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Story | Impression | Rider

Morning Star Weyr

Why does Ilara get all the luck? Akelei wondered glumly as she pushed her runner on through the driving snow. Several days ago, both friends had been promoted to the rank of Senior Apprentices in the Healer Hall. Ilara had been assigned to Starlight Hold, on the opposite side of the Weyr from the Hall. Since Thread was falling frequently these days, and it was a long journey, she had been giving a dragon transport.

Akelei, on the other hand, had been left to trek to New Dawn Beasthold. Which was only a day away, if you were a-runner-back, so everyone had assumed that she could make it herself. She appreciated their confidence, but also regretted it. Neither she nor they had bargained for a snowstorm. That is, if they knew or cared.

It was freezing out, and the icy white rain pounded against her face. She tried to urge her gelding to speed up, but the healer in her knew this was an unfair request. She was actually quite good at working with animals, and understood that if Storm was pushed much harder under these conditions, he would collapse. Which certainly would not get her any closer to the Beasthold.

Ahead of her, Akelei could dimly sense a large structure. The hold?  She spun around, trying to reorient herself. Probably not. It was doubtful that they were that close.

Suddenly, a bugle split into her thoughts. Storm reared, almost shaking his rider off in his fright. Akelei managed somehow to stay on, and stared into the mists of snow, trying to determine what had caused his fright.

Ahead - something blue. A dragon, perhaps? That would account for the runner's scare, since no creature willingly approached something likely to eat it. Climbing off Storm's back, Akelei headed into the flurries. A moment later, her efforts were rewards; she stood under an overhang, sheltered from the snow. And looked into the eyes of a blue dragon.

Hello, traveler. Do you wish to enter Morning Star Weyr? A voice in her mind; questioning, and somewhat amused.

Akelei was in no mood for humor. "Nice of you to offer. But I don't think my runner wants to come near you. And anyway, I'm headed for the Beasthold."

A tall man, dragonrider by garb, emerged from around the blue's side. "What about if Aith promises not to eat your runner? Because you really should come in. There's no way you'll make it to New Dawn in this weather. So you might as well come and join the Gather. Unless you'd rather stay outside?"

Akelei bristled, offended that he thought her incapable, but realized that he was right. And a gather... With Thread falling so often, she hadn't attended one in quite a while. But she still did not want to sound like some Holder's child, unable to fend for herself. "If you insist."

The rider grinned. "Good! Now, you'd better come in, or you'll freeze. I'll get someone to take care of your runner.

A candlemark later, Akelei surveyed the Gather grounds. She was warm and dry, and felt comfortable in the healer-green dress she had purchased. The flowing, silky emerald fabric set off her green eyes, and she had combed her mane of auburn hair. She did not resemble the snowy, disheveled figure who had arrived at the Weyr in the slightest.

Her resentment and jealousy towards Ilara had also mysteriously left. She was here, at a Gather - the annual Winter Gather, according to the Headwoman. She had a few marks left, plenty to enjoy her day. Surely her friend had not fared so well.

Her first stop was very obvious - the bubbly-pie stall. Several people had lined up already, enticed by the warm, fruity odors. About a dozen weyrbrats were also in attendance, looking for an opportunity to steal a pastry. When her turn came, Akelei, feeling reckless, spent a whole mark on the sweet confections. Ah well - it wasn't always Gather day.

Her attention was next attracted by a vender who sported several pots of sand. Curious, she made her way over to him. "What are you selling?"

The man grinned, looking her over. "Flit eggs, m'dear. An' I'll be thinkin' a lovely lass like you'd want one?"

Akelei did not have patience with people like this. Stupid men... always thinking she was just another pretty Holder's child. "I'm not your dear or anyone else's," she told him coldly. "How much?"

His eyes traveled from her new dress to the rank knots on her shoulder, assessing how much her could ask for. "For you... only two marks."

Two marks! That would exhaust her supply... and the eggs were not very large, either. But she'd always wanted a firelizard, so like their giant cousins...

"Two marks?" A man's light baritone queried from behind her. "Isn't that awfully high to charge a Candidate?"

The vendor's eyes widened. "Weyrleader! A-a-a Candidate?" He looked worried, and hurriedly dug into a pot. "Here you go miss, compliments, I'm sure." He thrust a medium sized egg at her.

