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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:17 pm

An Anticipated Return
Location: Tor Karad, Southland
Year: 58 F.A.
Status: Early Spring

Coronation Day had come and gone before Sir Valdemar made it back to the Southland, and when he rode into the palace stables, everyone stared at him. He paid them no mind: after all, he had vanished quite suddenly and been gone for over two months, why would they not be surprised at his unexpected return?

As much as he wanted just to go straight to his room and wash and rest, he knew that he should first seek out the queen and report to her. It being about noon, he knew that she would be on her way to the Dining Hall, so that was where he headed. The entire family was there already, eating, and so rather than going in himself and interrupting their meal, he asked one of the guards to inform the queen of his return instead.

Atalya was out almost immediately, her expression one of complete and utter shock. Her eyes grew wide as she looked at the historian, and as soon as she could find her voice back she murmured, “You’ve returned …”

Sir Valdemar cleared his throat awkwardly. He was by far the taller of the two of them, but at the moment he felt very small indeed.

“I beg your forgiveness, my Queen,” he replied softly, bowing deeply. “I shall remain here from now on.”

Her gaze did not falter. “Where did you go?” she asked him seriously. “When you asked permission to leave, I asked no questions, I could see that it was important that you leave as soon as possible. But you have been gone for more than two seasons, and while what you did may not be my business to know, I believe it is at least my business to know where you were.”

Sir Valdemar bowed his head again. “Yes, your Majesty,” he agreed solemnly, “you should indeed know where I was. I was in the Borderlands, at the home of Ulani and Ulrich Aldrich, and then with your Majesty’s own grandson, Prince Elrohir, who, I must tell you, is in perfect health, as are his wife, son, and daughter.”

Atalya blinked, speechless for a moment to hear about Elrohir’s children (she had only known about Ahren until this point), but then she tucked the information away and got back to the point.

“After lunch,” she said firmly, “you and I will be having a talk.”

Sir Valdemar nodded. He knew that despite her tone, it was an order. Well, he would be ready for it.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:17 pm

Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 58 F.A.
Status: Mid Spring

There were times when it seemed to Amdír as if time in the Borderlands flew by entirely too quickly. It seemed like only yesterday that the twins had been born, but by now they were already twelve weeks old, and winter had completely bypassed stirring and it was already the middle of spring. The nights were warm, and growing warmer, and since the twins had been moved to their own bedroom now (since they were growing so quickly that even the master bedroom, which was quite large, had started to feel small), Amdír and Aliya had taken advantage of the weather and were sleeping with the window open.

At least, Aliya was asleep, her head on Amdír’s shoulder, lying across his chest, one arm wrapped around him. He smiled as she sighed softly in her sleep, then put one hand on her back tenderly. He still had trouble sometimes believing what had happened since he had come to live at the ranch. He had been a boy, really, when he had first come … despite being an adult physically and mentally, experientially he had been but a child. It had been his first trip anywhere, and he could remember his excitement at the prospect of trying out for a job.

He closed his eyes and remembered.

So many things had been unexpected … falling in love at the first sight of the woman – no, the girl who had been the one to interview him … actually getting the job … the satisfaction – no, the pleasure – of seeing the expressions on the faces of the children that were rescued, that he helped rescue by training the horses used for their transportation …

But the most unexpected of all … finding a wife … the most amazing woman he knew … and starting a family of his own … having his own children … and yet, these were also the most amazing surprises of all.

He opened his eyes and looked down at Aliya. Moonlight from the full moon beamed into the window and bathed her face in its soft glow, accenting the contrasts between light and shadow as she lay on his chest. He smiled and brushed aside a stray hair that had fallen across her face, then traced her brow lightly with his fingertip. She frowned softly in her sleep, then lifted her head slightly and rubbed her forehead against his chest as if trying to get rid of the tickling sensation he knew she would be experiencing, then lay still once more, her head turned to face the other way.

Amdír chuckled softly. There were times when the love he felt for his wife took even him by surprise. No matter how much time he spent with her, he never got over his amusement at her reactions to things, or the way she was always so full of energy – or nearly always, anyways – and, his personal favourite, her childlike innocence.

In the river behind the house a fish splashed on the surface of the water, and Aliya jerked awake and looked around, blinking sleepily.

“Whawazzat?” she mumbled, stifling a yawn. “Kids awake?”

Amdír smiled faintly and tucked her hair behind her ears, letting his finger trail down her jawline once more, coming to a stop on her lips.

“Shh, no,” he whispered. “They’re asleep. A fish, that’s all it was. Go back to sleep.”

Before he was even finished speaking, her eyes drooped closed again and her head lowered once more to his chest, and a moment later she was breathing deeply and evenly.

He smiled and pulled the blanket up a little higher, up to Aliya’s shoulders. She had been more tired then usual of late, and Amdír knew that it wasn’t just because of the twins. Something else had been bothering her lately, something outside their family life. It was true he had only known her … what, less than seven years? … but they had been married for four, and he felt that he knew her well. Marriage after all was something that did tend to help you get to know someone very well. And from that … he suspected that he even knew what it was that was bothering her.


He couldn’t say what, why or how, but something had happened to change her view of him. She had used to be wary of letting Adan spend time with the man, but now she seemed to be encouraging their interaction. Not only that, but she had used to be one of the people who was most curious about the mystery behind him – but now, she was the one asking others to leave him alone.

The troubling part was that he had no idea when an event might have happened that she might have had a talk with him or something. For that matter, Amdír didn’t even know if the man ever spoke with anyone – he had certainly never witnessed one.

He didn’t much mind this little mystery, though – Aliya’s strange change of heart. It meant that he would only have to work a little harder to get to know his wife even better.

Indeed, he smiled to himself as he drifted off into sleep, he had never expected anything like this when he had applied to work on the ranch …

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:18 pm

Look at me!! ... or not.
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 58 F.A.
Status: Later Summer

At six years old, Arwen Aldrich was adventurous and energetic. She loved nothing more than to play in the forest with her brother, or one or another of the people who worked on the ranch. But there were also times when she liked to play by herself, and this particular day was one of those times.

The morning had been nothing unusual, for the most part. She had spent a few hours doing lessons with her mother and her brother, then gone outside to play. There was one tree in particular that she had been trying for months to climb, and each day she got a little higher. Her parents discouraged her from climbing without someone there to watch her, but like any child she wasn’t always obedient. When her brother had spotted her in the tree without an adult around to help in case of an accident, he had run inside to tell their mother, who had scolded Arwen severely and sent her to her room until lunch.

But that had been the morning.

Now it was afternoon, and she was still annoyed with her brother for being a tattletale. When they had gone outside to play again, she had taken off without him, trying to leave him behind so that he couldn’t spoil her fun again. She knew the woods around the ranch like the back of her hand, and it didn’t take her long to lose her brother in them. Sure, he knew them just as well, but she knew some hiding places he hadn’t found before. She ducked into the hollow of an old tree and pressed herself to the side so that he wouldn’t be able to see her, and within moments she saw him run past, still calling out for her. When she couldn’t hear him anymore, she left the tree and began to wander.

As time passed, she grew more and more relaxed. She sang softly to herself and sat down in the middle of a patch of flowers, smiling as she began to pick some of them. She wanted to make something pretty for her mama, but she wasn’t sure what to do. She remembered that sometimes, Vanya, the head gardener, would make a wreath out of flowers and hang them on the door of her quarters. Yes, that was what she would do.

And with a sudden determination, the young elfling began to pluck the flowers, making sure their stems were long enough to weave, and began twining them together.

From time to time, she heard footsteps, but the most common sounds she heard were animals: birds, squirrels, rabbits, even the odd raccoon, fox and deer. At one point, a fawn appeared from the trees, staring at the girl in fascination, and Arwen stared right back. Suddenly there was a shout from behind her, and the deer vanished into the safety of the forest.

Arwen closed her eyes and frowned. Ahren! Why did he have to spoil things again? She dropped her half-completed wreath and pressed herself close to the ground, wishing that she could just disappear so that he couldn’t bother her. Wouldn’t it be nice, she thought, if she could just disappear every time she didn’t want her brother to find her? Life would be a lot more peaceful that way.

“Arwen, I can see you,” Ahren’s voice rang out in the stillness of the forest. “Come on, let’s go home so we can play a game or something!” She could hear his footsteps behind her, coming closer and closer to where she was trying to hide. He called again. “Arwen!”

Arwen sighed, giving up. It was obvious that he knew exactly where she was, and if he could see her then she would get no peace until she went with him. Frowning, she sat up and turned to face him. “Why can’t I just stay here?” she complained. She picked up her wreath-in-progress. “I want to finish this!”

She blinked at her brother, seeing the look on his face. It looked like a mixture of disbelief and horror.

“What?” she asked uncomfortably, looking behind her to see if there was a moor cat or something there.

But there wasn’t.

She turned back to her brother, who had gone quite pale all of a sudden. “What are you looking at?” she demanded in a showing of bravado, though inside she was feeling quite nervous.

Ahren lifted one hand and pointed shakily at her. “You … you …” he stuttered – but he didn’t seem to be able to get past that point.

“Me, what?” Arwen asked, looking down at herself.

She blinked.

And looked again.

And blinked again.

And screamed.

“What happened to me?!” she wailed, jumping to her feet – at least it felt like she did, she didn’t know for certain. “Where did I go?!” She burst into tears. She couldn’t see any of herself – her feet, legs, body, arms, hands … everything was gone. When she looked cross-eyed, she could see her nose – but that was it. She started towards her brother, looking for comfort, for answers – but the second she took a step forward he, too, screamed, then turned and ran out of the clearing and in the direction of home.

Tears were pouring down Arwen’s face, and she tried to wipe them away – but the feeling of wiping them away without seeing anything anywhere near her cheeks terrified her even more, and her tears only flowed more strongly. Terrified and ashamed, she turned towards the trees and ran.

She didn’t know where she was going, or how far, or how long she was running, but suddenly she was stopped short – by running into something quite solid. She bounced backwards, fell to her knees, and remained like that, still wailing.

But what she hit was not a what at all, but a who: and who that who was, was Aragost.

The tall dark figure turned around and peered at the little girl who was sitting on the ground, crying profusely. For several long seconds he remained motionless, doing nothing but observing – and within a matter of seconds, she was fully visible once more. He knelt next to her and put one hand on her shoulder.

Do not cry, Arwen,” he said softly, in the voice he reserved for children and a few select others.

Arwen looked up at his voice, and her tears began anew. She tried to speak, but the words would not come, blocked by her fright and her gasping breaths.

Without a word, Aragost lifted the child into his arms and hugged her comfortingly, placing her head on his shoulder and rocking her back and forth gently. “There, there,” he murmured, “you’re alright. Hush …

For several minutes, the two of them remained in the same position, and slowly but surely Arwen’s sobs faded away into soft hiccups. Aragost rubbed her back slowly, gently, comfortingly; and within another several minutes Arwen was calm enough that she was no longer crying. Dark tracks trailed down her cheeks however, and she made no move to wipe them away. Aragost looked at her pityingly, and he sat cross-legged on the ground, holding Arwen in his lap like an infant.

What is the matter?” he asked tenderly, rocking her slowly. He knew what the problem was, of course, he had seen it – but he knew that putting it into words was the first step towards acceptance.

Arwen looked up at him dolefully and answered in a frightened voice, her reply dotted with little hiccups. “I- I dis- disapp- eared,” she hiccupped. “Where- did I- go? What- happened to- me? I was- gone, and Ahr- Ahren ran awa- away from me!”

Aragost smiled in the shadows of his cowl. “Arwen,” he murmured, “you are at the age when your magic is most likely to begin to manifest … to appear. Tell me … what were you thinking when it happened?

Arwen thought about it for a moment, then replied softly, “I- I was think- thinking that I wante- wanted to hi- hide from Ahr- Ahren.” Her hiccups were as strong as ever.

And were you able to hide?” Aragost pressed, still rocking her gently.

The elfling thought about that for a moment. “I- I think- I might have- been able t- to,” she hiccupped in reply, “but- he saw my- my head …”

Aragost smiled and took her hand, squeezing it gently. “I think,” he said softly, “that this … vanishing … is your magic, the thing that only you can do, that makes you special, that sets you apart from your brother, and even, in this case, your parents.

She hiccupped a particularly loud one, and he reached inside his robes and pulled out a small item of food.

Eat this,” he instructed her, placing it in her hand. “It will make your hiccups go away.

Arwen did as she was told, swallowing the item (which, she noted happily, tasted suspiciously like something sugary). Sure enough, her hiccups disappeared almost immediately.

Now,” Aragost smiled, “I would like you to try it again … right here … right now … think about disappearing … about hiding, so that no one can see you … try it …

Arwen looked up at the man curiously, but she nodded and closed her eyes in concentration.

I want to disappear, she thought to herself. So that no one can see me, at all! I want to hide away so that I can be by myself and make flower wreaths and-

Her thoughts were interrupted by a low chuckle that emanated from Aragost, and she opened her eyes once more. The first thing she noticed was that her feet were gone. She yelped and tried to scramble backwards, but Aragost held her firmly in his arms.

You see?” he smiled at her. “It is your magic … it is natural. Now … try to reverse it … make yourself visible again.

Arwen looked up at the man dubiously, but she nodded and stared at the space where she knew deep down that her feet were, but she couldn’t see them. She tried concentrating again, telling her feet to come back, wanting to be all the way there – and slowly, very slowly, her feet reappeared. She looked up at Aragost, surprised, then threw her arms around the man’s neck and hugged him tightly.

“Thank you!” she cried. “Thank you so much!”

Aragost smiled inwardly and hugged her back. “Now,” he murmured, “why don’t we go find your brother and let him know that you’re all right?

Arwen nodded her agreement. Yes, she didn’t want him to be scared of her. As much as she wanted to be alone sometimes, she wanted to play with him, too.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:20 pm

A Question of Truth
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 61 F.A.
Status: Mid-Summer

Shael was quite bright, all things considered. She could know things without being taught, by only watching others, and she was very observant, so when it came to the question of how much she knew, she knew a lot about most things. For example, she knew that Aragost, despite his appearance and carriage, was kind and gentle. She also knew that he had an uncanny knack for knowing things that most people would never reveal about themselves. He was never confused, and always right about whatever he was talking about, no matter what it was. She knew that it was some sort of magic that aided him, though her own magic did not help her in discovering the precise nature of his magic.

By this time, she was sixteen years old, and she had been living with Ulani and Ulrich for eight years. To her, it seemed like her entire life – yet there were times, especially lately, when she wondered about her early life. Who had been her parents? Where had she come from? Did she have blood family? Normally she wouldn’t think about these sorts of things, but of late Adonai had been acting somewhat strange, which had somehow made her feel … what? Not homesick, not empty … but lost? Yes, that was a good word to describe it. Lost. And whenever she felt that way, she would retire to her bedroom and think about her family.

She was grateful for the family that she had now, and she loved them all very much – she loved everyone here in the valley, and at the ranch, the people who had saved her from a life of hardship and pain that she knew she would have otherwise had, if she had even survived much longer in the first place. She was certain she would have been dead by now had she not been rescued. After all, how much use was a slave who couldn’t walk? Not to mention she was lucky to have gone so long without an infection as it was. But despite her feelings towards her new family … she couldn’t help but think of her blood family at times.

This particular day was a difficult one. It was the anniversary of her arrival at the ranch, and though it should have been a joyful day – considering that it was the day they usually celebrated her birthday, since they had no idea what day it was supposed to be – she couldn’t help but wonder exactly that … which day was it supposed to be?

The day passed well enough, but after the sun had gone down, instead of going to her room and preparing for bed, she pulled on her cloak, reached for her crutch, and headed outside. She told herself that she wasn’t going to go far, that she just wanted to think for a while, but somehow she found herself walking the now very familiar path towards the ranch. She told herself that she didn’t know why she was going there in the first place, but somehow she found herself heading directly towards the place where she knew Aragost would be keeping watch. She told herself she was just going for a walk, but somehow she found herself trying to think of the most effective way to ask the question she knew inevitably that she wanted to ask.

And then she found Aragost.

He seemed to have been expecting here (well that was no surprise, she told herself), and yet for several moments she just stood, facing him, resting her weight on her crutch, hoping that he would speak first.

He didn’t.

After nearly five minutes of just staring at him, hoping that he would speak, Shael finally gave up and spoke first.

“You know everything about people, don’t you?” she asked him abruptly.

There was no movement beneath the dark cowl, but a low, deep voice emanated from its depths: “Those whom I have met.

That was what Shael had hoped.

“Then you know all about me,” she pressed. “About before I was here, before I was enslaved by the dwarfs.”

No reply.

“My real name, my age, my birthday, my parents, where I’m from,” she went on, her voice sounding slightly more desperate. “You know all of that. You know everything.”

Still no reply.

“Don’t you?”

And finally, he answered.

Yes,” he said, almost in a hiss. “But … do you … truly … wish to know these things?

Shael blinked. Of course she did, why else would she be asking him?

