Delia's Journal, Book 1

My name Delia Shodi is. Today tenth birthday is. Ellik this book to me as gift gave. My brother best brother is.

Ellik to play the gitar learning is. Now he will his own music make. For Delia, too, he will music make. He says.

Ellik beautiful music on gitar makes! Mama smiles. Sisters, brothers smile. Even Papa almost smiles. I biggest of all smile. Lucky to have such a brother I am.

Today we on picnic went, to big park. Mama all her best foods made. We all day ran and played, and in lake swam. Ellik from his shoulders into the water let the little kits jump. It fun to watch was. Too tall to climb on his shoulders he said I already was. Sad I was, but watching him Danik and Halli and Kelie help swim, happy again made me. Today a very good day was!

I with Ellik like to sing. And Ellik always to me sings when scared I am. Nighttime very scary is. Ellik to me sings and nighttime very scary is not. Ellik wonderful is.

Best, best brother I have! Again at school today, bully Jordon on me picks. He from hands my books knock. But Ellik stern words to Jordon says. Jordon away went. From school with me Ellik walked.

I to write every day was, but I too busy am, I think, with school and playing. I only will write when I time have, I guess.

Today to the beach we went! Oh, oh, oh! So very much water, to the edge of the world it stretched! In the sand we ran and played. Ellik so funny was, always from his fur the sand he was shaking. Then us, the girls, our brothers chased, and when caught so much tickled. My sides hurt so much I laughed!

Quiet for a while I sat, shapes with the sand I was making. Mama and Papa I watched, where on their blanket they sat. Happy I was to watch because so happy Mama and Papa are, together. Someday Delia will wonderful wolf find, maybe like Ellik this wolf will be. Someday again to the beach I would like to come.

Today Mama's birthday was. Ellik her some music made. Mama it very much liked - tightly she Ellik hugged. I for Mama a scarf knitted. Lumpy. But many colors. Mama tightly me hugged, too. The kits - Jessie and Allen and Tanna and Halli and Danik and Kelie kits are, I and Ellik cubs are, happy, happy, happy family we all are! - for Mama a play made. So funny it was, even Papa laughed! Many hugs for everyone!

Ellik his birthday already had. My birthday not for many days is. But today Ellik off to be soldier went. Mama and Papa proud of Ellik are. Me too. But... Ellik I miss! Eat and sleep and play I will not do... until Ellik home comes. He will home faster come! Clever I am!

Not sleeping and not eating a bad idea is. I want Ellik home to come. Now.

Rutger evil things about Ellik and the Prince in class said. With my book, him I hit. Mama and Papa very angry at me for fighting are. I do not care. Ellik good is! Rutger wrong and evil is!

Taller now I am than even Allen! It very strange feels - taller than older brother to be. Taller than Mama by much I am. Mama when her I lift laughs. Making Mama laugh I like. Mama says someday taller than Papa I will be. That would very funny be.

Ellik home came! For visit only. We have not him for many months seen. He so tall and strong is! Taller even than Papa he is. Like Ellik I will be. Tall and strong.

Mama and Papa worried are. Frightening things happening are... I think. Too young I for understanding am. So they say. They scared for Ellik are. Scared I am too. But why, I do not understand. Too young in truth I must be.

Jessie away ran! With a cat! A tiger cat! Mama and Papa so sad are. This for me to understand is hard. Jessie away must run, Mama says. Other people bad thoughts will think... because cat Jessie loves. What difference is? Fox, wolf, cat? Good folk all are, yes? Confused I am. I wish I could to Ellik talk. Ellik understand would.

Ellik for another visit came! He about special award told... expert marksman! Ellik very good soldier is. Ellik I miss, though. Ellik soon home will come... I hope... I wish. I Ellik very much miss when soldier he is being. I about Jessie to ask forget.

Soldiers. Lots of soldiers. Always soldiers in our town there are. Very frightened of them I am.

Mama and Papa talking about fighting are... when they think listening I am not. They about someone named Toisu talk. Tanna and Allen fighting much are, with friends. People bad things are saying to them about Ellik and Jessie. I to hug them want. But little sister they do not around want. What would Ellik do?

