When Aravoen awoke the next morning, he was not in a bed. Shifting, he pulled off the warm cloth covering him. It was a cloak, grey and heavy. Looking around he saw he was surrounded by flowers and he knew where he was. He sat up and looked around him.
Next to where he was now seated, was a grey cloak covered something. Aravoen took a peep. The long midnight-black hair coming from under the cloak clearly identified what the cloak was covering. Aravoen sat comfortably wrapping himself in the cloak, and he looked west.
After a short while, she stirred and sat up next to Aravoen.
“Good morning,” she said. She stretched her hands out and lightly tapped Aravoen’s head and smiled.
“Good morning,” Aravoen said. “Why are we out here and not in our warm beds? Where did the cloaks come from?” All the questions tumbled out of his mouth. Even he did not know where they were coming from. Leonora gave him a sleepy look as he asked her all the questions. When he finally stopped, she gave him a look of ‘have you finished?’
“If you are done being all curious, like a youngling,” she began, “we sat around here at night looking at the stars talking and you dozed off like a child. I left you here and went over the wall. I, you could say borrowed without asking, these two cloaks from a nearby house. I found you peaceful in your sleep and covered you as best I could without waking you. I then lay here next to you and slept until now.”
“Of course nothing more.” Leonora chuckled. “What more do you think happened?” She was silent then her face swelled in more amusement. “We could not have, it never happened.” But as she finished the statement the amused look began fading from her face.
“Yes, it never did happen.”
Both of them heard the half-heartedness in their denials. Silence cloaked them.
“Won’t they wonder where we are?” Aravoen broke the silence.
“We can always say I dragged you out of bed and we went for a walk.”
“What is with this? Not so willing to be true to your father and kin?”
“That is for me to keep,” Leonora said. “Anyway, let us go back and have a morning meal. It’s the least we can do for those that think we are in our rooms.”
Together they stood up and climbed the wall again. Aravoen was now accustomed to this climbing. It was the fourth time he was doing it; quite often, it was turning out to be. Taking to the route they had been using, they wound up in the royal houses. Before entering, Aravoen caught a glimpse of a very lively garden growing just outside.
“I would like to see that garden,” he gushed.
“You will,” Leonora prattled, pulling Aravoen inside the door. “But now we have to put on a show of having slept in here.”
“Sert lewi sonir merveiewe,” Aravoen said brightly. “Ior sadiri a souris leaie uos ior ebim. Ees deri ni e teb.” Aravoen looked at her with warmth in his eyes, maybe a bit too much. When he realised he had tried to hide the warmth, but to no avail. She saw the warmth in his eyes.
“Ior ladiri,” she said, returning the warm look he had given her. “Condor edani tes elwei. Ees deri ni I teb un sonir merveiewe.”
Both wandered off in a daze. On entering his room, Aravoen met his mother and Mendrek. He was stunned by this early visit. Bowing to his mother and still remembering her anger towards him, he kept his mouth closed.
“Aravoen,” she said. “Where have you been so early in the morning?”
He could not think of an excuse or even say where he had been and that’s when Leonora’s words came back to him. We can always say I dragged you out of bed and we went for a walk. Smiling, he looked up.
“The princess dragged me out of this warm bed and took me out for an early stroll in the city.” Eleonor looked at the neat bed and then to Aravoen. She nodded, not convinced.
“I swear,” Aravoen stammered. “I made the bed quickly.”
“I thought you said Lady Leonora dragged you out,” Mendrek mocked.
“Well, that is a topic for another day,” Eleonor said, amused. “The council would like to meet you in a short while.”
“I presume it is in the leaf hall.”
“And my son,” Eleonor whispered out of a trance, “what they say to you is important and all Elasia is affected by it.”
“We are sorry, Aravoen,” Mendrek said out of the blue.
“It is okay.” Aravoen was shocked.
“No, we really are,” Eleonor said. “It took Leonora’s words to help us understand you. We are sorry.”
“It is well, Mother,” Aravoen said, the light returning to his hands.
“Ye sorer,” Aravoen said. “Now I need a spot of breakfast.” He turned them out of the room gently.
With his mind, he reached for Leonora’s mind, hoping he would not reach it.
It was not supposed to be, but he reached her mind.
Nice to see you can do this now, but if you do not mind I believe I am going down for breakfast. Ees deri elfwin.
Ees deri elfwin, I was just trying this and hoping to be shown more of Elvhelm by you, Aravoen said silently.
I will, My Lord. He let her mind go and he was happy. He was growing fond and warm towards Leonora and he knew she was too.
