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Starting Over

Tanya glanced over at her aunt, gauging to see if this was the right time to tell her aunt what she had planned. Her aunt always seemed to be in her best moods when she was working in her herb garden, and Tanya felt that now was as good a time to spill her secret.

"Aunt Melanie," she began, not knowing quite how to go about telling her aunt her plans.

"Yes Tanya?" her aunt answered, pausing in picking her herbs. She had a look of concern on her face that told Tanya clearly that she understood, somehow, that Tanya's statement would be one of great importance.

Tanya paused, not knowing quite how to begin. How did anyone tell someone they loved that they would be leaving very soon, moving far away for an undetermined amount of time.

"Yes?" her aunt prompted gently. She knew that look; Tanya was going to be telling her something important, or at least important in her eyes. I just wish I knew what it was, Tanya's aunt thought.

Tanya finally, having thought up no other options, opted to just tell her news as quickly as she could. "I've decided to move to Whiteriver Warren," she blurted out, then awaited her aunt's response somewhat impatiently.

Aunt Melanie didn't respond at first. Of all things, this she had not expected. "Well," she began slowly, "what made you come to that decision?"

Tanya shrugged, still tense but happy that Aunt Melanie hadn't gotten all over her on the subject. "I just think that it's time that I begin my life. I've heard that they need more people there, that it is small, and, well, I just thought..."

She broke off, wondering just what she had thought. It had seemed so easy to explain earlier, she thought bitterly; it's just hard to get it into words. She thought a little more, then replied, "Well, I thought that it was time I stopped relying on the help of others. Like you for instance---"

"Don't even THINK," her aunt reprimended, "that I see you as a....a... charity case." She softened her tone a bit. "You are my sister's child, and I felt it was my duty to take care---"

"That's just it!" Tanya interrupted, trying to have her aunt see it from her view. She ignored the dark look her aunt sent her; she didn't like getting interrupted. "I don't want to be a 'duty' or anything like that to someone," she said. "Even if that person likes their duty," she hastily added, seeing her aunt's face and knowing she was about to launch into a big lecture. "I want to know that I earned my way, that the stuff I call mine is mine, and---"

"But you're only 16!" her aunt interrupted, ignoring Tanya's black look now; she didn't like being interrupted any more than her aunt did. "You've seen very little of the world, and you don't know what it's like." She looked Tanya in the eyes, trying to make her understand. "Most people in the world look up to age. Just the same, many look down on youth." She saw that Tanya still didn't get it so she tried another approach. "You are only sixteen. What exactly did you intend to do to make your living at Whiteriver?"

"I was going to help out with the Healers and medics at the warren."

"Well, would you like a young person, one who doesn't look like they know what they're doing, work on you?"

"If I'm hurt I wouldn't mind."

Aunt Melanie sighed, then told her bluntly, "People don't like young people having responsibility. They believe that young people can't be trusted enough to do jobs they've been given all the way through."

"But Aunt Melanie, you know that I can--"

"It doesn't matter what I think," her aunt retorted, getting frustrated. The girl just won't see reason, she thought. "I won't be there with you. You'll be all by yourself, with noone from here to tell everyone how good you are. You'd have to work at it with all your might, in the face of others who won't believe you can do it."

"I can live with that."

Aunt Melanie threw up her hands in frustration. "How do you know? You've never faced that before!"

"Well," Tanya said cooly, "I guess I'll just have to learn, won't I?"

Aunt Melanie looked Tanya in the eyes, and saw her family's inbred determination shining through. She doesn't care, Aunt Melanie thought. She's made up her mind, and nothing I can say will change it. She smiled, thinking of how much the girl reminded her of herself at that age; so sure of herself, sure she could do anything she set her mind to. Well, she thought, her smiling widening, I guess I didn't do that badly either.

Tanya was baffled by the smile on her aunt's face but kept her face stony. Is she laughing at me, she thought, the idea sparking anger in her heart. What does she know anyway, Tanya wondered. She felt disgusted with herself; why did I even come, she thought bitterly.

"Listen, I have to be going..." she began, starting to rise.

"No! Wait a moment," her aunt hastily said. Her smile had disappeared and a determination of her own had set in. "Just one moment." When she saw that Tanya paused, she asked "Just give me one more minute. I wasn't laughing at you, you know," she added, seeing the angry glint in her niece's eyes and guessing rightly what had caused it. "I was laughing at myself."