Mama and Papa very angry with me are. Again. I again at school fight. I very good fought, like Ellik. But fight at school I should not, even when bullies on Kelie pick. They say. That wrong is! I Kelie and Halli protect, like Ellik me protected. I like Ellik will be. Ellik I miss. Very much.

Hardly I can write. Hardly I can breathe. I cannot crying stop. The Prince dead is. All his guards dead are. Ellik. Ellik dead is. No, no, no, no, no! Not Ellik! Not my brother. Not my friend. Not Ellik! I to die want, too. Ellik, Ellik... do not dead be! How can I without you live???? Ellik! Please, to home come back!

Today they to our house came, strangers. No one at airport alive was, they say. To Mama and Papa, Ellik dead is, they say. Proud we should be of Ellik, they say. Ellik last one standing is, Prince guarding. They say. Why should I proud of Ellik be, if Ellik dead is? My brother I want. I do not fancy words from strangers want. Ellik I want.

Why Ellik? Why do you die? How can little sister without big brother live? Huh, Ellik? Why do you not to me come back? Who now your little sister will protect? Huh, Ellik? Angry, angry, angry, angry with you I am, Ellik! Me you leave, all alone! Best, best, best thing ever in my life you are. Why Ellik? Why? Now who to me will sing? Huh, Ellik? You I need. You. Without you, I cannot live. So angry, angry with you I am, Ellik. But, yes, proud I am, too. Because you to save our Prince tried. I you love, Ellik. Come back. Please, Ellik. Do not dead be. Please.

Why sun still rising and setting is? We all so much hurt. Kelie and Halli almost as much as me cry. Mama does not crying stop, like me. Allen and Tanna and Danik cry. Even Papa. Even Papa I once crying see. Ellik best person is. We all Ellik love. And now... and now Ellik gone is. Never again happy will I be.

Moving we are... to far-away town. Toisu soldiers hunting for royalists are. Shodi… we royalists always are. Shodi will never Prince betray. So moving we are... move we must.

Hard to write it is. Toisu everywhere are, it seems. We in day hide, in night travel. Frightened all the time I am. Tanna and Allen brave are being, but little kits cry. Them I hug and hold, and to sleep sing. Every time, I Ellik remember… how he to sleep sings me I remember. To Danik and Kelie and Halli same songs I sing. Was ever Ellik this scared when he to me singing was?

Very far from our village we are, and now again by day can travel. Farther we can walk when road easier to see is.

Today when crossing river we are, Danik into river fell. Papa and I into river jump, and Danik out we pull. Water very, very cold was. Poor little Danik. Smallest of all kits always he is. Shivering all the day he is, even in blanket wrapped and in Delia's arms held. So small he is, even though older than me. How sadly funny.

Journey long and very hard was. Danik very sick is. Still. After many months, Danik still weak is. Doctor about Danik worries. Mama about Danik worries, too. Mama already two children lose. Mama a lot I hug. Danik well gets, I hope.

Today... today should Ellik's birthday be. I the whole day spent under trees sitting and crying. Why the hurt away does not go? Hurt is supposed to away go, yes? You I miss, Ellik.

Today all day with Danik I sit. So quiet he is, so weak his hand when holding mine is. To him I sing, all the day. Small brother, please well get.

Too sad life is. Danik almost 15 is... but today Danik died. Another brother I lose. Too sad life is. Why? Why so much hurt?

Mama today ask why I with friends do not play. I could nothing say. I do not know. Maybe forgot how I have… how to fun have I forgot. I in kitchen sit, after school, Mama baking I watch… and I read. Being with people my heart hurts. Tired, tired, tired I am of heart hurting.

Tanna and Allen now soldiers are. They the Toisu fight. I want soldier to be, too. Too young, they say. Too young??? Sixteen I am!

Ellik sixteen was when soldier he became.

Ellik I miss. Still. After more than four years, still.

Alli and Togar friends of Tanna and Allen are. Alli and Togar 'let Delia soldier be' say. Tanna and Allen not happy are. Understand I think I do. They Ellik remember, too. But I will Toisu kill... because Toisu Ellik killed. I Toisu hate.

Togar very nice is. He teaching me to shoot is. Good I am, he said. Like Ellik, I thought.

