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Archives: The Golden Egg

Chapter 8: Camp on the Road to Dragon Scale

    After spending the remainder of the day searching the vicinity of Dragon Breath, Naclia trudged along the main road. She had exhausted herself physically and spiritually—though not quite to the point Eliamn had. The walk was rest for her. She found nothing relevant to their search for the dragon egg, which was quite a disappointment. Perhaps Roess hadn’t even left the city yet, but spirits weren’t finding him.

    On the same road, following just behind Naclia, walked a unknown figure, lost in these parts, and trying to find his place in the world. At this particular moment, he would like to know just where he was exactly.

    Saga had walked out from Dragon Breath, but forgot to bring the map he had carried with him for the previous two months. It didn’t matter to him anymore, as it was a map of Dragon Breath with only some features of the land directly outside of it. He had no more need for Dragon Breath as his search for the man with name of his father was no longer there. Aiden Silvermoon. And he knew that if he could find him, he would have more answers to his past.

    As he walked that same main road heading out from Dragon Breath, he saw a beautiful elven woman. Exhausted, he ran up to her to seek some sort of answer from her about the location of Aiden, hoping she would have heard of him.

    Naclia gave a start as she heard someone quickly approaching from behind her. It was late at night and a time to be cautious, especially if Roess had gotten wind of their plan to steal the egg back for Mycen. The ranger drew her rapier in a flash and spun about. “Who are you?” she ordered of the young man.

    Almost not quick enough, the young man had thrown his feet hard to the ground. He slid feet first underneath the sword until he landed right on his bottom half, sitting in almost utter terror. To his surprise, he was able to blurt out his name, “S-Sa-Saga! Wait, please! Don’t hurt me! I just wanted to ask you something!”

    Naclia quickly realized that he was no threat, and she drew back her rapier and sheathed it. “Oh Falis, I’m sorry,” she said, and offered her hand to him. She felt she was in the right, since it’s generally not a good idea to run up behind an armed woman alone at night in the middle of nowhere. However, his look of terror struck her as completely honest. “A girl can’t be to careful out here you know,” she said with a wink.

    Saga’s shock at what had just occurred gave way to him being stunned by her beauty, enough so that he could not help his eyes from wandering from her face and to other beautifully endowed areas. Catching himself staring, he averted his eyes and grabbed hold of her hand. “Oh, that’s alright. Sorry about that, I should’ve known better,” he said nervously as he stood up, still holding her hand tightly, but as she took one step toward him, he jerked backwards in fright and slipping on a rock. He fell on his back once again, only this time he brought Naclia down. Right on top of him.

    Naclia gave a yelp and tried to catch herself, but despite all her elven grace, the boy took her down with him. It was quite a compromising position as well. She wasn’t about to even let him consider taking advantage of it, not since she had a certain knight on her mind. Quickly, she hopped off him and began pulling her short skirt back down. “Are all humans this clumsy?” she chastised, placing her hands on her hips once her skirt was straight.

    With a hot feeling surging through his body, Saga just stared at Naclia fixing her skirt. “No, no... well, maybe. Sorry about that.” Saga stood up again, this time watching to see what he slipped on.

    “Anyways, I had to ask you what is the next city ahead. I am out searching for someone and don’t seem to have a map of this area.” Saga’s voice was still shaken.

    Naclia looked at Saga apprehensively, her arms crossed under her breasts. Whether his tripping and pulling her down in a compromising position was accidental or not, it unnerved her. Besides, she also had to keep a degree of elven haughtiness around strange humans. “The next city is Dragon Scale. There’s no way to get lost if you just stick to this road,” the elf explained.

    Saga stared down the road, hoping his answers would be there. As he stared he wondered if Aiden would be there. “Dragon Scale, huh? Sounds nice. Perhaps we can travel there together? Sorry, I’m just still a little lost around here. But I would much enjoy it if you showed me the way um... miss... I’m sorry, I never got your name.”

    “I’m Naclia,” the elf replied. “I’m already traveling with a group, but we’re bound for Dragon Scale as well. You could probably tag along, it’s not safe to travel alone at night, after all.”

    “That would be great, I would feel safer that way. It would be nice to have some company. I will go with you until you reach Dragon Scale. The more towns I visit the better, as I am searching for someone.” As the thoughts of traveling had filled Saga with hope, the sounds of his stomach growling in starvation had emptied all other thoughts in his head. “Though, first I believe it best we reach the next town as I am still starving.”

    “Dragon Scale is a day’s walk from here,” Naclia replied. “I’m sure we’ll have dinner at my companion’s camp though.” The elf started walking eastwards down the road again. She regained a little energy since being stopped and surprised by Saga. “So, who are you looking for?” she asked as they walked.

    Saga took a breath, thinking of how many times he had answered the question only to be given either a look of confusion or an answer that led him on trips far and wide with no real hope. “An elf named Aiden. It’s a long shot but... you wouldn’t happen to know him or where he is, do you?”

    Naclia’s ears perked up and she stopped walking when she heard him say Aiden. What could this human want from Aiden so far away from home? The ranger turned around to face him, her hands on her hips again. “What’s he to you?” she asked suspiciously.

    Saga just stood there, anxious to answer, but sure exactly what Aiden meant to him. “Well, now that’s the question. I’m hoping to find out from him the same answer. But...does that you know where Aiden is?”

    “I know an elf named Aiden,” Naclia replied hesitantly. After a long pause, she added, “He’s at my camp.”

    Saga stood there, staring into Naclia’s eyes as if he would be able to know the truth from one look. Still shocked from finding his best lead to Aiden in months he could only hope this wasn’t just another joke. “This camp of yours... how far are we from there. We should hurry to it now.”

    “I don’t know, it’s somewhere on the road to Dragon Scale,” Naclia replied. “There’s no rush, he’ll be there. I’m not going any faster than I have to. I’ve been scouting this region all day long!” The elf was back in her chastising pose, with her hands on her hips. But, she turned around and began walking again. “C’mon, let’s get going,” she said, waving for Saga to follow her.

    Realizing that his excitement may have come off a little strong, Saga decided it was best for him to calm down a bit. He had felt the chance that he would one day meet Aiden before, yet this one was much stronger than any one before. “You’re right. I will follow, and thank you.” He gritted his teeth a bit, knowing the passing of time would only worsen his feeling of impatience. Yet, he kept in line not trying to upset Naclia, knowing that this may be the one tip in finding Aiden that he needed.

* * *

    The group had been riding for a few hours following Talen’s lead. Sitting atop his horse at the front of the party, he looked over his shoulder, giving a slightly tired look as he noticed the sun setting in an orange-ish color behind them. “It’s probably best if we camp out for the night, its not a wise idea to continue on at night.” he said, pulling his horse over to the side of the road and looking around. “This would be a good campsite.” he said, spotting an open area beside them.

    Kima stalked away from the camp and took refuge in a tree. There were few animals that could sneak up on her in a tree, and she could be further away from the others to sneak off and find Aiden’s missing item when they were asleep.

    Kima sang softly in her tree, brushing her thick hair out of her petite face. “Aiden...” she chirped in her mimic of his voice.

    Eliamn nodded wearily from atop the horse Naclia had selected for her. The shamaness coaxed the mount to get closer and looked over the side as if she intended to disembark... but she thought better of it when she was struck once more with a dizziness spell.

    “Unh.” she pressed once slender hand over her forehead, her eyes closed as she fought the distressing sensation away. “Sir Knight,” she called, beckoning Talen with one hand, “would you please help me down?”

    Talen checked around the area, making sure it was a suitable area to camp before heading back to the others, hearing Eliamn’s words as he approached the group. He nodded, knowing that she had been weak at the moment and walked up, taking her in his arms and carrying her off the horse, walking over and setting her down upon a soft patch of grass on the ground. “Just rest...its not a good idea for you to be moving around,” he said softly.

    Eliamn nodded obediently as she was set down. “Can you set down a bedroll for me?” she asked, pointing toward Seinna’s saddlebags. Eli was worn out and the earlier she got to sleep, the more rest she would have if something—when something—would come up.

    Talen nodded in response, then got up and headed back to Seinna. He took the bedroll he stored in the saddle back and brought it back. Setting it down, he rolled it out, then went to help Eliamn. He lifted her up gently, then set her down upon the blanket. “Is that better?” he asked her softly, wanting to know if she was comfortable or not.

