A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 26byTaLtos6©
***This is the second winter inside the mountain for Azrael & company. Now Dahlgren and his family of fugitives have appeared, needing to hide. This chapter's a bit longer because I wanted to move this bunch ahead a bit more. Selena is still on the quiet journey and she seems drawn along like a leaf in a slow stream. 0_o
They came to the large blast doors and Azrael opened them. When they stepped inside, the newcomers stood and stared as the heavy doors inched shut behind them. There was a gentle boom and then the sounds of the heavy latches moving into place.
"Welcome to our home," Azrael said, "You said that you needed sanctuary. If you need to hide, this is the fortress to be in. And you have come in good time. Vadren tells me that there will be a storm tonight. It is already beginning, and it will hide the tracks of our passage on the mountain."
Cha'Khah let out a yelling cheer and they all looked at her.
"What is wrong?" she looked at them all, "I happen to love a good snowstorm in these mountains."
"Yes," Rachel grinned, "from this side of three sets of doors -- especially those last ones, almost half a mile from the snow."
"A fine one you are to talk," Cha'Khah laughed, "We both love a good thunderstorm Rachel, but you will not stand out in one with me for long. And I do at least go down the tunnel to look, do I not? Oh, I enjoy the way that the snow flies so thickly and how the wind screams and moans, especially at night, while I am warm and dry."
"Have it your way," her friend chuckled, "but it's not the lightning that chases me inside in a thunderstorm. I love to dance in one with you, Cha'Khah. It's the mosquitoes which hound me back inside then. I only have so much blood to give them. You find a way to keep them off me in a warm rainstorm and I would dance with you all night in it."
The Drowess' eyes lit up. "I must speak to Vadren later," she smiled as she walked away, "there has to be a way."
They laughed at each other and Rachel turned to lead Faith to where she thought her extended family could sleep before they looked to see what might be done about dinner.
With the decisions made in a small block of what had once been a section of married quarters, Cha'Khah was summoned. She looked around inside carefully, and then she chose surfaces and caused them to glow in the way that the Drow have always done to where they lived underground. "But, this is not stone," Rachel said, "I thought that you told me that you needed stone to so this."
"We do," Cha'Khah smiled, "and these surfaces are made of something you would call gypsum. It is not perfect, but it will stay lit for a long time -- months before I need to do this again. The light is too dim to read by for you, but I think that if you are tired, it will be dark enough to sleep."
Dinner was a real mish-mash and it had several sources, but everyone liked it. "What are these rolls?" Azrael asked, "I can't figure them out, but I really like them."
"Eat them sparingly," Shaevre smiled, "It is your choice, but I would eat no more than one at one meal. That is why I cut one up for both of the young ones so that they get only a quarter of one each. An adult can have one and there is room for more of something else, but no more than one.
They are Xer combat rations and contain everything needed to keep one of my kind alive and fighting in the field. Because of our nature, they are a little heavy on meat protein, but everything is there. I could tell you what the meat is, but you would not know the animal, so just enjoy it if you like it. I am pleased if you do. I have many of these and they keep well in a cool place."
"Just tell me how many legs this had," Vadren smiled, "I do not really care, I am just curious."
"Six" Shaevre grinned, "And to us it is something like a cow would be to you."
"Do I have lessons after dinner?" Sariel asked. The Drow looked at each other, "No, Sariel," Vadren said, "you may have a night away from your blade, I think."
"Just so you understand clearly," Rachel looked around the table, "The meal tonight was prepared by all of the grown females here. We barely know each other, but we managed to make a surprising meal and it was a lot of fun."
"Yes," Vadren began, but Rachel held up her hand. "Thanks are not necessary, but clean dishes are. Your job." she said.
Selena walked with Cha'Khah along a causeway high up in the cavern. Eventually, that led them to maintenance catwalks, and from there to the blast valves high up the back slope of the mountain. "Put on your cloak, Selena," Cha'Khah warned, "We have to worm our way a little from here, but I wish to stick my nose out in the storm this night to see how it goes and to rub it in my friend Rachel's face that we did it."
She opened the valve and they crawled through onto the balcony outside. The wind was cold and relentless and they couldn't see very far at all, but Cha'Khah did get a moment to see as far as the other balcony and the hen house was still there.
