The Chronicles of the Seekers of Faerun - Chapter Twenty - Addendum

Adventure Date: July 15, 2013

Last Updated: December 29, 2013

These events took place during the Seekers’ stay in Harrowdale Town after their successful rescue and return from the Plane of Shadows.

Swan stood at the Harrowdale Militia training grounds. She watched as raw recruits were being put through their paces by grizzled sergeants. They were practising weapon techniques. Helping out were Risca and Okul. It kept them busy, these last few days and later would spar with each other, much to the entertainment and education of the recruits and novices. She enjoyed watching Okul’s body movements as he parried, thrust and evaded. All the more because she knew she would be enjoying his body later that night. They had taken to sleeping together since their return.

She had been on her way to the archery range, there to meet up with Kilzadi. The mage had been practising relentlessly with the dragon bone bow he had helped fashion from the bones of the black dragon Despayr. She practiced with him and gave him some tips and advice on bow handling. Neon would join them only rarely as he seemed to be spending most of his time now out in the nearby woods at Osier’s cottage with the elderly gnome. She was about to leave when a familiar voice from behind halted her.

“Paci Cygni”

Swan turned to face Neon’s mother.

“Paci El’lar’ian” she replied back in the elven tongue. Ellarian Dawnhorn was a beautiful pure racial sun elf. It was from her that Neon got his bronzed skin and soft golden eyes that women seemed to find irresistible. But her braided hair was a mellow brown-blonde, not the red that he had acquired from his father. Her facial features were the elfish ones, more gentle than his human mixed ones. But her outward delicacy belied a great inner strength, something else he had inherited from her. Being full-blooded, she appeared to be more Neon’s younger sister rather than his mother.

“Tempo’pico, Cygni, ambla mecon”the elf requested.

Swan noted the wish to talk quietly together. Kilzadi could wait for her to show him up again.”Certe”

Ellorian took her arm and the two women walked away from the practice field.

“It’s nice of your friends to help out with the training” the Militia Commander began.

“Yes, it keeps them occupied these few days before we move out.”

“That’s good. Ninniach seems to be more occupied with Osier. As a matter of fact he is staying with him rather than at home with me.”

“Well, after his commitment and sacrifices he made to rescue the gnome, it does not surprise me.”

“Commitment? That is the first time I heard anyone say that my son had any kind of commitment.”

Swan paused in her steps. “You do him wrong El’lar’ian. He is committed to all he cares for.”

“If true, then he must not care for his mother. He has never shown commitment to me or to any of the young ladies he associated with, all his womanizing; his disobedience to my plans for him. Still I’m glad that he is fond of Osier. That gnome was a god send. When Rasco left without warning, I seemed to be too busy to be the type of mother he needed. Osier took to Ninniach and he to him. The gnome became the parent I could not be. Still, I tried to protect him, the best way I knew how.”

“You tried to protect him by putting him in a cage. Naturally he rebelled at that. Being given a choice of the Mage Academy in Shadowdale or the Temple of Oghma in High Moon was not for him.”

“Yes, I realize that now. But it is too late. We have been estranged too long.”

“Don’t believe that, El’lar’ian. He is your son. You are much alike in many ways. Invite him for a meal, just the two of you. Get to know him, adult to adult. He has matured, less frivolous now. Share stories. Tell him you realize your mistakes. Find out the man he has become. Your love for your son is obvious. You both have much catching up to do. Give him time to make amends.”

The elf nodded. “I shall do so. You are wise beyond your years Cygni.”

Swan laughed. ”Wise? I? For wisdom seek out Gideon. No, I just suggest a logical procedure, knowing him and you.”

Ellorian tilted her head at Swan. “Are you in love with my son Cygni Vulpae?”

The question caught Swan off guard. “What? Love? She managed to stammer. “My relationship with Neon is…well, complicated. Love is too intricate. Love has hurt him” she replied thinking of Aleena. “He fears being hurt so again. He fears hurting others with his love. Besides there are other men in my life at the moment. She was thinking of Inialos and Okul.”

“Thank you for your honesty. I have found out more about Ninniach these last moments than I knew all these years.” Now come along. I have a gift for you.”

“A gift? There is no need.”

“Nonsense. And you are just the person to receive it.”

She led Swan to the wood mill shop. There she uncovered a large tree branch. Swan gasped.

