Finding Home

Quaxo9
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Quaxo9 »

Fira-Nar

The parts of the bandit camp affected by Fira's distraction were salvageable, much to her relief. If nothing else, it displayed the weaknesses in the fortifications of the camp. She'd need to erect a watchpost on the southern side to defend against future attacks. The bandits had captured some carts and surprisingly some oxen. The animals were not well cared for, but they could still pull, so they hitched them up. At first, the oxen shied from the newcomers, but then seemed to sense that there was something different about them than their previous owners. They went willingly with the small fighting group to Duke Esten's estate to start picking up the tieflings and their meagre belongings. Their own camp was easily broken down by the remaining members and the two groups met on the road.

The camp was abuzz with activity as the tieflings started emptying trash from tents and cleaning up debris - anything useful was brought to the centre of camp to take stock of what they had before splitting it between families. Fira started the process, then handed the task off to some of the newcomers who seemed more organized that she - and who certainly knew the needs of their people better. The argonian trotted off to check out some of the larger items that could be of use. A couple of fishing boats and nets were pulled up on the beach. Buckets for collecting mussels also littered the ground. Good. There was a source of food - and potentially, income - here that she hadn't anticipated.

She was moving between the water and the camp perimeter, about to start an inspection, when a man approached her. At least, she assumed it was a man. He was so swaddled it was difficult to tell. The broken voice that came out from under the heavy cloak certainly did sound male. Fira paused at the voice. She blinked twice, trying to decide if she'd just been thinking too much about identifying the newcomer that she'd missed part of the question. No, she decided, it was just that question. A look of realization came over her face and she faced him directly with a understanding look on her face.

"Is this something that was stolen from you by the bandits that lived here? I can have a look for you if you'd like. I'd hate to be holding onto someone's lost property."
Monkey Kitty
Posts: 731
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Monkey Kitty »

The Visitors

Although the Mer's face and form were obscured, his sharp intake of breath and the sudden tensing of his entire frame communicated clearly: I've made a terrible mistake!

Hastily collecting himself, he said, "Sorry to bother you, Miss. I was misinformed. I'll be on my way."

Before he could turn to go, there was a rough, gasping intake of air from the bundle in his arms - something alive, it was now clear, but perhaps not for long based on that sound.

He heard it, and knew, and recalculated.

"Look, Miss, you aren't the person I was sent to find. But you're an Argonian. I can't tell you anything, mind. If you've got a potion or anything to spare, though... he's an Argonian too, see?"

Gently, the elf set the bundle on the ground and unwrapped the blanket. Inside was an Argonian boy, perhaps twelve years old, though it was hard to tell exactly, malnourished as he was; he had been starved till his ribs were hollow and his limbs were sticklike. It wasn't hunger that left the boy in need of a healing potion, though. His entire back was a mangled mess of blood and torn flesh, freshly shredded strips intersecting with countless old raised scars.

"If there's anything... please, I don't want him to die. And don't tell anyone about him, alright? He's one of your own."
Quaxo9
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Quaxo9 »

Fira-Nar

She'd blown it. Whatever it was that the man had asked she'd somehow totally misinterpreted what he'd said and terrified him. Fira winced and held up her hands in a gesture for calm when the bundle in the Mer's arms moved. Something...someone! Barely alive. She cursed under her breath when she saw the state the young argonian was in. She knelt beside the boy half swaddled in dirty blankets and her hand hovered over him. Starved. Brutalized. She felt the red rising in her and fought it down. Now wasn't the time.

She pulled a small vial from her belt and offered it to the Mer. "I have a small potion here, but I know it's not enough. However, we have a healer - a very respectful healer - who can mend him. Please stay. You are both safe here."

She paused as he shifted, then attempted to anticipate his concerns. "I can keep his presence a secret if you really feel that is necessary. There is a tent near the south wall that is in some disrepair. No one will be going over that way. We can lay him there and I can stay with you both until our healer returns, yes?"

The man seemed uncertain, but eventually acquiesced. She carried the boy herself and placed him gently in a pile of tent walls that lay bundled and unused. He was so frail. Fira was so afraid that she would cause him more pain.

