Titos' Adventures: Unexpected Visitors 17
Titos cut another small log, his breath coming in great puffs. He had been out here for almost an hour cutting fire wood with the hardest damn trees he had ever come across. There were days when even he considered picking up an arcane art or two. Armin sat in a tree just above his head, his legs kicking in the air as he hummed some sort of tune. Titos looked up to flash him a smile but that moment ended quickly. His mood darkened as he beheld a figure sitting upon a large golden griffin right before him. A person with grey hair and a long flowing robe, his grey eyes eyed Titos coldly.
"Armin. Go inside." Titos commanded as he dropped his ax. "Now!" he added when the young eagleman did not respond.
Armin floated down and entered the house quickly.
Titos' attention returned to his "guest." "Your wife has not sent word for you to be here. I suggest you go and not come back."
"Actually, I have other reasons for being here..." The king began but was cut off.
"Father!" Ryn dropped his bundle of kindling.
"Ryn, go inside."
"Titos you have no right to keep me..." Titos moved forward and grabbed the surprised prince. He stormed through the house and up the stairs. Hal came out of his room as they passed by..
"What the hell are you doing out of bed?" Titos snapped angrily.
His gentle lover eyed him carefully. "I am wondering why Armin burst into my room crying and why you are dragging Ryn up the stairs screaming?"
Titos growled. He looked up at the stairs and found himself having trouble holding onto the squirming lover in his arms. Pushing Hal back into the room and glancing at Armin to see if he was okay, Titos dropped Ryn on the floor and slammed the door shut, locking it securely. He then descended down the stairs. "Who the hell do you think you are? What makes you think you have the right to come here?"
The elven king eyed him slowly. "These are free lands. I have every right to visit an elven citizen if I so wish. I see he is alive and well. I will do what I came to do and then depart."
Titos fumed. "You didn't come here to see him?"
The king laughed lowly. "I came here in hopes that I would be able to deliver my gift without hearing nor seeing from him. We can not all be blessed with what we wish. Here." He held out his hand and displayed a small gold chain with what looked like an acorn attached to the end.
Titos frowned and took it.
"Give this to him, and remind him to address me in a more proper manner." With that, he flew away.
A loud sob caught his attention and he turned to see Ryn standing in the doorway, tears streaming down his face.
"Ryn..." Before he could finish, Ryn disappeared back up the stairs.
Hal leaned against the doorway weakly. "I am sorry. He was quicker with his spell, and I couldn't hold him."
Titos sighed. "Let me take you back up. Is Armin still in the room?"
Hal accepted his offer and was carried up the stairs in Titos' arm. "Yes, but do not worry, I will talk to him. Go to Ryn."
Titos opened the door slowly. Ryn lay on his bed, his face buried in his silky pillow sobbing hard enough to make his shoulders shake. The scene look all to familiar. "Ryn." Titos pulled him into a big hug, drying away the tears. "It's all right."
"I thought he wanted to... He did not..."
"I know." Titos spoke soothingly. "I know. It is his loss. He wanted me to give this to you but I sooner throw it away than be insulted by such a meaningless little."
"No!" Ryn snatched it away before he had a chance to crush it. "He gave it to me. It means he still cares."
"Ryn, that elf does not care at all. Stop deluding yourself."
"Never say that to me!" Ryn struck him across the chin. "Get out!"
Titos stood up heavily and closed the door behind him. Sighing when he hear the elf continue to sob "he gave it to me." What reason did the king have to come here and crush his youngest child's heart?
3 days later
Titos, Ryn, Hal, and Armin sat around the table eating a meatless stew during the early eve. Titos tried to keep a smile on his face for he knew his lovers had worked hard to get these vegetables to last through the cold season. They were certainly crunchy enough but had no taste. It was like chewing cloth. His smile broadened as he bit into some kind of mushroom, that certainly had flavor and a raunchy one. Titos cleared his throat. "I am thinking about going hunting tomorrow. The wolves are over populating the area again and wolf meat is not that bad. Interested Ryn?"
The elf stopped stirring his stew. "No, it was nice of you to offer."
Hal tapped the table lightly. "Trohan said the moons will be shifting tomorrow night. I am not familiar with the patterns of the stars. Ryn, perhaps you can tell Armin and me their names?"
Ryn sighed. "Actually, I think I will be retiring early tonight and tomorrow."
Hal gave Titos a worried look. Titos nodded. "We still have some berries left, Ryn. Perhaps you would care for those more."
The deep purple eyes looked at him for a moment, and then he smiled sadly. "If I can not tolerate what I make, I would not set it on the table. I am just not hungry, thank you."
