A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

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A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:17 pm

Here is the transcription of the journals of [T]he [O]thers, taken from the original forum.

[[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]] Choosing a Trainer (Hello Horsewhisperer) | 50 4A
[[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]] Trouble on the Ranch | 51 4A
[[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]] A Little Misunderstanding | 51 4A


Last edited by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:25 pm

Choosing a Trainer (Hello Horsewhisperer)

Location: Haven (under construction)
Year: 50 F.A.
Status: Early spring


Construction of the ranch was nearly complete by this time, and all that was left for Ulani and Ulrich was to find the men who would be taking care of it once it was finished. They had a list of people they needed: two people (preferably a married couple) to take care of the house, one trainer, one breeder; someone to take care of the animals’ health, five men to take care of the tack, who could also exercise and groom the horses; five others who could take care of the stables (at least, five to begin with, as the ranch grew with the herd, more people may end up being required); ten people to take care of the field and garden, some of whom might also be able to hunt for food (especially during the winter); and last, but certainly not least, a good group of fighters (at least ten) who could defend the ranch and take any rescued children back to wherever they came from. The two of them, of course, would be overseeing everything from their own home, and they, along with whoever it was who ended up taking care of the ranch house and managing everything from that end, would be the four who reported directly to Donovan whenever he managed to visit.

A large group of elves would be arriving today to examine the ranch, prospective employees who would see if they would like to work there, and whom Ulani and Ulrich would be interviewing.

They weren’t alone, however, as they rode into the ranch yard on some of their horses, with others following: Aliya, now fifteen years old, had insisted on accompanying them. This project had been going on since she had been nearly ten years old, and she wanted to help in choosing the people that she would probably end up spending quite a bit of time with. The ranch was, after all, just outside the valley where she had spent her entire life so far, and besides her parents, brother and two cousins, she never saw anyone. She wasn’t lonely, but she did enjoy meeting and spending time with other people.

Unlike her parents, Aliya had opted to walk today. She enjoyed riding, but she just didn’t see the point when they were only going a short distance that was easily walkable. As she had grown, she had blossomed into a very lovely young lady – a beauty by anyone’s standards – but she remained blissfully oblivious of this fact. Today, however, as she followed her parents into the ranch yard, couldn’t help but wonder why so many of the men who had come for a potential job wouldn’t stop staring at her, even when she glared at them and tried to make them look away.

“Aliya!”

Her father’s tone was harsh, and Aliya wondered briefly just how many times he had attempted to get her attention before she had finally heard him. She looked up at him, still frowning slightly, annoyed by the men. “Yes, Father?”

Ulrich pulled up his horse and looked down at his daughter seriously. “We’re going to separate the men into groups by which job they’re after,” he told her. “Take Brego and head to the training pen, I’ll send all the potential trainers your way.” He scowled. “If any of them are staring at you like those ones,” he nodded towards the men Aliya herself had just been glaring at, “send them packing. Don’t even consider them. I leave it to you to choose the best man for the job.”

“Of course,” Aliya nodded. “Don’t worry about me.”

Ulrich nodded down at Aliya, his expression proud. “I’m sure you’ll do fine,” he agreed. Then he added, “And by the way … if any of those men get inappropriate with you, put them in their place. Oh, and tell me who they are later so I can hunt them down.”

Aliya rolled her eyes. “Ada, I’ll be fine. Why would they be inappropriate, anyways? Besides staring. What, don’t they think I can handle this?” She shot them another glare.

Ulrich sighed and put one hand on his daughter’s head. “Just be careful. You don’t know any of those men, and even elves can fall into temptation.”

“Mmhm.” Aliya wasn’t really paying attention anymore, but was heading off to separate Brego from the rest of the horses so that she could do as her father told her. She honestly didn’t know why her father was so worried about her; it wasn’t as if she was a child anymore. Sure, she wasn’t an adult yet either: but still. She could handle herself. They were just a bunch of men, after all! They were here for a job. Why would they bother her?

Brego was easily the wildest of all of the horses they had brought with them, and in fact was the wildest of their herd, and it had been Aliya’s idea to pit each of the prospective trainers against him to choose the right man for the job. She took the rope from around her waist and tossed it around his neck, then led him out of the herd and headed to the far western areas of the ranch, where the training pen was located. The horse gave her no trouble: she had, it seemed at times, a special gift for calming the creatures, and could often get them to trust her when they would flee from anyone else. As she headed over to the training pen, she heard her father’s voice above the noise of the crowd, directing people to different areas for different interviews.

She led Brego to the training pen and let him inside, closing the door behind him and perching herself on the wall, holding onto one post for balance, one leg dangling, the other up on the wall as well. She had the rope once more in her hand, and Brego’s neck was free. Nor did he have on a bridle, or anything else that was unnatural. She sat patiently and waited for the potential trainers to come and see her.

They weren’t long. Only a few short minutes later, she and the pen – more she than the pen – were surrounded by about two dozen men. Many of them were looking at her, a few of them at Brego. She cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention, then announced, “Anyone who annoys me by staring at me will be asked to leave.” Ignoring their startled looks, she went on. “Anyone who thinks that I’m too young to be choosing a trainer can leave now. Anyone who thinks that I’m too young to be working with horses can leave. Anyone who thinks they know better than me can leave. Anyone who thinks they may in the future cause trouble with me, or with my parents, or my brother, can leave. Anyone else, who is here strictly to find out if they have what it takes to train some of the strongest, fastest, most beautiful and most desired horses in the Four Lands, can stay.”

She looked around and pointed at a few of the men. “You, you, and you. Bye.” And she gave them a cheeky grin and waved. When they didn’t move, she frowned softly and slid down from the wall. She was well aware that almost everyone there was taller than she, but she didn’t care. She made her way to the three offenders (who, she reflected with annoyance, hadn’t seemed to have heard a word that she’d said) and beckoned for the three of them to follow her. They did so, and she led them about ten feet away from the group before she turned and faced them once more.

“I believe I asked you three to leave,” she told them, folding her arms across her chest and staring at them pointedly. “I’m going to give you a chance, pretend you didn’t hear me, and say it once more. Goodbye.”

And she started back towards the rest of the group. As she moved past the three men she’d asked to leave, one of them reached out and grabbed her arm. “Hey!” he hollered. “At least tell us why!”

Aliya whirled around, her eyes blazing; but she was smiling seemingly sweetly (an indication to those who knew her that she was about to snap).

“It’s quite simple,” she told them seemingly good-naturedly. “I bred these horses. Unless you respect both me and them, you won’t be getting anywhere near them.” With her free hand she grabbed his wrist and dug her fingers into his pressure points, forcing him painfully to let go of her arm. “Now,” she said softly, her smile widening. “You were asked to leave. The next time I have to say anything, I won’t be so polite.”

The three men were all furious, but Aliya ignored them and turned once more to return to her place near the training pen. When she next looked, the three men had disappeared. She smiled again, this time happily.

“All right,” she said to the remaining potentials, “I apologize for that. I trust, however, that it won’t have to happen again.” She raised one eyebrow pointedly and looked at each of the men individually. When she was satisfied that all the trouble had been gotten rid of, she nodded.

“This,” she went on, pointing over her shoulder with her thumb, “is Brego. My pride and joy. He’s young – still a yearling – but I’ve always started training my horses early. It’s good for them. Gets them used to the things that are going to be required of them.”

Wow, she thought inwardly, I’m making myself sound old.

“Just what is going to be required of them?” one of the men asked curiously. “It’s helpful to know what we’re going to be training them for.”

“No, that’s my business,” Aliya replied. “I breed them for endurance and strength. You just have to train them to take riders, even those who may not have ever seen a horse before in their lives. Which means,” she went on, hopping back up onto the wall and making herself comfortable once again, “that whoever ends up training them will have to have a gentle hand, be good with them and to them, and make them into gentle warhorses.”

She laughed inwardly at the startled looks that were going around, but noted with curiosity that there was one elf who had still not looked at her, but was staring at Brego. He didn’t seem to be startled at her requirements: on the other hand, he looked as though he was enjoying it. For some reason, Aliya found herself startled at this. Then she realized with a start that the elf was … young. Like she was. Interesting.

“So … the first step.” She slid off the wall again and faced the men once more. “Each of you will have the opportunity to show me what you have. One at a time, you’ll go into this pen and make Brego walk three laps one way, trot three laps the other way, and canter three laps the first direction. He’s had no training so far at all, he’s only had a rope on his neck once – to bring him into the pen.”

She pointed at a random elf and said, “You first,” then let him into the pen and settled on the wall to watch.

The first elf nearly got himself trampled, as did the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. Aliya sent them all away with sincere apologies and started losing hope that any of these men would be able to do it.

The seventh through twelfth were all able to get the horse to walk, but only the ninth got as far as the trot. However, he had been unable to get Brego to change direction, and all of them were dismissed as well.

Aliya was still slowly losing confidence in the remaining potential trainers, but she kept eyeing the youth who had been paying so much attention to Brego. He interested her … he intrigued her. He seemed to love the horse even without having seen it before, and he winced each and every time something happened to Brego that might possibly have hurt him.

The twenty-third potential had brought a whip with him, and the first time he used it against Brego the horse screamed at him and reared, lashing out with his forehooves at the elf. The youth, who had still been waiting patiently outside the pen, jumped the wall and approached Brego cautiously, making noises at him and attempting to calm him down while Aliya went after the elf who had brought the whip, literally dragging him out of the pen by his collar. She left him in the dust and spit on him furiously, then turned back to the remaining potentials.

“If you were planning to use or even have in your possession a whip or any other such instrument of pain or discipline, leave now!” she shouted at them, her face red with fury. “Forced submission is not a gentle hand, for those who require a definition!”

Cowed by her passion, another handful of elves left silently, leaving now only three or four others besides the one who was still with Brego in the pen. Those still in front of Aliya looked uneasy, but they remained where they were, determined to try. This, they had been told, would be the job of a lifetime, and would give them a name above any trainer known to date. Merely looking at the requirements of this job, they could tell it would be true – and looking merely at this horse who they were being asked to work with, they knew that the horseflesh they would be working with over the course of their job would be the best, or close to it.

Aliya turned around to check on the man who was with Brego at the moment, make sure he wasn’t being trampled or mistreating the horse. To her surprise, Brego was calm and standing in one place while the elf was climbing back out of the pen.

“Would you like to try next?” she asked him quickly, hopefully. To tell the truth, she was anxious to see how this man – boy? – would fare with Brego. So far, he had seemed by far the most likely to be able to do this.

He nodded and smiled faintly. “Thank you,” he replied politely, and bowed his head at her. But rather than climbing back into the pen, he approached her, holding out one hand and smiling reassuringly.

“May I borrow your rope?” he asked her softly. “I swear it will not touch him.”

Dubious, Aliya nodded slowly and held it out to him. If he was lying to her, if the rope even came close to Brego, she would have his hide – but he looked as though he knew that already, and he simply bowed his head again to her and headed back to the pen.

Aliya moved swiftly to stand beside the pen so that she could watch every move he made while he was working with Brego, and for the first time since she had begun the interview, her stomach was churning.

The man (boy?) approached Brego cautiously from one side, making quiet noises to him, holding the rope out in front of him almost as if in offering. The horse made no sound as the boy (man?) reached him and patted his neck, holding the rope out to Brego’s face so that the horse could smell it, get used to it. After talking to the horse softly for a few minutes, the elf stepped back and moved the rope to his other hand. He clucked softly with his tongue and tossed one end of the rope behind Brego, and as the horse started into a walk he drew it in once more. Eight more times he tossed the rope behind the horse, clucking his tongue softly, and as the horse finished his third lap around the pen, walking, the elf threw the rope in front of him instead of behind. Brego stopped abruptly and changed direction, startled by the rope. He was still just walking, though, and the elf made a different noise with his tongue, throwing the rope a bit closer behind the horse to make him go a bit faster. Sure enough, within a few strides Brego was trotting. After his third lap, the elf used the same tactics to make Brego change direction and change his pace to a canter. After three laps he slowed Brego to a walk, then, still throwing the rope occasionally to keep him walking, looked to Aliya for approval.

Aliya was in shock, and her face showed it. In all honesty, she hadn’t expected anyone to be able to do what she had asked. This was Brego’s first time in any sort of training, it was impossible by most standards. Also impressive, he had done it without once complaining or trying to avoid the exercise.

Behind her back, the rest of the remaining potentials turned silently and left. Each of them knew that they would never be able to compete with a performance like that.

Aliya, for her part, had completely forgotten about the other men. She smiled brightly at the elf and headed over to join him, pulling a paper and charcoal pencil from her pocket as she did so.

“That was amazing!” she gushed.

The elf just smiled softly and re-coiled the rope before handing it back to her. “Do I qualify?” he asked quietly.

“Qualify?” Aliya laughed. “The job is yours! I’ve never seen anyone work with a horse like that! That was so amazing!” She tucked the rope around her shoulder and put the paper against her knee. “What’s your name?” she asked him eagerly. “I need your information for my father.”

“Amdír,” the elf replied quietly. “I come from the village of Ebonscarp. I am sixteen years old.”

Aliya looked up at him curiously at that last comment. It looked as though she had been correct: he was only a year older than she (if that), and barely an adult. She shrugged inwardly and wrote it down, then asked, “How many years of experience do you have with training?”

She smiled at him. “You have the job for certain, my father just wants to know these sorts of things.”

Amdír smiled back, almost shyly. “Six years,” he answered her softly. “It’s all right. I’m used to people not taking me seriously.”

“It sucks,” Aliya nodded. “I’m not an adult yet, and almost everyone I talk to tries to tell me I’m too young to do what I do. As if you have to be a certain age to know which horses will bring forth the best stock!” She snorted and tucked her hair behind her ears so that she could keep writing.

“Only … one … more … question,” she muttered as she finished writing. She looked up at Amdír and asked, “Do you have any problems with working for a human?”

At Amdír’s startled look, she laughed. “No, my father isn’t human – nor is my mother. They’re also employed by the human, though. They’re in charge of everything when he’s gone … which is most of the time. From what I know, he’ll only be around every decade or so. Perhaps every few years.”

“He won’t be getting much out of this, then,” Amdír pointed out. “Is he planning on making it a family venture, then? And why in the Borderlands? Wouldn’t he be better off in the Southland, with the rest of his kind?”

“Hmm, now there’s an interesting point,” Aliya replied with a smile. “He’s … not exactly like the humans you know. But before I tell you anything more, I have to know. Are you willing to be employed by a human?”

More intrigued than anything else now, Amdír nodded. No, he would have no troubles working for a human.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:28 pm

Trouble on the Ranch
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: Midsummer (Construction complete)

The ranch had been complete for a while now, save that there was still no one living in the ranch house, overseeing everything. Ulani and Ulrich had left it to Donovan to find someone who would fill that position. However, they made a point of going to the ranch nearly every day to make sure things were going as they were supposed to. Aliya had requested several times to be allowed to live in the ranch house temporarily, until the time when the overseers would arrive, but Ulrich refused firmly. Despite her protests that she could take care of herself, there was no way he was going to let her live alone completely surrounded by dozens of men.

Aliya made sure that she came to the ranch every single day, no matter whether her parents came or not. There were four mares with foal at the moment, and she wanted to check up on them as much as she could, make sure everything was going all right – they were her first official breedings, and she was anxious to make sure she didn’t fail in any way.

She had met most of the people on the ranch already, but the group of fighters had only been hired recently, and she didn’t know most of them. She spent quite a bit of time with Almír, the trainer, since of course they worked together quite often, and though it had taken a while he was starting to relax when they spoke together – though he was still rather reserved and quiet, something that Aliya, no matter how much she tried, could not understand. She had seen him more animated with other people, but the moment she approached him, no matter how friendly she was with him, he always seemed to … shut down.

Still, she liked spending time with him.

Things had changed slightly since the ranch had first begun operating. Aliya was now sixteen years old, and, as Ulani liked to put it, becoming an adult had gone to her head. She kept no curfew, made plans without her parents, and often forgot to tell them when she was leaving the valley. Needless to say, Ulrich and Ulani were growing more and more concerned about her, especially as Adonai, now ten, was constantly demanding to know why Aliya was able to do so much more than he, and got to spend so much time with the men at the ranch.

Aliya was pretty much unaware of her parents’ concerns, however. When they complained that she spent too much time at the ranch, she replied that she had an obligation that required her to be there. When the said she didn’t spend enough time with them, she replied that they had just as much an obligation, and why didn’t they just come with her?

Aliya was living her dream. Breeding horses for a living, close to but not at home, she was experiencing, in a word, bliss.

She was heading home one evening, humming softly to herself, her eyes on the gorgeous sunset, when she was startled by someone calling out to her. She looked around curiously to see who it was and was surprised to see an elf – one she didn’t recognize, meaning he was probably a fighter – lounging against the base of a tree. He was badly scarred, almost disfigured, and heavily armed, but Aliya felt no fear. Instead, she was intrigued, and she moved to speak with him.

“What’s your name?” she asked him brightly, examining him more closely as she approached him. Despite his appearance, she noted, he had kind eyes.

He rose to his feet and made an elaborate, exaggerated bow. “My name is Halmír,” he replied in a rich, deep voice. He straightened, then reached for one of Aliya’s hands and knelt on one knee. “And you, fair maiden, are the lovely young lady in charge of breeding these fine horses, are you not?” He kissed the back of her hand. “Charmed to meet you.”

Aliya giggled and had the grace to blush, though she had no doubt in her mind that the man was indeed joking with her. “My name is Aliya Aldrich,” she replied with a smile. Then she asked, “You’re one of the fighters, aren’t you? I haven’t seen you before … but then, I didn’t hire any of the fighters, Mum and Ada did.”

“Oh, it was your mother who hired me then, was it?” He stood again, though he did not relinquish her hand. “Also a beauty. I can see where you get it from. But she is of the Southland elves, is she not? Though your father is a Westlander.”

“Half,” Aliya smiled, gently pulling her hand away from him and clasping it behind her back with her other one. “My brother is as dark as she is, though. We don’t think of ourselves as either Westlanders or Southlanders, though, we’re just plain elves.”

“I see,” Halmír nodded, examining Aliya closely. He paused, then murmured, “Tell me, Aliya Aldrich of the Borderlands, have you ever had your likeness taken?”

Aliya shook her head, no.

“By the Valar,” the man breathed, holding up his hands and making a sort of frame around her face, “you make the most beautiful image ever … the fiery gold of your hair would melt any heart on its own, but as I see you now – alas! You are the radiant sun, far removed from any being’s grasp …”

Aliya laughed lightly, amused by the elf. “Don’t tease me so!” she chastised him. “You’re being silly.”

“Nay, my lady,” Halmír grinned, “I speak naught but the truth.” But he laughed along with her. “In all seriousness,” he added, his tone changing slightly, “would you do me the honour of allowing me do draw your likeness? I am a connoisseur of beauty, and I, my dear, believe you to be among the most beautiful maidens that I have ever seen.”