A light commotion arose toward the centre of camp and Fira raised her head, turning her ear to listen. 'Githia has returned!' said a voice and she sighed in relief. She turned to the Mer. "Listen. Our healer has returned. Please wait here. Don't be afraid. I'll be right back with help."

With that, she dashed off to the main camp entrance and waved to Tempest, encouraging the mage to separate from the group somewhat so they could talk more discreetly.

"Hey Tempest. We've kinda got an emergency here - a man showed up looking for a twin lamp...that's not the important part, sorry...um, there is a kid. He's dying. He needs your help but the guy who brought him is a little on the skittish side so gotta keep this quiet."

Fira was rambling, which she had noticed, but what she had failed to notice in her excitement was that her voice wasn't exactly a stage whisper. People nearby who cared would absolutely have heard what she'd said. Fira, however, was looking earnestly at Tempest and somehow still seeing the still agonized form of the boy in the blankets.
Monkey Kitty
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Re: Finding Home

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Tempest Rutherford and Ulga gra-Shatul

"Of course," Tempest said, her brow furrowing with concern. She had a lot of questions, but now wasn't the time - healing first, information later. "Lead the way."

Most people were too busy focusing on the reunion and filling in their comrades on their respective activities to notice the conversation... but Ulga's head snapped up when she heard Fira say 'twin lamp.'

"I'm coming with you," Ulga announced. Anticipating Fira's objection, she added, "I know you want to keep this between you and Tempest, but I need you to trust me. I'm the one he's looking for."

When they got to the tent, the elf stood with a start, surprised to see a third person. "You said you weren't going to tell anyone but your healer!"

Ulga put up her hands and said, "Ask me the same question you asked her."

Fira, who knew what she had told Tempest, would surely recall that she hadn't actually specifically said that he had asked a question.

The Mer, however, was clearly dubious. "Alright. Have you seen the twin lamps?"

"They light the way to freedom," Ulga replied. "Now, can you tell me what's going on?"

The Mer inhaled sharply. "You're the operative?"

"Yes."

"And the others...?"

"They aren't with us, but they're friends. You can trust them." Of that, Ulga was confident. She'd heard Tempest speak of freeing slaves. And Fira... well, the look in her eyes when she'd talked about the Argonian boy, she surely wasn't going to participate in putting him back in chains. "Where did you find him?"

She didn't ask what had happened to him. That was obvious. She'd seen the mark of the whip plenty of times. As Tempest knelt, healing the boy, Ulga crouched beside them too and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.

"He was down to Duke Esten's place." The elf had pushed his hood back, revealing a Bosmer face - in case that hadn't already been clear from the speech pattern. "I'd been tracking a Dres slaver for days. The cursed wretch was visiting the duke... apparently trying to make a deal about some refugees. The duke already had mercenaries remove them, but I guess he got greedy and decided he might as well sell them anyway. I couldn't take out the whole lot at the estate all on my own, so I was waiting to get the slaver alone and take care of business, but then..." He gestured with his chin to the boy. "The slaver had this one traveling with him as his servant. Taking care of his clothes, making his tea, carrying his luggage - that sort of thing. The poor kid dared to look his master in the eye. You can see the result for yourself. It's off-mission for me but I couldn't just leave him to die. I hoped maybe you could help."

"Of course," Ulga assured him, and Tempest - now deep into healing - nodded her agreement too.
Monkey Kitty
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Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Monkey Kitty »

At the Camp

Githia couldn't quite believe what had happened. Was it real? It felt impossible that the alliance that had seemed like such a slim hope had actually materialized.

She could see the worry on Zevlor's face as she returned, though the older Tiefling tried to disguise it with a welcoming smile. "Githia, welcome back. What happened? Was there... any progress?" Another unspoken question hung in the air: Are we going to have to flee from this new home, too?

"Yep. Um, he... said yes?"

Zevlor was clearly shocked. "He agreed? How did you manage to convince him?"

"I don't know. I just... told the truth. And he said yes."

Allowing the mask of calm to slip slightly, the leader grasped her warmly by both shoulders. "I am... speechless. Githia, you have done well. Thank you. I cannot tell you how much this means to our people."

