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SJORIA: Book One|"The Silence Before The Song"|Scroll Down to Begin...

Chapter One: Small & Precious Things


M
orning. It was like the memory of a childhood melody, and all its forgotten promises.
Does age truly make one wise? Does time truly heal all wounds? Such questions were hard to answer that day, when the wounds were still fresh and the wounded were still young.
A soft pink glow in the east heralded the coming of dawn, beyond the Telvican Mountains. The Gem Matron could see it clearly from where she stood. There was a woven platform built up in the canopies of the Forest, to which her husband, the Gem Elder, would retreat to observe the skies and the phases of the moons. It was where he sought the wisdom of the stars. As she stood there, the Matron’s gaze was fixed upon the horizon, not seeking so much as waiting.
Not once in the gloomy hours of the early morning before the dawn had her gaze shifted from the east. Yet, as the pale light at last came to the skies and began to illuminate the darkness, her eyes wandered towards the north, where she could make out the looming silhouette of the Jagged Circle of the Moon Clan. The mountains were still black with the shadows of twilight. But it would not last. The Life Star, the Kiir, would soon strip it of its blackness. A testimony, thought the Matron, that light can reach any place—and come from any place, too, even when you least expect it.
Truly, the Moon Clan had produced one of the most shining spirits the Gem Clan had ever known, since the great Princess Telae’ah herself. That spirit rarely ever smiled these days. The very lands from which she had come had claimed and held still captive her son. All efforts to retrieve him had proven fruitless; the Moon Clan met any sort of attempt at diplomacy with violence, and other means would necessitate bloodshed and cost the lives of many. Even if the bereaved parents might have succumbed to that in their desperation, the ancient laws governing the Gem Clan certainly would not. War was not something that their people could risk. Some other understanding had to be reached.
And it had been. The Gem Matron never had learned what the terms were. No messenger had been sent by way of the Jag when at last a conclusion was made. Whatever the terms were, it could have been little better than a compromise. The wee one so dear to the hearts of his parents—the firstborn whose precious face the Gem Matron would not see—he would not be returned, regardless of how their hearts yearned for him. A familiar ache, ever constant since that dark night four years ago when everything had gone so very wrong, swelled again with her breast as she considered it.
Though a new day was dawning, that dark past would never ultimately be left behind. They would never forget him. Perhaps, some day, they could be reunited. Unless fates proved kinder, it would not likely be during his childhood years, but perhaps when he became a man and those who now prevented him had passed on... Perhaps then they could reach him, if his heart could still then be reached. This was the hope that carried the Gem Matron. She did not know what it was that held up young Samlii, whose scant years by comparison could not have taught her yet the promise of time. And so, she waited... for morning—for the promise it would bring…

****

Samlii was awake too. Like her mother-in-law, she was waiting, but with a different sort of urgency. Her little family lay asleep at her side, while she cradled an egg in her lap. She examined its shimmery light blue surface carefully. The protective shell started to die about a week ago, getting thinner and more malleable with each passing day. It could hatch at any time. Quietly, she traced to the black swirls patterning its surface. It was not a Dark Egg, for the Birthstones on either end of it were bright, pulsing with life... yet those black markings so common to eggs of her kind still worried her. They were only ever found on Dark Eggs...
She placed the egg back into the soft bedding and glanced up at the window. She could see pale blue streams of light leaking in through the silken curtains... the Kiir would be rising soon. Her gaze wandered to her side where her husband lay, with little Kaqurei curled in his arms. The little girl had always had a special fondness for him, ever since that day four years ago that Tyrrius had smuggled her into his care ahead of the rest of her family, just in case the unthinkable happened...
Samlii’s face tensed. She changed her thoughts. She looked at the egg again. As she gazed upon it, smelled it, touched it, the power of a mother’s love filled her being and made her giddy right to her fingertips. Yet, for some part of her, it was hard to bond. That was the part of her that was afraid to be hurt again. No matter how much she hated it or willed it to leave her, there was always a sense of distance between her and this egg.
It was expected to hatch any day now. So far, all was well. The Gem Elder assured her that since the Birthstones of this egg were alive that there would be no fear of it needing the Moon Ceremonies... She was sceptical, but she prayed that he was right.
Out of the corner of her eye, the was a flicker of movement. It was so subtle it may very well have been a wind sprite or a trick of the light. Her gaze was at once intense and penetrating again. She focused her earfins on the egg. But it was still. She caressed its sides with her hands and whispered, “Alalisu? What do you need? I am here.”

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