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By Edward Bolme A tale of Moonlands

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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. "I—I don’t..."

"You don’t have to say any more than that, m’lady," said Bazha gently.

"You don’t 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; you’ll find they’ll 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 can’t do that," said Iyori.

"Why not?"

"Because Gia’s my mother," said Iyori.

Bazha’s eyes glazed over, and he bumped his shoulder hard into a tree and flopped backward, landed firmly on his rump.

Iyori gasped. "Oh, no, it’s not like that! No, I mean, yeah, Gia never married or anything, but I’m not like her real daughter really, I mean I am, but you know, I..." Here she reached down to help Bazha up. "What I mean to say is..."

"You’re her adopted daughter," interrupted Bazha.

Iyori drew back, startled. "How’d 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.

"Huh?"

Bazha took a deep breath, then held out one hand. "Look, I am your father," he said seriously.

Iyori blinked several times. "Noo..." she said, shaking her head in amazement and denial. "You can’t be. I never knew my father." Then she paused, and thought about that for a moment. She looked back up at Bazha and said, "You’re 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 don’t 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. That’s when Gia pulled me aside, and we had a long talk. Since you didn’t have green skin, we decided you’d 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. "You’re 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. I—I just—I don’t 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. "I’m 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, we’re gonna need those hot springs today," she muttered to herself.

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