Elfwood is the worlds largest SciFi & Fantasy community.
- 149203 members, 6 online now.
- 14205 site visitors the last 24 hours.
After so many millennia and the blending of species, (like the Milesians against the native Tuathans, who themselves conquered the Fir Bolg) the Roth really do defer from their Tuathan ancestry. The names of the continents on Erta have changed three times, once during the battles, again during the Tuathan occupations, and finally when the two races blend, somewhat after the tentative truce between the Sligh’loch and Danbar tribes. The Roth separate from the other Tuathans due to a conflict in the Filidh which arises because, now free from the cetel sung by Amergin the bard, many soldiers now yearn for revenge. They are not granted the privilege to exact punishment and justice against those that had controlled them. Mostly soldiers akin to war, the Roth’s war-like natures have only just cooled a bit, and they still behold grudges with the Anduine beings…their reason for their journey back to Caran Erta, First Earth.
The Tuathans who went on to occupy the planet of Aberaan, as it came to be known, were philosophers, smiths, architects, farmhands and servants remaining after the war with the Milesians on Earth and the Division of the people. The world of Aberaan was primitive then, as the galaxy itself was only several billion years old, and evolution had been soft and slow on the new planet. The tuarth, or countryside, was marvelous, and this is why they called it Tuarta, it looked so much like their Eire of old. The Tuathan race was always one with nature, limiting the amount of their own exploits, and many native creatures adapted to the Tuathan occupation. Some species of fauna, however, mostly those who were carnivorous, like Aeife’s kind, prospered by preying upon the new arrivals. But some natives began to disappear, like the Trenets and the Legions of the Tree that occupied their warped, misshapen trunks, due to pressures by the Tuathan’s own livestock brought from their home world and Erta. Sheep, deer, and horses all rode in the holds of the wormhole mothership. Their ecological impact was ever so small, and the Tuathan Filidh figured they would benefit most creatures rather than impede them. But the soils could not handle hoofed animals as there are none like them on Aberaan, and being unable to adapt to savanna-like conditions, many flora began to disappear, and those higher in the chain followed.
“He’s coming! He’s coming!” The youngblood cries out, sloshing red-faced through the miry warren of the street. Her yellow summer dress is spattered with road grime and fresh grass stains.
She takes a misstep, catches the other ankle with her sandal, stumbles, then careens headlong into a woman hunched over a wooden barrel full of wash.
“Sorry ma’am!” She jumps up and scoots off.
The drudge utters a curse under her breath and stoops to pick up the clothes. “Slow down child!” She says with a huff. “Who’s coming?” Her eyes are thin slits as they follow her. She notes it is that pretty, quiet youngblood again.
Already far down the muddy lane, the youngblood turns about in an excited jump and shouts, “Father is coming, Freleah! Father is coming!” Her arms spread eagerly with excitement.
Freleah lets go of her burden of laundry with a look of disbelief, placing her wrinkled hands upon wide hips. “Your father?” She dashes to an open doorway nearby, calling several names.
Ambling along the Provincial Road into town is a beautiful white stallion. A broad-shouldered man is perched atop the horse"s back, hunched over in the saddle, his plain robes, like that of a monk, dusty and sweat-stained.
Talking in hushed whispers, a small crowd begins to follow the horse with its load of bent rider.
Haggard green eyes glance behind from beneath the earth-toned hood, eyeing the throng as if a wolf searching a herd for his prey.
How many more of you shall die before my eyes?
More Tuathans rush forth from their homes, their necks craning over the growing masses to see the source of the commotion. Arms rise up in welcome. Shouts of recognition ring out.
He knows he should dismount to greet the villagers, but decides against it. Fears keep him seated upon his painful perch; his legs might betray him, buckle from beneath him. A great sign of weakness he could not afford.
A familiar youngblood trots up to the lorist’s side, her long golden hair standing out in the growing crowd. Clutching the rider’s robe with a small, pale hand, she tugs lightly, looking up with eager cyan-shaded eyes.
The rider’s face beams recognition. There she is! I wonder where her mother is? The thought of her makes his heart jump. Our Lady. He reaches down, scooping up the child and placing her in his lap.