“Yes,” she replied without hesitation. “I do.”

The dark cowl dipped forward slightly, as if the dark man were examining her. “Are you certain?” he asked again. “You … have not considered … the consequences of knowing … it will change things … your life … your family … you … nothing will remain the same …

Shael blinked. “What do you mean?” she asked nervously.

Aragost reached out and put one hand on the young woman’s shoulder.

Shael,” he murmured softly, his voice suddenly tender, “if you know the name you were born with, you will no longer be Shael. If you know your true parents, you will not consider Ulani and Ulrich your parents. If you knew whether or not you had any blood siblings, Adonai and Aliya would not be your brother and sister. If you knew where you were born, this would not be your home – you would wish to return, to find your family, and leave all of this behind. It is likely that you would not find satisfaction, that you would be disappointed, finding your family to be quite different from what you imagine them to be. It is likely that they will no longer have room for you in their home, and that they will not recognize you. It is even possible that they may have forgotten you.

He paused.

Knowing this … would you be able to live once more as you do now?

Shael fidgeted, thinking about what he was saying. She had never considered any of those possibilities before, thought that if only she could know … she would be all right.

But now that she considered his words, she knew that he was right.

“No,” she murmured softly, her shoulders slumping in defeat. “You’re right … I would not be happy here anymore.”

As much as she loved Ulani and Ulrich, she knew that she would indeed have headed off to try to find the answers to her past, and that it would have broken their hearts. And hers, eventually.

Knowing this,” Aragost murmured again, “do you still wish to know about yourself?

Shael took a deep breath and fought back tears. She didn’t know the answer to that particular question herself. Did she want to? Yes, she wanted to fill the gaps in her memory. But on the other hand the last thing she wanted was to make Ulrich and Ulani feel that all they had done for her was not appreciated, that it wasn’t enough for her.

“No,” she said finally. “I don’t.”

And she stood there awkwardly, staring at the ground, holding her crutch as if relying on it for more than just physical support. She had asked Aragost all that she knew she could, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to go back yet. Not yet.

Aragost gazed at her for a long time, staring down at her as if trying to decide what he was seeing, if she was truly feeling the way she claimed. Finally he seemed to decide, and he took a small step forward and put his arms around Shael, pulling her close for a gentle embrace.

You will be all right,” he murmured softly. He put one hand on the back of her head reassuringly and repeated it one again. “You will be all right.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:22 pm

The Job Hits Home
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 60 F.A.
Status: Mid-Spring

One thing Aliya had learned over the years was that anything could happen in the blink of an eye. Anything. But it was impossible to be prepared for every eventuality, and though settling into a routine made life comfortable, it also tended to let them overlook the dangers that were not as expected, and therefore unprepared for.

Adanedhel was six years old now, and he still went off with Aragost every morning, though now it was for real lessons and not just to keep the boy out of trouble. He loved his lessons with Aragost – they were always interesting, and whenever the man promised to teach Adan something new, he did. It was thanks to Aragost that Adan’s carving collection was growing so large, but on the other hand it also meant that both her and Ulrich were running out of ideas for carvings to make. He already had just about every animal, race, or plant in existence, and Ulrich refused to care little weapons for him, no matter how much he begged.

“Mama! I’m going to go find Ara-kun!” the boy called out early in the morning as he headed for the door.

“Shouldn’t you wait until he gets here?” Aliya called back, sticking her head out from the kitchen.

Adan paused at the door to frown back at his mother. “But he won’t be here for a long time yet!” he protested. “Then half the morning will be gone!”

Aliya looked doubtful, but with the twins to take care of in the kitchen, she really needed to get back to them. “You’ll go straight there, no distractions, no wandering? Straight there?”

Adanedhel broke into a wide grin. “I will!” he promised, already running out the door. “See you later, Mama!”

And then he was gone.


An hour later, there was a knock at the door. Aliya had just sat down to relax a bit after setting Adwin and Alyse up with some books, but she got right back to her feet and answered it. When she opened it, her eyes grew wide with surprise.


The dark man paused, his hand still raised. “I was going to say … it is odd for Adanedhel not to meet me at the door … but now I see … he has already left.

A cold chill shot though Aliya.

“Where is he?” she asked in a low tone.

The air around them suddenly turned cold. “I will find out,” Aragost growled, turning away from the house and leaving Aliya alone. He strode quickly over to the next house and, without knocking, whipped the door open and called out in a strong and commanding tone, “Ulani! Your mother’s sword, your elfstones, a cloak and a blanket! Now!

Ulani stepped out of the kitchen, her surprise obvious on her face. “What …”

Do not waste time, just go!” Aragost snapped. “They’ve taken Adanedhel, you and I must get him back!

Ulani blinked, then stared.

Don’t just stand there, gaping, woman!” Aragost roared furiously, clenching his fists at his side. “We have to move NOW!

Less than two minutes later, the two of them were off, running through the forest and following the directions of Ulani’s elfstones.


A rhythmic bump bump bump gradually dragged Adan out of his groggy state. He felt very sleepy for some reason, but he didn’t know why. He wondered why everything was so bumpy – he was getting a headache. Or perhaps he already had it, which was possible after all. It was really bumpy.

He tried to move, to make himself at least a bit more comfortable, but he was very surprised to find … he couldn’t. He opened his eyes and looked around, and he was even more surprised to find that he was lying across the back of a horse, stomach down, his chin bumping on the horse’s flank with every movement.

“Ow,” he frowned, fidgeting a bit. His knee jabbed into the horse’s flank, and it jumped a bit, and he felt himself sliding backwards off it. “Whoooaaaaa!”

Just before he fell, someone grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him back up. Instead of laying him across the back, though, Adan was set in front of the person, riding as he sometimes rode with his father. He looked over his shoulder to see who he was with, and he was surprised to see that he didn’t recognize the man – and then he saw that the man was human.

“Hey you!” he frowned. “Where you taking me?”

The man glanced down at the boy, then looked forward again.

“Hey! I’m talking to you!” Adan said angrily. The man still didn’t react, and he tried again in every language he knew. When he said it in the human tongue, the man struck him across the back of the head.

“Shut up!” he growled. “If you know what’s good for you.”

Stars danced in Adan’s eyes, but he shook his head to clear it. Suddenly he knew what was going on. This man was the kind that Elros and Aragost and Celeborn always talked about, the kind that took kids away from their families and treated them badly! He felt rebellion surging up in his chest, and he raised his tied wrists and rammed his elbow backwards with as much force as he could muster.

“Let me go!” he yelled as the man jerked spasmodically. He leaned backward and swung both legs to the same side, then slid down the horse and hit the ground running. He didn’t know where he was or where they were going, or for that matter which direction they had come from, but he knew he had to get away.

“Get back here, you little–”

The man turned the horse around and tore after Adan, and it wasn’t long at all before he caught up. He reached down and grabbed the boy by the back of his collar and dragged him up onto the horse again, sitting him in the same place again rather violently.

“Now sit down and shut up,” the man growled, “or you won’t be able to move at all.”

Adan scowled furiously, but he wasn’t about to give up.

“Just you wait!” he yelled, squirming as much as he could. “You’re gonna get it! Just you wait, Ara-kun will come for me and he’ll make you wish you didn’t take me! You’re gonna regret it! Ara-kun will get you!” He struggled against his bonds, arching his back and trying to either headbutt his abductor or squirm his way off the horse again. “Let me go!”

He felt a sharp pain on the back of his head, and then he was engulfed in darkness.


The next time he woke up, his legs and arms were bound so tightly he couldn’t move at all. It was dark out, and he was lying a short distance away from a small fire. There were several other men there now, at least ten by Adan’s count. His own fire was gone. Even he wasn’t stupid enough to smart off with so many bad men around. He had been so certain that Aragost would come right away – he was supposed to have met up with him, after all, Aragost would know something was wrong when he didn’t show up, when he wasn’t at the house when he came to get him. But so much time had passed now … so much …

He felt a fresh surge of determination course through him. No, he couldn’t give up, he couldn’t lose hope! Aragost would come! He only had to bide his time, wait until he could sense Aragost’s presence, and then he would call out and let him know where he was!

His stomach growled suddenly, and very loudly, and the men looked over at him. One of them, the one he had been riding with, came over to check on him, poking and prodding as if making sure he was all right. When he tried to open the boy’s mouth to check inside, Adan seized the opportunity and bit down on the man’s finger as hard as he could.

The man screamed and jumped back, then slapped the boy across the face so hard he saw stars again. The others around the fire laughed heartily, pointing and jeering at the man whose finger was now bleeding. Once Adan’s head cleared enough again, he felt a sense of smug satisfaction – until the man hit him again.


When morning came, Adanedhel felt simply awful. Not only was his head pounding, but his entire body was aching. His pants were wet and sticky, and his stomach felt like it was caving in hunger. He was starving, embarrassed, ashamed, and, for the first time, scared. With each passing moment, his faith that Aragost would come faded a little bit more. He was also incredibly tired – he had cried half the night and been in too much pain to sleep the other half. He had never felt so miserable in his life.

When he was picked up and set on the horse with the man again, he looked up at him dolefully. “Person-san, I’m hungry,” he whimpered, trying to be polite, thinking it would increase his chances of actually getting some food.

“Shut up,” the man snarled, slapping the boy again, though not as hard as after he had bitten him.

Tears pricked at the corners of Adanedhel’s eyes and fell down his already sticky cheeks, and a moment later he had entirely dissolved into tears once more.

Throughout the morning, he passed in and out of consciousness, the wounds to his head taking their toll, but all through the morning he was conscious of feeling more and more cold, his discouragement growing with it. Around noon, the group stopped again, once more leaving Adan apart from them, just about ignoring him. He watched them through half-lidded eyes, too weak and hungry to do anything else. The air continued to cool, but rather than growing clearer as it usually did in the winter, it seemed to be growing … thicker.

His eyes grew wide. Aragost!

It seemed that he wasn’t the only one to notice Aragost’s presence. The men had grown quiet, fearful, and had begun to set a watch. Some of them had begun to argue softly amongst themselves, but their disquiet was quite obvious. Ironically, it made Adan happy – but this time, he was smart enough to keep it to himself.

The presence was growing steadily stronger, and more and more of the humans drew their weapons and stood in a circle to defend themselves. They seemed to know that there was something out there, but they had no idea what it was.

If they had known, they probably would have been more scared, Adan thought to himself. He knew most people considered Aragost to be quite scary, even though he had never seen that side of the man himself.

He wanted to shout out, to let his dear friend know that he was safe, to let him know where he was – but it seemed as though he already knew, for his presence drew nearer and nearer at a rate that seemed … almost too fast to be possible – until suddenly, it stopped. And in that moment, when it felt as though the weight of the world were bearing down upon him, Adanedhel felt his happiest.

Aragost had arrived.

He licked his lips and was about to shout for his friend when he felt a hand clamp over his mouth, stopping him from making any sound at all – but the odd thing was, he couldn’t see anything! He blinked, suddenly scared again – he didn’t know anyone except Arwen who could do that! – but a moment later, a hand faded into view, and Adan looked up to see Ulani kneeling over him and smiling grimly.

She put one finger to her lips to tell him to be quiet, then let go of his mouth and lifted him to her shoulder, and a moment later both of them disappeared from sight.

Suddenly the humans’ fire turned black and went out, and a thick, dark cloud appeared over the encampment. A moment later a black blur shot out from the trees, and the humans began to scream and scramble around, frantically trying to defend themselves.

Adan saw nothing of what happened – Ulani brought him into the forest, and the two of them hid there together, but once Ulani made them visible again Adan could see that his grandmother also wanted to be out there fighting. Still, she set about cutting his bonds, massaging his arms and legs to get the blood flowing through them again, then she stripped him down and examined his collection of bruises and cuts and burns.

“N-Nako?” he stuttered softly, shivering slightly in the cold air. “Can … can I have something to eat? They didn’t give me nothing …”

“Of course you can,” Ulani replied softly, taking her blanket from her bag and wrapping it around her grandson. “But let’s get you warm first, all right? You’re frozen …”

She made sure the blanket was wrapped around him warmly, so that very little of his skin was showing. It was a warm time of year, to be sure, but she was not going to take him home again in his soiled clothes, and she wasn’t going to be taking him back naked, either. Besides that, Aragost had made the air around them quite chilly indeed, though Ulani was certain that hunger and thirst were also factors in her grandson’s lack of warmth.

Once he had stopped shivering, she reached into her bag and pulled out some meat – not jerked meat, that would be too hard for him to chew at this point, but fresh meat, cut in slices. Once he had eaten that, she gave him some bread and a flask of some watered-down ale. He coughed trying to drink it, but he did finish all of it, right down to the last drop. By then, some of the colour had returned to his cheeks, and he felt rather drowsy indeed. Warm and fed, he lay his head against his grandmother’s chest and fell asleep.


When he woke again, he was being carried in Aragost’s arms. He looked up at the man curiously. Adanedhel had never seen him without his cloak before, and he wondered where it was. He examined his face curiously. It was … a little scary at first, because it was very scarred, very burnt, very black … but … at the same time Adan had the strangest feeling that he had known the man all his life, despite the fact that he had been a few years old already when the man had joined the ranch.

“Ara … kun?” he murmured sleepily.

Aragost looked down at Adanedhel and smiled, his black eyes softening slightly. “Yes, Adan?” he murmured softly as Ulani ran to walk beside him. She peered over the crook of his arm (being too short to see over his shoulder), her expression relieved to see that her grandson was all right.

Adanedhel looked at his grandmother’s smiling face, then up at Aragost again. “Ara-kun … where is your cloak?” he asked softly.

Aragost looked worried. “Does my appearance frighten you?” he asked tenderly.

Adan shook his head. “No … I just don’t want you to be cold for me,” he replied in a murmur. He looked from Aragost to Ulani again, then back and forth, and back and forth. “Ara … kun … why … do you look like Nako?”

Aragost and Ulani exchanged a startled glance. “Do we really?” Ulani questioned, her tone amused. When Adan nodded uncertainly, she laughed softly. “Well … there’s a reason for that.” She looked to Aragost. “Would you like to explain?”

Aragost smiled gently. “Of course,” he agreed softly, shifting Adanedhel in his arms. “But perhaps it is best saved for when we are safely home, hm?

Adan was too sleepy yet to argue, so he just nodded. “Okay,” he murmured, snuggling up against Aragost’s chest again. He closed his eyes, and within a matter of seconds he was asleep again.


The next time he woke up, he was dressed and lying snug in his own bed, warm and comfortable, though still a bit hungry. It was dark, but he could still see the forms of his parents sitting at his bedside, both of them with their heads down on his blanket, their hands intertwined, both fast asleep.

“Ma … ma?” he murmured drowsily, reaching over with one hand and placing it on his mother’s head.

Aliya raised her head and looked at Adanedhel, then climbed up onto the bed with him and held him in her arms, holding him close. A moment later, Amdír joined them as well, and Adanedhel felt safer than he had ever felt before. He was home.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:23 pm

A Visit to the In-Laws
Location: Ebonscarp, Westland
Year: 60 F.A.
Status: Mid-Summer

Summer had always been Aliya’s favourite time of the year, and her love for the season had spread to her children – quite possibly because Amdír seemed to prefer it as well. To be fair, he seemed to love all of the seasons. But this was a first for Aliya, and a first for the children as well – they were traveling, much further than any of them had ever been before. Aliya of course had never gone more than a few leagues from the valley she had called home for her entire life, and the children had only ever been to the ranch – except for Adanedhel, who spent time with Aragost in the forest and up on the mountains sometimes. She was … excited about this trip, but nervous. She was finally going to meet her mother- and father-in-law, Amdír’s parents – and while he assured her that they would love her and the children, she couldn’t help but wonder what they might think of the woman who had married their son, whom they had never met before. After all, what would her own parents do if she had done what Amdír had? Gone off somewhere and come back a decade later, married and with three children? She wasn’t sure she knew. Either kill her or smother all of them with love. Ironically, her mother would be the one more likely to kill her. Not literally, of course.

Amdír on the other hand was quite at ease for the entire trip. He and Aliya were each riding a horse, each with a twin riding in front of them, and Adanedhel had a horse to himself – but that was the one with the baggage. It made things easier and, he had rationalized, the safest. Now, after a week of hard riding, they were finally arriving in the town (well, village) of Ebonscarp. Of course, it was Aliya’s first visit to any sort of settlement, and Amdír couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on her face as she looked around at everything.

“Why don’t we bring the horses to the livery,” he suggested, his eyes glinting with amusement, “and then explore a bit on foot? It’s not as if my parents are expecting us or anything, so it really doesn’t matter how much time we take.”

Adanedhel was delighted with the idea. “Can we, Mama? Please?” he said excitedly, turning his pleading eyes towards her. “There’s so much here! It’s like a whole bunch of our valleys all in one little place!”

“That’s a unique way of putting it,” Aliya giggled softly, reaching over and ruffling her son’s hair affectionately. “Sure, we can do that.” She giggled a bit. “But you’re going to have to ask your Papa what everything is, I’ve never been here before.”

