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Trinna came just at dawning, and, for the first time, I scented her before she was close enough that I could hear the beating of her heart. I was charged with the fierce wanting calm Kaivelt showed to the man who had given him his strange, hot blood, and the feel of the robes – his caressing his skin, his mind alight with the fantasy that is was me who touched him so pleasingly; mine was grasped in his trembling, stroking hands. Almost, I could feel the searing touch he intended for me.

Within him was the desire to fall back into the bed, remove the clothing – no matter the sensations; it was nothing compared to what we had felt, when we played together at Matehunt, and at Soledance. He held against the yearning, clutching the gift he wished to clothe me in, but his will was crumbling as our minds flowed together.

I did not need to hold, and mayhap it would help him if I did not. I stretched playfully, and rubbed against his quivering awareness. When Trinna’s nose poked into the den, I pounced on her, rolling her under, then grabbing at the scruff of her neck.

Her scent said she was happily attacked as she wriggled free, purring, and swiped her tongue across my face. Changing, but remaining crouched in the smallness of my lair, she smiled. “You’ve been a threeday from the Kai’s Keep, and I am sent to fetch you to the Pridekeep. Come, Niaan.”

I sighed, and Changed, and Kaivelt’s mind was intent, wanting to understand how I could be myself, and the beast, too. “I will stay here, until I must go back.” Never had I refused Trinna – she commanded so little, and only when needful – and now her lifepine-green eyes narrowed, nose wrinkling as she took me in.

My Solemate was within me, even as he refused his sire. Together, we stood for ourselves, and what we shared. It was our prize, taken fairly, and we would not release nor surrender it. Our souls softened again, the lines and shapes of separate selves becoming as fog, or smoke, or the moment life surrenders to death….

“What have we here, child? You are different – there is a fire within you that tastes – not of Aletris. It is strange – tell me.”

It was our right to be silent, and demand privacy – and we were of the Pride, who shared Matehunt as a flowing dance, and not a hidden act…We puzzled it, a small crack in our joining, while we watched Trinna and Kaivelt’s silent sire, tasting their scents and motions for clues.

We examined it as a pebble, or a knotted vine that had snagged us, as an equation we would solve. We felt the adults’ expectation that we would do as bidden, and how heavy a weight was the man’s will, in such matters – a will Kaivelt had never escaped. And Trinna had always had my obedience, and my affection.

We could wait, and still gnaw at the bone of what to say to Trinna, how much to reveal of what we had dreamed, and made real, between us, and what we would do next if the sire, who had rights somehow given by his blood that ran in Kaivelt’s body, tried to force the sharing.

We must say something – it was a matter that would affect the Pride, for we were Solemated, and so would create a Line only together, when the time came. Perhaps, though, we need only state fact.

“We are Solemated, Trinna, and part of us comes from Everdeep – from a world circling a point of fire in the night sky.”

We watched and waited, fascinated at the differing senses. A part of us was made for such bloodless, deathless hunts for understanding, and we floated in this breath, ready to defend or to flee, if needed, but not to forsake that which we had created.

Trinna’s scent was awhirl with things she might say, questions she wished to ask, fear and wonder and a desire to understand, and to support us…and the sense that Trinna accepted us as we were.

Another threebreath, and she sighed. “That lies between you. Tacivaar will have words to say about it, certain enough. And, Solemated or not, when you are required at the Pridekeep, it will be my hide, as well as yours, if you do not come.”

We knew that it was true, as true as that Father’s will was a powerful weapon we must resist. There was the answer – resistance in one world, and obedience in the other. We would dance along the edge of balance, in both places…as Solemates.