“Tales of Eldelórne: Book Two”
. Our protagonists struggle to get over their previous encounter with evil only to find they must pull together to rout that same evil, only this time it knows they are coming. And, as requested, there are more dragons! The rewrites spawned a poignant heart-tugging LGBTQ+ thread that demands another book. I have already outlined it under, “The Red Dragon King.” LGBTQ+ elements are also simply factual norms in their world.
Keep in mind that unpublished works are subject to change. I do hope you enjoy the story as it is. ~K
Through these pages you will learn more about the life of young Thendiel herself, the tragic past of King Ellinduil and the kingdom he was born into. We will meet with new friends and creatures from the mysterious Vilnask Mountains and of course, unravel the mystery of what happened to the dragons.
As we begin our tale, Roevash, Eijlam, Fionna and Naalin are finally together and at home, rebuilding their lives in Eldelórne. But as fate would have it, the dragon kingdom erupts with deception and treachery, influenced by the lingering dark hand of chaos. Soon nothing can be trusted. Is seems even the gods themselves have gone mad. They threaten to destroy everything that Thendiel’s clan and their friends have just fought and laid down their lives for.
Sleepy eyes riveted on her mother’s billowing skirt, Thendiel followed along to where others would be setting up banquet tables. It was the first day of Yavanni Elenea. When evening came there would be music and dancing and all manner of foods to be shared under a glittering blanket of autumnal stars.
Across a narrow hanging footbridge the Illianheni gardens sprawled along the eastern cliffs of the Vodla River delta. The edhel had lived in the area for thousands of years. The blessing of three days clear skies was foretold. Edhelath from all three clan-nations would soon be arriving to join in many days of celebration. Excitement swelled as all who lived in the neighboring Eldelórne worked hard to make everything perfect.
As Thendiel crossed the bridge golden bits of sun peeked through pillowy clouds only to burst across the cool azure sky and danced across the waking land. Thendiel’s mind drifted to the shimmering water far beneath her moving feet.
Delta trees swayed in the mild breeze draped in cloaks of ragged moss. The lazy coolness of the dark drifting river sifted past dotted strands of sandy loam. The drone of green tree frogs echoed shrill songs in the wide river basin punctuated by a fat armored beetle tumbling past and zooming dragonflies racing across the water. The glint of iridescent wings flashed like jewels under the touch of morning sun.
Thendiel wondered if any of the larger dragonflies carried faine-riders. Faine were the last thing you would see if true death found you, or so the hearth stories told. Young Thendiel shivered just thinking about it.
“It is always best to stay on the known paths,” Esabel said out-loud as if reading her mind.
“Yes, mother,” Thendiel dutifully answered, not really sure if her mother could in fact hear inside her thoughts.
Although they carried supplies for the party the main reason Thendiel and her mother were crossing into the garden was to alert the giant sentinel trees that stood watch at the borders of Illianheni.
King Ellinduil himself and Queen Rhianna were making a rare appearance on this day. The royal couple had not been seen outside their palace for decades so the news of the great king and his queen traveling beyond the safety of the Autumwood Palace walls was on everyone’s lips and minds.
King Ellinduil was a mystery to most of his subjects. Especially to a shy elfling girl who spoke mostly to trees. Thendiel had heard story’s spoken of sailing ships, Noeglath wars and evil dragons. These tales were from as far back as the long memory of the second age. This meant the king was thousands of years old. Possibly even the oldest edhel alive.
“What will he look like mother, after so many seasons of life?”
“It is truth, King Ellinduil and his queen are from a very old bloodline of Edhelath,” Esabel explained to her daughter as they stopped the last few steps at the end of the footbridge to catch their breath.
“Our king and his queen know ancient magics. There is a spell that hides a body’s imperfections. I believe it is called glamour. The king would only let you see what he wished for you to see my dear.” Esabel’s eyes grew large, playfully emphasizing her words, as she ran her fingers through her daughter’s long golden red hair. She brushed a twig away that threatened to become a tangled knot.
“Ah, I should have braided this,” Esabel said.
“I am older mother, not an elfling,” Thendiel indignantly protested as she pulled her hair out of her mother’s grip.
“The others no longer wear hair like that. Please, do not make me. They will laugh,” Thendiel pouted.
Esabel patted her rebellious daughter on the head.
“I see,” she said, the wisdom of ages placid on her face.
“Have you grown taller than the spring sapling then?” She asked that annoying parental question as she planted a motherly kiss on her daughter’s forehead. Thendiel frowned. She has heard this one too many times lately and it didn’t help resolve her feelings of frustration.
“Tangles are not our way, Thendiel.” Esabel firmly shook her head.
“Now get busy,” her mother prodded. “Tell our friends to be on watch. We would not want anything terrible to happen in the garden tonight. Our king risks much to come to us.” Esabel’s voice was low with concern.
Thendiel silently handed her mother the supplies she’d been carrying before turning toward the forest.
“We will discuss braids later, when we get home,” her mother quietly assured her. “You cannot move through the trees if your wild locks get caught in the branches,” she called after her daughter.
Thendiel was almost out of earshot. Just before she ran into the dense wooded edge of the garden she turned to her mother and waved. Her golden red hair flashed in the sunlight as she dove into the thicket.
Warm misty air filled Thendiel’s nose with the scents of dark soil and green moss. The forest was alive with the buzzing hum of life. Stealthily leaning her back flat against the nearest tree, her hair tangled across her face hiding her against the forested background. Thendiel froze in anticipation.
She loved her mother but young ones of her age liked to play at, hide and seek, and Thendiel would not be left out again because of elfling braids. Through narrowed eyes she peered through a twining cascade of hair for others who might be hiding. Not seeing any she relaxed. Truth be told, she didn’t really have any trusted friends in the village.
With a sigh Thendiel tugged at another twig lodged in her long hair. Giving up on it she tossed tangled hair and all back over a shoulder. She didn’t have time to play right now anyway. She could not help the sting in her nose as she realized the others had moved their game to the far side of the gardens and she was left out again.
“Fine, my friend, Willow, is coming from Ettenfalis tomorrow and you will all be begging us both to play.” Thendiel sadly stared into the distance hoping she was somehow wrong and someone would appear, but she was not wrong.
“Trees make better friends than you anyway,” she shouted into the empty woodland. The tree she was leaning on tingled under the palms of her hands. Thendiel turned and pressed a wet cheek against its smooth bark as disappointment turned into a flood of tears. Empathy from the tree gave comfort to her senses. Thendiel sniffled, wiping her disappointed face on a sleeve. She thanked the young sapling. It was time she focused her mind on the important task she was given.
Thendiel busied sympathetic hands alerting the trees with the greeting her mother had taught her. She smiled at the ancient humming songs she received. Each had its own name that surged through cambium layers down to the deepest of hearts. The trees stood majestically tall like a great clan. Their proud canopy of green shaded and cooled the ground keeping the forest inhabitants safe from the drying heat. Their thick trunks wore mossy coats of green on the shady north side while lichen formed whitish gray lacy patterns all along the edges.
As Thendiel came to the first sentinel she felt the familiar glow surround her as her palms touched its rough outer bark. She shared the herald of joyful celebration and caution. The tree sent back a sleepy acknowledgment as it woke from a long slumber.
A cloud of tiny white moths, hardly bigger than Thendiel’s fingertips, swarmed past in the moist air seeking cover from the hot sun. Thendiel sensed the elder trees whispering to one another through the underground tangle of roots. All the trees would be awake and prepared for Yavanni Elenea.
Roevash relaxed in the familiar glow of Eldelórne’s protective embrace. Since elfling days this elder tree had always been a healing comfort to him. One and half a turns of the night moon had passed since Roevash had been possessed by the revenant of the mad god, Lorde Surmanos. His brother Eijlam had somehow captured Surmanos and together they delivered him to the Lordes of Ilmatar. Or so he was told.
How he ended up in the realm of their gods, Roevash had no idea. He only knew he woke completely confused on the South shore of his homeland. He looked down at his large hand and made a fist and then stretched it open as if studying a problem. Roevash rubbed his palm across a hairy face and then an itchy sweaty nose across a shirt sleeve.
He needed to shave. Fionna would not let him near a blade for some unshared reason. He knew everything was more complicated than the simple answers he’d been gleaning. He stared placidly at the fire in the hearth. Staring helped him stay calm and to think.
“Rebirth, it is not easy,” Roevash grumped. Despite the feelings of wellbeing and healed scars from past injuries, he did not like this sense of vulnerability. He was told it would pass. He was told he needed to have patience. These were things that did not come easily to an old soldier.
He understood he is still the commander of the Vehlevar Training Post. He was not sure if he wanted his job back. His old friend Dakein could keep it for a while longer as far as he was concerned. Right now the thought of going near anything remotely related to fighting made Roe’s skin crawl, but fighting was in his blood. Roevash’s father was Darjalian, from a race of giant men hailed from beyond the Anin Angar Mountain Range to the far North. As a young soldier his father had been stationed to the east of the Illianheni gardens. That is how his mother met his father. Apparently, yet another war broke out, his father forced to leave, and the outpost was abandoned.
Roevash’s mother, Thendiel, had nowhere to go except back to the Edhelath. Here is where she made her home with him and soon after, his little brother. Roevash pondered many times how his mother had no chance in understanding such a violent culture of humans as the Darjalians. He had to admit, like his father’s people he too was a good at war, despite never knowing the man. His mother found herself alone raising a half-blood child in an elven village that seemed united against such odd choices.
Roevash certainly was different among the elflings with his greater height and dark hair and complexion. He had also inherited his father’s crystalline blue eyes. In the daylight they might appear the same as anyone else’s eyes but in low light they refract like blue gemstones.
“A field of Darjalians would be a terrifying sight.” Roevash snorted. His eyes were a darjal’n thing he had no control over. He accepted that now, but too many times he had been forced to defend himself against unwanted attention among both humans and elves alike. But as with all things age changes ones perspective. Time and distance dulled the sharp edge of his youth. Roevash didn’t care anymore if his shiny eyes or pointed ears made him unacceptable or what names that might invoke. His great height and agility served him well. He was able to protect those he loved. That is all that mattered.
“My son is, Elgelion, the name came to his mind.” Roevash sadly smiled. His son’s name rolled off his tongue as he repeated it several times. He longed to see the little elfling.
“I was a danger to my own family!” Roevash’s eyes narrowed. The dire reason for capturing the mad god came back to mind.
“Thank the Lordes, our little one escaped the hands of such insanity, my hands,” Roevash huffed as he stared at them, his heart seizing with rising anxiety. An evil he thought defeated in the Great War of the Third Age had been brought back to life by ignorant selfish men. Roevash scowled at thoughts that would push any ordinary man over the edge.
“This must be what it feels like to be worn of the mortal coil.” Roevash took a deep breath while contemplating his large broad hands again. Making a fist he could barely believe he no longer felt the ever present pain that had been part of his daily life since he first took up the two handed longsword.
“This rebirth has in some small way, served me well.” Roevash gave out a short chuckle.
By evening colorful sprawling shelters dotted the gardens of Illianheni. Everyone from dignitaries to common folk came with family and friend. Each one dressed in the tradition of their clans.Thendiel looked out over the crowd from behind one of the large centrally located trees. She liked the look of Caras Eldarhon with their long straight minimally braided hair and light green and gold tunics. How she would have adored having one of those to wear. They looked shiny in the evening light in contrast to her plain woven dress. Suddenly, Thendiel spied a tall bearded man. He had silvery gray hair and wore dark blue robes.
