Ayre of the Last God
(Book III of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY


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D'Main ducked beneath the protective awning, then flicked aside the tent-flap to his mother's pavilion with a paw, stepping inside. He was drenched from the rain, his whiskers drooping, yet his tail flicked about with irritation not borne solely of being wet. T'Zama looked up to her son from where she reclined on her pillows, raising an eyebrow. "Mrr... Well?"

D'Main nodded. "Miao... It was as you thought, mother. He was with D'Kath. R'Zin was calm, but D'Kath seemed to be hiding something, and appeared quite relieved when I shooed him off," D'Main replied. He carefully removed his mirror-polished cuirass, snatching up a nearby cloth to dry it. "Miao... He said nothing of importance during our encounter, mother. But then, I didn't really try to get him to. I already knew just from D'Kath's expression that what you had guessed was the truth. It was almost a relief when the rain started, Mother. I... I don't think I could have controlled myself for much longer." D'Main carefully removed his soaking armor and clothing, and dried himself with another cloth as his mother watched quietly. Finally, he was done, and he sighed as he sat nude next to T'Zama on the pile of pillows.

After a long moment, D'Main sobbed, placing his face in his paws. "Mrowrrrr... Oh, mother! I love him so! How could he betray me?!"

T'Zama reached out to wrap her arms around her son, heedless of his slight dampness from the rain, and held him close as she gently stroked his head. "Mrr... That's it... Cry, now, and get it all out. You must have nothing of this left in you when you see him again, else you may slip, and reveal what you know. That is part of the Art, as well," she purred, nuzzling him gently.

D'Main could only nod, sobbing helplessly. He had learned his lessons in the Art of Manipulation well - he knew his mother was right. Still, it was heartbreaking to know that she had also been right about R'Zin's betrayal. Though D'Main loved R'Zin, the feelings were, apparently, not mutual. R'Zin only viewed D'Main as a friend, a casual lover, and a pleasant manner in which to pass the time - just as his mother had said.

Finally, D'Main's weeping subsided into sighs, then silence. T'Zama gently dried her son's tears from his face as he sighed again. "Mew... I was a fool to fall in love with him, mother."

"Mrr... Perhaps... But such is the risks of the Art, my son. We toy with love like a moth toys with the flame - and if we are careless, we can be burned. You males have much stronger emotions than we females, and less control. You do me proud to have mastered the Art to the degree you have, my son," T'Zama replied, pulling a blanket from beside herself to wrap about her son's shoulders.

"Mew... Thank you, mother..." D'Main replied, and fell silent. After a long moment, he snarled. "Fsst! And once again, you are right, because now all I want to do is kill him!"

"Mrr... You know yourself you'd never defeat him in a duel, my son," T'Zama replied calmly, and D'Main nodded, his face wracked with frustration as he clutched the blanket around his damp body. "Mrr... Use the Art, my son. It is your greatest weapon - the only weapon I can give you. Your father neglected your teaching, preferring to train your brother, D'Larin, in the Skill of Domination and the Way of the Warrior. Now, look where that led him - your brother fell the same way your father did, in a duel. No, my son. Use the Art, as I have taught you, and defeat your enemies in the way I have taught you."

D'Main nodded, his face changing to one of grim determination. "Mrr... I will, mother. I will."

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