Dashed Yeva directly towards the Village of Falling Stars, in the hope of finding the Shack of his childhood memories. However, the Village has changed tremendously – expanded broadwise and raised its walls up into the sky. Where it used to grow the Forest in old times, now was the barren Plough. On borders of the withdrawing Forest were seen defensive outposts. Residents of the Village, now the Town of Falling Stars, have changed, too. Now they were wearing new comfortable clothes, protected by shiny cuirassas, and armed with flame-throwers. And absolutely they were not sympathetic to the Forest Inhabitants. Barely escaped Yeva a trap on the cordone he ran into after the Forest has ended unexpectedly for him. Fawa’s lessons on the masquerade, tracks entanglement, and deceptive tricks of the Creatures of Nature had proven to be helpful for Yeva in getting escaped.
Frankly speaking, did not expect Yeva such a turn of events, while he was occupied by the thoughts of how victoriously he will break into parents’ Shack with the Remedy for his father. Now, waded he to that hidden and beloved Place of the Childhood Games, to get his thoughts and plans together, – to the Meadow near the Hill over the River. Luckily, the Meadow was deep in the Forest, and the Town did not reach to it, yet. As soon as Yeva stepped on the Meadow, he heard a girl’s singing coming from the River’s bank. Silently moving, carefully stepped he on the Cliff over the River, keeping himself in the shadow of the Giant Oak that was standing there. Opened the view for him on the River where a young Maiden was bathing, singing the same time. Froze Yeva where he stood, enchanted, not able to either look away from the fragile figure, or let her know about his presence, or step back into the Forest.
Meanwhile the Maiden of the River finished her song, came out of the water, and, have thrown back her wet, but still shining, hair from the face, led her way up to the heap of clothing on the grass. But, when bent over it, she picked up something glittering that spit a net of fire into Yeva. Hobbled, ensnared by the burning threads, rolled he as a fiery wheel down the hill. While Yeva was helplessly splashing and spewing in the boiling water and clouds of vapour, the Girl unhurriedly got dressed, as it turned out in an expedition-like dress, came to the half-drowned Yeva, and, mercifully done something with the glittering object, pulled Yeva on the shallows.
— Well, well, well, let’s see who dared to spy on me? — amusedly asked her. — I’ve already taught whole your Forest Gang not to bother me here! Looks like you are new here… Go on, show yourself, Unbeknown Beastie.
Something clicked, and ties fell down from Yeva. Rose him on his feet, still coughing, all covered in mud, algae and waterlilies, under the giggling laugh of the Girl.
— As usual, tail and hooves… — continued making fun the Girl. — Though, no, you are different… Not bold, not long-eared, well complexed… Bow down, please, it’s not comfortable talking to you looking up.
— Maiden of the River, — finally wrestled his embarrassment Yeva, — forgive me for not letting you know that you are not alone. I’ve got Enchanted and Entranced into the dumbness and immobility. Never before I saw such a Beauty.
— And you behave differently from the local forest amorists. Who are you, where did you come from into our lands, tell me.
— Juraj they call me, and I am a man… But, may I first get myself in order? Could you, please, turn away for a moment…
— “Turn away”! — fuffed the Girl. — My word, “turn away”! Whom I have to hear that from! You by yourself do not turn away much… — but, nevertheless, having turned towards the River, continued: — Vajra is still with me, one wrong move – and you’ll get a bath again…
Yeva quickly pulled off the Stallion Skin, cleaned himself from the water plants, and dressed up into a noble silk garments he brought back from one of his expeditions with Saena.
— You are right, River Maiden, I came from the far-away lands. On my path I gathered the best flowers I saw, and from them I braided this wreath. It is alive and will never wither. Let me give it to you as a gift. And let me to know your name, oh, River Maden…
— Indeed, you are really a man! Still you wield secret powers of the Nature World no worse than the People of the Forest. I saw already Alive Wreaths, your forest brethren have been trying to hand them to me, — giggled the Maiden. — However I never saw the one with such a beautiful flowers. Thank you. I accept your gift, — now seriously said the Girl. — Call me Inga, Juraj.