They continued in uncomfortable silence. Then there was a rap at the door. Relief at last, Titos excused himself and opened the door. He drew his blade just in case; the warrior was not expecting anyone.
"Hmm, answers the door with a blade drawn. A definite black mark from me." A female voice answered. A young woman, wearing a light red hat looked up at him. Her eyes shown a deep grey and her long, light blonde hair fell over her shoulders and nearly reached her knees. The rest of her dress was similarly red and white. She tilted her head to the side and studied him. "A bit too big." She reached out a pinched his arm. "Yep, could certainly loose some weight. Ryn can do better."
"Amaiat, darling, behave yourself." The priestess of Wrenn strode up the stairs and smiled fondly at Titos. "Good evening. I hope our calling is not too late. We would have stayed at that delightful inn of your friend's, but I could not see myself missing my sons birthday." In her hand was a package.
"Greetings Titos. I see you have met our sister Amaiat . She has come a long way to stand on your doorstep." Fareal stepped into the light, carrying two packages. One wrapped in bright red which had a bow on it and the other in mere green wrapping. Titos figured the former to be from the sister.
Titos frowned. "Birthday. Ryn never mentioned that to any of us. Come in, we are just finishing supper." He escorted the new guests to the table and spent the next ten minutes searching for and finding three more chairs.
Amaiat filled the rest of the evening describing various storms she had encountered and filling Titos in on the latest news. She also spent a great deal of flirting with Hal which nearly caused Titos to end the visit right then. After a few subtle hints from Fareal, she finally got the picture and backed off. Ryn remained uncharacteristically quiet while his mother conversed quietly with Armin. After a few hours of pleasantries, Ryn's mother announced it was time to open gifts.
Ryn smiled at the idea but little else. He opened the first one from his sister, which turned out to be a new silvery brush with a ruby in it and a matching comb. He opened the next one, which consisted of a number of arrows, four red, ten black, and twenty green tipped heads.
"I was assured that the green ones will never break and so you can retrieve them every time. The red ones will always strike their mark and the black are sharp enough to cut through nearly any substance."
Ryn smiled slowly. "Thank you all."
Fareal gave Titos a worried glance. Unfortunately, Titos had nothing to assure him with.
"That is not all dear. You have yet to open my gift."
The young prince nodded. "Very well." He took his time opening the silvery cloth. Inside was what looked like a tiny gem bird.
The queen quickly explained. "This magical item can come and go from the temple to your new home without rest. Place a letter in its claws, and I will be able to answer more promptly."
Ryn stared at the bird and said nothing.
His mother continued to watch him, her purple eyes glistening with sorrow. "If you do not like the gift, I will certainly get you another."
"No. Mother it is very lovely and thoughtful. Will you be staying?"
The queen sighed. "Alas, no. I must depart almost at once if I am to make the next ceremony. Fareal will be staying, I believe."
Fareal nodded slowly.
"I would love to stay too, but I am due back as well. I plan on making another visit though, and soon." Amaiat smiled slightly.
Ryn nodded slowly. Placing the gifts back on the table, tears nearly swelled in his eyes.
"Ryn, my love, what is wrong?" His mother pressed gently.
"I know it is customary to give only one gift but..."
"Ryn, it is not in good taste to ask for more." Fareal advised though with a slow smile on his face, his grey-violet eyes brimming with concern..
Ryn glanced at him and continued. "If I return this... Do you think that... well maybe... could you stay another day?"
The queen covered her mouth slowly, her deep purple eyes filling with sorrow. "Oh honey. I am so sorry. I would stay another day or a week if I could. You would not need to ask. "
Ryn smiled weakly. "You are right. I am sorry. I had not the right to ask you. No good could have come from such a silly notion. Tonight, I am afraid I am not much a host nor good company. I think I will retire for the night. Thank you all for coming." He stood gracefully and headed up the stairs.
The queen eyed him for a moment. "Ryn."
Her youngest son turned to her.
"I will be here in the morning when you wake up."
Ryn smiled, and then went to bed.
Titos decided to have the others go to bed as well. Hal still needed to recover and Armin tired easily. When everyone was secure, he returned to his new family downstairs. "His father." Was all he had to say.
"What did he do this time?" Fareal snapped angrily.
"Easy honey. My husband must have showed up a few days ago. It is customary for the king to send a gift to all elven citizens on the day of their birth. The family celebrates the Naming Day, the day identity is birthed." The queen sighed. "What happened?"
