Robet reached for him. “You are leaving. I feel it.”
“I cannot say, Robet,” Donid replied. “I tell you this, I vow to you, as I did in the shelter that day, that I would return to you. I did more than swear to you. I swore to them, Robet. I made an oath to you. I make that same oath now. If I must leave, I will return to you, Robet. It is the joining we have that will draw me back. Do you hear my words and understand them? It is the joining between the two of us that will draw me back. Say you hear and understand.”
“I hear and understand. My heart breaks, but I hear and understand, and trust you to keep your oaths.”
“Do not follow me.” Donid’s fingers traced the outline of his lover’s lips, as if they had never touched, never kissed, never made love. He lowered his head to take a kiss and as their lips touched, whispered “my man” and pulled Robet hard into him. Robet’s mouth lay open against his, inviting, demanding that he enter and possess it completely. His possession was far from gentle and for a moment, Robet could not breathe. As Donid withdrew, Robet whimpered and chased his tongue, nipping and sucking, desperately trying to hold his man to him, in him. Donid pulled away and walked out.
After a few minutes, Robet said, “I cannot bear this. I cannot stay indoors. I, too, must walk about and think.”
“You cannot follow, Robet.” Miru admonished. “He is going to a place I cannot see, but he must go alone. That I see clearly.”
“I will not follow him. Elin, I love you. As Donid said that to Miru, I say to you, remember always that I love you.” He turned and strode out.
He looked around wildly, desperate to find Donid, but unable to follow him, unable even to reach him inwardly. “Where would he go?” he asked himself aloud. “The shelter. He is going to the shelter.” He fought the urge to run after him, and turned to walk to the once-withered tree. He stood, facing east, stretched out his arms, and closed his eyes. “If there are songs to sing to bring him back, I do not hear them. If there are prayers to say, I have not learned them. If there are steps to dance, I cannot feel them. All I have is this love, this love and the joining that will draw him back.”
He stilled himself and listened. There was only silence inwardly. A wind arose, swirling around him. Silence. The sky darkened. His heart rate quickened. Silence. The air grew leaden, heavy, pressing down on him. Silence. His skin prickled. Silence. An acrid, bitter smell. Silence. The rumble of thunder. There. No. Another rumble of thunder. Blinding sudden lightning. That!
Come back to me! Here am I! I draw you back to me, Donid, my dearest lover, DragonMaster, my lover! Robet used every ounce of strength and love he had to make a desperate grab for the tiny spark of Donid he could still reach. He pulled with every muscle, every bone, every sinew, every nerve, every cell in his body, with every thought in his mind, with every scrap of love in his heart and soul, abandoning their mates, his sons, everything, everyone but Donid. Come back to me! I charge you by your oath and the great love we bear one another, come back to me! … The joining, Donid, is strong. I draw you back along it. Come to me! … I love you, come to me! He was sobbing, beyond sobbing, tremors running through him, every muscle tight with pain and spasm, every hair standing on end with the strain. I will not let you go. Come back to me, come back to me. … Though it kills me, I will not let you go!!! His heart thudded against his ribs, bile rose in his stomach and spewed from his mouth, no air would fill his lungs. Come back to me!! I love you, I love you, come back to me!!! Blackness closed in, and desperate, he fought it off, refusing to succumb to the need, the fierce overpowering need to let go and fall back, spent, empty of everything. I will not let you go!!! You will come back to me. It is your oath, the oath of a Sentinel of the Dragon. You will come back to me, by your oath! Come back now! He felt his grip on life itself loosening, slipping from his hands. Come back, come back, though I die, come back, come back, for I love you and will not let you go!
And suddenly it was over. He tumbled backwards, fell supine and there in his arms was Donid. He flung his arms around him and pressed his face to his chest, unable even to weep he was so spent. He did not have strength enough left to see if Donid still lived or even if he did himself. He was used up. But Donid was there, there in his arms and it was enough.