Aliya didn’t know how to respond. Never in her life had she heard words like these before, and it struck her as odd that they would come from a fighter, of all people, let alone a fighter as badly disfigured as he was. Still, she was convinced that he was joking, and in the same sort of joking manner she consented. She promised to meet him again the next day at this very same spot just as the sun was beginning to set, and although she had no doubt that he would be there as well, she seriously doubted that he would have any drawing tools with him.

~~~~~

Amdír was confused the next day when Aliya left him to return home earlier than usual, but she gave him no explanation whatsoever and left him with nothing more than a “Good night, I’ll see you tomorrow!”

As expected, Halmír was where he had promised to be, but contrary to what Aliya had expected, he had indeed brought several large sheets of thick paper with him and a collection of drawing instruments. He broke into a wide smile when he saw her coming, though with the scars on the one corner of his mouth it almost looked more like a sneer, or a grimace. Aliya smiled back, however; she was pleased to see him, though she was a little confused now. Was it possible, she wondered as she greeted him warmly, to ever know the difference between when he was serious and when he was joking? Or had he always been serious?

He started out by posing her. He asked her to sit on the ground on one side of the tree, and adjusted her posture until she had one leg out, one bent, and was resting her chin on her raised knee with both arms wrapped around her leg. He played with her hair a bit, putting some of it in front of her, having most of it cascade down her back, curling some and leaving some. When he was finally satisfied he leaned against a nearby tree and picked up his tools, and began to draw.

They remained like that for nearly three hours, passing the time with idle chatter, Halmír constantly making comments about some aspect of her that made her laugh or blush.

“If I could have but a lock of your golden tresses,” he would murmur wistfully as he sketched, “I would be the happiest elf in Arda.” Or, “The blood of Varda herself must flow in your veins.” Or, “You are indeed a creature with the beauty of the stars … I can see them in your eyes.”

When the light began to fade, Aliya rose to her feet and stretched the cramps out of her muscles. “I have to get home,” she smiled to Halmír apologetically, moving to see how far he had gotten.

He hid the picture so that she couldn’t see it and jumped nimbly to his feet as well. “When it’s finished, you shall see it,” he teased her, his gray eyes dancing. “But until then … will you come again tomorrow, fair maiden?”

Aliya pouted a bit, then laughed softly. “Of course I will,” she giggled. “I want to see the finished picture!”

“Until tomorrow, then,” Halmír smiled, bowing over her hand and kissing the back of it again.

“Tomorrow,” Aliya agreed, pulling her hand back and waving. With a laugh, she headed off into the growing darkness. She was joined shortly by Amdír, and was surprised by the fact that she hadn’t heard him. Then again, he was always quiet. What was more surprising was the fact that he had sought her out at all: she had always had the impression that he didn’t care for her at all, since he rarely if ever spoke to her. For that matter, he hardly looked at her, either, and while she had found it annoying, all those potential employees who hadn’t looked away from her, she now found herself wondering if there was something wrong with her, or at least, if Amdír thought there was, as it seemed he was doing his best not to look at her.

“Hello, Amdír,” she said softly, her tone filled with surprise, as he fell into step beside her. “Is something the matter? Has something happened to one of the horses?” She stopped anxiously.

“No,” he said quickly, reassuringly. “No … nothing like that. I … I just … was wondering …” Even in the descending night Aliya could see that his face was flushing a bright red. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I … was … was wondering if … would you mind … if I walked you home?”

“Not at all,” Aliya smiled. “I would be glad of the company.” It wasn’t like it was a long walk, only about an hour; but still, she was curious to know why he wanted to come with her in the first place. He probably wanted to talk to her father, she reasoned, and since Ulrich hadn’t gone to the ranch that day it was probably something urgent.

They traveled together in silence for a while. For the first time ever, Aliya couldn’t think of anything to say. She had spent almost the entire day with Amdír, and these were almost the first words that he had spoken to her, and definitely the first time he had spoken to her without her asking him a direct question first. It was odd enough that it left her completely at a loss of what she might say, what conversation she might attempt.

She was even more surprised when Amdír began a conversation – or a semblance of one.

“So … you … and Halmír,” he murmured nervously. “You … um … are you seeing each other?”

“Only for a few days now,” Aliya nodded, completely misinterpreting his meaning. “He’s nice, even though he looks so scary. He’s drawing my likeness, but I don’t know if he’s any good or not, he won’t let me look at it until it’s finished.”

“I … I see,” Amdír nodded, looking away and clearing his throat again.

And once more, the conversation died. This time, the silence lasted until they reached Aliya’s house. Once there, Amdír cleared his throat again and murmured, “Well … you’re home safely. I’ll … I’ll see you again … tomorrow.”

Aliya watched Amdír in confusion as he turned to leave without anything further. He certainly was acting strange …
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:30 pm

A Little Misunderstanding
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: Midsummer

It had been a quiet summer so far, and Ulrich was content with the way things were going at the ranch. It was their first summer in operation and, despite not being quite prepared for their first winter, things had gone just fine. He and Ulani made sure to keep a good eye on things, and as far as either of them could tell, everything was working out perfectly.

But one day when Ulrich was checking on the training of the yearlings, he was surprised to find Amdír in a strange mood. The man was always quiet, but on this day he was quieter than usual.

“Something wrong?” he asked Amdír worriedly.

Amdír shook his head as he touched the coiled rope to various parts of the yearling’s body. “No, sir,” he replied softly, “I suppose I’m just thoughtful, is all. Worried, I guess.”

Ulrich was immediately concerned. “About what?”

Amdír looked at Ulrich anxiously. “I’m not sure that it’s my business, sir …”

“Please, tell me,” Ulrich invited. “I have to make sure everything here goes smoothly – your problem is my problem.” He leaned against the wall of the pen and smiled kindly, hoping to put the nervous man at ease.

Amdír looked at Ulrich as if still considering whether or not it would be wise, but nodded to himself certainly. “I’m worried about Aliya,” he said quietly. “She’s … I know it’s not my business, sir, but I’m a little worried about that one elf she’s been seeing.”

Ulrich froze, his eyes fixed on Amdír, and for several long moments he didn’t say a word: then he coughed slightly and murmured, “Seeing someone?”

Amdír blinked. “I – I’m sorry, sir, I thought you knew,” he said nervously. “I-it’s Halmír … the fighter … she-she’s been seeing him for nearly two weeks already …”

Ulrich’s face darkened, and without another word he headed off in the direction of the barracks. This was indeed something he hadn’t heard about, Aliya hadn’t mentioned a word about it … and a fighter … Halmír of all people! The man was an excellent fighter, but sometimes Ulrich wondered if all those battles and head injuries hadn’t left him a little touched in the head. At the very least, one of them should have said something to either Ulrich or Ulani! Yes, Aliya was an adult, but she was still their daughter!

He found her sitting beneath a tree on the northern border of the ranch, looking anxiously into the woods as if waiting for someone. His temper flashed again, but he moved silently behind her and folded his arms across his chest. He remained silent, waiting for her to notice him.

Almost immediately, she jumped to her feet and whirled around, and her expression when she saw her father changed from excitement to surprise.

“Ada!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Ulrich replied evenly, though his eyes were blazing. “What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for Halmír,” she said slowly, confused. “Why?”

“How long have you been seeing him?” Ulrich exploded furiously. “Why did you say nothing to your mother or me? I would have thought that our warnings might have been enough, but apparently not! I thought you were smarter than this!”

Aliya blinked. “Smarter than what?” she asked, insulted. “For crying out loud, Ada, it’s only been a few weeks, and I really don’t see any reason to involve you or Mum! What’s there to warn against? He’s a nice guy!”

“So they all seem,” Ulrich seethed, “until they show what they’re really like.”

“What, are you going to fire him just because he wants to draw my likeness?” Aliya shot back, also angry now. “Seriously! If you’re going to be like this all the time, maybe I shouldn’t tell you anything! I’d never be able to talk to anyone!”

Ulrich blinked, completely taken aback. “Your … likeness?” he questioned.

Aliya nodded angrily. “We meet here at sunset, I pose, he draws until the sun’s gone, and then I go home! Honestly, I don’t see what’s so wrong with that! He likes to draw, and I’ve never had anyone draw me before!”

Now Ulrich was completely confused.

“But … you said you were seeing him …”

“Every day for the past two weeks so that he can work on the drawing!” Aliya snapped. “What’s the big deal?”

Ulrich stared. “Then … you’re not … dating?”

Aliya slapped her forehead in disbelief. “Where in Arda did you get that idea?” she demanded. “Seeing someone doesn’t mean you’re dating, Ada, or else I’d be dating everyone else on this ranch, too!”

Now Ulrich was at a loss for words. He wasn’t sure what world Aliya lived in, but sometimes it seemed as though she was more than a world away from this one. Still muttering to himself, he returned to the training pen to finish his work.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:41 pm

Welcome to the Overseers
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: Late summer

Adonai burst into the house, completely out of breath, his thin chest heaving with exertion. His dark eyes were wide and anxious, and he ran into the kitchen at full speed, running into Ulani and nearly knocking her over, sending the cup she was carrying flying, spilling water all over the floor.

“Adonai!” Ulani shouted, exasperated. “Be careful!”

“S-sorry,” Adonai panted, holding the back of a chair for support as he tried to regain his breath. “B-but-but Mum – th-there’s peo-people coming!”

Ulani stopped as she was kneeling to wipe up the water. “People?” she repeated curiously. “From the ranch, you mean?”

Adonai shook his head violently. “Different people!” he exclaimed. “People I’ve never seen before! They’re like you and me, Mum! Like us!”

Southlanders? Ulani thought with surprise. Who in the Four Lands could it be?

“Where are they?” she asked her son, standing again and dusting her knees. “I’ll go meet them.”

“They’re coming here!” Adonai exclaimed. “They’re almost here already!”

What!?!” Ulani blinked and ran towards the door, heading outside to see who it might be.

Just as Adonai had said, two Southland elves were fast approaching the house on horseback. One was a man, and one was a woman, and Ulani only recognized one of them; but she saw who it was she broke into a wide smile.

“Adonai,” she said softly, putting one hand on her son’s head, “please call your father home and let him know we have some important guests.”

Adonai nodded, and a moment later he said, “He says he’ll be back as quickly as he can.” He blinked up at Ulani curiously. “Should I call Aliya back, too?”

“No,” Ulani replied quietly. “She can meet them tonight when she comes home.”

“Okay.” Adonai nodded and turned to watch their visitors’ approach.

When they were close enough, Ulani waved and called out, “Welcome back, Elrohir!”

Elrohir waved back, grinning widely, but instead of calling a greeting in return, he first turned to the woman riding with and spoke with her. Only then did he look back at Ulani and call out, “It looks like your family has grown again, Ulani!”

Ulani smiled widely. “More than you know,” she called back. “But it looks as if that’s not all that’s changed." She looked at the woman curiously as the two travelers dismounted and continued to approach the house on foot. “Who is this?”

Elrohir grinned, then chuckled softly and slipped one arm around the woman’s shoulders, giving her an affectionate squeeze. “Ulani,” he replied, “this is my wife, Haradhel.”

Haradhel smiled, then laughed at the look on Ulani’s face. “It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said sincerely, bowing her head politely. “Elrohir’s told me about you and Ulrich … but I thought your son was older?”

“Adonai is eleven,” Ulani replied, recovering from her shock. “We no longer have any other sons.”

Her words were met with an awkward silence, and after a moment Elrohir murmured, “I’m sorry.”

Ulani smiled. “Perhaps we’ll see him again,” she said cheerfully, “and as you said, we do have more children again. We’ll be all right.”

Adonai, meanwhile, was looking way up at Haradhel who, despite how tall Adonai himself was growing, was much, much taller than he.

“How did you grow so big?” he asked her, his tone filled with awe.

Haradhel laughed. “Why, thank you – I think,” she smiled down at him. “I’m sure you’ll grow tall someday as well, perhaps even taller than I am. You’re quite tall already, after all, and still very young.”

Adonai grinned and flushed with pleasure, and Ulani smiled down at him before looking back at Elrohir and Haradhel. “So how long have you been married?” she asked them curiously.

“Few weeks,” Elrohir replied. “We married only a few days before we headed out here.”

Ulani blinked. “So soon afterwards? Why? Why come out here at all, for that matter? We haven’t seen you since you were here with Triton and Elnara …” She bit her lip, wondering if it had been a good idea to mention his estranged sister – the one he had estranged.

Elrohir smiled again. “I haven’t traveled at all since then,” he replied. “And that reminds me – you’re supposed to expect Triton and some of Donovan and Kara’s other children sometime in the future. Couple of mers, I think he said …”

“And Lin,” Haradhel put in. “Don’t forget Lin.”

“And Lin,” Elrohir amended. “Yes. Anyways, why we’re here … Donovan asked us if we wouldn’t mind overseeing his ranch. Of course, we thought it would be prudent if we married before we came, rather than come all this way without being married.”

“And I think your grandmother would have been disappointed if she wouldn’t have been able to perform the ceremony,” Haradhel added seriously.

Elrohir nodded in agreement. “I think she was a little hurt when Gion told her he didn’t want a ceremony to get married – we don’t even know whether or not he is, yet. Do you know?”

Ulani nodded. “He’s been married for years already,” she replied softly. “Serenity … your mother’s been visiting them quite often. Every time she comes back with more news of them, though Gion hasn’t been back here since … a very long time ago. Before he even got to know Nadya.”

She stepped to the side and gestured towards the still-open door. “Come in, have a drink,” she invited them. “Ulrich will be back soon, and then we can go over the business of the ranch.”

~~~~~
It was a while before Ulrich found the chance to finish his work and leave the ranch, and when he finally did, he hurried home as quickly as he could. He spoke with Adonai as he went, using the thought transference that both of them shared.

Who are our guests? he asked his son as he ran through the trees. The sun was already setting, and he would be lucky to make it home before dark.

Some people from the Southland, came the reply. I don’t know their names, I forgot them. They’re the new overseers for the ranch, though, apparently Donovan sent them.

The Southland? Ulrich knew that Donovan knew some people in the Southland, but he didn’t know how many, or who they might be – which meant that really whoever it was who had been appointed to the job could be literally anyone at all.

He supposed he would see.

What can you tell me about them? he asked Adonai, not only for conversation on the trip, but also so that he would know something about the new overseers before he actually came face to face with them.

They’re married, his son’s voice came back to him, and they got married right before they came here … they’re really tall, Ada, taller than most of the people from the ranch, even. The lady’s real skinny, though. But they’re really nice, really funny … kind of like you and Mum.

Ulrich chuckled to himself. Well, it sounded as though they would get along with these elves just fine.

When he finally arrived back home, it was indeed well past dark, and he headed inside quickly, reminding Aliya with a brief thought to return home soon.

The moment he stepped inside, he stopped in his tracks, staring at the elves who were sitting comfortably in his living room.

“Hello, Ulrich,” Elrohir said brightly, rising to his feet. He put one hand on the woman’s shoulder and added, “Ulrich, this is my wife, Haradhel. Haradhel, Ulrich.”

Haradhel rose and bowed her head to Ulrich. “Pleasure to meet you,” she smiled. She tilted her head curiously. “From the look on your face I’d say you either weren’t expecting us at all, or were expecting something different from us.”

Ulrich cleared his throat and coughed slightly. “Well, both,” he admitted. “I mean … Adonai said the people who were here were … really nice … and really funny …”

“Hmm,” Elrohir said thoughtfully, turning to Haradhel and sitting again. “I think he must have us confused with the other visitors. What do you think?”

“I think you used to be a real jerk,” she replied evenly, shrugging and leaning against the back of the couch. “How anyone could stand you before, I’ll never know. All these horror stories I keep hearing …” She winced.

“Yeah, I know,” Elrohir grinned. “Damn you for changing me so radically.”

“Ah, there we go,” Haradhel laughed, looking back at Ulrich. “It’s all my fault you can’t recognize him anymore. Blame me.”

“Or I could just thank you,” Ulrich laughed, sitting in a chair opposite the two. “Wow … Elrohir married … I would never have thought if of you, I have to admit.”

“What, because I was an ignorant idiot?” Elrohir questioned. “I freely admit I have to agree with you, but I also have to admit that I didn’t even realize how bad I was until I met Haradhel.”

“Then you, Haradhel, have my sincere and humble gratitude,” Ulrich grinned, “first for being able to stand this guy the way he used to be, and second for changing him so that everyone else can stand him, too.”

Ulani entered from the kitchen, bearing a tray of drinks and laughing. “I think Serenity would be happy to hear about the change as well,” she grinned. “She was always worried about him. She wasn’t too impressed with him the last time she saw him.”

“Wait,” Elrohir protested, “I haven’t seen her since I was a kid! I wasn’t bad then, was I?”

“Actually,” Ulani corrected him, “you saw her a lot more recently than that. Do you remember when you were here with Elnara and the Winters? Well … she traveled with you for a while. But knowing what you were like then, she didn’t show herself.”

“Show herself …”

“It’s no freak accident that Elnara is a shapeshifter,” Ulani told him, raising one eyebrow. “Had you never wondered why your mother would leave? Why she wouldn’t return, even after it was safe for her to do so? She loves you all, but she knew that you would never take her back.”

“Are you saying that Lady Serenity is a shapeshifter as well?” Haradhel questioned, just to make sure of what she was hearing.

Ulani nodded. “She has been since she was a child, and though she almost single-handedly ended the war, almost everyone who knew about her rejected her. That’s why she and your father, Elrohir, went to live at the destroyed plantation rather than stay in the city, once they had gotten Elnara back. Besides Lex and Laer, who didn’t care about what she is, no one else there even knew; but many people in the city knew, and they did what they could to make her life miserable. She was forced to leave when you were all still so young, but when she saw you after you had found Elnara back again, she knew that even if it was safe, she could never return home. You would never have accepted her.”

Elrohir looked as if he were about to protest, but he remembered suddenly the way he had reacted when he had discovered that his sister was a shapeshifter. No, Ulani was right. He would not have accepted her.

“And Ruel is still the same,” Haradhel murmured softly. “It’s sad … I know many of the others would love to see their mother again …”

“As would I,” Elrohir added. “Still …” He looked at Ulani curiously. “How was she traveling with us?” he asked her anxiously. “I had no idea …”

“She never meant you to have any idea,” Ulrich replied with a frown. “As for Ruel, nothing will ever change him. It’s best not to tell him.”

“In answer to your question,” Ulani interrupted, “your mother was the moor cat that traveled with you. She also saved your neck when you were attacked by those slave traders, in case you didn’t know.”

Elrohir shook his head slowly. “No,” he agreed quietly. “I hadn’t known. I don’t remember much of that fight, or what happened afterwards. I was out for nearly a week.”

“And apparently you were very entertaining,” Ulrich grinned. Ulani frowned and smacked him upside the head, and he cried out in surprise and pain. “Ow! Hey! It’s true!”

“Fine, but don’t be so mean about it,” she retorted. “Honestly. Sometimes I feel as though I have three children instead of two. You’re as much trouble as Aliya.”

“Someone say my name?” an excited voice called from the door. Aliya stepped inside and closed the door behind her and clapped her hands when she saw Elrohir and Haradhel sitting there. “Guests!” she exclaimed. “Hi! I’m Aliya! Who are you? Where are you from? What brings you here?”

“Aliya, now our eldest,” Ulani introduced her to the others. “Aliya, this is Elrohir and Haradhel Aldrich. Serenity is Elrohir’s mother.”

“Oh, neat!” The young woman smiled brightly and hopped over the back of the second couch, where she settled in comfortably. “Are you going to be taking care of the ranch? Living there and everything? I can show you around, introduce you to everyone, I know everyone there. It’s a really nice place.”

Haradhel laughed. “Indeed we are,” she assured Aliya with an amused smile. “And we would love for you to show us around.”

“I think it would be best if we did the introducing, though,” Ulrich interjected cautiously. “I want to make sure it’s done properly, that they’re given the respect they should be getting.”

“Right,” Aliya nodded, examining the two of them closely. “You’re prince and princess of the Southland, aren’t you?”

Elrohir nodded. “I don’t know how much that counts out here,” he added, “but I wonder if Donovan hadn’t thought of that … I think it probably would demand more respect from people than if we were nobodies.”

“True,” Haradhel agreed, “though it still feels strange to me, the idea of it.”

“At any rate, why don’t you stay here for tonight?” Ulani suggested. “Tomorrow we’ll take you to the ranch, introduce you to everyone properly. It would be a bit strange to have you go and stay there tonight already when no one’s seen you at all yet or knows who you are. It could start some trouble.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Elrohir agreed. “Where would you like us to sleep?”

“Why not in the other house?” Ulrich put in. “It’s empty, has been for years, and I’m sure you’ll sleep fine there. It’s quiet.”

“Then perhaps we could go there right away,” Haradhel suggested in turn. “It was a long journey, I’m eager to sleep in a bed again.”

Ulani turned to her daughter. “Aliya …”

Aliya was already on her feet and heading for the door. “I’ll show them where it is,” she grinned. “Follow me!”
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:42 pm

Overseers, Meet Haven
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: Late summer

When Ulrich knocked on the door of the second house early in the morning, Elrohir and Haradhel were already ready to go, their bags already packed and at the door. Ulrich blinked when he saw them, then laughed at the two.

“That eager to get out of here?” he joked. “We’re not that bad company, are we?”

“Not at all,” Elrohir assured him with a smile, “we’re just eager to see where we’re going to be living, is all.”

“And to meet the people we’ll be living with,” Haradhel added, picking up her bag and slinging it on her back. She picked up the second bag and held it out for Elrohir, who took it and slung it over his shoulder.

Ulrich shrugged. “Good enough,” he grinned. “Come on.”

Their horses were waiting for them, and all three of them mounted quickly, and Ulrich led them off in the direction of the ranch.

It was still early when they arrived, but nearly everyone was already at their jobs. There were, of course, a few fighters who weren’t on duty – they took shifts, after all – and those who were free (and awake) headed over to see who Ulrich had brought with him. None of them had seen Southlanders since the war, those who had seen Southlanders at all, and Ulrich had never brought anyone new to the ranch since those working there had been hired.

As it was, they hadn’t been on ranch property for more than about thirty seconds when Elros, one of the fighters, approached them directly, his face expressionless. “New recruits?” he asked softly, examining the two. “Or more?”

“Your new overseers,” Ulrich replied with a nod. “Prince Elrohir and Princess Haradhel Aldrich of the Southland.”

“Out here we’re just Elrohir and Haradhel,” Elrohir put in quickly. It was possible that the Westlanders wouldn’t recognize their status anyways, considering that they had no royal authority over them anyways, but it was best to at least show that they were willing to act as if their status was no different than that of the workers themselves. And who knew? Perhaps there were those here also of a noble lineage.

He wasn’t sure why, but Elros was smiling at him. The man’s eyes were such an icy blue that Elrohir couldn’t help but feel unsettled … it seemed as though the man was looking through him into his very depths. Finally, the man spoke.

“Welcome to Haven, my Lord and Lady,” he said softly, bowing his head respectfully. “I hope that you find all things well.”

Haradhel smiled warmly at him. “Thank you, sir,” she replied. “I’m sure everything will be wonderful.”

Ulrich brought them around to the rest of the ranch and introduced them to everyone that they met, and everyone was as kind and respectful to them as Elros had been – but not quite as creepy. It was past noon by the time they eventually made it to the house, but Haradhel insisted that they complete the tour before stopping for lunch.

Pretty much the only room that was fully furnished was the dining room, though the kitchen was ready for immediate use. There was an enormous room opposite the dining room, but it was perfectly empty save for some shelves that lined the walls. The second floor was made up entirely of bedrooms of various sizes, and each one had a bed with a mattress and pillow (or two pillows for the larger beds). There were no blankets or sheets, however, and by the time they headed up to the third floor Haradhel was actually feeling some sort of trepidation for what might still lay ahead.