    The elf nodded back and snuggled contently under the covers. She was still all dressed up, but felt so tired she really took no notice of it. “Goodnight.” she answered in a whisper, looking at Talen with heavy-lidded eyes before closing them.

    Lyassa followed the others and sat next to them. She made sure that Eli was alright and when she settled to sleep, the priestess sat down and remained silent, going back into a state of trance as she prayed to her goddess.

* * *

    The sound of people setting up camp woke the traveling minstrel from his hole in the brush. The smell of women was on the air, as well as the distasteful smell of a man. The blue haired poet rose to his feet silently in the brush and started to stroll out when he noticed Kima in the tree.

    He reached up and pulled on her leg. “Well, hello darling, long time no see.”

    Kima leapt down into Minstral’s arms and smothered his face in kisses.

    “Well, I see nothing has changed,” yhe minstrel said, holding Kima on his side, he walked into camp. An elven woman looked half asleep, a priestess of some sort, just what kind didn’t matter to Minstral, he was never one for dealing with gods and religions, and a knight. “BOO!” he exclaimed loudly pinching Kima’s sides so she shrieked a giggle.

    Talen sighed as he sat down himself, resting a bit. Damn what a day... He thought. Until he was snapped out of the resting trance he was in, suddenly hearing a new voice amidst the group. Looking to the source of it, he saw a new person had arrived, and bothering the others by the look of it. “Hey...who are you?!” he said getting up swiftly, his hand on the hilt of his blade. He had encountered many strange things today, and he wasn’t ready to let down his guard yet.

    “I am the great Minstral, hailing from the distant past of one young wildling.” He gave a gallant bow letting Kima tumble out of his arms as they once practiced time and time again before. The blue haired stranger looked to Eliamn sleeping on the ground. “I see you have acquired a sleeping beauty. One small kiss should wake her and restore her to strength.” As Minstral leaned towards Eliamn, Kima bit into his ankle making him retreat his approach. “Kima dear, no biting.”

    “Kima dear, no biting,” Kima mimicked. Minstral messed up her hair and pinched her cheek.

    “You’re a little to young to be biting men, sweet Kima. Wait a couple more years and you can scratch and bite at men as they seek your unrefined grace,” Minstral warned.

    Talen kept his hand upon the hilt of his blade, ready to unsheathe it at a moments notice. “You’re suspicious, but,” he said, releasing his hand from the hilt. “You seem to know Kima.” He walked over and looked at Minstral with a curious look. “You have such power? To restore her strength with just a kiss?” he asked.

    “I can do that no more than a human alchemist can turn lead to gold, although I’m sure the opposite is possible.” Minstral sighed. “No, I am no prince charming upon a white stallion, charging forth into fire of battle. I, am simply, and humbly, Minstral, a wandering man of trade, good for a couple of tales and a harmless night in the sack with a beautiful lady.” He gave a gallant bow. “And, you already know my haphazard friend Kima, a delightful little one who I had the pleasure of spending two long years at her side. She may seem a little wild, but her heart is in the right place, even if her mind is that of a beast.” He ruffled Kima’s hair again and took a presumed seat near the fire. “What is for dinner?”

    Lyassa, blinked a bit as she forced herself out of her trance to pay attention to their new visitor. “Who are you sir?” she asked him.

    Talen gave an unsure nod, not fully understanding all the words that came from the strange new person. “Hmm... well I see, it seems you know Kima so you aren’t an enemy to us,” he said, turning slightly away from him and walking back to where he was before the man had arrived. “Hmm... well dinner? Can’t think of much at the moment, but you can join us if you wish,” he said, taking a seat.

    “Sure thing.” Minstral smiled. “There are few things in this world more sweet than food, and most are not really to be said in the company of a child.” Kima plopped down in Minstral’s lap and grinned at him.

* * *

    Aiden’s search had been unsuccessful. He scoured the region Roess could have traveled within a day south of Dragon Breath, but found nothing. He was physically and spiritually exhausted as he trudged toward the camp, following a will o’ wisp spirit he summoned to lead him.

    The little ball of light led him through the woods until he entered from the back of the camp. He heard a strange voice, and his right ear twitched forward in response. Talen hadn’t started a fire, or unsaddled horses, and Aiden frowned at that. The knight was sitting, and across from him was another man, the source of the unfamiliar voice. Eliamn was deep in sleep, Lyassa was sitting, and it looked as if the new man had Kima in his lap. Aiden felt a little wounded to see that her affection could be so easily won.

    The elf entered the campsite and gave a heavy sigh to announce his presence. “I found nothing,” he complained softly, so as not to wake Eliamn. He paused beside the sleeping shamaness, but she looked to be dead to the world.

    Aiden looked back up and glanced to the blue-haired man holding Kima, then to Talen. “Who’s this?” he asked the knight.

    “Don’t worry, that happens at times,” Lyassa whispered back to Aiden as she put her hand onto his softly. She rested her head on the side of his shoulder and closed her eyes, resting against him.

    Aiden gave a start when Lyassa suddenly came to him, took his hand, and leaned against him. She had never been so forward and affectionate and it left Aiden confused. “Well, I guess you missed me,” he said and reached up to pat the priestess’s head. Or was she jealous of Kima?

    Talen shook his head in confusion, in response to Aiden’s words. “I’m not too sure, but he seems to be an acquaintance of Kima’s,” he said, pointing out how close they both already were. He stood from the sitting position he was in and walked over to Aiden, giving him a soft smirk as he nudged him a little.

    “Seems like she’s getting a lil’ close to you, eh?” he asked before walking off towards the horses. Talen was going to unpack them, and there was a lot to do, so it would take some time. Hmm...come to think of it, that was the way Naclia acted around me... he thought to himself as he took a moment of thought. “Hmm... anyone care to start a fire? Or do you want me to handle it?” he asked turning to face them.

    Lyassa’s face flushed; she felt like she had an sunburn. “Umm, of course I missed you,” she replied to Aiden, embarrassed. I... really don’t know why I’m feeling like this now... I’ve never felt like this before, she thought while blushing. She wasn’t jealous of Kima, her embarrassed face showed that it wasn’t that, but the fact was she was a little confused herself. I’m glad he’s back though, he was the only one who wanted me to come. That made me feel... happy...

    Minstral looked to Lyassa and Aiden. Human and elf pairings were not his favorite parings by any standard.

    “Two lovers born of wood and flame,
To ageless son of elven blame
Priestess wise and so naïve
Her heart a flutter by his leave.

    She dotes her blush across her cheeks
A familiar sight not seen in weeks.
The elfin child can only stare
Her mortal looks will one day wear,” he recited softly.

    Aiden gave Lyassa a pat on the head and clenched his jaw in frustration at Talen. He let some stranger into the camp and he didn’t even bother to ask who he was? The elf glanced at the stranger as he began to recite a poem. Its subject made Aiden’s blood chill a bit. Elven and human love had quite a role in his life, as the son of a half-elf. He had no idea how much his father had suffered before his mother met him, though.

    Aiden regarded the minstrel with a sharp gaze. His voice sounded familiar, and why was Kima so attached to him? He soon recalled her mimicking the voice of this man. Aiden gently pushed Lyassa back a step and turned to the minstrel. “So, just who are you?” he asked.

    “My name is Minstral, as you can tell by my peculiar name, I am a minstrel. My occupation, as it seems, is also tied to my name, as my name is tied to my occupation. I raised Kima for a while, as she was my partner and friend, my silent and yet mimicking companion.” He crooked his head to the side. “It seems my poem offended you in a way, I apologize. It was not a merry poem, but it was not meant to offend.” Minstral had his own reasons for reciting it. He was a half-elf, although that was not quite for others he didn’t know fully to know.

    “Oh, so you’re the minstrel she spoke of,” Aiden replied to Minstral. Though, after hearing some of the things Kima mimicked from earlier in the day, Aiden was a little concerned. He couldn’t help to be a little disappointed that Kima didn’t seem interested in him anymore.

    Rylan returned to camp just after Minstral spoke and looked around, taking stock of who was here before he cleared his throat. He still showed the emotionless quality to his actions, but then he would not weaken his defenses. “I think I found where they were headed. I had some limited success, but just the route they took.” He then noticed Naclia was not back and there was a new man here, though he looked at him with emotionless eyes he studied him. This had been an eventful trip indeed, but he would allow him to introduce himself first.