Titos explained the occurrence and was surprised to see the sister was clearly the most upset.
"That bastard! I am so sick and tired of this kind of crap. You," she turned on Fareal. "You told me he had changed. That things were different. I spent half a year coming back to this place only to find out that my little brother is getting his heart torn out by the 'changed king.'"
Fareal frowned. "He was different when I sent you word. He still is. Ryn is still living here as he pleases whereas before he would have had him locked up. Mother has denied him any such power."
Amaiat continued. "The nerve. To show up here and slap my little brother in the face with a gift that even the worst elven criminals receive! I have to get out of here before I get sick." She muttered as she stood.
"Calm down honey." She turned to Titos. "The seed is a gift of life and growth. Elves are given the seed to plant so when they reach my husbands age of over 1500 or greater, a whole forest has bloomed in their name. It is a sacred tradition and one the royal family has always kept in take. It is odd for him to do so personally. My Ryn is strong, I am confident that he will get through this with you by his side." She stood slowly. "I am very weary from the journey. Do not worry, for I know my way around. My youngest has described this place very vivid to me in his many letters. I will take care of my husband Titos. I promise. There will be an end to this." She smiled slowly and ventured up the stairs to an intact quest room.
Amaiat pulled her cloak back on. "Well, I am off. My horse is still ready. Are you sure you do not wish to go with me? Life on the road can be very rewarding."
Fareal hugged her tightly. "I have responsibilities here. Promise me you will let me know when you come back as well."
She flashed him a smile. "Of course. Thank you for keeping me up to date with the family. You will be the first know." Amaiat opened the door and found herself staring a large chest. Stepping back she frowned. "Hello. What have we here?"
"Rath," Fareal breathed, his eyes wide in horror. He backed away, glancing at Titos.
Rath cleared his throat. "I apologize for my untimely arrival. I sent word but shall assume by the looks on your faces that you did not receive and thus were unable to tell me to wait. I am surprised to see your guests up and about this late." He showed Titos a small box. "I brought a gift for the prince."
Amaiat smiled. "Well, what an unexpected surprise. Fareal, did you know..." She turned and saw that her brother had become several shades lighter and his bottom lip trembled. "Fareal what is wrong?"
Fareal straightened himself and spoke levelly.. "Nothing. I just realized I have business to attend. Traveling with you would be preferable. "
Titos moved forward and clamped a hand on the shaking shoulders. "Don't go. Ryn needs you."
Fareal blinked away his rising tears and whispered, "I can not stay here if..."
Rath nodded. "Very well, I will merely drop this off and be on my way."
"No! This will work out. Rath is better now Fareal. He will not harm you again, I swear it. He is no longer with the dark enemy. Let the war die while you live on. You must push it behind you."
Amaiat frowned. "I really should be going. Fareal, I can stay another day..."
"No, go on without me. Titos is right, Ryn needs me. Travel safely."
Amaiat grinned. "I am always cautious. Good luck to you all. I will return soon." With that she left.
Titos, Fareal and Rath merely watched each other in silence. Neither one knowing how to proceed. Finally Rath stepped in and closed the door. Fareal instinctively stepped back, being halted only by Titos' presence. Titos gripped his shoulder in assurance. The silence remained until Fareal finally found the voice to excuse himself for the night.
Seeing the elf depart, Titos invited his guest into the sitting room where the fire burned hot. The two men sat in chair facing each other.
"What did you get him?"
Rath smiled slowly. "I wondered if you would trust me with what I would give. It is a silver mirror."
Titos raised an eyebrow. "Just a silver mirror?"
Rath's grin widened. "Of course. It has a history which I have documented as well. An impressive lineage indeed."
"Ah... so why did you really come?" Titos rarely saw his friend sit on the edge of a chair in apprehension before.
The large blonde's grey eyes narrowed as he realized his posture. Casually he sat back. "Is your lover's birthday not occasion enough? Did you not invite me?"
Titos nodded. "Yes I did and no it is not. It is more likely for you to send a messenger. How goes your new toy?"
Rath smiled instantly. "Funny you should mention him. He is still breathing, that should count for something, I would think."
The warrior shrugged. He could care less if Ridik was rotting. "I must say I am surprised."
"Why should you be? I have always had a taste for elves... even the "garbage" ones. I know you do not hate me, but rarely would you place a slave at my feet. What did he do to deserve such a fate from you?"
Titos snorted. "He didn't tell you. I am surprised he isn't gloating. He raped Ryn and then was aided in the attempt his father had to send the prince to someone else's bed on a permanent basis. The queen and I sent him to you, for the king seems to dismiss the many charges Ridik has had presented against him."
