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Messages - Arandir

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Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A New Friend
« on: February 08, 2020, 03:36:38 PM »


Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A New Friend
« on: February 08, 2020, 01:55:28 PM »

"Ooooh." Though she was being very careful not to disturb the cub while she was eating, Alu was absolutely enthralled, and equally delighted to be involved in choosing a name. "Sumfing pretty."

"Mmhm," Aran agreed. "But what?" Though he had found the little fox, he thought it should be up to Alu to name her. It would help her feel like she had done something to help, besides donate a pile of blankets.

"Monster Munch."

Carina only just managed not to laugh. She had let Alu have those particular chips just once, several months ago. She could never have imagined that would come back to haunt her now.

"Monster Munch?" Aran echoed dubiously, brows arching upwards. Where had that come from? "Um ... What would you call her for short?" he asked. That was a bit of a mouthful, after all.

Alu seemed very sure about it. "Pickle," she said confidently. This broke her mother a little, who had to stand up and turn away or risk upsetting the toddler with her grin.

"Pickle," Aran echoed again, still looking a bit dubious, but at least Pickle was better than Monster Munch. "You are going to name her after a snack?" he asked curiously. There were times when Alu left him a little perplexed, but then she was just a child.

She looked up at him innocently. "Pickle make me happy," was her logical answer. "She happy too." There was a faint whimper from the little cub as she pressed down a little too hard on her injured paw.

"Pickle it is, then," Aran replied with a shrug. Who was he to question a toddler's logic? He frowned at the sound of the whimper and crouched down near the fox to take her back into his arms, so that she could eat without putting any stress on that paw. "There, now. Easy does it. No one is going to hurt you," he told her gently.

She had pretty much demolished everything on the plate, and drunk a fair amount of the water Carina had put down for her as well. Lifted off her injury, soothed by the voice that was becoming familiar, the newly named Pickle let out a rumbling sound that might almost have been a purr if she had been a cat, snuggling into Aran's arms.

"Hear that, Alu?" he asked, smiling up at his daughter as the baby fox snuggled into his arms. "She sounds happy." It was strange how that sound made him feel all warm inside, just as he had the first time he'd held his daughter in his arms.

"What happened to her mama?" the little girl asked solemnly, finally reaching out to delicately pet the soft fur on the cub's back. "Will she come lookin'?"

"We don't know," Aran replied, frowning sadly. "We think she's an orphan," he told her, assuming she knew what that word meant. "She's too little to take care of herself, so she might have to stay with us awhile. What do you think of that?"

"She fambly now?" Looking up, Alu met his eyes with hope and curiosity, beaming just at the thought of adding Pickle to their family. It might be odd, to have a fox for a pet, but in Anarven, it wasn't exactly unheard of.

"For now, she is." He didn't have to look at Carina to know she was in agreement. He didn't know if there would come a time when they'd have to set the little fox free, but for now, it seemed she would be calling Anarven home.

It wouldn't be possible to keep a fox in the city. This could only have happened out here, where the natural world was so much closer to them. They could ask Greylin to look at the cub tomorrow, but for now, everything was calm and settled as the half-elves settled down to dinner. Life was certainly unpredictable in Anarven, but no one could say this was a bad development. It was just ... family.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A New Friend
« on: February 08, 2020, 01:55:13 PM »
Alu blinked, staring at her mother. "How you know?"

Carina chuckled. "She doesn't have any dangly bits between her back legs."

Aran arched a brow at Carina's observation. "Are you sure?" he asked, wondering why he hadn't noticed, but then he'd been more concerned with the creature's well-being than anything else.

"Very sure," she said confidently, moving to stand. "Now then, Alu ... do you remember where we put your old toy box? I think it would make a very nice bed for her, don't you?"

Alu lit up again, always happy to be involved, pushing the blankets into Carina's grasp to toddle off in search of the old box.

Aran momentarily furrowed his brows, a thoughtful expression on his face as if he was trying to sort out how he'd missed that their little friend was female and not male. "It seems I am to be surrounded by females," he said at last, with a faint smile.

"Perhaps there is a little boy in our future, too, a'mael," his wife suggested, bending down to kiss his hair as she smiled. "I think this little lady needs something to eat, and somewhere safe and warm to sleep for the time being, though."

"Perhaps," Aran agreed, smiling warming at her show of affection. For now, he was content with their little family as it was. And if the gods chose to give them another child, whether it be a son or daughter, he would be happy with that, too.

"I think you are right," he agreed further, looking down at the little ball of fur in his arms, who seemed content enough to remain there for now. "You know, she will need a name," he pointed out.

"She will," Carina agreed with him, her smile just a little on the wicked side. "You brought her home. I think that honor should go to you and Alu."

A scraping sound caught her attention - Alu was dragging the old box into view, huffing and puffing with the effort.

"Iellig," Aran called to his daughter in Elvish. "Let us help you," he told her, though he couldn't do much to help so long as he was still holding the fox. "Here, Carina. Will you take her, so I can help Alu?" he asked, as he moved to his feet to hand off his bundle.

"Oh! Okay." A little surprised to be asked to hold the fox, rather than go and help the toddler, Carina took the little bundle into her grasp, carefully settling the little creature comfortably in one arm so she could put together something for the cub to eat.

Across the room, breathless and red-faced, Alu straightened up, hands on her hips. "I doing it!"

Aran chuckled a little at the sight of his daughter, with her hands on her hips, looking stubborn but also out of breath. "And I am going to help," he told her as he started toward her, without taking no for an answer. "We will do it together." He glanced at Carina a moment. "Where would you like this, melamin?"

"Somewhere warm," Carina suggested, biting down on a smile as the little cub licked the underside of her jaw. "Near the fire, or by the stove, perhaps. We can bring her with us when it is time to sleep."

Alu looked hopefully at Aran with this prospect. "Can she sleep wiv me?"

"By the fire, then," Aran suggested, as the stove was usually only warm when they were cooking. The toy box wasn't much more than a wooden crate - heavy for a child, but not for Aran. He picked it up without much effort and brought it closer to the hearth, but not so close that the crate might catch fire. "Do you have the blankets?" he asked of Alu, once the box was in place.

"Um ..." The toddler looked around, spotting the blankets on the chair where Carina had left them. "I get 'em!" She toddled off happily to gather the soft fabric into her arms, completely missing her mother catching Aran's eye.

"Get a cushion in there before she dumps the blankets."

"Good idea," Aran whispered back. He swung a gaze around the room for something that would serve their purpose before snagging a pillow off the couch and laying it in the bottom of the crate for an almost perfect fit. They wouldn't be using that pillow anymore, but pillows were easily replaced.

He had perfect timing - as the pillow settled, Alu was just reaching the box, opening her arms to let the folds of soft fabric flop into it. She looked up proudly. "Did we make a bed?"

"We did!" Aran confirmed, a bright smile for his daughter. "A very special bed for a very special friend," he said. "Would you like to say hello, now that she is feeling better?"

Alu nodded enthusiastically. "Was her hurty paw very hurty?" she asked, reaching up absently to wrap her hand into his. They could hear Carina murmuring soothingly to the little cub as she put some mashed up meat on a small plate.

"It was to her," Aran replied, unsure if that answer would be enough for the curious toddler. "Do you remember when we had to take a splinter out of your hand?" he asked. "I suppose it was a little like that for her."

"Did she has a splinker?"Even rising three years old, Alu was insatiable when it came to knowledge, always full of questions that invariably lead to more questions.

"She had a thorn in her paw," he explained, as he led her over to where Carina was soothing the injured fox. "See how Mama wrapped her paw? That will help her feel better."

Carina was crouching down by now, setting the plate on the kitchen floor before gently easing the cub down to stand alone and eat. She smiled at the two of them. "You see that black thing on the table, Alu? We took that out of her paw."

The toddler looked at the thorn, and then back at the cub, horrified. "S'bigger than her foot!"

Aran chuckled a little at his daughter's exaggeration. "It's not that big!" he said, though the thorn was definitely big enough to have given the fox a good deal of pain. "You know, if she's going to be with us a while, we should probably give her a name," he suggested for the second time, this time to Alu.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A New Friend
« on: February 08, 2020, 01:54:53 PM »
"I do not answer to Hal," Aran pointed out simply. In fact, even though they were no longer in Ilythelin, it was the other way around. Aran's frown deepened to think the fox's mother might have abandoned him. "Why would she do that?" he asked uncertainly. He was more inclined to believe something might have happened to the fox's mother that had left him an orphan.

"Maybe because he was injured?" she suggested, uncurling her fingers to stroke the furry head as they spoke together. "If he can't keep up, then he can't hunt, and that makes him more trouble than he's worth. She can have more."

