The Water is Wide

As the Farist river wound it's way down from the mountains to the sea, it grew in width, forming a lake that at the opposite side of the river, gave birth to several streams that fed into a marshy area that bled into the sea. While the water was blue, cold and clear at the lake-side, it was brown, warmer and murky on the other side. All sorts of water-dwellers lived in the lake, each thriving in the different layers and habitats that formed as the water changed from one side of the spectrum to the opposite end of it. 
Life was also quite different on the banks of the Farist River. At the lake side, it was heavily forested with lots of big wildlife, deer, boars, bears... and at the other side the trees were smaller but wilder with a lot of undergrowth where smaller creatures lived and hid, occasionally preyed upon by fast and agile hunters. On each sides of the lake was a settlement of dwarves that were as diverse as the habitats. On the lake-side lived dwarves that were lighter in colour, with customs that resembled those of viking warriors. A proud sort of people that liked to tell stories about their ancestors, the lore of the land and the legends of the gods. On the swamp side lived a raced of dwarves that were darker in colour. These dwarves were the sort to invent new technology, to mine and to improve, looking toward the future more than to the past.
Somewhere in history, a fierce argument had spawned a feud and now the two dwarf settlements ignored each other. 
At least that was the situation at the start of this story. Nala, the wise woman and watcher of the valley felt that change was coming and she hadn't had to look long to find the seed of love that had sprouted in the forest that lay below her cabin. And as she watched the story unfold, she felt that she would have to take action soon...

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"Caylee?" Chanz called into the woods. 
He was far enough from the Swamp settlement to not have to fear being discovered. He didn't know why he would have to restrict his contacts with the dwarves from the other side of the water. Sure they were different, but that was what interested him. He liked how they told stories and kept their history alive even if his own townsmen found that foolish. Chanz had always been a romanticist, a trait that was exceedingly rare on his side of the water. 
He heard the rustling of leaves and there she was, Caylee, the woman he'd lost his heart to. It had been a cool winter morning two months ago when he'd first seen her. He'd hid in the forest but her tracking skills had located him within two heartbeats. Stunned, they'd watched each other. In rights both should have turned away and left, but Chanz had only wanted to talk, to learn... and now they met up twice a week to do just that.
"I'm here." Caylee said calmly and held up the basket she was carrying, "Want to eat first?"
"Might as well." Chanz nodded. 
The two of them sat down on a couple of rocks that overlooked the lake and ate the sandwiches that Caylee had taken with her. Caylee had been hunting/harvesting like usual and though non of her traps had sprung, she had found a bush with berries that she would go pick clean before returning home. And maybe she'd be able to catch something with Chanz' help. The two of them would sit and talk and eventually walk around, doing Chanz' job as forester. If the opportunity presented itself, Caylee would sometimes catch a bunny or bird to take home. Their days were really very uneventful and quiet, but they talked and were content just being in each other's company. 
"Where are we going today?" Caylee asked.
"I need to check the wildlife at the river, there've been a lot of rodents lately and I think they might rob the eggs out of the bird nests."
"Hmm, I know we've eaten roast rat before but I doubt many people would want to try that now."
"Oh, I hear the meat of the water-dwelling rats is actually quite tender. If you're not taking them, I will." Chanz grinned.
It was true, water-rats were a delicacy in the swamp town where he lived. But he could probably let Caylee shoot a rabbit or two to take home. She was helping him after all. 
They walked toward the river together, holding hands and when Chanz laughed about a joke Caylee'd made, she couldn't contain herself anymore and kissed him. The little shocked expression on his face left her feeling giddy and she did it again. Then it was her turn to laugh when his beard tickled her cheeks and nose.
"You're prickly." she wheezed.
"You're forward." he retorted.
"Somebody needs to take the next step." she shrugged and let the moment settle. 
Together they worked on and at the end of the day Chanz had 3 rats to take home and Caylee had her rabbit. Saying goodbye always felt a bit awkward. The next time they'd meet was a week away and not even being able to see each other in the meantime was hard. 

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Caylee arrived home carrying her rabbit and berries. After she'd dropped off her spoils, she returned home. She tidied, made dinner and sat down on the couch to enjoy a quiet evening when a knock sounded on her door.
Yukwa waited for his best friend to open her door. She looked like she always did, casual and bright with her red shirt and braid where strands of hair were escaping after the work of the day. Lately though, she felt a bit different, as if she had something she could tell nobody about. Like where she was during the day, and why it took her so much longer now to do her job. Something was wrong and he had a good idea what it was. 
"Next time you meet him, you'll be taking me with you." Yukwa demanded.
"Who?" Caylee asked, blinking.
'That dark swamp-dweller you've been seeing."
Caylee's red cheeks were all the evidence Yukwa needed to be certain that he was right. 
"Why?" he asked?
"Why not?" she replied.
Yukwa looked at his best friend and realized she actually didn't see the problem. But he did. Even just going to the other side of the river could lead to serious repercussions. Just 20 years ago some people had been excommunicated for wanting to fish on the other side of the river. Going as far as Caylee had silently admitted was like risking a death sentence. 
"How did you know?" Caylee asked.
"You always stay out longer when you're headed toward the river. And I'm not stupid. You sing like you did with Gunther."
"Don't say that name." Caylee replied. 
Gunther had been a youthful mistake. Chanz was so different. He'd never hurt her, she was certain of that. Yukwa sighed and saw the inner conflict on Caylee's face.
"Take me with you so I can make certain it's alright."
"Fine..." Caylee nodded.
"I'll meet you a week from now."
Caylee looked a bit surprised to which Yukwa replied: "I'm not stupid."