The third floor, however, made her feel more at ease. There was a suite of rooms for her and Elrohir (bed and bath), and these rooms were furnished and even slightly decorated. There was a large study for them to use as well, with a desk for each of them, for the paperwork that the two of them would have to look after during their time there. That made up one half of the floor. The other half of the floor was again bedrooms, though these ones had a bit more furnishing than the second floor rooms: they had full-length mirrors on the backs of the doors, and each of the beds also had sheets and blankets.

“We’re just waiting on a shipment from Tavari,” Ulrich said from where he was standing behind them, “and then we can finish the rest of the rooms as well. Oh, that reminds me.” He rummaged in the bag on his shoulder and pulled out a sheet of paper and a pencil. “Write down anything you need and we’ll get it ordered on the next shipment.”

Elrohir nodded and took the paper and pencil. “Thanks,” he replied. “I’ll put our things away.” And with that, he took Haradhel’s bag from her and headed back to the room that they would be sharing.

Ulrich looked at Haradhel and smiled faintly. “Well?” he asked softly. “What do you think?”

Haradhel turned back to look at him again and returned the smile, though it was hesitant and wavering. “It’s … not quite what I expected it to be,” she admitted, “but as you said, once the next shipment comes we can finish everything else … and then I’m sure it will be more …”

She trailed off, trying to think of the word without making it sound as if she didn’t like the place.

“Homey?” Ulrich suggested. “Aye, I know it’s pretty impersonal at the moment, but keep in mind that no one’s lived in it yet. It takes people to make a house a home, and I’m sure you and Elrohir can do that just fine.”

Haradhel smiled warmly. “Thanks,” she murmured. “I guess it will just take some getting used to.”

“Don’t hesitate to change anything you feel like changing,” Ulrich urged her. “After all, this is going to be your home – change it to suit your will. You, more than anyone else, have to be comfortable here. This is where you’re going to be raising your own family, as well as taking care of other children. Make it your home. Make it comfortable for you and for Elrohir primarily.”

Haradhel nodded and felt better immediately. “Thanks,” she said again, sincerely and warmly. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Ulrich grinned. “Good. Because I have to go now, Ulani wants me back. Aliya, on the other hand, will be around until sunset, so if you need anything just call her. I’ll be back tonight to check on things. Until then, have fun!”
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:43 pm

A Bit of Advice
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: Late Summer

The sun was slowly sinking towards the horizon when Amdír brought the last horse back to the stable for the night. He had spent the entire day training – not unusual for him – but he had been even more intent in his work than he usually was. He knew why it was, but he would never admit exactly how much pleasure he had derived from spending just a few extra minutes with Aliya that morning. Sure, she had just been asking which horses would be best for complete beginners, but still …

As he left the stable again and was heading back towards the barracks for the night, he spotted Aliya, Feng and Ryu heading towards the forest to the west, and paused to watch them. Undoubtedly they were going to meet Halmír. Amdír was well aware of how much time Aliya spent with the man … though he would readily admit to anyone that he was relieved when Ulrich had reassured him that the two of them weren’t dating.

“A word of advice,” a soft voice broke his thoughts from behind him, “she’s never going to notice you if you don’t speak to her.”

Amdír turned to see Arthael, the only female fighter on the ranch, standing directly behind him. Her brown skin melted into the shadows that were growing longer by the minute, and despite the fact that she was so close to him, she was difficult to distinguish from them.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said quietly, watching her warily now.

A flicker of amusement crossed the woman’s dark face, and she laughed softly. “And they told me you were intelligent,” she murmured. “If you truly don’t know, you’re as dense as she is. Everyone on the ranch knows you’re in love with her, including her parents, except for her. And she won’t figure it out unless you try talking with her. Spend some time with her. Let her know how you feel.”

Amdír felt his face flushing, and he was glad of the growing darkness. “I can’t,” he admitted softly. “Whenever she’s near, I can’t speak at all. I don’t know how or why or … but my throat just kind of closes up …”

Arthael did not laugh, which surprised Amdír greatly, but instead she just smiled faintly at him, as though … she pitied him.

“You don’t have to talk her ear off or anything,” she told him gently. “I’m sure she does that well enough on her own … but … when she speaks to you, look at her. When she asks a question, answer her. Walk with her sometimes, talk with her about more than just the horses … she’s with the children of our employer today, but they are staying here tonight, from what I’m told … walk her home so that she’s not alone. I know you’ve done it before, it can’t be too hard to do it again, can it?”

Amdír thought about it for a moment and nodded sheepishly. “That’s true,” he agreed, his mind already trying to think of how he might approach her to ask her if she would mind. The problem was, of course, that he could think of many ways to begin a conversation with her – but when the time came, his mind went blank and he couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Arthael smiled at him, her single violet-blue eye sparking cheerfully, and clapped him on the shoulder. “See? Not so bad. Now go on and ask her, and I’ll see you later tonight.”

Amdír grinned back at her. Yes … he would do just that.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:44 pm

Good Friends ...?
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: Late Autumn

The day after Donovan, Cindy, Triton, Feng, Ryu and Lin had left, Aliya woke just as early as usual. She was already halfway to the river before she remembered that Feng and Ryu were gone, and she fought down her disappointment and turned around and headed back in the opposite direction, towards the ranch.

The walk seemed longer than usual to Aliya, and far too quiet. Despite the fact that it was only the first day that Feng and Ryu were gone, she already missed Feng’s endless chatter and Ryu’s quiet stoicism. They were, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the most entertaining people she had ever met – they even outdid Halmír.

The thought of Halmír cheered her slightly. He had returned with Donovan a day or two previous, and though she hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet with him again, she was certain that today they would be able to pick up on their previous sessions.

She made her cursory check on the mares and then helped Elberon brush all of them out and send them into the pasture. After a month with Feng and Ryu, she had almost forgotten her usual daily routine. She realized with a start that she hadn’t been visiting nearly as many people as she had used to – especially Amdír. The only time she had really seen him during the month that Feng and Ryu had been around was the night he had offered to walk her home, and then once or twice on business matters. She felt terrible about it – she liked him, after all, and liked to spend time with him, talking to him, even if he never talked back. She rather liked Lin’s idea – spend so much time with him that he would eventually get used to her and open up a bit – and she determined to set that theory to the test right away.

He was, as usual, out at the training pen with one of the younger horses. Aliya leaned her elbows on the edge of the pen and watched him for a while, deriving a small amount of pleasure just watching Amdír as he worked. She herself didn’t have any more real work to do unless something were to happen to one of the horses – which, thankfully, was a rare event.

Amdír, for his part, suddenly became very self-conscious the moment Aliya began to watch him. He worked the horse perhaps a bit harder than he would usually have done, and a bit longer, trying to postpone the moment when he would have to directly acknowledge Aliya’s presence. What would he say to her? He had no idea. His talk with Arthael was still fresh in his mind, despite the fact that it had taken place nearly a month previous, and he knew that she had been right … he had to say something to Aliya.

He just didn’t know what to say.

But when the horse began to complain about how much longer this training session was compared to the usual ones, Amdír had no choice but to let it cool down … which meant that he no longer had any choice but to verbally acknowledge Aliya’s presence. Yet even as he turned to face her, his face grew warm and his throat constricted, and he found himself yet again at a total and complete loss for words.

Luckily, Aliya was looking at the horse, not him.

“He seems a bit spirited today,” she commented, her eyes reflecting worry. “Is he all right?”

As she looked towards Amdír, he quickly averted his eyes and looked at the horse, which was now slowly circling the pen.

“I’m afraid I may have worked him a bit too long,” he replied softly, still looking at the horse. “I apologize. But he is perfectly healthy, don’t worry.”

There. He had answered one of her questions, and it hadn’t killed him. Good. Unfortunately, that had only been the beginning of Arthael’s advice, and Amdír was painfully aware of the fact – as well as the fact that he knew she was perfectly right.

Aliya looked worried, though of course Amdír still wasn’t looking at her and couldn’t see it. “That isn’t like you,” she said, her tone filled with concern.

Amdír wasn’t certain how to respond to that.

Aliya wasn’t finished, however. She climbed over the wall of the pen, careful not to startle the horse, and made her way over to where Amdír was standing in the center, his eyes resolutely fixed on the horse.

“Are you feeling all right?” she asked him, her voice almost dripping with concern.

Amdír swallowed hardly, his face hot and, he was certain, very red.

“Maybe you should rest as well,” Aliya suggested, putting her hand on his forearm in an attempt to get his attention. “After all, you work so hard every day … I don’t think you’ve taken a single day off since you first started to work here!”

She was right, of course. Amdír wasn’t one to take a day off unless it was absolutely necessary.

“I’m fine,” he told her finally. “Don’t worry about me.”

Aliya frowned and took the rope out of his hands. “I’ll put the horse away for you, you wait here for me. I’ll be right back.”

She wasn’t sure she trusted him to put the horse away and return without another one. He was always so dedicated to his work.

“And you had better still be here when I get back,” she added as she led the horse away.

Amdír wasn’t quite sure what to make of all of this. Did she expect him just to sit there for the rest of the day? It had only just begun – certainly not! And yet, what else would he do? After all, she had been correct in stating that he hadn’t taken a single day off since beginning to work on the ranch. It was after all his life, he had nothing else to do, really. Then again, now that Aliya was out of his sight, his breathing was becoming easier once more and his head was clearing.

Well, now what?

Aliya was back quite quickly, far more quickly than Amdír had expected or hoped. She was obviously pleased to see that he was still exactly where she had left him, and she smiled widely and hopped over the wall of the pen.

“Come on,” she grinned. “I’m going to show you what a day off means. And don’t worry, I told Elberon what’s going on, you won’t get into trouble or anything like that.”

That wasn’t exactly what Amdír had been worrying about, but he smiled and her as though it had been.

“So … what should I do?” he asked her, his face growing warm again. He cleared his throat awkwardly and turned away, certain that his face was bright red. He was fairly certain that he had just sounded very accusative, and sure enough, when he risked a glance back at Aliya, she looked hurt.

Unknown to him, of course, it wasn’t his tone that had taken her aback, but the fact that he had once again turned very sharply and very deliberately away from her.

Notwithstanding, she was determined to make him enjoy his day off. In all honesty, she really didn’t know what sort of things he liked to do, and so, she decided, he would just have to try everything.

“Come with me,” she smiled, darting forward and linking her arm with his. She was encouraged by the fact that he didn’t protest, and her smile broadened.

The question was, where first?

“It’s a warm day,” she commented to Amdír, looking up at the sun. “Let’s go swimming.”

Amdír stopped in his tracks, jerking Aliya to a stop with him.

“S-swimming?” he repeated, his face frozen in shock.

Aliya turned to face him, her own expression one of confused surprise. “Yes, swimming,” she nodded. “You … do know how, don’t you?”

Amdír nodded dumbly and allowed her to lead him on, his own thoughts elsewhere. He, of course, as a man, could easily swim in just a pair of pants and still be considered decent. She, on the other hand …

And yet, a tunic such as the one she was wearing would be too heavy for her to swim in, wouldn’t it?

His thoughts troubled him all the way to Ulrich and Ulani’s house, and he kept his eyes conspicuously on the ground just in front of his feet. Thankfully, Aliya remained mercifully silent for the entire walk, which allowed Amdír to calm himself a bit before their arrival.

By that time, he had managed to convince himself that Aliya would go inside and get changed before they went swimming … but no, she led him straight past the houses and right to the river’s edge.

At Aliya’s instruction, he took off his shirt and tossed it to the side so that it wouldn’t get wet. When he turned around again, Aliya was also in the process of removing her own shirt – Amdír turned bright red and turned his face away in embarrassment.

A moment later, he heard Aliya’s voice behind him again.

“Of, for Valar’s sake,” she said, sounding slightly annoyed, “it’s not as if I’m naked!”

Flushing even more furiously now, Amdír turned around slowly to see that beneath her tunic she had also been wearing an undershirt – a rather clingy undershirt, at that. But it had a very low neck on it, and didn’t even go all the way to the bottom of her ribs, and had no sleeves at all … Amdír realized very self-consciously that she was showing just as much skin as Feng.

“Uh, oh,” Aliya murmured, looking at him now in concern. “You look like you’re really getting overheated … it must be hotter out here than I thought!”

And with that, she placed one hand in the middle of his chest and pushed him backwards, shouting “In you go!” and grinning mischievously. Amdír fell backwards into the river and came up, coughing and spluttering, just in time to see Aliya dive gracefully into the water next to him.

Amdír pried his hair away from his face and tread the water as he waited for her to resurface, but he suddenly felt his ankles being tugged and he gasped for a quick breath of air before his head was pulled under the water once again.

As he resurfaced yet again, he saw Aliya floating next to him, giggling like mad.

“Come on, loosen up!” she grinned, splashing some water in his face. “I’ll race you to the bath house!” And before he could reply, she dove under the water once more and struck out for the small building located about a half-mile downstream.

By the time Amdír regained his wits, Aliya had already come up for air and gone under again. He struck out after her, keeping his own head above the water. He swam quickly to catch up with her, and by the time he did they were already halfway there, and he was too tired to pull any further ahead. He kept pace with her, though, and when she tried to come up in front of him to touch the bath house and claim victory, he laughed and grabbed her shoulders, putting all of his weight on her to force her down once more so that he could claim the victory instead.

He laughed when Aliya came up again, her face an expression of righteous indignation. “You!” she exclaimed, and she seemed so shocked that Amdír just had to laugh again.

Aliya darted forward and put her hands on Amdír’s shoulders to dunk him as he had done to her, but he grabbed her arms as well, and both of them ended up going under. Amdír swam out from under Aliya’s hands and headed over to the riverbank, where he crawled out and flopped on the grass to rest, exhausted by the race and his extended time under the water.

Only a few moments later, Aliya followed him, but rather than lay out flat she remained sitting. Her wet clothes clung stickily to her body, and Amdír averted his eyes self-consciously once more, well aware of the fact that Aliya was staring at him as openly as he wished he could just look at her.

“You sure know how to make it hard for a guy to take a bath,” a voice came suddenly from the bath house, surprising both of them. They both turned to see a young boy, about ten years old, frowning at them from just outside the bath house door. He looked surprised, but more surprising to Amdír was the fact that he looked like a miniature version of Ulani, with some of Ulrich’s features thrown in. He turned to Aliya in surprise.

She, on the other hand, was looking at the boy.

“Well, who takes baths in the middle of the morning, anyway?” she asked in a tone that said she was as surprised as he was. “Honestly, you should help out at the ranch a bit more, I don’t see why Mum and Ada don’t make you.”

“They’ve tried,” the boy frowned. “And I did come a few times to help Cindy.” Suddenly he frowned and snapped, “Hey, you! Quit gawking at my sister!”

Aliya blinked with surprise and looked over at Amdír, but he was looking at her brother. Of course he wasn’t staring at her, she scolded herself silently. He never looked at her!

“Don’t be stupid,” she reprimanded her brother aloud. “Amdír would never gawk, he doesn’t even ever look at me!”

Amdír was startled. Had he really made her think that way? He felt his face flushing.

He was spared the necessity of replying, however, because even as he was searching for the words to say, Aliya said, “Oh! I almost forgot! Amdír, this is my little brother, Adonai! Adonai, this is Amdír, our horse trainer.”

Amdír nodded his head to Adonai, but Adonai just glared at him. For some reason Amdír felt as though he were being assessed, and he wondered if even this boy, whom he had never met before and who he was certain had never seen him, knew about the way he felt about Aliya.

Knowing his luck, probably.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later,” Adonai said, finally breaking the awkward silence. He started to towel off his hair and headed back towards the house. As he passed by his sister, he muttered darkly, “And Aliya, get some clothes on.”

Amdír held back a chuckle as Aliya stuck her tongue out at her brother’s receding back, but stopped abruptly when she turned to look at him.

“What’s so funny?” she shot at him darkly.

“Nothing!” Amdír exclaimed hastily, holding his hands up in front of himself defensively.

Aliya calmed down somewhat and stared at him, her expression one of intense curiosity. “Were you really staring at me?” she asked him finally, her tone so fierce that Amdír shuddered to tell her the truth.

Nevertheless, he was an honest man, and though he knew he was blushing furiously, he nodded.

“Why?” Aliya asked, sounding completely and utterly perplexed. “I mean, you never ever look at me, it’s like you hate me or something!”

Amdír turned beet red right to the tips of his pointed ears.

“I don’t hate you,” he mumbled, barely audible. He hesitated a moment longer, then cleared his throat and added softly, “I … like you.”

Aliya sighed with relief and relaxed. “I’m glad,” she smiled at him. “Here I was worried that I was doing something to make you angry or something-”

“No,” Amdír interrupted her quickly. Now that he had started, he wanted to make sure that his feelings were understood, because if he stopped now, he knew there was a good chance he would never have the courage to try to tell her again. But what else could he say to get her to understand exactly what he had meant? He tried again: “I really like you.”

Aliya heard the change in the tone of his voice, and though she didn’t understand it, she had a strange feeling somehow.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” she asked curiously, only able, somehow, to glean that much from his tone.

Amdír almost did a face palm. Why did she have to make this so difficult for him?! Ironically, her childish innocence was one of the things that he loved about her. And yet …

He felt his eyes wandering, but far from looking where many others would, her wet clingy, revealing shirt, instead his gaze traveled along the ridge of her furrowed brow, her curious and innocent eyes, the soft curve of her nose, the fullness of her lips …

There was a droplet of water on the corner of her mouth, and he reached forward slowly, without thinking about it, and dabbed it away with the tip of his smallest finger. Suddenly, he realized what he had done and the implied intimacy of his action, and he withdrew his hand as if she had bitten it, blushing more furiously than he ever had before.

When he finally dared to look up at Aliya once more, she was still staring at him, but now her expression had changed to one of surprise. Her lips were slightly parted as she stared at him, and she slowly raised one hand to her mouth, pressing one finger gently against her lip where Amdír had touched her. Though she could not say exactly why, her heart was pounding inside her chest, and despite the fact that it was late autumn and she was still drenched from her swim in the cool water of the river, she felt strangely warm, especially in the face.

It was now or never, Amdír decided; and as he reached out to pry a strand of wet hair from her cheek, he murmured, “I love you.”
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:45 pm

To Tell Or Not To Tell ...
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: 1 Hrívë (First day of Winter)

Blue-green light reflected on the underside of the low, thick clouds, as the sun slowly peeked over the eastern horizon. Thick, white flakes fell from the sky, landing on an already white landscape, muting any sounds that came from the ranch. Thin, gray smoke drifted lazily from four different chimneys in the rooftop, the only hint of warmth in an otherwise frigid world.

An hour ago, there were faint tracks that led from the mountain-fenced valley and into the ranch, but now, despite the complete and utter calm, they had completely vanished: yet the maker of those tracks was still outside, just as invisible, but just as present.

White puffs of steam appeared in front of her mouth as she exhaled slowly, silently, watching and waiting patiently, her eyes not on the horse that was being led back towards the stables, but on the man who was leading it. His long, golden hair was white now from the snow, and that, coupled with his white winter cloak, rendered him nearly invisible, even to her elven sight.

She was waiting for him from the shelter of the training pen, sitting on the round wall, motionless and anticipant. It had been ten weeks since she had learned of his love for her, ten wonderful, glorious, and terrifying weeks. He had changed a great deal, at least in her eyes. Once shy, timid, and silent, unable to even look at her, now he gazed at her with such love in his eyes that even now she was at times taken aback by its intensity. She wasn’t certain whether or not she had changed. She had always liked talking to him, talking with him, spending time with him, learning about him, watching him … she had always thought, though, that it was nothing more than a challenge, trying to break his resistance towards her … she still loved to do all of those things, but now, she realized, it was because she too loved him.

At least, it was the only logical explanation she could come up with. Why else would her heart flutter every time she caught sight of him, or heard his voice, or heard someone mention his name?

A few minutes later, he reappeared, this time alone, and her heart beat faster once again. The corners of her mouth turned up involuntarily in a wide, excited smile, and she hopped off the wall and started forward to meet him.

He, of course, was just as anxious to get back to her – though he had to admit, he was also looking forward to the shelter of the pen as well. It may be the first day of winter, he thought, but winter had come early and hard, and even though the weather itself was fine, it was easily the coldest day of the year so far.

When he finally reached her, he smiled and pushed back the cowl of her cloak so that he could see her more clearly. He pressed his lips to her forehead, then brushed the back of his hand against one of her rosy cheeks.

“Your eyes are always so bright,” he murmured, taking her hand and leading the way back to the pen. “Come on, let’s get out of the cold.”

She laughed softly and walked close to his side. “It’ll be cold in there too, you know,” she pointed out, though it was more to tease him than anything else.

He glanced at her, his eyes sparkling mischievously over the love that was shining as well. “Well, I have an idea of how we could keep warm,” he murmured suggestively, releasing her hand and instead slipping his arm around her waist and drawing her close.

She giggled, but pushed him away gently, her already rosy cheeks growing slightly more red, and not from the cold. “Ada would kill you,” she murmured. “He already freaked out over a misunderstanding … think about it.”

“Then talk to him,” he sighed, lowering his eyes slightly. “Really, you should … or else I can, if you’re afraid to.” He didn’t understand why she would be, though, he was positive that her parents would be quite happy. He of course knew the story behind the misunderstanding, so he knew why her father had been so upset before.

