The Queen watched with a quiet gaze as Eldarion spoke with Ailsa. She could see how the girl melted into the elf's arms, her eyes shinning with love as he spoke. “You speak as eloquently as any lord's son should,” she noted as he finished. “Yet I fear that your choice of a bride will not hold well in your family circle. She has little to offer you in stature, yet I know you care little of that. My husband was like you, child, small and insignificant in the eyes of the court, yet I fought for his right to marry. He proved them wrong as a leader, King and father, yet there are those in the high circles that still curse his name. Are you prepared to take on that ill-will?”
Ailsa nodded her head confidently at the Queen. “I have faced the hatred of the crowds before for my choices,” she explained. “I will be honored to do it again for the love of my Eldarion.”
A knowing smile crossed the elf lady's face. “Ah, I see. Oh, before I depart and leave you to your celebration, I must know one more thing. Along with the rumor of your intended nuptials, there was another piece of information floating around the market place. Can you clarify it for me?”
Eldarion wrapped his arms around Ailsa as she melted into his arms, his hands burying themselves into her long hair as he looked at her with endless love in his eyes. He smiled when the Queen finally spoke, relieved that she did not sound angry with him anymore. "Thank you, your Majesty," he replied respectfully. "I know that some of my people will not support my choice of a bride, but I remember the stories about how happy King Thanos and you were together and how you always supported each other. Like you, I will fight for my Ailsa and her right to marry - and I am certain that she - like the King - will prove them wrong, all the people who doubt her. Since you have fought this battle before, my Queen, is there some advice you can give us before I pronounce our engagement to my parents? How did you inform your father the King of your wish to marry your Thanos? And how did your father react?"
He pulled Ailsa protectively closer to him when she spoke of facing the hatred of the crowds for her choices. In this case it was also his choice, and he would fight to protect his love if he had to. "I will face the hatred with my Ailsa," he said passionately. "And I will protect her if any of them try to hurt her. No shedding of blood - hers or others - will occur if I can help it."
He smiled when the Queen spoke of departing and leaving them to their celebration, but he froze when he heard the Queen's last question of the rumors. Remembering the scene at the market place, he knew all too well what the Queen was referring to. His Oath of Loyalty to the Queen forbid him to lie to her. If she asked him, he would have no choice but to tell the truth. He looked at Ailsa, wondering how to answer the Queen's question without lying. Did he have the right to reveal the secret Ailsa had fought so hard to keep hidden?
The Queen nodded at Eldarion's comments about her husband. “Thanos was not as loved in life as he became in death,” she explained. “Many saw him as nothing more than a common farmhand, praying on the innocent heart of a lonely elven princess. It was his work with the Elders and fathering of the Kamalli line that cemented his worth to my kingdom. I fear that your bride-to-be will not have the chance for such a world-changing achievement.”
When the elf asked for advice on facing his parents, she chuckled. “Thanos was not the subtle type. He claimed my hand then challenged any that wish to oppose it to a duel. That is not a route I suggest you take. However, I know that Lord Elrond would take more kindly to your decision if he has a chance to meet with the girl and discover her charms for himself.”
“Your heart appears true, elfling,” agreed the Queen, noticing how Eldarion clung to Ailsa with worry at the thought of hatred. “Yet as strong sword will not be enough to protect you. In the course of your love you may have to break long-held bonds, even with those in your own house.”
Radella noticed how the two young lovers looked at one another after her inquiry. “Is there any reason not to answer me?” she asked softly. “If you are withholding a secret so crucial that it cannot be shared with your Queen, I have reason to be concerned.” She paused and her eyes darted to Ailsa. “I thought that Neasa raised her daughter to be more honorable than that.”
At the mention of her mother's name, Ailsa let out a breath of fear and relief. Tears misted her eyes. “How long have you known?”
The Queen smiled. “I am wiser that you give me credit for, little princess. Remember that I visited your kingdom on several occasions to speak with your father, all of which went nowhere. I remember a red-haired miscreant darting about and attempting to trick my guards . . . I seems that the tricks have not left you.”
“Milady, I am sorry!” pleaded Ailsa, breaking from Eldarion's grip and falling to her knees at the elf's feet. “I meant no harm by my deceit! I only wished to protect myself and begin a new life . . . I did not know that my past would follow me here to your city.”
Eldarion shook his head as the Queen spoke of how the critics saw her husband. "King Thanos was more than a farmhand," he said and squeezed the Queen's hand to show his loyalty. "My father said he was braver than any men in the army, and he liked your Thanos so much that he took him under his wings, teaching him all he knew about swordplay. They were best friends from the first time they met, my father says - a friendship that still lasts, in spite of your husband's death. I know my Ailsa may not have the same chance for a world-changing achievement, but even so she means the world to me, and it is with her I will carry on my family legacy, granting my father the grandchildren he longs for."
He listened as the Queen spoke of her husband, chuckling with laughter and also admiration for how bravely the King had fought for the right to marry his Queen. "I will try to resist the temptation to duel, My Queen," he replied gently. "I promise I will introduce my Ailsa to father so he can get to know her. I know she will manage to win him over to our side by her charms."
A worried look appeared on his face when the Queen spoke of breaking long-held bonds, even with those in his own house. He wondered who she could be talking of, but knew that his love for Ailsa was worth fighting for. "Even if it pains me to hear this, I see I have no choice," he said. "Ailsa and I love each other, and I will let nobody stop us from getting married."
At first when the Queen spoke of the rumors from the market, he had been worried that she might refuse them their wish to marry after all. But his smile widened in his face when he realized that the Queen had known who Ailsa was all the time. He remembered his father's words about the Queen's wisdom and compassion, and now he saw for himself that his father's words rung true. Kneeling down before the Queen for the second time, he took her hand and kissed it.
"Blessed am I to serve the most gentle and compassionate of Queens," he said. "I thank you for the protection you have given my bride, and my love and loyalty to you is only growing stronger with all your noble deeds. I will remain your humble and loyal knight - serving you and your family with my weapons and my protection for as long as I live. Whatever mission you need me to do for you, I will obey without complaint."
Radella knew that the elf's words were true, but that was the point she was attempting to make. “Your father did know him well, but that was because he gave my husband a chance. Many do not see past a person's status or appearance, so be prepared for that.”
“You are very brave to make this choice, “ she told them as Eldarion spoke of breaking ties if he needed to. “I hope you will be rewarded.”
Radella glanced at Eldarion as the elf boy knelt at her feet, kissing her hand. “I am grateful for your service, brave warrior, yet you must look after your own at this time. The news of Ailsa's identity has been kept hidden for years . . . until today. We are lucky that it has been kept from the higher courts for now. I only asked to see if Ailsa is ready to face her true fate.”
“I have been running since I was a child,” whispered the girl, her eyes shining with tears, “trying to escape the cruelty of my father's name. With the recent downfall of the darkness, I hoped to come forth and challenge my father to the throne. But I fear that I will have little support from my people and the city of Isparia.”
Radella smiled softly. “It is true that you may start this journey alone, child. Yet, you are not the demon that your father was. It was not you that denied my people aide or turned us away when we were hunted like animals. You must speak with the council, let them know that you are a challenge to your father and tell them what offers you have for their well being.”
Ailsa looked over at Eldarion and took his hand. “It seems that Yvette will have a big order to fill now.”
Eldarion listened to Radella's words of wisdom, knowing her words to be true. "I am aware that not everyone are as open of mind as my father and me," he replied. "I will still get them a chance to get to know my Ailsa. I will invite them one by one, so they do not have the support of a group to judge my beloved. When they get to know them on their own I am certain some of them will change their minds about her."
The elf boy smiled when the Queen complimented him on his courage. "It is not bravery, but love that drives me," he replied and squeezed Ailsa's hand gently. "For my Ailsa I will do anything, just to keep her happy and safe."
He smiled when the Queen expressed her gratitude for his service and told him to look after his own. His eyes sparkled with love as they rested on Ailsa while the Queen spoke of Ailsa's true identity and how it soon would be revealed to the courth. When Ailsa spoke of having run since childhood, he placed a loving arm around her shoulder and pulled her close to him. "Ailsa is with me now," he said calmly. "I will not let her face the royal court alone, nor will I let her face any battle without being there by her side to support her. I have already promised to teach her how to fight with swords and to defend herself. If Your Majesty agrees, we can start with the training first thing tomorrow morning."
He smiled up at the Queen, hoping she would forgive him for being so forward. "But tonight I will take advantage of the beautiful moonlight and take a romantic walk with my Ailsa. You have my word of honor that I will not go further than to kiss her. I want her to stay pure until our wedding night - since I suspect it will be easier to talk my mother into accepting her as a daughter-in-law if she learns I have not touched her. You know my mother is strictly traditional when it comes to romance - except when my father is near. I don't know how he does it, but he always manage to make her melt."
He smiled when Ailsa spoke of Yvette having a big order to fill. "If I understand Lord Haidar correctly, his adopted daughter loves her work. I suspect this order will make her very happy," he answered and kissed her cheek. "Do you want more money for your order, my sweet? I hope there is nothing wrong with a husband giving his wife new clothes..."
A patter of light feet could be heard behind them, and a creeking sound as the garden gate opened. Little Paul came bouncing towards them with happy footsteps, throwing himself into the Queen's arms when he saw her and covered her with hugs and kisses anywhere he could reach. "There you are," he beamed. "I have been looking all over for you, until the Prince said I might find you in the garden."
Tilting his head he looked up at the Queen, his eyes still dark with anger from what he had just heard. "Is it true that Lord Lindir insulted you by saying you spread your legs for lowly humans?"
The boy was so upset with anger that he trembled from head to toe. For the time he had spent in Isparia he had become quite attached to the Queen and considered him like a mother figure for him. Nobody was to insult her and get away with it - not if he could help it. "I heard it on the training field when I was practicing with Master Slafin, and he and I came up with an idea to defend your honor."
The boy grinned and looked pleadingly up at the Queen. "Can I challenge him to a duel with bow and arrow? If he wins he might ask what he want of me. If I win, he will have to apologize to you in front of all the people of Isparia and kiss your shoes. Master Slafin thinks I am good enough to win, but we need your permission first. Can we please?"
Radella smiled when he heard Eldarion's plan to introduce Ailsa to his friends one-by-one. “An ambitious project,” she noted. “It seems that Lord Elrond house will be the talk of town for many weeks! I am sure your mother would relish in the party planning.”
Ailsa was grateful to have Eldarion at her side as she spoke to the Queen. She had dreamed of the day when she would enter the world again as the heir of the Royal Throne, yet feared to speak of it to anyone. Now she found herself speaking with the elven queen, the second most powerful ruler in Brunian, and her own true love. “I worry little for the swords,” she confessed. “It is the bitter words that will sting the most. I will be lucky to get past the first words with most of the leaders.”
“Your love speaks the truth, Ailsa,” put in Radella. “Training with the sword will harness your strength and you will have more courage to face those that doubt you. You never know when a sword will be drawn and if you can meet them with equal skill, it will do much to impress them.”
Radella's eyes sparkled when Eldarion assured her that he had no sinful intent with his moonlit walk. “I know that your mother would be more than angry if you broke that vow, elfling.”
Ailsa took Eldarion's hand as he offered her more coins to pay for the clothing cost. “Allow me to take care of this one,” she told him. “I have a plan in mind.”
The creak of the closing gate started all three of the group. Ailsa instantly stepped away from Eldarion, worried that the new arrival would not be comfortable learning of their involvement. Radella smiled as Paul ran up the path, catching him in her arms and setting him on her hip. Her eyes narrowed when he asked about Lord Lindir.
“Where did you hear such things?” she demanded.
