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...
"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
"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
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.
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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?"
"I'm coming with."
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
"My name is Nala and I'm like a guardian to these valley." she
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
Chanz squeezed her hand and took hold of his sister's while Caylee grabbed
"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
"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
* [Chanz] * [Caylee] * [Yukwa]
All characters are Candidates for The