The Pains of Recognition
How this story came to be told . . .
Shima heard the soft footfalls coming up behind her. The sun was just starting to set in the horizon. Whoever it was, did not interrupt her ritual but stayed close by as she sent out the mental cry for her Lifemate. Again, no answer was returned. Shima turned to face her companion and was surprised to find it was Halban.
"What are you doing out here, storyteller? I have no time for your tales."
"I'm not here to spin a story. I wish to learn one."
"I have no story to tell."
"That's where you are wrong. You and Kigen's history is one of the most romantic stories ever lived." When Shima did not answer, Halban pressed on. "I was there when it happened but you lived it. Tell me of the ordeal of your Recognition."
"As you wish, but I still do not think it is a tale for the campfire."
Now the tale Halban learned that night . . .
~ The Pains of Recognition ~ (Part One)
"May you be swallowed by a sand cobra!"
Shima stared down at the sand around her feet. Kigen's trail had been so easy to follow and now it was gone. She knew the next step was to start making a wide arch until she found the tracks once more.
"Why do I put myself through this?" she thought aloud, beginning her search. The large tan dune dog at her heels made no reply. Shima knew with one small command the dog, Hogo, could easily find her friend's trail. However, that was not the reason for this little endeavor. Shima was here to further her own tracking skills.
"What do we have here, Hogo?" On the ground was a rock that had been turned over by a "careless" step. Shima could tell it had happened recently because there was still some moisture on the stone. The hot sun had yet to dry it completely. "Well, that's a little obvious." She quickly picked up the trail. As she followed the tracks, her mind began to wonder.
Shima had never been with a Lovemate. She wasn't too concerned but she had noticed others in the tribe of the same age and younger had already had the pleasure. Not that there wasn't any one interested. It was just that . . . to get to her, they had to go through Kumo and Kigen and no elf had dared to try. "Well, I'll just have to have a talk with those two, won't I, Hogo?" The dog at her feet let out a sharp bark. It was his "look what I found" yap. Shima watched as her bond animal ran a few feet ahead of her. He stopped at one of Kigen's green tantoo stakes. "Looks like we're on the right track."
What happened next came without warning. One moment Shima was bending down to recover the tantoo stake and the next a Herculean force crashed into her. Shima rolled with the blow and quickly regained her footing. She came face to face with a huge desert tiger. As the beast charged, again Hogo threw himself in front of his mistress. The tiger's massive teeth caught the dog in the back of the neck. Her bond friend died without making a sound. His death was not in vain. It gave Shima the seconds she needed to gather her wits. The Throwback was useless in close combat. Running was also not an option; there was nowhere to run. So standing and fighting was her sole alternative. The only weapon she had of any use was her knife. Which wasn't as bad as it seemed. Shima had been taught how to use a blade by the finest sword wielder the tribe had, her brother. "Every strike has got to count," she thought as the tiger dropped the dog and advanced.
That was when Shima saw the white foam dripping from the beast's mouth. The beast needs not to kill her with his teeth. "High Ones, protect me!" As the tiger charged Shima dropped to her knees and spun out of the way. Her knife plunged into the shoulder of the raving beast. The wound did nothing to slow the assault. Shima managed to stay a few seconds faster than the tiger, yet none of her blows seemed to be hurting. Then the tiger got lucky. As Shima thrust her knife into the neck of the tiger, a mighty paw slashed her across the arm. She lost her hold on the blade.
Shima stood up defenseless. Her right arm hung useless at her side. The nerves cut by the claws of the ranting beast. The tiger turned to face her. She could see her knife still embedded in its neck.
** Sister, what's wrong?!? **
** Daughter, we are coming! **
The sending confused the elf. Had she sent for help . . . she could not remember doing so. The tiger was upon her. His razor sharp teeth bit into her left arm as she tried to shield her face. While his teeth gnawed on her arm, the massive claws dug at her side.
Shima felt the darkness advancing; she fought it with all that was inside her. She knew once the darkness came, that she would not be able to find her way back out. Through the haze, she watched as the tiger reared above her. The beast's powerful paw was drawn back and ready for the killing blow. Shima knew her time was up.
** Mother, Brother, Kigen . . . I love you all! **
Shima watched as the claws descended. Before it reached her the giant tiger roared in pain and fell away. From where she laid Shima could see the tip of a spear protruding from its side. The weapon had passed clear through the tiger's body. The beast struggled to its feet.
