He is growing up so fast. Nalef thought as she watched her seven year old son attempt to master another dance step she had been trying to teach him over the past hour. The boy had eyes and skin that matched her own. His hair had taken on a brown color with subtle hints of red and for the casual onlooker, he appeared to be quite elven.
He still has trouble with these steps following the spins.
So far there had been no major issues since they arrived in Halar over seven years ago. The two of them had been able to live a quiet, peaceful life in the medium sized trade town that sat on the border of the elven kingdom of Quellion and the dwarven kingdom of Doul. There had been close calls throughout their time here, of course. But in the end they were able to remain, happily living an almost completely normal life.
Nalef thought back on what had happened all those years ago and smiled. She knew the difference between luck and skill and though she attributed a bit of her escape from Brelzic to skill, she also recognized that she had had a fair bit of luck on her side as well. She absently wondered if the gods had a hand in the events that had played out that night and the time following it.
She and Al’ev had teleported from the Spring of the Ancients and their confrontation with Brelzic, to a small clearing in the forest just outside Halar’s lightly fortified main entrance. The gates had been closed as it was late into the night when they had arrived but one of the town’s guardsmen saw the cloaked elf stumbling towards the entrance. He and two other guards went to investigate and found Nalef as well as Al’ev cradled in her arms.
Not willing to let the men carry her child, she attempted to stumble forward on her own. The men did their best to assist her to the building that served as the local garrison’s hospital. The building had been nearly devoid of patients as Halar had not seen conflict in quite a few years. The few patients present when they arrived all had minor injuries from accidents that often occurred in everyday life.
The three guardsmen asked Nalef questions while she and Al’ev were taken care of by the hospital’s medical staff and a couple of clerics from the nearby Church of Sarenrae. They were unable to get any pertinent information on what had happened to her or why a young mother would be outside the town’s protective walls so late at night. Nalef answered very few of their questions. She didn’t want any information to spread about their appearance here that might risk someone finding them.
Giving up, the guardsmen left the clerics and other medical staff to attend to the exhausted elf and her newborn. Nalef and Al’ev remained in the hospital for the next few days.
Nalef was quite confident that Brelzic would be unable to trace her to Halar. The Pool of the Ancients innate ability to wreck havoc on magic should have made it impossible for him to discern where she had gone to. Halar itself was in many ways a perfect hiding place. It constantly entertained multiple magic users of varying might, items of power, and the famous Arcane Library of Halar itself. All of this would make it incredibly difficult for the dragon to detect them even if he did look here. So, a week after their arrival when they first emerged from the hospital, she felt relatively safe given all that had happened to her recently. She never dropped her guard though.
She was sure Brelzic would have help in searching for them, informants of all sorts could be bought pretty cheaply in larger towns and cities. But even in a town the size of Halar, such searches would take a long time, especially if they were able to seamlessly integrate themselves with the local population. The nature of the trade town’s constantly shifting population would make this fairly easy to accomplish. They wouldn’t know what to look for after a few years so the trickiest part of staying hidden would be over after that.
Nalef also doubted that he would look in this particular town or even any town to begin with. He would base his search on what he learned about her in the year they had spent getting to know one another. She remembered clearly having a conversation with him about how much she didn’t care for staying in civilized places for extended periods of time. She’d bare it now though, especially to protect her son. Given enough effort, she could learn to love living here if it meant keeping him safely hidden.
She looked down at the infant who was cooing quietly in her arms. He would have a tough life, she knew, but she also knew what Brelzic did. The child had amazing potential. It would be a bit of a challenge to hide that if he ever realized it. She would need to be ready.
“Let’s go find home.” She said as she wiped a little drool from the corner of Al’ev’s mouth. The infant giggled at her touch and the sound caused her to fall even deeper in love with her child.
The first five years in Halar had passed quickly and none of Nalef’s fears had come to pass. Nalef and Al’ev managed to start their lives anew as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened to them. She had located a small two story wooden house that sat on at hill that overlooked the town and was happy to find she possessed the coin to purchase it. This became home for the pair and it suited Nalef’s needs just fine.
After a short time, she took a job working as a scribe for one of the numerous trade officials to keep up appearances. The trade officials kept track of all the goods that flowed through the town’s trade hub.