"That's sad," Aran said, realizing how she might be right. It was a simple matter of survival. "I can't just let him die, Carina," he told her, sadness in his eyes for the fate of his little friend.

She smiled, leaning up to kiss his cheek fondly. "Then we won't," she told him. "You said something about his paw being hurt?" Finally, she looked down at the little cub she was stroking, taking in the details of the adorable little face looking back at them.

"His paw, yes," Aran confirmed. "I was going to try healing him, but I thought I should get him home first." Even if he could heal the fox's injured paw, he was too young and too small to be out in the wild on his own.

"What's wrong with his paw?" she asked, still stroking the little head, addressing the fox directly as though it could answer her. "You been in the wars, little one?"

"I think he might have been attacked by something," Aran said. It wasn't just what he'd seen, but it was a feeling he'd gotten from the fox. "I told him he'd be safe here," he added, hoping Carina agreed.

"Of course he will," she agreed, smiling. From their bedroom came a faint thump as Alu finally got the blanket box open. Carina bit down on the grin that wanted to make itself known. "All right, little one, let's get what we need and take a look at that paw, shall we? If we need any poultices or anything, I'm pretty sure my father has something."

"Thank you, Carina," Aran said, with a soft smile. He'd had a feeling she'd want to help, but he'd been unable to ask her in advance. Thankfully, he knew she had a soft, caring heart, especially in such a circumstance as this.

"I'm just glad it was a fox cub and not a giant spider or something equally awful," she teased, turning away to fetch warm water and cloths to wash and bind whatever injury she was yet to see.

Aran chuckled. "Do you really think I'd have brought home a giant spider?" he asked, as he followed her into the kitchen, the little bundle seemingly content to remain in his arms, despite his curiosity.

"If it looked pathetically grateful enough?" she said, testing the water to make sure it was warm enough before filling a bowl. "Yes, I do. You're a soft touch for big eyes, and spiders have lots of those."

Aran couldn't help but chuckle, amusement clear on his face. "Even spiders have their place in the world, melamin," he chided her gently. That didn't mean he was about to bring one home as a pet though.

"Not in my house," she said firmly, though she was smiling. "Come and sit at the table with him, a'mael. Let's see what the damage is."

He smirked, but said nothing more about spiders, as he made his way over to the table and took a seat, the little fox peeking out of the blanket to inspect his surroundings.

"All right." Carina set her bowl and cloths down on the table, sitting beside Aran and his newly adopted fur baby. "You're probably going to have to soothe him, a'mael. This is going to hurt the little thing."

Aran nodded his understanding. "I will," he promised. He drew a deep breath, closed his eyes, and focused him thoughts on the little red ball of fur in his arms, reaching out with his mind and his heart and offering soothing and comfort and understanding.

As the fox cub seemed to slip into a kind of relaxed stupor, Carina carefully unwound the blanket from about it, seeking out the injured paw to inspect and clean. She felt a faint smile touch her lips as she noticed something else, but kept it to herself for the time being.

"There's a thorn in this pad," she murmured, keeping Aran informed fondly. "I'll have to pull it out."

Aran heard this and nodded, as he tried to visualize it in his mind so that the little fox would understand what Carina was about to do. His fingers instinctively stroked the fox's fur, soothing him with a tender, caring touch.

"He's ready," he told her, his voice almost a whisper.

"All right." Like Aran, Carina kept her voice soft and gentle even as she turned the little cub's paw in her hand, holding it in place to carefully draw the ugly thorn out with a pair of tweezers. And despite that soothing, the little creature still whimpered and snarled for a moment as the blood flowed once more.

Aran turned to his native Elvish - a language his people had once used in their world to communicate not only with each other, but with that of nature around them. He spoke in a calm, soothing voice, words of comfort and encouragement, so that the little creature would understand they were trying to help.

He certainly got through to the fox cub, who managed not to snap at Carina as she gently washed the bloodied paw and wrapped it carefully with a poultice to draw out any infection. By the time she was done, Alu was standing next to them, watching in worried fascination over her armful of old blankets.

"Is it all better?"

"Not all better," Aran replied. "It will take some for his paw to heal, but I think he is no longer in so much pain," he explained. The little one was not going to be running around on that paw, until it was completely healed though.

"And he is a she," Carina added with a smile, packing away her little kit before gently stroking the little head.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / A New Friend
« on: February 08, 2020, 01:54:33 PM »
Arandir had to admit that going back to work at the theater was one of the best decisions he'd ever made. Not better than his decision to wed Carina, have a child, or bring his people to Rhy'Din, but a good decision, just the same. It was only after he'd left that he'd realized how much he'd enjoyed being part of the theater and how much he missed it. Even so, he was only a guest performer, which still allowed him plenty of time to spend with his family, as well as care for his people. He'd been away most of the day, but it had been business with the village council that had kept him away from home today, not the theater. It was nearly dinner time when he finally arrived home, a small bundle in his arms.

As usual, he was greeted almost at the door by Aluviel, toddling excitedly over to see her father. Today, she was waving a piece of paper around her head, gabbling in her own version of Elvish for a moment or two before reverting to her slightly better grasp of Common.

"I drawed for you!"

Aran smiled warmly at his daughter's greeting. "Oh, what did you draw?" he asked as he stepped inside, juggling that small wrapped bundle in his arms, which was wiggling suspiciously.

Smoothing out the crumpled paper, Aluviel displayed it as though it were a piece of fine art. "You, an' me, an' Mama," she explained, pointing to each indecipherable blob as she identified them for him. Her eyes strayed to the bundle in his arms. "Wassat?"

"What would you say if I said you might have to add someone to that picture?" he asked, crouching down so that he was almost eye to eye with his daughter, that warm smile still on his face.

"I dun wan' a little bruvver," she informed him quite seriously, now giving the bundle quite the suspicious eye. "No baby."

From the kitchen came the sound of Carina laughing as she overheard this solemn declaration.

Aran smirked. She might have a little brother or even a sister someday, but not today. "It's not a baby," he assured her. "Would you like to see what it is?" he asked, eyes bright with amusement.

Easily reassured, Alu nodded, peering hopefully at the bundle now. "S'it a dwagon?" she asked. The elders in the village had started to come together to tell stories of their disparate cultures of an afternoon, and Alu loved stories.

"No, not a dragon," Aran replied. The little blanket-wrapped bundle was too small to be a dragon, unless it was a baby dragon. From inside the blanket, there came the sound of a muffled, high-pitched whimper.

Alu's little face twisted into a mask of worry at the noise coming from the bundle. "S'cryin', Papa," she said in concern.

"Because he's getting all cooped up in there," Aran explained without explaining who "he" was. "Do you want to take a peek?" he asked. "You have to be quiet though. You don't want to scare him."

Again, the little head nodded, his little girl taking a step or two closer to lean on his arm and try to get a better look into the bundle he was carrying. "I be werry quiet."

"Okay," he said, letting her get as close as she wanted. "Ready?" he asked, as he carefully peeled back the blanket to allow a little furry red head peek out, little brown eyes peering curiously up at Alu.

Her small face lost the look of worry, only to gain an expression of wide-eyed awe. "S'not a doggy?" she asked, wanting to be sure. It certainly wasn't a cat, that was for sure.

"No, he's a baby fox," Aran told her. "I found him on my way home. I think he got lost. He has an injured paw," he informed her further. "So, I thought I'd bring him home, so we can help him get better. What do you think?"

"Can I touch?" Her hand hovered uncertainly a few inches from the little fox's head, educated enough to know that you don't touch an animal without at least forewarning them.

"Yes, but maybe you should let him smell you first," Aran said, as the fox peeked his head further out of the blanket, as if he was just as curious about the little girl as she was about him.

Obediently, Alu curled her fingers into her palm loosely, exactly as she had been taught, offering her little hand to the fox cub with a hopeful light in her eyes. "Can we keep?"

"Well, I don't know about that ... But I think maybe he's going to have to stay with us for a little while. At least, until we heal his paw and he's big enough to survive on his own," he explained, not wanting to make any promises. The baby fox bumped his black nose against Alu's hand, sniffing her carefully.

She giggled softly, distracted from Aran's reply by the cold snuffling against her fingers.

"I see someone has made a new friend," a voice interjected softly from the doorway into the kitchen, where Carina was leaning with a resigned smile on her face.

Aran had an almost sheepish smile on his face as he looked to his wife. He wasn't fond of the little boxes people carried around to keep in touch with each other, and the fox was as much a surprise to her as it was to Alu.

"He hasn't got a name yet," he told them both.