“A wizard,” Thendiel gasped.
“They are the guardians of this realm,” she repeated what she had heard. That was all anybody ever knew about wizards.
Although painfully shy, curiosity got the best of her. Thendiel found herself stalking the shadows after the stranger as he moved through the garden. She peeked at him from behind a trio of laughing partiers. The wizard nodded at her. Wide eyed, Thendiel gasped and ducked behind a group of adults. It was only when the wizard spoke to her parents that Thendiel was bold enough to come out from hiding and approach.
“My name is Master Farghal.” He slightly bowed with his introduction. “I am a long time friend of King Ellinduil,” Farghal assured them. “I was sent to watch over the realm. There is, of course, no threat that I have found,” he somewhat shakily announced.
“I have not felt any sign of trouble.” He awkwardly laughed, not wanting to frighten or detract anymore from the festive party. He had already said too much for such delicate company. Besides, he had invited himself to this gathering for a very different purpose.
“I hear you can speak to trees.” The wizard directed his full attention to the wispy young edhel who stood fidgeting behind her mother’s skirts. Thendiel peered out at Farghal with huge golden brown eyes. Her mother had neatly braided her long hair over her ears. The braids and her shyness made Thendiel seem younger than her true age but Farghal could see she was a half grown youth now.
“Would you like to learn a bit of magic,” the wizard asked. Thendiel brightened up, nodding eagerly as she stepped forward. The wizard gently cupped her small hands together inside his.
“Now hold steady.” Master Farghal took his hands away to concentrate as he waved his arms in a dramatic flourish.
“Now, open your hands.” He smiled. Thendiel thrilled at the sight of a delicate yellow butterfly fluttering in her palms. She giggled at it’s tickling legs as it prepared to take flight. The adults that were watching murmured in amazement and clapped hands at the wondrous magic trick. Farghal smiled and nodded at all the delighted faces.
A blearing horn signaled the royal family had arrived. The gathering turned its attention to the road from the North. Cheering filled the air as Thendiel turned to see an ivory colored carriage pulling to a halt. It was drawn by a team of white stags. Humorless royal guards quickly disbursed themselves strategically throughout the celebrants. Once security was in place an attendant jumped from the top of the carriage to open the door.
“Thank the Lordes my beloved Naalin made the decision to come back with me from,” Roevash paused and then turned anxiously towards the light of the open window. He knew Naalin was just beyond that narrow sill sunning outside in the garden.
He felt bile rise in his throat.
“It almost killed her.” A suffocating weight grabbed at his chest. The room began to swim.
“What do I mean, almost? It did kill her!” Thoughts painfully ricochetted back and forth through his mind. He cursed Lorde Surmanos, the Dragonlord, the mad god! Roevash closed his eyes against the pain that threatened to ratchet his heart into pieces.
He looked down at shaking hands. All he saw were hands, strong and solid, but he could feel slick warm blood drooling over clawed fingers, streaming to his elbows. Dripping blood, always dripping, in his hair, on his face, over his snarling lips…
“It is over,” Roevash’s voice burst from his mouth with certainty, sucking in a stiff breath. He felt the elder tree’s soothing murmur. He was safe here with his family. He was safe in his mother’s tree home. That evil has been locked away in chains for all eternity and his dragon ended.
“We have seen to that,” Roevash snarled. He rubbed a clammy hand across his face to assure himself he was really sitting in his mother’s old rocking chair and not caught up in some eerie dream in the realm of the Lordes. He wondered if he would even know the difference.
Roevash was raised knowing all the names of the Lordes and which metier each one represented. This information had been passed down through, Edhelath oral tradition, as told by village Eldars. His mother taught him prayer. He had prayed to certain Lordes for different reasons throughout his life. He was only now beginning to make sense of it all because he had been there! He walked to the shining city among a host of spirits. So far he only recalled glimpses of the experience, but it was as real as the hand he held up in front of his face. The wooden rocker creaked under his weight.
Roevash pushed himself up and walked over to the neatly stacked wood on the other side of the hearth. He picked two pieces for the dying fire and tossed them into the fireplace. Grabbing the metal poker he jabbed at the smoldering pile to position the wood. Staring at the implement in his hand a memory dug at him just beyond recollection.
Many of the things that happened to him in the Shadowcult’s lair eluded him. He thought in all likelihood that was a kindness. Roevash placed the fire poker back against the stone hearth and walked over to the window. He put his hands on either side of the frame as he leaned out to smile at Naalin. She was laying asleep among the flowers. The golden glow in the room warmed Roe’s back as the fire sprang to life again.
“Patience,” the word rolled over Roevash’s tongue several times.
He blew out a long breath as he leaned on the windowsill.
“This will all be just faint memory someday.”
King Ellinduil regally stepped down out of the royal carriage and put out a hand. Queen Rhianna’s eyes shone like the greenish gold of a sunset through ocean waves. Her silken gown shimmered with the setting sun in the same dazzling color. She wore a white collar on her delicate shoulders that hinted at sea foam in it’s feathery weave. Her face was surrounded by straight silvery hair that matched her king’s. It was pulled back in a thick braid that cascaded down to her waistline. She turned aside and two young faces appeared in the carriage doorway.
Delighted onlookers applauded this welcome surprise. Of course the great king and his queen would want their family with them at such an auspicious and sacred event as Yavanni Elenea. Thendiel’s eyes grew huge at the sight of their long silvery hair as the young ones moved to stand next to their mother. The princess who was close to Thendiel’s same age seemed to look right at her and smile. Thendiel’s heart fluttered. She wondered if they had any friends in the Autumwood palace. Thendiel had never been north or anywhere else for that matter. She wondered what their palace home was like.
“We could be friends,” Thendiel murmured to herself, as the young royals followed their mother to a nearby table to wait.
The king’s entourage moved towards the stage that was set near the great falls for the occasion. He smiled graciously at the thundering noise as it forced him to speak louder than his normal reserved manner.
“Mê d’govannen gi suilon,” King Ellinduil greeted his subjects.
He told them humorous stories of his life’s experience. He told of events to come and gave warning as well as encouragement for the future.
“Always remember, nothing is ever certain. That which lies ahead continually flows in the waves of our mother Ilmatar and, this very loud waterfall.” The king pointed up with a smirk and made everybody laugh. King Ellinduil stepped down among his happy subjects. Musicians quickly claimed the stage, bolstering the festivities with upbeat song.
“He truly is handsome,” Thendiel said to herself, watching Ellinduil sit down next to his queen and family at the long table. Thendiel happily sighed at seeing how much the king loved his family.
“You have nice braids,” Farghal broke into Thendiel’s thoughts, trying to say something cordial to gain back her attention. His statement was met with smoldering eyes.
Wizards were never known for their social finesse but he didn’t know what he had just said that was so offensive. Thendiel let out a long breath knowing her mother would not allow bad manners. The braid comment was quickly set aside as she looked up at the confused wizard.
“Do wizard-kin not carry a magic staff,” she abruptly asked, not having seen one with him and trying to be polite in asking.
“Yes, of course we do,” Farghal said as he leaned forward and whispered, “it is invisible.” He immediately put his arm out to the side and an ancient twisted staff appeared in his grasp as if he tugged it right out of thin air. Thendiel’s eyes grew huge.
“Can you teach me that trick,” she asked.
“Which bit of magics are you referring too,” the wizard asked, leaning forward on his staff to see her better.
“The one with the butterfly?” She couldn’t help her curiosity in reaching up to touch his long hairy beard that was so long it reached halfway down the front of him.
“Now that I have your attention I can teach you many such arts of magic. Would you like to learn?”
Thendiel nodded her head enthusiastically, noting that his beard hair was soft as any other kind of hair. It wasn’t braided either. She smirked.
“May I have my beard back?” Farghal’s eyes crinkled in a smile as he continued to slightly lean forward to accommodate her inspection. His lower back began to creak in the effort.
“Is that what it is called?” Thendiel had never seen hair grown on a face before. Thendiel let the strands of beard drop out of her small hand.
“What is it for,” she asked with such an intense seriousness that it made Farghal chuckle as he straightened up.
“It hides my lunch.” Farghal winked and Thendiel giggled, not quit sure if he was making a joke or not.
“One never knows about the minds of wizards,” Esabel told her daughter later that evening. Thendiel wrote it all down in a small leather bound book and then blew out her bedside candle, she was soon fast asleep.
The apidimi of ironic is the fact that it never occurred to Roevash to ask why his mother, Thendiel, had such an enormous wooden rocking chair, or where it had come from. He snorted at that odd bit of oversight that would have saved him a lot of strife as a youth.
He reached out and gave the old chair a push and watched the long shadow of its form move across the floor. As an elfling Roevash nestled in his mother’s arms here in this very chair, her soft melodic voice telling him tales of men and elves.
The fireplace was crackling back to life. Roevash grew suddenly weary again. He’d had enough pacing and moved to sit down.
“It is hard to believe I was ever that small.” Roevash fondly remembered those quiet times as he eased back into the comfort of the old rocker.
“I have a few adventures of my own to tell.” He placidly smiled.
The sound triggered through Roevash’s body jerking him forward. The noise was only a log in the fireplace but to his mind it had become the sound of breaking bone. Horror filled memories crawled towards him across the floor. Twisted creatures on hands and knees reached out, begging his favor.
Surrounded in a nightmare of darkness and filth, scraps of a fresh kill fell through bloody fingers. His sneering mouth opened to bite into raw flesh. A loud growl rattled painfully through his skull. It was his own far away voice.
The vision rolled away and the light in the room brightened back to normal through blank staring eyes. Roevash found himself with hands poised to eat. He threw them down with a huff and stiffly sat back in the chair. It rocked, his foot on the floor controlling its motion.
“You must always remember,” he affirmed to himself.
“What is past can no longer cause pain unless you keep letting it!” Roevash scolded himself.
He had already resolved many times to stay alert. If the Shadowcult or anything like it ever again found him he would be prepared next time. What he experienced in his minds eye wasn’t even his own. Roevash had been possessed. No assault to a body was more intimate. The mad god’s Dragonlord personae was horrifying to both himself and those who were subjected to his twisted abuse in all it’s forms.
“Better to be braced than ignorant and lost,” Roevash mumbled. A scowl grew fierce and then disappeared off his face as he looked to find solace in the old familiar hearth. Three short breaths brought back a much needed feeling of balance.
“Oh, nîn hawn,” His brother Eijlam shook his head. “Do you sit by the fire to rest your old bones or do you still think to lay blame on yourself for what is now in the past.” Eijlam had come into the room unnoticed and stretched himself on the cushions near the hearth. He could see by his brother’s furrowed brow, Roevash was thinking far too much again.
“I have to live every day with what has happened to me and the things I was made to do,” Roevash’s narrowed eyes shifted over to Eijlam. “I sometimes wish the blissful effect of rebirth was permanent.”
“The Lordes must think, for some reason, we need to remember. Maybe it is for our own good,” Eijlam remarked.
Roevash rolled his eyes at that.
“So, speak to me, brother. You must understand by now that the actions of evil men and gods are not your fault.” Eijlam gently pressed.
Roevash only rubbed his face with his hands as if to scrape away any lingering darkness he had let in. His chair slowly creaked to a halt beneath his weight. He did not answer. He did not want to relive such raw memories in the retelling of them. Instead he let his mind drift to the mesmerizing flames.