Githia realized she was beaming. It was the first time she could ever remember anyone being proud of her.

***

Angus arrived at the new camp with a small satchel of belongings slung over his back. He owned little now, materially. But that didn't matter. He had gained so much that was more important.

Cullen casually directed him to the sleeping spot had been assigned to him - as before, at the center of camp, ringed on all sides by friends and allies. The message was clear: You are safe. You are worth protecting. A surge of emotion welled in his chest.

"Thank you," he said softly. "Thank you all for understanding."

Cullen nodded. "Of course."

It continued to surprise Angus how kind Cullen consistently was to him. The warrior seemed so strong, so conventionally masculine. By appearances, he reminded Angus of the Vigilants of Stendarr back at the temple, who had always mocked the priest for his bookishness and lack of combat prowess. Yet the way Cullen treated him was worlds apart. He treated him like a valued ally. No, more like... a friend.

"This... must seem strange to you. It must be hard to understand."

Cullen raised an eyebrow. "No, certainly not. Why do you say that?"

"Well, you would never let anything like that happen to you..."

There was a long silence. Too long. Angus realized his mistake.

"I... I'm so sorry. I didn't realize. I didn't know. I thought..."

Cullen smiled. "No need for apologies. Whatever you need to feel safe here, my friend. Just say the word."

***

"You fought well," Sellia told Gwindor.

He bowed slightly in acknowledgement of the praise. "As did you, my lady."

Sellia looked around the camp, taking in the sight of the weary refugees settling into their new encampment. "It seems we prevailed."

"Yes. A most worthwhile victory, I think, that we can provide them with a home."

There was silence for a moment, as both tried to find the words to say what was on their hearts.

Finally, Sellia ventured, "When this is all over... when we have won peace... will you return to your world?"

Gwindor paused for a long moment. "No, my lady. I think not. In truth, there is little waiting for me there. My life, for some time, has been a cold and bare one. Here, I think I can find purpose. There are people who need my help. There is work I can do. I can feel useful again. And I hoped... I hoped perhaps there might be other... other reasons for me to stay?"

He couldn't look at her. He looked at his hand, instead, and saw that it was shaking slightly. Embarrassed, he used it to grip the stump of his wrist, stilling it. Gwindor braced for the rejection that seemed inevitable. She had been so kind. But so had others, for a time. He had been so long without hope. That hope was a beautiful thing, but it could be so easily broken.

Sellia gently parted his hand from its clutch, and twined her fingers through his. She leaned close and - to his great surprise - kissed him boldly. Her lips were cold, but somehow her touch sent a shiver of warmth throughout his body.

"Yes," she said. "You have other reasons to stay."
Quaxo9
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Quaxo9 »

Nairn Tuckamore and Fira-Nar

Nairn supposed that she should have felt relieved leaving the inn having observed the successful treaty between the local elves and the tieflings. After all, they were sort of semi-responsible for this large group of refugees, had agreed that all the elves dying was bad, and that keeping races of people alive would likely muck up the plans of those desiring the end of the worlds. Yes, good things had happened today.

But something had also gone terribly wrong and Nairn was still coming to grips with that. All those years she'd worn the moniker 'the Murderer' just to have it come true - the guilt was crushing. She had to speak to Fira before...before the argonian believed the worst about her. Nairn blew air out her nose in an audible snort. Who was she kidding - the other warrior already believed the worst - and what did it matter? Why should she care that yet another person misjudged her motives and actions?

Perhaps because she'd hoped that these new people would be ones she could form attachments with. Like the kind she had with Anakita and Stefan and some of their family. Those brief moments in time where she could just act and never had to think about social judgments. Punishment in kind for unintended slights. Sure, she liked several of their new acquaintances - Tempest and Cullen had earned her trust strangely quickly, she realized - but just liking people didn't mean that she knew them. Or they, her.

