you children. Seeing Maelin killed nearly drove him mad: that was when Vrayl took over. Var was going to have us go hunting humans, and Vrayl refused to go along. The rest of us followed Vrayl ... we've never wanted to talk about it, how Vrayl took over.**

**How old was I, at the time?**

**Three ... no, not yet two, I think. You were still nursing.**

High Ones. No wonder his memories were so full of terror. A two-year old child, experiencing the pain-drenched memories of an adult ...

**Beloved, are you ready to come back?**

He considered that a moment, then shook his head. **No,** he sent, closing his eyes. **I still haven't found my answers. Don't send to me.** Slowing his breathing, Tinar sought to re-enter his trance ...

He stood before the barrier again, and felt the terror. But, this time, he understood. Reaching forward, he let the memories flow over him. The terror faded. He was not a two-year old child anymore, but an adult grown. The pain and fear and rage were not his, but another's. The barrier, touched with understanding, disappeared. And, beyond that ...

He was feeding. He was in happiness, filled with the rich taste and scent of milk. He was warm. Mother's skin was soft and warm under his hands, and her arms were strong and secure behind his back. And her mind was warmer and richer than milk, filling his mind with laughter and singing. He loved her. She was self who was also other. She was part of himself.

Then, all in an instant, it changed. The laughter and singing changed to pain/fear -- terror! Other self -- no! Secure arms dropped away, warm milk-source pulled away! Falling! Pain! And other self screaming!

He was hurt, he was terrified! Other self was in fear, in pain, was apart! He tried to go to other self, crawling, standing, pulling self up, tugging, but other self didn't respond! He tried to make the other-self mind touch come back, but the laughter/singing/love didn't return! Only pain/loss/pain!

He cried and cried, afraid and hurting, trying again and again to make other-self hear him, to come back, and never receiving anything but the terrifying pain and loss. Someone finally picked him up and touched his mind with love and comfort, but it wasn't other self, other-self didn't hear him, he wasn't enough, he wasn't enough to make other-self come back ...

Tinar pulled his awareness back from those memories, and knew he had his answer. His poor mother! The lifemate bond had been so strong in her. She had felt -- no, lived -- Sayek's agonizing death, and in the shock had never felt what was happening to her son. She had dropped him, she had not sensed his fumbling efforts to send. And he had been so young, so little, that he was not even old enough to truly understand that "mother" was a separate being. He had only dimly understood that fear and pain had taken the place of laughter and love. And, as young as he was, too young to know what was happening, the experience had somehow come to mean that he wasn't enough -- wasn't good enough -- to be loved ...

Oh, mother! he thought with sad awareness. Why does the lifemate bond tend to be stronger than child-bond? Did you ever know you hurt me? Did you ever know what Father's death, through you, did to me? But, it wasn't your fault. It wasn't anyone's. It just happened. You loved me enough to die trying to protect me. I love you -- I love you both. I only hope you know it, wherever you are. I don't blame you, for hurting me. And ... I don't blame myself. It wasn't my fault...

Something within him faded away. And the path to "outside" was clear ...

With a mental laugh, Tinar flung himself free. Rebirth! He felt himself drifting upwards, sensing Aerva sitting nearby, endlessly patient, confident in him, serene despite the physical pain and desire for another. The Isle sprawled beneath him, and he sensed Vrayl pacing restlessly back and forth on top of the shaped entrance to the caves. Tinar chuckled to himself, feeling sorry for the elf. Poor Vrayl! Aerva must be making him wait, and Recognition was not kind to elves who resisted its pull. He remembered how it had been for him. He should go back soon -- it wasn't kind, to make them wait. And, now that he knew the way out, the way back should not be too hard ... yes, that was the way of it ...

Tinar blinked hard, then shook his head. Gah, how long had he been in trance -- his body felt like he had been asleep for years! He tried to scramble to his feet, then felt back with a wince, as his legs failed to hold him, and he jarred his shoulder. High Ones, it was going to be harder, going in and out of his body, that he thought it was. Going from no-pain to pain ...

**Beloved? Are you all right?**

He twisted around to look for his lifemate, grabbing one of the jutting roots for support. He located her, sitting several lengths away against another tree, well-wrapped in furs. Tinar flashed a grin at her. **Better than I've been in years ... sort of,** he told her. **Could you send to Vrayl, and tell him his farwalker thinks it's about time he helped you get that new baby coming?**

She brightened. **You made it!?**

**I 'saw' Vrayl pacing back and forth on top of the mound, feeling as restless as a ... as a ... well, as an elf absolutely desperate to give in to Recognition.**

Aerva chuckled. **We both can understand that, can't we? And you've accepted it?**

Tinar considered his feelings. **Pretty much. Oh, I still want us to have children. Someday. But, for now ... I'll just love this one, like it's my own.

 

Epilog

Tinar was still asleep, along one side of the furs, when Aerva and Vrayl roused. Sitting up, they watched the white-haired elf for a while. He was dreaming, with a smile on his face.

**He's healed inside, isn't he?** asked Vrayl. **That pain ... it's gone.**

Aerva smiled pensively, and leaned against him. **Yes. He healed himself ... I think that was the only way he could live with everything that had happened.**

**But, how did he do it? He's never shown healing talent.**

She shook her head. **Mother told me, that before the accident that stranded them here, everyone could self-shape, everyone could glide, everyone could leave their bodies. She said this world drains our powers, limits what we can do, but doesn't change what we could be. The abilities are there, they're just buried, too deeply for most of us to find.**

**Unless we're as stubborn as Tinar, right?** He smiled down at her, then adjusted her position so that she leaned against him more comfortably. **I thought I had over-estimated his strength, when he ran away from us. Now, I think I underestimated him. I'd about given up hope that he'd learn to farwalk....**

She chuckled. **I hadn't. Just don't make a habit of it, friend.**

**Hmm?**

**Haven't you been listening? And you thought Vaerrain caused problems ...**

His face went blank for a few moments. **Oh. Her? Why does her name sound like it ought to be from him?**

Aerva laughed again. **You'll have long enough to figure it out.**

**Never.** He listened again. **Hunh ... at least we're not still in those caves.** They both laughed, then lay down again, touching this time, without the urgency of Recognition, knowing that Tinar shared, even in his dreams. And the song of life danced among their three minds as they joined and dreamed, a song that echoed the self-name of the new life stirring in Aerva's womb.

Klayeka ... Klayeka ... Klayeka ...