Random Happenings | 117 4A +

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Random Happenings | 117 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:11 pm

Let here be found stories, both short and serial, about the adventures or misadventures of the Aldrich family and their friends as they travel the continent of Arkandia.

Please use the following format to make an entry for the table of contents:

Link | Title | Location

Table Of Contents

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty The Capture of Prince Eärendil - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:34 pm

The Capture of Prince Eärendil
Location: Dekra Outskirts, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Early Spring

Eärendil was tired after the way they’d been pressing forward into Garnelia, but he was certain that the only one better off than him was Kyrie – and even she didn’t look well. He had offered to take the first shift to allow the others to rest up, but he knew that they all needed to sleep a full night through. Kyrie had said that their destination was only two days away, but he couldn’t help but wish that it was closer.

The night was dark, as thick clouds covered the stars, and there was no moon to speak of. It was quiet and cool, but Eärendil kept moving to keep himself warm. Kyrie had told him to circle around, and that was what he intended to do.

Nearly an hour into his shift, he heard footsteps. They weren’t loud, but they were indeed audible, which meant that if they were elves, they had extra weight on. How many, though? He had no idea. He was accustomed to forest travel, but that didn’t mean his skills were all that great. He had trained for face-to-face fighting, not stealth and tracking. He couldn’t even tell where the footsteps were coming from.

Hold,” came an authoritative voice from behind him, startling him. He wasn’t sure if he was more startled because of the voice or because he recognized the words. It was the Ancient Tongue, but it was different from what he was used to – accented, somehow.

He turned towards the voice, but halfway around he felt a rough hand on his shoulder and he was pushed to the ground.

I said hold,” came the voice again, cold now. “Put your hands out. Now.

Eärendil did as he was told, spreading his hands out to the sides, and immediately he felt his face being pushed into the ground. It was cold, and he had to squint to protect his eyes from being pricked by grass and twigs. “I’m sorry,” he grunted, keeping still as his weapons were taken from him. “But what’s going on?

There was a pause, and the same voice said, “Get them all and let him up.” Then, to Eärendil, he added, “And don’t try anything.

Eärendil forced himself not to flinch as he was patted down from head to toe in their search for his weapons, and then he was released. He rose slowly and brushed himself off before he looked around. There were ten men around him, and what little light there was reflected off of their metal helmets and armour. Two of them had his weapons in hand, and as he had been warned he made no move either to escape or take back his weapons.

One of the soldiers addressed him, the one whose armour glinted lighter than the others. “Identify yourself.

His tone left no room for argument, and Eärendil had no intention to do so. “I am Prince Eärendil Aldrich of the Elven Southland, of the continent of the Four Lands,” he told them respectfully.

His interrogator exchanged a glance with one of the others. “Well, you’re not from here, anyways,” he grunted after a moment. “I don’t know what brought you through our land, but it was not wise. Unfortunately, you’ll have to accompany us.

Eärendil blinked. “What?

It is against the law for civilians to carry weapons,” the man replied succinctly. “You may be a prince in your own land but here you carry no station. The next time you wish to travel through someone’s country, you should first learn the laws. Unfortunately, you have to come with us – not only because of the weapons but because all foreigners must be brought to the General.

The way he said it, Eärendil had a feeling the man didn’t mean the general of the army. It didn’t bode well.

Now what? He couldn’t try to escape: he had no weapons anymore, and it would be ten armed and protected men against him. He couldn’t say he was with anyone: then the whole group would be arrested. There was only one option left: he had to go with them and try to make the most of the situation.

At least here, he was of the same race, he mused.

Lead the way,” he said, forcing a smile.

He hoped the others would be all right and that somehow he would rejoin them soon.

As they headed northwest, away from the camp, he silently apologized to Lin.

Last edited by Nara-pyon on Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:04 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Meeting the General - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:35 pm

Meeting the General
Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Early Spring

By the time Eärendil’s captors brought him to the palace, it was far closer to morning than midnight, and he was utterly exhausted. The soldiers didn’t seem to feel tired at all: their pace never changed, never slowed or faltered; and in an odd way, Eärendil couldn’t help but admire their ability. They must have been well trained, he mused.

Upon their arrival, he was brought to a cell, which, was unsurprising, was a disappointment. Still, he was grateful for two things: first, that it was above ground and had a window; and second, that they let him keep his cloak. It was rather chilly, as it was still very early Spring and the window had bars but no glass or shutters.

He wondered how long he would be in the cell before he would have a chance to defend himself against whatever charges were going to be brought against him, and what would happen to him afterwards. Even if he were released, he wouldn’t have the foggiest notion of where to go to find the others again. Kyrie had been very secretive about their destination. They had not gone in a straight line, and Kyrie’s chosen method to lose anyone who might have been following their trail had also served to confuse Eärendil, who had always been quite proud of his sense of direction.

Maybe if they returned his Elfstones …

After all, they wouldn’t have a use for them. They only worked for those to whom they were willingly given. He was sure that despite his lack of struggle, the way they’d been taken from his belt earlier that night would not have counted as him willingly handing them over.

His cell was not a large one, by any means, but it was a great improvement over the cell that he had been given in Amon Darthir. There, he had been forced to crouch the entire night; here at least he could pace – only about five steps at a time – and there was a stone bench built into the outside wall for him to sit or lie down on. The window was too far up for him to reach, even standing on his toes on the bench, so he gave up on trying to look outside and instead sat down.

He wanted desperately to sleep – his body craved sleep! – but he was too worried. He wondered if Lin and the others had noticed his absence yet, and if they had – or when they did – what they would do, how they would react. Would they come after him? Would they wait for him? Would they go on without him? And while he knew that Lin was strong and would hold herself together for the sake of the children, how would the children react? They had never been around before when he had been in trouble.

At one point he woke with a start and realized that he had fallen asleep sitting up on the bench, leaning against the wall. He had no idea how long he had been asleep, but he had a gut feeling that it hadn’t been long. He sighed and rubbed one eye with the heel of his palm. He was so tired …

Then, just as the first light of morning began to shine in the window of his cell, high above his head, he heard a noise on the other side of his solid iron cell door. He stayed where he was. He didn’t want to make anyone coming in feel like he was trying to escape. He had to keep himself as safe as possible for when he got back to his family.

Slowly, his cell door opened, and three soldiers appeared in the doorway. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought that they were some of the ones who had apprehended him the night before: two of the regular soldiers, and the one with lighter armour. In the light, he could see that the one man’s armour was more silver than gray, and he assumed that it had something to do with a different rank.

On your feet,” ordered the man in silver armour. “It’s time for your interrogation.

Eärendil nodded and rose slowly, and the two other men approached him and grabbed him by the arms. One of them held his hands behind his back while the other locked iron manacles around his wrists. Once he was secure, they marched him out of his cell and through the palace. He had no idea where they were going, but he did note that the further they went from his cell, the nicer the palace looked. At length, they arrived at a large set of double wooden doors, strengthened with iron. There were soldiers on either side of it, and after a brief conversation with the man in silver, they opened the doors for the small group.

The room was a dining room of some sort: bigger than a regular dining room, he mused, but not so big or fancy as a banquet hall. Still, it did remind him a bit of the different palaces in which they had spent some time.

There was a long table that spanned most of the length of the hall, with chairs on each side of it, and one on each end. Only three places were taken: the seat at the far end of the table, occupied by a muscular dark elf with a scowling face, wearing light armour; a young man, neatly dressed, sitting very properly to his right; and a bald man with a tattoo on his forehead and only one arm, seated to his left.

When the soldiers brought Eärendil into the room, they stopped just inside and bowed low.

My lord, said the man in silver, “we found this man last night, wandering in the forest to the south of the city. He is a foreigner, and was carrying weapons.

Eärendil had a feeling it would be wise for him to show reverence to the man at the end of the table, and he bowed as well; and he had just bent forward when a deep voice commanded, “Bring him forth.

Before he had a chance to stand up straight again, one of the soldiers shoved him forward and nearly made him stumble. Still he remained silent, simply observing his surroundings as he was marched towards the men.

He was brought to stand next to the man at the end of the table, and then the soldiers stepped back. He knelt on one knee and bowed his head respectfully and waited to be addressed, hoping that it would be the right thing to do.

He had to wait for quite some time, but at length the same deep voice asked, “What is your name?

My name is Eärendil Aldrich, my lord,” Eärendil answered confidently. “I am Prince of the Kingdom of the Southland Elves, which is found on the continent of the Four Lands.” After a pause, he dared to look up and added, “And may I know, my lord, whom I have the honour of addressing?

A muscle twitched in the man’s forehead, but aside from that he didn’t seem to react to the request.

Fool,” said the young man on the other side of Eärendil. “This is General Quileth Durnen, ruler of this country!

Eärendil had suspected as much, but having his suspicions confirmed was far from reassuring. He had heard too much about the man. Still, there was nothing he could do but try to be as respectful as he could and hope that things would go smoothly.

Forgive me, but I am new to the area and was simply passing through,” he said, bowing his head again.

And yet to be so deep into our country, I find it impossible to believe that you have not yet discovered our law against civilians carrying weapons,” said the General in a tone that was, in Eärendil’s ears, haughty and at the same time, happy. “And yet when you were found, you had …” There was a pause as he looked to the men who had brought Eärendil in. “How many weapons?

Sword, dagger, bow, and though we found no sling he had some odd stones, my lord,” the soldier in silver reported.

Stones with no sling.” The General sounded bored. “I wouldn’t count those as weapons, not without a sling. Still …

There was another silence, and Eärendil didn’t dare look up. His heart was racing. What would happen to his Elfstones? Would they be tossed away as useless? His other weapons, he could replace; but those stones were irreplaceable.