“No worries,” Amdír said warmly, “I’ll show you everything I can think of. It won’t take long, though, it’s the smallest Westland settlement, so there’s really not a whole lot here.” He pointed ahead. “But first, the livery.”


As soon as the horses had been stabled and their bags taken care of, they set out with the children to explore the village. Directly across from the livery was the inn, where they were planning on staying, and beside that was the house of healing. Three of the streets that went off from there were residential, but the fourth street was a long, narrow marketplace lined with vendors and filled with golden-haired elves who were milling about in thick crowds.

Alyse was riding on Amdír’s shoulders and Adwin was holding Aliya’s hand, and Adanedhel was walking between his parents looking around at everything, eyes wide to take in as much as he could.

“Hey, look Mama!” he grinned, pointing at one of the vending stalls. “They have carvings, just like Neko makes me!”

Aliya grabbed his hand before he could run off on them. “Stay close,” she warned him, “we don’t need you getting lost. There are a lot of people here.”

Adan pouted up at his mother, but he didn’t protest. Since his kidnapping, he had been particularly attentive to her words, and rather more obedient than beforehand. “Can we go see?” he asked, looking up at Amdír. “I want to see if they’re like Neko’s carvings!”

Amdír looked at Aliya. “I don’t see why not,” he said softly, looking back down at his son, “but all of us will go together, and you make sure you stay close to us at all times.”

Adanedhel nodded and his eyes brightened slightly. “I promise!” he grinned, adjusting his grip on his mother’s hand so that it was comfortable for him. He ran towards the stall, dragging her and Adwin along, and stopped just in front of it.

“Hi!” he said brightly to the man standing on the other side of it. “You sure got a lot of carvings here! Is it okay if I look at ’em?”

The vendor chuckled at Adan. “Go right ahead,” he nodded, amused. “Take as long as you’d like.” He smiled up at Aliya, who had picked up Adwin so that he wouldn’t be left behind. “You have quite the energetic little boy there, my lady.”

Aliya laughed. “Tell me about it,” she grinned. “My father makes him carvings of all sorts, so they’re one of his favourite things.”

The elf smiled warmly at her. “I always believed that no boy should be without at least one,” he told her. Then he tilted his head curiously at her. “You’re new to this town, aren’t you?” he asked. “I’ve never seen you here before.”

“Is it that obvious?” Aliya giggled. “Truth be told, I’ve never been to any town before, I grew up in the forest in the Borderlands. We’re here to visit my husband’s family, now that the twins are old enough to travel.”

The vendor blinked at her. “Twins?” he asked, looking curiously at Adwin.

Aliya looked over her shoulder, searching for Amdír. “Yes,” she murmured as she looked. “Ah, here they come now …” And she pointed to where Amdír was quickly approaching them, Alyse still safely seated on his shoulders.

When she turned back to the vendor, she was surprised to see that he looked quite shocked. “Are you all right?” she asked him anxiously, taking a hesitant step forward.

The man blinked, then shook his head as if to clear it and looked at Aliya. He chuckled quietly, his eyes softening. “Ah, I apologize, my lady, I … thought I saw something unexpected,” he replied. “I’m all right.”

Aliya smiled. “Good,” she nodded. “I’m glad.”

Just then, Amdír joined them at the stall.

“Look, Papa!” Adanedhel exclaimed immediately, whirling around and holding up one of the carvings almost as if it were a prize. “He makes carvings just like Neko does!”

Amdír chuckled and set Alyse on the ground so that she could be with Adwin. “Indeed he does,” he said warmly, ruffling Adan’s hair affectionately. He looked up at the vendor, and his smile grew wider. “Hello, Eregon.”

The vendor’s eyes grew wide. “Amdír,” he breathed. “I thought I was mistaken … I thought I had to be … you’ve been gone nearly a decade!” He glanced at Aliya again, and he laughed softly. “Ah, yes … I can see why.”

Without really knowing why, Aliya found herself blushing slightly, until Adan turned towards her and held up the carving he had picked out.

“Can I have this one, Mama? Please?” he asked, his eyes begging just as much as his tone. “I don’t have any like this one!”

But Aliya shook her head firmly. “You haven’t earned it,” she told him, “you can’t have it for nothing.”

“But I traveled all the way here and I was a good boy and I behaved and I helped out!” he protested. “I even helped with directions a bit!”

Still Aliya refused.

“We’re going to be here for at least a week,” she told him, kneeling down to face him at eye level. “You will have plenty of other opportunities to do things, you don’t need to buy something the moment we arrive here.”

Adan was still pouting, but he put the carving back obediently. After all, he knew how important it was that he behave on this trip. His papa had promised that if he misbehaved they would have to go home again, and he didn’t want to go home – not yet. They had just gotten there.

Suddenly, Amdír put one hand on Aliya’s shoulder to get her attention, but he was looking off in the opposite direction.

“Wait here,” he requested, “I’ll be right back.” And he headed off into the crowd, leaving her with the children.

Aliya frowned curiously. “I wonder what that’s all about,” she murmured to herself as she watched her husband walking away from her.

The vendor followed her gaze, then chuckled softly. “He isn’t going far,” he assured her. “I’m sure he’s just going to talk to Vairë.”

Aliya blinked at the man. “Vairë?”

The man smiled. “His mother.”

Adan was happy to hear those words, and he started tugging on Aliya’s hand. “Mama, does that mean she’s our grandmother?” he asked her eagerly. “Can we go see her? Papa said we could visit her while we were here! He promised!”

Aliya smiled and put one hand on her son’s head. “We will,” she agreed, “just not quite yet. Papa asked us to wait here for a minute, so we’ll wait for him to come back again and see what he says.”

“Grandmother?” Alyse asked, looking perplexedly up at Aliya.

“Where’s Papa?” Adwin questioned, looking around.

The twins of course were only about one third of Aliya’s height, perhaps even less, and so they couldn’t see where their father had gone – so Aliya just smiled at them and knelt, pulling both of them in for hugs.

“Papa will be back soon,” she told them, “and maybe with Grandmother.”

The twins hugged her back, looking at each other eagerly.

“By the way,” the vendor smiled at Aliya as she straightened once more, a twin in each arm, “we were never properly introduced. My name is Eregon, I’ve known Amdír since we were kids.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Aliya smiled back at him. “My name is Aliya, I met Amdír when he came to work on the ranch my parents help run. And these are our children … Adanedhel, Adwin and Alyse.”

Eregon smiled and bowed his head. “A pleasure to meet all of you. I hope your visit here is everything you hoped it would be.” He peered over Aliya’s shoulder. “Ah, and it looks as if Amdír wants you to join him,” he nodded. “Perhaps we shall meet again then, hm?”

Aliya smiled. “I look forward to it.” And she shifted the twins in her arms and looked down at Adanedhel. “Stay close,” she told him, “we’re going to find Papa now.”

She looked around a bit until she spotted Amdír standing with a woman, golden-haired and blue-eyed, who had features similar to his. They appeared to be deep in conversation, but Amdír kept looking away, quick glances in Aliya’s direction as she made her way over to him.

“Can I go ahead?” Adan asked, looking up at Aliya. “I promise I’ll go right to him!”

Aliya nodded, and he grinned widely and put on a burst of speed. When he reached Amdír, he threw his arms around his father’s waist and grinned up at him. “Hi Papa!”

Amdír grinned and put one hand on his son’s head. “Hello, Adan,” he said warmly. “Say hello to your grandmother.”

Adan stood in front of Amdír and grinned up at the woman in front of him. She had a friendly face, and she was smiling warmly at him, and right away he felt a bond growing between them. “Hi, Grandmother!” he giggled. “Papa promised that we could meet you when we came here! Only he thought it wouldn’t be until tomorrow, but here we are!”

The woman laughed softly, then knelt closer to Adanedhel’s height. “Well, I think it’s wonderful that we could meet this way,” she smiled brightly at him. “After all, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen your father, and I’ve never seen you or your mother or your siblings … I think it would have been mean of your father to make you wait another whole day for us to meet.”

Adan giggled again. “You’re funny.”

At that moment, Aliya arrived, but by now the twins were walking and she was simply holding them by the hands. She smiled at Amdír’s mother. “Hello,” she said softly, almost shyly.

The woman straightened once more. “Hello,” she said warmly, reaching out and hugging Aliya. “By the Valar, it’s good to finally meet you, Aliya.”

Aliya was taken completely by surprise. She hadn’t known what to expect from her mother-in-law … perhaps surprise, considering they had never met, and she and Amdír had been married for seven years, or perhaps even animosity, considering that she was the reason that the woman never saw her son anymore … or perhaps a begrudging acceptance … but never had she imagined that she would receive a welcome like this.

Once she got over her shock, she smiled and hugged her back.

“Likewise,” she murmured, releasing her.

Vairë stepped back, then grinned down at the twins. “And this must be Adwin and Alyse!” she said brightly, kneeling down for them as well. “Hello.”

The twins stepped shyly behind Aliya’s legs, fingers in their mouths, and looked up at her questioningly.

“Mama?” Alyse said softly. “Who’s that?”

Amdír chuckled and reached down to pat her on the head. “That’s my mother,” he told her with a grin. “Come on out, say hello. It’s all right, she’s really nice.”

Adwin was the first to venture out. He wiped his slobbery finger on Aliya’s pant leg, then took a shy step towards his grandmother. “Hi,” he said softly, blue eyes sparkling with curiosity.

Vairë smiled, then swept him up in a tight embrace. “You’re just so adorable!” she squealed.

Adwin giggled and put his arms around her neck. “’dor’ble Grandmother!” he squealed right back.

Alyse was still being shy, and she put her hands up to Aliya to be picked up again. With a sigh, Aliya complied, and the young child rested her head on Aliya’s shoulder, staring out at her grandmother.

Vairë stood up, picking up Adwin as she did so, and smiled at Alyse. “She seems quite shy,” she murmured. “Perhaps with time she will get used to me.”

Amdír nodded. “Probably. She still isn’t comfortable with most of the people on the ranch either though, so don’t take it personally. She’s quite shy, though to be honest I have no idea where she gets that from.”

“Don’t forget how shy you used to be,” Aliya reminded him with a mischievous grin. “You barely spoke to me for months after the ranch started up.”

“That was different,” Amdír protested – but before he could say more, Vairë interrupted them.

“You’ll have to stay with your father and me, Amdír,” she said matter-of-factly. “I can’t imagine you paying to stay in an inn when you have a perfectly good house to stay in for free. Your father will be so glad to have you back, even if it’s just for a few days or so. You and Aliya of course can have the guest room, Adanedhel can have your old room, and of course there’s the other spare room, the twins I’m sure would be quite comfortable there …”

“Mother,” Amdír interrupted her, “we’ve already paid for a room at the inn.”

“Nonsense!” Vairë dismissed the idea with a wave of her hand. “You’ll simply have to ask for your money back, there’s no reason for you to waste gold like that. Really, Amdír, you should have told us that you were coming, we could have had the house ready for all of you!”

“It’s all right, Mother,” Amdír smiled. “Really. Trust me, I haven’t had a single expense since moving out there, and they pay me quite handsomely. Besides, the kids have been looking forward to staying in an inn. Lord Elrohir, who manages the ranch, his grandparents own an inn and the children have been enthralled with stories of it since they were born.”

Vairë sighed. “Very well,” she acceded. “But you have to stay with us at least one night while you’re here. All right?”

Adanedhel clapped his hands together. “Yeah!” he cheered. “Great! We get to stay at the inn and with Grandmother!”

Aliya giggled a bit. She never tired of Adan and his enthusiasm.

“At any rate,” Amdír smiled, “we’re still sort of touring. You’re welcome to join us, Mother, but we will be a while. We’ve only just started.”

Vairë smiled and hefted Adwin in her arms. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said warmly.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:24 pm

First Argument
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 61 F.A.
Status: Early Spring

“You’re a fool.”

Adonai ignored Shael’s comment and stepped into his open closet, pulling out several robes, which he then proceeded to lay out on his bed. He smoothed them out and folded them neatly, one by one, and piled them in one corner of his bed before returning to the closet for more.

“Adonai, you’re not listening to me,” Shael frowned angrily, stepping into the room, her arms folded across her chest.

“Sure I am,” Adonai replied without looking at her, selecting a few more robes from his closet and bringing them over to be folded. “You’re just not saying anything worth replying to. An insult hardly merits a response.”

“It wasn’t an insult, it was a fact,” Shael replied shortly. “You’re leaving now, when we’re expecting Elros and Celeborn back any day with another load of children, and you know you’ll be needed then, you always are-”

Finished with his robes, Adonai moved to the closet again, this time for spare cloaks. As he passed Shael, he smiled at her and put one hand comfortingly on her shoulder.

“You can take care of the kids, you’re a natural healer, what with having the Wishsong and all,” he said warmly. “You could probably do more good with your magic than I could do with any sort of medicine.”

He turned back to his task once more. “Besides,” he continued, “it’s not like anyone’s going to miss me anyways, I don’t spend any time at the ranch, and I’m hardly ever home as it is.”

“I would miss you,” Shael replied promptly. “You and I have spent most of our time together since I came here, and that’s almost all that I can remember.”

Adonai paused, his back to Shael, and a pained expression crossed his face – but when he turned to look at her, his face was clear of emotion once more. “I’m sure you’ll be all right,” he smiled gently. “Like I said, I haven’t been home much of late anyways.”

“And who said I’m used to even just seeing you at dinner?” Shael shot back, a look of annoyance crossing her face. “Honestly, no one ever sees you anymore … it’s like no one even knows you anymore.” She watched as he headed back to his closet for more things, her hazel eyes burning with anger. “Adonai … you’re not listening again.”

“Yes, I am,” Adonai replied patiently, returning this time with a stack of blank books and a bag of quills. “But again, you’re not giving me anything to respond to.”

He set the books on his bed and sighed.

“Look, this is just something I have to do, all right?” He looked at her wearily. “Just … don’t ask questions, just trust me on this. It’s just something that I have to do.”

“Then you can do it here,” Shael retorted. “If it’s your research, you’ve always been fine with doing it here! You can at least tell me what it is, so that I can at least know why it’s so important for you.”

Adonai shook his head and reached for his bag. “I can’t,” he replied simply, packing in his clothes. “This is something that I can’t do here, something that I have to do anywhere but here.”

Shael leaned against the doorway, resting her weaker side. “I can’t believe Ulani and Ulrich are letting you go.”

“Well, I am an adult,” Adonai pointed out. “I’m twenty years old. For that matter, if you wanted to go somewhere, you would be able to, too, you’re an adult yourself.”

He paused and glanced at her. “You could come with me if you wanted.”

Shael shook her head. “Unlike you, I know where my responsibilities are,” she replied softly, her anger slightly lessened. “I’m needed here, the mares will be birthing any day now and Aliya still has her hands full with the twins.”

“You do realize Haradhel has the Wishsong, too,” Adonai told her, raising one eyebrow. “Or Elrohir, for that matter. Or Aragost, or Elros, or … half the fighters.”

“But no one who works in the stables.” Shael shook her head again. “No, I’m staying here.”

Adonai shrugged. “As you wish,” he said carelessly, grabbing a second bag from beneath the bed to pack his books and quills. He worked in silence for a moment, then looked back up at Shael, who didn’t seem inclined to move. “Can you see if Mother prepared the food and ale she said she was going to?”

Shael sighed and rolled her eyes, and without answering, she headed out of the room and down the hall to do as he asked.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:25 pm

Demanding An Answer
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 61 F.A.
Status: Late Summer

Those who lived together on the ranch rarely found reason to argue with each other, and if there was a difference of opinion it was quickly and quietly taken care of. Most of the time it was quite simple – but in certain cases, when the source of agitation was beyond anyone’s control, sometimes it took a bit more work.

Since Adonai’s abrupt departure in the spring, Shael had been very agitated indeed. Always a sweet-tempered girl, she began to grow angry at seemingly at the smallest things – though when she finally snapped on Elberon, no one blamed her. At first, some of the others tried to console her, but she proved to be beyond any of their reaches, growing distant instead.

For her own part, Shael was well aware of what was going on, and she didn’t like the change within herself any more than anyone else did. She also knew that she was the only one who would be able to change herself back to the way she had once been – yet she somehow found it to be … very difficult, indeed. The more that time passed, the more she realized … she wanted nothing more than to have Adonai back home.

Of course, thinking about wanting him home only made her wonder yet again about the reason he had left in the first place. She knew it had to be for a good reason – Adonai wouldn’t just run off on a whim. He was the type of person who always thought things through. At least, she had always known him to be like that. It had always been one of the things she had admired about him – especially after she had to work with the thoughtless and reckless Elberon. Even before Adonai’s departure, she’d had trouble putting up with him.

So it was that on this … rather cloudy evening, Shael was once again heading back to the ranch – not for work, since she had finished her work hours earlier – but once more in search of Aragost for answers to the questions that were closest to her heart.

