Titos Adventures: The Price of Royalty


Titos' Advents: The Price of Royalty 20
BY Paladin

Fareal shifted restlessly, wincing when his open wound rubbed against the warm blankets. The prince was sick and tired of lying in bed and letting his wound breathe and ooze. If he wasn't zonked out from the tea, he was stiff from lack of movement. His eyes looked back down to his letter. Ryn, how, in the name of the abyss, was he suppose to address him. So much had happened in but a few days. Ridik's acceptance into their family, his paralysis, and now the official ending of the war. Peace, he had heard of such a concept but had yet to believe it. What could it mean? What would he do now? Sighing, Fareal pushed his dark yellow ponytail aside and eyed the door carefully. His caretaker had come and gone a few minutes ago. His grey-violet eyes narrowed slightly, it was worth the chance. The heir to the elven throne threw his legs over the side of the bed and stood up slowly, using his dresser for support. A painful sensation raced through his body, but he ignored it. Certain that all he needed was to exercise a bit more to increase his healing rate, the elf took a couple of steps. Suddenly, the door slowly creaked open and his heart stopped. If his father or mother found him up, there would be someone at his side every minute of the day. The tall, muscular elf stepped through, his dark hair in a large braid. Ridik slumped to the ground clutching his sides as he pushed the door closed slowly.

"Ridik?" Fareal spoke lowly for clearly his half-brother was trying to be sneaky.

"Fareal... I ahh... I thought you would be asleep by now. The treatment..."

"The treatment was put aside for later. Is something amiss?"

Ridik stood quietly. "No. I just wanted to see if you were all right. I will go now."

Fareal sighed heavily. Why was it that every single one of his siblings had the ability to lie freely and even be convincing about it. "Ridik. You came here for a reason. If I were stronger, I would shut that door and force you to tell me what is wrong, but I am not strong enough to do that. Please, do not force me to test my limits right now."

Ridik slowly look at him, his strong featured face black and blue with bruises. His bottom lips was split and bleeding slightly.

Fareal seated himself on his bed. "Ridik. Come here, please. Tell me what happened."

Ridik complied, and stumbled on his way over. He spoke lowly. "I went to the market. Tomorrow is my birthday. He wanted me to see if my mother's necklace wound up there. My other father sold it when he took me in. Father says it is too expensive for most to be able to afford so it may have wound up here..."

Fareal took his half-brothers hand and squeezed gently. It was strange, this new relationship. Strange that Ridik was nearly 90 years his senior yet Fareal remained the "elder" brother in the family. "What happened?" he urged.

"They found out that I worked in the Pearl Palace. That I sold myself for gold. I needed the money to make it to the capital... I was told to disappear again. That I soiled the courts. They said the next time it would be worst."

Fareal's eyes widened in shock. Did he hear this right? Had his half-brother, a son of his father and prince of their land been assaulted in the open market? "Where..."

Ridik looked away. "I was dragged into the alley. With my training, I should have been able to..."

"To what? Be on the defensive while shopping for your birthday. This is outrageous!" Fareal's eyes blazed as he stood. Nobility or not, these criminals would find themselves behind bars at the very least.

Ridik grabbed his foreman. "Please. Someone will hear you."

"Hear me? Of course they will. We will have the most the skilled wizards to locate these individuals."

"No." The hazel eyes regarded him with horror. "Did you not hear me? The Pearl Palace. If that gets out...."

Fareal sat down slowly, eyeing his new brother. "Ridik..."

Tears slipped through the corner of the hazel eyes. "Father will know..."

"Yes," Fareal spoke carefully. "And my mother will too, when you go to receive healing."

"No..."

"Yes. She will help you, and she will ask you why. And then she will love you like a son as she has been. There is no judgment here."

"I do not want anyone to know..."

Fareal took his hand and squeezed again. "The Pearl Palace is a well known establishment. Both for its..." he paused. How to proceed. "For its 'services' and for those who visit there. It is not secretive and those who go there are not always of the lower class. Father will find out and it would be best for him to hear it from you."

"But..."

"Either way. He would not turn from you. Love is unconditional in a family." Fareal smiled. "Even if it takes awhile for it to show. Ridik, do not make me remain silent and allow this criminals to believe they are justified."

Ridik sighed, his eyes dropping to the ground. "He should not have told anyone."

Fareal studied him for a moment. "Why?"

The hazel eyes met his. "I had no desire for my birthright. By placing me in the spotlight, it will only wind up hurting everyone."

"May I ask you something?"

Ridik seemed to hesitate. "Of course."

"When you first came to the palace, what were your intentions?"