Well, Maravel, you have been rather quiet,” the General said suddenly, turning towards the bald, one-armed man. “What do you have to say on the matter? Is this prince important to us?

Eärendil straightened slightly and looked at the man whom the General had addressed. What was this man to the General? Clearly someone of great importance.

The General was looking at him too, and Eärendil noted that despite the man’s position, he didn’t seem comfortable. There was a slight crease in his forehead that had a sheen to it, despite the lack of heat. Maravel closed his eyes and bowed his head slightly, as if he were thinking about something. It reminded Eärendil vaguely of something he had seen before, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.

After a moment, the man raised his head again and shook it slightly. “He is a piece of the puzzle, my lord,” he said quietly, “and one of the last; but he is not the last. There is one more to come, the one who shall at last complete the puzzle.

The General frowned. “Then what is this one?” he asked, jerking his thumb unceremoniously at Eärendil.

Maravel gazed at Eärendil, and Eärendil felt as if the man were peering into his soul. It was a rather uncomfortable sensation, but he had a sinking feeling that things were not going to be getting better for him.

He is the ointment that will draw the fly to us,” the man murmured; and though there was no hesitation in his voice, Eärendil thought he saw a strange look – regret? – on the bald man’s face. It lasted only for a moment, and then it was gone again.

He glanced at the General to see what his reaction would be, what fate would befall him. To his surprise, the General didn’t seem to care anymore. There was an almost bored expression on his face, and he waved one hand in Eärendil’s general direction.

Take him back to his cell,” he ordered carelessly. “Light rations. I will speak with him later and find out if he has any information for us.

Eärendil had no idea what the General was talking about, or why he wasn’t being let go, but he didn’t struggle as the armoured soldiers took him by the arms and brought him back to the same cell he had vacated such a short time ago.

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Interrogation - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:36 pm

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Early Spring

Though the night in his cell had been quite cool, Eärendil found the daytime temperature to be rather warm. He shed his cloak and outer tunic, leaving them on his bunk, and for lack of anything else to do, he paced his cell. But it was small, only five steps in each direction, and it didn’t take long for him to grow frustrated. He sat down again on the edge of his bunk and put his head in his hands. This wasn’t the worst place he had been in, far from it; but this time he had no idea where Lin was, or his children, and that made it feel worse.

He reached into the front of his shirt and pulled out his promise necklace. He looked at it, cradling it in his hands. Wherever Lin was, he hoped she was all right. Then he smiled faintly. No, wherever she was, she had Kyrie and Uruloki to protect her. She would be all right.

The time dragged on. The temperature cooled, the sun set, it grew dark. Eärendil slept. Shortly before sunrise, a tray with a few slices of bread and a wooden cup of water were shoved through a small slot in his door. He hadn’t eaten since the dinner he’d shared with his family, Wren, Lancaeriel and Kyrie the night before last, and he was famished. He took it to his bunk, and though he tried not to rush, he had finished it all within three minutes. He was still hungry, but there was nothing else for him to eat. He sighed, left the tray by the door, and lay down again on his bunk.

After a few hours, a bird perched on Eärendil’s window, between the bars, and he watched it for a while, until it flew away again. He dozed for a while, got up, stretched a bit, and then dozed again. His stomach was starting to hurt, but he did his best to ignore it.

He had just begun dreaming about being back with Lin when he heard a rattling noise at his cell door. He swung his legs over the side of his bunk and sat up. His head swam for a moment, and when he looked up again, the soldier in silver was standing in front of him and the door had been closed again.

State your name,” the soldier said unceremoniously.

Eärendil blinked. Hadn’t he told the man his name twice already? Still, he would do just about anything to get out of here, so if it would help, he would play the game.

I am Prince Eärendil Aldrich of the Kingdom of the Southland Elves, of the continent of the Four Lands,” he said patiently.

And what are you doing here?

Eärendil blinked. “Here? I was arrested and brought here.” In his groggy state, it was the only answer he could think of, and he couldn’t help but wonder why the question had even been asked.

The soldier’s lips tightened and his eyes narrowed. “Don’t mock me,” he said in a threating tone. “What are you doing in this country?

Oh …” Eärendil blinked again. “But I told you … I was passing through.

Coming from where, and going where?

Eärendil honestly didn’t know where they’d been heading, so he named the one place he knew was west. “From Shiezin to Caras Galadhon,” he answered. “Crossing the country.

By yourself?

Eärendil was about to answer when his brain finally woke up and he realized that he couldn’t let them know about the others. He nodded. “Yes.

And how were you going to make your way there?” The soldier’s questions were quick and clipped, as if he were impatient for the answers. “You have no bag, no supplies, no map. Unless you were planning on thieving your way across the land, you are lying.

I lost my bag,” Eärendil replied, half honestly. He’d left in in his tent when he’d gone out to watch, and he presumed that Lin had brought it with her, wherever she was. “And you saw my bow. Hunting for food is not foreign to me.

Then why were there tracks around where you were found? Seven people, several animals, marks from tents …

Eärendil fought to keep his face expressionless, but he didn’t have much practice with it, and he knew from the way the corners of the soldier’s mouth twitched that he had failed. He tried anyways. “Coincidence?” he suggested.

The soldier smiled then, but it was a smile that sent a chill through Eärendil. “Indeed.” His voice was quiet, smug. “Well, then.” He reached forward and picked up the caged feather that hung from Eärendil’s neck. “And this means nothing to you.

Anger flashed through Eärendil, and he snatched the necklace back from the man. “Don’t touch that,” he growled darkly, holding it to his chest.

The soldier’s smile widened. “Ah, I see. So that’s how it is.” He stepped back again and looked at Eärendil as if he’d gotten just what he wanted. “How about some truth? Who were you traveling with and where were you going?

Eärendil set his jaw and kept silent. He wasn’t going to answer any more questions. It was clear that it wasn’t going to help his case any. His fingers tightened around his promise necklace, and he glared at the man. There was a lot he was willing to put up with, but that was off limits.

The soldier nodded again. “If that’s the way you want it.” He stepped towards the door and called out, and the door was opened from the outside. Before he left, he turned one last time to Eärendil and said, “We shall see if hunger makes you talk.

And then he was gone, and Eärendil was left once more in silence.

Last edited by Nara-pyon on Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:02 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Odd Encounter - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:36 pm

Odd Encounter
Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Early Spring

Two days passed before anyone came again to Eärendil’s cell, and in that time he received neither food nor drink. He spent the time dozing off and on whenever his hunger would let him, thinking about Lin and the children, and wondering just what was going on, what “puzzle” he was supposed to be a “piece” of, and what “fly” would be drawn here by him. The only thing he could think of was Lin and their traveling companions – why else would care about him, even if they knew about him? But what were they supposed to do here?

The only thing he could think of was Kyrie’s determination that they were going to end the General’s domination of the people. If the General knew about that, though, wouldn’t he have asked Eärendil about it directly? He didn’t understand … But if it was Lin or one of the children or Wren or Lancaeriel that the General was waiting on, why was he waiting for them? It couldn’t be Kyrie – Kyrie had been here before, so Eärendil couldn’t be a factor in getting her here.

He wished he understood. As things stood, the only thing he understood was that he couldn’t tell them anything about anything.

By the time Eärendil finally heard someone at his door again, he was exhausted and nauseous. He was lying on the bunk, and he turned his head to see who would come in. To his surprise, it was Maravel, the bald, one-armed man who had been the reason for his detainment. Eärendil didn’t have the energy to move, so he simply lay there and watched the man.

Maravel didn’t seem too inclined to do anything, either. He closed the door and leaned against it, his eyes focused on Eärendil. His face was expressionless, though he looked tired. For several minutes neither of them spoke, until at length Eärendil felt too irritated to keep silent.

I really should thank you for arresting me,” he said darkly. “If you hadn’t, and had simply asked me questions, I might have actually felt it would be safe to answer. I’m told I’m far too trusting of people.” He glared at the man. “No fear of that here.

Still Maravel said nothing, only watched Eärendil in silence.

Wonderful accommodations,” Eärendil added. “Very homey. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a prison like this. That one was meant for creatures of Melkor, by the way. Though I have to admit, even they were fed at least once a day.

There was a flicker of emotion in Maravel’s eyes, but as quickly as it had come up, it was gone. Eärendil’s anger drained away, replaced suddenly with curiosity. He sat up slowly, his muscles protesting with every move.

Who are you?” he asked the man quietly. “I have this … odd feeling about you. Something … about you, I saw it the first time I saw you, too. You … you’re not a monster, not like the General, at least.

This time, Maravel couldn’t hide the surprise that etched his features, and he spoke at last. “It has been a long time since anyone has said so to me. I am held in the same regard as him.” He hesitated a moment, then reached for a bag at his waist and held it out to Eärendil. “Here.

Eärendil eyed the man distrustfully as he reached for the bag. Slowly, he opened it up, then peered inside. It was filled with food – bread, fruit, some cheese, and a small flask – and he looked at the man in surprise. He wondered if it was some kind of trick, but he was too hungry to care very much at the moment. He dumped the whole thing out onto his lap and started eating ravenously, barely tasting the food before he swallowed it down.

Don’t make yourself sick,” Maravel cautioned him quietly.

Eärendil forced himself to slow down, but he couldn’t stop eating until he had eaten it all. Then he washed it down with the entire flask of water. He leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes. He was still hungry, but he no longer felt sick.

Thank y-

Maravel shook his head sharply, cutting him off. “Quiet,” he muttered, holding his hand out for the bag. “This is worth my life – and yours. Now listen.” He lowered his voice. “You’re going to be questioned. Probably tortured. I’ll do what I can, but even my advice isn’t always followed. But whatever happens, you must not tell them anything.

