Runes aren't alive, but they channel a power that gives each rune a distinct nature. As a whole, the runes can appear to have a vicious sense of humor. New initiates often have vivid, incomprehensible dreams as they forge a contract with their power through the runes. It is, in part, how the runes attune themselves to each individual runecaster.
As a runecaster's knowledge of the craft matures, the dreams become easier to comprehend. According to my mistress, some are even prophetic. I only had enough experience that the runes occasionally took pity on me and offered up a riddle or two to help me find a solution to a problem. That night, I had my first runedream since returning to the Southern Circle. At first, I wasn't certain it was a runedream. Runecasting is a Hotan craft, and all my previous runedreams spoke to me through Hotan imagery. This dream spoke to me through Umi imagery.
I was Terhi. I was trapped in Ivö's fortress, bound in the stone and earth through his death curse. Layers of snow and ice blanketed me, and my heart beat slowly, in time to the ebb and flow of the moon. Understandable, since the moon was my brother, and I had given him half my heart when Mount Otsu had pierced his.
My brother did his best to sustain us, but the two halves of my heart were not meant to be separated by so much distance. Ivö's curse kept me bound in the earth. Mount Otsu's spear kept my brother pinned to the sky. We would both die soon.
I had no regrets. Saika was safe. Ivö was dead and could not abduct her again, and his generals were scattered, none strong enough to become new bear kings. So no, I had no regrets. Just desires: the warmth of Saika's touch, the joy of my brother's smile, the freedom to roam in search of new knowledge.
My pulse slowed. It would not be long now. Saika had taken a place in the sky, had pinned herself opposite of my brother in the hope that he could channel her light to me through our heart. It did help, but in the end, it had only delayed the inevitable. My eyes were in the sky, placed there so I could find my way to this fortress, to Saika, so I focused on her. She would be my final vision.
Saika retreated. I will not lose you. She spoke through my brother, since I had not placed my ears in the sky.
She couldn't venture past the horizon! To leave the hearth was to risk exile. My brother and I had left with our kin's blessing because everyone loved Saika. And because there were those who hoped Ivö would prove too strong for me.
But she did dip below the horizon, and I had to look to my brother to see her light. Take heart, he said. Saika has grown strong. Her touch will sustain you.
Her touch? Then I felt it. The snow covering me started to melt. It was just a trickle, but the stone and earth that was now my body had been frozen for so long that the sensation was overwhelming. The water caressed my neck, slid along my collarbone, dipped between my breasts. It swirled around my navel, rolled over my hips, split into multiple rivulets over my thighs. I moaned and shivered at the decadence.
Layer by layer, Saika peeled back the snow and ice clothing me until I was naked below her. She was pinned to the sky like my brother, but as he said, she had grown strong. Her touch reached me, a warm press on my lips. I opened my mouth. Her light filled me, warming me down to my core so the ice within me melted and coated my thighs. My musk filled the air between us, but it was not all Saika wished. She kept touching me, raking her fingers over my abdomen, teasing my breasts until they throbbed in time with my quickening pulse. She pressed her palm to my mound, the pressure almost enough to...