“Tales of Eldelórne: Book Three”
This one’s very dark. A kind of civil war breaks out. There are themes of torture and mutilation, kinslaying, and jealousy motivated violence. Also includes a, “finding oneself,” LGBTQ+ thread. Life changes for many in this bitter sweet ending of the Eldelórne trilogy. Prepare yourself for a journey into the abyss, where the truth is a double-edged sword and justice a bloodstained path. The, “Tales of Eldelórne,” trilogy is a testament to the indomitable spirit, driven to expose and bring the malevolence that lurks in the shadows to an end. The question now lies within you. Will you have the courage to face the darkness with them?
Keep in mind that unpublished works are subject to change. I do hope you enjoy the story as it is. ~K
“The dragnea truly have gone missing adding one more intrigue to the many mysteries of late,” Louhgren of Bludlich said in a contemplative voice. He held a distinct air of leadership as he sat down at the head of the long table.
Quickened footsteps echoed throughout the great hall as female dragnea, slaved into human form, brought a banquet of food and drink for him. They stayed close to one another, eyes down, moving as in a herd whenever possible to avoid trouble.
Today Louhgren’s thoughts was elsewhere. He needed clarity. He had felt the shifting of creation but when it happened he was not certain what exactly that meant. Events as of late had added to the puzzle forming in his mind.
“Sit down. Eat, have some drink,” he invited his captain who was standing stiffly at attention giving his report.
“Tell me every detail of what you know of these past days.” Louhgren picked up a berry and studied its blood red color before eating it.
“We found wreckage, bones burned up on the shore. They were large enough to be the female’s leader, the one they call, Great Father. The wild dragnea have all fled to places unknown. Also, my sister who runs a shipping barge from Breenway up to Camloo was visiting as of late and she tells me she hauled a group of elves going south.”
“Edhelath!” Louhgren’s fist slammed hard against the table. He knocked over his goblet as he stood up. He angrily paced around, knowing now his brother, the so-called great elven king of Autumwood, had something to do with the changes he’d felt, in the creation shifting. His ears ached where they were cut off. He reached up with his hands and rubbed at the rough edge of cartilage. It didn’t help, they still held the phantom pain of loss. Louhgren snarled and turned abruptly to his captain. He glared at the man who wasn’t even paying attention.
The humans that surrounded him plodded through their menial lives not even registering the shift in the realm. Louhgren glared at his captain. He felt it and now the evidence of it was cropping up everywhere.
“How can they be so thick,” he mumbled about humans to himself. His captain was beginning to sweat under his scrutiny. Louhgren had been planning another visit to his brother for a very long time and now he knew for certain that time had finally come.
“Ellinduil you should have died with your queen!” He snarled under his breath at the memory of his failed assassination.
“But no matter, she lies in oblivion and my brother has suffered the pain of his separation from her all this time. That is why I let him live,” Louhgren said that last part out loud. His captain knew better than to interrupt.
“Ellinduil has seen enough of my benevolence.” Louhgren smiled to himself. “Now he will feel the cold wrath of our kingdom’s judgement.”
He rubbed his fist into his hand until he felt the pain of a bruise starting to form.
“Our time here in Bludlich will be coming to an end, captain” Louhgren turned his attention back to his captain.
“We will be taking the obedient half-sons with us to our new palace in Autumwood. Kill those who are not in alignment and skin them out for armor leather. Kill all the females too.” Louhgren scowled down at the silent man before taking his seat again.
“Even your own? You have quite a large stable of thirty, or more,” the captain asked just to make sure.
“I have forty-two and have no more use for them,” Louhgren looked bored at his officer for even asking.
“Sell any left over parts to the men in town. They seem to like that.”
He smiled, satisfied with the thought that his brother’s time in this realm would soon be over. Louhgren had perfected his illusion magics and knew of a particularly delicious poison that would find its way into his brother’s wine.
“Ellinduil thinks I do not know he has been hiding all this time in the forest kingdom where our father and mother had found refuge.” Louhgren explained to his human captain as he motioned for the man to eat more.
“There is not a day that passes without remembering,” he bitterly said, stabbing his knife into the table’s wooden surface.
“I killed my parents for abandoning our cause. My own sister tried to stop me. I was forced to put an end to her as well. That was a sad day of reckoning,” Louhgren sighed.
“My brother will not suspect a thing, and then it will be too late for him,” he heartily laughed.
A female filled both their glasses with fresh wine. Louhgren grabbed her by shoving his hand up her skirt. She dropped the half-full ewer on the floor as she rocked stiffly in his grasp. She squealed at his firm touch but did not struggle having been handled many times before. To protest would mean death.
“Not this one, I want her for tonight,” Louhgren murmured.
The captain watched rapt in lust as Louhgren ran his other hand up her bare buttocks to the braided belt she wore secured on her soft feminine waist. She made a quiet purring sound to appease him. Her slowly swirling eyes turned and starred at Louhgren as he wiped his fingers on the back of her apron. He pushed her back into standing position releasing her from his scrutiny. The female quickly grabbed the fallen ewer and ran from the room. Louhgren watched her stumble and run, a wicked smile grew on his lips as he sniffed her ripeness on his hand.
“She will carry my last half-son,” he said almost wistfully.
“Why do you even bother? By your order sir there will be none left after today.” The captain shook his head at the duplicity of Louhgren’s order as he gulped down some wine.
“We will acquire a larger kingdom. Unfamiliar human lands surround it. Now that I think of it, with the wild dragnea gone missing let us keep the females who give us good sons. We may need them later.”
“They make good servants too, my Lorde,” the captain pointed out with his fork toward the kitchen doorway where a female stood awaiting commands. He was relieved Louhgren changed his mind. He was not looking forward to telling his men it was time to dispose of their bedmates.
“Send spies to Autumwood. I need to know the current conditions there,” Louhgren ordered. He tore at the animal carcass in front of him, ripping off a chunk of the meat. He bit down and chewed with great satisfaction.
“I will need my strength,” Louhgren chuckled as he ate.
“Will do,” the captain affirmed his orders as he raised his glass in salute. “We will start culling the stable tomorrow then. Tonight the boys will have their fun.”
“I knew I might find you here,” Fionna’s voice woke Eijlam from his nap. He one eye slit open and peered sideways at her as he lay on top of a fallen mallorn tree. He had been harvesting threads of cambium bark from inside the tree to weave into rope.
The vantage point where he was taking a break overlooked a worn grave site. A marker that shared a sentiment to his own mother’s name was sunken over the bones of his brother Roevash’s father. An uncle was laid to rest nearby as well as a few other important Darjal’n Rangers. The headstones were almost unintelligible after so many years gone by.
“So much of this place fades.” Eijlam sighed, feeling melancholy.
“It would be good if some of our edhel turned out to be gardeners,” Fionna said as she turned and leaned her back against the side of the dead tree. As far as the eye could see the place had turned wild. Tall grasses had taken over. Most of the trees had fallen.
“Can we go up the path?” Fionna got a sudden inspiration. “The one that goes up to the top of the waterfall?” she asked, trying to tear Eijlam out of his gloominess.
Eijlam slid down to the ground next to her. His pack was heavy with the peeled bark he’d gathered.
“That seems like a lot of rope you are planning,” Fionna poked a finger at the bag.
“I want to make as much as I can. I do not know how much longer the fallen mallorn will be salvageable in this condition. It is drying to an unusable stiffness. If we can make these strands pliable we will have very strong rope that will last a long time,” Eijlam said.
“And I thought maybe Naalin might want to learn how to braid and keep some of the rope on her ship as well.”
“Ahhh, good idea,” Fionna snuggled into his arm.
“If it wasn’t for the trickle of waterfall the fallen trees would have dried long ago.” Eijlam took Fionna’s hand. Together they hiked southeast to find the old path.
“Do you think the darjal’n people will preserve the graves in the garden?” Fionna asked.
“I would hope they might rework the markers before it is too late to read them.” Eijlam sighed, his mood never having left him.
“The first thing I would do for this garden is find what is stopping that water,” Fionna pointed at the trickle on the cliff that was barely enough to fill the pools below.
“Hmmmm, we will soon find out,” Eijlam looked up at the thin flow. “It has slowed even more since we were last here.” He scowled.
With renewed curiosity the couple quickened their pace up a narrow stony path. They found that at the top of the cliff there was a large plateau. It was backed up against the cliffy mountain range that spread to the east.
“Looks like there used to be a deep pool here,” Fionna said as she walked the edge of a steep drop-off.
“More like a small lake. It probably has a spillway or natural spring somewhere.” He climbed down and studied the lakebed. They soon found the problem.
