Chapter the Twelfth
Shortly after Vid left their company, Derryn and Linnatiel began to make their way back into town. Houses and shops coming into view lined the main road of the town; green fields, visible for miles in every direction from the town, blew gently in the breeze. The two walked along a worn road surrounded by the verdant meadows. The elf glanced at Derryn from time to time; he seemed, to her, a little older than he was before. His expression was pained, and he appeared to be in deep thought as he walked alongside her. The sun bathed his chestnut brown hair in light, turning it amber.
"Is something the matter, Derryn?" She asked the swordsman. He blinked, as if snapping out of a trance, and looked at Linnatiel with a quick smile.
"Hm? What was that, Linn?" he said. Linnatiel frowned slightly.
"I know when you're troubled, Derryn," she replied, "Because you're usually not troubled. Your face is showing waves of it." Derryn was silent for a moment as he walked on, then stopped and took her hand. He was squeezing it tightly.
"I've been thinking, Linn," he sighed. "About Vellucyn."
"Vellucyn?" Linnatiel brushed a lock of golden, brown-streaked hair to one side and looked quizzically at him. "How come?"
"Vellucyn, and us," Derryn replied. "You're half-Elven, aren't you? What would they think, of me...and you? What would they think of another elf...with a human?"
Linnatiel's face betrayed surprise and shock. "What are you trying to say, Derryn?"
The swordsman swallowed. "Would they accept us being together, Linn? Would they accept a human as...a consort for their Princess-Heir?" The elf stopped for a moment, and simply stared into his eyes.
"Who cares what they think, Derryn," she said. "Nothing can separate us. I have chosen you, and I want no one else. Only you." Her last words were strong, defiant. Derryn was taken aback.
"Are you sure, Linn? You won't change your mind?"
"Derryn, there's something about Elves you may not know. We see more than you do. We hear more than you. We feel more strongly than you. Here," Linnatiel took his hand and pressed his palm between her breasts. "Whatever you feel for me here, I feel five times more strongly. That is why I know that I will never want another." The elf moved closer to Derryn. Almost instinctively he pulled her against him with his good arm. She nuzzled her cheek against his shoulder and sighed with relief.
"You've taught me so much," he said quietly, running his fingers almost casually through her hair. "Ever since I met you again, I began to care about someone besides myself. You've taught me to follow my heart, you taught me to love. A month ago, love meant nothing to me. Now, every time I see you, I want to take you in my arms and kiss the breath out of you. I've never changed so much in such a short time. How, Linn, how can I ever repay you?"
"You have changed," Linnatiel murmured. "I don't remember you being this good at sweeping me off my feet."
Derryn frowned. " I'd give a year of my life just to hold you in my arms. I'm serious, Linn. "
Linnatiel held a hand to her mouth and laughed at seeing his face. "Of course you are, silly," she smiled. "Of course you are."
The swordsman was becoming increasingly nervous at the elf's strange reaction; she looked innocent enough, but he knew she was playing with him. "What do I have to say to get the right words out of you?"
"Tell me how I'm pretty," Linnatiel offered coyly. Derryn sighed dejectedly, his cheeks reddening.
"I'd probably just screw up," he said. "And make you laugh even more." Now it was Linnatiel's turn to frown.
"I won't laugh, Derryn," the elf promised. "Can't you make a little elf girl feel special? Just once?"
"Linn, you're a bloody Princess," Derryn commented matter-of-factly. "I don't think you can get more special than that."
"We're going to have to do something about your cursing, too," Linnatiel said. "But that is beside the point. The point is, my...stay here in Ryth has shown me what it is like to live without a crown. Yes, I may be respected by those around me, but there are those who hate me, for being an elf." Linnatiel looked down sadly. "Something I never imagined. Without my own kin, I felt...isolated. Alone. You've always made me feel special, Derryn. You treated me differently because you saw me as a friend, not an Elven Princess."
"I must admit, the first time I saw you, I was a bit shocked when I saw your ears," Derryn grinned. He then felt a pang of worry when she didn't speak, or look up at him. This must really mean a lot to her. To be away from home for so long, and no one in Ryth to make her feel wanted, except me. If I'm not there for her...
