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Tossing and turning between her bed sheets Soutrik sweated furiously. She stomach had been Healed by the Yellow Sister, but her soul burned with many feelings, some of which she could not control. Memories and dreams merged into one thought and she fought with nightmares, one, two, three a night. Sleep was not her friend.

Dream #1

Aloysha danced and danced bobbing and weaving to the happy music at her wedding. Her beloved held her tightly. The time was drawing near for them to take their seats upon the ivory gold and jewel encrusted thrones at the far end of the room that stood on the platform for all to see.

She was twirled about and out from her beloved and she peered at the beautiful cake decorated with exotic birds made of marzipan. Her life was perfect. She was so happy. She felt her hand being squeezed ever so gently by her beloved and she twirled back into his arms pressing her cheek to his chest.

“Oh, how I love you, my beloved. We will rule Shara together and be happy! Tell me you love me. Tell me this will not end.”

“Oh, but it will end.”

Aloysha reeled at the voice coming from her beloved and pulled back from him to stare into his face. Not the deep ebony black face of her beloved, but the white tanned skin face of Svenson GoldenSwan. Shadows appeared around them and she screamed.

End Dream #1

“Ahh, NO!” Soutrik sat up in bed. Melanna rose quickly and jumped for her book and pen. “Speak it now, or you will forget. Do it now, Soutrik, talk!” Melanna scribbled madly as Soutrik related the dream. She hated this but Melanna said it was absolutely necessary. She could not disobey a woman of higher station and she did what she was ordered to. Melanna completed her writing and told the Novice to go back to sleep.

“Sleep? How can I sleep?” Soutrik tisked and tried to roll over. Melanna channeled and warmed the pot of sleeping tea that the Yellow Sister had given her. She forced Soutrik to drink the tea. Soutrik yawned and was asleep in a matter of minutes.

Dream #2

Mattille her slave girl helped her prepare for the First Night rights. She wore her red velvet top that exposed her flat tummy and her shoulders. It had a plunging neckline that revealed her bosoms to full advantage. The full-length skirt was made of seven veils, each of transparent red silk that exposed her legs nicely and made it hard not to notice her well endowed hips. The new bracelets she wore sparkled brightly. Her fluffy hair was full and had been grown out for the occasion of her wedding. Mattille placed silk red roses in her bushy afro hair.

“Teresa says those are the gift of the Ayyd to the new Sh’boan. Do you like them, Mistress?”

“I guess, but don’t you think they are a little much, Mattille, honestly? How am I supposed to do anything with all these heavy things?”

“You are now the Sh’boan, Mistress Aloysha. You will never have to lift a finger again. These bracelets aren’t so bad. They are very posh, and give you high status.” Mattille fussed with perfumes and rubbed glitter lotion into Aloysha’s exposed skin, which was almost everywhere.

“My beloved awaits me. Are the torches extinguished in the chamber, Mattille?”

Mattille rose and poked her head in the doorway, “Yes, my Mistress.” She knelt and prostrated herself in front of Aloysha, “May the Light Bless your womb, oh, great Sh’boan, that we all may be blessed in return with a son of your line.”

Ritual took over and Aloysha picked up her finger cymbals and clicked them together. The bridegroom awaited her. She entered the room and chimed the cymbal on her finger and wiggled the bells attached to her hips. Swish, ting, swish, ting, ting she made her way across the room without saying a word. She felt the bed against her knee and knelt upon it. She felt her beloved’s bare legs on the bed and touched them with her hand, using the edge of the finger cymbal to cause Goosebumps to break out on his legs. He grabbed her bracelet-laden wrist and flung her to the bed. They were one.

Exhausted and still panting for breath, Aloysha spoke, “As I have always dreamed it would be so, it now has been my First Night right. I know I have conceived your son, I know it with every fiber of my being. I love you more now than ever.”

The oil torches in the room slowly gained flame and Aloysha’s eyes adjusted to the light enough to see it was not her beloved, but Svenson GoldenSwan, “And I you, darling one.” His voice was mocking and thick with lust. She looked down and blood flowed from her womb, her child dead before it had a chance to live, she screamed!

End Dream #2

“Oh, Light NO!” Soutrik sat up in bed. Melanna rose quickly again and jumped for her book and pen again.

“Again, speak it now, or you will forget. Do it now, Soutrik, talk!” Melanna scribbled madly as Soutrik related the dream. She trembled and clutched herself tightly as she relived the nightmare. She reached her hand down and felt she had wet her bed. She got out of bed and took off the sheets. Melanna channeled Water, Air and Fire to clean the mattress and dry it for sleeping. Soutrik put the soiled sheets in her laundry bag and took the spare flannel pair, made the bed and climbed back in. Melanna completed her writing and told the Novice to go back to sleep.

“No, I can’t. Sleep? How can I sleep?” Soutrik trembled violently and tried not to think of it. She lay her hand over her eyes and tried to roll over.

“Drink more tea.” Melanna issued the order with a yawn herself and itched her cheek causing her ever present ink smudge.

“And risk another accident?” Soutrik could hardly breath she was still panting in fear.

“Drink more tea.” Melanna reissued the order with another yawn herself.

Soutrik drank more tea. This time is was cold as Melanna had not channeled it warm. Soutrik yawned and was again engulfed by the sleep that brought nightmares with it.

Dream #3

“And so it is written and so it shall be. In our great laws that have been unbroken for 3,000 years, and I quote, ‘Women who can channel are required to mate with the sons of women who can channel!’ Ayyad Teresa pointed to Aloysha who was in the process of undergoing tattoos on her face and neck. She screamed in pain as the blood dripped on to the floor from not only the tattooing, but from her womb which was in the midst of the final birth spasm. Teresa pointed at Aloysha’s beloved who knelt beside his wife bound and gagged. “You are not of those bloodlines, you have no tattoos. No one with the markings is allowed to mate with anyone without and any child of such a union will be killed.”

The final birth spasm pushed the child forth and as it’s lungs filled with air, the tiny newborn baby boy bellowed in a loud strong voice.

“Get her to her feet!” Ayyad Teresa spoke loudly with a voice enhanced by the One Power. “Give her the knife.” The other Ayyad present stopped their tattooing of Aloysha’s face and neck, twined roses. They had even shaved her head and tattooed the sides above and around her ears.

“As it must be, so it must be, Aloysha, you are now Ayyad and bound to us, kill this bastard child. The Will of the Wheel commands justice and so shall it be.”

