The Easel Chronciles: The Golden Gates

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Chapter Eighteen

As they approached the generals’ houses, a firm female voice called Aravoen. Both he and Leonora turned to see the source. Aravoen was shocked. He could not forget her: Maxine.

Her hair was tied back and she wore her armour well. As she approached them, she bowed to Leonora.

“My Lady,” she said, her eyes on Aravoen. “You idiotic boy, heard they allowed you back.”

“Maxine, you have not changed a bit.” Maxine embraced Aravoen, forgetting Leonora there. Aravoen drew back, knowing Leonora eyed him.

“Where is Illad?”

“General Illad,” Leonora cut in, impatience apparent in her voice. “He sits in Dol Roth with the part of his troops. Captain Maxine, when do you join your general?”

“Today, My Lady.”

“When did the captain become a general?” Aravoen asked, ignoring Leonora’s impatience.

“Few years ago, my friend,” Maxine said. “We will catch up after your disaster of Mia Moldrin.” She was looking at the princess.

“Disaster?” Aravoen smiled at his old friend. “Last I remember a certain boy got to live.”

“And another banished,” Maxine laughed. “I wonder how you hoodwinked our king this time.”

“He earned it,” Leonora cut in. Her voice was low and threatening. Maxine knew about the princess’ infamous temper. It rivalled her father’s own temper. “Captain. Maxine.”

“Sure he did,” Maxine was frightened. There was something about Aravoen and Leonora, she noticed. Taking a bow, she turned her back and walked away. Maxine had seen it in the princess’ eyes as she turned. Great, were they losing their heir to a distant land? She smiled, thinking there was no better man than Aravoen.

Aravoen followed Leonora through the city. He could see her the angry glint in her eyes. He smiled. Was she jealous? He slowly stopped and watched her continue a short while before turning back to him.

“Come on,” she whispered. It was obvious she was controlling her anger. Aravoen laughed at her. “Aravoen, are we going to stand here as you laugh or get it over with.”

“Calm down Leonora,” Aravoen said. “There is only you for me and you are a lot more than enough.”

He saw the anger slowly drain from her eyes. “I know that. This is new to me and I amnot good at it.”

“In time you will be.”

“I’ll hold you to all those words.” Leonora walked back to Aravoen and grabbed his sleeve, forcing him to walk. Aravoen saw her smile and followed, happy her anger was gone.

Passing many people, Aravoen and Leonora trotted through the streets. They took a small alleyway, which was between two halls in just behind the walls. The alleyway put them in a street that was wide. Aravoen and Leonora stood there side by side taking a rest. It had boulevards and benches on both sides. Small children run through skipping over the boulevards. On the benches, some elves sat talking or holding parchments of paper. Those that looked up bowed their heads for Leonora and she smiled back.

“Come,” she whispered into his ear. “Walk at ease; this is the Teldarian Street. Those houses you see there are the houses of Teldarian. On your mother’s side, he is your great forefather. He is one of the generals that fought in the first war with Sarzgat when your other forefather, Eldon, set foot in Elasia.”

Aravoen gaped at the beauty of the street. Leonora looked at him and saw the look on his face. She smiled and grabbed his hand. She led him through the street, not looking sideways but walking forward.

Finally, they came to a great house or rather tree. Its two stories were covered in layers of flowers. The branches gave way to soft shades and a bench. The door set into the bark of the great tree would not be clearly visible if it was not for the brass doorknob. Leonora turned to him and stepped aside for him to knock. They stepped in the doorway.

Aravoen hesitated for a long while. To his horror Leonora saw the look in his eyes and knew he would not do it, she pounded on the door. After many minutes, in which time Aravoen had the slightest hope that no one would open the door, it flew open.

Now who comes…” Riya stopped on seeing a smiling Leonora in front of her and Aravoen a little behind her. Her blue eyes, very much like Aravoen’s, rested on him. Her wrinkled face was just like that of his mother with a straight nose that she held up high, unlike her sister. Her hair was copper with wisps of grey running through it, giving it an orange colour. “My Lady Leonora,” Riya said, calmly enough, though she was still annoyed at the way that Leonora had pounded on the door.

