More like a shack really…but it is still home.
In the year and a half since his departure from Doul, he had been quite busy. Losing the trail of the Grand Army of Doul was not an easy task. Initially, he had not seen any pursuers while he made for the southern boarder where the Human nation of Oskalon sat. But after only a couple hours on the run he began seeing more and more scouting parties crisscrossing the land before him.
At one point he even saw Joshua and Nelya barking out orders to several platoons of dwarves who then fanned out across the plains in search of him. Al’ev knew his friends well, so he had little trouble evading them or the forces they appeared to be in command of.
As he continued south, he discovered that the main travel routes appeared to have extra guards posted, likely searching for the Sergeant that deserted them. But Al’ev knew how these patrols worked all too well. He had trained recruits for months after he himself had been out on patrols just like they were on now for several years. This gave him all the knowledge he needed to sneak around the patrols undetected, though there were a few close calls.
He had made it within the boarders of Oskalon after a couple weeks of evading the Grand Army of Doul.
His next move was to recover, for his mind was in a bad way after being betrayed by lifelong friends and having killed Dagarn. He also found himself incisively itching as though he had run into some of the plant that caused similar reactions in humans, poison ivy, as he later recalled. But he had run into no such plants that would cause such a reaction along the way. He later realized that he only itched on the back of his neck and only when he recalled having to fight those he had trusted. He had no idea as to why.
After a couple weeks of not leaving the room he had rented in the small inn located within a northern human town, Al’ev finally decided he needed to figure out his next action.
It became clear when he realized that Mel would have no idea of what had happened. He had started in on the letter several times intending to lie each time, but in the end, he knew that hiding what had happened from her would do no good, so he explained the entire situation, sparing her only the details.
He sent the message on its way. Then he decided that it was time he again focused on his ability to wield arcane magic. Initially he focused on the spellbook that the human magic user had left behind in Dorn, but he soon found himself searching through other materials.
He had continued on like this for several months, constantly working on his ability to use both a blade and a spell simultaneously. But one bit of knowledge constantly eluded his searches.
Nowhere could he find mention of half-dragons. Not one library seemed to contain any substantive information on what he was. Initially he had thought it was just that he wasn’t looking in the right areas. But after taking up a job at the library in a decently sized town that reminded him of Halar, Al’ev learned that the information simply did not exist.
He had made no progress in that area. But perhaps worse still was the fact that Mel had never sent a response to his letter explaining what had happened in Dorn.
Al’ev carried this knowledge as additional pain in his chest for quite some time before finding the small town of Kassadin and deciding to settle there. The town had a small library of its own, mostly books pooled together by the residents. The library had need of organization as it had been without a librarian for quite some time. He wasn’t sure if it hid any knowledge about what he was, but he was willing to take the time and find out. He finalized his decision to stay after meeting several townspeople who were very kind to him.
He purchased and moved into a small shack at the western edge of the small human town and had been moving crates of books around the past couple of days so he could get them organized.
But as he sat in the bar now relaxing after another long day of organizing and searching, a string of conversation caught his ears.
A pair of travelers were discussing something with the barkeep a few stools down from his own. Normally he would have had little interest. But they mentioned a name that caused him to pause.
“That’s right. Rolovir.” One of the travelers said.
“You don’t mean that elven carpenter, do you?” The barkeep asked.
“Tanidor Rolovir? That’s the one.” The second traveler confirmed.
“Yeah, they say he was kidnapped from his home in Caori. His little girl woke up the whole district of the city screaming as he was taken in the middle of the night.”
“How long ago?” Al’ev asked, standing up.
The traveler jumped a little at Al’ev sudden interjection. “Oh…er… maybe a week ago or so. Why, you know the guy?”
“You could say that.” Al’ev turned to the bar keep and handed him a few silvers. “If anyone asks where I went, tell them I had to take care of something. I’ll be out of for a bit. Think you can watch my house?”
“Sure, no problem.” The barkeep responded.
Al’ev rushed back to his home and gathered his armor and weapons, threw them into his travel pack. Then, using a spell he had learned over the past few months, he summoned a horse to his side and began to ride North.
Mel….I’ll be there as soon as I can. We’ll get him back. I swear it.
He rode hard the remainder of the night and well into the next afternoon before finally taking a rest and replenishing his strength. It was not long before he set off again and soon found himself passing by the human capital city of Varalon.
From Varalon the road continued north east. He kept moving, another day passing before he stopped again. When he awoke the next morning, the thought of Mel and her family was all that managed to get him to move.