She listened as Paul explained what he had heard and how he would fix it. Seeing the small child so enraged was too cute not to smile at. “Pacience, child,” she told the boy, taking his hand in hers. “Lindir can say what he wishes and I know he speaks from a place of great injustice. Remember that his daughter was to be chosen for Blaz's wife? It is clear that he seeks vengeance and is stooping to such low-level tricks as horrid rumors.”
Setting Paul back on the ground, she smiled at the child. “I believe that Lord Lindir will get his just-dues soon enough,” she added, glancing briefly up at Eldarion and Ailsa. “I am ready to return to my study. Will you escort me there, little master?”
Taking the boy's tiny hand, she glanced over her shoulder at the young couple and silently nodded her head in acceptance.
Eldarion smiled when the Queen spoke of his plans to introduce Ailsa. "It is indeed," he admitted. "So I figured I could take advantage of the gossip that normally spreads around this town. I'll invite the biggest chatterboxes first, and the quiet ones at last. My mother will know who is who, so I will ask her for assistance. She should be happy now that I for once do not escape from social events..."
He listened as Ailsa confessed that she worried more for the bitter words she could meet. Draping his arm protectively around his love, he kissed her cheek softly. "With my sword and your wit and tongue I doubt anyone will dare to speak against us, my love," he said. "I know some of the leaders, my father being among them, and he will surely protect you once he gets to know you. I need to bring you home to meet my family when you have time. I want my family to meet my lovely bride."
The elf boy was glad that the Queen supported his plans to train Ailsa with a sword. But he knew that the Queen herself was a fierce warrior when she had to protect her loved ones. "I will do anything in my power to train Ailsa to an impressive skill," he promised. "Then I get a chance to combine a work I love and being with the woman of my dreams."
Eldarion chuckled with laughter when the Queen spoke of his mother being more than angry if he broke his vow to not touch Ailsa. "You know my mother well, my Queen," he smiled. "She would skin me alive if that happened, and THEN she would give me an earful... Not to mention how she would punish me afterwards... No, since we need her support for the wedding, I will not break this vow."
Smiling happily he linked his fingers with Ailsa's when she took his hand, nodding when she asked to take care of the clothing cost. "As my beloved wishes," he replied softly and kissed her. "But let me know if there is anything you need me to do, do you promise?"
Throwing himself in Radella's arms, Paul covered the Queen's face with loving hugs and kisses before telling her the news. Even when he was angered he never stopped showing the Queen his love and affections. She had welcomed them all into her home when they were homeless and had nowhere to turn. She had given them food and clothes and a nice place to stay. For this she was worth all the love in the world, Paul decided, and the other orphans agreed with him. They protected her honor, and anyone trying to speak one bad word against her were peltered with pranks from the orphans - both singlehanded and in groups.
"Lord Lindir's daughter spoke of it at the training field today," the boy frowned, then a mischievous grin washed over his face. "And I stuffed a dead mouse in her cleavage for spreading rumors about you. She screamed so loud that all the men on the training field came running, and she stood there with her dress lifted all over her head and screamed Get it out, get it out!! Some of the men started laughing and Master Slafin gave me a big hug and asked me if he could adopt me. And I said yes."
Paul listened with wide eyes when he heard that Lord Lindir's daughter was to be chosen for Blaz's wife. The boy got a traumatized face expression just by the thought of it, and his eyes filled with compassion on Blaz's behalf. "Blaz was supposed to marry that?" he asked with disgust written all over his tiny face. "Poor Blaz! It was lucky that Wild came along to save him!"
When the Queen spoke of Lord Lindir getting his just-dues soon enough, Paul looked over at Eldarion and Ailsa. The boy had no idea what the couple would do, but he grinned over at them in a friendly good-luck smile. Eldarion chuckled with laughter and ruffled the boy's hair, promising him that with the plan he had in mind for Lord Lindir he would turn green with annoyance.
"Cool," the six-year old expressed with glee. "I have never seen a green elf before..."
The boy smiled when the Queen spoke of returning to her study, and he offered his arm to escort her like he had seen the older boys do. "My pleasure," he smiled. "I will do anything you ask of me, Your Majesty. I love you!"
Eldarion smiled as he watched them leave, bowing to the Queen as a silent thank you for her acceptance of his proposal to Ailsa. When the couple were alone once more, Eldarion smiled to the girl. "Where do you wish to go now, my sweet?" he asked gently. "There are many places to see, and you are safe in my presence."
Ailsa was glad that Eldarion allowed her to take care of the wardrobe costs. It would not do to take money away from the elf family until she was officially part of it. “Leave it to me,” she told him. “I am more resourceful than you think.”
The queen listened to Paul's report on the training field. She smiled at his trick with the mouse. “I wish I had been there to see that,” she lamented, “though I hope this does not get you in trouble with Lindir and his family. I am glad that Master Slafin has taken you under his wing. You both make a fine pair and I know you will do him proud.”
Radella noticed the traumatized look on Paul's face as she revealed that Lindir's daughter had been a candidate to marry her son. “She was far on the list as far as I was concern, yet I could not refuse Lindir outright. They are the eldest of the elven family and have a right to marry into the royal court if no one more worthy came along. We are all blessed that Master Evan rescued you and brought you all here when he did.”
Ailsa watched as Paul left with the queen. “You should not have gotten his hopes up for revenge so soon,” she told Eldarion. “Remember all the social schmoozing we will have to do before the wedding? And you did swear to the queen that I would be pure on our wedding night.”
She thought about Eldarion's question and slipped closer to him. “Take me to your favorite place,” she told him. “I think it would be the perfect spot to spend the rest of the evening.”
Eldarion smiled softly when his soon-to-be bride assured him she was resourceful, leaning in and kissing her lips. "I know, my darling," he replied softly. "Since the moment we met you have showed me that you have more intelligence than all the little hens in the high court put together. That is one of many reasons why I love you."
Paul grinned when the Queen smiled at his trick with the mouse, glad that she was not upset with him for his behavior. He wrapped his arms around her neck, leaning his soft cheek against hers and sprinkled her face with soft baby kisses. "I love you," he said. "And nobody gets to say bad things about you when I'm around. I don't fear Lindir and their family. If they try anything, me and the boys will be ready for them. I saw Maurice was angered too when she spoke of you, because he unsheathed his sword and chopped the head of a traning dummy." His face expression changed to one of glee when the Queen spoke of Master Slafin. "Master Slafin told me to call him Daddy now," he smiled. "I never got to know my own father, so I am glad to have a father now. I have already moved to his home, and have my own room like a real son. He has been very kind to me, and he stopped Lord Lindir's daughter when she wanted to hit me after the mouse trick. He said that it was her own fault for attacking the Queen's reputation, and that if she insisted on continuing there would be more attacks where this came from. Maurice gathered all us orphans behind him and Daddy Slafin to show her that it was true."
The boy nodded when Radella assured that Lindir's daughter was far on the list of women to marry Blaz. "I bet you was glad when Wild came along then," he smiled and hugged her. "How far was Wild on your list? I hope Prince Blaz did not go against your wishes when he married her? Wild can be uncouth at times, but she is kind and loyal to those she loves."
Eldarion smiled and caressed Ailsa when she spoke of not getting Pauls hopes up for revenge against Lord Lindir. "I know, my darling," he replied softly. "I don't look forward to the social schmoozing, but it is is necessary if we will get some of them on our side before the wedding. It is also important to keep you pure to win my mother's acceptance. She is strict about such things. As for little Paul, I feared he would take revenge on his own and get into trouble if I had not promised to take revenge on the Queen's behalf for him."
The elf smiled when Ailsa slipped closer to him, asking to take her to his favorite place. Taking her hand in his, he slowly walked down the path leading to the little pond.
Ailsa giggled when Eldarion spoke of the “little hens” of the high court, remembering how close she had come to becoming one of them. She would never admit this to anyone, but she had often wondered what she had missed out on by leaving home so early.
“My son knows what his future is expected to be,” the Queen told Paul. “He is the heir to our throne and will become King when I am done. In Wild he chose a wonderful Queen and a woman that will make him happy. A mother can ask for no better bride for her son.”
When they were alone again, Ailsa caressed Eldarion's cheek. “The next few months of parties and ally-making will be a bore, but I am glad that I have you through it all. It will be a chance for me to see how you deal in politics . . . as a future King . . .”
She followed as he lead her down the path to a small pond. There they spent the remainder of the night, skipping stones and admiring the quiet nature of the Queen's garden. They talked for hours, interspersed with tender kisses and words of affection. Soon, the morning crept over the treetops and they would have to return to their homes. Kissing passionately, Ailsa hurried back to her room and slipped inside the door before the guards could see. Leaning against the door, she slid down to the ground and closed her eyes. She would have a few hours to rest before her work day would begin and all her dreams would be of a red-haired elven boy.
Eldarion found Ailsa's giggling just as adorable as the rest of her. He held her in his arms, grateful that she seemed to have more intelligence than any of them. In his opinion she was also the most beautiful woman he had seen, and he praised himself lucky to have a goddess like her in his life. He couldn't wait to bring her home and introduce her to his parents - he was certain they would love her once they got to know her.
Paul listened to the Queen as she spoke of Blaz's future as the King of Isparia. His eyes filled with tears when he heard that the Queen would be done one day. "W-what do you mean done?" the little boy asked. "Y-you're not going to die, are you?" He nuzzled his face against hers, clearly showing his love for her. A little smile appeared on his face when he heard the Queen speaking of Wild, glad that the Queen liked Wild better than Lord Lindir's daughter. "I know Wild doesn't have much learning," he said. "But she loves you and Blaz and will make a better Queen than Lord Lindir's daughter, don't you think? I don't dare to think of how Lord Lindir's daughter would have ruled..." The boy shuddered from head to toe as he imagined what Blaz's life would be like without Wild - married to a hateful woman who made his life a living hell. Poor Blaz! "I am glad I'm only 6 years and don't have to think of girls yet..." he expressed with a traumatized face expression.
Once Eldarion was alone with his beloved Ailsa he leaned into her caresses and smiled as he listened to her words of their next few months. He agreed that the next few months of parties and ally-making would be boring, but if it would help them making a few allies on Ailsa's way back to her father's throne, nothing could be better. "I hate parties," he admitted. "But I will go through them for you, my sweet. We must get you some allies to help you when you one day make your claim on your father's throne. I think you would be a wonderful Queen, intelligent and warmhearted as you are..." He blushed by the thought of himself as a future King - it was as far away from the future he had seen for himself when he first fell in love with who he then thought was a maidservant.
"It takes a while to get used to," he admitted. "But if you are there by my side, I am willing to learn together with you..."
The remainder of the night was spent near the small pond. He enjoyed the closeness he felt to Ailsa, falling deeper in love with her for every new thing he learned about her. He shared his thoughts and dreams with her, sharing secrets he had never spoken of with anyone else. Holding her in his arms he kissed her passionately again and again, declaring his eternal love for her. Only when the sun rose he walked her back to her room. He gave her a last passionate kiss before returning home, promising her that they would soon meet again. His heart was dancing in his chest when he finally returned back to his own room. Crawling into the sheets of his bed, he dozed into a deep sleep filled with wonderful dreams where the beautiful eyes of Lady Ailsa was smiling to him.
Radella knew Paul had misunderstood her words about being done with the crown. She smiled and placed a loving hand on his shoulder. “No child, not yet,” she promised. “The lives of the elves outlast that of your kind. I will no doubt be here beyond your lifetime. Yet, one grows tired of the burden of the crown. Now that my son is wed and knowledgeable about the affairs of the kingdom, I feel comfortable leaving my legacy behind.”