“A place has been cleared for you in the market, father.” The youngblood blurts and looks earthward, suddenly shy. Two pointed ears, sticking out of the blond locks, go red along the inner pinna with embarrassment.
The lorist smiles a warm, lopsided grin, then places his hand on the tiny flaxen head. “Go find your mother and wait for me, then. I shall be there shortly.”
"Is Uncle coming too?"
The lorist looks down and away. “No sweety, I’m sorry he is not with me this time.”
The child nods as he plants a tender kiss on her forehead, eyes brimming as he sets her to the ground, then scurries off.
Two eyes peering out of the shadows trail the child’s movements. A well-camouflaged soldier abandons his post near the dark alley that had been secluding his shape.
Alert yellow-green eyes watch the soldier, but the reins stay loose as the lorist’s hand clenches them tighter. He will be neither noticed nor missed. It may not have been prudent to come here before the trial.
At a turn in the road, Asgoroth’s market gleams at the rider with resplendent colors, rainbows of banners and cloth streaming delicately in an unfelt wind. Tent after vibrant tent line the road on either side, tables and mats displaying cooking wares from Noraenah, carts of succulent vegetables and fruits from southern Tuarta, cages full of panting creatures, from Khandor, all beneath the octagonal shapes of shade. In the heat of the late afternoon, the smell of fresh meat and fish is overwhelming, a prize in the lorist’s nose.
His stomach grumbles.
Meat. He hadn’t eaten it since the Burning Ceremony nearly a week before. Two fangs droop into sight upon his parched lips.
Hunger must wait. He shakes off the urge, but the wafting temptation remains.
Bedrock-embellished housing, the village proper, leans over the narrow street, banners of the proprietors hanging as drapes from the rounded, black-paned bay windows, thin sheets of obsidian glass hemmed in with spirals of dark wood. And yet, many banners that had hung from the sills of those obsidian windows, some those he knew, he wished to see aloft, but had gone missing. Narrow corridors between the buildings brimmed with hidden garden alcoves and arbored sidewalks trailing off to backdrops of trees with gargantuan trunks, where empty benches sprawled before statues of Elder warriors. The old one that once fed the native creatures upon that same bench near Great Taerib’s marble foot was absent, he noted with dismay.
A bard’s mourning lilt begins to catch in the lorist’s dry throat.
The square tapers around a bend at an intersection, gone its summer attraction, commodities brought by wayfarers from the Sister Moons. It is empty and hollow, more desolate than the gardens of the nobles, its tall, pictographic wooden columns standing starkly alone, rounded green floors beaming brightly in the waning eve’s light. His mount’s feet scuffle along at its own echo on the patterned stone.
Radiant with bejeweled splendor, the town’s Hall of Assembly appears around the last corner. Villagers have already started to gather together beneath the rounded archways of the open-aired building, seated within interweaving semicircular stands, their faces eager with anticipation.
By birthright noble blood holds the left side of the stands, enjoying the warmth of the western light as it wanes.
They rise as his commanding eyes meet theirs back, silkworm robes glistening with House crests and extravagant colors. One mouths, “Unexpected party,” then slinks away. He does not see the young lord of the ruling House standing amid the wiseblood.
It is a visible warning but also a gesture from an ally. The lorist would need allies soon, he knew, when the magistrate summoned him at the turn of the next cycle.
Can laws question the nature of love once more? The mere thought tears a gash in the lorist’s heart. And the trinket that had found the Master would need to be handed over to its rightful owner.
This time his journey is different than the many before. He also carries with him a message desperate to be heard, more powerful and life altering than any story he had ever told.
Asgoroth would not bear another attack were it to yet again be invaded. The small community would probably not survive through the first wave of an assault with the battlements so far from completion. The village Elder, if one could call him such, knew nothing of tactics, counter measures and politics, unlike his father had, before him.
The group following behind starts to surround the lorist, patting his mount to reassure it. The rider can only nod at their many greetings, trapped amidst their pressing bodies. Taking an end of his robe in their hands and touching it to their foreheads reverently, they mumble wishes to the lorist for better harvests and rain as they share his presence with one another.
