A/N: New policy. If you read, you review. No excuses. I'll consider reviewing back, but that flimsy promise is lessened if you ask me in the review and your review is only a couple sentences. Comprende? No one likes a beggar. cx

-::-::-

Lark traced the spine of the book delicately, grimacing at the dust that built up on her finger quickly as she did.

"Errol is not taking great care of these books..." she mumbled to herself, getting a handkerchief out of her dress to clean her hand.

She heard something shuffle from behind, causing her to spin around to find the source of the noise. Her eyes widened at seeing Taverus only some feet away from her.

"Sorry," the blonde man smiled, placing books back onto the shelf, "I didn't want to disturb you," he smiled at her bewildered expression, "You just seemed so wrapt about the books."

"Oh. I suppose so," Lark laughed slightly, "I did miss this library terribly."

"But I'm sure you got quite an education in Serafina; Tahelia says you're a natural born scholar."

Lark closed her eyes with a modest sigh, "Yes; it was a wonderful opportunity to study and teach there. I learned a lot by simply congregating with the people of the cities and towns."

Taverus fiddled with a bookmark, putting in hesitantly after a moment, "They were all... friendly to you, I suppose?"

Lark thought for a moment, then shrugged, laughing slightly, "I never told them I was Namir, Taverus," at his bewildered expression, she continued with a solemn smile, "They all thought I was from Kyros at first glance, apparently. I had to study up a bit to keep with such a charade, as you can imagine."

Taverus' look faulted, "Is this what Tess' husband thinks as well...?"

"Oh, well, no; not anymore at least. He did, but when he found out we've never even been to the region, he ultimately made the decision to stay with Tess despite our elaborate string of lies," she chuckled at the thought, "Come to think of it, it's rather a relief to be away, when looking back at all that."

Taverus nodded, "That would make anyone nervous. Tess was rather brave to find a man, don't you think?"

"I... suppose," Lark shrugged, "I don't really know how she does--or, well, did it."

"Did what?" Taverus asked, eyebrow raising.

"Oh, well..." Lark blushed, "Talk to men so easily."

Taverus frowned, "I'm a man, aren't I? You're talking to me rather easily," his speech died out as Lark's laughter interrupted.

"Don't get me wrong, you're very handsome, and charismatic; you just don't seem to... I'm not sure how to put this--leave yourself open to... flirtation?" she put coyly, putting a finger to her lips in thought.

"Well," Taverus held up a hand; a ring donned one finger on it. Lark nodded as he elaborated, "It would be rather inappropriate if I were to."

Lark nodded again, allowing the conversation to die down.

Soon, however, Taverus perked up again, "Really, dear, you're much too good looking to let a few white lies get in the way of dating."

Lark sighed in a forced laugh, looking away, "It's not the Kyros region, Taverus. It's myself. In all honesty... I truly can't bring myself to look at a man."

At her faraway expression, Taverus took to thinking about the statement. A sudden jolt of contemplation hit him for a moment, making him blush a bit.

"Is it... just men?" Taverus asked with a red face.

Lark blinked a few times, asking with wide eyes, "What do you mean?"

"Nothing--nothing," Taverus looked away, still hot in the face with his obtrusive thoughts.

Still confused, but feeling a need to intervene, Lark sighed in resignation, "Taverus, all I mean to say is, quite simply... my heart belongs to somewhere unattainable," she looked away as a troubled expression came to her face, eyes squinting with burden.

"Oh, yes," Taverus shook his head, "I'm... sorry about that."

Lark breathed in deeply, "It's quite all right; in fact, it feels good to get it out in the open for once," she smiled widely, "Thank you for listening."

Taverus shrugged modestly, "Anytime."