"We come here often in the warmer months," she said, indicating the firepit, "Sometimes we even come for a fire in the winter, but not on a night like this. You can see all of the stars from here."
"I wanted to ask you," Selena almost yelled,trying to be heard over the wind. Cha'Khah held up her hand, "Come here!" she cried, "or talk when we are back inside. I want to stand here a little."
Selena stepped closer and seeing it, Cha'Khah grinned and they ended up almost nose to nose, but once they'd pulled their hoods up as far as they'd go, it was a little fun, because their faces were out of the storm and they didn't have to yell. "What did you wish to ask?" Cha'Khah asked.
"I heard something about dancing in a rainstorm," Selena smiled, "I LOVE to dance in a rainstorm."
"Do you?" Cha'Khah laughed a little, "Tell me of it then."
"I have the farm that I told you about," Selena said, "It's still there, and I lived there alone before all of this. There are no close neighbors. I feel a little silly to tell of it, but when there's a really nice warm summer rain, and I like it best in the evening when it's dark or almost dark, I ... I go out the back door with no clothes on and I love to dance in the rain for a while, as long as it lasts or stays at least a little warm."
She wanted to look away, feeling a little foolish, but she found that there really wasn't any other place to look but at Cha'Khah's dark face and into her now red eyes, since it was dark.
Those eyes opened wide now for a moment and then Selena felt the Drow's hands on her hood as she smiled, "You see? I just KNEW that I liked something about you. This dancing is something that I learned from Rachel. She grew up far from people, and when she came back to where she was born to birth Sariel, well, she told me that she ended up alone there with him on top of a mountain. She said that when it really stormed, there would be no animals around and even with her baby, well she was still a woman, no?
She told me that she would be sure that her little one was asleep and then she would go outside to dance in the rain. The wet clothes would not let her move well, so she just took them off. She was alone with no one for her and she was lonely and she felt ugly as well. Dancing was a way to feel freedom from everything. It was a way to feel as though she was a part of nature and the world, even all alone on a mountain. To her, it was a small, but very important way to remind herself that she was all things of a woman; still the girl, still the maid, and the mother.
I grew up with death very close to me my whole life long, so there was no freedom to feel. Rachel told me of her love to dance one night and it sounded so good to me, so the next time that there was a storm, it wasn't even warm, but I came out here and began, and then Rachel came out to dance with me. It was wonderful to me. She and I love to dance right here in the rain, right where we are now. It is a little primitive, maybe a little sensual, and it is so much fun to do.
We like it dark then too, though sometimes we keep the little fire lit if it was already going if we can, and the males are forbidden to watch us. This is something which we do for ourselves. Like you, we wear no clothes."
She smirked a little, "It is a little bit naughty, and neither of us likes women especially, but we love to dance together those nights. Oh, we touch a little and it feels so nice to hold Rachel's wet body against me for a moment. We even caress a little, but that is not really the point. And it is only us here, so who is to care anyway? I am a Drow and she dances as a demon. So what? I try not to step on her tail."
She looked at Selena's eyebrows for a second as she thought. Then her eyes were back, looking into Selena's. "It is really just a simple pleasure for two girls who are really close. It is a joyous thing for me to do with my friend. I always feel so free and happy then and for a long time after. You have never danced with someone else?"
"No," Selena shrugged, "there never was anyone like that for me. Now I wish that I had someone to try it with, but I'd feel ashamed to ask anyone. What you tell of sounds wonderful."
"It is," Cha'Khah grinned, "Oh, it is. I am sad now that it is wintertime. I like you more every minute. First a really very good thief, and I saw how you were in making the meal, and now I find another raindancer like me."
She pulled back a little and nodded, "No one can see the future. But I think that I wish to make you this promise. Somewhere, at some time, maybe at your farm, I do not know, but ... I wish to dance with you, at least once. If it rains somewhere and I am near, then ask me, Selena."
Selena smiled. She doubted very much that it would ever happen, but she looked into those red eyes and said, "I want to dance with you, Cha'Khah, at least once, too."
They moved apart then and looked around in the storm once more. "I loved talking to you like that, but I am losing my love of this balcony in this storm," Selena laughed. Cha'Khah nodded and led the way back inside.