He made it to Trinity, the humongous city in which all races of the land could convene for trade, diplomacy, and all other manner of things. He did not enter the city, however, and instead continued on the trade road that headed eastward into a sea of trees that marked the boarder of the land of Quellion.
It had been nearly five years since he left the elven country with Captain Ozgral. It was a little odd to return, but he knew he had work to do so he ignored the feeling. Another day’s ride got him to Caori, although he was exhausted after the long hard trek from Kassadin.
Caori was a city designed by traditional elven architects and craftsmen. As such, the entire city was actually within the foliage above the forest floor. Entire buildings sat within the crowns and branches of the humongous trees that surrounded him. He found the entrance to the town, an archway in a large tree trunk, and began his assent.The climb was brutal on his body, but his will never faltered and, after a climb of several minutes up the spiraling ramp way, he stepped out into the elven capital for the first time.
The first thought that came to his mind was a realization of how immense the buildings were. Then he noticed all of the people flitting about here and there on numerous tasks that he would never know and could only guess at.
It had been a very long time since he had been in a place as busy as this. Despite himself and the urgency pushing him to find Mel, he stood with his mouth gaping at the marvels before him.
Eventually he realized one of the town guards posted at the entrance had asked Al’ev to identify himself. He began to answer in the common tongue used by humans, but caught himself and switched to Elven as that was the language the guard had used.
“My name is Al’ev and I come from the small human town of Kassadin to visit a friend who lives within this grand city.”
“Right…you look like you’ve been traveling for days without rest. Not many can accomplish that and still be standing up as straight as you are….Interesting, if you’re telling the truth. Why the rush?”
His mind raced as he thought about various answers he could give. But in the end, he decided that he would probably need this guard’s help to find Mel’s house. And perhaps by telling the truth he could also learn more of what had actually transpired.
“To be honest, my friend is Melesteil Rolovir. I came running when I heard about what happened to her father. Unfortunately, I am not sure where in this city she resides as I’ve only been able to exchange letters with her as of late. Could you direct me in the proper direction?”
“You’re of friend of that beautiful woman, huh? I’m a bit jealous. But it was a cruel fate that befell the house of Rolovir. Scouts have been unable to discover where the kidnapper took the man. But Mrs. Rolovir didn’t make it more than a few days after the invasion of their home, despite the best healing our city had to offer. The burns she sustained were just gruesome. Had to have been magic. Poor girl is probably traumatized.” The guard slowly shook his head.
Burns? Magic? Her mother is dead?
The guard put a hand on Al’ev’s shoulder and spoke again. “She could really use a friendly face right now. I’ll take you there myself.”
“Thank you.” Al’ev responded after a short pause.
The guard led him through the busy crowds who parted out of his way as he went, all the while telling Al’ev about a bit of what he was seeing after Al’ev mentioned he had never been to Caori before. Every building they passed appeared to be a part of the trees the city sat within. Al’ev could only imagine the skill and magic required to produce such a thing. If he were not here under such dire circumstances, he would have been wide eyed in amazement.
“And up the road that way is the Royal Palace. I’d like to see the inside of that place myself someday.” The guard said, pointing off to an enormous, grandiose building that sat at the end of the main road.
“As nice of a person as you are, I can imagine it is only a matter of time before fate smiles upon you and grants your wish.”
The guard smiled and they continued on their way, taking a semi major “road” into an area where homes became far more prevalent than shops. Al’ev saw several of the locals taking a little interest as he passed by, being escorted by one of the town guard. Other guards acknowledged them as they made their patrols. The houses were becoming steadily larger until they stopped before a particularly large tree trunk that, as Al’ev realized when he looked closer, hid a mansion within.
“Here we are. House Rolovir.”
“Thank you for the guided tour and leading me here.” Al’ev answered, not taking his eyes of the humongous home.
“Sure thing. Make sure you do your best to cheer up the poor girl. It never does a guardsman well to see someone who is as beautiful as she, so sad.” He pat Al’ev on the back causing the half-elf to stumble forward a step. The guard laughed and waved as he began walking back to the main road. “Good luck.” He shouted just before leaving Al’ev’s sight.
Al’ev turned back to the mansion. So this is where she lives. I guess Tanidor really did make a name for himself. Amazing….
Al’ev stood transfixed before the home for a few moments before finally shaking himself out of his stupor. He approached the large double doors, working on what he could possibly say to Mel after all this time and in a situation like this. He found himself knocking on the door before he had settled on something and was startled when the door flew open after only the third knock.