Ailsa worried that Eldarion would reject her when he learned that he would be a King if she took back her father's throne. She smiled when he said that it would take some getting used to. “I am glad that you would not reject me for making a claim,” she said. “I would be happy in poverty or a grand palace, yet I know that my people suffer under my father's rule. I must do what I can to help them, even if I cannot take over the realm myself.”
In her room, Ailsa woke from her short rest and changed into her work attire. Despite the small amount of sleep, she was grinning as she went through her chores, a soft hum on her lips. Even Hada, who never took notice of such things, commented on her good mood. “It is the excitement of the royal wedding,” she confessed. “I suppose it is a fantasy a girl like me can only daydream about.”
Hada walked away shaking her head, not bothering to reprimand her worker if the tasks were getting done with more efficiency than ever before. Whatever had changed in Ailsa, she did not want to risk loosing it.
On her way down to the market for supplies, Ailsa slipped over to Yvette's workshop and asked the girl about making her a dress. The two girls' went over the fabric choices and embroidery details, the excitement over the dress getting higher. After the measurements were taken, Ailsa slipped the coin purse into Yvette's hand, allowing her to keep the excess coins as a tip. Before her presence raised suspicions, Ailsa waved farewell and slipped back into the marketplace crowd.
When she returned to the palace, she quickly penned a note to Eldarion. The dress will be ready in a week, she informed him. I am eager to show you at the meeting with your family.
Paul smiled with relief when the kind elf Queen promised him that she was not going to die yet. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her the way a loving son would hug his mother. "When I grow up I will be a warrior and protect you so nobody can hurt you again," he promised. He listened with a serious face expression when the Queen spoke of growing tired by the burden of the crown. He did not quite understand the meaning of these words yet, but sometimes he had seen the Queen looking tired. "What will you do when you are not a Queen anymore?" he asked and snuggled against her. "Now that the Prince is married perhaps you'll get grandchildren soon."
Eldarion smiled when Ailsa expressed her joy that he would not reject her for making a claim to her father's throne. "It is your legacy," he replied softly. "And I think the people of Brunian will suffer less under your rule than under your father's. I could never reject you, my darling. I love you, and I don't want to see you in the arms of another man. I will do what I can to help you so you can make your rightful claim to the throne."
In his room, Eldarion slept for a few hours, until he woke up from the sound of his baby sister crying for clean diapers and the voice of his mother trying to soothe her. He stretched for a moment in his bed, smiling as he remembered last night and his sweet Ailsa who had agreed to marry him. Which reminded him that he had to tell his mother of his proposal.
Getting out of bed, Eldarion slipped into the bathroom to clean himself up before he got dressed and came out of his room. He made his way in the direction where he heard his mother's voice, and wrapped his arms around her. "Good morning, mother," he greeted and placed a kiss on her cheek. "How is my favorite mother this morning? Is it your wonderful pancakes I can smell from the kitchen?"
He would have asked where his father was, but before he could ask he heard heavy footsteps outside the door. Then Lord Elrond stepped inside the room, followed by a tiny redhaired boy Eldarion recognized as the little orphan Oliver. Lord Elrond wrapped his strong arms around his wife, dipping her backwards for a passionate kiss before he kissed the baby girl on the top of her head in a fatherly manner.
"Ah, the Rose of Isparia has awakened," he smiled and caressed his wife. "Tell me, my heart, have you met little Oliver? He is 7 years old and all alone in the world. I promised him he could come with me to see what a mother looked like. Would you care to show him?"
Oliver looked up at Lord Elrond's wife with big, green eyes in a tiny almost horrified face. It was as if he any moment expected angry voices to scream at him to get lost and never show his face again. Then he bowed so deeply that the locks of his curly hair touched the floor. "I am honored to make your aquaintance, Milady," he greeted, his thin voice quivering a little as he spoke.
(Do you want to play Lady Elrond?)
Near the palace, little Charlotte and Paul were playing in the sunlight. Both children smiled when they saw Ailsa and greeted her friendly. "Morning Ailsa," Charlotte lisped. "How are you today? Do you need any help in the kitchen today?"
The Queen was glad that Paul no longer feared that she would die. She smiled as he hugged her, speaking about becoming her guard and protecting her. “I would be honored to have you in my court. I am certain that you will not stand for the nonsense of the political world and thrash those that need to be reminded their place. It will be very entertaining to say the least.”
When asked what she shall do after leaving the throne, Radella touched Paul's shoulder. “I will take my place as councilor to the next ruler and do what I can to help them better the realm. I will also tend to the royal library and the gardens. I will find ways to make myself needed.”
Ailsa shrugged with uncertainty as Eldarion spoke of her ability to lead. “Perhaps the people would prosper more from an evil ruler that knows the law than a child who has not seen the world,” she noted. “I fear if I attempt to speak my mind now, the court in Taret will crush me like a bug. That is why I must practice with your family first. If I can win over your mother, I can handle the royal court!”
The following morning, Lord Elrond's wife Asaliea was tending to some details in the kitchen. Though a lady in her own house, the elf woman wished to take care of her children as a mother should and insisted on preparing all the family meals personally. The cooking staff often wondered at this eccentricity, yet never questioned the lady of the house. They would find their fill of work when the dinner parties came around, which were frequent.
Just replacing the cleaning supplies from her daughter's station, Asaliea laughed as she felt someone hug her from behind. Despite his age, she could always tell the touch of her only son. “Your smell has not lost it's cunning,” she said. “You must hurry or they will be cold.”
Distracted as she was with Eldarion, the elf could still hear the heavy footsteps of her husband. While elves were light-footed by their nature, Lady Asaliea knew her husband had picked up on this “bad habit” from his times with human warriors of the Kamalli. Though she did not dislike the other race in Isparia, she was concerned that her husband's over-acceptance of human traits was putting their social status in danger. A lower social status could have disastrous consequences for the marriage prospects of her two daughters and her only son.
She let out a gasp as hands pulled her backwards, falling into the arms of her husband. She had just a glance of his face before she was swept up in his kiss, smiling despite her surprise. “And a fair morning to you as well, my husband,” she answered, tossing some fallen hair off her shoulder. “May I ask what has you so chipper this morning? It must have infected our son as well as he is grinning from ear to ear.”
Upon seeing the human child, Asaliea paused and glanced at her husband. The story that Elrond gave made her suspicious, as any parent would of their child bringing home a stray animal they had found in the woods. “We were just about to eat breakfast,” she said softly. “I will see if there is room for another at the table.”
In another part of the city, Ailsa was walking back from the market, pleased that her fitting with Yvette had gone so well. The fabrics they had chosen would be perfect for her gown and she was eager to see the final result. Coming in sight of the front gate, she smiled at two of the orphan children as they played outside.
“It is good to see you again, my little friends,” she said. “I hope you are staying out of mischief. The royal wedding is tonight and I pray that everything goes according to plan.”
When the children asked to help in the kitchen, the girl shook her head, her thick hair twisting around her shoulders. “I believe we have it all managed. Hibernia has everyone on a strict chore list and is master of all that are setting up the rooms.”
She took a few steps away before she paused. “Oh, there is an errand you can run for me?” she remembered. “This note is to be delivered to Master Eldarion before the ceremony. There is no signature but he will know who it is from. And please, speak to no one of this. It is the Queen's wish.”
Paul beamed with joy when the Queen spoke of having him in her court, hugging her tightly in boyish joy. "I will always be here to protect you," he said. "And I know the other kids will say just the same. If anyone tries to hurt you with words or action there will be hell to pay - that's what Maurice says. And Oliver and I are planning to pull pranks on anyone who tries saying mean things about you. You should keep Simon near you too. He is small, but those two little rice grains of his are sharp - he will bite anyone who are mean to his Mommy. As for me, I will not stand for any nonsense from the idiots who try to bring you down - I'll thrash them so they never dare to open their mouths again. If they don't listen to my words, I'll use them for target practice with my bow and my slingshot!"
Paul was glad to know Queen Radella would still be nearby even if she left the throne. "I am certain Wild is going to need you," he said. "Maurice says she never got any schooling in the orphanage, and I think you need to know a lot to be a Queen. Now that Wild and Blaz are married you will be a grandmother soon, won't you? I am sure Wild will have a lot of questions since it's the first time she's having children of her own. And Simon needs you too, as his Mommy - and we others need you because we love you. The way I see it you will be very much needed."
Eldarion caressed Ailsa gently when she shrugged with uncertainty. Perhaps she doubted her own skills to lead, but he would never doubt anything she did. "Perhaps people have lived so long under terror that they need a new life?" he suggested. "A life where they can say and do what they please without fearing for their lives. Do not fear for the court in Taret, my sweet. I will always be by your side to protect you when you need me."
He smiled when she spoke of winning over his mother. "Yes, I am certain my mother can prepare you for the royal court," he said. "As soon as you are ready, we will introduce you to my parents."
(What a beautiful woman! Lord Elrond is VERY pleased with his choice of wife! ^^ )
Eldarion smiled when his mother told him to hurry before the pancakes grew cold. "I will do just that, mother," he replied. "Nobody can make better pancakes than you can."
He grinned as he watched his father sneaking up on his mother from behind, kissing her just as passionately as on the day they were married. He suspected that Lord Elrond would never stop kissing his wife like this.
Lord Elrond prolonged the kiss until he knew his wife needed air before breaking the kiss, working her up for the romantic moments he would share with her later, when their children were out playing. His eyes sparkled with mirth when his wife asked the reason why he was so chipper today.
"Ah, she caught us, son," he laughed and kissed his wife's cheek. "There's no use fooling the smartest woman in Isparia." Focusing his attention on his wife again he caressed her hair gently. "It seems our son finally have found the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with, my dear," he said. "You remember I had the same grin on my face when I met you..."
His eyes sparkled with love for his wife as she softly made room for one more at the table to have Oliver eat with them. He had always loved her for her warm heart and her kindness to those who were unhappy in life. He had no doubt that she would get along with little Oliver once she got to knew him.
"Oliver, this is my wife Asaliea," he said. "She is very kind and loving, and I am sure you two will get along."
Oliver looked up at the Elven woman with big eyes under a tuff of red hair. "It's nice to meet you, Milady" he said politely. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
Charlotte and Paul bounced happily over to Ailsa when she greeted them, wrapping their arms around her knees and hugging her tightly. They concidered her to be a friend after they had helped Eldarion with his ruse to gain her attention.
"It is good to see you again too, Lady Ailsa," little Charlotte beamed up at the kind woman. "We are trying to stay out of mischief but it isn't easy." Paul leaned closer to Ailsa, wishing to inform her of their latest prank. "We caught a guard sleeping on duty," he whispered, pointing out a man nearby. "We tied his shoelaces together to remind him to stay on guard. It will be fun to see what happens when he wakes up."
Charlotte nodded when Ailsa spoke of the royal wedding being tonight. "I know," she said. "I'm going to be a flowergirl at the wedding, together with little Niamh. Daddy has told me not to get my dress dirty." Paul nodded when Ailsa spoke of hoping everything going according to plan. "I hope so too," he said. "But I also see that Lord Haidar has put up extra guards today. I don't know why. Maurice wouldn't tell me."
Charlotte nodded when Ailsa spoke of Hibernia. She liked the stern housekeeper, knowing that under the stern surface was a kindhearted woman who loved small children. "I'll go and ask her if she needs help then," she smiled and stuck her hand into Ailsa's.
Paul nodded and reached his hand out for the note Ailsa wanted him to deliver. "It's better I take care of this one," he said. "Charlotte gets dirty just by looking at a pool of mud. If someone gives her a clean dress one minute, it has dirt stains on it the minute after." Charlotte grinned bashfully, knowing Paul's words to be all too true.
The boy nodded when Ailsa said the note must be delivered to Master Eldarion before the ceremony. "I won't tell anyone of this," he promised. "And I will deliver it to Eldarion personally. It won't be suspicious either since we are friends. Do you want me to wait for a reply before I return to you?"
