Then:

 

The comet was majestic – twin tails blazing in the vault of the sky, high and bright in the skies above Shadowmoon Valley.  It turned the forever-twilight into something even more mysterious, purple touching even the deepest shadow, and turning the simple blues and greens of the woven blanket into something exotic and new.  Bread and talbuk cheese, a bottle of rosewine – it was…

 

.. perfect.

 

She pillowed her head on his stomach, looking up at the comet, fingers tangled in his, smiling.   ".. how did you afford the wine?  Your mentor is going to be -annoyed-."

 

"Don't care.  He's a stick in the mud anyway.  Besides, it's not every day something like this comes along.  Or like you."

 

"Yeah, yeah – am I supposed to be flattered?  Fall into your arms?  Swoon?"

 

"… you're in my arms.  Did I at least get two out of three?"

 

"Yes.  But that's not the point."

 

"I could have sworn it really was."

 

When he dragged her up for a kiss – he got three of three.  Not that she'd ever admit it.  She stayed there, on his chest, staring at him, and the shimmer of purple the comet lent his eyes.   She smiled, and he smiled in return. "I could stay here forever."

 

"Not me.  You're heavy."

 

She swatted him. "You're calling me fat?" 

 

"Too many clothes.  Weighs you down.  I'm thinking maybe we should change that … later." 

 

"You would.  Is that all you think about?"

 

"Yup.  Except for food.  That's all us Vindicators get to keep after training.  Girls, food, and hitting things with hammers."

 

She laughed, locked her horns with his, deliberately. "Stop thinking about food."

 

He touched her cheek, and smiled – "We should go home."

 

"… no.  I can't stand the idea of you being in the barracks, and I cannot go back to those chattering Kaliri.  Let's stay out here.  Have a scandal.  It would be /delicious/, wouldn't it?   All the whispering and worried looks and Serious Conversations about our Future."  She giggled – actually giggled, but.. grew serious, "Or… at least.  not yet.  Please?  You're always so busy."

 

"I am.  We should move in together – get out of the barracks and the temple cots."

 

"… hmph.  They won't let you out of the barracks unless you're married.  And.. you /know/ what the prelate would say about -me-.  They're already saying it.  Raising her tail for any cute fellow in pretty armor.."  Her expression soured, then. "… I can't express how much I want to hit them."

 

"… that's true.  If we weren't married."  He reached up – a bit of silver glinting in his hand – and gently clipped it to one of her tendrils, letting his hand graze her cheek. "… Don't you think we should change that?"

 

Aunne's eyes went wide – and she couldn't hide her smile. ".. yes.  Always, yes."

 

—————————

Now:

 

Aunne looked in the mirror, pale eyes and pale skin and pale hair, the etherial's lightning-ball-on-a-stick casting a purple pallor over everything, the smell of ozone strong and the magic so thick in the air she felt it pressing at her, pushing at the hunger that always seemed to be there, inside.  

 

She should be listening to the etherial, talking about the spell or his services, but her reflection caught her own gaze and held it, frozen and cold and colorless.  Her smile, too wide and brittle, masked the obscure pain that always hit her when she -noticed- what she was.  The glitter of pale silver caught her, though, dragged her eyes away from her reflection.  The little cuff on her tendril was tarnished, covered with the patina of age.  

 

She touched it, her smile fading into something more genuine.

 

In the mirror?  For only a moment, another face – a far kinder, gentler, nearly forgotten face, smiled at her.   "Always."

 

She spoke in Draenic, barely audible. "I'll find a way."

 

"I know.  I'm waiting."

 

The etherial turned – "Pardon?"

 

"Nothing, yes?  Do not to fret.  So is it you can do the spell?"   She turned to face him, the mirror forgotten, but not the feel of nonexistent fingers ghosting over her cheek.

 

Author Aunne
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