Rath blinked slowly. It was often a display of thought or emotion in the events the dragon-rider tried to remain impassive. "When you speak of father... you are referring to Ryn and his father the king."
Was that or question or not. Titos shrugged. "Of course."
"In any event I do not wish to overstay my welcome. I am hoping to send messages of arrival the next time but rarely do things turn out as we wish." The former commander stood, nodding a good-bye.
That was an odd visit. Had Titos told the man what he wanted. If so, what had he said that was of any importance? "Rath, are you all right?"
His first-lover turned to him. "Have I given you reason to believe otherwise."
Titos frowned. "I am just worried. That is all."
Rath nodded, his grey-eyes alit by a fire of an unknown source. "I am not one of your lovers that you can protect and cherish with your heart Titos. I never was."
Titos felt that small pang of pain that often came in this man's presence. "No you weren't. You have changed so much since then."
Again, the blonde nodded. "Yes, I have. Are we still friends?"
Titos stood, his eyes seeking for answers that weren't there. "Could you walk away so easily."
"There is never anything easy about the choices we make. Your life has changed and so has mine. In the event that you wish to spare yourself of certain conflicts or pain, I could depart as a necessity. It does not mean I would not feel the separation."
Titos sighed heavily. "Who are you?"
Rath eyed him curiously, the familiar light returning to his eyes. "Am I the man that drank himself silly and found himself sharing the bed with the most pompous warrior he had ever met that night? Yes. Am I the man that looked into the eyes of the ugliest scaly thing he had encountered in the mountains one night and knew that destiny had brought him there? Yes. Does the man who cried for the loss of his daughter and wife in your very arms exist?... yes. I am also the man that pierced the heart of the first elven heir and the one who raped the other three... ones. I waged war to keep my soul-mate happy, and now I slaver once again to entertain myself." He paused. "All those people live and thrive within the form you see now. I drink the drug of Power daily. The question is not who I am but whether you can accept all that I am? I have taken your invitation into your home as a yes. If am not correct... let us clear it up now."
Titos frowned. "The invitation stands firm and will most likely always do so. Whether you admit it or not, you have a heart. And it has only grown since I have met you. You feel things that you don't even acknowledge as worth noting. Why did you end the war?'
"The dark army was losing. The War of Powers is coming to an end, and I was on the losing side. My soul-mate no longer had the desire..."
"No," Titos nearly shouted. "The real reason. I want the real reason. It was the massacre in the north, wasn't it? The slaughter of that entire elven culture. Men, woman, children. Even their pets left in the streets to rot." Titos moved closer. "Their horses were put under the knife because they were elven and the elven race defies Zeliyn's very nature. They took a pregnant woman and slit open her belly and took the child screaming...."
"Enough!" Rath hissed. "Yes. You win Titos as you always must. I resigned after hearing of that disgrace. When the war became a butcher. I left. Do not think you can convert me to your beliefs in any event."
Titos smiled slowly. "I will think whatever I wish. I have not given up on you, and I never will."
Rath sighed. "If that is your wish. It is your wish. I must depart now. I have other errands to run and must return to my elf within a few weeks else he'll do something he and I will both regret." The former commander stepped through the door but was stopped by Titos large hand.
"It is all right to go back on your word in some cases. You and your dragon share a bound not live it. Compassion is not a weakness."
The dark grey eyes considered him silently. "Is the teaching lesson over... May this student leave?" The voice was neutral but the blonde's stance was anything but threatening.
Titos stepped aside. "Have a safe journey." Then Rath left. Titos smiled slowly. He was getting somewhere... he could feel it. He may never get that warrior to view all others as equals, but there was a great deal else to work for.
Ryn heard Fareal slip into his room quietly. He could tell it was his brother by the swishing the ponytail often made as he walked. The youngest watched his brother, from the safety of his bed, take a blanket and lay down on a sofa way too small for him. Sitting up slowly, Ryn spoke. "Fareal. Is something wrong?"
The grey-violet eyes turned to him. Fear and sorrow swirled in the elven warriors eyes. "I apologize. I did not mean to wake you. I realize you had desires to be alone..."
"Please stay. Do you remember those nights when you would sing me to sleep?"
Fareal smiled slowly. "Yes, you had nightmares from the war reports you would steal a glance at. Do you still have them."
"No, but I miss those times anyway."
Fareal sighed and climbed into bed with him. Ryn found himself wrapped in the safety and warmth of his brother's arms. "I still feel safe in your arms."
