A long, and chilly night spent talking away the hours meant rest was sorely needed. Reverie was some time in coming and marred by fitful dreams.
Wingbeats. But not those of delicate turquoise that she had so often hugged to her breast. These were ebony with a single white pinion on each side.
A fieldmouse at play, not the slightest concerned by anything around him.
Great feathered wings came into view as a pair of talons reached to snatch the mouse away.
A pair of hands sought to cradle the mouse and they closed around it. But when they opened again, the mouse had perished for the hands had closed too tightly and suffocated that which they should have protected.
Her hands were wringing each other as the call of the owl flying into the distance echoed in her slowly-waking mind.
By his own words, she was hurting him. Her presence was slowly tearing him apart. And yet, he would not let her go. Again, by his own words, it would be his ending.
"Stay"; such a mundane sound and yet it held such power when he uttered it to her, a plea of his own she couldn't refuse.
She could have wielded a great power over him but chose not to. With two words, her dream could have become reality. But it was the man she loved; to have used that power would have been the ultimate betrayal of him.
She sat and read again the lines he had dictated. That "always" was not among the words on the first tore at her heart. It's best this way... for him at least.
"A test of trust and faith" the Gold Elf had said before the pair had set out on their impromptu trek.
Trust; either earned or given without reason. They had known each other only a few days but Riell found herself wanting to trust this woman.
Faith; a word with so very many connotations. It wasn't until they arrived at their destination she realised which Son'ya had referred to.
In a place surrounded by dangers was an island of peace and tranquility. Son'ya watched on silently as Riell halted abruptly still a dozen paces from the stone obelisks.
In the mind of the younger archer ran thoughts of a time of grief and great anger; a time when she had turned her back on faith in anything unseen. In her mind also ran the realisations that had come later; that the grief and the anger had been misplaced. That of course, brought guilt.
The path back to peace-of-mind would be harder and take longer she knew. Before she could find faith, she needed to deserve the very feelings that went along with it. So, here she now stood, unable to move closer and unable yet to explain why.
When they finally left the quiet serenity of the shrine, Riell's almost timid "Not yet." was met with a warm smile from Son'ya.
Last Edit: Apr 10, 2010 22:05:02 GMT -5 by darinder
She should have taken the caravan. The walk from Suzail to Greatgaunt is long and lonely and provides far too much time to think and to wallow.
Even though her eyes made their customary sweep of the lands around her, she saw nothing but a face surrounding dark green eyes. She saw in them loss and a lack of surety that morphed into determination born of desperation. Those looks she could bear but not the other, not the look of resigned expectation.
He expects me to leave or to turn my heart away. After all this time, he still thinks me that weak.
Even though the pain had subsided hours ago, she gingerly nursed her bandaged wrist noting the care with which those bandages had been applied.
Taking from me something so precious... surely he realises just how much he gave in return. Not all promises are broken. Not all intentions.
Oh yes, the walk was far too long and the few people she passed raised barely a nod from her. Taking her mentor's bow down from her shoulder, she made for the firepit; the combat dummy there provided hours of distracting practice.
Last Edit: Apr 13, 2010 0:13:24 GMT -5 by darinder
Complicated. That's how she'd described the situation to Trek. Even she had no idea at the time what an understatement that had been.
In the space of a week, three gifts had been given. The first two in a manner so gentle and thoughtful as to almost defy description. The third was also almost beyond belief but not for any gentleness; far from it.
And yet, that third was perhaps the most precious of all. Trust is born of faith but certainty is born of understanding. He had pierced the first and instilled the second. With certainty, something else had re-awoken.
She returned to that fateful place but found no sign; he'd seen to matters with his usual efficiency. That was fine; she expected nothing less. Besides, finding "proof" was the last thing on her mind.
She knew precisely where to look for she had carved the two runes herself. Sitting herself comfortably, she extended her right hand and quietly uttered a brief incantation. As the Weave bent to her will, she summoned forth a tiny amount of acid - not to wash away her careful carvings, but rather to soften the hard edges her blade had made in the stone.
Artistry was unnecessary for something stated so often or believed so thoroughly, but it would stand as a testament in any case.
Last Edit: Apr 15, 2010 3:02:19 GMT -5 by darinder
The two sat for hours in a quiet retreat. Quiet because no words were exchanged; not after his near breakdown. His hold was so tight, she couldn't have moved if she'd wanted to.
Questions; always had questions been her approach. For years, they had enjoyed verbal sparring but it wasn't enough; she didn't ask the questions she should, the questions he wanted her to.
"You are the best and the worst thing to ever have happened to me." His double-edged observation, given as it was through a veil of tears, only drove home how dangerous she was to him.
She grieved. Rocking in place, her own embrace around him as soft as could be, she searched inside herself. Slowly, so very slowly, determination born of love overcame her own wants.
She couldn't leave; that would destroy him. She couldn't stay; that would be a worse torture. She had the tools, more than he knew, and now she had the reason to use them. He had to leave her, he had to want to leave her.
She grieved for a friendship and a love that had been so very deep for so very long and that now must end.
They were all labels she could claim at one time or another. Yet, when anybody asked her what she was, her answer was always "Archer" or, more generally, "Warrior".
Try as she might, she still had the habit of seeing most things in life as a contest - a vying between two or more opposing forces. Like any good general, she had marshalled her resources, planned her strategy and made her opening gambits. A snide comment here, a withheld gesture there, and a little overbearing presence (to impinge on his pride and indepdendence) had all started to produce tiny cracks. More than once, he'd shown signs of genuine annoyance or hurt.
But the cost had already begun to mount faster on her side than on his; every little action took such an effort of will on her part for she faced two battles, not one. The inner one between her heart and mind, the sense of doing what she believed was right as against what she most wanted, was far more taxing than the outer one - the one "against" him.