Akelei had not followed this rapid exchange, but took the egg to prevent it from falling. She spun to look at... the Weyrleader?

He was a tall man, with the wherhide of a rider. But his rank knots were cerulean. A blue-riding Weyrleader? He smiled at her perplexity. "Yes, I get that a lot. But Endoth is very capable, I assure you."

Well, she could accept that. Actually, she'd never heard a reason why blueriders weren't Weyrleaders. But what he'd said was finally sinking in. "Weyrleader..." She paused, realizing that she did not know his name.

"J'gon. What is it, Akelei?"

She decided not to pursue how he knew her name. "Why'd you say I was a Candidate?"

J'gon grinned impishly. "Pendor is not supposed to sell flit eggs at that price. And I've been wanting to take him down a step or two for a long time. Besides - it's true."

"What?" Akelei nearly exploded.

"Yes, S'ron - he let you in - said his Aith wanted you from the first. That's why they were so insistent."

"Would I even have a chance of Impressing?" Akelei started, but her attention was abruptly distracted as the egg which she still held gave a violent jerk. "Ahh!" She quickly shifted her grip in time to save the egg from smashing on the stones below. What was wrong with it? She looked frantically at J'gon, who wore a satisfied half-smile. He pointed down at the flit egg, and she followed his gaze.

Onto a little, green hatchling, who creeled imperiously at Akelei. The healer girl knew, as if instinctively, what to do, and stuffed her flit's gaping maw full of the remains of her pies. "Sorry. I bet you'd rather have meat. But this's all I have." However, the green did not protest, and soon settled, half asleep, into Akelei's arms.

J'gon spoke for the first time, his quiet voice somehow audible over the buzz of the Gather. "Very apt. What will you call her?"

"Apt?" Akelei glanced down at her pet, and laughed, noticing the wingsails that faded almost white. "Oh yes, I see. Well then... you're Khithika." She brushed the last clinging shell shards from the soft hide, and raised the hatchling to her shoulder.

"Khithika. Why?" J'gon queried, but when she shrugged, continued, "I think you're right. It does suit." His eyes glazed for a moment, and he seemed to hold a silent conversation. "Sorry. Endoth says that Aith says we were talking about you standing for the clutch. And to answer your question - he told me very emphatically that he thinks you should stand. It's a special clutch, you know. A white's clutch, with five eggs." His voice turned convincingly smooth. "But we only have two Candidates, so far. I know a healer like you - especially now you've had experience with dragonkind - wouldn't let a hatchling go between?"

Akelei glanced down at Khithika, who stretched on her shoulder, tail curled trustingly around her owner's neck. "You've convinced me, Weyrleader. Anyway, who said I didn't want to Impress?" She caught his exasperated look, and ran laughing towards the Hatching Sands.

As Akelei looked down at the Sands, Khithika curled around her arm, she realized with sorrow that what J'gon had told her was only too true. There was a shortage of Candidates: for the five eggs on the Sands, there were only four Candidates. A holder girl, Xijiana; an injured child, Shenainoa; and the Weaver boy, Tenshion.

Later that night, as S'ron led the Candidates down onto the Sands, it seemed that the problem had not been remedied. Only four were there to stand, grouped longingly around the eggs. But suddenly, as an egg shattered, revealing a silver hatchling...

Hey, get down onto the Sands! I should have Searched you sooner, you're perfect! Oh shards! Aith exclaimed, loud enough for everyone to hear. Akelei turned sharply to see a young man, skin and hair both snow-pale. Surprised yet excited, he ran down onto the sands, quickly donning the white robe S'ron tossed him.

Meanwhile, the silver hatchling wandered over to Shenainoa, who had stumbled while trying to keep up with the others. Shenainoa, are you all right? You don't need anymore problems. But I just got rid of one, you don't have to worry about going back to that ship, the silver sighed as she nuzzled the girl.

"I'm fine, Unimeth," Shenainoa sighed. "And hearing that I won't have to go back to that ship makes me feel ten times better."

A pretty dragon, Akelei thought, as girl and dragon left the Sands. But Shenainoa clearly needed her lifemate's assistance. They would do well together. And there would be other hatchlings. Soon.

Another egg cracked and a platinum dragon fell onto the sands. The large male glanced about at all the candidates and noticed Tenshion standing near the back. He pushed his way through the crowd.