Asaliea could feel the passion of her husband's kiss, remembering (with a smile) a similar move played on her nine months before her youngest daughter was born. She knew her husband had not lost his fire and delighted in his wonderful caresses.
She gave Eldarion a suspicious glance as the elf lord kissed her cheek, proclaiming that she had "caught them". What have my mischievous boys done now, she wondered. The father is as bad as the son!
Once the news of Eldarion's engagement broke, the elf woman burst into tears. "Oh praise the Ancients!!" she cried, hugging her son and kissing his cheek. "You must bring her to the house. We will throw a great feast! Oh, I cannot wait . . ."
After several minutes of praises to the Ancients and mutters of preparation requirements, Asaliea was calmed enough to attend to her current guest. Herding the boys into the kitchen, she placed another setting for Oliver before sharing the news of Eldarion's engagement with the staff. They already knew of course (the lady's excited voice had made it's way through the whole house), but they feigned surprise for Asaliea's sake.
The tasks distributed, the elf woman hear Oliver ask if there was anything he could do to help. "Could you go to my eldest daughter's room and inform her that food is served and a big announcement must be made? It is down the hall and to the right."
Ailsa greeted the children with a pleasent smile. It was nice to see playful children scampering about after so much of their lives had been clouded by war. She smiled as they explained that they were trying to stay out of trouble. A small giggle escaped from her throat when she heard about the prank on the guard.
"I hope Lord Haidar does not find him like that," she said. "I expect there will be a lot of cursing and night watches for that guard!"
Ailsa was glad that the children could be part of the wedding, their small faces glowing with excitement. The news of extra guards was a surprise, but not unheard of with ceremonies of this nature. Also, Ailsa assumed that Wild had not made many allies in the high-born elven families, many of them trying to marry their own daughters off to the prince.
The girl gave a sigh of relief when Paul said that he would deliver the note. Her dress would be ready in a couple days and she wanted to know when the meeting with Eldarion's parents would be.
"Let me know the moment you get back," she told the boy. "I -- the Queen is eager to hear the news."
Only when he needed to come up for air did Lord Elrond break the passionately kiss with his wife. He smiled when he saw the smile on her face, the sparkles in her eyes just as beautiful as they had been when he first met her. "Still as lovely as the first time we met," he whispered in her ear, his eyes filled with endless love when he looked into her eyes. "You will always be the Queen of my heart..."
Eldarion shared a smile with his father when he saw his mother's suspicious glance. To tease her he put on the face expression he had worn as a little boy when she caught him with both hands in the cookie jars. Lord Elrond helped the teasing, by putting on the same stern face expression he had used when his wife reported of mischievous children when Eldarion and Gilraen were small.
Their face expressions cracked in huge grins when the news of Eldarion's engagement broke, and the boy hugged his mother tightly and kissed her cheek back. He had been worried at first, that she would be upset with him for finding a girl without checking with her first. "I look forward to introduce her to you, mother," he smiled. "She is the most beautiful girl in the world, and she said yes right away when I proposed to her." A goofy smile appeared on his face as he thought of Ailsa's sweet face, and Lord Elrond could swear he saw tiny pink hearts swirling around his son's head.
Entering the kitchen with Oliver and his father, Eldarion smiled friendly to the staff and greeted them friendly before sitting down at his regular place by the table. He patted on the chair beside him, inviting Oliver to sit next to him.
Lord Elrond smiled friendly to the staff as well as he followed the boys, little Telrunya tucked safely into his strong arms. He placed himself on his usual seat next to his wife and placed his youngest daughter on his lap. The Elf Lord known as a ferocious warrior did not seem very agressive as he cooed to his youngest child, making funny faces in an attempt to make her smile to him. "Whooooo is Daddy's little princess?" he asked in a voice his enemies would never hear him use. "You are! Do you have a kiss for Daddy today?"
Oliver nodded when the Lady of the house asked him to go fetch the eldest girl from her room. "At once, Madame," he replied, bowing politely before disappearing into the hall. As the Lady had said there was a door to the right, and Oliver knocked politely.
"Excuse me, Mademoiselle," he called out. "Your mother says the food is served and a big announcement must be made... She requests you join for breakfast at once."
Charlotte and Paul giggled with Ailsa when she spoke of hoping Lord Haidar would not find the sleeping guard like that.
"We will soon find out whether or not Lord Haidar finds out, Lady Ailsa," Paul informed and looked around. "Because I think I hear his footsteps just around the corner. The sight of a guard with a heavy knot on his shoelaces should tell him that someone didn't do their job properly...."
Charlotte giggled when the footsteps came closer. "He's coming," she whispered to Paul. "Smile and try to look innocent. It will be fun to see if the guard wakes up in time and what he will do if Lord Haidar spots him like that.... I don't think Lord Haidar will curse at him if he sees me and Paul before he spots the guard. But if he sees the guard first, we might learn some new words..."
Charlotte looked up at Ailsa and smiled as she hugged her knee caps lovingly. "Are you going to the wedding, Lady Ailsa?" she asked. "It will be so fun! I have never been to a wedding before, but Oliver has told us of the wedding of his cousin. I bet Wild and Lady Ardis are nervous now. Everyone will stare at them, Oliver says... And Wild is shy when she gets too much attention. She isn't used to it."
Paul smiled and took the note from Ailsa's hand. "This will only take a moment," he assured her. "I run fast, and will be back before you know it. I'll come to find you in the kitchen when I return."
Without further delay, the boy scampered off in the direction of Lord Elrond's house, knocking on tIhe door. It was Eldarion himself who opened, his face lighting up in a smile when he read the message from his sweet Ailsa.
"Come in and help yourself to some fruit while I write an answer back," he said as he went to his room to find a quill and paper. While Paul waited, Eldarion jotted down on the paper a brief note, filled with love for its receiver.
I can't wait to see you in your new dress, my love. You will be the most beautiful girl alive. I will introduce you to my mother in two days - at our dinner party. The party starts at 7, and I will come to pick you up at 6. I hope this will be fine with you? Also, I can't wait to see you at the wedding. I will pick you up in two hours - will that be enough time for you? Forever yours, Eldarion.
When the message was written he delivered it to Paul with a smile. "Give this to Ailsa in person," he said. "And speak of this to nobody."
"Alright," Paul replied and took the letter. With a last smile to his friend he scurried out of the room and back to the kitchen as fast as his tiny legs could carry him.
Asaliea could see the love in her husband's eyes and giggled when he whispered in her ear. “You have kept yourself up well too,” she told him. “Still as spry as a young elf and twice as handsome.”
The woman saw the looks on her husband and son's faces, a familiar scene that she had observed many times in her years. As the news broke, Asaliea glowed with pride and excitement. She looked forward to speaking with the girl, the elf that would take over her home when she was gone.
As the family settled into the kitchen for the meal, Asaliea made sure that everyone had enough to eat and all the necessary things were on the table. She kissed her husband's cheek when she saw him interacting with their little daughter.
Ailsa glanced down as Lord Haidar walked past. The commander was looking over some supply documents, pausing when he spotted the children. He gave them a friendly wave and smile before moving on, several hours of work ahead of him before the wedding that night.
When Charlotte asked if she was going to the wedding, the servant girl shook her head. “I fear that I am needed in the kitchen for clean up. Besides, there will be enough visitors to keep the royal couples busy.”
After the messenger had dashed away, Ailsa returned to the kitchen to continue her chores. When Paul returned, she slipped into the hallway to read the note. She smiled when she saw the words. “Let him know that the message was received and understood. What would you like for payment of your services?
Lord Elrond smiled happily when his beloved Asaliea complimented him on his looks and kissed her softly. "I want to look my best for my wife, my angel," he replied and buried his face in her hair, taking in her sweet scent. "I don't want you to be ashamed of me when we are out in public together. How have our daughters behaved when I was gone?"
Eldarion smiled when he saw his mother's reaction to his proposal. "I hope you will like her, mother," he smiled. "She is the most beautiful woman I have ever met, and she has made me the happiest man alive when she accepted my proposal. I wished to introduce her for you first to have your acceptance before our marriage..." Sitting down on his regular place he helped himself to the food his mother had prepared for them, but waited to start eating until Oliver returned with his sister.
In the hallway Oliver's jaws dropped to the ground when the door opened and young Gilraen appeared in the doorway. She bore strong family resemblance with her mother, but in a younger version.
"H-hi, I'm pretty..." he said, his face turning beet red when he realized what he had said. "I-I mean you are pretty... I mean... maybe I should just stick my foot into my mouth and shut up..."
The elf girl giggled by the sight of the boy who at this moment bowed deeply to her to hide his blushing face. "Yes, you are pretty..." she smiled and studied the back of his head - the only thing she could study when his face was touching the ground. "My name is Gilraen, the eldest daughter of Lord Elrond and Lady Asaliea. I think I heard some talk of breakfast... Would you do me the honor of escorting me to the breakfast table, Pretty?"
Oliver's face blushed even more, but he stretched his arm towards her and escorted her back to the table where the rest of the family were waiting.
Lord Elrond smiled softly when his wife kissed his cheek, carefully feeding the little girl on his lap tiny bits of food from his food plate. He smiled when Gilraen entered the room. "Ah, now Daddy has both his princesses and his queen at the table," he smiled and kissed Gilraen and his wife as they sat down on either side of him. "Now we can have a nice breakfast, all of us..."
He watched Oliver's red face with mirth as the boy sat down next to Eldarion. "The tomato season starts early this year..." he remarked to his wife, while calmly continuing his breakfast.
Oliver stared at his plate with a face as red as his hair. He did not dare to touch his food as Gilraen was looking at him from her place at the table and giggling.
The sleeping guard woke up when he heard the footsteps of his commander. Not seeing the giant knot on his boots he tried to snap to attention when the Commander came closer, with the result that he tripped and landed in a most ungraceful manner in front of Haidar's feet. His feet flailed in the air during the fall, making the giant knot on his shoelaces visible to everyone who looked in his direction. Charlotte and Paul tried to look innocent when this happened, but their eyes sparkled with suppressed mirth. They waved to Haidar when he greeted them, waiting eagerly to see what would happen now.
Charlotte looked sad when Ailsa said she wouldn't be at the party tonight because she was needed in the kitchen for clean up. "Awwww, that's too bad," she said. "But Hibernia is very kind. I am certain she will let you watch the wedding ceremony at least? I am going to be a flowergirl and walk up the aisle with little Niamh - and we are going to toss rose petals on the floor! If we had done anything like that in the orphanage Master would have kicked the crap out of us!"
Returning with Eldarion's reply to Ailsa, Paul smiled and shook his head when Ailsa spoke of payment for his services. "Normally I would have asked for coins," he said. "But I know you are making desserts for the wedding in the kitchen today. If any of the desserts should be a mishap and not found worthy of being served to the guests, I wouldn't mind having one of them as my payment. I'll let Eldarion know his message was received and understood as soon as I see him again - which will be when I go to meet Maurice and the other boys. We are going to keep watch during the wedding to make sure nothing goes wrong. Eldarion wanted to join our meeting, so we let him."
Asaliea welcomed her husband's affection and smiled as she spoke of looking his best for her. “You could never shame me,” she told him. “Though your pranks can be taken too far . . . such as our dinner parties.” When he asked about the girls, she sighed. “Same as before,” she reported. “Gilraen stays in her room much of the day, dreaming of her future husband. His name and appearance changes by the day, so it is hard to keep track. As for the baby, she is more active during changing time and that has made it extra exciting.”