Eärendil’s eyes narrowed. “I hadn’t planned on it.

Good, good.” Maravel seemed distracted by something. His gaze shifted to the wall of the cell and he didn’t seem to be listening. Eärendil watched him. It was as if the man was in another world all of a sudden: his eyes seemed to glaze over, and then he fell against the door. Eärendil didn’t know what to do, and he froze.

But almost as soon as his strange behaviour began, it was over. His eyes cleared, he straightened up, and he looked back at Eärendil. There was wonder in his eyes now.

Are you all right?” Eärendil asked hesitantly.

Maravel nodded slowly, then shook his head and blinked slowly. “Yes … yes. Excuse me. I will bring more food when I can.

And with that, he knocked on the door and was let out, and again Eärendil was left on his own.

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty General Questioning - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:37 pm

General Questioning
Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Early Spring

The day was a particularly warm one, and Eärendil lay on his bunk with his cloak rolled up as a pillow beneath his head. He was still hungry, but the food Maravel had brought him only about half an hour previous had helped a great deal. He was even managing to get some sleep.

His nap was interrupted, however, when a series of clunks and scrapes warned him that he was again about to have company. He sat up and leaned against the wall and waited to see who it would be this time. Part of him hoped it would be Maravel again, though he doubted that would be the case; and part of him expected it to be the soldier in silver again, to ask him more questions.

He was wrong on both counts. When the door opened, it was the General who entered, though he did have a guard on each side. At his nod, the guards each took one of Eärendil’s arms, and they took him from his cell. Following the General, they went deep into the palace, belowground, to a cold and wet room lit only by a few torches. There, the door was shut and locked, and Eärendil was made to sit on a stone chair and his hands tied behind his back.

Now,” the General said as one of the guards finished tying Eärendil’s ankles to the chair legs, “you’ve been questioned a few times, and so far your answers have been far from satisfactory.

He studied Eärendil in silence for a moment, and Eärendil fought to suppress the shudder that rippled through him at the cold look in the General’s eye. This was a man to fear.

The General folded his arms across his broad chest and smiled sinisterly at Eärendil. “Well, then, Prince. I’m going to ask you my questions again, and then one of two things is going to happen. Either you will answer my questions, and you will return to your cell – which I truly hope is the case; or you will not answer my questions, and you will remain here. The choice is up to you.

Eärendil nodded to show he understood, though he had a feeling he was going to end up staying down here.

Then the questions began.

What is your name?” the General asked. “And where are you from?

Eärendil answered honestly, as he had done before.

What are you doing in Arkandia?” the General asked next. “You are a long way from home.

Eärendil considered the question briefly. It seemed safe enough to answer. “I am a cartographer by trade,” he replied. “I am on royal commission to travel and to map any lands which I encounter.

The General nodded. “Then why did you say earlier that you were traveling through my country to get to Caras Galadhon?” he asked. “You said nothing of mapping then.

Eärendil realized the mistake he’d made. He’d been panicked the first time the General’s man had questioned him, and he had simply said the first thing he could think of that would not get him into trouble. He had to be smarter than that. He didn’t know what to say now.

The General glanced at one of the guards, and the guard backhanded Eärendil across the jaw with his metal gauntlet. “Answer the question!” he ordered harshly.

Eärendil blinked to try to clear his vision of the stars that had suddenly appeared. “I … was told it was a safe place to rest for a while,” he lied, hoping that it would pass for truth.

His vision hadn’t yet cleared when he was dealt a second blow. His vision swam again, and this time he felt his lower lip split open.

If you’ve come from Shiezin then you already were in a place where you could rest unmolested,” the General said emotionlessly. “Answer honestly. What are you doing here?

The truth would be Eärendil’s only hope, and so he tried it again. “I am on royal commission to map all lands that I encounter,” he repeated. “This is one of the lands I have come across, so it is my duty to map it.

Then where are your mapping materials? Why say that you were on your way to Caras Galadhon? Why insist that you were traveling alone when we found tracks of many different people very near where you were found? Multiple tents? Remains of a fire that was put out long after you were arrested?

The questions came as a barrage, one right after the other, too fast for Eärendil to think of any believable reply to any of them.

The questions started up again quickly. “Who was traveling with you?” the General demanded. “Someone important, obviously. Where are they now? Why did they leave you behind?

Again Eärendil struggled to think of any reply the General might accept. Suddenly he was grabbed by his hair, and his head was wrenched back. He gasped in surprise, and then in pain as he felt a cold blade touch his skin just below one eye.

They knew where they were going,” the General growled; and as Eärendil’s vision cleared again, he saw the General’s face right next to his. It was the General who was holding the blade to Eärendil’s cheek. “If you are from another land, how does the rest of your group know where they are going?

For a moment, Eärendil remained silent; but then the blade was pressed against the skin below his eye, and he could feel its sharp point cutting his skin.

I had a guide!” he blurted desperately. “Someone who has passed through here before!

He cried out as the General drew the blade slowly across his cheekbone.

And who is your guide?” the General asked smugly, clearly happy to be getting answers.

Eärendil bit his tongue to keep from showing his pain. Suddenly he remembered the man they’d seen in Makshim, the man who had affected Kyrie so badly – the man who had helped Elspeth and her family to escape this very city.

A – a white elf,” he lied, trying not to wince and failing. The muscle spasm dug the blade deeper into his cheek, and he felt blood trickling down the side of his face. He gasped at the pain and tried to move his head away from it, but the guard still had his hair in a vise-like grip, and he couldn’t move.

And where were you going?

Eärendil tried to think of an answer the General might accept, but he couldn’t think of anything. He couldn’t think of anything at all through the pain. His heart was pounding so hard he could feel it against his chest, his ears were ringing, his vision blurred, and his cheek was on fire.

The blade was removed for a moment, but before he could breathe a sigh of relief, it was back, just below where it had first been placed.

Where were you going?” the General asked again, more coldly this time. Pressure was added to the blade, and again Eärendil felt his cheek open and blood begin to flow.

I don’t know,” he admitted at last. He closed his eyes in defense against the pain, though it did little to help.

The blade moved again, adding a second cut below the first. “Where were you going?” came the question yet again.

Eärendil was starting to grow frustrated. He was being as honest as he could, and yet it seemed as though the questions he was answering the most honestly were the ones the General believed the least!

I don’t know!” he said again, louder this time. “I don’t know where we were going! He said somewhere to get some horses to help make the mapping go more quickly but he didn’t say where!

He cried out again as once more he was struck by the metal glove, and this time pain exploded in the side of his face as the glove’s pointed edges caught the fresh cuts in his cheek and tore them wide open. When the second blow struck, he stopped hoping that he could reason with the General; and when the third blow struck, he simply prayed for the strength not to betray his family.

After that, he lost count.

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Catching Up - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:37 pm

Catching Up
Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Early Spring

“It’s really a pity about Prince Eärendil,” Coriander/Caelamondorion murmured to Lancaeriel as they left the room where the prince and his family were staying. Once the door was closed behind him, he reached for Lancaeriel’s hand. “I really don’t think it matters how much rest he gets, he’s never going to be the same as he used to be.”

“At least he’s alive, and he’s going to recover most of his senses,” Lancaeriel replied softly, leaning her head against his shoulder as they walked. As tall as she was, he was taller, and she did not have to bend her neck too far. “It’s amazing he’s recovered as much as he has. You saw him. What the General did to him. He was a-”

She cut herself off and bit her lip to keep from finishing the sentence. As horrible as the General had been, he had been her husband’s father figure for twenty nine years, and she had to respect that, if nothing else.

Coriander smiled and finished the sentence for her. “Monster?” he suggested. “Maniac? Murderer?”

He put his arm around her shoulder and held her close. “I appreciate your concern, but trust me, you needn’t hold yourself back where he’s concerned. Stole me when I was three days old, murdered my grandfather, imprisoned my mother … all because he thought I would be useful to him, remember that?”

He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It brought us together again, though. I have to be grateful to him for that.”

“I’d have found you eventually,” Lancaeriel smiled up at him. She reached up and brushed his hair away from his eyes. “Though I have to admit, I don’t know if I’d have recognized you without sensing you. You look so different now … dark elven.”

He chuckled. “Like the last time you were reborn. Though admittedly, half light and half white elven is a lot closer to light elven than dark elven is.” He winked at her. “Do you like it?”

Lancaeriel giggled girlishly. “I do. You may not look like you, but you most certainly are you. And you by any appearance are most certainly a sight to behold.”

“Oh?” He grinned and tickled her ribs, making her squeal. “I must say, I’m glad to hear it.”

“Stop it!” Lancaeriel chided him, blushing. “Come on, we’re not alone.” She glanced around at the guards who lined the hall, and though none of them were looking at the couple, she had the feeling that some of them were trying a little too hard not to smile. She looked back at her husband. “Where are we going, anyway? Weren’t we going to try for a few more hours’ sleep?”

“Are you tired?” He arched one eyebrow at her, and she shook her head slowly.

“I suppose not,” she admitted. “Still …”

He smiled at her. “I thought a nice walk around the grounds … we didn’t get a chance to talk yesterday, what with taking over the castle and the city … the palace isn’t much, but Maravel and I did make sure that at least the courtyard is worth spending some time in.”

“Even at this time of year?” Lancaeriel was impressed. “Winter’s barely ended.”

“It’s been a few weeks.” He chuckled again. “Not much there, perhaps, but there are a few flowers popping up. Could always change that.”

Lancaeriel turned to him, alarmed. “Coriander, no,” she said in a hushed tone. “You promised …”

He sighed, then smiled at her and stroked her cheek softly. “It feels so strange to be called that again,” he murmured. “I know Caelamondorion is a bit long, but I’ve kind of gotten used to Cael. Nice and short.”

