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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Now Don’t Be Sad

“Got--over you?” Vas shook his head dizzily. Whatever test this was, he was damned if he was going to fail it now. “Never, milady... my heart is yours always.”

“It is not too late to change that, my sparrow,” Aerdrie said gently. “The elven gods have departed from Ataniel, probably forever. I left you behind, Vas. In all likelihood we will never see each other again.”

“A gamble I am willing to take. My faith is pure, and I know one day, in this life or the next, on Ataniel or some other world... some day, we will be together again.”

“Vas,” sighed the goddess, and touched her hand to her forehead. “You aren’t listening to me. I left you behind. I am never... coming back... to you.”

“No,” Vas said, and folded his arms tightly against the idea. “I--I don’t know what your goal is here, shadow spirit, but my--my goddess, the true Aerdrie, has never left me. If she did I would not still be able to fly. Which I am.”

“Oh, Vas,” she said, smiling sadly on him. “Why would I take my gift from you? You haven’t displeased me; I simply moved on. It’s no ill reflection upon you, believe me. You have known the favors of a goddess, Vastarin. How many mortals can say the same?”

“No,” Vas said again. “It--it’s more than that. This time. We--have a pasirel, milady.”

“Pasirel?” The impression of Aerdrie looked startled for the first time. “Vas, it has never been. No god has shared pasirel with a mortal before.”

“Believe me, milady, there is a first time. I have felt it every night for the past sixteen years. Even my sister has noticed it. The bond is more than real, I can assure you.”

“I don’t know what you’ve been feeling, Vastarin, but it cannot be truly pasirel. Think about it: if we were pair-bonded, would I have left the planet without you? Would I have spent years away from you even before the coming of Shadow?”

“Pasirel is strong,” Vas said weakly. “It can survive distance.”

“I’m sorry, Vas.” She touched his forehead with the back of her fingers, her eyes brilliant and compassionate. “My attraction to you was honest, my love genuine. I will always think of you fondly, little sparrow. But I have never felt pasirel for you, and I never will. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get on with your life.”

“No!” He pushed her hand away, trembling. “You--can’t do this to me. I have a choice. Don’t I? This is a hall of choices?”

“Yes, but--”

“Then I don’t choose this! Tell me what I have to do to choose a future with my lady Aerdrie. I don’t care what it is. I’ll do it.”

“Vas.” She looked at him, a dark gaze of sheer pity. “Your choice is between being someone who copes with this and someone who spends the rest of his life as a sexual addict obsessed with a woman he can’t have. Winning me back is not one of your options.”

“Aerdrie,” said Vas, pleading now.

She stepped back from him, gave him a sad look over her shoulder, one eye shining back at him through a sheaf of her feathery hair. He would remember her like that as long as he lived. “Please pick the happy route, Vas,” she said softly. “I always did love to see you smile.”

The slightest of shimmering in the air, and she was gone.

Vas buried his hands in what remained of his hair and collapsed to one knee on the ground.

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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