“The longer we wait,” he added, looking at her pleadingly, “the more upset he’ll be, anyways.”

She looked thoughtful at that. She knew he was right, but it didn’t change things. No matter when she spoke with her father, she knew she would be afraid. Of course, his response would be determined by the way she approached him, by the questions that she asked him, and by the way she presented her current relationship.

“I’ll tell him,” she murmured softly, walking close to him once again and leaning her head on his shoulder.

For once, however, he didn’t put his arm around her: instead, he raised one hand and pointed into the distance. “Good,” he replied. “Because there he is.” He cleared his throat and climbed over the wall into the pen. “I’ll wait here for you.”

Suddenly feeling very alone and very frightened, she swallowed down a lump that had appeared in her throat and set out towards her father.

He seemed to be heading more south, towards the stables, but when he spotted her coming in his direction, he changed his course and also headed towards her. He was smiling widely – it wasn’t often anymore that he had the chance to see his daughter during the day, she always seemed to be so busy. It was rarer still that she sought him out, no matter what the time of day or night.

“Good morning,” he greeted her warmly, “it’s good to know you still live here!” He chuckled at his own joke, and to his great surprise, she laughed along.

Something was up.

“I have a question for you,” she said after they had both stopped laughing, which only served to confirm his suspicion. He merely nodded and smiled encouragingly, hoping that she would finally explain what had been causing her to act so differently that she had used to.

“Yes?”

She got straight to the point.

“When you were so angry last year about that misunderstanding” – she knew he would know what she was talking about – “was it because you thought I was dating without your knowledge or was it because of the person you thought I was dating?”

“Because of the person,” he replied promptly, without even thinking. “You’re a grown woman, I think you’re ready to find someone to love and to settle down and begin a family of your own.”

He paused. “Do you have someone in mind?”

When she hesitated, he frowned. “It’s not one of the fighters, right?”

She shook her head, no.

“Or a groom?”

Shake.

“Or a hunter?”

Shake.

“Or a gatherer?”

Shake.

He paused. “Trainer?”

Nothing.

Blush.

He chuckled and put one hand on her shoulder. “I thought so,” he smiled. “I have to admit, I was worried for a while. He’s a fine man, though, the only one that I can see as being good enough for you.”

He paused. “Just tell me one thing,” he murmured, putting his hand under her chin and raising it so that she was forced to look him in the eye. “How long?”

She cleared her throat.

“Ten weeks.”

Ah. So her brother had been right.

He let go of her chin and put his hand on her shoulder once more. “Tonight,” he told her softly, “bring him for dinner.” He waited until she nodded, then left her and continued on his way.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:46 pm

Dinner Interrogation
Location: Haven
Year: 51 F.A.
Status: Early Winter

Amdír had, over the past year, spent quite a bit of time with both Ulrich and Ulani during his time working on the ranch. He had also spent most of his time in the past eleven weeks with Aliya, both working and relaxing. He was very comfortable with all three of them, and so, he reasoned, if it had been only the three of them at this dinner, he would have been quite comfortable.

But then there was Adonai …

It had been nearly eleven weeks since Amdír and Aliya had begun dating, and nearly eleven weeks since Amdír had first seen Adonai, whom he had not met again since. The boy hadn’t changed at all in his attitude towards Amdír, and he stared at him continually, an expression of suspicion and distrust on his face.

Amdír was certain – or fairly certain at least – that that was the only reason he was feeling so uncomfortable.

Aliya was chatting away happily with her parents, oblivious to the looks that were being exchanged between her brother and her boyfriend.

“Ada said you were supposed to come for dinner a week ago,” Adonai said finally, setting his utensils aside and focusing all his attention on Amdír. “Why did you only come now?”

Amdír was confused. Why was the boy, who was only ten years old, being so hard on him? Had he done something wrong?

“The horses have been occupying us,” he replied softly, nodding his head in Aliya’s direction. “There have been seven foalings this week alone, and one of the mares came down with colic. Aliya especially has been busy, and there’s no point to me coming here without her.”

Adonai nodded slowly, then shrugged. “Still.”

Amdír half-wished he didn’t know Ulani and Ulrich so well, and that they didn’t know him. Being interrogated by them would have been preferable to the looks that Adonai kept giving him … they were more like glares than anything, and he didn’t know what he had done to deserve it.

“So Amdír,” Ulrich called him suddenly, startling him, “how’s that one yearling doing? I understand you’ve been having some trouble with him.”

Amdír cleared his throat awkwardly and nodded. “Aye, I don’t think he’ll ever be good for riding, he refuses to take anything on his back, whether saddle or elven. Perhaps we should look to train him for pulling a cart? He’s strong, he would be good for taking the children back to their homes.”

There were about a dozen children of various ages now living with Elrohir and Haradhel, and Vanya, since the snow prevented any gardening of any sort, had moved into the ranch house with them so that she could help out with them, since Haradhel was growing tired more and more easily, and Elrohir didn’t want her to work too hard or too long.

“If we can figure out where they’re from,” Aliya pointed out. “Most of them don’t even know the names their parents gave them when they were born.”

“But the older ones know which ones came from the same cities as them,” Ulani put in. “So we can at least know which city they’re from. If they can’t find their own parents back again, I’m sure they would at least find someone to take care of them.”

“But I still think we should leave the trip until spring comes,” Aliya added. “It’s far, no matter where you go first, and the weather isn’t good enough, not even for a trip on horseback. A cart wouldn’t get anywhere. Besides that, it’s too cold for the kids, they’d die in the state they’re in right now.”

“And there, I’m in full agreement,” Ulrich nodded. “I’ll speak to Elros about it in the morning.” With that matter settled, he turned once more to Amdír. “What about the others from last year’s foaling, how will they be for riding?”

“Good,” Amdír assured the man. “I haven’t had any trouble with any of them, so they should be ready for riding by the time Summer begins.”

“So are you going to marry my sister?” Adonai interrupted. He didn’t particularly care about the horses, and this was supposed to be – at least, according to him – a chance to get to know Amdír better.

Amdír, Aliya, Ulrich and Ulani all stared at Adonai.

For a long moment, there was silence. Then …

“I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself,” Ulani told her son plainly. “They’ve only known each other less than two years, they’ve only been seeing each other for a month.”

“But isn’t that what dating is all about?” Adonai pressed. “Finding out if it’s the person you want to marry?”

He had a simple view of things, a view that most others would find … too simple, too blunt.

“Yes,” Ulrich agreed with his son, “but it takes some time to be certain … after all, once you’re married, you’re stuck with that person for the rest of your life.”

Aliya was somewhat amused by this discussion, but Amdír was holding his head in his hands, trying to hide the redness of his face.

“Is that how you view being with Mum sometimes?” Aliya joked with her father, rather amused by the whole thing. “Being stuck with her?”

Ulrich chuckled and dodged Ulani’s open hand. “I never said it was a bad thing!”

Aliya laughed. “Come on, Adonai, you don’t have to be so critical,” she grinned at her brother. “Be nice!” The look she was giving him added, Or I’ll kill you.

Amdír looked up again just in time to see Adonai stick his tongue out at his sister, and Aliya stick her tongue out back at him. He chuckled, unable to help himself. He knew most people would say she was being immature or childish, but he loved the way she acted.

Ulrich and Ulani exchanged a glance, both of them smiling smugly.

“Yes,” Ulrich muttered, leaning close to his wife so that only the two of them would know what he was saying. “He’ll fit in right nicely. I give them a year.”

Ulani grinned. “Half that.”

Ulrich watched as Amdír put himself between Aliya and Adonai to prevent a fight from breaking out and nodded silently to himself. Yes, Ulani was probably right. Though he would never admit it aloud.

After all, a bet was a bet, no matter whether there would be any prize but satisfaction.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:47 pm

Candy Cane Delivery
Location: Haven
Year: 53 F.A.
Status: Mid-Winter

Lunch had been over for about an hour when Amdír entered the house – alone. It was snowing very hard outside by now, and the wind had picked up as well, and Haradhel, alone with the children in the playroom, was curious about all of this.

“Amdír?” she called out, struggling to her feet and stepping over Ahren (who was still asleep after the visit from Lin and Wish earlier in the day) to go out to the foyer to meet him. “Where’s Aliya? How are the mares? And the foals?”

Amdír turned to Haradhel, and he looked near exhaustion. “Aliya’s still working with the mares, as soon as the second one was born a third mare started foaling. So far two fillies, we’re hoping for a colt.”

And now to the business of his venture to the house.

“She asked me to ask you to have a bath ready for her in an hour’s time,” he requested, “nice and warm … and deep. Two, if it’s possible, she’s completely covered in blood already and she wants to get clean, not just sit in the blood. She says don’t let the kids see her, she’ll probably just scare them, and if it’s possible have extra clothes for her.”

Haradhel looked doubtful. “She doesn’t fit into my clothes anymore,” she pointed out. “She hasn’t ever, for that matter.” As tall as Haradhel was, Aliya was taller still.

“She doesn’t care,” Amdír replied immediately, as if he had been prepared for such an argument, “as long as it isn’t bloody. There are wolves in the area, if she goes home smelling like blood, even just the least bit, they’re bound to attack. I’ll be with her then, of course, but I’m not much for fighting, you should know that.”

A year ago, Haradhel would have suggested they remain on the ranch for the night, but now she knew better than that. They would refuse no matter what.

“She has her weapons?” she asked instead. “And you yours?”

Amdír nodded. “Though she’s so exhausted, I don’t know how well she would hold up in a fight,” he shrugged. “But … she has the Wishsong, so …”

“So she should be fine,” Haradhel nodded. “I understand. Still, be careful.”

“We will.”

And he buried himself inside his cloak once more and headed out into the storm, back towards the stable.

~~~~~

The stable was rather noisy that day. One, two, three mares in a row had chosen today of all days to foal, and as soon as one was finished, it seemed, another one started. Aliya prayed that this third one would be the last – her elvish ears could only take so much screaming, and she was beyond exhausted. She wasn’t the only one to suffer from it: Elberon, who was helping her, was having trouble with his own ears, as well as keeping the horse calm. Normally Aliya wouldn’t have any troubles – but she was too tired to sing anymore, and so she could not magically ease the horse’s foaling pains.

On top of everything, however, was a strange feeling that had begun in her lower stomach area. It was something she had felt only once before, when she had eaten some poison mushrooms and her mother had given her something to make her throw up and get rid of the poison.

Yet this time she had had nothing of the sort – why did she feel so queasy? It wasn’t as if this was her first foaling, she had been doing this for nearly a decade!

The horse screamed again, and she pushed her thoughts aside and swallowed down the bile, concentrating on the task at hand.

“Hold her head!” she ordered Elberon, adjusting her position behind the horse to better help the foal.

Elberon struggled to do as he was told, but it wasn’t easy.

“Can’t you calm her down with the Wishsong?” he asked desperately.

Aliya shook her head. “I’m almost completely out of energy,” she replied in a tone that matched her words exactly. “It’s all I can do just to sit up, for some reason.” Once again, she fought to keep from throwing up – that just wouldn’t do.

The minutes passed slowly, and finally Aliya was kneeling beside a brand new colt, rubbing it down and drying it off. Elberon continued to calm the mare, a suddenly much easier task, though he kept an eye on Aliya. Something wasn’t quite right with her …

Amdír, who had been checking up on the two fillies, now came over to lend a hand with the colt.

“Are you all right?” he asked Aliya quietly, noting how strangely pale she was, and how shaky.

She nodded dumbly, her skin very white next to the blood of the births that had just taken place. But as she opened her mouth to speak, her eyes widened slightly, and she clapped one hand over her mouth, jumped to her feet, and ran towards an empty corner, where she became suddenly, violently, sick.

Amdír was at her side immediately. “Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked worriedly. “You’ve never been sick before …”

Aliya tried to wipe her mouth, but her arms were covered in blood, so she used Amdír’s shirt instead.

“Let me bathe,” she panted tiredly, “and then we’ll see.” For all she knew it could just be exhaustion … but there was a chance …

“And I need to talk to Haradhel.”

Amdír nodded. Anything.

~~~~~

An hour later, Amdír was still waiting downstairs in the house for Aliya to finish her bath. She was taking far longer than usual, he noted with concern, and he wondered once again if she was all right. If Haradhel wasn’t already with her, he would have gone up to check on her himself. As it was, he was sitting in the playroom, sucking on the end of what Haradhel had called a candy cane, keeping an eye on the children who were quickly growing hungrier as the dinner hour drew nearer.

He hoped they wouldn’t be much longer.

And … they weren’t. Only a few short minutes later, the two women (he could never think of Aliya as a girl again, had not since they had been married) came down the stairs. Aliya was looking much better, in his opinion: her complexion was back to its normal dusky hue, and her eyes were bright once more – brighter than usual, in fact. She was wearing some of Haradhel’s clothes, but, as they were too short for her, her ankles and midriff were showing … not that Amdír minded.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

“Are you all right?” was the first question that came out of his mouth as he moved quickly to meet her at the bottom of the stairs.

Aliya only smiled widely and skipped the last step, jumping directly into Amdír’s arms and hugging him tightly. She whispered something in his ear, and his eyes grew wide and he stared at her incredulously.

“You’re kidding!” he exclaimed.

Aliya laughed and hugged him even more tightly. “We’re going to be parents!” she squealed. “Can you believe it? Us?”

Amdír hugged her back, silenced. Yes, he could believe it. As quiet as he was, he was just as excited as she. There was nothing that could have made him happier.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:48 pm

The First Real Orphan
Location: Haven
Year: 53 F.A.
Status: Late Stirring

It was a tired and skinny crew of kids that Donovan and Celeborn returned with this time – though that was nothing unusual. After all, these children had all had hard lives, some longer than others. There was one child in particular, though, that caught Celeborn’s attention: the eldest, but by far the most abused. She spoke very little, but from what the other children told him about her, that could be expected.

The child could barely walk. At all. And it was no wonder: her left leg was as un-straight as it could possibly have been. Worse, actually … apparently it had been broken – quite badly, the bone had broken completely in half and had not been set at all … he wondered if it would be healable. Probably not without re-breaking it … but he was certain there was something Ulani could do.

Of course, many of the children that had been rescued over the past few years had endured similar abuse, though none to the same extent – but what was so unique about this girl was the fact that she was the first child they had rescued of whom they could honestly say that there was no possible way for them to return her to her family even before trying.

The other children called her Shael, though no one knew if that was really her name. Even she herself didn’t know. She didn’t know anything about the time before her leg had been broken. They had only two clues: first, her age – they didn’t know her exact date of birth, only that she was at present eight years old – and second, that she was a Dark elf and had the power of the Wishsong – though nowadays that didn’t mean much. There were at least six Southland cities where she could be from, not to mention there were several places where people had settled along the rivers that she might have been from. On top of that, she could be from the Eastland – after all, since the end of the last war, both Westland and Southland elves has settled there. In addition, there was the problem that her parents probably wouldn’t recognize her – she had been gone for at least two years, and even the children said she looked nothing like what she had when she had first been brought to live with all of them. And last, but certainly not least, she wouldn’t recognize her parents even if they were face-to-face with her and claiming her, so how would they know if they were leaving her with the right family? Not to mention, with her handicap, even if her parents did recognize her, there was a chance – a slim one, but a possibility nonetheless – that they might no longer want her.

No, it was better not to give her false hopes.

But what then?

The rest of the children had spent the entire trip home talking about going back to their families, seeing their parents again, or their siblings, but during these discussions, Shael remained perfectly silent. Still, she didn’t let any emotion show, and only the aversion of her hazel eyes showed that she even heard the discussions of the other children.

Upon their arrival at the ranch, every one of the children looked around, their eyes filled with awe, at everything that was around them. Besides the many elves that were working in various places and in various states of attire, the buildings were quite impressive, as well as the pasture that could be seen behind the stables. As always seemed to be the case, the children seemed to be completely amazed by the sights they were seeing.

At the commotion outside, Elrohir and Haradhel came outside to collect the children from Donovan and Celeborn, followed by a group of children of all ages of both Light and Dark elven races. Elrohir went off with Donovan right away, and Haradhel set out to help Celeborn get the children into the house.

“Small group,” Haradhel couldn’t help but comment as she helped him take the children down from the horse they were riding on.

He had been expecting a comment like that – after all, it was true.

“They were a small group,” he replied, taking the children down one by one and setting them on the ground. “We checked around, there were no others in the area, else we’d have gotten them as well.”

When he got to Shael, however, he didn’t put her on the ground, but kept her in his arms. Haradhel shot him a questioning glance, but he just shook his head. She would see, after all, and there was no point in drawing attention to what was already a painful situation for the girl.

Then again …

“Let’s get them inside and give them some fresh clothes,” he suggested, flicking his long white hair behind his shoulders, “and then we can talk.”

An hour later, all of the children, Shael included, were dressed in fresh, warm clothes, and Haradhel knew each of them by sight and by name. She made a large tray of warm bread and butter and handed out glasses of ale, and once they were all sitting and eating contentedly in the dining room (though the children who had been there already were playing or working in the playroom), she turned to Celeborn and folded her hands patiently.

“So what’s her story?” she asked quietly, nodding at Shael, who was at the end of the table next to them.

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” Celeborn replied, equally quietly. “She knows your language, she’s quite the linguist. She knows all the languages, actually.”

Another reason it was so impossible to know where she was originally from.

Haradhel nodded and looked over at the girl. “Shael,” she called out, “can you come here, please?”

Silently, Shael dropped her food and slipped off the end of the bench and slowly, painstakingly, made her way over to Haradhel. She was barely able to walk, and managed to get there only by holding onto the table and using it as a rail of sorts. Haradhel was shocked that she hadn’t noticed this before: but then, with six or seven other children to take care of at the same time, she had been the only one to dress herself, so Haradhel hadn’t needed to help her at all. Not to mention, she was very quiet … unnaturally quiet.

“Yes, my Lady?” she said quietly, eyes downcast, as she came to a stop just next to Haradhel. Haradhel couldn’t help but notice that she was in the same position that the servants at the castle in the Southland had always been taught … eyes downcast, hands clasped just in front of her, exactly half an arm’s length away.

She had grown used to the children acting like servants at first when they came here, but this was … extreme.

“Take a seat,” she invited, smiling kindly at her and patting the bench next to her.

“Me?” Shael gasped, so surprised that she made eye contact with Haradhel, and her eyes grew wide and she looked down again. Her dusky face grew red, and Haradhel could see that she was trying very hard not to smile.

She laughed. “Yes, you,” she smiled widely. She budged over a bit and lifted the girl to the bench beside her, perfectly aware of the way she grasped her arms tightly in surprise and fright. She smiled again, trying to calm the girl and make her feel comfortable.

“So, why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself?” she suggested kindly, taking a cookie from the tray in the middle of the table and holding it out to the girl.

Shael eyed the cookie, and a gleam of longing appeared in her eyes, though she made no attempt to take the cookie from Haradhel.

“What would my Lady like to know?” she asked in a voice that made Haradhel wince.

Only a servant should speak in a tone like that, she thought to herself; and she put one hand under the girl’s chin and raised it slightly so that she was forced to make eye contact again.

“Before I ask questions,” she said softly, “I would like it very much if you would just call me Haradhel. It would make me feel as if I were your friend, wouldn’t you like me to be your friend?”

Shael looked thoughtful for a moment, then she nodded barely perceptibly.

Haradhel smiled and let go of the girl’s chin, then patted her on the head and tucked her hair behind her ear for her. After she had a bath, she mused, Shael would be quite pretty.

“What’s your name?” she asked, knowing perfectly well what it was. Her aim, though, was to get the girl talking, in hopes that it might make her more comfortable.

It seemed however to have the entirely opposite effect. The girl seemed to grow suddenly nervous, and she shot a look at Celeborn, who was sitting just across the table, as if asking him a silent question.

He nodded. “Go ahead,” he murmured gently. “It’s all right. She’s going to take good care of you.”

The girl stared at Celeborn a moment longer, then turned back to Haradhel and nodded once. “I don’t know my name,” she admitted softly, “no one does … but everyone calls me Shael.”

“That’s a pretty name,” Haradhel smiled. “Do you know why they call you that?”

Shael smiled faintly, so briefly that Haradhel wondered if she had imagined seeing it. “They say it is because I ask so many questions.”

Haradhel laughed. “That makes sense,” she grinned. “‘Inquisitive one’, correct?”

Shael blushed and nodded.

“Why don’t you tell me what you do know about yourself?” Haradhel encouraged her, still holding out the cookie.

“Well,” Shael said softly, still eying the cookie but still making no move to take it from Haradhel, “I’m eight years old but I don’t know when my birthday is, and … that’s it.”

“That’s it?” Haradhel was surprised. There had to be more! She noticed the girl staring wistfully at the cookie, and looked at it to see if there was something wrong with it.

“Don’t you want the cookie?” she asked, confused, lowering her hand a bit.

After a moment’s hesitation, Shael nodded.

“Then why don’t you take it?” Haradhel pressed gently.

Shael shook her head. “I can’t take it directly from my Lady’s hand,” she murmured, her eyes downcast once more. Her hands twisted in her lap, and one of them moved – seemingly instinctively – down to her left leg and started to rub it.

Haradhel stared at the movement. Interesting … did that mean something, she wondered. But she held out the cookie once more, and with her free hand she gently took hold of Shael’s wrist, moving her hand over the cookie.

