A traumatic event in his childhood keeps Tuxtax from being able to shift into his were-griffin form. Ashamed of his looks and terrified of rejection, he spends his life in seclusion, with his sister Eleuthereia and centaur friend Rixa as his only connections to the outside world. Even though Tuxtax yearns to be with the elfin soulmate he had met before the accident, the vanth’s insecurity and self-doubt keep him from reaching out.
But now Rixa needs his help. Tuxtax joins his friend on a desperate rescue mission to save the centaur’s pregnant soulmate, hoping that the quest will give him a chance to overcome his insecurities and prove himself. Their rescue mission leads him back into the land of the elves, where Tuxtax must confront his past and the fears that are holding him back.
The further Tuxtax travels, the louder he hears his soulmate’s call. Can Tuxtax find the courage he needs to return to his soulmate and reclaim the man of his dreams?
As soon as Eleuthereia left them to search for allies, a silence fell between Tuxtax and Rixa. Tuxtax drew his wings around himself in a protective shroud, keeping his eyes on the ground as they traveled.
Rixa noticed his companion’s withdrawn behavior.
“I’m sorry,” he said, reaching out to squeeze Tuxtax’s winged shoulder.
The surly vanth dodged his friend’s touch. “You were right. I’m not worthy. I’ll never shift. I’ll never be a warrior. I’ll never be worthy of my soulmate.”
“You don’t know that, Tax,” Rixa replied, trying to pull his friend out of his self-pity.
“I do. I met him. He saw what I looked like, and he turned away from me. I gave him a map to visit me, and he never used it. I tried going back to Anchor Rock -- where we last met -- and he never showed up. He’s never even tried meeting me in the Dreaming.”
“Then you are mated to a bastard, Tax. Go find a lover who will treat you the way you deserve. Or at least, find more friends.”
“I have friends,” the vanth replied defensively.
“Oh? Who?” the centaur prodded.
“You are my friend.”
“Who else, little goose? Who else do you spend your time with, other than your big sister and me?”
“The halfling MaDo is my friend. And the little dryad that lives down by the stream is, too.”
“And who else? Where are your vanth friends?”
After a long and thoughtful pause, Tuxtax replied, “Maerens is my friend. And Maestus seems to tolerate me.”
The centaur rolled his eyes. “A little blind girl and her overprotective big brother? He probably only likes you because you’re kind to his sister. Anyone else?”
Tuxtax shook his head.
“And why not?”
“Because I ...” he spluttered.
“Of course they wouldn’t like me. I’m ... look at me.”
“Have they ever been mean to you? What unkind words have they ever said to you, Tax? What cruelty did they do?”
The vanth kept his eyes on the ground, unwilling to respond.
“Tax, you’ve spent your whole life imagining the world is against you. You can’t live your life apart from others. You’re kind hearted and generous. Intelligent and funny. I’ll bet there isn’t anyone out there that wouldn’t want to be your friend.”
“You don’t want me here,” Tuxtax countered, grumbling the comeback under his breath.
“Listen, I didn’t want you coming. It’s true. But I did it because I don’t want you in danger. You don’t know what humans are like ...”
Tuxtax scoffed, rubbing the scars on his wrist he earned in escaping from humans as a child.
“This is dangerous. We might not survive, Tax.”