“Looks like rock fell from the mountain and plugged the source over here.” Fionna pointed at the obvious slide. The pile of boulders was taller than both of them.
“I could turn the lake bottom to ice so we could push the rock away?” she suggested. Eijlam shook his head knowing where this was going.
“Too bad my brother is not here to have such fun as this,” he grinned, playfully rolling his eyes.
“Oh come on Eijlam, we are strong enough.” She tried to make a big muscle with her arm and failed. He chuckled at her while lightly pinching her soft arm between two fingers.
“Well, magic is exhausting work too,” Fionna scowled in protest.
“I hear the word we but I know what you mean is me.” Eijlam pointed at himself.
“Ice will make it slippery,” she crooned touching his cheek.
“Easier for you,” Fionna smiled sweetly and batted her eyes hopefully. He knew when she got that look it was very hard to change her mind.
“Nope, it is impossible to make you change your mind,” He poked at Fionna making her giggle.
“I suppose I can try,” Eijlam grumbled at her grinning face as she stole a kiss from his lips on her way past. She excitedly ran down into position in the bottom of the lake.
Eijlam took a deep breath knowing he was to be the only muscle in this project so he might as well not complain about it. He removed his shirt and tossed it and his pack on a safe area near what would soon be a lakeshore. When he climbed into position onto the rock fall, he nodded for Fionna to start.
Fionna held out her arms and her wizard staff magically appeared. Eijlam watched as she spoke her incantation. He thought she was adding a bit more dramatic flair than necessary as she flourished her staff around in the air. It made him chuckle and he almost lost his footing. With two stabs into the damp soil he heard a crackling sound that unfolded in front of Fionna as a thick sheet if ice. It expanded forward all the way to the pile of rocks. Eijlam pushed behind the largest boulder and it easily slid down the icy trail.
“Yesssss!” Fionna hooted triumphantly. Eijlam directed her next shot and Fionna conjured another strategically placed ice sheet. One by one they worked together until the huge pile was soon spread out on the bottom of the lakebed.
“One more time and we may have this,” Eijlam said, amazed at how easily this task went.
The dirt beneath him was turning to muck as the water fought to come to the surface.
“Be careful Eijlam. I am afraid if the water should break loose after all this time,”
“Now you think of that?” he grinned as he shoved the last boulder over. Water came shooting up around his ankles. Eijlam jumped to the side just in time to miss the thick geyser that followed.
“Get out, Fionna,” Eijlam shouted as he charged headlong towards the edge. They clasped hands at the last possible moment, helping each other swing to safety.
“The current would be unsafe for swimming up here,” Fionna gasped as they lay in the tall grass catching their breath.
“Yes, that would be quite a drop to the garden below,” Eijlam laughed, relieved to be on solid ground. He leaned over and kissed her with gritty wet lips.
“The water tastes good,” Fionna tried to say as he rolled on top of her and kissed her again.
“Do you realize this may be the very spot where my brother was given to our mother by her beloved, Marin?” Eijlam gazed playfully into Fionna’s eyes. She glanced around at the noisy precipice by the lake of crystal clear water.
“Yes, I can see how this place would be very romantic. One might lose all control,” she whispered, tickling his ear.
“And none would hear your cries of blissful joy my love,” Eijlam ran a fingertip down her wet thigh as he leaned harder into her. Fionna’s body quivered with anticipation as she playfully tossed him aside and prepared to pounce on him.
“So, are you what happened to the falls?” a stranger’s loud voice interrupted them. A tall human was making his way toward the couple from the wooded path.
“I brought six men up here earlier and could not fix it. We went to build a winch but the path is too narrow to drag it up,” The man stopped short at the sight of two living edhelath.
“I guess we owe you our thanks then,” the young darjal’n man stuttered awkwardly. He nodded his head and lowered his eyes not knowing what else to say to the startled wide eyed couple.
“We only wish for Illianheni to be restored.” Eijlam found his composure faster than Fionna. He stood up to address the man and to help Fionna to her feet. She handed Eijlam his tunic and he quickly put it on. Fionna pulled some chaff out of Eijlam’s hair and attempted in vain to wiped mud off the front of her clothes. Fionna shyly held Eijlam’s arm as she stared at the man. He seemed nervous. She put on a sweet smile hoping to put him a ease.
The man was told about Eijlam’s odd eyes and now recognized him.
“Of course! , eldar elves. You have that power over nature,” his voice burst as he put his hand out to say hello. Eijlam looked at the hand oddly for a second and then remembered his brother Roevash had taught them how to clasp it in a human greeting.
“Mê govannen gi suilon,” Eijlam said in his silvery voice with a small bow after releasing the man’s hand. The young man was mesmerized having never seen edhelath before this very moment.
“We are delighted to help the garden live again,” Fionna softly said. The man blushed bashfully as she spoke, at her ethereal beauty. Fionna looked at Eijlam with a curious look on her face. She thought this encounter might make the young man faint dead away.
“Who would think we have such an effect on humans,” Fionna spoke in Eijlam’s mind. She could see Eijlam chuckling to himself as he struggled to keep a straight face.
“Let us greet your fellows below,” Eijlam suggested keeping up the cordial formality of the greeting as he picked up his gear and gracefully escorted Fionna towards the path.
“What is your name?” Eijlam generously asked.
“Gaelin, Gaelin Westman at your service. They call me Gaelin.” The young man followed a few steps behind struggling to remain calm and continue breathing.
The waterfall fell powerfully down to a deep pool below filling it to overflowing. Tiny saplings that had once been hidden under the mud and tall grass poked up bright green in the reawakened spray of the life giving water.
“Our trees,” Fionna ran childlike to caress the infant mallorn.
The cool spray of the water soaked her clothes washing the dirt off. Fionna’s red hair ran into long silky strands over her back and shoulders. Her beautiful tipped ears shone prominently as she bent down inspecting the tiny plants. Audible gasps could be heard from the winch crew as they watched her.
People from Darjalia have always felt kinship towards edhelath. It is a bond that has been honored between the races for centuries. Having never been around edhel before these young darjal’n were only now feeling that connection.
“It would be good to show care to the small growth that has started here,” Eijlam said to Gaelin.
“These are mallorn. They are rare and sacred to the edhelath. We thought them gone forever.”
“Of course, Eldar,” Gaelin said in agreement at seeing how happy they made Fionna.
“My name is Eijlam and this is my Fionna,” Eijlam had to speak louder than was comfortable so the others could hear him making introductions.
“My half-brother Roevash often visits your, Haran’arod,” Eijlam struggled for the common word.
“You may have already know of him?”
“Oh yes, Master Roevash, He is great friends with Governor Dacasyati,” Gaelin agreed.
“Governor, yes. They share the same blood,” Eijlam said of his brother and Dakein.
In edhelath terms sharing blood meant Dakein and Roevash were brothers by battle. Though it was obvious Roevash was only half darjal’n, he and Dakein were not blood relatives. Eijlam wasn’t sure how much these young men understood of what he meant but he did not want to stand there and try to explain it.
“The water freely flows again so we will be going home now,” Eijlam bowed slightly, trying to excuse himself for a gracious exit. He put out his hand for Fionna to join him in leaving.
Just then a rickety two-wheeled cart came into view moving slowly up the cobblestone toward them. The road into the garden was steep and the man’s horse strained against the heavy cart and harness.
“It is our Baradhroc!” Fionna flew to greet the horse that labored under the old man’s constant whipping.
“Stop hitting this kind beast!” Fionna yelled at the surprised human as she tore the whip from his hand and threw it aside.
She flipped up onto the horses back and cut its harness leathers with such grace the darjal’n men could only stand with their mouths gaping open. The two-wheeled cart paused in midair making a creaking noises before finally tipping up and over backwards. It made a terrible commotion, spilling its driver and contents on the ground in a heap. There sat the triumphant Fionna on top of her old friend the brown shaggy horse. He nickered a horsey greeting to her as he stood pawing on the pile of broken leather that once imprisoned him.
“You recognize our Baradhroc, from the mountains. He protected us,” Fionna just realized she had done something wrong by Eijlam’s exasperated look.
“WHAT by all the gods do ya think yer doing!” The enraged human reached for his whip as he extracted himself from the tangled pile of his belongings. He was of a mind to beat his assailant senseless. The darjal’n men moved forward to protect Fionna who lay lovingly caressing the old horse across its back. The driver was quickly met face to face with a scowling male edhel, his dagger drawn. Eijlam took in a deep breath and the air pulsed. It seemed even the sounds of birds and nature halted as time surrounding them drew back.