Likewise, Eijlam did not wish to share all the horrible details of his brother’s possession. Surmanos was made even more powerful by the blood of dragons. It took all Eijlam had to resist the Dragonlord’s control. If it were not for his own father’s bloodline he might have been lost to the dragon’s influence. Still, some of Eijlam’s own memories were vague. He suspected they had a good solid plan and it worked out. That was all that mattered anyway.
“No matter,” Eijlam consoled himself. “It will all come clear in time.”
It seemed like his big brother was ignoring him. Eijlam yawned and stretched. He chuckled with a crooked grin because soon Roevash was yawning and stretching.
Eijlam didn’t tell Roevash that he’d punched him in the mouth. The blow was so forceful it almost broke his hand but watching that monster bleed, even if it was his own brother’s face, felt real good at the time. It was enough that Fionna knew about what happened and she would never speak of it.
“You have always felt responsible for those you hold dear. It is because you are the eldest,” Eijlam said in a reassuring voice.
“How many times had I drown myself in the ocean and you were always there to find me,” Eijlam said, changing the subject.
“I am surprised you did not grow a full head of silver hair from my odd behavior.” Eijlam tried to distract Roevash with a bit of his own brand of strained humor.
“You are just lucky one of us knew how to swim,” Roevash’s low voice rumbled from the rocking chair, a smile barely perceptible on his lips.
Thendiel moved quickly over the bridge towards the gardens of Illianheni for her second visit with the wizard. Master Farghal motioned for her to come closer and see what he had for her today. He was holding a pendant on a thin gold chain. Thendiel was transfixed by it’s glittering center as she touched it. An oval gemstone was captive in an intricate swirl of gold. It was delicately crafted by long forgotten artisans.
“I want you to have this but you must then promise to do one thing for me,” the wizard ominously said.
Thendiel’s brow furrowed as she gazed up at him with typical edhel wariness. Seeing the expression on her face, Farghal chuckled.
“Do not look so worried, Thendiel. I just want you to promise me you will always keep it safe.”
Young Thendiel nodded as she held the amulet and watched the small stone come to life again in her hand. It swirl slowly as the wizard clasped the chain around her neck. It quieted into place once nestled against her skin.
“Soon enough you will be grown and the creation will need you to have this. Take good care of it and it will take care of you. Promise me you will not give it away for any reason,” Farghal cryptically said, smiling down at her through a bearded face.
“Yes, I do promise.” Thendiel smiled reassuringly as she thanked the wizard.
“It is the kind of thing that might cause envy among village edhel or even your own clan should any see it in your possession so try to keep it hidden.” He gave her a concerned look and she nodded in understanding.
Thendiel then excitedly cupped her fingers tightly together, her eyes clamped shut in concentration. When she opened them a host of golden yellow butterflies poured from her hands. Farghal laughed at Thendiel’s dazzling smile and intuitive ability to enhance the magic he’d shown her.
The air around them filled with unfurling wings until he quietly said, “The butterflies will have a hard time finding their way back home.”
Thendiel frantically shook out her fingers desperately trying to stop what she had started. It had never occurred to her the poor creatures were summoned from some other natural place that was their home. Hundreds of butterflies would die because of her mistake.
“It is a bit more complex than that,” the wizard explained as he abruptly put a stop to the magic.
“You certainly have the talent,” he briskly mumbled, watching yellow wings flit around every which way into the surrounding gardens.
Thendiel fidgeted, looking at the ground. She realized how much damage she had caused.
“Do not shy away from knowledge,” the wizard encouraged. “Learn from your mistakes.”
She looked up at Farghal, clearly distressed.
“What a magic wielder feels and what one understands are two very different and distinct paths. You must learn to tell the difference. It is true, you take the energy from somewhere. That is only one part of the magics. Where you take it from, that is the knowledge you must seek,” he instructed as they walked along a sunny pathway.
They came to a thin fountain of water that splattered out of the rock face of the cliff. The wizard put out his hand and took a drink of the cold stream as he had the day before.
“Rock, water, wind and fire are all powerful allies. See how the water cuts stone,” he pointed out. “Time is the only barrier that keeps such a power from flooding the whole garden all the way to the ocean.” Farghal grimaced at that thought as he gazed upward at the old cliffside.
“You must remain diligent in order not to break anything,” he added. “That is why you will not see a wizard using serious magics except in dire need,” he explained, as master and student continued their walk through the gardens of Illianheni.
“What did the Lordes mean by us living, unnoticed until the fullness of our days,” Roevash blurted out, still laying sprawled in his rocking chair.
“Hmmm, What?” Eijlam woke with a start from warm cushions. He had nodded off in the middle of an earlier non-conversation.
“Do you not remember the Lorde’s final words to us as they sent us back?” Roevash strained to look into his brother’s eyes from his reclined position.
“They said, you will live unnoticed throughout time until you return to us as do all edhel in the fullness of their days. It has a strange tone to it.”
“Oh, now I, um, you remember all that?” Eijlam tried to shake off nap fatigue and seem interested.
“Yes, it has come back to my mind. What do you think it means?”
Eijlam narrowed his eyes in thought. “I think it means we would not be bothered by the songs of the Lordes until we wish to leave this mortal realm.” He yawned and stretched.
“Since when have the Lordes decided our time here?” Roevash scowled.
“Maybe it is my scrambled mind,” Roevash kept going. “Those words do not sound right to me. Has it not traditionally been edhel who decide the time in which they feel worn and then leave the mortal realm?”
“We have no allotted span of life forced upon us if that is your meaning,” Eijlam replied, not yet registering Roevash’s line of thought.
“Then why would all the Edhelath just uproot themselves and migrate away in the third age? That does not make any sense.”
“My brother, always the thinker,” Eijlam made a dramatic flourish with a tired hand.
“Maybe the days of the original Edhelath were always numbered,” he said, grasping. Roevash looked over at him with his, you do not believe that nonsense, look on his face. Eijlam pursed his lips. It did seem odd once he voiced the thought.
“Well, maybe you are right to be suspicious Roe. I was not in this realm, so I do not know what the land was like in the third age. I do remember how it was being surrounded by Edhelath in our mother’s village.” Eijlam sighed, feeling left out of so much of his brothers long memory. “Did you hear the call Roe?”
“No, I was living among men at the time. I was learning about my humanity from my Uncle Calan. If ever I did feel something it was dulled. My mind was on other things.”
“Finding me,” Eijlam quietly filled in the blanks.
“Yes, finding you,” Roevash mumbled as he slumped lower in the chair.
“I am glad to have found you alive.” Roevash looked up at the ceiling with his hands clasped behind his head in another yawn and stretch.
“I am glad I am here with you as well.” Eijlam frowned.
Thendiel was painfully aware of how those youth who said they were her friends always forgot to tell her about their gatherings. She had guessed correctly about them wanting to play with her friend, Willow. That attention wore off the moment Willow went home to Ettenfalis. Although it was fun to pretend she had friends at the time, Thendiel decided she didn’t like the way her hair got tangled with twigs anyway.
“Stupid game,” Thendiel scowled.
She had more important things to think about. She fingered the amulet the Master Wizard had given her. Its stone swirled like rushing water trying to escape its cage. Thendiel calmed her mind like the wizard had shown her. She watched as the stone slowed to a lazy glitter.
“Yes, I like this much better.” She sadly smirked.
With a deep breath Thendiel reached for her studies. Knowledge is what the wizard said she needed so knowledge is what she sought. Today she was learning how to identify the herbs and roots that made up the medicines her clan provided for the village.
“You have to be able to do more than talk to trees. That is why we work as healers,” her mother had told her. Thendiel was happy to learn and be part of that.
The master wizard showed Thendiel how to use her mind’s eye to look into the trees themselves. She easily grasped the concept of this new dimension of inner sight. She adapted the same technique to understand more in depth the sicknesses found in her mother’s patients. Thendiel’s mind opened to things she would never have thought of on her own.
“I am glad you two are feeling well.” Fionna said, interrupting Roevash and Eijlam’s conversation.
She briskly set a tray carrying hot soup and fresh bread on a side table. She handed out foods into grateful hands. Fionna tenderly slung her arms around Roevash’s big shoulders and hugged him soundly.
“I hope you know how much I love you,” she said in a warm whispery voice.
Roevash smiled, her breath tickling his ear. He took a bite of bread.
“Your care is very much appreciated Fi,” Roevash quietly replied, stirring the soup with a spoon to cool it.
“I for one, am looking forward to a life of quiet boredom for a while,” Fionna announced as she turned and hugged Eijlam, kissing him on the ear.
“And look where we are.” She stood up tall with arms out.
“We are living inside the gracious trees that are bigger and smarter than any dwelling I had ever been in.” Fionna made one dramatic twirl around the room. Eijlam and Roevash glanced at each other and had to smile in agreement. They were all very happy to be home.
“I am glad that island curse is gone so we could return,” Fionna added as an afterthought and to remind them again of that fact.
“There is more bread on the tray. Help yourselves,” she said as she picked up the last two mugs of broth and walked out the door to find her sister.
Naalin sat among the orange and yellow flowers listening to buzzing bees, enjoying their low humming sounds. White streaks of cloud slowly trailed across a bright pale blue sky.
“I always thought this place was a kind of paradise,” Naalin softly said. “I am glad to be with you.” She sat up to take the cup held out for her.
Fionna sat down among the branches with her own soup and looked up at the clouds.
“Do you want to visit the island?” Fionna asked.
“Yes, but let us not sail today. I am happy in knowing our kin finds rest in the arms of our Lordes and are not forever turned to stone in that cold tomb.”
“I agree,” Fionna lazily replied. She was going to ask if Naalin wanted her hair braided but she could see it was already done.
“Are you and Roe well,” Fionna asked, knowing it was his hands that fixed her hair.
Naalin thought reflectively for a moment and then confided. “He suffers so when he thinks too much on what happened to us.” Naalin frowned into her cup and then took another sip.
Fionna felt real fear rising in her gut. She remembered the anger Eijlam experienced the first time he was unexpectedly brought back into the mortal realm. The Master Wizard, who was her guardian at the time, had said it was normal to feel such unreasonable emotions as the forgotten past resurfaced. Eijlam had gone raving mad and tried to end himself right in front of her. That was not something she ever wanted to experience again.
“Thank the gods for wizard magics.” Fionna shook herself back from such vivid memories. She stared down into her cup, and then having lost her appetite set it aside.
“I think we need to hug Roe a lot and make it known how much we love him.” Fionna frowned uncomfortably, not knowing what else they could do to avoid such mental anguish or possible self-harm.
“I am sure he knows how much we care,” Fionna mumbled. “He knows, right,” she anxiously looked at Naalin who was staring at her with her big sister, of course he knows face. Fionna took a deep breath to dispel tension and flopped back into the flowers.
“He told me he could not command. The training post was his whole life before the mad god’s assault. The men of the fort are going to be disappointed.” Naalin sipped her broth and leaned back, gazing up again to watch the clouds. She was being graciously oblivious to her sister’s angsty outburst.
“He says it is too much power to have over human lives. What he recalls of the cult is not good.” Naalin turned to face Fionna.
“Maybe you can comfort him by listening as you have to my story. It makes it easier to bear.” Naalin reached out and squeezed Fionna’s hand.
“I think it must be unspeakable,” Fionna quietly said. “I have been Roevash’s friend for a long time. I have listened to all his past stories but he has not said one word about this one.”
Fionna had been watching a fat bee that plopped off the edge of a flower and was struggling with tiny wings to lift off the ground. She thought to help, but the bee gained momentum on its own, buzzing heavily away.