-::-::-

A month has nearly passed. Some weeks, at least.
Knox's sisters I find are very enjoyable; the more feminine sex have always proved to be good choice for partners in conversation, I find. Though Tahelia is young, and has a very girlish heart, devoted to naive things such as flowers and dresses, she possesses the mind mature enough to understand many things. I suppose such maturity would be expected in any child with a past such as hers. It's odd to think that she may have gotten a bit of an infatuation with me, however, as she tends to cling to my arm and covet for my attention every moment we are in the vicinity of one another.
And though Tess acts often strangely, as I think women often do, she is still a very active talker, which I can always agree with. I find many of her stated presumptions, however, slightly pretentious and even bordering irritating, but they're ignorable for a good part of the time.
Lark, I find, is very much like Knox; though she is more friendly and cordial, and perhaps less radical in her point of view. But she is certainly up to Knox's intelligence level, and shares certain traits, such as an affinity for nature, and, a less wonderful trait, sudden and odd bouts of depression that are cured as the day wears on.
Yet, as I think of this man and these certain traits, I'm filled with decidedly melancholy emotions. Knox has barely spoken to me as I spend more time with his sisters. He's been gone far more often. I see him in the shadows as I converse animatedly with his sisters. I can feel his animosity, but even I am not feeling bold enough to face it.
... What is this quiver in my heart as I think over this? He's led me to such extreme emotions, for a man that I must remind myself each day, is merely apart of an insignificant chapter in my life.

"You certainly write a lot."

Taverus felt himself jump, his heart pacing rapidly as he looked around at Lark. He quickly covered what he had just wrote with his hand.

"A little. Just private thoughts is all it is."

Lark nodded, smiling lightly as she did. She appeared ready to say something, shuffling through a bookcase but always looking back at Taverus as she did.

"Something the matter?" Taverus asked.

"Oh... no," Lark answered with a shrug, but not very convincingly. She sighed after a moment, "It's just that Knox seems so... distant these days."

Taverus sighed, "I agree; you two were close at one point, right?"

Lark shrugged, "Well, a little, I should think; more than the rest of the family. At least... I thought so."

"Tell me about it," Taverus said, perching his chin on his hand.

Lark smiled lightly, "We could just talk a bit easier--again, at least I thought this was the case. When we were children, we weren't very personal with each other. But when we got older..." she shook her head, "Never mind."

"No, it's all right; tell me."

"No, really, just never mind," Lark laughed slightly, ready to make a quick exit out of the library. As she reached the door, however, she nearly ran into Knox.

Knox's eyes widened, "Careful, there," he murmured under his breath, brushing passed her. Tahelia followed, then Tess, who was rather in a huff when she entered.

"I'm so very bored," Tess sighed, looking over to her sister as she seated herself on an armchair. Her hair was done up uselessly in a plate this day; she more than likely spent hours on her look, her face painted and her hair set in braids, looping in with the heavy hair plate. Even her dress looked as though it had been done up too elegantly, bodice laced up tightly and dress so long it trailed the ground after her.

Lark looked up, apparently taking this as an order as she trekked over to her made-up sister to converse quietly about nothing.

Taverus felt disinterested at this scene as Knox sat next to him. He quickly placed a piece of paper over his used one.

Tahelia skipped over to Knox, "You promised."

Knox thought for a moment, tilting his head. He nodded after a moment, "I did. Scoot over a little, Tav," he said casually, gesturing with a motion of his hands.

Taverus raised an eyebrow a bit, but none the less complied.

"Sit down, Tahelia, while I go get the pouch," Knox rose up from his seat to a shelf while Tahelia quickly did what was asked.

"What are you two doing?" Taverus asked.

"He's going to tell me my fortune!" the twelve year old answered excitedly, "He said he learned it from a lady named Moke."

Taverus nodded, "May I watch?"

"Certainly," Knox answered as he came back, a very light smile on his face, "I encourage it." In his hand was a large, brown satchel; he quickly released all that was inside. Shiny rocks fell out easily onto the table, clanking and clicking together.

Tahelia made a noise of admiration at the black colored stones, only to have her hand smacked at when she reached out to touch.