So, if she was unknown...she might have to make herself plain. Whether or not Fira believed her was another thing, but she had to try. If she was going to form connections with the group, she supposed she needed to talk to them. To somehow relay to them her self. Somehow.

~~~~~

Fira had nodded her assent to request for assistance. Inside, her blood boiled. Sure, she'd recognized the marks as a beating. But the boy had been treated that way by his 'owner'. His 'owner' the slaver who had come by Duke Esten's to buy the tieflings. She had to step out of the tent before she started making vows she really, really wanted to keep.

She walked to the shallow, hand-dug well and splashed water on her face. Willing the cool liquid to pull the heat out of her. The tieflings were safe from slavers now, surely. They couldn't be sold as property when they weren't on anyone's property. She couldn't leave that to chance, though. Taking the Duke down might not be advisable, but the slaver? Well, she was certain no one would miss someone doing illegal business so far from home. Yes, this problem was solvable. She felt her shoulders relax.

"Fira."

Nairn's voice came from directly behind her and she jumped, her eyes popping open. She turned to see the tall pale woman standing awkwardly, looking somewhere to Fira's left. The argonian felt compelled to glance in that direction - seeing nothing, she returned her focus to the Norn.

"I don't know how you sneak up like that. Or is that one of your portal thingies?" She'd attempted to keep her tone light, but Nairn had flinched and taken a slight step backward. Oh.

"No. It is just how I am. I...I thought I should...no, I wanted to apologize. For...for..." 'For? For almost killing her? For jumping into her and stabbing her through the ribs? For being too stupid to help?' Fira was staring at her. She could feel the argonian's gaze on her face, despite the fact that Nairn wasn't looking at her. Her heart pounded in her chest. Why was she frightened?

"I should not have stuck you. I am sorry. I was not careful. I did not want to." Nairn finally spat out the words. A simpler apology than she'd intended - and far less eloquent than she felt Fira deserved.

"Oh. Well, thanks for saying. I know it was an accident. These things happen. Don't worry about it."

Nairn made eye contact with Fira for the first time in the conversation. She squinted down at the woman for so long that Fira shifted uncomfortably and broke the silence.

"So, uh...are you okay? Those bandits were coming up close. I didn't see what happened. Just that...wait, did you turn into a were-thing?" Fira's eyes were suddenly wide with a mixture of surprise and the excitement of remembering something she'd temporarily forgotten.

The Norn blinked at Fira, uncomprehending. How was she not upset? The warrior didn't even accuse her of anything. She just...accepted it? Of all the scenarios Nairn had played out in her mind, this was not one of them. She finally managed to get her mouth to work open.

"It is my Spirit Form." Easiest question answered first. She was still working on how to respond to the rest.

"Spirit Form?"

Nairn blinked at Fira, turning her head as she contemplated her next words. She realized that her tendency for succinct answers might be part of the reason why people did not know her well.

"My people commune with the Spirits of the Wild - they are beings that my people respect deeply. These Spirits are represented by animal forms. The Spirit I embodied was Snow Leopard. She and I have a...strong connection."

"Wow. So...like it doesn't have to be a full moon or anything, you can just...change into a snow leopard?"

"It is complicated, but no, the transformation does not have outside physical requirements." Nairn paused, "Why are you not angry with me? You should be. Others have been for less."

Fira was briefly taken aback, more by the sudden change in topic than by the question itself. She offered the Norn a smile. "Because, like I said, I knew you didn't mean to. I make mistakes all the time. It would be pretty dumb to get mad when someone else makes one. Besides, it's not like I actually died!"

Nairn stared and then nodded, letting out a deep breath. "Still. It is good of you. You are a sturdy warrior - and kind." With that, she bowed slightly and slipped away between tents leaving behind a somewhat bewildered Fira.
Monkey Kitty
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Re: Finding Home

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Ulga gra-Shatul and Tempest Rutherford

Ulga gazed after Fira in concern.

"I think she just needs a minute," Tempest said. The healer's exhaustion was plain in her voice. She had expended a lot of magic. "I don't think you need to worry."

Ulga nodded her acknowledgment of this. What was she imagining? That Fira would galivant off to the heart of Morrowind, outside the Pact and its prohibition against slavery - to the extent it was even enforced - to declare her secret to the slave holders and make her a marked woman? No, that defied belief. Fira was surely just upset. As they all were.

