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Archives: The Golden Egg

Chapter 3: Exploring Dragon Breath

    Aiden woke to an incessant knocking on his door. “C’mon guys! We have things to do today!” Naclia’s voice came muffled from the other side.

    Aiden grumbled to himself, being woken out of a nice dream involving some of the lovely human barmaids he’d met. {“Yeah, yeah, I’m up!”} Aiden replied in elven instinctively and slowly climbed out of bed.

    Talen’s eyes opened slowly to the knocking on the door. Morning already? he thought to himself and lifted himself up into a sitting position, rubbing his eyes for a moment before getting out of bed and giving a long stretch with a yawn.

    Aiden stood and stretched along with Talen. “Well, looks like you get to show us around today, and get to know ’clia better,” Aiden reminded Talen. The elf dressed in the outer articles of clothes he’d taken off to sleep more comfortably. He was looking forward to exploring Dragon Breath today, but he kept his excitement contained, unlike Naclia who was probably waiting right outside their door.

    Talen turned and nodded to Aiden, a small smile playing across his lips. “Yeah, today is certainly going to be an interesting day,” he said scratching the back of his head a bit nervously. Indeed, he knew he was going to enjoy showing them around, and Aiden did have a point, he was going to get to know Naclia better through this. “Well, I’ll do my best to show you around Dragon Breath,” he said and begun to put back on his own clothing.

* * *

    Eliamn got out of the room she and Naclia had spent the night in, stuffing an ornate hairbrush in her traveling pack before joining the latter besides the door. The blonde shamaness had a fitful rest, but she had still risen before dawn out of habit. Thus wide awake, she quickly took notice of the bustle of activity going on the lower level of the inn.

    “What’s that greasy smell?” Eli asked Naclia in a hushed whisper as she patted the latter’s brown braids, smoothing them out. “They don’t eat meat in the morning, do they?”

    Naclia turned back to Eliamn. “Oh, probably,” she replied. It was quite obvious she was anxious to get out. “It smells like it.” Naclia cast a glanced toward the door and her ear perked up a bit, trying to listen to what was going on. It sounded like they were both out of bed and preparing.

* * *

    Aiden wrapped his cloak around his shoulders, then picked up his pack. “Are you ready? I’m sure Naclia’s bouncing in anticipation on the other side of the door,” Aiden glanced to Talen as the knight finished dressing.

    Talen finished dressing, making sure everything was in its place before turning to Aiden and nodding. “Yeah, I’m set. Today is certainly going to be interesting,” he said and turned, walking to the door and opening it, seeing Naclia and Eliamn on the other side. “Well, are you ready Naclia?” he asked her, smiling softly.

    Naclia grinned as she saw Talen and Aiden dressed and ready. “Almost, we should eat first though,” she suggested. Turning back to Eliamn, she asked, “Do you want to go somewhere else if the smell’s bothering you?”

    Eliamn shook her head. “No, I’ll get used to it.” She secured her traveling pack over her shoulders, devoutly hoping she would get over it and get past the nausea she was starting to feel. The close, stifling smells made her feel claustrophobic, but she was determined not to become a liability, despite Naclia’s kind suggestion. If Aiden and Naclia could take it, so could she.

    Talen gave one last stretch before heading out the door, soon hearing Naclia’s suggestion. “Hmm...eating first would be a good idea.”

    “We certainly can’t go out on an empty stomach,” Aiden added.

    Naclia nodded to Eliamn, though she could tell the other elf was uncomfortable. The ranger turned and led them all downstairs to the common room. She actually found the smell somewhat appetizing, though the warmth only made the room seem much smaller. Luckily, there weren’t nearly as many patrons in the morning. Light streamed in through the front windows, almost equalizing the enclosing warmth to make the room slightly more comfortable for the elves.

    Naclia returned to the table they had sat at the night before, with no other reason besides the fact it was familiar. Aiden took a seat beside her, then scanned the room for a barmaid. Almost immediately, one of the girls found him as he saw her. As Eliamn and Talen took their seats, she reached their table.

    “Would you like our breakfast? Anything to drink?” the maid asked, trading flirtatious glances with Aiden as she did.

    Minstrels sang of epic deeds, of terrible monsters and of villainous foes vanquished. Eliamn had heard many of them n the last decades, but none of them seemed to quite put into perspective the hardships adventurers had to go through.

    The common room of the Dragon Roost’s was the first real challenge the outside world presented her. Eliamn had a hard time imagining how she could feel any more miserable as it was. Hiking, horseback riding and sleeping under the stars seemed nowhere nearly as dreadful as spending a minute more in the people laden room.

    The elven shamaness followed her companions down to the table, glassy-eyed as she tried to reason away her dawning phobia of enclosed place and crowds. She never had a problem with elven dwelling and the Mirror Forest wasn’t nearly as populated as Dragon Breath was, so there was cause for her seeing this as so alien...