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Hanza paced around the room. She'd been on a maintenance run for the hydropower plant she worked at when she'd seen the most peculiar thing. Her brother with a girl she knew wasn't local. Well maybe she was local, but she sure as hell wasn't from the right side of the lake. The wench must be taking advantage of his sweet nature. Even though Chanz was older than her, she'd always been the one to take care of her brother. He was such a sweetheart, people could waltz right in and take advantage of him. 
Finally the door opened and Chanz returned home, surprised to find his sister there.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"There sure is. What were you doing this afternoon?!"
"My job." Chanz 
"Does your job include picnics with women from the other side of the lake?" Hanza hissed.
"Oh." Chanz said.
Hanza tapped her feet on the floor and waited for him to explain, hoping against hope it was all a big misunderstanding, but she knew she could trust her eyes. 
"You saw me with Caylee, we've been meeting for the last couple of weeks." Chanz said.
"And she is from Lakeside, isn't she?"
"She is." Chanz looked away, "but she is a wonderful person."
"Oh Chanz...." Hanza sighed. 
How could she explain to him that nothing good would come from this. That he would be taken advantage from or that he stood to lose so much from this. And who knew what the wench was thinking, it probably was all just a game to her. Or she had an ulterior motive.
"Forget about her." Hanza insisted.
"I can't." Chanz said, "I love her."
"Oh no." Hanza muttered, "When are you seeing her?"
"Next week."
"I'm coming with."

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Nala, the wise woman of the valley waited. At one point she'd had to make a similar choice and she didn't envy these young people for the choice they would make. Yet they deserved their chance at love. She didn't have to wait long before she saw Caylee appear from her side of the river. 
Nala chose not to hide her presence and motioned for the young woman and her best friend to come forward. Slightly apprehensive, the two of them approached the witch, clearly wondering what was happening but unable to defy her. Just as they stood next to her, Chanz and his sister approached and they too were summoned.
"Who are you?" Hanza asked, probably the person who was the least impressionable.
"My name is Nala and I'm like a guardian to these valley." she smiled.
"Why are you here?" Caylee asked a bit fearful.
"To guide you to a choice." Nala replied, "By the look of things, the two of you have already been warned by your loved ones."
Nala looked at Caylee and Chanz and nodded as the two of them inched closer and sought strength from each other. These two young people had everything to live for, they had every chance and option still open. Their choice would define their lives. But there were no right or wrong choices and regrets were a likely outcome with whatever option they picked.
"As you know the rift between the two sides runs deep. Old and powerful magic keeps it so. But equally old magic is in play to bridge the rift and every so often a connection is made across the divide. My task is to offer a choice. Either you part ways and return to your lives or you turn your back to this valley and continue together."
"Now?" Chanz asked.
"I'm sorry to say I can give you no more time to choose. A decision must be made."
"And choosing Chanz means I won't be able to return home anymore?" Caylee asked.
"It is indeed so." Nala nodded.
"What about me?" Yukwa asked, "What will happen to me?"
"That is indeed unusual." Nala agreed, "I guess the choice is the same for you two." she glanced at Hanza to see she had the woman's attention, "Either you return home or you turn your back on all you've known."
"And what does turning your back on our lives mean?" Hanza asked.
"You are forgotten, you won't be missed and should you return you will be a stranger to those you knew."
Chanz glanced at Caylee. He could not bear to be without her. Even if they'd only known each other for a short time, even if the witch had promised he would forget all about her. Chanz knew there would be no other for him.
"Can we talk about this?" Chanz asked the witch.
"Certainly, but I'll need your decision soon. Before nightfall I must work the magic."
Caylee took Chanz' hand and squeezed. The choice they'd have to make was heartbreaking. Did she deny the love she felt for Chanz or the love she felt for her family and friends? Would she even dare return if no-one would remember her? Wouldn't that be torture in itself?
Yukwa appeared behind her and took hold of her shoulder: "What will you do? It's your decision to make."
"I don't know." Caylee admitted.
"I can't even imagine being apart." Chanz said, "But leaving my sister behind..." he looked at Hanza.
"I don't want to forget you." Hanza said teary-eyed.
For now that Hanza had met her brother's lover, she didn't seem all that awful anymore. She actually looked like someone she could like. Yukwa also wondered whether he could ask Caylee to turn her back on the man who seemed to love her so.
"Might I suggest something?" The witch asked.
The four youngsters looked toward the elder witch. Nala took a deep breath and crossed the line from being a quiet observer to being a participant. A participant with knowledge that could change the order of things. But that was something she'd just have to live with.
"There is nothing in the rules that says the four of you can't leave together." 
"Would you be willing to leave with me?" Chanz asked Hanza.
"Could you live with that?" Caylee asked Yukwa.
"I'd basically be leaving my work and friends." Hanza answered, "But I would still have my family. I can make new friends."
"You are my family." Yukwa said.
"Have you made your decision?" Nala asked.
"I think we'll turn our backs on life as we know it." Caylee said.
Chanz squeezed her hand and took hold of his sister's while Caylee grabbed Yukwa's arm.
"As long as we can stay together." Chanz added.
"Very well." Nala nodded, "I know just where to send you. There is a new place looking for people. It's called 'The Temple' and it is home to many different species. From there you can start your new lives."
"How do we get there?" Yukwa asked.
"I take you. Follow me." the witch said and guided the four to her cabin where she'd already been busy brewing the potion that would transform her fireplace to a portal to the exciting worlds in the nexus. She flung the potion and dragged the four of them through to start their new lives.

 

[Hanza] * [Chanz] * [Caylee] * [Yukwa] * [Nala]

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All characters are Candidates for The Temple
Lantessama Isle