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I stared, too long, knowing Mother and Father; still tangled in Niaan. She was the reality that made this seem a dream, unreal as the heat-shimmer on the Forge’s obsidian cliffs….cliffs that my mind insisted should be home to arytana vines rich in blooms that fed our dreaming, and our dancing…

Spock!”

“Niaan?”

“She exists in thy delirium alone, Spock. Thee hast been ill, and fevered.”

Father’s words swirled; they were difficult to catch hold of, and they made little sense, against memories of Niaan…

“I must see the stars. Niaan….”

“It is late morning, Spock. Rest. You’ll see the stars tonight. Now, sip this.”

I pushed at the drinking gourd. It spun from Mother’s hand, splitting upon the stone floor, precious water spilling out….I felt shame – even a child newly walking knew better.

The broken gourd woke me as nothing else had. I licked dry lips with a dry tongue.”I thirst, Mother.” My stomach made a loud rumbling sound.

“And hunger, too,” she said, smiling; face was wet with human tears. “Will you let me help you?”

I nodded, holding to the shreds of the dream. It was illogical, but I could not release Niaan. She was my own, and we had made the promises of bondmates to one another….and, somehow, it did not feel like a dream.

“I must see the stars.”

“Night will eventually come, my son.” Father’s voice was gentle; his face soft. Almost, I could feel the brush of his mind, assurance that I was not alone, and would not be.

Mother lifted another gourd to my lips. “Sip, only, Spock, to begin with. Then we will try some soup.”

I wanted to gulp; tried, now, to pull the gourd to me, to fill my emptiness. Mother pulled the gourd away when I had barely wet my lips. A whimper broke from me.

“Now. I must see the stars, NOW.

I knew only that I must see them, see Everdeep. It went deeper than my need for food, or even water. I must see the stars. I must be among them.

Mother gathered me to her, as she had when I was a baby. I had no strength to resist. There was something settling in her close coolness, the slow beat of her human heart beneath the cushion of her breast….

Father came to sit beside her. I was upon a sleeping couch; another had been placed parallel. His gaze compelled me – he was seeking to understand. “Why the stars, my son?”

“Because she is there…..I must see them. I must.” I sobbed like a child still young enough to be held so, one with no logic or will to resist impulses.

“Then you shall. You must be well enough to travel on the shuttle. To achieve that goal, you must eat, and drink, and rest quietly – the healing trance will help you to heal more quickly, and you may find your dreaming once more, within it.”

“I must see them NOW.”

“No.” I knew that tone. She would not relent, no matter my demands. She would tend me until she was satisfied, and only then would I have the stars. “You will drink, and eat, and, if you can, you will go into the trance. If not, then you will sleep.”

“When you awaken, my son, you shall have your stars.”

“I must wait?”

“Your death now would serve no logical purpose.”

I sipped the water Mother offered, fighting the urge to gulp, and then took the spoonfuls of plomik soup she fed me….Then, with Father’s guidance,I sank into the layers and levels of trance, that I might heal…

And there, waiting, was Niaan.

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