"I think we should probably get him settled in before we start making him one of the family," Carina suggested. "Alu, why don't you go and get a couple of the old blankets out of the box in our room?"

Pleased to be given something to do - even if that job might take her half an hour or more - Alu nodded, scurrying off happily to her task.

Aran frowned up at Carina, still looking a little sheepish. "I'm sorry. I should have asked you first, but I couldn't just leave him out there," he told her, as he slowly rose to her feet. The little fox sniffed at the air, as if searching for the source of yet another new scent.

"Hal would be so disappointed in you for not letting nature take its course," she teased as she moved toward him, absently offering the back of her hand to the little fox. But she didn't actually look at the creature, holding her husband's gaze, one brow raised. "If he's been abandoned by his mother, then we're going to have to hand-rear him," she warned.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:33:02 PM »
Her hand turned in his, stroking her fingers tenderly against his cheek. "As I love you," she murmured in answer. "It isn't long now - just a few more days before we go back to Anarven."

"Perhaps you can explain the musical to me better then," he teased, still not completely understanding it. Elves didn't really do horror, after all.

She laughed. "I doubt either of us will ever fully understand Rocky Horror," she assured him. "But it's entertaining, and that's what really matters, isn't it?"

"I suppose so," he said, neither agreeing or disagreeing. She enjoyed being part of the theater, and that was all that really mattered, and it seemed he was going to join her again sometime soon. "Are you sure you don't mind me accepting Mataya's offer?" he asked her again. He didn't want her to think he was trying to interfere in her own career.

"Of course I don't mind," she said enthusiastically. "I want you to do what feels right to you, what you will enjoy doing. And I truly loved playing Marsinah to your Caliph in Kismet, a'mael. How often can a woman say she has sung one of the most romantic duets ever written with the man she loves?"

"We don't have to be on stage to sing to each other, melamin," he reminded her, a gentle rub of his thumb against the back of her hand and a soft smile on his face. He didn't break into song just yet, but there was always later.

She giggled, swallowing the last of her meal and setting the plate aside. "I know," she mused. "But it was a lot of fun to do it on stage. No acting required."

"Do you think they noticed?" he asked, eyes bright with amusement. It hardly mattered if the audience had noticed the sincerity in their singing and acting or not. They had received standing ovations every night, either way.

It had been a wonderful experience, nevertheless. "They seemed to enjoy it," Carina said with sweet mischief. "And we made Mataya cry every night, which is a definite success in my book."

By now, most people knew Carina and Aran were married. Even regular theater-goers probably knew by now, as they hadn't kept it secret. "Perhaps we'll be able to sing to each other again," he said, leaning close enough to brush his nose against hers.

"We can but hope," she giggled, tilting her head just enough to kiss the end of his nose. "It will be a relief to go back to performing in normal shoes, though. Those heels are terrifying."

"I hear there was a time when they were in fashion," he said, smiling in amusement as she kissed his nose. He knew time was running out, and she'd have to leave for the theater soon, but he wasn't ready to let her go just yet. "We'll have to make use of your break to work on another child," he teased.

"They still for some people," she laughed, though the sound faded into a shy giggle at his teasing. "Now that sounds like a wonderful use of our time," she agreed, nuzzling him for a moment.

He smiled, nuzzling close and touching another kiss to her lips. "And you're going to be late," he teased her, brushing yet another kiss to her lips and giving her a hint of what awaited her later.

"Not that late," she grinned, more than happy to linger in that kiss for a while longer. She had about half an hour before she'd have to run to get there on time, after all.

"I will always love you, Carina," he whispered against her lips, his fingers tracing the soft curve of her cheek. It didn't really need saying, and yet, he could never say it enough. He loved her more than life itself; more than all the stars in the night sky.

She kissed him once more, breathing him in with absolute comfort and security. She had never thought she would ever meet anyone who matched her so well as Aran did. He was a blessing she would never stop thanking her stars for. As she drew back,  a quiet burble made itself known through the monitor. "And that's my cue to leave, before she makes me feel guilty for it."

He had a feeling Carina would always feel a little guilty for leaving them behind while she spent a few hours with the theater. But he would join her there soon enough, and with plenty of people willing to help, they wouldn't have to worry that little Aluviel wasn't well cared for in their absence.

"Don't worry. I'll take good care of her," he promised, though he didn't need to. It was no secret that he adored their daughter and wasn't afraid of spoiling her a little.

"I know you will." Rising from her seat with another smile, Carina bent to kiss her husband once more before gathering her coat and bag. "I'll text you once I'm at the theater," she told him, as she did every evening when she was performing. "And I'll call you when I'm leaving."

Aran nodded, moving to his feet to walk her to the door. Alu could wait a few more minutes anyway. "Be careful and ..." He paused, before hesitantly adding, "Break a leg." It always seemed like a strange thing to say, but was supposed to convey good luck.

She laughed, knowing how odd he found that wish. "Thank you, a'mael." Squeezing his hand, she pulled open the door. "Have fun without me!"

He waved a hand, lingering at the door to watch her as far as his elven eyes could see, frowning a little now that she was gone, but secure in the knowledge she'd be home safe again in a few hours. "See you soon, a'mael," he whispered as she sauntered down the street with a confident stride.

Behind him, Aluviel's complaints at being still in her cot were getting more strident, demanding that someone come to get her out and have fun with her until bedtime. There were worse ways to spend an evening, after all.

When at last, he could no longer see Carina, he closed the door and made his way up the stairs to collect their daughter. For a few hours, it would just be father and daughter, and though Aran missed Carina, he couldn't help but savor this special time he had alone with his daughter, building bonds between them that he hoped would last a lifetime.

Besides, what daughter wasn't the apple of her father's eye? Aluviel would never doubt it.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:32:43 PM »

"I wonder how they came to be in Anarven," he said, though it hardly mattered. After all, how had he come to be in Rhy'Din? Had it been his mother who'd sent him here, or had the mirror and the Nexus known this was the best place for him?

"You'd have to ask Luin. She might not even know herself." Setting her tea cup down, Carina moved to wrap her arms about him from behind, kissing the back of his neck affectionately. "It's in the past, a'mael. Luin's just ... edgy ... in the city."

Aran nodded, her embrace drawing him away from his thoughts and back to the world of the present. "The city is much ... different from Anarven," he agreed. Different wasn't quite the word he was looking for, but it would have to do. Comparing the city to Anarven was like comparing day to night.

"It's a very different energy," she agreed. "As much as I enjoy the city, I prefer our quieter pace of life in Anarven. I would much rather our children grew up in total safety there, but learn how to handle themselves on the streets here."

"How to handle themselves on the streets?" he echoed as he glanced her way, his attention momentarily drawn away from the omelet-making. "Do you think they will need to learn how to fight?" he asked, hoping the answer to that question would be no. Then again, it was better they knew how to protect themselves than risked being hurt.

"No, I don't think they will ever need to fight, though they should learn," Carina clarified for him, easing away so she didn't disrupt his cooking. "But there's a certain way of walking that you learn when you grow up in a city, an attitude that most people recognise and won't interfere with you when you're wearing it."

"I'm not sure I know what you mean," he said with a confused expression on his face. He hadn't grown up in a city - at least, not one like Rhy'Din - and though he understood the risks inherent in city life, he wasn't quite sure what she meant by her statement.

"Oh, goodness ... I'm not sure I can describe it." Carina frowned thoughtfully. "It's very straight-backed, walking with purpose, not obviously paying attention to the road or the people around you. You sort of cultivate a field of I don't have time for your nonsense and I will run you down if you get in my way. But it is very subtle. I could probably demonstrate it."

"You mean, walking with confidence? Like ... You know what you're doing and where you're going?" he guessed. He'd never really noticed anything different about the way Carina navigated the city, as opposed to himself or anyone else.

"Something like that, yes," she nodded. "Ideally, you want to hint that if someone tries to give you trouble, you'll give them more than trouble in return. And we both know that, for me, that is an empty threat, but the walk has always worked for me."

"But the city isn't really that dangerous, is it?" he asked uncertainly, as he slid the omelet onto a plate and added a couple slices of toast. He knew there were inherent dangers in every city, but appearing to be human seemed to help them blend.

"No more than any other city, I assume, but it's best to be prepared," Carina said, one shoulder rising and falling in a gentle shrug. "It isn't something our children will have to learn for a good few years yet, anyway."

At least, that much was true, considering the fact that they only had Aluviel right now and she had only recently turned two. "I learned to use a bow when I was eight," Aran told her. A little older for a sword, but not by much.

She smiled at him, sitting down at the table to eat the meal he had prepared for her. "I don't see why we shouldn't continue that tradition," she said. "It's a part of elven heritage, after all."