“If he speaks I will listen,” Fionna assured her sister.
“Roe has seen more violence than I can even imagine. Retirement is his due,” Fionna said in retrospect.
“You both should be allowed to enjoy a quiet life with your family.” She turned to Naalin. Her sister’s expression broke into a rare smile.
“The little one will keep us busy for a long time to come. We want to stay here to raise him among the family trees.” Naalin was beaming as she thought about her newborn.
“We are going to have to send for our son, Elgelion, soon.” She looked anxiously at her sister.
Fionna suddenly felt a little relief as she realized, Elgelion, might be the only hope of keeping Roevash stable through this final transition time.
“I think you both are well enough to handle an elfling and you will have Cael and the rest of us to help,” Fionna’s voice trailed off in seeing the confusion on her sister’s face.
“Remember, Cael? He cannot speak because they cut out his tongue,” Fionna explained. Naalin was scowling. She had witnessed the cult followers and the twisted behavior of their priests during one such tongue cutting ritual. Her fists clenched at the thought of one of those crazies around her son.
“No, Naalin, Cael is our friend.” Fionna put a hand on Naalin’s arm to bring her back from such thoughts.
“Cael was one of the queen’s guard,” Fionna quickly reminded.
“They allowed themselves to be captured so they might have the chance to save their princess. Princess Elanoreth, you remember her? Young Cael saved you from that place.”
Naalin’s eyes teared up. She silently nodded.
“For such a young man he is so passionate about keeping little Elgelion safe from harm.” Fionna softly spoke. Quiet sobs fell against Fionna’s neck as they hugged.
“I wish I had told Dakein to retrieve them for us but I only had an idea about how long this rebirth would take.” Fionna looked deep into Naalin’s eyes.
“Please forgive me,” she begged.
“You both deserve to know the joy of your own newborn before he turns into an elfling. Elgelion is a beaming light beyond this darkness.”
Naalin’s eyes softened at the thought of her little one. She solemnly nodded in agreement. She trusted that they would all go to Drustnlach as soon as Fionna was sure they were all well enough to make the journey.
Thendiel was waiting by the garden fountain when Master Farghal suddenly appeared out of nowhere. He had a small creature tucked up into his sleeve. She could not say what it was. It had a gray spot on top of its head and was peering through bulgy eyes at her. It’s limbs seemed covered with soft leafy scales.
A paw wrapped clear claws around her fingertip. They didn’t hurt as it scooted forward to the edge of the sleeve near her hand. Branchy sensors moved on its head like a rabbits ears. Thendiel had seen this kind of fringy growths before, on ocean creatures. It shimmered in the dim light, giving off an almost ghostly air. Thendiel gently touched the creature on the top of the head and marveled at its gentle nature.
“This is Master Sibelast,” Master Farghal startled her.
“He is, at the moment, in our natural form. When we are in this form we are ilmari. He is also a wizard.”
Thendiel was sorry she’d pet him on the head like an animal.
“Yes, and that is why I introduced you in this way,” he said, as if reading her mind.
“You must realize by now the realm of Ilmatar is not always as it seems.” It was a question that did not need to be answered. Thendiel nodded, wide eyed.
“Master Sibelast is my friend and closest ally. You can always trust him,” Farghal said.
Thendiel bowed in proper greeting to Master Sibelast as he jumped to the ground and transformed into a wizard in front of her. He was not as tall as Master Farghal. His robe was a dusty grey color that he shook out in a billowing cloud of dust. He too had long silvery hair, only his did not seem as well kept, and a whiskery beard that flowed half way down the front of him. Sibelast leaned over and patted Thendiel on the head in greeting. She blushed, knowing he meant no harm in getting his point across.
“Just always remember one important fact, we leap. We do not hop,” he explained with a dignified air. Thendiel giggled, agreeing vigorously. She already liked Farghal’s companion, Sibelast.
“You have learned many things Thendiel and you have grown beyond youth into adolescents. Today we will show you the Ilmari’s place in creation. We will be escorting you to the other realm,” Farghal announced.
“It is our true home you might say,” said Sibelast as he held out a hand to her. Thendiel grasped the wizard’s hand and stepped forward on the common garden path as she had always done.
The light grew bright as they past by the tiny water spout where Master Farghal usually stopped for a sip. This time he did not stop. The sound of the water grew loud as it tore into the rock below. It was as if time itself became tangible.
Time was a key in the wizard’s hand. He stretched forward with one thump of a boot heel on stone path. Thendiel felt the air thicken with a loud pop inside her ears. It did not hurt but she did have the sudden sensation of being underneath vast depths of water.
The air, though breathable had turned grey and heavy. She struggled through an abrasive pressure to move. The firm grip on her hand guided her where eyes and other senses could not. With another step forward Thendiel and the wizards were in a misty garden that was not the gardens of Illianheni. Thendiel tried not to panic. She wondered how she was breathing at all.
“Naalin!“ Fionna’s eyes wide as her smile as she remembered her own condition. “I am carrying an unborn.”
Naalin gasped with tears of joy, hugging her younger sister.
“Eijlam heard her voice some time ago now,” Fionna said.
“How did this happen? I mean, I know how it happened, but you are both too young for this.” Naalin was confused. It was her turn to worry.
“We think this maturing early is because of this mortal realm. We are the last of the Edhelath and Eijlam thinks we might be changing,” Fionna threw that out there.
“You do not think we are becoming mortal like humans.” Naalin was distressed at the thought of that.
“I do not think I would go there.” Fionna’s brow furrowed. “Eijlam and I have spoken on it more than a few times. We will certainly remember to ask King Ellinduil when we next see him, if he continues to live.” Fionna looked tense.
“I also wonder how this new kind of quickening will affect our small ones.” She lay her hand instinctively on her belly.
“Ellinduil has many good answers.” Naalin sweetly smiled as she laid a reassuring kiss on Fionna’s cheek. “Maybe this is all just the new natural way and there is nothing to be concerned about.”
Fionna smiled at her sister and tried not to seem worried for her sake. She patted Naalin on the shoulder and got up to go inside. Suddenly Fionna desperately yearned to be near Eijlam.
Ghostly figures milled around among the flowers and down the many paths as Thendiel and the two wizards strolled past. She could see the inhabitants here were made up of mostly edhel but there was strangely a few human spirits among them. In the middle of the place a great stone well dominated the center of the lovely garden. Thirsty spirits lingered and drank its clear silvery water from a shared cup which hung under the inside edge when not in use.
“It is the stuff of creation and dreams,” Farghal’s voice whispered inside Thendiel’s head. There were so many new sensations she began to feel queasy. Farghal reached down into the well and scooped a portion which appeared as an ornate cup in his hand. He touched it to her lips and she drank.
It was a cool fresh breath in an evening when the air was damp and the sunset darkened beyond a flaming lake. Thendiel felt peaceful in her revery. She did not know how long she had lingered in that dreamlike state. The tug of Sibelast’s hand woke her mind to his presence. The shared cup came into focus as Thendiel was gently moved away. It shimmered with a silvery light that almost seemed crystalline from its hook inside the rim of the well. She yearned to stay and drink again.
“Odd,” Thendiel thought, as the further she moved away from the well the sound of it pealed through her body like a low tolling bell. The wizards kept her safely between them now as they moved through the garden into woodlands beyond.
“Are you going to change into your ilmari shape,” Thendiel drifted as she tried to set her mind on something comprehensible. She got no immediate answer. A clearing suddenly opened before them. It was lovely green grassy hillock. Thendiel found solid footing beneath her feet and sank to her knees in exhaustion.
Master Farghal quickly shifted to a tall blue gray creature with a black nose. Master Sibelast was mostly white but with light gray spots all over his body, not just on his head as Thendiel had first seen. Farghal sat up tall on strong haunches trying to look as dignified as possible. Thendiel had to take a deep breath and resisted an urge to both giggle and throw-up. She stifled the giggle and threw up anyway.
“Your body must grow accustomed to Ilmatar.” Sibelast pulled on one of his long branchy antlers as he stared at her.
“You walk in the place of the Lordes.” The sound of Farghal’s voice seemed to come out way to close to her face and was so loud she cringed as if slapped by mere words.Thendiel wanted to go home and never feel like this again.
“It will be easier with each visit. You will see,” Farghal assured her. He could see the strain on Thendiel’s face at the thought of a second visit.
Thendiel knew of the Lordes. She had no idea the wizards were somehow connected to them and could bring her here. She should have known they were not simply teasing when they announced their intentions.
She grasped her medallion and felt its familiar pulse. It was as if it spoke to her through her fingertips but she could not understand the language. It did however have a calming effect and her heart slowed. Her gut stopped clenching in her throat.
Farghal glanced over at Sibelast who nodded.
In a wild charge the ilmari leapt into the air. The two danced and cavorted in circles until Thendiel could not help but laugh. She tried to stand up to join them but her legs were still weak. She only managed to move a short distance and then sat down again.
“You certainly do find joy in this place.” Thendiel said as the ilmari came to halt in front of her and collapsed lazily together in clean grass.
“We only wish for you to feel the same. This is home after all.” Sibelast said.
Farghal shot him a look that said, “Too much information too soon.”
“If you say so,“ Thendiel agreed, not catching the exchange.
The sounds of laughter and squeals of delight followed two figures as they ran hand in hand past gulls scattering into squalling flight. The sun shone hot through a cloudless blue sky on the sandy shore.
“Did you like the one over there?” Fionna pointed up at the tree homes off in the distance but still visible from where they’d stopped on the beach.
“I like that one,” Eijlam gently caressed Fionna’s face in his hands and kissed her.
“You are not even looking,” Fionna mildly protested under his smiling gaze, her nose touching the end of his.
“I will love anywhere my Fionna decides to be,” he kissed her again. He wrapped himself around her in a full body hug. Fionna melted into his arms as they spun around. Eijlam picked Fionna up and carried her toward the water. With his eyes fixated on hers, he stepped on something sharp and yelped. Eijlam twisted around, held on tight, and Fionna landed right on top of him in a splashing heap.
“You should have seen your face, “ Fionna giggled as they both sat up out of shallow water. “Such surprise.”
“Ouch, what did I step on.” Eijlam pulled his foot up to take a closer look. He found only his pride had been damaged. But that didn’t last long as Fionna distracted him with what she’d found under the sand.
“What is it?” She held up the large shell. It was polished iridescent on its surface and curled around like a rams horn with a smooth pink interior.
“It was once home to a mollusk.” Eijlam explained. “They do not easily give up their shells.”
“Where did it come from,” Fi asked.
“There are many such creatures in the waters under the footbridge. I mean, where the footbridge once was.” He pointed toward the river estuary.
“This one is large. It must have been an elder mollusk.” Eijlam added as he peered at the glint of colors shining off its exterior.
“Then we will take its wisdom to our new home.” Fionna handed the huge shell to Eijlam. He showed her how to hear the ocean in it by holding the opening to her ear. They headed back toward Eldelórne.
As much as they loved Thendiel’s grand home they wanted a place of their own. Eijlam and Fionna had spent days searching through the empty homes in the village. Fionna reverently placed the large elder mollusk shell on their chosen doorstep. She heard the great tree sigh with joy as she ran her hand along the smooth brown wall of the entryway. Eijlam smiled at Fionna’s wonder at everything that he’d taken for granted. Eldelórne was new experience for her. She had been raised by a wizard in a small cottage near a city. Fionna didn’t even realize what she was until Eijlam showed up and told her about the lives of Edhelath.
