The sun felt so warm against my skin that day that the gentle caress almost blotted out the nagging pain I felt at the memory of all those deaths. The Falath'Nakan had lain strewn across the grass, blood flowing between them like the reddest of wines. It looked like a massacre. It was a massacre. I shook the memory of life leaving the eyes of the creatures I had killed from my mind, and concentrated on the fire in front of me. Soon the water in the pot was bubbling and Brena smiled at me.
"Thank you Yara. I'll start on the stew."
"Brena. You feed us every evening. Please, allow me this once. Go and rest yourself with Lyra."
She looked as though she would protest but instead nodded, and went to sit by the water. I began preparing the meat to be cooked, rubbing it with various herbs and then placing it in the boiling water.
"Yara." I turned at Destran's voice, seeing he had finished his task and was now sitting on a log to the side of the fire. "I wish to apologise."
"For what?" I questioned, turning back to the fire again. I hoped I knew what for, but did not allow myself to anticipate what could possibly not happen.
"For leaving. Again."
"Again?" I questioned, once again hoping I knew that answer. I was proved right for the second time.
"I did so when we were younger. I had hoped once we were reunited to never do so again. But I found myself leaving despite all my hopes. And for that I apologise."
"You had your reasons. You had reason to leave then, as you did the other day. I understand."
"You shouldn't have to. You shouldn't have to even think about the possibility of me leaving."
"I have learnt in my years that things do not always happen the way you want them too. You came back, and that was all I wished for."
"I did. I did come back." I heard the light stepping of his feet, and his boots appeared in front of me, at the side of the fire. I did not look at him, but stirred the meat as it softened and began to brown."But I should never have left."
"You had your reasons." I repeated, poking a piece of meat a little harder than I should have. It hissed and spat inside the pot.
"Stop saying that." His voice rose in anger, and then quietened again. "Please. Do not give me excuses. I am trying to tell you something."
"Tell me what?" I asked, finally summoning the courage to look at him.He looked as though he were conflicted, struggling with some great burden, and the possibility of being free of it. All this I could tell from the seriousness of his eyes as he spoke.
"Tell you that you never have to worry about me leaving you again. I will never do that again. Do you understand?"
I shrank slightly from his words. His sudden seriousness caused me great worry. What was it that he spoke of? What did he mean?
"No. I do not understand your promise. It is not made in earnest. You can never promise that you will never leave. Fate may have other plans."
"Then I shall make it as difficult as I can for fate to take me away."
"Destran, you are too serious." I whispered, gripping the wooden spoon and straightening to face him. "It worries me."
"This is something I must be serious about."
"What could possibly cause such a look?"
"You. The feelings I have for you. I have been battling with them, constantly trying to find some reason for them, some excuse to believe them. And finally, I believe I realised something. There is no reason to them. There is only you." I was rendered speechless by his words. Could he truly be saying what I thought he was saying? As if to answer my thoughts, he spoke once more. "I love you Yara."
I dropped the spoon in the pot and grabbed his arm, pulling him away from the camp and in to the trees. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Brena's concerned face as she saw us and hurried to tend to the food. Once we were out of sight I stopped and whirled to face him.
"You cannot be serious."
"I am. You said so yourself." He looked concerned, as well he had right to be. My reaction to the news had hardly been celebratory.
"I cannot believe you are."
"I am. Truly. I have this for you." He pulled a small box from under his cloak, presenting it to me. I hardly dared touch it. Inside was a delicate ring, so beautiful that its single gem seemed like it had been plucked from the night sky.
"For... for me?"
"But you... where did you get it?"
"A man. The same man who made me turn around and start heading back to you."
"But I... Destran, how can you be sure? We've hardly spoken since we started this quest. And we have argued... how do you know?"
"I know. But if you don't, I believe there is only one way to find out." He offered me his hand.
He was suggesting I kissed him. I had told him that Sievere knew when they kissed someone if they were soul mates. And I was afraid. I was afraid in case it wasn't him.
"I can't kiss you Destran. What if... what if we're not soul mates?"
"Then we're not and I will still love you and you can continue as you wish. Soul mates do not exist in all cultures. If whatever we have isn't what is right in your culture, then you can decide what we do. I will not argue. But I will fight for you every day of my life until someone worthy of you can do so instead. And even then, I believe you will still have my heart."
I smiled and felt my heart lifted by his words as though it wanted to fly through the air.
"Very well." I leaned forward and slowly, hesitatingly, kissed his lips.
It was a strange experience, new for me, and filled with possibilities. My heart was singing, my senses filled with a warm heat that made me want to throw my arms around him. His lips made mine want to sing, and sing love songs of truth and honesty that would never blindly hurt any living creature, but fill them with a joy so true they could never be unhappy again.
As our lips drifted apart I opened my eyes.
"So?" He asked, smiling down at me.
I broke my heart at that moment, pleading for the sievere singing. For the voices that meant Destran and my souls were joined through fate and the stars and the moon. But our world remained silent and peaceful.
"They do not sing." I replied, so heartbroken I thought my heart had truly split.
"Oh." He looked down at me with sorrow in his eyes, and then held up the box once more."Then I wish you would wear this as a sign of my deepest love for you. No matter how you feel in return."
"I do love you Destran. I do."
"But there will always be the dream of someone else."
"The possibility, yes."
"Then keep the ring until you no longer need it."
He smiled and I felt my lips return it. I took the ring and slipped it on my index finger.
"Thank you." I gently leaned up and kissed his cheek, and then hurried back to the camp. So I had finally kissed Destran, and we weren't soul mates. The strange thing was that although I felt pain at this knowledge I also felt happy. I knew for the first time that there was always the possibility of love, without fate having to dictate it. I loved Destran, but he was not meant for me. And that didn't matter. I could still be his friend, and closest companion.