"A New Resolve"
Prodigal Daughter, Part 5
By Mike Christopher
Read Part 4 "Keeper, Weaver, Stalker, Spy"

Iyori chewed her lower lip in sullen silence. Fat drops of rainwater from the recent tropical downpour pittered and pattered and plunked around her, falling with casual grace from leaf to limb to leaf to collect unnoticed along the rainforest floor. A drop of water at the end of Iyori’s button nose finally became too heavy to hang on; it dropped with a solid plop into Iyori’s lap.
A shadow fell across her sitting form, and she was startled from her reverie. Behind her, Bazha had raised an enormous Kalooga leaf over her head to shield her from the rain. He smiled hesitantly down at his daughter.
“The rain is good—it will keep down the stink of those dreadful bog-dwellers." His eyes crinkled with his slow gentle smile as he propped the leaf into place, assuring himself that it would not fall. He moved to stand before Iyori, interrupting her far off gaze. She looked up into his eyes, and he thought that not all of the water dappling her freckled cheeks was from the rain. "But the rain may not be so good for you," Bazha remarked softly. "Rain can purify the soul, it is true; but rain can also dampen an already soggy soul."
Iyori nodded listlessly. Bazha studied her face a moment longer before kneeling to face her more directly. He took her chilled hands in his warm calloused ones, willing warmth into the slender fingers of his only child.
"You really should return, you know." Bazha’s voice was a whisper, almost lost in the gentle drumming of the raindrops. "Something is wrong—I know that you feel it. You must go to Gia and try to put things back to right."
"She doesn’t want me there!" Iyori’s face was suddenly animated with anger and resentment. Her sharply attractive features were twisted and uncomely with the strength of the emotion.
Bazha’s tone remained gentle. "Nevertheless—you must try. Gia is…umm, Gia was always a stubborn woman, but I always knew her to be fair." Iyori pulled her hands from his grasp and hugged her arms tight about her chest, her lips curling down into an obstinate frown. Bazha persisted, "This…behavior…it is not like the Gia I have known. Something is wrong." Iyori’s gaze had returned to some vague far-off distance, and Bazha knew that his words were causing her to think her situation through.
"Gia raised you with love and tenderness, did she not?"
Iyori responded with the tiniest of nods. Bazha smiled encouragingly.
"She taught you about fairness and kindness and generosity? She taught you…forgiveness, perhaps?"
Iyori’s eyes fell to her lap as she unwrapped her arms and let her hands fall onto her knees. She nodded again.
"Can you deny the lessons of your childhood—the things your adolescence and womanhood have taught you to be good and well and true?" Bazha’s voice rose in strength as he continued.
This time, Iyori looked up, raising her chin high and squaring her shoulders back.
"No, father." She took a deep breath and wiped some of the dampness from her reddened face. "You’re right, of course. I know…it just…just hurts…when I think of it."
Bazha nodded. "Pain is sometimes a warning sign, my daughter. It tells us of a wrongness that must be addressed."
Iyori nodded again, still wiping her face. She looked directly into her father’s eyes. "I hope? she hesitated, and swallowed audibly. Images of Gia flickered across her mind’s eye: Gia teaching her to weave her first sigil, Gia gently soothing Purebark salve into Iyori’s scraped knee, Gia the mother, teacher, guardian, friend. Then she remembered Gia as she had last beheld her: her aged face twisted into cruel mockery, her words bitter poison to Iyori’s ears, her skin darkened and bruised in appearance, her figure ripe with a corpulent unhealthiness that seemed to have come about so suddenly…so wrongfully.
"I was so blind! I hope I’m not too late?
Bazha nodded and kept his silence, but his eyes twinkled with pride. In the distance, Ookami’s drums began to ring out—thrumming their call to arms. Another attack was imminent. Bazha stood and met Iyori’s gaze. A look of steely resolve had entered into both father and daughters?expressions.
"It seems we both have our battles to fight, then." Iyori said to the beating of the drums.
Bazha nodded once more, embraced his daughter briefly and whispered in her ear, "Let forgiveness clear your mind’s eye…and see through to the truth of the matter." Then Bazha turned and pelted off into the jungle, disappearing almost without a sound, with only the swaying of the Kalooga leaves betraying his passage.
Iyori admired his stealthy skills and shook her head. I’ll return one day, father. I will learn your ways so that I may truly live up to the title of Bazha’s daughter.
She turned and made her own way into the dense jungle growth, with a great deal less grace and a lot more noise than her father’s departure. Iyori headed away from the sounds of battle, away from the new home and family she had discovered in the steamy jungle depths. Her first home, her real home, was calling out to her. She quickened her pace.

What happens next? Read Part 6 "Barlbridge"

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