“Is this animal rightfully yours,” Eijlam politely asked into the man’s ear, his dagger perched carefully against his unshaven neck.
“Yea-yea- yes,” the driver answered. Eijlam could hear a single drop of perspiration as it slid down the man’s startled face.
“You will not harm, my Fionna,” Eijlam put it as a question to the man who then stiffly dropped the whip in agreement. Eijlam grimly stared down the man as he put away his blade with a slow exhale. Life in the garden came back into his focus.
The stranger was very relieved the angry elf had relaxed. He rubbed his hairy neck inspecting it for any blood loss and found none. But none of this solved the problem of his wrecked cart and harness. He kicked the fallen cart with his boot and let out a frustrated grunt as he inspected the pile in disgust.
“Would this free our old friend from your contract?” Eijlam loosed three shiny coins from his belt and held them out in his hand. Fionna gave Eijlam a huge smile. The man’s eyes lit up with greed as he grabbed them and bit down hard on one of the heavy gold pieces. In his mind everything in the broken down cart and old brown horse wasn’t even worth one of these coins.
“Sure mister, m’dam,” he nodded to Fionna politely.
“I did not know the ol’ beast had such important friends. He is worn so much to be of no more use to me anyway, so he be yers.”
“You are from the Vilnask Mountains,” Fionna asked the man but she already could tell by his accent and the way he used his words that he was.
“Yes, I came here to get away from such ruckus.”
“What do you mean ruckus?” Fionna asked again.
“Just some of them Louhgren boys gettin’ all the men folk stirred up to join some kinda merc army. I do not know why they need such a force to find some runaway women. They’s women always seemed a quiet enough lot.” He didn’t know what he’d just said. Fionna’s demeanor turned prickly as she glared at the man. His eyes grew wide and he instinctively put his arms up to shield himself from another attack.
“Fionna, we must go now,”Eijlam said out loud and then spoke firmly in her mind. “Stop your murderous glare. This human is innocent of the troubles from the mountain lands. You are frightening him.”
Fionna hid her feelings by burying her face in Baradhroc’s thick mane. The man nodded respectfully at Eijlam as he turned to pick up his belongings.
“Is there anything else we should know about edhelath?” Gaelin asked having just witnessed the whole matter.
“If the horse should wander over, just be nice to it,” Eijlam sighed. “I would not wish the wrath of my Fionna on anyone.”
“Right,” Gaelin agreed nervously. “I will put the word out.”
Eijlam said their polite goodbyes to the darjal’n workers who began helping the old man pick up and move his cart.
The horse named Baradhroc followed Eijlam carrying its sullen passenger down the path back to Eldelórne.
“You must not, Fionna!” Eijlam howled as he ran over the dry flatlands in the early morning light. Fionna had left their dwelling and took off to the east. She ran so fast that he was having trouble catching up to her.
“By the Lordes have you lost her mind!” Eijlam was starting to regret giving up most of his powers to Ilmatar. But he knew better than to wish for that. Things were always so difficult here in the mortal realm. Things were always so complicated with Fionna. Everything was supposed to be set right and they were supposed to be at peace.
“You will awaken ancient hurts that have lain dormant for lifetimes. The reborn do not even know what a kinslayer is,” Eijlam shouted. He knew Fionna could hear him but she wasn’t listening. Eijlam was getting tired of chasing.
With a focused growl his gear and most of his clothes went flying as he shifted into the four-legged shape of a huge pale wolf. With a renewed surge of energy the wolf grabbed Fionna with large paws into a rolling tackle and in one motion changed back to edhelath as Eijlam pulled her to a stop. His hands firmly gripped her shoulders as they panted for breath. Fionna face was set in a stubborn glare as she watched Eijlam’s eyes change from wolf back to edhelath.
“King Ellinduil lives in fear cornered in his own palace all these centuries because of his evil kinslaying brother! I will not let this go,” Fionna yelled, kicking the clay-laden ground with her foot.
“The king does not fear anything, Fi.” Eijlam tore off what was left of his shredded tunic with a frustrated grunt and tossed it aside. He pointed toward home. With her jaw set in defiance Fionna sulked next to him as he collected his gear.
“He only stays hidden because he is aged. He cannot stand the demands of another war. Especially, not with his own brother!” Eijlam scooped up the nearest thing he could see.
“His brother who has been centuries silent and undiscovered in the distant Vilnask Mountains! Besides, the kinslayer thinks our king long dead with his queen. He has no reason to vex Ellinduil, unless you give him one.” Eijlam’s eyes pleaded.
“I made a vow, a solemn vow to help the dragnea! You heard the old man. Louhgren’s men are hunting them down,” Fionna choked as she spoke. Eijlam handed her his water flask from off the ground.
“The dragnea have all moved to a safe place since their Great Father died. Humans cannot find them. They swim through the edges of Ilmatar. You know this to be truth!” Eijlam picked up his fallen small pack and weapon belt and put them on.
“Edhelath have returned, we need you here, your sister needs you as does our daughter Rhianwen,” Eijlam invoked names that would bring Fionna back to her senses.
Eijlam stopped and took her hand and held it to his chest where his heart beat.
“We will look into the problems of the dragnea and the cut eared kinslayer, I promise,” Eijlam made his pledge to her.
“But, Today we are needed among our reborn clans folk,” he said as he grabbed one of his short blades off the ground and secured it into his belt.
Fionna’s eyes softened. She knew inside her head he was right but her heart still ached for King Ellinduil. He had become like a father to her during their exile in his palace.
They had all been through so much recently. Eijlam shook his head in frustration looking for his lost gear bits. Fionna was always strong willed and impetuous. That is what he liked about her but not so much right now. Today it made him feel old and tired.
“It is just that it takes so long,” Fionna whined.
“The moon has already cycled once since the edhelath have returned to us. There has been no word from Roevash. I am afraid something has happened to them,” she frowned. Eijlam found his short trousers. He pulled them on and tied the belt pack around his waist as he spoke.
“Roevash and Dakein are large men. They are the last of the old order of Darjalia’s Elite Rangers. They have survived worse things than a trip through mountains populated with half-nog and humans.” Eijlam stopped to hug Fionna’s slacking shoulders.
“Yes, but your brother is also edhelath and you know they will want to kill him if they discover as much,” her voice trailed off as she saw the expression on Eijlam’s face, “,but you are right. He is a big man.” Fionna was disappointed in turning back.
“I worry,” she added as she stomped forward the wrong way.
“I know you do,” Eijlam took her around the shoulders again and pointed her in the right direction, towards home.
“I worry too, “ he said, “and Baradhroc worries as well.”
“That is so, not fair.” She scowled at him for bringing up her beloved horse. She handed him his other short blade from off the ground that she nearly stumbled over.
Eijlam looked around and wondered how far they had run as he sheathed his weapon. They were out along the northern side if the Illianheni Mountain Range. It spanned the whole southern edge of the plains lands. The ground there was covered with high grasses and a dusty yellow clay that felt soft underfoot.
“Can you just take us home? You know through the threshold or something.” Fionna was not happy about all the wasted time walking back. She did miss her little daughter Rhianwen.
“You know that is not how it works.” Eijlam said, throwing his hands up with another frustrated glance. She mirrored his scowling face back at him that soon melted into resigned smiles on both their faces.
“I do understand,” Fionna said.
She reached out and brushed her fingertips through his long golden hair.
“I should have helped you braid this.” she mumbled absently. He turned and stared wordlessly at her. She felt the burn of her own thoughtlessness.
“I am so sorry.” In that moment she realized how he must have felt and it made her heart hurt. She had not even said goodbye. She just ran away leaving them all behind.
“I do not know what came over me,”Fionna sadly whispered, feeling completely defeated.
Eijlam understood this kind of possesSion. In his youth he used to dive into the ocean looking for something unknown and drown himself. If it were not for his brother’s timely rescues he would not be standing here having this conversation.
“Next time let us journey on your sister’s boat, Fionna.” Eijlam changed the subject as he gently pulled her in and hugged her to himself. He knew how she struggled with her impetuous nature. After all she was the youngest of their clan. In a normal life her behavior would be expected.
None of them had the chance to be normal yet. They had just come out of exile, Roevash and Eijlam’s mother had disappeared into Ilmatar, edhelath were returned to Ainghaille, their friend Cael left to find out more about the mystery of his edhelath bloodline. Naalin, Fionna and Eijlam were already short handed when Roevash decides to take off to the north with Dakein.
Tending the thirty fully grown reborn edhel that were left in their care was a tedious job. It would take at least two or three more weeks for them to come back to their minds. The edhelath were like elflings and like the newborns that they are, concepts of burning from fire and falling from trees was all new and had to be learned again. Some would start doing tasks that they remembered from past lives only to get it wrong and injuries resulted.