"I'm Gabbyth," The dragon announced, out loud. "You don't have to worry with that pad anymore. I'm here to speak your mind!"

Tenshion smiled as he hugged the platinum, and watching, Akelei grinned. This dragon was perfect for his rider.

"He says he's as happy as someone could be!" Gabbyth exclaimed.

But, as two more eggs cracked, her attention wandered from the platinum. Instead, she watched as a violet dragon with light blue wingsails, and a cream spilled onto the sands. A lovely cream... who dashed towards Akelei, and wrapped her tail possessively around her leg. Akelei, Akelei, you came for me!

The healer girl grinned, as she attempted to untangle her bond. "Of course I did, Tuiath. I would never miss you. C'mon, you must be hungry." With the cream hatchling at her side, Akelei walked off the Sands. Never again to be jealous, or alone. As they headed towards Starlight's kitchens, Akelei saw Aith go between over their heads.

He has a flight to go to, a green to catch, Tuiath commented. Then, to the diminishing blue, Luck, Aith. Fly well.

A candlemark later, the new pairs and old Morning Star riders assembled in Starlight's main hall. Lord Haren and Lady Laterira ushered their younger children into the hall while their sons followed with their wives and children. Although everyone chattered excitedly about the beautiful and unique hatchlings, all fell silent as Karastan began to strum the melody of a beautiful, haunting song. He motioned to two of the riders, Airya and Fiatara, and they began to sing the lovely, haunting melody.

I alight on my dragon, and we fly, high-soaring,
O'er Weyr, Hold, and Hall; the land and the sea.
I know that wherever, whenever I go,
He will always be there, my blue dragon for me.

At my blue hatchling's birth, I too was reborn
In his youth, I did learn with him too.
But today, at his death, I'm alone, all alone,
And the Turns that we shared were too few.

We had often flown Fall, since we both were quite young;
Little did I know today he'd die.
But as we appeared flaming, the Thread scored him,
And we went between there in the sky.

I am pain; I am darkness; My soul is now gone.
I am death, my life's void for all time.
For my heart has deserted me; my hope is gone,
Yet I cannot go between and die,

Oh, I cannot, I cannot, go between and die.

As Akelei's neighbors tried to clear their minds of the song's effect, Jacosath bugled in alarm. Something bad has happened to Aith! S'ron's fine, but Aith...

Moments later, a dragon and rider winked out of between, S'ron clinging numbly to the riding straps. They were immediately surrounded by concerned weyrfolk, and Zearia scrambled to help the shocked searchrider. "S'ron, what happened to Aith?"

"Aith betweened after losing the green's flight. He says he isn't returning to the Weyr until he finds someone who truly cares for him and not just another green in heat," S'ron explained.

"I'll send Endoth out to look for him," J'gon started, "and we'll get Tiryth on it as well."

"No, J'gon. We should send females only. Aith would probably lash out if Endoth came to find him, and I won't have my dragon injuring yours in any way," the bluerider sighed.

"We understand, S'ron," Zearia sighed, wrapping her arms around the distressed Searchrider. "We'll only send females. Also, we'll put in a call to the other Weyrs. I'm sure they would send at least of willing female to search."

Moments later, dozens of firelizards winked between, to carry S'ron's plea to all the Weyrs of Pern. Distraught, Akelei hugged Tuiath, who nuzzled her comfortingly. Rider mine, I would never leave you.

I know, Tui. But I know how I would feel if I ever lost you... and I've only had you for a day. Think of how S'ron feels...

I do, Akelei, I do. But Aith will come back, I can tell. Juyath - she pointed her tailtip at A'tyr's light blue dragon - told me that Aith will return. I believe.

Believe... the word sounded over again in Akelei's mind, believe, like a mantra. Believe...

Tuiath, gold-mixed-white, cream Tuiath grew quickly. She easily outdistanced several of her clutchmates... but then, light Juyath would always be smaller than any white. Actually, none of the hatchlings seemed to fit the normal size ratios. Schnee's white, for instance, was as big as any bronze.

The Weyrlingmaster, puzzled, drew Akelei aside. "You know your Tuiath is unique... She's not gold-sized, or I'd have one of our goldriders train you. I think she's closest to a brown, but if you don't want her using firestone... However, I do have an idea. Valecaea and Zalaeith, who hatched at Morning Star, came for the Hatching. Zalaeith is about Tuiath's size, so I think she could help you."