"I... did not have any. I paid 3,000 gold coins to a fortuneteller to tell me that my real father was in this city. It took 4,000 more to find out he was in the palace."

Fareal's eyes widened. He had no idea that there were such scandals in elven society.

Ridik continued. "I was hired as a stable hand at the palace. For some reason, I thought if I stuck around long enough... that I would find him or at least hear news. Being in the stables hardly gave me time to interact with anyone nor was I able to enter the palace. Then I heard there were openings in the guard positions to those who showed worthy skill. I tried out and succeeded." The hazel eyes closed. "It took only a day for him to take notice of me. He came and asked for my name and of my parents. Later that night, he asked what I wanted from him. I was so shocked I did not know what to say. We parted in silence. The next morning he asked for me to come to his office. He had a large chest open filled with jewels and other treasures. It was a nice sum, more than enough to set me up wherever I wanted to go. Anywhere but here. He mentioned some kingdom to the north."

"My father tried to pay you off?" Fareal voiced more to himself than as a question to Ridik.

"He wanted me to leave before questions were asked. I told him I would say nothing. That no one knew and it was true... except for my other father, it was true. He then expressed his desires for me to leave the capital. I..." Ridik took a deep breath. "I had no money left, and no place to go. He was kind enough to let me stay at the palace, gave me a pay raise to remain in one of the nicer rooms. I took on your sister because... I thought if I was around her. Then I could be with him. It really was silly." The elfin warrior laughed lowly.

Fareal did not find the situation funny at all. Could it be possible? That all his years in the battlefields had somehow left him ignorant of even the most basic examples of wrong doings. Ryn had lived a very sheltered life, one filled with social gatherings and the etiquette of the elven courts. Perhaps it was not truly surprising to see him embrace a life that promised more passion and freedom. He shook his head slowly. What if the end of the war only triggered more horrific events such as the market place today? "You must have a lived a hard life."

Ridik regarded him surprised. "I was fortunate to have someone take me in. Starvation, freezing, the cold and rain have never been something I have had to weather."

Fareal nodded. "My naiveté must surprise you a great deal."

"No, why should it? If at 1600 years old, our father has not learned it all, I would say we are far from it."

Fareal smiled slowly. "You may right. Please, go to my mother and her priestesses. They will help you."

Ridik nodded and stood. "Thank you. For everything. For understanding... forgiveness. Your acceptance."

"There is no need to thank me. Life as a prince is not all glory. I hope you will find some measure of happiness with us."

Ridik smiled. "I can only hope." And then he was gone.

Fareal returned to his letter. "Ryn," he whispered. "I need you. I do not know how to deal with this." His pen glided across the rest of the parchment: All is well, your brother Fareal.

After a few hours, Fareal bandaged his wound carefully, wincing at the pain that raced through his nerves. He had had enough of lying around. Once he was steady on his legs, he walked out the door, glaring at any guard who dare step foreword as if to escort him to his room once again. He went straight to Ridik's new room and smiled when he found his half-brother was not there. His smile, however, disappeared as he noticed a great deal of opened packages in the back corner. The prince's fist impulse was to leave and ask him about them. Experience had taught him to take another action. Ridik did not seem likely to do anything without prompting or at least a good push. Fareal eyed the bland room for another moment before he entered. He sat on the unmade bed, making a mental note to scold the servants for neglecting this room, and eyed the care. A joyous Birthday... the Jouslgins. He smiled briefly. That family had proven to be most kind in their words and gifts. Curiously, he opened the package, feeling slightly foolish that he had felt the need to look in here at all. His smile disappeared again. In his hands was a small leather collar and a whip to accompany it. He went to another box and found a similar collar accompanied with handcuffs. He continued to pour through the boxes and found one offending item after another. With black anger, Fareal snatched a box, secured the door behind him and went to his father's study.

He rapped lightly on the door.

"Enter."

Fareal stepped in, barely noting his father's disapproving gaze. "Fareal, you were requested to remain in bed."

"I am sorry father. There are matters that demand my immediate attention. Has Ridik spoken to you today?"

His father shook his head slowly. "No. Your health is very important young prince. I suggest you take your own mother's instructions and return to bed before you ailments worsen."

Fareal sighed. Ridik hadn't spoken to him yet and probably never would. "Father, I am trying to tell you something." He placed the box before him. "Look in this."

The king frowned at the commanding tone but stilled his pen and complied. He eyed the whip and collar grimly. "Fareal, I am not one to give you advice on such matter..."

The grey-violet eyes widened. "Father. This is not for me. All the noble houses sent items similar to this to Ridik for his day of birth."