Eijlam stroked Fionna’s hair to assure her they were all right now. He finally felt like he could take his eye off her and focus on the landscape around them as they started walking home.
“I think a boat would take us to where we need go even faster than traveling on foot.”
She grinned curiously at him. “You like sailing?”
“Yes, it affords a feeling I have not felt anywhere else.”
“Anywhere else?” she coyly questioned him.
“Is it the best feeling?” Fionna reached out and ran a finger down his muscular arm.
Eijlam stopped, turned his eyes upon her, and in one motion he pulled her into his hot sweaty chest. His molten gaze sent sparks of electricity running through the back of her legs as he leaned her over backwards and kissed her.
“There is naught in this existence that could be called better than my Fionna,” Eijlam whispered in her mind as he kissed her passionately again.
Fionna was stunned into silence as Eijlam stood her upright, leaving her trotting after him.
“Beware,” he jokingly said, waving his finger in the air, “lest you wake the giant that shall fully consume you.”
Fionna’s eyebrows went up at his challenge. She reached for him, running her hands down his ribs towards his waist belt.
“Hmmm, tell me then, what does this giant’s voice sound like that I might avoid such danger,” she hooked his belt loop and he swung around her fingertip until they were stopped nose to nose again. Fionna’s hands continued across his chest wiping away thoughts of all else but her. He opened his mouth to speak and nothing came but shallow breath as he gazed into her eyes.
“My beautiful one,” his voice was low. He inhaled and exhaled deeply trying to be sensible in the face of her advances.
“We stand in an open field. There are large animals that will try to eat us if we stop here.” His eyes darted around looking for a safer haven as his senses fully aroused to her playfulness.
“I would like to see them try.” Fionna leaned in close. He could not find another argument against it as they gently sank to the soft ground beneath the tall plains grasses.
It was late evening when Eijlam and Fionna finally made it home. Fionna slid off the back of the large pale wolf. Before her feet touched the ground Eijlam shifted into his other familiar self. Fionna tiredly handed him his gear as they walked silently back toward their dwelling up in the trees.
They could see Naalin was in her home making a potted dinner in her kitchen area. She and Roevash had moved out of his mother’s home into this one across the way. Fionna had been ecstatic in having her sister so close.
Roevash and Eijlam didn’t want their mother’s old place to feel abandoned so they turned it into their community center. Eijlam spent most of his time there doing healing work when he wasn’t doing fourteen other tasks that needed to be done, or chasing after Fionna.
Naalin was relieved to see that Eijlam had found her sister and had successfully talked her into returning. Naalin motioned for them to come in and eat some dinner. She generously hugged Fionna, but then angrily laid into her.
“Good Lordes Fi, stop being so irrational. We have addled clans folk to tend to and you would leave me here all alone in that!” Naalin slammed the lid of the cooking pot onto the side table and stirred its contents vigorously.
“Rhianwen is gone to bed with my sons up the stairs, in case you care.” Fionna knew her daughter was safe. This was not her first sleepover with her cousins either. Naalin was just trying to press her point and it worked. Fionna felt even worse about her actions today.
“Dakein’s giant darjal’n are trying to be helpful, but you know they do not easily climb the heights of our trees. Today, while you were all gone most of them went back to their fancy new town near Illianheni leaving only two patrolling down below on the ground. Without guidance our folks could still fall off the upper paths and hurt themselves.” Naalin shook her head trying to release some of the anxiety built up at the back of her ears.
The darjal’n had rebuilt the collapsed bridge between the Illianheni Gardens and Eldelórne. Now, instead of the primitive wooden hanging bridge it was a raised stone road wide enough for overland commerce. Dakein had his mind set on building a new settlement on top of the old ranger outpost. The town lay another half mile or so into the foothills on the garden’s eastern boundary. Having them there made the sacred garden a public throughway.
“Humans had been seen off the road wandering close to our trees and it it unnerving,” Naalin complained.
“I am sorry Naal. The edhelath are almost back to normal,” Fionna cringed knowing it wasn’t enough.
“If you call bouncing into walls normal,” Naalin shot back at them both. Eijlam shrugged and put his hands up showing innocence in her glare as he found his way to the counter’s edge to sit down.
“Not to mention all the cooking and cleaning up. The edhel are fed and safely in their rooms now,” she gave her sister an even sterner look as she waved her large stirring spoon in the air.
“Sion and Elgelion will have another sibling,” Naalin’s face went pink as she abruptly announced her condition.
Fionna stared at Naalin, surprised by her words. So many worries swirled through her mind, things left undone, and now this! Her sister was expecting another little one.
“Oh, Naal.” Fionna reached out for a hug, but Naalin frowned and busied herself away.
“This is not how I wanted to tell you,” Naalin lowered her voice and scowled to herself for not showing more restraint.
Fionna’s eyes grew large. She looked sideways at Eijlam for answers. He just shrugged his shoulders.
“Is there anything wrong with it?” Eijlam asked with his soft-spoken silvery voice.
“No, carrying again so soon, is just, unexpected,” Naalin moaned and then blurted out, “I feel like a Lordes forsaken rabbit,” she cursed.
“Does Roevash know?” Fionna asked.
“No, I only just now have felt the heaviness since he has been gone,” she trailed off as a mildly fearful look shadowed across her face. Naalin quickly turned her back so her sister could not see it.
Naalin thought their lives would slow down now that Roevash and Eijlam saved all creation and edhelath were returned to Eldelórne. But then Dakein got this brilliant idea to travel to a distant city and find tradesmen to settle in his new town. Of course, Roevash promised to go along. Naalin was furious because he left her to go on this business that concerned only humans.
To top it all off her own sister just carelessly ran off in a fit of drama. Fionna had tried to explain her obsessive anxiety about Ellinduil’s kinslayer brother yesterday, but it was all too soon. They had just barely settled into their new homes and Naalin didn’t want to hear it. She felt they had enough problems of their own right now. They were up to their eyes in problems, but Fionna always proved to be the reckless one. Eijlam jumped quickly this morning to stop her. And here the two lost wanderers were back in her home, just in time for supper.
“Never mind that a whole day of toiling here was lost to such insanity,” Naalin blatantly said, handing them each a fork and plate. She laid a basket of bread and fruit on the table.
“My voice has run out of words,” Naalin said in her thick northern dialect that became more pronounced when she was agitated. That was her way of saying she was tired and was not going to discuss it anymore.
Naalin knew Fionna was also worried about Roevash. He is part of the reason she ran off this morning.
Now Naalin was afraid she had just given her sister even more cause to run off again!
“Not your concern,” Naalin had said, but everything of the clan was of course everyone’s concern. Naalin angrily shook her head at Fionna while spooning up the boiled dinner for each of them.
“There will be many elflings in our growing clan,” Eijlam softly said, trying to change the subject to something less volatile. Fionna’s eyes grew large thinking he was going to tell her something more and he snorted at the expression on her face.
“Not you my love. I mean to say it is a blessing for us to see all the young ones among us. You are only just beginning to feel your own daughter’s worth to you,” he jabbed her with that last comment.
“You heard what that cart driver said!” Fionna looked hurt. “Do not doubt my love for our little one. After all that Ellinduil has done for us I would think stopping his brother before he can cause further harm would be on the top of the list.”
“No one says it is not,” Eijlam interjected, looking up from his meal.
“I will see to it myself when the time comes and you will be at my side. I am sure of it.” His eyes pierced through her.
“I hope it is not too late by the time we can accomplish this,” Fionna slung back.
The two turned to thank Naalin for the food, but she had already gone. Too much had marred this day. Eijlam and Fionna settled down and ate the rest of their supper in silence.
Roevash and Dakein’s pace quickened up the path that would lead them to the city Andrathis. They spent a large portion of the journey discussing the serious business of running commerce in a small settlement. They never seemed to run out of things to talk about, but now they just wanted to get to their destination before nightfall to find lodging.
“Remember you are half-human as well, and could easily be drawn into such calamity,” Dakein countered in their debate on morality just as they reached the western border of the ancient city.
“Ay, and I have spent more than half my life struggling with such things. I choose to be noble even if it slips from my grasp now and then,” Roevash snorted to himself.
“You know, if it was not for Uncle Calan, Lordes keep him, I would have continued to stumble down a very dark path, wretched and lost.” Roevash’s nose, being more sensitive, could smell the pervasive stench of human waste as they neared the city gates.
“Calan was like a father to me,” Dakein said. “I spent my whole youth as his squire.”
“How did you come to be in my uncle’s employ?” Roevash curiously asked.