    ...but then, Naclia and Aiden weren’t showing much discomfort at all. That pushed out any excuses except for a flaw in her character, she concluded. She resolved not to hinder her companions and embarrass herself by keeping her discomfort in and withdrew into herself, trying to keep the greasy smells at bay with memories of her mother’s home-cooked honey bread.

    When the waitress came up to ask for their order, she intruded into Eliamn’s little mind bubble. With a start, she realized she was holding her breath in but quickly recovered by being the first to order. “I’ll have some lamhirh bread with some raspberry jam and a glass of water please,” she declared before thinking about it.

    “Lamhirh bread?”

    Eli inwardly kicked herself. Of course the human waitress wouldn’t know! Cursing the unexpected bout of homesickness, she replied: “Forgive me. Some sliced fruit if you have any.”

* * *

    After a quick breakfast, the elves and their knight companion went out to the stables to fetch Tiash and Talen’s horse. Once outside, Naclia couldn’t help but stretch after feeling confined in the inn.

    Aiden retrieved his stallion from his stall. Tiash pranced out flamboyantly, tossing his silver mane and shaking his coat. He was not fond of confinement, like his elven companions. Aiden stroked the gray’s neck and then let him wander freely through the stable yard. Tiash went to Naclia and Eliamn and greeted them by sniffing the elf maid’s hair. Naclia giggled and stroked the stallion’s dappled coat.

    Talen’s horse was a chestnut warhorse mare, who was much more subdued and quite used to stables. He led his horse back to the elves, but stared at Tiash in wonder. The elf bred stallion was one of the most beautiful horses he’d ever seen. His mare, Seinna, gave a snort of what he assumed was jealousy.

    Eliamn looked at Talen as she absently petted Tiash. “Sir Knight, shall we get underway?” she looked at her companions and then back at the human. “Moss is the homeland of the often talked Dragon Riders. Do you think we might take a look at where they nest?” And hopefully get away from the bustle of the city, she added silently. Being out of the inn made her feel better, but she was still a far cry from comfortable. Besides, while she didn’t share her companions’ interest in the human city... she did want to see what dragons were like.

    “Ah, certainly, milady,” Talen replied and bowed to Eliamn.

    Meanwhile, the suggestion had interested Naclia as well. She wanted to see the city, but how many chances did one get to see the nesting cliffs of the wyverns. “Yes, let’s see the wyverns!” Naclia agreed, her ears perking in excitement. “Aiden, what do you think?”

    “It sounds like fun to me. I’d like to see some of the city too still,” Aiden replied.

    “Usually people have to watch from the city walls, but I think my fellow knights would allow me to bring a few visiting elves closer. It’s a long walk, but I can show you some of the major sights of the city on the way out. If you would follow me?” Talen turned and led them out of the stable yard.

    As they left the stable, Naclia walked alongside Talen. Leaning close to him, the elf whispered, “Let’s make this tour quick. We’d like to be on the road soon, and we’re not exactly used to large crowds, you know.”

    Talen nodded. “We’ll make better time if we ride then,” he replied. That meant that one of the elves would have to ride with him. “You can ride with me,” he offered, a blush tinting his cheeks.

    “Of course,” Naclia replied, batting her eyes coyly. She glanced back at Aiden and Eli. “Hey, we’re going to ride through town,” she informed them as Talen mounted his horse beside her. The knight reached out his hand to help Naclia into the saddle behind him. Naclia took his hand with a smile and gracefully swung onto the cantle of his saddle.

    After seeing Naclia continue to flirt, Aiden rolled his eyes and just as gracefully mounted Tiash. “Well, Eli my dear, care to ride with me?” Aiden said as he extended his hand to her.

    Eliamn hitched the front of her robe up and accepted Aiden’s hand, setting herself into saddle behind him with both hands joining over his abdomen.

    “You don’t have to worry,” she whispered to his ear in elvish, “Naclia and I had a talk yesterday. She’s not going to do anything rash.” She saw Aiden look at her from the corner of the eye and couldn’t help adding: “If you are able to handle several barmaids, she should be able to handle a single human nobleman.”Aiden chuckled and urged Tiash to follow Talen’s horse.

    Talen began explaining some of the city’s history as they rode. “Well, you probably noticed how a lot places have the word ‘dragon’ somewhere in their name, or something relating to dragons. Here in Moss, we honor dragons. About fifty years ago, Moss was just a collection of independent duchies and baronies. Dragon Breath used to be called Highland but after the War of the Demon God, the King Mycen decided to unite the nations. He was known for freeing the golden dragon, who took his name. For generations, the knights of Highland were the dragon riders, but after unification, any knight can become a dragon rider. It’s because of this that we honor dragons. After Moss became a nation, people started changing the names of businesses and towns, and even named their children with dragonic related names. Like my own name, Talen, it’s only spelled slightly different from talon, like dragon’s claw. There are so many men named Drake, it’s hard to keep track of who you’re talking about,” Talen finished with a chuckle.