Aloysha still in the midst of cramping from the delivery of the afterbirth was handed a curved dagger. She had no choice, they were forcing this. They had tortured her through her entire pregnancy and now the time had come. She cried and shook. She held the baby by it’s head. She could not look at her son. She closed her eyes and drove the dagger into the child’s chest and then across the neck. His screams were silenced but hers were not. She wailed and screamed turning the dagger towards herself, but was bound by Air. Teresa was using the Power to hold her. Teresa dragged her to her feet again from where she had slumped over the dead baby’s body. Teresa grabbed Aloysha by the cheeks.

“Now for your beloved. Kill him!” Teresa dragged Aloysha and held the dagger in her hand for her. Teresa thrust the dagger into the kneeling man’s heart and twisted it. Aloysha kept her eyes shut the entire time. “Look at him. At least he can die like a man, but you, you have no honor, no respect for our laws! Look at this man who gives his life for you!” Teresa grabbed Aloysha’s head and pried open her eyes.

Aloysha beheld not her ebony beloved, but Svenson GoldenSwan with a dagger deeply imbedded in his heart. His eyes were losing their light, and Aloysha threw herself at him as if to cling to him for the last time. “No!! Please! Not this! Anything but this, my life…take my life…but spare him…please Teresa. No.” Sven’s blood covered her and he fell limp into her arms.

“Ahhh,” Aloysha channeled of her own free will for the first time and seared his body to dust she could not bare to look upon it.

End Dream #3

“Oh, Light! Save him!” Soutrik rolled out of bed and on to the floor. She was having spasms as she kicked her legs wildly. “Why is this happening to me?!”

Melanna took down this next dream and shook her head in despair. “Child, you have some sick things in that head of yours.”

“I can not control this, Melanna! I can’t, I swear it.” Soutrik cried and trembled she couldn’t contain herself, and she rushed to the waste can next to her side table and threw up in it. Melanna forced more tea down her throat and hugged the shaking Novice tightly.

“It’s okay. I’m sorry. They are just dreams. They cannot hurt you. Just dreams, sweetie. Soutrik, please, try and go back to sleep.” Melanna rubbed Soutrik’s head and held the poor shivering girl. She wove Flows of Fire and Air and warmed the temperature of the room. Melanna started to hum a lullaby under her breath and rocked Soutrik back an forth in her arms. The Novice drifted off again in Melanna’s arms and Melanna tucked the girl in to her sheets covering her and kissing her forehead.

“Oh, that poor woman. Why do these things torment her so?” Melanna did not go back to sleep this time but waited for the next dream to wake the sleeping Novice. It had been like this every night since the Novice had been Healed of her stomach wound. Tonight seemed particularly worse though. Melanna wondered if the stress Soutrik had experienced at her Fire Lesson had caused all these extra nightmares. The previous nights only brought forth one or two. But tonight was on three and it was nowhere near close to dawn. Melanna held back a yawn and thumbed through her journal.

Melanna read a dream from the night before; a very odd dream indeed.

Reading the dream: Aloysha is standing on a platform in the middle of a large square. She says there is a line of men in black cloaks with hoods over there heads waiting in a line. Ayyad Teresa is to her left. A large crowd of Ayyad fill the square. The first man comes forward. Two Ayyad remove his cloak. He is naked and tattoos are visible on his legs and arms. Aloysha removes his hood. She sees the tattoos on his face. She weaves a thin blade of Spirit and Air and chops off his head. His body falls to the ground into a large pile of headless bodies.

Aloysha speaks, “ I kill on the average of 25 men born of channelers a day that are brought here from all over Shara for their own sacrifice on their 21st birthday. I will be Sh’boan for seven years and I must do this every morning. There are 365 days in a year. That means, I will do this 2555 times, killing 63,875 men.”

“And?” Teresa said mockingly.

“And how am I supposed to live with myself.” Aloysha’s voice was bleak.

“You aren’t.” Teresa said suppressing a laugh.

Aloysha was weary and she noticed that she sliced through men one after the next without thought. They last one approached. His cloak was thrown back. He was not Sharan, he was not black. He was white. She gasped and removed his hood, and Sven’s tortured eyes looked back at her.

“No! I can not kill this man!" She flung herself at him and clung to him with all her strength.

“Oh, but you must, and oh that you will!” Teresa laughed and laughed.

“You must do, what it is the Sh’boan must do, darling one.” Sven spoke to her softly as his lips caressed her cheek. His hot breath stirring passion with in her as well as deep grief. She could not kill him, but she must. They Ayyad demanded it. She kissed him and closed his eyes with her lips.

She jumped back and spun quickly not looking as she sliced his head off in a fury of anger at Teresa.

“I will hate you with even my very last breath.” Aloysha spat at Teresa and threw herself on her own Power wrought blade to join her beloved and Svenson GoldenSwan in death.

End of Reading the Dream

The dawn broke and Soutrik rose wearily from her bed. She quickly took out the waste can down the hall to the linen room where the maid collected such things and she also brought her soiled laundry bag.

Melanna prattled on about an Ajah Lesson, and what there would be for breakfast. Soutrik could not shake her dreams. Sven, I have betrayed you time and again. She hung her head and cried into her chest. Melanna handed her a hanky without pause in the conversation. She continued on about Soutrik taking it easy with her Lessons and not pushing herself. The Healing she had gone through was intense and maybe it was the cause of her nightmares. It would be wise not to push oneself after such a tremendous injury was Healed.

Soutrik ignored Melanna's constant reminders about being careful after Healing. She was starting to be weary of them. She moved from her bed to the floor and took up her meditative position still in her shift. Melanna lit the incense burner that was filled with the strong smelling Sea Folk incense that Soutrik meditated to. She needed to clear her mind of her nightmares and the mangled visions of Sven. She took deep breaths and inhaled the incense. Melanna was overcome by the smell and opened the door to their shared room to provide some air. Soutrik became to hum under her breath and asked the Light for peace and a release from an overwhelming sense of guilt.

“You know, Soutrik, you should really go speak with one of the Brown Sisters about interruption of your dreams. There are many reoccurring elements, take Sven for example…” Melanna’s words rambled on and Soutrik tried to block them from her ears. That is why she was meditating, to stop think about Sven. He was all she was thinking about, and it drove her nuts. She did not know why, he invaded her thoughts like he had possessed her somehow.

Striding through the novice wing in his Accepted tunic, he followed the scent of the incense, knowing that at the end he would find Soutrik. Light, that smell made his head swim, and not in disgust like he figured it would. Finally, he neared Soutrik's room, finding the door opened. Leaning against the wall, he listened she spoke with Accepted Malanna. Shuddering, he remember how much he disliked her.

Light, it was so late; he hadn't been able to sleep for weeks. His eye lids felt like weights were attached to them. Yawning, he heard his name in the room and quirked a brow.