“My parents needed money to keep their farm after a severe drought. I was the only hope they had for survival.”
“You were sold?” Roevash could not believe what he was hearing.
“More like bonded,” Dakein shook his head.
“My contract was for five years. Your uncle was kind and honest so I stayed on.” Dakein shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
“And his nephew needed guidance that only I could provide. He paid me double for that.” Dakein hauled off and smacked Roevash in the arm to let him know he was joking about that last part.
“Back in the day,” They both grinned saying it in unison and broke into laughter.
“Being darjal’n is not without it own trials,” Dakein added a new topic.
“We grow to such tall heights that against our sensibilities we become the targets of men who would seek blood sport because of it.”
“Yea well, beyond that, be wary of women folk my friend. Large men are like honey in their eyes.” Roevash smirked. He always found it amusing to make Dakein blush.
“Oh no, not that again!” Dakein quickly said, changing the subject away from thoughts of womenfolk.
“We have to give our new settlement a proper name. We cannot keep calling our town the ranger outpost or new city. Tradesmen want to hear a name. They want to know that what they are getting themselves into has permanence. Have you thought of anything good yet?” Dakein asked.
“Since it looks like a pile of broken stone you could call it ‘Brith” or how about ‘Brithmaer’ which means an even better pile of broken rock.” They both laughed wildly at Roe’s joke but it was fitting somehow.
“Brithmaer, I like it.”
“Aw, you must be kidding.” Roevash could see Dakein was serious.
“It is an Edhellen word and the meaning is certainly the truth. I really like it Roe.”
“Then say Sant Brithmaer which adds the meaning of a garden to the word. Illianheni has always been a garden to so many.”
“A garden of good stone, Sant Brithmaer,” Dakein happily nodded.
“Naalin is not happy with the new bridge. Too many strangers, she fears for the elflings. Even though the grove is hidden by King Ellinduil’s magics she is still uncomfortable about humans.” Roevash confided.
“Hmmm, probably with good reason. There is no accounting for the way some men behave.” Dakein rolled his eyes. “If something happens you know we would be right there to help.”
“It is good to have you with us.” Roevash gave his friend Dakein jab to the arm.
“Ah, you know you are like a brother to me Roevash,” Dakein smiled, “it is good to live close by.”
Dakein was wafted by the stink as they entered the city gates. Roevash scowled and held his scarf over his mouth and nose to buffer the assault.
“With so many crowded into walls made of stone and metal what did you expect my friend,” Dakein elbowed Roevash at seeing the look on his face.
“It is hardly noticeable once you become accustomed to the smell,” Dakein assured him.
Maybe it was because they were road weary from the long journey but as they walked further into the city the narrow streets thickened with darkness that seemed to press in around the two big men. The lights of the drinking district were a welcome sight. Roevash found a suite of rooms at a respectable inn and paid for the rest of the week.
“This should keep us until we head back home,” Roevash dropped his pack on the floor as he entered the door and sat down in the nearest cushioned chair. He was glad for the sweet scent of flowers in the room.
“They have a bathhouse downstairs past the front entrance. Do you want to go?” Dakein asked but his words fell on deaf ears. Roevash was already sound asleep in the chair.
Dakein smiled and decided he would clean up tomorrow. It had been a long day of walking and he was glad to be under a roof again. He pulled one of the flowers out of the vase on the table and sauntered into the sleeping room to find a soft bed.
“King Ellinduil would probably appreciate a visit.” Eijlam continued the conversation with Fionna in their bedchamber
It had been just over four weeks since the end of the Lorde’s Long War. Eijlam took off his day clothes and set them aside. He helped Fionna off with her tunic. She walked over and hung out the open window just in time to see a falling star. It felt like an omen crashing into her heart.
“I know how you have grown fond of our king during our exile at the palace.” Eijlam stretched out on the bed.
“The stars mean so much to him, we all found him deserving of our love as time wore into informality. If he should fall now, after all that we have been through, I do not know if I could take,” Fionna could feel her heart twist up into her throat.
“I would more than miss him.” She whispered.
“I too have seen this side of Ellinduil. He is a good king,” Eijlam said.
“His queen is returned to him,” Fionna pensively said as a second star streaked in the sky.
“Certainly she will always bring out his best. They are heart bonded after all.” Eijlam was trying to change the subject.
“The best,” Fionna grumbled to herself as she thought of how exasperating she could be to Eijlam at times.
“That is why we must end his brother. If he should ever find out Ellinduil still lives, or that Queen Rhianna has returned, Louhgren would stop at nothing. Can you not see how bad it is?” Fionna pleaded. She felt anxiety rising again.
“If you would only do something,” her voice trailed off under the burn of Eijlam’s gaze. He sat up on the edge of the bed to address her concerns.
“What was your plan exactly, Fionna? Were you going to just show up in Louhgren’s home and demand a duel,” his voice rose as he stood up and angrily paced the floor.
“Come on Fi! You know that would only bring us both to ruin! Even if you could sneak inside Louhgren’s fortress and try taking his men out one by one. There are too many. They would soon be on to you and then you would be injured or dead, completely unable to help anyone then, We need planning and strategy. Roevash will know what to do after he scouts out those mountains with Dakein!” Eijlam realized he had said too much.
“They are made to be mountain men, I am sure together they are safe. And, you know I cannot wield my powers in that way unless I leave this mortal realm. Is that what you truly wish for?” Eijlam asked before she could open her mouth to protest.
Fionna’s eyes looked lost as the weight of his words burned her. She could never bear the loss of him and he knew this.
“Did they go to Andrathis and the Vilnask Mountains?” Fionna meekly asked.
“Nobody is supposed to know this, but yes, that is why a simple task to find trade is taking a few more days. If you still have need to travel, going to visit the king and queen for a day to see for yourself how they are really doing is as good a reason as any,” Eijlam spoke calmly trying to diffuse Fionna’s anxiety.
“You cannot mourn the loss of Ellinduil when he lives so happily with his beloved queen returned to him.” Eijlam eyed her seriously, his hands on both her shoulders.
Fionna was tired and confused.
“Does Naalin know of this extra side expedition?”
“I cannot speak for my brother on whether or not he told Naalin, but I suspect not. He would not want to worry her, or you.” Eijlam turned to lie back down on the bed.
“I do not think she could be more worried.” Fionna did not like to see her sister so upset, as she was this evening.
“Maybe I should go to her,” then she thought better of it as Eijlam’s hand came to rest on her belly.
“I should think the queen would be eager to meet her namesake,” Eijlam gently urged Fionna to join him.
His hand tugged gently on her hair pulling it back away from his lips as he kissed her.
“You speak the truth. I cannot deny it,” she moaned burying herself in the sweet scent of his golden hair.
“Your healing powers are always appreciated Eijlam. I am sorry I suggested you were not doing everything you can here in this realm.” Fionna assured him.
“It must be frustrating to not have freedom to take your Lordeship after knowing such powers.” Fionna sadly pouted.
Eijlam grinned at her cute face and kissed her tender skin making her happily squirm in his grip and he liked that.
He had gone through a lot of pain quickening as a Lorde of Ilmatar. He transformed into the light of truth as his station among the Lordes unfurled. Just the sight of him proclaimed judgment upon their actions putting an end to the Long War. His voice proved to be sharper than the deadliest of weapons.
The whole bloody crisis with Lorde Untuoni, Lovisa and their horrible mother could have been avoided had his powers came to him sooner. This troubled Eijlam greatly, but there was naught to do about that now. Being born into this realm as edhelath was the only thing he knew for sure of himself and he wanted to stay this way, especially, with his fiery Fionna here at his side.
King Ellinduil was pleased to hear of the couple arriving at his gates, and they had brought their little one, Rhianwen. He personally came down to greet them. Ellinduil reached out warmly hugging the young family. Grinning widely the king looked more youthful than they had ever seen him, Ellinduil cheerfully ushered them into the palace.
Lights lit like twinkling stars among the tall branches of the palace trees. Fionna felt the hum and sweetness in her mouth as the First-Tree greeted them. She touched its inner wall in acknowledgement. Her actions were not lost on the king as he led them up the path toward the dining hall. The formerly dismal atmosphere of the reception area had been transformed by the life that filled the place.
Eijlam and Fionna could see the king’s connection to his trees and stars had strengthened since the mortal realm had been reset. His magic and his protections flourished across the Autumwood forest all the way to Eldelórne. His strength had grown ten fold and he almost felt back to normal, but the king was careful not to spread himself too thin. Ellinduil was still elderly after all.