Then the injured elf heard a growl from behind her. "Please, not another tiger," she begged silently. A black blur bounded over her and threw himself at the raving animal. "Tora . . ." Shima's voice was weak. She knew now where the spear had come from. Kigen joined his dune dog and after a couple of quick blows with his knife the tiger went down, never to get back up.
Kigen let the beast lay and ran over to Shima. She could tell by the look in his eyes . . . eyes . . . "Oh, not now!!!" Shima cried out in anguish. ** I know you, you are my brother's soul brother . . . my friend . . . you are Yor! **
Kigen's eyes told her all that she needed to know. As she knew him . . . he knew her. ** You are Tani . . . but your soul is so weak I can barely hear the name it cries out. Please, after all this time . . . do not give up. **
Kigen tried to tend her wounds the best he could. But there were just too many. "Kigen, my friend, the tiger was rabid. It is too late for me, but you must have the healer treat you or suffer the foaming sickness."
"If you die, my Little Tiger, then so shall I."
"Don't say that . . . you have lived so long . . . I have only been but a moment in your life . . ."
"No, I have lived for this moment . . . you must survive."
"Then perhaps, I should have her."
Kigen looked up, startled. Standing beside him was the healer, Kyara. With the healer were Kumo, Ame, Onsha, and a dozen more elves. Kigen gladly gave his beloved over to the only one who had the power save her.
Shima awoke in the arms of the healer, Kyara. The young elf had been in the same position for some time. Her exhausted eyes took in the surroundings. She still lay in the desert, not far from where the battle for her life had taken place. A small shelter had been erected over her and Kyara. Shima could not see but she smelled the stench of burnt flesh. The tribe must have burned the remains of her attacker and her loyal bond beast, Hogo. At the thought of her companion, Shima let the sorrow, she had not had the time to allow herself, wash over her. Hogo had not been the first bond beast she had lost . . . but it never got easier. If she had been a little more alert, if she had seen the tiger from a distance. If . . . there were a lot of ifs.
Kyara must have sensed the change in her. His eyelids fluttered open. Shima watched his eyes come into focus. He looked as weary as she felt.
** Your healing is not yet complete. **
** How long have you been at this? ** Shima sent as well, it seemed the easiest.
** The sun has set twice since Kigen laid you in my arms. **
Shima stared up at Kyara in disbelief. Never had she heard of a healer in a trance for so long. ** What of Kigen? Did you heal him? The tiger was rabid. **
** Neither he nor his beast sustained any serious injuries. It only took a moment to nullify the poison. Now, let me concentrate on you. I have used almost all my energy but the healing is not yet finished. Close your eyes and when you awake you shall be whole once more. **
Shima closed her eyes, but she still could not rest.
** Kyara? **
"What, young one?" Shima could hear the impatience in his reply.
** How bad . . . are the scars? **
The comment caused the older elf to reopen his eyes. He studied the girl in his arms. ** Vanity doesn't suit you, huntress. **
** It's not me, who I'm concerned about. **
Kyara nodded his head. ** You bare no physical scars, though you will be weak for some time. **
** No scars . . . that is not your way. **
** As you said, it is for others that I did this. Kigen and Kumo have enough scars. They need no reminder of this episode. **
** Thank you **
Kyara smiled. ** Enough talk . . . now I must insist you rest. **
Shima returned the smile and was quickly drawn into a healing sleep.
(Of course, when Halban is telling the story soul names are never revealed. Can't divulge what is not known. However, in a tale about Recognition they are almost a necessity. ~ Shima)
Halban's story switched to the view from Kigen's eyes. The missing tracker had once shared this story with him. Now the storyteller could tell it to the others.
~ The Pains of Recognition ~ (Part Two)
Kigen watched as Shima exited the small tent. Her steps were still short and hesitant as she made her way toward Ame's garden. The tribe had returned home over a month early because Kyara instructed them that Shima would not do well on the move. Kigen, Kumo, and Ame had suggested returning alone to the main campsite with Shima but Onsha would not hear of it. She did not want to risk dividing the tribe.
Shima stumbled over some loose soil and fell to the ground. It took all of Kigen's will power not to hurry to her side. A week ago he would not have faltered. Now, everything was different. It had started out so innocently. Shima had asked to be taken on a tantoo stake hunt. There was no need of his tracking abilities at the time so he had readily agreed. The rules were simple enough. He would get an hour lead, then Shima would follow behind, tracking and retrieving the stakes. If he ran into trouble the game would stop. It was only suppose to involve the use of the green stakes, which meant safe journey.