"Your hair looks really nice," he began awkwardly, then caught on. "The way the sunlight touches it. It's almost like gold." He ran his fingers down one side of her long, parted hair. "Why are there brown streaks in your hair?" he asked as he examined a smooth lock. "Not that it looks bad, just that I've never seen anyone with hair like yours. It looks pretty." Biting his lip, he held Linnatiel's chin with a finger and tilted it upwards. She looked at him intently. "Your eyes are beautiful," he commented. "How they can be soft and bright like the moon when you're happy, or like a foggy day when you're sad. Right now, I can't tell what you're feeling." Derryn shrugged. "I'd talk about your body, but you'd probably slap me." He grinned sheepishly. "But I would say good things. Very good things. Things that would amount to you being the most beautiful girl I've ever met."
For a moment, the elf said nothing. Then, acting on her emotions, she replied by raising her face to Derryn's and kissing him on the lips, hard and passionate. Derryn felt her arms squeeze him tighter as they wound around him. She moaned softly as she kissed, pressing herself against him.
"Linn..." Derryn said breathily, as he kissed her back just as fiercely. After what seemed like a lifetime, Linnatiel reluctantly broke off their kiss. She had a satisfied smile on her face, and she hugged Derryn tight.
"I take it I said something right?" Derryn said, drawing a deep breath and smiling.
"You said everything I wanted to hear." Linnatiel whispered. "Derryn, I love you so much. Your human tongue could not fully describe what I feel for you."
Derryn lost his breath again as he looked into her eyes. "Say something Elven that fully describes what you feel."
"Hathein ushalla litania ellai," the elf almost immediately offered. "It is something my father would not have me say." Small spots of colour bloomed on her cheeks.
"That raunchy, eh?" Derryn grinned jokingly. "What does it mean?"
"It is a vow," Linnatiel replied. "A very strong vow. Something I know I should not say because I'm so young, but I can't help saying it. Just as I can't help what I feel. What would they say? Derryn..." She looked up at him pleadingly. In the end, her unspoken words voiced her worry over them, over what the Elves of Vellucyn would think of them.
"Shh," the swordsman soothed, patting her hair. "Don't let it trouble you. Maybe we were meant to be together. If we can't be together, then...then we'll run away."
"Run away? What do you mean?"
"Go somewhere far away, where we won't care what people think about us. Just you and me, together."
Linnatiel touched the side of Derryn's face with a slender hand, then hung her head. "I...I wish it was that easy," she said quietly.
"Don't think about it, Linn. We still have to get back to Vellucyn first. I think," Derryn said, gentling removing himself from her embrace, "that some people might be missing us, and we've been standing here for a long time. Let's go back to town first, okay?"
Linnatiel took Derryn's good hand and nodded. "All right. But...you'll be there for me, won't you, Derryn?"
The swordsman kissed her forehead. "That's one thing you can always count on me to do."
It was during the afternoon when Vid had prepared his horse cart at the town entrance, which a small group of townspeople stood at, waiting to see off their two guests. Vid tried to ignore them and admired his cart; it was a sturdy wooden cart, pulled by a pair of brown, shaggy horses. The Dwarf patted one of the animals' flanks, then felt his belt for his newly repaired axe. It had been his great-great grand uncle's, and he could not bear to see it broken. The blacksmith had done a decent enough job, Vid admitted to himself.
"An' now I gotta ferry an elf and an upstart to Sotatah Peninsula," he grumbled to no one in particular. "How do I get myself stuck in these things, Bollo..." The beast snorted once in agreement. Vid remembered the trip he had taken halfway across Ryth with Adakran the knight, in an experimental Dwarven flyer...
"Do you hear something?" Sinvrael asked. A faint whining could be heard, that suddenly grew louder. They looked up; a large bird was descending on their area! They all ducked as the bird swooped down.
"Regain control over it!" The bird yelled.
"I’m trying!" It yelled back to itself in a gruff voice. "Keep yer pants on!"
"We’re going to crash!"
"SHUT UP!" The bird came closer and then slammed into the earth. Wind blew fiercely around the area; the grass fluttered madly. When the dust settled, a scarred man in a white tunic, carrying a weathered backpack and a dwarf crawled from the wooden wreckage.