Tanna angry with me is. I too much time with Togar spend, she says. Tanna jealous is because more than just shooting Togar teaching me is.

Tanna angry is that Togar and I lovers are. Well, yes... but it more than that is. Togar of a struggle against the Toisu speaks. He not only of defending ourselves, our homes, our families speaks... but he also of fighting back speaks. Why should not back we fight? I am too young Tanna says to realize we defeat the Toisu can not.

But how does she know... unless we try?

Kelie to become nurse studies. Halli... I about Halli worry. Halli nothing does. Halli sits. Halli out window stares. More than a year it is... Halli still missing Danik is.

Surprise! Today shooting instructor to me spoke. I expert marksman am, he says! I very surprised am.

Then I of Ellik think. Oh, Ellik! I still you miss. I like Ellik am. Ellik proud of Delia is?

Toisu destroying villages are. Many already. They royalists are hunting. Mama and Papa worried are. I worried am, too.

Many, many months... I surprised am that I alive am. I not well am. But write I still can.

Aaagggh. Like this I should not speak... or write. Like Shodi. Not like Shodi to talk??!? I Shodi am! I only Shodi am, probably. Betrayal... yes, like betrayal it feels. But Shodi family loyal to Prince always is. And Toisu everyone loyal to Prince kill. Safer it is to not like Shodi speak. While I with new friends am, I like Shodi speak will not. Still... betrayal. To family.

And so... I. Should. Not. Speak. Like. Shodi. Like a Shodi. It dangerous is, Winnie says. To practice... history I will write. I will write history? Yes. I will write history of what happens to me for these many, many months.

Toisu attack our village. It was great surprise. We know they are destroying villages, but we do not know they found our village. They came shooting everyone. I know Tanna and Allen are dead. I saw them be shot. I shot too. Burning pain in shoulder, in hip, in legs. Oh, how it hurts! But I will not give up. I must get up. I must look for parents, for sisters. I never find them because Toisu jumps from collapsing building, and with knife he comes at me. I shoot him, yes, but too quickly he moves and too much pain I have. Uh. I am in too much pain and cannot move fast enough. My belly he slashed. Fire burning. Someone from the well tower... Togar, I think, shoots him. As he falls, his knife slashes my chest. I can hardly walk, only stumbling now to our house. Keep going, keep going, look for parents, look for sisters. I go inside, hoping to find them alive. I see no one.

All at one moment, I hear explosion... right outside... I am falling to the ground... no, no... do not fall! Not again! Must fight the Toisu! But fall I do, because I am loosing much blood now, body is very weak. Try to get up. But I can not. And after I fall, it is even worse. Wall comes tumbling down, of course. Onto Delia. Stone wall, heavy, heavy wall, crushing legs. I remember that. I remember how much it hurt. More than anything else, ever. Maybe I screamed, or maybe so much pain I had that I could not. I tried to move, very little, and could not.

And I am thinking... I am seventeen. Not too many more months and I would be eighteen. And that is how old Ellik was when he died. Was he this frightened? Did he wish this hard for Mama to hold him? Did he cry for little sister and for kit sibs who never again would he see?

Then blackness.

I do not know how they found me. Friends from another village... friends of someone in our village. Was it Derrick? Yes… yes. Winnie is daughter to Derrick's sister. They were surprised to find me alive. Almost as surprised as me to later find I was alive. Hardly breathing, Winnie said. Winnie is a doctor. Many days I must have been buried under wall of our house. They said I was unconscious, delirious, for weeks. Infection in my gut. No surprise after what Toisu did. Winnie thought I would die. But I am too strong for that, I suppose. Or stubborn, maybe.

We are hiding here in the mountains. Living in caves and huts... those who are able, look for survivors. There are many villages the Toisu are destroying. I sometimes wonder why we still fight... the Toisu are so many, and we are so few. It seems hopeless.

I am weak. My wounds are healing very slowly. Already it has been two months since they found me, and I have not been able to have the strength to write. I try to write every day, but some days I only sleep all of the day.

I will have many scars. It is almost funny - if I could find anything funny - that no scars I have on face or hands. I wonder why I worry about this. Who would even see them or care? I am feeling dead inside, and only I want to sleep and not talk to anyone.

