Chapter 5

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 "Come with me, Rajhani," said Cyran, letting the door fall shut and walking toward her. Drops from the storm outside covered his hair and shoulders.

Rajhani shook her head. "You know I can't."

"We've talked about this." Cyran reached out and put both hands on Rajhani's shoulders. Lowering his head and cocking it to the side, he said, "Your sister isn't your responsibility."

Rajhani looked down at the floor. "I can't leave her. I'm all she has."

Rajhani stepped back and returned to the fire pit, piling kindling at its center. Small slivers of wood fell on her skirt and mixed in with dirt and dust from the ground.

Cyran let his arms fall to his sides. He walked over to the fire pit and knelt down next to Rajhani. He watched her slender arms and hands arranging twigs in the pit. Brushing a lock of hair behind her ear, he said, "Ra, I need you with me. You're almost to marrying age. The village elders will approve. We can start our own family."

Rajhani leaned over and let her head rest against his chest. "Cyran, you know I love you. But I can't."


"Besides," said Rajhani, "what if she found out that you're Ceasixus?"

Thunder boomed outside the hut and a crack of lightning flashed, the brightness finding its way through the crevices of the hut walls. The sound of rain on the roof grew louder. A few drops of rain made their way through the ceiling and pooled on the floor in the corner near the bedding.

"Only you and my parents know that they found me when I was a baby. That their newborn had just died and they thought that somehow I was a gift to them. How would Agnez find out?"

Rajhani let out a sigh. "I don't know. She just always seems to know what I'm doing. She's always there. I love her so much but sometimes I wish she wasn't paying such close attention to me."

Cyran narrowed his eyes slightly. "You don't have to let her do that, you know."

Rajhani nodded. "I know," she said, another sigh escaping her. "But what can I do? She raised me after our mother died. She was only ten. She gave up her chance to marry because of me. No one would have her once she reached marrying age."

"I don't think that was your fault. I think Agnez never intended to marry anyone."

Rajhani looked over at Cyran. "What do you mean?"

"Come on, Ra. Think about it. From what I've heard, she never showed any interest in marriage. She spends all of her time in the forest, hunting and doing who-knows-what."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Agnez does two things. Care for you and hunt in the forest. She's already in love."

Rajhani looked down at the floor, bringing her hands together and folding them into her lap. "You mean she loves the forest. She would rather be there."

"Yes," he agreed. "Loves it very much. Maybe even more than she loves you."

"No," Rajhani said, standing up and walking toward the door. "How can you say that?"

"I don't mean to hurt you, Ra. But you need to see the truth. Agnez will never love anything more than Iyhiri Forest."

Rajhani lowered her face to the floor. "I don't believe you." Pulling the door open, she looked up at Cyran. "Please leave."

"No, Ra. I'm not leaving. You need to know the truth."

"What truth?"

"The truth about who your sister really is."

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