Chapter Thirty-Five

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The fire in the hearth had died down to glowing embers, giving off a thick smoke that clogged Riona's nose and tainted her mouth with an ashy taste. Beside her, Myrddin had begun to hum, the sound reverberating in their chest like a drum. One veined hand reached out for her own; the touch tied them together tenuously. As the druid continued to mumble, Riona felt her body grow clogged with weight as if her veins had suddenly been filled with sand. She was unsure if she had fallen asleep, for she was both alert and muddled. Vague shapes and bursts of light danced before her eyes, sound slipping between blurred images as if she were underwater. With a sudden rush, these hapless pieces formed a whole and enveloped her in a single vision.

Riona blinked rapidly and took in her new surroundings. A high clear laugh broke over her like a gust of wind.

"Emrys!" Myrddin's familiar voice caused Riona to turn. As she did, the scene solidified, two figures raced toward her. "Emrys, slow...down..."

The figure furthest away from her was obviously Myrddin. The nearer of the two drew up in front of her, coming rapidly to a stop. Their chest heaved with breath, but a wide grin was etched into their face as they bent over at the waist, hands clutching knees. Another more ragged laugh escaped them, and they sank down into the thick green grass. Their hair was a dense mass of dark auburn pulled back haphazardly into a low braid. The long grass dancing around them matched their glowing green eyes. Riona saw in them her own sharp features and thin limbs. In height, however, she estimated her own head would peak near their chest. On their forehead was an intricate woad-blue tattoo of three interlocking swirls. Riona knelt down in the grass beside them; her lips parted as she took in a wavering breath.

"Emrys..." she knew her parent could not hear her, but still, the word slipped quietly from her throat.

Myrddin finally caught up, breathing heavily. "What has gotten into you?"

Emrys sat up on their elbows and fixed their twin in an amused gaze. "I have met beauty, Cynn, and she is as soft and as warm as the summer rain."

Myrddin's face scrunched in distaste. "You disgust me."

Emrys laughed that bright laugh and stretched skyward. "Only because you have not tasted love like mine!" they crowed.

Myrddin groaned and sank to their knees.

Emrys rolled over and gripped their sibling's hands. "Willn't you meet her?"

Myrddin's eyes narrowed, and they picked a blade of grass from their pristine tunic so in contrast to Emrys' wrinkled and wild appearance.

"If it means that much to you..." there was a hint of jealousy in their voice.

A thick fog suddenly rolled in and enveloped Riona, then as quickly as it had come, it drifted away. The scene had changed. It was night, and the air was the kind of cold that snapped in the lungs. A hooded figure moved through the dark before her; she knew it to be Myrddin. They neared a cloister of trees. As they drew into the shadow of the leaf-laden limbs, the soft murmur of voices met Riona from within. Myrddin paused and then crept silently forward. The moon was full and bright, casting an uneven glow over the trees. Myrddin stopped just short of the source of the voices.

Riona looked over their shoulder into the small clearing. Emrys and a young woman stood together, speaking excitedly in hushed tones. Emrys drew the woman into their arms and pressed their lips to her forehead. A gesture so surprisingly intimate Riona blushed for having witnessed it. Myrddin seemed to have similar thoughts as they cleared their throat awkwardly.

Emrys glanced up, a bright smile spread across their lips. "You came!"

Myrddin lowered their hood. "I said I would."

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