Even if I was not so weak, I could not get out of bed. Winnie says it will be many, many months before my legs are strong enough to try walking again. She is doing her best. It hurts so very much to just move. Though I thank her every day, I wish I had died.

I am alone. My whole family is dead. Mama and Papa... Halli and Kelie... they were in the town hall when the Toisu bombed it. When the town hall they were searching, these rescuers of mine, they found Mama's glasses, broken... near... nearby where Mama they found. Oh, even writing this hurts my heart enough for it to tear apart. My Mama... no more Mama will pat my arm and her little cub call me. Wish, wish, wish they had just let me die!

With me I have Mama's glasses, and a picture of family. I keep them beside my bed. Look at them, stare at them really, for long hours I do. I have nothing else to do while I lie here, pretending to mend.

Was I ever so small? And Ellik! Look at him, so proud and strong. He could not have more than seven been.

Goodbye Mama, Papa. My sisters, my brothers. I remember you always. Until I find a way to you again.

A wolf should not be alone.

Winnie worries about me. She sits beside me for hours every day, holding my hand or stroking my forehead. She talks quietly or listens when I feel like talking. I talk a lot. It is easier than writing. Hurts less.

Winnie is a fox, like Mama and Papa... sisters and brothers. I do not know if she understands how alone I feel. She keeps telling me that Jessie might still be alive. That I might still have a sister somewhere. But I am still so alone.

About Jessie I dreamed. Maybe... somewhere... Jessie is with her tiger cat, alive and happy. I hope so.

I thought it was a dream this morning. I woke and Winnie was curled up next to me. But no. It was no dream. So small she seems next to my large broken self.

She said she could not stand to see me so alone.

I wish I could feel something for her. Or for anyone. I just feel so dead and empty inside.

Today, Winnie let me get out of bed. It was a good thing Emar was here to help, too. I stood up, took a single step and promptly collapsed. If Emar had not caught me as he did, I would have probably cracked my head on the desk.

It is hard to keep track of days, but a great many have passed. Today, I managed to walk to the door and back to my bed again... a total of perhaps five steps in each direction. Winnie says I am making good progress. I still hurt too much to care.

Emar's cousin found our hideaway today. She said the Toisu are systematically destroying every village they even suspect of harboring royalists. Ellik gave his life for the Prince. I nearly gave mine for the memory of the Prince. Does anyone from the royal family still live? No one seems to know. Why do we still fight? Freedom to live. Freedom to have our loyalties. And perhaps, freedom to die fighting for our freedom.

I was able to walk all the way across the path today, to sit under the trees. The snows will be starting in earnest soon, and perhaps I will not be able to sit outside much longer. It hurts so much to just move. Why did they not just let me die?

In the dark hours of these winter evenings, I sit by the fire and think about Ellik. His voice, and how he sang to me. Before he was killed, I loved to sing too. It has been many long years... and I just realized tonight that I do not really sing anymore. There is no point in trying to find a gitar and start playing that again. I never really was very good. Ellik was always better. It came easy to him.

But perhaps... perhaps I will try to sing again. To honor Ellik's memory.

It hurts less to walk these days. I hum a lot know, and even sing. Winnie thinks it is because I am able to be happy again. No. I just sing because it soothes the pain in my heart.

She spends her nights with me now. She is a gentle lover, so kind, so considerate always of my feelings. Or what she thinks are my feelings, perhaps, because I still feel so numb all the time. She says she loves me. Why does that frighten me?

A ship landed nearby today! I could not go with the others to investigate. While my limp is not nearly so bad anymore, I cannot trust myself on the forest floor and must stick to the path. And, too, I move so slowly. They brought the pilot back to our little settlement.

We were all up until dawn, talking with him. He is a trader, and has no interest in our politics. He is only here because he needs to repair something or another on his ship.

I am puzzled by Jason. He ought to have fixed his ship days ago... yet he still remains with us. There is a way that he looks at me that makes me uneasy.

Despite his claim that he is uninterested in our politics, Jason seems unusually interested in the royalists' fight against the Toisu. Intervene, he will not. But sit in rapt attention when we talk about it, he does.