Not long after dinner, Faith and Rachel found themselves working on a small problem that neither of them had expected to have. There was one bathtub which Azrael had connected to the underground plumbing system. If you wanted a bath, you opened the only tap which worked and you got really cold water. It hadn't been a problem before because Azrael and Rachel could heat water with a touch in a few minutes, though he could do it a bit quicker. They'd just do this for Cha'Khah or Vadren as they were asked.
But now there were the smaller two. Each of the mothers offered that their child could wait another night and they could work out some sort of schedule. "It's a little silly, isn't it?" Rachel smiled, "they're both just kids, but they're not little enough anymore to just toss them in and wash them together. Then it could be us who alternate nights. Sariel refuses to let me wash him anymore anyway. He shows this really stern face and reminds his mother that he is learning to be a combat mage."
She chuckled, "I enjoy the routine so much that I pretend to forget the next time that he needs a bath, just so I can hear him say it all over again."
As it turned out, the 'ladies first' rule prevailed, but that was the start of the troubles. Nahl'een had insisted that she'd learned to dry herself well enough to be allowed to do it. Not knowing any different, being a new mom, Faith had allowed it.
There were two doors to that particular bathroom, since it was in a single females block of units near where most of then had taken up residence. The other door opened and Sariel walked in with Rachel and Nahl'een chose that moment to squeal and fly out through the first door. Faith lost track of her, though she looked awfully hard, and when Rachel walked out through the door to see if Nahl'een had been found yet, Sariel left via the other one. The result wasn't a panic, but it bordered on silly.
Cha'Khah and Selena heard the commotion and asked. When they heard what the trouble was, Cha'Khah smiled, "Firstly, they are children, but they are demons, no? Sariel is often like this, since we have no clothes for him with holes for his wings or his tail. I am no mother of a little one, but ... they are demons. I am more worried that they are not hurt flying in the cavern, but I think that I can help."
Sariel looked over, "Are you cold? You're shivering a little." The two sat perched side by side on a catwalk high above the cavern floor. They looked down and watched the progress of the discussions.
Nahl'een nodded, "Still wet. Not really finish drying hair."
"Well, why did you fly out then?" he asked.
She shrugged, "Not know. I wanted to play."
"Me too," Sariel said as he extended his wing to cover Nahl'een as much as he could.
"Thank you," she smiled looking over, "I like your hair better like this." They fell silent as they sat together looking down.
"We be in trouble for this, Sariel?" Nahl'een asked.
"I think so," he said with a small sigh of resignation, "Me more than you, Nahl'een. I was the one who ran through the door without knocking first, and I flew out when I saw a chance for some fun. I don't think you'll get into trouble. I started it."
"Ah," she nodded, "What is ... What we do wrong?"
"I guess it's for just flying away." He looked down and listened for a moment, "And I think your mom is upset because we're not wearing any clothes."
"Can't fly with clothes," Nahl'een said, "Feels good to fly. I not fly in two days. Always fly at home."
He looked a little pained, "I think it's because you're a girl and I'm a boy. Your mom doesn't think that it's right."
Nahl'een looked a little annoyed, "So? I not know this ... what this is, place in mountain. Need you to show me. Why we can't fly together? I like you, Sariel. Never have friend to fly with before."
He smiled, "Thanks, I like you too. It's fun not being the only kid."
"Ah-hah," she giggled, "Sometimes I stay with nuns where lots of kids stay, but none like me. Have to hide what I am. Never feel good. Now I have friend to fly with. I not care about girls and boys."
"I can make clothes," Sariel said, "out of my head when I need to. See?"
Nahl'een looked over and nearly lost her grip on the railing. "How you do that?" she asked, looking at the jeans and the shirt that he appeared to be wearing.
"Maybe I can teach you later," he said, as the clothing flickered and faded from sight. "My dad taught me."
"Why you make them go?" she asked.
He shrugged,"You don't have any. If we show up and only I've got clothes, your mom won't know why and she's already mad."
The girl looked at him and smiled as she thought about how he seemed to think about her. "I have lots of new things now. Not have home anymore. But I have many new things and I have new friend on my birthday."