She found the ancient fighter in his quarters, just finishing up his dinner, and though yet again there had been no warning of her visit, he wasn’t at all surprised to see her. Without saying a word, he simply held the door to his quarters open a little wider in a gesture of welcome. Shael recognized it and entered, choosing to remain standing while she asked Aragost her question.

You seek answers concerning Adonai,” the dark man murmured, closing the door and turning to face Shael. The girl wasn’t able to see his eyes, hidden in the dark recesses of his cowl, but she could feel his dark stare piercing through her into the depths of her soul.

She said nothing. Sometimes, with Aragost, that was enough to get the information one was looking for – and it was certainly easier than trying to convince him of something.

But in this case, Aragost just sighed. “Shael,” he murmured, “I know that your intelligence is quite above average … and still I must ask this … do you not think … that Adonai might have had his own reasons … for wanting to leave so quickly … so secretly? If he had wanted to make his intentions known … would he not have done so?

“I know,” Shael replied, clasping her hands in front of herself and wringing them together nervously, “and I know that you know where he is and what he’s doing … and I know that you won’t tell me, either,” she added quickly, cutting him off before he could speak. “But I have to know … something, anything … anything you can offer me … Aragost, before he left, he was acting … very strangely, almost as if …”

She trailed off, looking at Aragost hesitantly, hoping that he would finish her sentence for her, confirm what she feared … but he said nothing, and Shael swallowed down a lump in the back of her throat before finishing softly:

“Almost as if he didn’t want me to be his sister anymore.”

For several long moments, she watched Aragost for any sort of reaction, the slightest indication that there may be some foundation for her fears. Yet it was not until several long, silent minutes had passed that there was the slightest nod of the black cowl, and the man’s deep, rasping voice resonated out from within the depths of the hood.

What do you fear, Shael?” he asked softly. “I thought you had decided long ago that Ulani and Ulrich were the only parents you ever wanted … that Aliya and Adonai would remain your siblings … your family … and that you would want no other …

“But what if they don’t want me anymore?” Shael asked in reply, her tone desperate. “Adonai was acting like he wanted nothing to do with me-”

But what about Ulani and Ulrich?” Aragost interrupted Shael something that he had never done before.

Shael was taken completely by surprise. “I … they … they treat me as well as they ever have,” she replied hesitantly. “They … haven’t changed at all …”

And yet you carry within you this fear.

Shael was silent for a moment as she thought about it. Aragost was right … Adonai had been the only one acting differently towards her. Why would she fear Ulani and Ulrich’s rejections, then?

So what you are saying,” Aragost murmured, his voice still deep and familiar, yet somehow no longer reassuring, but cold and distant, “is that Adonai’s actions and feelings towards you … are more important to you … than those of my great-great-grandchildren … put together.

“No,” Shael replied immediately, her hazel eyes growing wide. “I mean … not more important … but just as important.”

No,” Aragost cut her off once more, shaking his head slowly. “More important. His opinion is worth more to you than both Ulani and Ulrich’s … and, I imagine … Aliya and Amdír … as well as all of their children …

And suddenly Shael found herself growing … somewhat agitated. “Why are you asking me all of these questions?” she demanded defensively. “What are you getting at? You know everything, you should know all of these answers already!”

The accusation went right past Aragost, and the man made no indication of being insulted.

You are quite correct,” he agreed patiently, surprising Shael yet again. “I do know all of the answers to these questions … but me knowing them is not enough … you must know all of these things as well … not sub-consciously … but consciously … you must think about these things … and what they mean.

As Shael tried to process this answer, Aragost opened the door once more and motioned for her to leave. As she passed by him, he murmured, “He is doing this … for you.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:27 pm

A Fruitful Search
Location: Kaliningrad, Eastland
Year: 62 F.A.
Status: Yestarë

Adonai had been gone from the Borderlands for nearly a year by this time. It had not been easy for him to leave, as he knew many of the others back home must suspect, but on the other hand he had felt as if he hadn’t really had any choice in the matter.

He wished he had been able to tell Shael more of what he was going to do, but he really didn’t want to get her hopes up. After all, what were the chances of his success? He was looking for someone who would not have seen her for at least ten years, and who might not even remember her, and most likely not recognize her. And what questions was he asking? Pointless, really. Nearly everyone from every Eastland city he’d visited thus far had lost a child about a decade previous – some more recently, others in the more distant past, many of whom had not seen their children again. Yet when Adonai had shown them an image of Shael as she had appeared upon her arrival at the ranch, none of them had recognized her, though many of them had wanted to claim her as their own.

Adonai, however, refused to agree with them unless there was some additional proof that she had indeed come from them. Whether it was a characteristic, or a family resemblance … yet thus far there had been nothing. He had been to five cities already, and no luck. There was only one left in the Eastland – Kaliningrad, which he was just entering. Why was he so sure that she had come from the Eastland?

Truth be told, he wasn’t. But it was closer, and had fewer cities than the Southland, so he had thought it would be easier to start there, at the very least.

And her eyes … that shade of hazel that he found so entrancing … they were neither Dark nor Light, but a mixture of the two … such a blend as that could only have come about through the intermarriage of two different kinds of elves, and the Eastland was just about the only place where that happened – at least freely.

Lately, he had been asking himself, if he didn’t find what he was looking for in the Eastland, would he continue on to the Southland? Or would he simply return home and admit defeat? He didn’t want to do that, but he knew that his parents would need some word before he could in good conscience continue on his search. They understood his need to travel, though they hadn’t quite understood his reason for wanting so badly to do so.

Well, there was nothing that he could do about that.

Shouldering his bag, he set off to begin his door-to-door search.


When night fell that day, Adonai felt the by-now familiar feeling of disappointment as, rather than seeking out someone else to question, he sought an inn for the night’s lodgings. At the same time, however, he couldn’t help but look at it with a positive view: having eliminated so many more families, he was that much closer to finding the right one.

It was amazing, he thought as he trudged exhaustedly towards the inn, how every city and town in the Eastland seemed to have the same design – every time he asked for directions to the inn, he was told: “It’s in the center of the city, right next to the healer’s. You can’t miss it.”

In other words, keep walking and you’ll hit it. All roads lead to … the most common places for travelers to visit – or need.

When he finally reached the inn, he first asked for a meal, and only after he had filled his belly did he ask for the innkeeper, so that he could ask for a room. The innkeeper was a kind young man – black hair and hazel eyes, with a kind expression and a warm smile.

“Welcome to the Old City Inn,” the man welcomed Adonai warmly. “How may I help you?”

Adonai blinked at the man, feeling for some strange reason as if he knew him already. It was impossible, though – he could remember everyone he had met so far on his journey, and before this trip he had only ever been in the valley and on the ranch, and never met anyone else.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, snapping out of his trance-like state. “I’m looking for a room for … perhaps a week, maybe more, maybe less, depending on how quickly my business here is completed.”

The man nodded. “Well, the rooms we offer are both affordable and comfortable,” he said reassuringly. “Come with me and we’ll see about getting you settled in.”

He called into a doorway behind the main counter, then headed out with Adonai to find a room.

“It used to be our whole family running this inn,” he told Adonai conversationally as he led him down a hallway, “but since our parents died, it’s just been me and my sister.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Adonai offered, glancing at the doors in the hall as they passed them swiftly by.

The innkeeper grinned at him. “Thanks, but it was a really long time ago. My sister was too young to even remember any of it, which I think is a blessing. Horrible mess it was, too. The two of us were lucky to escape, considering all of it.”

“Escape?” Adonai questioned, following the man into one of the rooms.

“Aye, it was a party of dwarfs and humans,” the man nodded. “Slavers, to my mind. Once we escaped back here, I took care of Rayna, hired on people to take care of the inn until I was old enough.”

He motioned towards the room he had led Adonai into. “This room is yours, if you like the feel of it,” he grinned. “My sister will be in shortly to take care of … wait, no, here she is.”

As he spoke, a young woman entered the room. Her hair was long and black, her features delicate yet strong – but what struck Adonai, first and foremost, were her eyes – the same beautiful hazel eyes he knew so well.

“What are you doing here?” he gasped, his heart just about stopping in his chest.

The woman blinked at him. “I beg your pardon,” she replied, sounding equally surprised, “but I’ve never seen you before …”

She glanced over at her brother. “Reuven? What is this?”

Adonai couldn’t believe his eyes. Everything about the woman – her expression, her appearance, her stance, even her voice – everything reminded him of Shael. No, more than reminded him – everything about her was identical … save that she was several inches taller.

“Excuse me,” he said suddenly, interrupting the conversation that had started between the two siblings, “pardon my indelicacy … but … the slaver attack that killed your parents … did it take place ten or more years ago?”

“Eleven years this fall,” Reuven replied, raising one eyebrow curiously. “Why?”

“And your sister,” Adonai continued, putting aside the man’s question for the moment, replacing it with another of his own, “is she by any chance … a twin? Perhaps identical?” He glanced sidewise at the woman, then back at the innkeeper.

The man’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, but he nodded slowly. “She was taken by the slavers … we never heard from nor saw her again,” he murmured. “Why are you asking these questions?”

Adonai’s face filled with relief, and he fell to his knees in amazement. “Finally!” he exclaimed, almost ready to cry with joy. “I’ve been searching for you for nearly a year!”

He rose back to his feet once more and reached out, taking a hand from each of them. “Your sister lives,” he informed them happily. “She was rescued from the slavers and has been living with my family for the past eight and a half years.”

The woman stared at him. “Rhea … is alive? And free? But … if she has been with you for so long … so many other children have been returned to their families, why has she never come back?”

“No one knew where to return her to,” Adonai replied. “She had no memories of her time before her enslavement … she had been very badly abused, she could recall nothing … the other children called her Shael, and that is the name she goes by now … that is why it has been so difficult to find you, we had nothing to work with save the suspicion that she had a parent from both the Light and Dark elves, and thus came from somewhere in the Eastland …”

And right then and there, he passed several hours telling the two of them all about the sister that they had thought lost forever, how she had come to them abused and without any memories, save of her time with the dwarfs, how his mother had taken her in and treated her as her own, how she had grown up to be a strong and beautiful young woman who, despite being happy where she was, wondered now and again about her real family.

When he finished, the woman was crying for happiness, while the man’s eyes were simply misting over. Both of them embraced Adonai warmly and invited him to come and share their own living quarters – as they shared a sister, they insisted, it was like he was also their brother, and they could not give family the lodgings of a stranger.

And when morning came, they decided without the slightest hesitation, they would prepare their staff to take care of the entire inn in their absence, and accompany Adonai back to the Borderlands to reunite with their lost sister.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:28 pm

An Awkwardly Joyful Reunion
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 62 F.A.
Status: Late Stirring

It was very early in the morning when three cloaked figures came through the mountains, heading towards the two houses located on the bank of the winding river – so early, in fact, that the sun, while it had risen over the horizon, had not yet risen above the mountains, which meant that the valley itself was still cloaked in relative darkness.

That did not mean, however, that the valley was still asleep: on the contrary, already at this early hour, Shael was out by the river, drawing water for the kitchen so that she could prepare breakfast for herself and Aliya and Amdír’s family. Adonijah was a few months old by now – nearly half a year – but Aliya still needed help, especially since the infant still woke up at least three times in the night to be fed.

As she turned to head back into the house, she spotted movement out of the corner of her eye – and when she looked more closely, she recognized Adonai … but she could not see the faces of his two companions, hidden by the cowls of their cloaks. Strangers. From their gaits, she guessed one man and one woman. New workers for the ranch, perhaps?

She stood where she was for several long moments, staring, not really knowing what to do. She set her buckets slowly on the ground and looked again, almost as if she were afraid to trust her eyes. He had, after all, been gone for a year …

And with a sudden determination, she lifted the hem of her skirt and started running to meet him. Childish, immature it might have been, but she didn’t care. She wanted to see Adonai.

When she was close enough that he would hear, she called out “Adonai!”

He looked up from his conversation with the strangers and broke into a wide grin. He motioned to the two cloaked figures, then broke into a run, closing the distance between them far more quickly than she had been doing on her own.

When they caught up to each other, they threw their arms around each other, both of them hugging the other as tightly as they could. Then Adonai took a step back, holding Shael at arm’s length and grinning at her brightly.

“You have no idea how good it is to see you aga-”

He was cut short when Shael slapped him soundly across the face.

“You disappear with hardly any warning for over a year,” she shouted at him, suddenly furious, “and no one knows where you went, I don’t even know how much Aragost knew, and he knows everything! No word, nothing, not even a simply ‘I’m alive’ or anything! Do you know how worried everyone was about you? Where were you?”

Adonai grabbed Shael’s wrists as if doing so could stop her verbal attack. “If you would give me just two minutes,” he murmured, trying to calm her down, “you will see for yourself where I was. The reason why I didn’t tell you where I was going … what I was doing … was because I didn’t want you to get your hopes up.”

He motioned towards the two strangers who had followed after him. “There are some people you need to meet.”

“What …” Shael blinked and looked past Adonai at the two cloaked travelers, who were by that time standing behind them. She lowered her hands slowly, staring, completely clueless now. If they were ranch hands, he wouldn’t have made it sound so … personal.

“Hello,” she said, her tone changing completely as she bowed her head politely in greeting to the strangers. “My name is Shael.”

The man reached out one hand and placed it on the woman’s shoulder, then pulled his own cowl down, revealing a rather handsome face, short black hair and hazel eyes. “My name is Reuven,” he introduced himself, staring at Shael seemingly in amazement, which only served to confuse her further. “And this,” he went on, nodding to the woman beside him, “is my sister … Rayna …”

The woman lowered her cowl slowly, her own hazel eyes fixed on Shael’s, watching her reaction.

As her features became apparent, Shael’s eyes grew wide, and one hand flew to her mouth in shock. “You- you’re … me …”

“Not quite,” Adonai smiled, moving to stand behind her and putting his hands gently on her shoulders. “Shael, meet … your siblings. Twin sister and older brother, from New Kaliningrad.”

He paused. “Maybe not quite identical, seeing as Rayna’s a fair sight taller …”

“Maybe not the best time to joke like that, Adonai,” Reuven commented, looking between his two sisters. “You really didn’t give her any idea of where you were going.”

“No, he didn’t,” Shael murmured softly, glancing sidewise at Adonai. “Can we have a moment?”

Reuven and Rayna exchanged a glance, then nodded and moved off together.

Shael turned around and looked up into Adonai’s eyes. “What did you do?” she whispered, her tone anxious. “Adonai, I told you – you and Ulani and Ulrich are all the family I ever need…”

“Shael, this is your blood family,” Adonai replied, his brow furrowing slightly in confusion. “All that’s left of them … I thought that was what you wanted … you used to talk about it all the time …”

“That was a long time ago,” she sighed. “Adonai … now … I don’t know what to do now … I … I don’t know what to do …”

“Come on, they’re your family!” he said encouragingly, putting his hands on her shoulders again.

You were my family, Adonai! I belonged here! Now where do I belong? Do I stay here where all of my memories are, where I’ve been for most of my memorable life, with the people I know and the family that I recognize? Or with the blood family that I’ve just met, know nothing about, and have nothing to do with?”

Adonai bit his lip and glanced over at the others, then looked back at Shael. “They’re good people,” he murmured. “You should really give them a chance, take the time to get to know them. Don’t make any decisions yet, just … they’re going to stay here for as long as you want them to, just get to know them and we’ll see what follows.”

Shael took a deep breath and sighed, then nodded. “All right,” she murmured.

She turned back to the others and forced a wavering smile. “My apologies,” she said, bowing her head to them again, “I was just … taken by surprise …”

“Yeah … that part was obvious,” Reuven nodded his agreement as he and Rayna returned to them. “I just hope … you’re not disappointed.”

Shael smiled and shook her head. “No … it’s more than I had ever hoped for … I used to dream of … of finding my blood family … but I had always thought it would be impossible, so … I never bothered to try.”

She glanced at Adonai again. “I … honestly don’t wish to be rude … but if you could take them to Ulani and Ulrich’s house and get them settled in there … I have to get breakfast ready for Aliya and Amdír, I’m already late … and then after breakfast,” she poked – hard – Adonai in the middle of his chest, “you are going to come over and meet our new nephew.”

Now it was Adonai’s turn to be surprised, and he rubbed his chest where Shael had poked him. “Nephew? We have a new nephew?” He turned to Reuven and Rayna, grinning widely. “We have a new nephew.”

Rayna laughed and took Adonai by the arm, and the three of them followed Shael back towards the houses. “So it would seem,” she smiled at him.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:29 pm

Contemplating ... With A Bit Of Help
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 63 F.A.
Status: Early Stirring

Time to Shael had always seemed a fickle thing. That, she assumed, was what tended to happen when you were missing any memories of six full years of your life. Her age, the number of years she had been alive, meant little to her. The only passage of time that she used as a reference was the number of years that she had been living with Ulani and Ulrich and their family.