    The elf raised his head as the centaur entered the camp. He found some trace of Roess, and the news made Aiden’s ears perk up. “Where were they going? Toward Dragon Scale or northwards?” Aiden asked.

    Minstral nodded at Aiden’s assumption. Kima was up to her usual shenanigans, mimicking that which she’s heard before. Minstral moved Kima off his lap and stood up. “A redheaded centaur.” Minstral chuckled. “Who is this ‘they’ that you are talking about?”

    Rylan looked to Minstral as he studied him, he nodded to him and then answered both questions. “The tracks lead north and are about a day old, they have a day on us already.” He kept it brief and simple, making sure they got the important details he had found. He was not one for words, and the fact of who they were was important but Aiden was the one asked that question.

    Aiden glanced down at Minstral. “‘They’ are the people who have stolen an egg from Mycen, the dragon,” he explained. His attention was split though. Aiden was considering how to pursue Roess. Turning his attention back to Rylan, he offered a suggestion. “I think we should continue to Dragon Scale so we can try and find out who Lord Mur-Cavendrel is.”

* * *

    Naclia had summoned a Will o’ Wisp to guide her and Saga to the camp. The little orb of light danced ahead of them, leading them down the main road. Finally, after a long, tiring walk, a campfire was in view, just off the road. Talen hadn’t taken the girls too far from Dragon Breath, but they would be able to make it to Dragon Scale by the end of the next day.

    “Ah, I think that’s my friends’ camp,” Naclia announced with a sigh of relief to Saga. She was quite curious to see what he wanted to speak to Aiden about.

    “Umm... yeah, he should be at least,” Naclia said. The boy was definitely eager to meet Aiden, but what could Aiden have done in Dragon Breath to get Saga to want to track him down?

    Saga stood there for a minute taking in a breath of fresh air. He stared at the camp hoping to recognize Aiden with just a look, yet he knew it would not be that easy. “Is he here? I mean... right now? I am still not sure what to say to him. Bah, I can’t back down now. Is he truly here?”

    Lyassa nodded in agreement. “I agree. That would be an wise thing to do,” she said to Aiden. The priestess wanted to learn who this Lord Mur-Cavendrel was as well. “I’m ready to offer any help,” she added.

    Talen was still working on unsaddling the horses and they hadn’t started a fire yet. “Well, we need to gather some firewood,” Aiden said to Lyassa. He didn’t want to abandon the camp right now, but he wasn’t about to let a defenseless priestess wander off into the woods unprotected. “Let’s go find some, hmm? Rylan, keep an eye out for Naclia, or trouble.”

    Lyassa nodded her agreement when Aiden offer to come with her. “Alright,” she said to him. The priestess was already prepared to move out to get firewood. So, she went to the road and waited for Aiden.

    Aiden was about to turn back into the woods when Lyassa went back out to the road. Aiden glanced over his shoulder, an eyebrow raised in confusion. “This way, Lyassa,” he said, waving for her to follow him.

    Naclia saw the priestess step out of the campsite as they approached. “Hey Lyassa!” she called, waving the white-robed Marfa priestess.

    Lyassa blinked when she heard Naclia’s voice and waved back with an cheerful expression on her face. “Hey! Naclia, glad to see you’re back!” she said, walking over, then she noticed Saga. “Who is this?” she asked her.

    Saga looked up at the priestess, watching her walk his way. As he searched for words to speak, he said the only ones that came to mind, “I am Saga. I am looking for a man named Aiden. My apologies on being blunt but... is he here?”

    Aiden’s ears perked up again when he heard Lyassa calling out to Naclia, then walk out of sight. Apparently, she was back. Aiden stood patiently and waited for them to return to camp.

    Rylan kept a silent vigil as he sat by the fire. His bow was strung and he had an arrow by it. He looked at everybody and then back to his watch. “Naclia has returned obviously. I wonder who that is with her? We seem to be attracting a lot of people. What do you guys think? If you all go to the city I am not sure if I should go in, after all humans are not really used to my kind within their walls.” He made an effort to be social, and not withdrawn like he normally was. He got up and went to the edge of the camp and watched everything, he worried he would put them in danger. Could they calm him down if he snapped, would he hurt any of them...

    “Someone’s with her?” Aiden’s ears perked up. Though Rylan had walked away before Aiden could answer any of his questions. The elf followed the the centaur out to the road to see what was going on. However, when he heard the mention of his name in a strange voice, he stopped. Who in the name of Falis...?

    Lyassa bowed politely to Saga. “It’s an pleasure to meet you, sir,” she said to Saga. She then heard him speak of Aiden. “Aiden?” she asked turning her head a bit to the side, her expression puzzled. “You know him as well? I only met him recently, but yes, he is around...”

    Hearing Lyassa ask for him, Aiden stepped out of the campsite. A brown-haired boy, who looked human, stood with Naclia and the priestess. Aiden didn’t recognize him. “May I help you?” he asked, obvious uncertainty in his voice.

    Saga just stared at Aiden. He couldn’t believe his eyes that after all these years he found him! He wasn’t sure what to do. Was he angry? Was he happy? He knew in his heart he was a little bit of both. As the tears dripped down from his eyes, all he could do was just run up to Aiden and hug him. “Daddy! Is that you? By Falis it is! I can’t believe I’ve finally found you but... here you are!”

    Aiden threw his arms up as the strange human ran up to him and hugged him. “What the hell?” Aiden gasped in shock. He tried pushing Saga off him and stepping back. “Uh...I think you’re a little confused. You can’t be my son, you’re not even half-elf!”

    Naclia’s jaw dropped when she saw Saga’s reaction to Aiden. That’s what this is about? she thought. As far as she knew, Aiden never had any children. As he said, Saga definitely wasn’t a half-elf. However, her reaction to Aiden was one of shock. “Aiden!” she shouted, demanding an explanation from him.

    Talen finally finished unsaddling the horses and setting the supplies they had brought along aside. “Damn... that was more than I thought it would be.” he said to himself, stretching out for a moment before turning and heading back to the camp, a yawn coming from him as he started. But after a few steps he heard a familiar voice yell out Aiden’s name and increased his pace, heading back at a quickened rate. As he arrived, he saw Naclia had returned, with a new acquaintance clasping onto Aiden. “Hey, Naclia you’re back!” he said happily. “What’s going on?” he asked, walking up by her side.

    Naclia grinned as she saw Talen, momentarily distracted from the drama of Saga and Aiden. “Hey!” she said softly to Talen, then threw her arm over his shoulder and leaned in to whisper in his ear, cupping her hand in front of her mouth and his ear. “I met this kid on the road, he wanted to meet Aiden, so I brought him back, now he’s saying he’s Aiden’s son,” she explained to Talen.

* * *

    Rylan watched this silently, trying to hide the emotions he felt. He had no father in his mind, as he was an outcast from his people. He could remember trying to kill his own father in a rage, so instead of saying something he returned to camp and lay down beside the fire. Staring into he it could see the burning flames, they reminded him of what he was fighting so desperately right now. “Not now, I can’t right now... Is that what a family is like?” he spoke, letting the motion of the flames keep his attention from everything.

* * *

    Lyassa’s reaction was one of pure shock. “Da...ddy?” she echoed as she looked over at Aiden with a stunned look, so still that she might as well be a statue that could be pushed down by even a gentle breeze of wind. She turned to Aiden, her eyes were wide. “You never told me...” she said to him. Lyassa then turned to Saga, “Are... you... really... his son?” she asked him while barely holding her breath. He appeared human by the looks of him. She gave Aiden an little look promising they would be discussing this later.

    After experiencing an emotional rush from the likes he’d never felt before, Saga realized what he was doing was turning out to be quite a commotion. He looked up at Aiden and felt an odd connection, but was not sure if it was the one he was looking for. “I’m sorry, it’s just that... I’ve been looking for you for a very long time. I have one question for you though... how could you leave your family... how could you leave mom... or even... me...?”

    Minstral cocked his eyebrow at the newcomer. He kept a firm grip on Kima so she couldn’t attack the newcomer, even if she wanted to. “I believe that you are even more confused than the man you are hugging. Perhaps you are mistaken, as I see no family resemblance between the two of you.”

    Minstral held Kima fast, faster than she could react. Her arms twitched at this strange man hugging her Aiden. She growled and barked at him like a dog. Had Minstral not held her, she’d be tearing into him like a dog as well.

