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To Come To Grips {Attn Rhya}


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Rahien sat at the small table by the window in the Hole in the Wall. He had been staying at the Infirmary for a few months now and had been growing increasingly restless. He drained his tea and motioned for some spiced wine, it would be nice for a change.


~Brother, you are restless.~ Snow sent, her concern for him tinged with amusement. More and more he had started to understand the way Snow communicated. Other wolves were still a little difficult to understand from time to time, and not ever at the level of understanding he had with Snow.


~Yes,~ He thought back at her. ~This is not a comfortable thing I do.~


Sighing out loud he leaned back into his chair, crossing his feet at the ankles under the table. He had asked Rhya to meet him here and had chosen a table by the window for privacy. Aislyn had noted his restlessness and told him that it was permitted for those of the kin that wished to build their own homes.


He wanted to ask for her help, but he wasn't sure how to go about it. He was not yet comfortable with others and kept mostly to himself. Rhya was different however, sort of. In all reality she had been the first human that he had made contact with in years. The first person who had shown any kindness or understanding.


His parents, while he knew they cared about him, had not shown a care for anything other than his safety. His brow furrowed at that thought. Was that fair? Before he could continue, he was pulled out of his reverie as a blast of cold air came from the door announcing an arrival

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Rhya had been involved in some part of the process of introducing new Wanderers to the Stedding several times over the course of the months and usually found it an interesting experience. Some were frightened, some sceptical and others merely apprehensive of the sudden changes thrown at them. Still others were, as she had been herself, thankful for a place of safety and prepared to accept the alterations in their circumstances. In every instance though, one thing had remained the same, the empathy she felt for them and a strong wish to help where she could, to repay some of the kindness shown to her.


She pulled the comb through the knotted tangles of her hair, thinking on one such Wanderer who had made a more lasting impression. Rahien had been different from all the others, partly because she had not just assisted but had actually gone to find him herself and partly because they had seemed to find a bond of sorts, the beginnings of a friendship. She sensed through the initial trauma of their journey that they had much in common, a compatibility of character perhaps.


Satisfied that her hair was knot free, hanging in a shining auburn sheet down her back, she straightened her clothes and tugged on her boots before walking through the house to collect her cloak. The weather was bright but still bitterly cold, the seasons having decided to change at last. She picked up odds and ends as she went, collecting a glass that had been left lying the night before and straightening a cushion, running an eye over the kitchen to be sure everything was as it should be.


A few minutes later and Rhya swung down the ladder with the habitual agility of one used to negotiating such an obstacle, turning in the direction of the main village and her destination, the Inn. Other than a couple of classes her opportunities to talk to Rahien since their return had been few and mostly in company, but the initial seeds of friendship had been strengthened by his help during her punishment so his request for a meeting was a welcome, if intriguing, one.


As she walked, trading occasional thoughts with Shadow who was off hunting, she wondered idly what had prompted Rahien’s message. It was not simply for the sake of speaking with her, she had known that immediately. Something was on his mind.




Rhya shoved open the heavy door to the Hole bringing in with her a cold blast of air that brought good natured complaints from various parts of the room. With a grin, she hastily pushed the door closed behind her and scanned the room to see Rahien waiting at a table by the window, away from the other patrons. She had the distinct impression he had chosen it for just that reason and her curiousity peaked higher.


There was no sign of Wall himself, so she waved to catch the bar maid’s attention and having collected a hot mug of tea, went to join Rahien, shrugging off her heavy cloak and hooking a foot round the seat opposite his to pull it out before sinking into it. She noted the serious look on his face and smiled warmly.


“Greetings my friend, you look to have much on your mind today,” she commented with a teasing note in her voice. “How is life at the Infirmary? Is our Aislyn not looking after you well enough that you need to seek out sustenance here?”




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Rhya swept in with the cold air, eliciting comments from some of the smiling patrons. She grinned at them and hastily closed the heavy door. She noted Rahien and after waving to a barmaid she approached. He had heard in a passing conversation that Wall was in the cellar doing something or other.


Removing her cloak, Rhya sat. Rahien noted her auburn hair falling in waves down her back. It was pretty.


“Greetings my friend...Is our Aislyn not looking after you well enough that you need to seek out sustenance here?”


Despite himself, a chuckle escaped his lips. Rhya had put him at ease again. Knots in his muscles he had not known were there, loosened with the expression of mirth. The barmaid arrived just then with his spiced wine, and he took the distraction it gave to order his thoughts.