"Look what you did," the man critisized the dwarf. "Thanks to your lousy flying."
"The wind shifted!" the dwarf shot back, oblivious of their surroundings...
"I must admit, it was fun," Vid said to himself, out of nostalgia, when he noticed Derryn and Percival passing through the crowd.
"...You'd do well to carry this with you," the blacksmith said, handing the swordsman a small whetstone. "And this." A small bottle of oil and a cloth was passed into Derryn's hands. The hapless swordsman, who had recovered enough to use his wounded arm, was still admiring his newly cleaned and polished sword as the items were piled into his arms.
"Much thanks, Percy," he said, carefully balancing the items. Percival placed his large fists on his hips and nodded in satisfaction.
"Now, I expect you to take good care of Linnatiel," he said gruffly. "She's my little grand-niece, and if I ever catch wind of her being hurt, or sad, or worse..." The blacksmith leaned in towards Derryn and bared his teeth. "Let's just say there are hammers in my smithy which aren't used for forging. I may be old, but I have enough muscle to pound a head or two."
Derryn, visibly shaken, nervously grinned back. "I'll do my best to take care of her, Master Percival, as you ask." Percival then roared out loud and clapped Derryn on the shoulder, jolting him.
"Good, Derryn, good!" He chuckled, then turned and looked down at Vid. "Well, good Dwarf, are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be," Vid growled. "I wonder how I get myself into these things in the first place...Ithralli owes me one for this. An' Adakran. Troublesome 'gits..." The Dwarf's voice died down into incoherent mutterings.
Derryn thrust his sword into his scabbard with a distinct clank and faced the crowd to watch Linnatiel and Ada pass through the crowd. Several of the townspeople laughed and wished the elf well, giving her various gifts. One small boy nervously offered a bright lavender flower to her, and the Princess knelt, took it and gently patted him on the head, causing him to smile widely. After many goodbyes and waves, Linnatiel and Ada had reached the cart.
"Do take care of yourself," Ada urged, touching the elf's cheek. "Ryth isn't what it used to be."
"With Derryn, I'll be fine," Linnatiel replied, and they embraced one last time. "The same goes for you two. I'll come back someday, I promise."
"We will wait for you, Linnatiel," Percival smiled, and she hugged him too. Derryn saluted in the traditional Templar manner, a bow with a fist over his chest.
"Thank you for everything," he addressed the people, then gallantly hopped up onto the cart. There were two benches made from wooden planks, and a large pile of straw in one corner.
"It'll be a bumpy ride," Vid grumbled as he mounted the driver's seat. "But this ol' thing will get you there faster."
"I'm in your debt, Vid," Derryn said, then turned and offered a hand to Linnatiel. With a smile, she took it, and was helped up onto the cart. Together, they waved as the Dwarf snapped the reins, and the cart trundled along, away from Inah, and towards Sotatah Peninsula.
Sotatah Harbour was a bustling hub of activity for its location. Merchants, tradesmen and sailors buzzed in the cobblestone streets, with Vid's cart squeezing through the middle. Dark-skinned southwesterners, or Walaians, were uncommon where Derryn lived, and could be frequently spotted in the crowds. The Walaian men wore their hair in a multitude of black braids, and were well muscled and bare-chested; many of them wore scars from fighting in the border regions. The dark-skinned women walked about in sleeveless blouses and vests; both Walaian men and women wore baggy, bright red or white trousers.
Derryn's gaze wandered more than once to those women; the way they swayed their hips while they walked was almost hypnotic. At times, he quickly turned back to Linnatiel in the cart, to see if she was watching him. He breathed a silent sigh of relief when he saw that her back was turned, but every so often she sniffed loudly, putting his nerves on edge. Finally, he moved to sit on the elf's side of the cart, and put an arm around her shoulder. She smiled warmly at him and rested her head on his shoulder as the cart wheeled on. Incense wafted from one of the shops to Derryn's nose, only to be replaced by the smell of the sea. White gulls glided across the blue sky, screeching their distant, harsh calls. The streets of Sotatah opened up to the port, where beyond the piers lay a sparkling horizon of water.