    “And people still name their children Drake even though there are so many?” Aiden asked.

    Talen nodded. “Drake, Cave, Claw, Scale, Talon, they’re all common. I suppose there are only so many dragon names you can come up with.”

    “And your people definitely have a lot of children,” Naclia said. “Elves try to make sure everyone has a unique name, but then, we don’t have nearly as many children as humans. Most elves only have one child in the course of their lives. And we can only become pregnant once every ten years.”

    “Ten years? That is very different from us...” Talen replied.

    Before Naclia and Talen could get any further into the subject of child bearing, Aiden cleared his throat. Elven estrus cycles were not something commonly discussed with humans, most elves preferred to not even tell their ages, let alone that. “I noticed that there are two castles here, but the southern section of town doesn’t seem very active,” Aiden said.

    “Oh, well, the castle in the south is the old Highland castle. That’s where the former duke lived. The main castle of Dragon Breath is now the Dragon Knight’s castle, that’s where the knights train and the King and Queen live—they’re both Dragon Riders as well.”

    The blonde elven shamaness blushed in embarrassment at Naclia’s faux pas, but abstained herself from making any comments. She had to admit that, while she hadn’t been really interesting in knowing more about Moss, the idea of a country whose lifestyle was based upon it’s idol-worship of a singular dragon benefactor, was quite intriguing.

    “Sir Knight, do you yourself hold the title of Dragon Knight?” she asked.

    “All Moss’s knights are Dragon Knights, but if you mean I ride wyverns, no. But I am in the Order of the Wyvern, that means that I can choose to become a Dragon Rider. I’ve considered it, but right now I’m not sure about which career road to take,” Talen replied.

    Up ahead, there was a glorious golden statue of Mycen in the center of the street, and behind her statue, a temple which the road forked around.

    “Ah, here is the statue of Mycen and her temple. Of course she’s not a god, but she was Falis’ dragon,” Talen explained. “It’s maintained by knights and priests of Falis. There are also other temples on this block, the temple to Falis, Marfa, Rada and Cha Za,” Talen pointed out each prominent building along the street ahead.

    Eliamn meant to ask Talen about his career choices and why he felt being a Dragon Rider was not the thing for him (she had trouble imagining what else a Dragon Knight could be), but she figured it was none of her business. Besides, she decided on letting Naclia ask more personal question like that.

    Instead, she lightly frowned as the Mossian knight presented their temples. “Forgive me, Sir Knight... I am familiar with the faiths of Falis and Marfa,” she began, “But I have never heard of Rada and Cha Za. What do their followers stand for?”

    Aiden glanced back at Eliamn. “For a Keeper, you’re not very familiar with the gods our ancestors fought for,” he murmured with a gently teasing smile.

    “I always payed spirits more attention than gods,” Eli griped in Aiden’s ear. Knowing that was a poor excuse to her simply forgetting, she resisted poking him in the belly or something like that. He was right after all.

    Talen, unaware of what elves should know, answered, “Ah, Cha Za is the God of Luck and Fortune, merchants usually worship him. Rada is the God of Knowledge, his followers are non-violent and seek all forms of knowledge. Would anyone like to stop in the temples, or should we go on?”

    “Well, that’s up to Eli,” Naclia told Talen and looked over her shoulder at Eliamn and Talen.

    “We could stop and pay our respects in the Temple of Falis,” she raised her voice, switching back to the common tongue. “I suggest we be on our way after that though.” One human temple ought to look pretty much as any other. She figured it might be interesting to see one up close. Hopefully it wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as stifling as the inn.

    “Alright,” Talen replied with a nod. He turned his horse down one of the forks in the street, passing alongside the massive statue of Mycen. Naclia and Aiden both stared in wonder at it’s size, though Naclia was a little more obvious.

    Talen was used to it and just led them by it and toward the Falis temple. Talen rode to the side of the build where he dismounted and tied Seinna to a rail. Before he could turn back to help Naclia, the elf had hopped out of the saddle and was adjusting her short skirt. Talen glanced away, blushing.

    Aiden followed Talen’s lead and “parked” Tiash beside the warhorse. He dismounted and offered his hand to help Eliamn down. Tiash didn’t need to be tied, but a stern “Stay,” was all Aiden had to say.