Suddenly a chill of panic swept through him. What would he say? Why would she help him when he had gotten her into so much trouble? That thought weighed most heavily on his heart. He felt bad for inducing such punishment and helping had not made it any better. Sure, she had chosen to leave the Stedding, but it was because of Snow's sending and by proxy because of his need. Sighing, he put a smile on his face.


"Game of Stones?" At her nod he went over to the shelf where Wall had shown him they were kept, and brought back a board and the cups of stones.


Rahien knew that Rhya was studying him curiously, but he kept his head down, focusing on placing his first stone. Placing one of his stones on the intersecting lines near the corner of the board, he waited to see what her opening move would be. If she was smart, she would place in one of her own corners to begin claiming that territory. He would keep her wondering a little longer, at least until he could organize his thoughts...

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Rhya had not played Stones since before leaving home but it was a game that required skill and more forethought than it initially appeared. Most of her games had been played against her father who was quite a master of it and she had enjoyed those quiet times in his study.


Rahien was delaying. She could tell as much by his avoidance of her gaze. Whatever he needed to speak to her about, it was obviously no easy topic. She placed her first stone, mirroring his move but at the opposite corner of the board and sat back sipping her tea. She could give him time. Besides, there were some things she needed to say to him which had been left too long.


“I owe you an apology Rahien. For leaving you as I did on your first day here. I should have taken you to Aislyn myself, not left you alone so abruptly. I hope you’ll forgive my behaviour. It was not how a friend should be treated.”


Rhya’s apology was a genuine one. She had felt bad for weeks once everything had calmed down and more than a little guilty for not speaking of it sooner. “Owen had an accident, many weeks before I left to come for you. An accident that the Sages did not expect him to recover from as it involved a head injury. I was … worried and more than a little scared.” Her lashes lowered to hide the extent of her feelings on the subject. “When I returned, the only thing I wanted to do was to see him. My emotions got the better of me. In truth I feared what I would find but that is no excuse and I’m sorry.”



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Rahien almost nodded in satisfaction as Rhya placed a stone. So it would be a good game. He rested his hand lightly on the board and focused on his next move. Placing a stone in the corner, his side of the board, could have two repercussions. She could place in her corner, continuing to play the even game, or invade as it were by placing one in the yet unclaimed territory. Her words broke him from his thoughts.


“I owe you an apology Rahien...." An apology? This was a fancy turn of events. Here he had been thinking about how he felt bad, and she apologizes... He was about to wave it away, Aislyn had told him about her fear of being punished, when she continued.


“Owen had an accident... I was...worried and more than a little scared." Rahien blinked. He knew Rhya lived with the man, that he was like a mentor and Father to her, but... “When I returned, the only thing I wanted to do was to see him...but that is no excuse and I’m sorry.”


Rhaien glanced at his auburn haired friend. She smelled genuine, a fact which still surprised him. It was still a shock that he could smell peoples emotions from time to time.


"Rhya..." Rhaien forced himself to swallow the lump in his throat and to push down the rising anxiety. If she could apologize for something that trivial... "Speaking of my arrival," He paused to sip his wine. Remembering it was indeed wine and not tea, he took a gulp and forged on. "I know that...well what i mean is that...Snow's sending..." He sighed and closed his eyes, forcing the butterflies from his stomach.


"I needed someone. More than just because I was staring my howling. I needed a friend, and I needed the 'Kin. Despite the reprecussions to you..."He fought with himself as his voice quavered. He. would. not. cry. "Despite knowing you were breaking the rules, you chose to do so and pay the price. For me." He stopped and looked her in the eye. "For that I cannot tell you how grateful I am. I am sorry that you were punished. I feel more than a little responsible for that. But that will never dull my gratitude."


There he had said it. He pretended that his eye itched and took a big swallow of his wine, muttering about dust in the air. Carefully he placed his next stone and tried not to be too obvious about not looking at her.

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Rhya’s eyes widened in surprise as she listened to his halting apology in turn. She did not find the making of friends an easy matter at all, indeed interaction with others had usually been superficial, with a light social mask and the graces her mother had drummed into her providing a sufficient defence. That had changed somewhat since finding the ‘Kin, first with Owen, then Aislyn and now, it seemed, with Rahien.


Touched by the emotions pouring off him, Rhya stretched a hand across the table, her fingers curling round his and squeezing lightly in reassurance. Her smile was like the sun rising as she replied, “No Rahien. You must understand that the fault is not yours. I didn’t know whom I was coming for, it could have been anybody and still I would have done it. There were no Trackers available you see.”


