The Quest for Personal Truth

"In every conceivable manner, the family is the link to our past, and the bridge to our future."-Alex Haley.

Jared Sandeye…Royal Blacksmith of Eselbrador, creator of the Whitedeath crowns, friend to the kingdom's royal court, trusted servant to the King and Queen...

And descendant of the Elvish King.

Ever since Jared learned this, it had never been enough just to know that he was just that. Jared wanted to know for sure. He wanted to know how and why he came to be this way: why his mother left the Elvish kingdom and married a human who eventually became his father. Why did Faolis Sandeye leave Shae'Elen, the only home she had ever known, for a human from the mysterious land of Angadil Kulet? It didn't make any sense; but then again, given Jared's own life, a hybrid falling in love with a human, didn't have much logic in itself either. Here Jared was, 19 years old, and still no more enlightened than he had been 3 years ago, when he first learned of his royal heritage.

Today, Jared planned to find the truth. He had already packed his bags for a planned visit to the land of Shae'Elen itself. His goal was to meet the Elvish King and learn about his parents, and the purpose of his birth.

But thank the Gods he wasn't going alone. Melinda was going with him.

Jared was just double-checking his luggage when Melinda knocked at his door. He muttered a spell from his mother's magic book, the Faolis Volume, to open the door and find his girlfriend standing there. A loving smile spread across his face.

"Hey, beautiful," he said happily, standing up straight and walking towards her. "You ready to go? The ship will be here in less than half an hour."

Melinda was dressed in her favorite forget-me-not blue blouse and skirt, and in her long brown hair was pinned a small red rose. In each hand she held her travel bags. "Yes, I'm ready. And I'm so excited! What about you?"

"Just double-checking things, making sure I left nothing out." Jared let Melinda inside and helped her put down her bags on the floor. He then knelt down and resumed looking through his bags. "Don't worry. I'll be taking the Faolis Volume with me, and I'll put some security spells on the house and on the forge to keep them safe while we're gone. No one but Pentus McBladen and the Royal Family will be able to break those spells."

"Well, I just received word from the King and Queen granting approval of our trip," Melinda said, sitting down with her boyfriend. "They said that we can take as long as we need, and wish all the best in this endeavor."

"That's really kind of them to let us leave with their blessing," Jared said admiringly. "We'll definitely need it."

Melinda grabbed Jared's hand and looked him in the eyes. "Jared, what do you think will happen when we meet the Elvish King? I mean, for all we know, you might be the next heir to the throne. What if...what if the King wants you to take the throne after him? That means you'll never come back to Eselbrador."

Jared sighed. He didn't really know either. He loved Eselbrador, and he loved Melinda, both with all his heart and soul. With his free hand he reached up and stroked Melinda's cheek. "Don't worry, I will come back to Eselbrador no matter what. I'm half-Human and half-Elf. There's no way I could become a potential ruler for Shae'Elen and the Elvish Kingdom. It just sounds impossible. We can talk about it more when we get there. Come on, let's go to the dock."

The two lovers picked up their bags and went out the door. After closing the door, Jared snapped his fingers and chanted a few Elvish words to enable the security spells. His house and blacksmith forge were suddenly engulfed in bright light, which told Jared that the spells were in effect, and would remain so for the duration of the trip. The light would soon fade after Jared had left Eselbrador, but the magical security would remain until he returned.

It was a long walk to the dock, so by the time Jared and Melinda arrived, the ship was already anchored in. Close friends and associates of the young couple had swarmed the dock to say goodbye, and Jared and Melinda did not hesitate to allow them that privilege. With strong promises of safe return, they hugged, kissed, and shook hands with the crowd, which then helped them to board a large ship which had been commissioned by the King and Queen specifically for their voyage. The couple met the Captain and the ship's crew, went below deck to drop off their belongings, and returned to the main deck. The ship set sail as they returned to say their final farewells, and within minutes, they were out of sight.

Jared sighed in relaxation and put his arm around his girlfriend as he leaned against the starboard. "Well, Melinda, we're off! We're off to the legendary Elvish homeland of Shae'Elen!"

There, I will finally learn who I truly am, he thought to himself. My quest for truth has at last begun…

OOC: Sorry this opening couldn't be any better. My brain was kind of running on empty because I was working on another story and all my brainpower had mostly been focused on that. If you want me to tweak or just take as it is, let me know.

OOC: I think it's fine! 🙂

BIC:

Litha stood, frowning about the small bedchamber. She tried to remember if she had everything she needed.

Spare clothes, mending set, some money and gems, her sword and daggers, a long cloak, tall leather boots, flint stones and tinder, and a large bundle of travel food.

Her mother strode imperiously into the room. Litha noted the lack of a knock or call before her entrance with mild displeasure, but was hardly surprised. Kath'een laid a light cloak of silvery fabric across the bed, her every gesture oozing of elegance.

"Mother, I already have a cloak, and it is much thicker and warmer than this." Litha rubbed the material between her fingers.

"This, Halitha, is an invisibility cloak. Since you cannot perform magic regularly, I have enchanted this for you. It requires no maintenance, save brushing the dirt of your travels from it on occasion. Now, here is a pouch that refills itself every evening. The food it contains is filling, but bland, and if it becomes your only source of food for long periods of time you may become ill."

"Thank you, mother. I think now I am ready to go."

A swift look of wistfulness passed over Kath'een's face. "You are set on this, then? You do not wish to change your plans?"

"No mother, I cannot. My heart tells me that Falmouth is yet alive somewhere, and tis not here."

"Your heart speaks; what does your mind say?"

Litha kissed her mother's cheek. "My mind says to listen to my heart, mother. I must go now."

She placed the gifts from her mother in her pack and hoisted it to her shoulder. She walked swiftly from the house, afraid that if she did not she would never leave.

Kath'een stood in the middle of her daughter's room, watching her daughter through the latticed window. A single tear rolled down her face, and for the first time in her life she did not brush it away.

A tall, sturdy young elf stood at his forge, working an intricate design out of a scrap of iron. A young girl stood beside him, watching him work. Soon he finished the design and cooled it quickly in a barrel of water. pulling it out, he bent it slightly with his fingertips, transforming it into a dainty hair clasp. Turning the child so her back was towards him, he brushed the loose hair from her face and gathered it back, fastening it with the clasp.