“I am sorry I frightened you,” Eijlam said out-loud from thinking about the old memory. Fionna put a hand on his shoulder and snapped him back to the present time.
“You were in your first rebirth and had no control over such things,” she assured him.
“I thought I had lost you,” He looked anguished. The separation that followed such a mindless blunder was almost more than he could handle at the time.
“This is a wound that must heal,” Fionna instinctively knew.
“Come, we will make our bed and you can tell me what you feel and I will listen.” Fionna softly smiled and Eijlam nodded as he let her pull him away.
At every meeting the wizard Farghal traveled from Illianheni directly into Ilmatar. They would travel beyond the well into the woods. Thendiel’s nausea stopped after several journeys. She started to like the sensations of this realm. Once it accepted you it felt similar to elder trees. She now understood why the ilmari called it home.
“Seven days now, I have had the same strange dream,” Thendiel confided, as she sat down on the familiar green hillock.
“What kind of dream,” ilmari Farghal asked.
“Please, do tell us,” Sibelast urged, nibbling on a blade of grass. She had not noticed before how Sibelast’s spots formed into what looked like a gray vest and flat hat as he sat up tall on his haunches.
“My dream is disturbing.” Thendiel poked at the soft sandy loam beneath her.
“I see a bed that is covered in gemstones and carved symbols that seem familiar, but I cannot read them.”
The ilmari soberly glanced at each other as her story unfolded.
“The surrounding room is open to lands that sparkle with colors and textures I could never have imagined. This part of my dream may change, but one thing always remains the same. Two youths come to me and lay down, one on each side.” Thendiel rolled onto her back, basking in the sensation of their embrace in her mind.
“The one to my right is as dark as the new moon with eyes that shine like stars and the other to my left is as pale as the brightest sun. They are both equally pleasing to the senses and love me dearly. I would be loathed choose which is my favorite. I know they are both of equal importance.” Thendiel’s eyes suddenly filled with tears.
“I would give my own life before choosing one over the other. The dream made me feel so unhappy. My heart broke for the loss of them upon waking. Surely I would not have rejected either one!” Thendiel felt a piercing agony. She grasped her medallion. Its violent swirling calmed as she willed her mind to calm. Thendiel slowly pulled herself up to a sitting position and searched their faces expecting an answer. The ilmari’s silence was revealing.
“What could this mean,” she prodded her friends. “Is this dream the illicit ramblings of my adolescent mind or is there something I must learn?”
The ilmari looked at each other. They both knew something they would not or could not reveal.
“We are not exactly sure. We hoped bringing you to Ilmatar would delay any such, dreams,” Farghal finally confessed.
“You knew I would have dreams?” Thendiel demanded.
“Yes, you are coming of age and,” Farghal started to say.
“You are an oracle, of sorts,” Sibelast chimed in.
“Oracle?” Thendiel scowled.
“Did YOU do this to me?” She questioned.
“No,” Master Farghal said, which was slightly less than half the truth. “You are a natural,” He added a flourish of the paw for effect.
“There is so much that can be interpreted incorrectly in dream visions. We could lead you astray by even trying to make sense of them when the proper time is not near,” Sibelast quickly explained.
“I suppose you are right. I will just have to continue to trust in your wise council,” Thendiel grumped.
“I am a natural, what,” she directed at Farghal.
“Seer, you are a natural seer,” he said.
“Visions,” Thendiel curiously thought to herself.
She did trust the wizards. How could she not after all this time? Thendiel’s mind reeled with so many questions. She was determined to find out all the answers.
“Time will tell,” she said with narrowed eyes. The ilmari nervously agreed with a formal bow. After a short rest Thendiel followed them down a path that she knew would take her home.
Maybe it was that they had each other. Maybe it was from the gentler way of coming up out of the ocean waves, but the anticipated emotional pain from rebirth never surfaced in any of Thendiel’s clan. Fionna listened to their memories of the cult and of Ilmatar. With each telling it was easier to set it aside and move on. The small family found happiness. Even Roevash caught himself smiling for the first time in ages.
Weapons and armor that had been a daily part of their lives were carefully cleaned and stored away. They were replaced by tunics and tools used for crafting and fixing. Eldelórne woke from its long slumber as the couples scoured the once abandoned village for things that would help start their new lives together.
Naalin wanted to pay respects to the island they had named, Tol Haudh. The place would always be considered a tomb because of the kinslaying that occurred there. Roevash and Naalin decided to start rebuilding the wharf and find out what ships were salvageable.
Soon Naalin identified one ship that would be sail worthy, and then another thought crossed her mind.
“If we can make this work we all could sail to the Capitol City and save ourselves the long walk across the hot desert of the Lunto Plains,” Naalin announced.
Roevash sat at her side looking agreeable.
“It would be a faster way to travel,” Eijlam could see the sense in it. He was relieved to spare Fionna such a long journey on foot.
The doorstop on the tree across the woven platform from Fionna and Eijlam’s home was opened. Naalin and Roevash had moved in. With a rush of joy Fionna ran through the new front doorway and hugged her sister who was busy organizing a new kitchen.
“You and Roe decided to move out of the elder tree?” Fionna was aghast at the thought of it. Naalin just grinned as she placed a ladle near the hearth area.
Fionna sat down at the huge counter like table that dominated the first room. She thought the place had the cozy feel of a tavern with a sitting area near another hearth across the room. The large wooden rocking chair already waited there for evening gatherings. Fionna smiled at that.
“We, neither one of us could stand being so far away from you. This old village, it is very large.” Naalin brandished a thick cloth in her hand.
“Especially now as it stands empty.” She pulled a pan of honey bread, hot from the oven and set it to cool on the large counter between them.
“I certainly have missed the smell of my sister’s baking.” Fionna’s mouth watered when Naalin shoved some honey-butter at her to slather over the bread.
“There are too many memories in the home of his youth. Roevash thought it a better idea to break from the past. I did agree,” Naalin confided. “If trouble should find us, it is better to be close.”
Fionna agreed. Horrors of the recent past were not lost on her.
“How are the repairs going down at the docks? Do you need more help?” Fionna suddenly realized Eijlam had been hovering and keeping her away from the heavy lifting.
“My ship will be a worthy sailing vessel again,” Naalin excitedly said.
“Your ship,” Fi asked.
“Yes, my ship,” Naalin said, grinning from ear to ear.
“I was its captain long ago. So many seasons have come and gone since that time. The ship was in such disrepair I did not recognize the old derelict at first.” Naalin looked sideways at her sister.
“It was a rare thing that could pry me away from my ship. Thankfully, he has decided to help me rebuild it,” she giggled.
Naalin sat down and cut the steamy bread and handed a portion to Fionna on a delicate plate that was carved out of a clear flat-stone.
“Oh, I forgot the drink.” Naalin motioned across the counter top. Fionna obediently reached over and carefully slid a jug of freshly prepared juice closer to herself. Picking up one of the matching stone cups she poured it half-full. She passed it to Naalin who had just finished laying out a couple of three pronged forks to eat with.
“You love sailing that much?” Fionna marveled.
“Yes, I do. It is in our blood,” Naalin proudly said.
“I never though of myself sailing on oceans,” Fionna admitted.
“It is in our blood,” Naalin repeated. “You may surprise yourself.”
“Did you know Roe has a dense fear of deep water.” Fionna added as she took in a big satisfying bite of the honey bread. Naalin stopped her munching and stared.
“He did not tell me he was earth-bound, though I should have suspected as much.” She frowned. “I can see his unease on the deck,” she sighed.
“No matter,” Naalin took a sip of her juice. “Roe and I are bound in this life together and I would not have it any other way.”
“His fear has something to do with Eijlam and deep water. I think EJ almost drown once.” Fionna reminded herself to ask him about that.
“All this time and neither one of them has come forward to explain it to me.” Fionna shook her head, surprised by that revelation.
“This type of ship is built for trade along shorelines. It is not made for deep water.” Naalin explained, ignoring Fionna’s puzzled face.
“That should be some consolation then,” Fionna said.
“We should be able to sail to Drustnlach soon. Roe must sail with me at least that much.” Naalin decided. “That will be enough. He can bring our son home.”
“Yes,” Fionna and all of Eldelórne agreed with a silent whisper.
Eijlam gazed out toward the sparkling ocean over the branch railing that wove around the front of the entryway. The rush of glittering light and sound of sleepy waves put him at ease. The view was breathtaking.
“I dreamt of watching many young elflings playing in the sand below,” Eijlam said. Fionna smiled as she leaned in next to him. Gulls squawked in the distance.
“Eldelórne should always be a place of peace for all edhel no matter how few we might be,” Fionna touched her belly, stroking her unborn as she spoke.
A slight breeze moved her hair back from her shoulder. Eijlam put an arm around her and hugged her to himself. They silently looked out over the sandy beach together.
“I miss you, my beloved,” Fionna whispered to Eijlam. Her breath sent a numb shiver up the back of his neck. Every fiber of his body yearned for her but he restrained himself fearing harm in her condition.
“You cannot hurt me,” Fionna said, reading his thoughts.
“I, I do not know,” Eijlam whispered low, as the familiar nausea rose and he blanched. Fionna ran her hand down his spine and felt the tension in his body.
“Naalin tells me it is okay,” Fionna assured him.
Ej gazed longingly at her, not sure of her words.
“Naalin lived when normal village life was abundant and she helped our mother with many who were expecting. She told me it will be all right, EJ, are you listening?”
Whimpering softly, he sunk down to his knees gently holding her belly to the side of his face.
“She must never know the pain that we have endured, Fionna. We have to keep her safe.”
“Her own papa cannot harm her. I am certain, my love.” Eijlam did not get to say another word. Fionna’s lips found his as she took him up into her warm embrace.
Eijlam could not deny the rise of his passion as he hungrily kissed down the curve of her neck. He cradled her in his arms and carried her over the threshold to their private chambers. The door latch clunked solidly closed behind them, assuring all the privacy they desired.
Princess Elanoreth rocked Elgelion in her arms. The little one giggled as the momentum pulled at his tiny body. She smiled and laughed at the happy faces El made.
“You are going to be such a handful when you start crawling. I can see it in your eyes. You will be into everything!”
Elgelion squirmed out of her lap down to the floor where she turned him over.
“You cannot get away, hahaha.” She tickled his tummy and listened to his wide eyed screeching.
Cael came in through the door with purchases from the grocer. He smiled at seeing their antics as he put away the foods into the cupboards. He was happy to be living near the capitol again. His whole life was here. He looked over at Elanoreth. She was the most beautiful girl he ever knew. Cael shook his head trying to get the idea of hugging her passionately out of his mind.
He loved the princess dearly but she was, the princess. Cael was glad his tongue was removed so he would not say anything stupid. He felt his cheeks turn red. So many deliciously disastrous things kept popping into his mind. Cael felt idiotic these days, and oddly numb around the princess. It never used to be this way when they were younger.
“Gods save me,” Cael scolded himself as he watched Elanoreth play with the elfling.
At first he innocently pretended the three of them were a real family. The house seemed brighter everyday when she came to visit.
The casual comfort of her friendship gave him thoughts of touching her and even kissing her. Cael tried to shake those thoughts out of his skull.
“Without the benefits of true spoken devotion, it cannot be as such between us even if I had a tongue in my mouth,” Cael struggled to keep his ridiculous thoughts in check.
He meekly smiled as he watched Elanoreth roll around on the floor with the baby elfling clinging to her front.
“Lucky Elgelion,” he thought with a sigh.