Sitting back again, she lifted her tea, drinking slowly as she sought a way to explain. “Just as Owen came to find me when it was my time, so I came to find you. Unless you choose to follow the path of a Sage, there is likely to be a time when you will do the same. It is not always the Trackers that go seeking. Much depends on the wolves and whom they contact. It is a choice I made freely and would again,” she paused, her tone becoming rueful, “though perhaps with more forethought. I was foolish at the time, I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. Even having Shadow with me, that was not well done and caused certain people much worry and hurt.”


She glanced at the board and made her next move decisively, placing her stone directly opposite her first in the other corner.


“The friendship…” her smile broadened further, accentuating the tilt of her almond shaped eyes, “well… that is another matter, freely given and nothing to do with my breaking the rules. I shall not forget that you came to help me when Owen punished me. A punishment that was well warranted in all honesty. I would say any debt of gratitude was fully paid on both sides, no?”


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Rhya's hand found his and he had to fight harder not to cry.


“No Rahien. You must understand that the fault is not yours...Just as Owen came to find me when it was my time, so I came to find you." she paused for a moment and a smile touched her lips "...I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. Even having Shadow with me, that was not well done and caused certain people much worry and hurt.”


Rahien was willing to bet she meant Owen among those who she had hurt. The man was hard and while not unfriendly, definitely was the type Rhaien could identify with. He seemed a lone wolf of sorts. Rahien had to grin at the play on words in his head.


"I shall not forget that you came to help me when Owen punished me...." Before he could protest that it was more from guilt than anything she continued. "...I would say any debt of gratitude was fully paid on both sides, no?” She had a point, they had both done things to help the other that were not for purely selfless motivations. They had aided each other nonetheless and formed a bond of friendship. He was happy with that.


"Indeed, we can call it square then." He smiled then. The smile slid a little however at a sending from Snow.


~You forget your purpose Brother, or maybe you run from it?~ Once again amusement tinged the sending, causing Rahien to nearly blush.


"So...for the reason I asked you here," He started somewhat hesitantly. "I want to do something, but I cannot do it alone." Here his voice took on a slightly defensive tone. "Aislyn said I could, and I really would like to.." He was babbling and he knew it, but could do nothing to stop it. Light this was hard! Biting the inside of his cheek to still his tongue he grinned at Rhya to show he was nervous. "Asking for help is not easy for my Rhya. I want to build a home and need someone to help me."


She looked as if she was about to speak and words spilled from his mouth unbidden. "You don't have to. If you have classes and stuff, you know, taking care of Owen or something, I understand." He blushed and shut his mouth with an audible click of his teeth. He used the Stones board to ease his embarrassment.


Rhya had placed a stone and they now had two corners each. Rhaien had to play a move now that could very possibly tilt the scales one way or another. He had two options, he could play the defense and strengthen one of his own territories, or play the aggressor and invade a territory of Rhya's contesting her presence there. Always having been the aggressor, he placed a stone a few spaces away from hers glancing at her to see how she would respond...

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Rhya choked on her tea as she tried to laugh and drink at the same time, drawing curious looks from the other occupants of the room.


“Taking care of Owen?” a chuckle burbled up in her throat again while her eyes sparkled with the humour of the notion. “I can’t think of anyone less likely to want taken care of Rahien. Our mentor is as pig headed a male as I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. He has been at death’s door and still he would have everyone believe that he is totally fine and completely uneffected.” Rhya’s voice resonated with a warmth and caring that she was oblivious to but which made it clear that her words were no criticism. Rather they were an affectionate tolerance bred from familiarity and an acceptance of the person as they were. “And to be honest, he is fitter, stronger and healthier than most men half his age. Now, classes are another thing entirely but we can work around that. Don’t be worrying yourself over asking for help, you would have received it even had you not asked. The ‘Kin do not let each other toil alone and I’d be delighted to lend a hand. I think it will be rather exciting to build a new home.”


Rhya perused the board and the placement of the stones, noting that Rahien was playing on the attack. That could be a definite weakness. It all depends on just how rusty I am.


For the moment, she ignored the aggressive move and played to her own tune, putting her next stone on an intersection directly diagonal to her first. She had a plan, but time would tell if it could succeed.


“How is Snow settling in to her new surroundings? I expect it has all been a bit strange for her too. Oh and are you hungry by any chance? I didn’t eat before leaving the tree house so I can order for both of us.”


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Rahien's eyes tightened by reflex as Rhya choked on her tea in laughter. She rectified it however with her next comment.


“Taking care of Owen? I can’t think of anyone less likely to want taken care of Rahien...." Her voice was warm and the sting taken from her words. Rahien wondered just how strongly she felt for the man and if she even knew it.


"...Now, classes are another thing entirely but we can work around that. Don’t be worrying yourself over asking for help...I’d be delighted to lend a hand. I think it will be rather exciting to build a new home.”