"... he is a reoccurring part of your dreams, Soutrik." Malanna said, and Sven snorted silently. Grinning a little, he moved off the wall and entered the room.

"Greetings, ladies," he said, startling them both. Grinning like a fool, he leaned against the doorway. "I was passing by and couldn't help but hear my name." A small fire was lit in him when he saw Soutrik blush slightly. Chuckling, he quirked his brow at Malanna.

"Its personal," Malanna said coldly. Smirking, he shrugged his brows and looked at Soutrik with a tilted head.

"Is it?" He said wryly, and she blushed more. Chuckling again, he sat down on the floor. "Well, it obviously concerns me, so why don't you tell me about it?"

Staring at the ceiling Hesper counted what she could see of the dots in the darkness. For the last several nights she hadn’t been able to sleep a wink. If Melanna wasn’t snoring then Soutrik was having nightmares that woke her up screaming. If she hadn’t been so nice Hesper thought about pounding on the wall that separated them and complaining. So, Sven’s been in all her dreams, she blushes when she sees him, they are found outside after dark, I catch him holding her during a lesson. Light! Those two need to cool their heals. She sighed and laid her hands on her stomach. Either that or have their ears boxed.

So far, Soutrik had had three ear piercing dreams. All of them terrible in their own way. And since she was up anyway Hesper had listened to them all intently. Not that she was a snoop or anything. Oh no. Foot steps began echoing down the hallway. Who is up at this time of the night? she wondered. Getting out of the bed as quietly as she could she snuck to the door and peered through the keyhole. Well, surprise surprise! It’s our dear GoldenSwan! This is simply horrendous. And that Accepted lets him come to her room at night?!!!

Hesper had never been too modest but this was ridiculous. She heard the deepness of Sven’s voice and not being able to stop herself she pressed her ear to the wall below the whole that went between their rooms. “Greetings Ladies. I was passing by and I couldn’t help but hear my name.” Sure you were just passing by. Uh hu, I believe that.

“Its personal.” Melaana spat, she was a good guardian sometimes but Hesper doubted that she was really doing her job. She’s certainly not if I’m right.

“Is it?” Sven chuckled. “Well, it obviously concerns me, so why don’t you tell me about it?” Light above! Hesper almost considered blowing her cover and bursting into the room next door and demanding an explanation. But instead she quietly pulled the stool over and kneeled on it to listen better to the chatter next door.

“Melaana, could you please leave so I can speak to Svenson alone?” Soutrik asked clearly and firmly. After a moment Hesper heard the sound of the door opening and foot steps down the hallway. Alone?! can she leave them alone?!! Now Hesper was defiantly intrigued.

Melanna was not pleased that Soutrik had asked her to leave the room, but it was Soutrik’s room after all. The night was still upon the world and breakfast was still a few hours off. Too early to make a trip to see Aeilla and with Sven right in front of her on the cold floor, she felt she might as well talk to him about the nightmares. He looked so sweet to her, but looks were deceptive. Soutrik got off the floor and realized she was still in her very thin and transparent shift. Stretching as she rose she cracked her back and extend an arm to Sven who sat on the floor gazing up at her. She realized that the lamp was behind her and that he could probably see right through her shift. He just stared. It didn’t bother her so much because she had shared quarters with men aboard the Rusty Nail and had worked shirtless upon his decks, but Sven was sure taking in an eyeful. She didn’t really know how that made her feel. She blushed a little more, and rubbed her arms for warmth.

“Please Sven, get off the floor, have a seat on the bed. There is much we need to discuss.” Soutrik swished across the room to her bed, sat down, and patted the covers next to her for Sven to make himself comfortable.

Sven rose slowly never taking his eyes off her for a moment, then strode across the room and looked calm as ever. He sat where she indicated and leaned back against the wall.

“There have been some disturbing nightmares I have been having since my injury. I hope you don’t mind, but I feel that you should know about them….all…” She gulped and related her nightmares to Sven who sat on her bed speechless eyeing the floor from time to time. Soutrik wept occasionally and wiped her eyes on the back of her palm. Sven produced a hanky from a pocket and handed it to her. “Thank you, darling one.” She realized what she said and wasn’t sure where it came from. Whenever she mentioned him or herself as this ‘other’ Aloysha woman Sven looked deeply into her eyes with something she thought might be pain. Soutrik was so unsure of everything that she was feeling. Still was at a loss for who she really was, and why these dreams seemed more like memories than fantasies.

“Sven, I think these mean something. I need you to help me understand them. I need you to tell me what you know about the night I was injured; how I was injured. Please, Sven, I need you.” Soutrik reached across the bed and rested her hand on Sven’s hand, which was on his thigh. He looked up at her with an odd look in his eye. He said nothing so Soutrik continues.

“There is also, something else, Sven.” She griped her shift with her free hand and looked down at her lap. She didn’t know how to say what she was thinking or feeling. She didn’t know how to put it into words. She couldn’t find them and they weren’t coming.

“Sven, the only way I know how to tell you how I feel is to show you.” Soutrik opened herself to saidar. She griped Sven’s hand. “Link with me, please.”

This was something that she probably would regret but she needed to do this. Sven said nothing but she felt him tug on her with the Power and then his mind leaped into hers. She felt many things from him, so many, she could not tell what was hers and what was his. She controlled herself more and focused sending her feelings through the link. Fear, confusion, anxiety, loss, devastation, tenderness, safety, warmth, fondness, compassion, devotion, loyalty, fidelity, and there it was…possibly more…but she lost track of them all. They meant only one thing to her though.

“Sven, what do you have to say?” Soutrik was still held by the link and she felt him inside her mind and her body thrilled at the thoughts that drifted to her from him. Danger, excitement, adventure, and more.

Hesper kneeled and listened intently to the conversation next door. “Please Sven, get off the floor, have a seat on the bed. There is much we need to discuss.” That hussy! she dared to look through the hole in the hall and watched Soutrik swish her way to the bed in her barely there shift. Hesper didn’t think she would have ever thought such thinks about her friend but her opinion was quickly changing. “There have been some disturbing nightmares I have been having since my injury. I hope you don’t mind, but I feel that you should know about them….all…”

Oh Light, now for the nightmares! Hesper moved from her position and went to her own bed and sat with her back to the wall. I just won’t listen that’s all. She stuck her fingers in her ears and tried to think of something else, but being the girl that she was it didn’t take long before the curiosity got to the better of her. As she took the fingers out her ears there was a squeak of the bed next door. Oh no.

Hesper jumped up from the bed and returned from her stood in time to hear, “Thank you, darling one.” from an emotional Soutrik. Ohhhhhhh no! She tore herself away from her seat again and pulled the pillow over her head. Light above what am I going to do? She waited a while and tried to forget about them and go back to sleep but when she felt an embracing of saidar she snapped up. Now what?! There was a groan and a gasp as the amount of the One Power increased. Hesper stood and began hitting her head against the door. No no no.