Now, however, there was a change: she was counting how long she had known her blood family. Six weeks more and it would be a year, a fact of which she was acutely, painfully aware.

Several times in the past few weeks, people had asked her how she felt about the situation. Each and every time, she had given the same response: I don’t know.

She knew she was glad to know them. They were, as Adonai had told her, wonderful people: friendly, full of love, self-sacrificing (how else could they leave behind their entire lives just to spend time getting to know her?) …

And yet … and yet …


Life before Adonai’s disappearance had been complicated. Strange. He had been acting strangely towards her for several years already. Since his return, life had become even stranger. What troubled her was the fact that, despite knowing that her siblings were the cause of the strangeness, she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what the strangeness was, or why her siblings would have caused it.

Elberon’s teasing questions still echoed through her head.

What’s the matter, has your world gone missing? I know you were fond of him, but really, that much? Isn’t he your brother?

Those had been the last questions he had ever asked her. Her fury at those questions still surprised her, almost two years after the incident. Had it even been the stable hand’s fault? He had only been voicing the questions that had arisen in Shael’s own heart, was that so wrong?

Yes, she told herself yet again as she stared out at the setting sun. Those are questions that none save myself has the right to ask.

So … what? What would she do? Now, nearly a year after the arrival of her brother and twin sister, the time was quickly coming that they would have to return to their home, to the business and staff that they had left behind.

And she would have to make a choice: go with them, or remain here.

She weighed the pros and cons in her mind. They were her blood family, after all; wonderful people that she would miss terribly if they left without her. Yet could she bear then to leave behind the family that she had called her own since her rescue from slavery? Even with the promise of returning any time she wished, she knew she couldn’t leave them behind.

And then Aragost’s words came back to her.

Is it only Adonai whose actions count? What about Ulani and Ulrich? Are they not as important to you?

Back then, she had denied it vehemently. She’d had to. But now … now … now that her blood family had been found, could she not say that Ulani and Ulrich were not her parents, that her parents had died when she had been kidnapped, and that therefore Adonai was not her brother?

She could.

And in so doing, she could admit what she had been afraid to say for so long: she loved him.

But he had only searched for her siblings for her sake … which meant that that was where it would end.

As intelligent as you are,” a familiar voice rasped from behind her, startling her and nearly causing her to fall from her perch atop the wooden fence of the paddock, “you have yet to learn … that his reasons for acting as he has … are the same reasons for which you are grateful he has.

Without looking over her shoulder, Shael puzzled through those words in her mind. She had learned a very long time ago to listen carefully to what Aragost said, no matter what he said, or when he said it. He was always right.

Or nearly so.

“Impossible,” she murmured, closing her eyes against the beauty of the sunset and fingering the rail upon which she sat. “He had always told me that I am his sister … and that he is happy that it is so.”

The tall, dark elf appeared next to her, leaning against the rail. “Again,” he murmured softly, “for the same reasoning as yours.

For the first time, Shael glanced over at Aragost, but she said nothing, her skepticism quite obvious in her expression.

For years,” the ancient elf continued, his cowl directed to face the sunset, though Shael suspected that he was watching her, “he has looked out for you … he has watched over you … cared for you … taught you … helped you … comforted you … That a bond would be created is only natural … it is so in many cases, similar or different from your own … but you are blessed, Shael … he is not your brother, and has never been so … it has happened … rarely, yet it has happened … that others have not been so fortunate as to lack the bond of siblinghood.

She couldn’t help but think that he was right. Even for the past … what, five? Six years? Adonai had not been treating her like a sister. Not looked at her like a sister. Not interacted with her like a sister – though neither had it been any sort of close relation. It had been the relationship of a stranger. A complete and utter stranger.

He feared, as did you,” Aragost murmured, “the awkwardness of truth in the living of a lie … and so he chose … to find your blood family … to prove … once and for all … for himself and for those who see from afar … that you and he … are by no means … in no wise … related.

“Then why didn’t he tell me?”

The black cowl shifted slightly to face her. “Why … have you not told him?” the rasping voice asked in reply.

Shael said nothing. There was nothing to say. It was a good point.

“So what do I do now?” she asked, looking away once more.

She heard a soft rustling of cloth and sensed his presence drawing away.

You do what your heart desires,” were the words that hung in her heart as the ancient elf drifted away.

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

A Twinny Heart-To-Heart
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 63 F.A.
Status: Mid-Stirring

Two weeks had passed since Shael’s talk with Aragost, but she was still searching for the strength to confess her love to Adonai. She was certain that he must know by now though – considering that since that talk, she had avoided him quite obviously, blushing fiercely whenever she had wandered accidentally into his presence.

Yet time was pressing – her brother and sister would soon be returning to their home, and she had to make a decision.

Or rather, tell them her decision … and the reason for it.

That was the main reason why she and Rayna were out on this walk, wandering along the riverside: for her to tell her twin of her decision, and to ask her for advice.

She hadn’t, of course, told Rayna that yet – which was why her sister was asking, “Why did you ask me out here for a walk?”

Not that it was unusual for Shael to ask her for accompaniment on a walk, but it was the first time they had headed out in this direction, where they would be certain not to run into anyone at all, and thus be spared any interruptions – a fact which Rayna knew full well.

Shael glanced over at her sister, looking into those eyes that were so startlingly her own.

“I can’t go back to the city with you,” she said softly, watching her twin closely for her reaction.

Rayna paused mid-step, then continued on, a regretful smile spreading across her face.

“Somehow I knew you couldn’t,” she murmured, “though I have to admit … I had to hope.”

She reached across the empty space and put one arm around Shael’s shoulders, drawing her close. “My dear, dear sister … as much as I wish you could come with us, I want more what is best for you … what you want. This … this place … this wonderful place … has been your entire life … all that you have known … we could not take you away from it.”

Shael leaned against Rayna’s chest. It had long since ceased to amaze her, the difference in their heights: her short stature could easily be attributed to her three years in slavery, suffering the limits of abuse that a body could take, especially between her leg and malnourishment. It actually made Rayna seem almost like a mother instead of a twin sister: she certainly acted quite mature and motherly.

But she couldn’t let her sister go without letting her know the real reason for her decision to stay.

“It’s … more than just the familiar,” she began, looking up into her sister’s identical face. “It’s …”

She paused. Once she said it, she could never take it back.

“You have to promise not to think ill of me,” she said anxiously, jerking suddenly from her sister’s embrace.

Rayna’s hazel eyes reflected first surprise, then curiosity. “I promise,” she agreed. “I could never think ill of you … no matter what it is.”

Shael nodded uneasily. “The reason I want to stay here … have to stay here … is not because it’s the only place I know … but … because this is where Adonai is.”

She bit her lip anxiously and looked up at her sister for her reaction.

Rayna smiled softly. “I understand,” she murmured. “I have seen how you look at him … listened to how you speak of him … and to tell the truth, I happen to agree with you. He is a wonderful man. Look at what he did for us, after all.”

Shael blushed and nodded, not bothering to add that it had been for a slightly selfish reason as well – that he had wanted all doubts as to their relation – or lack thereof – put to rest.

She was startled when Rayna pulled her in close for another hug.

“I only wish that we could have found you sooner,” she said wistfully, “so that we could have had more time together.”

Shael smiled warmly. “It isn’t goodbye forever,” she reminded her twin, hugging her back quickly before continuing along the river. “We will visit, I know it.”

“Aye, you’d better,” Rayna laughed. “You’d better.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:31 pm

A Startling Confession
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 64 F.A.
Status: Early Spring

Rayna and Reuven had been gone for a few weeks now, having left on the first day of the new year, and things had returned to normal – for the most part. Adonijah was old enough that Shael no longer needed to live with Aliya and Amdír, though she had asked if she might stay on with them a little longer – just in case, she had said, they did need her … but in truth she didn’t want to be living in the same house as Adonai. That would just be too awkward for her.

Everyone had accepted her reason, however, and so she remained there – cooking and cleaning alongside Aliya, rather than instead of her, helping with the children, who were growing like weeds, and looking after baby Adonijah, who had learned to walk and was getting into everything within reach.

But it didn’t mean that she didn’t spend any time at all with the others. Every few days, Adonai would call round, asking her if she would like to go for a walk. Each time, she managed to think of some reason why she couldn’t … she feared the awkwardness that she knew would ensue … but this particular night, when he came around and asked her once more if she would accompany him for a walk along the river, she could think of nothing. There was no work to be done, the children were all in bed (except for Adanedhel, who was spending time with his father), and Aliya had actually specifically told her to relax.

So she had no choice but to accept his invitation, as awkward as she knew it was going to be.

For a while, Adonai tried to engage her in conversation, talking about anything and everything, but she remained stubbornly silent, afraid that if she opened her mouth she would say something embarrassing.

Finally, Adonai stopped and put his hands on her shoulders, forcing her to turn and look at him.

“Are you still mad at me for bringing your brother and sister here?” he asked her anxiously, his dark eyes filled with confusion and hurt. “Because I can’t think of anything else I might have done to make you angry … but we haven’t held a real conversation since before I left to find them.”

Shael blinked. Was that really how he felt?

“No,” she assured him, swallowing down the lump in her throat. “No, I’m not angry with you … not for any reason … I’m glad you found them, that I could meet them … you’ve … been wonderful …”

She paused, wondering what to say next, what she could possibly say that might explain how she had changed.

“It’s just … a lot happened while you were away, that’s all,” she finished softly, though it sounded lame even to her ears.

“So I’d heard,” Adonai murmured, lowering his hands and starting to walk again. As Shael moved to walk beside him, he looked down at her curiously. “I hear you’re the only one who has been able to get Elberon to stop asking questions.”

Shael blushed. She really hadn’t meant to frighten him so much … just change the subject. Could she help that the results had been more than she had hoped for?

The curiosity in Adonai’s eyes intensified. “What did you do to him?”

“I lost my temper,” Shael admitted, clasping her hands behind her back. “I … it was the first time I’ve ever lost my temper … it frightened me as much as it did him, I think, but he hasn’t spoken to me at all since then.”

Adonai’s expression changed to one of mixed fear and amazement. “What did he do to you?” he asked. “I mean … the obvious aside … he obviously struck a nerve of some sort, but … what would set you off?”

Shael looked up at him, but her face grew very hot, and she knew that it was as red as it had ever been, and she looked away, thoroughly embarrassed.

Adonai chuckled softly. “All right, so you don’t want to talk about it. Fine. Something else then.” He paused for a moment, then looked back down at her. “I hear you’ve been having more conversations with Aragost than most people ever do.”

“Not that many,” Shael protested. “Only a few!”

“Which is still more than most people,” he pointed out logically. “Most people avoid him. You seek him out.”

He paused and knelt. “Look, the first spring blossom,” he grinned, plucking a small purple flower from the ground and standing again. He held it out to Shael. “Here.”

Shael looked at him warily, wondering about his motives for offering her the flower. Was it simple regard? A thoughtless gift? Or did it carry some meaning, as many of his actions did?

“Tut, tut, Shael,” he murmured, still holding the flower out for her. “If you keep looking at me like that, I may have to kiss you.”

Both of them blushed as they realized what he had said, and while he looked away, embarrassed now, a slow smile crept over Shael’s face as she realized the truth of what Aragost had tried to tell her. He had been right.

“Is that a challenge?” she murmured, stepping closer and looking up at him, not bothering anymore to hide the way she felt about him.

Adonai looked back at her, obviously surprised at her reaction. “I …”

Shael continued to look up at him, her eyes daring him to follow through with his threat. The flower remained between them, a symbol of the challenge that had been issued. The corners of her mouth curled up slightly as she waited for Adonai to make up his mind and either act or not, but it seemed as though he wasn’t certain himself what he wanted, as if he were waiting for something, for some clearer sign than her open invitation.

“Damn you, Shael,” he muttered suddenly, tossing the flower aside. Then his arms were around her, his lips pressed against hers.

It was halfway to dawn by the time they made it back home.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:32 pm

The Morning After
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 64 F.A.
Status: Early Spring

As usual, Shael woke with the sunrise, but unlike normal she still felt tired. For a brief moment, she wondered why that was; then she remembered the events of the night before. Happiness flowed through her chest, filling her with an energy she had never known before, and despite her lack of sleep she rose, dressed, and was on her way to the ranch with a skip in her step and a song in her heart.

As she neared the ranch, she passed by Halmír in the forest, who was on shift, and though she noticed that he shot her a strange look as she passed him, she paid him no mind. Her mood was simply too good to be spoiled by the thoughts and opinions of others. Adonai loved her, and that was all she needed to know. Besides, Halmír wasn’t one to speak – look at him, with a three-year-old son already.

Elberon was the only other person in the stables when she entered. Most of the horses had already been put out for the day, and only the pregnant mares were still in there, waiting for Shael to check them over before they would also head out to the paddock. Shael smiled and nodded to Elberon as she passed him, heading towards the back pen where the first mare was waiting for her.

Elberon, who was busy mucking the stalls, paused in his work and leaned on his pitchfork, his sea-blue eyes filled with confusion and curiosity as he gazed after the young woman. It had been the first time she had even acknowledged his presence since that fateful day when he had teased her to the extreme – though it was also the first time he had seen her in a very good mood since then, too. His curiosity flared immediately. What had happened that had made her so obviously happy? It had to be something big, otherwise there could never have been such a radical change, especially not overnight. But what could it have been?

His first thought was that it had to have something to do with Adonai – but that didn’t make any sense at all. The man had been back for over a year already, and she had only been more miserable, not less. Had she moved back in with Ulani and Ulrich? But if that would have made her happy, why not do it sooner? Had one of the children done something amazing? But it was too early in the morning for that …

He wanted to ask her what was going on. Desperately. His curiosity was so intense that he was actually beginning to sweat – and not from the heat. He wiped the perspiration from his brow and picked up his pitchfork once more, scooping up the hay and sifting it through the prongs, trying not to look over his shoulder at Shael, who was still singing to herself as she checked over the horse, smiling so brightly that her entire face was glowing, speaking in soft, loving tones to the horses that she usually treated as nothing more than a job.

Something was up. And he wanted – no, needed to know what it was.

Yet her anger, an event from so long ago, was still fresh in his mind. Did he dare to ask her? Not in the same way, anyways … but what if he asked politely, all teasing aside? Asked her if he could ask?

He waited until she had finished with the first mare and was on her way to the second before he opened his mouth and murmured, “Shael?”

To his great surprise, she paused in her step and smiled at him.


Now he was completely amazed. She was inviting conversation.

“May I ask you a question?” he ventured, feeling for the first time in his life hesitant to ask someone something.

Shael smiled faintly and cocked her head to the side. “One.”

Ah. So she hadn’t quite forgiven him yet. Well, then, he had to make this question count. As usual for him, it didn’t take long to figure out which question to ask.

“What happened to put you in such a cheerful disposition?”

Shael was not one who was given to lying. She detested a fib in all of its forms, unless it was absolutely necessary. So she wasn’t going to say that she’d had a good night’s sleep (which she hadn’t, anyways), she wasn’t going to say that she’d just woken up that way (though she had); but at the same time, there was no way she was going to tell him that he had been right, that she did love Adonai, and that he loved her – it simply wasn’t his business.

Which was of course both a simple and honest answer, and thus the one that she went with.

“Not your business,” she smiled sweetly, turning and going into the next stall.

Yet as she worked, she couldn’t help but wonder just why she had said that. After all, it would become public knowledge soon enough anyways … though it would of course be fair to tell the family before telling anyone else. And once Elberon knew, the entire ranch would know. It was inevitable.

No, she didn’t feel guilty for an answer like that. She felt too good to feel guilty.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:32 pm

Shattered Dreams
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 67 F.A.
Status: Mid-stirring

It was a beautiful spring-like day, though spring itself was still weeks away. The sun shone brightly in the sky, melting away the last of the remaining snow, and even the birds were beginning to return early from the south, filling the air with their songs.

Yet the beauty of the day was deceptive – for all was not well.

Shael had just finished a long morning of looking after the expectant mares (it being long because Elberon had engaged her in a conversation). Normally she would have headed straight back home for the lunch that Adonai would have prepared for the two of them, but she knew that today he had headed up into one of the mountains to do some research and so if she went back she would be alone. She didn’t think she could handle that at the moment, though. She needed to talk with someone.

Specifically, with Aragost – because what she needed right now was answers, and he always seemed to have them.

She found him just entering the barracks, as his shift had ended only a short while beforehand. Without turning to look at her, he paused in his steps and murmured, “It has been a long time since you have sought me out, Shael.

Shael flushed, suddenly feeling guilty. “I’m sorry,” she began, but Aragost cut her off.

Do not be,” he murmured, turning to face her. Though his face was, as usual, hidden within the depths of his cowl, she sensed that he was smiling at her. “It means that you have had nothing troubling you.

He paused. “Until now. Come inside and tell me all about it.

Shael nodded gratefully and followed Aragost through the darkness of the barracks to his quarters. His room was as bare as it had ever been, except for a few small Gaian storybooks that sat atop his otherwise empty bookshelf.