    It might have seen odd to a lot of people in Dragon Breath, to see such a young girl traveling around alone, including the fact she was no fighter. No, Lyassa wasn’t a fighter, but a Priestess of Marfa or a Cleric to the holy goddess. Walking, down a alley the priestess was to run a errand for the people of the temple of Falis. Her long dark purple hair moved around as a gentle breeze came through. She had a cheerful smile on her face, as she walked down the alley, in her uniform to her goddess. Nothing seemed to attract her from her duty of completing the assignment the priests of Falis had assigned to her, that is until she caught a very shocking and surprising sight.

    Stopping, Lyassa’s blue eyes blinked as she saw Elves, real Elves! Walking down the same alley, and with a human no less! It was a quite a surprise to Lyassa, she had never expect to met elves or in fact any of that race. It was quite a new experience for the young priestess, to her meeting a full elf was something very new, even if they were common elves. Lyassa was very curious, nevertheless for this was her first time to actually see them. That errand had seemed to had vanish from her mind for those few minutes, of just watching them coming down the alley.

    Eliamn stopped in her tracks as the others stepped up the stairs leading to the Temple’s double door entryway. Feeling watched, she turned her head, scanning around and her eyes fell on one peculiar human woman—a young lady, really—wearing the robes of Marfa. What caught Eli’s attention was not the strange purple hair (though that in itself was unique enough to deserve attention), but the gaping expression the human had as one stared right back at the other.

    The elven Keeper was relieved when she understood that the other was staring in awe and wonder, rather than staring at her for more negative reasons like that ruffian from the day before. Her ears perked up in good humor and she smiled at the priestess. She should have had been tempted to run after the others... but going into the confines of another building, even if it was a holy temple, was not something she was in any hurry for.

    She stepped down the stairs, figuring that if something went wrong, she could call on Tiash for assistance. She walked up to Lyassa and, like the willow bent under a strong wind, she dipped in a respectful bow, her blonde hair flowing playfully about her naked shoulders.

    “Greetings, Daughter of Marfa.” Eli straightened, as the willow ever did when the wind stirring it’s branches was past. “I am Eliamn of the Mirror Forest.”

    Lyassa felt her heart race a bit when the elf came over and introduced herself. This was a real honor for the young priestess, to finally be able to talk to a real elf on her first day in the city no less! She bowed her head back in a manner of respect, the elf looked very beautiful, elegant, and noble standing there. “Greetings, Miss Eliamn of Mirror Forest. It’s a honor to meet thee,” the priestess said in return to the Elf’s kind greeting. Lyassa smiled warily. “You’re from the Mirror Forest? This is a great honor to actually speak as well as see a elf,” she said as she clapped her hands together with a cheerful expression on her face.

    It didn’t matter to the young priestess where a elf came from, this was the first time she actually got to see and speak with one. Especially, one that was very pretty like Miss Eliamn. “Excuse me for staring at you and the your group. It was very rude of me, but I couldn’t help but to,” Lyassa said with a slight bow to forgive herself for the rudeness of staring. After easing up from her bow she silently prayed to Marfa, thanking the goddess for allowing this rare thing to happen. “May I ask what brings you around this part of the city, Miss Eliamn?” Lyassa asked with great respect.

    The blonde shamaness struggled not to crack up and giggle in amusement. It was flattering to see the priestess admire her so and the elf glowed under the attention. Actually contributing to the conversation was a harder prospect though. The young woman spoke eagerly, but the elf had trouble keeping up with the rapid flow of words and it was only her good command of the human tongue which allowed her to seize the gist of what Lyassa had said with only a moment’s pause.

    “I am on a pilgrimage with friends,” she answered simply... and it struck her that it was probably quite close to the truth, all things considered.“My friends, however, are of more adventurous spirit and seek to travel the length and breadth of Lodoss.”

    Tiash nickered, pawing the tiled road with one hoof. Eli half-turned her head with one ear raised as if she was paying attention to some silent message from the elven horse and she smiled. “I agree,” the elf said, clearly for the horse’s benefit. She turned back to Lyassa, her violet eyes merry. “Tiash wonders what your name might be. A good question, do you not think?”

    Aiden watched Eliamn and the priestess for a moment. A beautiful young priestess, Aiden thought with a smirk. He was aware that Eliamn was putting on a small show for the priestess, so Aiden played along. Just as noble and graceful, Aiden walked down the stairs to stand alongside his companion.

    “A very good question,” Aiden added, then bowed before the priestess, took her hand and gently kissed it—a gesture he observed from humans. “I am Aiden, my dear priestess.”

* * *

    Naclia stayed with Talen while her companions greeted the priestess. “I thought purple hair was rare,” she said to Talen. “She wouldn’t be a relative of yours, would she?” Naclia asked him with a half-smile.

    Talen was surprised to see someone with the same hair color as him, he had thought it to be rare, but perhaps not as rare as he thought. “Hmm I don’t recall having any relatives in the priesthood, but I guess there are more than I thought with purple hair,” he said taking a look to the priestess before them, then over to Naclia returning the half smile.