Today, Jason announced that he could use several crewmembers to help him with cargo and things of that nature... and offered to take those who wished to go off-planet with him.

I caught him looking at me as he made his announcement. What does he want?

Ah, now I understand! Jason came to me today, asking why I did not want to come with him. I was a little surprised, because I had heard panthers were a little brighter than that. I am obviously still weak, and walk with a pronounced limp... though it continues to improve. How could I possibly be of assistance in cargo handling?

He made it clear that it was not necessary for me to handle cargo to join his ship. What he wants is a mistress. Oh, and that he is willing to training me on communications.

I am not sure if I should be flattered or insulted.

Last night, I dreamed of Ellik. He was trying to tell me something, but I could not understand him. When I woke up, my fur was soaked with tears. Will my heart never stop aching for my brother?

When I told Jason of my shooting skills, he was more eager than ever to have me join him. He will be leaving tomorrow, and wants my answer in the morning. What should I do?

There is no future here for me. It is only a matter of time before the Toisu eradicate every trace of royalist support on the planet. They do not believe a person can change loyalties... and for myself at least, they are right... so there is only death in my future. But is that such a bad thing?

What does it matter if I die here, this season or next, or if I die years from now in some strange place? No one else has accepted his offer to leave our homeworld. Perhaps we all feel it is better to die fighting Toisu than to run away.

Jessie is probably dead, too... or will be soon enough when the Toisu find her. Could she hide from them? I do not know. Unless she managed to get off the planet. But that is not really likely, is it?

I just do not know what to do.

Oh, what difference does it make? I will go with him.

It has been a hideous several months. Although the lighter gravity on board Jason's ship makes it easier to get around - he claims I will heal faster, as well - it has been so hard to see nothing but deckplates and stars. I long for trees and open skies, the mountains, even snow. I dream of snow... and trees... walking through trees in the snow. I am always aware of mountains reaching skyward, though I never see them. I wonder what it means.

There is something about Jason I do not understand. I have been with him for six months now and all we ever do... every "night" for precisely two hours... is talk. About anything, about everything. I remember that first night... he said, "You are still hurting. We will just talk. All right?" And it has been the same every night since.

Tonight, I had to protest, not because I so much am interested in him as a lover - though he does intrigue me - but because I am not still hurt. I have only minor twinges of pain in my legs, and I hardly limp at all anymore. I can not believe what he said to me! "Your heart is still hurt, Delia Shodi."

What is that supposed to mean? Will I ever understand this cat?

Jason makes me think too much. He never says, "Go think about this, Delia" but after most of our talks, I sit up for hours mulling over what we talked about.

Tonight, we were talking about Ellik. As a youngster, I know I had a horrible case of hero worship for my older brother. It is a wonder he tolerated it, really. But that was Ellik... so patient, so understanding.

Even now, when I feel like I may be shaking off some of this numbness I have inside, thinking of Ellik is the only thing that really elicits a strong emotional response. It is an ache that I can not describe. I have not cried since the pain in my legs stopped being excruciating... except for when I think about my brother. I look back at some of the things I have written and even though the words come from a pup who worshipped him, they are still as true today. Ellik was the best brother a young wolf could have. It is a tragedy that he died, not only a personal one but for all of us. For anyone who never had the chance to meet him.

It is a strange sort of foreshadowing I wrote when I was 12... "Never again happy I will be." I certainly have not been happy in the past 10 years. Content at times. But not happy. And I know I can not be until I can stop mourning for Ellik. I wonder if that is possible.

I often re-read what I've written in the past. How often I wanted to die! Sometimes, I am not certain I still do not… but mostly I now wish that someday I could be happy. Maybe that is not possible. Still, I do wish it.

Always, everywhere it seems, there are politics such as those I have left behind… and worse. I should not be idealistic about the universe, Jason says. Perhaps not. But I can not become indifferent to what good there might be out here either. Mama taught me… Mama and Papa and Ellik and the kits, they all taught me… that most people are good, and that believing the goodness first is simply the right way to get along in the world.

Maybe there are Toisu everywhere, or people like them. Looking for them around every corner, though… I don't like to contemplate the sort of person that would make me. I have enough problems already.