Well, everything that they could track of anyway. Nalef learned that many things never made it onto the books within weeks of starting work. The town had a healthy underground trade going. Regardless, she was well compensated for her abilities to read and write as the skill was quite rare to find away from the major cities of the land.
The first five years passed so quickly and with very few incidences that the first real complication almost caught Nalef off guard shortly after Al’ev’s fifth birthday.
Nalef was in their small two story home’s kitchen finishing a batch of Al’ev’s favorite snacks when she heard the pitter patter of little feet running across the wooden second story floor and down the stairs.
She smiled as Al’ev and two of his friends from neighboring homes, Joshua Drovernath and Melestiel Rolovir, burst into the kitchen.
Joshua was a human boy with short brown hair and was the same age as Al’ev. His family had moved to the trade town from Varalon during the massive growth period Halar had recently experienced. He wasn’t out of the ordinary for a human child, aside from the fact that his family had decided to teach him a little of the native elven language. Nalef assisted them in this endeavor from time to time and was quite happy to do so as it kept her busy molding another young mind.
Melestiel, or “Mel” as she preferred to be called, was a cute little elven girl with blond hair. She was smart and often acted like an older sister to both of the boys as she was a year and a half older. Nalef had watched the three long enough to notice several small quirks develop between them all and it didn’t escape Nalef’s notice that her five year old already had an eye for the opposite gender. She had chuckled at the realization.
The Rolovir family had been in Halar for a long time, tracing their roots to a time when Fort Halar was just being built centuries previous. Nalef had seen little of Mel’s father, Tanidor, in the time they had lived there. But the elven man was known to be a very competent carpenter and was responsible for building much of the town’s newer buildings over the past few years. Her mother, Raiya, was actually twice Nalef’s age and she wasn’t afraid to show the younger woman a thing or two about parenting. Raiya rarely stopped there. Nalef was thankful when the woman assisted her by watching Al’ev the few times work forced her away from their home. The elder elf had even taught her how to cook a few new dishes that Al’ev had seemed very appreciative of, including the one she was working on now.
“Alright! Wildberry cookies!” Al’ev excitedly said as he jumped up and down next to his mother in an attempt to see the small snacks that laid upon the shelf.
“Now Al’ev, why don’t you and your friends go play in the living area? The cookies aren’t cool enough for you to touch yet.”
“Aww, but they smell so good!” He complained.
Nalef gave him “the look” and crossed her arms. She wasn’t going to budge that easy as this was the same thing the boy had done every time she cooked up a batch of the tasty snacks. “Al’ev…” she said with a hint of warning in her voice.
The children didn’t miss this and promptly left the kitchen with downtrodden heads. She knew this act well so she wasn’t surprised when she heard them playing in the living area only minutes later. She took the cookies and placed them on a plate as she contemplated what she needed to prepare for dinner. She then moved the plate onto a shelf just out of the reach of little hands and busied herself finding various ingredients from around the kitchen..
After a couple minutes had passed, she heard the children chatting in the living room. It wasn’t often the three of them would sit and talk. They usually had enough energy to be bouncing off of walls, literally, and she had seen them doing so on more than one occasion. She paused to listen in on what was being said.
“Wow, these cookies smell so good!” Joshua said in elven. Nalef attributed his speech mistake as not being entirely used to the language just yet. He should have said “Wow, those cookies smell so good!” She made a mental note to talk with his parents about teaching him the difference later on.
“They look great too!” Mel said a few moments later also in elven. This caused Nalef to pause for Mel had been brought up in an elven speaking home and had a year and a half on the two younger children. She should have said “They looked great too!” Nalef had never noticed Mel make a mistake when she spoke in that language before.
The more she thought about it, the odder it seemed. Both children were speaking as though the cookies were in the living area and not in the kitchen with Nalef. With that thought she looked over to the shelf behind her and saw the wooden plate she had placed the cookies on.
Two cookies lay where there should have been five.
“How?” She began to walk to the living area and stopped when she heard her son make the noise of delight he always made when biting into one of the treats for the first time.
“How’d you get them from your Mom? They aren’t even cool yet. Doesn’t that hurt your mouth? I can hardly pick them up!” Joshua said in a hushed and hurried voice.