“And you’re avoiding the issue,” Lancaeriel frowned at him. “You do remember the vow we made? No more tampering with nature.”

He sighed, then nodded. “Yes. No more. I promise – again.”

“Good.” Lancaeriel smiled and kissed him warmly. “Now behave.” She winked at him. “Cael.”

He chuckled, and the two of them headed out to the courtyard between the two residential wings. As promised, the grass was green and there were some early flowers growing, some of them even blooming. The sky was clear, the sun shining, and the palace walls blocked the wind, which made it quite warm.

“The banners have changed,” Lancaeriel noted, looking at the palace walls. She looked higher and saw that the flags were different, too: a white dragon on a red field, where the previous day there had been a back raven on a gold field.

Cael glanced up at it. “Yes. The Ruavia family flag.  Mari’s family. Maravel said he found them one day in the storage room, and he washed them and has been keeping them in good condition since. I think he was looking forward to this day as much as anyone.”

He leaned down and plucked a pale lavender flower from its stem. When he straightened, he tucked it into Lancaeriel’s hair. “There.” He smiled lovingly at her and took her hand again. “Now. It’s been a long time. What have you been up to since we were last together?”

Lancaeriel exhaled slowly. “Well, a good portion of it has to do directly with your death,” she began softly. “Would it pain you too much to speak of it?”

“With you by my side, nothing can pain me.” His words were warm, filled with his love for her, and Lancaeriel knew that he was sincere. She smiled and continued her story.

“You remember the twin dragons, Iorlas and Ioreth,” she murmured, glancing up at him. When he nodded grimly, she went on. “After Ioreth killed you this last time, Iorlas came to see me. In elven form, not as a dragon. You wouldn’t have recognized her, she was … so very different from we first ran into her.”

“As in, she didn’t try to kill you this time,” Cael said dryly.

Lancaeriel smiled. “No. On the contrary, she asked me for help in stopping Ioreth from doing any more harm. I used a binding spell on them – you remember the one we used on those two druids way back when?”

“The partners who specialized in fire and water?” Cael asked.

“Yes,” Lancaeriel giggled. “So that the one who liked playing with fire couldn’t use it unless his partner was nearby.” She grew more serious, though she was still smiling. “I started with that, but expanded on it. It was new to me and I wasn’t sure it would work – but it did. I bound their shifting abilities, so that as long as Iorlas was in elven form, Ioreth was also bound to it.”

Cael was impressed. “Very nice.”

“Thank you. I also added a second spell, while I was at it.” She smiled mischievously. “A rebounding spell. Any physical harm that Ioreth attempted to do to someone – unless in self-defence – would rebound back on her.”

Cael let out a low whistle. “Impressive. I’ve never heard of that before.”

Lancaeriel grinned. “Yes, well. I’ve never needed it before. It’s something I experimented with a bit before we met.” She sighed. “There were some druids I could have used it on. Probably should have.”

“Hey, what happened to learning from our mistakes without complaining about them?” Cael frowned at her. “That is a very bad habit of yours. We can’t change the past.” He hugged her tightly, until she sighed again and relaxed, and then he smiled at her. “So. You put the spell on the dragon twins. What then?”

Lancaeriel looked up at him. “I helped them find a place to live, and then I searched for you. I looked everywhere in the Four Lands, I even made pretenses to speak with the various rulers for the chance to sense whether or not you might have been being held in their prisons. I helped people who needed it. I spent some time, off and on, with Elarinya … I could talk to her in a way that neither of us could talk to anyone else.”

“I know that feeling,” Cael murmured. “She must be lonely here, not even being able to tell people where she’s from.”

“Not since her husband died, no,” Lancaeriel agreed. “It’s amazing how happy she is despite everything.”

“She’s hoping her husband will find her then, someday?” He couldn’t imagine staying in one place and waiting to be found. Not with his memories intact. “If our positions had been reversed, I couldn’t have rested, not knowing you were out there somewhere.”

“Yes, I know, but darling you have to realize that not everyone is like us,” she pointed out, giggling. “She is content simply to wait.” She linked her arm with his and tugged him towards a fallen log so that they could sit. “So that’s most of what I did. The past few years have been a bit more adventurous, since I met the Aldrich family. They were traveling with Iorlas, believe it or not.”

Cael blinked. “I’m not sure I do. How did that come about? Where was Ioreth?”

Lancaeriel smiled and leaned against him. “Now that’s … quite a story.” She took a deep breath and began to tell what she knew of what had happened: how she’d run into Iorlas and the others in New Kaliningrad; how they’d invited her to travel with them in search of Coriander; the trip to the Aldrich plantation in the Southland; and Iorlas’ decision to end things with her sister so that she could be made a true elf.

“And you changed her.” He stared at her, partially doubtfully, partially in awe.

She shrugged one shoulder. “Yes.”

He shook his head incredulously. “Unbelievable. I didn’t think it was possible.”

“Come, now, you know there’s very little that isn’t possible.” Lancaeriel smiled sadly at him. “What is there that we haven’t attempted? Given the necessary time and preparation, there’s not much we can’t do.”

Cael nodded thoughtfully. “So she’s now as elven as we are.”

Lancaeriel pursed her lips and looked up at Cael. “I … think so?” she guessed. “I don’t know, to be honest. I can’t discern any differences between us and her, but … we may never know.”

“Wait, can’t?” He blinked at her. “Present? You still see her?”

“Oh, didn’t I mention?” Lancaeriel looked up at her husband innocently. “The man she married – Daeron. He’s Prince Eärendil’s brother. They’re waiting for us back in Shiezin.”

Cael was struck speechless, and he gawked at his wife incredulously.

Lancaeriel reached up and tucked his hair behind his ear. “Do you want to meet her?”

Cael’s expression froze for a moment, and then it slowly changed to a look of indecision. It was something he wasn’t sure about. “Lan, she killed me. Twice.”

“Only once, it was Ioreth the second time and Iorlas stopped her from killing me next,” she pointed out. “And she isn’t what she was. She’s the gentlest soul there is now.”

“Does she even have a soul?” He pushed himself to his feet and started pacing. “That’s something even you can’t do, Lan, no matter how much you’d like to think you can.”

“Hey,” Lancaeriel protested, “that’s not fair. I never pretended to give her a soul. That’s one of the mysteries we were never able to fathom. I never tried. But in body and in heart, she is an elf, and she is a good and kind person. What she did as a dragon – who she was as a dragon, when first we ran into her – that’s far in the past, that’s no longer who she is.”

Her husband ran his fingers through his hair in a gesture of agitation. “And that’s what you’ve been doing all these years.”

“Helping people.” She rose and took his hands in her own, and held them close to her chest to stop him from pulling at his hair. “Cael. Coriander. Please. Give her a chance.”

He looked into her eyes, hesitant to believe her yet finding himself wanting to, and not only because it was her. He could see how badly she wanted him to believe her, too, and at last he sighed and lowered his gaze.

“Alright,” he murmured, leaning his forehead against hers and slipping his arms around her to hold her close. “I’ll give her a chance.”

Lancaeriel smiled and hugged him tightly. “Thank you.”

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Letter Chaos - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:38 pm

Letter Chaos
Location: Makshim, Shiezin, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Mid Spring

Three weeks had passed since Kyrie, Eärendil, Lin, Miyuki, Andarien, Wren and Lancaeriel had left for Garnelia, and Daeron, Iorlas, Amir, Shiro and Kaito’s lives had become rather routine. They were still living in their tents outside the city, but Shiro had taken to visiting the White Elf, Mailon, every few days to learn languages from him, and to learn a bit about medicine from Ahkshi. Kaito played with the city children, teaching them Gaian games and learning theirs in return, and eventually was asked by some parents to watch over the children for a few hours at a time, which earned him a bit of money.

Daeron and Iorlas spent most of their time taking care of Amir, who seemed to be recovering well enough from the attack on his home. He had begun walking around a bit, though he still favoured the leg that had been injured in his house’s collapse, and he had also begun to smile occasionally; but despite Ahkshi’s care and all Daeron’s and Iorlas’s best efforts, the child remained silent.

One afternoon while Shiro was sitting with Mailon – who was recovering rather quickly from his injuries – there was a knock at the door, and Ahkshi stepped in.

“Shiro, there’s a l-l-letter for all of you, from your c-cousins,” he told the neko. Over the healer’s shoulder, Shiro could see Uruloki, and he grinned widely.

“Thanks,” he said warmly. “Where is it?”

“Loki brought it to D-D-Daeron,” Ahkshi replied. “They said they would w-w-wait for you t-to arrive before opening it.”

Shiro turned to Mailon and grinned. “Sorry to run out on you, but I do need to hear the letter,” he said apologetically.

The White Elf smiled and shook his head. “Go. I would give anything to hear from my family.”

Shiro grinned and left the clinic, and to save time he flew to the edge of the city before landing and running to where the tents were.

“There you are!” Kaito exclaimed impatiently when Shiro came panting into the clearing. “What took you so long?”

Shiro whacked his twin upside the head and didn’t bother replying. Instead, he hurried to Daeron’s side.

“What do they say?” he asked eagerly.

Daeron chuckled and opened the still-sealed letter. Making sure the others were ready, he began to read.

“To all of us, from Eärendil,” he began, his eyes skimming the words so that he could paraphrase what wasn’t important. “Alright. So they found the princess of the country – she’s the friend that Kyrie was referring to – killed the tyrant, and the princess is now in control of her country again. No, city – they’re going to be leaving tomorrow to liberate the rest of the country. All is well, blah blah blah, with love, Eärendil.”

“Well, that was vague,” Iorlas commented with a frown.