“Ah, I see you recognize it. Yes, its serren wood, from Arvandor. Enough for at least half a dozen arrows, wouldn’t you say?”

“But how…”

“Oh, in my adventuring days, even before Rasco, I spend some time in Arvandor. I was allowed to take this branch. I have kept it all these years, not really having a use for it. But now, there is one. As it was gifted to me, I now gift it to you. Who knows? Perhaps I was just meant to be its caretaker, waiting for the rightful user. Serren arrows, with the ghost touch ability, will be handy for you, no? A small token of a mother’s appreciation for all you have done for Ninniach. Now, shall we start?”

“Oh, yes. And many thanks.” Kilzadi was going to have an even longer wait.

These events occur in Deepingdale as the Seekers make their return to Ashabenford after their successful return from the Shadow Plane.

Festival-like was the atmosphere in Green Glen. News of the eminent arrival of the Seekers and the ‘local girl done good’ was a perfect excuse for a celebration. Deepingdalers worked hard but they also partied hard, none truer than the Green Glen area where the human and elven cultures intermingled. Swan’s parents spared no expense on the homecoming. With help from the local villagers, the militia fields were turned into a community picnic park. Food tables and benches were built and erected on site; enough for practically the whole population A pasture area was suitably cleared for dancing much to the dismay of the milk cows. From early morning, sides of beef, suckling pigs, waterfowl, locally caught fish, rabbits and hens were roasting, baking, stewing and grilling. From the village came loads of salads, breads, pies and cakes. All manner of vegetables and fruit were sliced, diced and julienned. Barrel after barrel of the local wines, ales and meads were unloaded and readied. Finally all was set into place.

Swan spotted her parents at the front of the crowd. With a whoop of delight, she spurred Nivea into a faster pace. Deftly leaping from the saddle, she sped into their waiting arms. “Mother! Father!”

Lilia Vulpae appeared as a slightly older, more elven version of Swan. As she hugged her daughter to her, one noticed that their colouring and heights were about the same, but Lilia’s body style and facial features had more elfish slants to them. Her face had worry lines absent from Swan’s. In her, one could see Swan in a quarter century time, still hard, still fit and still beautiful.

Aramando Battlestar looked his Damaran nationality. His once coal black hair was now streaked with white. The renowned Damaran white skin, now tawny from years in a summer sun, showed long-healed scars. Tall and muscular in an Apollo way, he was the source of Swan’s stronger features. His eyes glowed pride and love as he embraced his daughter.

Once all the greetings of old friends and comrades, once all the introductions were done, the feasting and partying began.

It was after the sun set, a large bonfire was lit, fiddles were playing and people were jigging.

Neon was truly enjoying himself. There was no lack of female attention. Barely had one dance finished, when another lass would replace his past partner. Sometimes more than one. At present, he was with three partners. Breasts were always seemingly pressed against him, hands ‘accidently’ brushing up against his thighs and crotch, stroking and squeezing. Deepingdale girls! So forward! So refreshing! They rule themselves. How did I ever miss coming here before? The dance ended and he was about to propose a rest and that he and the three fresh-faced attractive lassies seek some refreshment, when a voice interrupted.

“I’m going to take him off your hands now girls. Oh, don’t look so disappointed. You’ll get him back when I’m done shortly. Paci Ninniach”

“Paci Lilia” he replied to Swan’s mother.

“You look like you could use a drink. Ambla mecon”

“Certe” he replied, bewildered as to why Swan’s mother would seek him out so. She led him towards the barrel tables. Pouring herself and him some ale she asked, “Well Ninniach, how fares your mother?”

The unexpected question caught him off-guard.

“Fine thank you. Ah, do you know her?” he managed to say.

“Oh, just professionally. Being both Militia commanders, we exchange information of common interest, invasions, bandit raid warnings, humanoid excursions, roaming monsters, that sort of thing. Then there’s the politics of the various Dales. That takes up most of our correspondence.”

All the while she had been studying him intently. “Swan has written much about you, about her feelings for you. Also much about what has transpired between you two; the many times you fought for each other and watched out for each other. For that, Voie cororasci, I call you friend, may I? Yes. Good. So as a mother’s prerogative, I ask what your feelings towards her are.”

“Well, I…” Suddenly he went cold all over. He had been looking at the face that was Swan’s but not Swan, when his eyes had fallen upon the Silver Arrow brooch pinned to her vest. His mind had not registered its significance until he began to answer. High priestess! She is a high priestess! How could I have forgotten?