“Have you found…?” She froze, as he did upon seeing her for the first time since they had separated after that terrible night in Halar.
She was even more beautiful than he remembered her being in his dreams. Her eyes, though they were showing hints of red from a lack of sleep and, no doubt, crying, were still the most magnificent shade of blue he had ever seen. Her hair, though it was a tangled mess, was as long and golden as it had been when he had last seen her. Her facial features had even matured a slight bit more, becoming more regal.
Al’ev had to admit that even in her grief and standing before him not completely put together, she was still far more gorgeous than any other woman he had ever seen.
Then he realized he still had not said anything.
“Uh…hi. I came as soon as I….”
She flew forward faster than even his combat honed reflexes could respond to, her arms encircling him. His arms instinctively held her and the two of them stood that way for several minutes.
His thoughts whirled, instantly forgetting the horrendous things he had gone through since they had last seen eachother. He only hoped that his embrace could comfort her in the same way.
“I thought you had died! You never sent me another letter. Why didn’t you send me another letter?” She said, obviously upset.
“Why? Because you had to run from Joshua? You didn’t kill him, right?”
“You know I could never do that.” He answered quietly.
“Then why were you afraid?” Al’ev didn’t respond so she released him and stepped back. “Well?”
Why was I afraid? Because I didn’t want to lose you. I thought what I had done would have driven you away from me.
“I’m…not sure.” Al’ev answered looking down at his feet. “Maybe I just thought you wouldn’t want to talk to me after what I had done.”
Mel slapped him. He had not been expecting it and the shock of her hand hitting his face seemed to draw him again to the present.
“Why in the name of the gods would you think that? Didn’t I tell you I love you?”
“Did I write you letters as often as I could when I found out where you were?”
“Don’t you know how worried I was?”
He looked into her eyes and saw them welling up with tears and instantly knew how big of a mistake he had made.
“Mel…I’m so sorry. I was a coward.”
“Yes you were!” She raised her hand to slap him again and he cringed.
But instead of a second hard strike, she gently placed her hand on his face and turned his head so that she could look into his eyes.
“I still love you, you know.”
“I know.” He answered.
She smiled weakly then released his face. Al’ev stared at her a few moments before he moved forward and locking his lips with hers.
It was a long, hard, passionate kiss of two individuals who had been apart for years. It was a feeling that had kept Al’ev going during the hardest moments of battle. He had longed for the sensation ever since they had parted ways.
It only ended when Al’ev heard several people whispering excitedly behind him as they passed by the Rolover home and he broke of the kiss, the other side of his cheek as red as the one that had been struck by Mel moments before.
Mel looked down an said in an embarrassed tone “They’ll be talking about that for months.”
She looked up and smiled a little. “No you aren’t. But we should probably go inside.”
Al’ev nodded. “I did come to make sure you were okay. But I’m sorry to hear about your mother…and your father.” He was silent as she lead him inside.
The home was very well furnished, mostly with wooden made items wherever he looked. A large spiraling staircase wound around the center piece of the home, which Al’ev realized was the trunk of one of the trees that held the city suspended above the forest floor. The windows appeared to be carved directly out of wood as well, only drapes to hold out the open air. Al’ev absently wondered what was done when storms blew through the area.
Mel spoke up, interrupting his inspection of the home. “I loved her, Al’ev. And that monster burned Mother alive right in front of me. When father heard me screaming, he ran inside the room and the monster simply cast some sort of spell that knocked him unconscious. He took Father and left me alone as mother burned. Why would someone do this? We don’t have any enemies here that my parents have ever mentioned. Why?”
She started tearing up again and Al’ev placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, allowing her a few moments before he asked, “What monster? What did he look like?”
She stared off into the distance for some time before her answer came.
“He never mentioned his name, though when he spoke it sounded like he had a strangely reptilian accent.”
“Yes, like he had been brought up somewhere far away from here. His elven was also not quite fluent.”“So it wasn’t his first language then.”
She nodded then continued her description of the monster who had destroyed her family. “He was tall, very muscular. His eyes were as black as the moonless midnight sky.”
Then Mel’s eyes met his own. “His hair, it was made of fire.”
Al’ev stopped breathing as she continued to describe someone he had faced nearly two years before with excruciating detail. As she spoke, the image of his foe sent him back to the Battle of Dorn and caused him to shudder when the image cleared in his mind’s eye.
Mel noticed this. “What is it?”
Al’ev looked back at her and said a name he had never wanted to hear mentioned again.
Al’ev immediately started pulling out his equipment from his travel pack, knowing that the situation had just gotten a lot worse.