Daeron shrugged. “There’s more, but it’s no rune system I’ve ever seen.”

Shiro peered over Daeron’s shoulder. “Oh, that’s because it’s not runes,” he grinned. “It’s kanji.”

“That’s got to be from Lin,” Kaito grinned, reaching over and grabbing the letter out of Daeron’s hands.

“Hey!” Shiro protested. “That was addressed to me!”

“Too slow!” Kaito grinned and began to skim the message. “Hm. Yeah, definitely much more detailed than Eärendil’s message.”

He let out a low whistle. “No wonder. Blah blah blah … Eärendil was arrested … man, a cell with no light, that would really suck … ugh, torture?”

Daeron froze, staring at Kaito.

The neko continued, seemingly oblivious. “Ouch, that sounds painful,” he winced. He kept reading. “Oh, man …”

Shiro reached over and tore the paper out of Kaito’s grasp. “Stop it,” he frowned. “You’re making it sound really bad.”

He started to skim the message himself, and his expression went from impatient to incredulous to anxious to relieved as he read it. When he had finished, he let out a sigh.

“What is it?” Daeron asked quickly. Iorlas put one hand on his arm to calm him, but she didn’t look much less anxious than him.

Shiro looked up at Daeron and Iorlas. “Well, Kaito was right, Eärendil was arrested and put in a cell, and tortured for information,” he admitted reluctantly. “But he was freed and healed, so he’s just fine. Lin just wanted to let us know because when we see him again … she doesn’t want us to worry.”

Daeron’s brow furrowed. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Shiro looked at the letter again. “Well … in her words … ‘he has a few scars on his face from the ordeal, but he’s otherwise fine’,” he read. “Which I’m going to guess means she doesn’t want us to make a big deal of it when they come back.”

“Which will be when?” Iorlas asked softly.

Shiro reread the message. “Well, they don’t say exactly, but reading between the lines … they’re going to stay at the castle while Kyrie helps the princess liberate the rest of the country. So it could be a while.”

“Not to mention, Kyrie’s going to have to come to terms with having Mailon here,” Iorlas murmured sadly. “She was so eager to leave … she may put off coming back.”

“No.” Daeron shook his head. “No way. She wouldn’t do that to the others. I’ve yet to see her put herself before anyone else. She would get them back here as quickly as possible, I’m sure.”

“You hope.” Kaito shrugged. “Whatever. Not much we can do until then anyways, so let’s not worry about it.”

“How is that man doing, anyways?” Daeron asked Shiro curiously. “You’re the only one who’s seen him at all …”

Shiro shrugged. “I guess it depends on what you’re looking for. Physically, he’s recovering well. Probably a bit too fast, we won’t be able to keep him in bed much longer. He still asks about Kyrie, though not as often as he used to. Ahkshi still doesn’t want any of us telling him her name, though. I don’t know what happened between Kyrie and that guy, but whatever it was, it was not good.”

“Well, I think we knew that already,” Kaito quipped.  “She may be deadly but she’s no killer. Not lightly anyways.”

The group fell silent. They had already gone over their theories of what it might have been, but they had also already come to the conclusion that it wasn’t their business.

Suddenly Kaito grinned and grabbed the letter. “Come on, this is good news. They did what they set out to do, and they’re all fine. Stop being so gloomy! We should write them back, let Uruloki take a message back to them.”

Daeron smiled. “You’re right. Shiro, you’ve got the paper. Why don’t you write it?”

Shiro nodded. “All right. come on, let’s go into the tent.” He stepped over and opened the flap for them all to head inside.

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Play Time! - 117 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:38 pm

Play time!
Location: Makshim outskirts, Shiezin, Arkandia
Year: 117 4A
Status: Late Summer

Miyuki and Andarien had taken Shoneah and Eron to the city for clothes and supplies, and Andarien had taken only Ponydash with him, leaving his other Pokémon behind at the camp. Daeron had gone off for a bit of hunting, and Iorlas was keeping an eye on Amir while she worked on sewing some winter clothes for him. She was next to their tent, and Amir was only a few paces away from her, sitting on a blanket. Andarien’s old building blocks were on the blanket around him, a donation from Andarien since he didn’t see himself using them again, unless he was really bored – which wasn’t likely, what with all the work he was doing.

Amir picked up one of the blocks and held it up to Iorlas. She smiled warmly at him. “Tower building?” she asked him brightly.

Amir smiled and stretched his arm out further, as if he was trying to hand the block to Iorlas. She giggled softly at him. She wanted to finish his clothes – winter wasn’t as far off as she might like to think, after all – and she couldn’t spend all of her time playing with Amir, as much as she would like to. Instead of setting her sewing aside, she reached out with one foot and gently knocked the block from Amir’s grasp.

The boy’s eyes lit up and he clapped his hands together excitedly, though he was still as silent as the day Iorlas had found him. He reached for the block again, but it was just out of his reach, and he had to crawl to reach it. Just when he was about to touch it, he was pounced on from behind by Kaede. Half his size and twice his weight, the playful Pokémon sent him sprawling, and still the only sound that escaped him was a hiccup of surprise.

“Careful, Kaede,” Iorlas cautioned the Leafeon. “He’s just little.”

It had been well over half a year since they’d arrived in Makshim, and Amir was recovering very well, but nonetheless at only a year and a half old, he was still very young and unbalanced, and she didn’t want him to get hurt.

He wasn’t hurt, though, and he sat up again and smiled, delighted that Kaede wanted to play with him. He held his hands out to her, and Kaede crouched down, preparing to pounce again. She landed in his lap, again knocking Amir over, and this time he fell backwards on the blanket, his fists closed tightly on Kaede’s fur and one of the sprouts growing out of her legs. This time though, he let out a squeal of laughter, the pure and innocent laughter that only a child could produce.

Iorlas froze, and tears sprang to her eyes. It was the first sound of any sort that Amir had made since they’d found him.

Meanwhile, Kaede was nuzzling Amir’s face, purring in a rather cat-like manner. Amir was still giggling, and he let go of the Pokémon and instead wrapped his arms around her neck and hugged her.

Iorlas couldn’t help herself. She set her sewing aside and moved quietly to sit on the blanket beside Amir and Kaede.

By that time, Kaede had escaped Amir’s grasp, and she darted away from him, just out of his reach but staying on the blanket. Amir turned over so that he was on his hands and knees, and then pushed himself to his feet. He turned towards Kaede, a playful yet determined gleam in his eye. The Pokémon looked at him, her body half-turned away, poised to flee, her leafy tail flicking back and forth.

For a moment, the two eyed each other, and then Amir grinned and ran at Kaede. She waited until he was almost upon her before she jumped over him, landing gracefully behind him, and nipped at his clothes, teasing him.

Again Amir squealed, and he tried to turn around as quickly as she had jumped over him, but he lost his balance and fell to the blanket. Kaede was on him immediately, again nuzzling Amir’s cheeks, and again Amir began to giggle.

His laugh was infectious, and Iorlas began to giggle as well. “Well, I can see you’ve made a new friend, Amir,” she said cheerfully, carefully picking up her son and setting him on her lap.

He beamed up at her, then pointed at Kaede and giggled again.

Iorlas chuckled softly. “Come here, Kaede,” she murmured, holding one hand invitingly towards the Leafeon.

Without any need for further invitation, Kaede leapt gracefully into Iorlas’s lap. She put her front paws on Amir’s legs, then put her head on her paws and looked up at him.

“What do you think, Amir?” Iorlas grinned at her son. “You like playing with Kaede?”

Amir looked up at Iorlas and clapped his hands excitedly, his pale green eyes shining brightly. Iorlas laughed and looked at Kaede.

“And you?” she grinned. “You like playing with Amir?”

Kaede yipped and pawed at Amir’s hand playfully.

Iorlas giggled. “Then I hope Andarien will let you play together often,” she said warmly. She patted Kaede on the head, then pressed a kiss to Amir’s forehead and slid both of them back to the blanket. As much as she wanted to play with the both of them, she had work to do, and she was getting enough pleasure out of watching the two interact together.

By the time she returned to her sewing, Amir was already chasing Kaede around the blanket once more, giggling and laughing in sheer pleasure.

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty The Price - 118 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:56 pm

The Price
Location: The mountains of northern Friesia, Arkandia
Year: 118 4A
Status: Late Summer

Iorlas had no awareness of when she had left the rest of her fellow travelers behind. She was not even aware that she had left them. All she knew was that something was calling her, something strong, something that was coming from deep within her. It was unlike anything she had ever felt before, this strange compulsion to head deeper into the mountains. All she knew was that there was something she had to do there.

Suddenly she felt conscious of eyes on her, watching her. Not just watching her progressing through the mountains, but … judging her. Weighing her. And it was with that realization that she discovered that she was alone.

She looked around fearfully. “Hello?” she called loudly, hoping she hadn’t wandered too far. “Daeron? Kyrie? Wren? Where are you all?” She pulled her cloak closer around herself, warding off the fear that threatened to overwhelm her. If anything happened, she no longer had the ability to become a dragon and protect herself, and she was well aware of how vulnerable she was.

A voice, deep and echoing, spoke from behind her. “Who are you, child?”

Iorlas whirled around and saw two figures, a man and a woman, standing next to each other only a few paces from her. They were pale, almost ghostly, and seemed to give off a pale glow. Both of them were impossibly tall, at least two heads taller than Mailon. The male had flowing black hair, while the woman’s hair was a shimmering white blond.

Iorlas had been around long enough to know exactly who had addressed her, and, trembling, she fell to one knee and bowed her head.

“I am Iorlas, Lord Manwë,” she said reverently.

“A creature of Melkor,” the woman spoke up, her voice also echoing despite not being loud.