    Lyassa’s face blushed to the point of looking like a fresh strawberry. “Yes, that is a very good question indeed. My name is Lyassa,” she replied after a second of hesitation. She stared at Aiden, he was handsome, no beyond that near being beautiful like most elves. She smiled at the two and looked over at Tiash. “Thats, a very beautiful horse,” she said to Eliamn. Lyassa stared at the two elves, cheerfully she again prayed to Marfa for not only allowing such a rare and honorable thing to happen, but already having things start off on the right trail. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too Sir Aiden,” she said, bowing her head. She looked over at the horse. “May I ask if Tiash is this great horse’s name?” she asked the two.

    “Lyassa, what a lovely name,” Aiden flirted, flashing the priestess his most charming smile. He gestured grandly toward the elven horse, “Yes, he is Tiash,” Aiden replied. “We’re old friends,” he added with a wink.

* * *

    “There he goes again,” Naclia said to Talen, rolling her eyes at Aiden flirting. “She’s pretty, human, and dark haired. He’ll probably charm her to death. Either that, or get her to travel with us.”

    Talen chuckled a bit at Aiden’s flirting with the woman. “Seems like your friend has a history of flirting with women?” he asked looking over at her. Of course Talen wouldn’t argue, if given the chance and the bravery he would flirt with Naclia the same.

    “Oh yeah, especially the humans,” Naclia replied. She rested her elbow on his shoulder, leaning against him casually. If he didn’t have the bravery to flirt, she definitely did. “He loves dark hair. You know, most elves are blonde. My hair is as about as dark as it gets, and well, we’re like brother and sister, so he doesn’t flirt with me.”

    Talen almost jumped a bit as he felt Naclia resting her elbow on his shoulder, he wanted to flirt with her, but it seemed like she beat him to it. “Hmm...I noticed that. I wouldn’t understand why he wouldn’t flirt with a beautiful woman such as you.,” he said smiling at her, then returning his gaze back to the others.

    “Now you know,” Naclia said with a smile.

* * *

    Lyassa’s face became even more red at Aiden’s remark about her name. “Umm, thank you,” she replied. Once, Aiden had introduced the horse she put her hand upon it’s hand and softly gave it a pat. “I see,” she said with a smile at Aiden as he told about their friendship. Lyassa felt grateful that during their chat she had handed the letter to the person, who had been coming down the street and had given it to him while talking and he had set down something next to her. Lyassa turned and picked up a bag, turning to Aiden and bowing her head.

    “I must take this to the temple. I was told by Miss Eliamn that you are all heading over there. If, you wish I can take you all inside,” she offered. Though, it was obvious they already had someone taking them around the city, the priestess felt it would be nice to offer some help at the least. Since she was already making friends with the two and gave them both a friendlily smile. “It’s my duty as a priestess of Marfa, to at the very least offer some help.”

    “Thank you,” Eliamn smiled. “We would be most pleased if you could introduce us.” The blonde elf looked at the others. “Shall we go?”

    “Yes, let’s continue,” Aiden said, smiling warmly at Lyassa, waiting for her to lead them onward into the Temple of Falis.

    Lyassa blushed slightly at the handsome elf’s smile then took the lead of taking them to the temple. Lyassa wasn’t very nervous about being around people, she loved helping others find the places they needed to go. “The temple is to the left,” she said looking at them with a smile. “I must give the high priest a message.” She opened the door and turned to them. “You are welcomed to come in. If, they ask just tell them you know me,” she said as she smiled at Aiden and the elves cheerfully before entering.

    Aiden and Eliamn began climbing the stairs led by the Marfa priestess. Naclia met them on the stairs. “Priestess Lyassa, I’m Naclia, a ranger of the Mirror Forest,” Naclia said, bowing her head. From the distance that she and Talen were at, it would have been hard for them to hear Lyassa introduce herself earlier, but Naclia’s hearing was far better than any human’s.

    Lyassa bowed her head back to the ranger in turn. “It’s a pleasure to meet thee, Miss Naclia,” she said with a smile, she was happy to have met so many new people at such a short amount of time. As the young priestess opened the door she made a quick prayer over toward the Marfa temple then faced them and smiled calmly. “Please, step inside,” she said as she stepping to the side, bowing her head.

    Aiden, Naclia, Talen, and Eliamn filed into the temple as Lyassa ushered them inside. Naclia looked around the cavernous temple in awe. The entire building was of marble, complete with vaulted ceilings and pillars. Despite the awesome construction, the temple was actually humble in decoration.

    Lyassa walked onto a red carpet with gold trim on the sides. On the temple’s marble walls were friezes of the battle between the gods. Lyassa seemed happy and cheerful when inside a temple, it seemed to make the girl’s soul feel like dancing. She turned to face the party and bowed politely. “Welcome, to the temple my friends,” she said as she clapped her hands together and continued. “I hope you enjoy your stay here.”