The lorist grunts, waiting as the villagers make way for him, and as they hesitantly part the space about him, he dismounts with torment as his stiff legs rub against the stallion"s side to touch the ground. Fire creeps up his calves, then subsides. Triumphantly he has not faltered.
Emerging from the pressing crowd, the youngblood grabs the reins from the lorist’s trembling hand.
“Daughter, take my mount and go.” The lorist says, withdrawing the hood still covering his head. A mass of brown hair falls across his shoulders, then wavers further as it settles near his waist. Both of the points of his ears, already pricked, twitch, catching the murmurs.
The lorist draws in his strength with a deep breath. Casually, he looks over at the posturing man, parting the last of the crowd and closing the gap.
He would have to do this now, wouldn’t he?
The chieftain of Asgoroth stops a few feet away from Aranince, lifting his chin to display the torc about his neck, a rather unnecessary display as he posed no threat to any wisebloods the lorist knew.
With a decisive nod from the overbearing noble, soldiers wall them both in.
What does he want? Aranince eyes the camouflaged soldiers warily. Their barrages of green and brown linen designs cloak their muscular bodies in coats of falling leaves. None of the men can look him directly in the eye. Handcrafted longbows are still strung over their narrow shoulders.
A good sign.
The chieftain, on the other hand, carries no protection. The lorist knows the noble has never seen a battle in action, even from a distance. The callow lord is too young to remember evacuating when Asgoroth first burned, the night his mother had died.
The Burning Ceremony. The recently celebrated anniversary night, a time when the surviving villagers held their 18th cycle festival, flashes through his mind’s eye. Tables of meats, fish, and goods from across the solar system, salutations and Death Songs sung long past the shadow of the star, marriage pacts, all integral parts of the event.
So many things to remember.
Aranince turns to his horse and pats him fondly. Munching pleasantly, grazing had rewarded the mountain creature with a mouthful of tender grasses. He loosens the straps on its saddle, pulls the blanket out from underneath and shakes it out.
Sitting down upon the textile blanket, the Filidh’s lorist fingers a fold of his robe for his pipe and leather pouch. Taking pinches from the satchel, he gingerly packs the pipe with aromatic blue leaves.
Lasairë, a peddler whose retired goods Aranince often purchased, hands him a shaken drink. As the trembling hands pull back, the lorist grabs them and places several shiny chrome credits in the sweaty palm. The stricken Tuathan breaks down, sobbing once.
A woman rushes to light the lorist’s smoke with a fire-tipped branch. Kindly he accepts with a slight inclination of his hand. She lowers the fire to the piece; the lorist takes long, slow drags from the pipe until he exhales a plume of ashen smoke. He nods his thanks to her, wipes off the mouthpiece of the pipe as is customary, then passes it over to the closest villager.
“Now, where did I leave off the last cycle I visited?” He says, studying the crowd patiently.
“The War! Start with the Milesian War!”
“Recall the Great Migration for us!”
“Recite the lore of our first home!”
Then the roar is deafening, and there is no telling what is being said.
Aranince leans back on one hand, pipe smoke drifting about him, and folds his legs beneath him. He will be rooted in the spot for a long while in order to satisfy them all.
He did it surely for a great cause; he was one of the few who had survived the Great Migration, the separation of the Houses, and the tribulations that followed the Division. He knows the history of his people so well he dreams of it in his sleep, and with great accuracy, as much of the knowledge he draws from is personal experience, not just lore and history.
He is the last of his kind, a lorist, an Elder of the Filidh in name but not in body, the tribe of vision poets. His father had been a lorist, as was his father’s father, fifteen generations into the past, though many of them had forgotten...forgotten so much more that they were, that he is now.
He looks over at the sun-gilt youngblood, his child, and into the child"s eyes. They gaze back, full of expectation.
Aranince feels a tie her, but not so much because of his blood running swiftly through her veins. The general had been a good friend, and Aranince had accepted geise and made vows to oversee a legacy as his demise neared within the tent of wounded so long ago, another life, another time. The lorist had held true to his promise to her mother, a consummation of their love since childhood, the blessing that was their union. One union of many. One lifetime of many. E pluribus unum, the old conquerers would have devised.