Iorlas bowed her head deeper. “Yes, Lady Varda,” she replied, almost in a whisper.

The two exchanged a knowing glance.

“And yet,” Lord Manwë said knowingly, “you are not as you were created. You could almost pass for one of the Chosen People.” After a pause, he added, “That is your wish, is it not?”

For a moment, Iorlas did not dare answer. Yes, she wanted to be a true elf. But how could she dare ask that? With what she was, what she had been, where she had come from – she had no right to ask anything. Besides, she was already with the man that she loved – it would be only selfishness to want anything more.

“You know, of course, that as you are, you will never be able to bear your husband any children,” spoke up Lady Varda. “And yet that is something you both wish for, is it not?”

Iorlas’s trembling grew stronger, and she didn’t trust herself to speak. Instead, she simply nodded. With all her heart, that was what she wanted – and she knew Daeron wanted it too. They both loved Amir dearly, as if he truly were their own; but neither of them could control their yearning. Daeron never spoke of it, and he knew it was no fault of either of them and he did not blame her for it; but she still knew that he hoped.

“It is possible,” added Lady Varda.

Iorlas gasped in surprise and looked up at her, her eyes wide.

Lady Varda smiled at her. “Yes, it is possible. But there is a price.”

Iorlas nodded dumbly, already certain that, whatever the price, she would pay it if it were within her power.

“What is it?” she asked finally, her tongue feeling like lead in her mouth. Her heart was racing.

Lady Varda clasped her hands together gently in front of herself and said, in a soft yet matter-of-fact tone, “The price for receiving a soul … is the soul of another. One whom you know well. In your case, one of your companions.”

Iorlas’s heart skipped a beat, then sunk in her chest. A soul … the soul of one of her companions?

“What will happen to them?” she asked faintly.

Lord Manwë waved the question away. “They will die,” he said succinctly. “The body is but housing for the soul, and without the soul, the body cannot survive. You were created without a soul, so that does not apply to you.”

Iorlas stared at the Valar before her silently, but her thoughts were whirling around in her head. She could receive an immortal elven soul … she could have a family with Daeron. Live with him. Die with him. Be reborn, to live an infinite amount of lives with him. The life they had now was so full of risk. If she died now, she would be lost forever, and Daeron would forever be alone. No children of his own to ease his sorrow.

But at the price of the life of another?

“You have so many companions,” said Lady Varda persuasively. “Think. What of the White Elves? Daenis, who really means so little to anyone anyways? A child fleeing her father. Or Mailon? You know what he is truly like. What he has done in the past. To Kyrie. To so many other innocent girls, some of them still children. Who would mourn his passing?”

They all would, Iorlas thought to herself, pain growing in her chest. Even Kyrie.

“And what of Amir?” Lord Manwë added. “A child who is naught but a burden. He cannot even speak. Things will only grow more difficult for him. You could spare him a miserable existence.”

Iorlas’s heart beat faster. Amir? The child whose life she had saved? Vala or no, how dare he suggest she sacrifice the child for her own gain!

“Think of what you could have,” Lady Varda encouraged her, smiling widely. “The life that would make both you and your husband so happy. All that you could want.”

“No.” The word escaped Iorlas’s lips before she realized it, but once she did she knew she would never take it back. She looked up at the Valar, her green eyes blazing.

Lord Manwë looked startled. “No?” he repeated.

Iorlas pushed herself to her feet and looked at the Valar evenly. She was trembling, head to toe. She knew what they could do to her. She had seen firsthand the powers they possessed. But she would not stop herself now.


Lady Varda raised one graceful brow. “Think of what you are doing, Iorlas,” she cautioned the woman softly. “The opportunity will never arise again.”

There were tears in Iorlas’s eyes. She knew what she was giving up. She was giving up the thing that she wanted most. The chance ever to have it. But she also knew that she would rather die than take what she wanted at the expense of another.

“I know what I am doing,” she said, her voice trembling. “I understand the opportunity you are giving to me. But I will not – I cannot do this. It does not matter how much I would gain. To gain at the cost of another is something that I cannot do. Not even for my most desperate desires.”

A tear fell down her cheek, but she maintained her position. She would not back down, even from the very beings who had created the world in which she lived, and who could do as they wished with it.

Lord Manwë looked at Lady Varda, and for a moment, both their faces were expressionless. Then Lord Manwë stepped towards Iorlas.

“You have made your decision, then?” he demanded gruffly, looking down at her.

Another tear trickled down her cheek, and she had to swallow hard, but she nodded. “Yes.”

Lord Manwë stood directly in front of her, making her look up painfully at him. For a long time he was silent, almost as if he were waiting for her to change her mind; but at length, he nodded.

“Iorlas,” he said solemnly, “you are not the first creature to have changed your form, or to desire an immortal soul. But you are the first to pass the test.”

He placed a hand on each of her shoulders, and suddenly Iorlas was filled with a warmth that she had never felt before. A soft gasp escaped her lips, and she felt a surge of strength coursing through her.

“The one mark that all of Melkor’s creatures bear,” said Lord Manwë, “is selfishness. To take the life of another is nothing to them, when it means that they will gain their heart’s desire. Your desire is stronger than I have ever seen before, and yet you still place others before yourself.”

He smiled at her, and Iorlas had to look away in order not to be blinded by the brightness of it. Yet when he spoke, she heard it as if he were speaking directly to her heart.

“Iorlas, your wish has been granted,” he murmured. He took his hands from her shoulders, but the warmth inside her remained. “You now possess an immortal soul. May your life be all that you wished it to be, and the love you bear to others be reciprocated equally.”

The Valar began to fade, and then Iorlas, half-blinded by tears, suddenly found herself very alone.

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Re: Random Happenings | 117 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Feb 05, 2017 2:52 am

Overcoming Differences
Location: The Tent, Makshim, Shiezin, Arkandia
Year: 120 4A
Status: Early Spring

The tent had become very quiet since half the group had left for their side-trip into Garnelia, leaving behind only the families of expectant women, Khetal and Wren and Geran and Rose. In all honesty, the only real difference Takari had noticed was that there was less food needed for meals and that there were fewer dishes to do. Since joining the group, she hadn’t really spent much time with any of them.

“You really should, you know,” her mother told her one day after lunch when she had returned to her room to work on some baby clothes. “We’re going to be with them quite a while, and it really is best if we get to know them better. And really, it’s the first opportunity you’ve had in your life to make friends.”

Takari had already sat down after eating and was reclining comfortably in a rocking chair Tehlmar had purchased in the city with her feet up on a footstool.

“I should,” she murmured. “It’s so easy just to work in here, though …”

Her and Tehlmar’s rooms were well prepared for them. Aside from the usual bedroom necessities, they had also been supplied with a work table and sewing supplies and material, reading and writing supplies, and more. The baby’s room was already furnished as well with everything they would need.

Makaela smiled and rose from where she had been sitting on the edge of the bed, pinning the clothing that needed sewing. Picking up her work, she moved to stand in front of her daughter and held a hand out to her.

“Come.” Her command was softened by her tone and her smile, but it was a command nonetheless. “You can work just as well in the foyer. To remain secluded now that you’re around others is just silly. Enjoy your freedom.”

It took effort for Takari to get to her feet, but within a few minutes she and her mother were on their way to the foyer with their work. They weren’t the first ones there. Daenis was sitting cross-legged on a couch, working on sewing of her own with Ira, her Glaceon, curled around her neck. Takari couldn’t tell who was more surprised to see the other there with their work: her or Daenis.

“Good afternoon, Takari, Makaela,” the White Elven girl smiled warmly at them as they entered. “Have you come to join me?”

Takari set her work on an end table and eased herself into the chair next to it. “Yes. It’s quite quiet in my room now, especially now that half of our group is gone. Mother suggested we come out here.”

“I’m glad you did.” Daenis’ words were warm. “Mailon has gone out for the day and I must admit, I was beginning to feel as if the tent were deserted.”

“It does feel like that at times now, doesn’t it?” Makaela murmured as she sat on another couch. “Khetal and Wren spend most of their time in the gardens or the lab, Geran in the field, Rose with him …”

“And most of the men out hunting, or sparring,” Daenis added with a sigh. She smiled. “It was odd to find out just how accustomed I had grown to having so many people around. For most of my life, I did what I could to hide from people.”

Takari was surprised. “You were not in a secluded area, then?”

Daenis shook her head and lifted a hand to stroke Ira’s head. The blue creature nuzzled her fingers, and suddenly Takari felt the air grow cooler. Goosebumps rose on the skin of her arms, a phenomenon she had never experienced before. It was an odd sensation.

“My father,” Daenis went on to explain, ignorant of Takari’s reaction to the cold, “was chief of our village – a sizable village as White Elven villages go, or so Mailon tells me. I have seen no other, so I cannot speak from experience. Whether because of that or because of my gift, there were … numerous men who wanted to marry me once I became of age. I wished nothing to do with any of them, so I took refuge among the glory of unicorns that lived near our village. Living among people I trust is quite nice, I must say.” She smiled at the others.

Takari thought back to her experience with Faelyn. “Could you not simply tell them to leave you alone?” she frowned, confused. Despite having had to tell him multiple times, he did eventually stop coming back for her …

She was surprised when Daenis shook her head again. “No. The more insistent I was, the more they returned. You see, nothing is more valued among the White Elves – at least, most of them – than strength. The more forceful I was, the more they desired me, as they would any woman with a mind of her own. When instead of using weapons and becoming violent as they were, I pursued my love of peace and music, I was left alone by most of the men. Only one remained as insistent as ever, and it was only when I met Mailon, and he and the others rescued me and took me away from there that I was finally safe.”

“That must have been a while ago, I suppose,” Makaela mused, “if that was when you met Mailon.”