Aragost motioned for Shael to take a seat on the bed, the only real comfortable spot in the room, then say down next to her and nodded for her to begin.

She didn’t hesitate.

“Aragost,” she said softly, “is there something wrong with me? Physically, I mean? Everyone else I know who is married, they all have children … Haradhel, Arthael, Aliya … all of them became pregnant almost immediately after they married. Next month, Adonai and I will have been married four years … and I haven’t even suspected once that I might be pregnant.”

Her hazel eyes misted over, and before Aragost could say anything, she added, “And it’s not for lack of trying. Adonai says we should just keep trying, but … I just can’t help but feel that something’s not right.”

For several long moments, Aragost remained silent. He seemed thoughtful, and Shael wondered if he had an answer, wondered if, for the first time, he might not have an answer to her concerns. For a moment, she even dared to hope that he might tell her she was imagining things, and that she should stop worrying and just keep trying.

But when he spoke next, he shattered her hopes completely.

I feared that you might someday ask me about this,” he sighed heavily.

Shael’s eyes grew wide. “Then it’s true,” she gasped. “I can’t have children … and you knew about it? How long have you known, Aragost? Why didn’t you say anything? Why can’t I conceive?”

Aragost folded his hands in his lap like a child about to admit a wrongdoing.

Since I first laid eyes on you, Shael,” he murmured, his tone sympathetic, “I have known everything about you. I know, even better than you, the hardships you lived through. The abuse you remember suffering at the hands of the dwarfs is nothing – nothing at all – in comparison to the torment that your mind has mercifully erased from your memory.

After a pause, he added, “I wept for you.

Shael swallowed hardly and wrapped her arms around her stomach. “Did they …”

Aragost shook his head. “The dwarfs would never abominate themselves with one of another race, fortunately for you,” he answered the question she could not even ask. “You have forgotten what they did … I will not remove that blessing by telling you and forcing you to remember. All you need to know right now is that what they did to you left you barren, unable to conceive. I admit that I knew this, yes, and I also admit that I kept this fact deliberately from you.

A tear rolled down Shael’s cheek. “Why?” she whispered. “All I want is to give Adonai a child …”

Because had you known, you would have denied yourself even just the happiness of having him as your husband,” the dark man replied tenderly. “You would have encouraged him to find a wife who could bear him children in hopes of making him happy … and you would have only made yourself more miserable.

“He deserves children,” Shael replied, another tear spilling from her eye.

He is happy with just you,” Aragost said evenly. “While he would also be happy with children, you alone are enough for him. He would tell you the same.

“But he insists that we keep trying,” she pointed out.

Aragost nodded. “Because he sees how much it means to you,” he murmured patiently. “He encourages you for your own sake. He desires nothing more than just you.

Shael nodded thoughtfully and wiped the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand.

“Is there nothing that can be done?”

Again, Aragost was silent, and this time Shael didn’t even bother to guess the reason why. She knew of course that there was nothing that she could do: a physical impossibility was, after all, a physical impossibility.

But when he spoke, he surprised her yet again.

If it truly is your wish,” he murmured, “then there may be something … but I make no promises.

Shael’s eyes grew wide once more. “Anything!” she agreed eagerly – almost desperately.

Aragost stared at her a moment as if trying to decide something … then he nodded.

Meet me at midnight, on the river, one mile south of your house,” he instructed her. “Keep your hair down … wear white … and bring your crutch, you will want it by the end of the night.

He paused.

And you cannot tell Adonai until after you are back,” he added firmly.

Nervous now, but too desperate to back out, Shael nodded her agreement.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:33 pm

A Heavenly Visit
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 67 F.A.
Status: Mid-stirring

The night was cool, bordering on cold. It was after all still stirring, and it wouldn’t be spring for a while, so that was to be expected. Shael had followed Aragost’s instructions to the letter – she had snuck out after Adonai had fallen asleep, wearing her only white skirt and blouse – which she usually didn’t wear together, since to her it seemed too bright – and her hair flowed out behind her, recently cut so that it didn’t drag on the ground. She carried her crutch beneath her arm, but she wasn’t using it yet – she hadn’t used it for a long time, and it was a matter of pride for her that she no longer needed it; yet Aragost had said to bring it, and so she had.

She met Aragost at the appointed place, shivering slightly in the cold. She had thought about taking her cloak along, but it was a forest green so she hadn’t known if it would be allowed. She didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize her only chance to ever have a child.

Adonai would be furious, she mused as she followed Aragost out towards one of the mountains, if he knew where she was at the moment, dressed as she was. That was probably the reason why Aragost had told her not to let him know. She felt guilty about leaving him so quietly, and she apologized silently as she made her way further and further from the house. Every once in a while she would glance over her shoulder, and once they had climbed a ways up the mountain, she could see the roof of her house in the distance.

Aragost was also dressed all in white – white robes, white cloak … Shael wondered where he had kept it. Never before had she seen him in anything but the purest black. Or was it his mysterious magic again? His magic almost seemed illimitable at times … what was he going to do tonight? Was he going to show her something? Take her somewhere in particular? Try some magic on her?

We are going to meet someone,” the mysterious man said suddenly, startling her. They were the first words he had spoken since they had set out towards the mountain, and Shael was surprised by them.

“Who?” she asked curiously. She didn’t bother asking how he had known what she had been thinking. She took it for granted now that he knew everything.

But instead of answering her question, Aragost simply replied, “You must use the ancient tongue at all times … and show her the respect she deserves.

Someone important then … and a woman …

Shael was at a loss. She had no idea who it might be.


Hours later, they reached the peak of the mountain. It was cold and windy up there, and by this time Shael was not only using her crutch, but also panting from the exertion. She had never been up on a mountain before. She had known she wouldn’t be physically able to climb, not with her bad leg. So she was amazed that she had even made it that far, and she had no idea how she would make it back down.

It was also the latest she could ever remember staying awake. Having met Aragost at midnight, it was now about halfway between midnight and dawn – if not closer to dawn. But the night was still black. The moon was covered by clouds, and there wasn’t the slightest bit of light for them to see by.

Or was there?

As Shael looked around, leaning on her crutch to catch her breath, she saw a glimmer of white falling from the sky.

Falling towards them.

Beside her, she saw Aragost fall to his knees and bow his head, and she thought it was a good idea to do as he did; so she dropped her crutch and lowered herself carefully to her knees, bowing her head just as he had.

The light grew steadily brighter, growing in radiance until she could not even keep her eyes open, but had to close them for protection. Even so, she thought that she would be blinded. She had never seen anything so bright …

And suddenly it faded slightly.

Shael opened her eyes a sliver and forced herself to look up.

There, standing on the grass (hadn’t it been snow a moment before?) in front of them, glowing in a white so bright that she almost couldn’t bear to look at her, was a woman. She was tall – at least two heads taller than either Elros or Aragost, far taller even than Adonai – and yet she seemed … frail. Her hair, a gold so radiant it had a glow all its own, fell about her shoulders in ringlets. Her skin, white as a dove, shone and seemed to be the source of the white glow around her. She wore a sparkling green gown that seemed to have leaves (or something of the like) growing out of it, and that was so long that it trailed on the ground, which she didn’t even seem to be touching.

Lady Yavanna, Bringer of Fruits,” Aragost said reverently in the ancient tongue, bowing his head so low to the ground that it actually touched it.

The woman raised one hand until it hovered just above the elf’s head. “Aldrich,” she said in a powerful voice that seemed to echo, despite not being loud. “It has been a very long time. I am glad to see that you still live.

After a pause, she added, “Rise.

Aragost did as she commanded, rising slowly to his feet, one hand over his heart. Shael remained where and as she was, however, somehow feeling that it would be the right thing to do. Her heart was pounding in her chest. She had a very strong suspicion now exactly who it was they were talking to, and she couldn’t believe it. Had Aragost actually dared to ask for help on her behalf from a goddess?

Then the woman turned her attention to her.

Shael … Aldrich has made known to me your problem … and your wish … have you anything to add?

Shael trembled and lowered her eyes, hardly daring to believe that one of the Valië was asking her what she wanted.

I know not what he has told you, my Lady,” she replied in a wavering voice, sounding small to her own ears after the echoing greatness of the goddess, “but I wish for nothing more … than to provide a child for my husband.

The tongue felt strange in her mouth, as it was the first time she had truly been able to speak it, but it also felt … proper. As if it was something she had been meaning to do for a long time, but hadn’t quite found the time before.

The Valië rested her gaze upon the girl for several long moments, as if she were trying to decide something.

Wife of Adonai … son of Ulani Aldrich … daughter of Krista Aldrich … daughter of Alcina Aldrich … daughter of Alyse Aldrich … daughter of Aldrich,” she said finally. Her gaze turned to Aragost. “You are bold, Aldrich … to ask something on behalf of your own family … rather than the greater good of the race …

I do not ask recklessly,” Aragost replied, his hand still over his heart. “I know the price. Nor do I ask this for her sake alone – but for mine. Mine is the request. Let mine be the payment.

Shael was immediately alarmed, but she didn’t dare look up. Payment? What did that mean? It sounded ominous, whatever it was … and not necessarily a good thing.

But Yavanna seemed satisfied. She nodded her head once, slowly, and turned her gaze back towards Shael.

Rise,” she commanded, just as she had Aragost.

Shael obeyed silently, rising slowly to her feet, making sure to keep her head bowed, placing her hand over her heart as Aragost had done.

Look upon me.

Shael lifted her gaze, trembling, and looked upon the face of the goddess: kind it was, and full of compassion, yet stern and commanding. Even as she watched, the goddess seemed to float down to the ground until she stood directly in front of Shael, then shrank in stature until she mirrored her in height.

Shael Aldrich … this gift I give to you … that you may conceive and bear a child … but be warned: though I give you this gift, I know not how long it may last. You will bear one child, perhaps more; but it will not last forever. Time is of the essence.

She looked at Aragost once more, then back at Shael.

Treasure your gift … for though you know not what it is, it has been bought at a great price.

Shael felt a twinge of fear as she looked sharply at Aragost, terrified suddenly that the price of her desire might have been too great – but her gaze was drawn, almost involuntarily, back to the goddess that remained in front of her.

I understand,” she whispered, though she was trembling now through and through.

The goddess nodded and reached out as if to embrace her: but she passed – not through her – but into her, almost as if their bodies were merging as one, though the Valië had no substance. And then she was gone.

Shael was filled with a sudden warmth, a sudden peace, and though the light faded the moment the goddess had vanished, she felt as though she would be able to make it all the way home without having to worry about the darkness. For some reason, she seemed to be able to see everything clearly.

She turned to Aragost, remembering suddenly what Yavanna had said about the price. “Aragost, are you-”

The ancient elf waved one hand to silence her.

I’m all right,” he murmured softly, reaching out and putting one hand on her shoulder. “Now let’s just hope your eyes have normalized by the time you get back home, or Adonai’s going to be asking some questions …

Shael blinked. “My eyes?”

Aragost nodded and led her over to a pool of water a few steps away. She gasped when she saw her reflection. Her eyes were shining with the same white light that had emanated from the goddess …

You have seen, face to face, one of the Valier,” Aragost murmured. “Her light will remain with you for a while … especially as she has made herself temporarily one with you.

“And the price?” she asked softly, her brow furrowing with worry for him.

He shook his head. “Nothing that I was not prepared to offer,” he assured her softly. “Now come. You must return home.

And, taking her carefully by the hand, he led her once more back down the mountain.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:34 pm

The Most Wonderful Love
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 67 F.A.
Status: Mid-Stirring

Adonai’s sleep was fitful. He didn’t wake up at all, but somehow he had the sense that something was wrong. Or at the very least, different. He was aware of tossing and turning, but for some reason he was also very aware that, for once, Shael was not trying to make him lay still. Yet try as he may to wake up and find out why, he couldn’t. Had he so exhausted himself in the mountain earlier that day?


And then he thought, why was he having such deep thought processes if he was still asleep? Which meant that he wasn’t asleep. He couldn’t be. But why couldn’t he open his eyes?

He fought and forced his muscles to work, and slowly but surely his eyes cracked open. It was already daylight, he noted – far into day. For all he knew, it could be noon already. What was going on? Why hadn’t Shael woken him?

He looked around, turning from side to side once more. For that matter, where was she? She wasn’t in bed … and it looked as though she hadn’t been for a while.

Suddenly alarmed, he rose to his feet and stumbled groggily from the room. He had to find her … where could she be?

He was so tired, his senses so dull, that he nearly tripped over her before he finally found her. She was lying, asleep, on the couch in the living room, fully dressed, with her crutch lying on the floor beside her.

He blinked a few times, trying to be certain of what he was seeing – but each thought, each realization, left him more and more confused. What was she doing there? Why was she dressed? And why in white? Why, if she was asleep, was she not wearing her nightclothes? Why did she have her crutch with her? Why was she even asleep at that hour? Why wasn’t she awake and checking on the expectant mares over at the ranch?

“Shael?” he murmured, pushing her crutch under the couch and kneeling beside her. He shook her shoulder gently. “Shael? Are you all right?”

Shael moaned and turned over slightly, then opened her eyes and looked up at Adonai.

Adonai gasped, suddenly wide awake.

“Your eyes,” he whispered, amazed and terrified by the white glow of light that was emanating from her eyes.

Shael smiled warmly and reached up, brushing her fingers along Adonai’s cheek. “You’re awake,” she murmured softly, shifting slightly on the couch.

“What happened to you?” Adonai asked tenderly, moving closer to her. “Your eyes … they’re … glowing …”

“Shh,” Shael hushed him, reaching up and putting one finger across his lips. “Hush. There is nothing to fear. I’m all right.”

He leaned his head down, close to hers, so that he could quiet his tone and still talk to her easily. “Shael,” he murmured softly, “why are you sleeping on the couch?”

She reached up and put her hand on the back of his head. “You could join me,” she teased him quietly, lifting her face and kissing him warmly.

“Um,” Adonai tried to reply, kissing her back, “no, I-” again, “-have to-” and again, “-should-” and again, “-work …”

“No,” Shael whispered, her tone halfway between seductive and urgent, “no … you need … to take … a day … off …” Her hands were twined in his hair by then. “They’ll … survive … a day … without us.”

“But-” He tried to resist her, but even as he thought about it he knew it was a hopeless cause. “Damn you,” he said finally, getting to his feet and picking her up. “I hope that door’s locked.”

And he headed right back to where he had been only moments before.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:35 pm

New Birth
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 68 F.A.
Status: Yestarë

In the small hours of the morning, everything was silent. No birds sang, no animals chattered: it was as if the world had been frozen in time. Even the stars for once seemed to stay still, completing the image of a dark, unchanging world.

Suddenly, from one of the houses in the valley, a baby’s cry erupted into the night, shattering the silence and the stillness, breaking the spell over the land, and a chorus of night sounds broke out.

Hours passed, night turned into day, and while people stirred from every other household in the valley, no one emerged from the two-storey house. The sun rose in the sky, higher and higher, until it reached its zenith, and only then did the door of the house open, and Adonai stepped out, tears on his cheeks and an infant in his arms.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered to the sleeping child. “Mama’s going to be all right.”

It was nothing more than his own hopeful anxiety that was speaking, for he knew that it was quite possible that Shael would not survive. She had grown stronger over time, yes, but childbirth was dangerous even for the strongest women. Even with Ulani doing all that she could, Adonai couldn’t help but feel afraid.

Suddenly, Aliya appeared from the direction of her own house, seven-year-old Adonijah following on her heels. Her expression was excited as she approached – but when she saw Adonai’s worried face, she paused in her step. She looked down at the infant asleep in her brother’s arms and murmured softly, “Boy or girl?”

Adonai clutched the infant closer. “Girl,” he replied softly, looking down at his daughter tenderly. “Rhea.” Yes for all the love and adoration on his face, his voice was filled with worry.

Aliya blinked and reached out tentatively, as if she was going to put one hand on Adonai’s shoulder, but she paused partway there.

“And Shael?”

Adonai swallowed hardly and lifted Rhea to his face, hiding his tears which fell and were absorbed by the blanket in which she was wrapped.

“I don’t know,” he cried, worry and exhaustion threatening to make him break down entirely. The only reason he hadn’t yet was because of the tiny girl wrapped in his arms. “And I don’t know what to do,” he went on. “I’ve never had anything to do with any of the birthings here or on the ranch … I’m useless in there, completely useless … and even Mother has no idea what else she can do for her … she’s bleeding so badly … and she’s so white …”

Even Aliya paled at those words. If Shael survived all of this, it would be a miracle.

“How long has she been bleeding out?” she asked seriously, understanding now her brother’s worry.

Adonai blinked tears away. “Almost ten hours.”

Aliya looked away. How had Shael even survived that long?

“You should call Aragost here,” she suggested finally in a soft voice. “Maybe he can do something.”

Adonai looked up at his sister and nodded. “Yes … yes, I’ll do that,” he decided. He really didn’t know what good that would do, but he was willing to try anything. With his mind, he called Aragost to the valley, explaining as to him as he came the situation and what had happened.

