"Of course not." I laughed, and then turned away thinking about what he meant by his not being worried about sievere mating for life. Had he been talking about Zahkon and Lyra, or had he been suggesting something else? I'd never thought of him in that way before, but now that the thought had been placed in my head, I realised that he was all I had thought about since the day I met him.

"Is there something you aren't telling me?" He asked, peering at me with his sparkling eyes. "Are you hiding something?"

"No." I replied, a little too quickly because I saw his eyes flash at my lie, and to cover myself I stood and left the tavern, ignoring Brena, who had just brought me a water. As I strode out in to the cold night air, I pulled my cloak tightly around me and marched out of the village. Behind me I could hear footsteps, but I didn't care, I just wanted time alone. I started running, and the footsteps behind faltered, then sped up.

I reached a group of trees and slid behind them, staring at the frowning mountain above me. Footsteps got closer, and I closed my eyes so that their light would not give away my place. As the footsteps passed, I opened my eyes and saw Destran, one hand on his sword, the other ahead so that he did not stumble in to trees. He stopped and his head turned wildly, then he said my name. When I voiced no reply, he said it loudly, and then shouted it towards the mountain. I was about to take pity on him, and go towards him, when the bushes on his right rustled. He turned.

"Yara?" I rolled my eyes, and then watched, all amusement gone, as vinger appeared. And then I realised Destran couldn't see the creature, although he tensed, obviously having heard the soft 'thip-thip' that came from the reptile as it's tongue tested the air. I grasped my knife from my thigh, and started running. Destran turned, having heard me coming, but the vinger was already running and he knocked Destran to the ground before darting away as I got close enough to swing my blade. Destran yelled and pulled out his sword, but the creature was now running at me. I hadn't much time to think, so I threw myself up as the vinger reached me, and landed on it, thrusting the blade deep in to it's neck. It uttered a gutteral cry, struggled, then died. I pulled out my blade, wiped it on the floor, then turned to help Destran. As I stepped towards him, he swung his blade and I leapt out the way before he charged. I yelled as he knocked me down, and we went rolling through the leaves and the grass.

"Destran!" I cried, clouting him over the head in anger as we came to a stop, him over me.

"Yara? What just happened?" He asked, still lying on me.

"One of those vingers attacked you; you're lucky I was there."

"You killed it?"

"Of course I did, numbskull, else you'd be dead by now instead of on top of me."

"Sorry." He muttered, obviously taken aback, and began to stand. I took pity on him and pushed him over as he stood, so that we rolled a few more metres. This time, I looked down on him. "Yara, what are you doing? I thought you wanted me to get off you?"

"You are." I grinned, although he couldn't see it. He could see the smile in my eyes though, and grinned himself. "What would you do without me big nose? I save your life, I keep you down to earth, I give you company... what more could you ask for?" It was easy to be myself with him, and I wondered whether he was my mate for life. But then, the only way to test that was to kiss him, and if I did that and we weren't, I could ruin our friendship. He would forever think that I was in love with him, and if he wasn't... he would learn to be wary fo me. For those reasons, I just could not test it, not for my own curiousity.

"I thought you weren't going to insult me anymore." He whispered.

"I never agreed to that." I winked, knowing he would see. Then suddenly, I realised I had been on top of him for too long to be just by accident. I pushed myself off and rolled next to him. We lay in silence for some time, just staring in to, what for him was blackness, and for me was the tops of the trees, and the point of the frowning mountain. Then his voice rang in the darkness.

"Yara... how did you know... that Lyra and Zahkon were partners? I mean, how did you know Lyra had found her love?"

I considered how to answer.

"I'd suspected that she liked him for a while... but then it is normally only others that can see when people are in love. And then, when you splashed water on her, when she'd fainted, she glowed, very faintly. Sievere glow when they are first touched with water after giving their heart to someone, which is usually shown with a kiss, although other, more intimate gestures are also acceptable. So I knew then that she had kissed him, or more. And now I have to learn to like him, for Lyra's sake."

"So, if you were to give your heart to someone... I'd be able to see because of your glow in the water?"

I fidgeted before answering.

"Yes. The glow usually lasts for a few days."

"And sievere don't know, immediately when they set eyes on someone, that they're partners?"

"Well no. if that happened, we'd have babies trying to mate with each other. It happens when both of the two are ready for each other, and a life long relationship. Sometimes people are never ready, sometimes, they never reach that exact mutual emotion or understanding, and so never achieve their couple status. And sometimes, one might fall in love with another, and find that the other is more suited for someone else. I guess it is nature's way of keeping the population from getting too big." I smiled a little at this part, remembering that this was something Lyra had said to me when lamenting that she would never find her true mate.

"So, can sievere have crushes? That don't turn out to be their true mate?"

"Oh yes, but there is nothing in comparison to the feeling, or so I've heard. When a sievere kisses their true love for the first time, they hear the water singing with the voices of their ancestors."

"But you can still kiss others that you have a crush on... to find out?"

"Yes. That's how we achieve those who are lamenting over lost loves. They give their heart fully in one kiss, and then discover that there is no singing for the other. It is very sad. Those sievere generally give up, and release their water shape to become... well, just water."

"Has that happened, to anyone you know?"

"Yes." I said, and did not wish to continue. Thinking about that pain was too much.

Destran's hand touched mine, and my skin tingled. Speaking of crushes and pain...

"Promise me you'll never let that happen to you. Don't ever release your form."

I squeezed his hand, but remained silent. I could not promise such a thing.

"Come, we had better return. I do not fancy having to slay any more of those creatures because poor prince clam nose cannot see in the dark." I smiled, trying to relieve the weight of tension I could feel on my shoulders. I stood, and he stood with me, reaching out to take my hand once more. I helped him through the forest, and when we reached the edge of the village I turned to him.

"Go, find somewhere to sleep. I do not think I could enter a trance now."

He grasped my other hand, kissed my forehead and headed towards the tavern, while I watched and wondered about who my true mate would be.

The End

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