"Your brother's unique upbringing may adhere to certain tastes..."

"He worked at the Pearl Palace. Father these are the items used there. I am certain they were not sent in such a quantity for any reason other than to mock and hurt him."

"This is horrid." His father suddenly stood fluidly, throwing his cloak around him.

Fareal stepped back. "Where are you going?"

"I am going to get your half-brother before something worst happens. I sent him to the Yeelsinals to receive their yearly report and greetings. I must venture there at once. 1600 years, I should have known the nobles would rebel openly like this."

"Father. We can address this when Ridik returns. I do not see how a public display will do anything but hurt him. If you fear something may happen, a guard might be more appropriate..."

His father's ancient grey eyes regarded him steadily. "I fear for his life. No guard will be able to defend Ridik from himself better than I can."

"Himself?"

His father sighed heavily. "I received a most detailed letter from the dragon-rider the other day. He voiced his concern regarding Ridik's mental state. The lord was very adamant in mentioning the sexual abuse Ridik received from the man that took him in. He also wrote about my son's attempt to end his own life by leaping from a balcony of Titos' estates."

Fareal opened his mouth to speak but found no words to express his surprised. How could any elf wish to end his own life when so many centuries were possibly for even the eldest of them?

"I must get to him in case he has experienced more pain than he knows how to handle. Tell your mother what I have said. Her experience in such matters may greatly supersede my own. Also have her check your wound. The tea has neutralized the poison and its effects, yet recovery may still prove difficult."

Fareal stepped to block his father's exit. He swallowed nervously, having never disobeyed such a direct notion before. "Father, I insist that I go with you. My wound can wait."

The king's practiced eyes returned his gaze mutely and then he spoke. "Very well. Make haste and bring your tea mixture just in case."

Fareal nodded and proceeded to do just that. His heart pounded in his chest as he mounted his horse and went to meet his father. What if Ridik was all ready dead? He had been the last to speak to him. Curses, he should have known to check and make sure that Ridik had followed his advice.

The eldest legitimate prince and the king of the elves ventured down the main road. With the war at an end, and general morale at its highest, they had little need for an escort. Even so, both of them had come armed with their favored, magical blades. Fareal had declined the notion of armor immediately. The very idea of the hard fabric against his wound made him shudder, and in his 311 years of life, he could not recall ever seeing his father in any kind of protection suit.

They continued down the road in mutual silence. Fareal could only imagine the thoughts his father had racing through his mind and if they were similar to his at all. Ever since Ridik's true parenting had been discovered, he couldn't escape the scenes of the night he had seen him before the wizard's manor. He had come very close to killing his own brother for raping the other. There had been many times in his life when he wondering if he had become too violent. War had always played a part in his life, but when had violence become so dominant. What would he do now that it was over? Fareal's musings came to a sudden halt when they both caught sight of Ridik's horse up ahead. He and his father dismounted. While Fareal claimed the loose reins, the king kneeled down beside Ridik's unmoving form. Fareal's grey-violet eyes widened as his father rolled the elf warrior over. There were no ugly wounds or arrows defiling the body. The only indication of trouble came in the form of two small red lines across Ridik's wrists and a small pool of blood near him. The king, with a calmness Fareal could only admire, muttered a few words and tore his robes, closing the seeping wounds. The ancient elven king kissed the pale brow lightly and then gathered his son in his arms. He approached Fareal, his eyes steady and dry. "I have wronged him more ways than I can do right."

Fareal let his eyes drop to the ground for what could he say? Ridik had tried to take his life yet again, it would seem, and he had no notion as to why anyone could succumb to such despair. Wait. He closed his eyes slowly. It was not entirely true. Ever since his own brush with death and slavery, he had too had felt the blackness of death as a welcoming presence. Rath had scared him in a way he did not know how to heal. The very thought of Ridik at the hands of that monster made him shudder, yet it must have been different for his half-brother had not flinched from the dark warriors very sight. Or perhaps he was stronger than Fareal in the matter. "I will handle this father. The priestesses will aid me in my quest to deal with the nobles cruelty for mother will help me quiet our entire reasons."

"Very well. Do not forget to have her look at your wounds. Tell her that I love her." With a few uttered words, they were gone.

Fareal then went to the large temple, secluded by the largest trees the ancient forest had to offer. Finding his mother was easily accomplished for she prayed in the alter room. Her gentle eyes instantly went to her son as he walked through the main doors. She was dressed in black as a mark of her disgrace and a sign that her prayers would be for forgiveness until the deity granted her a cleansing quest. The bright purple eyes smiled at him when the lips did not. "Please, come to me."