So many times in the past few days, she'd slipped up. At best, conversations became shallow. At worst, they seemed totally pointless. Jokes that went nowhere, discussions that reached no conclusion, thoughts interrupted seemingly without reason ... and people had begun to notice.
Then, Eileanora found her. Riell didn't know whether to laugh or weep at her earnest warning. It was so very touching and yet, Riell couldn't bring herself to admit just how wrong the young woman's assessment of the situation was. How can I tell her that I am the one doing the hurting and not the one being hurt?
Her resolve had been shaky before, but the tender approach shook her to the core. Almost instinctive affection came to the fore as she sought to reassure Eileanora about him.
Sounding sincere wasn't difficult; the truth seldom is.
That was the one label she'd given up ever hoping for.
Family; she craved it, the sense of belonging and of a shared destiny. Family meant so much more to her than the simple words many of the Quessir lightly bandied around.
It wasn't to be, not in the realest sense. She knew that. Yet, with but a few words - made as an assumption, not even a request - he evoked such incredible pride and joy.
More than that, he showed hope. Hope for himself as much as anything; that alone was enough to quell much of her fear and anxiety. True, the hope was slim and might come at a cost she found unbearable but it was his hope. Riell would not deny him that. Her own "plans" dissolved as she imagined herself fostering an orphan. If his price must be paid, so be it. As long as I live, she will be watched over and cared for.
Despite her love, despite her very best intentions, one other thought still wafted occasionally through the mind of the young archer. She should have been ours.
A week. No, not a week but six nights, and each like a page in a book.
The first saw the Elven pair in Valkur's Roar. For once, not hunting or questing, not arguing or challenging, merely talking and taking pleasure. It was a wondrous night and day, almost too wondrous.
The second saw them make the long walk to Falcon's Forge. He had been reluctant to travel there at all but her pleasure at seeing the beauty of the first valley seemed to wash away that reluctance. The rain was cold, the grass was slick and flashes of lightning lit the sky but none of that mattered as they sat and talked ... and then more.
The third saw the same pair in Valkur's Roar again. And, again, they talked. Continuations of past themes, along with an admission that brought her pause - and no small amount of pain. But she withheld the question that came to mind.
The fourth saw a larger group set out to buy horses. A motley crew of Humans, Elves and Hin; they paused at one point for what Jen called a "group hug".
"This is how it should be. The races of the land can come together as people and as friends." Riell's warm words were echoed by all those present in a surprisingly tender moment.
At her request, the small band diverted to the Forge. Riell wanted Isabel to see where she hoped to one day make a home - a real home. She'd known the young minstrel only a few weeks but had already named her selli. "Dear gods, let her be more like Elissa than Abigail. Please."
As it turned out, the entire party stopped for a swim and chatted away the hours before breaking into smaller groupings. Standing on the hill outside the Forge itself, Riell stared wistfully through the light fog to a far-off corner of the valley. Without words, Isabel watched her and then smiled softly in understanding.
As Isabel stepped into the Forge building itself, Riell slipped a ring from her pocket and onto her ring finger. A ring she'd not dared to wear until now. It was a slender, delicate band of yellow gold with a single round emerald set within it. "No expectations. But always hope."
The sixth night, and again, Valkur's Roar was the setting. A venture into a crypt had nearly turned into disaster but he was there again. Talking and then resting beside her. Nothing more.
And still she held back the question his simple admission had raised those few nights ago.
Today... Today in Greatgaunt, he'd given at least one kind of answer without even being asked. And now she had to wait - maybe an entire week - before she'd get the chance to ask it properly.
Last Edit: May 2, 2010 12:54:43 GMT -5 by darinder
Her chance to ask came sooner than expected. His answer was not the one she had hoped for but it was so very close to what she had expected.
Her three words weren't enough for him.
The two words from him would never be spoken; not to her at least.
She gave him one word before turning away, as another single word played over and over in her mind; a cruel reminder of what once was and what should have been.
He did not let her leave.
She could dance with words but, before him, she was as a novice. So very many times, he had brought together phrases and sentences of such towering beauty; taking minutes (or even hours) to provide a fullness that came from nothing else. Just as often, a single word from him was all it took to halt or turn about her thinking. And so it was again.
One after another, her strategies failed.
He used logic. And when logic started to fail, he turned to emotion. And when raw emotion held no sway, he used her own words and her own promises.
Names and reminders, all these and more. Reassurances, confirmations, desperation; all these and more she saw and heard.
All the while, her battle waged on internally. "Right" against "want", love against guilt and the recognition of those parts of herself she had come to abhor.
Last Edit: May 3, 2010 20:57:13 GMT -5 by darinder
The final battle in her internal war had ended - with losers on both sides. "Right" lost. Desire lost. Only pain won out.
The whole night through he sat, watched, listened, and thought as she rested fitfully. Long into the following day, tired as they both were, they spoke and argued, cried and spoke again.
Hypocrites; they both deserved that label. Each insisting the other could find happiness with another - in time. Each denying it just as fervently of themselves.
A great fall can start from the tiniest of slips. Uncharacteristically, he made not one, but two. Either alone might have been allowed to pass but combined they hurt.
"I came so close to asking you..." His simple admission drove home how close she'd once been. When, minutes later, he spoke of a distant wedding and holding a first child that wasn't theirs, she realised he didn't understand after all.
For years, she had cared for him, loved him, and - yes - become obsessed. It was something she had recognised a long time past, something she thought he understood, something she had told him more than once.
"Nothing" "To forget. I want there to be nothing." A gallery of faces ran through her mind's eye - all women. But it was not any one of those faces that haunted her thuoghts. Rather, it was the twin reflections of her own face in his eyes that tormented her. Eyes that even now were studying her as intently as always, seeking some final means to dissuade her. A person cannot escape herself, no matter how far or fast she runs. "It's my fault."