She hoped what she thought was happening wasn’t and dared to peak through the whispering hole. What she expected wasn’t at all but Soutrik was holding the True Source and was panting with emotion. “Sven, what do you have to say?” Hesper could only guess what he had to say. So, Hesper sat and waited for some kind of response from the man.

Furrowing his brow at the emotions he felt coming from Soutrik, and realized she could feel his own as well. Frowning, he held onto her hand and cyphered through the emotions he felt.

"What do you have to say?" Soutrik asked, looking at him. Turning his head, he stared down at the floor.

"Me?" He snorted lowly. "Well, it was... interesting." He couldn't look at her, he realized. "I, um..." He said to break the silence. Clearing his throat, he thought about what to say. He felt Soutrik's hand on his cheek and turn his head to look at her, but he couldn't meet her eyes. Light in bloody heaven. "I don't know what to say," he said, but she didn't seem to hear him.

It seemed then as if she felt his emotions, his excitement at this feeling, this link and the emotions shared, so many other things he didn't realize himself. But she kept searching, and to them both it was like digging deep into the earth.

"That night," he began. "You were acting strange, and calling me Jackobar." She drew a shuddering breath suddenly. "Then you and I started arguing; you were talking about some Teresa woman, and these Ayyad, and other things. Then you poked me, and..." He saw she was remembering as well, of him grabbing her wrist and pulling her close.

"After that, you began to run away, and I still held onto your shoulder. Your shift came off in my hand." He cleared his throat, and she nodded. Light! Standing, he tried to hide his emotions, despite the fact that she could find them. "Look, all I remember is roasting some women, and that's it, and then you got cut." He didn't feel it at first, but saw that she did. It was like an echo, the feeling of his distress, with her blood seeping through his fingers, he life drifting. Of him sitting in a pool of blood, alone in the hall and weeping at what he had thought he had lost. Like a punch in the face, he realized he cared about her. "Oh, hell." He muttered, but he saw a small smile on Soutrik's face.

Sighing, he sat back down on the bed, still not meeting her eyes. "I guess there's no need to say anything, hmm?" He said, and glanced up at her to see her shake her head. Nodding, he pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Well, Soutie," he said lightly. "You do have a habit of sending me on roller coaster rides." Light, what was he doing? He didn't need anyone, dammit, he was the bloody GoldenSwan! "You do make life interesting." Nodding, he looked down at his hands as he rubbed them together. "Like I said, I suppose there's nothing to say," he began, slowly walking back to the bed. "And I'm tired." Looking at her, he managed a small smile of his own. He said nothing as he leaned down and kissed her forehead, followed by a courtly bow. "Is that all, Empress?" He managed.

Soutrik was in a state of emotion that she could not recall feeling before. She felt drained yet filled. Something within her longed to be Sven. She needed to be reassured and told she would be Sven. Deep within her the voice said, “You are my chosen one, my beloved, and I will give my life for yours.” Those were Aloysha’s words not hers. Memories flooded into her. Things she couldn’t believe and Sven’s feelings validated them. Toasting Ayyad. Teresa. Mattille. She knew them. She knew who she was, what she had been. Or did she? Was that really her? Was she Aloysha? Words that she had spoken on her wedding day, nine months before Aloysha and Teresa had plunged the dagger into his heart rang again in her mind. But, now there was Svenson. Would she hurt him in the same way? How could she even think of him as her chosen one, assigned by the Will of the Wheel? Was that the way of things? Aloysha’s words echoed again in her mind and she stared at him…still feeling his mind.

His memories of the evening were clear as he spoke them and as she felt them through the link. He seemed like he was trying to keep his distance, but why?

Looking at her, Sven managed a small smile of his own. He said nothing as he leaned down and kissed her forehead, followed by a courtly bow. "Is that all, Empress?" He said looking deeply into her eyes, and she realized they were still linked.

“No, it is not all.” Soutrik felt Aloysha’s strength with in her. Aloysha’s boldness and power. He called her Empress and now she felt like it. Her feelings flowed through the link and some surprise appeared on her face. He was still in his bowed position and she stood catching his face in her hands. “Can’t you feel what you do to me? This is madness!” She kissed him full on the lips as she felt satisfaction and passion through the bond. She pulled back and he didn’t let her, keeping her in his embrace. Finally after what seemed like eternity, he released her and she him, and she shivered at the loss. The link telling her he felt similarly, “You called me Soutie. That’s cute!” She paused, “Sven-dahla.”

He quirked his brow at her and chuckled. She spoke, “I think you better release the link now and go back to your room, before I can not control myself further.” She was panting for control of her emotions. He pulled at the link with regret and released it. She swooned slightly at the loss, and stepped towards him, hugging his chest. His hand caressed her back and he pulled away.

“One more thing, Svenson…well two more things…” Soutrik paused and gulped a breath, “We need to see Aeilla Sedai about these dreams still, there may be more to them.” He looked at her and nodded his head quirking an eyebrow. “And, well,” she paused again, “Thank you.”

Giving her a nod, he patted her shoulder and made his way to the door. Stepping outside, he closed the door with one last look at Soutrik. Light, he never would have thought she would attract him like she did. No doubt that walk had something to do with it.

"Bloody hell," he muttered to himself. Certainly he wasn't falling for Soutrik? How could he? He had no need of anyone, for the Light's sake, he was the bloody GoldenSwan! "Most feared assassin of Saldea I am, dammit," he muttered as he strode past Hesper's room.

It was impossible. Sure, she was attractive, and sure, she was fun to be around -he had never Traveled to a faraway land and killed people with another woman before- but Sven had never been interested in any particular woman. They were bloody conquests for a man like him. Except Soutrik, dammit.

"How could she care about me?" He asked out loud. "I'm an oaf, a bloody bull in a porcelain shop." Sea Folk porcelain, no less. Damn, everything came back to Soutrik. He could even smell her incense that made him want to go back to her room. "She doesn't even know who I am," he grumbled. He didn't recall to her him ripping out the man's throat. "She'll abandon me," he told himself. Despite what he had felt through the link, he knew she would leave him once she learned his past.

Snorting, he turned the corner and made his way towards the Accepted apartments. In his room, he leaned against the door and sighed. It was then he realized he could smell her perfume on his clothes, and grumbled.

"Light in bloody heaven, there's no escape," he growled and doffed his tunic and undershirt, as well as his legging until he was in his breeches. In the mirror, he caught a look at himself and vowed to work out and remove this sagging gut from his body. Snorting again, he grumbled in frustration and crawled into his bed.