The long voyage from Eselbrador to Shae'Elen was quite uneventful, but Jared and Melinda really didn't seem to mind. They spent the majority of their time getting to know the crew and the captain. Some of the crew were Elves, but mostly it was all Human. The ship was large but not complicated. After the first tour, the young adult couple could already find their way around without any problems.

Fair winds and golden sunshine moved the ship comfortably, and during their downtime, the two lovers would retreat below deck to be with each other for a while. It was nearly a 12-hour voyage, and Melinda insisted on sleeping in the same bed as her boyfriend. Jared at first objected to this idea, but later gave in after Melinda promised that she wouldn't try anything rash or unnecessary.

The lovers were napping now, and the ship was less than a half hour away from its destination. Excitement of seeing the Elvish homeland spread like a contagion throughout the ship, and even the captain joined in. Several minutes passed, more leagues were passed, and the excitement became more and more palpable. Cheers erupted from the upper deck upon the announcement of the timeless and famous seafaring phrase: "Land Ho!"

But the arrival into Shae'Elen was not a pleasant one.

A pitch-black colored pirate ship blocked the view of the Elvish docks, its equally black sails blowing menacingly in the wind. The captain turned to his crew - who were all able-bodied men and women as far as combat was concerned - and ordered them to protect their new companions at all costs. Getting them to the Shae'Elen was the first and foremost priority. One-fourth of the  crew hurried below deck to wake Jared and Melinda and tell them of the dangers; the rest stayed with the captain to combat said dangers.

But Jared would not sit and wait despite the warnings of his fellow voyagers. He grabbed his sword and spellbook, donned some hard leather armor and ran out to join the captain. Melinda stayed behind.

There were over two dozen pirates, and Jared had never seen nor fought them before. But with enough luck and strategy, they could get them out of the way and reach their destination safely. Once the two ships were in close proximity to each other, the pirates jumped off of their deck and onto the sailors' with seemingly no effort on their part. Jared, the captain, and his crew charged into the pirate ranks. The battle had begun.

Jared had no idea that one particular and important figure was about to join in the fight as well, one figure out of many who would change his life forever.

Litha had traveled to the coast the fastest way she knew: by eagle. Upon her arrival, she had gone to the docks hoping to arrange passage to Eselbrador.

The dock master was not in his office. His assistant said he was done on the docks, awaiting a special ship from Eselbrador. Litha hurried down with her eagle, an idea brewing in her mind. If the ship was from Eselbrador, then surely it would be going back there soon. Maybe she could arrange passage on it.

The dock master was indeed on the dock. He appeared to be placing a bet on the two ships currently going at each other, a black pirate vessel and another, smaller domestic ship. An unfamiliar flag fluttered from the mast, and Litha realized that it must be the special ship from Eselbrador.

She gazed around the dock. Everyone there seemed to be placing bets on which ship would win, and no one was helping. She ran to the end of the dock, her eagle knocking over many of the dockhands and the dock master.

She mounted the huge bird and they flew low over the water, circling the pirate ship. She could see two dozen ragged, dirty looking men, wielding all manner of weaponry, preparing to board the smaller ship.

She landed on the upper deck, the bird's weight causing the whole ship to shudder. The crew turned to look at her, but before anyone could see a word the pirates had flung ropes across the gap between ships and many had swarmed aboard.

The crew reacted swiftly, and for a moment it seemed that the battle would be won. Suddenly a dark cloud came over the sun, and one of the pirates gave an awful howl. The ships had been pulled close, and a plank laid between. A tall, barbaric figure strode from one ship to the other, his feet thudding heavily on the plank.

He pulled a staff from under his cloak and a fired a black bolt of power at one of the crew. He crumpled without a sound. Panic ensued amongst the crew.

Litha slid down the stair railing, drawing her sword. The pirate captain was advancing on a young man, and taunting him. Litha yelled in elvish and the captain turned. She flung herself upon him and pinned him to the deck, brewing a spell in her fingers as they tightened around his neck. A sword appeared at her own neck.

She looked up and saw a pirate at the other end. He was leering at her evilly. She grinned up at him and pulsed the spell through her fingertips, slaying the pirate captain instantly. Rolling to avoid the blade, she scrambled to find her own. She heard the blade whistling through the air again and filched. A second blade stopped it an inch from her neck.

The young elf smith stood at the edge of the cliff, watching the sky as he did every day. He was waiting for someone. The child ran up to him and wobbled on the edge. He grabbed her frock before she fell. Lifting her against the sun, he laughed merrily and she did also.

ooc: I assume Jared stops it? She's going to be very worn out, BTW, from casting that spell. It's a very powerful spell for any elf, and she has limited magical abilities.

Clang! Zap!

The sound of metal meeting magic reverberated from one end of the ship to the other as Jared used his sword to block the magic one, exactly an inch from the caster's neck. Jared caught the magic sword by the hilt and turned to return it to the Elf…when he looked into her silver eyes for the first time.

Jared stopped short, and his face went red in a natural blush. He had never seen this girl before, and yet...and yet he thought he knew her from something or somewhere...Perhaps a dream? Maybe he had seen her before in a dream he couldn't remember? Jared had an eidetic memory, and he remembered nearly every little visual detail of his dreams, even the most irrelevant ones. The young blacksmith-warrior was flustered looking at this pure and beautiful Elf-girl's face and eyes. She was everything he had always imagined Elves to be...In an inexplicable way, she reminded him of his own mother...

Jared turned the magic blade so its blade was facing him, but found himself stuttering when he tried to give it back. "Um..e-excuse me, miss...I...I believe this-this-this is yours, correct? I...I noticed that...that you conjured this blade to...to..to slay the pirate captain...and, um...I stopped it before it could hit you, because, you know...that would have been bad!" Jared found himself laughing as he said this, his face getting somewhat redder and redder with every word.

One of the pirates was sneaking up behind him, raising his sword to take off the boy's head, but Jared cried out an Elvish spell at the last second. The pirate was suddenly pushed backwards by an invisible force, and his back hit hard against the door of the captain's cabin. Jared felt the blood drain from his face as he turned on his heel and charged the pirate, who was getting back on his feet. The blacksmith-warrior brandished the two swords he had, and the pirate did the same with his steel cutlass. They lunged forward, and their swords locked with each other.