“My name is Haradhel,” she told her again softly, gently, her eyes filled with sorrow. “And there is absolutely nothing to fear. When someone offers you something, you may take it directly from their hand. If you are hungry, you may ask for something to eat. If you are thirsty, you may ask for a drink. If you are tired, you may rest. If you so desire, you may play. If there is something you wish to know, you may ask. We want to help you, Shael. You are no longer with those men … you are safe, and you will be well taken care of.”

Shael looked up at Haradhel in astonishment. As far as she could remember, she had never heard those words, or any like them, in her life.

“Thank you!” she cried, jumping to her feet and bowing deeply: but even as her feet hit the floor, she stumbled and fell against the table. Haradhel reached out to steady her, carefully pulling her down onto the bench again.

“Here, let me look at your leg,” she murmured in concern, getting off the bench so that Shael could lie down. She drew Shael’s skirt up around her thighs and gasped at what she saw.

Just below Shael’s knee her bone jutted out at least an inch from where it was supposed to be. The skin wasn’t broken, but Haradhel couldn’t even tell if the two halves of the bone were connected – they certainly looked far enough apart not to be.

“How in the name of the Valar did this happen?” Haradhel breathed, shocked and horrified by what she was looking at.

Shael shrugged nonchalantly. “It happened the summer before last summer,” she volunteered, “and I don’t remember anything before that. Nyaru [one of the children she had been rescued with] said that they told them I was trying to escape and that’s what happened, but I don’t remember anything. But I asked a lot of questions and they called me Shael, and that’s how I got my name.”

Haradhel’s heart broke listening to how calm the girl sounded about the entire matter.

“And do you remember your parents?” she asked softly. “Or where you’re from? Anything like that?”

Shael shook her head. “No, I just remember living with the dwarfs and then Donovan and Celeborn came and saved all of us,” she replied simply. “Celeborn says my leg wasn’t always like this, but it’s the only way I remember it ever being.”

Haradhel was racking her brain, mentally going through all of her training, trying to think of whether or not there was a chance yet for the girl’s leg to be saved and made normal once more. But if it had been like this for two years already … but the poor girl could barely walk, how had she been able to serve? It was a miracle the dwarfs hadn’t just executed her and been done with her!

“You see now the problem,” Celeborn spoke up from the other side of the table, where he was still sitting. He had braided his long white hair now, and he rose and crossed his muscular arms. “We have nowhere to return her to. Every other child knows either the name of their city or knows another child who came from the same city who knows the name, or knows their parents or whatever. She has no past, nothing but slavery and abuse.”

“Then she’ll stay here,” Haradhel said firmly, without even thinking about it. “And we’ll see what we can do about fixing her leg.”

She smiled at Shael. “Would you like us to take care of your leg and make it back to normal again?”

Shael’s eyes grew wide. “You can do that?” she breathed in excited awe.

“Perhaps,” Haradhel laughed softly at the girl’s expression. “But I will have to discuss the possibilities with a few other people before we can do anything. After all, I’m no healer. So for now we’ll just start by getting you a crutch, and tomorrow we’ll see about your leg, how does that sound?”

Shael clapped her hands together excitedly. “Wonderful!” she giggled, and for some reason it sounded out of place, coming from a child with such servantile behaviour. Still, it warmed Haradhel’s heart. It was a start.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:50 pm

The Unfixable Problem
Location: Haven
Year: 53 F.A.
Status: Late Stirring

Shael woke early, before the sun was up, and for several long minutes she felt completely disoriented. It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling: she remembered waking up two years previous with an unimaginable and intolerable pain in her left leg and no memories whatsoever. She had learned very quickly to remain silent, as the pain had not gone away for nearly a year, and as she had been beaten every time she had complained or cried. Thus, for the time being, she lay in bed and examined her surroundings in the darkness. Soon she would need to dress, she mused, but for the moment she made no movement to do so.

It suddenly clicked in that she was also, for once, comfortable. The bed was unlike any she could remember sleeping in before, and the blanket was both thick and soft … she was warm, for perhaps the first time in her memory.

And then it was that she remembered where she was. In a place called Haven, far south of the Northland, where a kind human and a kind elf had taken her and the other children with whom she had been enslaved, and where two other kind elves had given her warm clothes that fit, food to eat, and cookies! On top of that, the nice woman had said that she might be able to fix Shael’s leg!

That excited the child, more than the food or the bed did. Her leg still gave her pain, and she could barely walk on it at all, and above anything else – even finding her family back, if she had one – she wanted it to be healed, to be rid of the pain once and for all.

She crawled out of bed and walked alongside it to the foot so that she could change into the dress that the kind lady had set out for her the night before. She was used to dressing in the darkness, and she was quick and silent, and none of the other children in the room woke up. She was the only new child in this particular room, the children were sorted by age so that they were with others of their own age, but she felt no more out of place than she did when she was living with the dwarfs.

Once she was ready, she reached for the crutch that had been crafted especially for her the day before. She tucked it comfortably under her arm, then hobbled towards the door, her hazel eyes bright with hope for the new day and the opportunity to have her leg healed.

The stairs presented a bit of a problem. The dwarfs of course had everything on one level, and if there was a change in levels, they used a ramp, not stairs. They truly did all they could to make their lives easier. In the end, she managed to make her way down by holding her crutch with her right hand and leaning on the railing for balance and support with her left. Once down to the main level (thankfully she had only been on the second floor) she put her crutch under her arm again and headed towards the kitchen. Breakfast would be soon, and she needed to have it ready …

~~~~~

Haradhel also woke before the sun was up, but it was because Ahren was awake and trying to crawl into bed with her and Elrohir. Well, she was already half-awake, anyways, so she supposed that she didn’t really mind that much. She sighed as she pulled him up into bed with her. The last few weeks of pregnancy were the most tiring … which reminded her, she had another new group of children to take care of, and they would be wanting breakfast soon.

“All right, little guy,” she smiled, plopping Ahren onto Elrohir’s head, “go to Papa, Mama has breakfast to get ready.”

Elrohir grunted and tried to push his son off his head, but Ahren giggled and held on tightly. “Up, Papa! Up!” he squealed, tapping him on the top of his head.

Haradhel smiled smugly to herself and rolled out of bed, and after dressing quickly she headed downstairs to the kitchen – where she received the biggest shock of her life. She had come to expect many strange things from the children who came to stay with them for a while, but never had any of them been up before her – let alone had the kitchen ready for breakfast already when she got up.

Especially one so physically disabled.

“Shael!” she exclaimed, suddenly wide awake but very confused.

Shael jumped and dropped her crutch, nearly falling over in the process. She turned around guiltily, shoulders slumped, eyes on the floor in front of her. She had been working at the oven, and from what Haradhel could tell, it looked as though she had been making bread. There was also a large pot on the stove that smelled suspiciously like porridge.

“What are you doing?” Haradhel asked more gently this time, wondering why on Arda the child would be doing such a thing.

When Shael spoke, there was a distinct tremor in her voice.

“I’m making breakfast for my Lady,” she stammered nervously. “Did I … do something wrong?”

Haradhel felt tears spring to her eyes. Every other child she had seen had been glad not to do all of the work anymore, had had a fighting spirit against the dwarfs … but this girl … was it really so thoroughly her life? Did she really have no will of her own? Had she been so thoroughly programmed by her captors?

She stepped forward and put knelt in front of Shael, wrapping her arms around the girl and pulling her in for a tight embrace.

“No,” she murmured softly, stroking Shael’s hair comfortingly. “No, not at all. But you have to remember … you’re a child, not a slave, you don’t have to do these sorts of things anymore … it’s my turn to take care of you.”

Shael stood stock-still, unsure as to what was going on. She had no memories of a hug … had never seen one … but it felt … pleasant, comforting, and slowly, hesitantly, she raised her arms and clasped her hands behind Haradhel’s back. Haradhel didn’t let her go, and, bit by bit, Shael felt herself growing more and more calm.

“Are you really going to take care of me?” she asked Haradhel softly, a note of hope in her voice that hadn’t been there before.

Haradhel nodded as well as she could without hurting the girl. “Yes,” she murmured, “but there is one condition for it.”

Shael froze, then took a step back and looked at Haradhel fearfully. Conditions, she had learned, were never pleasant things, and it almost always meant more chores on her behalf. Still, the lady had been very kind to her, and she swallowed hard and resolved to do whatever it was that would be required of her.

“What is it?” she squeaked timidly.

Haradhel smiled and put one hand on the girl’s shoulder. “You have to let me,” was all that she said; and with that, she reached for Shael’s crutch and held it out to her again. “Now come,” she said a bit more strongly. “We can finish this together, and after everyone’s been fed we’ll see someone very special about your leg.”

Shael was more than happy to comply.

~~~~~

Ulani had been told the night before by her son that there was a very special child that required her attention in the latest batch of children, and together they made their way over to the ranch quite early in the morning, accompanied by the sunrise that warmed their backs as they walked. Adonai had also told her about the child’s unique situation, that she was the only child they had ever rescued who truly had no place to go.

“I imagine she would be staying with Elrohir and Haradhel, then,” she commented thoughtfully, though she was worried about what that all entailed. “But how long will that work? They will soon need the bed for other children … the ranch house was designed for temporary use, for the most part … not to mention, Haradhel will be having her baby soon, she won’t be able to take care of an extra child …”

It had become custom for Elros to take children back to their homes as quickly as possible – one trip at a time. First to the Westland, then the Eastland, and finally to the Southland, which was the longest and most difficult trip. Indeed, he was hardly ever around anymore. Still, it was entirely possible that Shael would soon be the only child there …

Adonai looked at his mother through thoughtful and curious brown eyes. “What are you thinking, Mother?” he asked softly. At twelve years old, he was more mature than most people his age … then again, few in the valley were like others their own age. Aliya had been equally mature by that age, even if she did act more carefree.

Ulani just shook her head. “Let’s just concentrate on getting there and see what we can do for the poor child.”

It was almost half an hour later by the time they made it to the ranch. Ulani greeted everyone she saw as she and Adonai made their way to the house, and then she let them in without bothering to knock. No one ever knocked, unless it was an unusual time of day.

“We’re here!” she announced, hanging up her cloak on a hook to one side.

Haradhel appeared out of the playroom, smiling widely, her face slightly flushed from exertion. “Ah, good,” she grinned. “Why don’t you wait in the dining room, then? That way the other children don’t have to see. Adonai, run upstairs and get the medical supplies, I don’t know what you’ll need … wait, why don’t we just take her upstairs …”

She looked thoughtful. The problem with that idea was, someone needed to be down here and keep an eye on the other children. She didn’t expect trouble – they never ever fought – but there were times when some of them, especially the younger ones, became frightened if there wasn’t someone watching over them.

“Call Vanya down here, she’s cleaning the children’s rooms at the moment,” she decided. “She can watch over everyone while we go upstairs.”

Adonai nodded and, with his mind, called Vanya to come downstairs and watch over the children. In the meantime, Haradhel went back into the sea of children and returned a moment later with an adorable little girl with black hair that cascaded in loose curls down to her waist, coppery skin, and hazel eyes. She was using a crutch, and Ulani’s heart went out to the child, and she knelt down in front of her and held one hand out to her.

“What’s your name?” she asked softly, kindly.

The girl’s eyes flickered up to Haradhel, who nodded reassuringly, then smiled faintly back at Ulani. “Shael,” she said quietly, shyly.

Ulani smiled warmly. “It’s nice to meet you, Shael,” she murmured. “My name is Ulani, and I’m going to do everything I can to help you.”

Shael remained silent, but Ulani saw the way her eyes lit up with hope.

“Come,” she smiled, holding her hand out to the girl again, “let’s go upstairs and see what we can do.”

~~~~~

Ulani was shocked at the state of Shael’s left leg. How could anyone let something so terrible remain like that for so long? It was a miracle it hadn’t gotten infected or anything, and that the girl was even still alive!

She was equally amazed at the girl’s tolerance for pain. Ulani had been poking and prodding at the break for the better part of an hour already, and the only sign of pain that the girl let show was the occasional wince. She remained perfectly silent, but Ulani could see that she was taking big, deep breaths and looking away.

She sat back and sighed. “There’s only one way to do anything with this,” she announced quietly, looking up at Haradhel. “It needs to be re-broken and set properly if there’s going to be any chance for recovery at all.”

“And if you did do it?” Haradhel asked softly, noting the way Shael suddenly appeared completely terrified, though she said nothing.

Ulani shrugged. “It wouldn’t be any worse than this, but I doubt that it will ever be normal again.” She turned to look at Shael. “What do you think?” she asked her. “We can break it again and set it properly and heal it up right away, but you’ll never walk normally again … what is it?”

Shael’s look of terror changed slightly to one of complete and utter horror. When Ulani asked her what was wrong, however, she scrunched her face and made it to look completely impassive, though her eyes were still terrified, then shook her head.

Ulani was confused. She understood the terror, but by the headshake, did she mean that there was nothing wrong? Or that she didn’t want to do it?

“If you let us do it, you won’t need a crutch ever again,” she said quietly, putting one hand on the girl’s head and stroking her hair reassuringly. “You won’t be perfect, but you’ll be a lot better.”

Shael shook her head again, but in such a manner that it seemed she was scared even to do just that.

Haradhel knelt at the side of the bed. “Shael,” she said softly, taking the girl’s hands and clasping them in her own, “if there’s something you want to say, just say it. You’re safe here, remember? I’m going to take care of you, no one’s going to hurt you.”

Shael whimpered a bit. “But it’s going to hurt if she breaks it again,” she squeaked, pointing at Ulani.

“It’s already still broken,” Ulani said softly. “It won’t hurt much more than I’m sure it already does, and afterwards it won’t hurt at all. You have my promise for that.”

Shael shook her head violently. “No! I don’t want it to hurt more!” She burst into tears, but she bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and closed her eyes tightly to stop the tears from flowing.

Ulani and Haradhel exchanged a startled glance. Well … now what? Left unattended, the leg would only get worse …

“Shall I make some tea, Mother?” Adonai suggested with a significant look. “It may help to calm her down.”

Ulani understood immediately what he meant. “Please,” she nodded. “Make sure it’s not too hot, though, we don’t need her to burn herself.”

Adonai nodded and left the room silently.

Shael sniffled and reached for her crutch. “I have to help him,” she muttered; but Ulani took her crutch out of her reach and placed one hand firmly against the girl’s chest, pushing her gently back onto the bed.

“You rest,” she said quietly but sternly. “It’s our turn to take care of you … but as Haradhel says, you have to let us.”

Shael still couldn’t get used to it, she was so accustomed to taking care of everyone else: but she nodded slowly and lay down again, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand. Haradhel shot Ulani a worried look, but neither woman spoke a word until Adonai returned with the tea.

“Here,” he smiled kindly, sitting on the edge of the bed and holding the cup out to Shael. The girl took it in one hand, wiping her tears away again with her other hand, and slowly, hesitantly, took a sip.

She smiled faintly. “It’s sweet,” she commented; and with that, she proceeded to finish the entire cup.

Almost before the last drops were gone, she was asleep on the pillow.

“Are you certain that was the best thing to do?” Haradhel asked with concern, stepping back so that she would be out of the way.

“I’m not going to break it again,” Ulani sighed dolefully, “I can’t, not when she so obviously doesn’t want me to. I’m just going to do what I can as it is, but if I were to re-break it, she would never forgive me. She needs to trust us, more than anything.”

She reached up to the small pouch that remained around her neck at all times and pulled out three small white stones. They were smooth and rounded, but not spherical, and their white was not solid but seemed to have a rainbow of colours floating all through them as if they were liquid instead of the cool solid that they were.

She placed each of the stones on the girl: one in the center of her forehead, and one on each of her collarbones. There had been a time when stones similar to these had been used on her in the same fashion, but that had been millennia ago. Then she knelt down and put both of her hands on the child’s leg, one on her knee and one just below the break.

“Keep her still,” she instructed Haradhel, though to be honest she wasn’t sure if the girl would thrash about or not in her drugged sleep. “If the stones fall that’s it, they will only work once per injury.”

Haradhel nodded and put one hand on each of Shael’s shoulders so that she couldn’t move, watching curiously as the older woman checked her grip, then closed her eyes and bowed her head.

After a moment, the stones began to glow a bright, deep green, and so did Shael’s leg, from the top to the bottom. Haradhel and Adonai were both forced to look away, so bright was the glow, and when the light finally faded they hesitated for a moment before turning back to look.

Ulani looked quite tired, but she was smiling widely as she ran her fingers gently along Shael’s leg. There was still a bump, which meant that the leg was not fully healed, but it was far better than it had been previously. At the very least, it was no longer broken, and she hoped that Shael would be able to walk on it.

“She won’t wake for a few more hours,” she murmured, reaching for the stones and returning them carefully to the pouch around her neck. “You go ahead and look after the other children. I’ll stay here until she does wake, I need to rest as well anyways.”

Healing was one of the more draining magicks, after all.

She crawled into the bed next to Shael’s and was asleep before Adonai and Haradhel were out of the room.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:52 pm

A Birth Of A Different Sort
Location: Paradise Valley
Year: 54 F.A.
Status: Early Autumn

The days were still very warm, and for Amdír, who spent all of the daylight hours training the horses, they were also very tiring. Yet every night, when he came home, he felt guilty for feeling so tired the moment he saw his wife.

Aliya was very close to the end of her pregnancy, but despite the fact that she was constantly exhausted just from doing her daily chores (reduced at the moment to only cooking, since Amdír did all of the cleaning, laundry and so on for her) her face was always flushed and her eyes bright. Her enormous stomach did not change Amdír’s view of her: she was still beyond a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful woman he knew.

“I’m home!” he called out as he entered the enormous house that had been theirs since the day they had moved in together and married. He removed his soft leather boots and set them to the side before proceeding further into the house.

He didn’t have to go looking for Aliya, though: she came to find him. She had been working in the kitchen, preparing their evening meal (and truth be told, the cooking was all that Amdír would allow her to do) when she heard his voice. On this particular day, however, her eyes were not quite as bright as they normally were, though her face was considerably more flushed.

“Welcome home,” she smiled at him, leaning against the doorway, one hand on her swollen belly.

Her cheeks were pale beneath her red flush, and Amdír was worried about her. He moved forward and kissed her on the forehead, brushing his fingers along her jawline.

“You don’t look well,” he commented, putting his arms around her shoulders and drawing her close. “You’ve been working yourself too hard again.”

Before Aliya could answer, she gasped and clutched at her stomach. At Amdír’s troubled look, she laughed softly. “Don’t worry about me,” she assured him, putting one finger on his lips to silence him before he could speak. “The baby’s just active today, kicking a lot.”

Amdír was doubtful, but he knew that despite the fact that this was their first child, she would know better than he would. He unbuttoned the bottom few buttons of Aliya’s tunic and put his hand on her bare belly to feel for himself. After a moment, he looked up at her sharply.

“He’s never been this active,” he pointed out, “ever.”

“I know,” Aliya smiled faintly, resting her hand on top of Amdír’s. “But it means it’s healthy, doesn’t it?” Then she picked up his hand and kissed his knuckles. “Come on, dinner is waiting for us,” she murmured softly. “Let’s eat.” And with that, she turned and headed into the dining room, re-buttoning her shirt as she went.

Amdír’s brow furrowed with worry, but he followed her anyways.

A few minutes later, when they were just beginning to eat, a look of pain crossed Aliya’s face and she gasped again – but as quickly as it had come, it went again.

“Aliya?”

She looked across the table at Amdír and smiled again. “I’m fine,” she reassured him once more. “Really.”

But at the end of their meal, she gasped and recoiled in pain – there were no mistaking the signs – and didn’t straighten up or regain her breath for several long minutes.

Amdír pushed his chair back and rose to his feet, hurrying around the table to put his arms around her shoulder and help her to her feet.

“You, bed,” he said firmly, cutting off her protests. “I’m getting your mother.”

Such a foolish girl … she could recognize the signs in a horse, but with her own labour she was either ignorant or … what? Putting it off? She knew that wasn’t possible. It was a habit she had, though, to keep it to herself whenever she was feeling down or in pain or something. Amdír wondered if that was the case here, and he shook his head again. Foolish.

Yet when he helped her down onto the bed and made her comfortable, her attitude completely changed. As he turned to leave, her eyes grew wide with panic and she gasped, “No! Don’t leave me!” and grasped his arm tightly.

Amdír’s eyes softened as he looked down at Aliya. She looked terrified all of a sudden, and he had never seen her like that before. That, more than anything, scared him. He had only ever seen her calm, assertive, collective, and optimistic; yet here she was looking very pitiful and very frightened. Because of it, he could feel his own resolve wavering, and he hesitated.

“I have to,” he murmured. “You need your mother.”

Tears sprang to Aliya’s eyes. “But I want you.”

Amdír shook his head. “I’ll get your mother and then I’ll be right back,” he assured her. He kissed her on the forehead, then on the corner of her mouth, then gently removed her hand from his arm and rose. “I’ll be right back,” he repeated.

He hurried to put his boots on again and ran over to his in-laws’ house, and ran inside without bothering to knock.

Ulani and Ulrich were also just sitting down to their meal, and they looked up sharply as Amdír appeared suddenly in the doorway. “Is everything all right?” Ulani asked worriedly, noting his concerned expression.

“Aliya needs you,” he said brusquely. “She’s gone into labour, I don’t know how long ago but she didn’t say anything until I noticed myself. From what I can tell, it won’t be too long.”

Ulani cursed under her breath and pushed herself away from the table.

“Don’t wait up for me,” she muttered to Ulrich, moving quickly to join Amdír. She ran past him and told him, “Fetch a large pitcher of water and a basin, as well as several towels. Bring them all, and quickly!”

Amdír would have rather gone straight back to Aliya’s side, but he didn’t argue, and instead just grabbed the pitcher and basin from the kitchen counter (since Ulani’s kitchen was where he was, and it was far closer than his own) and raced out to the river, where he filled the pitcher before heading carefully back to his own house and his own bedroom. There, he set them carefully on the floor next to Ulani and waited for her next instruction.

It came quickly enough. “Sit on the other side of the bed and hold her hand,” she told him fiercely, “and no matter what, don’t let go.”

Amdír did as he was told, sitting right next to Aliya and taking her hand in his own. He gazed at her fearful face, brushing his free hand against her cheek. “You’re going to be just fine,” he told her, his own voice cracking slightly with worry. “Just relax.”

She turned her eyes towards him, and he brushed some sweat away from her forehead and smiled down at her and repeated, “Just relax.”

“Amdír,” she squeaked just before her face contorted in pain. “Ah!” she cried; then she gasped for breath.

“Breathe!” Ulani instructed her harshly from where she knelt at the foot of the bed. “Deep breaths! Relax!”

Aliya’s hand tightened suddenly around Amdír’s, so tight that it was almost a vise-like grip, and he could hardly keep from gasping aloud at the strength of it. He balled his own fist in response, so that he could bear the pain a bit better, and he stroked Aliya’s cheeks again.

“Relax, relax,” he murmured, wiping her tears away with her thumb. “You’ll be all right, I’m here beside you. I’m with you.”

“Aliya,” Ulani interrupted, “I need you to roll onto your side. Quickly, your side.”

Aliya looked up at Amdír and tried her best to smile, then did as her mother had ordered, rolling onto her side so that she was facing Amdír.

“Good,” Ulani nodded. “Now push!”

Aliya’s face clenched as she strained every muscle in her body, grinding her teeth with the effort. Amdír tried not to wince as she crushed his hands, and within a few moments it was over.

“Good,” Ulani said again, smiling to herself. “Good. Now … again!”

The process repeated for nearly two hours until at long last, a baby’s cry broke the night and Aliya’s head fell back, drenched in sweat, to the pillows. Amdír grabbed the damp towel he had been using for the past few hours to wipe her sweat away, smiling broadly down at her, pride gleaming in his eyes.

“Congratulations,” Ulani laughed exhaustedly, holding out a tiny baby wrapped in a blanket that had been prepared for it. “It’s a boy.”

Her very first grandson …

Amdír had to hold back tears of his own as he reached forward and took his son from Ulani. He looked down at him tenderly, then put his free arm behind Aliya’s head and helped her to look as well.

“Look,” he whispered, barely audible over the cries of the tiny infant, “we have a son.”

Aliya burst into exhausted tears and put her head on Amdír’s knee.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:53 pm

A Place for Shael
Location: Paradise Valley
Year: 54 F.A.
Status: Late Autumn

As was normal for Shael, she woke before the sunrise and instead of lying in bed and enjoying the warmth, she dressed and hobbled to the living room to start a fire in the fireplace. It didn’t take her long, she was quite good at it, and once the fire was lit it wasn’t long before the room was warm. Only then did she head to the kitchen to begin making breakfast.

By the time her loaf of bread was in the oven, she was beginning to wonder where Ulani was. Normally she was already up and trying to usher Shael out of the kitchen so that she could finish preparing the meal herself. Today however she was being left alone … and it made her nervous. Had something happened?

Still, she did nothing about it, only continued with the breakfast, making a pot of porridge for herself, Ulani, Ulrich, and Adonai. She knew how much each of them would eat, and made just the right amount so that all of them would be full but that there would be none left over. She knew how precious food was, and how wasteful it was to leave any.

Adonai stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, just as the sun started to filter in through the window.

“Morning,” he mumbled, sliding into his seat and yawning.

“Good morning, Adonai,” Shael replied, smiling warmly at her new brother. She had finally gotten used to not calling everyone ‘lord’ or ‘lady’ all the time, but her mannerisms were still much the same. She brought him a bowl from the cupboard and filled it full of steaming porridge, then poured him a glass of water from the pitcher on the counter.

“Where’s Mum?” he asked as he began to eat.

Shael shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t know,” she admitted, “I haven’t seen her yet this morning.”

Adonai looked at her evenly. “Odd.”

Shael nodded her agreement. It was very odd indeed.

Ulrich came in only a few moments later, looking slightly tired but extremely cheerful. “Good morning!” he said brightly, sounding much more awake than he looked. He grinned at Shael. “Don’t worry about Ulani, but she won’t be up for a while. She was over at Aliya and Amdír’s last night: Aliya had her baby. No name yet, as far as I know, but by the time the whole ordeal was over all three of them were exhausted. Anyways, she’ll be sleeping for probably most of the day. Aliya, on the other hand, could probably use your help, if you’d like.”

Shael looked suspiciously at Ulrich. “Are you sure?” she asked doubtfully. “I know you’re always trying to make me stop working …”

Ulrich chuckled. “To be fair, you’re always doing more than you should be. You’re a kid, you’re supposed to play and have fun. But yes, in this case, they really need your help. Aliya will be in her bed for a few days, maybe a week or so, and she can’t do anything now, and Amdír has work to worry about as well as keeping the house in order. He can’t keep up with all of that, and I think they would really appreciate it if you would go over and lend a helping hand.”

Shael’s eyes lit up, and she nodded eagerly. “I can help them!” she said brightly. “I can help with everything! I can-”

Ulrich held up one hand. “I know what you can do,” he grinned. “You can do anything. So. Why don’t you head over, and I’ll bring your things over later on? You’ll probably be staying there for a while, maybe a few weeks or so. How does that sound?”

Shael nodded excitedly. “Should I go over right now?”

“If you would,” Ulrich nodded. “Ulani did the basic cleanup last night but there’s lots more to be done.”

Shael nodded again. “I’ll go right now!” she grinned, and headed off to her room for her crutch. She knew what a long day did to her leg, and she knew she would need it by the end of the day, even if she felt fine now.