Tanya paused just one more moment, then sat back down. "Okay, one minute," she muttered.

Her aunt sighed, closing her eyes for a moment, then opened them and looked at her niece. "How are you going to get there?" she asked.

"If you're going to start another lecture...." Tanya began, starting to stand again.

"No! No," she exclaimed hastily, "I just want to know. How are you going to get there?"

"I was planning on asking a dragonrider to take me," she answered, sitting back down.

"Okay," her aunt said, wondering about something, "that sounds good." Suddenly, to Tanya's surprise, she snapped her fingers. "I know who will do it! Do you know a dragonrider by the name of V'lariad?"

"Um...." Tanya thought, trying to remember some of R'bert's friends and/or teachers. "Isn't he the one with the pale yellow dragon?" she asked uncertainly.

"That's him," her aunt answered. "He and I are....were....friends." She tried not to let her sadness show but failed. "We were close when we were younger."

Tanya wondered how close, but knew by her aunt's face that she wouldn't tell. "Okay," she said, trying to divert her aunt's attention from an obviously painful subject, "so how do I go about asking....V'lariad?..." her aunt nodded, "how do I tell him that I want---"

"Just tell him Mellie asked him for a favor," she said. Tanya waited her to elaborate but, getting no answer, took it in stride. "Okay," she said, "so I go up to V'lariad and tell him Mellie sent me to ask him if he would fly me to Whiteriver, and he'll take me?"

"I hope so," her aunt answered, turning back to her garden, unshed tears in her eyes. "I certainly hope so." She didn't see Tanya reach out to comfort her, nor did she see exactly when her neice left. She was too caught up in memories of her childhood and young adult life.

Tanya walked down the hall, towards the dragonriders' area. She passed few people and wondered where everyone was. She stopped one person and asked. "Oh," the lady said, "they's all at da beach."

Tanya thanked the woman and started back on her way again. She wondered who she should talk to about transferring to another warren. Maybe she should talk to...

"Hey! Tanya! Wait up!"

Tanya turned around and smiled slightly, seeing her brother R'bert running up to catch her. She paused, waiting for him to catch up, then started walking again, with him trailing beside her.

"How have you been?" he asked, obviously not sure how to begin.

"Good. And you?" she responded, continuing to walk.

"I'm well. And so is Kracken," he added, obviously slightly angry she had failed to mention him.

"I'm sorry," she apologized, truly sincere. "What's Kracken doing nowadays?"

"Well, mostly lazing about," R'bert answered, smiling. "He doesn't have anything to do most of the time. Right now, though, he's at the beach with the other dragonriders."

"Why aren't you there?" she asked, truly puzzled. Her brother was a real social person, always wanting to be where the action is.

He shrugged, saying in a slightly surprised voice, "I don't know. I usually would be wouldn't I?" He looked at her and smiled. "You always did say I was a party animal."

Tanya could feel the urge to get her secret off her chest, but didn't know if it was the right time. "So, why did you stay?" she asked, waiting for the right moment.

R'bert shrugged, then said, "Isolinde didn't want to go so I decided I'd stay with her." He shrugged again, and Tanya remembered the shy little girl that always tagged along with R'bert. She had always thought the girl was a tad too antisocial, always with R'bert only or by herself. It wasn't her place to judge, though, she thought.

"So," he asked, struggling to match her pace, "where are you going in such a hurry?"

Tanya abruptly stopped, causing R'bert to walk right past her. More than a little surprised, he stopped then turned around and walked back. "What's wrong?" he asked, concern in his eyes.

Dangit! she thought. Can Everyone read me so well? She wondered how to go about this, then just decided to do the same thing she did with her aunt. "I'm leaving," she blurted, then curse herself. She saw R'bert's expression go through a myriad of emotions, from shock to incredulty to realization to sadness. Not wanting to watch anymore, she started walking again, at a faster pace. A few seconds later, she heard R'bert's running footsteps behind her.

"Wait!" he half-called, half asked. "What do you mean, 'I'm leaving'?" He caught up with her and stepped in front of her. "Where are you going?"

She tried to get around him, not wanting to face her brother, but he wouldn't let her pass, getting in her way each time she tried to go around him. Finally, she sighed in resignation and answered, "I'm going to another warren."