Fionna gasped at the ethereal beauty of Queen Rhianna as she entered the room and joined them at the long table. She was stunning with her pale golden green eyes and long straight platinum hair that flowed down past her waist. She wore a simple pale green gown that matched her eyes. It dragged lightly along the floor, a little too long in her bare feet. The king’s face changed in her presence becoming even more joyful. Fionna could now understand the fullness of the kings suffering at the loss of her. But that was another lifetime ago for him now. Fionna swore on her own life such suffering would never happen to her beloved queen and king ever again.
“We can be ourselves around you as kin,” Ellinduil calmly told them.
“It is a rare delight for us.” He smiled knowingly at Fionna as he clasped a hand on Eijlam’s shoulder.
“Your little one is most beautiful,” the queen said with a soft-spoken voice. She reached out to ask if she could hold Rhianwen and Fionna eagerly sat down next to her and gently passed the queen’s namesake to her.
“Rhianwen you are a sweet rosebud among the old thorns of your elders,” she sang a blessing to the elfling.
Little Rhianwen’s eyes lit up. She cooed gently as the queen’s musical poem continued. When Rhianna was done everyone basked in the joy of the peaceful kin-light that surrounded them. The problems of the kingdom seemed less troubling to Fionna when she was near her tiny newborn. The boring life of the small village with her family was all she ever dreamed of and now that it was a reality her mind began to pester her.
“You should stay here and I will teach you how to control the voices, Fionna. You must meditate to block out the unwanted and focus your thoughts,” Fionna heard the king whisper in her mind. Fionna looked up and saw Ellinduil staring seriously straight at her, wisdom of ages just oozed from his expression as he worked to convince her. He could use the mind-speak and was also a skilled listener himself.
Fionna scowled as she looked down at her hands wishing she had used restraint on her thoughts. Now Ellinduil knew about her running away and everything. She blushed turning her face to him nodding in resigned acknowledgment.
“Fionna is a new Listener with the rare gift of quella,” the king announced with a smile.
“I would entreat you to, I mean,” he stopped and smiled to himself. He needed to switch his dialect to the right century.
“I invite you to stay and learn how to better control your newfound skills.” Fionna had to smile because she had brazenly pointed out his archaic use of words only a short while ago. She was pleased he was taking her advice seriously.
“Oh please do stay,” Rhianna pleaded softly.
“I would love to share your little one with you for a time. I feel as though she is one of my own elflings,” Rhianwen made a cute gurgling sound and everyone sighed.
“Yes,” Eijlam said, “that would be good.”
Fionna looked around and all eyes were expectantly waiting for her to answer.
“We can stay for a time. I would like that.” She smiled trying not to feel the pressure.
The gift of quella allowed Fionna to hear the voices of other minds such as the unbidden thoughts of thirty village elves. As the gift increases it would only get a thousand times worse if untrained. Ellinduil knew this. In his wisdom he understood her running away was probably more about confuSion and distancing herself from the jumble of too many voices.
He also now knew of her pasSionate oaths concerning him. He needed to let Fionna know she need not worry. The kingdom was well protected.
“I am glad you can find time to stay,” he gently said as he took Fionna’s hand in his and squeezed it softly.
“Your gift can be a heavy burden, especially when both hearts and voices begin to speak to you.” Ellinduil expressed how important her training was for her own sanity.
Fionna had no idea her new ability would get so complicated.
“You are a good daughter,” Ellinduil reminded Fionna of her great importance to him.
“I will send some of the newly awake who have pledged to stay in my service to help Eldelórne. You will have no worries,” the king assured Eijlam and Fionna.
He was delighted when foods and drink were brought in and set on the table for their private celebration of kinship. The King graciously stood up and held his goblet high with a blessing to them all.
Naalin was expecting Eijlam and her sister to return at the end of the day to continue their village duties. King Ellinduil sent Officer Taryn instead. He was in charge of a small detachment of six of the king’s new royal guard from the Autumwood palace. The darjal’n folk were happy to go home to their Illianheni village.
“Mea’govannen Híril Naalin,” Officer Taryn bowed politely.
“We are here to aid you. The king requires Híril Fionna’s presence and has detained them for a time. Master Eijlam sends his regards,” he dramatically winked his left eye at her. “I do not know what it means,” he leaned down at her pointing at his eye, “but, there it is.” Naalin almost giggled at Officer Taryn’s overly formal presentation.
The youthful officer had silvery platinum hair that had been dyed in dark green streaks. It ran in a thick variegated braid down his back. His thin angular face bore an intricate tattoo of vines that crawled along his left jawline up towards his temple and across the bridge of his nose. The dark lines accentuated his light brows, eyelashes and pale gray eyes that seemed to pierce right through her. His eyes reflected colors that surrounded him and his tattoos colored them sea green in dim light. He seemed familiar somehow, but Naalin could not place where.
“How is it you have come to your senses from the rebirth so quickly,” Naalin asked now that the formality of his greeting was performed. She knew it had only been four and a half weeks and it usually took at the very least six weeks for edhelath to become fully aware after being reborn into the mortal realm.
“The palace has the benefit of his grace’s ancient magics. We remember our old lives but there is no urge to continue as such. I was once from a small village to the north, I am now one of the king’s eyes.”
Officer Taryn’s guard spread out along the walkways without their leader’s orders. They had decided to interact with the reborn edhelath on their own. Soon the six strangers were smiling and talking with those who curiously wandered over to say hello.
“Just bring any to me with injuries and I will bind them, okay?” Naalin exaggerated a nod and the guard happily nodded back as they began removing some of their gear, making themselves comfortable.
Naalin rolled her eyes at that as she turned and ushered the young officer into her kitchen. Elgelion was sitting on the floor playing with a pile of seashells Fionna had given him. Taryn was the obvious leader and Naalin wanted to hear more details from his point of view.
“The king’s eye you say.” Naalin handed Taryn a spoon and a bowl of stew she had just filled for him and waited to hear his explanation.
“King Ellinduil requires information and he will send me out to view it for him.” Taryn pointed at his eyes with both hands.
“The king can hear thoughts and impresSions from my mind. It is a connection we share because I am a distant surviving kin.”
Now Naalin could see Taryn’s obvious resemblance to Ellinduil. She wondered why she did not recognize it before. She smiled and Taryn did that cute face thing that Eijlam was so famous for. Despite herself Naalin was beginning to like the awkward, officer Taryn.
“Oh? How many eyes does the king have these days,” Naalin casually asked Taryn, keeping him at ease so she could glean all the information from him. She knew what an eye of the king meant having been one herself in the third age.
“There are three of us. I have a sister and twin brother. We all came back with Queen Rhianna to aid our king. I am the only eye pledged so far, officially.”
Taryn tasted Naalin’s stew and broke into another huge face melting smile.
“Very good,” he sighed. “Thank you so much! ProviSions at the palace are not quite up and running. We have suffered the generous hands of the darjal’n folk for too long. They cook a dried thing they make from ground grains and eggs.” He leaned over like he was sharing a giant secret.
“And then they boil it into some kind of flaccid chunks. It is like eating slugs.” He shivered involuntarily just thinking about it. Naalin’s face mimicked Taryn’s displeasure as he described the dish.
“That sounds awful. What of Ellinduil’s stores in his magic larder?”
“We are over four hundred in number Híril Naalin.” Taryn’s eyes were sad. “The darjal’n came to watch over us until we are all well enough to take care of ourselves.”
“Oh,” Naalin hadn’t realized so many edhelath had come to Autumwood, and there they were, the darjal’n, showing up to help out again. Naalin smirked at that.
“The palace must be a noisy place now,” she mumbled.
“Does your brother have the same tattoo as you,” Naalin briskly asked, getting her mind back on track. She set down a tray of hot honey bread.
Taryn’s eyes grew huge as he politely picked one piece. He savored a small bite of it. Naalin had no doubt he worked very hard restraining himself from gobbling down the steaming hot sweetbread.
“Oh, yes, my brother has an identical tattoo.”
Naalin handed over a glass of water to cool his throat. Taryn gulped hard trying to swallow too much.
“Jayce’s tattoo is on the other side. We are a work of art together, that is what my brother always tells me,” Taryn’s voice trailed away as he spoke. For a split second he looked down oddly at the table. A shadow cross his face but it didn’t last long. Taryn quickly brightened up, and making eye contact again, changed the subject.
“We may seem alike but Jayce keeps his hair light. I try to blend into the forest. You know, important covert sneaking around and all that, for the king,” Taryn enthusiastically proclaimed with a dramatic hand gesture that looked like it was meant to be a salute. He took another bite of honey bread and she could see how much he enjoyed it as he closed his eyes for a moment of lingering ecstasy.