"What about you?" he asked, refilling her cup of tea and fixing it the way she liked it. In all the time they'd been together, that they'd known each other, they'd never really talked about this or whether they'd teach their own children to fight.

"Me?" She laughed around a mouthful, swallowing quickly. "I know how to stage-fight?" She offered him a slightly rueful grin. "I've never really needed to use a weapon. Adar protected us when we needed protecting, usually with words or magic. I don't think I've ever seen him actually use his staff as a weapon."

"I could teach you," he found himself blurting before realizing it was probably unnecessary. He set the cup of tea down on the table and took a seat across from her, fingers toying with his own tea cup. His past would always cause him to worry about her safety, even if Rhy'Din had never given him cause to.

"Really?" She looked genuinely pleased with such an offer, though he probably hadn't realized she might be. "I would love to learn how to use a bow," she admitted. "It looks like fun."

He chuckled a little. "I'm not sure I would call it fun, but I have heard some call it a sport." He didn't keep himself so isolated in Anarven that he didn't know that. "It is a challenging weapon, but shooting at a target is much different than shooting in battle."

"I doubt I will ever need to shoot in battle," Carina pointed out with another smile. "If it came to that, I would likely be hidden somewhere with our children. I know you well enough to know that."

"I hope you will never need do that, Carina," Aran said, perhaps a little too seriously, but to him, her safety and that of their child was a serious matter. "But I can teach you, if you wish," he repeated, mirroring her smile, his one of warm affection.

"I would like to learn," she agreed, nodding hopefully. "This is delicious, by the way." She was apparently hungry - half the omelet appeared to have been inhaled while they were talking.

He shrugged at her compliment, that smile still on his face. "It's nothing," he said, regarding his cooking. He didn't mind cooking, and omeletes were easy enough. "Should we wait up for you?" he asked, reaching for his cup to take another sip of his tea.

"Put Alu to bed on time," she said. "I'll go in and see her when I come in, anyway. I don't mind if you stay up, though." She knew he would; he worried too much about her walking the short distance from the theater to go to bed before she was safely behind their locked front door.

"Of course, I will," he assured her, with another smile, though she probably knew that already. He always waited up for her, no matter how late she might be. Now that she was nearly done with her meal, he reached for her hand and drew it to his lips for a kiss. "Amin mela lle," he told her softly.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:32:18 PM »
"I suppose," he replied, uncertainly. Of course, he supposed that one could strain their voice, too, if they used it too much. "Perhaps you're just gaining confidence," he suggested. She wasn't as shy on stage as she'd once been, that much was certain.

"Maybe." She shrugged one shoulder vaguely. "I just enjoy singing. I think if you find joy in something and do it enough, you're bound to improve, aren't you?"

"I suppose so," he admitted. "How does the saying go? Practice makes perfect?" he said, more statement than question. It was a saying he'd heard said among the human population, but it seemed to ring true. He smiled again as another thought came to mind. "But to me, you are already perfect," he said, leaning close to brush a kiss against her cheek.

She giggled softly, lifting her chin to answer that kiss with her own. "You are a little biased, a'mael," she pointed out, but no less fond for that. "I will never not be grateful for meeting you."

"Nor will I, melamin," he replied softly, savoring that kiss, as he did all her kisses. There had been a time when he'd first found himself in Rhy'Din that he'd thought he felt all alone; that he'd thought he'd never find anyone to share his life with, but all that had changed the day she'd accidentally tripped over him.

She smiled, leaning into him easily. "I suppose I should make something to eat," she mused. "I have to be at the theater in two hours."

"I can make something," he said, quick to volunteer. "What would you like?" He took another sip of his tea before setting it aside and moving to take a look in the fridge. He might have suggested grabbing a bite out, but Alu was still napping, and he was on parental duty tonight.

"Something quick and light?" she suggested, smiling at his sudden burst of motion and enthusiasm. She really didn't deserve Aran, but she would fight to the death to keep him. "You don't have to have the same thing."

"It's okay. I'll eat with Alu later," he assured her. He'd miss her while she was at the theater, but he couldn't follow her around all the time with a small child to tend to. "Hmm, what would you prefer? An omelet or a sandwich?" he asked, though she was not limited to only those options, if she had a better idea.

"I think I would prefer an omelet," Carina mused. "Do we have any ham to put in it?" She peered over his shoulder, studying the contents of the fridge herself.

"I think so," he confirmed, as he reached for the eggs and the rest of the omelet fixings.

He didn't bother to ask how she liked it or what she liked in it, as he knew her well enough to know the answers to those questions already. There was something that was bothering him, but tonight was no different than any other night.

"You'll call me when you're on your way home?" he asked. He never ceased to worry about her when they were in the city, not feeling quite as safe as he did back in Anarven.

"Of course I will," she promised him. "I'll stay on the phone right to our front door - it's only about ten minutes, sweetheart." Others might have found his reminder annoying - for Carina, it was just another example of how loved she was.

"I know, but ..." He frowned, knowing he was probably worrying over nothing, but they both knew the city wasn't as safe as Anarven. "I'm sorry, Carina. I know I worry too much," he confessed with a sigh as he pushed the fridge closed with an elbow, his arms full of omelet fixings.

"I grew up in this city, Aran," she reminded him in a gentle voice. "I know Anarven is about as safe as you could ever wish for, but Rhy'Din City isn't so bad. I promise you, I'll be fine. I know how to handle myself in this place."

"I know, but would it be so bad to ask Luin to escort you?" he asked. At the very least, when she was pregnant. Or maybe he'd ask someone to stay with Alu so he could escort her himself, if and when she was with child. Then again, he wasn't sure how long she'd continue working in that case.

Carina bit down on a laugh, not wanting to upset him with that reaction. "Have you ever seen her in the city?" she asked, trying to keep the amusement from her voice. "I'd be in more danger with her than on my own. She incites violence all over the place here."

He deposited the omelet fixings on the counter, brows furrowed at her reaction to his suggestion. "How so?" he asked, glancing her way momentarily and looking more curious than confused before turning to start cooking.

"She has a tendency to take offense at people just looking at her," she explained with a smile. "You don't generally see elves in full forest rig in the city, so she attracts interest. But she sees that interest as hostile, so she reacts with hostility."

"I'm sure she has good reason," Aran said, though he knew very little about Luin's history. Then again, they didn't need anyone instigating trouble for them, purposely or not. Anarven was a peaceful village, and he hoped it would stay that way.

"I think she might still have some instincts left over from before she came to Rhy'Din," Carina mused. "I don't know much about that, really - just that it was a life or death decision for them to leave. She apparently turned up in the forests outside Anarven as a child, with a band of other children with her."

"A band of children?" Aran asked, as he broke the eggs and whipped them together in a bowl before pouring them into a frying pan. That didn't sound good, and only left him with more questions than answers. "A band of children from another world," he murmured, reminded of his own world's history.

"Yeah." Carina sighed softly. "I never asked more about it. But all the redheaded elves in Anarven are Luin's people. Barely a handful of them."

"Then, they were all orphans," he said, though he assumed they'd all found homes in Anarven. He'd thought his own story was sad, but perhaps Luin's was even sadder.

"I guess so. But I don't think they consider themselves orphans," she offered hopefully. "They were taken in by families in Anarven, and most of them don't even remember their original home. They were very young, apparently."

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:32:00 PM »
"How can she know such things?" he asked, though it seemed a ghost would be capable of watching people unseen, hence possibly deducing their thoughts. "I was not sure of myself when I started at the theater, but she never spoke to me," he reasoned.

"I don't know. Maybe she thought you didn't need her, because you had me?" Carina smiled at him, kissing his cheek fondly. "Your uncertainties when we started at the theater didn't really have to do with acting."

"Perhaps not," he conceded with a small shrug, unwilling to dwell on the past, especially now that he'd found his happy ending with Carina. He had changed since those early days in Rhy'Din, gaining confidence and putting trust in his abilities. He smiled at the memory of those early days when the two of them had just met. "You were my first love," he told her, turning to brush his fingertips against her cheek.

"Only were?" she asked with a teasing lilt to her voice, easing close enough to brush the tip of her nose to his. "I haven't regretted being clumsy since the day it threw me into your lap."

"My only love," he was quick to correct himself, smiling softly back at her as her nose brushed his. "It's a good thing I caught you, or I may never have gathered the courage to say hello," he admitted.

"I'll always be glad you did," she promised, lips tenderly touching his in a soft kiss. "My parents and grandparents adore you, you know. You have so much more than just me and Alu to call family now, a'mael."