And so Valecaea, rider of Silver-Blue Zalaeith, took on Akelei and Tuiath's training...

Riding with her own dragon was pure exaltation, as Akelei soon discovered. The cream dragon had extreme amounts of stamina, but the agility that her larger golden cousins lacked. She had a special affinity and grace in the air, never experiencing the awkward collisions that many weyrlings had.

Today, as Tuiath swooped and soared, Akelei felt a special affinity with her dragon. Although they were not exactly alike - Tui got along with everybody, even if they found her optimism aggravating, while Akelei disliked those who thought of her as just another pretty face - they somehow understood each other perfectly. And in the air, the sense of oneness deepened.

Zalaeith wants us to come down, Tuiath remarked, performing an elaborate loop in mid air. I think we'd better. She began to glide lower, ivory wings cutting cleaning through the air.

Although she didn't like it, Akelei concurred. Valecaea was not the most patient of people. And while she'd never seen even-tempered Zalaeith angry, she didn't think she wanted to for the first time.

But today, Val seemed in a pleasant mood. "Good flying," she commented, as Akelei dismounted. "I think Abri could use your talent, and Tuiath's. If she's as good at betweening, that is."

Between... "Will you let us try today?" Akelei asked the older woman excitedly.

Valecaea smiled. "Why else would I ask? Take your coordinates from Zalaeith. Make sure you have a clear picture, then follow us. Okay?"

Mounting quickly, Akelei nodded. "We're ready!"

She held the picture of an island Weyr, surrounded by warm Southern seas, in her mind as Tuiatth took off, into the bitter nothing.

It was freezing, and Akelei could barely feel Tuiath under her. Several moments passed, and when thy did not emerge, she grew worried. Tui? What's wrong?

The cream's reply was slow. I was... talking. To Aith. We will be back. Then, she came out over Abri Weyr, a puzzled Akelei on her back.

They were immediately assaulted by Zalaeith's angry thoughts, as the silver-blue dragon swooped to meet them. Where were you? What were you doing? You could have died! Never do that again!!!

Tuiath hung her head, no longer her usually cocky self. But it was Akelei her spoke out, defending her dragon and herself against the older pair's anger. "Tuiath heard a dragon - Aith - while we were between. She stayed to talk to him. And," surprising even herself, she added, "Val, we are going back. You're older than us, and I'm sure you're right. But I don't care what you say. Aith needs someone to bring him back. If there's the slightest chance we can help, I want to take it."

I too,Tuiath rumbled, turning to look affectionately at her rider. Then both turned to stare defiantly at Valecaea.

The older rider was the first to look down. "You're the one in the right, Akelei. I don't like it, and I couldn't do what I realize now you have to. We'll see you safely back to Morning Star." Surprisingly, she smiled. "And please, don't get lost between."

"So Tuiath found Aith when you practiced betweening?" Zearia asked somewhat skeptically. When Akelei nodded assent, she shook her head. "I'm sorry. Maybe I don't understand because I've never been a rider. But are you really sure you want to try this, Akelei? It could be dangerous. Tuiath's still young, and so are you."

Akelei shrugged. "Don't think I haven't heard all this before. Valecaea told me. But I owe at least this much to S'ron. Without him, Tuiath and I would not have found each other. Isn't it right that I, and Tuiath who has heard his Aith, should go to him?

"And I know, too, how I would feel if Tuiath left me. And because of this, we must go, Weyrwoman."

"Thank you, Akelei." It was S'ron, who stood in the doorway, his face lined with worry and sadness, the tears he had not shed. Could not, because his dragon, his lifemate still lived. He did not speak loudly, but there was something in his voice that made everyone fall silent as he murmured the words Tuiath had told Aith, that fateful day. "Luck, Akelei, Tuiath."

Trying to blink away the tears that had sprung unbidden to her eyes, Akelei nodded. "Thank you, S'ron." She unwrapped Khithika's tail from around her wrist, and handed the protesting green to Zearia. "You'd better keep Khi for now. I don't think she could follow, and she might be able to tell you how we're doing." Then, unwilling to look back, Akelei strode quickly from the room.

Tuiath waited outside, and Akelei ran to her dragon, and mounted quickly. Let's go, Tui, before I lose my nerve.

