Iyori and Bazha walked side by side down a narrow, winding path through the lush tropical foliage of Paradwyn. Although the sun was starting to set, the cloud cities above lit the sky, and glowflowers brightened the plants all around them.
"Thanks for letting me get that off my chest," said Iyori quietly, wiping the heel of her palm across her red-rimmed eyes. "IóI donít?quot;
"You donít have to say any more than that, mílady," said Bazha gently.
"You donít have to call me that," she reminded him.
"Consider it an old habit of an old man," he said with a smile. "The hot springs are just a bit ahead; youíll find theyíll do you good after such a purge."
They continued down the path without speaking, and although they walked along in silence, the jungle filled the air for them with all sorts of exotic noises both strange and beautiful.
"I can imagine that having a falling-out with such an important person would lead you to consider exiling yourself from your people," said Bazha, at last, "but have you considered going to your family and asking for their intercession?"
"I canít do that," said Iyori.
"Because Giaís my mother," said Iyori.
Bazhaís eyes glazed over, and he bumped his shoulder hard into a tree and flopped backward, landed firmly on his rump.
Iyori gasped. "Oh, no, itís not like that! No, I mean, yeah, Gia never married or anything, but Iím not like her real daughter really, I mean I am, but you know, I?quot; Here she reached down to help Bazha up. "What I mean to say is?quot;
"Youíre her adopted daughter," interrupted Bazha.
Iyori drew back, startled. "Howíd you know that?" she asked. "She never told anyone!"
"I know," said Bazha. "That was the agreement."
"Agreement?" asked Iyori, bewildered.
"Sort of like the agreement that we should sit down, first," he said, pushing her down to take a seat by the side of the path.
Bazha took a deep breath, then held out one hand. "Look, I am your father," he said seriously.
Iyori blinked several times. "Noo?quot; she said, shaking her head in amazement and denial. "You canít be. I never knew my father." Then she paused, and thought about that for a moment. She looked back up at Bazha and said, "Youíre kidding, right?"
"A long time ago, I did travel the Moonlands, rather extensively, in fact," said Bazha distantly. "I fell in love with a beautiful Weaver named Koonee, and we married. We lived very happily. She was a good, sweet woman. Unfortunately, she passed on when she gave birth to you; I donít know why. I was heart-broken. I was so distraught, I could hardly do anything. I could hardly even attend to my duties as keeper. Thatís when Gia pulled me aside, and we had a long talk. Since you didnít have green skin, we decided youíd fit in better in the Weave than in Paradwyn, so she raised you as her own. And me, the whole situation was so sad, I came back home and never went anywhere outside Paradwyn again."
There was a pause. "Youíre not kidding," said Iyori at last.
"No," said Bazha. He drew in a long shuddering breath. "I always wondered what happened to you, you know. IóI justóI donít know what else to say."
"Well, I guess that answers why I never was able to get my hair to weave itself together they way the others do," Iyori said lamely.
For a long moment, the two of them stared blankly at each other.
"Thanks for taking me in," said Iyori at last. "Better late than never, I guess."
Bazha held out his hands helplessly. "Iím sorry," he said quietly, then he buried his face in his hands and began to weep.
Iyori leaned forward and held him, as he had held her mere minutes ago. She felt her own tears returning. "Boy, weíre gonna need those hot springs today," she muttered to herself.
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