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Subject: Fire and Water

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Date Posted: 22:43:20 01/25/03 Sat

The sound of the hoofbeats thudding rhythmically to the ground filled her ears, calming her with their solid regularity. As Carenina cantered smoothly away from Minas Tirith, Faeirex’s tears had dried on her cheeks and her anger had faded, flowing away from her and being trampled beneath pounding hooves. The sun had long since risen and now chill rays penetrated the lattice of leaves above to scatter a speckled light along the forest floor, highlighting the glitter of morning frost.
The horse was perfect; responding to every touch and change of her mood. Like every Carenina before her she had been trained especially to match Faeirex and although it was the first time she had ridden this particular horse, they blended together seamlessly. The thought caused her to draw up and slow the pace to a walk.

“Each new generation I will raise one of Carenina’s line to bear you.”

How long had it been since she had last ridden a horse of this blood? Yet five thousand years later, it continued. Aralias had never forgotten, not even in the millennia when they hadn’t spoken, and she had tried to forget his very existance.
How could I say those things to him?

I’m sorry, Lia, she thought, even if I’ll never say it to your face. You’d never let me forget it, would you? Why can we never meet without fighting?

She looked down, “Do you know, Carenina? Why do I always fight with my brother?”
Carenina snorted and she gave a sudden silvery laugh which sounded alien in the frosty silence, “Because he’s cool and smooth like water, but I’m bright and changing like the fire. The two don’t mix, you know.”
She sobered up suddenly. “But water always wins over fire in the end. Fire destroys, but it only takes a little water to quench it.
Is that going to happen to us?”

Again, no response but a brief shake of a mane. On impulse, Faeirex leant down to embrace the snowy white neck that heaved from the night’s exertions. Straightening up, she noticed that Carenina was favoring her right foreleg. Instantly, she dismounted.
“What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
The leg was slightly swollen.
“I’m sorry,” she apologised, overcome with contrition, “I shouldn’t have ridden you so far, or so fast.”
Carenina swung her head and nosed at her shoulder gently, taking a purposeful step towards the gently flowing river.
“That’s right, go drink. We’ll stay here for the rest of the day, until your leg’s healed enough to move again.”
She followed her horse to the river bank, enticed by the dancing rays of light and the way the water was clear enough to see the water-smoothed pebbles on the bottom. Silver fish flashed in the depths, but the warmth of the scene was belied by the way delicate fingers of ice stretched out hungrily from the bank, ensnaring russet leaves in their frozen touch. Squatting, she tested the temperature with slim fingers. It was icy.
All the same, she was overcome with an undeniable urge to bathe, and wash away the dust, the pain and the memory of the King of Gondor. While her skin was clear and unsullied, the touch of his eyes had left her feeling dirty inside, somewhere she couldn’t reach.

She undressed swiftly, folding the windblown gown and placing it gently inside her saddlebag. It would probably never be worn again, but something so beautiful could not just be discarded. Besides, it was yet another mark of how much Lia really did care, even if he could never say so in words. And that was something far too precious to be lost.

The water was cold against her skin, but not unbearably so. Elves were far more resistant to cold than humans. It did something else though, freezing emotions inside of her. For the first time in months, Faeirex was totally calm and dispassionate. The future was ahead, and she could not hold it back. She could only wait. The fight would come, eventually. It was only a matter of time…

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