When Aragost arrived an impossibly short amount of time later, he brushed right past Aliya and Adonai, heading straight inside the house. Adonijah pressed himself closer to Aliya as the dark man passed, peering after him as he disappeared inside.

“Aren’t you going to go with him?” Aliya asked Adonai in surprise. “If anyone can save Shael, it’s him … and even if he can’t, don’t you want to be with her?”

Adonai lifted his gaze to meet his sister’s. “I’m afraid,” he whispered, flushing with shame.

“Then imagine how she must feel,” Aliya replied softly. “She’s the one close to death … she needs you by her side …”

Adonai swallowed again and nodded. “Yes … you’re right,” he murmured. “Thanks.” And without saying anything further, he turned around and headed inside once more. He made his way quickly up the stairs towards the bedroom, and he could hear Ulani crying as soon as he reached the top of the stairs. She was out in the hallway now, almost entirely covered in blood, tears running down her cheeks and washing them slightly.

“Mother?” Adonai breathed, moving closer to her.

Ulani shook her head. “Keep Rhea away, we don’t need her getting sick, too,” she said quickly. “Aragost is with her now … I’m not sure what he’s doing …”

Adonai nodded and pushed past his mother into the bedroom before she could stop him – but once he was inside he stopped in his tracks. It was worse than when he had come out … the bed, the wall, the floor … everything … was covered … soaked in blood. So much blood …

“Shael,” he breathed, stepping carefully through the mess and sitting on the edge of the bed, paying no attention to Aragost, who was kneeling in the middle of the room, his head to the floor. “Shael …”

He picked up her hand and squeezed it lightly. It was cold … so cold … and almost pure white. For several long moments Shael didn’t respond, and he feared that he had been too late – but then her eyes opened a crack, very weakly, and she pressed one finger against his hand, too far gone to do anything else.

A … Ado … nai,” she sighed weakly. “I … sorry …

“Hush,” Adonai whispered. “Shh … save your strength …”

Shael’s eyes closed, and she gasped for air. “Take … care … of Rhea …” she panted almost silently. “I … love you …

And then her hand fell, limp, from his.

Tears burned Adonai’s eyes, and he fell forward, weeping against Shael’s white forehead. In his arms, the infant also began to cry, but even she could not distract Adonai from the pain in his heart. With his free hand, he lifted Shael’s body and hugged it close, rocking back and forth gently, venting his pain and sorrow with his tears.

Suddenly he heard a strange voice, one that seemed to echo despite being soft and nearby, saying, “Do not fear … Adonai Aldrich …

He looked up, eyes swollen and red, to see a woman standing in the room between him and Aragost. She was beautiful but terrifying at the same time, entirely white, a white so pure that she seemed to be glowing.

Adonai,” she said again, her voice still strangely powerful and yet quiet, “step back.

Adonai didn’t want to listen, didn’t want to obey; but he feared this woman, despite not knowing who she was or how she had gotten there, and he feared what she might do to his newborn daughter … and so he did obey, standing and taking a single step back from the bedside, standing beside Aragost, who had risen now to his feet.

As he watched, the strange woman moved to stand directly beside Shael, putting her face just above Shael’s and breathing into her mouth. She spoke some words, too soft for Adonai to hear above Rhea’s wails, and as he rocked his daughter softly, trying to calm her (though he knew she was more likely hungry than anything else), the woman moved as if to lay on top of Shael … but then her whiteness seemed to dim and she grew almost transparent, and instead of laying on top of Shael, she disappeared into her …

Colour returned to Shael’s white body, and her eyes opened and she gasped for air – and then she moved to sit up, as strongly as if nothing had happened. When she looked at Adonai, her eyes glowed with the same glow as the woman who had been there only a moment before.

“Shael,” Adonai breathed, rushing forward and taking her hand, pressing it close in his and squeezing it tightly. He smiled, tears falling afresh down his cheeks, though they were now tears of joy rather than sorrow. “You’re warm …”

Shael stared at him, her brow furrowed in confusion. “What … happened?” she asked softly. “Adonai?” Her eyes lowered to the tiny girl in his arms. “Rhea …”

Aragost stepped forward, his dark cloak wrapped tightly around him, and he smiled and put one hand on each of their shoulders.

You have been saved, Shael,” he told her softly, “by Yavanna herself …

Shael’s eyes grew wide. “A-again?” That was the second time now that the goddess had saved her …

Ulani came rushing into the room, and when she saw that Shael was alive and seemingly well, she burst into tears. “I thought you were gone!” she cried, standing at the doorway and trying to wipe her tears away with her bloodied hands.

Shael stared at her. “I … think I was,” she murmured. She threw her arms around Adonai and held him closely. “But now I’m back,” she smiled into his shoulder. “For good.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:35 pm

Forever Welcome Guests
Location: Borderlands
Year: 74 F.A.
Status: Late Stirring

The ranch may have been situated basically out in the middle of nowhere, between the borders of all of the different nations and thus a part of none of them, but there was indeed very little that they lacked. The number of ranch hands never dwindles, wounds were always immediately attended to, they had every type of food they could want, anything they needed they could usually make themselves, and if not it was a journey of no more than a week or two for them to get it. No, no one at the ranch would consider themselves lacking in anything at all.

And yet, there was always one occasion that could lift everyone’s spirits even higher and bring an excitement that was rare: visitors.

“Mama! Mama!” Arahad hollered, running into the house, nearly out of breath. “Mama there’s people coming! People I never saw before!”

Haradhel dropped what she was doing and moved to join her youngest son. “Where are they?” she asked him curiously. “What direction are they coming from?”

“The south,” Arahad replied, his dark eyes sparkling with excitement. Twelve years old now, the boy was still as excitable as he had been at four years old. “It’s a man and a woman, come see!” He grabbed Haradhel’s hand and dragged her towards the door, then opened it and dashed out without her, letting go of her hand so that he could run faster.

Haradhel followed her youngest son at a bit of a slower pace – not because she was any less curious or less excited, but because she, a princess of the Southland, trained as one of the Home Guard, had more of a sense of decorum. However, she had only taken a few steps out of the house when she was joined by Arwen, who had also heard Arahad’s shouts about the visitors and wanted to know who they were.

“Any ideas, Mama?” she asked eagerly, her brown eyes sparkling with excitement. “No one ever comes out here to see us, not from this world anyways!”

But without even waiting for Haradhel’s answer, Arwen was off, running with her little brother to greet their visitors.

“Roydon!” she squealed gleefully when she saw the two travelers. She ran forward at full speed and pounced on the tall, dark elf, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. “You came!”

Roydon, all grown up now and very tall indeed, laughed and hugged Arwen back. “Well, it’s been hard to get away – trust me, I’ve been trying since you invited me.” His voice was a soft tenor, pleasant to listen to and easy to hear.

“It’s true,” the young woman who was with him added, her voice shy. “I was afraid to return to this area until my brother pointed out that we were in far less danger now than when we were children.”

Haradhel peered closer at the woman. “Rosie?” she guessed, blinking in surprise.

“Rose,” the woman nodded shyly, a faint blush sprinkling across her cheeks. “Hello again, Haradhel … it’s nice to see you again.”

Arwen giggled and let go of Roydon finally, poking him playfully. “Now that you’re here,” she told him, her eyes flashing mischievously, “you’re going to make a good visit out of it and stay for a while. Right?”

Roydon chuckled and waved her hand away. “Right, right,” he agreed. “Besides, I think Rose could use some time to relax.” As Haradhel began to lead all of them towards the house, he leaned closer to Arwen and murmured into her ear, “Our father sailed on last year, and she took it rather hard … I’m hoping that some time out here will calm her down a bit.”

All the mischief faded instantly from Arwen’s eyes, and she looked at Roydon sadly. “I understand,” she murmured back just as softly. “I’ll do what I can to help.” She clapped her hands together suddenly, her eyes brightening once more. “I should take both of you to go see Adanedhel and Ahren!” she beamed. “They were out fishing this morning but I think they should be back by now, they’re probably at Adanedhel’s house!”

Roydon nodded approvingly, his handsome features radiating his excitement. “Excellent idea!” he agreed with a wide smile, putting one arm around Arwen’s shoulders. “I think your mother would like us to go inside with her first, but later on I think that would be great!”

Arwen giggled girlishly as Haradhel led the way into the house, still chatting easily with Rose. Arahad had run ahead, and with Arwen and Roydon several paces behind the others, the door had closed before they reached it. Arwen reached out to open it again, but Roydon put one hand on her arm, stopping her.

“Hey,” he said softly, turning her to face him, “your mother didn’t say anything … don’t tell me you still haven’t told her …”

Arwen blushed. “Roydon … I haven’t even seen you in five years … what was there to say?”

Roydon sighed dramatically, then smiled and placed one finger gently on Arwen’s lips. “Then say nothing,” he murmured softly. “Let me.” And he leaned forward, brushing his lips across her forehead. Then he chuckled and reached for the door, holding it open for her. “After you.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:36 pm

Oh And By The Way ...
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 74 F.A.
Status: Late Stirring

There was no debate whatsoever. From the moment Roydon and Rose had arrived, Arwen had made it very clear to everyone that they would be staying at the main ranch house with the family. No one thought anything of it: guests usually did stay there, and everyone was excited about Roydon and Rose’s return.

Dinner, however, was a different matter.

All of the family was present for dinner, and Haradhel had made a wonderful meal for them all. Elrohir had been surprised to learn of their visitors’ arrival, but pleased: he always loved it when children from the past returned to let them know how their lives were. It always gave him a sense of fulfillment. Sending the children home was good, to be sure, but he sometimes felt a little empty, always wondering if the children were all right in the years that passed.

At this particular point in time, Elrohir was curious about one thing: “What made you two decide to come back here?” he asked, glancing between Rose and Roydon.

“Well,” Rose smiled, tapping her chin with the handle of her fork, “Roydon has been asking me to come with him here for … about five years now. Ever since Arwen invited us.”

There was a sudden silence, and Elrohir looked long and hard at Arwen, who seemed to be overly interested in her food.

“Is that so …” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “And when did Arwen see you?”

Roydon looked sidewise at Arwen, who was sitting next to him. “Didn’t you tell your parents anything?” he asked her, raising one eyebrow. He nudged her with his elbow to make her look up at him, and he was amused to see that she was blushing. “Honestly, Arwen, you might have said something!”

Elrohir, Haradhel and Ahren were all curious now, and they all set their utensils down and leaned forward, staring intently at Arwen.

“What?” Arwen asked defensively, leaning away from them all. “It was just – it was such – stop looking at me like that!”

Roydon chuckled, but Elrohir shook his head in disbelief. “I want the whole story,” he told his daughter, folding his hands on the table in front of him. “Now.”

Arwen blushed. “Well … when we were in Tor Karad, for Aunt Elnara and Uncle Lore’s wedding … Daeron took me to the city to show me around, and we visited Ninako and Nineko at their inn … and they invited us in for a meal … and Roydon was there. I didn’t recognize him at first, but …”

“But I recognized her,” Roydon interrupted, taking up the tale. “I was in the city on some business for our father, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Arwen. She looked just like what I remembered, except older of course. We chatted for a while and when she had to head back to the castle we made plans to meet again.”

“That explains her frequent trips into the city,” Haradhel commented, raising one eyebrow at her husband. They had been wondering about that.

“But after Daeron took me the first time,” Arwen went on, “I went by myself. I saw no reason not to. So I met up with Roydon, and we just sort of … explored the city together.”

Elrohir gazed evenly at his daughter. She was fidgeting, and he could tell that there was more, something that she didn’t want to say … either because it was private, or because she was afraid of being lectured.

“And?” he pressed gently.

Still Arwen hesitated. She looked to Roydon for support, and he nodded to her, smiling warmly, and underneath the table, where no one could see, he reached for her hand and gave it an encouraging squeeze.

Arahad had been miraculously silent until this point in time, but suddenly he broke into a wide grin and started chanting, “Arwen’s got a boyfriend! Arwen’s got a boyfriend!”

Elrohir half expected Arwen to snap at her brother, like she normally would have, but he was surprised when she did nothing but blush, her entire face turning a deep shade of red.

“Arwen?” he asked softly. “Is this true?”

Arwen’s fingers tightened around Roydon’s hand, and she looked up at him, taking a deep breath, then turned to her father and nodded.

“I know I should have told you,” she murmured, eyes downcast, “but … I don’t know, it was such a long time and … I didn’t hear from him for five years …”

Though she still didn’t know why she hadn’t mentioned even just seeing him. Daeron of course would not have known to say anything; he had never met the man before, and had no idea who he was.

But now it was Roydon’s turn to flush softly. “I had no idea how to get a letter out here,” he told Elrohir apologetically, “and until last year, our father needed my help. I’ve left the business in the hands of someone I trust while I’m on this trip, but now it is my business.”

“And what business is that?” Elrohir asked, picking up his fork to eat again.

“Shipwright,” Roydon replied warmly. “All my life I have been sailing … never far, but someday …” He looked down at Arwen, his eyes bright with tenderness, and he put one arm around her shoulders and drew her near.

Elrohir stared silently at this obvious display of affection. He would be having a talk with Arwen later … as well as with Roydon, but separately. He’d had no idea that Arwen had someone that she seriously liked … he wondered how serious it was. He watched as his daughter smiled back at Roydon, and it looked as though she was going to lean against him …

He cleared his throat and raised one eyebrow at the two of them, and both of them blushed hotly and picked up their forks, continuing on with their meal.

Yes … he would be having a serious talk with both of them.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:37 pm

Talking To Arwen
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 74 F.A.
Status: Late Stirring

By the time bedtime came, Elrohir was just about out of patience, but he gave Arwen more than enough time (in his opinion) to get changed into her night clothes before knocking on her door. She had spent every moment of the day with Roydon after the lunch fiasco, so he hadn’t had the chance to speak to either one of them … but it was something that had to be done, and the sooner the better.

“Arwen?” he called softly through her bedroom door. “You decent?”

At her soft reply in the positive, he opened the door and stepped inside. To his surprise, she was still fully dressed, sitting at her writing desk and sketching something on a sheet of paper. He sighed and leaned against the doorway, folding his arms across his chest.

“Arwen,” he murmured, “I thought you were going to bed.”

“I am,” she smiled without looking at him. “Soon. Don’t worry.”


Arwen tilted her head as if she was listening, but she didn’t pry her eyes from her little project.


Sensing the impatience in her father’s voice, Arwen turned to look at him, setting her pencil down. “Ada, it’s late, can’t it wait until tomorrow?”

Elrohir raised one eyebrow skeptically. “I thought you weren’t going to bed quite yet, anyways.”

Arwen coughed, and a light blush sprinkled across her cheeks. “Well … I was about to …”

“Right.” Elrohir closed the door behind himself and moved to sit on the edge of the bed, facing his daughter. “Arwen, we need to talk.” His eyes were fixed on her face, and he didn’t miss the flicker of anxiety that passed over her face. He smiled inwardly. She knew what he was here for.

“Ada,” she said softly, moving from her chair to sit next to Elrohir, “you aren’t angry, are you? Because I didn’t say anything?”

Elrohir smiled and reached for his daughter’s hand, holding it warmly between his own. “Arwen,” he murmured, “in all honesty, I don’t know why you wouldn’t have at least mentioned running into him. And no, I’m not angry … for any reason at all. I’m just … disappointed. Five years is a long time … why didn’t you say anything?”

Arwen shifted uncomfortably. “Well … I … I guess I don’t know,” she admitted. “I mean, we were only in Tor Karad for a short time … and … well, I guess … I mean, you have to admit that you’re always so hard on potential suitors, even if it’s not your business – look at how you were with Pen! I didn’t know if you would stop me from seeing him … or if you would scare him off …”

Her face was beet red by this time, and she could no longer bring herself to meet her father’s gaze.

Elrohir squeezed her hand gently. “Sweetheart, you do have to realize … I didn’t know Pen at all, but I knew Roydon when he was a child. I have always known he would turn out to be a good man … and he has. If he turns out to be the man of your choice … who am I to stop you? I’ve been down that road, trying to control others … but it is your life to live, not mine.”

He smiled at her warmly. “As long as you remember what you learned from your mother and myself as we brought you up, you’ll make us happy.”

Arwen ventured a glance up at her father. “Then … you’re not going to tell me not to see him anymore?” she asked, hardly daring to believe it.

Elrohir considered it. “Well … not yet,” he smiled, “though I am also going to speak to him first. Just remember … don’t rush into things, all right? Make sure that whatever you choose will be the right decision … because it is a lifelong decision, one that you can’t change.”

Arwen’s eyes lit up, and she threw her arms around her father and hugged him tightly, her smile so wide that it hurt.