These dreams plague me. Every night for weeks, I have had the same dream... I am walking through the woods, snow all around me, and silence. Black is the sky, with stars shining and twinkling. And then Ellik appears. Steps out from behind a tree, right in front of me. He does not speak, and if I reach out to him, he disappears. He just looks at me with those gray eyes of his. Just looks.

What does it mean? Am I doing something wrong? Am I doing something right? Do dreams mean anything?

Today we dock at Starside Station. I will stay here, at Furry Prime, while Jason goes on his way. It is strange... Jason thinks I will be better off here than with him. When pressed for a reason, he could not say why. "Just a feeling."

Last night, we made love for the first and last time. Just before ship's day, he whispered to me, "I love you, Delia." I was speechless. But after spending such a long time with him, I felt I owed him honesty. "I like you, Jason. I can not love you." He just chuckled in that maddening way of his and said, "I know. Your heart isn't completely healed yet, but it will be. Someday. And then you'll love again."

Cats. So enigmatic.

He gave me a silver frame for my family picture as a parting gift. I do like him.

This place is overwhelming. Furs everywhere. But so far, everyone has been very friendly and helpful... though some of them are just plain odd. There is a squid named Iann who is particularly unusual. Half the time I am not even sure what he is talking about.

There are a number of furs who regularly congregate in the park next to the Inn here. They seem to be content to let me simply sit on the fringes of the group observing. Perhaps it is obvious I am a newcomer here.

I certainly feel like a lone wolf... a feeling I abhor. I miss my family so much.

I walked down to Mos Ottersly Spaceport today, hoping to find some sort of job. I noted that a ship named Swara was hiring for several positions. I do not know a lot about ships, but Jason did - true to his word - teach me his ship's communications system. I wonder if I should apply.

Walking was not the smartest idea… my legs are in great pain tonight. I need to find a hot spring, or at least a hot tub.

Decided to apply for a position on Swara. Much to my surprise, Captain Tora responded almost immediately!

What a whirlwind evening! First, I met with Captain Tora up on Dreamstar Station... a fascinating place I would like to explore further. We talked for only a few minutes when she said she would hire me as her sensor/comm operator! She took me to see her ship - and I know I will never be able to find it again! I was surprised I was not tripping over my tongue... it is a wonderful ship, so much nicer... and bigger... than Jason's.

When I mentioned I needed to find better accommodations than the Dancing Unicorn Inn, she introduced me to her friend Tikki, who just happened to have an empty apartment available.

I am really not sure how it happened but Captain Tora - she asked me to call her Tsusie - and I wound up alone, together, in my new apartment. And somehow - I am really confused on this point - she was suddenly naked!

So I have a job and an apartment and... well, I do not know. Maybe nothing. Maybe trouble.

Maybe Jason is right. Maybe I am well on my way to being healed of my hearthurt. Playful flirting seemed the right thing to do. And Tsusie is a beautiful cat.

Too many interruptions we had. Nothing remotely serious was meant to be, at least not tonight. The future is an unknown. Now, she sleeps, all cat-like, on my couch. She is nice to watch. I almost feel... protective. How like a wolf, Mama would have said with a smile.

Sitting here in the corner, scribbling in my battered little book, I think about my family and how far away from home I am. But where is home now that Toisu have destroyed everything and everyone I loved?

Ellik, I hope you would be proud of me. I am trying to be strong and brave, like you. I still miss you. So much. I new life now have. Always you I remember, though. Always, always. To myself still I whisper, "Like Ellik I will be."

Captain Tora has been absent on some personal business for a number of days. I have taken to spending my evenings at the Fin de Partie Pub, sitting on the balcony overlooking the arcade.

I can see trees from where I sit, and that makes me feel calm. I have always found some comfort in being around trees.

Tonight I met a wolf from a Kzinti ship by the name of Kern. We spent a pleasant few moments chatting.

Much to my astonishment, I learned this evening that Kern is a mage. The things he spoke of were quite amazing and his illusions completely breathtaking. Magic seems to be something quite useful, perhaps... but I think I am glad I know nothing about. It seems to have brought Kern's family no small amount of grief.

And surely I have enough grief in my life brought on by more mundane circumstances.

