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

Chapter Five: The Ties that Bind


T
he next morning, the Gem Matron proposed a plan that would inadvertently put the thought of Valii’s missed birthday out of the twins’ minds.
“We’re going to see your mother today,” she said.
Valii gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. “Really?”
Grandmama nodded. “Just as soon as you have finished your morning meal, we will go over.”
Ciraanc was finished in a hurry. After getting dressed, Grandmama fixed up Valii, Neyhira, and Kaqurei’s hair in ribbons. Thairyn’s was a bit short, but she asked the Gem Matron to brush it for her anyway. Then, fluttery with excitement, they left the teiami and crossed The Way to the old Cira-Anu.
“Now, girls, remember your Mama isn’t well yet; you need to use soft voices, and she cannot hold you yet,” Grandmama said.
“Yes Grandmama!”
Thairyn and Neyhira got up to the teiami first. It was wonderful, and yet melancholy to breathe in the oh-so-familiar scents of their mother’s tapestry. They hurried inside just as soon as Kaqurei and Valii made it up. The main room was quiet and still, everything just the way they had left it two days before. But of course, familiar décor was the last thing on their minds as they hurried up the passage way to their mother’s bedroom.
Thairyn pulled back the tapestry and eagerly peered into her parents’ room. There was Papa, sitting cross legged on the floor near Mama’s bedside, holding her hand. He looked up and saw Thairyn; he seemed tired, but he smiled and beckoned her and the others to come in.
Shyly, the four sisters walked into the room. Thairyn looked at her mother’s bed with large, anxious eyes. Mama looked like she was asleep. She looked to her father, questioning, and again she found that reassuring smile upon his face.
“Mama?” Valii asked quietly.
Then their mother’s beautiful form stirred; she turned her head and looked at them and smiled. “Hello, my babies,” she whispered.
Hesitation vanished. The four girls came to their mother’s bedside near their father. A warm feeling of precious love and longing enveloped them as they gazed upon her. Her hair was washed and her face was clean, but her scales were faded and her eyelids were dark. She smiled again. “Come to me, my little ones. How are you?” She reached out to them and took their little hands in hers, giving each a squeeze.
“We’ve been fine,” Neyhira said.
“Aye?” Mama asked.
“Uh-huh,” Valii said. “We went to a mashic place, and Faeralie told me stories, and she gave me my own—er my own surprise, and I’ll show you when you’re all better.”
Mama closed her eyes and smiled. “I can’t wait,” she whispered. She opened her eyes again. “I can’t wait to hold and hug and prinnage you. I’ve missed you all so much.”
Neyhira longed to hug her and climb into her lap so badly it made her ache. “We’ve missed you too!”
Mama’s eyes turned to Thairyn, who stood quietly behind the others. “What is the matter, Alalu?
Thairyn felt a terrible knot in her throat. When Mama spoke, her eyes filled up with tears. “I’m sorry, Mama,” she whimpered. “It was all my fault—I... I picked the unripe gemfruit, even after you told me not to!” she burst out, “I just wanted to get you one of the biggest and the best ones, but I messed it all up, and now you’re sick and it’s all my fault!” She burst into sobs.
Papa reached out to her and took her into his arms. He wrapped his wings around her and prinnaged her forehead. “It’s not your fault, Thairyn.”
“Shh, dear one. Papa’s right, It’s not your fault that I’m sick. These things just happen, my love. You didn’t cause that. You shouldn’t have touched the unripe gemfruit—but my being sick is not your fault. You understand?”
Thairyn nodded and sniffled.
“We didn’t get hurt,” Neyhira said, looking at Thairyn. “We got scared real bad, but we didn’t get hurt.”
“Thank the stars for that,” Mama breathed. “Nobody would tell me what had happened until your Papa got home. I was worried about you.”
“But being worried didn’t make you sick?” Valii asked.
“No, being worried didn’t make me sick.”
“Then why did you scream?”
Mama looked at Papa, who looked at Valii. They knew the answer to her question, Valii could see it, but they did not look like they wanted to tell her. Then Mama looked at her too. “Something bad happened,” she said.
Grandmama moved. Thairyn and Neyhira looked at her. Her face was tense; she gave Mama a questioning look—a “should I take them away now?” sort of look, and it made Thairyn’s chest feel tight. She looked at Mama desperately, and was relieved to see that she was shaking her head.

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