    “Would you please all quiet down?!” Eliamn had straightened up into a sitting position, hugging the top of her blanket against her breast as she spoke out; her voice loud and clear enough to get past Kima’s barking. The blonde shamaness’ ears were dipped down and her violet eyes glared indignantly at the people assembled. Eli was normally tolerant, but the exertions of the last day along with the fact that her companions—and whoever they had decided to let tag along with them again!—were making enough noise to wake the dead.

    Minstral sighed and held onto Kima. She wasn’t going to get her way this time, not if he had any say in the matter. She persisted to struggle, her wild strength a little harder to handle with her so emotional about Aiden’s sudden attachment in the form of the new guy. Seeing that everyone was otherwise distracted, Minstral whispered into Kima’s ear. “Leprechaun, child of wind and sleep, call this little one into your arms and place her to rest.” Kima’s eyes drooped and she slacked in his arms.

    “Must have been tired,” he half explained, shrugging slightly.

    The whole camp erupted in activity as Saga hugged Aiden. Kima started barking and her minstrel friend was doing all he could to hold her back. Naclia and Talen were whispering to each other, and even Eli woke up after being dead to the world.

    Aiden glanced to Lyassa and saw the pained expression on the girl’s face. She really was attached to him at this point. Kima’s barking stopped, but Aiden paid little attention to that. He had to set this situation straight.

    “Look, I have no children. I still know every human woman I’ve ever been with and none of them have children—well, at least not my children. You’re not even half-elf,” Aiden explained. What if...he was less than half-elf though? Aiden was named for his half-elf father, whom his mother always said he took much after. “Look um...” Aiden paused, realizing he hadn’t even been introduced.

    “Saga,” Naclia supplied.

    “Saga, how old are you?” Aiden asked.

    “I’m a hundred and seventeen... but... what does that have to do with anything? Aiden Silvermoon is my father... you are Aiden Silvermoon... are you not?” Saga replied.

    Aiden was relieved and surprised at once hearing Saga’s age. He gave a heavy sigh, then spoke. “I’m only seven years older than you. I’m Aiden Silvermoon the second. Apparently, we’re brothers,” Aiden said casually, though his mind was reeling. He had a brother, and proof of where his father had been after leaving his mother. Was Aiden really such a wastrel?

    He had never met someone with a quarter-elven blood, but he knew that half-elf ears were usually half the length of a full elf’s, so a quarter elf’s ears could be half the length of a half-elf. Aiden glanced toward the sides of Saga’s head, trying to see his ears.

    Talen blushed lightly at feeling Naclia’s arm being thrown over his shoulder, giving a slight look of shock on his face upon hearing that this boy said he was Aiden’s son. “Well, apparently Aiden says he’s not his son, but could that really be true?” he whispered back to her, curious on if Aiden was being truthful or not.

    After hearing Aiden’s argument, Naclia shook her head to answer Talen. Saga definitely wasn’t Aiden’s kid. She was one of the few elves who knew Aiden’s father was a half-elf, and that he was named after him. Not many elves knew he had a surname either.

* * *

    Minstral reached out and touched Eliamn’s shoulder, “Good morning, sleeping beauty.” He gave her a casual smile. “I am Minstral, a traveler whose name holds the same meaning as his profession. I was Kima’s guardian from her tenth to twelfth year.”

    Having one of the entourage pay attention to her, even if it was a stranger, mollified Eli enough to bury away the unfamiliar feeling of indignation. She turned to pay more attention to the traveler whom seemed charming and polite- or so she might have noticed had she been not feeling so groggy and tired.

    “Should it not be Mins-trel?” The shamaness pointed out as she rubbed her hand over one of her closed eyes: her eyelids felt like sandpaper. He had greeted her with a good morning, but it was still in the dead of night—she had hardly recovered her strength!

    Minstral choked on his words. “Uh, yes. It probably should be...” he muttered. “Regardless of the pronunciation or spelling of some names, I must admit I’ve never seen an elven woman with such elegance and beauty as you possess, even groggy and disoriented as you may be.” He was a little choked that she decided to chide him on his ‘improper’ pronunciation of his traveling name, but he’d let it slide. She was one of the first to ever catch the indiscrepancy of his pronunciation of his craft. “You must be a noble shamaness of great virtue and power, for one so young.” He coughed. Oh dear, I think I messed up. How would the common stranger know that she was a shamaness? He cursed his stupidity silently, then quickly added: “All elves possess some degree of shamanic power, if the stories are correct.” Good save...

    The blonde elf maiden listened to the blue-haired bard as flattery poured out of his mouth. Had she been feeling more self-conscious, Eli might have bitten on the hook and been suitably distracted, but the leprechaun the traveling performer had subtly called registered to her own senses plainly. Even tired as she was, it was easy for her to put two and two together, even if it was less obvious for the others of her party.

    “Power enough to know whom I must thank for Kima’s sudden nap,” Eliamn said softly, making it clear she was not fooled as she brushed away an errant strand of golden hair that had stuck to the corner of her mouth. Instead of trapping him with that statement, the elf girl kindly gave him a way out of embarrassment. “Is something amiss? Why all this commotion?”

    “A pity...” He coughed. “I thought I went somewhat unnoticed.” Minstral turned his attention to the newcomer and Aiden. Eliamn was too tired to play along with his petty flattery, and this small talk between the siblings made his stomach nauseated, and wished for this scene to move on so that he may score some free food.

* * *

    Saga stood there, feeling as he had come so close again and failed. But then with the words “brother” his spirits became quickly rejuvenated with hope. “Brother... you mean... I have siblings? How many children has father had? Where is father? I have been looking many years to meet him now.”

    Aiden shrugged. “I can’t say, he left my mother before she even knew she was pregnant,” he explained. “We might have more siblings, we might be the only ones. Maybe he settled down with someone, or maybe he just wanders from place to place leaving illegitimate kids like us.”

    Lyassa sighed with relief, it did calm her down. “I see... So, you’re his brother,” she echoed what he had told them.

    Aiden glanced into camp and saw the Minstral speaking with Eli. He didn’t trust the bard alone with one of the women of his party. The man seemed like a womanizer, and if Eliamn was going to have a relationship with any man, Aiden didn’t want to see her hurt by a man like the minstrel. “Well, Saga, come and have a seat in our camp. We’ll have a lot to discuss,” he said. He looked down at Lyassa and gave the priestess a smile. I hope this settles everything with her, he thought.

    Naclia slipped her arm off Talen’s shoulder, then wrapped her arm around his and tugged him behind her as she entered the camp. “By Falis, I need to sit down. Ugh! I’ve been walking for hours!” the ranger complained.

    Talen gasped as he was tugged along by Naclia, though he didn’t really have a problem with being dragged along by such a lovely person. “Well, it would be best to rest if you’ve been walking awhile,” he said looking over at her with a smile.

    “Hey Eli,” she greeted the shamaness tiredly, interrupting her and the minstrel intentionally. “How are you feeling?” She wanted to ask who the blue-haired man was, but her first concern was Eliamn.

    Eliamn smiled up at the twin-braided elven brunette. “Still not very well, I am afraid,” she replied, offering a wan smile. She actually felt a bit feverish now, but... No need to mention it. It is nothing some sleep will not cure.

    Lyassa smiled then went over to Eliamn. “Would you like some herbs to help you?” she asked Eli as she sat down next to her to watch over her.

    “I will be fine,” the blonde shamaness replied as she rubbed over one of her closed eyelids with the back of her hand. She glanced up at the starry sky through the light cover of the leaves above. “It is very late. Should we not all turn in for the night? We could set matters straight tomorrows once we are all well rested.”

    Minstral kept his mind on his manners. Aside from Eliamn, no one else had noticed the spiritual disturbance not moments ago that rendered poor Kima asleep. “She needs more food and rest, than herbs or magic,” he pointed out. “Food for her stomach, food for her heart, and food for her soul. Then rest for all three.”

    Naclia plopped down in the grass near Eli. “Well, rest sounds great, but I need to eat first,” she said. Her attention then fell on the minstrel. “So, who are you?”

    Talen was happy to be sitting by her, and seeing how she was acting around him. She had intended to have him around, which didn’t bother him at all. “Well, food would be a good idea, we haven’t eaten in awhile,” he said softly.

