A/N: Since the last update, I’ve had a few problems with my game and some of my saves. Things might look a bit different in this chapter than they did in the previous ones. My apologies.
I felt as though I’d been slapped in the face, or doused with icy water. “My sister? She’s….alive? How do you know where she is?”
“She’s alive and well, Fisher. I asked my mother to find her.”
“Your mother, the goddess?” I wasn’t able to kept the venom from my voice.
“Yes.” Rebecca returned my gaze steadily.
I decided to let that part of the subject drop. I had to find out more about what Rebecca claimed she knew. “And you’re just going to tell me? Just like that?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well…I thought you needed me to stay here. Why would you tell me something that would be sure to send me away?”
Rebecca frowned sadly. “You must think I’m some kind of monster. I swear to you, Fisher, I never meant to hurt you in any way. When I told you I loved you, it was the truth. I know how important your sister is to you…I only wish I’d thought to ask Mom about her sooner. When you said you assumed she was dead, I guess I just assumed the same. But she isn’t. She’s in a place called Glendalough, several months’ journey from here, to the north.”
As hard to believe as it was, everything inside of me instantly knew Rebecca was telling the truth. My own emotions tangled in my throat, and I emitted a sound halfway between a sob and a laugh. She’s alive! Fasjin’s alive! I am not alone! I felt like the joy of the knowledge would burst out of me if I didn’t let it out, so I began to laugh. It started small, and then grew to huge guffaws. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so elated. I grabbed Rebecca’s hands and swung her around in circles until we both got dizzy and fell onto the soft blanket of flowers that covered the meadow.
My happiness was infectious, and Rebecca was laughing with me, now. The fact that she had misled me since I got here–or even before that, come to think of it; I knew she must have had something to do with my strange need to find this place–all that seemed so unimportant now in the face of what she had just given me. I had hope again, and it was all because of this beautiful woman. Before I knew what I was doing, my mouth was on hers, sharing in the most primal way the joy that I felt at that moment–showing her how grateful I was.
I hadn’t anticipated that she would kiss me back, but she did…with enthusiasm. And my excitement increased in a new way. Suddenly I was on top of her. Her fingers tugged anxiously on my shirt until I pulled away from kissing her long enough to remove it. She took the opportunity to remove her shirt as well, and at that point I lost the ability to think, and to breathe.
The morning’s first light washed over us as we made love there in the meadow.
Afterwards, Rebecca turned away from me and began to get dressed. Her shoulders shook though, so I gently touched her arm so she would look at me. Her cheeks were stained with tears.
“Did I hurt you?” I asked worriedly.
“No,” she assured me. “I’m just…I’ll miss you. The thought that I’m never going to see you again–“ She shook her head and pulled away from me again, unwilling to look into my eyes.
“Rebecca,” I said quietly, “you really do love me, don’t you?”
She snorted through her tears. “I’ve only been trying to tell you that all night, you big dope.”
“I love you, too,” I told her, and I realized that even after everything, I meant it with all my heart. Before she could get too hopeful, though, I continued. “But I need to find my sister. She’s the only family I have left.”
Though her tears continued to fall as I held her close, Rebecca nodded and assured me that she never expected me to stay once she told me where Fasjin was.
“I have to go,” I agreed, “but I’ll come back.”
Rebecca’s eyes met mine uncertainly, but I just nodded and leaned closer for a long, tender kiss. “I love you, and I swear I’ll come back.”
As I gathered my belongings and began the first few steps of what was sure to be a long journey, I could have sworn I heard Rebecca whisper: “I just hope it won’t be too late.”
The trek up the mountain and out of the valley took less time, and was far easier, than I had expected, thanks to my newfound hope that I’d see Fasjin again. Still, it was several days before I made it to the first town.
Life for everyone outside of Hidden Springs seemed as bleak as it had been months ago, when I’d last visited this place. The people were gaunt, with hollowed cheeks and eyes devoid of light. Unlike Hidden Springs, where fruit-bearing plants and lively fish and game were plentiful, the people here struggled each day to find enough for their families to eat.
I’d brought as much dried fish as I could carry with me out of Hidden Springs, and even some tomatoes and other vegetables, though I knew those wouldn’t last long. I had hoped I would have enough to last several months, if I rationed it. That way, I could move quickly without having to stop to gather berries or catch more fish.
Instead, I found myself giving away my rations to the thin children I saw on the streets of each town I passed. Just a little here and there, but I hoped it made a difference for them.
Either way, I ran out of food about three months into my journey. I was forced to create a make-shift shelter by a river and spend some time trying to replenish my store of fish. I hadn’t forgotten how much more difficult it was to catch anything outside of Hidden Springs, and I wasn’t surprised that it took me several days to catch enough to preserve and to trade for other things I needed.
It was one night during this time, while I struggled to fall asleep inside my lean-to of pine boughs, that I began to feel…different. One moment, I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering, and the next, I was sweating so much that I felt like throwing off my blanket and dousing myself in the river to cool down. I knew it was a fever, and I hoped that it wouldn’t amount to much more than that.
After that night passed, I did feel better. Relieved, I packed my backpack and began heading north again. Over the next month, though, as I neared the halfway point of the trip to Glendalough, the fever returned often. It would usually hit me at night, and then be gone by morning.
At first I thought it was just the weather, and the fact that I had been living in a cozy cottage for so long that I wasn’t used to sleeping outside. But, as the chills and hot flashes began to come more frequently, and began to last longer, another fear washed over me.
I remembered a story from my childhood. A story my mother used to tell me–about my biological father and his race.
Could it be? I thought to myself wildy, in the midst of feverish near-delirium. It was only that one time…
But once is all it takes, I knew. As weeks went by and I made little progress, and felt worse and worse, my certainty grew until I could no longer deny the truth.
I had left part of myself with Rebecca, after all.