Jared kicked the pirate in the shins and sprinted backwards before the cutlass could cut his armor open as his enemy fell forward. But the pirate spun around and knocked Jared's feet out from under him, and as he got to his feet, he placed one heavy and hard-leather laden boot on the young man's throat, cackling and taunting him evilly. Jared struggled against the boot on his windpipe, choking and coughing repeatedly as his air depleted by the second. He struggled to mutter a spell, but no air came to his mouth and the magic fell short. He turned his head the best he could to look at the Elvish girl, his eyes pleading for help as the pirate knocked his sword out of reach.

Help me, please! Jared cried out painfully in his mind, hoping she would hear him. I don't know who you are, but by the Gods, please help me! I know this sounds immature, but I'm much too young to die! You've helped us once, can you do it again? Please! Please help me!

Thinking she knew this young man, and terribly confused as to why, Litha stared at him, causing his blush to deepen. She reached out to take the blade from him, then her eyes went wide at the sight of the pirate sneaking up behind him. She opened her mouth to speak, to warn him, anything, but the  spell she had used to summon the magic sword had drained too much from her and she sank to the deck, trembling like a leaf.

Through a mist brought on by exhaustion, she watched as he swung around and fought the pirate, then was knocked down.

"I don't know who you are, but by the Gods, please help me! I know this sounds immature, but I'm much too young to die! You've helped us once, can you do it again? Please! Please help me!"

She tried to blink away the mist, to see the young man's face. It was no use. She could hear coarse laughter, and the sounds of someone gasping for breath. A fierce anger welled up inside her as the memory of her beloved flashed across her mind. Had the bandits done this same thing to him? Had they tortured him? Had they laughed and mocked his attempts, his fight to live?

She found, deep in her anger, the strength to stand. She hardly knew what she was doing, she was so consumed by her anger. Throwing her arms wide, she uttered a dark, almost forgotten ancient Elven curse, aimed at the pirate. A ray of white light surged from her body and blasted into the pirate's heart. A light dusting of ash drifted down around her, and he was gone.

Wide-eyed, the young man stared at her. She smiled weakly then, trying to reassure him. She felt her strength leaving her as quickly as her anger, leaving behind only sadness. Her eagle cried out twice, then flew down to her side and covered her in its wings. She closed her eyes.

A flood of emotions and memories came crashing through the carefully constructed walls in her mind. Falmouth, her rage at losing him, her grief, the terrible loneliness that had threatened to destroy her. She tossed on the waves of this flood for what seemed an age. Then a familiar, strong, comforting aura brushed aside the dark curtains that clouded her mind, leaving it white, pure, and empty. It soothed the burning pain in her mind and let her rest.

When she awoke, she was laying on her stomach in a snug bed set against the wall. Judging by the gentle rocking movement around her, she was still on a ship. She was wearing a light linen shift and skirt, not her own more comfortable garments. She started to rise, but quickly thought better of it as her head swam and black spots appeared before her eyes. Instead, she rolled slowly over so she was on her side, facing into the room.

Two people were in it, a strange young woman and the young man who was not a stranger, though she'd never seen him in her life. His aura was somewhat weaker than she at first thought, and oddly enough, it felt very much like Falmouth's. She could not be sure if it had been him before, or if it had been Falmouth.

She was puzzled. He seemed human, but only very advanced magical beings could sense the aura of a human, and she certainly was not one of those esteemed personages. She wondered briefly why she could sense him, but it gave her a headache and she decided not to bother about it just then.

The couple was sitting on chairs, and were both watching her with apparent concern. Suddenly self-conscious and embarrassed, she drew the white blanket up around her bare shoulders.

?Hello…? She said hesitantly. ?My name is Halitha Starwallker. Excuse my asking, but where am I? And where is my eagle? And all my... um... personal items??

OOC: Here's what I'm thinking an aura looks like: remember in The Fellowship of the Ring (movie), when Arwen meets Aragorn in the woods? And she appears to Frodo in a different form then she appears to everyone else, kind of white and misty and such? That's kind of the image I'm thinking of here.

I feel like quoting the Doctor here: I'm having one of those things! You know, a headache with pictures? Goodness the ideas...

OOC: I'm not much of a Doctor Who fan, to be honest, but I've met a lot of people who are fanatics, this forum included. I do love Lord of the Rings, though! The books and the movies are a big influence on my writing!

BIC: Jared heard a loud explosion fill his ears as the mysterious Elf girl chanted the forbidden Elvish spell. It came from the pirate dissolving into white ashes and dust, and the young blacksmith instantly felt the weight lifted from his neck. Jared lay on the deck, his body shaking with painful coughs as the air returned to his lungs and throat. He mustered up some of his energy to smile gratefully at his savior, regardless of whether he knew her or not. Above him, a giant eagle was crying out and swooping downwards, taking the fainted she-Elf in its wings. Jared carefully and slowly stood up, his neck still throbbing from the pain of being pressed down upon by that hard-leather boot. At least the pirates were all dead, but this battle had not been without sacrifice or loss. More than half of the ship's crew were also dead, the captain included. But there would be plenty of time to grieve later.

Jared patted the eagle on its giant wings as he passed by it. "Good eagle, helping your girl like that. I'll take her from here." The eagle nodded approvingly, spread its wings (letting go of its owner in the process) and took flight to sit in the ship's crow's nest.

She's just like any other Elf, flawlessly beautiful. Jared thought to himself as he carried the girl below deck. Best to answer any questions she might have after she wakes up.

Jared brought the girl to Melinda, whom he told the whole story of how she had shown up and what she had done during the pirate ambush. As Melinda dressed the Elf up in a light linen shift and skirt she had brought from Eselbrador, Jared sat on his bed, flipping through the Faolis Volume for healing spells. It was a long time, but the Elf finally came to. The blacksmith got to his feet and walked towards her bed. He sat down in a chair and turned to look at Melinda, her eyes and face clear with concern and fear. Then the Elvish girl spoke as she covered up her bare shoulders with the blankets.

"Hello…My name is Halitha Starwalker. Excuse my asking, but where am I? And where is my eagle? And all my...um...personal items?"