The elf family watched as Oliver lead Gilraen into the kitchen. They could see the blush on Oliver's face and feel the heat of his embarrassment from the doorway. Asaliea chuckled as her husband commented on the color of the boy's face, patting his hand playfully. “You were much the same in your youth, my lord. Our daughter's beauty is not to be taken lightly, for she works on it at all hours of the day. Be lucky that this suitor is small enough to pick up with one hand.”
Haidar did not speak as the guard flopped over at his feet, his papers still held aloft in the reading position. With a patient nod of his head, he stepped forward and produced a knife from his belt. He flicked it up at the knot in the laces, slicing the guard's shoes free.
“Shall I ask how this happened?” he said to the guard. “Remove your shoes and return to your post. You shall have to do without them for the remainder of your shift. The sore heels will do your memory some good.”
Ailsa nodded when she heard Paul's request for a desert from the wedding. “I will make sure that one of the best cakes is missing a slice,” she answered.
After the message had been returned to Eldarion, the girl went about her work as quickly as she could. The wedding night would have to be perfect!
A few days later, she was putting the final touches on her hair when she heard a knock at the door. She smiled at Yvette, who had delivered the dress just in time and had helped her get ready. Her heart raced when the room fell silent again and forced herself to hide her nerves. Tonight was the big night, the night that she would meet Eldarion's parents and perhaps reveal her true name to the city.
Giving herself another few breaths to calm down, she walked to the door and opened it softly. She gave the elf on the other side a soft smile, her eyes glowing with the sight of him.
Lord Elrond smiled when his wife assured him that he could never shame her, grinning when she spoke of his pranks being taken too far at times. "Oh, you are referring to the time I had glue on Lord Lindear's chair?" he asked, his eyes twinkling with suppressed mirth. "And his pants were torn when he stood up so he showed his buttocks to the entire party? My dear, I can assure you I had no idea that he made his clothes in such poor materials... Men's clothes are supposed to stand a glue test you know..."
"Unless the glue is elven-made," Eldarion muttered to his breakfast.
Lord Elrond grinned and then listened with interest as his lady reported on what his two daughters had been up to lately. In return he told her everything he had observed at the royal marriage, including the event with the black bird threatening the royal couple and how enraged Prince Blaz had been. He also let his wife know that it was because of this threat he had spent most of his night keeping watch over Isparia instead of sleeping. "You know I love nothing more than being in the arms of my wife," he said. "But I also wished to keep my family safe - along with the rest of Isparia. I hope you will forgive me for coming home late... I did it to protect you all from the unknown danger."
He smiled when Gilraen entered the room, pulling her onto his lap for long enough to give her a big hug and a fatherly kiss on the cheek. "How is my little princess today?" he asked. "Have you decided which of your suitors that will be your future husband yet?"
"Not yet, father," the girl giggled and blushed. "But I know he will show up sooner or later..."
Eldarion rolled his eyes towards Oliver. "She goes on like this all the time," he whispered. "Today it is one boy, tomorrow it is another... She must have broken more of our men's hearts than the arrows of our enemies..."
Gilraen heard him and sent her mother a hurt teary-eyed face expression, completed with a wobbling lower lip. "Eldarion is mean to me, mother," she whined in a tone Eldarion had heard all too often.
Lord Elrond sent his son a stern gaze - this time a real one. "Apologize to your sister, Eldarion," he said in a stern voice.
Eldarion sighed, knowing he would not get off the hook until he had done as he was told. "I'm sorry, Gilraen," he said with a sigh, then added in his mind. I'm sorry to have such an empty-headed goose as my sister. Little Telrunya is ten times smarter than you....
Lord Elrond beamed with joy when little Telrunya looked up at him and gave him a big smile. His joy only grew when the baby soon after called him Daddy for the very first time. "Did you hear that, my love?" he beamed towards his wife. "Our baby can TALK already. Daddy is soooo proud!" Lifting the little girl, he gave her a big, fatherly kiss on the cheek, and then a giant raspberry on her little tummy. Eldarion knew that his father would brag about Telrunya's first words the rest of the day - to everyone who bothered to listen to him.
The elf lord chuckled with laughter when his wife defended Oliver against his teasing. "Ah, I remember how I reacted the first time I saw you, my sweet," he laughed. "I drove your father crazy with my constant admiration of his pretty daughter and my continued pleads to marry you. I am certain he said yes at last because he was tired of my nagging."
He laughed when Asaliea told him that Gilraen worked on her beauty at all hours of the day. His eyes sparkled with suppressed mirth as he turned to his eldest daughter. "Try not to wear out all the mirrors in the house," he joked. "Some of them are family heirlooms and quite valuable."
Gilraen's face turned just as red as Oliver's and she turned to her mother with a pleading face expression again. "Mother," she whined. "Now father is teasing me too...."
Oliver studied her shyly across the table, the tears in her eyes tearing at his heart. "It is true you know," he finally said shyly. "You are very beautiful."
Gilraen smiled and looked down at her plate of food, happy with the first compliment any boy had given her. "Thank you," she smiled shyly. "I think you are cute as well..."
The guard stared bewildered at his feet as he finally discovered the giant knot on his shoelaces. It was clear from his face expression he had absolutely no idea how said knot had gotten there. His face flushed red as the Commander asked him how this had happened. "I-I have no idea, Sir," he stuttered, knowing he would be in deep trouble if he admitted to sleeping on duty. When the Commander ordered him to remove his shoes, he did so with haste and scurried back to his post. "Yes, Sir - at once! Thank you Sir!" he replied, getting back in his guarding position and tried to look as frightening as he could without shoes on his feet.
Charlotte and Paul looked at each other, feeling a bit bad for what they had done. After all it was their fault that the guard was now in trouble. Charlotte bounced over to Lord Haidar and jumped into his arms - the same way she always greeted her adopted big brothers. Giving him a big hug and a couple of baby kisses she leaned towards him and whispered in his ear.
"I am afraid it is my and Paul's fault he is in trouble, big brother," she admitted. "We found him sleeping on his post and tied knots on his shoes to remind him to stay alert. Maurice says that all the guards must be extra alert today - but I don't know why. Maurice refused to tell me."
Paul grinned when Ailsa promised him a slice of one of the best cakes as his reward. "Oh thank you," he squealed, wrapping his tiny arms around her and giving her a tight hug. "I'll make sure to stay nearby every time you need someone to run errands for you..."
The little boy left the kitchen with a delicious slice of cake and a happy smile from ear to ear. This was a great start of a wedding!
(Are we done here?)
A few days later Yvette was helping Ailsa with the finishing touch of her appearance. Taking a step backwards she admired the final result. "You look stunning, Lady Ailsa," she smiled. "Lord Eldarion will drool when he sees you." Hearing the knock on the door she lowered her voice to a whisper. "Oh here he is already," she whispered. "Do you want me to leave so you can be alone? Daddy and I are invited to the dinner party at Lord Elrond's house too, and we are bringing Miss Isabella. She works as Daddy's housekeeper and is planning to start a school for us kids, once we have arranged it with the Queen."
On the outside of the room, Elrond let out a gasp when he saw the beautiful vision in green in front of him. His eyes sparkled with all the stars of the night sky, and he took her hand and kissed it gently. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met," he said, looking at her with love in his eyes. "I feel truly blessed to have you as the Queen of my Heart. May I escort you to the dinner party, my beautiful lady?"
Elrond had dressed up in his most beautiful clothes today - as it was the most important day of his life. Today he would introduce his soon-to-be wife to his parents. He felt slightly nervous, knowing his mother probably had pictured him married to an elf maiden. But he was certain that his sweet, beautiful Ailsa with her conciderable charm would manage to melt both his parents.
Yvette saw the stars in the eyes of the young couple and smiled secretly as she tiptoed out of the room. She wanted to give them a moment or two to themselves, and besides - she had promised Daddy to come right home after delivering the dress so they could go to Lord Elrond's party all three of them together: Daddy, her, and Miss Isabella.
“Yes, that would qualify as too far,” she agreed when he mentioned the glue prank. “Hilarious, but too far for a dignified elf lord . . . . or his son.”
Asaliea listened as her husband told her about the royal wedding, an event she had been saddened to miss. She had been ill on that night and had wished to stay home with her youngest child. She nodded when he spoke of protecting the city, knowing that his duty to the people came before all else.
She watched as Elrond spoke with Gilraen, kissing her on the cheek as if she was still a child. “Allow her more time to think of the right match,” she told her husband. “We cannot afford to have a shame on our family by marrying someone unworthy. Gilraen is the fairest elf maiden in the land and can have her pick of fine elven men.”
While she did not condone her daughter's patented lip-wobble-of-doom, she also knew that Eldarion was showing a jealous hand with his comment. “You are the first of our family to marry, if this girl is a proper candidate that is, so you must treat your sister with more tact, my son.”
Asaliea's eyes sparkled as she heard her daughter's first words. “Another cause of celebration,” she announced. “It seems today is a day of firsts.”
The elf woman blushed when Elrond recounted the time that they had met. “I am certain that his wariness of you began the first five times that you asked for my hand . . . . an hour after I had departed. But I am glad that you wore him down and got his blessings.”
While he had a valid point, Asaliea was prepared to scold her husband for his teasing. She stopped when they heard Oliver's comment, something that none of them had expected to hear. Leaning close to her husband's ear, she giggled. “It seems that Oliver is attempting to break your record,” she teased. “Be prepared to fend off his advances, my love.”
After sending the shoeless guard back to his post, Haidar smiled at the children. His eyes sparkled when he heard Charlotte's confession. “Ah, I had a feeling,” he said. “Allow him to serve his punishment for a couple hours. It will teach to be more aware of his surroundings. It seems that my men have been too relaxed lately. I may need to hire you for more pranks to keep them sharp.”
Completing the adjustments on her hair, Ailsa heard Yvette comment on her dress. “Thank you for everything Yvette,” she told the girl with a wide grin. “I can't say enough about your great work. It is everything I imagined it would be!”
When they heard the knock on the door, Ailsa froze. “No stay,” she requested. “I am sure that Eldarion would like to thank you as well.”
Hearing his reaction, the girl was relieved that her choice was the correct one. “I hope your mother will feel the same way. It seems that she is the one to impress tonight.” She smiled as he kissed her hand, squeezing his fingers in a return of affection.
Stepping into the hallway, Ailsa took the elf's arm, glad that she had an anchor to hold onto. Learning that Lord Haidar and others would be at the party made her nervous. Was she really ready to make such a large step in front of so many judging eyes?
“Eldarion, how many people has your mother invited tonight?” she asked as they stepped outside. “I thought it would only be your family.”
Lord Elrond grinned and kissed his wife, knowing she would berate him and Eldarion for the glue prank against Lord Lindear. "I did apologize to him afterwards, however," he smiled and wrapped an arm around his wife. "And I even gave him new clothes. And he did apologize to the Queen for his insulting words afterwards..."
"We will not do it again, mother," Eldarion promised. "Unless he goes off his handle and insults the Queen again - or my sweet mother..."
Lord Elrond smiled friendly towards his wife, knowing she had been sad to miss the royal wedding. "I know you wanted to see the royal couple," he said. "So I invited the Queen and the young royals to the dinner party we will have to celebrate Eldarion's engagement. That way you will get a chance of meeting the new Princess after all. I have already spoken with her, and she seems to be far more sympathetic than Lord Lindear's daughter. The children have told me that she feels unsure in social gatherings though. Perhaps you can take her under your wings and protect her from the harsh tongues of the other noble ladies of the court?"
Eldarion smiled when he heard his wife's words and patted Gilraen's cheek in a fatherly manner. "She have enough time to think, my sweet," he assured his wife. "She is only 14 years old, and I still see her as my child." He concealed the fact that he would see his children as his children also when they celebrated their 100th birthday. "I am certain that a good man of noble family will fall for her beauty and her charms when the time is right. At the royal wedding she was asked to dance from the moment we arrived to the moment we left the party. I wonder if she got to taste the lovely food at all."