"And my people adore you, melamin," he told her, though she should already know that by now. It had taken some time for his people to get accustomed to Rhy'Din, but now that they were settled, he had more free time to spend with his own family and friends. "Your family is my family, and my people are your people," he added, touching his forehead to hers.

"Always," she agreed in a whisper, looping her arms about his waist as they lingered together, enjoying the easy embrace. "You know," she added in a thoughtful murmur, "the midwife says that I should be able to conceive again anytime now."

Aran arched a brow at that bit of information. "Are you saying you want another child?" he asked, the faintest hint of a smile on his face, as if he was trying to hide it.

She tilted her head, smiling impishly up at him. "I wouldn't say no," she admitted softly. "I'd like Alu to have what we didn't have - a brother or sister to grow up with."

"I would like that, too, melamin," he told her softly, fingers gently grazing her cheek and wandering into her hair. It might not happen right away, but it would happen. He brushed his lips against hers in a tender kiss, lingering a moment to enjoy the warmth of her lips against his.

She smiled into that kiss, breathing him in as they leaned into each other, always more than content in Aran's arms. If it hadn't been for the whistle of the kettle behind her, she could quite happily have stayed there, too.

"Tea time," she murmured, drawing back.

He drew a soft breath as she pulled away, an almost amused smile on his face. With Alu napping and due to wake any moment, there wasn't much time to indulge in lovemaking, but he'd make it up to her later.

"You might have to take some time off from the theater," he reminded her, though they'd been through this once before.

"But this time I know I can go back, when the time is right," she pointed out warmly, easing from his arms to lift the kettle off the heat and pour the water into the pot to steep. "I would like more children, as many as we may be allowed to have. More than one is a blessing in itself."

He frowned thoughtfully, not because he was worried, but because he simple wasn't sure how many children they'd be physically able to have. His people had been barren before coming to Rhy'Din, and he had only been born because his father had been human.

"How-how many do you think we could have?" he asked curiously. He supposed that depended on their longevity.

"I don't know," Carina admitted, curious herself. "The midwife seems certain that we have only slightly lower odds than a human couple might, and certainly higher than elves. I shouldn't think we would be able to have more than three, though, and even that seems ambitious."

"Each child is a blessing," Aran said, believing that without a doubt. He was half-elf, after all, and for elves, children were a rare blessing. "I will be happy no matter how many we have, even if we only have one," he assured her.

"I know," she promised, "and so will I. But there's no harm in letting nature make that decision for us, right?" She waggled her brows at him with suggestive mischief, laughing as she turned to pour out the tea.

"No, I suppose not," he replied, chuckling in amusement at her teasing. As far as he was concerned, she really was adorable, just like their daughter. Even if she didn't get pregnant, it would be fun trying.

Setting the pot aside, she handed him a cup of tea before lifting her own into her cupped hands. "Whatever you decide to do, we'll make it work," she told him fondly.

"Whatever I decide?" Aran echoed, taking the cup of tea between his hands, but not yet sipping. Whether she was referring to the theater or to the possibility of another child, the decision wasn't just his to make.

"About the theater," she clarified with a smile. "Ultimately, it is your decision whether you choose to take the guest spot or not. But we are more than capable of making that work for us."

"Well, it is only a guest spot," Aran agreed, which meant it was unlikely to be too much of a commitment, and he was sure they'd find a way to work it out, even if they did have another child. He took a sip of his tea, a warm smile on his face at the thought of something else. "She said your voice is getting stronger," he told her, regarding Mataya's remark about Carina's singing.

She bit her lip, blushing at the secondhand compliment. "Well, my top notes aren't as reedy as they used to be," she admitted shyly. "I suppose the more you use your voice, the better supported it is?"

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:31:42 PM »
"You do not think the others will think it's favoritism?" he asked, with that worried frown again. He shifted Aluviel slightly in his arms as they approached the small house they used in the city when they needed to be close to the theater.

"Even if they do, it is her theater," Carina pointed out, shaking out her keys to unlock the door. "You're a former cast member, Aran. It isn't favoritism to invite you back to fill a guest spot recently vacated."

"I suppose it was only a matter of time before Josh and Dru had to leave the theater," he said, a little sad that their friends would no longer be part of the theater, but that didn't mean they couldn't still be friends. Though Aran was a prince himself, he did not have to carry the weight of responsibility that did their friends.

Ushering him inside, Carina smiled faintly. "It isn't as though they're going to disappear from our lives, Aran," she reminded him in a gentle tone. "They make a point of visiting us whenever they come up to Rhy'Din, and who knows? Maybe one day soon we'll be able to visit them in Tirisano."

"Do you think so?" Aran asked, uncertainly. There were no elves in Tirisano, after all, and he came from a place where there was so much hatred between the two races, it had caused a war.

"Yeah, I do," she said confidently. "They have a young population, and they recently completely overhauled their governing body. I think the people of that country are more than ready to start learning more about the world outside their borders."

"I have often wondered ..." Aran started, as he followed her into the house. "Why are there no elves there?" he asked. Had something happened that had caused the elves to leave Tirisano or had they never lived there at all? He found Rhy'Din history confusing at best, and though Tirisano was outside of Rhy'Din's borders, how was it that only humans had populated the place?

"Honestly, I have no idea," she admitted. "But apparently Tirisano was once a part of a larger country that had provinces strictly separate from each other. It probably comes from that."

"Do you think those provinces were once populated by different races before breaking apart?" he asked, as he moved toward the stairs that led to the bedrooms, so that he could settle Aluviel down for a nap.

"I think so. That would make sense, seeing the way Tirisano is now," Carina mused, setting her bag aside before following him up the stairs. "You know, I can't imagine a place where only one race has created the art and culture over centuries. It must be pretty unique there."

Aran wasn't sure what he thought about that. He'd been raised by elves and grown up in a place where elven and human cultures and settlements were kept very separate. Things were very different here in Rhy'Din. Even in Anarven, they welcomed races of all kinds, so long as they wished to live in peace. "We had our own customs and culture in Ilythelin," he told her. "There was a time when we were friendly with humans and even sought to help them." But that was long before he'd been born.

"Dru wants to make Tirisano as open to others as Rhy'Din is, but I think they're going to have to take it slowly," she said thoughtfully. "It's a big change for an insular community, and if it isn't handled right, it'll result in tension."

Or worse, thought Aran, though he didn't say that out loud. He fell silent a moment as he laid little Aluviel in her crib, leaning over to gently brush her hair back from her face, and tuck both her and her stuffed rabbit under a blanket. It was obvious from the tender look of affection on his face that he adored her. She would probably wake soon enough, but he'd rather she woke on her own than wake her before she was ready.

"Tea?" he whispered to Carina, once their daughter was tucked in for her afternoon nap.

Chin on his shoulder, arms tucked about him from behind, Carina took a moment to smile down at their sleeping daughter affectionately before she answered.

"That sounds wonderful," she whispered back. She only had a couple of hours before she had to get back for the evening's performance, but she did enjoy quiet times with Aran whenever she could get them.

He turned to face her, a warm smile on his face as he took her hand in his to usher her from the room, as quietly as he could so as not to wake their daughter. "I think she enjoyed watching you today," he told her as they exited the nursery and he led the way back down the stairs.

"I'm glad she feels comfortable enough at the theater to fall asleep," she said quietly, smiling as she followed him back down the stairs. "I guess Hortense didn't make herself known, huh?"

"If she did, I didn't notice," Aran replied. There were other ways they could have spent the few hours before Carina was due back at the theater, but there was no telling when Alu would wake, and they'd grown fond of the few moments of quiet the time afforded them.

"I don't think she would risk frightening Alu," Carina said, setting the kettle on the stove to boil. "She's very fond of our theater family, in her way, although she does not approve of Rocky Horror at all." She giggled quietly. "I think it's the men in corsets that embarrass her."

"Have you spoken to her recently?" Aran asked, as he went about gathering tea fixings from the cupboard. They didn't stay here very often these days, but it was still a home away from home.

"Not more than a greeting," she admitted. "The last time she made time to speak to me was when I went back to the theater after Alu was born." She smiled, fond of the theater ghost. "Apparently she's been spending more time near the offices during the day, because Mataya is so entertaining to watch."

"Oh," Aran murmured, frowning in thought. "She's never spoken to me," he said, wondering why that was, but then, there were some who had never even seen the so-called theater ghost and others who didn't believe in her.

Carina smiled gently at him, laying her hand on his back. "Apparently she only speaks to people who need her to," she murmured, kissing his shoulder. "It doesn't happen that often."

"Why would they need her to speak to them?" Aran asked curiously, glancing momentarily her way before turning back to set the cups on the counter.

