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“So tell me, what kind of name is Story exactly?”

“Huh?” Story jumped, startled by Eirnin’s voice. She’d been deep in thought, wondering why she hadn’t dreamt about Morrigann or the pixies last night.

“Will, Katie, and Story? I don’t understand your naming convention.”

“Naming convention?” Story ducked under a low-hanging branch without taking her eyes off the trail; she didn’t want to cut her foot again. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

Eirnin blew out an irritated breath. “What I mean is, how do you come up with names for your children and places? What do they signify?” 

“Oh. I don’t really know.” She shrugged. “I suppose my mother was going through a hippie phase when she had me.”

Eirnin opened his mouth as if to ask what she meant by that, but snapped it shut when she glared at him.

“Anyway,” Story continued. “She was long gone by the time my dad, Milton, adopted the twins a few years later.”

“So, Milton, Story, Will, and Katie.” Eirnin repeated the names as if he were trying out the sounds in his mouth to see if he liked them. “I still don’t see a pattern. How do you tell the genders apart?”

Story paused for a moment to consider his question. “Well, some names are girl names like Nicole or Candace, and other names are boy names like Bryan or Brent. But then you have some names like Jordan or Dani that could be either.” Eirnin’s eyebrows knitted together as he mulled over her words. She was glad that, for once, he was the confused one.

“So what you’re saying is that you have to come up with a new name for every person, and then you have to memorize these names and which gender they are attributed to, except that sometimes they can be either?” Eirnin looked appalled.

“When you put it that way it sounds like a complete mess. But no, we don’t have to learn loads of names since we all share.”

“You share your names?”

“Well yeah, with a few billion humans there’s no way we’d each get our very own unless we just started stringing random letters together.” Story tried to suppress her laugh; his obvious distress at the concept of name-sharing was kind of adorable.

“But then how do you tell one Story apart from another in writing or in speech?”

“That’s what middle and last names are for. For example, my name, while unusual, is certainly not unique. There are bound to be dozens of other Storys out there. But I’d bet I’m the only Story Melissa Sorenson.” She paused, and then amended, “At least currently living.”

“How does one get these other names? Are they also chosen at random by your parents?”

“No, my last name is my family name.”

“Ah! So your last name is your clan name.” He glanced over at Story quizzically, and she knew what he was thinking. I said I had no clan.

Well, she didn’t want to talk about it. She’d already informed him that her family was dead, so she pointedly ignored his unasked question. Subject closed.

He looked away, and after a few awkward moments of walking in silence, he pulled himself up easily over a large, moss-covered tree trunk that blocked their path. Story found herself staring in admiration as his taut shoulder and arm muscles flexed under his skin, the tattoos on his left arm further highlighting the lines of his defined musculature.

War of the Seasons, book one: The HumanWhere stories live. Discover now