Excerpt from Born of Water: Darag and the Kith
Darag enters Born of Water near the mid-point to the story. He is Kith, wh0 are a powerful race of people unique in their ability and their appearance – akin to the trees their souls are bound to when they are born. His presence disrupts Lavinia’s life, even more than the previous events the story has brought to her!
But not all disruptions are bad.
In this scene, Lavinia and Darag have known each other for about a week, a week that has brought them very close to each other. There is still a lot to learn . . . and overcome. She has learned some pivotal information regarding the society of the Kith, rules and intentions that caused Darag to avoid her for a day.
The light was still bright but shadows were lengthening as Lavinia and Beite headed back to Lus na Sithchaine. Lavinia’s contentment dissipated the closer they got to the city in the trees.
“Darag said he has left twice,” Lavinia said suddenly.
“He told you that?” Beite smiled. “Yes, he has always followed his own path. Restless.” She paused, frowned slightly, and shook her head. “He said what he was looking for wasn’t here. But he came back without anything, so I don’t know if he found what he was looking for out there.”
Lavinia smiled at the tangled logic. “Well, maybe it is why he seems different.”
“Or he just is!” Beite laughed merrily. “He is the most skilled in Lus na Sithchaine. It is why Laith Lus includes him in council though he isn’t even a hundred, and why Nuin asked him to help on your boat. He won’t admit it, but I know he can even outmatch Laith Lus. He just says, ‘Laith Lus has more experience.’” Beite sighed.
Lavinia smiled, hearing the words not as Beite said them with a mocking bite, but in Darag’s calm tone and timber. It gave her heart an ache, not a feeling she was used to.
“Well, there is no reasoning with brothers. And I should know!”
Sunlight glinted ahead with the promise of the central clearing. Beite stopped in her tracks. Looking up, Lavinia saw Darag in the broken light just beyond, arms folded across his chest as he leaned against the trunk of a tree. Her heart skipped a beat.
Darag’s eyes were shaded as he looked at her. His expression flickered between an apology and something akin to sorrow.
“I thought you would have asked Cuileann to practice with you,” Darag said with a rasp in his voice.
“No,” Lavinia answered, stopping a foot from him. She looked up into his eyes. “I was waiting for you.” For some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to be annoyed that he hadn’t shown up to practice with her.
Darag closed his eyes for a breath. When he opened them, there was warmth there again. Lavinia’s heart leapt toward her throat, drumming away with a pulse that made breathing difficult.
“We went to Drufforth,” Lavinia said, feeling detached from her words.
“She taught me to sail,” Beite chimed in, rocking forward on her feet. “You should have come!”
“Yes, then I could have taught you to swim.”
Beite stuck her tongue out at her brother while Lavinia giggled. Darag glanced at Lavinia from under his lashes. His voice was light but his next words were serious.
“I half wondered if you would come back.”
“I think I need to protect Beite from you for a while longer.”
Beite pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows at her brother, underscoring Lavinia’s words. Darag chuckled.
“Besides, I thought you would still teach me while I’m here.”
Darag pushed himself away from the tree. “Come then.” He offered his hand.
Shadows scattered across the streamside clearing more than sun when they reached it, neither talking during the walk. Lavinia forgot to worry about her brother, about the journey, Ria’s gift, or Darag as she moved with the sword in her hand. Darag hardly had to correct her stance, but she found her heart fluttering each time his light touch adjusted her hand. Otherwise, she was fluid grace moving with a deadly certainty she had never felt before in her life.
The light was fading as she and Darag circled around the clearing, swords held at the ready. This was no longer instruction but full-out testing. Darag was patient and waited until she moved, defending first and then moving smoothly to an offense. She knew that and baited him, acting to strike fast and retracting when his sword moved to block. He found only air and overextended himself.
He gathered himself quickly, but he was caught off guard. Lavinia’s volley kept him defensive. She left an opening, hoping he would take it. Again she wasn’t there when he moved to strike. Instead, she slid beneath his blade and lightly rapped hers across his stomach. She had won. Lavinia stood panting lightly in the cooling evening air. When Darag looked up at her in surprise, she was grinning.
He tossed back his head and laughed, scooping her up in a dancing hug. Lavinia laughed as well, full of the flush of having beaten her teacher. Until she became aware of his solid chest and strong arms against her back. They stopped moving, the laughter caught in both their throats.
Darag made as if to release her, then brushed the hair out of her eyes instead. The bright green was shaded but not confused. They stood together for the space of five heartbeats, caught between letting go and holding on.
“Are we friends again?”
He blinked, startled. “I hadn’t realized we were not.”
She felt sadness pull at her mouth. He stopped the frown with a lingering touch.
“I did not mean . . . it is just that we should not . . .” He couldn’t seem to finish either sentence. A line formed across his forehead. “The Kith rarely have action without intention. It is our way.” He paused again.
Darag raised an eyebrow, faint amusement glinting in his green eyes.
Lavinia said quickly, “I spoke to Laith Lus this morning.”
Worry swept across his face. She held onto his upper arms as he moved to step back. “He said not to worry about everyone’s expectations.”
Darag stopped pulling away, watching her intently. She exhaled a laugh.
“Actually, I think he just said not to worry and just try to bring some fun because the Kith tend to be too serious.”
The corners of Darag’s eyes crinkled with amusement. “That is entirely true.” He breathed again, a slow expansion of his chest.
“So, we are to be friends, then? Is that what you want? And not to worry what else is thought or . . . expected?”
Lavinia smiled, her heart buzzing in her chest, caught in the cage of his arms. “Yes, I think that is a fine place to start.”
Darag’s smile was slow, starting from a wry twist but evolving to enfold his mouth and warming his eyes as he took in her face. “All right, then, we shall try that.”
He looked around the clearing now cast more in evening than afternoon. “It is late. Dinner will have started. We should go back.”
“Will you stay tonight?” Neither of them had moved yet.
Darag looked down at her. There was glowing brightness in his eyes. “Yes, I will.”