"Tempest, are you there?" It was Cullen, who hadn't been informed where she was going.

The Bosmer looked alarmed.

"It's my husband," Tempest assured him. "He's a safe person too." Then, louder, she called, "In here, Cullen."

Cullen ducked into the tent and stopped short at the sight of the injured boy. "Who is this? What happened?"

"He was rescued from a slaver," Tempest explained. "He was whipped."

"Maker's breath!" Cullen said softly. "Poor kid. Will he live?"

"Yes." Tempest was approaching the limit of her mana - she would need to rest soon - but she had enough strength left to ensure that. "Is there a plan for him after he recovers?"

"We normally take 'em to Black Marsh," the Bosmer said. "The Argonians, anyway. There are places they can go. Safehouses. But it's normally adults. A kid, we'll have to figure something out..."

"I'll take him to Black Marsh," Ulga volunteered. "There's a family that will take him in."

She didn't specify that the family was her own. Better for the Bosmer not to know. That was how the Twin Lamps maintained its secrecy. Everyone only knew a portion of the information, so no one being captured could result in too much being compromised. There was no top-down leadership, so no one knew every name to disclose it, and no assassination would behead the organization as a whole.

Her home would be the best place for the boy, Ulga thought. He needed to be around other Argonian children. Jamira, Izeel, and Ribbons would help him adjust, help him learn what it meant to be free. There was still a childhood to salvage.

"I appreciate it." The Bosmer nodded gratefully. "In that case, if he's in good hands, I'll be off. Gotta finish off that slaver."

"I'll help," Ulga said, her tone businesslike. For slavers, in her mind, the only remedy was a quick and efficient end.
Quaxo9
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Quaxo9 »

Fira-Nar

She'd made her way back to the tent, hoping to see a much-improved child resting there. Fira walked in on the tail end of a conversation she was very interested in.

"I was hoping that would be the case. I'd like to help better the world by leaving it with one less slaver. Or two."

Sparing a quick glance at the boy, Tempest and Cullen, she nodded grimly and stepped back out of the tent. She looked about to see if any extra attention was being directed at the tent, fingered her weapon, then nodded to the Bosmer.

"I'm called Fira-Nar, by the way. And I'm very interested in what you said about Duke Esten. Do you think there's any written record of his wanting to sell off an entire village of people?"
Monkey Kitty
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Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Ulga gra-Shatul

The Argonian boy was looking much better by the time Fira returned. He was still unconscious - Tempest had given him an herbal draught to ensure he stayed that way until his body had more time to rally - but he was no longer bleeding, his wounds had fully closed, and some color had even returned to his scales. The mage looked utterly spent, but she had done her job to the best of her ability.

"You should rest," Cullen told her gently.

Tempest shook her head. "No, I'm alright. I don't think I can do more magic, but I can stay awake for awhile more..."

Cullen grasped the problem immediately. "We should rest," he amended. Tempest had difficulty sleeping alone. "You've done well with the boy. Someone else can take a turn watching over him. There are plenty of people capable of doing so."

The Bosmer seemed poised to interject, but Ulga assured him, "The child will be safe here. I promise you. We're among friends. I haven't known most of these people for long, but I would trust my companions with my life. As for the Tieflings... we really don't know them yet at all, but since they were the refugees Esten was trying to sell into slavery, I don't think they're likely to switch sides."

His eyes widened - he hadn't quite put that together yet - but he nodded. Ulga suspected that his easy assent had more to do with relief that she had returned the Twin Lamps passphrase than that he had been persuaded by her argument, but either way, the boy would be safe with their party while the healer rested and they tracked down this slaver.

The Bosmer again seemed surprised when Fira introduced herself. He hadn't given his name - nor had Ulga given hers. Better not to know, in case either of them were captured. In response to Fira, though, he replied, "My name is Karolas. Records? I don't know, probably. I think the Dres keep pretty tight track of their contracts. Why?"

Ulga met Fira's eye. "I think you and I are thinking the same thing. We have spoken of why we can't simply eliminate Esten - tempting as it may be. But perhaps we can do the next best thing. Slavery is illegal in Glenumbra. If we can find the records of this crime, I can give them to the king..."