"What?" he cried, not caring who heard. "You're too young to leave!"

Tanya groaned. "Not you too!" she said, trying to get around him again but failing miserably.

"What do you mean 'too'? Who else did you tell?"

"I talked to Aunt Melanie."

"And SHE didn't say you couldn't?" he said, incredulous. He had been certain that Melanie would have persuaded Tanya to stay; she had an overpowering character that R'bert found daunting. Obviously, Tanya didn't agree with his view.

"No, she didn't." She tried once again to get by but he moved to intercept her, his next question already being asked. "Which warren are you going to?"

"Whiteriver." She finally gave up altogether and looked R'bert in the eyes. "I'm going to Whiteriver Warren, and don't try to persuade me not to."

They looked into each other's eyes; R'bert saw the determination in his sister's eyes, and Tanya saw the confusion and anguish her words caused in her brother's eyes.

"Why?" he asked in a slightly choked voice. "You're my only sister. I thought you'd stay with me."

Tanya saw the tears beginning to form in R'bert's eyes and felt her own begin to cloud up. She broke eye contact, so as not to let him see the tears that threatened. "I need to make my own life." Getting herself composed, she looked up again, staring into her brother's now tear filled eyes. "I need to start over again."

She wanted to make her brother understand; she had to make someone understand, but how could she? She could no longer stay in this warren; she had too many people here who cared for her, and that she cared about. She didn't want what happened with her parents to happen to her. She was afraid that...

No, she told herself angrily, I am NOT afraid! I just...just... She didn't know, but she was not afraid. She just didn't want to lose, ever again, those she loved. Like her parents, when.... She tore her mind off them and focussed on the here and now, on her brother, however painful that was.

"I'm sorry Robbie," she said softly, using his childhood name, "it's just something I have to do." He wouldn't understand, she realized. He can't understand that I'm afraid--no, not afraid, she thought, but couldn't think of another word to take it's place--of losing anymore people I love. I couldn't take it if my brother was taken in a wraith attack while he was on a patrol; I couldn't take if my aunt had a heart attack and died. She mentally sighed sadly, not knowing how to explain: she just couldn't stay.

"But why?" he sobbed out. He was now crying profusely.

Tanya was truly surprised by this outburst. She had known that R'bert had been the emotional type while she had not, but she hadn't known that he had loved her THIS much: that he couldn't even let her go.

I have to get away from this, she thought desperately. She made her voice as cold as possible and said, "I'm leaving R'bert. You'll have to learn to accept that." She shouldered her way past him then, surprising him; at least she thought so. She walked down the hall briskly, expecting at any moment to hear his footsteps runnig after her.

But she had gotten her wish; he didn't come after her. As she turned the bend in the hall, she caught his profile the corner of her eye: his shoulders slightly slumped, still watching her, still crying. She rushed around the bend, then broke out running, hoping the wind would evaporate the tears falling down her face.

Tanya finally stopped her racing down the hall and stopped for a moment, composing herself. Why, she thought miserably, does he have to do that all the time? He knew she didn't like emotional outbursts; yet, he had done just that a moment ago. I didn't want to hurt him, she thought, angry at herself, but I didn't know any way out. I just wish...

She forcefully pushed the incident from her thoughts, focusing on her current mission. She saw someone, a dragonrider by their dress, start to walk past her and asked, "Excuse me, but do you know where a V'lariad is?"

The dragonrider, who seemed surprised, turned around to face her. "What do you need V'lariad for?" he asked uncertainly.

"Well, I was wondering if he could help me transfer to another warren."

"And why would he do that?" the unknown man asked.

Tanya was taken aback. She hadn't been rude at all, just had asked a question to someone, asked for directions. Suddenly, she was being interrogated, like a common criminal! She could feel anger starting to boil in her heart but kept it locked up inside while she answered, her voice cool, "Because Mellie sent me."

The man stiffened, and she suddenly came to the realization that the man staring at her like she was a ghost must be V'lariad. "You him?" she asked, then cursed herself: her voice was still cold.

That fact didn't go unnoticed by V'lariad; his back stiffened and his gaze went from surprised to utter blankness. "I'm him," he answered, his voice just as cold. "How do you know about Mellie?"

"She's my aunt Melanie."

