Chapter Twenty Three: Fuen Anre
It was once a great city. Crumbled blocks of stone marked where buildings once stood against the elements. Houses, temples, stores… all came crashing down by the force of man. It made his heart ache to see all that had been lost. He knew by the scorch marks still on the remaining stone that Jintari wizards had contributed to this destruction. He had a feeling that part of the reason Lunaya chose this place was so he could see what his people had done to hers.
"This was our city," Lunaya told him when they entered. "We called it Fuen Anre, which means 'full moon'. A little over five years ago, the forces from the other three corners stormed the city. We only managed tae survive because we were warned they were comin'. Many died so the rest of us could flee tae safety."
"That's horrible," said Adreal. "I… I just want you to know, Lunaya, that I was not in the war." She glanced at him with her fierce yellow-green eyes.
"Ah know. I werenae in it either; I was helpin' the young an' the elderly." They fell silent, and continued on into the city.
There were many signs that the city once had been occupied. The crumpled homes still had remnants of smashed pots and abandoned toys. Books were scattered everywhere, some already reduced to dust. Lunaya took him to her old home. She knew which one it was though now they all looked the same.
"We'll have tae take shelter in the temple," said Lunaya. "'Tis the only buildin' still with a roof."
Adreal did not object. The steps of the temple were cracked in places but most were still there. A skeleton was stretched out on the steps with an axe by its side. He murmured a prayer and moved on. He did not need Lunaya to tell him that the people of Fuen Anre protected the temple until the very end. It was because of their devotion that it remained intact.
The temple was much bigger than he expected it to be. It reminded him a little of the castle of Oedran or the school in Jintari. Except that there were no doors. As they waited out the coming of the full moon Adreal took to exploring the temple. He became more convinced that people had lived in the temple, especially when he found rooms that very much resembled bedrooms.
He and Lunaya ate meals outside the temple. They both went out to hunt, alternating so one could always stay behind to watch the fire. They talked of various things during mealtime. Adreal learned that to eat inside the temple was an insult to the spirits, and just before going to sleep Lunaya knelt before the altar and thanked the spirits for allowing them shelter. Adreal did his own prayers when he was alone; he didn't want to offend Lunaya.
The day before the full moon, Lunaya joined him in his exploration of the temple. They talked of their respective childhoods, and Adreal tried to not pester Lunaya with questions. He told her about how his parents were murdered when he was a child, how he came to be brought up by the Church, how he left to become a merchant and grew interested in magic talismans. Lunaya's childhood sounded peaceful compared to how she lived now. She talked of playing with her age-mates in the snow, of chasing rabbits and going on her first solo hunt. What could the werewolves have possibly done to deserve living in fear, trapped in the mountains? Adreal couldn't understand it.
Adreal wandered into one room he was certain he hadn't explored yet. It didn't look very impressive-- or wouldn't have been, if not for the life-size statue standing in the center of the room. It was a statue of a werewolf, of course, but there was something unusual about this one: there was a sword at its side, one stone hand clutching the hilt with the other hand resting over the first. The werewolf portrayed was male, his head lifted in a pose of great dignity and confidence, his sharp teeth showing in what looked like a friendly smile. Adreal had the impression that this werewolf was a noble and kind warrior, an impression most southerners would never have of a northerner.
"That's Dridon Kuell," said Lunaya's voice. Adreal turned and saw the girl approach him. "That's a statue of him, Ah mean. He was the very first High Chief, a great man. It used tae be that his statue stood in the center of town, but they had tae move him tae the temple before the fightin' started." So that's why the people protected this place, thought Adreal. They were protecting this statue.
But… now that he thought of it, this wasn't the only statue of the first leader he'd seen. He remembered as a child playing near the statue of Master Brott Zander. It too had been moved before the war. The statue of the first Cahadan leader, King Gireo the merman, was residing within the Museum. He knew the statue of the first Oedran leader, Lord Merdoc Fercon, had also been safely tucked away. How strange that each of the four corners would have a statue of their first leaders…
"Ye all right, Adreal?" asked Lunaya, touching his arm gently. The feel of her warm hand roused him from his thoughts.
"I'm well, thank you. I was just thinking how similar the four corners are. I know for a fact that the other three also have statues of their first leaders, and each one was put in a safe place before the war began. Also, isn't it strange that though we have supposedly been at war with each other for centuries, we all still speak the same language? And… this may be irrelevant, but I noticed that High Chief Dridon wields a sword. If I recall my history correctly, swords originated from Oedran."
There was a pause as Lunaya digested this information. Her brow was furrowed in thought. Then… her eyes widened. "Ye know, that is rather strange. Ah never thought about it before. We still keep the Old Tongue tae keep traditions, but fer the most part we do speak the same as ye southerners; the same goes fer the merpeople."
"Hatred festers only because we focus on the differences between us," said Adreal. "If we could only realize how similar we really are, then perhaps the fighting will end."