"Lack of confidence, or insecurity, maybe?" Carina shrugged. "I don't know. She just seems to know when her actors need someone to talk to, and afterwards, you're less uncertain of things."

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:24:58 PM »
Carina laughed, shaking her head as she kissed Alu's cheek. "I'm fine," she promised Aran. "I've been falling off those heels all week - not when I'm dancing, just when I'm walking around. My clumsiness has exquisite timing."

"They are a little impractical," Aran said, having seen the shoes up close. Impractical was putting it mildly, he thought, but he understood they were part of her costume. "I do not understand the show," he confessed to her something he would not have admitted to Mataya.

"I don't understand all of it myself," Carina admitted. "It's rooted in the culture on one of the Earths in the 1970s, I think. There are a lot of cultural touchstones there that we just don't have."

"It has to do with an autumn festival, does it not?" he asked, uncertainly. He didn't quite understand the concept of Halloween, its origins or traditions. His own people had celebrated the autumn harvest in a very different way than did those of Rhy'Din, it seemed.

"I think so?" She didn't seem too sure about it herself. "I don't know. It's silly, and the audiences enjoy how interactive it is. So long as people have fun, I guess it doesn't really matter where it came from."

"I suppose not," Aran conceded. He knew the musical had something to do with old Earth films known as "B horror movies", but he wasn't entirely sure what that meant. "But you are enjoying the show?" he asked, as that was all that was really important.

"I am." Her smile assured him of that, at least; the costumes might have taken a little time to get used to, but inhabiting a character always helped. "Did the two of you enjoy your little glimpse into the chaos?"

Aran smiled, glancing briefly at the little girl in his arms. "We did, until someone fell asleep," he told her, though that much seemed obvious. "Are you ready to go home?" he asked, though home for now was the apartment in Rhy'Din Mataya had mentioned, until the current show had finished its run.

Carina nodded. "Oh, yes," she agreed. "I don't need to be back here for two hours or so." She stroked her hand over Aluviel's back, smiling when the little girl mumbled in her sleep before pressing her face closer into Aran's shoulder.

"Her bunny tired her out," Aran explained, though that was obviously not really true. He would have taken Carina's hand, if it were not for the fact that he was holding their daughter. He did lean closer, however, to touch a kiss to her lips. "I do not understand the play, but you were amazing," he told her quietly, even though it had only been rehearsal.

She beamed into his kiss, preening under his praise. "I am glad you enjoyed seeing part of it," she answered, shouldering her bag as they turned together to leave the auditorium. "Did I see you talking to Mataya?"

"Yes," he replied, falling into step beside her with a small thoughtful frown on his face. "She asked if I wished to return to the theater as a guest. With Josh taking a break, it seems she is short a performer," he explained.

Carina's face lit up brightly at this prospect. "Oh, what a lovely offer," she declared. "Would you consider it? I know you wanted to focus on Anarven and our family a while longer after I came back."

"I don't know," he replied, as honestly as he could. "I did not think I would miss it, but it was ... fun," he said, hesitating a moment before finding the word he was looking for. There had not been a lot of fun in his life, until he'd found himself in Rhy'Din and employed at the Shanachie.

"Fun is worth having in your life," she said gently. "No one would begrudge you a spot at the Shanachie, melamin. Anarven is thriving."

"Yes, but we would have to find someone to watch Alu," he pointed out. "Can you think of anyone who we would trust her with?" he asked, a teasing sparkle in his eyes as they both knew Carina's parents would love the chance to watch their grand-daughter from time to time.

She laughed. "There might have to be a schedule between my parents and my grand-parents," she said in amusement. One thing that was in no doubt was that Alu would always have someone who loved her to look after her in her parents' absence.

"But do you think she'd miss us too much?" he asked, with a brief but loving glance at their daughter all nestled against his chest. In truth, they wouldn't be away that much, especially if he were only performing as an occasional guest, whenever he was needed.

"I think it may be good for all of us to have a little time apart from time to time," Carina mused. "It would only be for a few hours at a time. I am sure my parents would happily live in the city for two weeks at a time during performances."

"I would only be a guest performer," he told her. At least, for now. It was the best of both worlds, really, as the saying went. That way, he'd be able to partake in the shows from time to time, but still have time for his family and his people. "I don't know why I didn't think of it before," he admitted, with a bit of a chuckle at himself, but at the time, he had thought it more important to be there for his people who had newly arrived in Rhy'Din.

"I could probably make a guess," she said, still smiling. "Whatever you do, you throw yourself into it with everything you have. It would never have occurred to you to think you could also do something else while helping our people settle in."

"No, I suppose not," Aran conceded with a faint smile. At present, he had thrown himself into being a father, but now that Alu was no longer a baby, this parenting thing was getting easier. "But how do you feel about it?" he asked, needing to know whether she'd mind him sharing involvement in the theater company with him.

"A'mael, I want to see you happy," Carina reminded him fondly, producing her keys from her bag as they turned down the side street that held their little house. "If this would add to your happiness, then of course I'm right behind it."

"I am happy, melamin," he assured her, frowning faintly. "I did not think I would miss the theater, but watching you on stage, seeing how happy you are, reminds me how much ... fun it was." There was that word again - fun. There was almost no translation for it in his language.

"Then I think you should at least give it a try," his wife told him fondly. "Mataya wouldn't ask you if she didn't think you were more than good enough to be on her stage, you know that."

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:24:40 PM »
"Have they?" Aran asked, already feeling pangs of envy at the thought of Mataya arranging for a small company to play in Tirisano. There was no question that he missed the theater, but he had not thought to ask if he could return. "Would you truly welcome me back?" he asked, curiously, though there was no reason to think she had lied to him about that.

"Without a second thought," she assured him. "I know you have an apartment here in the city that you use when Carina's on stage, and I can hook you up with a babysitter for nights when you're both performing if you need one. I miss hearing you sing, Aran."

Aran frowned again, this time feeling a mix of guilt and embarrassment at Mataya's confession. "I have been busy, but my people are mostly settled now," he told her. His main duties these days involved being a father, more than a prince.

"You should do what you want to do, Aran," 'Taya told him. "Not to please me, although I am very easy to please. We'd love to have you back, even in a guest slot. But it is your decision to make, no one else's."

He glanced at the stage, where his wife and some of the friends he'd made here were practicing for that evening's performance.

"I do miss it," he admitted quietly, mostly to himself. He'd never realized how much he might miss it, until he was no longer going to rehearsals and performances, except as Carina's husband and a member of the audience.

Mataya watched him for a moment, absently smoothing his daughter's hair from her face. "Think about it, okay?" she suggested. "You don't have to make a decision right here, right now. Talk to Carina about it and let me know."

"Yes, I will have to speak with Carina," Aran admitted.

It was a tempting offer, but he could not give Mataya an answer until he spoke with his wife. Arrangements would have to be made for their daughter, but he had a feeling there were plenty of people who would be more than happy to care for her while they were busy with the theater, including Carina's parents.

Mataya was careful not to let her delight at this hopeful response be too overwhelming, limiting herself to a happy smile.

"I look forward to hearing from you, then," she said, glancing up at the stage and then at her watch. "Looks like they're going to finish up with plenty of time for dinner before the curtain rises."

"Thank you, Mataya," he told her with a warm smile. "I appreciate the offer and will consider it," he said, which was almost as good as saying yes, though he did have to discuss it with Carina first.

"It's my pleasure, Aran," she assured him, grinning as Alu let out a deep sigh and cuddled into her father's chest, hugging her rabbit close. "Looks like someone might need to get out of here for a little bit."

Aran glanced down at his daughter, his smile deepening, and one hand absently stroking her back. "She's had a busy day," he explained. It was apparently hard work watching her mother audition, but she seemed content enough to nap against her father's chest.

"She's beautiful, Aran," Mataya said softly through her smile. "And she looks so much like you, too. No chance anyone would mistake who her father is."

"Do you think so?" he asked, brows arching upwards. He'd been told that before, but he wasn't too sure. He thought she looked like Carina, though their daughter's hair was lighter in color and closer to his.

"Yeah, I do. But I think she's got her mom's eyes." Mataya's smile softened at his expression. "She's a pretty sweet mix of the both of you."

"Thank you," he replied, his smile bright with the pride and joy of parenthood. He had never understood the depth of a parent's love until he'd had a daughter of his own. "She brings so much joy to our lives."

"That's the best part of having children," Mataya agreed. She squeezed his shoulder once again, moving to stand up. "I should get back to work. Don't be a stranger, okay?"

He would have stood, too, if it was not for the small child resting contentedly against his chest. He smiled in agreement at her statement, as well as at her welcome.

