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Part Three

Journey's Beginning

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She only stared up at him, eyes wide with realization and something else. Her gaze fell, and one hand went to her lips.

Surier gently removed the hand. "I remember, too," he said softly, caressingly. "Can you? Will you?"

Not meeting his eyes, Loviath shivered and nodded. "I'll go get ready," she mumbled, and went outside.

Surier watched her leave, shoulders slumped in resignation. If she didn't hate him now, she would certainly after this, he thought. She left for six years after just one kiss. He had the feeling that he'd better remember everything he could about the coming events, because he would never see Loviath after today. 'Or pray for forgetfulness,' he muttered, moving to join the others.

In very short order, a second pallet was made up in the main cave and Morgan was moved onto it. Surier had found candles and incense in the bag, along with some herbs that might be necessary. He'd made an infusion for each of them. "Drink it," he'd ordered. "It will help you focus and give you a bit more strength."

Loviath knelt by Morgan's head, both hands on the older woman's temples. To Loviath's left was Storm. He lay one cool, elegant hand on Loviath's wrist. The other lay lightly over his mate's heart.

To Loviath's right, Surier held Morgan's hand in one of his own. Like the elf, Surier's other hand lay upon Loviath's wrist. Unlike the elf's, it was warm and comforting.

The three closed their eyes and meditated, gathering their strength for the spell.

After a time, Surier began. "We are the three who know this One best," he intoned. "I am Surier, Cleric to the Truth Seeker, and Friend to this One. I know her Mind and her Soul as only another Cleric can." His deep, melodious voice calmed Loviath's shaking nerves.

In a voice that hid the pain he must be feeling, Storm began his part in the ritual. "I am Sturmvogel der Auslander, called Storm. I am Warrior, Friend, and Mate to this One. I know this One's Mind and Soul as only a Mate can. And I am willing to fight for her." The last was more vow than observation.

The next part was to be hers. Could she say the words, knowing that the ending of the ritual would only involve her and Surier? She shook.

Surier took her hand from Morgan's temple, bringing it palm to palm with his own, and lacing his fingers through hers. She stared at their entwined fingers, unable to meet Surier's gaze and began.

"I am Loviath of Sharidell, a Harper vowed to Truth and Justice. I am Friend, Student and a woman, like this One. I am...." Her voice faltered and she gulped. The hand clasping hers tightened, and she raised her eyes to Surier's face, instinctively seeking a safe haven for her panic. "I - " she started, but her voice froze as she met the Cleric's gaze.

She grew cold. Her breath caught in her throat. The world stood still. Her heart slammed in her ribcage, once. Twice. And she began to believe. With her eyes still on Surier, she continued. "I am Loviath. I am Woman, Harper and Friend. I know this One's Mind and Soul as only a Woman can."

Surier smiled encouragingly and released Loviath's hand. His eyes held hers. He traced the Truth Seeker's symbol in the air over Morgan. "I seek the Faith's Truth that is this One," he said, his amber eyes blazing. Loviath knew that he meant more than just Morgan.

As if from a distance, Loviath heard Storm repeat his part. "I seek the Heart's Truth that is this One." Loviath didn't see if he'd traced the Truth Seeker's symbol or not. She wasn't concerned about that.

Without pause this time, Loviath responded. "I seek the Woman's Truth that is this One." It, too, had a double meaning. Very deliberately, she raised her hand. Provocatively, she broke eye contact with Surier to watch herself trace the Truth Seeker's symbol in the exact same spot Surier had traced his. She raised her eyes to meet the torrid maelstrom that was Surier's gaze. It had begun.

The world shifted, snapped and reformed. She was in-under-around-was Surier. She could see his amber irises. She could see, through his eyes, her own sherry-coloured gaze. She knelt beside Morgan and was enveloped in a golden hurricane of emotion. She felt safe, protected, alive!

A cooler, blue-green flame nudged her consciousness. Without words, she heard, "Morgan. Hurry. How do we find her?" In this place, Storm's fears were obvious.

The whirlwind that was Surier settled. "Come."

Loviath reached out with her mind's hand and touched the spark that was the elf. She sensed his surprise and amazement at her offer of comfort and support. And his gratitude. "We will find her," she promised.

The world suddenly snapped again. This time there was only darkness. Beside her, Loviath could feel the heat that was Surier. To one side was the cooler Storm. "This way," Surier said with quiet certainty.

Storm and Loviath followed. The darkness was absolute. She could see no light, save that of themselves, hear no sounds. She was relieved that she could see and hear nothing. It was a little unnerving to know that someone could see your whole mind like this, memory and nightmare alike. Although she no longer had a body, Loviath's skin tingled in anticipation and dread.

Where was Morgan? How would they know her?

Surier's pace slowed and then stopped. "Here is where you must Seek, Loviath." Surier's mental voice was warm. "I have brought us through her Faith's Truth. Yours is the next level."

With a start, Loviath realized that Surier believed in her. A tendril of Surier's essence swirled towards her, reassuring, comforting, protecting. And secure in the belief that she, Loviath, could guide them through to the next, the deepest level.

She closed her eyes upon the darkness, and breathed deeply, head thrown back like a hound on the scent of a hare. Next to her, she could feel the impatience and concern that was Storm. And there was something else, too. 'This is love?' she thought.

Something tickled her nose, distracting her. She turned to face it, a slight scent, a breeze. "This way."

"Are you sure?"Storm asked. His frustration was obvious.

Loviath moved off in the direction of the clue, never pausing in her search for the essence that was her friend. She nodded. "I'm sure."

There was silence between the three as they mentally measured their pace. They didn't have much time and the hardest part was still to come. Not only was Storm still a bit weak from his injuries, but, too long away from their own bodies would have them lost for all time. It was difficult to keep track of time in a place that measured neither time nor distance. How much time had they spent looking already? How much time did they have left? How much time did Morgan have left?

After a while, Loviath stopped. The blackness around them felt 'different', more intimate. "Storm, I think you need to lead from here. This is... not my Path any more," she said slowly.

"Loviath, look." Surier's soft voice wrapped around her.

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