Syral staggered to a halt at the end of her Walk, the air warping ever-so-slightly around her as she took in her surroundings. She looked to be in the middle of nowhere, a pier before her with a small shack about a third of the way down it. A strong wind blew white-caps up along the rocky shores of the lake, and Syral closed her eyes to breathe in the scent of the wild around her. When she opened her eyes again and tried to walk towards the pier her vision swam again, and she stood still for a few long moments, letting her eyes settle. Odd, the Walk never usually did that. No matter. She’d come for a purpose, and any weariness she felt had to be left far behind.
The inside of the hut was sparse, with a hole cut in the floor for fishing. Syral let herself in cautiously, peeking her head around the doorframe, only to pause at the sight of a lone shifter sitting near the fishing hole, a broken fishing rod held loosely in his hands as a fish slipped noisily back into the water below. He was a little bit older, and a lot more alive, but she’d know his face anywhere. She simply stared as she stumbled into the room, the door closing lazily behind her.
He couldn’t be real. He couldn’t be here. And yet…
Stride smiled at her and laughed softly. “You would show up just now. How are you, Syral?”
Somehow she found words. “Stride…? But I thought—“ Tex had all but confirmed his death, so how?
Stride straightened and scratched at the bristles on his chin. “Are you ok, sister?”
His words barely left his lips before she ran and tackled him in a hug, sending them falling back away from the hole to crash on the floor. “You’re alive!”
He patted her head and laughed again. “Wait! Woah, woah. You settle down now, or else I won’t be.” He smiled and her heart fluttered, but she nodded and managed to keep herself in check.
“How are you here?” She released him enough that they could sit up, but her arms remained on his shoulders. “You died. Or at least I was told you died. How long have you been here?”
“I have been here for a long time,” he answered. “I have family here.” He stood slowly and held his hand for her to take. “I hope you know that I think about you.”
Syral blushed and smiled as she let him help her up. “It’s so good to know you’re alright. When I’d heard you died, and then that whole thing with Tex…” She paused and glanced around. “Speaking of, I was told to meet him here.”
“You have kids, don’t you?” he asked instead, and let go of her hand. “I can’t control Abrams and his imagination.”
“Yes. I have a son and two step-daughters. Was that boy your son?”
She smiled at that, her own son forefront in her mind. “Mine, too.” She put that thought aside, though. It wouldn’t help to get distracted talking about her children. “So what have you been doing here?”
Stride looked around the small room. “Well, I have been living a life of meditation. You know since those people died in Stormpeak, I have to remain in solitude as a way to…to…” His eyes glistened for a brief second. “I just try to forget and move on.”
Syral touched his hand lightly. “I understand. I didn’t mean to bring up anything bad.” She leaned in to hug him again, her head on his shoulder. “I never thought I’d see you again. I used to have so many things I wanted to say to you, but it’s been so long I can’t remember them anymore.”
“Hey, I hope I didn’t interrupt anything in Lencia. I just wanted a moment to say…” He trailed off. “That we didn’t have to…”
His words trailed off again and Syral lifted her head to look at him, eyebrows drawn close. He shook his head quickly. “Well, listen to me. I wanted to say that if you ever need a shoulder, I’ll be here. When the moon is full, eh?”
Syral tilted her head, confused. “Interrupt anything in Lencia?” She sucked in a breath and unconsciously dug her claws into his shoulders. He’d sent his son, so maybe? “Do you know what’s been happening?!” She couldn’t keep her worry in check and she didn’t care. “Do you know where I can find Tex? I need his help to find Miria.” She paused as his words registered. “…The full moon? What’s that have to do with anything?”
Stride gave her a wry smile. “Well, I can’t fish everyday.” His smile fell and he pulled her arms off his shoulder to hold her hands. “My dear, are you ok?”
Syral’s chest tightened. “So you haven’t heard, then? Lencia was attacked and Miria taken, and no matter what I do I can’t find her. And my son ran off to try to help and I can’t find him and I’m beginning to fear for his safety, and my daughters have been turned to stone and—“ She cut herself off and took a deep, shuddering breath. But her heart still pounded and her body shook with suppressed emotion. “Please, Stride. I’ve been trying, but I can’t do this on my own.”
“That is a lot for my sister,” Stride said softly. “Have you tried Shira? Or Sucaeva?”
She shook her head. “I’m going there next. But I wanted to get Tex to help as well. He’s strong, and I’d feel better having him with us.”
“Really?” He seemed happy at that, but Syral couldn’t place exactly why, and didn’t have the energy to wonder.
“Of course. I’d like you to come too, if you can. But you probably haven’t been out much since you came here.”
“No, I haven’t learned a single divining spell since I saw you last.” He sighed. “As for Tex, he is confusing. Perhaps you know another way to find him?”
Syral shook her head again. “No. I never even knew where he was until your son told me. We haven’t exactly kept in touch.”
Stride nodded. “What is that riddle? ‘Dealing with drow gets you nowhere no how.’ I imagine our druid and bard will be just fine.”
“I’m not so sure. If those things could just grab Miria the way they did…”
He hugged her shoulder, and she happily leaned into the embrace. “I can imagine you here again during the next full moon, telling me how your family life is all back to normal. And your great friend Miria is saved.” He shrugged. “Perhaps your husband will help.”
Syral muttered into his chest, “Why must it be the full moon?” She pulled away slightly and shook her head. “You’re misunderstanding. I don’t have a husband. Miria is my mate.”
He was quiet a moment. “I see.” He pulled her close into a full hug and she wrapped her arms around him tightly.
“You can’t help?”
“I…I have family that I won’t… That will miss me.”
She nodded against his chest. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry.” Her arms relaxed, her exhaustion getting the best of her. “…I should go. I still have to find Tex.”
“I wish you well. You always have someone to talk to in the Muegges.”
“I know, thank you. But I have to find Miria. I miss our talks.” She paused. “I’m scared, Stride. What if I’m too late?”
He smiled. “Miria? Come on. She must be a living sword of destruction by now. Believe in…in her.”
She nodded and swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m trying. But I’m so tired, and from what Kalleron saw…” She sighed and pulled away. “I should really get going.”
Stride let her go. “Well, Tex has ears everywhere. I bet he will show up in time.” He touched her cheek. “I wish you the best.”
“You, too.” Syral leaned up to kiss his cheek. “I’m glad I got to see you again. I’ll try to stop by again at the full moon.”
Stride smiled. “Next time, the fish will be caught.”