He seemed to ponder the question, staring at her intently. Fighting not to blush, she withstood his stare, even as his eyes roamed over her body. Then he smiled, a true smile. "You are Melanie's niece," he said, grinning broadly. "You look just like her and act just like her and...." here he shrugged: "You both have the same determination." He held out his hand. "I'm V'lariad. Nice to make your acquantance."

Surprised but not out of the game yet, she took his hand. "Tanya." His hand was warm to the touch, and strong. She gave it a brief shake then stepped back. "Is there a way you can help me work out the arrangements?" she asked, staring at his face.

If it was possible, his smiled broadened. "You're reminding me of Mellie every time you open your mouth, did you know that?" His grin seemed to fade somewhat at the mention of the name Mellie, but he was still smiling broadly as he turned around and walked away, calling, "Follow me."

Tanya struggled to keep up with him. She had always had no problems keeping up with people because of her height. Now, though, she had finally met someone who had a bigger stride than she did, and she was starting to feel how R'bert felt: left behind.

"Okay. It's all worked out. I'm going to take you to Whiteriver myself tomorrow morning, before my patrol."

Tanya took a bite of her salad and nodded. They had stopped for dinner on the way back to the barracks, where she would be staying for the night according to V'lariad. He had told her he'd made arrangements that she could have an empty room in the dragonriders' quarters; there were quite a few of those, he'd said. She had agreed, not wanting to go back to her aunt's house and face another lecture on staying at Telnor warren until she was older.

"So, how is Mellie....Melanie, I mean.... How is Melanie these days?"

"Oh, she's good." Tanya forked another bite of her salad into her mouth. "She's a healer with the warren's medics. She has a little garden just outside the hospital...." She began telling V'lariad all about her aunt Melanie. He seemed to be absorbing this information, like he couldn't get enough. Amused, and knowing instinctively that there had been a relationship some time before (and there were still feelings now, she knew), she added little tidbits of information; like how lonely her aunt was at times, and how she had no love in her life. At these, she could see V'lariad's eyes light up, and smiled quietly to herself. She knew, from what her aunt had said about relationships between the join and unjoined, that those relationships could be hard, what with the dragon flying to mate often: there was always a chance the mate could "cheat" by catching the female. She wondered if that was what had come between these two; clearly, there had once been something there.

The time passed quickly, and before either of them knew it, it was late. Tanya realized that she hadn't finished her salad yet, but was full anyway. So she took her plate, as well as V'lariad's, to the kitchen and dumped them into the sink. Hurrying back, she asked V'lariad to show her her temporary quarters.

"Anything for all the information you gave me tonight." He bowed to her, and held out his arm like a gentleman. Nonplussed but still in the game, she took his proffered arm like a lady (she hoped) and they walked towards the barracks.

When she woke up the next morning, she was ecstatic, and hurriedly dressed, brushing the comb through her hair a couple of times before she race out the door. He had told her to meet him early, down at the flying green, where they would take off from.

Racing to the green, and hoping she wasn't late, she made it to the green just in time to see V'lariad finish kissing a woman in his arms. Skidding to a halt, she peered closely at the woman, almost certain she knew who it was.

"Good morning, Tanya," her aunt called from beside V'lariad's side. "I just wanted to say goodbye before you left."

Was it Tanya's imagination, or was her aunt blushing? Tanya smiled happily and threw her arms around her aunt. "I'll miss you, Aunt Melanie," she said into the woman's hair.

"How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?" her aunt asked as they parted. "It makes me feel old. Why can't you just call me Melanie like your brother?"

"Because," she answered, "to me, you'll always be the aunt Melanie a little 6 year old girl saw."

She saw tears start to fill her aunt's eyes and quickly hugged her. "I'll miss you....Melanie," she whispered to her aunt. "Truly, I'll miss you."

Her aunt pulled away first, obviously embarrassed, telling by the glances she gave V'lariad and her blushing. "Well, you have a good trip," she said, her voice mock serious. "And you," she stated, whirling on V'lariad, "you take care of her, you hear me?"

He saluted her, saying "Yes ma'am!"

Just then, they all saw a shadow blotting out the sun. Looking up, she saw a large pale yellow dragon hovering above them, ready to land. They all stepped back a bit, and it landed softly next to them.

"Tanya, meet Gorath. My lazy bum of a dragon."