Naalin could tell this king’s guard was not yet fully awakened from rebirth. They were obviously still gullible and way too talkative. Naalin knew very well the demands the code of conduct required in becoming an eye of the king. She had served as one of Ellinduil’s spies herself in the age past. She was surprised that the king would release these edhel so soon. They were only marginally better than the thirty she was already watching over, but she would not refuse the help.
“Better into my care I suppose,” Naalin thought to herself. The seven edhel seemed aware enough to help watch over the others. They certainly were better suited to the tree dwelling than the clumsy darjal’n. Naalin frowned as a chill ran down the back of her neck.
“King Ellinduil must think Fionna needs serious help, to dress these ones as soldiers and send them over here,” Naalin suddenly realized.
“It is important for Fionna to stay with the king for a time and learn some much needed control,” Naalin agreed fully with that thought. She heartily agreed when Eijlam brought to her attention the idea of bringing her sister to the palace.
Elgelion climbed up into Naalin’s arms and coyly stared at the young officer. Even her little one seemed more in charge of his faculties than this full grown edhel sitting in front of them at her table.
“When you are done eating I will show you around,” Naalin deeply sighed, trying not to feel concerned about the situation.
“We need to assign some hunters to gather firewood and foods along the coast. Can your group manage that?” Taryn nodded as he happily stuffed his mouth full, trying unsuccessfully to look inconspicuous about it.
“I will introduce you to my ship and you can throw a fishing line and tell me more about yourself.” Naalin forced a smile.
Taryn nodded, smiling broadly with his mouth full at the mention of a ship. Naalin cringed and ignored Taryn’s bad eating manners. She knew he’d love to see a sailing vessel in sharing the bloodline of King Ellinduil’s ocean dwelling kin. She also knew his manners would improve on their own in time; at least she hoped they would.
“We will have a bonfire cookout on the beach for everyone and tell stories. I am sure you and your company would like to eat freely after such a stressful return to Ainghaille,” Naalin tried to sound excited for his sake.
Taryn smiled and nodded enthusiastically as he gobbled down some more of her baked honey bread. Naalin looked down at the empty plate and shook her head. She had the distinct impresSion that Taryn, just like their Eijlam, was always hungry.
Naalin’s ship was large enough to accommodate a captain’s sleeping quarters under the forecastle deck. It was small enough that a crew of two or optimally four could perform the many tasks it took in handling the single giant sheet of the mainsail.
Cargo was carried below, accessed through a large opening across the width of the deck that unfolded behind where the thickness of the mast was fastened.
This special door design to the lower deck could be left wide open to sunshine and air. Naalin thought this would be handy for hauling livestock on short excurSions to the bigger cities. That was the plan she had mulled over in her mind when she modified the opening. It could also be partially unbolted for small cargo loading. The door blended like solid decking when closed.
When the cargo hold was empty the ship rode high above the waterline like a cork on water. With its wide bottom and shallow keel it could easily be moored into a river opening if a landing was needed with lack of a proper harbor. Dhe Talar’s slick steep profile made for difficult boarding by enemies in smaller craft or swimming at the water line. The ship’s buoyancy also allowed for modest amounts of heavy cargo that larger ships didn’t want to bother with. Naalin had great plans for a trade business in the future.
Dhe Talar had been emblazoned on the helm. The name meant, the beast, in Naalin’s northern dialect. She had painted a wide dark blue band under the rail along the dark tar oiled wooden bow. White and gold was used for the lettering. It was a beautiful sturdy vessel. Naalin was proud of how Roevash had worked so hard to help her bring it back from the aging wreck it once was.
Sadness clutched at her heart as the glint of the ring she wore reminded her of Roevash and she wished he was here with her. She took a deep breath of the sea air to clear her thoughts. Today would not be a day for melancholy because she had too much to do.
Naalin was pleased to find Officer Taryn instinctively knew how to sail. She made up her mind that he truly was similar to their Eijlam. He had the same kind of good natured energy as he climbed up the mast to untangle lines, bait hooks, handled fish for their passengers and he worked the correct ropes as she commanded.
Taryn did it all without complaint and with a wide smile. They enjoyed a day of sailing around the bay and then out around the island. Taryn urged her to go out into the wild ocean beyond but sensible Naalin didn’t get caught up in his enthusiasm. Dhe Talar was built for shoreline shipping and not deep water. Besides, they had more important things to do and much to Taryn’s disappointment they headed back to the docks.
The island was aptly named Tol Haudh even though the place no longer held the bodies of Naalin’s kin. Eijlam had made sure the curse was released and the fallen edhelath were allowed to rest in the peaceful arms of Ilmatar. Naalin wondered if any of those kin chose to come back to this new life. She had not yet seen anyone she recognized among the returned in Eldelórne. There were so many more convalescing elsewhere Naalin wondered if she would get to meet them all someday.
As the sunset they lit the bonfire, cooked the foods, danced, laughed and told stories of the memories that they could recall. The edhelath ate a whole weeks worth of dried and fresh fish along with a wild pig they caught in the thicket, and gallons of boiled oysters and shellfish. There was also plenty of fruit and green things brought to the party from the gardens. Taryn ate a whole three-pound fish that he had caught by himself that day. Naalin laughed at that, wondering how he could fit all that into such a thin body.
In a couple more weeks her charges would become independent enough to work for the village or go to the palace and work for the king. Villages were usually places for schooling and rearing young ones. Naalin expected most would go to the king and join his employ.
The next morning the edhel were piles of sleeping bodies tangled around the leftover dying embers of the fire. The closeness would help with healing so Naalin didn’t discourage it until she found eight of them had runoff. Much to her dismay the truant edhel had coupled. Naalin’s gut burned in a panicked fury. She thought none of them were in any frame of mind to make such life altering deciSions but it was too late to stop those who had sought privacy in the forest.
“Maybe they knew each other before,” Officer Taryn tried to calm her down.
“Back to the separate rooms for them,” Naalin glared after finding out three of the eight who had disappeared were part of Officer Taryn’s detachment.
“They will have to get their permissions from King Ellinduil. I cannot condone or give blessing for such actions. Only the king can do that. I hope we have not failed him,” Naalin said firmly to Taryn who was technically in charge here.
Taryn was disturbed that Naalin was upset, but not particularly disturbed about the deciSions the edhel themselves were making. In his way of thinking they would come back to their own minds and have their own private lives. Even their king and eldars had no right to control that.
“I had not even thought of anything like this happening,” Naalin fretted as she paced back and forth across the kitchen.
“It is my fault for being too tired to stay up and direct them back to the sleeping quarters.” Then Naalin remembered, nothing could stop she and Roevash after they were reborn. Somehow they knew they were meant for each other and that was that. Completely defeated, Naalin hung into the countertop and tried to calm her breathing.
She rubbed her hand anxiously across her belly and cringed. And then out of nowhere,
“You must allow me to sleep with you,” Taryn gently declared.
“You want to sleep in my bed, with me?” Dumbfounded, Naalin just stared at Officer Taryn. She picked up an apple and shoved it into his chest, pushing past him, as she stomped angrily away toward her private quarters. His piercing gray eyes followed her across the room.
When Naalin’s fingertips touched Taryn a tone, like plucking a string, shot through her. She didn’t like the feeling and at the same time she did. Now she fully sensed the hum emanating from him. It was different from Roevash’s. Maybe it was because Roevash was half human. This harmony from Taryn rang clear, and it called to her. Maybe it was because of his close proximity and her condition, Maybe it was something else, Naalin didn’t know.
She had slept with many edhel in her youth throughout the time of the Great War for comfort and healing. Edhelath sleeping together was not about coupling as it was with humans. She knew Taryn would never force that upon her. She wondered if it would be all right, as her anxiety piled up and wracked at her senses.
Naalin turned around and regarded Officer Taryn through narrowed eyes. He was standing tall and alert staring right at her. It was true she had been alone too long bearing the heaviness of her second child. The strain of that alone not to mention being guardian of thirty-some refugee edhelath was certainly taking its toll.
“We shall see,” was all Naalin said to Taryn’s questioning face. She stomped up to him and grabbed onto his skinny arm. Naalin dragged him flailing along behind her all the way down to the beach.
She needed to gather what was left of the Edhelath into their community center. It was time for a breakfast and another serious explanation about the rules.
“What will the meditations do for me?” Fionna asked the king. She sat in her old spot in front of his throne. She lay back on a fur rug and cushions looking up at the stars that twinkled through the branches of the mallorn and beech trees. They were the king’s sentinels, towering eighty feet into the open sky.
King Ellinduil slumped back on his soft moss covered throne. With one leg dangling over the armrest on the other side he sipped his favorite honey wine from a gold cup.