That made sense to Takari. After, Daenis and Mailon were married and expecting a child already – and very soon, not long after Takari herself was due to give birth, and that was only a few weeks from now!

“Not long,” Daenis smiled. “About a year now. A little less.”

Takari and Makaela were stunned, and it must have been quite obvious to Daenis, because she laughed at their expressions.

“Do not ask how it happened,” she giggled. “I just knew, almost immediately, that I had feelings for Mailon and he for me, and we were married within a month and a half or so.”

Takari smiled and unconsciously set down her sewing so that she could rub her arms lightly. She was actually beginning to feel cold, another new sensation for her. “Well, I can attest to knowing quickly that you are meant for a certain someone. From childhood, Tehlmar and I knew we would marry, despite my father’s wishes.”

“And despite his threats,” Makaela sighed. She picked up a blanket that had been folded on the end of the couch and rose to put it around her daughter’s shoulders. “Here.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Takari murmured gratefully, pulling the blanket tight.

Daenis blinked. “I’m sorry, is Ira making it too cold in here for you?” she asked, worried.

“I’ll be all right,” Takari assured her. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been told that you require cold.”

“No more than you require warmth,” Daenis insisted. Turning her head slightly, she spoke to her Pokémon. “Ira, perhaps it’s best if we not make it very cool in here, but just for me …”

Ira chirruped in understanding and nuzzled his mistress’s cheek. Then he yipped out an apology to Takari, who was still, after being with the group for a while now, amused that she could understand the strange creature’s language as well as her own.

“Thank you, Ira,” she smiled at him. “And there really is no need to apologize. You were helping Daenis out as best you could.”

The Glaceon gave a contented flick of his diamond-shaped tail.

“Now, forgive me if this is not my business,” Takari said slowly, picking up her sewing again, “but … why would your father not protect you from unwanted suitors? Perhaps I’m not one to talk, but at least for myself I know Father was trying to … ah … protect me from Tehlmar …”

“My Father, I’m sure, was looking out for my best interests,” Daenis replied softly, “in the only way he knew how. It really is not very safe to be a White Elven woman, and as the chief’s daughter … well, I’m sure that on one level, he wanted me to have a husband to protect me.”

She paused and lowered her sewing slightly. “But then,” she countered herself, looking at Takari directly, “there is also the probability that he wished me to marry for his own safety.”

Takari frowned. “I don’t understand.”

Daenis set her sewing in her lap and turned her eyes towards the ceiling as she thought of how to respond. “Well … among the White Elves, the position of chief is the most prestigious, the most sought after, and the most dangerous. One becomes chief by killing the current chief, and so the current chief is safe only as long as all the others in the village fear them. This means then that the more brutally the chief is killed, the more fear his death inspires in others, the more secure the new chief will be in his new position, and the longer he may expect to live.”

She looked back at Takari again. “My father had been chief since before my birth. He may still be, I do not know. But there was one man whom he feared, though he would never admit it: Feraïs, the village’s Weapons Master. It was his job to pass on his knowledge of weapons and weaponry to the children of the village. My father encouraged me to marry him, I believe in the hopes that he would then be safe from his son-in-law.”

“I’m not sure ‘encouraged’ would be an accurate word to use,” a voice interrupted from the doorway to outside. Mailon entered the tent, three white rabbits in his hand. “Coerced, perhaps. Forced, definitely. Threatened, even.”

He walked over to his wife and bent over to kiss her. She smiled warmly and returned the kiss.

“I have no more fear, thanks to you,” she told him, her eyes sparkling. “I see you’ve some more rabbits. Dare I hope to lay claim to the pelts?”

He chuckled. “You may. But only because Tehlmar found some for Takari as well, else I would have to insist that you share.”

“Thanks for the thought,” Takari beamed. “I do think, though, that it should not be very long before we’ve enough clothes for our baby. I’m amazed at how much we’ve already gotten done.” Looking to Makaela, she added, “Of course, it helps that Mother’s been helping.”

“And once Takari is prepared, I shall be more than happy to help you out as well, Daenis, if you need it,” Makaela added.

Takari laughed. “And then we get to start on clothes for Lashrael and Iorlas and Lancaeriel!”

“I don’t know about that,” Makaela chuckled. She reached over and patted Takari’s swollen belly. “If this little one grows as quickly as you did when you were born, then we’re going to have to work on more clothes for him immediately, and the others will be able to use these!”

There was general laughter at that, and as Mailon excused himself to go clean the rabbits, Takari couldn’t help but feel that it had been well worth coming to work out in the foyer today, and that it would be something she would like to do on a regular basis.

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Re: Random Happenings | 117 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:53 pm

Location: The Tent, Dekra Palace, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 120 4A
Status: Early Spring

It had been a long day for Kaito, sitting in his and Shiro’s temporary room in the new traveling tent and watching the boy they’d found that morning as he slept; but despite that, he wasn’t really bored. There was something about watching over someone, especially someone that was so needy, that kept him alert.

The boy had woken a few times in the day, but just long enough to take a few sips of water before passing out again.

Now that he was awake and really eating, Kaito felt relieved. He hadn’t realized it throughout the day, but he had been very worried about the boy. Odd, how quickly those kinds of feelings could develop. They’d only found the boy that morning, after all.

“Where are we?” the boy asked suddenly, lowering the bread in his hands. “That girl made it sound like we’re in a house or something but we’re in a tent, aren’t we?”

Kaito grinned at the kid. He seemed pretty bright, despite being half-starved and dehydrated.

“That was Holly,” he told him. “And I’m Kaito, by the way. You’re right, we are in a tent, but it’s not just any tent. We can fold it up and put it in a bag and take it with us anywhere, even when there are people inside, and inside the tent never changes!”

His eyes gleamed with excitement as he spoke of their temporary home. It wasn’t often he had the opportunity to tell people about the tent; usually that was Miyuki’s privilege.

“While you were asleep,” he went on, “that’s just what they did – they folded up the tent with us inside of it, put it in their bag, and kept traveling. We’re nowhere near where we were this morning, now. We’re in Dekra.”

The boy tilted his head curiously. “Why? Dekra’s not a very nice place.”

Kaito chuckled. “Well, it’s my first time here, so I wouldn’t know. But Kyrie, our guide, she’s good friends with Queen Mari. And our friend Cael, his family lives here. So we’re here to visit.”

The boy’s eyes narrowed and he looked sharply towards one corner of the room. “Not … Cael-a-mon-dor-i-on?” he said slowly, as if repeating after someone, looking back at Kaito. “The guy that used to be a prince here?”

“Yeah!” Kaito beamed. “You know, the guy who … well, I guess he was just kind of standing aside earlier … well, you’ll meet him properly later.” Suddenly he noticed a sort of sick look on the boy’s face. “Hey, kid … you all right?” he asked, frowning.

The boy took a long look back towards the corner and hesitated, his eyebrows pressed anxiously together. After half a minute, he licked his lips and murmured, “It’s … nothing …”

His eyes, however, were flickering rapidly back and forth between Kaito and the corner.

Kaito’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “You’re sure?” He had the feeling that the boy was hearing something from either his mother or grandfather – or both.

The boy didn’t answer.

Kaito decided not to make an issue of it. Instead, he leaned back against the wall, cushioning himself with his wings.

“What’s your name, anyways, kid?” he asked with a smile, forcing himself to relax again. “I mean, I can’t just keep calling you ‘kid’ all the time. It’s a bit weird.”

The boy sniffed and reached for the flask of water again. “Twig.”

Kaito blinked. “What?” He didn’t mean to be rude, but he was taken by complete surprise. “Twig?”

The boy shrugged one shoulder and unstopped the flask. “Well, not really, but that’s what everyone calls me.” He put the flask to his lips and took a long, slow drink, paused to lick his lips again, and then took another long drink. “Stupid, skinny little twig of a kid.”

“Well no one here will ever call you that,” Kaito frowned. “I mean, if you want us to call you Twig, we can do that, but no one will ever call you stupid or anything like it.” He paused for a moment before adding, “Of course … if you tell me your real name, we can call you by that. If you prefer that, of course.”

The boy looked once more at the corner before turning back to Kaito, and then he nodded firmly. “Twig.”

Kaito was surprised, given how much the boy had seemed not to like the name that he had been tagged with, but he simply smiled and nodded.

“Twig it is,” he agreed.

He noticed then that Twig was still staring at him as if weighing him. He tipped his head curiously and murmured, “What are you thinking?”

Twig frowned. “Well … I don’t understand … you said the prince is visiting his family, but … isn’t his father dead? The General?”

“Well … yes,” Kaito hesitated, “but the General wasn’t his father.”

He could tell by the way that Twig looked so sharply at the corner that he had surprised someone, either the boy’s mother or grandfather – or who knew? Maybe he had shocked them both.

Probably both, he decided a moment later, when he saw Twig wince and cover his ears.

Instead of asking questions, he just explained.

“See, when Cael was a baby, the General stole him from his parents, so after the General was killed, Cael got to meet his real family. Now he’s back to visit them, and they live with Queen Mari because she lived with them while she was in hiding from the General, so we’re at the palace in Dekra. Cael gets to visit his family, Kyrie gets to visit her friend, and my friends get to explore a country.”

He grinned.

“It all works out.”

Twig stared at him, the corners of his mouth turned down, his gaze intense. It was as if he was trying to figure out whether Kaito was telling the truth or not.

“If you’ve got the energy, maybe we can go out and meet them,” Kaito suggested. He hoped the boy was up for the idea. Twig kept staring, and after a moment, Kaito wondered if he had somehow said something wrong. At length, however, the boy spoke:

“Yeah … maybe …”

Kaito grinned. “Excellent. You just tell me when you’re ready, then.”