* * *

    Saga sat down quietly. His eyes gazed distantly, wondering what else he didn’t know about his father. “I have but one question Aiden, where is our father now?”

    Aiden shrugged. “Like I said, he left before he knew my mother was pregnant. He never came back or tried to contact her. He must have moved on and found your mother six years later,” the elf replied to his half-brother. “I need to gather some firewood, so if you want to talk more, you can come with me.”

    Saga just stared at Aiden a little loss for words. “Yes... I believe that will be wise. I will do what I can to help out.”

    “Come on then,” Aiden said, motioning for Saga to get up and follow him into the woods.

* * *

    “Minstral.” The blue haired man stated. “I am Minstral, the minstrel, a bard at heart and ex-keeper of this young and sleepy Kima.” He made a half bow from his sitting position and slipped into elven. {“A pleasure.”}

    Eliamn was about to snap something to the effect of ‘Good, now you can go away with her and leave us be. We have enough pet humans around already’ but narrowly caught herself. Fatigue and irritation at the growing members of tag alongs were getting to her, but this was no reason to lash out on the bard.

    She meant to ask the bard if he knew anything about a Lord Mur Cavendrel or that Roess person, but a sneaking suspicion also struck her. She sublimated it, put her thoughts back into order and then said {“Sir Bard, you seem far traveled for a young human. Would you know of a person going under the name of Roess, or, better yet, the identity and whereabouts of a certain Lord Mur Cavendrel?”}

    Naclia nodded to Minstral, though it appeared obvious it wasn’t his real name. He apparently was the man Kima had been imitating and he looked vaguely like the face she had drawn in the dirt earlier in the day. She was surprised to hear someone who looked human speaking in elven, though she said nothing and waited for his response to Eliamn.

    In the meantime, dinner had to be taken care of. Naclia leaned back to Talen. “What sort of foodstuffs do you have?” she asked softly, so not to interrupt the other conversation.

    Talen listened in to the conversations around him, though truth be told, he was really focusing on them. His mind was on his moments of being around Naclia,. but he was snapped back to attention when he heard Naclia’s question. “Hmm... food? Well pretty much what I have is the basic stuff you would take on a trip, trail rations and some dried meat.” he said looking over to her with a smile on his lips.

    {“I am afraid not,”} Minstral spoke elven slowly and fluently. {“Wide traveled I might be, but I know nothing about this Lord Murky. However, it may be prudent to ask another noble if a noble is what you seek.”} He moved back to common, “I could help you with your search, if you would like. If it is one thing I’m good at it is sucking...information out of rather, ahem, less that cooperative lips.”

    “I see.” Eli nodded slightly and was about to talk more, but the conversation of Talen and Naclia was distracting. She moved from her blankets to sit by ‘Minstral’. “I am surprised you are even inclined to help. We do not have much to offer for your troubles,” she said as she raised the hem of her dress some and began untying the lace holding the wraps that served her as footwear. “Tell me more.”

    “Rylan. Your offer to help is appreciated, like I said earlier before the commotion. The tracks lead north, that is where they went.” Rylan finally spoke up, looking at Minstral. He regarded Minstral with the usual neutral look. Seeing Eliamn was up and about he wondered how she was doing, after he had to support her. At least they understood he was a berserker, and would not take any offense to his sometimes rude sounding flat tone. “How are you doing Eliamn? Have you recovered from your exhaustion fully?”

    Naclia nodded to Talen. “Well, share your food with the other humans. I have some fruit to eat. We elves don’t eat meat,” she explained to the knight. She overheard Minstral and Eliamn talking and was pleased to hear that Minstral would help them speak to a noble about their egg-napper. Naclia looked over to them to listen to what Minstral had to say.

    Talen nodded. “I understand, wow you don’t eat meat? I wonder what that must be like.” he said with a smile to her, watching her as she looked over to the others, listening in as well but keeping his eyes on Naclia.

    Naclia sneered slightly at Talen’s ignorant wonder. She hadn’t thought much on it until that moment, but the thought of how discomforting it was to eat the flesh of another living creature made her a little queasy.

    Eli’s ears perked up at being addressed by Rylan and gave him a sign with one hand to signify she was alright, but otherwise kept her attention on the bard.

    Minstral watched Eliamn’s delicate movements with some interest. When Rylan spoke, his violet eyes met with the berserker’s. He gave a light hearted smile, and turned his attention back to Eliamn. “I’ll help for no other reason than to see you happy.” He scooped her hand in his and brushed his lips across the tips of her knuckles. He gave her a coy smile. “So, where, perchance, do you elves hail from?”

    Eliamn’s reaction was strange. She didn’t make a ladylike blush like some other maidens might have had. The shamaness’ eyes were wide—and looking appalled?—as she snatched her hand back to self-consciously rake over where Minstral’s lips had brushed with her other hand’s fingernails. “The Mirror Forest,” Eli finally managed after an uncomfortable silence spent gathering her composure.

    When she cited the Mirror Forrest Minstral’s grin turned sour. He bit his lip softly and pressured a smile out. “Fairly nice forest. I haven’t been there since boyhood.” He gave a small grimace. “Haven’t been back since the fire—it’s gonna get lit soon right? I’m pretty much freezing here.” He emphasized a forced shiver to cover his slip of the tongue. “Eliamn, I’m sorry for being presumptuous. I didn’t mean to offend.”

    “The Glassy Woods, is where my home once was,” Rylan replied, keeping it short and simple. The way he acted around the women made Minstral seem rather eccentric, not a bad trait to have really.

    Eliamn shook her head slightly—both to signify she would look over the social faux pas and could not help the lack of fire—and allowed herself to relax as she comfortably knelt and rested her hands over her lap. “I guess that explains it. You must be a half-human then.” It occurred to her that it might have been more sensible to gloss over that part since he hardly seemed comfortable with it, but given his previous blunder he was in no position to complain. She decided to move on to the next subject, which probably involved yet another expansion of their group. “Are you quite certain you wish to tag along with our group to help out? It might be dangerous.”

    “That was a rather crude way to put it,” Minstral stated. “Although I have some blood in me that is both human and elven, it’s rather rude to just call me half-human or half-elven.” His face twitched. “My mother was very kind and considerate of me, she took the time to shape my ears to fit in with the humans, so that I wouldn’t be looked down upon or scorned by my human side. The fact that my elven brethren still have a stick up their proverbial asses is proof that even though they were saved by humans a few times in the past, they still can’t accept them as equals.” Minstral ran his fingers over his trimmed and folded ears and looked at Eliamn. “As far as your question goes whether or not I’m sure I want to help out, whether danger is involved or not, I promised my self almost three quarters of a century ago that I’d never stick my neck out for another, be it my kind or kin. But, if Kima has chosen you as acceptable people, than I’ve got no right nor reason to refuse her intuition, and I will help on that merit alone.”

    Naclia said nothing to Talen, Eliamn and Minstral’s conversation was catching her attention. Rylan had said something about being from the Glassy Woods, which Minstral brushed off. Naclia thought the centaur was utterly clueless for that remark and barging into a private conversation between Minstral and Eli. Her ears laid back as Minstral began to speak rather harshly to Eliamn. What could she say though?

    Eli’s ear points dropped a bit. He was likely referring to the War of the Demon God. She didn’t have any fond memories of that conflict, though she could claim she had been luckier than most”still, it was no reason to soften toward the bard: on this they were on equal ground.

    “That is contradictory.” Eliamn simply declared, not really caring to argue, before she picked up her wraps and moved to slip back into her bedroll. The half-human bard could argue racism all he wanted and work himself up around it; she’d go make herself warm.

    “Life is contradictory,” Minstral stated blandly. “You’d think with the excess time that you have on your hands, you’d have figured that out already,” he scoffed and scratched at his neck. “I’ll help you out, only if you want it, otherwise if I’m not needed, there are beds I could be warming, women I could be wooing, and plenty of goblins out there with better manners than you to spend time around a barren camp with.”

    Naclia’s brows furrowed. Eliamn walked away from the conversation, but Minstral kept prodding her. “Let her be,” the ranger said firmly.

    A reply like ‘If you consort with goblins closely enough to know that, then your company is not one we care to keep’ crossed Eliamn’s mind, but she had already committed herself to backing away from the conversation and would not stoop to petty insults nor contribute further to driving the bard away. The quest for Mycen’s egg was something the party she traveled with had undertaken and she would not be so inconsiderate as to drive away a possible asset just for the sake of her pride.