Jared smiled and stretched forth his hand for Halitha to shake. "Hello, Halitha Starwalker, my name is Jared Sandeye. The woman beside me is Melinda Williams. You are onboard the ship Eseltharis, native of the land of Eselbrador. Your eagle is sitting atop the crow's nest, just directly above this cabin, waiting for you and hoping for news of your recovery. All of your personal belongings are sitting right underneath your bed. Don't worry, you're safe here, and all the pirates are taken care of. It's OK, everything's all right. No need to be afraid."

Several hours later, Litha finished giving Jared and Melinda directions to her mother's house, should they decide to go there. Jared had explained why they were in Shae'Elen, and Litha had thought that her mother would be the best elf for them to talk to. Since her mother was a lesser princess, she would not be busy with court matters but would most likely know what Jared wanted to know.

Litha and her eagle were both going to Eselbrador, on the royal ship. The crewmembers who had been killed in the fight with the pirates had been taken ashore and their bodies preserved, so they could be buried in their homeland. A squad of elven warriors had arrived on the scene shortly after Litha woke up, and had assisted in cleaning the ship. Now the crew was being filled by elven sailors, under the command of the second mate.

While Litha was resting, she and Melinda had had a lovely girl-to-girl conversation, after Litha had assured Melinda that she had no intentions of stealing Jared from her, and that she already had a lover. Melinda was very sympathetic about Falmouth and told Litha about some of the places she would see in Eselbrador. She had also written a letter for Litha to present to the King and Queen, should she go the the royal city.

The ship had been fully provisioned and had an escort vessel for the first half of the journey. Litha occupied the cabin Jared and Melinda had used, and spent the entire voyage in it. She had never traveled by sea before and it did not agree with her.

One of the elven soldiers from the escort ship had boarded the Eselbrador ship and had tended to Litha's injuries again, and bade her sleep for the voyage. She had refused, frightened about the movement of the ship, and had become quite frantic. He finally cast a spell over her to get her to sleep.

When the ship reached Eselbrador, he removed the spell. Litha was angry and refused to speak to him. Stepping out onto the deck, she gazed in awe at the new country. She had never seen so much bustle in the docks as there was here. The elven docks were busy, but not so noisy and cheerful as these. Fishermen shouted, women bustled about, sailors yelled, captains bellowed, and children ran wild. All together it was a very nice atmosphere, and Litha thought she would enjoy it.

The ship's boat was set down, and the new captain went in shore with a handful of his crew. It took quite a long time to settle his affairs with the dockmaster, and by the time he had done so word had reached the palace that elves were at the docks. An escort of palace soldiers arrived, bearing word that the elves were expected at the palace as soon as they disembarked. Litha tried to explain to them that she was not there to see the King and Queen, but the captain of the guard was quite firm.

"This is the place, according to the address that Halitha gave us," Jared said, stepping onto the doorstep of the Elvish house, his eyes on the peculiar but ornate and beautiful stone doors, with knockers and doorknobs made of the purest gold. Melinda was down on one knee tying her shoes. "I hope Halitha made it to Eselbrador safely. If she hadn't intervened and helped to stop those pirates…Gods, I don't want to think about the consequences!" Nonetheless, she managed a smile, pulled tight on her shoelaces to secure the knots, and then stood up and took Jared's hand as he knocked on the door with his other hand.

An Elvish woman dressed in elaborate royal attire opened the door. Jared couldn't help but notice the resemblance between this woman and Litha. This, he guessed, was her mother. Jared summoned up his courage and began to speak; the woman was gazing at him skeptically.

"Good day, Mrs. Starwalker. My name is Jared Sandeye, and the woman beside me is Melinda Williams. We're acquaintances of your daughter, Halitha, and we're visiting Shae'Elen on royal business. I was wondering if you could direct us to the palace and the royal court? We have important information for the King and Queen. Don't worry about who we are; Litha herself sent us here."

Word had spread quickly around Eselbrador, and soon the docks were packed to near-capacity to see the Elves who had come for whatever reason the Gods intended. The young human teens had especially come to get a glimpse of the pretty Elvish girl who was due for an interview with the King and Queen for her visit. But they knew very little of the real reason why she was here in this land. Some of the castle guards escorted Halitha to the castle, and bade her wait in the courtyard with her Elvish company while they inform the royal couple of their arrival.

"Good day, Mrs. Starwalker. My name is Jared Sandeye, and the woman beside me is Melinda Williams. We're acquaintances of your daughter, Halitha, and we're visiting Shae'Elen on royal business. I was wondering if you could direct us to the palace and the royal court? We have important information for the King and Queen. Don't worry about who we are; Litha herself sent us here."

Kath'een stared at the young man. It was like looking at her worst nightmare all over again. She could see the resemblance to her sister, quite a startling one too, but the young man looked mostly like his father, the human who had stolen her little sister so many years ago.

She started to close the door, but the young man poked his foot through. "I'm sorry, but aren't you Mrs. Starwalker? Litha's mother"?

She swallowed and forced herself to be polite. "I am Kath'een Mran'Elen Starwalker, secondary Princess to the Throne of Shae'Elen. My daughter is indeed Halitha Starwalker. Of what business has she sent you to me? I am no longer a part of the royal court. And you say you are but acquaintances of my daughter, but this I know to be false. Not even I, her mother, am allowed to call her Litha. As a matter of fact, no one save her intended husband and her father have ever been allowed to call her that, although one of the princesses did have a pet name for her. Thaia, I believe it was. She hated it. I wonder why she has permitted you to call her Litha?"

Litha stood in the courtyard of the palace, awaiting an audience with the king and queen of Eselbrador. She was surprised at the speed with which she had been accepted for an audience. She didn't realize that the royal family was concerned that she had come with ill news regarding Jared and Melinda.

She was ushered in by a stern guard who refused the elven soldiers entrance. She was hurried through the palace and into the throne room. Once she arrived there, the guards left. She stared around her in wide-eyed wonder at the harsh beautifulness of the humans' palace.

She turned in a slow circle, absorbing every detail of the throne room so she could look at it later in her mind. A polite, somewhat forced cough sounded from the far end of the throne room and she whirled to see who it was.

