Blankness he had expected; madness he had expected; but sadness–tearful sadness––that he had not expected, nor stark clearness. And he had not expected to remain sane.
They said that if a man looked at Lÿhhraa, his mind would immediately wither and blow away on the wind; that if a Dreamer looked in Lÿhhraa's eyes, he would never wake up, but live forever with her, his body doomed to mindlessly wander the earth until age mercifully destroyed it; that even her own Dreamers could not endure her charms and would kill themselves in both Synnq and Deëchnn, preferring the fate of a Soul to the hell of a mad Dream—they said even Wvnnëœë, the broad, wise earth, would not go near Lÿhhraa and chance catching the Madness she bore—they never spoke her name but with fear; and yet as Reuben looked at her now he felt no fear. No madness. His breathing was calm and regular. In fact, he hadn't felt so calm since the day of his Rite of Entry into Deëchnn. His eyes were on hers; hers were filled with tears; and everything around them was as quiet as a snowbound night in Synnq and as green as the far-off forests of Soönuë. After a while, the goddess bit her lip and looked around at the garden; Reuben noticed her fingers were still working the thick soft greenness in front of him.
"Peaceful, isn't it?" she said; her voice no more broke the silence than a gentle breeze could have. Reuben nodded silently, for it was. In fact, a more dazzlingly peaceful place he had never seen. She glanced at him. "You're one of Paag's favorites, you know." A sigh. "He always did take the good ones . . . "
A flicker of bitterness crossed her face, but the it was gone and she was on her feet, shaking out her robes, turning, saying, "Come," silently walking away without waiting for a response; and he was scrambling to follow her through the trail of dew-damp grass her robes left behind her. The smell of them was heady, the way the pavement of a road in Paag's valley had smelled after a rain a few months back–Paag had said to Reuben, "You know, everyone can use a little madness at times; it seems to be a part of living, even for gods," and at the time Reuben had not understood what he meant; now, with Lÿhhraa's perfume clinging to the grass beneath him, he did–and he drank in the smell; supposedly Lÿhhraa's fragrance was enough to drive a man mad, but Reuben felt nothing if not clearer than he remembered ordinarily feeling––oh, but there was something he was forgetting and he knew it and he must remember it but he could not and oh what was it!
Lÿhhraa stopped moving.
"Servant of Paag, what are you trying to remember?" she said cooly–cooly, the way that a gentle rain is cool–and Reuben said truthfully, "I do not know."
"Is it of Deëchnn or of Synnq?"
"I do not know."
"Is it important?"
"I . . . think so."
" . . . I don't remember."
He watched her back as she turned his words over; thin shoulders moved nervously under the cloudy, downey gray, and thin hips swayed slightly from side to side–there was a strange dull clank, very soft, but inexplicably from somewhere near the lowest hem of her robe––suddenly the goddess flung her face to the sky and called, "Paag of the sun, hear Lÿhhraa! Your Dreaming servant is safe in my care, but he goes to my brother Mmsnnyo to retrieve Something Lost," and whirled around, flew past Reuben, pulling him into her arms; and up into the clouds again they flew, this time faster, faster, faster, leaving tunnels behind them.
Slowly a little spit of red followed.
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