Tanya bowed in the direction of the dragon, and was happily surprised when the dragon bowed its head in her direction before focussing its eyes on its rider.

::Ready?:: he asked V'lariad. {I'm ready} V'lariad answered, mounting the great dragon and helping Tanya up to sit behind him.

::I'm sure you probably noticed, that girl definately has the affinity. I'm sure she's going to be picked to stand at the hatching.::

{Do you think I'm blind? It was so easy to detect that I couldn't help but notice it.}

"Ready?" he asked Tanya, who was waving goodbye to her aunt. He waved to Mellie, thinking that things could be different now.

"Ready," she answered, clinging tightly to the saddle. So, he thought, she knows about flying a dragon. That's good.

{Okay Gorath. Let's go.}

With that, the great dragon lifted off, beating its huge wings. Tanya saw the ground fall out from under her and smiled, remembering all the times she rode with her parents'. She ignored the pain that thinking about her parents brought and instead focussed on the flying experience.

"Okay," V'lariad said, turning slightly around in the saddle to be heard better. "We're going to teleport to Whiteriver. Have you ever done that?"

"Only once or twice," she answered.

"Okay, so you know what it's like. Just be prepared." He turned back around and gave the order to his dragon.

Tanya was suddenly suffused in utter darkness. It was all around them and Tanya, who had never been afraid of the dark as a child, could suddenly see why some children didn't like it. Then, suddenly, they were out in the bright sun again. Tanya breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't think she would ever get used to that.

The warren was right in front of them, and their vantage point gave Tanya a great view of her new home, and what she saw she liked. It was big, and seemed well developed. She could see dragons practicing in the sky above them, practicing and performing arial manuevers that dazzled Tanya. She could see people milling about on the ground, and they steadily got larger as the dragon drew nearer.

Within minutes, they were landing in a large field. Gorath touched down and pulled his wings in, and V'lariad stepped down, holding his hand out to Tanya to help.

Noticing it was easier going up than down from a dragon, she accepted his proffered hand and used it to brace herself as she jumped down onto the grass. She smiled at him, thanking him, and he smiled back.

She heard footsteps approaching and saw a young woman, about Tanya's age, walking up with a few people. Tanya smiled uncertainly at the new arrival, who walked up to Tanya and introduced herself. "I'm Trinale," she said, holding out her hand. "I'm the warrenlady here."

"Tanya," Tanya answered, shaking Trinale's hand.

"Warrenlady, may I please speak to you?" V'lariad asked, coming up behind Tanya.

"You may," she answered, nodding to Tanya. "If you don't mind?"

Tanya shrugged and watched as V'lariad and Trinale walked off, wondering what they were talking about.

"Warrenlady, I wanted to inform you of something," V'lariad said softly to Trinale, as soon as they were out of earshot. "Gorath has informed me, and I have seen for myself that Tanya has the affinity. Gorath has said he has seen her aura and..."

"V'lariad," Trinale said, "do you think it's so unnoticeable? I could see the aura when you first landed, it was so prominent. I'm just surprised that no one at Telnor ever Searched her, it's that easy to see." She patted his hand like a child, smiling. "I already knew."

V'lariad was very embarassed by the end of the short statement. Dangit, he thought bitterly, I should have known that others could see the aura the girl Tanya emitted. It was obvious, even to someone who wasn't tuned to seeing auras. He grumbled angrily; whether or not the warrenlady had meant to intentionally or not, she had wounded his pride by patting his hand like she would an old man's.

Trinale turned back to Tanya and smiled. "We were wondering what you would be doing here and I was wondering if---"

"My aunt was a healer," Tanya interrupted, wanting the warrenlady to see her worth to the warren. "She taught me everything she knows, and I've learned some things of my own. I'd be good with the medics, or help in any way I could. I'm also good with plants. Everyone says that what I can do with vegetation of any kind, in any condition, must be a *talent* of some sort." Here she blushed modestly, still not believing all the things others said about her ability with plants.

She noticed that Trinale was grinning broadly. "I'm glad to hear that," the warrenlady said, beaming. "I have a garden myself, where I grow all sort of plants. Maybe you could help me with that?"

Tanya thought for a moment, then nodded. "That would certainly be acceptable."

Trinale smiled, then led Tanya into the warren as V'lariad climbed back astride his dragon and took off again for Telnor.

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