Some people had trouble sleeping at times like this, but he always managed to sleep well, save the past few weeks. It was rare when he couldn't sleep, and now that he had something occupying his mind besides his Arches, he drifted off soon after he channeled the lamp out, and dreamed of Soutrik. Unconsciously, he was grumbling.

He left and she still felt his presence. He was such a tall and handsome man in her eyes. All of him was, but he didn’t seem to see it in himself. He had much self-doubt in his emotions that she had felt through the link. Self-doubt mixed with arrogance…maybe that is why she cared for him so deeply. She clutched her stomach and sat on her bed with a sigh. She felt like she was going to sick up, and it actually felt good somehow. Why? Melanna came through the door unannounced. She eyed Soutrik and sat on her own bed.

“Should I even ask? Are you going to tell me?” Melanna seemed very interested.

Soutrik didn’t know what she should tell Melanna. “He related his memories of the evening I was injured after I told him about the nightmares. We are going to go see Aeilla Sedai sometime soon.” Soutrik related a little of what Sven told her about that evening. Listening to him talk about it, she remembered everything well. He never mentioned the man who cut her, or what he had done to him, but she remembered it clearly now. She also recalled what Sven had been feeling when he did that to the guardsman, when he had ripped the man’s throat out with his bare hands angry at what the man had done to her. He was angry she had been hurt and he had wanted to protect her. He cared for her. He was vicious, and brutally killed that man to avenge her, and strangely she found that very attractive. It was odd he didn’t mention it, his bravery. He thought knowing of it apparently. He reeked of male prowess, of strength, of everything masculine. She felt her heart flutter at thoughts of him touching her back and shoulders as they had embraced in their first kiss. Self-doubt, arrogance, and modesty? He was complicated and it made him all the more intriguing. This man had bewitched her somehow. It was unlike any reality she knew. He had this dark strength around him. She thought maybe it was his jet-black hair or the tanned skin. No, it was something else that pulled at her through the link. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she knew she wanted more from him whatever it was. She was hooked on this man! By the Light, it was so! She felt a little faint as the realization of it all hit her. He made her blood rush and boil. All at once she was extremely tired. She hadn’t slept well in days, and she was feeling the brunt of it now. All of her pent up sexual tension had been released….well not all, but a good portion of it had.

“Melanna, I am tired, can we please go to sleep again.” Soutrik crawled into bed, and Melanna snuffed the incense and the lamp. Melanna had no trouble drifting off to sleep, and was snoring quickly. Soutrik lay there with her mind ticking away on thoughts of Svenson GoldenSwan.

Soutrik could smell Sven on her bed sheets where he had sat, and on her shift where he had touched her. She could feel his lips on her forehead, and then on her own lips crushing them slightly and tickling her nose and chin with his goatee. She relived the moment again and again in her mind.

Sven said nothing as he leaned down and kissed her forehead, followed by a courtly bow. "Is that all, Empress?" He managed a smile.

Soutrik drifted to sleep even through Melanna’s snores. She was so tingly. She was still short of breath, and butterflies were not only in her stomach, but they seemed to want to fly out her mouth. Sleep came, and with it visions of Sven filled her mind.

Sweet Dreams

Soutrik was in a large bubble bath enjoying her soak. The heavy Sea Folk perfume filled her nose. She yearned for her back to be scrubbed.

A deep voice spoke, “I know exactly where and how you like it done.”

She wasn’t stunned, she was thrilled. She leaned forward in the tub to expose her back and massive hands holding a scrubbing sponge dipped into the water next to her and caressed her back.

“Tell me if I hurt you.” The voice crooned softly in her ear very close to touching it, close enough to nibble on it.

“I trust you thoroughly.” Her voice was deeper than usual and breathy with passion. She swooned as the hand squeezed the sponge and warm water ran down her back. The hands dropped the sponge in her lap and began to rub her neck and shoulders. She felt so safe. So protected. The room hung in shadows and darkness, and she never saw his face, but she knew his touch now, and there was no mistaking it. "Svenson" she breathed in almost a pant. The shadows closed in around the tub, her special haven of peace and tranquility. She felt him in the shadow, and still outside of the tub, but it did not matter to her if he was in the shadow or in the tub with her. He was there, and he wanted to please her, and he didn’t want to hurt her. He cared for her. She felt safe. Nothing mattered but him.

End Sweet Dream

Soutrik rolled over in her bed and was slightly awakened by Melanna’s snoring. Someday my bed will not be empty next to me, and someday I will be free of this bloody woman’s snores!

When Svenson had left the room next door Hesper was able to breath a little easier but still she hadn’t been really relieved by the “Will there be anything else Emperess?” remark he had made. Light above! Neither one of the them had any idea she had been watching and listening the whole time. A few moments after the Goose left Hesper heard the sounds of Melaana returning and questioning Soutrik.

Now at last some sleep! she thought with relief and went to lye down. But no sooner did she close her eyes and start some real sleep did she hear the resonating snore echoing off walls. Noooo! she thought with a groan and pulled the entirety of the blankets and pillows over her head. This is just not fair! Hesper rose from the bed and peeked through the whispering hole again. On the bed Soutrik was smiling sweetly as she dreamed. Nauseating. she rolled her eyes.

Sure Sven could be classified handsome in her book but really, was a bit too dark for her. Danger filled his eyes and there was something beneath his rugged exterior that Hesper didn’t quite understand. If anyone is going to get him out of that shell it should be Soutrik. Obviously they have a lot in common together. Search me if I understand it Since she was unable to sleep anyway Hesper decided to inspect things a bit further. For some reason she felt like she needed to check up on Sven. You can get in trouble for that Hesper the prissy little voice of Accepted Arwyn came to her. Arwyn had caught her in the kitchens after curfew one sleepless and snore filled night. Hesper rolled her eyes at the voice in her head and pulled a cloak over her nightgown.

As quietly as she could she made her way to the Accepted hallway. She had walked fast and was out of breath by the time she reached the door. Hesper pressed her ear against the door to hear him grumble and snore. Well at least that’s solved. she nodded in satisfaction. Now, back to my room. Then she realized that the sun was beginning to show itself over the horizon. I’m a terrible snoop. she realized. But it hardly hindered her from wondering anyway. And now I get no sleep. Great.

Her room was darker than she realized it would be and she was careful of the furniture in the cramped area. Despite her caution she managed to hit her knee on the wash stand and cause it to fall in the floor with a loud clatter. The water rolled about the floor over and over before settling at last. At least the bloody thing didn’t break. she thought with a sigh as she leaned against the door in exhaustion.