Al’ev answered after a few moments. His mouth sounded full of food. “I don’t know. They just…” he seemed to be searching for the word “flighted, no, floated over when I reached out my hand.” Nalef heard a crunching noise. “Mmm!”
“Magic! Wow!” Mel said excitedly just as Nalef walked into the room. “Al’ev can do magic!”
She saw two of the missing cookies floating in the air around her son’s head as he finished eating the third.
“AL’EV RELDIN!” Nalef yelled, partially out of shock. The cookies dropped to the ground.
The tone of her voice was enough to suggest to the children that they were in trouble. They jumped up and made a break for the stairs, likely thinking that the second floor was a safer place to be, but Nalef was able to cast a spell before they made it all the way there.
“Stop.” She said simply and the children froze in place, held by invisible strands of magic. Nalef reflected, not for the first time in the last five years, on just how useful magic could be in the world of parenting.
“Come here. I need to talk with you Joshua and with you Mel. If you listen to me, I’ll give you each a cookie.” Then she looked at her son and said, “Al’ev, say goodbye to Mel and Joshua then go to your room. I’ll be up in a little bit to talk with you.”
“Do I get to have a cookie too?”
“Aww….” He did as she asked.
Nalef lead the other two children to the kitchen and asked them to sit at the simple wooden table that served as the Reldin’s dining table. The chairs were meant for taller people. She saw Mel and Joshua’s heads barely make it above the flat of the table as she pulled the Reldin’s dinner and set it aside.
“Have you seen Al’ev use magic before?” she asked calmly using common to make sure Joshua understood everything she said. This was serious and she needed to be certain.
“Nno…Nnever.” Joshua replied a bit shakily but Nalef saw his thoughts and heard the tone of voice. He was frightened of what Nalef might do to him and Mel and what she might do to Al’ev later. He was telling the truth.
“IsAl’evawizard?” Mel asked excitedly, saying her words in elven so fast that they blended together.
“No he is not, Mel.” She walked over to the children and cast a spell that would erase their memory of the past ten minutes. She hadn’t wanted to do such a thing to children, but nobody could hear of what Al’ev had just done. Short of killing them, this was the only option to ensure their silence that she knew of, and she was not going to murder children.
When the blank look on their faces disappeared a few moments later, they appeared confused. Nalef handed them each a wildberry cookie, the last two she had retrieved from the plate on the shelf.
“Wow! Thanks!” Mel said. “Will Al’ev get one too?”
Nalef smiled knowing that the spell was working. The children didn’t remember that Al’ev already had had a cookie.
“Yes, with supper.” She lied and then walked the two children to their homes. When she returned a few minutes later she found Al’ev sitting on the stairs, waiting.
“Am I in trouble?” He asked.
“Yes.” Nalef answered and then went over to her son and hugged him. “I’m so proud of you.” She pulled back and saw a confused look on his face then kissed his forehead. “You just cast your first spell!”
“I’m sorry.” he said, eyes cast down towards the ground.
Nalef laughed and messed up his brown hair.
“Why are you sorry for that? It’s amazing. You’ve discovered how to use magic all on your own. But Al’ev,” She said, her voice becoming more serious, “you can’t do that in front of other people. Casting spells is something that scares lots of beings.”
“Why?” He asked looking straight into her eyes.
“Because people fear what they don’t understand.”
She smiled. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll teach you how to use magic if you promise only to use it when I’m the only one around.”
“You know how to use magic?!” Al’ev asked excitedly.
Nalef’s eyebrow raised and she brought her hand up between them. “Watch.” She snapped her fingers and a bright spark leapt up into the air then fizzled out above their heads.
“Wow! I wanna do that! Do it again!”
Nalef laughed again. “Later. First dinner, then bed.”
“But it’s early!” He protested.
“You’re in trouble, remember?” She replied then and poked his nose.
“But I thought you were proud.”
She smiled again. “I am proud of you. You just cast your first spell. But I’m also upset with you for stealing those cookies.”
She took her son’s hand and led him to the kitchen where they ate in silence. Some time later, Nalef sent him to bed. His first official lesson on the arcane arts would begin the very next morning.
Nalef’s heart swelled with more pride and her eyes with tears. Her son was growing up.