Cael turned sadly away to make them some boiled something-or-other for breakfast.
It had been about six weeks since the courier from Fort Vehlevar brought him news that the elves were all safe in Eldelórne. Cael thought he would have heard from them by now. He didn’t worry. He was unusually distracted as of late. He could not imagine a day without his best friend Elanoreth.
While he was deep in thought Elanoreth snuck up behind him and tickled him. He turned and laughed as he reached out and tickled her giggling bodice in return. Realizing what he had done he quickly pulled his hand back and blushed. Elgelion squealed in delight at all the fun.
“You are too serious,” Elanoreth said as she marched around him.
“I love you,” he said boldly but she could not understand his tongueless words. He smiled to himself knowing he could say anything.
“I want to kiss your sweet lips,” he blurted.
Elanoreth just laughed at his funny sounds and smiled, twirling around with the giggling Elgelion. The fun continued unhindered by his secret desire. Elanoreth’s long hair flowed like a veil in the momentum of her dance. Cael thought the moment seemed to slow as his eyes took it all in.
“I am sorry Cael I will have to leave you fine gents alone for breakfast.”
Cael snapped back to reality.
Elanoreth sat the elfling down, reached out and quickly hugged Cael cheek to cheek to say goodbye and whisked out the door. Cael sighed at the solid latch clicking behind her.
“You need to learn to sing,” Cael said to the little one who was laying on his back busily investigating his own toes. His suggestion sounded like noise in the room but Elgelion didn’t care.
“You are the light, Eijlam,” Fionna said with a smile and gentle hip-check. He was hovering while she scrambled the eggs for breakfast. Fionna leaned into his shoulder and he put his arms around her.
“So, If you can lead them away from the silence of the taur,” Roevash repeated what he thought he understood. “And, if the damage is not too severe your light can heal?” Roevash nodded, a puzzled look on his face. He had never thought much about the Lordes and Ilmatar in the past but now that they had been there, and returned, he found it fascinating.
“The undome taurë is a great twilight forest,” Eijlam motioned to clunk his brother on the head with his fork. He thought better of it and instead bolted past to find a place to sit down at the table.
“The lion attack you suffered when I first found you is a good example.” Eijlam went on. “It was your own decision to come back that made it possible for your survival.”
“But I first found you,” Roevash corrected Eijlam as he passed a basket of fruit to him.
“No, I found you,” Eijlam countered, taking a bite out of an apple as he set the basket down in front of Fionna.
“No, I knew of you before you knew of me, little brother.”
They bantered back and forth until Fionna cleared her throat and they both quietly surrendered their silliness.
“Fionna’s tattoos from the Shadowcult are removed. I took her into the threshold,” Eijlam triumphantly said changing the subject.
“Now Eijlam, you just told me you cannot take someone into the threshold for healing.” Roevash was confused.
“Fionna and I are heart-bonded,” Eijlam reminded his brother.
“That is why her spirit can follow me. Like when we found you,” Eijlam grinned knowing his brother would start arguing that frivolous point again. Roevash just gave him a narrow eyed smirk.
Fionna pulled up her sleeve to show Roevash the rune marks were gone.
“The marks separated from me like droplets of oil. They floated away to the dark edges beyond the light.”
Fionna was glad to be rid of the reminders of the torture that she had endured at the hands of the cult priests.
“It was like being healed, in a way,” she said as she reached for a cup.
“It is good you could do that EJ,” Roevash said. “The markings, they must have had a magical effect. I could feel it,” he confessed. “I am glad they are gone.” Roevash stuffed some bread in his mouth and silently chewed.
Seeing his brother’s discomfort Eijlam changed the subject again to something more pleasant.
“We will soon travel to Autumwood Kingdom and thank King Ellinduil after we bring Elgelion and Cael back,” Eijlam reminded everyone.
“Is there anything, a gift of some kind we could bring him?” Naalin asked.
An over ripe plum exploded its juice down the front of Fionna. Eijlam almost lost track of what they were talking about as his eyes followed the juice drip down Fionna’s neck. She put the plum down with a scowl. Eijlam handed her a dry cloth to wipe off her front.
“Our king has seen at least fourteen thousand years in long memory if not more. I imagine there is not much else he could desire.” Roevash said with a scowl. He did not like the Autumwood forest land or the odd king.
“What can you give to a king who has already had everything this realm could offer,” Fionna asked.
“I think just being alive is gift enough for him.” Eijlam cleaned a drop of juice off Fionna’s face with a quick kiss.
Naalin felt sorry for Ellinduil. “His kingdom, which spreads all this way to Eldelórne, continues to be shielded from prying eyes because of his strong magics. It must feel desolate being there all alone,” her voice trickled away.
“Then we will bring noise to his palace. That might be the best gift of all,” Eijlam smiled. Everyone happily nodded in agreement as they finished their breakfast.
The normally hot delta weather still blew cold as the grasp of winter loosened its grasp. Thendiel walked with the mature dignity of adolescence across the Illianheni footbridge. She kept her hair braided in several long strands that hung down past her waist. A colorful shawl clung tightly around her shoulders for warmth in the chilling breeze.
Mornings sparkled with ice crystals that formed in the night only to quickly melt away at the arrival of the morning sun. Master Farghal solemnly nodded as she met him on the path. With one hand on her amulet Thendiel easily followed him into the landscape of Ilmatar.
Lorde Lourien’s gardens were so peaceful Thendiel did not want to leave it, but this was to be her final lesson. She would miss watching the transparent souls of humans and the spirits of edhel as they mingled like wispy clouds in the garden.
“I had brought you to this place so you would not be afraid if you should ever find yourself here on your own. Exposure to Ilmatar has also strengthened the fiber of your being.” Master Farghal said. “There may come a time when you will have to persist here for a short time without my help or guidance.” He frowned.
Thendiel felt melancholy knowing that soon, Master Farghal was going to bring her home, and she was going to have to live a life in the mundane mortal realm.
“For your final lesson Thendiel you will be allowed to witness the, Heart of Ilmatar, and learn of its long memory.” Farghal solemnly smiled through his bearded face and took her by the hand. With a blink of an eye he brought her into the presence of a large round disc the size of a drawn coach or carriage. Thendiel sensed that they were still in the middle of the garden but it had subtly changed somehow. She knew they had traveled a great distance somewhere and at the same time they stood in the exact same place as they were seconds ago. As Thendiel looked around she could see the layers that surrounded them like a protective shield and wondered, “Why all the secrecy?”
“That is exactly what we are here to find out,” Farghal answered her thoughts.
The stone before them was chiseled perfectly smooth. Thendiel had the urge to run her hands on it but she forced herself to respectfully stand back. Master Sibelast smiled at Thendiel in greeting as he sparkled into existence nearby and came to join the lesson.
The stone was pure iridescent white on one side, spinning slowly on its edge in perfect balance. As they watched it come around to the other side it was as polished obsidian.
“Our High King has named this, Annon’mor. Some have called it the, Black Gate, but you can see it is equally light as well as dark. It is the one thing that many fear,” Farghal said with a touch of sadness in his voice.
“The Annon’mor moves and stands on its own accord. You will find it at the heart of all you see and feel in creation.”
“Can I touch it?” Thendiel put her hand out.
“It would not be wise to disturb her for she is at rest right now,” Farghal whispered reverently and respectfully bowed towards the Heart of Ilmatar.
Not touching the stone filled Thendiel with such overwhelming remorse. She didn’t understand but she obediently withdrew her hand. She felt her heart breaking and didn’t know why.
“And now for the long memory: The ilmari were here before the age of the Annon’mor.” Sensing Thendiel’s growing distress the wizard quickly ushered her away, taking her back to the safety of Lorde Lourien’s gardens.
“We were the first. A formless thought back then, in something like turbulent water. Somehow, throughout time we woke. We desired peace from the constant churning river of chaos and those of us who had come into such awareness joined in a fight to exist.”
Sibelast turned serious as he leaned toward her. ”Chaos is made of a never ending assault to the senses. It is not where you would desire to be once you have been, on a more peaceful plain.” Thendiel let out a tiny gasp. Farghal continued as if not noticing the exchange.
“Blind we came out of the waves, the first ilmari. The edge we found was full of new sensations that changed us. We stumbled forward onto the new realm. Then light appeared and we discovered sight. With sight came even greater desire for an order of things.”
“We were granted subtle magics and set to the task designing a place where life would flourish. The gardens come from our thoughts and desires. It was the first aria that poured forth through our minds.” Farghal nodded at Sibelast.
“Someone was helping you,” Thendiel asked.
“We believe it was Ilmatar herself, the Great Mother of Creation, who guided our efforts.” Sibelast answered.
“In successive waves there were formed many minds and spirits,” Farghal explained.
“The Lordes came with their ability to wield a radiant tone. This ability alone set them apart. With their new found powers of authority, and as the keepers of chaos’s will, the Lordes marched forward into our realm. Others followed with great anthems that filled Ilmatar with the brilliance of song and light. This realm was profoundly changed by those struggles.”
The genesis of creation was much more complex and strewn with incomprehensible hostile conflict and disaster before a balance was truly formed. A billion waves had come from the chaos, bringing forth all manner of unending tribulation throughout one hundred millennium of ilmari memory but Master Farghal had to convey the story in short ideas that Thendiel’s young mind could grasp.
“The queen, she was sleeping,” Thendiel asked, “is that why we are in the winter season?”
“Yes, Thendiel, the queen mother rests but her mind is always on many things too numerous to speak in any tongue.” Farghal smiled at Thendiel’s quickness to understand the depth of such things. He felt hope for the future and more confidence than he had in a long time. He nodded at Sibelast who took the opportunity to say his goodbyes and disappear.
“With that it is time for you to go.” Farghal took Thendiel’s hand and affectionately wrapped it around his arm and patted it there. He led her forward out of Ilmatar back to the gardens of Illianheni.
“Know this Thendiel,” he looked into her eyes as he spoke. “Ilmari always stand together, guarding the realms from chaos.” With those last words Master Farghal said his kindly goodbye, turned and disappeared into the mist beyond her sight.
It had been many years since Thendiel had secretly started schooling with the wizards and she had a sense of hollowness at its end. She felt she was truly alone for the first time in her whole life.
Thendiel slowly turned to walk down the long path that lead back to her home in Eldelórne. She shivered in the coolness of the misty morning. As she did, the air surrounding her warmed. Flowers bloomed where her feet touched winter’s cold ground. Springtime was born early that season in Eldelórne.
“Do you know her name?” Eijlam asked as he gazed lovingly at Fionna. She bumped him aside with her hip as she picked up the dirty clothes basket and headed out to scrub it in the water on the beach.
“No, she has not yet awoken to me my love,” Fionna smiled at him.
“You and I, we could go into Ilmatar and visit her spirit, see what she looks like.” Eijlam tried to suggest.
“No, really EJ, we should let this happen naturally,” Fionna glanced coyly at him, not wanting to give up her power as a traditional edhel mother.
“She will speak to me when she is ready,” she reached over and poked Eijlam in the soft spot under his arm to make him jump.
EJ liked the way Fionna’s eyes sparkled at him.
“We made up for lost time in the night.” He grinned from ear to ear.
“Now there is my Eijlam,” Fionna kissed him. It made him feel content to see her so lighthearted. Her happiness also made his mind heal faster but he found he did feel oddly queasy sometimes.
“Maybe you are having nesting sickness,” Fionna told him.
He smiled at the thought and wondered if that was really a thing.