Hesper was just closing her eyes when she heard the morning bell ring, announcing wake up and soon breakfast. Blood and bloody ashes. she was so tired and was ready to fall over.Light! Finally she pulled herself from the door frame and made herself get dressed. As she was closing the door to her room to go to breakfast, Soutrik was leaving as well.

“Good morning Hesper. I trust you slept well last night.” she smiled but looked tired from her emotional night.

“You have no idea.” Hesper mumbled as she marched towards the kitchens rubbing her temples and muttering curses under her breath.

In the kitchens Mistress Laras gave Hesper an odd look and rolled her eyes before returning to her cooking and directing dozens of novices at once with her wooden spoon. She knew she looked a mess but the woman didn’t have to stare at her. Reluctantly she followed Soutrik to a table where ‘magically’ Sven was waiting for them. Do they have a sixth sense about each other now? Give me a break.

Hesper sat at the table, opposite from Soutrik and Sven. She watched them wearily and munched on her breakfast roll sleepily. “So how are you ladies this morning?” Svenson asked once they had settled down. “Very well thank you.” chimed Soutrik. “Yeah whatever.” grumbled Hesper as she dropped her roll and bent to pick it up. Under the table she saw that Soutrik’s hand was conveniently placed on someone’s knee. Not just someone....Sven!

In the surprise she snapped up and hit her head on the table. “Blood and bloody ashes!” she said heatedly and perhaps a bit louder than she should. Back above the table she looked around for any disapproving stares from Aes Sedai. Sighing she propped herself up on an elbow and took a sip of her tea. At this time Sven decided to produce something from his pocket.

“Here, ehh I figured I should give this back to you. There wasn’t really a time to before.” Hesper eyed the wadded up white cloth. Is that what I think it is? She didn’t have to wait too long to find out. Soutrik took the bundle and unfolded it. Indeed it was a shift...and if had a rip in it from top to bottom right through the middle! With the shock Hesper choked on her tea. Sputtering and coughing she tried to speak and ask them how exactly he had acquired that. “Are you okay?” Soutrik asked. Hesper coughed into her hand and tried to regain her breath. “Uh hu.” she said finally.

She’s as forward as a Domani tavern wench with too much ale in her blood. She eyed Sven equally as suspicious. And he... she searched for something that fit. He is a snorting, mumbling, good for nothing, philander. GoldenSwan my foot. When Hesper regained her breath she watched Soutrik present a gift from her own pocket. From what she could tell it was a ring from her nose chain, wrapped in silk as well as a stick on her Sea Folk incense.

“Where’s my present?” Hesper asked jealously. She really didn’t like this whole business and almost had enough of it; it was the bratty side of her still sticking out. Sven snorted and returned his attention to the woman at his side. Hesper rolled her eyes and started pouting into the watery oats before her. I want another roll. She thought to herself; she really was whinny when tired.

“I’ll be right back.” she excused herself as she went through the line to retrieve some more bread. When she turned around to come back, she looked at the table where she had been sitting. There, Soutrik and Sven were engaged in whispering to one another closely and Hesper guessed they weren’t grinning about the wonderful breakfast meal they were having.

“You miss me?” Hesper sat down on the bench and made as much noise as she possibly could to interrupt them. “So, tell me how was everyone’s evening last night?” she asked as lightly as she could manage. Now to see if they tell me the truth. She sat up on her elbows and leaned over the table grinning like a fool. “Humm?” she persisted.

The couple across from her, couple? err. exchanged a quick glance before looking at her and nodding. “Just fine.” they said in unison. Disappointed Hesper sat back on the bench. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. “Anything exciting happen? No dreams or late night visits?” she asked as she stirred her breakfast oats-n-water.

“Well, if you must know,” Soutirk began “I had a few dreams last night but after that I sort of had a...breakthrough.” she smiled. Sven chuckled lightly and Hesper glared at the two of them.

A breakthrough indeed. I didn’t sleep all night because of that! If they weren’t my friends I would arrange a little pay back. As if the thought could summon demons from the Pit of Doom the twins came up behind her and each poked her on opposite shoulders.

“How are you this morning, Heifer?”

“You look very tired.” they grinned as they looked down at her.

“I hope nothing is wrong.”

“You’re not feeling blue are you?” The twins laughed as if they had made the funniest joking the world and held their middles with the force.

“Oh, leave me alone you goat kissers.” she mumbled as she turned around. When she spun around she did it so fast that she lost her balance and tumbled off the edge of the bench. Now she was in the floor and in-between the table and bench. Great. Above, her friends were giggling at her. What a wonderful morning she was having.

Soutrik’s POV: Soutrik and Hesper entered the kitchens to grab breakfast. Soutrik hoped Sven would be there. She had a feeling he would be. She had brought him a little gift. Carefully wrapped in brilliant green silk sash, a Sea Folk traditional garment, was a large stick of Sea Folk incense, and one of Soutrik's gold hoop earrings with an emerald gem post. It was of special significance to her. This particular variety was of her adopted Clan. No one in the Clan made it, but the Amayar on the Islands did, as they did the highly valuable porcelain. This incense was burned at all of their most noteable ceremonies. Soutrik blushed at the thought that came to mind first...this is burned at the Wedding Ceremony. She pushed the thought from her mind as Hesper continued to chat away.

They gathered their food from the beautiful spread Laras had created and sat with Sven. They all chatted lightly, but Hesper seem particularly jumpy this morning, on edge really.

“So how are you ladies this morning?” Svenson asked once they had settled down.

“Very well thank you.” chimed Soutrik.

“Yeah whatever.” grumbled Hesper as she dropped her roll and bent to pick it up.

While Hesper was out of sight searching for her lost pastry Soutrik smiled knowingly at Sven and placed her hand on his knee. He quirk a brow at her brazenness. Hesper sat up bumping her head on the table and cursing, and Soutrik was all calm and serenity.

Without warning though, Sven decided to produce something from his pocket. “Here, ehh I figured I should give this back to you. There wasn’t really a time to before.” Sven said with his deep masculine voice. It was her shift that she was wearing the night of the Traveling to Shara. Soutrik eyed it and blushed. It was ripped straight down the middle. Oh, Light, Hesper is going to ask about this one later!

Hesper chocked on her tea...sputtering and coughing she tried to speak. “Are you okay?” Soutrik asked. Hesper coughed into her hand and tried to regain her breath. “Uh hu.” she said finally. Soutrik remained calm though and thought about how sweet it was of him to return it to her. He could have picked a better place than this to give it to me. Mild embarrassment crept over her and she eyed, Sven, Hepser and 'the Shift'. She chastised herself inwardly at the thoughts that were coming to mind. He had seen her in that in the cold of night, and he had accidentally ripped it off of her. She tingled for a moment more and remembered her present to him.