Fareal obeyed, kneeling before her in the proper manner, his head lowered and his arm across his chest. Her light hand lifted his chin slowly. "My son. Your insistence to address me in such a manner is heart warming. But I am your mother before I am priestess as I always have been. Please, tell me what ails you."

Fareal sighed, his eyes searching for anyone else who might hear their conversation. "The nobles turn against one another so quickly. They scoffed at Ryn for his flight from their confining presence to embrace a passionate life with a male of another species. Amaiat is said to be unfit to wed unless she comes and has a tutor to enlighten her on the ways of etiquette. Now they pierce Ridik's weak heart every time father and I have our backs turned. I do not know how to help him, any of them. Am I useless without a battle to fight?"

The priestess eyed him sadly. She took his hand and pulled him to his feet. "Come let us sit and talk." Nodding to her acolyte, she moved them over to a eloquent couch. Her light hand strayed to his wound thigh. The pain nearly made him swoon for it raced straight to his hand. His mother then spoke lowly. "You must take care of yourself before you can aid others." She withdrew a small vial. With a dagger, she cut one of her silvery strands and added it to the red, bubbly mixture. Then she instructed him to stand and remove his leggings.

Fareal's cheek burned slightly. "Mother.. this is not the time or place."

She regarded him coolly, a slight smile pulling at her gracious lips. "You modesty at your age is refreshing and adorable, however; do as your mother, your queen and the high priestess of Wrenn instructs."

He sighed and complied. She had him lie on the couch. Her light touches danced over his wound as she applied a healing salve that seemed to set his leg on fire. In mere moments, he lost consciousness.

Fareal awoke to a cool cloth bathing his brow. His grey-violet eyes opened slowly to find his mother looking down and frowning at him intently. "How long was I out?"

"Only a few moments. Your walking about has resulted in the tearing of your wound. The pain should have ceased now. Honey, you need rest."

Fareal sighed as he began to sit up but his mother's gentle push easily laid him back down. He must be weaker than he thought.

"Rest here my son. It is safe and quiet and in the presence of your mother."

Fareal sighed. "Mother, I cannot simply lie here in the alter room..."

"I remember when you were younger. You would come here with your blanket and lie in the back corner of the room, waiting for me to finish with my duties. No one seemed to notice, but I always caught sight of your presence at once."

Fareal relaxed, feeling safe for the first time in years. "I remember. You used to sing a great deal back then. To the priestesses and those who wished to hear Wrenn's word. It was in a language I never understood. One that father taught Ryn, I think."

His mother stroked his cheek gently. "You seem so sad, my son. Even at 1600 years old, your father cannot bear the weight of the world on his shoulder, nor can you. I know you have been in war since you were able to wield a sword. Our people wanted you to be the perfect partner for your brother when he took the throne, to have the a leader of our people and the leader of our army."

The elder prince let his head rest on the pillow his mother provided slowly. "I am not ready to take the throne. Not today or tomorrow or a century from now. I do not have the patience to deal with courts nor the social graces to be amongst the nobles, as Ryn possessed. In time, I think he will be favored again."

The queen smiled slowly. "Ryn will find the spotlight again. He will bring light to the parties as he always has and will try to drag you into the fray with him. You are a loner by nature, much like I was in my younger age. Yet, at the same time, you have designated yourself the protector and watcher of our family. You cannot protect us from ourselves. Ryn did not suddenly become rebellious. I know this despite your efforts to cover up his extensive sexual activities. I also know you. You are not ready to take on your father's responsibilities. Know that you do not have to. In the event of his death, I will be here right along side of you. Fareal, do not let you birthright frighten you away from your life..."

"I am not frightened..."

She took his hand tightly. "You are, and that is okay. Do not let it consume you. You are not driven by war. There is passion elsewhere for you, and I am here to help you find it. I was unable to protect you from the death that comes with violence. I could not hold onto your innocence for war demanded it be taken, but your heart has always been unfazed. I am proud of all my children, and your siblings look up to you. You have been the strong wall we can all count on to be there. It is okay for them to see you feel as afraid and lost as they are. Here I am preaching to you as a child hates their mother to do. Get some rest my son. Feel safe and warm and at peace in the temple of your mother. Do not worry about Ridik. We will all help heal the wrongs done to him. Do not feel guilty for the dislike you must feel for what was done to our Little One. In time, that will fade but we all need time."