The Elvish woman who called herself Kath'een Mran'Elen Starwalker started to close the door, and it would have closed completely if Jared hadn't stuck his foot through. "I'm sorry, but aren't you Mrs. Starwalker? Litha's mother?"

"You're no longer part of the royal court, but you still know exactly where it's located and how to get from here. We are acquaintances of your daughter, yes, but it is not false as we are here on serious business. She has permitted us to call her by her nickname because…" He quickly switched from English to Elvish to add emphasis and truth to his next words: "Your daughter saved my life."

Jared knew that nothing he said would convince her, so he quickly scanned what he could see of the house. Hanging on the wall to the right of him, he saw a large metal shield of Elvish design. He immediately recognized the metal as pure mithril, a rare, ancient, and extremely powerful metal that wasn't easy to work with, but perhaps the smith itself was unique. Maybe he or she had magic powers of some sort? Engraved in its center was the mark of said smith. It looked familiar to him, but the young man just wanted to make sure.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Starwalker, but I couldn't help but notice that mithril shield you have there on your wall. May I ask who made it? I think I may recognize the smith's mark, but I'm not quite sure of exactly who. This mark has never been seen very frequently in my homeland of Eselbrador."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Starwalker, but I couldn't help but notice that mithril shield you have there on your wall. May I ask who made it? I think I may recognize the smith's mark, but I'm not quite sure of exactly who. This mark has never been seen very frequently in my homeland of Eselbrador."

Kath'een jumped, literally. She stared at Jared and Melinda and made a quick decision. She beckoned them inside, shutting and locking the door behind them. She took the shield off the wall and laid it on the low bench by the door.

"Who made it? Has this sign been seen in Eselbrador? When? Tell me, young man!"

Litha was personally escorted to the stable by the king, who was very eager to assist her with her quest. He and the queen had been greatly relieved at her news of Jared Sandeye.

Litha looked over the horses in the stable and slowly shook her head. None of these would do any better then her eagle for transporting her. She thanked the king sweetly and left the palace, returning with her elven escort to the ship.

She set out the next morning on her eagle, flying low over the land. She landed at every smithy. She knew Falmouth would be near a smithy - it was born in him and he could not help it.

The sense of dread grew in her stomach at each village that she passed. He wasn't anywhere. The king had given her about a dozen that were remote, where an elf could be hidden, and as she neared the end of the list she started to panic. If he wasn't in any of the villages the king had told her about, she would have to search across the entirety of Eselbrador to find him.

She made camp that night in a narrow valley. She was too weary to eat, and curled up in her cloaks. She had found that her mother's invisibility cloak helped keep the weather off, and the clouds covering the face of the moon spoke of rain before dawn.

She woke in darkness. Her eagle had screamed the harsh warcry of his race. A light was struck, revealing the silhouettes of three rough men. Her eyes adjusted to the flickering light in a second and she could see them binding the bird with a silver chain. She caught a glimpse of the seal stamped on the lock as the tallest man snapped it shut, and stifled a cry.

The men looked around suspiciously and Litha bit her lip and held her breath as one investigated. He passed her by, however, and the three men forced the eagle to walk awkwardly out of the narrow valley.

All this had happened so quickly that the only thing Litha had really comprehended in her sleep-induced haze was the seal on the chain. It took a great smith to forge a chain that would bind a Lath'Gard eagle, and Falmouth was that smith. The mark left no doubt in her mind that her entire adulthood had been useless, that Falmouth had run away from her. She curled up in a lump and cried until she thought her heart would shatter into a thousand pieces from the pain and loss she felt.

Dawn came, cold and clear. Litha rubbed her eyes, feeling the mask of dust and tears that caked her face. She rose and bathed at the stream, then ate a morsel from her mother's pouch of food.

The magical glow was gone from her hands, showing that she had no magical powers right then, leaving her with no option but to go back to the palace on foot and beg for the king to let her go back to Shae'Elen on the soonest vessel. She shouldered her pack and set out, feeling no joy in the early bird song and the cheerful babble of the stream at her side.

Jared and Melinda rushed into the open door when Kath'een beckoned them inside her humble but magical home. Then Jared heard something from the Elf woman's mouth that he had never expected to hear.

"Who made it? Has this sign been seen in Eselbrador? When? Tell me, young man!"

"Um, uh…" Jared searched his mind while studying the shield in all its intricate detail. "Let me think...his name was Ethan. Yes, that's right, he was named Ethan. In the Eselbrador language, it means 'solid and enduring'. Jared's eyes suddenly turned serious as he reached out to take the shield. He walked over to Kath'een and held it up in front of her face.

"I know where he is: in my homeland, in a hidden and remote village at least twenty to thirty miles from the capital city. I'll give you directions to send to your daughter. This shield was made by no ordinary smith; it was made by Ethan, or as you know him in your language: Falmouth."

"Mrs. Starwalker, hear me out. Halitha sent us on Falmouth's behalf. But not only do we have crucial information about his whereabouts, but we also have our own personal business that we cannot afford to confide in you for your own safety. Please, if you could lead us to the royal court so we can go about this business, we would forever be indebted to you, and that's a promise. Please, for my sake, for Melinda's sake, and for Halitha's sake. And most importantly, for Falmouth's sake. If you can help us and if you send word to Halitha as quickly as possible, you just might be able to save her intended husband's life."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean…

Oliver, along with countless others, had watched the giant eagle flying over the country carrying the Elvish girl on its back. It wasn't very often you saw this kind of thing around Eselbrador. But unlike his fellow citizens, he could not cry out in awe, but he was OK with it.

From birth, Oliver was completely mute. He could not speak and could only communicate through sign language and writing on parchment/paper for people to read. Lacking the ability to speak or make any kind of vocal sound made life difficult for him.

But all of that suddenly changed.

On the morning of his 12th birthday, Oliver acquired the power of telepathy: the ability to speak to others through the use of his mind. Though quite a mystery at first, he soon learned to control the voice in his head and use it as a means of communication. Rather than reject his gift and disown him as a potential freak of nature, Oliver's parents actually encouraged it. Nowadays, at 18 years old, Oliver knew how to read other's minds, speak with his own, erase or recall lost or unimportant memories, and speak multiple languages. If he concentrated hard enough, he could precisely mark the location of one or more people just by connecting his brain with theirs.

