Chapter 9: Changes

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"We will not stay here." He said. A murmer swirled up from the people, of approval or of frustration, depending on their side of the argument.

"I understand the your concerns." Toryn measured the words, placing each with weighty care. "And we will travel with care, moving at a pace suited to the needs of the frailest of our people, but we will continue on. We need to understand this place better, and I am unwilling to allow the tribe to split in an attempt to satisfy this need. I also prefer to look for some place more familiar to our accustomed way of life to settle in. We continue in one hour. Return to your families and prepare them to journey."

The crowd wavered and began to disperse, some grumbling as they went, others taking a moment to show their support of Camlin. Edana watched in distaste.

"Sometimes I wonder why I worry so much about what happens to them." She said to Aislynn under her breath. "Fools. So concerned about their immediate comfort that they'd risk all our futures."

"It's our legacy." Aislynn shrugged, her lips quirking up at the edges as black feathers danced around her. The dampness of the jungle didn't seem to have touched her. "Duty to the tribe has been drilled into us since before we could walk. Besides, sister dear, you live for the honour and glory of protecting the tribe. What else would you fight so hard for?"

"Y'know it's really obnoxious when you talk like that?"

"Like what?" Aislynn asked, the picture of pure innocence. Her father, rejoining his daughters after making sure Camlin and his supporters had cleared the area, snorted in amusement.

"Like you know everything. Like the wisdom of the ages is housed in your thirteen-year-old body. Like a druid. It's annoying." Edana said, rolling her eyes at Aislynn's playfulness. "I mean, I'm about used to it by now, but really. You could try being like everyone else. Other people's sisters limit themselves to helping with the chores, gossiping, and chasing boys. You advise the king and sway the opinions of the tribe, in addition to whatever weird druidic studies you're into on the quiet."

"You're a fine one to talk. If you valued fitting in, why did you just have to become a captain of the guard? Girls your age should be thinking about getting married and having a few kids. It's not like you haven't had any offers."

"Not. Funny." Edana growled, cutting a glance at their father.

"See what I mean? It's in our blood to be different; for that matter, it's in all of the Connarii to challenge the world's standards of normalcy. It's not like we came from there, you know."

Edana relaxed. Toryn showed no sign of reacting to Aislynn's quip about marriage. She rolled her eyes at her little sister. "This is not the time to delve into your precious myths. I should be organizing the troops, not listening to legends."

"This is the time." Aislynn insisted, half in fun, half... not, from the glint in her eye. "You need to be reminded of our birthright. In fact, I think I'd better call a story-circle tonight and remind us all of our own history and being. We were originally more than we have become. Not like the other peoples of the world we left behind. Generations of intermarriage and dwelling alongside the native peoples has weakened and changed us... but I have reason to believe that, released from the influence of tradition, habit and the presence of the other tribes, we may regain much that we have lost over the ages."

"Eh?" Toryn broke in, suddenly paying attention. "Aislynn, you didn't say... why would you think...?"

"I feel it already." Aislynn spoke in a hush, her teasing tone well and truly gone now. "Before, I was merely skilled in the knowledge passed down by the elders and the arts known to all the tribes of that world. Not a druid, not a bard, not even worthy to be called a filidh, an apprentice bard, when it comes to it. I was far less skilled even than those of our ancestors who we still speak of. Since we entered the mists, there's been an awakening. I'm aware of so much more. So much... There are spirits that watch us as we go. I sense things to come, undecided paths, like the changing mists that we passed through on the way to this jungle. Paths of the future, that may or may not come to pass. I feel the power, in myself, and blossoming in others of the Connarii. You, Edana. We share the same pure bloodline; haven't you noticed anything since...?"

"'Lynnie, you'd better get some rest." Edana brushed Aislynn's eerie tones off, suppressing a shiver that defied the humid air under the canopy. "I've got to get back to the troops... but I think you're hallucinating. Father, make sure she doesn't over-exert herself. Let me know if she gets worse, and I'll send a couple of men back to help with her."

"Edana!" Aislynn said with evident frustration. "There's nothing wrong with me!"

"Uh huh. Just get some rest. I've got to go."

"I said there's nothing wrong with..." Aislynn's eyes opened wide. Her arms dropped limp to her sides as she sagged to the ground. Toryn caught her and held her head up. Edana knelt beside her and waved a hand past her blank eyes. She snapped her fingers in front of Aislynn's face a couple times before Aislynn started and her eyes refocused, flickering for a moment, before focusing on her family's worried faces.

Edana sighed and pushed to her feet. "I'll send a couple men back to help her. Find someone to give her some tea or something. She probably knows what she should take."

"It's not safe here." Aislynn sat up and adjusted her clothes, tension in every movement. "There is danger in the jungle and evil at the borders. Many will die. We must move quickly. There can be no thought of settling here."

Edana and Toryn stared in stunned silence. Edana blinked first.

"Look, I've got to go. I'll have the men make some sort of sling to carry her in; make sure she sleeps." Edana rose to her feet and turned away, but Aislynn grasped her wrist and pulled her back.

"I am not crazy, sick, or otherwise incapacitated." She said, insistent, her nails boring into Edana's flesh. "Get the people through the jungle as quickly as possible. Do not linger for any reason. Be wary; there are hidden dangers."

"Look. I know it's dangerous. I have no reason to spend more time than I have to here. You're sick and you need to sleep. Let me worry about protecting the tribe. And stop raving. It's weird." Edana shook off Aislynn's hand and strode away.

True to her word, about five minutes later two young men showed up, determined to carry Aislynn, who despite her protests, was bundled up and ordered to stay still. Toryn shrugged at her indignation.

"Can't hurt you any to get a little rest; and I'm not up to fighting your sister for the moment." He said. He looked away, his mouth tight.

"You don't believe me either?" Aislynn asked.

"I always believe you, little one. You have never spoken falsely. Still, with all the changes that you've gone through, and with the upheaval ahead that you're predicting, a nap can't hurt any." Toryn put a hand to his youngest's face. Her skin was hot and dry.

"Fine. I'll meditate as we travel. Maybe I can find out some details about the dangers ahead. Tell these boys not to walk into any trees while I'm out." Aislynn sighed and put her head down, slipping instantly into a trance. Toryn nodded to the two guards.

"Take good care of her, boys. And let me know if she says anything."

"You don't need to tell us, sir." One of the guards spoke up.

"Yeah, if anything happened to her, our mates would take it out of us but good. Everyone loves the li'l druid."

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