. . . . .
In place of her fondest dream, she faced her worst nightmare.
That his own inner strength had started to return was her only solace, not that her solace could (or should) matter to him. She wanted to pray he'd find a way through, but she had nobody to pray to.
All that remained was to leave the field of battle and to tend to the wounded.
Last Edit: Apr 22, 2015 12:32:11 GMT -5 by darinder
A lull in their conversation began to stretch and, even though the silence was not exactly awkward, he filled it. "You know what... I'm tired of this place. Seeing as we're obviously not leaving right at this moment, will you come somewhere more refreshing to talk? I could use a swim."
"How do you propose we go anywhere if we're not leaving at this moment?"
"Well, we're not going to the caravans just yet," he spoke in a tone that gently mirrored the soft way he extended a hand towards her.
"We?" Staring at his offered hand for a moment, she pleaded, "Don't do this."
"If you want to stop me following you, you'll have to kill me. And you won't. Which means I will - If you leave, which you won't. Just come with me. I need a swim, and you need some fresh air and I daresay some water."
"Don't do this." She repeated plaintively, though she took his hand and stood. "What happened Riell?" He asked keeping his voice just loud enough to be heard over the nearby waterfall. "What brought this on so suddenly? I saw you, you were happy... you were actually fine... Even though you did hurt sometimes. There is no way you could have acted it out that well, else I don't know you at all."
"We happened, melamin. And it's not suddenly. I tried to tell you. How every thought, every word, every action... everything thought through again and again. And always... always that same illusion hovering in the background."
"You still smiled... laughed, joked, even played. ...You kissed me... and if you didn't enjoy it then I don't know your kisses at all." He paused then before continuing more softly, "This isn't an illusion... "Us", we're not an illusion, Riell." "I told you a story once," he started slowly, holding her right hand tenderly in his. "It was a story about needing. Like air." As he spoke, he drew the ring from her finger. His eyes not leaving hers, he continued, "And a story about beauty, like sunrise."
"How one is better than the other because it's appreciated rather than needed."
He nodded. "So you really are off your game, my friend." He released her hand and closed his palm around the ring. "You're right. You have hurt me. You've 'lessened' my strength. You've changed me. I've loved that you ever were, and still are... so close... that close that you can do it to me. I love it, Riell. If I never kissed you again, you could still do that to me. If I never saw you again, I would miss you more than I ever missed anything before in my life."
"I don't want to do that to you."
"I want you to." he said, firmly. "You don't see it, do you? How much you've helped me... How much you still help me."
She gaped at him then. "Helped? HELPED? Gods!... I... think for a moment..." she stammered over her words, trying to piece together some semblance of logic.
"I am thinking. Quite clearly, unlike a certain little green Elf." "Why aren't you gone? You are so desperate to leave, and yet you're still here..."
"Are we done talking?"
"You know I'll never be done talking."
She ran the tip of her tongue over her lower lip and looked away. "...But I am."
She started to rise, but he held her left hand and tugged her back down. The gold ring, palmed this whole time reappeared between two fingers as he started to slide it onto her finger. She snatched her hand away the instant she realised what he was doing but he held fast. "No. Don't." she pleaded. "If this was something you wanted, it wuold have happened freely. I told myself... I told myself if you ever asked, gods there was only one answer. But not if it came after a talk like this. I will not cage you. And, by the gods, that's what's happening here."
"I'm going with you. And if you're seeking nothing, then nothing is mine - except for you." He met her eyes squarely and asserted, "That's my choice to make."
"Don't do this. You've lived a life without regrets for so long... You don't want to marry. Be true to yourself, remember?"
"I am. This is my choice. Do with it what you will. Else keep your promise... But the caravan is that way if you're leaving. ... We're... leaving." He corrected himself quickly. "One of us cages the other, Riell. That's how it's always been... Except this time, it's my turn."
"You're asking me to pick between nothing and everything. What choice is that?"
"A painfully ironic one." "I am not the only satisfaction in the world for you. Nor should I be, nor should anyone else be."
"You are the only satisfaction I want."
"And that's why you need a friend to help you through this."
"After all this time, you still don't see. You are to me what she was to you."
"No Riell. Because if she had ever chosen another over me, it wouldn't have changed how I felt for her." It was then the young archer realised he truly didn't understand, she'd never made it clear that it wasn't some "ideal" she sought. "Too late now.'
"Let me show you that there is more. Or let me help you find someone who can.. who doesn't bring you pain."
"I don't want 'more'. I don't want 'other'. Just... let it go. Once was enough. I don't want your 'help'. I don't want it. Understand?" "My two options have been given, and you will have to take either one or the other. I'm not changing them. I suppose you could always simply decide which finger the ring fits better..."
For the first time in minutes, her eyes left his and dropped to her hand, still held in his. "Don't tempt me."
"A little late for that, isn't it?"
"Have you... have you any idea how much...," she paused to suck in a deep breath. "... how much I want this to be real? To be genuine and free?"
"I know. Perhaps now you have an idea of how much I refuse to let you go... So really it's quite fitting..."
Her face still lowered and with her eyes brimming over, she tried to force a lightness into her voice - a lightness that did not come. "I don't know about Mel, but Isabel is going to think I'm insane when I tell her." With that, she slid the ring from her left ring finger and placed it back onto her right. She sat as she always did, her back against the base of a tree. Before her was the vista of a waterfall-fed lake and a handsome Sun Elf lazing in the water. She didn't see it, she didn't hear it, she didn't feel the spray from the nearby waterfall or smell the damp morning grass.
He had watched but hadn't seen. He had listened but hadn't heard. He knew but he didn't understand. Fidgeting constantly, she moved her ring - his ring - from hand to hand. She would not - could not - bind him. She, however, was thoroughly caged; she had been for years.