~~~~~

Over the next week and a half, Shael became very good at helping Aliya and Amdír, not only around the house but also with taking care of the baby (finally named Adanedhel), who tended to sleep during the day and cry all night long. Even so, Shael was able to change, wash and care for the child (everything, from time to time, except feed him, of course), and Aliya, for her part, was grateful for the help. She was able to rest during the day and take care of the baby at night, which allowed Amdír to get the rest that he needed in order to do his work well.

One day, however, Aliya had a special request for Shael.

“I can’t go back to the ranch until Adan’s a bit older yet,” she confided to her little sister as she was finishing her breakfast one morning, “so there’s something that … if you would do it for me, I would really appreciate it.”

Shael had been in the process of clearing the dirty dishes from the table, but she paused and looked at Aliya curiously. “What is it?”

Aliya smiled and brushed her hair away from her face. “There are horses that are pregnant, and they need to be cared for … I can’t do that, and I won’t be able to for a while. Would you mind going with Amdír in the morning for a few days a week – maybe every second day – and learning what you can, to take care of them? I know you’re responsible enough, despite being so young, and I know that you have the Wishsong, so you can help them if something happens.”

“But what about helping here?” Shael protested.

“I’ll be fine,” Aliya smiled reassuringly. She reached out and put one hand on Shael’s shoulder. “Until now, I’ve needed your help, and you’ve been more helpful than I could ever have hoped – but now I’m stronger again, and I can take care of most of the things here. But I need your help with the mares, that’s something I can’t do yet. Will you help me?”

Shael was doubtful of her ability to do as Aliya was asking her, but she nodded. “I’ll try my best,” she promised. She hesitated a moment, then asked, “Do … you think Elberon would be a good teacher?”

Aliya’s smile widened, and her eyes grew brighter. “The best,” she agreed. She pulled the girl closer to herself, then put both arms around her and hugged her tightly. “Thanks,” she murmured warmly. “It means a lot to me.”

Shael was taken by surprise, but she hugged Aliya back. “Should I go now?” she asked hesitantly.

Aliya released her but kept her close, scrutinizing her closely. After a moment of silence, she grinned and winked. “No,” she said cheerfully, tapping Shael on the tip of her nose. “Tomorrow’s fine. Today, we’ll have some fun, what do you think?”

Shael giggled. “Yes!”
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:06 pm

Recruiting ... Again
Location: Ebonscarp, Westland
Year: 55 F.A.
Status: First day of Autumn

When Ulrich and Ulani rode at last into the small village of Ebonscarp, they felt a strong sense of relief. It had been a long journey, the longest they had made since the beginning of the Age, and both of them had felt strangely anxious during the final days of the trip. At times, Ulani was certain that she could see someone following them, or watching them, or protecting them, or stalking them, but she wasn’t sure which of them that it was. Her Sight told her nothing, as she had no control over what it showed her or when, and her sleep was disturbingly dreamless. On the other hand, Ulrich pointed out, it could simply mean that the man posed no threat to them, as nearly every time danger threatened, Ulani would have a warning dream or premonition.

Ulani had only been to the city once before, but that had been two Ages ago, when she had been but sixteen years old, and Ulrich had never been there before in his life. Still, Ulani brought them to their destination without any difficulty: it was never difficult to find a healer’s house; after all, they were always situated in the center of wherever they lived.

The livery was directly across the street from the healer’s, so they first brought the horses there before making their way back across the street to see the healer himself.

As they entered the building, Ulani caught sight of the mysterious man once more, and she blinked to make sure of what she was seeing – but when she looked again, he was gone.

“Come on,” Ulrich murmured, ushering her inside, “we’ll worry about him later.”

Ulani couldn’t shake off her feeling of unease as she headed towards one of the chairs in the waiting area and sat down. She said nothing to Ulrich, but just gave him a long, hard look as they waited in silence for the healer to come out and see them.

“As I live and breathe, if it isn’t Ulani!” came a sudden exclamation from the doorway that led to the rest of the building.

Ulani and Ulrich looked up to see a tall, golden-haired elf grinning at them, though he also looked astonished.

“How long has it been?” he breathed as Ulani rose from her seat, smiling widely.

“Three thousand four hundred and fifty years, give or take,” she laughed, putting her arms around the elf and hugging him. “It’s good to see you again, Adar.”

The healer hugged her back warmly. “No Leilani this time?”

Ulani stepped back and shook her head. “No, she and Aric sailed to Laurëfalas millennia ago. This is my husband, her brother, Ulrich.”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir,” Ulrich said warmly, reaching out and giving the man a firm handshake.

“Likewise,” Adar smiled back. “And are you all still living out in the valley? Doesn’t it get lonesome out there with everyone else gone?”

Ulani laughed again. “Funny you should bring that up,” she grinned. “Do you have time? We’d like to take you out for lunch if you do, there’s something we’d like to discuss with you.”

Adar smiled widely. “I would like that very much!” he exclaimed happily.

~~~~~

It was about half an hour before the healer was ready to leave, but when they left all three of them were chatting together as cheerfully as if they had all spent their entire lives together. Ulani did however know him very well: she had lived with him for nearly a year, a recommendation made by Aminta: Ulani’s aunt, and Adar’s daughter.

As they started to head towards the inn next door, Ulani once again spotted the man in black that she had seen following them for the past four days. She grabbed Ulrich’s arm, but by the time he looked, the man was gone again.

Adar suddenly looked very serious. “Have you been having trouble with him?” he asked in a low tone. His eyes shifted worriedly, and he ushered them quickly into the inn. He wouldn’t let them speak again until after they received the food they had ordered, and even then he told them to keep their voices down.

“I’ve seen him around for the last four days,” Ulani told Adar softly as they began their meal. “Just … glimpses as we’ve been traveling … he … just stares …”

“What else have you seen him do?”

“I haven’t managed to see him yet,” Ulrich scowled. “But damn it all, it’s really ticking me off … as if we didn’t have enough to worry about as it was.”

“Quiet,” Ulani hushed him, then turned her attention back to Adar. “He never does anything but stare … at least, I think that’s what he’s doing, I can’t see his face … it’s more … a feeling than anything else. I can’t see his eyes, I just … feel his stare. He’s always completely covered with that cloak …”

“They say the only people who have seen his eyes are the people he’s killed,” Adar told them quietly. “He’s deadly … he’s been around for as long as people know, but no one knows anything about him. He comes and goes, not only from the village but also from the Westland – for all anyone knows he might not even stay in the Four Lands all the time. All people know for sure is that every time he appears, someone else dies, and it’s not pretty.”

“We’ve dealt with assassins before,” Ulani said confidently. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Adar shook his head. “He’s no assassin,” he murmured. “He answers to no one, and no one knows the reasons for his killings. Many have tried to stop him, and died in the process.”

Ulrich face palmed. “Great. How is it we get stuck with him following us?”

“All I can say is, watch your backs,” Adar warned them.

~~~~~

Ulani sat on the floor with her back against the door, legs crossed, fiddling with the pouch that, as always, was hanging around her neck.

“If he’s following us like this, perhaps we shouldn’t have come to the inn,” she murmured anxiously. “It’s not right of us to bring trouble with us, what if something happens and someone else gets hurt?”

“It’s too late for that now,” Ulrich replied with a frown. “This room is paid for, we might as well stay. Besides, we should be fine as long as you have your Stones.”

“They only work against magic,” Ulani reminded him softly. “Still … I just don’t feel right about any of this. What possible reason would this man have to kill us?”

“My question is, if he’s so dangerous, why haven’t you had a warning dream about him?” Ulrich countered. “The reason is moot. What matters is that there’s a killer following us and we have no warning, which has never happened before.”

There was a sudden knock at the door, and Ulani and Ulrich both jumped, startled. Then they laughed sheepishly. It had to be someone safe, or else the person wouldn’t have knocked. Ulani stood up and dusted off the back of her pants, then reached for the doorknob and opened the door.

Before she had even opened it all the way, it burst open seemingly of its own accord, and a sudden wind blew through the room, extinguishing the candles that lit it. Then suddenly it was calm, and standing in the middle of the room was quite possibly the tallest elf that the two had ever seen … the elf in black who had been following them.

Ulani blinked in surprise. She hadn’t even seen him come in! And then her reason took over – or lack thereof. She saw this as an opportunity not to run through the open door, but to trap him in the room and confront him. She closed the door again quickly, then stood in front of it, barring the only way out of the room.

The cloaked figure turned around at the noise and faced Ulani evenly. His cowl his most of his features, and shadows hid the rest, but Ulani could feel his eyes on her face, and she could feel her temper rising.

“All right, look, you,” she snapped, “you’ve been following us for four days. I assume that if you wanted us dead you’d have killed us already – so what are you doing here and what do you want with us?”

There was movement from somewhere deep beneath the cloak, and one arm rose to stop Ulani’s questions.

The question,” came a deep, slow, rasping voice, “is not … what do I … want with you … but … what … do you … want … with me.”

Ulani felt a chill shoot through her body at the voice, but still she stood tall, refusing to show that she felt intimidated. “And just what might we want with you?” she asked in a challenging tone, fighting to keep her voice from shaking.

The cowl moved from side to side. “What … do you seek here … Ulani Aldrich?”

Ulani swore silently. How did he know her name? Even Adar didn’t know she was an Aldrich – how would someone she had never heard of before know?

“Are you trying to tell us,” Ulrich spoke up from the other side of the room, his blue eyes glowing fiercely, “that you want to work on the ranch as a fighter?” He stepped forward threateningly. “What makes you think we would take you on?”

Without turning, the man shook his head slowly. “Do not be … foolish … Ulrich Aldrich … I have … more reason … to desire this … than you have.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ulani asked the man, slightly less hostile. “What interest would you have in protecting a ranch?”

She felt another chill roll through her body, and she knew that the man’s gaze was fixed upon her once more.

My reasons … are … my own,” the voice came, soft and deep, and full of meaning. “Do not … question me … Ulani Aldrich … of Paradise Valley.

Ulani thought quickly. She wasn’t sure she trusted this man yet, but he was offering to help them – and he knew so much about them … too much. If she turned him down when he so obviously was demanding rather than requesting to be hired … it might not end well. She didn’t like being manipulated like this, but she had no choice – or rather, her only choice was between life and massacre.

She nodded her head once. “Very well,” she agreed. “Since you know so much about this already, I assume you know that you’ll be working for a human.”

The cowl dipped forward slightly.

“And that you’ll be working with children,” Ulani pressed, suddenly wondering if the man would terrify them all and just add to their nightmares.

The cowl dipped forward once more, and this time the voice added, “The children … will not see me … if they … do not wish.

Ulani, are you sure about this? she heard suddenly in her mind. She looked past the man at Ulrich, who looked very worried indeed. She nodded slowly, and he sighed and looked away. I leave it to you, then, she heard, and she knew that Ulrich would trust her judgment, even if he didn’t trust the man himself.

Suddenly there was another knock at the door, and Ulani jumped again. She berated herself silently as she turned to answer it.

“Is everything all right in there, my lady?” the innkeeper asked worriedly. “Someone had said that they saw Aragost come in here …”

Ulani blinked. “Aragost?” She thought for a moment. Royal terror … could that be the man that had indeed come to see them? “Well … everything’s fine, he-”

She had turned around to show the man to the innkeeper, but … the man was gone. She stared at the suddenly empty (or nearly empty room, since Ulrich was still there) space where he had been, then turned back to the innkeeper. “No … everything’s fine, he … hasn’t bothered us …”

The innkeeper looked immensely relieved, and he smiled and bowed his head. “I apologize for bothering you, my lady,” he murmured. “I bid you good night.” And with that, he headed off back down the hallway.

