"I don't want them to come after Shayeleigh," Riain says, not at all liking Aymeri's plan.
"They won't," Aymeri assures him, "I must do this, brother, to end this talk of war."
"All right," Riain reluctant agrees, "I'll go with you."
"No," Aymeri shakes his head, "I'm breaking the law just by showing myself at council, I won't put you in that position, too. I do this alone."
Aymeri embraces Ico once more before he sets off on his mission, promising her that all will be well.
His appearance at the females' council fire is greeted with gasps of shock and outrage. His mother, Aithne is the first to speak, "How dare you?" she hisses, "Haven't you broken enough of our laws?"
"I am here to bring news you must hear," Aymeri answers, maintain his cool demeanor, "My nest brother, Riain, son of Radhari, has fathered a child on a fairy."
The gasps are louder now, followed by whispers and murmuring. Aymeri raises his voice above the din, "The fae are not our enemies. They are like us, creatures of magic. Dragons and fairy together are the only such creatures; if we destroy them, we weaken ourselves. There are new tribes moving onto our lands, creatures that look like us, but have no magic, like the beasts we hunt. We have ever resisted change, but change comes even as we struggle against it. Whatever course you choose, it ends in change for us all, for the world itself. The fae could be our allies as we go forward, and strengthen our numbers, or we can war with each other, weakening us both, and leaving this world in the hands of the newcomers."
Aithne rises to face her son, "You say change is inevitable, but I say it is not so!" she rages, "You say fighting against the fae will weaken us, but I say it's you who has become weak, seduced by these fairies, bending to their will."
Tearhne rises to stand beside her mate. "Aymeri bends to no one's will," she declares.
Aithne turns toward the council, "Sisters, I am ashamed to claim this one, this law breaker, as my son. And Tearhne should be ashamed to stand with him. Think hard on this before you decide, is this what you want for our future?" She thrusts her arm out, pointing to Aymeri, "Is this the kind of male you want leading your nests? One that bends to no will but his own, one that speaks on conciliation and alliance with the fae?"
Tearhne smiles at the irony of Aithne's question, having forgotten that Aymeri was by far one of the most sought after males in the history of their kind. Tearhne was lucky to be able to offer him what the others could npt, the one thing he wanted, position as first, and many of the other females secretly wished they could put their mates aside to give that place Aymeri. Aithne might not appreciate her son's thoughtfulness, his even temper, his diplomatic manner and his skill at ending a fight with his words rather than his fists, but most all of the other females see him for what he is, a born leader. Making him the symbol of change and an uncertain future only makes that future seem all the attractive, and Aithne's rage makes the choice of strict adherence to tradition seem the riskier path.
The deadlocked council saw a sudden shift as the females began lining up behind Tearhne's nest, rejecting war in favor of a new alliance and an end to an old law. Those few that remained on Aithne's side storm off with her, not ready to accept their loss in the council.
"I'm sorry I had to spring the on you without warning," Aymeri sys as he walks with Tearhne back to their nest. Her support at the time was critical to their success.
She stops suddenly and backhands him across the face. "Aithne was right about one thing, you forget your place," she growls, "I had no choice but to support you in front of the others, because I wanted this war no more than you did. But you had no right to bring this business forward with consulting me."
"I had to do it this way," Aymeri protests as Seirian comes over to join them, "There wasn't time to take you aside privately."
"So I had to hear in a public announcement that one of my mates is having a child outside the nest?" Tearhne asks, her voice hard and low. "I've been very lenient with you and Riain both. You forget that I have the power to cast you both out, strip you of your markings and leave you without a nest. You may be First, but this is my nest."
"Tearhne, I meant no disrespect," Aymeri pleads s he tries to embrace her, but she thrust her hand up to ward him off.
"I don't want you trying to soothe me now. I am not so foolish as to cast you out of the nest at this delicate time, but I'm too angry to look at you. Go, go to your fairy, and leave me be."
Tania had left Auberon sleeping, and when she came back, he was gone, she knew not where.
Just as he had left, without warning, so he reappears.
"Summerdream," he says gently, reaching hand toward her shoulder.
"Where were you?" she demands, turning angrily toward him.
"What has upset you so?" he asks, "I've gone off on my own before without is causing you such worry."
"I know you too well, Auberon Nightshroud, you make look like my lover, but you have become someone else."
"I am bound to another," he admits, since cannot avoid it, "She has my heart."
"Who?" Tania demands.
"A mortal girl."
Tania shoves him backwards, "Take it from her!" she demands.
"I cannot do that Tania. It is part of her for as long as she lives."
"Then end her life," Tania hisses, "You are Auberon Nightshroud, the most powerful of us all. You cannot be made subject to a mortal girl."
As the powerful fae argue, the world responds, gathering clouds above, causing rain to fall.
Auberon grabs Tania's wrist, and speaks in a low, even tone that belies his anger, "I will let that go, this time," he growls, "But you will never speak of this again. She is under my protection. Do you understand?"
Tania swallows her arguments and simply nods.
The skies clear again as he walks away from her.
Tania gave up the argument, for now, but she won't lose Auberon without a fight.
Aven is buried in the custom of her people.
"You've taken your spirit marks," Tor observes, looking at Uvie's face, "Are you ready to take your mother's place as Spirit Talker?"
Uvie gathers herself; it will not do to appear weak or uncertain. "I am the Spirit Talker now, Tor," she says with more confidence than she feels. Her mother kept their chief in line using simple illusions to instill awe of her power, but Uvie wants to try her own path, to earn the chief's respect without resorting to trickery. "The spirits here are different from the ones we hand in the lands of winter. My mother made a mistake in holding one captive, a mistake she paid for. We would have all paid for it if I hadn't helped them."
"Maybe we should go back to the place we know," Tor muses. It was harder to eke out existence, the land so much less plentiful than here, but the spirits were kinder to them. Or at least, less present and threatening, and Tor knew what dangers his people had to face.
"No!" Uvie says vehemently, "No," she repeats more calmly, "This is a good place, we will prosper here."
The sky darkens suddenly and rain pours down upon them.
"Your mother used to predict the rain," Tor says pointedly.
Uvie feels Auberon's hand in this sudden downpour, feels the anger the caused it. And she feels that anger ebb away. "It won't last," she says confidently, "It will end in a moment."
"You were right," Tor admits as the rain stops as quickly as it started, "You are worthy of your mother's place."