Rahien tried hard not to frown. He was not sure exactly how he felt about others offering help...Oh he would be grateful, and he wasn't sure he had it in him to tell them no. It was just that a building a home was something personal.


Rhya made her placement on the board and played a stone opposite from her last, claiming more territory in that corner. Rahien knew that if he focused on the corner he had previously placed in, he would lose an advantage and possibly allow her to flank him later. Placing in the same corner as she had, on the attack once again, he answered her question about Snow.


"How is she doing? Oh better than me." A low chuckle escaped his lips. "It has been new for her but she assures me that she is happy. Apparently it has been a long time since she has been around other wolves too." He paused for a moment at the last comment. around other wolves too. Rhya didn't seem to notice though and Rahien tucked it away to consider later. "Yes, food would be welcome." He said, somewhat distracted...

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Rhya nodded and left the table briefly to order some stew for them both, procuring herself a fresh mug of tea while she was at it. Returning to her seat, she considered Rahien’s last move on the board. Definitely on the attack.


“I was almost certain she would settle well since it was her idea to call for us,” she replied, “and Shadow has not mentioned any problems which was a good sign.”


Rhya placed her fourth stone behind the last to prevent being circled and leaned back, cradling the hot mug between her palms.


“Nobody will force help on you, Rahien but why make a big job harder on yourself? It would take two of us months to build a home for you. You are part of a large family now and sooner or later, you will need to get to know the others.” She sighed lightly and grinned. “It took me a while to get that idea into my head. I am not… at ease around many people… but you will find them to be welcoming for the most part.”


She moved the board to one side as two plates of rich stew and chunks of fresh bread were placed before them by a young lad, still red faced from the kitchen’s heat. Proferring her thanks, she tucked in immediately, indicating that Rahien should do the same and a brief silence surrounded them.


“Good as always,” Rhya noted. “I don’t know what they put in this but it’s worth a trip here any day of the week. So, tell me, do you have specific ideas for this home of yours?”


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Rhya left the table to order more food but Rahien hardly noticed. A crease of worry perched atop his brow as he contemplated that thought. Other wolves? As if he were a wolf himself. He was not sure he was entirely comfortable with that thought. In all fairness everyone around here was jokingly called pup by their elders and other little comments that alluded to their commonalities with their lupine friends. Was he going feral? Is that what it meant?


Rahien shook his head and put his worries aside, they were a constant companion and one he was looking to dodge. He would think on it later. Putting a smile on his face as Rhya returned to the table, he watched as she placed her next stone. The corner of his mouth twitched down and his jaw clenched in concentration. She was playing in the same corner, on the defense now. He could press the attack or... No, pressing the attack would keep her from playing in the other corners. He placed his stone in the same corner threatening hers. If he kept up the pressure...


“Nobody will force help on you...but...It would take two of us months to build a home for you...sooner or later, you will need to get to know the others.” She grinned and sighed and Rahien noted that his auburn haired friend was pretty in a fierce way. She then revealed something about herself that endeared her to him even more.


"...I am not… at ease around many people… but you will find them to be welcoming for the most part.”


Rahien did not try to supress a grin at her comment as the food arrived. In truth, it was a grin for her comment as much as for the food. He was hungry and it smelled delicious. Rhya motioned for him to dig in and he did, with a will. As he spooned the warm, dark liquid to his mouth, taste exploded on his tongue. The thick liquid was heavy with the taste of meat, wild greens and barley. His mouth watered and it was hard not to scald himself before it cooled enough to eat.


“Good as always,” She noted and Rahien nodded agreement. "...do you have specific ideas for this home of yours?”


Rahien thought for a moment as he continued to devour his stew, he would have to come back again...


"I have thought a litte." He responded after a moment more of hungrily shoveling stew into his mouth. "A nice cozy dwelling built into a hillside? A cottage similar to the one you found me in? I don't want something normal." He chuckled then at the comment. Nothing about his life had been normal, why should his home. "Something set apart a little by the lake maybe?" He continued lifting his stew to his mouth as he studied Rhya, the board forgotten.

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Rhya watched Rahien start eating in satisfaction. She was a firm believer in food being a cure-all for most things and the food in the Stedding whilst often plain, was always wholesome and tasty. Making good headway with demolishing her own stew and savouring the aromas wafting off the plate, she turned over Rahien’s ideas in her mind trying to picture what the cottage might look like and unaware of his scrutiny.


“Well I can’t blame you for wanting something individual. I do live in a tree house after all, even if it was rather by accident than design,” she acknowledged. “The Lake is off limits though. The Inn and Wolflover’s cottage are there but the rest of the land is kept free by agreement. I’m not sure how easy building into a hillside would be but I’m game to try if that’s what you want.”