Handing Sven the bundle and unwrapping it with him, she was delighted that he seemed pleased. "I thought that you would look splendid in green." Sven held the earring and sash in her one hand the incense in the other.

“Where’s my present?” Hesper asked jealously. Sven snorted and returned his attention to his woman at his side. Hesper rolled her eyes and started pouting into the watery oats before her. Hesper got up and Soutrik took this little moment to speak with Sven.

"May I?" Soutrik pulled a small sewing needle, which was wrapped in wool, from her pocket . Sven said nothing but quirk his brow. Soutrik deftly pluck Sven's left ear with the needle and using her skill, placed the gold hoop emerald studded earring into Sven's left ear. He didn't flinch a bit and she was so proud of him.

Hesper returned and seemed not to notice. "You miss me?” Hesper sat down on the bench and made as much noise as she possibly could to interrupt them. “So, tell me how was everyone’s evening last night?” she asked. Sven and Soutrik both remained calm. They exchanged a quick glance before looking at her and nodding. “Just fine.” they said in unison. Disappointed Hesper sat back on the bench. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. “Anything exciting happen? No dreams or late night visits?” she asked as she stirred her breakfast oats-n-water.

“Well, if you must know,” Soutirk began “I had a few dreams last night but after that I sort of had a...breakthrough.” she smiled. Sven chuckled lightly and Hesper glared at the two of them. Sven now put his hand on Soutrik's knee under the table and Soutrik felt tingles up and down her spin again. Oh, Light, HE is touching ME!

Trying to take her mind off how Sven's finger was making swirls on her kneecap, Soutrik was about to speak but the twins arrived. Hesper and the twins exchange unpleasantries.

Sven leaned over and whispered in Soutrik's ear. She was shocked at what she heard, but she loved it to.

Soutrik and Sven sat there eyeing each other and hardly noticing Hesper who was starting to get angry. Even the not so observant eye could see that. Soutrik batted her eyelashes at Sven and looked down at his plate. She picked up Sven's empty used plate and her own and excused herself from the table for a moment, leaving Hesper with Sven and swished herself across the room. She deposited the two plates in the wash tubs and went over to the counter that held fruit.

After observing Sven at breakfast since she had known him, she knew that he had a great like for citrus fruits and other exotic fruits as well. She picked up a Blood Orange, a tangello, and a kiwi fruit. She grabbed a knife and swished herself back to the table where Hesper was scowling at Sven.

"What's the matter, Hesper?" Soutrik smiled and looked at her friend whose mouth was twisted like she had just eaten something distasteful.

Soutrik expertly slit the orange and tangello into slices, peeled the kiwi of its hairy little rind. She placed them on a new plate in front of Svenson.

"I hope you enjoy these, Sven. I know they are your favorite." Soutrik blushed slightly and looked up at Sven adoringly.

Hesper watched the two in front of her. Is it just me or is this the longest breakfast ever?! she growled internally. Sven was finished eating and Soutrik took it upon herself to fetch more food for him. Aww more food for his pouchy belly. smiled and giggled. Svenson rose a brow questioning but she ignored him. When Soutrik returned she carried a plate of fruit. A blood orange, a tangelo and some ugly little fruit that was green and hairy. “What is that?” she asked but was ignored by the two, for that she added an extra glare. "What's the matter, Hesper?" Soutrik smiled as she cut and pilled the fruit. “Oh please.” she mumbled. "I hope you enjoy these, Sven. I know they are your favorite." Soutrik blushed and stared up at Sven like he was an idol.

“Oh yes, Svenson I hope you enjoy your fruit.” Hesper said enthusiastically and batted her eyelashes, trying to look adorable. She pushed the plate closer to him and smiled. Soutrik’s grin slowly faded. Now who looks sour? Does she realize how foolish she looks? Hesper mused.

Never before had she lost her senses over some man. But men had done so over her. A country is a promising wedding gift when you marry a princess. It had hurt sometimes but she had never let it bother her. “Well, isn’t this looovvvely.” she smiled with a sigh. Soutrik and Sven were enjoying the plate of fruit thoroughly and ignored everything she did. To gain their focus she leaned across the table and opened her mouth like a baby bird. “Aww.” Sven snorted and Soutrik threw her an orange slice, which missed her mouth and went down the front of her dress.

Hesper stood up and began dancing around to rid herself of the fruit. “Oh that’s cold!” Her ‘dancing’ brought the attention of many breakfasters who stared at the girl with blue hair jumping up and down. Finally, the orange slice made its way to the bench where Hesper had been sitting. Because she hadn’t been paying attention she returned to her seat only to sit on it. “Great.” she mumbled as she felt something squishy under her bottom.

Soutrik covered her mouth to hide her laughter but Svenson just smirked silently and returned to his breakfast. “Hesper, I didn’t realize how comical you could be.” Soutrik grinned. “Yes, I do weddings, Bel Tine, and Feast Day as well.” she said sarcastically. Standing up she pulled the skirt of her dress around as far as she could so she could see it. “Is there something on my rear?” she asked is a genuine smile this time. “What a morning this is turning out to be.” she mumbled as she pulled what was left of the squished fruit off her dress.

What to do now? she wondered. Obviously her attempts at distracting them weren’t working, and all she was doing was making a fool out of herself. “So?” she asked for about the thousandth time that morning. There was one last thing she could do... She leaned on her elbows and began rubbing her temples.

“Oh I feel terrible.” she mumbled loud enough that they would hear her. “You should after your morning.” Sven said flatly. What is that supposed to mean?

“Mmm.” she groaned. This was her best stunt in the palace for attention. “You know, I didn’t sleep last night, I kept hear these noises...” she trailed off. Nothing. So she raised her voice. “I heard people talking all night.”

A look of guilt passed over Soutrik’s face. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to disturb everyone with my dreams.”

Hesper rubbed her eyes, “Oh it wasn’t that. There was something else going on last night.” she eyed them from under her hand. “Do you know what it was?” she offered.

Smooth as silk Sven answered, “I can’t imagine.” Sure.

“Are you sure?” she persisted as she rose from the table and tried to imitate Soutrik’s swishy walk around it. “Nothing?” she pranced and then began rubbing her belly. They watched her walk around and Soutrik looked hurt at Hesper’s imitation. But Sven grumbled and glared at her as she returned to her seat. “I know something was going on.” Hesper repeated.

Soutrik was embarrassed and hurt by Hesper's comments. She was very sorry that she had kept her awake with her nightmares and her conversation with Sven. It was obvious by Hesper's actions that she had heard everything; well almost everything or she wouldn't be asking questions, would she.

