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Kaivelt raged, as we ran to the pond where I had hidden, before I Broke the Tacivaarii hunt. He was soothed and tended to by his mother and his sire – although, through him, I could sense that they, too, seethed at Mother’s lash, that any child should ever be treated so.

I held this in my mind for comfort – but I didn’t understand. What would it be, to be safe from cuffs and braided cords, and the pain they carried?

I wanted to feel that, too, in my own life.

I was happily away. Away from Mothers’ furies and rules; away from the kitchen women would want to soothe, else damn, if that was their nature. The scullery maids would want to share stories of their own misdeeds and punishments. Even the dogs would want to sniff, and to lick the blood from my hands – they were far too wise for the sweetsauce.

I wanted only to be shut of the stench, and to be with Kaivelt.

He was there, faster than a tantaa’s strike, the feel of swift motion, hope, wonder, of turning toward me, giving all he was, laying himself open. He was closer, now, and we both could feel it, pulling me to him as no prey ever had, even in Huntlust, and I plunged into the pond while I was still yanking the shift from my body.

I was still at the edge of Mother’s Keep holdings, here, but no one but me came to this corner of the holdings. Mother’s court and the villagers never strayed far from their stone shelters Only the merchant-women and their guards traveled, warily. I was well sheltered from the Merchant Road by a thick verge of lifepines, and they only set foot off it in the shelters they’d built at its sides.

Mother would not seek me out, not again, because doing so would mean admitting she had lost me. Tacivaar would not send anyone to find me, either – I was known for goingoff alone when troubled or chastised. I would answer to both – but it would not be today.

Kaivelt awaited me. Kaivelt,and his kin who had called me “daughter”; and the promise that we could simply be as we were. I swam, preferring the muck of the pond and the danger of bitefish to the stink of the sauce, which would draw bees and flies. When I tired, I floated, and there on the water, I floated, too, in my mind, waiting..

Kaivelt filled me, and I him,dancing, learning, losing self in the joining…

Like the strong branches of the trees, his kin were there, not intruding, but ready to serve and support us as we grew together….

At last, here, there was safety.