    My pride can take a beating. His obviously cannot. With that in mind, Eli just gathered the blanket about herself and lay back down.

    Minstral stroked Kima’s hair softly. “Humans and elves should be forbidden from having children,” he stated bluntly. “They have no where to go once their parent’s selfish desires have played out, bringing nothing but pain to the child. Full blooded, either way, at least have some sort of comfort amongst their own kind.” He glared at Naclia. “So before you get on my case about how I treat your close minded shamaness, perhaps your own flirtations between you and that human you sit with would cease before you make another half-breed that will be shunned by the world.”

    A soft growl could be heard from Talen as he heard Minstral’s cruel words to Naclia, like it was his place to say anything of the sort. He stood up, clenching his fist and glaring straight at Minstral. “Don’t you dare speak to her like that! Like its your damn choice on how things should go! If humans and elves desire to have children together then let them be!” he said, an angered look upon his face.

    Naclia stood as well, offended by Minstral’s statement. Maybe he had a point, but if she had half-elf children, they wouldn’t be as miserable as he was. “Get out,” she growled at Minstral.

    She picked up her bow, drew an arrow and nocked it. She wasn’t going to stand for this conflict in her camp. Her bow was pointed toward the ground, but she would raise it if he persisted.

    “Stop!” Eliamn jumped from her bedding and interposed herself between the ranger and the bard, her arms out wide. “This does not warrant even the merest threat of bloodshed!” She scolded, facing down the angry human and elf with no small amount of trepidation before whirling about to glare at Minstral. “I do not remember raising an issue of you being inferior through the virtues of mixed blood—no one did. You have been working yourself up all on your own over some imagined misperception and stooping gracelessly to insults through a difference of opinion which I never raised and did not even care to argue over.”

    The shamaness angrily brushed some golden hairs from in front of her eyes. She felt like seething that the conversation had gone off so much out of control. “I will offer you my apology for any rudeness—this has not been an easy day. I demand in return that you either stop your tirade right now and offer apologies for your insults or simply leave our camp without raising any more of a fuss.”

    Minstral pushed Kima off his lap and stood. “You are the one who called me half-human.” He glared at Eliamn. “As far as your apology goes, I accept it.” He moved his eyes to Naclia and Talen. “As far as to give you two an apology, I gave you fair warning about what your dealings will create. Whether or not that deserves an apology, I’ll apologize regardless: I’m sorry for spitting the truth in your ignorant faces. Try living a century in my shoes before you condemn a child to do the same.” Minstral gave a soft mock of a bow and turned towards Dragon Scale. “Wil,” he stated as he began to walk off. “My name. It’s always been Wil.”

    Naclia grit her teeth as Minstral—Wil—walked off. So your life was rough, it doesn’t mean everyone suffers the same fate, Naclia thought. Katela, Kira, I know many happy half-elves, and if I have half-elf children, I won’t let them suffer as you did. The ranger said nothing though, letting the bard walk away. She kept her bow ready, not so much concerned about Minstral lashing out as she was about showing him he wasn’t welcome anymore.

    Eli blinked her almond eyes for a second as Minstral’s—or Wil’s, as it was—words soaked in. Something about the situation—that the bard had been a stickler to very specific vocabulary—struck her as being so absolutely absurd that a giggle escaped her. “He mispronounces his occupation and takes it for a nickname, makes a ham-handed attempt at a hand-kiss and then lectures me on proper vocabulary? Half-elves are also half-humans, are they not?”

    Talen sneered at Minstral’s aggressive words that he threw at Naclia and himself. “You little bastard!” he growled, as much as he wanted to he wanted to run up and knock some sense into him. Don’t just base everyone else’s life thinking its going to be the same as yours! Not everything goes as you say! he thought, anger filling his mind and heart right now. “Little bastard, how dare he show such disrespect!” he said growling, his fists still clenched.

    At Minstral’s push, Kima opened her eyes. The sudden shock of her body hitting the ground woke her from his spell. She looked questionably around for Aiden. Her eyes were still droopy from the sleep, but she bit her lip to give her will a boost to ignore the spell’s effects. “Aiden?” she called out hoarsely. She stretched out like a cat and moved over to rub against Naclia’s leg. Her hip scratched against Naclia’s arrow tip making the young girl yelp in pain. She looked at Naclia with a soft pout. “Aiden?” she asked again.

    Naclia’s eyes went wide as Kima was suddenly underfoot and scratched herself. The ranger tossed her bow aside and knelt down. She almost hoped Kima would follow the minstrel, but she now wanted Aiden. The feral girl was quite a handful, but then, Naclia was just thinking about being a mother. She shouldn’t be so ungrateful for Kima. She opened her arms for Kima, if the girl wanted a hug. “There, there, Aiden is near,” she cooed.

    Kima went into Naclia’s arms but her eyes went to the angry Talen. “Little bastard!” She yelled in mimic. “How dare he show such disrespect!” She pursed her little lips and made a face. “Who?”

    Naclia bit her lip. How could she explain it was the girl’s friend? Of that she thought about it, the fact that Kima slept while he was there from the time Saga arrived was odd. Minstral must have used a spell on her. “The Minstral, he was...rude to us,” Naclia replied. Hopefully it wouldn’t upset Kima.

    Aiden and Saga emerged from the forest, Aiden with a meager bundle of wood under his arm. The elf frowned. Eli was out of bed, Talen was cursing someone, and Minstral was gone. Kima was awake again, and Aiden suddenly realized how odd it was she slept through all that. He had been so caught in meeting his brother he barely noticed after she stopped barking.

    “What happened?” he asked the camp.

    “Minstral?” Kima pouted. She saw Aiden and her expression changed. She squirmed in Naclia’s arms and smiled at him. “Aiden!”

    “Our bard guest left us after expressing what he thought of mixed pairings.” Eliamn answered. “This Minstral—no, his name was Wil—apparently had some elven blood himself and had over a century get worked up on it.”

    Kima heard the sharpness in Eliamn’s voice but didn’t understand the words she said. Kima pursed her lips and made a soft kissing sound, “Minstral.”

    Naclia let go of Kima and stood to speak to Talen. “Well, enough of that, let’s get dinner ready,” she said to the knight, laying her hand on his shoulder plate. “Go get your rations.”

    Talen listened in to what everyone was saying, soon broken out of his trance by feeling Naclia’s hand upon his shoulder plate. “Ahh, yeah we should get dinner ready,” he said nodding to her before heading off to get the rations he had brought along with him.

    Aiden frowned at what Eliamn had to say. “Hmm...I see,” the elf murmured. Minstral certainly displayed that when Lyassa hugged Aiden earlier, and he had recited a poem. Ironic that the conflict happened while the two with mixed blood weren’t in the camp. He looked over to Kima and smiled warmly to the girl. “Hello Kima,” Aiden greeted her.

    Kima ran to Aiden and pushed her head into his chest. “Kima’s,” she said wrapping her arms around Aiden’s chest jealously. She bared her teeth at the other women in the group and then gave Aiden a sweet smile.

    Eli made a small sigh and walked barefoot to Aiden. She didn’t bother herself with Kima’s desire to hoard Aiden to herself—she found it unworthy to respond to the other’s infantile ludicrous desire (considering it had been less than a day), not to mention the shamaness hardly considered herself ‘competition’. {“Aiden, I would like to know who the newcomer might be, as well as what you plan to do with Kima.”}

    Kima clung to Aiden tighter. {“Floozy waitress,”} Kima mimicked in dwarven. Her comment was directed towards Eliamn.

    Aiden looked down at Eliamn while patting Kima on the head. He ignored the mimicked comment, in what sounded like dwarven, from Kima. {“I don’t know what to do with her. I can’t leave her out here, and I wouldn’t want to just desert her. Now the Minstral is gone...I suppose she’ll have to tag along. Mycen knows her and expects that she will be a participant in this quest,”} Aiden replied to Eliamn. As she had stated, she wasn’t fond of all the human ‘pets’, as she put it, they had picked up. Aiden was starting to get annoyed by her complaints now.

    “This, is my half-brother, Saga,” Aiden replied in common, so the camp could hear. Eliamn didn’t know Aiden’s parentage, so he was unsure of what her reaction would be to his own mixed blood, but he didn’t care much at the moment. “Saga, this is Eliamn,” Aiden introduced the two.