Lilia had noted his stare at her holy symbol and his hesitation. As if reading his mind, she placed a comforting hand on his cheek. “Tem’ere non, Ninniach. Fear not. I would not insult you nor belittle myself. There is no spell here; no zone of truth, no charm, no compulsion. Say what is truly in your heart.”

Reassured and mother comforted, he began again. “Swan and I, it’s complicated”, he unknowingly echoed Swan’s words to Ellarian. I have feelings for her but I do not wish for her to be hurt or to cause her pain and at the moment our lives are too divergent for commitment of any sort.

They both glanced at Swan and Okul enjoying themselves. “Ah, yes. She is not one to mope and wait. She gets that from her father. But her strong feelings for you will never fade. Being lissering you have the capacity to love many equally. But you have felt the pain of love and it was too hurtful. So you hold love at a distance. You cannot deny your own nature. By keeping loved ones away, pain is increased, not diminished. By not wanting to hurt others, you hurt yourself. Love is life, Ninniach. Without it, your soul starves. This is not about you and Cygni, it is just about you. You are lissering. Take the pain with the joy. Stop loving and you become a mere lecher and that is truly joyless. The words astounded Neon. His inner turmoil had been articulated succinctly. There was much to ponder on. Lilia continued.” Now those three lasses have about reached their limit. Before I release you to their tender administrations, I give you Solonar’s blessing.” She laid her hands on each side of his head and in a low voice incanted “The Great Archer guide your aim, Ninniach Wilde”. He felt energy coursing through him, rejuvenating his vigor and vitality. She winked at him. “You will need all your strength tonight. Enjoy.”

Gideon was watching the festivies. Stomach full of good food, excellent homebrew ale to drink, he delighted in the laughter and party atmosphere. He enjoyed watching the children shouting and racing around playing their games, getting underfoot of the adults. Best of all, he could relax. No mantle of leadership responsibilities to weigh him down. No decision to make that might incur injury or worse, risk death for his Seekers. He smiles at the thought that soon he would be with her, she who waited in the oak tree by the stone cottage. He was still smiling when Kilzadi’s words interrupted his introspection.

“Brother of the Flame, come and join the party.” The mage stood there, tankard in hand and slightly wobbly on his feet. He had been imbibing most of the afternoon. Don’t be an old stick in the mud. These Deepingdale girls, they sure know how to have their fun. Just like our Swannie, except better and there’s more of them. No one will sleep alone tonight. And in a few days’ time, I get to be with Gwenect again. Whoo-hoo!”

“I’m fine right here Kilzadi. I’m relaxing. But do not let me stop you. Go enjoy yourself. You deserve it.”

“Are you sure? Yes? Well then, see you in the morning, maybe. Deepingdale, here I come. Whoo-hoo.” With that, he left to join the dancing, quickly inserting himself into a bunch of the young female dancers, who laughing, accepted him into their circle.

“I sometimes come to watch the young ones in their play. I too find it relaxing.” The soft voice from behind startled him. He turned to see an old elf woman. He had never seen one as old as her. Her skin was wrinkled and her long white hair braided with feathers. “Oh pardon me; I had no desire to startle you” she added.

Where had she come from? There was nothing around them except for a few tall trees. As he appraised her, something he could not place nagged at him. Her eyes were a stranger’s but also familiar; as if he had seen them before. The thought kept nagging him. He sensed compassion in her, but at the same time a ferocity that could be unleashed.

“No harm, gentle mother” he replied. Your arrival caught me unawares. Ah, have we already met?”

“Not before this moment. I see the symbol of the Fire Lord. Then you must be Gideon Fireforged, leader of the Seekers of Faerun.”

He gave a little nod. “I stand revealed. But not as their leader, gentle mother, only their guide. And you are…?”

The elderly elf gave a small smile. It removed long years from her appearance. Again the nagging returned. The smile was so strange yet so familiar.

“My friends call me Har’ma. It would please me if you call me that. It would also please me if you did not demote yourself. Only you amongst the Seekers feel heavily the burden of leadership. They do not question you. That makes you the leader. Wished for or not the mantle is yours. Heed the words of an old woman, Chosen of Kossuth. Your companions are not children. They know full well and accept any consequences of their actions in following your leadership. You are not responsible for any hurt or pain that may occur. They follow you willfully. Now take these few days of freedom. Relish in them. Free your mind of doubt. Enjoy yourself. Soon you be with your dryad once again. Fully enjoy the free time you have.”