Fionna could sense a slight stretchy heaviness even though elflings were so tiny when they were born, you could hold one in the palm of your hand. Carrying a little one certainly did not slow her down. Fionna felt more energy than she had in her whole life and she did like all the attention.
Fionna tried not to be alarmed thinking about how there were no experienced elderhis to help her with the birth. Naalin was her only source of information. Fionna had to trust that when the time came Eijlam would not let her or their daughter come to any harm.
“If he does not faint first,” she chuckled to herself.
She looked over at Eijlam. He was gleefully rolling around on the beach scratching his back. She shook her head as she pulled the wash out of the water and threw the wet clothes up over a nearby bush to dry. A fist full of sand hit her square between her shoulders. Fionna growled swinging around to scold Eijlam, finding herself bouncing off his taut chest. He was covered from head to toe in wet sand.
“You will do the, um, cleaning” she started to say.
“I will do the cleaning,” he repeated her words in his most silvery voice. His breath tickled her lips. Fionna inhaled deeply as he continued to deliciously rub handfuls of wet sand across her body.
“Hmmmm?” he wordlessly asked as she softened in his grip.
“I should have known we were not done,” Fionna whispered as her sleepy gaze studied his sand covered face.
“In a thousand years I will never be done with my Fionna.” Eijlam’s eyes begged, his hands dropping to his sides.
“Do not stop EJ,” she half-heartedly whined when he stopped massaging her skin. “Why do you vex me so?”
“Sleep with me,” he spoke words he had said to her so long ago. This time, he was not met with rejection. Fionna dropped what she was doing and slid down his bare chest. She took his sand covered hand and guided it over her warm wet skin. The waves were amazingly soft that evening in the Eldelórne inlet as the golden sun slid lazily into the horizon.
Fionna woke to the sound of splashing waves, sea birds and Eijlam humming next to her where they lay on the beach. She curled herself closer into his warm side and slowly opened her eyes. He was weaving something out of long strands of sedge grass.
“It is a hat,” he quietly said with his cute crooked smile. His pale hair tumbled across his shoulders as he leaned over to try it on her.
“This is for shading your eyes from the bright sun.”
Sure enough it was the perfect shape for her head with a wide brim ending in a woven spray of grass.
“When did you learn how to make a hat?”
“I just remembered. My mother taught me. I had not woven one since, hmm, a long time ago.” His expression had a tinge of sadness, but then instantly brightened up in seeing Fionna wearing her new hat.
“I love it EJ,” she kissed him and giggled. A light breeze lifted it off her head. Fionna tried to catch it as it slid tickling down her back. Eijlam grabbed the hat up and put it back into her hands.
“Everyone is going to want one of these,” She said.
Eijlam rolled over and hugged Fionna around the belly. She plopped the hat on his head and smiled.
“Roe knows how to make them as well. He has just forgotten. I cannot wait to see the look on his face when he sees you wearing one.”
“So, you will do the cleaning then?” Fionna looked at him sternly.
“You will be a great mother, Fionna.” Eijlam grinned. “You have that look in your eyes down perfectly.” Fionna playfully grabbed the hat and lightly knuckle rapped him on the top of his head.
“Ow, you have all the moves. Our elflings had better be born good,” Eijlam teased, dodging another swipe that just missed him by a hair as he rolled away to standing. Fionna was right up after him. Eijlam slowly ran stumbling, hoping she would tackle him.
“What is that?” Fionna stopped and squinted toward the oceans edge.
“Looks like a body. Is it alive,” Eijlam wondered, as they took off jogging toward the lump on the beach. Whomever or whatever it was, it was inching its way out of the water.
“Cael, we need a secret door knock.” Elanoreth rapped a short seven beat rhythm on the table. Cael grinned at her and nodded. She smiled when he imitated the rhythm back for her.
“Then you will know it is me and not some stranger knocking to get in.” Elanoreth hugged Elgelion cheek to cheek and he giggled.
“Nobody else visits,” Cael thought with a shrug. He wished he could talk about his feelings. The Shadowcult had taken all that away with his tongue.
“This is all for the best,” He told himself.
“She is a princess and you, Cael, you are nothing but an old childhood playmate and her former royal guard. You have the empty head and the empty mouth as a clear reminder of your failure to protect Elanoreth when she needed you most.” The voices in his mind were relentlessly brutal today. Cael stood up and went to the kitchen to take out his disappointment in life on some potatoes that needed beating.
“You take such good care of El,” Elanoreth smiled at him and began to sing a sweet tune.
Cael liked to hear her voice. He was glad she felt so comfortable around him even though he had failed her. He wailed on the bowl of potatoes with gusto until they were thoroughly mashed.
“Cael,” Elanoreth appeared next to his shoulder and he froze.
“I am taking El to the bath house. Would you like to join us?” Her breath puffed sweetly on his ear paralyzing his senses. He pointed at the food he was working on and shrugged his shoulders signaling that he would be busy awhile.
“Okay, You know where you can find us.” Elanoreth smiled as she turned to go.
Cael daydreamed that Elanoreth beckoned him into the pool as the backdoor latch clicked shut.
“Would she be naked in the water,” Cael wondered. Like a siren Elanoreth held out her flowing arms to pull him in close. As he reached out to join her, his hand knocked over the milk and it spilled wet all down the front of him. Jumping back from his accursed daydream, Cael pursed his lips and let out a moan of resignation, not wanting to deal with the slogging mess he was standing in.
“Ugh, So much for mashed potatoes.” He shook his head in frustration. Hastily pulling off his shirt and trousers he cleaned up the floor and counter top. He found some dry clothes in his chest of drawers and put them on.
“Elanoreth does not feel the same for me,” Cael sadly told himself, kicking his wet clothes under the bed. It had not been easy staying at this property with Elanoreth coming and going around him. He heard the backdoor latch click again.
“My brother requested that I attend some special meeting tonight over a fancy meal,” Elanoreth announced as she came into the room. “I cannot wait to find out what is so pressing it demands the attention of all of his siblings.”
Elanoreth was not even damp. She had given Elgelion a bath.
“I am an idiot,” Cael chuckled at himself and went over to help with the little one. After setting the freshly dried elfling into Cael’s arms, Elanoreth hugged them both like she always did and whisked away out the door.
“Bye,” Cael sighed as the latch clicked behind her again. He set Elgelion next to him on the freshly cleaned counter top. Cael picked up a spoon and went back to smashing potatoes before too much quiet descended on the room.
“Who are you,” Eijlam asked as their visitor retched up sea water and struggled to pull themselves up on hands and knees. Fionna and Eijlam’s efforts to help was met with flailing and hissing. The stranger fearfully looked up at them through dark red eyes.
“The skin is grey like slate,” Fionna whispered in Eijlam’s mind as they took a cautious step back. An odd sound came from the throat that sounded like a growl and it snapped fanged teeth at them.
“I think that was meant as a threat,” Eijlam said.
“I think they are frightened.” Fionna knelt down to be on the same level.
“I can see that,” Eijlam said.
“Whomever it is, they are small and have edhel features. Ashen skin, in all my days I have never heard of such a thing,” Fionna said.
“I am curious to know where they came from? Be careful, Fionna.” Eijlam could see she was inching forward toward the visitor to try to communicate.
“Well, we cannot just leave them here.” Fionna was right about that.
“I have never heard this tongue either,” Eijlam said of the odd guttural language.
Fionna extended her hand. The stranger scowled at it and backed away snarling.
“Come on, I mean to help.” Fionna put on her kindest face.
“It reacts like an animal,” Eijlam said.
“You would too if you found yourself surrounded by strangers,” Fionna answered him.
“No, I am certain I would never behave like that,” Eijlam assured her.
“They are hurt.” Fionna saw large puncture wounds on the leg and lower back. Blood gushed with every move it made.
“You are going to bleed to death. Please, stop.” Fionna snatched at a wrist and caught it. The face snarled louder this time and bit at Fionna, missing her arm by a hair.
“Stop,” Fionna growled, pulling back. The creature froze. He was glaring curiously at her use of its own language. Eijlam wanted to unsheathe his dagger but he saw it glance at his hand. He did not want this stranger to decide to fight, with Fionna between them.
“You must not touch the crown prince,” it spat a directive, staring angrily at Fionna’s hand, but she would not let go.
“You are injured,” Fionna growled. “Let us help you.”
“What are you,” the visitors mistrusting eyes popped back to Fionna’s face as it hissed.
“I am Edhelath. My name is Fionna. Do you have a name?” She tried to remain friendly.
“To tell you my name would be to surrender my will.” The prince angrily glared.
“I am not your enemy,” Fionna firmly said.
“I am brought to die, away from my kin. Death may come by your hand. I care not,” the prince snarled, his eyes rolling toward Eijlam and his weapon.
It was obvious to Fionna the prince did not agree with the tormentors who injured him. He did not get to say more about it as Roevash grabbed him up kicking and squalling in a tight bearhug.
“What is all this?” Roevash curiously examined the dark grey of the angry visitor’s skin as he avoided claws and gnashing fangs.
“Careful, he is bleeding. He says he is a prince,” Fionna informed them, as they marched back to Eldelórne.
“You mean princess,” Eijlam corrected her.
“No, he definitely said prince.”
Fionna took off her tunic and held pressure against the prince’s bleeding thigh, which seemed to be the worst of his injuries.
Roevash hung on tight, ignoring the weakening thrashing. The grey skinned prince fell silent. Roevash knew not to be fooled into loosening his grip, but that was another long story.
“The princess has fainted,” he announced, shifting the unconscious body into a tightly cradled arm. Eijlam ran forward to get his rope.
“Really, you think tying him up is going to help with his trust issues,” Fionna loudly complained after him.
“Sorry Fionna, clearly this one has a death wish of some kind. We cannot take any chances until we sort this out,” Roevash firmly said.
“Nice to see you are back Roe. I was beginning to worry about you.” Fionna smirked at his bossy attitude. She plopped her hat on her head.
“Yeah, me too, Nice hat,” Roevash humorously smirked back at her, ignoring Fionna’s agitation.
“What is this?” Naalin came running out to meet them.
“Wherever this prince or princess comes from, they do not bother with finery.” Roevash pointed out the nakedness of the body he carried.
“Maybe she lost her clothes in the ocean.” Naalin shrugged.
“Could be.” Roevash grinned at Naalin.
“Nice hat,” Naalin looked at Fionna and smiled.
“I can make you one.” Roevash’s eyes brightened at the thought of doing that.
“Good,” Naalin nodded in approval as they started up the steps into Thendiel’s elder tree home.
Roevash carefully lay the grey skinned visitor on Thendiel’s bed. Fionna ran for bandages while Eijlam tied the unconscious stranger so that it could not attack Fionna.
It really did not matter how he tied the knots. Eijlam’s rope was magical and would never release their unknown guest unless he willed it to do so.
The prince’s dark red eyes shot open, pupil slits dilating, ready for a fight. His wounds were wrapped in bandages and he wore a long tunic. None of which he had ever seen before. Restrained like a prisoner, this he recognized. He frantically pulled against the rope.
“Stop thrashing! You will open your wounds.” Fionna quickly came across the room. She put a hand on the prince and could hear him cursing his captors.
“Stop, please. You will open your wounds. We are not your enemy,” Fionna repeated in his tongue. “I only wish to help you.” Fionna locked into his dark glare.
“Why do you persist,” he angrily spat. “I am to die, not live.”
“Well, then tell me your name.” Fionna started where she had left off. “If you are to die. What does it matter?” Fionna shrugged her shoulders.