“I brought your nephew to see you,” Leonora said cheerfully. All the colour drained out of Riya’s face as the shock of Leonora’s words hit her. She was rooted to the spot where she stood.

Leonora and Aravoen stood patiently waiting for Riya’s reaction. Still none came. Leonora glanced at Aravoen.

“My Lady,” Leonora said, “Lady Riya.”

Riya stirred and glared at Leonora. Her eyes swept over Aravoen as well but returned to Leonora.

“I am afraid that I do not know what you are saying, My Lady.”

“You do know it.”

“If this a joke, Princess,” Riya thundered, scaring off some passersby, “it is not humourous at all.”

“You know it is not a joke,” Leonora snapped, matching the ageing woman’s pent up anger.

“I have no nephew.”

“Your sister’s son is here and you should welcome him.”

“As far as I know,” Riya snapped, “my sister died many years ago. It is so long, that I had even forgotten I had a sister.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Really.”

“And that time you went up to Eduin, what was that?”

“None of your business princess.” Riya snarled.

The sight of Leonora was that of a storm. She was about to raise a storm when Aravoen touched her hand. She turned to him and some of the anger that was building up disappeared.

“Do not waste your time,” Aravoen uttered. “I have seen what I wanted to see atleast. It is enough I dragged you down here even as you said that she did not like my mother’s choice. At least my father liked her choice and from him I learnt to fight.”

“Fight, huh,” Riya ridiculed. “That you got from your mother. What your father gave you is courage, determination, bravery, strength and wisdom. But, for the fighting, all that is your mother.”

“How would you know, General?”

“My sister was the better fighter,” Riya replied. “No point denying it now; come in My Lady and you, Aravoen. But Princess Leonora, I will get you.”

“I look forward to it, General.” Leonora forced a smile. “I look forward to it.”

Riya stood back and let Leonora followed by Aravoen, through the door. The reception hall was large and exquisite. The high ceilings lined with lanterns that were of silver. The marble pillars on each side led to a stairway.

“This way if you may,” Riya announced. She took them up a flight of stairs into a library. The alabaster shelves were lined with books, some of which looked so old and delicate. In the middle of the library was a small efficient desk. Three chairs were around it, two opposite one. Riya sat and gestured for the two to sit.

“So you really are my aunt,” Aravoen said.

“Yes,” Riya said. “I am and will always be.”

“So, Mother was a great fighter, yet she never showed it.”

“Yes and no.”

“What do you mean?”

“What the general means,” Leonora interrupted, “is that your mother was wise and still could fight, but she preferred her motherly duties.”

“My sister,” Riya began, “was the better fighter. Of course, she was older by six years. Her mother died when she was not yet three summers old. Then my mother met Father and after four summers I was born.”

“Eleonor and I were very close and since Father had no sons he taught us all we needed to know. So when the trip to Eduin came up, Father thought that my sister was ready to go and she went. We all know what happened there.”

“Well, I would rather hear your side of the story, My Lady.”

Riya eyed Aravoen suspiciously. All she saw in his eyes was inquisitiveness. It reminded her of her father the great general Pathamiar. Inwardly, she smiled. The boy had properly been divided between his parents. He had his father’s family traits along with his mother’s family traits.

She let go of all the anger she had against Amroth at that instant. She had reason to be proud now. Here stood the blue eyes of their house. He had made mistakes early in his youth, but the boy he had saved had actually turned out to be a very great soldier of the elves now.

She took a deep breath and decided she would shower the love she had hidden from her deceased sister on her nephew now. She closed her eyes and began to tell them what they had asked.

“Your grandfather, Pathamiar, was wise and foolish. Lord Amroth had just lost his mother so we sent an envoy to dispense our sympathies. As time went by Eleonor did not return, and when the party returned, she was absent. My father was furious and sent another envoy to get her.”

“I remember that day in the royal houses,” Leonora disrupted. “Me and Mother in the garden, hearing General Pathamiar’s voice. He gave quite a fright, that one.”

“Well the envoy returned and so did my sister,” Riya went on, unbothered. “When Father met her there was a great war of words. Eventually, Father won. But was it not for Lady Linanarin, the queen, Eleonor would not have left,” she added, turning to Leonora, who recoiled at the statement.

“Well, Mother gave up the life of the elf for that of nen lfe.”