"Thank you, Mataya. You are a good friend. I will have an answer for you in a few days," he assured her. He had always thought of her as his superior, but he was starting to realize that she was also his friend.

"I'm a delightful force of nature, according to my family," she corrected him cheerfully. "Take care, Aran. Talk to you soon!"

With a last bright smile and a wave, Mataya slipped back toward the back of the stalls and the door out of the auditorium, leaving him to consider what had been said as the rehearsal broke up on stage.

Unable to argue with that, he only chuckled as she departed. He had come here to watch Carina practice, but it seemed he would be going away with something more to think about. He waved a hand toward the stage to get Carina's attention before carefully moving to his feet, little Aluviel still napping in his arms. He didn't really understand what the show was all about, but he could still appreciate the absurdity of it.

Thankfully, it hadn't been a full dress rehearsal, so his wife only needed to change out of the ridiculous high heels before hopping down off the stage to join him.

"Well, at least we know if it goes wrong again we can just keep going," she said cheerfully, leaning up to kiss his cheek.

"Are you all right?" he asked, looking just a little concerned. "I saw you trip." Thankfully, Mataya had proved enough of a distraction that he hadn't rushed onto the stage to make sure she was unhurt.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / A Few Changes
« on: October 23, 2019, 08:24:23 PM »
Not every production goes smoothly. At the Shanachie, as with many other theaters across the multiverse, sometimes the performers were asked to arrive an hour or so earlier than they would for the next performance, to run through what had gone awry the evening before. Today was one of those days.

Mataya De Luca, owner and sometime performer when she could be talked into it, stood in the back of the stalls, watching the swift run-through of two of the musical numbers with a practised eye. A quiet giggle caught her attention, and she let her eyes slip toward a figure seated in the stalls, a toddler on his lap. Oh, yes. She'd been hoping to catch Aran for a quick chat.

The giggle was coming from little Aluviel - Aran and Carina's daughter - who had just turned two in June and who was half-elf and half-human, like her parents before her. It seemed the giggling was in part due to the silliness taking part on stage, but mostly due to the fact that her father was silently imitating the actions with his daughter's stuffed bunny.

Smiling at the little scene, Mataya pushed herself from her lean against the back wall, making her way toward the father and daughter. Her hand gently touched Aran's shoulder as she slipped a couple of seats along the row behind him.

"Hello, stranger."

A few years ago, Aran might have been startled by the interruption, as gentle and friendly as it was, but he had come a long way since his arrival in Rhy'Din some years ago. Instead of a startled expression, he only smiled, pleasantly surprised to find Mataya herself greeting him.

"Mae govannen, Mataya," he greeted her in his native language. "You remember Alu," he added, regarding his daughter.

"I do," Mataya agreed, leaning over the back of the seat to gently tweak Aluviel's nose. "Getting prettier every time I see her, too." The toddler beamed, holding up her rabbit to have his nose tweaked as well, which Mataya was more than happy to do. "You're looking well, Aran," she added, smiling at the half-elf warmly.

"As are you," he replied, not only because it was polite, but because it was true. He hoped he was right in his assumption, as he thought it impolite to pry. "Carina has been so excited to get back to work again," he said, smiling warmly. She hadn't had a large part in the recent production of Mary Poppins, but had played the lead role in My Fair Lady back in July.

"That voice of hers just gets stronger and stronger," Mataya told him, deeply approving of the very musical young family she insisted she had brought together just by employing the pair of them. "How is your voice doing these days? Not missing the theater?"

There was a brief small flicker of a frown on his face at the question. Either he was confused by the questions or troubled by them.

"My voice has not changed, Mataya," he told her, unsure why it would. Even without training and practice, he was gifted with a naturally perfect tenor voice.

Laughing quietly, Mataya patted his shoulder. "I always manage to confuse you, don't I?" she said. "I'm wondering if you would like to be a guest here again, Aran. Josh is taking time away, since they're expecting their first."

"A guest?" Aran echoed, looking just a little less confused. "But I did not audition," he pointed out. Then again, she had invited him without a formal audition once before, and it was her theater; hence, she could do whatever she wanted. "Did Josh tell you to ask me?" he said, a little suspiciously.

Josh and Dru had told him they were taking time off from the theater and had even gone so far as hinted that Mataya might be looking for someone to take Josh's place, but Aran hadn't thought much about it.

"As a former cast member in good standing, you don't need to audition," she pointed out to him. The suspicion in his voice and face made her laugh quietly. "I may have suggested to him that you would be my first choice if you were interested, but I didn't think he was listening. I genuinely think he was expecting me to throw him out for needing to take time with his family."

Both Josh and Aran were not only juggling a wife and family, but royal duties as princes of their respective nations and people. It was why chiefly why Aran had left the theater a few years ago, to focus on helping his people settle in Rhy'Din, but that had mostly been accomplished by now.

"His life has changed since becoming Prince Consort," Aran pointed out, though Mataya likely knew that already. He wasn't sure exactly what kind of responsibilities Josh and Dru had to manage in the neighboring country of Tirisano, but he had a feeling it kept them busy.

"So I hear," she agreed quietly. "But there'll always be a place open for him here, if he wants it. Same goes for Dru, although I get why she won't perform again. All it would take would be one photograph, and the scandal would be immense for them."

"Scandal?" Aran echoed, looking a little confused again. Even after a few years here, Rhy'Din could still be a little confusing. "Why would there be a scandal?" Dru was a sovereign in her own nation, but she was just Dru Granger here in Rhy'Din.

"A ruling monarch taking time out of her duties to perform on stage in another country would cause no end of unrest at home," Mataya explained with a regretful smile. "Tirisano doesn't have the same culture that we do here in Rhy'Din - they don't have musical theater, or any race other than human. Josh and Dru are working on that, but it's going to take time."

"I see," Aran murmured.

There was that frown again, this time thoughtful. His people hadn't known theater either, until they'd come here, but he and Carina had introduced it to them and encouraged their patronage of the Shanachie and other theaters in Rhy'Din. His answer was mostly in reply to the mention of scandal, though. He didn't need to worry about such things, now that he and his people were settled in Rhy'Din. He privately wondered if the people of Tirisano were prejudiced against elves and other races, but was too polite to ask. Josh and Dru had never seemed to be, but he wasn't sure that mattered.

"Do you think they will miss it?"

"Honestly? Yeah, I think they will." Mataya sighed softly, glancing up at the stage as someone took a fall from their heels. She smirked faintly at the laughter this entailed before returning to the conversation. "But it doesn't mean they'll stop visiting here, or stop coming to the theater. They've already asked if I can put together a small company to introduce musical theater to Tirisano, so they obviously have plans on that score."

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re:
« on: March 13, 2019, 06:37:59 PM »
"That is all you wish?" Aran asked, brows arching upwards as he came to a halt not from the little gnome's home. He had expected him to demand payment in the way of gold or gems or perhaps some rare artifact, not simply peace and solitude.

The little druid turned back to face him, one bony finger pointing down at the ground at his feet. "Four hundred years I've tended this soil, cared for this land," he declared. "Not long now. Heh, new druid needed soon! See what you do then!" He cackled for a moment, coughing into his wide palm.

"Are you ill?" Aran asked, coming a single step closer, his expression turning compassionate. He knew a little healing; not so much as some of those among his kind, but he was not afraid to help those who needed it.

"Hehehe, can't heal this, elf boy," the gnome told him with confident amusement. "The Mother calls. Part of the natural way, so 'tis." He sobered, letting out a long sigh. "Peace should be mine before I go. So many voices, so many intruders. No peace."

"What if we could bring you such peace?" Aran asked. He wasn't sure yet how it might be accomplished, but he was willing to try to find out, whether the solution mean magic or some other means. He felt a twinge of sympathy for the old gnome, who only desired a little peace before he died. And yet, there was still the matter of the gnolls and the captive drow.

For a moment, the old gnome looked his age, small and wizened and tired of life. "Give much, I would, for peace at the end," he said wearily, shaking his head.

Luin glanced at Hal, uncertain if she should interrupt with the idea in her mind. Perhaps she should wait until Aran had responded himself.

"All we ask is for advice ..." Aran said, trailing off a moment as he glanced to the trees in search of the hummingbird. "What will happen to the drow when you are gone?" he asked curiously, wondering if it was even necessary to bargain for her release or if it an inevitability.

Nesgrim let out a dismissive huff of breath. "Spells die when I die," he said. "Tree dies. She wears tree, she dies. No more drow." His laugh was definitely unpleasant.

Aran frowned again. He wasn't sure why he cared so much about either the gnome or the drow, but it wasn't in his nature not to care. "If we can give you the peace you so desire, then will you tell us how to keep the gnolls from the village and free the drow into our care?"