Oliver's eyes had followed Halitha's eagle as it flew from one end of the royal city to the other, and he was immediately intrigued. So he went home and hurriedly packed his bags for a long and possibly arduous trek, and left a note for his parents on their dining table (they were out grocery shopping together). He then sprinted out the door and down the street, eventually reaching the front gate. The guards inquired of him as to where he was headed, but opened the gate for him anyway. Oliver went to the stables to get his horse, Tamino, and with lightning-fast speed, the two took off down the road into the wilderness.

The two were riding around for a very long time (two hours, in fact, but they did stop to take breaks whenever they could). Eventually, they were able to stop for at least the fourth time when the battle cry of an eagle split the still and silent forest air. Oliver and Tamino both looked around, trying to find the source of the sound, and the young man suggested that they double back towards the stream, and they turned around and trotted off in the opposite direction.

Night fell, and Oliver fell asleep on Tamino's back, and when he woke up the next morning, he found himself lying on a patch of grass and leaves. As he wiped the sleep from his eyes, he heard a small sniff and a sob. The young man quickly jumped to his feet and dressed as the Elvish girl came into view. Oliver straightened his clothes and walked out of the bushes into Halitha's line of sight. Breathing hard, he connected his mind with hers and spoke.

Good morning, madam. I assume you are the young Elvish lady who arrived in Eselbrador yesterday? Pardon my intrusion, but my name is Oliver Westwood. I am a citizen of the Eselbrador capital city. That was your eagle who was taken away, wasn't it? May I ask exactly what happened? Perhaps I can help you get it back. Don't worry, you can trust me. If you know Jared Sandeye and Melinda Williams, I am good friends with them. You can trust me, I promise. You can hear me in your mind, can't you?

Litha started as the young man stepped into her path. She drew back, placing her hand on the hilt of the knife tucked in her belt. The young man spoke, his voice soothing and strong, and it was with a great deal of shock that Litha realized he had not opened his mouth.

Good morning, madam. I assume you are the young Elvish lady who arrived in Eselbrador yesterday? Pardon my intrusion, but my name is Oliver Westwood. I am a citizen of the Eselbrador capital city. That was your eagle who was taken away, wasn't it? May I ask exactly what happened? Perhaps I can help you get it back. Don't worry, you can trust me. If you know Jared Sandeye and Melinda Williams, I am good friends with them. You can trust me, I promise. You can hear me in your mind, can't you?

She nodded her head slowly, eyeing the young man, a few doubts lingering in her mind.

Shae'Elen: Kath'een had brought Jared and Melinda to the palace and given them a brief introduction to the Elven queen, one of her sisters. She then asked for a private meeting with the queen, who was happy to oblige.

"I need to send a message to Halitha, who is in Eselbrador. I need your powers of telepathy to help me, it is a long distance and I cannot reach it along."

The sisters put their hands together and concentrated on the young elf woman so far from home, sending her the message and directions Jared had composed.

Eselbrador: Litha suddenly felt a headache coming on and sat on a log by the side of the path. Her mother's voice echoed in her head, pounding and throbbing. It was a long time before Litha was able to subdue the pain and hear the words.

Go to the village of Sudanel, there you will find him. Do not be afraid of the men there. Though they may seek to prevent your taking him, they will not succeed.

These words were repeated over and over. Litha rocked back and forth, unable to reply to her mother's words, unable to speak of the seal on the chain that bound Gwendolyn, of her lover's betrayal. Oliver slid from his horse and placed his hand on her temple. He thought at her.

Let me speak to her, Halitha, let me into your mind and let me tell her. I cannot tell her everything unless you will let me.

Litha dropped the barriers of her mind, trusting Oliver to be kind and not molest her memories. He did not, only touching on the relevant things and sending them to her mother.

Shae'Elen: Kath'een reeled from the heavy weight of the information that the stranger had poured into her mind. She broke apart from her sister, severing the connection to Halitha. Running to the door of her sister's bedchamber, she called for the guards to bring Jared and Melinda up to her at once.

When the guard returned and informed her that the couple were meeting with the king, she cursed him in horrible language that no lady should have ever heard, much less be using, and then apologized sweetly and stalked to the throne room. The bewildered guard returned to his post, shaking his head in bafflement over the peculiarities of the royal family.

Eselbrador: Oliver lowered his hand from Litha's forehead after he felt the connection shatter. She trembled with emotion, he could not tell what. She had built the barriers stronger, and although he could break them if he wanted, he did not. She stood suddenly and picked up her pack.

He watched as she stormed back up the path she had come down, and shrugging, he mounted his horse and followed her.

(OOC: I think Litha is going to storm into Sudanel and confront Falmouth rather violently, it may involve a sword fight between them and lots of Falmouth trying to explain while she waves a sword at him. And Kath'een is going to be a bit put out with Jared and Melinda because of the mix up with the chain. It'll be a happy ending though.)

On the way to the throne room, Jared’s head began throbbing and he heard Oliver’s voice from Eselbrador, telling him everything he had done and was doing with Halitha. They were on their way to the village of Sudanel to confront Falmouth, and hopefully rescue him. Jared agreed with such actions, although he told them to approach the village from the south, as it would be much less defended by the bandits than any other side of town. Oliver thought over this idea, then approved it and cut off the telepathic line. While still being escorted to the Elven King, Jared told Melinda everything that Oliver had told him.

Hopefully Ethan is ready for whatever crazy thing Halitha does to him. If he really was behind the capture of her eagle, then he has to let her know that it wasn’t her fault.

Enough about Halitha. Time to focus on the matter at hand.

There, upon a large, elaborate, diamond-encrusted throne, sat the Elven King himself. He smiled at Jared and Melinda as they entered the throne room, as if he knew of their coming. Not only that, but almost as if….he knew them from some past experience. He stood up and began walking down the golden staircase before his throne, his flowing blue robes of the purest velvet and silk treading behind him. He walked up to the young couple, his arms outstretched and a joyful smile on his Elven face.

“Welcome, Jared Sandeye and Melinda Williams. I am Toradar, King of the Elvish Kingdom of Shae’Elen. I’ve been waiting for both of you.”