Gilraen giggled and blushed. She had time to taste a little food inbetween the dances. She still blushed when she thought of the handsome young men there... "Would you say that Glorfindel is of good family, mother?" she asked. "He asked me to dance three times at the wedding. When a man asks you to dance that often, does that mean he is interested?"
Eldarion's eyes sparkled with mirth as he met his wife's eyes over his daughter's head. She often spoke about a man this way - and the next day she had forgotten him for another man.
Eldarion nodded when his mother said he should treat his sister with more tact. "You are right, mother," he sighed. "I apologize to the family for my behavior - even my sister Gilraen...." He knew he needed his mother's support in order to marry, and knew it was best to keep her happy. He suspected Ailsa was not what she had hoped for in a daughter-in-law. "What would you say is a proper candidate, mother?" he asked gently. "What does it take for you to accept a suitor for any of your children?"
Telrunya beamed towards her mother when she bragged about the baby's first words, clapping her chubby little hands in excitement and glee. And then, still looking up at her mother, she said her SECOND words. "WUVV MOMMY!"
Elrond smiled when his wife spoke of his father-in-law, chuckling when he remembered all his hard work to win the man's favors. It had been hard at first - but once he showed his courage in battle - especially the battle where he saved the man's life - he had been accepted as a son-in-law. "I am glad he agreed to give me your hand in marriage, my sweet," he replied and kissed her hand. "I fell in love with you the first time you spoke to me, and my love for you have only grown since then. There is no other woman on earth that can take your place in my heart."
Hearing Oliver's words of admiration to his daughter made the elf lord chuckle with laughter, and he patted his wife's hand when she spoke of fending off the boy's advances. "Little Oliver here is only 7 years old, my love," he said gently. "Half her age and height. He would need a ladder to steal a kiss from her." Giving his wife a wink, he sent Oliver a playful warning glance. "If young Oliver should make such an attempt though," he said, "he should be aware that I have a tool kit standing in my work room - and my hand saw is in excellent shape..."
Gilraen giggled when she heard her father's words, and young Oliver blushed fiercely and focused on his food again, his eyes lowered towards his food plate.
Charlotte and Paul, who had been worried they might be in trouble for pranking the guards, giggled when Haidar spoke of hiring them for more pranks towards guards shirking away from their duties. Charlotte hugged her big brother tightly, placing a soft baby kiss on his cheek. "We will do anything you ask us to, big brother," she promised. "Therese has taught me how to make braids in hair. Is it okay if I braid the hair and beards of the sleeping guards? Or the mustaches if they don't have beards?"
"And I have a roll of string and a pair of scissors in my pockets," Paul pipped in. "I can tie strings around Charlotte's braids so they won't loosen while we wait for you to see our work." After sending the shoeless guard back to his post, Haidar smiled at the children. His eyes sparkled when he heard Charlotte's confession. “Ah, I had a feeling,” he said. “Allow him to serve his punishment for a couple hours. It will teach to be more aware of his surroundings. It seems that my men have been too relaxed lately. I may need to hire you for more pranks to keep them sharp.”
Yvette beamed with joy when Ailsa thanked her for her work and praised it. "I am glad you liked the dress," she smiled. "When I have nothing to do, I like drawing patterns for new materials to weave or making sketches of new outfits I plan to make. I have so many sketches now that Daddy gave me a box to keep them in. I like making clothes though, so I think I will be both a weaver and a seamstress when I grow up. You look very beautiful in your gown though. Almost like a Queen!"
Yvette smiled when Ailsa requested for her to stay, and she waited with a smile on her face while Ailsa opened the door.
On the other side of the door Eldarion made a few adjustments to his clothes while he waited for the door to open. He was wearing his best suit today, bright green to match his eyes. In these times of danger he also had a sword by his side, in case he needed to protect himself and his woman. His eyes sparkled like stars when he saw her, so beautiful in her gown. Behind her he saw little Yvette, knowing who had been in charge of creating this dress.
"You have done an excellent job, little seamstress," he smiled and gave her a small bag of coins. "Maurice has told me you are saving up for a weaving chair to create your materials faster - allow me to help you one more step on the way."
Yvette beamed with joy when she felt the weight of the small bag and hugged Eldarion 's waist tightly. "Oh thank you," she beamed. "I will ask my Daddy if he can help me find out what a weaving chair costs. With a little luck we may be able to find one I can afford. With a weaving chair and a sewing machine I could get all the uniforms for Daddy's men finished before the Winter sets in!"
Laughter was still in Eldarion's eyes as he saw the happy little girl kiss Ailsa goodbye before bouncing towards Lord Haidar's quarters with her new income clutched to her chest.
"She will have her weaving chair before she knows it," he chuckled. "And I bet we can help her find a sewing machine as well. When my mother sees your gown I bet she will talk to Yvette for ordering of a dress too. You look absolutely ravishing tonight..."
Taking her hand in his, he guided her through the hallway and opened the front door, allowing her to step outside first. On the outside of the Queen's house his magnificent white stallion was waiting for his Master to return. Eldarion lifted Ailsa up on the horse before setting himself behind her, holding her close to his chest as he steered the horse towards his family's home.
"I am certain that your mother will love you when she gets to know you," he assured Ailsa and placed a loving kiss on her cheek. "I have already told my father about you, and he said the only thing that could upset him, was if I had wished to marry Lord Lindear's daughter. Or worse - Lord Glendor's."
He sent her a reassuring smile when she asked how many his mother had invited for tonight's dinner party. "Oh, only a few of our dearest friends," he said with a gentle laugh. "And you know most of them already. The Queen with her little son Simon, Prince Blaz and his wife, Lord Haidar and his daughter Yvette - they are bringing a new guest to the party, but I don't know who. Lady Ardis is invited, with her husband Evan and her daughter Niamh - we thought the three babies could play together. Then of course my family will be there. Both my parents and my two sisters, Gilraen and Telrunya."
“While I must say the new clothes that you gave him were of much finer make that those that you ruined,” answered Asaliea with a scoff (she and Lady Lindear had been at odds for their appearance for many years), “I cannot condone such behavior of my husband and only son. We must allow the Queen the chance to fight her own battles or the mockery will continue. I knew her before the death of Thanos and she can be a mighty woman when threatened.”
Hearing that the Queen and the new royals would be attending the party as well, Asaliea's face bore a confused mixture of delight and utter horror. “Oh, there is no time to plan at all,” she muttered. “I wish that you had given me more notice. Oh, what shall we do for the decorations and the food and . . .” She lapsed into a muttering list of chores for the next few minutes, her eye widening when she came to a particularly hard dilemma before softening again when she came up with the solution.
“It would be the greatest honor in the world to tutor the young princess,” Asaliea said as her muttering was complete and the list of duties handed off to her maidservant. “Imagine all of the praise we shall receive from the Queen and her family. Perhaps this will be a chance to find Gilraern a proper suitor from the highest families.”
The elf woman was glad that her daughter had had such a great time at the party, though she was disappointed she could not see the suitors for herself. Asaliea was aware how much pressure it was to marry her children off into good families, especially her eldest daughter and only son.
Her eyes popped in her daughter's direction when she mentioned one of her dance partners. “Interested, perhaps,” answered the woman with a sigh, “but not what you would wish for in a husband. He is one of Haidar's tower guards and works all hours of the day. I do not know of his family, but I am assuming they are not enough to win your hand.”
Asaliea's eyes veered over to her son as he asked about her standards for marriage. “I have spoken of this to you for years, child,” she answered tersely. “She must come from a good family of great honor and standing. It would not hurt if she is skilled in housekeeping and elegance. I am sure that your elf maid will pass the test son, there is no need to worry.”
The elf woman's eyes softened as she looked at her youngest daughter. She laughed when she heard her words and looked over at her husband. “It appears I win,” she teased.
Ailsa listened as Yvette spoke of her sketches. “I am sure they are all as lovely as this,” she praised. “I could not have dreamed of anything more perfect for tonight.” When Yvette mentioned that she looked almost like a Queen, the girl paused and drew a hand across her waist, smoothing the fabric. “Yes --- almost,” she agreed softly.
Ailsa watched as Eldarion spoke with Yvette, handing her a fresh sack of gold. “It seems you have a new favorite customer,” she told Yvette with a sigh.
Stepping into the hallway and closing her door, Ailsa heard Eldarion speak of a dress for his mother. She smiled when he mentioned her appearance. “I hope ravishing enough to hide my fear,” she told him. “I have prayed to the Gods all day that this night goes well. I fear we will only have one chance at this.”
Seeing the stallion waiting for them, she kissed Eldarion's cheek and allowed him to help her into the saddle. As he settled into the spot behind her, she leaned back and placed her hand over his. This was the night that she was dreaming of, safe in Eldarion's arms and protected from the harsh reality of the world. As they approached the house of Lord Elrond, Ailsa could feel her nervousness coming back. For a moment as they stopped, she wanted to grab the reins and turn the horse away, allowing them to run off into the night. But she was able to squash her fear (for the moment) and gripped Eldarion's shoulders as he helped her down.
“Whatever happens,” she whispered in his ear as they both reached the ground. “My heart will always be yours.”
Wrapping her arm around Eldarion's, she took a deep breath and walked with him into the elegant house. From the entrance way she could see the party guests further in. Due to the shape of the house, they were a few feet above, a small staircase leading to them like a tiny mountain. The walk could not have been more than a few feet but to Ailsa, it felt like miles. Her footsteps rung in her ears and her heart quaked with every inch forward.
Suddenly, as if on cue, all of the eyes turned to them and Ailsa swore the world stopped.
Lord Elrond chuckled with laughter when he heard his wife scoffing at the making of Lord Lindear's clothes, knowing how his sweet wife had been at odds with Lady Lindear for many years. "Nobody can make as fine clothes as the ones you make, my sweet," he assured her and kissed her cheeks. "You know I will rather go shirtless than carry a shirt you have not made for me. I know that the Queen is capable of fighting her own battles, but please remember that the last thing I promised our dear King Thanos as he lay dying in my arms, was to look after his wife and his son when he was gone. I agreed to do so, knowing that he would have done the same for me, if I had been the one to fall in battle that night. Surely you would not have me break my oath to a dying man - my best friend?"
He smiled when his wife started planning the party for their son, knowing she would find a good solution for the details of the party. Knowing her impeckable taste he left all such details to her, and gave her whatever money she asked for when she needed to go shopping. He also made sure she always had enough helpers to help her with the chores she needed to get done.
"Among the group of children arriving with the princess there is a young girl that hopes to become a chef one day," he informed his wife in an attempt to help with at least some of the planning. "Her name is Therese, and I have heard that she also helps out other places when she is not working at the Queen's house just to gain experience. Perhaps she can help you with the preparations of food? Since you and the royal chef are friends, I am certain he won't mind lending you the girl for the party preparations. And if you or Gilraen need clothes before the party, Lord Haidar's daughter Yvette is a good weaver and seamstress. Saben's little 4-year old Charlotte is an artistic soul with good taste in colors, and she makes lovely flower bouquets."
Lord Elrond listened when Lady Asaliea spoke of the honor it would be to tutor the young princess. "Yes, it is a great honor indeed," he agreed. "But I imagine it is also a hard one. From what I have heard, the Princess lost both her parents at a very young age and grew up in a horrible orphanage in a poverty-stricken area somewhere beyond the Gates. She has had very little social training and will be an easy target for the merciless ladies of the High Court. That was why the Queen thought of you as a tutor for the Princess. With your experience raising our own children nothing she says or does can shock you, and no matter what is flung at you, you are brave to grasp the challenge in your own sophisticated way and turn it to victory. As you will spend a lot of time with our new Princess if you take on this challenge, you will meet several people of the high court - also proper young suitors for our own Gilraen. You know how the High Court always circles around the Royals in hope to win their favors."