Gideon was astonished. “But how do you…”

“…Know of these things?” she finished for him. “There is no secret in the forest that the trees do not know about” she answered ambiguously. “Now regard the young ones. See how carefree they are. That is life Gideon Fireforged, a statement in thanking the Good Earth for all that makes life worth living. Now go savour life.”

He turned away to look. Saw Swan and Okul relishing each other’s company; saw Neon teaching dance steps to three young ladies, all laughing and touching and finally saw Kilzadi in a long conga line weaving its way through the pasture. He spotted Risca and Swan’s father across the way beside an ale wagon. Why was he here by himself? It was a celebration. Har’ma was correct. Time to celebrate. He turned to thank her for her candor and perception but she was gone. How did she leave? The swaying tree branches did not answer. He looked again. Dancing was not for him, not now anyway and so he made his way towards Risca.

Armando approached Risca Fresh tankard in hand, the dwarf had been watching as Swan had enticed Okul onto the dance area, ignoring his protestations as she led him out. Seeing the huge half-dragon, so graceful in combat, yet so clumsy in doing a jig made him gwaf in laughter. He was enjoying Okul’s embarrassment.

“Well met Risca Foraker.”

Risca turned to face Swan’s father. “Well met good sirrah” he replied.

“No need to ‘sir’ me Risca. Spare a few moments? There is something I want to show you.”

“Of course. Lead on. Tired of watching that Kensi dragon-born make more of a fool of himself.”

Armando led him to one of the big ale wagons. “Lilia and I want to show our deep gratitude for watching over and looking after Swan, for caring so much for her, and…”

“There is no need!” responded the dwarf emphatically. “Watch over Swan? It more like she watched over us; saved our collective butts over and over again. Just ask Gideon, Hells, just ask any Seeker, right Guifoon?”

“That may be. But it is you that treats her as a daughter. It is you that stands in for me. It was you that when she…” here his voice broke, “…died carried her in his arms all the way to that temple of Tempus. It was you who demanded their immediate action. It was you who promised to tear the temple down about their ears if no help was forthcoming. It was you who stayed constant vigil at her bedside. All that I would have done, it was you who did it for me.”

Risca’s response was full of embarrassment, eyes tearing slightly at the obvious heart felted and emotional words. “Still there is no need.”

Armando continued as if Risca had not spoken. He put his hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. “We have no gold or riches enough to thank you, but know this Risca Foraker of the Mirabar clan, that with us you have a home. Always and forever. You are now part of this family. As the elves pledge, ‘casamia, casatuo’.

Now it was Risca’s turn to get choked up. “I, I, I don’t know what…”

“Enough formality, my good Risca. As a member of the family you will be staying at home with us instead of at the Green Glen inn. No, no we insist on this. Best of all you get treated to Lilia’s home cook breakfasts and meals. Now tell me, what do you know of the Damaran monks?”

The sudden change in topic caught him flat-footed. “Monks of Damara? Not much. Guifoon knows very little as well” he managed to stammer out.

“Well, my brother, Whimbrel and his wife Deneb lived near the Monastery of the Sun Soul Order. The monks there would concoct a liqueur from herbs from a secret recipe, said to surpass even the most potent of dwarven spirits. So rare was this liqueur that the monks never exported it and it could be found only in their monastery. My brother managed to secure some bottles and pass some to me before I fled Damara. They are my small gift to you.” He pulled back a small canvas on the cart, to reveal a small box with six green liquid filled large dusty bottles.

“I was saving these for a special occasion, like Swan’s wedding, but this is a special occasion, as you returned our daughter from death to us. So, shall we open one of your bottles, family friend Risca?”

Risca laughed. “For that Guifoon and I thank ye, but surpass dwarven spirits? Unlikely, no just impossible!”

“Well, let us just see about that”. Armando uncorked a bottle and passed it over. Risca took a sniff. The odour was strong, one of fresh grass and herbs, a clean, fresh aroma. “Smells like something a forest elfie would dream up. Does this drink have a name?

Armando’s turn to laugh. “Elves find it too strong and indelicate. In Damaran it’s called’ grune tod’; the green death.”

