Carina considered this, biting down on her initial flash of fear. The last time they had been separated, he had come back a changed man. "Well, you do have a certain rank," she mused. "Do you agree, though? You don't have to go if you don't wish to, just because my father suggested it."
"I know, but ..." Aran frowned thoughtfully. He didn't want to leave his wife and daughter, even for a few days, but he also had a certain responsibility to his people, and he couldn't always expect someone else to do things for him. "Your father seems to think I should speak with the druid myself. Perhaps he is right," he said, with a small shrug. "What kind of leader am I if I always send others to speak for me?"
"One who knows how to delegate," Carina pointed out with a rueful smile. "No, I understand. But if you do go, I want you to take Luin with you. I know she isn't one of yours, but she's known to Nesgrim, and she won't interfere with the negotiation."
"I will likely take them both with me," Aran agreed, regarding their friends. Hal had once been a royal guard and Luin was familiar with Nesgrim. It made sense for them both to accompany him.
"Good." Carina nodded, relieved that he wasn't proposing to go into the woods alone to talk to a grumpy druid. "You will likely be out for a night, then. Even if Nesgrim doesn't give in and offer you a place to sleep for the night, you will have to make camp before returning."
"Yes, I thought it would be best to take them with me," he said, especially considering the threat of gnolls in the area - a threat Hal and Luin had already faced. "I only hope he sees fit to help us," he said, looking doubtful.
She stepped closer, drawing her fingers gently against his cheek. "Have faith in yourself, dear one," she murmured. "You can do this. I believe in you."
For everything he'd accomplished, he was still sometimes that orphaned half-elf, feeling a little lost and alone without the love and support of his own family to help him. At least, he had Carina and her family and their friends to turn to when he was unsure of himself. "You sound like my mother," he said, smiling a little at the memory of her. She'd sacrificed her own life so that he could live, so that he could bring their people to safety. How could he ever live up to that?
"I'm your wife," she reminded him fondly. "The mother of your daughter. And I love you, so much. I wouldn't be me if I didn't believe in you to the bottom of my heart. I know you can do this, Aran."
"I will try, Carina," he told her, drawing her into his arms, more for his sake than hers, perhaps. "And I will come home to you. I promise," he assured her. After all, he wasn't going to battle, except with words, and if they ran into trouble, he'd have Hal and Luin with him. There was no one he trusted more.
"Not bleeding this time, I hope," she murmured, curling her arms about his waist as he drew her in close, resting her head against his shoulder. "The sooner this is settled, the better, for all our sakes."
"I hope not, too," he replied, holding her close. He had no intentions of dying; he still had far too much living to do. "Hal and Luin need a day or two to rest. We will go, then. I will speak to the council today and inform them," he said, though he doubted she cared much about that. "Perhaps you should stay here with your parents while I'm away. It won't be long."
"Remember to bring Luin and Hal back here so they can find out where they are going to be sleeping tonight," Carina reminded him with a smile. "Naneth and I can put together a package of food for them."
"I will," he promised. "I am happy for them," he said, circling back to their earlier conversation. Things seemed to be working out nicely. He only hoped this Nesgrim would be able to help them negotiate peace.
"So am I." Carina's smile warmed as she lingered in his arms. "Luinithlas has been quietly hoping for quite some time, but she didn't know how to broach it with Hal. I wonder what finally broke the silence."
"Perhaps it was danger," Aran suggested. Perhaps one or the other of their friends had decided to speak up about their feelings before it was too late.
"Perhaps." She laughed softly. "I don't think we will ever know, though. They are awfully secretive - I wouldn't put it past Luin to try and hide being pregnant if it comes to it."
"She will not be able to hide it forever," he pointed out, smiling with the thought of it. "What about you, lirimaer?" he asked. "Would you like another child someday?" As enamored of Aluviel as he was, he was hoping to have more than one.
Carina's face lit up in a bright smile. "I would be delighted to have another child someday," she assured him, wondering how long he had been thinking about adding to their little family. There didn't seem to be any biological reason why they couldn't have more children, after all.
"Alu will be two years old in a few months. What do you think she'd say about a little brother or sister?" he asked, brushing her hair back from her face as he met her gaze with a bright smile of his own.
Her face tilted toward his touch. "I think she would be happy to have a brother or sister," she murmured contentedly. "She's the youngest in the village right now by several years. Having someone close to her age to play with would be a good thing. Don't you think?"
"I do, and it might give our people hope," he said, though that didn't mean he expected them all to choose to mingle their bloodlines. In time, he hoped just being in Rhy'Din would cure his people's inability to conceive.
"I'll even let you be the one to tell Mataya I'm pregnant when it happens this time," Carina teased him. She could still remember being half-throttled in the theater owner's delight on their behalf.
Aran laughed. "She might harass me into performing again," he said, though he doubted it. If anything, she was likely to do little more than tease him. "I miss the theater sometimes. It is where I met you," he said, a soft smile on his face at the memory of it.
She laughed affectionately at the memory. "Possibly the only good thing my clumsiness has ever brought me was the opportunity to ask you out," she admitted impishly.
"You are not clumsy, melamin," he assured her, and even if she was, it only endeared her to him all the more. "Amin mela lle," he whispered, touching his forehead to hers.
Whatever challenge it was that was facing them, they'd get through it together. That's what family was for.