Cullen looked surprised. "The king? This place has a king?"

"Yes," Ulga replied, slightly amused by his confusion. "Glenumbra does, in fact, have a king. King Casimir is a good man, but he is... more of a functionary. He maintains a small guard who can handle minor squabbles, but the scope of a genocide against elves is beyond what he has the power to prevent. One of his nobles breaking the law of the land, though? Casimir will be able to deal with that tidily. Esten won't see the outside of a jail cell for a good long while, as long as we have proof." She considered for a moment and said, "It wouldn't hurt to send a copy to King Jorunn, too. He knows - or at least suspects - what the Dres are up to, and there's probably not much he can do, but it wouldn't hurt to send a friendly reminder that not everyone in the Pact is following Pact law either."

People said the formation of the Ebonheart Pact had ended slavery in Morrowind... but the reality was more complicated.

Whether because of his personal distaste for forced labor, or for political reasons to bring the Argonians into the alliance - or, more likely, probably both - Jorunn the Skald-King had outlawed slavery in all Pact lands.

The 'all Pact lands' part was the rub.

Morrowind was, in simple terms, ruled by five great houses. Houses Hlaalu, Redoran, and Indoril had accepted the decree after only minor protest and internal squabbling; regardless of their personal feelings, they had ceased practicing slavery for as long as the Pact would last. Some, of course, did not anticipate that it would last very long. House Telvanni had refused to join the Pact entirely, so slavery remained legal in the territory deep in Morrowind that was under their control, and House Dres...

Dres was a complication. They had joined the Pact, had agreed to end the practice of slavery... and then had simply not done so. They had continued with business as usual, knowing that there was little Jorunn could do. If he marched his own army into Morrowind to enforce the law, the whole Pact would break up, and slavery would return to all of Morrowind as a matter of course.

So Jorunn could simply stew about it.

Well, he was about to have one more Dres to stew about. Ironic, Ulga thought, that Esten's distaste for the Tieflings had led him to make a deal with an elf.

"Any papers we can find will be of help," Ulga summarized. "Let's lure out this slaver. Get him alone. An end this."
Monkey Kitty
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Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 7:31 pm

Re: Finding Home

Post by Monkey Kitty »

The gra-Shatul/Bright-Hearth/Grath Home, Black Marsh

Although Ulga was away, things back home were busy and bustling, as usual.

Izeel, Dances-With-Ribbons, and Jamira had returned from a day at the village school. Lias, who was also a teacher there, was correcting assignments, while Ribbons worked on her homework nearby in companionable silence. Soren was out in the garden harvesting gourds, hacking the stems with a hefty blade with practiced ease, and then handing the fruits off to Izeel, who put them in baskets.

Neither of Ulga's Bosmer sisters were currently in residence. Nehprit was at the Bards College in Solitude, where she studied and kept a little apartment, and Meeve - also in Skyrim, as it happened - was chronicling antiquities with her boyfriend and his family. The small hut they'd shared on the family land remained for them whenever they chose to return... which was often.

The Khajiit, Torgo, by contrast, never really went anywhere. His knees pained him, and a lifetime of mistreatment prior to being found and rescued by Ulga had taken its toll both mentally and physically. He preferred to stay home, sleeping in his small caravan wagon and helping around the house and farm. Currently, he was seated on the front steps of his wagon, carving a reasonable likeness of one of the guar who grazed lazily nearby.

Jamira had been daydreaming in the grass, but had wandered inside. The other member of the household was there, the newest arrival - a quiet, reticent vampire who had visibly been through the ringer of dark magic. Jamira approached him fearlessly with a smile, and presented him with a small bouquet of posies she had picked.

"Thank you," he replied, surprised.

"You're welcome. Hey, what will we call you, do you think? We have a Dad and a Papa. Maybe Adar? That's what some elves call their father, and you're an elf. Aren't you?"

"Yes. I... yes, I'm an elf. But I am not... I'm not a father..."

Jamira shrugged. "You will be. The Hist told me."

"The Hist... told you?"

She nodded, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. "The Hist tells me lots of things. There's another thing, too. More family coming. You'll see soon."

Her mission accomplished, she skipped away, humming a little tune to herself.
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