Mandalane. Often he consulted with his brother Torren over the matter of the little one’s mother, who would smile knowingly.
The youngblood cocks his head at the lorist, still casually holding the reins of his chewing mount.
“Do you recall where I left off, youngblood?” Aranince asks the child above the clamor.
“Mother always says that when there is truth to be told, you should start with the beginning.” The beautiful eyes dart away.
Was that a flicker of shame? For one of my blood she certainly is a shy one. Aranince considers. “You are right, I should start with the beginning, but before I do, I must eat, as we all should.” He clears his throat and raises his voice. “This tale will be long, and all should be comfortable-" his voice booms across the semicircular building- "This is a story no Tuathan has ever heard, yet have desired to hear in their hearts. All of you, go home and get some warm food in your bellies, and come back with something nice to sit upon.”
Noisy with undertones, the crowd breaks away, but the youngblood stays close to the lorist’s side as he carefully tucks the returned piece and satchel away.
The lorist glances up. “What is troubling you?” He reaches out a hand to her head, patting it gently with a deep affection.
The girl’s lower lip trembles. “Mother says you are welcome to eat with us, if you wish.”
“Oh?” Curious, he hadn’t seen her ask her. He looks around. Where is she? She should be here. “When did she say that?”
“Before you came to town I asked her.”
The lorist looks at her incredulously. “How did you know I was coming? You saw me in the fields, right?” He assumes, as many had seen him coming through them.
Her head nods for a moment, then shakes furiously. “You won’t believe me. Mother does not believe me either.”
“Go on, tell me.”
“A bird told me.”
Aranince nods absently. When had she learned bird speech?
“What color were its eyes, little one?”
“They were as blue as the Taer fo Thuinn, land of waves, sir.” She hesitates, her cerulean eyes distancing as he recalls a memory, the sparkling sight of the sea. “It spoke as you do, across the land.”-She spread her skinny arms as wide as they would go to demonstrate-“He said that he knew me, but I know him not. What does that mean?”
“It means you have to keep your wits about you, little one.” Aranince rises with the crackling of joints, grasping the grimy hand of the youngblood with one hand and the reins of his mount in the other. How could she be so full of certainty, calm, as if evil had never occurred to her? All children her age have heard the stories. Is she a mirror of courage, or a source of innocence?
“Let’s go see what your mother is cooking for us.” The lorist allows his daughter to lead him stiffly.
He missed her. It seemed like only yesterday he had last saw her, but felt like years had passed.
The small arm tugs him toward one of the muddy roads leading away from the market.
“Trenets, why will you not speak to me this night?”
Echoes of his feet, and Aeife’s long, curved claws clicking across ancient roots reach his keen ears. But the old forest is silent; not a tremor of leaf disturbs the misted wood.
They are the tallest trees in the copse, malevolent and malicious, with bulbous midsections and sinewy branches covered in a coat of slender thorns. Spiny arms continue upward out of sight, intermingling in the canopy, one too towering for his sharp eyes to see through the haze. No other kinds of trees grow near them, he notes, as in the other Trenet forests he had visited. Little sunlight penetrates to this depth beneath the canopy of thorns above.
Why the stands of carnivores had never preyed upon him, he knew not.
He can still smell the cooking fires from the encampment, woody and pungent. A thousand men and three ships worth of supplies are camped upon the shores of the harbor, all under his command.
The Filidh has uttered that it could not be done.
They will prove wrong.
Brush moves, and Aeife’s massive, feather-crested head swings back to peer behind them, nearby their feet. Drool dribbles from the fleshy pink tongue hanging from the black reptilian jaws.
He stops, turning about-face. “I know there is someone there. Pray do come out and show yourself to us, or Aeife will hunt you as prey, no doubt.”
Patiently he waits, knowing they will come, feeling their beating hearts and a few wings speed up through minute vibrations in the crisp air. His long ears go erect as a barrier forms between his mind and the prying mental eyes of the Trenets, one of their best offenses.
Yes, reveal yourselves. That fear, mingled with curiosity, will guide you into my awaiting hands.
