of the Last God
(Book IV of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2001 BY
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Xaa grinned as the familiar silhouette of Castle Xaa came into view over the horizon. "Ah - home," he rumbled, and glanced to Merle as she rode beside him. The reins for the bird that Smith and Jendara rode were tied to the little loop at the back of her saddle, and the rest of the mice were seated behind Xaa's warriors. As Smith shouted back what the strange building on the horizon was, the mice all broke into a cheer. "It will be good to see C'dera again. I suppose I should be annoyed with you two for concealing this pregnancy from me, but I find I simply cannot be upset at the thought of a son."
"Ummm... You remember that?" Merle said, biting her lip.
"Of course!" Xaa replied, grinning. "Well, I remember the important parts, anyway. C'dera is pregnant, and you believe it will be a son, and the two of you decided to surprise me. If there was anything else, I'm sorry, I was very ill at the time, and it didn't stick in my mind."
"Ummm... Well... Ummm..."
"What is it, Merle?" Xaa asked, raising an eyebrow at her as they rode.
"Well..." Merle replied, and sighed. It seemed best to just admit the truth, and get it over with. "C'dera's not pregnant. I just said that to give you something to live for when you were very sick, and it looked like you might die before Jendara's medicine had a chance to work. And... Well, even if C'dera was pregnant, I'm really not magic, Xaa. I couldn't tell whether or not it was a boy or a girl anymore than she could." Merle looked to Xaa, and sighed again. "I'm sorry, Xaa. I know you look at me like all the mus look at us musties. I know you see me as being a magical little forest-spirit. But I'm not. I'm just me. You were really sick, I was worried you would die, so I told you a lie to get you to live."
Xaa looked forward again, his expression unreadable.
"I'm sorry, Xaa," Merle said, her eyes misting.
Xaa chuckled. "Don't be," he rumbled, and smiled.
Merle blinked. "Huh?"
"Do you want C'dera to be pregnant?"
"C'dera is my courtesan, Merle, and your partner in your relationship to me. One of a courtesan's duties is to bear children for the mate when the mate is barren, and unable to do so herself-"
"I know that, Xaa," Merle interrupted. "I'm not barren, as far as I know, but I'm certainly not going to be able to bear you children - not unless we get a volunteer from my village to help me." Merle said, and made a moue'.
Xaa nodded. "Well, the choice is yours - as it always is, by our culture and traditions. Do you want C'dera to bear you a son?"
Merle was silent for a moment. "Well... Yes, I do. C'dera and I have talked about having children a lot, and we both think that it would be very nice."
"Then that's what shall happen. C'dera shall bear me a son, and he shall, by our laws and traditions, be the child of all three of us."
Merle rolled her eyes. "You're not listening to me, Xaa! I'm not magic, I can't insure it will be a son, or even tell if it's a son before it's born!"
Xaa shook his head. "Merle, you've ridden the winds with the power of steam at your fingertips. You've trodden the soil of Forbidden Island, and spoken to the Last God, the creator of all the people of Oerth. You saved my life four years ago - and that may, indeed, have changed the course of history. Four years ago, I awoke at the edge of the Wild Wood, my arm broken, my mount and supplies gone. If you hadn't stepped out of the Wild Wood and helped me, I'd have died - I couldn't hunt with a broken arm, Merle. I'd have starved to death. But, instead, you helped me, and we ended up bringing Tinker back to our lands. And who knows what would have happened in the War with the Cats if Tinker had not given us the secret to airships and guns, and the secret of blackroot, which cures and protects against the poisons the cats were using? We were losing back then, Merle - today, we might be extinct. You discovered the secret of buoyancy while playing in the bathtub, and saved my life again in the caves with only your words. And this is only the beginning, I'm sure. There are probably many more things you'll do in the future that will change the history of our people, and perhaps even a few more things you've already done that I just don't know about yet," Xaa said, and chuckled. "No, Merle. If anyone in all of Oerth is a special, magical being, it's you."
Merle blushed deeply. "Thank you - I think you're special and wonderful, too." Merle then looked to Xaa, and sighed. "But really, Xaa! I'm not magic! I can't just wiggle my fingers over C'dera's tummy the next time she's in heat and we get together and have a son pop out a few months later!"
"Have you tried?" Xaa rumbled, and smiled.
Merle stuck her tongue out at Xaa. "No, of course not, silly."
Xaa grinned. "Then you don't really know, do you?"
Merle rolled her eyes again. "Now you're just teasing me."
"Perhaps, Merle - but I do know this. We'll write down our story of the Valley of the Ancients, and give it to Smith for safekeeping. And, in time, we'll write down all your story, and do the same. You may not think of yourself as a special or magical person, but it's my belief that a thousand years from now, people will read of everything you've done, and how your actions changed the world for the better, and they will think of you as a special and magical person - just as I already know you are," Xaa rumbled, and as Merle was taken aback by that announcement, Xaa smiled. "Besides - if wiggling your fingers over C'dera's womb doesn't work the first time, we can always try again."
Merle laughed and laughed at
that, and even when they rode through the gates of Castle Xaa,
Merle was still giggling.
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