When the tiger attacked Shima, Kigen had felt it. He sensed her fear as if he and she were one. He made a frantic call for help to his soul brother as he raced back to Shima. Never had he ran so fast, his and Tora's pace were the same. Then came Shima's farewell message, by then he could see the tiger. He took no time to aim his weapon, he relied on pure instinct. It served him well and his spear struck true. Afterwards when he finally got to Shima's side, the first thing he observed was the blood, it was everywhere. Then her eyes found his. The same eyes he had looked into a hundred times. This time though, as his hands tried to stop her life-blood from seeping out, those same eyes revealed something their spirits had known all along. She was lying there dying and their souls recognized one another.
Never before had Kigen felt something that strong . . . that right. He was sure he was going to lose the one person who made him begin to live again. Then Kyara was there and he made her whole once more. Kigen now owed the healer more than he would ever be able to repay.
Since returning to camp, Kigen had tried several times to talk to Shima but each time she pushed him away. She behaved as if they had a choice in the matter.
Kigen watched as Ame helped Shima to her feet.
"Why don't you go say hello? The two of you haven't spoken since you saved her life." Kigen turned to face his soul brother. "In fact, I doubt you said two words to me . . . are you avoiding me?"
Kigen moved away without answering. He brushed past Kumo, picked up his spear, and whistled for Tora. The giant dune dog howled his response from beyond the boundaries of the camp.
"Going hunting . . . I'll go with you."
"Whoa, two words!"
Kigen could not help but grin. Through all that had happened to Kumo, he hadn't lost his sense of humor. The two of them exited the camp and were joined by their bond beasts. Kumo remained silent as Kigen found a trail of a lone deer. He let the tracker lead the hunt.
** Yor, what's wrong? Shima is safe . . . you are not still blaming yourself are you? **
"When I found Shima she was lying next to a green tantoo stake. Green for safe journey . . . SAFE!"
"It was safe when you passed through. I checked out the surrounding area. The tiger had just arrived before Shima. You had walked through an hour earlier. The beast was not there."
** Hade, don't you see . . . again I wasn't there when a person that I love needed me. **
** Back to the past again?!? You keep living in the past, Yor, and you will never see what the future has to give you. **
Kigen raised up his hand. Their prey was in sight. "We're upwind, you want him?"
"I do believe it is my turn."
Kumo told Mizu to stay back and advanced toward the feeding deer. Kigen lost track of him as he melted into the shadows of surrounding rocks.
** So, you've recognized Shima. **
The deer's head shot up. In a flash, it was on the run. It took the stunned elf a moment to register the fact that supper had gotten away.
"So much for a venison dinner," Kumo said, walking out of the shadows. "So what are your intentions with my sister?"
** How . . . did you? **
"I've seen the look in your eyes a few times before with others."
"This doesn't bother you?"
"Bother me? Out of the entire tribe you are the only one I consider worthy of my sister."
"It seems to be troubling Shima."
"She'll come around. Just don't rush her."
"Easy for you to say."
"Yes . . . and it gets worse every time I look at her."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, I bet Shima is going through the same thing."
"No, it doesn't make me feel any better. It hurts, Hade. There is a fire inside me that feels like it is going to consume me. Your sister has the same burning and it's hurting her too."
** Yor! **
** Did you call, brother? **
"No . . ."
Kigen did not wait for him to finish as he raced back to the camp.
** Yor! ** The cry came again, laced with pain.
Kigen ran into the courtyard. Everything seemed all right. Ame was in her garden. ** Ame, where's Shima? **
** She went to lie down. **
Kigen's heart slowed its pace as he slipped inside Shima's tent. She was on her bed. He knelt down and touched her face. It was damp from tears that escaped down her cheek.
** Tani, what's wrong? **
** No . . . no . . . please, no . . . Yor! **
Kigen's hand fell away. She did not want him and worst of all, the thought of him was causing her grief.
"You are wrong, tracker."
Kigen turned to face the Revered Mother. "What do you mean, Sharana?"
"You think her cry is a denial of the bond between the two of you."
"Yes . . ."
"The sleeping huntress is reliving the attack that almost took her from us. She calls out your name for strength and hope."
"You think so?"
"I know so. Take her hand."
