All the lords and ladies sat for lunch in the leaf hall, wondering where Leonora was. Eating in silence, no one spoke or voiced concerns on how she had left earlier that day, anger and cruelty in her eyes. Cidarcorin looked at the door and saw what none saw.
Slowly the door creaked open, and in strode Leonora closely followed by Aravoen. Everyone looked at the pair in surprise. Aravoen looked at Akasha and saw the realisation on her face at the words of the seer. Aravoen sat beside Leonora and made no attempt at conversation. Leonora pressed his hand from under the table giving him courage.
“I apologise for the silence,” he said, drawing all attention to himself.
All looked up at him surprised and a bit relieved.
Aravoen next turned to Mendrek and smiled at him reassuringly.
“Well, you were never in the wrong, My Lord,” Akasha said.
With those words said, the hall broke into conversation. Aravoen told the tale of the demons and Eleonor’s sacrifice for him. He could now tell it without any tears springing into his eyes. When he had finished his tale, Mendrek spoke.
“It must have been tough my friend, well, you must rest now and regain the strength you had lost.”
Aravoen nodded at them. Aravoen began eating, devouring all that was on his plate. All the hunger that he had been keeping for days and days burst forth. None questioned his overzealous eating.
Stareonor looked reserved. Suddenly he turned to Aravoen and surveyed him with a warm expression. “Your reaction was much like my children when they lost their mother. Do not take long to recover for the Easel and the peoples of Elasia need you, My Lord.”
“I won’t,” Aravoen said between bites of foal.
Aravoen sat in the hall longer than usual. Lunch ended in a moment of humour as Cidarcorin told the story of his little village in the hills of Gethenidod. Slowly all the people left the hall until only Leonora and Akasha were alone with Aravoen. Throughout the afternoon, Aravoen kept throwing loving side glances to his neighbour.
“I must tell you, My Lord, that you are much like your father,” Akasha said, “very emotional and loving yet wise and strong. Did you know your father was drawn to your mother after your grandmother died of old age? He was so attached to the ailing woman and when she died, he was destroyed. Many thought the line would end with him. But then your mother, a sister to Riya, through the same father, but different mothers, arrived in Eduin. Amroth was first withdrawn, but your mother, Eleonor, persisted and tried to help him.”
“Of course the elves were against her growing love for Eduin,” Akasha went on. “Of course, they did not know why she refused to come back to the sacred lands.”
“Wait,” Aravoen said, shocked. “Are you saying my mother is an elf?”
Aravoen turned to Leonora. “And you knew?”
“Yes,” Leonora said lowering her eyes from his, “but that was for your mother to tell you, Aravoen.”
Aravoen saw her point and did not pursue the subject any further. But he would get everything they were hiding from him sooner or later. He turned to Akasha and asked her to go on with her story.
“Well, in time your father began to come back to himself: free flowing, humourous, simple, valiant, magnificent and talkative. But no one saw the love between this elven lady and the hidden prince. So when they announced their love, no one supported it. The Eluncil was angered but not as much as General Pathamiar. He raved and raged in Elvhelm.”
“Let me guess,” Aravoen said, amused, “raved, raged and turned tables to no avail.”
“Soon, he resigned himself to the thought and they were married. Stareonor, the lord by that time, gave your mother the free will to enter these lands.”
“But how come she did not have tapering ears?”
“She made a choice for the man of Eduin,” Akasha said.
“That makes the General Riya my aunt.”
“She is and she knows it,” Leonora said distantly. “But she will not approach you. And you better not enter that discussion with her, she has not really forgiven her sister for giving up the gift of the high elves, though she claims she is over it.”
“Well, I intend to do so whether you tell me not to or support me, my ladies.”
“It is about time she got it right anyway,” Akasha advised.
“Well, I will stand by you,” Leonora said. “Hopefully, she will not go on one of her rages. Unlike your mother, she inherited your grandfather’s fiery temper, and honestly Aravoen, I do not want to be on the end of one of those tantrums of hers.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Leonora was born a decade before you,” Akasha said. “She was a little girl when your mother argued bitterly with her father and half-sister in front of her father. So she knew it all. When your mother left for Cair Sandor, her sister swore never to speak with her ever. But that changed slightly a year later, when you were born. Your mother’s dying father and sister went to Cair Sandor and though still distant, there was peace in that family.”
