I can see all too clear; the time has come to face my fear

Saira watched the elder closely.  The memorial songs got to him every year.  Why the venerable ones of the clan felt the need to mark such a grim anniversary every single year was beyond her.  Didn’t any of them see how upsetting it was to the elder of the clan?  She remembered when they were nestlings and had looked forward to the beginning of winter.

 The cold and snow of winter didn’t phase ice dragens at all.  If anything they reveled in it.  Myro especially had loved the winter.  He would spend all day outside if he could.  As they grew older, his parents and hers had both agreed that so long as they were together they’d be safe enough on their own.  Once they’d learned to fly and to judge the sometimes strange air currents of the mountains in winter, she and Myro had explored far beyond any of the other fledglings.

 The demon war had curtailed that activity, if only slightly.  They were still permitted to explore and sport in the icy winds; as long as they stayed close to the den, or at least some shelter.  Demons didn’t mind the cold any more than ice dragens.

 Myro sighed heavily and glanced her way.  His favorite time of year was now punctuated by grief.  It would have been so even without the memorial ceremony and songs; they’d been orphaned at the opening of the season.  Still, it hurt to see him so down at a time of year where the Myro of her memories was so happy.

 In the years since she’d come to be his subordinate and not just a good friend, Saira had grown even closer to him.  To say she’d become protective would not be an exaggeration.  Sometimes she wondered if he felt the same.  She couldn’t ask though.  She smiled at him and his tail flicked out to coil around hers.  This display of affection was all they were allowed in front of all the others in the clan.  She remembered when he’d become elder and they had both come to understand how their relationship would have to change.

They had stayed at arms length from each other and kept their relationship strictly professional.  There were times when one or the other would edge toward the closeness that they had felt in their shared grief, but then the moment would pass.

 However, now the clan was recovering.  There were nearly as many mated pairs and young families as there had been on that fateful day when the war ended.  Saira smiled over at Mryo and tugged on his tail to draw his attention closer.  He leaned in so she could speak softly to him.  “Maybe we should ask,” she said.

 “After… the ceremony?” he murmured.  “Would you come with me?  If he says no… I… wouldn’t be able to tell you, I think.”

 Saira nodded and shifted just a little closer.  They joined in the final song of leave taking and left the dais.  She remained a silent presence as he joined his grandfather and the other oldones who advised him as clan elder.  “Grand – Master Ryden?” he called.  Even after ten years he felt strange addressing his grandfather so formally.

 “Elder Myro?” the old dragen replied.  “You have something to ask?”

 “I do,” Myro said almost hesitantly.  His tail coiled around Saira’s and she smiled up at him to reassure him.  “We’ve never… we’ve wondered since… I became elder… is it… appropriate… would it be alright… Saira’s my sub-elder but… I… um.”  Suddenly tongue-tied, Myro chuckled nervously.

 “You want to know if it is appropriate for you to court your sub-elder?” Ryden asked dryly.  “I thought you already were, child, or I would have told you long since that it was fine.”

 “Well… all that anxiety for nothing,” Myro said, rolling his eyes.  “I hadn’t seen any relationship like it in the histories.  It always seemed that the elder and sub-elder were nothing more than comrades or friends at most.”

 “That is because much of the time, they’re both male,” Ryden said in a matter-of-fact tone.  “Saira’s mother, may her next life be a joyous one, was the first female sub-elder in generations and your father, may his next life be a joyous one, had already set his cup for your mother,” this time Myro joined on the traditional phrase for a departed dragen.

 “So all this time, you thought I was courting Saira?” Myro asked.  “Our parents expected it, didn’t they?”

 “They were always pushing you together, what did you think that was for?” Ryden snapped, his frustration finally showing.

 Myro’s tone held the same impatience as he retorted, “We weren’t sure, Grandfather.  That’s why we asked.”  He took Saira’s hands and bumped her forehead with his.  “So this is me, formally setting my cup for Saira, if she’ll have, fool that I am.”

 “I’m just as foolish, since I didn’t realize it either, Myro,” Saira said, returning the bump and completing the ceremony.

 “We have to announce this.  The clan needs to know,” Ryden chirped.  He dragged the pair back to the dais and hailed the dispersing crowd.  When the hum of voices had died back down he clutched their joined hands in his and said, “Your Elder, Myro Hailstrom has set his cup for this woman, Sub-elder Saira Iceshine.”

 A cheer that nearly deafened them went up from the crowd.  Some of the old ones that were near to the dais could be heard to mutter, “It’s about time,” or “I thought he already had.”  Chuckling, Myro bumped Saira’s forehead again.

 “Are you happy?” she asked.  He frowned and shook his head, point a free hand at his ear.  She chuckled and shouted, “Are you happy, My?”

 “Deliriously,” he shouted back.  “Want to go flying later?”

 “I thought you’d never ask!” she said.  Still clutching his hand, she dashed off the dais and dragged him, protesting half-heartedly, up to the overlook.  “He set his cup for me,” she shouted to the sentinel.

 “Congratulations,” the dragen shouted back.  “Much happiness,” he added as they launched from the edge to fly out over the snow-covered mountains.

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