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A/N - I get a feeling that someone will kill me at the end of this chapter. Next chapter will be posted on Friday and then I'll be posting a mini-chapter on Sunday - so you'll be getting 3 chapters this week (I just hope you can survive the wait)


Chapter 17: In Which Rat Spends Time With Friends

"Rat?"

"Mmm?"

"Where did you go just now?" Varemini asked. "You drifted away into a world of your own."

Not a night passed that I didn't come to visit Varemini. In her presence I felt as if a weight was lifted from my back, I found myself smiling, and thinking, and dreaming. I was a boy in her presence, and she was my friend, as if she had always been my friend, as if we had known one another forever. I didn't have to tell her about myself, I didn't have to speak about what was happening; she already knew it all.

"I was just thinking," I answered, "how funny it would be if they had it all wrong."

"Had what wrong?"

"Me." I smiled. "I mean, maybe it's just a coincidence."

"You mean maybe you just happen to look like Cooper?"

"Exactly." I felt satisfied with the idea. "Has anyone seen all the people in the entire world to say that there can't be two that aren't related but look exactly alike? There must be a limited number of combinations of shapes that faces could be, and hair colour and skin colour. It might simply be a remarkable coincidence."

"Perhaps." She laughed, but I knew she was thinking what everyone kept saying, how I behaved so much like the man they all thought was my father.

"You, Var, maybe there's a girl in Heffland that looks just like you, or maybe a Sky Monk." The idea of two Vareminis in the world was very appealing.

"I can tell you now that there are girls with the Sky Monks who resemble me."

"You've seen them?"

"They have skin tanned in shades of gold and hair that was brightened by the sun. Their eyes are almost always brown or amber, their limbs are long and light, they wear tight fitting clothing lined with fur and plait their hair into many small braids. To you they'd all look the same, you might not even be able to tell the men apart from the women, but to me, I see their faces and can recognise each one."

"How do you know so much about them?"

"From my mother. They would come and visit her, and beg her to return."

"Your mother is a Sky Monk?" I exclaimed, delighted.

"She was. She gave up her wings to live on the earth with my father, but Sky Monks cannot live long without being close to the sky, wind and sun. She died young and my father remarried."

"So you're half Sky Monk."

"I can give up being human," she said, wistfully. "I could go to Day Mount and there I could grow wings. If only they would have me, the Sky Monks."

"Aren't they your family?"

She nodded, sadness and loneliness streaming from her, making me wish I had never asked about the Sky Monks. "I called to them, when I was forced into this marriage, I begged for them to take me away. They are still, to this day, debating the matter." She bowed her head, her hair falling over her face. "Or maybe they have already forsaken me."

"They're going to come," I almost startled myself with my conviction. It was like an inner voice that whispered into my heart, compelling me to believe.

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