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Re: Random Happenings | 117 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:27 pm

Time for a Checkup
Location: The Tent, Makshim, Shiezin, Arkandia
Year: 120 4A
Status: Early Spring

“Hard to believe it’s already been a year since we found him,” Iorlas smiled warmly as she sat on one corner of the bed she and her husband shared.

Amir was sitting next to her, half-dressed, his pale eyes wide and fixed on Ahkshi, who had come to check up on him. Kaede, his Leafeon, was curled up next to him, her head on his lap. For once, the energetic creature was calm, probably due to the very strict orders she had received from Iorlas and Daeron.

“T-to be fair,” Ahkshi chuckled, “a lot has h-h-happened in that year. Y-you received a s-s-soul, you f-f-found c-con-n-nections to people you kn-kn-know … three m-m-marriages in your group …”

“Four pregnancies,” Daeron grinned.

Ahkshi chuckled again. “C-considering all your group has b-b-been through, I h-have to say I’m imp-p-pressed with how healthy everyone is.”

Daeron pshawed. “Come on. This was a calm trip.”

“Mm.” Ahkshi focused his attention on Amir. “K-Kyrie told me ab-b-bout it. R-running from the White Elves. Held – b-b-briefly, I know – b-by the F-Fire Elves. Y-your run-in with the V-V-Valar.”

At that, he arched one eyebrow and looked at Iorlas. “A m-most impressive event.”

Iorlas smiled warmly.

“Then I understand that you met my in-laws,” Ahkshi continued, turning back to the boy, “were t-taken by surprise by the Light Elves, w-were n-n-nearly killed by v-volcanic g-g-gas, on the r-r-r-run from the Earth Elves, s-s-stayed with the hum-m-mans and were n-n-not t-treated w-w-well, s-somehow got t-tangled up in g-genocide, t-took down a m-m-mercenary g-group …”

He paused and smiled at the two of them. “Have I m-m-made my point?”

Daeron held up both hands defensively. “You win. Busy year.”

“I m-must say,” the physician murmured softly, opening Amir’s mouth and peering inside, “it m-makes m-me very glad that K-Kyrie and the others are only g-g-gone for a short time this time to v-v-visit Queen Mari. V-very s-safe.”

He let Amir close his mouth, and then he put one hand over the boy’s heart to feel his heartbeat. “However, I d-did hear that Amir s-started talking while you were away.” He looked at Iorlas. “Is that t-true?”

Iorlas smiled and set one hand on Amir’s head. “It started with giggling. Just a bit at first, but now quite often, especially when he’s playing with Kaede. He speaks a little bit … Mama, Ada … not much more than that.”

“He hums, occasionally,” Daeron input with a proud smile.

“A m-music lover, eh?” Ahkshi grinned at the boy.

Amir grinned back at him, but remained silent.

“D-do either of you play any instruments?” Ahkshi asked, nudging Kaede aside and tugging Amir to his feet.

“I’ve learned to play the flute,” Iorlas offered.

Daeron just shrugged. “I’m more a listener.”

Ahkshi glanced at Iorlas. “Would you b-be so kind as to p-p-play a bit?”

Iorlas was surprised. “Oh?”

“Yes.” He looked back at Amir. “I’d like to s-s-see if it g-gets him t-talking. Or s-s-something. Anything.”

A light appeared in Iorlas’ eyes, and she bit her lower lip to hold back a giggle. “Just ask Kaede. She’ll get him going. She always does.”

The physician arched one eyebrow in surprise, but then he looked at Kaede thoughtfully. “K-K-Kaede,” he stuttered.

Before he could say any more, the Leafeon bounded to her feet and headbutted Amir, knocking him to the bed. He squealed excitedly and scrambled to his hands and knees. “Kae!” he giggled, launching himself at the Pokémon. The two of them went rolling, and Iorlas pushed herself to her feet to avoid being hit.

“Amir, Kaede,” Daeron said sharply, frowning. “Careful!” He hurried to his wife’s side and put his hands on her shoulders protectively.

Amir flopped onto his back and giggled, hugging Kaede around the neck.

“It’s all right, Daeron,” Iorlas assured him with a gentle smile, slipping one arm around his waist. “I’m fine. You can worry in another few months.”

Ahkshi was also smiling, and he crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. “Well, I must s-say, he seems to be doing r-r-remarkably well. He’s s-s-strong, healthy, g-g-growing well, his v-voice s-s-seems to be coming back …”

There was warmth in his eyes as he watched the boy wrestle with Kaede on the bed. “Yes. You two t-t-taking him in was the b-b-best thing for him, I think.”

His hands still on his wife’s shoulders, Daeron smiled widely. “Thanks, Ahkshi. It was good for us, too.”

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Random Happenings | 117 4A + Empty Re: Random Happenings | 117 4A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Nov 05, 2017 4:15 pm

Doubts and Fears
Location: The Tent, Makshim, Shiezin, Arkandia
Year: 120 4A
Status: Early Spring

Since Takari first started to do her sewing in the foyer, she had discovered that the other expectant women – Daenis, Iorlas and Lashrael – had made a habit of spending every morning there together: talking, sewing, planning; and it was something she found she really enjoyed. It quickly became something she looked forward to every day. There was no telling where the conversations might lead. For the most part, the discussions were cheerful and upbeat, but there were times – rare, but present – when they would voice their worries.

Daenis, especially.

Takari was the first to admit that she didn’t always understand why Daenis feared the things she did.

“I want to give Mailon a strong child,” she was saying on this particular day, “but at the same time, I am afraid.”

Takari frowned at her. “I don’t understand.”

Daenis paused and lowered her hands to her lap, her eyes fixed on a random spot. “I was considered a strong child,” she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper. “My mother died giving birth to me.”

There was a moment of stunned silence in the room, until at last, Iorlas broke it.

“Mailon is considered quite strong according to his people, is he not?” she asked.

Daenis looked at her in surprise and blinked as the question registered. It took her a few seconds to consider it, but when she did, she nodded. Her husband had been the Weapons Master of his village, after all, and from the age of ten.

“He spoke of his mother,” Iorlas went on with a gentle smile. “She did not die giving birth to him.”

“Takari was also a strong child,” Makaela put in proudly. “Yet hers was a simple and safe birth.”

“And think of everyone else in our group,” Lashrael pointed out. “As far as I know, Princess Wren and I are the only ones whose mothers are dead. I don’t know about hers, but my mother was killed by a volcano.”

“Wren’s mother died shortly after Wren’s birth,” Iorlas replied thoughtfully, “though I do not know that it was her birth that was the cause.”

Daenis took a deep breath and looked around at the faces that surrounded her. Their expressions were warm, and she could see how much they wanted to reassure her. Warmth trickled into her cheeks and she lowered her gaze self-consciously, though she knew full well that none of them would see the reddish hues on her cheeks that she sometimes saw on them.

“You are all very kind,” she murmured quietly. “Thank you. I often forget that the values of my people are … unreasonable.”

“It is not easy to forget the teachings of your upbringing,” Iorlas sympathized, putting a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “Especially in a place where they are so strongly enforced, like where you were from.”

“Besides,” Lashrael added with a grin; “when you give birth, we’ll either still be here with Ahkshi – the best physician in the country, I hear – to help you, or we’ll be traveling again and have Cael and Lancaeriel, who aren’t too bad themselves in the healing department.”

Makaela smiled widely. She had experienced the power of their abilities, after all.

Daenis’ pale eyes were bright as she looked at the women who surrounded her. “You are all quite right,” she murmured. “Thank you.”

“Just remember,” Lashrael pointed out, “that you’re not the only one who has fears.”

The others were as stunned as when Daenis had told the others about her mother. Lashrael was afraid of something? The same Lashrael who seemed to laugh danger in the face? Living in the wild on her own for five hundred years to find out what had happened to her family? Who had deserted her post in the army to do so? Who had, against regulations, had a relationship with a fellow officer?

“Oh, come on,” the former soldier laughed, looking at the others. “No one is truly fearless.” Sobering, she murmured, “I fear every day that the army will catch up with us and that Jassin and I will be executed as traitors.”

“I fear that something might happen to Tehlmar,” Takari confessed. “He trained with the army, yes, but he was not with them long … I know he is skilled, but he is nowhere near as skilled as any of your husbands.”

“That isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Daenis murmured. “Fewer regrets that way.”

Takari looked at Daenis curiously, wondering what she meant. She knew there were things about her companions that she didn’t know, but she didn’t want to pry, either.

“I must admit, since joining all of you, my fears have melted away,” Makaela smiled. She held up the blanket she was knitting and examined it as she spoke. “That being said, I still find it difficult to believe that there are places where groups like yours are not only tolerated, but welcome. I suppose that my fear is that we will make it all the way there and find ourselves rejected once more.”

Iorlas smiled widely. “I’ve been to Caras Galadhon. We spent over a year there. I can personally assure you that you have nothing at all to fear in that respect. It may not be perfect – no place is, after all – but I have never seen so many races and mixed races before in my life.”

“How old are you?” Takari asked curiously before she could stop herself.

For a moment, Iorlas hesitated, her brow furrowing slightly as though she were thinking about her answer. Finally, she replied, “The years have a way of slipping past without my realizing it. I don’t believe I could give a true number. I was born late in the First Age. I have seen much.”

“Then you must not fear anything at this point,” Daenis smiled, “if you have seen and survived so much.”

Iorlas laughed softly, amused by the young girl’s naiveté. “On the contrary,” she assured her with a warm smile, “the more I find to love, the more I fear.” Suddenly her voice softened. “I just have different things to fear.”

The others waited a moment for her to elaborate, as they all had, but Iorlas simply focused on her embroidery and didn’t offer anything more.

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