First a tiny beak, then two large, wide eyes stare out from the foliage near the trunk of a towering Trenet.
Aeife pounces, teeth bared and limbs flailing wildly.
“No!” He catches Aeife by his feathered tail, holding on as well as he can. He is dragged to a stop as the command sinks into the headstrong will of the reptile. “No, Aeife.” He says calmly. He walks forward, placing his hand on the reptile’s hard, muscular backside.
He is certain he had heard more.
Aurimps again, scaly scourges of the forest. They seem ready and eager to be twisted into ideal soldiers. They had hidden from him at first, but each new meeting had spawned more curious fellows to come too close.
They are lucky to be alive for the places they have chosen to call home; they will be unlucky if they defy me again this night.
They were not as primitive as he had first imagined when he and his allies had encountered another group of them cycles ago. Even now, the small creatures’ abilities never ceased to amaze him. The Aurimps were resourceful, crafty, and cunning, stealing his soldiers’ food, dragging off weapons, armor and livestock. His army had nearly starved, and if it had not been for the fields of nearby farmers, his plans would have failed.
“Why have you come here? The stench of war is upon you.” The Aurimp stretches languidly, leaves crunching ever so slightly. “They say you are death-walking.”
Chiding, he delivers his rhetoric. “Death Walking? No. I am defending a geise. Aeife, on the other hand…” He steals a sidelong glance. The feathered reptile stares back intensely with one almond shaped red eye, the other orbit fixed on the Aurimp. Its black crest bobs once, pleading for the hunt. “Ask your hosts, if you will, for they do not speak to me tonight.”
The Aurimp quivers once at the reptile. “Aeife, eh? You look not like those you lead to death.” The gangly, blue scaled creature emerges from its hiding place. “Alas, your kind has caused our Brother Trees much pain with your need to burn things. My hosts believe you have come for them again.”
“No, I am not like them. I am different. I fear flames, like you, and your hosts.” He smirks.
The tiny creature misses the lie. “To choose to be among those who are not like you must be a life of fear.” Its eyes peer up at Aeife, and it gulps audibly.
The Tuathan kneels down. “It is, my friend. But to live within those who would feast upon you, that is a rather fearful life in itself.”
“But to not face your fears is to never understand them. We learned the Trenet speech, and made peace. Now they are a part of us. Perhaps, they always were a part of us.” The Aurimp places a hand upon the trunk of Trenet flesh, not once pierced by the quills.
Patting the scales of Aeife’s solid bipedal legs, he says, “Certainly it was not you who has angered them so.”
“They are angry with you, not us. You once helped them to breathe easier, and now you have robbed them.” The imp says. "They have ceased dropping their seedpods for us to relish and eat. You have robbed us as well, by your antics."
“Not directly, nor intentionally. Tell me, what have I taken to offend your friends?” He knows he is treading on ice more thin than in a Spring melt.
He bows his head. “I, Gideon, High Aurimp of Red Twin Brother Trees, was informed that you have stolen their dead.” He says solemnly.
High Aurimp…the Tuathan searches the creature for the mark, and yes, there are three lines along its blue scaled calf. He is taken aback. How could that detail have been missed? I help them to breathe but have stolen their dead…wait…the campfires! “We confused the fallen with branches in the darkness. Had it been light, we could have seen the difference.” Quickly, gently, he places his hands upon a gnarled root, the only part of them not covered in quills.
Hear me, Trenet. We meant you no harm. I swear to you this geise: I will repair the damage I have done to you in any way you see fit.
Tensely he waits.
“I see not how you could have missed what kind of firewood you were gathering. Your death-walkers’ hands must have been riddled with wounds.” Gideon snaps.
“Hush. I await your host’s reply.” He retorts.
Leaves rustle with a tame wind, and the Tuathan’s long ears grasp the Trenet"s unified whisper as the roots beneath his fingers quiver: “In three days time, you must take them from the clearing where they have burned and bring their ashes back to us. Sprinkle them upon our roots, as they were meant to have been. Then you will be forgiven for your misdeed.”
It will be done, then, Great Trenet. Is this all you require of me?
“It will suffice, Daelarion.”