"No touching until I say so," Knox said curtly, quickly setting out a pattern with the rocks. He inspected each before throwing them into three separate groups; when he was done, each group had an even amount of rocks to them, which came to about thirty stones to each.

"Now," Knox started, grabbing the satchel once more, then wiping one pile of rocks into it. He shook it up briskly before opening it to Tahelia, "Take one rock out; it doesn't matter how you choose, just choose the first one that feels right."

Tahelia reached into the satchel, pulling out a rock. She looked at it excitedly, showing one side of it to Knox, "It has a rabbit on it," she said with a smile, showing it to Taverus a moment later.

Taverus looked at the crude picture, nodding slowly.

"Put it in front of you," Knox said, then opened the sack again, "Now pick another."

Tahelia complied, soon coming up again. She put the rock down next to the other; this had a rough sketch of a lamb.

"Good, now," he looked at both stones, seeming to be thinking hard at what to do next. He released the other rocks in the satchel, only to fill it back up with the second pile.

He held the bag open to Tahelia, who once again grabbed a stone and laid it out in front of her. A flower was on this stone.

"Fragile," Knox said with his eyebrows knit together, "That's what all three of your stones represent. The rabbit shows vulnerability, but also a vivacious life; the lamb, innocence, but weakness. Your element is in flowers. You will find protection in them."

Tahelia nodded, but looked troubled.

"The stones show both strengths and weaknesses, sister, which is represented in the animals--you will as well have an affinity with these creatures, I should say now. Your element is to help you in your weaknesses, and it is your strongest strength." Knox said cooly, "We had to find who you are before uncovering your past and future. Put the stones back in their proper piles, now."

Tahelia complied.

Knox said after a pause, "Remember, however, that these animals are different for everyone; I must judge by your age and status. A rabbit means speed for a warrior, but fertility for a mother. Though I suppose a lamb would mean more or less the same applied to either parties," he held the satchel open, but froze his movements, thinking hard.

Tess' large hair perked up from the couch as he thought, "What's wrong, then? Go on, this is very entertaining to watch," she said, fanning herself with a beaded fan lazily.

Knox raised an eyebrow, not looking back at his sister, "That's good to know," he mumbled, then abruptly nodded, taking a rock out himself.

Tess looked over to Taverus with a tightlipped smile, "Namir culture always goes slowly like this," she assured the man with a nod.

"Because you are such an expert on the subject," Knox commented loudly, still not looking back but concentrating on the stone.

Taverus laughed despite himself, nervously looking back to see Tess' glare, directed at both men.

"Now," Knox said, looking again at the rock, showing the picture to his sister. Taverus looked as well. It had a crude figure of a person, lying horizontally while other people surrounded it, "This is your beginning; your first past."

"What does it mean?"

"Sickness, I believe," he said cooly, putting the rock down in front of Tahelia. He gathered the first pile, of animal images, repeating his process. He grimaced at the picture on the stone, but showed it none the less. It represented a small creature, human in appearance, but short and with a thin, long nose. It held an odd tool in its hand, looking like a hammer with a hook on its end.

"What is it?" Taverus asked with a raised eyebrow.

"An imp; but not just any. A more than likely fable one, that in many cultures they say gather the souls of individuals after death, bit by bit, breaking it down with that tool in its hands to carry the soul into the beyond, piece by piece," he looked to Tahelia, "What it represents should be obvious."

Tahelia nodded, looking down mournfully, "Death."

"Let's stop this," Tess said abruptly, causing Knox to finally look back, "It'll give her nightmares."

"No," Tahelia shook her head rapidly, "Please, let him show me my future."

Tess scoffed, adjusting her thickly layered dress, "Fine."

Knox had already begun gathering the second pile of rocks. He took out the stone, showing it to the two across from him. Swirls made up the rock's image.

"The wind," Knox clarified for the two of them,"It commonly represents freedom; this is your most recent past," he placed that rock back in the pile, gesturing Tahelia to do the same with her two other rocks. Hesitantly, she put both back.