The ring moved to her left hand and stayed there. "Let others think me bonded already; it's close enough to fact."
All day she hunted. Yet, it took less toll than had the few minutes spent at the Festival. She would have continued into the night if not for a crossing of paths. "Why is it some people are classed as 'enjoying pain' and others as 'accepting' in your mind?"
Melancholy took him as he struggled; in the end, avoiding an answer altogether.
His mood deepened still further at an unexpected turn. Mention of a book of lore and language produced not a spark of a hope, but rather a disconsolate look. "Has he given up already?" "Why can't you move forward, Riell? Why are you so obsessed about one single thing, that nothing else matters to you?"
"Nothing else? Everything matters to me."
"I'm not prepared to give up my entire life to follow you if you up and leave. So, which of us has 'matter issues'?" she asked quietly. Simple enough logic one might think. One would be wrong. "...I'm glad you're staying though." his expression became less playful, as his tone softened further.
"I've a job to do... for now."
"So, the key to keeping you here is simply to find you a new one if you ever complete this one. Noted. Alternatively I could simply work against you."
Arching a single brow, she jibed back, "And get an arrow in your chest?"
"You wouldn't kill me. I'd count on that with more than my life."
"I'm a good enough shot that I wouldn't need to kill you."
"What would that achieve?"
"Just knock you down enough to stop interfering."
"You should know better than any I don't need to be present for my work to be done."
"Neither do I. A good leader delegates after all," she continued on, trying to sound smug.
That evoked only a grin. "You should also know that I wouldn't need to target you. Do you really think I'm that foolish? Hmm?"
"I know your weaknesses, too, Rimieh. I can be just as cruel if I want to."
Of course he knew better. Tilting his head, he reached forward and softly brushed her cheek. Letting his hand linger there a moment, he whispered simply "I don't believe you." Of all people, the hooded woman before her was one Riell would never have expected to share a quiet word with. Not on anything personal. Yet, it was almost fitting as she probably knew him as well as the archer.
An idea formed, was spoken of and seemed at least to be accepted. "One more step along the way for him. One more step away for me." Walking back to the road, her eye caught a faint reflection among the leaf mold. Bending down, she scooped up that which was both treasure and cursed reminder and slipped it into her pocket.
"A release? Dear gods, why didn't I just say 'yes'? He'd have finally accepted his own freedom."
Silently, she answered her own thought as she stared out at the rain-spattered ocean. "Because it would have been a lie and I promised honesty."
Trust must never be squandered, even when the motives behind doing so are thought to be pure. On this occasion, honesty had meant speaking three words "too many".
They had spoken at length of the impossible, and all it had taken to disappoint him were four words too few; four words assumed on her part, four words she had thought didn't need repeating.
Their discussion had led her here, to sit and contemplate his proposed experiment. The beloved birdsong in the tree behind her was absent as the rain teemed down; the only sounds the creaking of the windmill sails and the raindrop-pockmarked waves as they rolled against the cliff below. The water's surface was strangely soothing, allowing her to think.
"I think too much. Why am I so afraid?"
Three words too many qualified an assertion. Those three words and a single question rolled over in her mind time and time again. "Why consider the offer at all if he doesn't truly care?"
Standing, she turned and began the short walk into the Bramble to make camp. "Why didn't I just say 'yes'?"
The weight upon her shoulder was a comfort rather than a burden. The spell had relaxed her mind to a point she'd not known in years and now her body took the time to relax as well.
With the rain finally easing off and the exhausted one resting so close, her mind walked a long straight hall. The otherwise featureless walls held mirrors angled slightly so as to provide a single reflection of the mirror opposite. As she moved, her mind's eye peered into those reflections
Thus began her contemplation of all that she had been and all that she now was. Thoughts, feelings, memories, hopes and dreams; all were seen with a calmer "almost clarity" than her more typical over-emotional way of seeing things.
"...you're essentially reading your own mind," was how he explained it. It was as good a description as anything she could come up with.
She knew his spell was only a precursor to the greater magic to be attempted in a day or so, but this was something she hadn't quite expected. She was thankful for the effect even if some of what she saw in those reflections was not so pleasant.
As she watched the room's other oocupants moving about, it occurred to her that this was all she had done for the past month. Watch the actions and listen to the words of others. No longer a participant, now merely a spectator; a spectator whose view was obstructed far too often.
Try as she might, she could find no reason for the changes that had come. From a sharing so intense; and involvement in so many lives to ... this.
What was "this"? Even those relationships not sundered completely had frayed. She found herself grasping at the few remaining strands so tightly, she was afraid they too would snap under the strain.
The sorcerous sisters (along with Bamph) were far better suited than Riell to delving into the mysteries that were the fey.
Isabel had taken charge (and rightly so) of her own life. The darker events of the past would soon be put to rest and she would be able to move on with that brighter aspect that brought the younger woman such joy.
Mithika had returned but it changed nothing. Vorel had married but it changed nothing.
Rimieh... Warmth had seemingly been replaced by a cooler, more intellectual approach and that, as much as anything, confused her. "Why?"
Being needed gave purpose. Being wanted gave confidence. Being neither...
"A spectator has one great advantage over a player. Nobody pays attention to the comings and goings of a spectator."
Last Edit: Aug 25, 2013 13:39:36 GMT -5 by darinder
She had remained undisturbed since Tarithel had left, still unacknowledged. The only sounds were the heavy tread of the guards' boots on the wooden floor and the belaboured snoring of the drunkard in the cell next door. Gone were the incessant "ting" of the flipped coin and the scratching of quill on parchment. Gone too was the one who'd made both sounds; who had refused to leave despite her pleading, her insults and her demands.
Hunger and exhaustion took their toll and dragged her down into reverie. She dreamed an almost familiar dream...
