Nala stepped back through the portal
after she'd left the four youngsters at Port Utharus. She felt they had
made the right decision. She'd been too scared to take the leap of faith.
But then she hadn't had any close friends or family that would support her
decision and link their lives to hers.
"Balu." she sighed and stared out the window as her thoughts
wandered to her first love.
She'd been so young when she saw Balu for the first time, barely 16. He'd
been 24 and an accomplished warrior that would make his lakeside dwarf
tribe proud. And she, she'd been a girl without a clan, only linked to her
mother who'd been the wise woman before her. Nala had never known who her
father'd been but she suspected her mother had had to have gone through
the same ritual she had just put the four youngsters through. Mayhaps
she'd been the fruit of her parents' love. Would her mother's choice had
been different if she'd known she was pregnant? Nala could only hope she
The door to her cabin slammed open and a wild-looking dwarf stood on her
doorstep. His white braided hair slashing in the wind and his eyes staring
at her with an intensity that sparked anxiety in her heart.
"Nala." he whispered, his voice coarse and hitching, "It's
Balu could hardly believe he'd finally found her. So many years ago, she'd
been the one to choose duty over their love. Torn and broken, he'd left
his clan anyway. Having lost Nala, Balu couldn't face others with the
confidence he'd once had. Seeing other couples tore at his heart and he'd
hardly slept. He'd fled to the mountains, choosing to live a life of
solitude that had mirrored Nala's life. Life got easier when he'd made a
shelter, knew where to look for food and adjusted to the cold. He'd
searched for her then, combing the forest and shores for her. But he'd
never found her. Not until today when a strange feeling had drawn him down
again. He thought he'd given up on their love years ago.
"Balu." Nala whispered, almost scared that he'd vanish if she
spoke his name too loud.
"You were here." he said just as she asked: "What are you
Balu coughed, his throat objecting to the words, "I searched for you,
"I was always here." she interrupted, "I believed you'd
stayed with your people."
Balu shook his head and pointed toward the mountainside where he'd made
"I was there."
Ironically, Nala almost had a clear line of sight to where Balu said his
"Why now?" Nala asked.
Silence descended and the hut seemed suddenly cramped though she'd always
lived comfortably in the home she'd shared with her mother. Her mother
who'd vanished when she'd been old enough to take over. Nala wondered if
maybe this was something similar.
"I just sent another couple on their way." she said and added,
"They chose love."
Hurt ran across Balu's face, making Nala feel guilty. Thinking back on the
years she could only wonder what their life together would have been like.
She suspected a new wise woman had been found and her own term had ended.
Maybe that was why Balu had found her when he had not been able to locate
her before. He knew perfectly well where she'd lived after all. If he'd
looked for her then he would have come to her home. Could they mend the
broken pieces of their love?
"Maybe one of them will return here to take over my task."
Balu felt frustrated and annoyed. Even now she was thinking of her duty
first. Would the world end if she was not here? Hardly. Would it matter if
love liaisons bloomed between the different dwarven clans? Life would go
on. They were the same people, why did it matter where they lived or what
colour their hair was? Before he knew what he was doing, he'd closed the
gap between them and taken her by the shoulders. Teetering on the brink of
hugging her or shaking her he froze. Careful not to squeeze too hard, Balu
gazed deep into Nala's eyes, hoping to see the young woman he loved in
them. He'd drawn her over a thousand times over the years. Had spent hours
trying to mix the right shade of blond for her hair, the blue for her
eyes. In his drawings she'd not aged. This woman was both familiar and
new. But he breathed a sigh of relief when he noticed she relaxed in his
"Can we try once more?" he asked, pleading for her to agree.
"We're different people..." she objected.
"I know what I want, same as I did then, Now I just know the price we
had to pay."
Nala drooped, wondering what to do next. Did she even dare go for the
happiness that she could have had? Was she entitled to try and change her
fate? Would it be just that easy? She looked up again and saw the
determination in Balu's eyes and the set of his mouth. He'd waited for
her. What more proof of his love did she need?
"There is a place..." she started and told him about Port
Utharus and the four young dwarves she'd brought there. She was certain
that one of them was supposed to take over her task. More than likely it
was the couple. Which meant they'd have to come back.
"Let's go there." Balu said.
"Maybe I should wait until they return." Nala argued feebly.
"The world won't end with you gone. You can train her in this new
world. And then she'll be all set to go when she returns with her love.
They can take your cabin and build a life for themselves."
"I'm sorry I didn't give us a chance." Nala said.
"You're giving it to me now." he answered.
He would not let her go a second time. But he didn't say that to her. He
suspected she knew anyway. He was starting to get impatient to get on with
their lives. He paced back and forth during the time it took to make the
portal potion again. Nala instructed him to go pack his belongings but he
had nothing of worth in the mountains. Furniture he could replace, clothes
he could get when they reached their destination, he didn't have money.
The only thing he needed was here with him. In the end he helped Nala pack
some clothes and some books she felt she'd need to train her
"I think I'll miss this place." she said.
"We can come back, you know how to get here." Balu told her.
"I guess you're right." she said, feeling a little better.
For the second time that night she threw the potion in her fireplace and
stepped through the portal. But this time she didn't intend to return. The
future lay open before her and it looked promising though not easy.
Because she had meant it when she said they were different people. They'd
have to take their time to get to know each other again. But they had
[STORY] * [Nala] * [Balu]