Feneng 10: The River

"Feneng," Blackbird Lantern coughed, "the years have not been kind to you."

She chuckled. "Stand up, you rascal. What have you been doing?"


"Well, no wonder you're still sick. Come, here, we'll dance the fever out." So he rose, and pulled her to his chest, and hand-in-hand they danced. Out the sickroom, into the hall, through the garden gate; the sun rose. Into the woods and across the hills; the moon set. To the River. Blackbird Lantern hesitated; his face burned as Feneng whispered, "I trust you."

They skidded out across the waves and eddies; they scorned the rocks. They paced the dance with the sound of their feet on the water. Days and nights blurred together until they had forgotten all but the beat and the motion of hands, the streamers of steam and the song neither of them was singing.

Finally they stopped and Feneng, unthinking, lifted water from the river and drank. Blackbird Lantern took her by the hand and they rested in the shade of a plane tree. "You are very beautiful today, Feneng."

She shook her head. "I have never been beautiful."

The dance master ignored her modesty. "The River has changed you." So it had: features which were once merely strong and proud had gained balance and poise; the cloudy colour of her eyes, now the rich darkness of a pond, with jade and emerald flickering in their depths. Grief flickered there, too, and monsters. Feneng's lips and cheeks were painted with excitement.

She reached out and ruffled his hair. "Enough staring. Now I know what it's like," she said, "to be you." A yawn. "So, what do we do, now that you are healthy and I an immortal?"

The dancer's eyes flickered left and right, as if to see if anyone was watching, and then he grinned. "What else do immortals do, my dear? We misbehave."


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