Rhya glanced casually at the board, checking where her companion had placed his last stone. Finally, she placed her own on the opposite side of it, moving to block whatever he was about to attempt next. That should make him think twice.


“Materials will be easy to come by. You’ve probably noticed that all of the houses are constructed from earth and wood to blend in with our surroundings,” she paused, amending that slightly, “except for the Inn as it was Ogier built of course. When do you hope to start on the project? We'll need to be done before the worst of the weather hits.”


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"Well I can’t blame you for wanting something individual. I do live in a tree house after all..." Rahien chuckled at that. "The Lake is off limits though...I’m not sure how easy building into a hillside would be..." He felt a stab of disapointment, he liked the lake and it would have been nice to live out there...away from everyone...


She was willing to try building into the hillside with him? That had been an offhand comment. What with the half frozen ground and the sheer weight of earth they would have to move, it was more of a long project rather than a quick one.


A nice, solid cottage could be satisfactory. His thoughts drifted to his onetime home and the cottage he had shared with his parents. He was pulled from his reverie by his friends words.



"Materials will be easy to come by...earth and wood to blend in with our surroundings, When do you hope to start on the project? We'll need to be done before the worst of the weather hits."


Rahien nodded, "I would like to start as soon as possible. It's not that i don't like staying at the infirmary." He amended with a glance at Rhya. "Aislyn is very kind, it's just that I would like a place of my own."


He noted that she had played another defensive move, this one looked to block his attack. She had not placed her stone to form what was called an "eye" yet, so it was still fair game. He placed another on the attack, trying to prevent escape.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The emotions coming from Rahien changed like quicksilver. One moment surprised, the next tinged with sadness, then thoughtful. Rhya couldn’t keep up with all of them but she sensed enough to appreciate how volatile his state of mind was. Much like any Wanderer. It wasn’t easy to adapt, to settle into new surroundings and she understood the need to have a place to call your own, a space to relax and think. The Stedding would come to feel like home far sooner that way.


“Yes,” she agreed aloud, “Aislyn’s a very comforting presence around here. All of the Sages are in fact. Their patience amazes me given some of the cases they deal with.”


Rhya studied the board as she spoke, seeing with satisfaction that Rahien continued to place his pieces on the attack and added her next to the board with a hint of a smirk. “So, you will have to do some exploring and pick a site that suits you. I hope you have a better idea than I do of how to build, this will be my first attempt. It won’t do much good if it falls down around your ears the first night in it.” Laughter gurgled from her throat at the image her words conjured. “There wasn’t much call in Maradon for those kinds of skills.”


Finishing her tea, Rhya’s thoughts turned to her mother and she derived a deal of amusement from imagining Fionnda’s horror at such a turn of events.


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"Yes...Their patience amazes me given some of the cases they deal with."


Rahien couldn't help but chuckle at that. He had seen a couple of the other wanderers react...unsatisfactorily. It seemed their patience was unflappable.


Rhya had placed another stone on the board and Rahien caught a smell from her. It was smoky and bubbly at the same time. It made him think of amusement for some reason. He blinked and rubbed his nose before he could think to stop it. It was frustrating smelling things you weren't sure were even there. He was not sure Rhya had noticed as she went on in a normal tone.


"...you will have to do some exploring and pick a site that suits you. I hope you have a better idea than I do of how to build..."


Rahien chuckled along with her at the comment about it falling down around his ears. She was right though and luckily he had helped do repairs on the cottage back home, and had built the woodshed out back. He would be fine.


His thoughts drifted to where he might build his new home and resolved that he and Snow would have to do some exploring. That put a smile on his face, it sounded fun...

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  • 3 weeks later...

"I must go Rahien. I hadn't realised how late it was," Rhya drained her mug, pushing away from the table and adding teasingly, "Don't think this game is finished though. We shall find time to complete it at some point I'm sure."


Reaching for her cloak, she swung it casually round her shoulders. Rahien looked deep in thought already and she had no doubt he was planning his new home, considering locations and looking forward to having a place to call his own.


"Let me know when you've decided on a build site. We'll build you a cottage fit for a King, my friend," she gestured extravagantly, bowing with a flourish that was spoiled only by her grin and the broad wink accompanying the gesture.


With his laughter echoing in her ears, Rhya left the Inn with an added lightness to her step. It seemed she was not so alone as she had once thought and her new family was gradually expanding. Her smile broadened as she sent a call out to Shadow, her footsteps taking her in the direction of the tree house.




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