    That young man doesn’t look much like an elf! Eliamn noticed and supply bowed to the other, divining that there likely were many apprehensions from Aiden regarding the statement of having a half-brother. “Welcome to our dreary camp, Saga,” she greeted, hoping her silent support would relieve Aiden, though she was brimming with questions.

    As Aiden, Saga, and Eliamn handled introductions, Naclia slipped in and quietly took the bundle of wood from Aiden. She sat down at the fire pit that had been left by travelers before them and began to set up the branches and twigs. She only set up enough for a small fire, with hopefully enough twigs to last through the coldest part of the night.

    “Talen, do you have something to light this with?” Naclia asked. She didn’t want to use Salamander to light it, and since elves didn’t need to cook meat, she never set enough fires to carry a flint and steel.

    Talen nodded in response to Naclia. “Yeah, good thing I brought my supplies along with me.” he said with a smile on his face when he spoke to her. He pulled over his supply bag that he had taken along with him, opening it up and pulling out a flint and steel box. He then used his flint and steel to create a spark and ignite the kindling. “There that should start it up, now all we have to do is cook it.” he said softly, giving another look over to Naclia.

* * *

    Saga, not really know what was going on, felt it best he find out who he was surrounded with. He leaned over and whispered quietly to Aiden, “Who are these people?”

    Eliamn’s ears drooped noticeably: the elven shamaness found Saga ignoring her greeting and failing to respond in kind rude, not to mention she didn’t especially like Saga talking to Aiden as if she wasn’t there. She offered the two siblings a demure smile and waited; despite being offended, she had no wish to start more drama than she already had, especially for Aiden’s sake.

    Aiden looked down at Saga, obviously annoyed that he ignored Eliamn. “Why don’t you start by acknowledging Eliamn?” he said, pointing to the beautiful elven woman who had spoken to him.

    “Kima!” The wild child chirped at Saga. She hugged Aiden closer, nearly lifting him off the ground inadvertently by squeezing him against her. She smiled at Aiden and squeezed him again.

    “Oof!” Aiden grunted at Kima’s powerful hug. The girl was shorter than he, but strong enough to lift him. “Kima, let go,” Aiden ordered, sounding strained. He pushed the girl back a little to free himself. “Saga, this is Kima. Kima, Saga is my brother,” he introduced the pair once Kima loosened her grip.

    Kima gave Saga a rib-bruising hug in greeting. She didn’t know what Aiden was asking her to do so she assumed that he wanted her to hug Saga instead. “Nnn?” she looked to Aiden lifting his brother off the ground, the small sound her way of asking if that is what he wanted.

    “Gwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah...” Saga was caught off guard from staring at the crowd of people. “Pleeease... just... let me down... ribs hurting...”

    Kima dropped Saga and went to go occupy Naclia’s attention. Although she didn’t understand Eliamn, there was a bit of uneasiness between them, some bad air that Kima didn’t know how to clear up. She brushed her head against the bottom of Naclia’s breast and looked up at her.

    Naclia jumped a little as Kima came up from underneath her. A smile crossed her face, however, and she patted Kima’s head affectionately. “Hey there,” she said. “Are you hungry?”

    “Ya,” Kima chirped. “Min-toh tea!” she said in a singsong voice. She began to dance around the fire carrying on about mint tea.

* * *

    Saga dropped to his knees and looked up only to notice Eliamn. “Hi, sorry, I heard the com... ow... ment... oooh, I was just staring off into the distance again. It’s nice to meet you though.”

    Eli sighed wearily at Kima’s antics but brightened once Saga addressed her. “Likewise.” The blonde elf stepped forward to offer her hands to help him up. “Why not come and share our fire? It is too cold a night to still be up and about—it would also give you the chance to be introduced to the others and share our repast.”

    Saga took Eli’s hand and stood up, only to be slightly embarrassed more by the growling hunger of his stomach. “Yeah, fire would be nice... get my mind off of my hunger. Though... I’m sorta embarrassed myself tonight. Perhaps I can wait on my introductions for a bit.”

    Eliamn smiled agreeably and walked toward the the growing campfire, subtly leading him with her hand. “The centaur adventurer here is Rylan. The purple haired human male by Naclia is Talen, a Mossian Knight; the human girl dancing around the fire is Kima—I cannot tell you much about her though—and the other purple haired human female here is Lyassa, a Priestess of Marfa.”

    The shamaness pointed beyond the firelight at one of the horses. “Tiash over here is Aiden’s friend and has been with us since we left the Mirror Forest.” She pointed another. “And this one is the mount of Talen; he names her Sienna.”

    Saga blushed at the fact his hand had been held by an unknown but sweet female, but still clenched onto his ribs a bit. He stared at the crowd gulping up all his fears and blurted out, “Hail all, I am Saga, I am on a mission to find my father. It is nice to meet you all.”

    When Kima heard her name spoken she stopped moving and looked at the speaker, Eliamn. Saga was holding Eliamn’s hand, and while it didn’t mean anything to the young wildling, his blush was common to the girl’s looks when they went to bed with Minstral. A woman and man act the same in the face of beauty. It seems to be a short-eared trait, Kima mused silently.

    Kima fanned the fire with Mycen’s feather watching the sparks fly a little. “‘Little burning lizards leaping from lick to flame, kissing dance of fire that so many blame. Haunting remnants of the forest of mirrors, fought hard to impress my peers. Salamander, salamander lord of the little flame, I’m sorry, so sorry, that you live in so much shame,’” Kima mimicked Minstral’s poem in his voice. She laughed and went back to dancing around the fire.

    Naclia watched Saga and Eliamn, but didn’t acknowledge his greeting, since they were already well acquainted. Well, at least he didn’t fall under her too, Naclia thought, then stifled a giggle at the thought of Eliamn in a compromising position on top of Saga they way she had accidentally ended up after they met on the road.

    Already in better spirits, Naclia looked over at Kima’s antics with a small smile, the curiously cocked her head and lifted an ear to listen to Kima mimicking what was obviously Minstral’s voice.

    “Hello Saga, good to meet you.” Rylan took his attention from the fire, greeting Saga as he joined them. Kima’s dancing and poetry had been quite entertaining, given how long their day had seemed.

    Talen gave a nod in Saga’s direction, acknowledging his greeting to the group. It seemed like there was going to be more along for their trip. “Hey Saga, would you like something to eat? We were getting dinner ready,” he said softly.

    Lyassa was awoken from her long trance with Marfa after hearing her name being said. She then looked over at Saga and offer a soft smile. “Pleasure to meet you Saga,” she replied to him.

    Saga smiled and nodded back to Rylan happily. “It is good to meet you as well.” He could not take his thoughts away from Talen’s joyous offer. “Oh yes, of course, please, I have been starv...” and as he walked over to Talen, Saga’s impeccable chances for finding slippery rocks on the ground yet again landed him on the ground near the feet of Eli. “ for quiet sometime now...”

    Seeing Saga fall over, Kima laughed as she danced around the fire. “‘Little burning lizards leaping from lick to flame, kissing dance of fire that so many blame. Haunting remnants of the Forest of Mirrors, fought hard to impress my peers. Salamander, Salamander lord of the little flame, I’m sorry, so sorry, that you live in so much shame,’” she repeated in Minstral’s voice, fanning the flames with her feather. In her dancing she accidentally trampled the downed Saga, her little feet marching their way across his chest.

    As Saga, tripped, Naclia stared incredulously for a moment, then broke out laughing. When Kima trampled over the quarter-elf, Naclia had to fall onto her back and laugh. “ least you didn’t fall under her this time!” Naclia choked out between guffaws of laughter. The common elf sat up again and wiped a tear from her eye, still chuckling.

    Eliamn’s reaction had been to quickly snatch her hand away so to not risk falling along with Saga and then stare incredulously at the fallen youth while Naclia laughed. Seeing that Kima had literally walked over him without a care, though, sparked more of a reaction.

    “Kima, do not step on people!” The shamaness snapped, looking stern with her ears erect. She could tolerate the wildling’s antics, but in this instance the human girl was taking it too far. Anyone Aiden claims as kin ought to be better treated than that!

    Kima heard a harsh reprimand come from Eli and the young wilding shot a glare at the infuriated elf. She had accidentally trampled Saga, it wasn’t intentional. He got in the way of my dance, so he is at fault! her mind yelled. She lifted her nose in the air in mockery of Eliamn and continued her dance.

