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n the days following Gwendolyn's death, Tintara secluded herself in her bedroom, locking the door and not opening it to anyone. Her mother was busy with the tasks brought upon by priestesshood and mourning the loss of the next in line for leadership, and she was only able to visit Tintara on occasion. The other Dryads, though sympathetic with Tintara, could do no more than offer a kind word.

In her stead, Aeleina sent Ariana, a training priestess, to call upon Tintara and try to bring her out of her state of despair.

Ariana was 73 years old at the time, with thick, semi-curly hair to her waist, deep burgandy in color. Her eyes were the color of clear emeralds. Light freckles danced about her nose on her young Dryad face, and her voice was like a trickling stream. She was only slightly taller than Tintara herself, and had the firmiliar greenish tinge to her soft golden skin.

Aeleina gave Ariana permission to go into Tintara's house, and Ariana went down the hall to Tintara's room to find the door locked. She could hear no sounds from within, and she surmised that Tintara was sleeping.

While she waited for Tintara to wake up, Ariana went back down the hall and into the kitchen, where she found Tintara's food supplies untouched. She fixed up a plate of cheese, bread, berries and a glass of water.

When she heard a muffled weeping from down the hall, she brought the plate along with the glass to the door, set them down on the floor, knocked once and then went away. From the living room, she heard the door click, then open, and the light scrape of glass upon plate as the two were lifted. The door shut again.

When she heard the door open again, Ariana jumped up and hurried down the hall. She found Tintara there, her long hair hanging tangled and unwashed, her eyes red and her cheeks tear-streaked, and her body slighly emaciated from days without eating.

"Thank you..." Tintara said, her voice scratchy and sore. "What is your name?"

"I am Ariana, Tintara." Ariana replied. "Your mother sent me to look after you during these difficult days. I only came this morning." She took the dishes from Tintara and brought them to the sink. Tintara followed and let herself fall into an armchair, weary from her fits of weeping.

"Here.." Ariana said, and then she went into the bathroom and filled the sink with warm water. "Come and wash your face," she called back to Tintara. "You'll feel much better." As Tintara bent over the sink, Ariana held back the legnth of her hair. When Tintara was finished, Ariana went into Tintara's room and retrieved her silver hairbrush. As Tintara once again settled down in her armchair, Ariana sat behind her and began to gently brush the tangles from her hair. When she was finished, she braided it into two plaits and tied them off.

"There we go," Ariana said. "If you should take to weeping again, at least you won't have that mass to contend with."

Laughing slightly, Tintara said, "Again, thank you. You said my mother sent you? You are a priestess, then? Which house is yours?"

Ariana pointed to a small cottage on a far off tree. "That, there. I am of the second rank, and so my duties are simply to wait upon those that bear this mark." She touched the ivy vine tattoed upon Tintara's right wrist. "Your mother and you, and until recently--" She stopped herself in time.

"No, it is alright, you may speak her name. I can't go about like this anymore."

With a nod, Ariana continued, "Until recently, Gwendolyn. I only have one year of training left until my promotion to third rank."

Tintara said softly, "I have yet to begin my training.."

"You are still young."

Smiling, Tintara said, "And you aren't, dear Ariana?" The two laughed, and Ariana asked, "Now, would you consider coming down to see your mother? She's worked herself up into a fright with worry for you, but her tasks keep her at the core of her tree.."

With a nod, Tintara stood up. "You're right. It's been so selfish of me to stay here like this.. I'd forgotten the pain that this must have been causing my mother, too. Would you please tell her that I shall be down in an hour? I wish to shower and then change before I am seen."

"Of course, Tintara. Do you require anything else before I go?"

Chuckling softly, Tintara replied, "Please, Ariana. You needn't wait upon me. I can very well take care of myself. Can't you just be my friend?"

Ariana smiled warmly and replied, "Of course I can, Tintara. I'll go tell your mother."

Over the two years since they first met, Ariana and Tintara have grown closer and closer. Ariana has moved up to the third rank, while Tintara still has yet to begin her training as high priestess. Ariana has filled one part of Tintara that was empty after the death of Gwendolyn, and Tintara has found someone close to her age who she can rely upon to be there for her and who she loves like her own sister. Though Ariana could never fill the gap caused by Gwendolyn's death, Tintara is no longer alone.