“Just so you know,” Leonora added, “Elurin is the name that your grandfather Pathamiar gave you. He had the gift of foresight, and he saw that you would be of greatness and hope to all of Elasia, thus the name Elurin.”
“Why are you telling me all of this now?” Aravoen asked thoughtfully, looking at the two women.
“Your mother was going to tell you,” Akasha said, “but we all know what happened to her, do we not?”
Aravoen nodded, not wanting to relive the moment of his mother’s death. Slowly Leonora’s hand crept up to his cheek. She held her hand there, stroking his cheek. He turned and looked at her, putting his hand over hers. Her touch took away the pain or managed to soothe it.
“Do not think of anything that brings sorrow,” she said. “Let us go and meet your estranged family, hoping for the best. Maybe the reason we are telling you this, is because personally I do not want you to think you have lost your entire family.”
“Come to think of it,” Aravoen admitted shortly, “I do not wish to impound the wrath of the general. From what I have seen, she takes her life very seriously, a lot more than your king.”
“You can say that again.” Leonora smiled.
“Good luck, Lord Aravoen, trying to talk to the Lady Riya,” Akasha interrupted. Leonora withdrew her hand quickly, seeing that Akasha was still in the room.
“Do not hide your feelings for each other in front of me. I knew it was bound to happen, for no elf man can keep you happy and sad like this half elven man can. Besides, I foresaw it before even the seer,” she prattled.
Leonora could feel the colour rising in her face. She turned away from Akasha to deny the witch the chance to see her embarrassed.
“So long, My Lord.” She bowed. “My Lady.” She bowed again.
As the door closed behind her, Aravoen broke out laughing at Leonora.
“What?” Leonora asked slowly.
“You have never seemed one to be afraid of what others think.”
“Aravoen,” she cried, “have you not been listening to Akasha or me? Your mother was no princess, first in line to the elven throne. But still you saw what it caused, her falling in love with your father. I, on the other hand, am the heir to the throne of the elves, and since you have won my heart wholly, I have to give it up to my brother Leo.”
“How is that a problem to you?” Aravoen raised his eyebrows.
“The elves do not believe in such notions,” Leonora said, clearly amused by Aravoen’s surprise. “I too never believed it, until you changed me.”
Aravoen looked at her and smiled. He was patient as she seemed to be wrestling with the final part of her explanation.
She went on after a short thoughtful pause, “My father will not accept it and neither will the council of generals. To us elves duty comes before oneself.”
“I can see why, My Lady,” Aravoen said.
Leonora raised her eyebrows until they formed an arch.
“You are everything a queen should be with one more thing; you can lead an army very successfully.”
“We elves know how to fight and are not like your petty women,” Leonora replied, fiery.
Aravoen leant over and kissed her. When he stirred away, Leonora was calm.
“But my choice will be to stay with you, My Lord. I would give up my throne just for a day with you. You have my heart, My Lord, forever and always from this day.”
Without thinking or foreseeing it, Aravoen bent down on a knee and took hold of Leonora’s hands. He looked deep into her eyes and smiled.
“Here in the lands of your people,” he said, “I give my heart to the white lady of the elves, heart of Elvhelm. Until my death, I will always love you, My Lady, even in death my heart shall remain with you.”
Leonora was shocked when he had finished, shocked in a happy way and not a sad way, one full of love and happiness. “And I give my heart to the king of the Easel for eternity forever more.” She got down on her knees and their lips were sewn together as their hearts combined to be one; to give out one beat forever.
After what seemed like countless summer hours, they separated and walked out of the hall.
“Now we go to see your aunt and hope for the best.”
“You will be there, My Lady,” Aravoen said, half asking and half stating the fact.
“Yes,” Leonora replied.
Together they walked in search of the General Riya.