The elf Lord smiled as his daughter spoke of the Royal wedding and the party, his gaze reassuring his wife that he had personally seen to that nothing inappropriate happened to their daughter. "I made sure she was within my eyesight all the time," he said calmly. "I only had to chase off one suitor at the party," he added. "A young pipsqueak with straw-colored hair who wouldn't let her finish her meal in peace. I suggested he'd leave willingly, or I would throw him into the nearest pool. He wisely chose to retreat."
Gilraen listened to her mother when she spoke of Glorfindel. "He is very handsome in his uniform," she sighed, smiling as she remembered her dances with him. "And he is strong too - I am certain he would be able to protect me in times of danger... Can't you inquire a bit more about his background to learn who his family is?"
Eldarion listened to his mother when she started listing up what she wanted in a future daughter-in-law, secretly placing all these qualities on his beloved Ailsa to see how she fit the picture.
Good family, he thought. Surely the fact that she is of royal blood must suffice. The housekeeping is no problem either. I am certain Hibernia would not have allowed her in the kitchen or elsewhere near the Queen's belongings if she was totally hopeless. Elegance - that is an easy one - nobody moves with more grace than my Ailsa...
He lowered his gaze when his mother assured him that there was no need to worry, and that his elf maid would surely pass the test. That's the problem, mother, he thought to himself. My future bride has all the qualities you asked for except the one I fear is most important to you - she is not an elf....
Lord Elrond laughed when he heard Telrunya's words, and winked at his wife when she said she had won. "Telrunya," he said to the toddler, kissing her round cheek in a fatherly manner. "Who do you love most?" The toddler looked back at her father with big, round eyes in a tiny face. "Mommy," she said and clapped her chubby little hands, sending her mother a beaming smile.
Yvette beamed with joy at all the praise Ailsa gave her. "I can show you my sketches one day," she promised. "When we do not have an important party to attend to. Daddy said I must not be late. I hope you'll have a wonderful time with Eldarion though." She smiled as Ailsa agreed that she looked almost like a Queen, unaware that she had a real Princess standing beside her. "I am sure Eldarion will only have eyes for you tonight," she said.
The girl grinned when she heard Ailsa's words as Eldarion handed her the fresh sack of gold. "I am glad for all the customers I can get," she said with a smile. "I am saving up for a weaving chair and a sewing machine so I can make clothes faster. With a weaving chair I can weave the materials faster, and they will be of better quality. I borrowed Lady Guineveres weaving chair to make your dress in time. And she has a very handy sewing machine too. I wish to buy a similar one - I know of an elf that makes them, the blacksmith, - but they cost a bit."
Eldarion smiled and kissed Ailsa's cheek when she spoke of looking ravishing enough to hide her fear. "You have nothing to fear, my sweet," he promised. "You are the most wonderful woman on earth, and I love you with all my heart. No matter what happens tonight, my heart will always be yours."
As he settled in the saddle behind his sweet Ailsa, he wrapped his arms protectively around her and held her close. "I brought this for you," he said as he offered her a rose from his garden. "It is the most beautiful rose I could find on my rose bush. I use to grow roses when my soul needs peace. This one reminds me of you, fragile and beautiful at the same time."
As he helped her down from the horse, he heard the words she whispered in his ear and embraced her. "I love you, Ailsa," he whispered in her ear. "With all my heart and soul. I will always love you - regardlessly of what others may think of it."
Leading his sweet Ailsa into his home for the first time, Eldarion beamed with pride and joy over his beloved. He led her towards his parents and stopped in front of them, wanting them to meet her first. "Mother, father," he greeted Lord Elrond and his wife. "This is the girl I have told you about - the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with - my Ailsa...."
Asaliea smiled as her husband spoke of her clothing. “You know that I could never allow you to go around shirtless, my love,” she told him. That view is for my eyes only, after all, she thought. “I have tried to give Lady Lindear some tips but she seems set against my views. It is her loss, I suppose, for the end results do not lie.”
When Elrond spoke of Thanos, his wife gave him a sour look. “You certainly know how to play the sympathy card, don't you?” she chastised. “You know that I cannot argue a death oath, yet I wish that you would not be so protective. What shall the enemies say of our queen if you take all the words from her mouth?”
Learning that there were to be children at the party as well, the elf woman began to plan activities to entertain them. “I will need more help in the kitchen for such a large gathering,” she agreed. “Very well, but she will be under Unla's supervision. I would hate for anything to be ruined by an inexperienced chef if the Queen will be attending.”
Asaliea's eyes darkned a little as Elrond explained the upbringing of the new princess. “It will be a challenge,” she said finally, “but as you say, I have handled much worse before. I will speak with the girl and find out where we shall have to start from. I only pray that she has brains in her head enough that we do not have to start from the beginning. I do not my work to match that of Lord Glendor's wretched child!”
Hearing about the party, Asaliea patted her husband's hand lovingly. “Always the hero,” she giggled.
As Gilraen spoke of her guard interest, Asaliea pursed her lips impaciently. She knew her daughter's hummingbird-like interest in men and prayed to the Ancients that this was a fleeting fancy. “Many men are handsome and strong, but that is not all that makes husband material in this home. As for his family lineage, that is a task for you. If you are so interested, this should not be a difficult task.”
It was her hope that the idea of putting some effort into her relationships would scare her into another elf's path, one that had more standing in society than a common guardsmen.
As she spoke to Eldarion about what she expected in her children's suitors, she noticed her son's eyes fell a little towards the end. She wondered at this for a moment, a small concern on her face, but slipped it away in favor of a coincidence. The answer from Telrunya to her husband's question made her smile.
“It seems I win again,” she commented with a chuckle. “Shall we end the competition now and end the humiliation, my angel?”
Walking away from her room, Ailsa smiled as Eldarion gave her the rose. Kissing his cheek, she tucked it into her hair, the deep red contrasting her copper locks. She hoped this was not the last present she would be getting from the elf.
Entering the elven house, Ailsa began to feel her nerves again. All the eyes were on her and she could not look at one of them for long. Her grip around Eldarion's arm tightened a little and she breathed deeply as he lead her forward to meet his parents. Each step seemed to drag on for an eternity and she could feel her face flush. With a mercy, Eldarion finished the introduction and Ailsa dropped to her knee, bowing her head in respect. It was also a convenient way to catch her breath without everyone watching.
“I am honored to be in your presence, Lord and Lady Elrond,” she told them, wincing as her voice quavered at the beginning. “I hope that I will gain your favor tonight so that I may wed your son with your blessing.”
There was no answer to her words and the girl glanced up at her hostess. From the moment she had stepped in the house, Ailsa had not see Eldarion's mother move. She stood as a statue in the garden, watching and calculating. As their eyes met in that moment, she could see the anger within and disapproval. The woman's eyes blinked slowly, her lips twitching to speak but could not find the words. After a tense moment, though it felt like hours to the panicked girl, the elf's eyes left hers and returned to her son.
“Eldarion, my son,” she said softly. “I wish to speak with you in the adjoining room please. Privately . . .”
Giving her glass to her husband, the elf woman swept from the room amid the uneasy stares of her guests. Ailsa rose to her feet as Eldarion disappeared, blinking back the tears that threatened to come forth. Nearby, the Queen lowered her head in disappointment. Ardis looked at her brother in concern, the arrival of the girl filling her with an unknown dread.
Elrond smiled when his wife's refusal to let him go around shirtless. He loved the fact that even after all these years she wanted him all to himself. He didn't mind, since he returned the feelings with passion. Anyone who had dared to glance at his wife the wrong way had suffered for it on the training field afterwards. "No other woman will ever see me without a shirt," he promised and kissed her lips softly, lingering a moment by the lovely feel of her soft lips against his own. Then he nodded when she spoke of giving Lady Lindear some tips about shirts. "It is a shame she does not listen to you, my love," he said and caressed her cheek. "Even the other men at the Royal Council compliments my impeckable taste in clothes. Then I proudly tell them that it is my lovely wife who makes all my clothes for me. They feel very comfortable also when I practice on the training field."
He caressed his wife as she chastised him about his protection of the Queen. "You know all Knights must swear to protect their Royals until death, my love," he replied gently. "She may be the Queen of Isparia - but only you are the Queen of my heart. You are more beautiful than all goddesses put together, and I love you more than life itself."
Hearing his wife's plans for the kitchen he nodded and kissed her cheek again. "I know the little girl will be more than happy for this chance to gain experience, my love," he said softly. "You may hire all the help you need for this party - I don't want you to be exhausted at the party. Unla is kind woman and a hard worker, and I am sure she has the skills to train little Therese."
He listened as his wife spoke of the new Princess, glad she was so brave taking on the challenge with her upbringing. "She managed to survive for a decade in a poverty-struck area, and even raise 7 orphaned children on her own," he pointed out softly. "She taught them manners and to express themselves without the slang common in such areas. Wouldn't you say it takes brains to achieve something like this, my love? But I will let you speak to her yourself. I look forward to hear your opinion of her."
Gilraen listened to her mother as she spoke of husband material. "How do you know what is good husband material and what is not?" she asked, a dreamy smile on her face as she thought of the elf guard. "I might talk to him again and ask for his family lineage," she replied. "He did seem eager to talk to me again..."
She looked at her mother for a moment as if she understood her wishes to marry her off to someone in the high society. There was a hint of sadness in her eyes, as if she was struck by a thought - and the question she asked even made her brother looking at her in wonder, as if he had never suspected his sister to have such depths in her mind.
"Mother," Gilraen asked with tears in her eyes. "If I fell in love with someone you did not see fit to be your son-in-law, would you stop loving me then? Would you stop seeing me as your daughter and turn away from me in shame? Would you cut me off from your life and refuse to see me again?"
Eldarion turned his face to look at his mother for a moment, knowing his sister's question also concerned him. He knew that his Ailsa, human as she was, would never meet his mother's standards.
Lord Eldarion remained where he was seated, Telrunya still on his lap, and cradled the little girl in his arms. "Yes," he said softly, chuckling with laughter. "There's no need for competition - as you will win anyway."
Eldarion smiled as Ailsa tucked the rose into her hair, admiring the view. "Beautiful," he said, without specifying whether he meant her or the rose. But his eyes rested on her appearance, sparkling with joy and endless love.
Lord Elrond stood with his wife when Eldarion approached them. He had been prepared for who the secret love of Eldarion was, and seeing the girl he could understand his son's choice. Being the best friend of the human King Thanos, he was also used to see humans and counted several of them among his friends. He smiled softly when the girl dropped on her knee before them. "Welcome, Ailsa," he greeted friendly. "Eldarion has told me much about you, and I am certain that you and I will be good friends."
Eldarion stood by Ailsa's side, feeling slightly nervous as he noticed his mother did not respond to Ailsa's greeting. As his mother requested to speak to him in private, his eyes darted towards Queen Radella, as if he tried to gather the same courage she showed when she dared to marry a human. He looked into her eyes for a moment, then a brief smile lit up his face. Do not worry, my Queen, he thought. My love for Ailsa is strong and true. I will fight for my right to marry her and make her my bride - even if I will have to fight my own mother...
Before leaving the room, he squeezed Ailsa's hands reassuringly. "Remember what I promised you earlier tonight," he whispered in her ear. "I love you to the end of time - and nothing or no one can change that..."
Then he followed his mother, leaving his father, his love and Ailsa behind to wait. Lord Elrond noticed the tears in Ailsa's eyes and offered her a chair. "Sit down, dear child," he said kindly. "My wife may be shocked now, but she will calm down - eventually..."