Kigen did as he was told. The moment his hand touched Shima's the agonizing look on her face eased.
"See, your touch brings her peace. Soon it will do the same when she is awake. Be patient . . . I know that is difficult."
"Does everyone know?" Kigen growled.
"The both of you glow with the power of Recognition." Sharana touched Kigen's head as she turned and left.
Kigen remained with Shima awhile longer but left before she awoke.
"You're worth waiting for Shima . . . but please, don't take too long." Kigen told the sleeping elf as he exited the tent.
A single tear rolled down a striped cheek.
Were these two destined elves ever going to quench the fire that raged inside them? You know the answer to that but the finale of this tale is yet to come. ~ Halban
Halban looked up at Shima. Her tale had lasted most of the night and still was not finished. He was resting on the ground while she paced around him. "Now, for the best part, tell me how it ended."
"As you wish . . ."
~ The Pains of Recognition ~ (Part Three)
"Don't go far, daughter."
Shima smiled at her mother and gave her a small wave. "I won't, I just need to stretch my legs." In truth, she wished she could run far away. However, she was glad to be able to walk without falling down. It had been a couple of months since their early arrival back to the main campsite. Shima felt herself getting stronger, each passing day. She wasn't the only thing getting stronger everyday, the passion within was driving her crazy.
Shima escaped out of the camp. The entrance had been opened for the hunt that was returning. Kigen would also be coming back. The tracker had been gone for a week and still the fire burned inside her.
** Where are you going, Shima? ** The call came from Seelee who was taking a turn as the lookout.
** Nowhere, I just need to get out and about . . . toss the Throwback a bit. **
** Be careful, call out if you need me. **
Shima waved a grateful hand but inside she was angry. Would they ever stop treating her like a fragile vase? She wasn't as strong as she had been but neither was she a kitling. Shima walked out of the view of Seelee and took out her Throwback. Her weapon had gained something new since the last time it was in her hand. Turning it over she found three shallow claw marks. Not exactly, the engravings her ancestors had wanted, but they too would tell a story to be passed down for generations. Shima grabbed the end of the weapon in her right hand and with a snap of the wrist sent it on its way. The Throwback's path went straight in front of her almost fifty feet before it seemed to skip on the ground a couple of times. Then arching into the air it returned to her hand. She continued doing simple throws and as she flung the Throwback, she let her mind recollect.
Her earliest memories all seemed to have Kigen's face in them. She could remember as a toddler being carried on his back. Then as a child running to him after taking a bad tumble, his touch always seemed to calm her. She also recalled during the Wandering Years the many times she would trail behind him, while the tribe was on the move, holding on to his ponytail. She held it like most small children would hold the tail of a dune dog. It kept his hands free and her under control. She must have tugged and pulled on his hair but she couldn't remember once when he had yelled at her. Then after her father had been killed without passing on the secrets of the Throwback. It was Kigen who helped her learn the art, until she could toss it as skillful as her father, Kaze, could. He was also there as a buffer when Kumo finally returned. Kigen made sure her brother gave her the time she needed to accept him into her heart.
She was brought back to the present as a delicate hand snared the Throwback on its return trip.
Shima accepted her weapon back from the tall elf that gave it to her. "Sharana, you shouldn't be out here."
"How could I stay away when one of my children is hurting so bad?"
"Why, Sharana, why now? I'm not ready to become a mate or a mother."
"Your souls thought the time was now . . . though I've heard blood can bring Recognition to a head and Kigen most definitively came in contact with yours."
"So now what . . . it all seems so complicated."
"There is nothing complicated about it, child. Once you and Kigen give into the urge, your instincts will take over."
"But Kigen has been with other females . . . I've never . . ."
"Child, your fears are senseless . . . just wait and see." After she finished, speaking Sharana left the huntress alone.
Shima threw the Throwback hard. This time the arc went out about two hundred feet and up into the air almost twenty. Then on its return trip it buzzed over her right shoulder, brushing her curls, did a small spiral into the air and returned over her left shoulder, dropping to the ground at her feet.
"I've only seen your father cast like that."
Shima did not turn to face the elf who had spoken. "Go away."
"I can't do that . . . not before giving you this."
She felt Kigen's hand on her shoulder. It then lightly traced a path down her arm. Once he reached her hand, he pressed something into her shaking fingers. "I was positively useless the entire hunt. Luckily, Althair has gotten quite good . . . when did he grow up? While he and the others hunted, I made you this."