“Thank you, Ada,” she whispered into his chest. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”

Elrohir chuckled softly, hugging his daughter back. “You just be careful, Sweetheart,” he murmured back. He kissed her forehead lightly, then hugged her again. “You just be careful.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:38 pm

Talking To Roydon
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 74 F.A.
Status: Late Stirring

After talking with Arwen, Elrohir wasn’t quite sure how he felt. He was certain that she loved Roydon, he just wasn’t sure how far the relationship had gone or progressed to this point. It made him feel uneasy … would Arwen suddenly one day announce that she was going to leave with Roydon? Would she simply vanish?

And then there was the problem that … Elrohir didn’t know how Roydon stood on the issue yet. Yes, he had come all this way to visit Arwen, but there had also been the comment made that he wanted Rose to be able to distract herself for a while, so that she wouldn’t have to think about her father’s sailing. Which was the real reason? Was one more predominant than the other? He wanted to make sure that the man wasn’t just leading his daughter on, that he wasn’t seducing her just to leave her heartbroken. That was something that, if true, he would never forgive.

He was heading up the stairs towards his own room, intent on heading to bed himself, when he heard Roydon’s soft voice calling after him. He had planned on speaking to the man in the morning, Elrohir mused, but since the opportunity was presenting itself …

“Yes, Roydon?” he asked quietly, turning and smiling down at the man who was on the landing of the floor below.

Roydon appeared nervous, and for the first time Elrohir felt a twinge of compassion for a would-be suitor. He apologized silently for his unflattering thoughts of the moment before and headed down the stairs instead to talk with Roydon.

“I was wondering, sir,” Roydon began softly as Elrohir approached, “if I might have a word with you before we all went to bed …”

Elrohir smiled and nodded, then motioned towards the stairs below them once more. “Shall we go outside?” he suggested. “It is a pleasant night, perfect for talks.”

Roydon seemed surprised by Elrohir’s lack of suspicion, but he nodded agreeably and the two of them headed outside to the stone patio to sit and talk.

Once they were settled comfortably, Elrohir sat back in his chair and smiled, trying to put the other man at ease. “So, Roydon,” he said softly. “You have something you wish to speak to me about?”

Roydon cleared his throat and nodded, leaning forward and folding his hands, leaning his elbows on his knees. “Yes, sir,” he said quietly. “I … wanted to speak with you about Arwen.”

Elrohir hid a smile. “Of course,” he said graciously. “Go on.”

Roydon seemed to grow even more agitated by Elrohir’s lack of surprise or defense, but he pressed on bravely.

“I love her, sir,” he said firmly, without a trace of doubt in his voice. “I know this is the first time in five years that I have seen her, but every day during those five years, I thought only of her, and every night I dreamed only of seeing her again. I don’t know why she wouldn’t have said anything of our time together five years ago, but I wish she had so that this wouldn’t seem so sudden. I can only imagine how this must seem to you –”

Elrohir lifted one hand to stop the man before he could get too carried away.

“First,” he smiled, “I have to tell you, I have just spoken with Arwen, and I think I can understand a little why she didn’t say anything. In the past, I’ve been … perhaps a little hard on those who have been courting members of my family. Not Arwen, you are the first suitor she’s had, but my niece. Even I have to admit that it’s amazing how well her husband bore it. We were all quite beastly to him. In that light, she didn’t want you to have to go through the same thing, she didn’t want to scare you away. Knowing Arwen …”

He chuckled. “Well. Anyways. I also have to add that your confession … is far from surprising to me. In fact, it is quite the opposite … I could see in Arwen’s face, hear in her voice, the regard that she has for you … and in truth, I had been hoping that you might say exactly what you have said. I feared momentarily that you might be leading Arwen on … but if you are sincere in what you have told me, then I have no choice but to give you my blessing … and wish you both the greatest happiness.”

He reached forward and put one hand on Roydon’s shoulder. “Just don’t take her away from us too quickly,” he chuckled softly. And then he rose to his feet and headed inside, leaving behind him a very flustered and completely confused Roydon.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:39 pm

A Friend For Adonijah
Location: Haven, Borderlands
Year: 75 F.A.
Status: Early Spring

Three weeks had passed since Roydon and Rose’s arrival at Haven, and Rose had very quickly discovered that she was going to be spending most of her time during their visit without her brother by her side. She wasn’t used to being alone … she and Roydon had been inseparable since they had been young children, since before they had been abducted. It was true that there were many people, both on the ranch and in the valley, that she could interact with … but she was just as shy as she had always been, and she couldn’t bring herself to talk with the people of the ranch, nor was she brave enough to venture a trip to the valley by herself.

On this particular day, she was on the far border of the ranch, leaning against the fence of the paddock and watching the horses graze. She didn’t know much about horses, she would be the first to admit that. She had grown up around ships, not animals. But she found them … peaceful, gentle creatures, and she loved to watch them. From time to time during their visit she would come out here, away from all of the people, and muse in silent tranquility. Roydon was spending all of his time with Arwen, but as long as Rose could be out here with the horses, she found that she didn’t mind.

She was so lost in her thoughts that when she heard the sound of a horse coming from further down the fence, rather than from the horses inside the paddock, she was startled from her reverie and lost her balance, falling to the ground. She looked up and was shocked to see a boy, perhaps in his early teens, standing next to the fence. His eyes were wide like a startled deer’s, and he looked as though he were ready to flee, as scared as she herself had been of his sudden appearance.

For several long minutes, neither of them moved, both of them staring at the other. Each of their fear was apparent to the other, yet neither of them seemed able to run away.

Finally, the boy spoke. “Why are you scared of me?” he asked, his chest rising and falling like a caught rabbit.

Rose blushed and swallowed hard. “Why are you scared of me?” she asked in return. After all, he had been the one to startle her, not the other way around.

Her question seemed to give the boy something to think about, because he seemed to calm down a bit, standing up straight again, blinking at her in surprise more than anything else. He tilted his head one way, then the other, and then back the first way, and finally he scratched his head and shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I … guess … I’ve always been scared of everyone …”

Rose giggled softly. “That’s a silly way to be,” she said quietly, realizing as she said it how hypocritical she was being. “People aren’t bad … most of them, at least.”

The boy looked at her through narrow eyes. “Then why are you scared of people, too?” he challenged her, putting his hands on his hips.

Rose blushed deeply. “I … can’t help it,” she replied, her voice nearly a whisper as some of her fear returned.

The boy’s face flushed as well, though only lightly, and he looked away, rubbing his arms gently. “Me, too,” he murmured sadly. He sighed, then climbed onto the fence and sat on the top bar, shoulders slumped, gazing out at the horses.

Rose hesitated a moment, then moved to stand beside him, resting her arms on the bar he was sitting on. “By the way,” she murmured softly, looking up at him, “I’m Rose.”

The boy looked down at her, hesitated, and then smiled faintly.

“Hi, Rose,” he said just as softly. “I’m Adonijah.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:42 pm

Unexpected Dinner Guest
Location: Paradise Valley, Borderlands
Year: 75 F.A.
Status: Mid Spring

“Alyse, get the bread,” Aliya requested, taking a cloth in each hand and pulling a pot from over the fire. “Thick slices, please.”

“Yes, Mama,” Alyse murmured softly, putting her book down on the counter and propping it open. She took the loaf from the cupboard and set it on the counter, then took a long knife and began to cut it, using her fingers to measure the thickness and keeping her eyes on the open pages of her book.

Silent obedience from Alyse was far from unusual, but that was the reason that Aliya glanced up at her, and what she saw made her frown. “You’re going to cut yourself, put the book away,” she told her daughter sharply.

Alyse sighed and closed the book obediently, then continued to cut the bread in thick, even slices.

Suddenly Aliya heard the front door open, and she set the pot on the counter and brushed her hands on her pants.

“Oh, good,” she smiled, “the boys are back.” She raised her voice a bit. “Hurry up and wash for dinner, it’s ready to go on the table!”

There was no reply. It was odd, Aliya noted, but she was too busy to take any further notice. It was nearly another quarter hour before the door opened again and she heard Adanedhel and Adwin’s voices, laughing and joking together – and then suddenly, before Aliya could even call out to them, all the sound stopped altogether. Even Alyse looked up from the book she had opened once more and glanced towards the doorway, and, as one, she and her mother darted towards the door to see what had happened. What they saw left both of them speechless.

Adonijah was in the living room, but he wasn’t alone. He was with Rose, who had been visiting the ranch for nearly a month by that time. But they weren’t just sitting silently together, either … they were talking and smiling, and even joking a little bit. Not only that, but it appeared as if Adonijah was teaching Rose how to play the game that, until that day, he had only ever played with Aliya, alone. On top of all of that, he didn’t show any fear or nervousness when he was suddenly surrounded by the siblings he had always been afraid of … it seemed as though he had hardly noticed their presence.

Suddenly the book that Alyse had been holding slipped from her grasp and fell to the floor with a loud thok. She scrambled to recover it, but it was too late: it had attracted Adonijah’s and Rose’s attention, and the two of them looked up, seeming somewhat surprised to see that they were surrounded.

Aliya half expected Adonijah to run screaming or something similar, and she was surprised – no, shocked – when he smiled and rose slowly to his feet, clasping his hands behind his back. His pale hair fell forward into his eyes, but he made no move to brush it away; on the contrary, he lowered his eyes shyly (which was characteristic of him), and cleared his throat.

“Mama,” he said softly, speaking for the first time in his life in the presence of more than just one person, “is it okay if Rose stays for dinner? I’m teaching her our game, and then I promised her I would walk her back to the ranch later.”

Aliya just about fainted. Completely speechless, it was all she could do to nod.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:44 pm

A Black-Handed Thief
Location: Tor Karad, Southland
Year: 72 F.A.
Status: Mid-Summer

Mercifully, life at the castle had been very quiet of late. Since the construction had finally been completed, the noise level had greatly decreased. The city had also been fairly quiet: problems between people seemed nonexistent. Even the attitude of the people in general towards Atalya seemed warmer: they seemed to have finally accepted her as their queen. It helped that Tinúviel spent so much time in the city: everyone knew her, and she knew everyone, and it helped to create a bond between the royal family and the common people.

But, as usual, the peace was not destined to last.

“Your Majesty,” said the guard who was bowing low before her. “A thief has been caught n the market, and has been brought here to be judged.”

Atalya sighed silently, sadly. People knew the punishment for crime … she never understood why there were still those who chose such a path … especially in the city, where they were almost bound to be caught.

“I will hear his case in one hour,” she told the guard, rising from her seat. “Be sure that all witnesses are present.”

The guard bowed low, then left the room. Once she was alone again, Atalya allowed herself a soft sigh. She hated the judgment that she was forced to deal out, but she knew what a lack of discipline – public discipline – would do: it would lead to an increase in crime, and that was not acceptable.

At the appointed time, she, along with others, was in the throne room, waiting patiently for the criminal to be brought in. Reave of course was in the throne next to hers, and though he did have a role to play in the trial, Atalya was more glad for his presence than anything else. Sir Valdemar was also present: not only as historian and record-keeper, but as her counselor if she needed it. There were also a few others who were present as witnesses – trusted though Atalya was, she wasn’t going to let anyone have the opportunity to accuse her of being in any way unfair to her people. A single accusation or even just a rumour could so easily undo all of the good she had managed to do for the city.

At long last, the double doors of the throne room opened and two guards stepped in, a chained prisoner walking between them. Atalya couldn’t say why, but there was something about the thief that she didn’t like … something about his appearance … the look in his eye, they way he walked … he didn’t seem at all ashamed at where he was or the reason for it. Instead, he was looking around … almost as if he was … judging the place.

For the first time, Atalya was glad the throne room (or judgment hall, as some had deemed it) had been built to be the most intimidating room in the entire palace.

The man was halted a safe distance from her throne, and the two guards at his sides knelt in respect to her – a movement echoed by every other person in the room, including the king.

After a moment of pause, Atalya stretched out one hand and spoke a firm command: “Rise.”

There was a general bustle as everyone rose again, and the witnesses (both of the crime and of the trial), Sir Valdemar, and Reave all returned to their seats. The two guards held the criminal firmly by each arm so that he couldn’t run away – either to escape or to attack the queen.

Atalya settled herself once more on her (rather oversized, in her opinion) throne, sitting tall and regal, golden crown on her head and staff in her hand.

“Identify yourself,” she told the thief firmly.

The man didn’t hesitate. “My name is Lamthanc,” he told her boldly, completely at ease. “I come from Phoenix Falls, the only son of my mother.”

Interesting stipulation, Atalya mused for a moment.

“And the crime?” she asked, looking to where Lamthanc’s accuser would be.

To her surprise, it was Aranhil Elurin, the one-time suitor of her granddaughter, who stepped forward. He was looking as well as ever, though his handsome face was set in anger.

“Aranhil Elurin, your Majesty,” he introduced himself as court procedure dictated, bowing low to show his respect. “Curator of Elurin Designs. This man stole three pieces of jewelry from my shop, worth a total of three thousand five hundred combined.”

“And the witnesses?”

A well-dressed man stepped forward. “Your Majesty,” he intoned, bowing deeply, “I am Haldír, of Namu Ngulu. I was in the shop, looking for a gift for my wife back home, when this man entered and began to browse near the counter. I asked the proprietor if I might have a closer look at one of the pieces behind the glass, and while he was occupied with my request I saw this man grab the pieces and run for the door.”

There were nearly a dozen more witnesses, all of them with the same story: the man had gone straight to the most valuable pieces and, while Aranhil had been distracted, had made off with three of them – some of them were even able to describe the pieces from having seen him drop them when he was caught.

All in all, Atalya reflected once all the witnesses had given their testimonies, it was a rather short and straightforward trial … the only question in her mind was, why did he not seem to care about being caught?

“And what have you to say in your defense, Lamthanc?” she asked him, sitting straight in her chair, though she was getting a little tired.

The man smirked. “Like Haldir, I wanted to get a gift – but for my mother, not my wife.”

Atalya’s eyes flashed, showing her temper momentarily before she calmed herself again. “Have you no shame, no remorse for your crime?” she demanded. “You stand before me, before a court of witnesses, and in a matter of moments you will lose the very hands you used to steal with … have you nothing to say for yourself? No defense, no argument? You give your limbs so willingly?”

Lamthanc snickered, loud enough for everyone to hear. “Why would I worry?” he asked in reply. “I have no reason to fear. You won’t cut off my hands, not even just one of them!”

“And what makes you think that?” Atalya asked smoothly.

“Because,” he sneered, “though you do not know my mother, you are very well acquainted with my father … Riordan Aldrich, your own grandson … and even if you would go so far as to treat with the Dwarven king, you would not cut off the hands of your own great-grandson.”

With a jolt of shock, Atalya realized why the man looked so familiar to her. He had some of his father’s features, similar even to Eärendil and Daeron, since their father and Lamthanc’s were identical twins. But had it truly been so long since Riordan’s disgrace had distanced him from the rest of the family? Doing the calculations in her head, she realized that it had already been twenty five years … indeed, quite a bit of time had passed …

“You are mistaken,” she said firmly, rising from her seat and standing tall above him. “My blood may flow in your veins, but you are not one of the Aldrich family, nor is your father – nor would it make a difference if that were the case. A thief is a thief, no matter who they are, and thievery must be punished.”

There was a ripple of murmuring from the rows of civilian witnesses, and Atalya knew they were talking about her grandson’s illegitimate children, as well as questioning whether she was going to be lenient with him or not.

She would leave them in no doubt.

“Sir Valdemar,” she said loudly, though she was still staring at Lamthanc, “take note of this man’s lack of remorse, of morality, and let it be recorded that his sentence is this: the removal of not one, but both of his hands, time set for immediately following this trial.”

It was only then that Lamthanc’s expression changed, turning to a look of sheer horror and surprise. It was quite obvious that he had been relying on their blood relation to keep him from the very sentence that had been pronounced. He rose angrily to his feet and tried to protest, “But-”

The guards on both sides of him grabbed his arms and jerked him back again.

Atalya glared at him coldly. “You have not only the audacity to steal, but also to believe that because we share the same blood I will condone it. You are greatly mistaken. Your arrogance tells me that you still have no remorse for your crime, and that given the chance you will repeat it. Your sentence remains the same.”

She motioned for the guards to take him away, but as she lowered herself to her throne again Lamthanc struggled against his guards’ grips, his face livid.

“You’re only doing this because of my father!” he shouted. “Because he made you look bad! You wouldn’t do this to anyone else!”

“Your sentence has been law since the laws were first created,” Atalya replied evenly, refusing to rise to his bait. “Since the beginning of this kingdom, the penalty for thievery has always been the same.”

“You’re going to regret this!” Lamthanc swore angrily as the guards dragged him from the Throne Room. “I promise you, you’ll regret this day!”

And then he was gone.

Atalya closed her eyes sadly. Why … how could something like this have happened? Riordan … for all his faults he had been a decent man … how could he have let his child grow up like this?

She felt a hand on her arm and looked over to see Reave looking at her anxiously, and she smiled at him. Only then did she remember where they still were, and she rose slowly. She didn’t even notice when the others in the room rose in respect as she left the room. She was too busy trying to keep herself from shaking.

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