How odd. I spend my evenings at the Fin as usual, but now I find myself anticipating Kern's arrival... and when he does not arrive, I am disappointed. I can not recall the last time I felt anticipation such as this, nor the resulting disappointment.

How odd.

Kern stopped by the Fin this evening... he was injured, and it still surprises me that I felt... yes, angry... at whoever had hurt him.

I am not sure what I am feeling. And I am not sure what I should do. Should I even do anything?

I am in shock. I can hardly write. I can hardly breathe.

Tonight, like many nights, I went to the Fin. More furs there tonight than usual... it is a comfortable, friendly atmosphere when there are more folks there, unlike the quiet and contemplative nature of the balcony when I am alone. But this night... this night is a night like no other will ever be.

I sat, and thought about what I might like to drink. I thought I heard a voice... a voice so familiar and sweet. It frightened me, how real it seemed. But no, it would be impossible for me to hear Ellik's voice. Perhaps I have been working too hard, I thought.

Expresso. Willy makes a good expresso, and so that is what I ordered. Only moments after receiving it, however, I heard the voice again. Oh, my hands are shaking so badly I nearly spill my drink all over the bar and myself. Almost, I am afraid to look around for fear of what I might or might not see. But turn I do.

Sitting at a nearby table is a wolf wearing a battered coat... with a blue and yellow striped flag on one sleeve. I do not remember standing up or walking over to the table, but I must have... for there I was staring down at this wolf... who wore the jacket of our army and who spoke with my brother's voice.

And then his companion called him Ellik.

I was so frightened... could this truly be my brother? Far too afraid I was to even hope... and yet...

I spoke, and he did not know me... not at first... not until I reminded him that his voice was what soothed me to sleep for 11 years.

Even now... I am still in shock and am having the most difficult time believing that Ellik is alive.

Ellik is alive!

And he is married, to a lady cat named Kibra. Oh, to hear the joy in his voice when he speaks of her! I fear that I will never find such happiness for myself... but I am content with the happiness I have simply knowing Ellik is alive.

But then... but then he asked about Mama, and I could see his heart breaking and shattering into thousands of pieces when all I could do was shake my head. How well I know that feeling... but I have had many years to hold that feeling in my heart and wear it down so that the knives no longer stab quite so painfully.

He ran off. Of course he would. He was always there for me, when I was small. But who was there for him? Mama. Mama was always, always there. But not anymore.

Oh, my poor brother!

I could not help him. He had to go somewhere to soothe his hurt. I know he went to his lady, and surely his lady will comfort him. Surely she will, for I saw in his eyes and heard in his voice how very wonderful she is. She will comfort him.

Still, I am in shock.

Ellik is alive!

What is Ellik involved in?? Oh, I think I may not want to know.

This night, as I sat at my usual table at the Fin, I spied my brother (how it makes my heart feel so happy to be able to say that after ten years!) coming out of the ITG offices into the arcade. I called out to him and happily he joined me.

But after only a few moments, he received some obviously distressing communication because before I quite knew what was happening, I found myself on Captain Galand's ship... in a meeting of enormous proportions. Even here, I dare not say the frightening things I learned this night.

Ellik was pleased to introduce me to several of his friends - the Honorable Chastity of Cygnus, the Lady Buran and the most fascinating Shades McKatt, the latter two I had already had engaged in conversation. They, of course, did not know at the time that I was Ellik's sister, but they both remembered the occasions upon which we spoke, and this pleased me. These all are people of importance, most especially the Honorable Chastity... and Ellik certainly has high regard for them. As always, I trust Ellik's judgement of people. He has never been wrong before.

After this meeting, we - Ellik and I - were able to speak... too briefly, for he had to return home to his lady wife and I... well, once again my body betrayed me with its inadequacies... the pain of standing for the length of the meeting was more than I could bear. Yet, could I have left Ellik's side to sit? I think not... not in such august company as I found myself.

Oh, I am so envious to hear how Ellik speaks of his lady Kibra! She gives him reason for living he says. I can not even imagine a person so... magical. Even more than ever, I want to meet this special lady. To have captured Ellik's heart so... truly, she must be grander than anyone else I have ever met.