Risca took a swig. His eyes watered as his cheeks turned red. “Not bad” he gasped. “Closest to strong dwarven spirits I have drunk. Excellent after taste as well. One could get used to this.” He passed the bottle over.

Armando laughed again. “Glad you like it” he retorted, taking a drink himself. “Did I ever tell you about the first time Lilia and Holfast and I adventured together. “ Well…”

And so it continued, swapping stories and emptying two whole bottles of the green death to become totally inebriated. At this point Gideon joined them and of course another green death bottle had to be opened. Then they switched to ale to, as Risca stated, to quench the burning. Several hours later, as they were teaching Gideon bawdy Damaran and dwarven drinking songs, they all fell asleep. That was how Lilia found them. Unceremoniously, like sacks of grain, she dumped the three in the back of the cart and upon arriving at the Battlestar farm, left them there; lumped together, to sleep it off till the rooster crowed.

These events occur in Deepingdale as the Seekers make their return to Ashabenford.

Swan was so happy. On their way to seek out Gwenect, the group had stopped in Green Glen. There they remained, allowing Swan time with her family. Seeing her parents again and introducing them to her companions made her happy.

Today, she was on her way to visit Granmar and her childhood wood elf friends in the Fox tribe. Along the way she stopped at the sweet water pond, where Inialos had she had shared their first intimate moments. Taking a sip of the cool, refreshing water, she smiled to herself as she recalled those times. Such an innocent, she had been then. Thank the gods that Inialos had been so, kind, patient and understanding… and such a good lover. It was here that her wanton nature had been awakened. It was here that she had brought Okul after the party and they had made love for most of the night under the stars.

By mid-morning she was almost at the tribal village when her keen ears were alerted a large rustling nearby to her side. Stopping, she began to prepare her bow, when the bushes parted to reveal a charging cave bear! Large, powerful, a magnificent specimen of its kind, it raced towards her. A mighty growl exposed a huge mouth full of long sharp teeth and incisors. Upon her in a flash, it reared, forearms outstretched, as to embrace and crush her, dagger-like claws extended as to shred her. It roared again.

There was no time to set her bow or even to draw her blade. Swan gave a shriek of her own and leaped into the beast. The impregnable limbs, strong enough to crush her as a man might crush a bug, closed around her. Jaws, large enough to bite through her head, approached her face. The bear roared again as its saliva dripped onto Swan’s upturned face. She gave another shriek. “Ursi, Ursi, oh, Ursi, I missed you too.”

The bear began to nuzzle her. In return, Swan grabbed onto its thick fur and nuzzled back. After a few moments, laughing, she spoke less excitedly. “You can put me down now Ursi.” Complying, the bear let her go and dropped to all fours. Swan could barely reach its shoulder. It continued to nuzzle her as she laughed and stroke the fur.

“Neptinamia, reliq’no io?” she heard her grandmother’s voice asking if her granddaughter had any hugs left for the rest of them.

“Granmar” she shouted spinning around and dashed to the elderly wood elf. Swan hugged the Tree Talker, launching a thousand kisses upon the Archdruid’s face. “Granmar, Granmar, a thousand hugs for you, a million!”

The druid laughed back. “Child, child, stop. Stop, before you kiss me to death. Let me take a breath and a good look at you.”

Har’ma Vulpae was old enough that she had wrinkles and her tan skin appeared leathery, both rare for a wood elf. Dressed in a plain buckskin robe and boots, her braided white hair was adorned with feathers. Dark brown age spots dotted her hands and face, but her blue eyes, so similar to Swan’s, were clear, sharp and piercing.

Taking hold of Swan’s face, she stared deep into her granddaughter’s eyes. She took a deep breath, as if to smell her. “So much of Lilia in you I see your father as well, but the best parts of you are your grandfather’s. Ah, virgin no longer. You left a as a girl but returned as a woman. It has begun. I suppose no longer can I call you child. Stop it Ursi.”

The massive cave bear animal companion had been butting in, trying to get Swan’s attention once more.

“I will always be a child to you Granmar.”

“Come, let us walk and talk. The village is waiting for you, to celebrate your return and your new fame. So you can talk to animals, now. Good to see you come more into your heritage. The bow, your Grandfather’s gift, I can sense its potency. It grows stronger, as you grow stronger. This gladdens me.”