In Eselbrador, en route to Sudanel…

Is she alright? Oliver asked himself over and over again. He sat upon Tamino’s back, keeping a close and curious eye on Halitha as she walked down the path towards the predetermined destination. He had offered her a chance to ride behind him on Tamino, but she had repeatedly refused. Oliver guessed that she would never ride any other creature than her eagle; he didn’t know it yet, but he would later find out that he was right.

Girls…So fickle and so picky…

Kath'een fumed outside the throne room as Jared and Melinda spoke with the king. The guards would not allow her to enter, which was just as well because as she waited, her anger began to ebb. She reviewed the information from Oliver. Falmouth's seal had been on the chain that bound the eagle. In Litha's ailing state, it would follow that Falmouth kidnapped the eagle. Kath'een began to wonder if that was the case after all. She had never liked the young smith, feeling him foolish for courting the daughter of a princess, but like him or not she could have sworn to the integrity of his character.

When several minutes passed and the couple did not appear, she left a note with the guards and went to her old rooms to rest. Her communications with Litha had worn her out.

Litha stalked along the path in front of the young Oliver. After several minutes, she stopped and checked her sword, ensuring it was a sharp as it ought to be. Tamino halted behind her and breathed down her neck, snuffling at her hair. She turned and rested her hand on the horse's nose, feeling his life force under her fingers.

"Love makes us do stupid things, Oliver. So many stupid, pointless things. But the worst is that you want to keep doing them, you love so hard and you never stop, because if you stop loving them, you'll lose them, and that is often worse than death."

Oliver said nothing, and after a moment Litha started walking again.

They arrived at the south border of Sudanel. Litha slid her cloak over herself and padded silently into the small cluster of shacks and barns on the outskirts. She thrust out her senses and brushed Falmouth's aura, recoiling in shock at the seething black depression that clouded him. She reluctantly walked towards the source of the aura, a small shack with iron bars on the single window and the door.

She found the door locked and bolted, and no key. She drew her sword and tried to be quiet as possible as she prepared to swing down on the lock. She could see Falmouth in the far corner. He held one finger to his lips and held up a hand for her to wait. He rested his hand on the wall above his bed and it dissolved into nothingness. He exited and Litha ran around back to meet him.

"Litha, my darling!" He grabbed her and hugged her tightly. She embraced him at first, but when she remembered the seal on the chain that bound Gwendolyn she stiffened and pulled away. "What's wrong, my love?" Falmouth's forehead creased as he looked at her.

"You tricked me! You ran away and you kidnapped Gwendoyln so you could sell her. Falmouth, I spent my whole adult life looking for you. Now I find you and you're not who I thought you were. Give me my eagle back and keep your face away from me."

"Litha… I didn't. I didn't do any of that."

"I don't believe you!" Litha turned on him, tears streaming down her face. "I don't believe you!"

Falmouth drew her into his arms again, but she began hitting his chest with her fists. He grabbed her wrists and held her so she couldn't move, murmuring softly in elvish to her.

"Halitha Starwalker, listen to me. I have never wanted to hurt you. These men came upon me unawares as I walked home, remembering your beauty at our last meeting. I would have fought like hell-fury to get back to you, but that they took an elven child with us. They would have killed her if I did not do what they wanted. They had a spell caster with them also, Litha, and I could not fight him. Now that you are here, my love, we can fight him together. It will need two of us to fight him, but we will triumph. Just trust me. Let me in your heart again."

Falmouth stiffened when he sensed the young man step out of the woods.

"Hello, Oliver." Litha greeted him quite calmly.

“So you’re saying that my mother knew that I would go to Shae’Elen someday to find answers to my questions about my family?”

“Yes, she did,” Toradar explained to Jared while taking a sip from a golden goblet of rich red wine. The young blacksmith and Melinda sat in jewel-encrusted chairs that looked almost identical to the Elven King’s throne, except smaller. The King himself telekinetically balanced the goblet inches above his right palm as he talked to the couple. His left hand was on Jared’s shoulder.

“She knew you’d want to know exactly where you came from, why you are who you are. You think Elven-Human marriages are common? Only once in a very rare blue moon does an Elf fall in love with a Human, and vice-versa.”

Here, he bent over and moved his hand from Jared’s shoulder up to his cheek. The young blacksmith smiled a bit at the gesture. The King continued. “You, Jared, have your mother’s eyes. It’s one of the few traits she passed on to you, as well as her magical powers, which I can sense in your soul. I’ve been told by my guards of the pirate attack you were subject to while docking here in Shae’Elen. Some of my most trusted soldiers witnessed your magic firsthand, and needless to say, they are quite amazed that an Elven-Human hybrid can possess such power. But you’re probably wondering, why do I of all people want to talk to you?”

Toradar sat back on his throne and put his hands together in his lap. “A day after you were born, your mother sent me a message telling me the good news. In my heart, I knew that you would grow up to possibly be an heir to the throne of Shae’Elen; but at the same time it didn’t make much sense because you were born half-Human. Not that there’s anything wrong with such circumstances.” He sighed and took another sip of wine. “The truth is, the choice to be my potential successor is yours. Whatever you choose to do, you will have my respect, my blessings, and my love."

"Faolis was one of the most selfless princesses in my court; kind-hearted, friendly, always putting the needs of others before her own. I see no doubt that she passed these character traits on to you as well. The choice is yours, Jared: do you want to take my place when you reach the appropriate age, or would you rather return to Eselbrador and continue with the life and work your father left behind? If you choose to return home, then I will not hold that against you.”

In Sudanel…

By reading the language centers of Falmouth’s mind (albeit very carefully so the Elf wouldn’t be alerted to the telepath’s presence), Oliver was able to translate the Elvish that he was speaking to Halitha. The fact that Falmouth had been put down by a master spellcaster somewhat troubled the telepath. Oliver slowly dove deeper into the Elf’s brain patterns and found where his magical potential lay; the Human’s head throbbed as he sensed the intense uncharted magic present in that part of the brain. The readings were off the chart; Oliver didn’t know what to make of them.