It was all that Cha'Khah could do to keep it together as she levitated nearby. She actually had to work to maintain a severe expression. She'd heard the whole thing.
They both gasped as Cha'Khah materialized out of the air in front of them. Nahl'een didn't know, and Sariel had forgotten, but Drow can float, and they can hide just as well as demon children. She leaned forward and grabbed them by the arms.
"Listen," she said quietly, "You have upset things. Faith thinks that she does not know much about being a mother. No matter what words come from her, this is what is underneath. She thinks that this is her fault. She feels badly because she thinks that she is not a good mother. This is wrong, but that is how she feels. She thinks that she has failed at something after only two days.
We will go down now and you will both say that you are very sorry to BOTH mothers. What comes of it is what comes, but you will tell Faith that she did nothing wrong. The way to getting a little freedom for a young one is through acting the right way, and that is not by flying around like a pair of crazy little cave bats.
Think. Do you want to be found by Cha'Khah, or do you want to be found by your fathers? They will start looking for you soon."
Nahl'een wasn't sure, but after conferring with Sariel, she took his advice and chose Cha'Khah who nodded and she led them down. By then, Selena had gotten a chance to get Faith unwound a little and it all worked out. Nahl'een hugged Faith tightly and said that she was very sorry. When Faith said something about clothes, Selena pointed out that Faith couldn't fly with clothes on either, and that seemed to get Faith pointed a little in the other direction.
Rachel wasn't upset at all and the two talked for a while afterward with Rachel telling Faith that there wasn't anything to really be worried about. "You've been trying to live like a human and you've only just started like this. We're not humans," she shrugged, "We're part demons. If there weren't any humans on this world we'd only wear clothes outside in the cold. Relax, Faith. Let's be happy that they're getting along for the moment with no fights yet. As long as they don't crash onto things, I don't mind it if they fly around a little. It's freezing outside, but this place is warm and big enough for them to play and fly in. Let them fly, they're kids.
And by the way," Rachel said, "I hear that you've just learned to fly yourself, is that right?"
"Yeah," Faith nodded, "I've only been at it for a few days."
Rachel smiled, "Then you ought to fly around here a little yourself every day if you want to keep those wings strong. I do it myself just for that reason, since it's winter out there. We could fly together for the fun of it, and it can't hurt to have another mom in here who can fly when you need to get hold of your kid in a hurry. What do you say?"
"I like that," Faith nodded chuckling.
The children had been put to bed, and the women were in what had once been a lower ranks bar with tankards of ale from the small casks which had been bought that morning. Dahlgren sat with Azrael and Vadren at a table in the corner, talking and listening. It was mostly pleasantries, but it wore thin a bit quickly for Shaevre. She thought that, on balance, it wasn't a bad thing that everyone was getting to know each other. They were a bunch of individuals with a lot in common on a lot of levels. There just wasn't a lot of commonality there for her, at least not so far.
Cha'Khah nudged Rachel and pointed to Selena, "I have found another like us," she laughed, "Selena is a raindancer."
Rachel laughed, "Really? You as well?"
Selena shrugged, "I like it."
"What is that?" Shaevre asked, "To dance in rain? This is common on Xer. The clouds gather and all watch to see if it will rain. It happens seldom, perhaps twelve times a year, so when it rains; it might rain for a week, sometimes heavier, sometimes only a mist."
"What happens if it rains?" Rachel asked, "If it rains that rarely, it must be a celebration?"
"Always," Shaevre smiled, "The rain comes, and if it is only a little warm, the dancers begin out of joy."
"Who are the dancers?" Cha'Khah asked.
Shaevre shrugged, "Maids mostly, because they are young enough to feel their joy. Girl children too, and then their mothers may begin as well, feeling less foolish then. It happens mostly in parks and open fields, someplace a little out of sight. I danced in the streets when I was a little one, but I never danced as a maid. I stopped dancing by then."
"Why?" Faith asked.
She shrugged, "By then, I had little to feel joy over anymore. I joined the Brigades to earn as much as I could before I was killed. If I stayed, I would starve, and one does not dance if one has an empty stomach. In the Brigades, I did not go hungry, but I was never in the place to dance in the rain. Wherever I was sent, the rain was always cold and I was often up to my knees in cold, wet mud and bodies."