Nesgrim scowled. "How?" he asked warily.

Luin saw her chance - she was the only magic user here. "We can create a barrier, with magic," she offered in a quiet tone. "One that will allow the animals and the plants to cross freely, but nothing and no one else."

Aran glanced at Luin, brows arching upwards. He had considered a similar solution to their gnoll problem, but how long would such a thing hold up and how hard would it be to keep in place?

"There you have it," Aran said, turning back to the gnome. "What do you say to that?"

Nesgrim scratched at his bald patch thoughtfully. "You magic, red?"

Luin shook her head. "I'm learning," she told him. "But we have mages and wizards who could do this."

The gnome frowned. "Gnolls easy," he admitted, waving a hand. "Three days, you come back."

"And the drow?" Aran asked, hoping he wasn't pressing his luck, but whatever her bloodline, she was clearly an elf, and he could not in good conscience leave her to die.

The gnome's frown deepened to a scowl. "Drow dies," he said irritably. "Less evil in the world when she does."

Luin sighed, her eyes seeking Hal once again. They could possibly steal the little hummingbird, but how could they change her back and get that circlet from her neck?

"That is not what you said," Aran pointed out, turning the druid's words back around on him. "You said we could pay for her freedom, and the price is your peace. Those are the terms of our bargain."

The sharp eyes narrowed above the scowl. But the prospect of a peaceful end was too enticing, and though he didn't know Aran, he knew Raniel would not send a liar. "Fine, she too," he grumped, waving his hand. "Three days, gnolls gone. You keep promise, drow go with you then."

"You have my word as Prince of Ilyethlin," Aran replied, though Ilyethlin was no more. "We will return in three days. Now, please return our weapons so that we can leave you in peace," he told the druid. They might need them in case they ran into the gnolls on the way back.

"Take 'em." The gnome jerked his head toward the collection of weapons stacked by one of the large roots. He muttered to himself as he stumped back into his tree house, slamming the door behind him.

Luin rolled her eyes, sighing. "It could have gone worse."

"It could have gone better," Hal muttered, now that the druid had left them alone. He went to the cache of weapons to retrieve his bow and his sword, while Aran's eyes drifted once again to the trees in search of that elusive hummingbird.

"What do you know of dark elves, Luin? Are they really evil, as the druid claims?"

Strapping her weapons back into place, Luin considered the question. "I know that the drow are evil, but they are also matriarchal, and no drow female would ever meekly consent to being collared like that," she said thoughtfully. "Most dark elves in Rhy'Din don't conform to that mould - that's why they're here."

"They are refugees, like us," Aran said, more statement than question. He wasn't sure if he included Luin in that statement, as he wasn't entirely sure of her history, but he assumed she was alluding to something like that.

"Or outcasts," she agreed quietly. "I don't feel a sense of evil from this one. She didn't even look us in the eye." Above them, the hummingbird flitted in and out of the branches, unable to come down, it seemed, without the gnome's instruction.

There was that pang of sympathy again, and Aran frowned, as he watched the pretty thing flit about in an attempt to free herself. "We will come back for you in a few days, little one. I swear," he promised her quietly. "And then, you will be free."

Whether the little hummingbird heard or not did not truly matter. What mattered was that the promise had been made, the bargain struck. With luck, in just a few days, they would have both peace with the gnolls and a new member of their sanctuary home. Yet all they could do now was wait, and hope that Nesgrim was true to his word.

Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re:
« on: March 13, 2019, 06:37:38 PM »
"Oh, that red one's too flighty with her arrows." The gnome waved his staff, and the vines hoisted Luin just a little higher off the ground. He cackled, turning back to Aran. "Prince, he say?"

"I was a prince once. It no longer matters. That place is no more. Here I am just another of Rhy'Din's refugees, though I do my best to keep my people safe." Aran glanced over at his friends and frowned, assuming the druid did not trust them because of their weapons. "If they put their weapons aside, will you let them down?" he asked, as politely as he could.

Nesgrim considered this, then nodded, the movement dislodging a few leaves from his wild hair.

"Girl!" he yelled, his cracked voice uncomfortably loud in the stillness.

There was a suggestion of movement in the shadows of the oak's branches, and a small hummingbird swept down toward them, transforming at a snap of the gnome's fingers into a diminutive dark elven woman. Her clothing was ragged, but had once been finely made, her hair silver-white against stone dark skin, and around her neck was twisted a circle of those same vines. The gnome banged his staff on the ground, and that circle tightened for just a moment before loosening.

"Weapons. Take 'em."

The dark elf nodded, keeping her eyes downcast, and moved to take the weapons from the hanging elves - first from Luin, and then Hal.

Aran's face betrayed first astonishment at the transformation, then confusion at the elf's presence here, and then his brows furrowed in annoyance at the realization that she was most likely - for whatever reason - a prisoner of the druid. Though he tried not to show it, that rankled him a little. He had seen a few of her kind in Rhy'Din and though she was darker skinned than his own people, she was obviously of elven blood.

"Who is she?" he asked, as he looked back at the druid. "And why is she here?"

The gnome scowled, spitting at the dark elf's bare feet. "Drow," he muttered. "Murderers, thieves, all of them. Womenfolk the worst. Earning her life is what she is doing."

The elven woman slipped past, stacking the weapons carefully out of reach. As she straightened, Nesgrim thumped his staff against the ground again, and where the dark elf had stood now hovered the hummingbird once more.

Aran had been of a mind to give up the knife he'd hidden inside his boot, but the elf had collected the weapons too quickly for him to do so, and he had decided he did not trust the gnome enough to give up the only weapon the three of them might have between them. "You have proof that she has done these things?" he asked, even though the matter of the elf wasn't what had brought him here.

"Don't need proof," Nesgrim muttered, waving the hummingbird back into the branches above them. "Drow. All drow are evil."

Luin snorted. "Not all of them are," she objected. "And you're keeping her as a slave!" The vines lifted her higher, as though in warning.

"As all gnomes are stubborn and hot-headed, I suppose," Aran countered, though he knew very little of gnomes. "It is wrong to keep her imprisoned, and even worse to keep her as a slave," he said, his voice low, but not threatening. He was frowning at the thought of it, reminded too much of home, where elves and humans hated each other so much they had nearly destroyed themselves.

Nesgrim snorted, the motion blowing his beard and moustache out for a moment in a cloud of midges. "You want her free? You pay me."

Aran frowned, unsure if he should continue with the bargaining when the elf was not the reason they had come. His first order of business was the gnolls. "You have our weapons. Set my friends free," he said, his voice even and undemanding, but not leaving much room for argument either.

The gnome grumbled, but tapped his staff on the ground once again. The vines holding Hal and Luin abruptly released them, letting the pair drop to the forest floor sharply.

"What do you want?" Nesgrim demanded, turning to stump back toward his tree home.

Hal was quick to roll to his feet, and he moved to help Luin to hers, though he didn't want to lose sight of his prince. Aran glanced over at his friends as they were so unceremoniously dropped on the ground, but seeing that Hal seemed to have things well in hand, he turned back to the gnome, stepping forward to follow, but not getting too close.

"We seek knowledge," Aran replied. "Our village was attacked by a pack of gnolls and we would seek a peaceful way to prevent another attack."

"Gnolls, eh?" Nesgrim paused, half-turning back toward them. "Food or fighting. Both is best."

Luin rolled her eyes, grateful to Hal for helping her up. "This is getting us nowhere," she murmured.

"We don't want to make pets of them," Aran pointed out. "But we need to ensure the safety of the village." He did not think he needed to point out that innocent lives were at stake should the gnolls continue their attacks. "I would prefer a peaceful solution, rather than one of violence."

"Why should I help you, hmm?" The last syllable was a sharp huff of breath pointed directly at Aran. "What do I get for sending them on? I have duties, responsibilities. Drow to feed." He shot an angry glance into the branches over head.

Aran bristled a little, but hoped the gnome didn't notice. He might have pointed out that the druid got the satisfaction of saving innocent lives, but somehow he didn't think he'd care. Lives lost might just mean fewer people to chop down trees and hunt animals in the forest. And he wouldn't have to feed the drow if he let her go free, but somehow Aran thought this argument wouldn't go over well with the gnome.

"What is it that you want?" he asked, wondering if perhaps they could strike a bargain.

"To be left alone," Nesgrim grumbled. "Gnolls and drow and elves, all asking, asking, asking, needing, wanting, taking. Quiet and calm is what I want, no more voices interrupting the Mother."

Luin tilted her head, frowning curiously. She wished she had a means to communicate with the prince without Nesgrim hearing - she thought she could see a means to give the old gnome what he wanted.

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