Fareal stiffened. "How can you say that when..."
"Because it is true. You have not failed anyone, even in your own defeat. You are upset." Ryn felt the tension that went beyond the physical evidence.
"I thought it was all behind me. The experience no longer haunted me. Then..."
"He came." Ryn clasped his brother's hand tightly.
He closed his weary, deep purple eyes. "Yes. I did not know how to tell you."
Fareal relaxed, letting his head rest on the pillow while stroking his brother honey-wheat hair. "I do not think there would have been a gentle way of breaking such news. It never occurred to me, how I would react to meeting him again. I froze."
The soft admittance hurt. His brother, the heir to his father's throne, had met an obstacle he could not face before and then overcame with great effort... only to be blind sided by it again. "Will you be all right?"
Fareal kissed his forehead lightly. "Do not worry about me. I will weather through this as I must. I was merely not prepared. Let us rest. Tomorrow, the sun shall rise again."
Ryn spent most of the next morning speaking with his mother and brother. They avoided the touchy topics skillfully, all though their mother tried to get her sons to speak of their troubles. It turned out that Fareal would return with their mother that day and Ryn bid him to go. He would rather have his brother return later, with his thoughts and feelings under control again and his confidence restored. Ryn made sure his brother understood that they would be there for him, all he had to do is ask. Sighing, Ryn found himself heading to Hal's room.
Hal sat in the bed, filling weak and tired, but his mind wouldn't rest. He was down right sick and tired of being confined to bed with an occasional meal outing. The priest closed his sky-blue eyes and leaned against the pillow. He heard the door open before his eyes fluttered open. Ryn peaked his head in and saw that he lay down and must of assumed he was asleep for he didn't come in.
"Ryn," Hal called.
His elven lover reappeared, but still seemed hesitant to come in.
"Ryn, please come in. Shut the door if you will." Hal offered quietly. He hadn't been able to talk to the prince for awhile now.
Ryn complied and stepped to the edge of the bed. "Are you feeling well?"
Hal sighed. "I am feeling better. Tired all the time but better."
The elf smiled, though his deep purple eyes looked sad. "Well I am pleased to hear your progress. I shall let you sleep."
"Ryn," Hal's voice stopped him. "Please, sit with me."
The elf frowned but complied, even letting Hal pull him in closer. He hugged his limber lover tightly and then had them both comfortable, with Ryn's head resting on his shoulder. Hal stroked the soft, silky honey-wheat hair and spoke softly. "Ryn, you can talk to me."
Ryn sighed and took a deep breath. "I need some advice. You know about my father right?"
Hal felt his heart sink. He wanted to help Ryn, but this subject was so touchy in this household. "Yes."
"You heard what happened right... a couple of days ago."
He nodded. "Do you still have the seed?"
Ryn blinked away the tears, and lifted the necklace seed from around his neck. He handed it over, letting Hal see it for the first time.
"Titos says that he won't ever change. That it is foolish for me to love someone who will never again return that love. Mother says that he is too cruel to be around, but in time it will be better..." Tears flowed out of his beautiful eyes. "Fareal thinks that father still loves me but will only share it if I were to leave my loved ones..."
"He didn't suggest that you..."
"No," Ryn assured softly. "I asked him and he only told me so, for he thinks it is the truth. Hal am I foolish to hold onto him... even now? After what he has done?"
Hal held the acorn, filling the strength of nature in its depths. Titos would be angry, but he had to speak from his heart. "You are strong Ryn, but can even you bear these attack much longer."
Ryn sniffed. "I can if I must."
"The seed is given by the royal family to the elf on his birthday. Does a royal member ever give it. Has your father or mother or even brother given you your seed personally before?"
Ryn closed his eyes, remaining silent for several moments. "No. It is usually left for me at my desk or door."
Hal took a deep breath. "I think that your father is very cruel in what he has said and done. Your devotion to him is puzzling even to me. But I also think that he came and delivered your message by hand than by bird to check on you. To see for himself that you were okay and that you lived in a place that could at least cover your head. If you truly, with all your heart, desire your father's love again and can weather his wrath... you are not foolish in waiting."
Ryn sat up, his deep purple eyes glittering with hope. "Really. You think so?"
Hal smiled slowly. "I do."
Ryn hugged him quickly. "Thank you. I just needed to hear it from someone.
Hal sighed returning the hug. "Now rest with me. You have had a very tedious day." The elf actually complied, having been more weary than he had appeared. Blessed quietness filled the old castle as its occupants slept.
-Please let me Know what you think- Paladin
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