“Granmar, regarding Granpar, I…”

“Yes, I know. You have been with him. That too gladdens me.”

“But, how…”

Ah, dearest one, not only you have the pleasant dreams. It is all I have now, until the end of my mortal life here, when I go to Arvandor and walk beside my love in the Eternal Forest. The forest here is upset Cygni. The great trees are angered. The elven nations are extremely outraged. The treants are beginning to awaken. Someone or something is interfering with the Compact. A crisis is approaching, one where we all shall meet our destinies. But more about this later. Let us talk now of more pleasant things. Tomorrow we shall both return to the farm and you can introduce me to your companions. I have already met the Fireforged, though he does not yet know it, but am anxious to meet the other men in your life granddaughter, your surrogate father, the lecherous mage, but especially the half-elf and your current lover, the half-dragon”

In a short time the village came into view.

These events occur in Ashabenford after the return from the shadow Plane and just after the Seekers stopped the runaway wagon and eliminated the attacking trolls.

Swan scrambled to check on the horses. They were innocent and it was not their fault they had been stampeded. Kilzadi had ‘thunder clapped’ some of them and the rest had stumbled. She wanted to make sure they were fine; ready to heal if necessary. Luckily the battle was over before any townsfolk could have been injured.

Gideon was meeting with Jarrod, explaining the situation to him. Kilzadi and Neon were searching the wagon while Risca and Okul were aiding the night watch in holding back the crowd and gawkers, whose size was increasing by the minute.

As she revived and ensured the calming of the horses and telling them all was well now, she heard Neon call out. “Swannie, come have a look at this.”

Moving to look into the wagon, she gasped at what she recognized. The wagon was full of large cut tree trunks, but not just any trunks. “Sacred trees, someone has been logging the sacred trees.” She felt her anger rise at the sacrilege. It was what grammar had related to her.

“Worth a small fortune all this prime and exquisite lumber” contributed Kilzadi. “Question is, are the thieves those who controlled the trolls or another group that the trolls attacked?”

People had gathered around despite the efforts of the night watch. There were sounds of amazement at the sight and the sweet scent of the sacred tree wood. Swan’s sharp ears picked up words in elvish. “They break the Compact. Damn humans. Cannot be trusted! Their greed rules them.”

Scanning the source of the voice, she spotted a group of elves near the front of the crowd. Three she did not recognize; two males and a female, but three she did. With the three strangers were the twins, Simmer and Lathai and could it be? Yes, it was! “Inialos” she cried out as she dashed towards the elves.

Before he could respond, he was in her arms. Hugging him close, she kissed him deeply. Very quickly, she drew back to peer into his handsome face. She was puzzled. His response had not been enthusiastic; not a lover’s response. She could tell there was something troubling him.

She turned to the twins and reeled them in, one per arm and kissing them, exclaimed, “Lathai, Simmar, ita bon reviderete.”

“Paci Cygni” began Lathai. “It’s so good to see you again as well“ finished Simmer, as they kissed her back. Then they sort of looked down at their feet as if they were embarrassed for her.

More puzzlement. The twins had never been embarrassed about anything before. Had they not all bathed naked together in forest pools and ponds as good friends were wont to do? Had they not all joked about each other’s bodies as good friends were wont to do? Were they not all comfortable with each other’s mannerisms as good friends were wont to do?

“Cygni, alter voie intro”, Inialos’ words cut short her reverie. She turned to the three strangers as Inialos made the introductions.

“Intro Cymmar, Rhisthil, Vestele et” he indicated the older male, the younger male and the female respectively. Cymmar bore the crescent moon symbol of Corellon Larethian, marking him as a forest priest of The First of the Seldarine. The other two were marked as lesser clerics.

“Intro Cygni Vulpae” he stated to the others. “Paci Cygni” they responded in turn.

“Paci”. Swan bowed her head to Cymmar, to show respect to the elder priest. Rhisthii’s voice identified him has the speaker belittling humans. But it was Vestele that she concentrated on. That the elfess was a beauty was an understatement. In her one could personify the ideal of elf womanhood. The way she stood beside Inialos and looked to him marked her as being intimate with him; no, more than just intimate, something much deeper. Was this the situation; the reason for his coolness; for the twins’ embarrassment?