"Arrows loosed In calm defense Or allies' support
Arrows' flights Are always straight And always true
The Armsmaster's rhythmically spoken words drifted to her on the wind. But not a gentle breeze; more a hot, gusty annoyance. The old training grounds were not as she remembered. She stood upon dry, brown grass where there was once rich green turf. The sun beat down harshly unobstructed where it was once dappled by a canopy of leaves sprouting from the myriad interleaved branches that should have arced overhead. The nearby weapon racks were crumbling and rotted as were the bows they now held and the targets...
There were but two where there should have been a dozen; and in front of each was spread-eagled a man. Both were human and both faces she knew well. Above the first retreated a small figure, his turquoise wings fully spread as he sought to flee. The man's eyes carried a mix of terror and resignation for what was to come; she would never - could never - forget those eyes. But his eyes paled into insignificance when seen alongside the out-of-place dark green orbs possessed by the second male. Those eyes she also could never escape, though for an entirely different reason.
In her dream, the young elven woman looked down to her hand. Her left was empty; it held no bow - neither "Seeker" nor "Faith and Courage". Instead, she held in her right a short sword, its weight now familiar. She approached the first of the two men...
And awoke, perspiring and trembling. A mixture of fear and disgust coursed through her as she turned her head to the side, further dampening the already-moist corner of the cot's pillow with her quiet tears.
Last Edit: Sept 9, 2010 18:59:17 GMT -5 by darinder
Such an odd tableau they made, the three of them; a silver-haired Elven woman, a blue-green faerie dragon, and a black-furred panther.
The first, looking pale and gaunt, sat with her back pressed hard against the base of a large tree, nestled also in the shade of a towering cliff.
The second, his colours bright but his manner "restrained" sat at her side, his head resting on the Elf's left thigh.
The third, her coat not the shiny gloss that many would expect, lay flat on her stomach some small distance away; her head resting on her front paws and her tail limp on the ground behind her.
The ferrymen nearby had seen far stranger things in their time and paid the trio no particular heed.
Through slit yellow eyes, Khae had watched the close-sitting pair speak. She was old for her kind, already having birthed several litters and seen some of those grow to adulthood but this woman she had bound herself to still puzzled her. Though she had not understood the words, the sense she felt from her mistress was clear.
From the outset, a gulf had remained between them, a chasm over which Khae could find no bridge. A few days ago, the reason for that had become clearer to the hapless feline - the faerie dragon. Even though they were not bonded, Khae could feel a "connection" between the two; she had seen the affection the woman bestowed upon the small creature, even in the midst of her seeming despair. Riell hadn't been unkind to Khae but there had been little of the gentle warmth she now exhibited towards the newcomer.
So, Khae did the only thing she knew how; she watched, she cared and she tried to provide what little comfort she could. Never straying too close during the day, she would approach as evening fell with a hare or a pigeon or other small game. In this, she was aided by Ethys who convinced Riell to eat by the simple expedient of refusing to do so until the Elf did. As each night settled, Khae would lay beside the Elf, letting the warmth of her body stave off some of its chill.
For his part, Ethys was utterly dismayed. In their years together, he had seen Riell grief-stricken, angry beyond measure and physically, spiritually and emotionally weakened; but this? This was as bad as he'd ever seen her.
For only the second time in all those years, he was afraid. Afraid for her and now, after she had told him of the threat made, afraid for himself. In the innocence so common to his kind, he found it impossible to reconcile what he knew of the Sun Elf and what she had told him. Or were her words some effort to drive him away just as Rimieh had said?
She had been so nervous - no, not nervous, scared - when Rimieh had released him on that quiet road. Ethys had seen it in every part of her stance and the way her eyes darted around, already reddening as tears had threatened to flow. He had had no such reservations; as soon as he was released, he had spread his wings and almost leapt at her chirping madly before uttering quiet words of greeting and forgiveness.
Riell and he had spent hours on end speaking quietly together. It still felt strange to him to have to put voice to words instead of sharing thoughts or using the sing-song language of his kind but both were denied to her now. And even that change caused her pain, she had told him that it hurt to have lost so much.
She told him of everything that had happened; letting it all out in a jumble, backtracking more than once to put things in order. She spoke of chance meetings, of promises made (both kept and broken), of friendships (both maintained and let slide), of trusts granted and betrayed. She spoke of family and the one shining light (as she saw it) in all of Cormyr. When she spoke of contrasts, she struggled to speak at all without choking up.
Her words held many surprises for him. From their previous times together, he knew or knew of several of the people she spoke about but he found it difficult to put each of them into perspective; so much had changed in the single year since their parting.
More than once, the young feydragon looked to Khae as Riell continued to speak. He'd flutter one wing to gain the panther's attention and then, with a tiny nod of his head, urge her forward.
Not until the sixth day did the big cat react; she inched herself forward, hugging the ground. Her eyes never left Riell as she tentatively crept ever-closer. Through their mage-familiar bond, Khae projected warmth and concern though she felt no response. With a heavy heart, she wondered what if anything she could ever do to bolster the young woman, younger in ways than Khae herself was.
A memory took her - a memory of returning to a den after a successful hunt with enough food for herself and her two kits. She remembered the horror of the sight that had greeted her, not of two kits bounding out to meet their dam but of two tiny mauled bodies. She remembered an almighty howl and wondering who could make such a noise before realising it was her own throat putting voice to grief. She remembered following tracks leading away from her den...
The memory gave way to a wave of sympathy that washed over her. Confused, Khae looked to her mistress - a mistress whose eyes had swelled with pain that was not her own.
Waving Khae forward, Riell spoke directly to her for the first time in days. "I am so very sorry. To lose not one but two of your children? I'm sorry for being...". Her words trailed off as Khae stood and padded over to her then lay down once more. This time, however, her head rested on Riell's right thigh.