“I will teach you how to constructively distract yourself and focus on what is important. It is not difficult but it is a learned discipline. You will become stronger Fionna. You will help many lives as a listener,” he assured her.
Fionna smiled, “Feeling like the old times?”
“Yes, the good parts of those days are to be remembered. We are fortunate to have this new start.” He drew a long sip and swallowed.
“Meditations will help you control yourself so you can live as you are,” Ellinduil said.
That sounded simple enough but Fionna still did not quite understand it.
“Are you happy my king?” Fionna grinned at him knowing he would just love to talk about the things he held in his heart.
“I never thought I could feel such renewed joy in my days, Fionna. I had been captive and alone in this place for so long. I am glad I could help Thendiel’s sons find their way. You have given me everything and I will always be indebted to you.”
“It seems the king could use his own listener,” Fionna winked at him and Ellinduil chuckled.
“You will always be a blessing to me, daughter,” he stood up to retire to his chambers with his queen. Ellinduil affectionately placed his hand on the top of Fionna’s head.
“So we start the meditation lessons tomorrow?” Fionna took her king’s hand and lovingly squeezed it as he helped her to her feet.
“This will be your pilgrimage, Fionna.” The king seriously spoke.
“It will set you on a path of many long years of study training and observation. We meet at sunrise upon the first hill shrine. There are nine shrines, nine hills, we start with one.” Ellinduil smiled and then walked away.
“I will see you there.” Fionna turned to go.
At first she was angry when she realized Eijlam and her sister had ganged up on her and tricked her into coming to visit the king and his queen. But then Fionna could not deny those who truly cared about her surrounded her. They probably understood the struggle she was going through better than she did.
“What if Eijlam is right and I am creating trouble to distract myself.” Fionna frowned as she walked down the familiar corridor to their old room.
“We will not be lovers, Naalin,” Taryn firmly said. “You know that I am innocent in this.” He was confused at Naalin’s negative reaction to him.
Taryn was, if nothing else, persistent in his demand. The conversation was brought up again after the villagers went to their separate rooms. Naalin had managed to shame them all for being edhelath. Taryn was left saddened by her rash behavior.
“Somehow we are as kin, distant perhaps, but your green eyes and northern tongue gives this away. Taryn pleaded.
“I can feel the resonance between us and I know you feel it as well. You know I can help you,” Taryn slightly bowed as he made his case to her, “besides, anyone with eyes can see you are not well. The strain here is too much for you to bear alone.”
“What do you know of my condition?” Naalin felt confused. Her hand came to rest on her belly. As far as she could tell she had not shown any sign of swelling yet.
“No, Uh, I did not, “ He struggled with the words.
“I mean to say, I was not sure until this moment,” Taryn said having seen her protective gesture.
“Now it is even more dire Naalin that you find support from your kin,” Taryn softly said.
Naalin knew now the young officer would not take no for an answer. He had already stripped off his garments down to his naked skin and entered the bedroom with her helplessly in tow. Naalin never used to feel so odd about uncovering herself.
Taryn’s tattoos caught her attention. She noticed they did not end at his face and neck. The delicate vine work trailed sinuously down his left arm to his wrist. They came alive clinging to his chest and down the entire left half of his body. The dark vines continued unraveling around his left leg to the ankle and top of his foot.
“It must have taken years to finish such fine work,” she marveled. Naalin felt compelled to touch them. She just wanted to trace the intricate patterns with her fingertips, but she drew back not wanting to feel even worse about what they were doing.
“Taryn does look like living art,” Naalin marveled. “He is so beautiful,” she sighed and let out a deep breath. It crossed her mind that it might be useful camouflage.
“That is, if you found yourself half naked out in the woods,” Naalin mumbled to herself. Officer Taryn escorted her to the bed and gently removed her day clothes. He carefully folded them and set them aside.
“My twin brother and I would lay down facing each other in our bed and etch these patterns into our skin.” He noticed her silent staring.
“It started out as a silly elfling past-time, a distraction from our small village life. Then one day our parents disappeared. The past-time turned into rivalry. Who could be the most precise. Who would cry out under the pain of the knife tip. Then it turned into a more sensuous act, and we grew to be lovers,” Taryn turned his face away from Naalin, so she could not see his disappointment.
“My beloved brother is quite different from me,” he said with a deep frown.
“My only desire is to find peace,” Taryn sadly snorted.
“I would call my brother, stronger in his convictions. I think he is a better leader than I.” Taryn forced a smile for Naalin.
“You love and admire him,“ Naalin stated an observation, not expecting an answer as she lay down. She didn’t get an answer. He crawled into bed and lay next to her.
“The king has assigned Jayce to train all the edhel of the palace,” Taryn quietly continued.
“He will have them behaving as fine guards. The physical training he demands will be endless,” Taryn trailed off in weariness just thinking about it.
Elgelion was sleeping soundly in his usual place at the top of the bed. As they lay their heads upon the pillows the days events unraveled and Naalin began to softly cry. She missed Roevash so much her heart ached. Taryn wrapped himself tightly around Naalin. He didn’t know what else he could do to comfort her.
“You had better hold a hope Master Roevash understands all this and does not want to kill you when he returns,” Naalin said quietly between whimpering sobs. She couldn’t even feel normal without some stabbing feeling of wrongness in their innocence.
“I think he should thank me for saving his mate in such dire pain,” Taryn said with half closed eyes.
“I will insist on sleeping with both of you when he arrives home and finds me here.” Taryn grinned to himself at his new found boldness.
“What? You would plan on staying? What about the king’s eyes? Surely you cannot abandon an exciting life in the king’s special order for a broken down village.”
“No, You are right about that Naalin, but I can stay for a sailing ship and a life on the sea. This even our Ellinduil understands. You might soon find the king himself crawling into your bed for a ride on your fine ship.”
He felt Naalin chuckle at that. Her body relaxed and it gave Taryn a glow of happiness. Touching skin to skin the healing slumber came to them.
The morning sun streamed through the open window on Naalin’s face. She opened her eyes to find Taryn was still there. He was reclining back against the wall at the head of the bed eating a peach. He shared a chunk of it with Elgelion that he half chewed. The elfling climbed up and hung half out the window to let go his bladder before tumbling back down on top of his mother. He was getting too heavy for this kind of behavior. Naalin gasped for air as Taryn gently pulled him off her.
“You must show mercy. Your mother is expecting. Do not play so rough.” He poked Elgelion in the ribs to get his point across and then spit some peach in his fingertips for the elfling toddler. Elgelion sat waiting like a hungry bird for it. When he got what he wanted he slowly crawled into his mother’s arms upside-down on his forehead. Half hidden by cushions an eye stared back at the strange bossy elder who was telling him what to do.
“How do you feel?” Taryn asked Naalin.
“Better,” Naalin had to admit. She did feel a little more energy and not so ragged around the edges.
“You should stay in bed all day,” Taryn gently commanded. Naalin lurched up to a sitting position at the edge of the bed in hearing that.
“No, Naalin, down,” Taryn ordered as he pointed one of his long fingers at her.
“You are to rest. You know these others are fully grown elves, not your elflings. Let me do my job and take care of this village.”
Naalin felt strangely subdued. She had not been told what to do in a long time. The gray eyes of this one firmly stared at her as he handed her the second half of his peach and some grapes to eat in bed. He had authority in his manner that she had not noticed before. Now she could believe that he was indeed King Ellinduil’s kin. She fell back on the pillows and he broke into a wide grin, knowing he had won this round.
“I will send my sister Liveen to aid you until I return from hunting. I think another bonfire would work to feed all the hungry mouths around here. You need to believe in these edhelath Naalin. They will become who they wish to be as you are who you wish to be.” Taryn stood up to leave, hoping he did not come off as sounding too harsh.
“Your sister is one of your guard?” Naalin asked. She was not registering the obvious anymore. That in itself was the true testament of her worn down condition.
“Yes,” was all he wanted to say for now. A naked Taryn sauntered out to find Liveen and send her to help with whatever Naalin needed. A sudden sadness clouded Naalin’s mind as she realized this as how her life should be only with Roevash. He should be the thoughtful one not this young Officer Taryn whom she’d only just met. Still, there was some kind of kinship between them and the comfort he brought was making her feel more like herself.
“I wonder if King Ellinduil knew about this connection when he sent Taryn here,” Naalin marveled at the king’s wisdom as she closed her eyes, enjoying the soft bed, warm sun on her skin and her young son in her arms.
Tales of Eldelorne: Book Three by Karleigh Bon, copyrights reserved 2014 to present.