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

Chapter Seven: Dealings With New Münshir

here have you been, my love? The girls and I expected you home for the Alaanc, and you did not come.”
Samlii's eyes fell to the rolled parchment in his hands. “What is that?”
Karaa smiled, but knit his brow. “Forgive me, my love. I finished tending the Tree Kin earlier, but I stayed a time at Calis’ teiami; Faeralie has been feeling a little under the weather as of late. No, it’s nothing serious, do not worry. Just sensitivities to the season’s air, I believe. As for what this is, I must admit, I am not certain. A page from New Münshir delivered it.”
“New Münshir?”
“Aye. We’ve not had dealings with them since King Aurelius passed, and even then, it was only a formality. This is a summons, from the Future King and Represent of New Münshir. They say it is on urgent business. Here, read it,” he said, offering the scroll to her.
Samlii gingerly took the paper and unrolled it. Her eyes scanned the foreign characters finely etched upon the page, and she wrinkled her brow. She read it once again before looking up at Karaa. “Do you think there is trouble?”
“...No,” he said slowly. “No, I do not believe so. If there were trouble, it would be worded differently I think. But there is something strange about it. You see, those characters express urgency, and yet, the rest of the summons seems to imply cordiality, even comradeship. I am not certain what to think.”
“Neyhira told me that young Prince Gideon is soon to take a journey across the sea. Perhaps he means to see her and Thairyn before he leaves,” Samlii suggested. “Such an occasion would seem to answer both tones of the message.”
“Perhaps,” Karaa said, looking up from the scroll to her. “But then, why not address them personally?”
“Is it not custom in New Münshir to address those of rank by their titles only in formal invitations?” Samlii asked. “This is addressed to Dé Pastores dé Abora, The Shepherds of the Tree Kin. Now, that might be any of us—you, me, a member of the Council, the Matron—but our daughters’ friendship with the Münshir Prince and the expressed familiarity leads me to infer that it is meant for them.”
“Aye, I suppose that explains it,” Karaa said. “Well, I shall bring them there tomorrow morning then, after learning time, of course.” He prinnaged Samlii’s forehead softly, then he yawned.
“Come to bed, my love,” Samlii said. “You need to rest.” She took his hand held it to her heart, rubbing it affectionately.
Karaa smiled a little and nodded.
“Valii’s sleeping with us again tonight,” Samlii whispered as they entered their room and approached the bedding to see their youngest curled up in the centre, “I’m afraid she still fears Vüls shall invade in the night and take her away.”
Karaa smiled and brushed Valii’s shoulder. Without any hesitation, the four-year-old’s eyes popped open and she rolled over to look at him, her expression little better than terrified, pleading that he protect her. “You know that I would never allow that to happen, don’t you Valii?” he asked.
“Aye, Papa.” Valii nodded, but still looked frightened.
Karaa scooped her tiny form up into his arms and hugged her tight, wrapping his wings around her. “Oh, my precious little child,” he said softly. “Did Prince Gideon tell you what Vüls look like?”
Valii flinched and ducked her head under his wing. “He said they’re big, really, really big,” her muffled voice squeaked, “Bigger than grown men, even my own self, and they eat people! They wanna eat my own self too, Papa! They wanna eat Gideon and all his own friends!”
Karaa looked at Samlii; the motherly protectiveness shone through her eyes as what might have been interpreted as an expression of anger by the child, had she been looking. He smiled a little at her and bowed his head under his wings to brush the top of Valii’s head with his lips. “You know something, Valii?” he whispered, “Your Papa is bigger than any Vül.”
Valii looked up at him, with big, round, trusting eyes. “Really?” she asked hopefully.
Karaa nodded and smiled reassuringly. “And they can’t get to you. Do you know why? You’re here, with your Mama and Papa, in the Forest, with mountains protecting us on one side and Münshir protecting us on the other. Vüls live far, far away, across the ocean.” He gave her a little prinnaging on the end of her nose. “Do you want to know something else?”
Valii nodded.
“Even if Vüls did come,  your Mama and I would get them before they ever got near to you. We love you. I am your Papa, and no matter what, I’ll always protect you. Always.”
Valii smiled a little. She reached up, wrapped her arms around his neck, and tucked her muzzle under his chin. “I know. I love you too, Papa,” she whispered.
That gesture of such unconditional trust made Karaa feel as though his heart might burst. He smiled and looked at Samlii, whose eyes now reflected warmth, pride, and love.
She smiled too and nuzzled him under the neck, prinnaging him softly as she did so. “So do I, Papa,” she whispered to him. “So do I.”

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