Aravoen changed into new robes and this time he belted on his sword and walked down to breakfast. All the elves he passed bowed or simply smiled at him. As he entered the hall, few heads turned to him. He made his way to one of the large windows and stood there, avoiding any contact.
He did not notice when Leonora breezed into the hall and came and stood by him. She snapped her fingers in his face. She handed him a small platter of fruit. Gratefully he ate the fruit.
Aravoen felt obliged to tell her of the imminent meeting with the elves’ council. Wishing him luck, she told him to find her in her chambers when he was done. She walked out of the hall. Many elves left the room after her until only a handful remained. Aravoen walked to the table and took a seat opposite Stareonor who was already settled in his throne like chair.
All the lords in the room sat. Aravoen noticed that his mother and Mendrek were also there. Suddenly a presence took his mind.
The lords you see are Methendercel, Hamilicar, Riya, she is the only lady, Moldrien, Staragorn, my brother, Leo, and my father, Leonora told him. She went on to describe all the members but her father and brother, who she said he would have to learn about himself.
Thank you, My Lady.
You are welcome Aravoen, she said. But do not forget tokeep quiet about Rahab. But warn them of the weakening barrier.
So when the council began talking, Aravoen knew all of them. Stareonor began by apologising to Aravoen about the treatment he was being offered. As time went on the meeting went on to the matters that were pressing to them. Stareonor retold the story of the great demons and Sarzgat.
“The only way to finish off Sarzgat is to destroy the edelsteins.” Stareonor finished his tale.
Aravoen put his finger along the line made by his lips. “But where are the sun and moon edelsteins, for we need all three to destroy the essence that keeps the dark lord alive whether in body or not. For his essence is not in the star edelstein alone but in the moon and sun.”
Moldrien looked Aravoen in the eye as if calculating something before he raised his voice to speak. “The other two edelsteins passed into our keeping, but we passed them into the hands of the wizards in Horowitz. If you want to ask when this was, go and ask the wizards.”
“Surely Mendrek can tell our friend here,” Riya suggested. “Tell for all to hear for though we have heard it the tale is long lost in our brains.” All the people around the table turned to Mendrek, even Aravoen wanted to hear this tale of how stones for the Easel passed into the hands of the sacred lands.
Mendrek held back, but only for a while and at length. “For Ebrithia it happened in the times of the King Fomahal II. He mentioned it and was silenced by his wife, the Lady Temmenar; she wanted her daughter to receive her inheritance. But when her daughter, Fedlimid II second queen of Ebrithia, died she made her son swear to pass the moon edelstein on to us or the elves.
“Her son refused, but his son heard of his grandmother’s request and it was he that sent the edelstein to us here in the sacred lands.” He waited for the tale to sink in before he spoke again more loudly.
“In Elliyon it was straight forward with all the inter-marrying in the family; one of their far-sighted kings, Eldamur, saw the damage of this crime and was appalled. Seeing his children marry each other, he knew that one would come and cleanse the seat of the Elliyon kings. He sent the sun forth to us secretly since his elder son Taradin wanted it so much. He knew that the marrying of sisters to brothers or cousins to cousins would lead to the waning of Elliyon and it did eventually, but that is a tale for the time far off.”
Aravoen interrupted, “But how do we of Eduin keep ours?”
“The line of Eduin is the true line of Ebill.” Stareonor spoke. “Your line is of Eldon’s elder son and as he was the only heir to the sceptre of Milesonia the drowned city of the watch so was his eldest son. Thus your line, though it waned, was still preserved unlike those of Ebrithia and Elliyon.”
He went on after a short pause, “Eduin is pure and not full of crimes. Elliyon’s crime was that of the forbidden marriages whilst Ebrithia was ruthless and greedy for more, and in doing so won the strong overwhelming hatred of the grendels, thus their demise.”
“Which means the line of Eduin shall come again and take the realms restoring the throne of Ebill. The dignity of the Easel shall be restored by the true house and by that I mean me,” Aravoen finished for Stareonor.
“It is not that easy, for it would have been done by one of your forefathers,” Leo said.
“I know,” Aravoen said, the weight of everything coming down on him. “How do I destroy the edelsteins?”
“You will go to Horowitz in five days’ time,” Stareonor said. “They will tell you how, but just so you know, it is to be done at Namradden.”
“The golden gates,” Eleonor gasped. “That means there is a possibility of the three demon lords coming out and Aravoen will have to fight them alone.” She exchanged a knowing look with Mendrek and Stareonor.