He now gathered all three piles at once, smiling at both Tahelia and Taverus' watching eyes. He took a rock himself, not showing it and not looking at it, "Now you take one," he leaned over to place the bag by Tahelia, who took a rock, and followed Knox's example by neither looking at it or showing it, "And now a third party; you're nearest," he showed the bag to Taverus, who did the same with his rock, keeping it tightly noosed in his long fingers.

"At once, we'll show what we have," he drew out the arm with the rock in hand, his hand in a fist as he held it. The other man and the girl did the same, "Now."

They unraveled their fingers all at once--Tahelia abruptly dropping hers to the ground in the process. "Oops!" she said with wide eyes.

"It's fine, it will still work," Knox said absent-mindedly as he looked on at Taverus' intently, looking at his own and finally Tahelia's as she came back from the ground, hers in hand.

Knox held a what appeared to be a broken stick, snapped in half; Taverus, a heart; and Tahelia with the wind.

"A broken heart," Knox surveyed, eyebrow raising, at his own prediction, "And freedom, again."

Tahelia cocked her head, "That's very strange," she looked to Taverus, "What do you think it means?"

"You're going to get a boyfriend?" Taverus said with a smile in a shrug, to which Tahelia giggled.

"It's possible; this prediction is supposed to come together, the stones representing one event, unlike the past where the stones represent either individual or multiple events in one."

Tess murmured audibly, "Load of rubbish."

"How about you come over, then?" Tahelia said, a pout on her lips, "You can see for yourself."

To this Tess quickly complied. The same scenario played out as before, only she picked her rocks for the first set with much more haste.

Knox surveyed her representing stones, "Together, your stones represent certain pride. A phoenix bird--"

"A phoenix??" Tess said excitedly.

"No, a phoenix bird. Not the great fire bird, the smaller version that might as well be an elaborate turkey," Knox said with a roll of his eyes, "It represents vanity."

"Oh," Tess' features tightened considerably at this.

"I'm going to say right now that it's not a very good stone to get; it contains no strengths unless accompanied by a second stone. The phoenix bird's habits consist of strutting around for the opposing sex, feathers beautiful, but lacking any more useful qualities. It lays only one egg, and doesn't have enough fat to be eaten, and as well has no great fighting ability at all--the males will simply peck out each others feathers when rivals. It doesn't even fend for itself, depending on other creature's food for sustenance, working as a scavenger."

"All right, enough," Tess sneered, "What does my second mean?"

Knox looked on, tilting his head, "It's accompanied by a hare."

"What's the difference between a hare and a rabbit?" Tahelia asked, "In this game, I mean," she added hastily.

Taverus showed her the stone; the rabbit before had been sitting. The hare was in mid-run, long feet splaying out behind it.

"It represents impatience and vulnerability both, but it has fertility, which counts since Tess here is married."

"That's good," Lark attempted to put in, smiling when Tess looked her way. The older didn't return the smile.

"What's the last?" Tahelia asked.

"Water; purity and calm. How is your husbands disposition, Tess?"

"Why?" she snapped.

"Because elements often represent themselves through people; a spouse, or even a lover is the strongest representative one can have to impact their lives, right?"

"Fabian is a very soothing person, Errol," Tahelia put in with confidence.

"That's good, then," Knox said with a light smile.

The reading continued on, Tess showing more annoyance with each one. Her past had family as its beginning, a swan for its middle, and the sun for her recent.

Knox clarified all, "Family, obviously. Swans represent vanity, but since we speak of the middle past, its your childhood and teens, so accordingly it may represent a great mother's influence," Tess' look softened at this, "The swan leads her children loyally and gracefully. The sun represents warmth, but I'm afraid your representative reading cancels that. The sun also represents control, since it reigns over all other elements."

Tess' lips pursed together tightly.

Her last reading went as followed: a hen, water again, and the sun once more.

"Fertility, calm, purity, and control--and perhaps warmth, as the future can alter your representing animals. I expect you'll be pregnant, given the prediction."