“You are speaking in dragon tongue,” Naalin told Fionna as she came into the room. The prince shot the new intruder an angry look.
“Do you know of edhel?” Naalin spoke fluently in dragon. He looked curiously at her.
“No, I fight nog for my king. Our father was once proud of his sons.” He visibly choked back a cry, not wanting to look weak in the face of his enemies.
“You look more like a daughter to me,” Naalin said, confused.
“I am cursed,” he could not hold in angry tears any longer.
“Oh, I feel sad for you.” Fionna wanted to console the prince but she did not know how.
“Tell us, how is it you came to speak in the tongue of the dragon?” Fionna gently asked.
“I AM DRAGON,” the prince piteously roared.
“Our curiosity may get us all killed with this one,” Eijlam said in Fionna’s mind as he came in through the door to join them.
Naalin looked fearfully in their direction and they could see she would agree with their thoughts.
“What is going on? I heard shouting,” Roevash came bashing in through the door. The prince looked horrified.
“It is okay,” Fionna tried to reassure him. “Roevash is one of us.”
“What are you,” the prince screamed.
“He is half-darjal’n,” Naalin quickly answered.
Roevash backed off a few steps sadly familiar with this kind of reaction to his appearance.
“No, no, nooo, too much,” the prince cried. Curling over into a ball on the bed he went silent.
“Do you think he has gone into hibernation sleep?” Naalin reached over to check.
“This one has not experienced very much except a war of some kind,” Fionna told them. “She or he was a soldier for the dragons but he keeps saying he is a prince?”
“Of dragons,” Eijlam finished her sentence.
“Does that make her, it, is this actually a dragon,” Naalin asked wide eyed.
“Can we give them a name so we can know of whom or what we are speaking,” Roevash growled. He was tired of the confused language.
“If it is truly a dragon it might transform back at any moment. We should take it outside,” Eijlam strongly suggested.
“Can dragons transform into dark skinned edhel,” Roevash asked.
“I do not think they can,” Naalin spoke from past information she had learned while in service to King Ellinduil centuries ago.
“The prince said he was cursed,” Fionna pointed out. “And, can we please just all agree that he is a prince of some kind?” Fionna stared, exasperated with Roevash.
“I am not convinced of anything. I suggest we speak in the other room,” Roevash suspiciously eyed the visitor.
“Yes,” Eijlam encouraged Fionna to move away from the bedside by placing a hand on her shoulder.
“He cannot leave without going past us in the other room,” Naalin assured Fionna.
“Not that it can go anywhere wrapped up like a goat in EJ’s mallorn ropes,” Fionna sighed, shaking her head.
Eijlam nodded and they all filed out of the bedroom door. The air grew thick with silence. They had all just spent the last six weeks convalescing from their own problems and no one knew where to begin.
“Clearly, this one is mad and she tried to harm herself by confronting a dragon,” Roevash spoke first.
“I honestly do not think he is mad.Distraught maybe, but not mad,” Fionna shook her head. Roevash kept talking over her.
“Now we are the ones being made hostage here.” He threw up his hands, “Whatever it is.” Roevash felt helpless. He wanted to forget all this and get back to the plan of retrieving his son. He was not up to strategizing right now.
“Serious, whomever they are they speak perfect dragon,” Naalin pointed out.
“How do you know dragon tongue,” Fionna asked.
“We were taught many things while in service to our king,” Naalin vaguely put that out there.
“How do you explain the dark grey mottled skin,” Eijlam blurted.
“And the wounds were certainly tooth marks. As if they were bitten or carried in a dragon’s mouth,” Fionna added.
“A dragon would have killed and eaten them had they been anywhere near its mouth. They must somehow be a friend,” Eijlam trailed off.
“Or, family,” Fionna added in growing frustration.
“I was carried in a dragon’s mouth. Its teeth could have easily sliced into me had it clamped down hard, but it did not,” Naalin spoke.
“It was under the control of Lorde Surmanos,” she added. Everyone sat stunned for a moment.
“You never told us that.” Fionna reached out and squeezed Naalin’s arm.
“The black dragon brought me back to the Dragonlord. I wanted to forget about that.” Naalin tiredly looked at Fionna.
“I am sorry I had to bring it up.” Naalin sadly gazed into Roevash’s eyes and saw his mounting guilt.
“It was not your fault Roe. We are all victims of the mad god,” Naalin firmly said. “Most of all, you,” she gently added.
“Dakein said the black dragon was a prince,” Eijlam’s eyes shifted to Roevash. His brother was rubbing his face, unhappy with the way this conversation was pointing.
“By the gods, is this one of the black dragon’s siblings?” Roevash shook his head, recalling the conversation with Dakein.
“There are more?” Fionna looked around the room horrified.
“They would be called hatchlings, and yes there are always three, maybe four in a clutch,” Naalin solemnly stated. Everyone moaned falling back into their chairs. Roevash stood up and paced around. He stopped to lean on the kitchen hearth. He looked at the flames.
“None of us are up to handling this kind of thing,” Eijlam pointed out.
“I would say just give her what she desires and end her now,” Roevash suffered with thoughts of the mad god somehow having a foothold in this realm again.
“No,” Fionna firmly said. “We are all judged by our own actions. This, whatever they are, did not want to die, even though they were attacked or sent away,” Fionna told what she had sensed in their visitor. “The wounds might mean the prince was helped. There is more going on here and we need more information. I want to continue to try talk to him when he wakes.” Fionna had decided. She tiredly looked around at all the glum faces.
“Everything Ellinduil has taught me about dragons tells me it is never a good idea to talk with one. They twist meanings, enthrall and destroy your will. You are putting yourself in danger.” Eijlam scowled in protest at Fionna.
”I will not let my guard down. If this is truly a dragon, the black dragon’s sibling, we are all in danger,” Roevash growled not agreeing with any of this.
“We cannot ignore that something more is going on,” Fionna firmly argued. She worried about the bigger picture.
“We are stronger together.” Naalin reached out to Roevash. He sat down next to her and she wrapped her arms around him.
“Okay,” he begrudgingly agreed. “But I will kill it if this looks like it is going sideways. Even a hairs breath.”
Cael had not seen Elanoreth for many days. He began to worry but then came the special knock. Elanoreth fell into his arms, stumbling through the door. Her red rimmed eyes immediately clued him in that something was very wrong.
“Why are you crying? What is going on?” Cael stood shocked at Elanoreth’s behavior. He had never seen her so out of control. She answered his tongueless pleadings.
“I have run away from home,” Elanoreth sobbed.
She was the Princess fifth in line to the throne so running away from home usually meant sneaking out of the palace which she had been doing quite regularly since he’d arrived. For some reason Cael was sure the castle guards would be out looking for her this time.
Elanoreth paced around frantically, vowing never to go back, and Cael wanted to know why. He gently guided her over toward the cushions so she could sit but she refused.
“My brother has received an offer for my hand in marriage. I am being bartered for like livestock. I would be sent far away to the northern reaches on a scarcely known island kingdom,” she sorrowfully lamented.
“My brother, the high king, expects me to agree to this, but I do not wish to go! I would not leave my homeland and, and you, Cael,” Elanoreth burst into more tears.
Cael was devastated. He could not go against his king’s wishes but this hardly seemed fair. His heart was breaking as he fought back stinging tears of shock and built up frustration.
“No, I love you. You cannot go,” he firmly said, but Cael’s tongueless voice made no sense to her.
“I knew you would listen to me. Look what a spoiled woman I have grown into. Playing house like a child with you and Elgelion. Abandoning my duty to my country,” she moaned, her eyes betraying her true desire even as the words fell from her mouth.
Elgelion seemed to know something was wrong and he started to fuss. Elanoreth took him gently in her arms. Cael hugged his arms around them both. It was the first time he dared be so forward but time was running out for them.
“Please Cael would you have me? Do you feel for me as I do for you? You have always been my closest and dearest,” she spoke softly as she reached to open his shirt.
Cael could feel her body’s hunger as he cut her words off with the kiss he’d always dreamed of. It was wonderful, soft and passionate. Cael felt dizzied as hands touched skin.
Elanoreth set Elgelion in the cradle and came back to him. He was glad to finally embrace her.
The needling voice started as a whisper in the back of Cael’s mind, “Elanoreth is not a commoner. She has a duty to her king, even if that king is her own brother.”
He could not take her away from her duty by clouding her judgment with such treasonous actions no matter how much he wanted to. Cael’s arms refused to let her go until he made himself think about how they might cut off his hands, or worse if caught in an act of unbridled passion.
“Stop, I cannot,” he moaned as he gently cleaved her away.
“Speak to me through your actions as we share our love,” the princess whispered in heated desperation. She tore his shirt off his shoulders and down to his waist. Elanoreth ran her small hands down his hard muscular chest. Cael’s skin glowed golden in the dingy light that flowed through the single window. Her eyes drank in every satisfying inch of him as they stood suspended in delicious mind numbing tension. Elanoreth’s fingers fumbled with his knotted belt. It took every fiber in Cael’s will to stop himself.
“It was never supposed to be this way. She was going to leave. There would never be a happy ending for us in this story.” Cael’s mind shouted.
The princess did not understand. Feeling rejected and hurt she hysterically cried out when his hands held her back from him. Elanoreth turned and bolted for the door.
“Brother or not, this is going to get me hanged,” Cael panicked. He grabbed for her, ripping her back to himself, he kissed her passionately against his burning naked chest. He could feel her body melt in his strong grip as he pressed her body into the wall.
“I –OV -OO,” he said as slow and clear as he could.
“You love me?” Elanoreth regarded his serious face.
“Ess,” he nodded. His eyes begged her to understand.
“I am sorry Cael. I, I am so sorry, I have burdened you as such.” Elanoreth seemed to come back to her senses having realized what she had just put him through.
“You are a grown man. We are no longer childhood companions,” She sadly said.
“I have no right to play on your emotions in such a way. Please forgive me.” She seemed like the friend he’d always known as she pulled herself together, straightening out her clothes. He could only stand in front of her half naked, seriously regarding what he was giving up, as his own senses struggled to calm. Elanoreth grimaced and hugged Cael.
“Someday I would gladly share myself with you but it should happen for the right reasons,” he mumbled gibberish over her shoulder.
“Thank you Cael, for reminding me what you really mean to me,” Elanoreth said as she gazed up into his strong handsome face. She kissed him gently one last time on the lips, turned and was gone.
“Gods, why do I have to be so damn virtuous?” Cael’s rock hard body fell back into a chair, his fists gently pounding his face.
Elgelion was looking on silently as he gnawed on the edge of the wooden cradle.
“Do not give me that look El. Someday it will all come clear when you suffer at the hands of a woman. Come on,” Cael took a deep breath and shook out his trousers as he picked up the squirmy elfling.
“We will lay in the grass awhile and cool off.” Cael suddenly felt nauseous as he stiffly walked through the back door. He distracted himself by thinking how he would write the perfect words professing his love for Elanoreth.
He would have them read the letter in front of the whole court. She asked for his help and help he would bring.
“Ugh, by the gods,” Cael sighed, unable to relax the burning in his gut as he plopped down in the cool grass.
”Do you think her brother, the king, would consider marrying us,” Cael asked Elgelion who slumped over playing with a bug he’d found. He chuckled at the distraction.
“You are right El,” Cael sighed, stretching his body flat on the ground knowing the King’s permission was never going to happen.
Tales of Eldelorne: Book Two by Karleigh Bon, copyrights reserved 2014 to present.