Donid returned to himself, lying in Robet’s arms, rain pelting them both. He groaned and struggled to rise to see Robet’s face but could not. He pressed himself to Robet’s chest. There? Yes! By all the deities, yes, Robet lived still! But … weak, horribly weak. He could not call Miru, he had not the strength. Deities, would it end like this? That enormous effort, would it just suck the life from his love and leave nothing to live for? Would they both die, there in the rain, under the tree?
Under the tree. Their tree, where they had loved, where Robet had opened him to love, true love. His eyes jolted open. I love you, Robet. See where we are. It is our tree, ours, yours and mine, where we first revealed our true selves. I love you. Come, come, see the tree, Robet. Look at our tree. It flourishes, Robet, deities above, it has blossoms! Robet, come see our tree! Our tree, and I love you, Robet. Look!
Robet tensed in his arms. “Donid!” It was a scream of terror and love, a desperate wild scream, ripped from the heart of the strongest man he had ever known, could ever know, his own name from that much-loved mouth.
“Here, here, my love.”
“I am here, my love, my darling.” Donid pushed himself up, covered Robet with kisses. “Here, my love, I am here. You did it, Robet, you did it, you pulled me back! We did it, we are together, it worked, oh my darling, wake, wake.”
He smoothed the hair back from Robet’s face, saw the sunken cheeks, the hollowed eyes, and wept until he could no longer tell if Robet’s chest was wet with his tears or with the rain that still pelted them. He pulled on Robet’s shoulders, lifting him into his lap and held him close, rocking him, rocking him, weeping, kissing him.
A sound like thunder. Would it storm again? What did it matter without Robet? Louder. Closer. No, not thunder. What then? Pounding. The earth moving under him.
And suddenly Wellspring and Moondance were there, foaming with sweat, sucking in great lungfuls of air, rearing and pawing, shattering the air with their neighing.
He is gone then, Donid thought. All for naught. He opened his eyes weakly, intending to move underneath those terrible pounding hooves, ending his own life there in the arms of his love. But they were not rearing anymore. They were … nuzzling, prodding him and Robet. What was the pounding? Why was the earth moving if the horses did not stomp and beat the ground? What?
Robet’s heart! Strong again, pounding, solidly within him. Deities, could it be? Would they live after all? He looked again at Robet’s cherished face and saw his eyelids flutter. Relief flooded him and tears like thunder fell. He rocked Robet gently back and forth, crooning softly to him, clasped to his chest, showering his treasured head with kisses. “My love, my love, you live, my love, wake, wake,” he called softly. Robet’s eyes fluttered open, looked wildly around.
“Donid!” The same desperate scream.
“Here! I am here!”
“Are you, are you really? Deities, you came back!”
If there were tears and sobs before, they were multiplied many fold, as the rain slowed, stopped, the clouds thinned, faded, parted. All at once, illuminating the tree, an arc-en-ciel, a rainbow, brilliant, blazing all its colors.
Donid nudged Robet and pointed, then pulled him even closer as the lights and colors washed over them both, soaking into them, returning the storm’s energy to them. Wellspring and Moondance neighed loudly, nuzzled them each once more and trotted away.
“They … came?”
“For you, my darling, for you. They heard you, or the deities did and sent them to us, to rouse us with their nuzzling. Oh, my darling, my love, you live!!”
Robet took his face in his hands and pressed a kiss to his lips, then smothered him with kisses as Donid had done to his near lifeless body. Where before they had been weeping, now they laughed, for pure joy, sitting in each other’s arms, in the midst of a rainbow, laughing like children.
Gradually the light faded from the rainbow, leaving perhaps a sparkle in their eyes that had not been there before. Donid nuzzled Robet’s neck and said, “Well, old stick, I think we managed that one.”
Robet fell back laughing, pulling Donid with him, unwilling to let go for even a moment. “Yes, yes, it appears we did, old sport, it appears we did.”