“Non-elf,” Aravoen interpreted.

“Yes, Aravoen.”

“After two years a messenger came from Eduin,” Riya said, “with news of your birth. People say that the light that had left Father’s eyes the day Eleonor chose the life of the nen lfe, returned on the news. Well with much persuasion, Father got King Stareonor to give her free passage through the Guardes Wesselren.”

Riya spoke at length. “We left the sacred lands and arrived in Cair Sandor. Amroth received us warmly and generously. When we set our eyes on your mother with you in her arms, our view changed of her. But I had my reservations. I failed to forgive her fully.” She paused for a while and looked at Aravoen, something stirring in her eyes.

“I held you and that is when Father gave you the name Elurin. He saw greatness in your eyes and he thanked your father for looking after his daughter.”

“My father and I left, but not after Eleonor and I had talked for long.”

“What did you talk about?”

“Nothing that should worry you,” Riya snapped. “But she wanted you to know that when she was gone, that you could come to me here. But she left when you are more of a man than all those men I lead. A true son of the house of Teldarian.”

Aravoen smiled at her. He was happy; he still had his mother’s family and Leonora.

“I suppose we should leave you, Lady Riya,” Leonora suggested.

“Yes, yes,” Riya said, tired. “But Aravoen, you are free to return to your mother’s house sooner or later. This house is your house as it was your mother’s. I am sure there are things she would have wished you to see.”

“Really?”

“Yes, boy.”

Aravoen looked at Leonora, not believing this very moment.

“Wait here,” Riya said suddenly. She rushed out of the room, leaving them seated.

“Not as bad as you thought,” Leonora joked.

Aravoen smiled and held her hand for a while, just to know if it was real.

It is real, Aravoen, Leonora said. Never doubt that, My Lord.

I will never do so.

Leonora smiled and squeezed his hand in reassurance.

The lady walked in holding two things in her hands. One was a small ring. The white band shone in the dim light of the library. It had three gems wrought in its flawless metal. All three were of pure green. The other was a flawless red tube.

“This is the ring your father gave your mother,” Riya said, handing it to Aravoen. “She gave it to my keeping a few days before your unexpected arrival in our lands. She told me to give it to you once you found out about your family.”

Aravoen was speechless.

“Yes,” Riya said. “It is one of the heirlooms of Ebill. It is said Samhain gave it to his wife. I am sure you will give it to the one that takes your heart.” Riya looked at Leonora and shook her head, smiling.

“Thank you.” Aravoen could not say much. The heirloom was very precious and it symbolised a part of his heritage that was rarely announced.

“And this,” the general was cautious giving Aravoen the next item. “It will help you understand somethings that you need answers to.”

“Like what?”

“You have too many questions, it is tiring.” Riya said. “Let the answers come together, will you?”

“I hate to say,” Leonora said. “But I believe she is right.”

“Now out,” Riya gushed after giving Aravoen enough time to marvel at the ring’s beauty and the secrets of the tube he had just been handed. She somewhat saw and understood the loss that was approaching her people. “Both of you out, children are tiring, that is why my son is in the guard of the forest, but that is for later, out!”

Aravoen and Leonora leapt to their feet and were swept out of the house. They hurriedly walked away, each trying to understand and remember what the lady had said.

“Thank you for doing that,” the words came to Aravoen’s mouth.

Leonora looked at him and smiled back.

“My pleasure,” she said. “Now, how about wallowing the day away with me.”

“I would like that.”

Together they walked towards the field that Aravoen had grown so familiar with. As they sat there looking at flowers in each other’s hands, the pillar in Horowitz came into his head: Allabrill and his lady in this field, now it was Aravoen and his lady, an elf, Leonora.

“What is on your mind?”

“The thought that we are like Gaibelann and Eleonor, only that the tables are turned and I am no elf.”

“But you are part elf more than you know,” Leonora corrected him. “Through your father, you are half elven and through your mother the dignity of the line is restored in you.”

Forgetting all else they sat there and watched the giant fireball make its way across the sky; the green spears on the ground tickling the soles of Aravoen’s boots and Leonora’s sandals. The wind blowing their hair apart and together forming the perfect painting of bliss and eternity.

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