He decided it was time to reveal himself, as he wanted to make sure everything was all right between the Elven couple. He dismounted Tamino who hid himself under the shadow of a gigantic oak tree and crept into the brush and towards Halitha and Falmouth. The latter stiffened as he stood up straight and brushed the leaves and twigs off his clothes.

”Hello, Oliver."

Oliver nodded to Halitha, not taking his eyes off of Falmouth. He connected his mind with the Elf’s and said only two words: Hello, Ethan.

Hello, Ethan.

Falmouth took a step back, pulling Litha slightly behind him in a protective gesture. "What do you want?"

Oliver spread his hands wide in a peaceful gesture, as Litha grabbed Falmouth's arm. "Falmouth, it's alright. This is Oliver. He helped me find you. Leave him alone, or you'll have me to deal with."

Falmouth looked down at the elf maid. "I don't understand. This is not something I am familiar with. But many things in the world today are not what they were, apparently. Never before would Kath'een of Shae'Elen allow her daughter to travel alone. Never before would Halitha Starwalker accuse me of betraying her. Once, she knew me. Once, she loved me."

Falmouth's face tightened as he looked at Litha, but her face was turned away. Oliver could see the pain in both the elves' eyes, the pain of loss and rejection and fear. Falmouth composed himself quickly.

"But can we please get on with it? We have an eagle and a child to rescue, and we'd better get moving before those bandits find I'm gone."

Litha nodded thoughtfully. "First off, this…" She drew back and punched Falmouth.

He reeled, holding his jaw. "You know, right now, I am very glad I didn't teach you how to fight properly. Now, are you happy? Can we get to work?"

"You said I don't love you. That's so wrong, Falmouth. I've always loved you, and that's why it hurt so badly when I lost you." She swallowed, then blinked back a few tears and nodded. "I'm ready. What are we doing?"

Falmouth pulled her sword from its sheath. He examined the blade, pleased with how well she had kept it. He glanced up at Oliver.

"Well, sirrah? You appear to know more than it would seem at first look. Any ideas?"

For a moment, Oliver recoiled, as he almost thought that Litha was going to punch him, too. But then he looked Falmouth in the eyes and pointed to his mouth. He shook his head to show that he could not talk, then tapped the side of his head with a reassuring smile to indicate that he communicated through telepathy.

I know you’re a stranger to telepathy from Humans, but I assure you this is real. I swear by the Gods of Eselbrador that my powers are real. I will tell you all you want to know when we have all these problems sorted out. If you don’t mind, give me a minute. The young telepath closed his eyes and breathed deeply, mentally searching for both Elven girl and the eagle Gwendolyn.

Keeping himself hidden, he connected his mind with that of the little Elf girl, marking her location. She was being kept in a shack similar to the one Falmouth was held captive in. Not only that, but she was surrounded by about five or six bandits, all brandishing crude silver weapons of Elven make and drinking fresh cold ale. Oliver projected his consciousness into one of the bandits, whom he forced into looking around for a possible way in or out of this makeshift prison cell. His comrades didn’t seem to notice; they thought that maybe he was admiring the architecture, and they were all too drunk to care anyway.

Opening his own mind further, Oliver took mental control of the other five bandits and manipulated their brains to increase their drunkenness to such a degree that they passed out. The Elven girl couldn’t help but giggle at the comical ways that her captors suddenly lost thier consciousness. Smiling a little bit himself, Oliver withdrew himself and returned to Falmouth and Litha. He opened his eyes and pointed to the east.

She’s this way, in a cell similar to yours, Ethan. But we’ll have to move quickly; it’s only a matter of time before someone comes to relieve the guard, or what’s left of it. Come on!

Meanwhile, from an underground cove, through a crystal ball, a shadowy figure watched the trio’s every move, paying particular attention to the male Human telepath.

She’s this way, in a cell similar to yours, Ethan. But we’ll have to move quickly; it’s only a matter of time before someone comes to relieve the guard, or what’s left of it. Come on!

Falmouth followed Oliver without a moment's hesitation, holding Litha's hand tightly as they ran to the shack. Falmouth kicked the door open, and in the broad beam of sunlight he could see the guards collapsed on the dirt floor. The little elf girl, Marla, squealed with delight when she saw him, and held her arms out for a hug. He stepped over the guards and picked her up, handing her over to Litha. He then picked up several weapons, grimacing disdainfully at his own shoddy handiwork.

Litha balanced the child on her hip and directed her thoughts towards Gwendolyn. "This way, Falmouth, two buildings down." She wavered a little. "That was harder than it should have been, so be careful."

Falmouth pressed her sword back into her hand. "You need this more than I do right now."

She nodded and turned to Oliver. "Oliver, can Marla sit on Tamino? I think that would be the safest place for her." Oliver nodded and a moment later the chestnut colored horse trotted up. Litha set Marla on, guiding her small hands to hold to Tamino's mane.

Falmouth led the way to the building where Gwendolyn was held. Litha followed closely behind him, and Oliver, Tamino, and Marla followed behind her.

Falmouth reached his sense out a little and felt the eagle inside, and no one else, so he pushed the door open. Litha was at Gwendolyn's side in an instant, stroking and soothing the immense bird trying to keep her from calling out. Falmouth cut the chain that bound her wings to her side and stepped back quickly as the eagle spread her majestic wings wide. Tamino and Marla barely escaped being caught by one. Litha whispered soothingly to the bird and she relaxed, letting her wings fold along her back.

Litha froze. "Falmouth… We're not alone." She hissed harshly. "You need to leave very quickly and very quietly. Gwendolyn and I will be right behind you. Falmouth, go, now!"

Falmouth thought for a moment, then grabbed Litha and kissed her firmly. She gasped in shock as she pulled back. "What are you doing, you idiot? This is not the time or place for displays of affection!"

Falmouth nodded thoughtfully. "We need to hurry up and leave, because someone was projecting themselves on you. However, I don't think it's safe for us to leave by the door, since that is what whoever wanted me to do. Any ideas?"

A black mist began to pour in around the doorway and a dark voice echoed around the shack.

"The elf male is my prize and may not leave. You others, for meddling, will die!"

Litha screamed in pain and fell to the floor. Marla simply fainted, but Tamino held steady and she didn't fall. Gwendolyn shrieked. Falmouth turned to Oliver, who seemed unaffected.

"What do we do?!"

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