-----Her face was pressed into his mane, and her legs gripped his sides tightly, holding his wound closed. She sobbed against his back, so quietly even he coudln't hear, but still her voice rang clear as always.
-----"I swore I would remain with you always, and I will never leave you. But I hate you for what you've made me become, Shines in Darkness. Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, you've destroyed me, and I hate you for it.
-----He continued to run in silence, unable to speak, unable to deny her words, though he knew he was right.
-----Her next words were quiet, broken, nothing like her usual self.
-----"I hate you for making me hate you."
-----A few hours later she spoke again.
-----"What, why?" he asked.
-----"You're wounded, and tired, and you've been carrying me for miles. We need to stop here. It's defensible, and there's food and water. We can continue after a brief rest."
-----Shines nodded, slowing to a canter, then a walk, and stopping near a tree, but Bell ignored it, dismounting smoothly as always, not even brushing the wound in his side.
-----He closed his eyes and leaned against the tree. He was more tired than he had thought, but he could still feel moving quietly through the woods, probably making sure their location was secure. She was very conscientious about things like that.
-----It was actually very comforting, the way she moved, even though she was so skilled he could barely hear. Shortly his breathing slowed, he relaxed, and dozed off.
-----Sometime later there was a tap on his flank, and he was awake instantly. "Take off your skirt," Bell told him.
------"This wound needs to be cleaned and treated. I've one of Close's salves to put on it."
-----"Of course, sorry." He undid the buckle at his waist while she undid the harder to reach tie beneath his tail. She slid the skirt off on the side opposite his wound, then used a damp cloth to clean it.
-----"Why are you doing this, Bell."
-----"It's a wife's duty to care for her husband. I'd expect the same from you," she replied as she continued to clean his wound, then began to apply the salve.
-----Shines' breath caught as the salve went on. It stung something awful, and Bell, never one to do things by halves, slathered it liberally over the wound. When she was done, she washed her hands, then sliced part of the sleeve of her leather armor and made it a bandage over his wound, using a substance in another vial she carried to bind it to his skin.
-----"How's that," she asked. Shines tried a few steps, a few jumps, and turned. The cut wasn't too bad, and he could still move easily. "It still stings, but I don't think there'll be any lasting damage."
-----"Good, it should be watertight, and we should bathe before we sleep. There's a pool over that way where the current's not too strong. If you leave your bag here, I'll get a meal started."
-----Shines began to walk in the direction she indicated then turned his upper torso back to her. "Thank you, Bell, for not making this any harder than it already is."
-----"I'm not making this hard for you Shines because that would make it too hard for me. You're still my husband, and I loved you greatly. I swore to remain with you always, and it's not just that. I don't want to leave you, I don't want to go anywhere, I don't want this to be hard, I don't want this to hurt like it does. I can't change the pass, but at least I can not make things worse."
-----"Don't call me that! That's the name of someone who never backed down, who always stood her ground, who never ran away.
-----"Always, always, I've stood by my convictions, always stood my ground, even when I was beaten or broken, even defeated I endured. Were my sister not such a talented Healer, I would certainly be crippled by now.
-----"We were defeated, we had lost, but we weren't all dead. I should have stayed, should have led those who lived, should have stayed and died...but I was scared, I froze, and I let you carry me away. I can't entirely blame you, I could have went back, I could have left you, but the original decision was yours, and I'm not sure I can ever accept that.
-----"I ran. I ran with you, Shines in Darkness, and broke the seal of my fate. Don't call me that again, my name is Shattered Bell."
-----"En.... Sh.... Bell, I was named because I always offer our people hope. But you have always been my hope, the clarion bell that led me home. I would give almost anything to make things better, to heal your pain....but I could not leave you to die when I could save you, and I could not, cannot leave our people without hope."
-----"I know husband, I know, and you did nothing I did not expect of you, you were true to yourself, and that is part of the problem."
-----He wanted to say more, to try to explain, to talk, and talk and hold her until she smiled, until she was happy, until she was his Enduring Bell, his confidence on which he could always depend, again. But there was nothing else to say, no way to change the past. All he could do was not make things worse.
-----Food cleaned and prepared, mostly fruits, vegetables, and some oak leaves for Shines, Bell went to bathe herself.
-----It was easy to find Shines, she was a better tracker, and he was breathing heavily. She walked towards him to join him and help him bathe (it was a great effort for him to reach certain parts of his legs, and he was wounded). When she found him he was leaned all the way back so he could reach beneath himself, his eyes closed, both hands stroking..., "What are you doing?"
-----He jumped, turning towards her and backing up a step, all at once, a feat he'd probably never be able to consciously repeat. He blushed, his entire upper torso turning dark red with embarrasment. He looked absolutely flustered and embarrassed, and she lifted an eyebrow.
-----"I was just, I was nervous, so.... I just needed to relive some tension." He attempted a sheepish grin, but couldn't hold it.
-----She continued stripping out of her armor, then walked up to him through the pool of water. She knelt down to kiss the length of him, but he backed away.
-----"Wait.... What..., what are you
-----She shrugged. "My duty, what I swore to. I will be with you always, I am your wife, and it is a wife's duty to comfort her husband, to help him relieve his tension."
-----Shines was backing away from her, a mixed look of so many different emotions twisting his features. She'd never seen him in such turmoil, she didn't understand, but knew she was the cause.
-----"No, no, no, no. I don't want that, I don't want you to touch me like that. I want you to want me, I want you to want to be with me. Not like this..I can't..., I have to go," and he ran, splashing up water, drenching her. When she cleared the water from her eyes, he was gone.
-----She stood for a moment in the shallow pool, then began to bathe herself. She should follow him, should tell him how much she wanted him, should be open and honest. What she wanted, more than anything was to be held by the man she loved, to join with him until she crested again, and again, and again, until her mind and her heart and her spirit were wiped clean, left empty of anything but that thin edge of pleasure. To forget everything, even for just a night, in the warmth of her guiding light. Except....
2004-06-02 - I don't know where I'm going with this.
2004-05-18 - Dictiontator.
2004-04-29 - Forever Lament.
2004-04-28 - Still hiring.
2004-04-24 - I'm done!