    “Thank you,” Aiden said, beaming a grateful smile to Lyassa.

    Lyassa blushed a little more at Aiden’s smile. “Well, I have something to deliver to the high priest, so I’ll show you the temple along the way,” the priestess replied, then turned to lead them further into the temple.

    They went down a hallway that led to the main temple. There were a few worshipers in the pews and near the altar, and a few priests. To either side of the altar were stairwells hidden behind velvet curtains. They led to the offices and priestly quarters above.

    “If you’d like to pray, you can,” Lyassa told the group.

    Talen was rather familiar with the main portion of the temple himself, having been here a few times himself, but he was never big on worship. He usually only prayed when he felt he needed help from the gods.

    Eliamn followed the rest, lagging a bit behind as her eyes scanned about. She was surprised to find herself somewhat disappointed in the temple. The temple was essentially an utilitarian structure, focusing more on being a place of worship instead of symbolism. She admitted to herself that her assessment was not especially fair”the head temple of Falis was situated in Roid after all. Here, Falis had the same place as any other goodly deity after all. Then again, perhaps symbolism did not matter. Faith was often it’s own reward. The Keeper bowed respectfully before the altar once before hurrying after her companions.

    The priestess waited patiently for Eliamn’s small gesture of respect to Falis before leading the elves onward up one of the flights of stairs. The stairway and following hall was much more modest, the walls were clean marble and only adorned with golden lamps along the walls. Lyassa led the elves, and Talen, to large pair of double doors guarded by a pair of priests.

    “Greetings, Sister of Marfa,” one of the men said; both were smiling warmly at the sight of the priestess. As they noticed her companions, their eyes widened in surprise. “And greetings to our elven visitors, and you as well, sir Knight,” the priest added, his smile broadening.

    “Greetings to you,” Lyassa replied, bowing her head. “I have a delivery for the High Priest, and I would like to introduce him to the elves as well.” She began smiling uncontrollably again, still feeling the honor of meeting the noble elves.

    “Ah, certainly,” the second priest said, then both turned to open the doors. Lyassa bowed to the priests and walked into the room, which was the High Priest’s study. As she reached the center of the room, she preformed a graceful curtsy. Following her lead, Naclia, Aiden, and Talen bowed as well.

    The priest looked up from the tome he was studying on a stand near his window. “Yes, how may I help you?” he asked. There was a small hint of surprise when he noticed three sets of long ears, but he waited to hear Lyassa’s response.

    “I came here to bring you a letter from the High Priestess of the Marfa temple, but I met these three elves on my way. They are travelers from the Mirror Forest,” Lyassa explained, as she held her curtsy. Standing straight, she removed a letter from within her robes and handed it to the priest.

    “Ah, thank you,” the priest said, taking the letter. “Now, what of our friends of the forest? Are you followers of Falis?”

    “Well...we follow all the gods of light. Our ancestors fought for them thousands of years ago,” Naclia replied with a small smirk.

    The priest chuckled, he knew the story of the creation of the elves. “That is true indeed. What brings you to Dragon Breath?”

    “We’re on a journey to explore human lands,” Aiden replied, his voice held a tone of eloquence, certainly to try and impress the human priestess further.

    “I would like to offer Falis’ blessings on you’re journey then. Please, kneel,” the high priest said.

    Naclia glanced from Talen to Aiden apprehensively as she began to lean down. Talen nearly bent, but since it seemed the priest was only offering blessings to the elves, he stayed standing. Aiden, probably for the sake of appearing gracious, knelt down without hesitation and bowed his head.

    It seemed since Talen stayed standing, the priest finally noticed him. “Are you traveling with them?”

    “Well, I suppose I am,” Talen replied.

    “Then you may receive my blessing as well,” the priest said, smiling warmly. Talen nodded and knelt, one fist to his chest.

    Eliamn, bowing along with the others, looked sideways at Lyassa and then Talen.

    Talen was with them?

    Was that meant literally that?

    ...He’d tag along?

    She found herself feeling considerable apprehension over that. Talen wasn’t a bad human... and she trusted Naclia would not rush into things if they found out both really did get along with each other...but traveling with a human with a stake in human politics while they were traveling could add on them a few more complications that Eliamn was not happy contemplating.

    The last thing they needed was to travel with a Knight of Lodoss aspirant. They might get in no end of trouble and her adventure-starved companions would probably leap on the opportunity to help him achieve just that! Even worse, she’d have to tolerate his stink! (Tiash didn’t smell as bad as some things she had smelled in the inn...) She sighed, closing her eyes as she sternly rebuked herself from letting her mind wander like that. She was worrying to much.