The thing that hurt the most was Hesper's imitation of Soutrik's swish walk. She new that Hesper had liked it the other day, but now in caricature, it only helped to highlight Soutrik's own insecurity about herself and how odd she was. Her hair, the bracelets, the walk, her nose chain. Why under the Light did Sven care for her? How could he when she was such a freak?

Soutrik tried to stiffle her feelings but her upper lip trembled with emotion. She looked up at Sven who was glaring at Hesper. He looked down at her and had a gleam to his eye. She wondered if her saw all of her faults brought to light by Hesper's mockery of her.

Tears welled in her eyes and she could not cry in front of them, she rose quickly, "Excuse me, I need to attend to some unfinished business." Soutrik fained a smile at her annoyed friend Hesper, and could not meet Sven's eyes. She darted from the kitchens tears streaming down her cheeks, hating herself, her body, her face, all of it. She was a complete freak and she wanted to be alone.

Watching Soutrik stalk off, Sven grew angrier by the moment. Standing slowly, he folded his napkin and set it down on the table, looking at Hesper.

"I've been around nobles since I was a lad," he said. "And I've seen some nasty ladies in my time, but at least they had political maneuvering as a reason. What's your excuse?" Hesper just looked at him, but he didn't care. "Whatever reason you have for insulting Soutrik is a shallow one, I know that already." With a flat look he straightened. "You may not be the pettiest noble, but you're close." He finished and walked off. It was easy enough to find Soutrik, crying under a stair well of a rarely used corridor.

Sighing, he silently walked up to her, and was beside her before she spotted him. Her tears increased, and she jumped up, running off, but he caught her arm and held her still. She stopped, and her crying ceased a moment. Slowly he moved closer to her, and when he came into view of her face, she tried to run away again, but he pulled her back and quickly hugged her. Encompassing her in his arms, he delighted in the Sea Folk perfume.

Hesper’s POV:

"I've been around nobles since I was a lad," Sven sneered as Soutrik left "And I've seen some nasty ladies in my time, but at least they had political maneuvering as a reason. What's your excuse? Whatever reason you have for insulting Soutrik is a shallow one, I know that already. You may not be the pettiest noble, but you're close." He got up and went after her. In her chest her heart dropped. It was one of those few and rare moments in her life when she felt actual remorse. She had only been joking but had taken it too far.

Getting up she cleared their section of the table and waited a few moments when she sat down at the table. Should I go after them? Oh course you fool. They are your only friends But, I’ve never... You’ve never what? Apologized? Maybe you should learn With a sigh Hesper got up and tried to find her friends. I can’t sit around and argue with myself all day. she thought, then began to speed up.

She found the two in an old hallway near a dusty staircase. Svenson held Soutrik tightly as if to protect her from the world, and for a moment Hesper considered going back to the kitchen. They hadn’t seen her yet, and wouldn’t even know she was there. Blood and ashes! Quietly she got closer to them and whispered, “I’m sorry.” soothingly. Sven rose his head and glared at her, daring Hesper to say anything else. “I’m sorry to both of you. I shouldn’t have done that.” she continued, ignoring Sven. “I didn’t mean to hurt you feelings, actually I was just joking but its no excuse.”

Sven put an arm around his charge and led her down the hallway away from her. “Wait!” Hesper pleaded. She hated having people genuinely angry with her. She followed and then managed to trip on the hem of her dress. On her knees she slid after them, “Look!” she urged hoping maybe they would. “Please stop.” she begged. Soutrik stopped momentarily and gave her a teary eyed looked before continuing on.

Running on her knees Hesper, caught the bottom of Sven’s tunic and allowed herself to be pulled along. “Look! I’m on my knees, please let me explain. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings!”

Finally, Soutrik gave her escort the signal to pause for a moment. “Explain.” Sven said gruffly. Hesper got up and brushed the knees of her dress off a minute trying to think of what she wanted to say. “The reason I’ve been acting so..odd this morning is because I heard the two of you last night.” Sven quirked a brow before she continued on.

“I didn’t know what was going on! What was I supposed to think? First I hear this awful rumor that you two were out after day the other night. Then, Soutrik has all these horrible dreams and your in all of them!” she pointed an accusing finger at Sven who snorted. “You come to her room, late at night. You ask Melaana to leave, and then...” she sighed. “then Soutrik embraced saidir” she added with a whisper.

“Once you left I couldn’t sleep! And Melaana came back and..oh Light her snoring! I snuck out and made sure you were in your room.” He snorted again. “I don’t know why. And then, this morning you two act like a pair of love birds. Honestly, what was that about? You gave her a shift that was torn in half!” she realized she had raised her voice and tried to be quitter. As she went on the heat in her cheeks seemed to rise as well.

“I’m sorry for what I did but I was just trying to get you to tell me what was going on. That’s all. And..and I know I should have been spying on you, but I couldn’t sleep after all that so it wasn’t really my fault. So please! Before I make a bigger fool out of myself than I already have please tell me what was going on last night and today!”

“I’m sorry for what I did but I was just trying to get you to tell me what was going on. That’s all. And..and I know I should have been spying on you, but I couldn’t sleep after all that so it wasn’t really my fault. So please! Before I make a bigger fool out of myself than I already have please tell me what was going on last night and today!”

"Oh, Hesper!" Soutrik pulled out of Sven's arms and felt the loss for a moment. She hugged her friend and pulled her close to her. "I know that you did not mean to hurt me. And I am not angry that you listened through the wall. We were being as quiet as possible but, I can understand. Maybe I am just being overly sensitive right now." Soutrik looked up at Sven who was by her side. "We aren't mad at you, sister." Soutrik still hugged Hesper, little tears in her eyes, and Sven joined them in a group hug mumbling to himself under his breath with an occasional snort.

Hugging each other and wiping away tears, Soutrik was feeling better, and was prepared to answer some of Hesper's questions when Accepted Arwyn came around the corner with her usual sourpuss expression and looked at the group.

"Oh, my, all wet are we?" Accepted Arwyn fained a smirk and wiped invisible tears from her face, making a "boo-hoo pouty face' at Soutrik.

Soutrik did not think it was necessary for this woman to butt into there conversation. She gripped Sven's hand, and strengthened her hold on Hesper with her arm to control herself.

"Why, no, Accepted." Soutrik was very formal and curtseyed as deeply as she could while gripping her friends for support. She could not tell this woman off, as she was an Accepted and was in a station of authority higher than her own, so Soutrik remained calm and straight faced. "I am as dry as a 40 year old Accepted's love life. Thank you for inquiring though."

Arwyn's face grew pinched and she huffed off. After she was out of earshot, Hesper and Sven rolled with laughter.