Daelarion. Long had it been since anyone had uttered his true calling, his birth name.
The Elders know the House of Danu’s blood is pure, mayhap it is purest of all the Filidh’s guile fools. Half-breeds hold the reigns of history now, but that will change.
“Our little brothers told us of you, and what you had done for them.” The spines just above his hands dance in waves, imitating an irritated hive of honeybees. The Trenet is still angry, but calming. "As for becoming food to us..."
Daelarion gulps once. Would this be how it ended?
"...you are too sickly to become fertilizer. You serve a more useful purpose than dirt for us. You are our eyes and ears."
"Sickly? What would you know of that? You know me not."
"All of us know you, Daelarion, every Host of symbiotic means, even the parasites themselves, know your name."
Nearby the root where Daelarion has placed his hands, a blue flower-like creature has found a small niche to grow. Daelarion focuses on it, wondering. They all know me by name. The flower being yawns its petal at him, then vibrates the still air with fear.
“Finncaev.” He says simply, awed by the magic that had brought it to rest in a Trenet wood, a rather unlikely place. The Finncaev tended to bask beneath the light of warm stars, not in the shade of Trenet canopies, nor were blue, but grew bright yellow and orange blossoms.
A lack of starshine must have made it such a drab color.
When the Journey had commenced upon the Mother"s ship, the Finncaev had been vibrantly hued beneath the open bay port hole, and as they had pulled away from the star that warmed Caran Erta, the First Earth, they had dulled, withered and died. When the clans and Houses had all lain down in their honeycomb-like cells for hibernation, Daelarion recalled, only the Finncaev"s seed remained in the box beneath the star shine. The Healers had revived their kind when they had landed upon the new earthen planet.
He picks the Finncaev and brings it up to his face to admire the remarkable life stem, trembling in his hands, green blood trickling from the rip at the base. It always did fascinate him, the fact that they bled, and bled profusely, until their life force had ebbed away.
In times past, he may have shed a tear as a Finncaev died, as he had as a child upon the Mothership, one by one, until they were all dead.
But this night, he feels not sorrow nor guilt during the sad air of song it makes as it writhes in his hands, fading away. Lilting, sweet like the Mynewan Death Songs sung under the sea, its verse vibrates, swift the song on its way to the Fields where its kin grew, and they, too, would sway and sing of its parting under the bright sunshine.
The earthen stems and midnight blooms take a turn to sickly gray.
Rapidly withering, its body no longer as springy and vibrant as before, Daelarion lays the offering upon a grand root in the forest of Timberfolk. Aeife’s snort resounds with a hint of finale as his companion stands to leave.
Daelarion’s hand freezes near his neck, poised to scratch the thick scar across his jugular. Prolonged from healing, the incessant itch is bothersome and annoying. Each time he satiates his need to tear at the old wound it bleeds and burns, a red-hot magma searing across his flesh.
In an instant the dead Finncaev is in his tense hands. He rips a bite from it, chewing pleasantly, then licks his fingers, feeling his urges subside.
I must return to her so that I might find solace from this pain.
“Fare well, Brother Trees, Aurimps, and Timber folk. Come along, Aeife.” He waves his hand forward, gesturing at the reptile to follow. “We shall return to the men and our lady.”
The room about him is larger than her father"s house in the Village Proper, but much more homely. The modern hearth at the head of the table crackles with a low fire beneath a lively pot and lends warmth to the room. An iron kettle has been pulled aside from it and steams on rocks at the mouth.
An herb rack against the wall behind the lorist that once permeated the air with a flowery aroma stands empty. Freshly dried medicinals had once hung upside down on each rung. On its top is a shelf lined with glass jars in neat rows of varying sizes and shapes.
A worn tapestry hangs from the ceiling, dividing the sleeping quarters from the living area. It bears a winged animal winding about a tree, comprised of loops that end upon themselves, a crest flown for generations. Aranince recalls, cycles ago, when the crest hung from a blackened window in the Village Proper, above the many soldiers’ heads that would come each morning to send their wishes.
But they never saw it.
It is the youngblood’s heirloom now.