    Lyassa smiled, she seemed to like Aiden’s manners a lot. “Father, is there anything else you require of me?” She asked politely as she bowed her head to him.

    “You have done enough, sister of Marfa,” the high priest told Lyassa, bowing his head to her. He returned his attention to the kneeling elves and stretched his arms out.

    “Holy Falis, God of Light, bestow your blessings upon these brave adventurers, the decedents of your warriors,” the priest began praying. He continued his prayer, repeating it several times, and as he spoke, the four individuals being blessed glowed with a holy aura. They could feel the holy magic gently seeping into them and making them feel empowered.

    When he finished, the priest gave a heavy sigh, he had put a significant effort into their blessings to show his good will toward the elves. “I hope Falis’ blessing will help you in your journey. I am honored to be in the presence of Falis’ Children,” he said, then bowed to the elves.

    Naclia rose to her feet uncertainly, then returned the bow to the priest, bending at the waist. Taking a hint from Naclia’s movement, Aiden and Talen did the same.

    “Thank you, High Priest,” Aiden said, unsure of the proper formalities. He was a ranger, not a diplomat after all. It seemed as if he was just as eloquent and graceful as he could possibly be, that was enough to convince most people that he was a “superior” elf. He had never been referred to as a “Child of Falis”, though dark elves made themselves known as the Children of Falaris. Maybe it was something the high elves or elders still referred to themselves as.

    “Thank you,” Talen added, he seemed to be only backing Aiden’s thanks. Maybe Aiden did use the right honorific for the situation?

    “Thank you,” Naclia said too, following Talen’s example. She wasn’t exactly good with formalities either.

    The priest bowed his head to them and raised his hand. “Think nothing of it, it is the least I can do,” the priest said humbly.

* * *

    After meeting the high priest of Falis, the elves and their two human guides led them out of the temple. The group paused at the steps with Lyassa, expecting that it was time to say goodbye. She was such a young priestess, and it was generally assumed she was still in training.

    Aiden took Lyassa’s hand and made a graceful bow, kissing her hand. “My dear priestess, it was an honor to meet you. I only wish you could travel with us, but you must have your duties,” the elf said regretfully. Most of it was just flirting, trying to make her heart beat a little faster and put a blush on her cheeks. After all, he thought she would have to go back to her temple.

    Lyassa felt her heart did beat quicker and her face turn a little red. “Umm, sir I have no duties here that needs to be done. I would love to travel with thee and your party if I may,” she said. A smile formed slightly on her lips. “I am still under training. But, I’m sure the others of the temple of Marfa would want me to travel with friends and aid them, for I always view the best way to learn is to actually be there and do the act.”

    Aiden stared in surprise for a moment. “You...can?” the elf said, losing control of his composure. Behind him, Naclia giggled. Aiden stood straight and put on his charming smile again. “Well, then we’d be grateful to have you along,” Aiden replied, it seemed that was the best he could do in this situation. He said he wanted her to come with them and foolishly assumed that she couldn’t leave her temple, he couldn’t turn back and say that it was just to make her swoon.

    Naclia’s ears shot upwards in surprise as Aiden invited Lyassa to join them. She personally wasn’t too bothered by having the priestess come with them—she could be a useful companion—but she knew that Eliamn had been uncomfortable with Talen tagging along. Now Aiden wanted to bring another human. Naclia glanced toward the shamaness to gage her reaction.

    Eliamn’s head did come up in alarm at Aiden’s invitation actually being in earnest and accepted. Her ears stood erect, her hands curled up until her nails bit in her palms. At first, her green eyes flashed with disbelief, but it quickly turned to a glare of disapproval... and perhaps even a small bit of resentment.

    Feeling Naclia’s gaze, however, Eli shook her head slightly for the ranger’s benefit”Naclia knew enough to understand Eliamn would not cause a scene and make a fuss of the matter, not in the middle of the day and in front of the humans.

    “Well then, perhaps we should proceed?” the blonde elf maid tried her best to move beyond her own displeasure and sound as cordial as possible. “Sir Knight, is it still possible for us to visit the aeries?”

    “Umm...yes,” Talen replied to Eliamn. He noticed the surprise among his companions when Lyassa unexpectedly told them she could travel with them. “We can go straight to the cliffs, if you’d like,” he replied. Certainly, Lyassa would need to speak to someone in her temple about leaving, so he waited to see what the priestess said. It was always helpful to have a priestess when you traveled, though most adventurers weren’t that lucky.

    Lyassa bowed her head. “Thank you for allowing me to join,” She replied to the team. She noticed the other elf’s reaction, but said nothing of it. She stopped Aiden. “However, first I must speak with the head priestess of the temple to inform her that I will be leaving for awhile,” She said to him.

