By Aden and Amitie

Author's Note: This was for a book we were going to write together, but it never really got started.

Enjoy! Even with the cliffhanger-ish ending!

"Gabriella what do you mean?!"

"Yes, Gabriella we do not understand!"

"I will only say this one more time! You should understand this," moaned Gabriella in an unmistakably annoyed voice.  She gave all the young people around her an exasperated look that was clear even behind her dark glasses.

They all looked down at the bowls they were supposed to have been molding. Many had ones only half-finished and deformed. Gabriella scowled when she saw this; hers was perfectly round and unblemished. All of the adolescents felt extremely chagrined. Gabriella never approved of laziness.

Even though the tall and slender girl always scolded them for their own good, the older children of the village did not care to be told off by a peer.  But was Gabriella their age? Her tender, beautiful, creamy-white face with its rosy cheeks and lips could not be a day older than sixteen at most. Then again, she was married. Gerd, the shopkeeper's son, had met her in a southern city during trading season. Gabriella had come to the tiny village a month ago and was already considered a member, strange though she was. She wore the long skirts and head wrap of a married woman, and her matronly ways were those of someone twice her age. Her elegance often had an effect on the young and old alike. Gerd certainly loved her.

Gabriella noticed that the children's eyes had gone into that frosted, glazed expression.  That meant that they were once again fathoming her age. She was nearly one hundred years old, but she aged so slowly that she would not look like a real woman for 30 more years at least. She inwardly sighed when she thought of that. Although she had cared for many young ones, her figure was thoroughly undeveloped, so she would not be able to have any real children of her own for  several years.

Gabriella was about to scold the children again for neglecting their chores when the lunch bell rang. They all straightened up their work spaces and quickly left the pottery hut. The boys ran off to get cleaned in the stream and the girls went to the well. The oldest of the group, Saedlai, helped Gabriella collect the unfinished bowls and put them under wet rags. She studied how gracefully Gabriella walked, even with all her skirts  and her height. Saedlai looked down at her girl's dress and bare feet. How could she be older than Gabriella by two years and still look like a little girl? And Gabriella's storytelling! How could she know so many and tell them so well! None of the other young people really understood the tales, they thought they were quite complicated. The one that they were told today was about gods who threw mountains and hideous monsters. Where did she get all of them? Not even Ramari, the oldest woman in the village, knew anything like them.

Gabriella could feel Saedlai's eyes on her. Gabriella could feel her intelligence and curiosity. Gabriella reached out through her mind and swirled around Saedlai, then coiled around herself around Saedlai's wrist. She seemed to have some kind of faery blood. Strange, thought Gabriella, I don't know of any clans here. Oh, well. Probably has some mages in her ancestors. Gabriella let go of Saedlai's wrist with her mind and drifted back to her body.

As the two walked on the path toward the eating house, Saedlai asked Gabriella where she had been told the story. Gabriella glanced at Saedlai as it deciding if she should say or not. Then she looked away and began studying the branches above them quite intently.

"I didn't hear it anywhere," Gabriella answered nonchalantly while she grabbed a leaf from a low branch and twirled it in her fingers.

"You made it up yourself?" Saedlai said in disbelief.  She hadn't actually expected her to say that.

"No. It's the truth." Gabriella automatically readjusted her skirts as a breeze passed them. The leaf fluttered in her free hand.

"What do you mean?" Saedlai stared at Gabriella's face, trying to see through the dark spectacles.

Gabriella looked at Saedlai with an amused expression. "Why are you so curious? Everyone else is just confused with them."

Saedlai shrugged. "I was just wondering. They seem awful detailed. But, really, how do you come up with it all?"

"I told you. I don't. It's the truth," Gabriella repeated. She straightened her head wrap as a stronger breeze flew by.

"Gods throwing mountains? Are you sure? That don't seem true."

"Yes, I'm sure. You don't believe me?" Gabriella felt the anger rising to her face. She tried to push it away.

"Well, no. Sorry, but I don't think anyone but a very old grandmother could have imagined that," Saedlai said. Gabriella tried hastily to shove down her growing irritation. It didn't work.

Gabriella's leaf burst into flame. Saedlai shouted and Gabriella jumped back from it. The leaf stayed in place where Gabriella had let go, burning a bright red. She sighed irritably, and said something like "Not again! Not a day without . . ."

Saedlai started to back up quickly, but Gabriella just stood where she had jumped. She was rummaging around in her pocket, calm but somewhat agitated. She kept muttering to herself about something.

"Here it is," she whispered, and pulled out a small bottle that was filled with what looked like water. She opened it, poured a little on her palm, and blew the liquid towards the still burning leaf. It was extinguished immediately, and  the leaf fell to the ground in a spiral of smoke. Gabriella put the stopper back on the bottle, her lips pursed.

"What was that?" Saedlai asked, inching back to Gabriella's side. Gabriella pocketed the bottle and wiped her hand on her apron.

How am I to answer that?  "Just the heat. Sometimes it happens," Gabriella answered. Will she believe it?

"A leaf caught fire because of the weather?" Saedlai stared at Gabriella with her mouth open.

What a fix I'm in, thought Gabriella. How else could she have explained it? She never was very good with awkward situations. If this girl was smart enough, she'd get suspicious. If only she hadn't said anything about her stories. She got so aggravated when people did not believe her. Her ridiculous temper! She could never keep hold of it. What is it about this place! I never have accidents like these so often!

Gabriella began to walk briskly towards the eating house. Saedlai looked intently after her. When she was about to run after Gabriella, Saedlai looked down at the ground. The leaf was there, under a small pile of ashes. It was green.