I woke up the next day feeling beyond exhausted from all of the celebrations. I stayed out of it, mostly, but Tamwyn was in the thick of it and I wanted to be with him, so I stood in mass crowds feeling like he was the only one their. It was as if these people had sapped all of my energy from my body, leaving me weak and lifeless. And of course, I do not sleep, so I was completely drained.
I stretched and yawned, then walked over to Flame’s cot and shook him awake. He sat up and looked at me expectantly, obviously waiting for me to tell him what we were going to do that day.
“We have two days before we confront the Earth tribe, Flame. We do not know where they are, but we do know that if we call them, then they will come. It is our best bet. We will have to fight.
“Today I think that the two of us shall sword fight.”
For some strange reason, he smiled at this last bit.
“You’ll have to give me at least twenty minutes.” He said. “I want to go for a quick run to warm up.”
I sighed. “Emphasis on quick, Flame, emphasis on quick. Meet me in the field when you are ready.”
I was in the field slashing through pretend enemies with my sword when Flame walked up to me. I looked at him suspiciously.
“Where is your weapon?” I asked, and he smiled. From behind his back he pulled out a long, thin sword with a copper blade and a hilt made of some stone that was mixed with black and a brownish red. Down the center of the blade going all the way up were small rubies all lined up next to each other, a bit smaller than a those coins humans call dimes. The tip glinted dangerously in the sun light. I looked at him in surprise.
“Flame, where did you get that?”
“I went to the sword smith on the edge of town, and he made me this. I wanted a sword that was special, like yours, though he explained to me that your sword has much more history than mine ever will.”
“Was this sword smith a little old man with a cramped, dark work shop?” I asked him.
“Yea, that’s the one. He’s really nice, in case you have some vendetta against him.”
I shook my head. “No feud. I was just wondering. That is the man that made Tamwyn’s sword, if you wanted to know.”
He shrugged, but then widened his eyes, as if suddenly realizing some thing. “Is Tamwyn’s sword black?”
I raised one eyebrow at him. “It is onyx and platinum, yes. Why do you ask?”
He shrugged again. “I saw the sword smith sharpening it yesterday. Any way, let’s test this baby out!”
It was the closest battle the two of us had ever fought. Of course, I did eventually succeed in knocking his sword out of his hand, but there were many, many close calls in which I was suddenly afraid that I would lose to this child. I wondered if some how my sword left traces of me in him, because he was suddenly much stronger, faster, and better at noticing weak points, and his accuracy had increased as well. We fought till the sun was high above us, though it could not make us sweat. Finally, as I knocked his sword out of his hand for only the second time in four hours, I suggested that we go practice archery. I wanted to test if that had suddenly increased as well.
It had. Flame hit the bulls eye again and again, and every time he took a step back to admire his handiwork. So maybe it had nothing to do with my sword. After a couple minutes of us both hitting the mark perfectly, I turned to him.
“Flame, do you feel any different?”
He opened his mouth, perhaps a bout to ask me what I meant, but then closed it. Then he spoke.
“I do feel different. I guess you could say stronger, since I am sure you have noticed that I’ve improved greatly, but really I think I’m just a lot more confident. I feel better, but not just physically. I feel better mentally too, ever since I won the battle in the Air kingdom. It kind of confuses me because I really didn’t want to kill that man, but I knew it had to be done, so I did it. The Air king didn’t even to know what to make of me, especially when I told him that I expected you guys to be released. He had nodded, but there were no words of peace. But I guess I feel different because I feel like I changed some thing. I don’t know what I changed, but whatever I did it was for the better. Does that make any sense to you, Star?”
I looked at him, for the first time seeing a man and not a boy.
“Yes Flame, I think it makes perfect sense. Just do not become so confident that you are cocky. We can not afford to have a big headed prince.”
He laughed. “No, I suppose we can’t.”
I was walking through the graveyard of flowers, looking at as many flowers as I could. These flowers never die, and if you ask, then they will tell you who they are. I was looking for my mother and father, whom I had no memories of but I liked seeing their flowers and knowing that they existed at some point, and did good things and were good people. I feel no love for them, nor any sorrow, but maybe pride, because I had heard stories of what wonderful people they were. Until they were killed by the Earth tribe, that is. That is a particular story that people had avoided telling me, as if I could not handle it. I had handled much, much worse in my time.
I found their flowers and lay down on the path right next to them and closed my eyes. The afternoon sun was behind me, so I could lie with no bright light directly in my face. After a few minutes I heard foot steps coming near me. I opened my eyes and sat up. It was River, coming down the path toward me. I narrowed my eyes at him.
“I thought we told you not to come in here.” I said coldly to him.
He shook his head. “No, you only said not to touch the flowers. I am not touching the flowers, as instructed. I was hoping I would run in to some one while walking through here.”
“Why is that?” I said, my tone slightly warmer than before.
“Well, honestly I just wanted to ask why we are not allowed to touch these flowers. What makes them so precious?”
I sat up completely with my legs crossed (I suddenly thought of ‘criss cross apple sauce’, as younger humans like to say) and he sat down beside me. I looked at him for a moment.
“Tell me, River, how does your tribe treat the dead? What rituals are they given?”
He looked confused. “Usually, there is a small procession to the River of Life, in which the dead one’s friends and family, and some times some royalty march, carrying the body on a blanket that had been embroidered with important scenes and people from the dead one’s life. That person is then wrapped entirely in the blanket so that we can not see them, and then gently placed in to the river, where the current carries them away easily. What does that have to do with these flowers?”
“When some one in our tribe dies, there is a small gathering for the loved ones to come and say good bye. The body is dressed up and placed upon a small pedestal long enough for them to be lain down. Nobody speaks, until the body is burned. In it’s place is three flowers that represent that person’s most dominate traits. The flowers are then planted here, in this field. The flowers do not ever die, but they can be damaged. If some one from your tribe does damage them, we will not hesitate to punish them, which you can be sure of. Now do you understand River?”
“I do now understand the importance of the flowers, but I do not understand why you needed to ask me about our burial ritual, Starfire.”
I looked away from him, out in to the beautiful field. “I felt it was a fair trade. When different peoples speak, then there can be more understanding, and more unity. Trading knowledge for knowledge, in which it benefits both sides equally. Do you see it, River?”
He nodded. “I see it.”
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