Derryn hopped down from the cart, and helped Linnatiel down. Vid met them at the side of the cart, visibly tired from driving the cart for so long.
"You've been a great help to us, Vid," Derryn grinned. "It's going to take a bit to pay you back, isn't it?" The Dwarf stretched, then waggled a finger at the swordsman.
"Just tell your pa to look me up sometime, so we can reminisce," Vid said. "I'll be on my way back to Tildar soon; at my age, it's absurd for me to keep traveling around this place. I'd like to just go home an' remember some fond memories. I feel like writing my memoirs."
"I'll do that. Have a safe trip home," Derryn said, and knelt to shake Vid's hand.
"I cannot speak for my kin, but I found you tolerable," Linnatiel said to the Dwarf, with a little smile. "I am in your debt, sir Dwarf." Vid smirked in return, hooking his thumbs in his belt.
"Likewise, Princess-Heir," he chuckled through his beard. "You have more sense 'n most Elves. Had we all some more time to travel, we might've been a merry little group of adventurers. But Tildar is safe, an' that's what I'm looking for." The Dwarf made an awkward bow to the Princess. "Farewell, my friends!" He led his cart back into the streets of Sotatah Harbour.
"Well," Derryn said, resting a hand on the hilt of his sword, "Where do we go now?" There were a vast multitude of ships docked in the pier, all distinctly unique.
"We need to find a vessel with the crest of Vellucyn," Linnatiel said. "Or an elf." Derryn nodded, and together they went to survey the different ships. After several minutes of pushing their way through the crowd, Linnatiel pointed to the ship at the end. It was a light coloured vessel, most likely a cruiser. Pure white sails fluttered in the wind, marked by the insignia of a green tree wreathed in leaves. "There!"
"Are you sure?" Derryn asked.
"I'm positive!" Linnatiel said excitedly. "Hurry!" Together, the two forced their way through, until they came upon the dock of the Elven craft. Several Elven officers, all blond and dressed in white and green uniforms, were preparing to board the ship. One elf in particular caught Derryn's eye. He had a stony-looking face, and a long ponytail hanging by his waist. An elegant scabbard glittered in the bright sun as he surveyed the harbour from the bridge.
"Wait!" Derryn yelled! "Fintaal!" The long-haired elf looked startled at hearing the name, then spotted Derryn and Linnatiel running towards the ship. He beckoned several officers to him, and began speaking in a rapid, slurring tone. The other Elves looked at the couple, then their eyes collectively widened with surprise and joy. They dashed out to greet Linnatiel on the dock, each bending a knee to her. She was all smiles.
"Rise, honoured Elves," she said formally, then hugged Fintaal when he came to the dock.
"This is truly a great fortune, dear Princess," the Waymaster said with a deep smile. "We had almost given up in our search for you. This was one of the last places we had expected to find you."
"I have had good fortune of my own, Master Fintaal," Linnatiel replied, tears of joy in her eyes. "You are alive. Araon smiles on us all."
"Indeed, Princess," Fintaal smiled again, "indeed." He spotted Derryn standing a couple meters away, grinning at the Elves. "Who accompanies you, Princess?"
"It is Derryn, Fintaal," Linnatiel said, laughing. All of the Elves turned to face Derryn, who was immediately startled. "He has been a most worthy casin'nath." The soldiers were at once in a buzz; Fintaal strode to the swordsman.
"Is this true, young Drakelight?" The Waymaster asked Derryn. "All this time?"
"I have guarded her with my life, as Master Sinvrael asked me ten years ago," Derryn replied solemnly. "She has not been harmed." Fintaal eyed the teenager with an approving gaze.
"There is much I have yet to understand," he said, "But you will tell me, will you not? I am, no—" Fintaal gestured to the Elven soldiers, who all saluted to Derryn, "—we are all grateful for what you have done for Linnatiel. Such a sacrifice as yours, Derryn Drakelight, will not go unrewarded. But this is a poor place for discussion! We cast off now, and to Vellucyn once more, where Linnatiel belongs!"
-Monday, April 08, 2002