“The possibility still is there,” Riya said.
“But they will be weaker forms and easier to destroy but still formidable.” Hamilicar cried.
“Ellendum did it and so can I,” Aravoen said. “That is if it does happen.”
“But as for now,” Stareonor said cheerfully, “enjoy our city for these few days you are here. That will be all.”
“Before you leave, Stareonor, you must know your magical boundary is waning,” Aravoen said loudly as the elves made to move.
Stareonor turned back with a look of cold fire in his eyes. “How do you know that?”
“I suggest you sit down.” Aravoen said calmly.
Stareonor sat down with the rest of his council. Aravoen had their attention fully and he knew he had to skip telling them the part about Rahab and his words.
“Valefor said it to me as we reached the forest.” Aravoen haad not exactly lied because Valefor had talked to him before he handed Leonora to the elves and Valefor had hinted on it.
“Do you know what tht means my king?” Riya said.
“I do know that general,” Stareonor was distracted. Aravoen observed the different reactions in the hall. Stareonor was very far off in his mind. Riya and most of the generals had a tense look in their eyes.
“Time is of the essence my friends,” Mendrek said.
“Yes we do know wizard,” Stareonor said, a little too quickly. Something was wrong. It was in their eyes, all of them. Aravoen was about to make a comment when Stareonor stood uo and left, closely followed by the other elves.
Aravoen sat a bit heavy with all that he had heard from this council. He felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up he saw it was his mother.
“Mendrek and I leave for Horowitz,” she said. “We leave now and we will talk from there my son.”
“A aemoed deri sorer,” he whispered.
She touched his cheek. “Never be worried my son, I will always be with you.” She touched his chest where his heart was thudding. “In there always. We leave now. Stay out of trouble.”
* * *
It was evening with the sun setting in the west, the red-orange rays spraying against the field. The tear-filled bags were nowhere in sight in the sky. Aravoen sat on the wall looking west. He now knew what he had to do and the task laid on his shoulders was heavy. He would have to be like his forefather, Golair, and hope all the kingdoms accept his claim. He did notice Leonora joining him on the wall.
“What troubles you?” she asked.
“Nothing,” Aravoen was slow to reply.
“Aravoen,” Leonora said seriously, “out of a new great fondness and warmth I have for you I would not read your heart though I can. I respect you to know when you are lying to me and when you are not. But now I know something troubles you and you may tell me. You do not have to be alone in it. You never will be alone whilst I am around. You hear me?”
Aravoen was so taken aback by her words that he told her everything said in the council. Aravoen mentioned the tension that was in the hall as soon as he mentioned the wanning power of the barrier guarding Loscennlonn. Leonora listened until Aravoen had poured out his heart to her.
When he had finished Aravoen looked at her. She seemed to be pondering something, and then she turned to him and gently stroked his cheek, smiling at him. This calmed his nerves a bit.
“The task you have is only of dread,” she said. “Come now, think not of it. These days you have left in Elvhelm need not be spent on tarrying and dreading the task, but in joy; think not of the hour. Come, you have not seen Elvhelm as yet.”
She was also avoiding the bigger picture. What did they all know that Aravoen did not know? Something was gravely aloof in everyone’s quick and guilty passing of a small part of the question.
Aravoen let it go for another time and let Leonora’s cheerfulness and hope gave him hope as well. Leaving the breaches, they wandered through Elvhelm together. All that saw them saw what was growing between them, all but themselves that were blind to it.
Aravoen spent the next four days wandering through Elvhelm with Leonora. She showed him the tears of Tilmadri, the fountain of Starmeniar, the great library with the histories of all peoples in the land; even the house of Talmudic, the last high elven lord to have fought in the demon wars.
She took him through the gardens of the royal house and now they sat there in the garden surrounded by trees and flowers, birds singing in the air. This was Aravoen’s last evening in Elvhelm before he left for Horowitz. He had packed a few supplies and was ready to be off by dawn.
As the sunset, Leonora looked at him with eyes full of pain and he wondered what the matter was.
“Why do you look so forlorn?”
Leonora did not answer him. The only answer that she gave him was to turn away.
“Friend, what bothers you?” Aravoen was alarmed.
Turning to him, her eyes ablaze, she said, “I fear that the friend I have grown very fond of might not return to me or he might return a broken soul. I have grown so accustomed to your company and companionship, that to see you leave breaks my heart.”
“I will return, I promise.”
Forgetting about the departure Leonora and Aravoen visited the field one last time. As time wore on the happiness too wore away.