"Clash of Wills"
The Prodigal Daughter, Part 2
by Edward Bolme
Read Part 1 "Departures"

"You know," said Iyori, "I haven't been able to relax fully since I left the Weave." She snorted. "Since before that, even. This is really amazing."

She sat in Bazha's?well, 'hut' was the only word she could think of to describe it, but the word did not at all convey the comfort and welcome she felt here. How could something so simple as this abode come across as so lush and inviting?

She reclined against a huge flower petal. Its skin was soft and cool to the touch, and whenever Iyori shifted her position, a slight waft of luscious fragrance teased her nose. In her hands Iyori held the hollowed-out husk of a delicious fruit, into which was poured a fragrant and slightly spicy tea. The tea leached some of the fruit cup's sweetness, which balanced nicely against the subtle musky tones of the brew. She took a deep whiff of the tea, and then drank another sip. Then she drew a deep breath, held it for a while, and let it slowly out.

"I tell ya, Bazha, this place feels like home. I never thought I could feel this relaxed outside the Weave."

Bazha, who had been looking at her as she unwound from her tension, studiously returned to making the salad he was preparing. "I am glad you came here, m'lady," he said as he chopped some vegetables. "And I am honored to be your host."

"You don't have to call me m'lady, you know," said Iyori. "It sounds so?I don't know, so old-fashioned and stiff."

Bazha paused for a moment. "I know," he said. "I just haven't seen anyone from the Weave for a long, long time." Then the steady chop-chop of his knife started up again.

"Really?" asked Iyori casually as she smelled her tea. "You folks must not get out much, do you? I mean, the Weave is practically the center of the world."

Bazha chuckled. "No, we don't get out much. We don't find much need to get out, and we're content to stay here."

"But why? I mean, there's so much out there?

"I used to travel some," said Bazha, "but that was a long time ago." He paused, and sighed with the memories. Then he chuckled. "I remember once I was walking up to a group of Magi from several different regions. They'd gathered together to talk about some deals about trading magic and sharing information and such, and I was about to join their conversation. As I approached, I overheard this Magi from Naroom spouting off, some hotheaded young explorer named Eidon. 'I just don't understand those Paradans,' he said. 'They have no ambition. All they want to do is lounge in their hot springs and sunbathe all day.'"

"I sat myself next to him and said, 'And because you cannot understand such a simple concept, you doom yourself to trek all about the Moonlands seeking an answer that lies in front of your nose.'"

Bazha paused and looked up, though he saw not the ceiling, but the distant past. "It wasn't long afterwards that I came back here. And as far as I now, Eidon has spent all the years since that time traveling around. He's even been here a few times, and although he's mellowed with age, he's never looked as happy as any of my people look when they're just relaxing in the springs." Bazha shook his head. "I guess I don't understand ambition. Be at peace with yourself. Insofar as possible, be at peace with all others, too. That's the secret of happiness, in my opinion."

"Gia used to say that the secret to being happy was to enjoy what you were doing, not to try to do what you enjoy," said Iyori.

"She's a good woman, Gia is," said Bazha.

Iyori dropped her eyes back to her cup of tea, and didn't answer.

"So how is Gia doing?" he asked over his shoulder.

"I dunno," said Iyori quietly.

"What do you mean?" asked Bazha, surprised. "You were there a week or two ago, weren't you? Didn't you at least hear about her? She's still living in that hut on the farm, isn't she?"

"Yeah, she is," said Iyori, glumly.

Bazha raised one eyebrow. He put down his knife, came over to Iyori, and sat down beside her. "What's wrong?" he asked gently.

"I had a major fight with Gia," said Iyori quietly.

"Well, I know she can be rather harsh at times, but-"

"No, you don't understand," said Iyori, meeting Bazha's gaze. "A major fight."

Bazha considered this, then said simply, "Tell me about it."

Iyori swirled her tea around in her cup, drained the last of it in one long pull, then set the cup aside. She sighed heavily, and began to speak. "It started not all that long ago," she said. "It's like Gia?changed. Maybe the whole shadow geyser thing got to her. Maybe she got shook up having actually dealt with the legendary Tony face-to-face. Maybe once the geysers were defeated, the magnitude of the responsibility that she'd been bearing finally all dropped on her head and made her a little wacky. I don't know. All I know is that after the Shadow Magi showed up in the Weave, she started acting differently."

"Tell me about the Shadow Magi," urged Bazha.

"They were more or less abandoned when Agram fell," said Iyori. "They scattered, like the rest of his people, but they scattered together." Iyori paused and laughed, in spite of herself. "Boy that sounds stupid. 'They scattered together.' Yeah, and they divided as one. Spread out in one direction shouting silently in the bright night air. Sheesh. Can you tell I'm a little nervous about talking about this?"

Bazha smiled reassuringly and patted her arm.

"Anyway," Iyori continued, "rumor was that a bunch of Shadow Magi tried to hide out in the Weave. Then we found out that Ashio was helping them. He was their guide, because he was originally from the Weave. Legend says that there's a black pit somewhere at the bottom of the Weave, and it'll take you to the Core. Maybe Ashio was trying to find it.

"Well, we tried to find them, but we weren't having much luck. Then the Cald sent a fire team into the Weave to root them out. That got bad really quickly, because it was the dry season. There were some big fires. The Weave had to sacrifice parts of itself to save the rest. That sick smell of smoke was everywhere. I think the Weave deliberately spread the smell around so that everyone would know there was trouble.

"But anyway, this was when Gia kind of changed," Iyori said. "She was really set off, really upset about the fires and the Magi from other regions combing through the Weave. No sooner did this happen, than she found those Shadow Magi quick as a lascinth, and we drove them out of our homeland. Then she turned on the Calders. She was getting really harsh, riling up our people and saying some pretty nasty things. I figured maybe she was just angry about the fires, so I tried to calm her down, I mean, it's not like the Calders were trying to destroy the Weave or anything, they were just being careless. But she'd hear none of it."

"Really?" Interrupted Bazha. "I know Gia's rude at times, but violent? Gia? I don't buy it."

Iyori shrugged. She reached over and broke her fruit-cup apart, then started to munch on the tea-stained fruit on the inside of the rind. She chewed thoughtfully for a few seconds, then, more quietly, said, "You know, she's starting to pack it on."

Startled, Bazha laughed uncomfortably, then reined it in. "She's getting fat?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah. She's bloating like a pylofuf, and not looking too healthy, either. I don't know if this is some way for her to cope with the pressure she's been under, or maybe with the Shadow Magi in the Weave she feels like she failed to help Tony enough, or maybe she's just getting old." Her brows pulled together in a frown.

"I kind out doubt it's just age," said Bazha. "I always thought she'd handle old age better than that."

"Yeah, maybe. So I hassled her about her appearance, but she didn't want to talk about that either. Then between that and Cald and the Shadow Magi and stuff, things just got way out of hand. Before I knew it we were yelling at each other, and then we'd actually called up some dream creatures to duel. It would have been more than just a duel, though. I could see it in myself. I was so angry, I-I don't know what I would have done. But why would I feel such-such vicious anger? And I saw Gia, and she was looking surprised, and a little fearful, and really mad, and I?I just left."

Iyori's chin quivered and her eyes welled up with tears. "I don't know, Bazha, it's like I don't understand her any more, and I don't know if it's her or if it's me!" Then she burst into tears, burying her face in her hands. Bazha reached over and held her gently to his shoulder, both arms wrapped reassuringly around her, and his cheek resting against her thick, blond hair.

Read Part 3 "Roots"

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