© 1999 Eric Case, all rights reserved..
especially the right to bear arms since I had a sleeveless shirt on when
I started writing this story!
There are some things in the story that may not be explained all that
well and may leave the audience with questions. If you have the patience
to wait till I release the first three episodes, I think most or all of
your questions would be answered by it then, but if it's something that
can't wait, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com and
I will respond ASAP wth answers to questions, or just to explain things
that aren't too clear.
The smell of frying eggs was in the air the following morning when the three awoke. "Good morning Arden," the boys said with their usual togetherness that made talking to them so amusing to Arden.
"Good morning you two.. did you sleep well?" he asked as he stroked their hair from their faces and they all sat up.
"Very well thank you," said Joshia.
"You make a great pillow Arden!" said Jarin giggling.
"Are you three ready for some breakfast?!" Hollered Derek to the three from the other room.
"He doesn't look like any elf I've ever seen Arden, or heard about!" Jarin said softly leaning his chin on Arden's shoulder and hugging his arm. He was growing more and more attached to this man who had saved him and his best friend from the Ithilians.
"Derek is different from other Elves boys." Arden replied softly. "I never thought it was possible to breed elf and dwarf, but his parents found a way and that's where he gets his stalky build from.. Although as a result of his parents relationship, poor old Derek is not capable of producing children."
"Why not?" Joshia whispered in a quiet voice next to Arden's ear.
"Sometimes nature plays jokes on people like that.."
"Pretty cruel joke!" Jarin commented as he leaned forward and kissed Arden's neck softly. Both boys were advancing on him, but now was not the time.
"Boys, this will have to wait until later if at all. We are guests in someone's house," he said calmly. Years of disciplined life had taught him self control although it was more difficult with these two than with anyone else he had ever felt anything for.
"Sorry Arden," Joshia said still in his soft whisper. "Somethin about you.. the three of us.."
"I know," Arden said seeing Jarin nodding in agreement with Joshia. "What's say we at least have breakfast first?" The two boys giggled at this and rose to put their shirts back on taking them off their drying hooks from either side of the fireplace. Arden examined his shoulder satisfied that the scar was completely gone now. Arden stood stretching while the boys dressed, then they brought him his shirt, leather vest, and his cloak. "Thank you lads," Arden said cheerfully. He had slept well and felt better than he had in some time. The energy of the two boys gave him strength, and the feelings he sensed from them lightened his heart.
The three of them walked through the low archway into the kitchen and sat around the table while Derek skittered around finishing cooking the breakfast. He placed the feast he had prepared on their plates and sat down at his own and began to eat. "Now.." he said after filling his mouth with food so that he had to talk around it. "What are the events that have befallen fair Islan?" He asked in a cool tone having no idea what had happened the previous day.
"She has fallen to the Ithilian," Arden answered after swallowing his mouthful of food. Rafiar had always taught him to show manners whenever youare a guest in someone's home. 'If they are good enough to offer you a meal and place to rest, manners are the least you can give in return!' he had said.
"Fallen to the Ithilian?!" Derek asked slightly alarmed looking around the table for confirmation that his ears had not tricked him.
"Yes sir.. They broke through the gates and entered the city.. We barely escaped and never would have had it not been for Arden," Jarin answered sadly.
"I thought you were asked to assist them!" Derek said looking at Arden. "How could you let the city fall to the Ithilian?"
"The city counsel would not listen to me," Arden said simply. "I advised them on how best to help their city, gave them my opinions and they told me I was wrong and refused to listen. Then i told them their city would fall and they laughed. I said there were two in the city who I would take with me when the city fell and they would acompany me on a journey until we returned. Once I found them," Arden said looking at the two boys, "we left the city after hiding in the hidden cellar of a house and then left by way of the river.."
"We swam under the wall!" Joshia added excitedly.
"I never thought we'd make it under, but we went to fast 'cause of the current, that it was easy!" Jarin said picking up his buddy's excited tone.
Arden continued on with some of the finer details of the previous day, where the attack had come from, who was involved, his speech with Tarius that got a raised eyebrow from Derek. "Mordak?" He repeated. Arden repeated the name nodding and continued on with the story with Jarin and Joshia adding in bits and pieces here and there also. When they had finished their meal and got to the end of their tale when they arrived at Derek's door. "Now that we've reached your door in the story Derek, it's time we left by the same way," Arden said smiling.
"Well if you leave by the same way you came that would mean taking another swim in the river so be sure you leave your packs above water!" Derek said jokingly eyes twinkling as the boys giggled. "I have already put some more warm clothes into your packs. If you're travelling to Cragen in the north you'll be travelling through colder weather," Derek explained. "I have also stowed food in your packs as well as a pair of canteens for the boys.. You already had one Arden so I left it with you.."
"Thank you Derek, I owe you one," Arden answered.