You would not. You are brave, my rider, the cream dragon replied, but did take off, winging swiftly over the Weyr.

Akelei smiled slightly, but her reply was lost in the void of between.

At first, nothing. Then Tuiath's mental voice, reaching out, searching. Aith! We have come!

Silence, at first. Then a muttered reply, that, strangely, Akelei also heard. Go away. Leave me alone.

But Tuiath was not to be put off. No. Not unless you come out, Aith.

The blue's voice seemed clearer, closer. But in the blinding black, it was hard to tell. I will not. That's what they all said. At least a dozen. A few blues and browns, but I wouldn't speak to them. Then greens. Greens! Like Caryth... But I gave up speaking to them, too, because they didn't care. Just greens. Looking for me, but they didn't really care. They don't matter. You don't matter. Nothing matters. Go away.

Somehow, Tuiath still seemed calm, patient, loving. I'm no green, Aith. Can't you tell?

Yes... You don't sound green. His thoughts took on a more agonized - if that was possible - pitch. You must be gold! Stupid, condescending gold. You're too big! I bet you have a stupid, proper, prissy gold-rider, too. And since you're so nice, because it's the right thing to do... you come Searching. Go away, go away, I hate you! Shard you, stupid gold... gold... gold...His voice faded.

Akelei had remained silent during this exchange. But no one, no one, not even Aith could speak in such a way, tones loadd with sarcasm, to her Tuiath. So she spoke out now, angrily, violently. Tuiath is NOT a gold! She's CREAM, my lovely, sweet cream. My Tuiath! And you know what, YOU insisted on Searching me for her clutch. YOU'RE the reason we're together! And if you hate us so much... why did you choose me! WHY? I don't even know why I'm here, except that we wanted to help S'ron. And YOU! Do you hear me, Aith? Your rider, your S'ron, and he's MISERABLE because of you! And we wanted to look, because we owe so much to him... and to you. He deserves to be happy! But not you. You DON'T, because you're cruel enough to stay here, even though you're ruining people's lives. I wouldn't even have stayed this long, not to be insulted, except my Tui is NICE enough to want to. And she cares, Aith, and she wants you to come back!

Back at Morning Star, Zearia, J'gon, and S'ron held a tireless vigil. Akelei and Tuiath still had not returned, with or without Aith.

"Do you think they could have gone on to a different place?" J'gon asked, finally breaking the silence that hung, almost tangible, like a heavy oppressive cloth over them.

Zearia shook her head sadly. "I don't think so. Every Weyr, Hold, and Hall on Pern's been told to look for them. And if they'd been found, Khithika would know." She gestured down at the little green, who lay listlessly on the hearth. Her normally bringht eyes were first-lidded, but sleepless, and she shivered, despite the roaring fire.

"They've been gone over a candlemark," S'ron whispered, speaking half to himself. "If they're still between..." He trailed off, unwilling to speak of what might happen.

But Zearia nodded resolutely. "Better that we do. If they don't come back soon, they could die between."

J'gon bit his lip. "Aside from the ancient Harpers' tales of Lessa, no one's ever been gone this long."

At that moment, little Khithika roused with a high, agonized shriek of pain. Seconds later, she launched herself between.

The Weyrleaders exchanged worried glances. Were Akelei and Tuiath dead?

S'ron?Aith's question seemed more hopeful. As if Akelei's rant had touched on something that did matter to him...

Although invisible in between, Tuiath nodded assent. Yes, S'ron. Your rider, Aith. He loves you, and he'll die if you do not come back soon.

My rider... he is ill? The blue definitely had dropped his angry facade. He was worried now.

Heartsick, Akelei told him. And we cared. For both of you. But I think it's too late now. We've been between too long. I think we'll have to stay here. Oblivion forever. Indeed, as she spoke, her body began to numb. A strange apathy fell over her.

But if you come out, Aith, we could heal him. Heal you. I promise, you would never have to chase a green again. I would stay with you forever, Aith. Forever and a day, until all was gone. Please, Aith, come back to the light. Tuiath's tones were tinged with desparation. She could feel Akelei, on her back, weakening.

Perhaps...But Akelei heard no more. Her mind was fast numbing. But what did it matter. What did anything matter?