So sad I am, though, to think such happiness will not come to me. Ellik says I am wrong about this - and when have I ever disbelieved a think Ellik has said? But I fear he does not know how dark and cold is my heart, he does not understand how changed his little sister is from the pup he left so long ago. It is not that I doubt such a person might exist, one who could bring me the same joy Kibra has brought Ellik. And perhaps that is what he means. My fear is that I will never be able to feel that sort of happiness.

Even before my heart was shattered - Togar and Quinn and Avera and the others - I felt little more than friendship for my lovers. Since that day my heart died, it has only been worse. The most I could feel even for Jason was friendship. It is the hearthurt Jason spoke of that must heal first, I have no doubt. Will knowing that Ellik is now alive hasten that healing? I do not know.

I wonder though... what does it feel like to have your heart so filled with someone that they give you reason to live? What is it like to feel their presense so strongly - as Ellik feels Kibra - even when they are not by your side?

What does it feel like, I wonder, to truly love?

I woke this morning from a terrible dream... reliving that day when the Toisu decimated our village and murdered the rest of my family... that moment when I staggered down the street, burning pain from the bullet wounds, and bleeding nearly to death from the knife wounds. I could feel them all again.

Only this time, I saw Ellik shot time after time... and Kern, engulfed in flames.

What does it mean? To say I worry about Ellik would, of course, be true. To lose him yet again... how could I possibly go on? But what of Kern? Why is he now haunting my dreams? I have never understood my dreams, but for some reason they always seem to be a portent of some sort.

What does it mean this time?

It is so strange... for five years I have lived with the pain and horror of that day... that day my world seemed to end. It has been a weight in my heart all this time, knowing that I am alive and my whole family dead. But now...

Last night, again I spoke with Ellik. I told him the story of that terrible time, while he sat beside me and held me... just as he did when I was so small and afraid of things as simple as the darkness of night.

And he made the fear go away.

Or maybe it is just that he held me and I knew it was safe for me to face my fear... something I could never do alone. No, even Jason could not induce me to face my fears, as much as he made me thing hard on things. But Ellik... he always protected me.

So now it is strange to wake up, still knowing the pain and horror of that day, but no longer being afraid of it... or not quite so afraid, at least.

What was it that I always said? "Ellik best brother is." Truth then, truth now.

There is much more to tell him, but that is the worst of it, that day. Perhaps I may never tell another soul this story, but sharing it with Ellik halves the burden of it, enough to carry it now.

And so smart my brother is… he said as long as we remember Mama, she will always live. All Shodis, forever, should remember the most beautiful fox Mama ever.

To hear Ellik speak of children... his children... that brings so much sadness to my heart, but happiness too. The happiness is for Ellik and his beautiful leopard lady... many, many children may they have! And may all of them be smart and brave like Ellik, beautiful and wonderful like lady Kibra.

Sadness, though... sadness is for me. When Ellik asked about me... being able to have pups... Maybe yes, maybe no I said. Winnie thought more likely no... the infection was very bad. "But I believe in miracles, Delia. You being alive at all is one of them." That is what she said. Ellik says his lady is a very fine doctor; perhaps she might know better than Winnie what is possible and what is not.

But it does not matter... being able to have children... if I am alone, eh? I still have doubts that Ellik is right about finding someone as wonderful as his Kibra. Though despite my doubts, I can look at Ellik and see how completely Kibra fills his heart... and I want that, too. I really believe I do.

Ellik says I am pretty... but I have such a hard time believing that even from him. Jason told me I am beautiful, and I could not believe that either. It is because of these scars that still, after even five years, sear my flesh with their fury. I must look at them every day... Ellik has never seen them, Jason has seen them only once.

Yet... Ellik, too, has his scars... so he says and so it must be true. I think I must speak to him about that... how can he see himself as whole, when seeing the destruction etched in his fur by the Toisu?

For almost a year, Jason talked of this hearthurt of mine as something he believed could be healed. And then he left me here for no apparent reason, where I have found the one person who can possibly help me heal. How did Jason know? Well, perhaps he did not... but that "hunch" of his... I do have to wonder.

And perhaps I do not have someone to live for as Ellik does, but I realize I no longer have a wish for death.

It is a start.

© Kelly Naylor