28 As the eldest child rose and bid his guest and his companions good night, Gray Dove thought back to those first days when he had been teaching Thorn Blossom, even to the first day when she had come demanding training.
29 And he remembered how much he had respected her, and admired her. He knew that that admiration and respect had grown into something else. But he had never quite allowed himself to recognize what it was.
30 But now the children's jests had awoken what was in his heart. Or, were the children jesting, he thought? Did their innocence see within him and see what was within his heart?
31 When all the children were gone, Gray Dove rose. "My apologies," said Thorn Blossom, "I did not mean for the children to embarrass you."
32 "Do not think of it," comforted Gray Dove. "Come. Let me walk you to your sleeping place. I must report to your father before I go to my bed, anyway. Tell me, my curiosity is as great as theirs. You are very good with the children. Why have YOU not taken a mate and have some of your own? I know several young men have asked your father! And, you have politely refused them all."
33 "My reasons," Thorn Blossom explained, "are similar to your own. But there is another reason, also. There is a certain man that I have been waiting to have ask, but as of yet, he has not decided to do so."
34 "Oh," sighed Gray Dove. "Then I suppose it would do me no good to ask, if another has already taken your heart."
35 Thorn Blossom stopped. "Yes, it would! You are the one I have been waiting for!"
36 In the narrow passage Gray Dove stopped beside her. "Then, I'm asking!" he whispered.
37 "Then, I am accepting!" she answered.
38 Hardly without thinking Gray Dove found her in his arms, and he was kissing her. Suddenly, there was an explosion of giggles and laughter in front of them. They turned to see three young women standing there.
39 Gray Dove backed up to the wall, and Thorn Blossom did likewise. "Will you pass, ladies?" he asked.
40 The girls went by, and as each one passed Thorn Blossom, they curtsied and said "Congratulations, sister!" then hurried off down the passage.
41 "Oh, no!" gasped Thorn Blossom, "Of any three in the camp, it HAD to be THEM! The whole camp will know of it in minutes!"
42 Gray Dove laughed. "Then perhaps," he said, "I had better go tell your father before he hears it from anyone else."
43 "And I had best get to my sisters," Thorn Blossom agreed, "if I wish to be the one to tell them of my joy." So they hurried off to the head of the column.
44 Gray Dove found The Old Fox sitting under torches with his Elders. When Gray Dove approached, the old man looked up and smiled. "Here is our Warlock," he announced, "with his nightly report."
45 "As to my report," Gray Dove began, "all is well. The caravan is quiet, and for once there are few complaints, though water is again, getting low. We can water the animals only one more day. Then our barrels will be empty." 46 "Do not be concerned with that," answered The Old Fox, "within two days we will be able to refill them. If there is nothing else, our good Warlock, you may be off to your bed."
47 "There is something else, Lord," Gray Dove announced, "a personal matter that I would wish to speak to our Lord about in private."
48 The Elders rose, without even being asked, bid The Old Fox and Gray Dove good evening, then departed.
49 "Lord," began Gray Dove, "there is a treasure in your house on which my eyes have fallen...."
50 The Old Fox raised his hand. "My son," he interrupted, "there is no need for formal speeches. We both know why you are here. And of course, you have my blessing. It has amused me that it has taken you so long to ask!"
51 "You knew I would ask, Lord? I did not know, myself, until but a short time ago!"
52 "The day you came to my gate," The Old Fox explained, "Spirit told me that you and Thorn Blossom would be the one, and that from your joining would come a line that would serve Spirit until the end of time! Many shall be the needs of your house, and great and wonderful shall be their deeds!"
53 Gray Dove remembered The Old Fox's words at the gate. "Lord!" he asked, "Are our destinies chosen? Do The Lords make our every deed? Can't we make our own choices? Do we not have our own wills?"
54 "Of course we do!" answered The Old Fox. "We are free to turn this way or that, to go down that road or this one, to choose this mate or that one. But The Lords do know our hearts. They see what is within. And They know Their Children. And when your eyes and Thorn Blossom's eyes met, They knew what the result would be! The Lords do not control us, but They know us."
55 "I am pleased," Gray Dove replied. "Now that I understand, it lifts a burden from me. I have considered myself a free man, and that I make my own choices. Now, I know that that is so!"
56 "Now," continued The Old Fox, "to other matters! When shall the mating be?"
57 "As soon as The Temple can be risen," answered Gray Dove. "For I will admit, the fire inside me has been slow to kindle, but now it burns hot, and my desire is great!"
58 "You have spoken," The Old Fox acknowledged. "I know that you are an honorable man, and will fulfill your promise. If you wish to be with her now, no one will object."
59 "No," Gray Dove objected, "I will wait until the parchment is signed, until The Lords bless our union!"
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