The chasm between them had finally been breached. Whereas with Ethys, it had been through joy, Riell and Khae bonded through providing each other with comfort and sympathy. It wasn't a great way to start a partnership but it was a start.
The days passed quietly as the three made their way south. Little was said as little needed saying; they each in their own way provided strength and support for the other two.
The nights proved a little louder as a loving gift was brought out. That such a simple instrument could be an item of such beauty and could produce such clear tones - even from one with as little talent as she held - was quite surprising.
Ethys, of course, was delighted by her playing and was quick to add his own chirps and whistles as he darted and wheeled around their camp - liberally sprinkling Riell and Khae with his faerie dust.
Khae too tried adding her voice to Riell's first performance but a panther's yowls are not the most musical of sounds and she quickly gave up. Instead, she took to playfully swatting at Ethys - the pair of them turning it into a cross between a dance and a game. That at first brought a halt to Riell's playing as the young archer found it impossible to both laugh and give air to the birdpipes simultaneously.
Her final act each night was to make sure those oh-so-precious birdpipes were stowed away in the equally-priceless ironwood box they had been presented in; an ironwood box bearing the mark of a white lily. Four days' walking and the band found themselves at their destination. A lush grove positively crowded with fey creatures that would again become Ethys's home. Childhood memories came to the fore as Riell watched them at their play; more than a few descending on the new arrivals in the hopes of finding new playmates (or victims for their innocent pranks).
A full day they remained in that joyful company; here there was no thought of unseelie fey. But Riell's thoughts so often turned to those left behind, those waiting for a return she had promised to make. Somehow, both Khae and Ethys approached her in unison as one of those quiet moments overtook her. He to once again gently tease at her hair with a foreclaw and she to rub against Riell's legs - each providing any measure of comfort they could.
Farewells were finally said - without tears this time but still with heavy hearts on all sides - with an audience of more than a dozen of Ethys's kindred watching on in an unusually quiet manner.
She did not offer, nor did Ethys ask, to remove the silver circlet from around his neck. A detour on the trek back found Riell and Khae at a familiar clearing by a stream. The Elf scanned the area but found no evidence of the raiders who had tried to ambush her so many months ago. That was unsurprising as their bodies would have long become food for scavengers and carrion eaters.
What was surprising was Khae's reaction to that day's events as Riell recounted them to her. Whereas Ethys had been shocked, appalled - disgusted even - by Riell's final act, Khae was more pragmatic and accepting.
"Mothering she might be but still a predator through-and-through. So very much like Ethys in some ways but so vastly different in others. What does that say about me?"
Despite Khae's reassurances, Riell felt dirtier the longer she remained in that clearing. So, they left after barely an hour and again turned their heads north ... back towards Valkur's Roar and whatever the future might hold.
Last Edit: Sept 4, 2010 21:59:24 GMT -5 by darinder
As their visitor walked away from the makeshift camp, Khae rose up onto all fours as if to follow him. But Riell coaxed her back down with a gentle touch to her shoulder and a single silent shake of her head. Neither of them made any further move until his back had vanished from sight.
Only then did Riell draw a silver necklet over her head. For the first time in weeks, a tiny silver key was turned in a delicate silver lock and a single Elven word was whispered over her now-opened journal.
For the first time in months, words were added to a blank page. Words that had been given voice over the past week were now given a new life as her hand continued to move. They were words of advice, encouragement and hope that had been shared with a handful of others. Others who had far more reason to be hurting than she did, others who (for the most part at least) handled their situations with greater strength and dignity than she.
A line was drawn under her writing and another thought was added; a thought she'd not shared with Talia, Mithika, Viere or even Isabel... How? ... Why? Why can I say these things to other people and not live by them?
She paused then and turned to her feline companion, "I wanted to play, Khae. It was... so easy. I could feel the old habits resurfacing."
Before the panther could offer any response, Riell added one final sentence to her writing... Because I'm a fool... and a coward.
Second chances may be sought after, longed for... but not in her case. Her second chance was forced upon her by one who simply refused to accept what was. In the weeks that followed, little use was made of that second chance. But life seldom relies on the efforts of a single individual. For, no matter how much one may try, nobody is truly an island unto themselves.
A silver dragon asked for help and her word was given. To a very few others, the plea was passed; but as yet, little had come of it.
A gold dragon - no, not a dragon but rather the golden patriarch, Flaures - had also sought her out. He bestowed upon her a singular honour that, for the first time in many months, brought unbridled exhiliration to the young archer. Even so, her old habits came to the fore and even he was denied a look past the masks she donned each day.
Masks, plural. To those she felt betrayed by, she showed only anger and bitterness. To the sister she loved beyond measure, only acceptance and contentment. To those she knew less well, light-hearted humour was all they saw.
Of all people, it was Viere to whom she showed a fraction of the truth with a simple request. Viere because, of all people, she had the experience to understand. And she had forgiven.
It became easier with each passing day. Almost. The three Elven women had sat upon the hill, speaking quietly of the Seldarine and of Sehanine Moonbow in particular. The words were all familiar to Riell, her own schooling having been quite complete so many years past. The words appeared to be a comfort to Viere, however, and the archer's heart went out to her as she recalled some of the tales of the other woman's past.
"The dreaming is easy. The waking... that's hard," Riell said quietly, vowing silently to renew her pleas to the Lady of Dreams to stop sending her back the best memories of her life.
For pleading, she had been. Since a divine visitation in front of a half-dozen others, her attitudes had slowly shifted - how could they not? The raw emotion that had been shown to her by the Father's messenger was undeniable, a feeling stronger even than that shared in a quiet forest just a few months previously.