"I said I put two canteens in the boys' packs.. two.. not one!" Derek laughed and the three joined in. "Consider it a partial repayment for saving my life Arden." Derek said more solemnly. "You also have a sword but these boys are defenseless and it just so happens that I have a pair of twin daggars here," Derek said revealing a pair of identical sheathed daggars to the boys. "There is one for each of you so long as Arden doesn't mind you having them." Derek continued. The boys both smiled and looked to Arden who smiled and nodded. "Well then carry them well lads. It's a long road to Cragen and perchance you will have reason to use them.. perchance not.. but in any event you each have them!"
"Thanks Derek sir!" The boys chorused once again getting a chuckle from both Derek and Arden.
With that the three grabbed their packs shook Derek's hand and walked back down the path and across the little bridge they had crossed before. They then turned southward through the forest and walked for a few hours in near silence enjoying the nature around them. It was Jarin who spoke first - which would become usual. "Arden.."
Cracking a smile Arden replied, "Yes Jarin?"
Giggling at Arden's reaction Jarin continued, "so where are we going now?" He said then added, "I know to Cragen, but obviously we will stop someplace, so I just wondered where we will be stopping next?"
Arden smiled again and said "well Jarin, we will be stopping here in the forest tonight. We won't reach the southern plains before dark so we will camp tonight here in the forest."
"Camp? Outside? In a dark forest?" Joshia jumped in.
Arden laughed, "don't worry boys, you'll be safe. I'll protect you both.. I'll always protect you both." Arden said with that same power and the boys knew it was true.. So long as they were with Arden he would never let anything happen to them, and he would die to protect them quite willingly.
The day passed on while the three walked through the forest. It was a warm day but a cool breeze blew through the trees. Jarin wondered if anyone but Derek lived in this forest, it was so quiet and peaceful. He wondered what the rest of their long journey would bring. Would there be battles? Danger? Excitement? His heart raced at the thought of the adventure they were going on and felt certain this would be one of the last days of boring walking. He looked at Joshia who looked at him, and when their eyes met, each knew that the other was thinking of the same things and they giggled. Their laughtedr seemed loud in the silence of the wood where the only other noise was the wind in the trees. The boys suddenly became aware of the silence.. there were no birds chirping anymore. Arden had apparently noticed this earlier since he had his sword drawn. When had he drawn his sword? Jarin thought as he pulled his daggar from it's small sheath.
Just then a dark form burst from the undergrowth just ahead of Arden and lunged at him. Arden was more than prepared and had his sword raised to completely sever the head from the orc's body which he did with what seemed more like a flick of his wrists than a swing. He then recoiled and swung around to the boys and thrust his sword just above their heads to catch the second orc off guard. The filthy creature had been trying to sneek up from behind, but Arden's heightened sense of smell had caught the Orc long before Jarin and Joshia were in danger. Arden knew there was a third orc somewhere. This was a dark patch of forest and if the orcs could travel by day here, they would have to be very careful when it grew dark. Suddenly both Jarin and Joshia lunged towards a large bush driving their daggars deep into it and receiving a bellow of pain from the third orc hiding within. Then Arden came down between the two of them cleaving into the orc which abruptly fell silent.
"Well!!" Joshia said slightly out of breath from the excitement which had only lasted a few seconds.
"Now THAT was exciting!" Jarin added smiling his usual smile.
"I have never heard of their being orcs in the Forest of Eliri!" Arden said frowning. "You both picked up on the silence of the forest rather well boys," Arden added as his frown broke to a half smile at the boys. "Jarin you were drawn before they even attacked, AND you both found the third orc.
"Arden, I thought orcs and trolls could only travel at night?" Joshia asked with his voice somewhat shaky.
"I have never heard of an orc travelling by day either.." Arden said stooping to examine the headless orc he had killed first. He noticed a strange marking as Jarin outlined it with his finger.
"It's cold!" Jarin said. "Nearly icy cold! What does the symbol mean?"
Arden looked at it closely. A curved verticle line nearly an "S" shape was crossed by a large similarly curved horizontal line at the top, and a smaller curved line at the bottom with a circle on the right between the two horizontal lines. "I have never seen it before," Arden lied. Jarin called his bluff and gave him a 'yeah right' look. Arden chuckled and said "alright, I have seen it twice before on the orcs who killed my teacher, the wizard Rafiar. I believe that is the sign of Mordak.." The boys looked back to the symbol. The symbol was red on the orc's black leather clothing, if it could be called clothing. Arden always found orcs to be disgusting filthy creatures and valued an orc's life lower than that of an ant. They were the servants of evil and had taken his teacher away from him. Arden stood and began to walk again in the direction they had been going.
"Are we just gonna.... you know.. leave them here?" Joshia asked.
"Of course," Arden said smiling at the innocense of the boys tone. He was really concerned for the orcs even though they had just tried to kill the three of them. "I want to be well away from here by dark boys."
Jarin grabbed Arden's right arm hugging it. "Okay Arden you're the boss and I wanna get as far away from these three as we can right away! They STINK!" he giggled.