If so, was she jealous? She was never jealous of Neon’s pet fems, such as Bambi and Thumper, never mind the nameless and faceless ones; annoyed perhaps but not jealous. No jealousy for his lissering loves, she was quite fond of them herself; Jhaer and especially darling Aleena; whose death was still a heartache. Could it be because Inialos was her first, the one she had given her virginity to? There was no commitment between them, no ‘anima consor’, no soul sharing. She could not expect him to faithful. Had she herself not taken Okul as a lover? She shook her head to drive such thoughts away. Now was not the time.

She turned back to Inialos. “I did not know you were back in Ashabenford”

“We have been here for a while, but lately we have been in the forest, tracking down the rumours of the felling of the great trees. We have only just returned.”

“Not just rumours now. We have returned in time to see the proof with our own eyes” added Rhisthii, his voice full of bitterness. “The humans transgress. They break the Compact. The major communities, Tangled Trees, Semberholme, The Elven Court and Myth Drannor will agree to a Stipulatoe; a banishment of all non-elves from the entire Cormanthyr Forest. Once this blasphemy is known, the penalty for trespassing into the Forest will be instant death. The wood elf tribes will join such a Stipulatoe, as would the Elistratee drow, the sylvan folk and the druidic orders.”

“No!” responded Swan, mind reeling from the horror of such a Stipulatoe. Dalelanders too, value and respect the Forest. To ban them would split apart families, cause civil strife. It would lead to war. Our common enemies would rejoice.” “The proof is there.” Rhisthii replied pointing to the wagon.

“Then give me and the Seekers time. Time to determine and punish the guilty ones; to make examples of them, those who would dare break the Compact” she implored

“Time? Time so more of the Forest can be ravaged by the avaricious humans? I think not. Besides, The Seekers have no true elf amongst them; no elf bond.”

Now Swan’s ire rose into her words. “You would so quickly dismiss all non-elves? One does not need to be of pure blood to be bonded to the Forest. You are so eager for racial war? You deride me, my family, my tribe, my companions and all good intentioned folk.” My grandmother is a Tree-Talker, my mage companion is a ruathar, elf-friend. Does your prejudice blind you so?

“Enough Rhisthii” commanded Cymmar. “The violation of the Trees stirs your blood to vengeance. Use the talents that Corellon has gifted you with. Listen with your soul. The voice is hers but the words are of Solonar Thelandria. She is Chosen of the Great Archer. Look upon her. The elf spirit resides strongly in her. Her quiver carries blessed serren wood. You are a staunch purser of proof. Well your proof stands before you. ”

He gave his attention to Swan. “Little sister, you shall have your time, you and your companions. We pray that this situation will be resolved soon, that war will be avoided. Come now; let us leave the night watch and the Seekers to their duty.”

Rhisthii bowed his head. “Forgive my harsh words, Cygni Vulpae. I was wrong to place all others in the same category. I have much to think about and pray for. Perhaps when we next meet, it will be in celebration.”

“The Great Archer guide your aim, Rhisthii of Semberholme” she replied, her blessing indicating her forgiveness.

Vestele then came to stand before her. She had been quiet all this time, just watching Swan, listening to her. Taking Swan’s hand in hers she spoke; her voice as melodious as her beauty. “Inialos was correct. He named you elf-heart. I would be honoured to name you my sororer, my sister. We shall meet later to discuss many matters. The Protector of Elves watch over you” she gave Swan Corellon’s blessing. She then followed the others leaving Swan alone with Inialos.

“Cygni”, he began, “I did not mean for you to find out this way. I meant to talk to you alone first, to prepare you, to explain …”

Swan silenced him with a finger to his lips.”Inialos, there is no need to be apologetic. For how we stood together and for how we treasured each other will always be tender in my heart. Events change us. We shall always remain close. Go now, she awaits you. Perhaps there will be time for me to get to know my new ‘sister’ better.”

“Cygni…” he started to speak, stopped, and took her into his arms. The kiss that followed was tender. He left her there to go to Vestele and arm in arm they walked away.

Swan stared after them. No not jealousy just resignation. She heard a familiar footstep behind her, knew who it was even before he spoke.

“Swan, sweet one, is there a problem?”

She pivoted to face Okul and leaned into him. His scent was reassuring, the feel of his body, now so familiar, was comforting. She looked up into his golden eyes, seeing concern and devotion.

“No dear one, there is no problem. All is well now. Come Gideon beckons us.” She led him to where the Seekers were gathering.

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