Prayers were offered to Corellon Larethian for the strength and courage Isabel was so convinced Riell already held, to Sehanine Moonbow to stop the dreams because she lacked those very qualities; and to Hanali Celanil, she prayed for others rather than herself. ... It was a well-meaning Hin who came closest to bringing Riell undone and with nothing but an enthusiastic request for a hug. Caught up in that moment as she was, Lustig's casual farewell took her completely off-guard and she visibly baulked.
"May your reverie bring you pleasant memories," he'd said in a friendly manner.
All she could manage was a quiet "It usually does." as she walked off to one of her usual resting places.
Quiet words were shared with the warrior before her. Words that spoke of tasks to be done and dangers to be faced. Words that spoke of the bravery of another.
Even engrossed in her own conversation as she was, it was impossible not to overhear the pair by the river. The words of one of those tore at her and she led her warrior companion further away - to hide from any more utterances that might be forthcoming.
Even as she continued to speak with the brave one before her, her thoughts turned to another conversation held only a day earlier; and the reassurances that had been offered.
Dear gods, Viere, you couldn't have been more wrong if you'd tried.
Last Edit: Jan 15, 2011 7:41:35 GMT -5 by darinder
Storm. Dragon. Sun. That had been the reading offered to her so long ago. It had felt too pat, too right. Even the shaman thought it odd and bade her to choose again. She did... with the same results.
Several years ago... "Storm is often meaning a sudden unwelcome change. Often being very unclear... often meaning chaos. Storm is at the beginning. Dragon is power and wisdom. Is sometimes meaning a chief or some person having great power. From the Storm comes the Dragon. Sun is being clarity, warmth and the finding of answers. As Moon is being the woman, so Sun is being the man."
As his explanation fit so well with her life until that point, she was more than satisfied with his offered meanings. Storm represented her long exile, Sun was the happiness she'd found recently; and the Dragon of course was Rof, the major reason for the changes she was now enjoying.
Previous day... She had stepped without fear into his offered claw and he closed it gently around her, holding her close to his chest. In turn, she placed a hand against a scale and felt both his gentle warmth and the steady beat of his massive heart.
He sang to her; his voice echoing in the stones of the surrounding hills and they remained as they were for some minutes until they spoke again...
"I will take you with me if you wish, the offer is there, it is made with love and the hope that you will come with me... if only for a short time, share in the peace I can offer you until you need to go and face the world again."
"Why Flaures? What can I possibly offer one such as you? There are... gods... countless people who'd serve your ideals better than I ever could."
"It is not what you can offer me, Riell... it is what I can offer you."
"What you offer is beyond anything I've been worthy of in a long time."
"That is why you deserve it." He cradled her gently against his chest again as he continued. "You deserve a chance to be happy and to live out your days with peace and purpose."
With one of her famous (infamous?) half-sniffle/half-laughs, she countered, "I've always been a warrior. My purpose has seldom been peaceful."
"Come with me," his voice rumbled, discounting her attempt at false bravado through humour. "Let my family surround you with their gentleness and hope."
The shaman's words echoed hollowly in her ears as a new interpretation took shape. The past year had been the most tumultuous in her life, the time of her exile paling by comparison. "If Storm was a sign of that time, Tzour needs to add a Tempest stone."
Had the fall of the stones been literal in at least one sense? Flaures had offered warmth, peace, unquestioning love and a chance to again find purpose. All she offered in return was doubt but still he offered.
"Today" And so here they were again, the most ancient of mortal dragons and the young Elven archer. Looking down from Flaures's shoulder, her eyes passed over Kavrala, Foxy and Jennifer; and lingered on one of two faces she knew she'd carry in her mind's eye until the end of days. Even from this distance, her keen eyes noted the wetness in her sister's as they reflected Riell's gaze. The other was nowhere to be seen but that was hardly surprising; Riell was quite sure where he was or at least who he was with.
Too many goodbyes and yet not enough; too many friends and lovers (and enemies) were being left behind without acknowledgement but there was no longer an alternative.
As Flaures made a mighty leap into the air, the downrush of his wings forced a few of the audience to stagger. Riell's eyes remained on Isabel. Even as the chill wind of his rapid ascent started to freeze the tears on her cheeks, and unsure if the younger woman would hear her, Riell shouted down one final time, "Amin melme lle, selli! Ullume!".
Last Edit: Feb 28, 2011 18:40:28 GMT -5 by darinder
Post by minsafedistance on Feb 22, 2011 4:00:05 GMT -5
The little green dragon with butterfly wings flew up to the back of the gold dragon Flaures as it took off, watching the departure of the elf on his back. The small green waited till the major first few thumps of the wings had finished. He turned his head to the elf as she shouted to the wind her departing words. After sending a short telepathic message to the departing elf, he detached and circled back down to gently land on Isabel’s head, as most of the rest of Isabel was taken by Jennifer and Foxy hugging her. The little dragon passes on the departing message of the elf to Isabel also telepathically.
Isabel, the forest said “Amin melme lle, selli! Ullume”, you may have missed it in the breeze.
The little dragon sits there a few more minutes while the humans chat before giving his goodbyes and going through a portal home.
//Note: This post has been posted only after permission has been obtained from darinder. Since it is their thread after all //
It has often been claimed "A year is but a blink of the eye in the life of an Elf" but a year is made up of many moments and a single moment can stretch into eternity. A moment relived may be a boon or a burden, depending on the memory. A trap awaits the unwary few who continue to relive memories, trying to find a "better way"... and trapped she was. The past is fixed and cannot be changed, no matter the strength of desire for it to be otherwise; she knew this to be true. But knowing and feeling are seldom in step.
Dreams shining bright still filled her reverie; a torment she wished and prayed would stop. Not for the dreams, but for the waking into the nightmare of reality and memory that came each dawn.
Compromises had been made, sacrifices given and prices had been paid many times over. But, in the end, none of it had mattered.