    Eliamn stifled the anger she felt building inside her: the wildling could at least have shown some momentary remorse even if she was unable to properly apologize but instead she had been pointedly defiant. What rankled even more was that Eli knew that if Aiden would have been the one to make the rebuke, Kima would probably have had reacted very solicitously.

    Seething, Eliamn turned away from Kima—resisting the urge to make some unworthy comeback at the girl—and tended to Saga. “Are you alright?” She asked, crouching down next to him.

    The priestess then saw Kima trample all over Saga. She was shocked by this and came over next to Eliamn as well. “Here, let me help him,” she whispered to her new friend as she lifted up her open palm toward him. “Marfa, mother of all life,” she whispered the incantation and a soft glow of light appeared in her hand, washing over him and healing him.

    Aiden frowned as he saw Kima trample Saga, though it was an accident, he wasn’t happy with the conflict between Kima and Eliamn. He knew that if he was the one to reprimand Kima, she would have listened. “Kima, sit down,” Aiden told the hyper child, then looked to the knight who had a package of food rations. “Talen, will you give Kima some of your food?”

    Talen nodded at Aiden’s words. “Yeah, no problem,” he said, extending his hand to Kima with some rations in it. “Here you go,” he said softly.

    Kima pouted, but went closer to Talen and sniffed his offering. She gave it a tentative lick and looked at Talen’s eyes. She had seen animals fooled by human ‘generosity’ before and she wouldn’t be fooled, even if he was a friend of Aiden’s. She snatched it out of his hand and ran up a nearby tree. Kima ate the ration quickly ending up nipping her fingertips. She yelped at the sudden pain and licked her fingers to remove the feeling.

    Aiden chuckled at Kima’s behavior. She reminded him of a squirrel. The elf fetched his own pack and pulled out a small sack of fruit and food he’d picked up since leaving Dragon Breath. He took a seat on the ground beside the fire next to Naclia and shared his dinner with her. Eliamn was of course welcome to share, but he let her deal with Saga and Lyassa.

    Talen gave a raised brow at how Kima reacted to his offering of food to her, then gasping lightly as he watched her snatch it out of his hand and run up a nearby tree, quite confused at the girls reactions. Afterwards, he gave a slight chuckle. “Hmm...weird...” he mumbled lowly.

* * *

    Saga just turned to look at Eli with only more embarrassment being expressed on his face. “Yeah, happens when I’m hungry I guess. Just don’t be surprised if this keeps happening.”

    Eliamn gave the praying Lyassa an incredulous look; it seemed awfully demeaning to ask for a goddess to provide a miracle for so little—it almost seemed like taking Marfa for granted. Well, I am closer to spirits than most elves my age... I suppose really pious people could get close to their deities... She sighed lightly and turned her attention to Saga as he recovered. “Well then, we ought to correct that.”

    The shamaness reached out to grab her bag and dragged it closer to her so she could start rummaging through its contents, and then produced a small leaf-wrapped package. She delicately unfurled the wrapping to reveal the golden-brown crust of one of the waybread she had prepared for her trip. Eli studied the treat a moment to make sure it was indeed wholesome to eat and then offered it. “Here you go.”

    Saga sat up, taking the offering by Eli. He felt odd being offered food, as he usually hunted for it himself, but by the growling in his stomach he knew it was probably best to partake of it. “Thank you very much for this. I am sure it is delicious.” Saga bit into it, already feeling more satisfied. Yet after feeling hungry for many days, he took more than he should have. “This stuff is good yet... very filling. I have eaten half of it already.” Saga took one more bite as he was ready to fall asleep. As his eyes grew weak, he placed the food in his pouch and tried to sit up straight. Yet his own stomach seemed to be his downfall as he slowly leaned over and slept on Eli’s soft shoulder.

    The shamaness froze. Her eyes widened as the points of her ears drooped and she held her breath, sending the quarter-elf a glare from the corner of her eyes. Dumping him off her shoulder was very tempting. Almost too tempting.

    “Aiden,” she called softly, “your brother is an, ah, interesting person.”

    Aiden had just finished his dinner and was licking the fruit juice off of his fingers when Eliamn called him. He cringed when he saw Saga snoozing on Eli’s shoulder. “Well, I suppose it’s bedtime,” he said. “I can take the watch for a couple hours. Naclia, Talen, Rylan, you decide the rotation amongst yourselves,” Aiden told the three other fighters, then rose to help Saga and Eliamn.

    “Hold on a moment,” Aiden told Eliamn, then rummaged through Saga’s backpack quietly. He found two blue blankets, then laid them on the ground next to the fire, and set up Saga’s pack to be used as a pillow since he didn’t have one. He then returned to Saga and sat his brother upright by the shoulders. “Hey Saga, let’s get you to bed, alright?”

    Naclia turned to the knight and centaur. “I’ll take the watch after Aiden. We might not need a fourth watch,” Naclia said.

    Talen looked to Naclia, having claimed the watch after Aiden, they might have needed one after her. “I'll claim the watch after Naclia then, best to be safe,” he said nodding to them.

    Naclia nodded to Talen. “Alright then. If we need you Rylan, Talen will tag you,” she said to Rylan. The ranger then stood in front of Talen. “Bedtime for me then!” she announced and stretched her arms over her head. Stepping around Talen, she went to find her pack and laid out her bedding.

    Talen smiled at Naclia, then turned to face her, only to get a close up view of the hem of Naclia’s skirt and an eyeful of her thighs. Knowing what was so close to him under that skirt made him blush profusely, unable to take his eyes away, but yet he knew it’d be a bad thing if Naclia noticed him looking. “Uhm...uhhh...yeah bedtime for me too!” he said, still blushing. He had to say something before he got locked in a trance. Reaching over he, grabbed the bag he had brought over with him, then laid out his bedding close to hers, but not too close.

    Lyassa was happy that Saga had recovered fully. She nodded in agreement when Aiden stated bedtime to Kima. “Alright,” she said. She sighed, so far she didn’t think she was being too useful to the group, other then being a healer. Though, she was good at it, she wanted to do more then just heal. She wanted to stand watch with them too and help out more. Yet the priestess said nothing as she gathered up her bedroll and crawled into it.

    Saga noticed his bedding nicely laid out for him. Instinctively, he got up and walked over to it. Though his exhaustion from traveling for long without food or sleep, and his acceptance of Aiden really being his brother, let Saga fall into bed peacefully without a care. “Wake me up in the morning please. I should travel to find father again but, I feel I should stay and get to know you... more... Aiden...” Saga quickly fell asleep again. His stomach now as full as it has ever been in months had quickly relaxed him.

    Taking in a deep breath, Eliamn struggled to get back to her feet and walked up to Aiden. She looked down at the slumbering Saga a moment and then glanced up meaningfully back to Aiden, making her interrogation—though silent—rather obvious.

    Aiden’s jaw tensed slightly. Was she upset about their new ‘pet’? He had enough of that complaint. “Go turn in, Eli. You need your sleep still,” he said softly, forcing his annoyance out of his voice. He left Eliamn and headed toward the treeline to find a good place to watch from. The elven man pulled himself up into a tree beside the one Kima was still up in and found a comfortable branch to support him. With a little distance between him and the campfire, he could see better.

    He glanced across the distance between his tree and Kima’s and saw the little wildling girl. “Bedtime, Kima,” he said, hoping she might understand that much.

    The shamaness nodded to Aiden’s words—that much was true. Asking Aiden about his relationship with Saga really didn’t seem to be a big priority; certainly not if she could sleep first!

    In short order she was back in her blankets, silently bemoaning the fact that her covers weren’t warm anymore. She wrapped them around herself and lied down.

    Kima chattered like a squirrel and curled into herself on the tree branch. She had lived in the wild enough to know better than to sleep on the ground. A predator would have to climb the tree to get at her, which would wake her if there was any movement on her tree. She nipped at her shoulder with her teeth and stretched out her toes. She feigned sleep for a little while, keeping her eye on the people she now associated with.

    Aiden chuckled at Kima’s animalistic antics, then repositioned himself on his branch to be more comfortable leaning against the trunk of the tree. He tugged his cloak tight to keep in his body heat and began to wait and watch until he was too tired. Then, he would wake Naclia.

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