Yvette stood by Daddy Haidar's side as Lady Asaliea left the room. She looked up at her father with innocense in her eyes, clearly not understanding what had just happened. "Why was the lady so angry, Daddy?" she asked with tears in her eyes. "Was it something I did?"
Asaliea smiled smugly when her husband spoke of the discomfort of other men in the training circle. “It is the most important function of a warrior's clothing,” she put in. “They must have the ability to move or else their weapons are useless. I am shocked that more seamstresses do not know this.”
The elf woman was more than familiar with the code of the knights, having grown up with a father who served as the Queen's guard. She humored her husband by allowing him to recite his duties to her, giving him a placating smile and nod.
Learning of the princess's origins, Asaliea nodded in approval. “She will have more than enough teeth to fend of the sharks of the social square, I see. This gives me more hope.”
Gilraen's questioning of her mother's knowledge caused their peaceful breakfast to come to a halt. The elf woman looked at her daughter with piercing eyes and everyone knew what might come next. To be questioned of her own merit at her own table . . . well, such things were unheard of in this house. Preparing an answer, Asaliea saw the realization in her child's eyes. Perhaps she had realized what she had said and would apologize? That would be an acceptable conclusion to this problem. But her daughter had even more questions for her.
Asaliea took a moment to answer, her voice calm yet stern. “As a mother, I am bound by your birth to care for you always, yet I fear the folly of such a choice. You and your brother and sister are born to one of the greatest of elven families and with that title comes a responsibility to your parents. If your father and I were to pass into the Realm of Death, we would wish you cared for by the best of all life mates. As our first born daughter, a portion of your father's wealth will pass to your husband. Do you wish that squandered on a man of low stature, who would surely waste it on fruitless things? Your brother will carry on your father's title and so his intended wife must carry on my mantle. I would not allow someone to devalue all centuries of work our family has laid for you to sit there and question me so. Does that answer all of your questions, daughter?”
~*~*~*~ From the side, Ardis and the other guests watched as Elrond greeted the guest of honor for the night. It was clear from the raise of Asaliea's chin that she was unhappy with her son's lack of information on the girl's heritage. As the hostess disappeared down the hallway with Eldarion, a low sigh rippled through the house guests and everyone was glad that no harm had occurred, for the moment.
Ailsa was unsure of what to do now that her rock had been taken away. She smiled softly at Lord Elrond as he offered her a chair. He seemed to be the cheerier of the two and she hoped that he would be able to help his wife in her anger. “I am sorry for the disturbance I have caused, milord,” she told him, though her words were meant for the whole room. “I did not know that your wife would take my . . . appearance so strongly.”
Haidar was seated not far away from the girl as she spoke and smiled at her reassuringly. Yvette's question made him chuckle and he kissed the girl's head.
“You have done nothing wrong, sweetie,” Ailsa told her. “The problem is not with your beautiful dress but the person wearing it.”
Ardis sat at Ailsa's side, leaving a seat available for Eldarion, should he return. “I would have recognized Yvette's wonderful work anywhere,” she laughed. “You wear it very well.”
Ailsa blushed, pleased that the uneasiness of earlier was leaving her. Glancing at the woman again, she saw that Ardis was watching her carefully.
“I hope this question does not come as rude,” Ardis said, “but I know your face from somewhere. Have I met you before?”
Ailsa's eyes darkened in fear, for she knew exactly where the lady had seen her before. Lord Haidar was the son of her father's sister. By adoption, Ardis was her cousin. While Haidar and Ardis had not been to Taret for the last ten years, the three of them HAD met in the King's palace before . . . when she was still the princess.
“You have probably seen me around the city,” said Ailsa with a shrug. “I have been in the city for over ten years now, though I normally don't wear such fine clothes.”
She chose to leave out the part about her work as a servant in the Queen's house. Better to leave that blow until later in the evening . . . if Lady Elrond would hear her out any further.
Next door, Asaliea was waiting in the study for her son to arrive. She stared at the fire, the flames dancing in her eyes as if to show her rage. Her body was tight and tense, prepared to strike at any moment. Now all she had to do what wait for her son to join her.
Lord Elrond smiled when his wife spoke of how to make warrior's clothing. It was a theme he as a man knew very little about, yet he was glad that she knew enough to make his shirts comfortable to wear even at work. "Perhaps not all seamstresses are as skilled as my wife, my angel," he replied gently and kissed her cheek. "I was truly blessed when I married the best woman of them all. I will never wear shirts made by anyone but you..."
He found it endearing that she allowed him to recite the duties of a knight to her in spite that her father had served in the Queen's guard. Knowing that she already knew all this, he gave her a loving kiss on the lips to compensate for the words she must have heard at least a thousand times before. "You know this already of course," he said in a loving tone. "So it was no need for me to repeat it to boredom. I am sorry, my sweet. Let me make it up to you. I have the day off from work today since I worked nightshift last night. Is there something you want the two of us to do together? I wish to cheer you up with something special since you missed the Royal wedding."
Lord Elrond smiled when his wife nodded in approval, knowing she would enjoy the task of teaching the young Princess the refinement she needed to socialize with the upper class. Nobody could respond to an insult with such elegance and grace as his wife without losing their ladylike manners. "But lacking social training she will be defenseless against the sly verbal attacks so common among the highborn women," he continued. "Nobody can fend off these harpies with more elegance than you, my love. That is why I thought of you as a perfect tutor for the young Princess. I should perhaps add that Lady Lindear has also offered her services to the Queen, but not yet received an answer." Knowing the tense relationship between his wife and Lady Lindear, he knew how she would react to this already, and his eyes sparkled with expectation. He loved seeing her agitated - finding the glow in her eyes beautiful even when she was at her most angry. "As for Lady Glendor I have not heard a word yet. Perhaps she got stuck in the doorway to the Queen's chambers after all the chocolates she stuffs herself with..."
Gilraen met her mother's piercing eyes with a mild, apologetic expression in her own eyes. She knew she was probably causing a scandal asking these questions and knew there had to be consequences later on, and yet she could not help asking. She had spoken a lot with Glorfindel at the ball last night, and started seeing him in a different light. He had asked her to dance three times, and she hoped it was a token of interest from his side. Of course it could also mean that he had to dance with Lindear's or Glendor's daughter instead. All the other girls had been taken. But the conversations with Glorfindel had put thoughts in her mind that never had been there before - and she started seeing things differently. She blushed when she saw the surprise in her brother's eyes, but she also saw his glance of aknowledge - as if he supported her thoughts?
I am changing, she thought to herself. The shallow flirt I used to be has matured into a young woman with a mind of her own - and it's all thanks to wonderful Glorfindel.... I wonder how my parents will react when they find out that this time my crush is for real... And what will Glorfindel say if he finds out?
Gilraen listened to her mother as she spoke of being bound by her birth to care for her always. Something in the words upset her. Did it mean that her mother would not have loved her at all if she was not bound to care for her? The girl felt confused, but she allowed her mother to finish talking, hoping her next words could throw some more light on the matter. But she ended up feeling more confused. Were men of high birth more worth than men of low birth? She knew many elves who thought themselves to be finer and more noble than others, and yet she found them to be the most arrogant and foolish of them all...
The conversation last night has really opened my eyes, she thought with a glimpse of bittersweet irony. Oh sweet Glorfindel - thank you for opening my eyes - and saving me from becoming like the so-called highborns....
She would have wanted to say more - to ask more questions, but Eldarion sent her a warning glance across the table. She lowered her gaze, knowing she had already tried her mother's patience enough for one day. "Yes, mother," she replied tamely when her mother asked if her respond had answered all her questions. "I apologize if I have upset you. This was not my intention...." Kissing her mother's cheek, she returned to her meal and finished it in silence. Her eyes were distant, revealing that her thoughts were far away.
I have so many questions that need to be answered, she thought. And yet it appears I will have to search elsewhere for the answers... Who has the right to judge what is good and what is bad? Can't a man of low stature be just as wise as a man of high stature? Are highborns the only ones who have the right to be good and wise? Her face lit up in a smile for a brief moment as she thought of who she could talk to about all of this. Of course, she thought. The Queen! If anyone can help me clear the cobwebs from my mind it is her!
Before leaving the table, she could not resist a final question to her mother. "So if you and father were to pass into the Realm of Death - you would wish me and Telrunya cared for by men of high stature - like the sons of Lord Lindear and Lord Glendor? Because they are more noble and intelligent than men of lower birth?"
Lord Elrond smiled friendly when the young girl apologized for the disturbance she had caused. "I apologize for the welcome you received," he replied in return. "My wife is normally more welcoming towards her guests. I was not aware that she would react so sharply, or I would have prepared her more than I did - and for that I am sorry. I am proud of my son's choice of bride, and happy that he did not choose a daughter of Lord Lindear or Lord Glendor."
Yvette was glad that the wrath of the lady was not because of something she had done, snuggling close to her father for a moment when he kissed her head - as if she tried to find security in his presence. She looked at Ailsa with confusion in her eyes when she spoke of the problem being the person wearing the dress. "I don't see any problem," she said in her childlike voice. "You are very pretty and kind, and you look like a princess in your dress."
Even Wild, who was normally shy at social gatherings, looked at Ailsa with a smile. "I agree with Yvette," she said softly. "You do look like a princess in that dress, and the man who wins your hand in marriage will be lucky..."
Startled of having spoken in a party, she lowered her head, wondering what Blaz would think of a wife who spoke her mind so freely. And what would Queen Radella thinking of her daughter-in-law and her free-spirited mind?
Yvette looked up at Ardis when she asked if she had met Ailsa before. For a moment she pondered on telling that Ailsa worked in the Queen's house, but since Ailsa did not say anything, Yvette remained silent. She was certain that Ailsa would let them know when time was right. If there was one thing Isabella had taught her already, it was that a lady needs to be patient - a quality the child strived to learn.
Next door Eldarion entered the room, haltering his steps towards his mother as he saw how tense she was. He saw the flames dancing in her eyes and knew she was furious. Yet it seemed like the brief glance he had shared with Queen Radella had given him courage. This was a battle he had to go through if he wished to marry Ailsa. Even so, he was sad to know he had to upset his own mother. In spite of her stubborn opinions of the highborns she was still his mother, and he loved her.
"You wished to speak with me, mother?" he requested gently, his eyes telling that he was prepared for the battle to come.
Gilraen: Hi Jack. Tossing in a random post when there is something to post back to. But I am afraid the fortress is falling.
Aug 31, 2015 3:07:54 GMT -5
Bélethorn Creuss: Dear Members. Due to lack of activity we, the remaining admins and members of Freedom, have decided to move to a new board. The new board can be found here: freedomunleashed.proboards.com/
Sept 3, 2015 13:23:55 GMT -5
englishive: plz unban me my name is Toniix_PvP i will not grief again primise
Jun 24, 2016 10:31:00 GMT -5
englishive: plz i will not! im not gonna play other server cuz i love that server
Jun 24, 2016 10:31:41 GMT -5
englishive: plzz unban me now im soo sad i cant play any server i want to play this server
Jun 27, 2016 0:26:17 GMT -5
englishive: plz plz plz essam ur awesome! but unban me its the time to unban me! BCUZ I LIVEE IN PH !!!! SO ITS MONDAY HERE!
Jun 27, 2016 0:28:57 GMT -5
englishive: hi thx for unban plz make me a admin! i will not grief again! THX!
Jun 27, 2016 23:19:14 GMT -5
englishive: plz make me admin! my name is toniix_PVP in minecraft freedom! so im decided to make me admin!
Jun 27, 2016 23:22:21 GMT -5
englishive: hi im crazynippi make me admin im applying for telnet admin! PLZ!
Jun 30, 2016 0:25:06 GMT -5