Ulani closed the door thoughtfully and looked at Ulrich, who just shrugged. Where had the man gone?

~~~~~

They stayed in the village for another week, and found one or two more possibilities for the position, but after meeting Aragost (who they did not see again, strangely) they somehow couldn’t find anyone else who would fit the position to their satisfaction. Still, when they left the village, they hadn’t been able to find the man back, and even Ulani was beginning to doubt him. Would he really help them? Or had it been a trick to get them to travel back alone, so that he could kill them without having to worry about witnesses or anything?

They rode in silence for three days, and on the morning of the fourth, when they woke up, the man was standing on the other side of their fire. They both jumped to their feet, and Ulani’s first reaction was to build a defensive wall of fire with her magic – but when she tried to sing, nothing happened. Suddenly she felt completely and utterly terrified. She had never not been able to sing before …

One hand rose from beneath the dark form, and even the hand was dark – not as dark as Arthael’s skin, but darker than usual, for certain.

Magic … cannot harm me,” the man stated quietly. “I come … to fulfill my promise … I will … protect you … Ulani Aldrich … and your family … and all those … who you love … and who … are under … your protection.

Ulani and Ulrich stared. This guy, they decided both individually and together, was frightening … but they were glad that he was on their side.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:07 pm

First Impression
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 55 F.A.
Status: 11 Quellë (Autumn)

It was oddly quiet on the ranch as Ulani and Ulrich rode in followed by Aragost, who was on foot. The lunch hour had long passed, and normally at this time the ranch was bustling with activity, but for some reason there was no one in sight. There were signs that people had been around recently, however … there were tools on the ground near the garden, fresh footprints in a mud puddle …

Ulani and Ulrich exchanged a glance. Had something happened while they had been away? Had there been an attack? No, Ulani reasoned, it couldn’t be something like that … Adonai would have alerted them if something had happened.

But where was everyone?

The silence was suddenly broken by the sound of a door opening, and they looked towards the barracks to see Elros stepping outside into the sunlight. He started towards them, his pace slow but even, and they dismounted from their horses and waited for him apprehensively.

But when he approached them, he passed between Ulani and Ulrich, ignoring them entirely, and instead made his way to the mysterious man behind them. He was slightly taller than the dark elf, but so little that it was barely noticeable, and he for a moment it appeared as though he were trying to peer into the shadows of the man’s hood; but a moment later he knelt on one knee and bowed his head to the man.

“My Lord,” he murmured reverently, his eyes on the ground.

Ulani and Ulrich stared. They had always known Elros to be kind and respectful of everyone, but he had never used a title that did not belong to the person in question. He referred to Elrohir and Haradhel as Lord and Lady, to Ahren and Arwen as Prince and Princess, to Ryder as Sir … but he had never knelt to his knee for any of them, and never had his voice had such a tone of awe as it did now. They couldn’t help but wonder again – just who was this man that they had found? Or rather, that had found them?

Aragost remained silent, and though his eyes were still hidden, Elros, Ulani and Ulrich all felt as if they were being stared at by him, as if he were measuring them, or their reactions to Elros’s actions towards him. Then the cowl of his cloak dipped forward slightly, and he reached forward with one dark hand and touched Elros’s shoulder. Silently, he brushed past Elros, then past Ulani and Ulrich, and made his way towards the barracks as if he had lived here already for many years.

Elros rose to his feet and moved to stand with Ulani and Ulrich as they watched him head off.

“What was that all about?” Ulani asked him quietly without taking her eyes off of Aragost.

Elros didn’t answer her question, but instead made a mysterious comment. “If he’s the new fighter you hired,” he murmured softly, “you will probably never have to hire another.”
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:09 pm

The Littlest Spy
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 56 F.A.
Status: Early Fading

Ahren Aldrich had always been an adventurous little boy, and growing up on a ranch where the largest percentage of people were fighters (mostly veterans), he had little fear of anyone or any place – though there were many animals (predators) of which he was afraid, and rightly so.

One of his hobbies was stalking the fighters, something he had decided was challenging – and fun, when he could get away with it. Of course, as soon as they noticed the four-year-old, he had to return to the house … at least until he found another target.

He had stalked nearly everyone by this point – everyone, that was, except for Aragost.

The enigmatic man had been on the ranch for a little over two years now, but little Ahren had always been told to leave that particular man alone. Considering that he was indeed a very active young boy, he was quite obedient to his parents’ wishes: but he had only grown more and more curious about the man in black.

On this particular day, he was simply waiting around the corner of the barracks, peering around the corner and waiting for someone to come out so that he could follow them. He had been waiting for a while already, and he was starting to feel a bit cold in the cool breeze. He had tried to bury himself in the colourful leaves that littered the ground, but he had foolishly come outside without his cloak.

He was just starting to get fidgety when the door opened and a fighter stepped out. Ahren recognized the black figure immediately and paused. He knew he wasn’t supposed to bother Aragost, but he was so bred that he couldn’t sit there any longer. Thus, moments after the mysterious fighter walked past him, he scooted out from his hiding place and fell into step behind him, keeping to shadows and hiding whenever there was an opportunity.

For half an hour, he followed the man through the trees, growing more fearful as they drew further and further from home. Yet he knew that he would not be able to find his way home on his own, not from this far out, so he continued after Aragost, still stubbornly refusing to reveal himself to Aragost, despite the fact that he couldn’t probably go home that way.

For a long time he followed behind the fighter, and the forest was strangely quiet. Ahren didn’t know much about the forest yet, he was still so young, but he knew enough to know that something was wrong.

After a while, Aragost met up with Elros. They spoke together quietly, but Ahren was able to overhear little snippets of their conversation.

“… at least two …”

“… certain responsibilities …”

“… hidden …”

And then Aragost’s voice, clear and strong: “Do not worry … I will take care … of everything.

Ahren couldn’t explain why, even to himself, but somehow … he suddenly felt better, safer. He pressed himself tightly against the tree as Elros passed, then peered around it to make sure Aragost hadn’t disappeared on him. Sure enough, the elf was standing exactly were Ahren had seen him a few minutes beforehand. He remained motionless, watching, waiting for Aragost to continue moving again … but the ancient elf didn’t.

It was getting dark outside now, and Ahren was getting drowsy. Well, he reasoned, Aragost wasn’t going anywhere … would it hurt to take a small nap?

And so he slept.

When he woke again, it was fully dark, and for a moment he forgot where he was – and then he remembered that he didn’t know where he was. He peered around the tree to look for Aragost, but the man was nowhere to be seen.

It stood to reason. The night was black. There was no moon, and clouds covered the sky, hiding the stars from sight. A cold wind had picked up while Ahren had been sleeping, and the boy shivered in the frigid air. Feeling lost, alone, and very frightened, he curled up against the base of the tree and began to cry.

The next thing he knew, he had been scooped up into someone’s arms, and despite the fact that he couldn’t see anything, didn’t know who had him, he felt secure, safe.

Then he heard a familiar voice.

“Don’t cry, young Ahren,” Aragost comforted the child in a voice he hadn’t used since he had been young, when he had had his own child to comfort. He went on, “We need to be very quiet now … there are enemies about. You’re safe … I’ve been watching over you.”

Ahren stopped his sniffling and latched onto the man’s robes, shivering with the cold. Aragost smiled faintly, though there was nothing to smile about, and opened his cloak, and then his outer robe, depositing the child inside. He made sure that the boy was securely in place without being held, then closed his robes and cloak again, making sure that the boy would be able to breathe. With what he knew was coming, he would be safest if he were hidden. Then, with a sudden speed and purpose that had heretofore been hidden, he strode off into the depths of the forest.

Suddenly, he came upon a small group of people: two humans and a dwarf. While some or even most people would alert them of his or her presence, demand to know who they were and what they were doing there … but Aragost wasn’t most people. He had the rare ability to see in the dark, and he could see that all three of them were carrying weapons – and not sheathed weapons, but blades that were naked in their hands and ready for battle.

Ahren knew none of this. He was lying against Aragost’s bare chest, warming up and once again feeling drowsy. It was rather interesting to be in a position like that … he found himself running his fingers along a criss-cross of scars that adorned Aragost’s chest and stomach area, and then his fingers encountered another larger scar … one that seemed to run in a complete circle. It was located on the man’s ribcage, just where it split and met the sternum. Putting his entire hand over it, Ahren was amazed to discover that it seemed as though there was some foreign object lodged in the center of it … a stone, perhaps.

And suddenly he was frightened of this big man. Who would actually put a stone into their own chest?

His terror only intensified when he suddenly heard the sound of something tearing, and he curled up into a ball, trying to make himself smaller, so that he could hide himself from the things that he couldn’t see.

But he just felt so tired …

And before he knew it, he was asleep again.

~~~~~

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Elrohir and Haradhel were panicking. They were used to Ahren disappearing for a while to play, but he had never been gone this long, and he had never missed a meal or been out after dark.

At the moment, Arwen was safely tucked into bed, and Vanya was in the house watching over her. Elrohir, Haradhel, Ulani, Ulrich, Amdír, and every fighter that wasn’t currently on duty were scouring the ranch, searching for him. A few of the fighters had even gone into the forest to search, though both Elrohir and Haradhel were certain that their son knew better than to go into the forest alone. Aliya was home with Adanedhel, and Adonai was keeping Shael company (she wasn’t comfortable alone in the house at night). The night air was filled with the shouts of everyone calling for the missing boy, but he didn’t call back.

Ulani even tried to use her elfstones to locate the child, but no matter what she did, she couldn’t get them to work. They didn’t respond to her need at all, for the first time in her life, and she felt a strong sense of despair. When she couldn’t see him in the vision crystal either, however, her discouragement only grew, becoming dread.

It was so dark outside that even those with lanterns couldn’t see very far. Elrohir and Haradhel were having a bit more luck, but that was only because they were able to use their firecasting abilities to light up larger areas. Even Ulani, who had the use of the Wishsong, couldn’t make much of a difference in the night, and, just as they could not search out the boy, the elfstones would not work to create the light she knew they should be able to make.

Haradhel’s flame, however, was growing steadily weaker as her panic increased. She had never felt this way before, not even when she had feared for her own life all those years ago when the caravan with which she had been traveling had been attacked. Of course, that had been her own life, and during a time of hardship for her – this was a happy time of her life, and this was her son who was in danger, not she herself!

“Here!” Celeborn called out suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention to a pile of leaves next to the barracks. There was a child-sized impression in the middle of the pile, and he showed the others a small set of tracks, barely visible by this time, that zigzagged in the direction of the forest. “Hours old …”

Elrohir put one hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Stay here,” he ordered, his tone firm. “Stay with Arwen. Celeborn and I will find him, don’t worry.”

And with that, he turned to the other elf and nodded, and the two of them headed off into the forest.

Yet it was not long – only a few short minutes, in fact, though it felt much longer to Elrohir – before they were stopped, not by something they saw, but by something they felt. Neither of them spoke a word, but both of them faced each other, trying to figure out what it was that they were feeling. Then Elrohir’s flames began to sputter and die, and a moment later the two were left in the near darkness of Celeborn’s lantern.

“Aragost …” Celeborn breathed, turning to face the forest.

The night was black, but blacker still was the shadow that loomed before them, taller than either of them. They shrank back involuntarily, despite the fact that the man was not expelling the aura of terror that he usually did, and when he reached inside his robes, they flinched back as if expecting him to be reaching for a weapon.

But what he held out to them took both of them by surprise.

Ahren shivered in the sudden cold, exposed to the wind once again, and tried to roll over in Aragost’s hands, but the man kept a careful grip on him so that he couldn’t fall and held him out to Elrohir.

He was stalking again,” he said quietly, his voice deep but for once soothing. “Had I the ability to tell you where he was from afar, I would have done so.

Elrohir reached out and took the boy in his arms, then held him close and wrapped his cloak around him. “Thank you,” he murmured to Aragost, his feeling of terror changing suddenly to gratefulness. He hugged his son close and repeated it again. “Thank you.”

Without replying, Aragost brushed between the two men and headed back in the direction of the ranch. After exchanging a glance, Elrohir and Celeborn followed.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:10 pm

A Startling Request

Location: Tor Karad, Southland
Year: 57 F.A.
Status: Fading

Queen Atalya had spent the first twenty years of her life everywhere in the Four Lands except at the palace where she belonged. Because of this, she hadn’t grown up with Sir Valdemar as her tutor the way her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren had, but having been Queen for more than half a century, she thought that she knew him very well, and that he was steadfast, unmovable, a strong mountain that nothing could shake. So it shocked her when one day, seemingly with no reason, he entered her study unannounced while she was working, without knocking, his eyes strangely unfocused, his robes slightly disheveled.

“I apologize, my Queen,” he murmured, bowing deeply – but only for a moment before straightening and approaching her.

Atalya was shocked. She had never seen such strange behaviour from him before, and she wondered what could possibly have happened that could make him act so strangely.

“Are you all right?” she asked him worriedly, stepping out from behind her desk and placing a concerned hand on his arm.

The ancient historian looked down at her, his expression troubled. “My Queen,” he said in a voice that was quite different from his usual soft and kind tone, “I have to make a trip … I’ve just received some news of the utmost importance, I cannot explain but I must go … as soon as possible.”

Now Atalya was completely alarmed. “What has happened?” she asked. “Has someone been hurt? What is it?”

Sir Valdemar shook his head. “Let it suffice to say that there is someone with whom I must met,” he said softly, “someone whom I believed was dead for a very long time … please, your Majesty, I understand that I am doing this very abruptly, but I must go, and immediately, if it is possible.”

Atalya nodded. “Of course,” she agreed, though her eyes were confused and worried. “I’ll send for a horse right away.”

Sir Valdemar bowed deeply, though his expression did not change.

“Thank you,” he murmured softly. “Thank you.”

And without saying anything further, he left the room as abruptly as he had come.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:10 pm

Mysterious Meeting
Location: Paradise Valley/Haven, Borderlands
Year: 57 F.A.
Status: Winter

Travel of any sort was rare in the winter, but travel by horseback was even more so because of the difficulty the beasts would have in the deep drifts of snow, especially in the Borderlands, where the winters tended to be the harshest. Elves at least had the ability to walk on top of the snow, while horses would sink and get stuck.

At least, that was how it went in most cases.

All that Sir Valdemar knew of the location of the ranch was that it was near the valley where Ulani and Ulrich Aldrich lived, so that was where he was headed. As had been the case throughout his life, he had the protection of the Valar, and in this case so did his horse, and so it was that he entered the valley on the back of a horse that was galloping across the tops of the deep snow drifts.

The last time he had been to the valley, Ulrich and Ulani had not lived there, though the ruins of their old house had been there. He dismounted and left the horse standing in the yard, then made his way to the house on the right, where he knocked on the door and waited patiently.

It was a minute before the door was opened by a girl who appeared paradoxically to be either young and mature or else older and very short. What startled him the most, however, was the fact that he didn’t recognize her … which, considering how long it had been since he had seen this particular branch of the Aldrich family, was not surprising … but what surprised him the most was that she shared no physical features with either Ulrich or Ulani. Still … he was certain that he had gotten the right house, he had to have … well, perhaps they had moved next door, to the house that looked as if it were in much better condition. Still, he was here now, and he had this girl at the door: he couldn’t just turn around and walk away. Besides that, if she really was Ulrich and Ulani’s daughter …

“Can I help you, sir?” the girl asked suddenly, interrupting his thoughts.

And then he realized … he was making her let the heat out of the house. That would never do.

He bowed his head respectfully and asked, “May I speak with your parents, please? Could you tell them that a very old friend is here?”

The girl nodded and smiled. “Please come in,” she invited him, stepping to the side so that she wouldn’t be in his way.

As he stepped inside, Sir Valdemar glanced down at the girl. He had see, when she had stepped aside, that she was limping on her left side – and quite heavily, too. He wondered what had happened to her, but chose not to ask as he removed his cloak, stamped the snow off his feet, and looked around.

“Please sit while you wait,” the girl requested softly, smiling sweetly. “The fire is warm, and I think you have been traveling a long way in the cold.”

“Thank you,” Sir Valdemar smiled back, and as he moved to take a sea, she headed off into another room.

The ancient historian smiled at her receding back. Such a sweet, polite girl … he wondered who she was. She was right, though, he thought, looking towards the fireplace where there was a bright blaze burning. The fire was indeed very warm, and after being outside for the better part of a month, it felt wonderful.

He wasn’t left to wait for very long, however: within only a few short seconds Ulani came out of the same doorway the girl had just gone into.

“Sir Valdemar!” she exclaimed upon seeing the elf. “Wow, it’s been forever since we’ve seen you!” She ran over to him and hugged him tightly. “How are you? What are you doing out here?”

Sir Valdemar returned the hug briefly before stepping back and smiling. “Hello again, Princess.”

“Just Ulani,” she smiled back. “No one has called me that since my time in the Southland.”

Sir Valdemar smiled and nodded. “If that is your wish,” he agreed, “though it seems wrong of me to do so. I have been serving your family for a long time, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” Ulani laughed. “Now tell me, what is it that you have come here for? I always thought you preferred the desert in the winter, that you weren’t fond of snow.”

“And your memory is still serving you well, I see,” he chuckled. “You are quite correct. However, I’ve heard something about one of the men hired on at the ranch that Donovan started, and I must speak with him as soon as possible. Could you please direct me to the ranch?”

Ulani was surprised by his words, and her expression clearly showed it.

Sir Valdemar smiled ruefully. “That is exactly how her Majesty looked at me when I asked for a leave of absence,” he murmured. “I apologize for being so abrupt, but this is a very urgent matter. I must speak with this man.”

“Who is it?” Ulani asked seriously.

But the ancient elf shook his head. “I would rather not say,” he replied mysteriously, “in case I am wrong.”

“Well that’s … enigmatic,” Ulani commented, her brow furrowing in confusion. “If you can wait a moment, I can take you to the ranch myself.”

Sir Valdemar nodded. “That would be fine, thank you.”

An hour later, they were at the ranch.

“The barracks are there,” Ulani pointed, indicating the largest building on the north side of the ranch. “Unless whoever you’re looking for is on duty, he will probably be in there.”

Then she pointed towards the ranch house. “I’ll be in there when you’re finished. No need to knock, just come on in.”

Sir Valdemar nodded and smiled. “Thank you,” he said again. “I do not know how long I will be; if he is who I believe he is, then I may be a while.”

Because he would have a lot of convincing to do, he thought.

Ulani nodded. “Then I shall see you later,” she replied softly; and with that she headed inside, leaving Sir Valdemar by himself.

Sir Valdemar took a moment to look around at the place where he had found himself. It was snowing softly, and while he wasn’t fond of the cold, even he had to admit that it was quite beautiful. Still, standing there and staring wasn’t going to help anything, so he closed his eyes and focused on finding the man he was seeking.

With a signature like his, however, it didn’t take long. Opening his eyes almost immediately, he set off towards the forest with the stride of one who knew exactly where he was going. From there, it wasn’t long again when he caught up with the tall, shadowy figure for whom he was searching. The man’s hood was pulled up and there wasn’t a single distinctive thing visible on him that Sir Valdemar could use to identify him for certain. He could feel a tension in the air, but so reassured was he that he had the protection of the Valar that he paid it no mind. But he was still hesitant to call out a name if he was not certain of the man’s identity.

While he stood indecisively, he was surprised to hear a voice, one that, while it was familiar, was also a voice he had never heard before – or perhaps it was the tone, or perhaps even just the fact that he wasn’t just hearing the voice, but also feeling it, as if it were coursing through his veins …

Well met … Valdemar … knight of the Kingdom of the Southland Elves …

The tongue was one that very few still knew, that was only used now in the most ancient of books … such as the one that showed the world that was, which the historian had showed to Lin so long ago.

Yet here it was more. Here it meant that the man was indeed the one for whom the historian had been searching.

But again before he could speak, the tall, dark figure spoke again: “I am not the man that you seek … what lies beneath these robes … is but a shell of the man … that I once was … and I shall … never … be him again.

Sir Valdemar was taken by surprise. “My Lord!” he protested. “How can you not be who you are, no matter what changes you might have undergone? Are you not the same person at heart?”

For a moment there was only silence, and then the man in black turned around slowly and faced Sir Valdemar head on. The historian couldn’t see his face, it was entirely hidden in shadow; but even so, he knew for a fact that the man was staring at him … he could feel it.

Would you like to see?” the voice came again, softer, yet at the same time harsher, darker, almost frightening, even to Sir Valdemar, who knew that there was nothing to fear from the man.

He hesitated.

Before you decide,” the other continued in the same tone, “be sure that this is what you wish … for once you know … you will not be able to forget …

And rather than making him think even more, the man’s words seemed to give Sir Valdemar a new resolve. He stood tall, straightened his shoulders, and said in a very firm voice, “Yes, my Lord, I desire to know the truth.”

A soft chuckle emanated from beneath the dark cloak, and the voice came again. “Nothing less than expected, historian … very well … see what I have become!

And without warning, he whipped his cloak off and held it to one side, for the first time in millennia allowing someone to look upon him freely.

“My Lord!” Sir Valdemar gasped, his eyes growing wide. “Your face! Your – your eyes!”

The man before him was barely recognizable as the man Sir Valdemar had once known. He recognized his features, of course – after all, had he not known the man’s daughter since before the man himself had vanished? – but at the same time, he was so different … once the most handsome of the elves, his skin was dark and gnarled, one ear nearly black. A scar ran from the corner of his mouth through one eye and up across his forehead, disappearing into his hairline. But while all of that was startling, what was almost terrifying – even to Sir Valdemar – were his eyes … black and piercing, lacking the usual white that should have been around the iris … they seemed to burn with darkness, and Sir Valdemar flinched away from the piercing gaze that bore into him like a dagger.

Are you satisfied … Sir Valdemar?

The historian felt a chill run down his spine at the voice, and it had nothing at all to do with the cold.

“My Lord,” he murmured, his brow furrowing anxiously, “how did this happen? You’ve been gone for nearly thirty thousand years, where have you been? I believed you dead …”

And so I might be … if not for this,” the other replied, reaching up and pulling open the front of his robes, revealing his bare chest. His skin was blacker on his chest than on his face, darker even than his ear, and the cause for it was quite obvious. Nestled within his chest, in a hole that seemed to have been gauged out with teeth or something similar, was a single black stone. Despite its location and what it was doing to the man’s body, it was still a beautiful stone, surrounded by scarred tissue that seemed to be keeping it from falling out – either that or it was lodged in there anyways, and the skin had tried to grow over it and failed.

“The black Elfstone,” Sir Valdemar breathed. “Now … I understand … it is your family’s legacy …”

Do not be a fool,” the dark man said harshly. “Any of elven blood can use them – or have you forgotten about Ulani’s sister-in-law?

Sir Valdemar blinked. “Aminta?” He frowned in annoyance. “Yes … indeed, I had forgotten.”

Even the historian forgets,” the man murmured, though he was not making fun of him. “In your search for the truth of the present, do not forget the past.

From a few feet away, there was a choked gasp, and then a voice exclaimed, “Aldrich!

Sir Valdemar and Aragost turned sharply at the cry to see Elros standing only a few feet away from them. The tall elf moved slowly towards them, his eyes fixed on the dark man’s bare chest.

“My Lord,” he murmured, “why did you say nothing of this?”

It cannot be healed,” the man replied with a frown, closing his robes and pulling his cloak on once more, shaking the snow off of it first. “There is no cause to make a commotion over what cannot be changed.

He turned as if to head further into the forest, but paused and peered over his shoulder at the two.

I ask … that you say nothing … of what you know … of what you have seen … to anyone,” he requested, his voice once again raspy and deep. “No one.

And as he reiterated his point, he stared fixedly upon Sir Valdemar.

“My Lord,” the historian protested, “why do you not return to the Southland? Her Majesty would benefit greatly from your aid-”

One dark hand rose into the air, cutting him off before he could say anything more. “Atalya … High Queen of the Southland Elves … has no troubles … that she cannot take care of … on her own,” he replied quietly, the air once again filling with tension that shook both Sir Valdemar and Elros. “Do not speak … of that which you … do not … know …

And without saying anything further, he vanished.

Sir Valdemar and Elros exchanged a significant glance, then, as one, started back towards the ranch.

Without saying anything, they knew that each of them would do what he could to help their Lord.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:12 pm

Shocking Reaction
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 57 F.A.
Status: Early Stirring

It took a lot to really irritate Aragost. He had been around since the beginning of the world, and he had learned a long time ago the difference between innocent ignorance and sheer stupidity. He had traveled through all the lands, even the lands where there were no people, where they were no semblances of intelligent life, nothing more than beasts and vegetation, and even places where there was nothing more than rock or volcano. Yet after thousands of years of wandering, he had made his way back to the land of his creation, the place he loved more than any other place in the world.

It was not by chance that he had returned when he had, or where he had. He had come in search of Ulani Aldrich, though the reason for his search was not apparent, even to him, until he actually caught up with her and saw her for the first time.

Or the second, actually. He had seen her once before, many years beforehand – but in a different time and a different place, where she had not noticed him or seen him. It made no difference. He knew who she was, knew most of what there was to know about her, the first time that he laid eyes on her.