Tess scowled, scoffing loudly, "All that for what?! I've endured many worse insults before, brother, but this was the most elaborate one, certainly."

"Tess--" Lark sighed deeply as her older sister left in the midst of another storm. Lark sighed, "Excuse me," she said, quickly following her sister.

Tahelia pouted, looking at her brother with big brown eyes, "You can't manipulate the stones, right?" she said.

"How on earth could I?" Knox said irritably.

"I think she was more insulted by the representing factors of her stones, rather than the images themselves."

"I can't very well make up all that on the spot, either," Knox said, shrugging before looking Taverus straight in the eyes, "Will you try?"

Taverus thought for a moment, then hesitantly nodded.

His three stones came slowly, his choices made tactfully.

"A leone; it suits you," Knox smiled at the image of the crude leone, mane wild and chest puffed up greatly, "It represents both a large ego and strength, as well as courage."

Taverus laughed slightly with a shrug, looking down on his stones all the while.

"A golden eagle," Knox said the second part thoughtfully, his eyes darting back and forth from Taverus to the stone, "It's a very large bird. It represents freedom, though this creature is often caged by royalty as presents, so in recent years its also has come to represent repression and servitude.

"Lastly, you have fire; an interesting element, as I would suppose that would just make your problems all the more worse," Knox smiled ruefully, tilting his head as if curious by his own prediction, "It often represents rash emotions, panic--or passion."

In Taverus' past, there was marriage, an oxen and the sea.

"Marriage should be obvious," Knox said, "Rather simple. Your parents married and had you. The oxen represents strength and determination; you said you trained for many years. The sea represents travel and adventure."

"This is shaping up rather well," Tahelia commented with a smile.

They each again took a stone for his future; a leone, an elken and love.

Knox cocked his head, humming as he attempted to assess this prediction, "Love; an odd one for a married man," he mused first, "A leon shows that there's no break in arrogance, perhaps. An elken represents wisdom and loyalty. This is a confusing combination; I'm unsure how any of them can connect and intertwine. I'm tempted to try again," Knox's lips curled a smile, enough to wrinkle his features, "We should try again; this is just a game, after all."

The two others complied; love came again, previously in Taverus' hands and now in Knox's, then came a tree, then two people weaving clothes.

Knox shook his head, "Love, again. A tree represents, again wisdom, but also growth and fertility; the weaving represents both creation and labor. How the both predictions connect is interesting..."

"Errol, let me do you!" Tahelia requested, only to frown when Knox shook his head.

"No; mine always come out odd."

"Come now, Knox," Taverus pressed, looking at the man fondly when his eyes darted to him.

Knox sighed, "I've had mine told many times before. I'm always an elken, a boor, and in need of some kind of steam or smoke. In my past is sickness, loneliness and, last time I did play, labor. Last time's prediction didn't even come true," his eyes weighted on Taverus' form as he spoke, "It was a golden eagle, actually; then a something broken, and then lastly love. Moke predicted something rather silly with that. A golden eagle, with a broken wing, would come to me bearing love. That was what she garnered, given my past of loneliness," his eyes stared heavily at Taverus, who stared back just as intently.

Suddenly, Taverus' head tilted, "Your animals suit you."

Knox chuckled, "Moke said the fact I'm two animals with giant horns meant I had a big head, so I can agree."

The second man laughed, "Well, not just that; they're both wise, and calm, right?" Taverus smiled warmly.

"You're right," Knox said with a widened smile.

His face faulted when Tahelia spoke once more, "Taverus, can we walk to the ocean?"

"Certainly," Taverus said, his face directing itself immediately to the young girl by his side, "We may be able to get there before dark."

Knox watched as the two left in a haste, Taverus nearly glancing back, but his neck not nearly complying to this, instead forcing itself to look ahead.

-::-::-


A/N: I hope people were actually able to tolerate that flagrant and overbearing use of symbolism; I'm terrible. 8D; Please leave a review. I hoped you enjoyed reading.