— You are not afraid of the Forest. You go where, I can see, inhabitants of the Town do not dare to wander.
— I am a daughter of the Rey of this Town, and many things are permitted for me, — smiled Inga. улыбнулась Инга. — Since my father found the Dar’s Fire we’ve learned and achieved a lot. Before the Forest ignored us, but now it has to factor our presence in. However, I feel that something is wrong with our power – we can create, alter or destroy what is around us, but we can’t change ourselves and the Forest. Can you show me what the Forest People are capable of? Can you turn an Oak into a Pine? Grow apples on the Cherry tree? Or make leaves blue or yellow? Or make to flower what never does that?
— Here you are, and here, and there, — snapped fingers Yeva, for Inga’s avid astonishment. — What color do you want this fern to flower? Blue, orange, white?
— Let it be red flower. A red bell, — chose Inga. — Where and how, you, a man, have learned all of this? I couldn’t imagine that it is possible!
— I’ve been studying afar, beyond the Sea, under Dar Vulenus…
— Is it true, please pardon me, — Inga interrupted Yeva, — that he can turn himself, or others, into different appearances? Sometimes I dream that I am a bird and I flying high in the skies, or I am a horse dashing through the prairies, or a fish diving into the abyss… How much I would like to experience that in reality!
— I did not finish my education and did not master that ability, when I left Dar Vilenus… — but when noticed Inga’s disappointment, Yeva continued: — …but one of your dreams I may make come true. Dar Vilenus gave me two Skins – of the White Stallion, the one you’ve already saw me in, and the Skin of Red Mare. Do you want to try it on?
— Of course I want! — excitedly shouted out Inga. — How to control her?
— The Skin has its own Soul, its own Feelings, its own Desires. They will pour into you when you put it on: excitement of the vibrating earth under your hooves, intoxicating aroma of the grasses, delightful taste of the oats, fresh chill of the spring water. Let them in, but let the Skin also to know your desires. Don’t think about what group of muscles to activate, how to make a step – just let her feel your wishes. Your desires must be bright, will strong, and thoughts clear. Don’t put the Skin on when you are just bored, don’t wear it for a long time, even having her partly on, and most important, don’t sleep in her – it might be really difficult to awake as yourself. You mentioned Silvas, who courted you, or Navi – many of them just dreamwalk, while the Skin guides them.
— Are you ready? Won’t chicken out? — continued Yeva.
— Tut! — puffed Inga. — I’m ready. Turn away! — smiling, commander her.
Quickly getting undressed, Inga unhesitatingly approached the Skin and started putting it on, shivering each time she touched the Skin’s innards. Soon, the Red Mare was standing on the Meadow, clumsily, like a newborn foal, balancing on trembling legs. Then she made one step, another, acquiring confidence of motions with every next second. The Mare slowly trotted around the Meadow, and, with the shout: “Catch me!”, galloped away into shadows of the Forest, passing Yeva, who was putting in a hurry the White Stallion Skin.
Inga and Juraj were lying on a Hill, looking up on the Clouds floating above in the Sky. Now, it was another Hill, but by the same River. Afar, near the very horizon, was seen a dark-green band of the Forest, everywhere else splashed out, as far as one can see, an endless Steppe. Around, the prairie grass was bent and wallowed down, and nearby were resting the taken off Skins.
— This is the happiest moment of my life… — dreamily said Inga, — like there came back times of our, with my Brother, adventures in the Forest…
— Mara… is it really… you?! — in aspiration, but still not completely believing it, exclaimed Yeva.
— Me, Yeva, me, — dispelling all the doubts, confirmed Mara, and rose on her elbow. — You finally came back. Dar Vzor told me to listen to my heart, and it promised you will come, dear my fool…
— And we are together again, even closer than we used to be in the old good times, when Mom was singing songs to us, and Dad was telling stories about distant lands and times… And I have the Remedy for him! — jumped on his feet Yeva. — Quickly, let’s fly to the Town! Finally he will be able to see us by his own eyes!
The White Stallion and, after him, the Red Mare dashed through the Steppe back to the Town of Falling Stars.
To be continued…