Yet at that time he could not remain. It had been too painful for him, she looked so much like her …

Nearly three years had passed now since he had joined the ranch. For two years things had been fine. He spoke with no one but Elros in depth, preferring not to draw anyone in. It would make it hard for him to leave when the time came that it was necessary. As much as he would have liked to form some bonds, he knew that it was best if he didn’t.

But then Valdemar had come. Aragost still couldn’t believe the man was still alive; he had very little fighting skill and had been in the thick of hundreds of wars over the millennia. It wasn’t that he had anything personal against the man: no, he respected him, in his own way; but the man was a historian, one who always looked at the scholastic side of things. He didn’t look at things from a fighter’s point of view. Again, not a problem, except that Aragost (amazingly) knew more than Sir Valdemar did of the current situation in Arda. Valdemar wanted Aragost to go to the Southland, to take what the knight called his “proper” place. Aragost wanted none of it. He knew what troubles would arise.

But if he could not go south, Valdemar had argued, could he not at least tell people who he was?

Would there be a point? What would it accomplish? It would only serve to cause confusion. No, it was better to let things remain as they were.

Now if only the academic would understand that.

Elros wasn’t helping the matter. Though he had long ago ceased to attempt to persuade Aragost, he was now encouraging Valdemar to do so. Of course, Aragost mused, Elros had not been around at the beginning. Though he knew much of what had happened, there was also much that he did not know. Perhaps that was why he had given up so easily.

As he entertained these thoughts, he was dressing himself, preparing to go outside for his shift. He had just pulled his cowl over his head when there was a knock at the door – strange, he noted, because no one ever attempted to initiate contact with him. Most of the people there avoided him as much as they could, though when he was heading directly for them they would not flinch out of his way, but wait for his approach.

He could respect them, too.

As his fingers brushed against the door to open it, he knew who had come, and why. It was as if he had opened a book and read it on the inside cover – he knew the who and the why, but not the particular details.

Sir Valdemar,” he said as he opened the door; and sure enough, it was indeed the ancient historian. He was tempted to close the door again right away, but he had never done anything without having a good reason that could be explained, and being annoyed with his harassment was not, unfortunately, a good enough reason.

“I thought you might want to know, my Lord,” Sir Valdemar said quietly, though his voice was clearly pleased, “Aliya has given birth.”

All feelings of anger passed immediately. The man was quite right – Aragost did indeed want to know about the event, and the details. He waited silently for Valdemar to continue.

“Twins,” the historian continued, smiling visibly now that he was certain he wasn’t going to be sent away. “One boy, one girl. The boy she has named Adwin …”

Aragost nodded. “Ulani’s grandfather,” he murmured. He knew that the family had a habit of naming their children after people they knew, or had once known, or after other family members.

“And the girl …” He hesitated.

Aragost waited a moment to be told how the girl had been named, but it seemed as though Valdemar was going to hold him in suspense.

And the girl …” he pressed.

Sir Valdemar cleared his throat. “Alyse.”

A cold shiver ran down the dark man’s spine, and the air around him grew cool. He was stunned, for the first time in his life, completely stunned. He had never thought that he would hear that name again. He reached into his cloak and pulled out his bow, tall and ebony, and held it out to Valdemar.

Take this,” he told the historian in a tone that disallowed argument, also removing his hip-quiver and handing it over as well. “You are taking my shift … you will be fine … I am going to see them …

Valdemar took the weapons mechanically, his expression shocked. “My Lord …” he began, but his voice failed him and he found it impossible to say more – though it wasn’t as if he was given the chance.

Without wasting another moment, Aragost brushed past him and disappeared into the darkness of the corridor.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:13 pm

Nursing Aide
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 57 F.A.
Status: Mid-Stirring

Stirring was usually cold, but after the harsh winter they’d had in the Borderlands, the weather was strangely warm. The snow was still taking quite a while to melt, however, because despite the warmth there was an awful lot of it. Most of the ground was soft and mushy, little more than puddles the size of ponds. Training of the horses had stopped – in fact, all activity on the ranch and in the valley had stopped in anticipation of better weather. All that was still going was the hunting, so that they could eat (as their winter stores were running low) and, of course, the guarding.

Adwin and Alyse were nearly three weeks old by this time, but Aliya still didn’t do any of the work around the house. This time, it wasn’t because Amdír wouldn’t let her: it was because she was simply too exhausted. Taking care of one child had been one thing, but now, with newborn twins and a very active three-year-old, she could barely keep up with them. She didn’t know what she would have done without Shael, and she made sure the girl knew how much she was appreciated and loved. Amdír also helped out, whether it was dishes, laundry, or cooking, so that Shael could help Aliya with other things as well. Adanedhel … well, he tried to help out, but more often he ended up making a mess wherever he was (not on purpose – he was after all only three years old), and so he ended up spending a lot of time with other people … Ulani and Ulrich, of course, but also, mysteriously, Aragost.

Not that Aliya minded. Adan seemed to adore the man, and Aliya had noticed that he seemed far more approachable than he had once been. Perhaps, she mused, he had grown used to the ranch, and to being around people. Whatever the change, she wasn’t going to complain. She would think about it, and wonder about it, but she wouldn’t complain.

Still … it was odd … very odd. None of the fighters had ever come to visit her before, and really she saw no reason why Aragost, of all people, should – or would – want to. Celeborn, maybe, considering how much she knew the man loved children … but Aragost?

She had been hearing rumours about him lately, from Shael of all people. She had always thought Shael would be too shy to spend time with the fighters, but there it was: she was learning quite a bit from listening to them (though whether or not they had been sharing the information voluntarily or not was debatable). For example, according to Shael, Aragost was not the man’s real name. That didn’t really surprise Aliya. After all, who would name their child “royal terror”? The question that followed was, what was the man’s real name? Shael had heard him called “Yami-san” as well, but that sounded to Aliya too much like the language she had begun to learn from Feng and Ryu, so it couldn’t be his real name either.

Adan was out with him right now, out in the forest. Aliya wasn’t worried about him, not in the least: on the other hand, she was quite certain that her eldest son would turn out to be quite the woodsman. He had also created his own nickname for the dark man: “Ara-kun”.

She was woken suddenly from her half-sleeping state by a baby’s cry. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and quickly got to her feet. If she didn’t hurry, the second might join …

She made it in time. Alyse was crying, her tiny face scrunched up with her wail, but Adwin was still completely out of it. Aliya smiled and picked up her daughter, calming her while she wrapped her in a blanket, and returned to her bed. Cradling Alyse in one arm, she adjusted her pillows so that she could sit up comfortably to nurse. Once Alyse was feeding happily, Aliya fell back into a light doze.

To say that she was exhausted would have been a gross understatement. She was by herself today: Shael had been called to the ranch to take care of a foaling mare, and Amdír had gone along to help. She didn’t mind being alone with the twins, but it did mean that if both of them were crying at the same time, she could only take care of one of them at a time, and so by the time she was finished with the first and had time for the second, she would have a headache.

Well, such things could not be helped.

She supposed she could ask her mother for help. She was right next door. But that would have required her to leave her children alone, something that she refused to do for any amount of time. On the other hand, at least it wasn’t necessary at the moment.

But even as she thought that, Adwin began to stir. She groaned inwardly. He would be hungry too, but she could only feed one of them at a time. Well, she mused, at least Alyse had had at least half a feeding, she shouldn’t be too bad if she had to wait a bit for some more. Adwin was the more demanding of the two, he wouldn’t wait – not quietly, anyways. Alyse probably wouldn’t be quiet either, but at least she wasn’t as loud as her brother. Even if there were just someone to hold one of the twins while Aliya fed the other, it would be better … but there was no one else around.

Suddenly, she heard the front door open, and she felt a wave of relief wash over her. Help had arrived!

“In here,” she called out just as Adwin began to cry softly. Any moment now, he would start to wail … She waited for either Shael or Amdír to appear in the doorway – or at the very least, her brother, or one of her parents. What she saw, however, sent a thrill of shock down her spine.

It was Aragost.

But for the first time, Aliya was not afraid of him. Despite the fact that he had just shown up in her bedroom, a room usually forbidden to anyone other than Aliya and Amdír themselves, she didn’t feel the tension that usually surrounded him. She actually didn’t mind his presence at all, oddly enough. Suddenly, she realized that the man was alone, and she opened her mouth to speak.

Young Adanedhel is with his father,” the dark man said before she could ask. “He wanted to help out.

Now Aliya was confused. “Then … why are you here?” she asked drowsily just as Adwin began to wail. She winced and moved to set Alyse on the bed, but Aragost held up one hand to stop her.

I came to help you,” he told her softly, in a voice that could only be described as tender.

Aliya looked completely confused at that, but she relaxed again and repositioned Alyse so that the infant could continue to feed without interruption. She was very startled by the man, even disturbed. Of course he would have known that she was home alone, but how could he have known the exact moment when she needed help?

She watched as the tall, dark man lifted Adwin from his bed and cradled him in his arms. She was anxious – anxious to know how Adwin would react to the man, and to see how the man would handle the crying child. To her surprise, Adwin quieted down almost as soon as he was in Aragost’s arms.

She looked at Aragost in amazement. “How – how did you do that?” she breathed.

The man moved slowly to sit at the floor at the end of the bed, leaning against it with his back to her. “I … what I am about to tell you … is something … that I have not told anyone … in thousands … of years,” he murmured softly, so softly that even Aliya, with her keen elven ears, had to strain to hear.

Her interest piqued immediately. Was this man, who was so mysterious, so enigmatic, about to lift some of the mystery surrounding him? She was anxious for him to continue, but she didn’t want to press – after all, free information was something that one could not be impatient for.

Her wait was not long.

I … once had a … a daughter of my own,” he said quietly – and Aliya was shocked to find that his voice, usually so cold, so devoid of expression, was wrought with emotion. There was a melancholy, a longing in his tone that spoke volumes of loss, and of pain.

The fact that he had had a daughter surprised Aliya, but not nearly as much as the emotion that accompanied his admission. Right then and there, she promised herself that no matter how curious she was, she would never question him again about any of his actions. It was clear from his tone that despite his appearance, his was a heart that was full of love.

Adwin began to whimper again, his hunger overcoming his comfort, and Aliya knew that there would be no stopping him now.

“Can you wrap him in a blanket?” she asked Aragost as she closed her shirt and took Alyse out from beneath the blanket she always used to cover herself and her child as she nursed. She adjusted Alyse’s blanket, then slid her feet over the edge of the bed and made her way to where Aragost was sitting. She held one arm out to take Adwin from him, then hesitated.

I can take care of Alyse,” the man said softly, his voice coming for once distinctly from inside the dark recesses of his cowl. He reached up and took the little girl from Aliya, setting her gently against his shoulder and rubbing her back soothingly.

Aliya smiled anxiously. “Thanks,” she murmured, and headed back to sit on her bed again.

Adwin was feeding contentedly, and she had just drifted off into a light doze once more, when she heard a little gagging sound followed by a soft voice in a language that she didn’t recognize. She opened one eye to see Aragost moving Alyse to his other shoulder. Then he took a corner of his cloak and wiped at a white mess on his first shoulder. With a sigh, he pulled his cowl back, then carefully, ever so carefully, took his cloak off entirely and set it aside.

Aliya’s eyes grew wide then, but she remained silent. She had a sneaking suspicion he thought that she was asleep, and that that was probably the only reason he had taken his cloak off.

His hair was black, and she understood him to be a Southland elf. Until that point, she had always wondered. She could see the points of his ears (longer than usual, she noticed), and curiously, one was nearly black, while the other was a slightly darker than average dusky hue. She could also see the shoulders of his clothes, though nothing else, and she noted that he was wearing robes rather than a tunic and pants, and that they were also black, like his cloak.

She yawned suddenly, unexpectedly, and Aragost turned his head seemingly instinctively to look. They made eye contact, and Aliya froze.

His eyes … they were completely black … and they almost seemed as if they were burning … there was a scar that ran from his hairline down through one eye and to the corner of his mouth, but Aliya was used to scars, that didn’t bother her: no, it was only his eyes that took her completely by surprise.

Or rather … not only his eyes, but just mainly his eyes. As soon as she got over the shock, she noticed something else.

“Do I … know you … from somewhere else?” she ventured finally, taking courage from the fact that he wasn’t hiding himself or glaring, or being in any way threatening. Rather, his expression seemed … resigned … as if he had given up on something …

He turned and faced her fully, and her feeling of recognition increased, though she couldn’t say why.

You and I have never met, Aliya,” the dark man replied softly, his lips barely moving, though his words were clear.

She wasn’t convinced. She was certain she had seen him somewhere before. There was something about him that she knew as certainly as she knew her own name. Something … something about him …

“Maybe I’ve … heard about you, or seen your image, or … or something,” she pressed, ignoring the warnings in her head. “I … I’m sure I must have seen you somewhere before … you look … so … familiar …”

The man turned around again, his back to Aliya once more. “No,” his voice came softly as he began to rub Alyse’s back again. “Never.

Aliya wanted to ask more, but she could hear in his tone that she would not get anything else out of him. She sighed. She had seen his face now, was probably the only one in the area – or the world, for that matter – to have done so … but he was as much a mystery as ever, if not more.

Perhaps she would ask her parents about it.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:14 pm

A Crumbling Mountain
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 57 F.A.
Status: Mid-Stirring

Aragost made his way back to the ranch quickly, his cloak once more wrapped around his shoulders and his face safely hidden by his cowl. It was rare that he moved this quickly – but it was rare that he felt so panicked. His encounter with Aliya had shaken him, though, something he hadn’t felt for a long, long time.

He headed straight for the place in the forest where he knew Valdemar was taking his shift on guard. It wasn’t far, and it didn’t take him long to reach him. When he did, he took his bow and quiver from the man without any warning. When the historian opened his mouth to protest, Aragost waved one hand, cutting him off completely.

Pack your things,” he said harshly, his tone commanding. “Return to your home. Your wish has been granted. All will be known when Aliya speaks with her mother again.

Sir Valdemar looked shocked. “My Lord!” he exclaimed. “How – why?”

That is not for you to know!” Aragost barked. “Now return to your home! Your queen needs you!

As the historian ran off obediently (though more out of terror than anything), Aragost glared out at the world around him. All he wanted to do at this point in his life was protect the people at the ranch …

He only wondered if he would still be permitted once everything was made known.
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:15 pm

A Curious Request
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 57 F.A.
Status: Mid-Stirring

Aliya spent the entire afternoon going over the episode with Aragost in her head. His actions earlier in the day had been so strange that even after he was gone, she was awake and alert, despite her exhaustion.

Adwin and Alyse were fast asleep once more by the time Shael and Amdír finally got in, Amdír half supporting the girl on her weak side, and Aliya was sitting in the living room, leaning forward in her chair, and staring at the fireplace thoughtfully. She didn’t seem to notice when they came in, or when they called her name, and it wasn’t until Amdír actually walked over to her and put one hand on her shoulder that she started and looked up at him.

“Are you all right?” Amdír asked tenderly, sitting on the arm of the chair and brushing her hair away from her face.

Aliya nodded and smiled faintly. “Yes,” she replied softly, “just … thoughtful. Tired and thoughtful.”

“Why don’t you get some rest?” Amdír suggested, leaning down and kissing her gently in the middle of her forehead. “And Shael, too, the poor girl’s exhausted after that foaling … I’ll take care of dinner, all right?”

Aliya sighed, then smiled again and rose slowly to her feet. “Yes,” she agreed. “I could use some rest.”

She didn’t mention the help that she’d had. She was afraid that it would only worry Amdír and cause unnecessary trouble. But then she realized something else.

“Where’s Adanedhel?” she asked in alarm. “I thought he was with you …”

Amdír smiled and started leading her towards the hallway. “With your parents,” he assured her. “Ulani said that she would take care of him tonight, she knows what time alone with the twins does to you, and how exhausted Shael is from the foaling. He’s going to stay the night there, so don’t you worry about him.”

He turned to look over his shoulder and paused. “Shael?” he called gently. “Are you going to rest before we eat as well? I’m taking care of dinner tonight.”

Shael nodded faintly and limped towards them, using the back of the couch for support. Aliya moved swiftly to help her, throwing the girl’s arm around her shoulders so that she could take most of her weight.

“Why don’t you get supper started,” she suggested to her husband, “and I’ll help Shael to her room and make sure she rests. Come on, Shael.” And the two of them started slowly down the hallway, Aliya being careful to make sure that her leg didn’t get bumped against anything.

When they were closer to Shael’s bedroom, the girl smiled up at Aliya. “I heard something else today,” she murmured confidentially to the older woman. “About Aragost.”

Aliya blinked, and her expression grew so pained that Shael stopped her words immediately, concerned for Aliya’s well being. “Are you all right?” she asked anxiously.

Aliya turned her gaze to Shael as they entered the girl’s bedroom, and her eyes, normally so bright and lively, were dark and serious.

“Shael,” she murmured softly, “I have a request for you. Can you make me a promise without asking any questions?”

Shael nodded as she eased herself down onto her bed. “Of course.”

Aliya sat next to her and took her hands in her own, holding them tightly and lifting them as if in supplication. Her brow creased as if she were begging, and even her tone changed completely. “Please,” she whispered pleadingly, “please … don’t bother Aragost … don’t try to find out anything more about him. Don’t listen to rumours about him … please … for me … don’t …”

Shael was taken completely by surprise. She had wanted so badly to be able to help Lin! Nevertheless, she had already promised Aliya that she would do what she was asked, and she nodded again. “Yes,” she murmured, folding her hands neatly in her lap. “I will stop my looking around.”

Aliya threw her arms around the girl in a tight hug. “Thank you,” she murmured, almost in a whisper. “Thank you.”
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Re: A History of Four Lands Journals | 50 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:16 pm

The Solid Rock
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 57 F.A.
Status: Mid-Stirring

Over a week had passed since Sir Valdemar’s hasty departure, and things on the ranch had returned to normal – for the most part. Elros, for some reason, wasn’t quite as social as he had used to be (which was saying something), and rather than talking with others, he spent almost all of his off-duty time in his quarters in solitude. Even his normally expressionless face was different: his eyes, normally so bright and cold, were dark and troubled; his brow was almost always furrowed with deep thought, and some of the fighters were afraid to approach him without good reason.

The only time there was a change in his strange new behaviour was when he was approached by Aragost, yet even that change was unsettling to most. He was as quiet as always, but he grew expressionless once more, as if he were trying to hide his thoughts from the dark man. They spoke at times, but no one knew about what – if they spoke of anything other than reports, they used a language that no one else could understand.

As time passed, Elros seemed to grow more and more unapproachable, until the air around him was almost as tense as the air surrounding Aragost imself. He himself didn’t realize how bad he was getting until one day when he made the by then almost six-year-old Ahren cry just by looking at him, and only then did he realize that he needed to do something before he got completely out of hand.

He decided to do the one thing that he knew would help to return him to his old state: he went to talk to Aragost.

It was a while before he could find the dark man – for some reason, he was nearly a mile from where he was supposed to be – and for some reason, Aragost didn’t seem surprised to see him.

“My Lord,” he said without even greeting him, “all this time I have been respectful of your wishes, leaving you to do as you deem right, despite my desire to help Sir Valdemar in what he wanted to do. When he left in such a hurry, he did not tell me why, nor did I question him. But now I must know … why did you send him away? Why has absolutely everyone stopped asking about you? Even Shael has been forbidden by Aliya to speak of you, or to you, or ask questions about you. What happened?”

For several long minutes, Aragost stared at Elros silently, and the younger elf could feel the dark man’s gaze boring into him. For once, though, he did not flinch away, but stood tall, staring back at Aragost fearlessly, until at long last the dark man replied, “Aliya … has seen me … and knows … of the existence … of my daughter.”

Elros was so taken by surprise that all anger drained from him, and he staggered as if struck physically.

“My Lord!” he gasped. “How – why – what will happen now? Does she know, then, who you are?”

Aragost raised one arm for silence and shook his head slowly from side to side. “The how … and the why … are unimportant,” he said solemnly “though … you may find it … amusing … that her discovery … was due to Alyse …

Elros snickered.

As for knowing … who I am,” the man continued, seeming to ignore Elros, “she does not … she thought she … recognized me … but … she will not be able … to figure out … who I am … on her own … Her mother will recognize me … immediately … I am certain … so … while I am … grateful … to Aliya … for keeping quiet … so far … I believe … it is only … a matter of time … before … she turns to Ulani … for aid … and then … everyone will know.

Elros looked troubled at that. “My Lord,” he murmured, “would it not be better for you to tell them yourself, rather than be found out like a thief in the night?”

Aragost’s gaze did not falter. “Would anything … change?” he asked in return.

“Perhaps not,” Elros had to admit, “but what if they question your presence here?”

Who does not already?” the other replied evenly. “I will tell them … the truth … which is nothing that they … do not already know. I … sought out Ulani Aldrich ... in order to … work on this ranch … as a fighter … and protector … to do now what I could not … all those … ages … ago.

“Do you think they will believe you?”

It matters not … what they believe,” Aragost interrupted before Elros could ask anything more. “What matters … is the truth .. and nothing else.

He gestured back towards the ranch. “Now go,” he instructed firmly. “I have … a watch to keep … and you have a child … to whom you must apologize.

Elros remembered Ahren and nodded, and even before he had turned back towards the ranch, Aragost was out of sight.
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