With a scream of terror for her rider, Tuiath sprung out of the void, back to the light of life. On her back, the last thing Akelei felt was her lifemate's anguished call. Aith! Come back! The last thing she felt was an icy wing wrapped around her body. If she had been able to see, she would have made out a faint tint of blue, barely visible against the darkness.

She awoke to a warm feeling on her face, gentle and comfortable. Wasn't between cold? a half-awake part of her mind wondered. Or was there something beyond between?

Akelei! Rider mine, we thought you'd never wake! Tuiath's sunny voice filled her mind. Tuiath?

"We?" Akelei asked weakly. Who?

I too, Akelei. I came with you, when Tuiath jumped out to save you. I think you were unconscious. You did not notice. The cool, calming voice was somehow familiar. Was it... could it be... Aith?

She opened her eyes, then quickly covered them with an arm against the sunlight. It had been so long since she'd seen light... But a moment later, adjusted, she uncovered her face again, and looked up at the blue and cream heads bending over her.

The blue chuckled. Yes. You and Tui - he glanced lovingly at the cream dragoness -made me want to live again. The others... green riders... would plead with me. Sickeningly sweet. But when you got angry, I learned how I was acting. I realized that you wouldn't have been mad, wouln't even have stayed to try unless you really cared. So you and Tuiath gave me hope.

Tuiath took the story up at this point. At first we didn't know if you would live. Aith helped me get you off - you were unconscious, as he said. We laid you on the sand, where it was warm. A moment later, Khithika came out of between. We took that as a good sign. She's stayed with you ever since. She pointed a wingtip down at the little green who lay curled up on Akelei's chest.

Akelei smiled. I don't think a queen could have been more loyal.

Maybe this was the wrong thing to say, as her mind was immediately filled with the dragons' voices. You don't need a queen. You have a queen! Tuiath insisted, but Aith shook his head. No, Tui. You're better than any gold. A gold would be too big for me to fly.

Akelei grinned, glad that Aith was clearly happy and staying on Pern. Whatever. Suddenly a thought crossed her mind, and she turned to look suspiciously at the two dragons. Hey, how long have we been here? Where is here?

The blue and cream exchanged glances. Well... we don't know. Somewhere in the Southern Continent, we think. I didn't even have coordinates, I just jumped to get you out of between. And I followed. I think we've been here... about three or four sevendays, Aith explained.

Akelei gasped. That long? I don't suppose you thought to tell anyone we're safe?

I didn't want to leave you, rider mine. And I wanted to stay with Tuiath. Both dragons looked sheepish.

Akelei rolled her eyes. I see. Well, you could have sent Khithika, but I guess we can all go, now.

They'll all be so worried... Aith sounded distressed. And S'ron, my S'ron... what will he think?

We could time it, Tuiath suggested. I think we've all broken enough rules, anyway. What would it matter?

Yes... Akelei considered. That might be a good plan. But don't you think S'ron, and Zearia, and everyone deserve to know what happened?

I suppose... three days after the flight, them. Tui, give me the coordinates.

Not a bad plan... As she mounted Tuiath, Akelei noticed that she was quite a bit higher up. Tui, you've grown! She rubbed her eyes, and looked back at the cream. And... you're glowing! Tuiath! Get us back, now!

They returned to Morning Star to the bugle of the watchdragon. Who are you?

Had Tuiath changed that much? Akelei wondered. Tuiath and Aith of Morning Star.

Aith! Tuiath!The green's joyous bugle rent the air. They've returned!

Akelei sighed. Yes, quite obviously, I should think. But please let us land, I've a very proddy dragon here.

As soon as Tuiath touched down in the Weyrbowl, Akelei sprung down from her dragon's back, calling aloud, "Zearia! I need to speak to the Weyrwoman!"

She had not long to wait. A moment later, all of Morning Star was outdoors. She caught a glimpse of the Weyrleaders, before S'ron lifted her off her feet and spun her around. "Akelei! You found him!"

Akelei smiled. She'd never seen S'ron so excited, or happy. "Yes, Tuiath wouldn't let us go until he came. It's a pretty long story..." She was cut off by Tuiath, who bugled sharply, challengingly, her ivory hide almost giving off light. "I'd better tell you later."

Moments later, Aith's worried reply split the air. S'ron, Akelei, what shall I do?

Akelei grinned. "Don't worry, Aith. I don't think Tui would even think of letting anyone else touch her."

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