Joshia joined in with the laughter and the three of them continued on leaving the orcs to stain the forest floor with their dark blood. They walked a while longer in silence. Then seemingly out of nowhere Joshia asked, "Have you ever been with a woman Arden?" His youthful eyes were brimming with curiosity.
"I have never.." Arden replied simply. His first and only woman would be his queen; this he had decided long ago.
"Have you ever been with a man then?" asked Jarin clinging once again to his Arden's right arm.
Arden paused a moment before he answered, recalling old memories, some painful.. "Yes.. yes I have, but it has been a long time since, and I doubt if any of them are still alive." He said somewhat sternly. The boys sensed his pain and didn't want to press the issue with him any further.
In time however their curiosity grew again and together they spoke. "Arden, what was it that happened that makes you so upset inside?"
"When I was close to the age of the two of you I was a slave.. I was beaten, and . . . other things were done to me. Then they left me for dead and a kind man and woman saved me and took me to an old wizard named Rafiar who taught me many things." Arden said fighting off his anger at what had been done to him. "Nothing like that will ever happen to either of you. I've known you but a day and already I find myself ..."
"We love you too Arden," the boys chimed. "You said that it was natural for us to have bad feelings and desires about you?" Jarin continued.
"No I never said that," Arden said sternly. "The feelings you have are not bad, they are a part of who you are and there is no evil in love!" Arden stopped them looking at a group of trees just off their path. He moved towards them drawing his sword and the two boys drew their daggars instantly alert. Arden strode forward through a gap in the trees and into a small enclosure in between the trees. "This is where we will spend the night," Arden said smiling. It was almost like a small hut, the trees had grown so closely together and their branches had woven around one another.. "It looks like it was once a wood-elf's home. Look how the trees have grown into one another." Arden said running his hands over the 'walls' of the house.
"This is so cool!" Jarin said.
"Looks like we don't have to sleep out in the open afterall!" Joshia said smiling to Jarin.
"We will get an earlier start tomorrow. It is growing dark already." Arden said looking out the opening. "I'm going to go gather us some firewood, you two stay here and spread some blankets on the ground.. make it look nice," Arden said smiling.
When he was gone the two boys set about there work spreading three warm blankets on the ground and hanging one up over the opening to add that cozy safe feeling. Then they sat down on the blanket and leaned against the wall. "Poor Arden," Jarin said. "That must have been so terrible!"
"Yeah," Joshia said in agreement. "But let's not think about that right now.. We've had a long day, so let's relax."
"What do you think about what he said about... you know..." Jarin asked.
"He's been right about everything else about us.. and I do love you Jarin," Joshia said feeling a heavy burden lift off his shoulders. He had longed to say it for so long and now that he had, it felt so natural.
"I love you too Shia," Jarin said smiling. Then ever so slowly he leaned forward towards Joshia with his lips slightly parted. Joshia met him half way and their young lips met in a soft embrace. Jarin whined as his new lover pushed him over onto his back and began kissing harder dancing his tongue in Jarin's mouth. They exchanged hot breath, moaning into each other, slowly removing one another's shirts. The feelings of their bare chests rubbing against one another was an amazing feeling and sent both boys into orbit. They broked their kiss for a moment and looked into each others eyes, then Jarin noticed Joshia was shimmering again. "Shia... can you.."
"Yeah I see it too Jarin! What is it?" Joshia asked.
At that moment Arden walked back into the 'house' and said "that's what happens when you get close and your love for one another flares up." Arden said as he tossed a pile of firewood into the center of the room. Then he stood and looked down at the two who both blushed giggling. "Sorry to interupt boys." Arden said smiling.
"Don't be," Jarin said softly.
"You can join us if you want!" Joshia said smiling nowingly at Arden.
"Not tonight boys," Arden laughed. "I need my energy for other things," he said winking at the two boys laying half-on half-off one another.
The boys shrugged and got back to some serious 'making out' while Arden built a small pile of wood in a circle of stones and started a small fire, just large enough to heat their little house. Then he stripped off his cloak and vest leaving on his blue tunic that sat half open exposing the division of his large chest. Arden layed his head back on his pack staring at the ceiling then closed his eyes. The boys noticed Arden lay down and glanced over at him. "Jarin.." Joshia whispered.
Jarin turned his gaze back to Joshia then smiled and nodded. The next thing Arden felt was the two boys laying down on either side of him again like the previous night. "Finished early boys?" Arden joked.
"No.." Joshia said.
"We know you've had a hard life, and we don't want you to ever have to fall asleep alone again Arden, we love you.." Jarin explained.
The usually well composed Arden smiled full heartedly. He had been deeply touched, and his face being ready to spill tears showed it. "Thank you boys," he said. "Goodnight Joshia, goodnight Jarin," Arden said quietly kissing each boys forehead as he said their name.
"Goodnight Arden," they replied with their usual togetherness, then kissed his neck. The three then fell asleep huddled together in a group of trees in the forst of Elirin.