    “Yes, of course.” Eliamn nodded. “It doesn’t seem like we will be leaving Dragon Breath just today, however. You are free to come along with us as we visit... though a long trip is ahead of us. You may want to take the rest of the day to make all the proper arrangements and prepare for the trip.”

    Fearing the wrath of the two elven women, namely Eliamn, Aiden felt it was best if he kept his distance from them. Maybe he was in for nothing more than a lecture, or an admonishing glare, but whatever it was, he didn’t want it.

    Aiden turned to the women in question. “I wouldn’t dream of allowing you two to linger about the city longer than is necessary, so why don’t you go ahead with Talen and visit the Wyverns? I can wait with Lyassa while she speaks to her superiors.”

    Naclia gave Aiden the most peculiar untrustworthy look he had ever seen on her face. It wasn’t as if he was going to sweep the priestess off her feet and straight into the nearest bedroom! Especially in a temple, of all places!

    “Fine. Let us go then.” Eliamn turned around in a swish of her robes and walked away, dearly hoping Talen would hurry along and take point before she got lost in this damnable city.

    Naclia, mimicking Eliamn in a way, turned sharply on her heel and followed the shamaness. She just didn’t trust Aiden with that priestess—much the same as how he didn’t trust her with Talen. Naclia was fully aware that inviting her was only meant to woo her, and now, he would have an obligation to continue to do so. How would she feel if his eye started wandering later on?

    Talen, surprised by Naclia and Eliamn’s reactions, scurried to catch up with the two women, leading his horse behind him.

    Tiash, who had been allowed to follow without the need of reins, looked either way as the group split up, unsure of who to follow now. Aiden motioned for the horse to come to him, and eagerly, the stallion trotted back to his long-time companion.

    Upon hearing the repeated sounds of Talen’s boots crunching the cobblestones behind her, Eliamn slowed her pace, letting the man overtake her and take the lead.

    After some time, Eliamn turned her head to Naclia, speaking softy in elven. {“It was not proper for Aiden to invite the priestess along without asking us first.”}

    Naclia nodded in agreement to Eliamn. {“It was rude,”} the ranger said. {“I don’t think he was serious when he said he wished she could come, and if he wasn’t, he shouldn’t have said it! Thinking with his...”} Naclia paused as she realized who she was talking to. Eliamn wasn’t quite as bold or crass as a ranger, so Naclia opted to use a less abrasive term for penis than what she had been thinking, {“...genitalia.”}

    Eli’s ears drooped slightly. She took a moment to look at the problem objectively and finally agreed that Aiden had indeed suffered a mishap back there. That, however, hardly excused him from inviting Lyassa without asking the both of them first.

    {“Well, look at the bright side,”} Eliamn began as she avoided an errand boy, {“It looks like you will have Sir Talen’s company. Aiden just earned Lyassa’s. I... I guess I will be hanging out with Tiash.”}

    At this rate, she sank into a sullen silence, we will be picking up ‘fellow travelers’ like stray pets in all the place we’ll travel.

    A smile crept across Naclia’s face. {“Maybe we should find a purple-haired human for you,”} the ranger giggled, tempted to make jokes about ending up with purple-haired half-elves at the end of the journey, but that sort of joke was one better shared with Aiden.

    Talen led on, hearing the two women chatting in elvish. He didn’t know a word of it, but he could pick out the more obvious emotions. At first, they sounded upset with Aiden. That made sense to Talen, Aiden didn’t talk to them about taking Lyassa with them. Now Naclia was giggling, so maybe things weren’t so bad.

    “Having a priestess with you when you’re traveling can be a good thing,” Talen spoke up, hoping his assumption about their conversation was right. “If you are injured or sick and not near a town, she can heal you, among other things.”

    Eliamn gave Talen a rueful smile. “Indeed she can. Fortunately, Aiden’s rash invitation can swing into your favor, Sir Knight. You can request a leave of absence to your order to properly escort the Marfa priestess along with us on our pilgrimage.”

    Eli looked back at Naclia with a strange look of empathy in her eyes. ‘This is what you want, right?’ No words had been spoken, but the shaman’s meaning was clear enough.

    Naclia was surprised to hear Eliamn suggest something that would help Talen travel with them, but she was even more surprised by the look the shamaness gave her.

    “That’s not a problem, I’ve already taken my leave. I wanted some time off to explore the country a little,” Talen replied, unaware of what had passed between Naclia and Eliamn.

    Eli broke eye contact with Naclia as she spoke to Talen. “Oh, I was unaware of your knight-errantry. Please forgive my presumption.”

    Talen was surprised by the humble apology from Eliamn. “Oh, it’s alright,” he replied. He continued leading them on with no more sight-seeing. They had already passed the most important sites in Dragon Breath, and now it was straight to the Wyvern Cliffs.

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