A writing desk, a small personal library, a music stand, and two or three small woodwinds stand alone near a closet. A small folk harp hangs from a peg on a stand all alone on a table set aside from the rest.
The wooden chair creaks beneath his shifting weight as Aranince pushes back from the table. “That was quite a meal, my love.” He says to the lithe woman sitting across from him as he leans back in the chair and belches with contentment. "Excuse me."
The woman’s round face blushes as she stands and straightens her dress. Her hazel eyes sparkle. “Why thank you.” She replies.
As she leans over him to remove his empty trencher, the smells of dark earth and animals, perfumes of the wild, fill his nose. The lorist feels the tremor, uncomfortable…primal. Another scent taunts him. He tilts forward to curb the moment from their child.
He is gracious when she goes to the hearth to ladle liquid from the kettle into cups, none the wiser. As she banks the fire, Aranince wipes his brow.
He reaches out to take a cup from her as she offers it to him. It is made of a beautiful, fragrant hardwood, and by the patterns of gray dots where spines had been removed, was once the flesh of a Trenet. He peers closely at the grain of the wood. He knew from which Trenet it had come from and wished he were still standing. He looks up, and their eyes meet. Her striking hazel pools pull his wolf eyes in with earthen waves. “Are you happy, my love?”
She smiles with understanding and takes the seat opposite him. She strokes a strand of strawberry-tinted hair from her face that had found its way out of the bun atop her head. A delicate finger pushes it behind a long ear. “I am more happy than I have ever been in my long lifetimes.”
Aranince smiles fondly. “That is everything I wish for you, for us, for everyone.”
“The day we were married was the most joyous day of my life.” She says, looking away as tears brim her eyes. "It took us so long."
The lorist pushes on. “It was hard on us all. You just needed to trust yourself.”
“And I do, because I trust in love.”
“Either good or bad, love is worth never forgetting.” He brightens. “You were one of the few women whom actually broke code and aided us all.”
“Please, this isn’t the first century anymore.” She glances away again, gazing into the wavering flames at the hearth, then continues. “That time, I could not believe what I saw.” She sips of her cup, easing back. “I made a geise to our ancestors that I would serve my mate.” Her eyes take on a look of reflection. “It was a revolt, a revolution, just as the Elders had wanted. I served my mate well, until that bloody rise, when he died…” She crosses her arms around her. Whispering, she barely makes out the last few words. “…when you died, strung against the remnants of that tree.”
Aranince nods empathetically, hoping she will hold up. “Truly. You were there for me, until the end, and witnessed the martyrdom of that self sacrifice on the Sen Magh.”
A lone tear escapes a corner of her eye, her resolve nearly breaking, but she is quick to wipe it away.
He continues, thankful that she is withstanding the memories, and takes into his warm hand her damp fingers, massaging them. “You would not have the freedom to indulge in this conversation now, had you, one of the Promised, not offended the Ancient Ones. I’m not certain our ancestors were offended by the Deserters, and that was what Erlina had said from the beginning.” Finally, she is coming to terms with her grief. We could not have made it this far a lifetime ago.
A subtle click catches their attention, and they fall silent, the lorist dropping his wife"s hand.
The knob of the door turns, and suddenly the door swings wide, creaking coarsely on its hinges. Outside it is dark with the night. Aranince jumps from his seat and brandishes a knife hidden in one of the folds of his robe.
“It’s just me.” The youngblood says as she pads in, pulling back on the heavy, round wooden door to close it.
It is the lorist’s turn to blush.
“Come sit with us.” Mandalane says. “There’s tea at the hearth.”
She quickly takes a seat.
Aranince eyes her, knowing he must be careful yet convincing.
“Before I go to the market tonight, I want you to see something.” The lorist looks at them both in turn. Mandalane nods knowingly. “What you are about to witness is for your eyes only, understand?” He says to his tiny daughter.
Her head bobs in agreement.
Aranince fingers an object hidden in a fold of his robe. He pulls it out and sets it on the table with the blunt sound of wood upon wood. The round, nut-shaped pendant is simple, plain. A silver cord is strung from a brass loop at its top.
“Your mother found this,” He says, thinking back.
|Not signed in...|