Three men, a picturesque valley and days of horror. The monster who had stood against her, the one who had stood by and done nothing and the third... the one who should have been at her side instead sided with the monster. Every detail of the abuse, the torture and the abandonment - the utter betrayal was etched in her memory to be shared with nobody. Not the golds, not even Isabel. Ethys of course knew it all but he would never speak of it. Only Viere had been given an inkling of what had transpired; and even then, only because of a hysterical outburst.
The pit of blackness persisted, formented by those memories. To keep from falling in again, she built a wall of red anger around it. This was noted by the gold and the turquoise, and they worked to both soften and shore up the facade with softer tones of pink.
Slowly... so very slowly... she had started to heal. White puffballs of cloud drifted in the otherwise clear azure sky arching over the wide expanse of the plateau. Clear that is, except for the flights of gold dragons wheeling in the air. Sitting beneath one of the few trees that dotted the landscape, she spent the morning as she so often did - watching them as they went about some of their regular exercises.
"Or is it more play than training?" As they always did, her thoughts shifted towards the gold-kin themselves and all that she had learnt these past months.
Though she bore no kinship to them, they had taken her in and made her feel part of their family. They had shown her nothing but compassion, friendship and affection for no reason other than that they could and that they wished to.
Ethys, too, was welcomed into their midst and the smaller fey-dragon made the most of it; trying desperately to imitate the maneuvers his larger cousins were so adept in. One time, she playfully teased him a little about that. "It's doing both of us the world of good. You're getting exercise and my shoulder doesn't have to support such a great bulk any more." That - inevitably - led to a trio of blueberries being dropped down the back of her tunic a few minutes later. She refrained from teasing him about that again.
Within a high peak near the plateau's very centre, a massive cavern had been hollowed out. Among other things, it served as a library, a repository for scrolls and tomes collected from all over Toril. She could never hope to peruse more than the tiniest fraction of the knowledge stored there, even assuming she'd understood all the languages represented. But, the sight of many of the dragon-kin studying these same texts inspired her to at least sample the material. Only the younger wyrmlings kept their shape within the great library, all those capable of shifting their shape seemed to prefer human or elven forms for reading. At first, this confused her as only the lowest levels were accessible on foot. The sight of a single ancient moving through the cavern soon made it clear, however, just how little space there would be if they all retained their natural form. She could only marvel at the ease with which they handled this - yet another aspect of their incredible lives.
The nights shrouded by star-dusted skies were sometimes warmed by a huge bonfire and sometimes not. But every night saw another song or tale shared. No dragon ever gave a tale on successive nights and the enthusiasm shown by each speaker made it seem as if they were in some friendly competition; each trying to outdo the others in both entertaining and teaching their kin. Their music in particular she found enchanting; it was as if the very earth and sky echoed with the power and the majesty of their songs. Try as she might, she had never quite found the words to express it in her letters to Isabel.
What a diverse family they were! Each dragon had his or her own personality and approach. The young wyrmlings were always moving, always chittering and wanting to be "grown up"; just like the children of any other people. Then, there were those like Porril, ancient by any standard except those of the dragons themselves. She had devoted herself to Torm's service but Riell had a sneaking suspicion that she, like so many of her kin, had a fondness for Hlal. Her laughter was infectious and she was often at the centre of any amusing goings-on. Another shining light was Moras, more serious than many of her kin and a little rasher by all accounts; prone to starting things but not finishing them...
That thought trailed off into feelings of renewed guilt. Wasn't that exactly what Riell herself had done?
Again, as she so often had, she took out the sheaf of carefully folded parchments and tenderly smoothed them on the grass before her. Though she already knew every line and curve of the runes, she again traced them with a fingertip smiling as a face took shape in her mind's eye. Only to once again, see those eyes as she'd last seen them... misted over with tears barely held in check.
A commotion... the usual aerial display was interrupted as a score of gold-kin settled to the ground, to coincide with Flaures' unexpected arrival. Dragons are seldom rushed in their speech and their conversation started as orderly as always; everybody who wished was given a turn (or so she assumed, for she still had only the rudiments of the dragons' own tongue).
It had been several weeks since she'd last seen the Patriarch; she made no claims on his time but he was never to be denied and she smiled warmly at him as he gestured her forward with a talon. "Come, dear Riell. You are as one of us and not to be excluded from these talks."
"He's still trying to provide purpose and pride."
Events in the wider world had continued as they always will and always must. Moras had, as was her way, started something and it had piqued the interest of many of the others. A score or more were all clamouring for the chance to be involved in the efforts to right a wrong. Her smile came unbidden as she watched and listened to each make his or her case for inclusion.
"Who would you ask along on a task such as this, dear Riell?" Flaures asked gently, noting her reaction.
"Uh..?" Caught off-guard, she gaped at the suddenly quiet set of reptilian faces arrayed before her. Before finally saying quietly "...All of them? They're all eager, Beloved Ancient. They're all capable. I'd be..." Abruptly she closed her mouth and looked off to the side.
"Please, continue. You'd be...?"
"Um...I'd be... ", she continued to fidget uncomfortably before finishing, "I'd be proud to serve with any of them, Flaures. I mean, who wouldn't?"
Flaures lowered his massive snout to the ground before the young Elf, his eyes studying her for several silent moments as his ever-present aroma of incense wafted in the air. "Is it time then, dear Riell? Will you fly with me once more to Cormyr? There are loved ones there for you and a welcome will be waiting. Are you ready to find a purpose again for I would be proud to have you serve beside me."
She let her chin drop and replied quietly. "I don't know, Ancient One. I just... don't know. I... I can't give you a promise, not any more. My promises mean nothing but... but I can try. I think... perhaps a different approach...?"
And, with that, she quietly explained a notion to him. He listened and he accepted. Thus, a new path was started... not with a step, but with a wing-beat.