Shima forced her eyes to look at the gift. It was a leather wristband. On it was the symbol of the DesertWinds.
"I know how you hate gold and other finery."
"It's beautiful . . . thank you . . . now please leave me."
There was no reply. After a long moment she risked a glance back, he had done as she asked and vanished.
Shima's feelings raged inside her. She tightened her hold on the bracelet Kigen had given her. Her frantic mind finally settled on a suitable response to the emotions flaming inside her. She ran. Away from the Holt, away from Kigen, just away. She ran until her tired body could run no more. She ended up at a ragged outcrop of rocks somewhere north of the Holt. The sun was starting to set. Here, at least, she might be able to find one night of peace. Shima discovered a small cave, big enough for her to stand up in. She had brought no food or water but wasn't concerned. For what she hungered and thirst for could not be satisfied by such petty items. The wind whistling outside finally got her attention. Shima glanced out and noticed a sandstorm had struck the desert. Again it was of little concern, she was safe in her cave. She took off her cape and used it to block off the small opening.
** Daughter! **
** I am safe, Mother. **
** Tani! ** That cry was not from her mother.
** I am safe, Kigen. **
** Where are you? I was following you when this sudden storm hit. **
** Go home. **
** I can't, I'm closer to you than to the Holt. If you open your heart to me, I can find you . . . even in this tempest. **
Shima only had one choice . . . she had known that since the beginning. She did as he asked. She opened herself to him and made the connection true. It seemed like only a moment later that her cape was pushed aside and Kigen came into her haven. He sealed the doorway once more. Then taking off his cape he added it to the barrier. Shima watched as he remained standing, facing away from her. "I did not come to cause you pain. I only wanted to make sure you were safe. I shall do whatever you wish of me."
Shima stepped nearer to the taller elf and laid a hand on his back. She could feel him shaking. ** There is one thing I've always wanted to do, Yor. **
** And what would that be, Little Tiger? **
Reaching up she untied Kigen's ponytail. His blond hair tumbled free of its bond. Shima moved closer until her cheek rested against his back. Her fingers played in his hair causing the silky strands to run through her fingers and for a moment, she was that little child trailing behind her friend. Then he turned to face her and the child disappeared. She was Tani, and he was Yor.
Kumo tracked down his soul brother two days later. He stood outside the cave and announced his arrival. "I thought there might be a couple of hungry elves in the area," he called out. A striped arm reached out from behind the curtain of cloaks and snatched the small bag he offered.
Two more days passed and Kumo returned with Tora. It only took the dog a couple of moments in the cave before his sister and soul brother came tumbling out of the cavern half dressed. "The others were beginning to think I fed the both of you to the Sand Cobras," was all Kumo said as he left with a grin.
Kigen looked over at Shima. They had talked a lot over the past few days but there was one subject they had left unsaid. "We've done what had to be done," he told her. "I won't try to stake a claim on you. I know you have just started to live your life, while I've . . ."
Kigen went silent.
** Yor, I love you. I've probably loved you from the first day I saw you. And as childish as this may sound, I want to be with you and only you forever. **
Kigen could not think of anything to say. He opened his arms and Shima stepped into them. As they embraced, he lifted her hand. Around the wrist was the bracelet he had made. The sun reflected off the decoration on the matching bracelet he wore.
** Lovemates ** he sent.
** Soulmates ** she answered.
** Lifemates ** they sent in unison.
** About time, Little Tiger ** Kumo sent back. Then to his soul brother he lock sent, ** take care of her, Yor. Her life is your life. **
Kigen nodded his head and looking down at his chosen Lifemate he whispered, "did you mean it . . . you want to be with me the rest of your life?"
** Yes, Yor. I'll be by your side until I die. **
Halban looked up, the young huntress was done. The storyteller now had another tale for his collection. He turned to leave when he heard a soft sob coming from the cloaked figure behind him. Halban went to go back when a powerful hand grabbed his shoulder.
** This is a family concern, storyteller. ** Kumo lock sent.
Halban nodded his head and left the two elves alone. As he was leaving he heard Shima's voice. "I made an oath . . . by his side until I die . . . how can I honor that and the promise I made at my father's side as he laid dying?"
Halban did not hear Kumo's response, it wasn't his to hear. However, he knew by tomorrow Shima would once again be the granite elf she had forced herself to become. And that's the way she would remain until her soul was reunited with its other half.