"Aye, yer right!" said Lunaya in delight. "That's what we'll tell mah people!" She was so excited she clasped both of his hands in hers. Adreal felt a blush creep over his cheeks. Thoughtlessly he raised her hand and kissed the fingers. Her fingers twitched but she didn't pull back. A snap of burning wood cracking in half startled them out of the moment.
"Ah, the fire's going out," noted Adreal. "I should go get more wood."
"Aye, an' Ah'll go out tae get dinner." They embarrassedly parted ways.
They didn't discuss the incident during dinner, and were forcibly polite to each other as they bid one another good night. The next morning Adreal didn't see Lunaya anywhere. There was a dead rabbit skinned for his breakfast but no sign of the red-haired werewolf. He couldn't think of where she could have possibly gone but was sure she had a reason for leaving and she would return shortly.
When it grew to be midday and still no sign of Lunaya, Adreal was understandably concerned. He checked every room inside the temple first. It was a big place and it wasn't unlikely that Lunaya simply escaped his notice. He looked in every conceivable place, twice. Lunaya was nowhere inside the temple. He spread his search out to every ruined building in the city. Daylight was fading quickly, and the darker it became the more Adreal was concerned. It didn't seem like Lunaya to simply take off without explanation and then stay gone for so long. Could she possibly be hurt somewhere?
He left the shelter of the city to continue searching. The last streams of sunlight faded into night, but it was still very bright because of the full moon. Full moon… Wait a moment. Why hadn't he thought of that before? That had to be why she was gone, but then, why leave for the entire day? From what he understood the effects of the moon only occurred at night. And if the full moon was indeed the reason, why not just tell him? He would certainly understand her leaving. Somehow he felt there was more to this than just the full moon.
The problem was, he was unfamiliar with this land and couldn't think of where to begin looking for Lunaya. He chose a direction and started walking, searching for any sign that Lunaya had been there. Luckily it hadn't been snowing so he found her footprints soon enough. They led away from the city, in the direction of where the two of them had met several days ago. He followed the foot marks in the snow.
He had been traveling for a little over an hour when he stopped. He had a strange feeling that he was being watched. Adreal paused, eyes searching the frozen landscape with his hand straying to his knife. Just as his fingers touched the hilt something came at him and knocked him over. He ached from the fall but quickly got back to his feet to face whatever it was that attacked him.
It would have been a red fox if not for its size, and the fact that it bore some wolfish characteristics. Adreal slowly backed away from the creature, trying not to make any sudden movements. Something about the yellow-green eyes struck him as familiar…
"Lunaya?" asked Adreal quietly. "Is that you?" The creature merely snarled at him, baring its deadly teeth. "Lunaya, it's me. Don't you know me?" He was certain it was her; he could not mistake those beautiful eyes. Even though now they were diluted into wild fury. Lunaya glared at him, snuffling the air. She readied to pounce Adreal again, but this time he saw her coming and made a run for it.
Lunaya cut him off, bearing down on him and forcing him back on the ground. Adreal gripped his knife in one hand and tried wrestling Lunaya off with the other. He did not wish to harm her but would if he had no other option. She was snuffling his neck while her claws ripped at his clothes. When her teeth went down to gnaw off his belt, it clicked what she was doing.
"Lunaya, get off!!" he cried, stabbing her wildly on the shoulder. She yelped and immediately backed off. Adreal ran for it; Lunaya tried to follow but her injured shoulder slowed her down and he managed to get away.
He didn't sleep at all that night. The next morning he ventured out and saw Lunaya rekindling the fire. She didn't look any different due to last night's ordeal. Adreal actually looked worse off than she: his clothes were ripped and he lost sleep. She heard him approach and lifted her eyes to look at him. Her cheeks glowed in a blush.
"Adreal, Ah… Ah'm truly sorry Ah dinnae tell ye Ah was leavin' yesterday, but Ah thought ye'd understand. Ah couldnae bear it if Ah hurt ye…" Her eyes dropped in shame. "Looks like Ah did anyway."
"You didn't mean to," Adreal said gently. "But why were you gone all day?"
"On the day of the full moon, a werewolf's behavior starts getting' more wolfish. Ah ken that ye dinnae think of me as a monster or a savage beast, but… Ah still dinnae wish fer ye tae see me like that. Ye see, mah animal instincts are brought out, an'…"
"That includes the desire for sexual activity," Adreal finished for her in a shy voice. He pulled on his torn clothes and glanced down at the teeth marks on his belt.
"Ah'm sorry," Lunaya said, covering her flushed face with her hands. "Ah'm sorry! What could ye be thinkin' of me? Ah had a feelin' it would happen, too!" Adreal moved in front of her, his hands covering hers and pulling them away from her face.
"It's all right, Lunaya. I care a great deal for you, and I confess I feel very flattered. But next time, please do not keep your thoughts closed from me. I worried for you, and I do not wish to do so again unless you are in true danger."
Lunaya gaped in surprise, but was at a loss for something to say in reply. Adreal saved her the trouble of speaking by leaning close and kissing her lips gently with his own.