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Kindra woke in the still dark with her hand around her spear and her ears perked for whatever sound woke her. But instead of an attack or intruder the low, sad sound of a flute began playing outside her door, and she felt her stomach jump a little at the sound. So that’s why Gar hadn’t been at practice for the past few days.
She pushed herself up on the cot, trying not to make a noise that would let him know she was awake, and walked to the doorflap, leaning her head against the frame as she listened. It was a sad and beautiful song, well-practiced and hopeful despite the fact that he must know the answer. He was making a fool of them both.
The song ended, the last note dying away into the cold night, and she heard him get up and walk away. The flute would be waiting just outside the door for her to accept and bring into her home or reject and leave until nightfall for him to come and collect.
Kindra walked back to her cot, her gaze travelling over the hide-wrapped sword on Kaye’s as her heart did little flip-flops in her chest. She didn’t know what to do about this. Why must he be so stubborn?
Loria turned over on her cot and Kindra pretended to be asleep until her aunt came in the next morning, bubbling with the promise of gossip over the flute.
“Do you want me to bring it in?” Lisa asked as Kindra pushed her blanket off.
“Do you know who it’s from?”
“Yes.” Kindra wouldn’t supply anymore information freely.
“Was it Carrick Wain?” Lisa clapped her hands together and grinned. “What a wonderful match that would be!”
“It wasn’t Carrick.”
“It must be someone unfavorable then,” Loria assured her sister. Even Kindra could afford to turn down someone unfavorable.
“It was Gar. I already told him I wouldn’t accept a flute.”
A look passed between the sisters that Kindra couldn’t decipher, although surprise was part of it. Lisa recovered first. “Well, that’s probably for the best. After all…” Another look from Loria stopped her.
“After all what?” Kindra crossed her arms. “I’m not good enough for him? He’s not good enough for me?”
“I didn’t say that.” Lisa glared at her. “Gar is a good warrior, level-headed, learned in battle. It’s just that-“
“Lisa,” there was a warning in Loria’s voice and her sister bit her tongue, although she looked unhappy to do so.
“What?” Kindra asked, looking from one to the other in concern. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing,” Loria spoke. “You are right not to accept his flute. Gar is beneath you.”
“Beneath me?” That was the most absurd statement Kindra had ever heard. The up and coming star warrior – beneath her, the social outcast of the tribe? Her mother was really reaching for that cover-up.
“You are an Odion, the purest stock from Aleda, of Ian Odion’s direct decent. Your sister is so strong in the Faye blood she has wings. You are the only surviving warrior of Eoin’s line; and with the exception of Oak and the High Priestess you have a higher status than anyone in Fie Eoin.”
Loria took Kindra’s hand and sat her down. “The Odion family has always taken great pains to remain pure in the Faye blood, even when those with wings were being cast out. That is partly why they remain one of the most powerful families in the tribe.”
“But the Bayn family,” Lisa cut in, “just look at their dark complexions! Their blood is tainted, impure. A warrior of the Odion line can’t mix with that.”
“Pine isn’t exactly fair haired.” Kindra said with her nose wrinkled.
“And my sister is not an Odion,” Loria said. “You are.”
“But-“ Kindra stopped herself. Why was she arguing? She already made the decision not to marry him. Now it seemed her mother and aunt were trying to talk her out of doing something that she wasn’t going to do in the first place!
Standing up and running a hand through her hair she turned first toward the door, then to the sisters, and back to the door again. She wanted to defend Gar against them, but she didn’t want to marry him. What happened that she was even considering it, just to spite them? And what was the look that passed between them? She had been so sure of herself and her choice when she woke up this morning; she didn’t like this turn of events.
“I have to go to Fie Ronna.” Kindra grabbed her father’s boots and threw on her cloak, ducked out of the door and nearly stepped on the flute. She looked down at it with a frown – it was made with obvious care and that only made it worse.
Hugging the boots to her chest, Kindra ignored the looks of the people who heard the flute and knew who it was for. They would know by now that she hadn’t accepted it, that it was still lying outside of her door, waiting to be taken back in the night. They may not know who left it yet, but word would travel fast once Lisa started talking. Shutting her aunt up might be worth accepting the flute.
Not giving the tribe the opportunity to ridicule Gar for being dumped by the least-desirable woman in the tribe might also be worth it. After all, she liked Gar, and owed him a lot for his help training her in the warrior arts. She just didn’t want to marry him. If it had been anyone else the flute would be staying put without further thought.
If only he had listened to her and not given it to her in the first place. What made him think she would change her mind so fast? Was he worried that she might actually consider marrying Carrick? For that he deserved the ridicule of the tribe and she resolved not to accept the flute, to teach him a lesson. If it wasn’t gone by tomorrow sunrise she would throw it on the fire.
Secure in her resolve, Kindra quickened her pace to Fie Ronna.