Fareal closed his eyes slowly, feeling the warm blanket cover his body. He wondered if wisdom came with age or if there was something hidden behind the purple gaze of his mother. The heir to the elven throne feel asleep to the soft singing of his mother in that foreign tongue to him, in the middle of the temple, his dreams not of rape or future tactics but of an small glade where he and his brother had taken their vows. To remain brothers not only through blood but spirit, a boundless kinship that ended too quickly at the hands of a young dragon-rider, eager to protect a dark warrior he later killed himself when he too realized the perversion he brought to the world. Haltith.. can I forgive Rath for what he has done not only to myself but to you and our family? If I cannot, how will I let the war die?

***

Ridik groaned as he slowly awakened. He was in a bed for he could feel the soft blankets and the pillow under his head. The elf warrior felt light headed as he opened his hazel eyes and tried to remember. The nobles... the present. Oh gods the threats. He sat up quickly, scanning the area. Was he in the noble's house? If so, why would they wish to keep him alive?

Suddenly a hand gripped his shoulder gently and a soft voice spoke to him. "Easy my son. You are safe here."

"Father." Ridik breathed lowly. No.. how could he face him now?

The king, his grey eyes studying him carefully, lifted a small cups to his lips. "Drink."

Ridik complied while drawing the blankets closer to his naked form. When the cup was removed, he looked at his wrist, closing his eyes briefly in dismay. He had tried and again had failed. What god hated him so much as to make him go through this again? Suddenly, he felt very ill and leaned back, the pain radiating in his mind like a ringing bell. Ridik closed his eyes yet even that did not help.

"Ridik?" A hand touched his forehead. The king cursed lowly. Another cool glass was placed at his lips, but he refused. "Drink it." The command came again, this time he felt oddly driven to do so. He drank the foul, tart substance. Ridik's eyelids became heavy and darkness overtook him slowly. "Father do not leave me..."

***

Fareal awoke to a someone calling his name softly. At first, he thought it was his mother, but the elf he gazed upon was certainly not female all though the eyes were indeed deep purple. "Ryn." He sat up slowly. "What brings you here? I was not informed of a visit."

Ryn smiled brightly. "That would defeat the purpose of a surprised visit. Father had sent us word of Ridik's birthday. The priest thought it would be nice for us to show up. He mentioned something about our half-brother not having anyone."

Fareal nodded. "He does indeed seem to be lacking a great deal of friends. Then again, so am I."

"Nonsense. There are plenty family members and other nobles waiting to kiss your..."

"Ryn." Fareal warned the instant he realized the direction this conversation was taking. "You are still a prince of this kingdom and you had best remember your manners and lessons."

Ryn sighed. "I really do not..."

Fareal tightened up his ponytail, his violet-grey eyes registering the fact that they were indeed alone. "I mean it Ryn. Your family is handling your new relationship and personal lives. I even support it, however; that does not give you leave to forget your place and responsibility."

Ryn frowned, his eyes darkening slightly. "If I wanted a lecture, I would have sought out father myself. It is true, and you know it. You are the heir to a great deal of power..."

The eldest prince stood gracefully, grimacing as he felt his wound pull. "I am not having this conversation with you. See to it that you amend your words and actions." Fareal felt guilty as Ryn's eyes lowered. He had hurt his brother, but it had to be done. His hand lifted his younger brother's chin slowly so they could lock eyes. "Do not be dismayed Little One. It is hard. I know it is. I am very pleased you came, and I think Ridik will be happy as well."

"Ryn." A quiet voice caught their attention. Both princes turned to see their father standing in the doorway, his casual evening robes flowing over his tall figure and his grey hair loose and long. Ryn's eyes brightened as he stepped forward to embrace his father, but he hesitated. Fareal winced as if struck. The uncertainty was still there and it would take time and more acceptance for it to go away. "Come here." The king smiled slowly, hugging his youngest child. They embraced briefly before the king pushed him back and smiled at him fondly. "You certainly have grown over the years. Where has the time gone?" He then looked to Fareal. "Where is your mother, my life-mate? I am in need of her healing touches."

"I stand behind you husband, life-mate." She smiled slowly, her purple yes blazing with compassion despite her dark garbs. "My healing powers are limited. Another priestess may better serve you."

The king shook his head slowly. "Nay, my love. I will trust no one else with my son's life. I believe Ridik has been poisoned by the nobles. I presented him with water to help regain his strength from lack of blood only minutes after we returned. He seems fevered and agitated."

"Lack of blood?" The High Priestess pressed lightly.

The king nodded and gently filled them in. When he was finished, Fareal spoke. "Where is Titos?"

"He, Hal and Armin went to the guest quarters while I took advantage of my sleeping brother." Ryn smirked. "You do look sweet when asleep."

***

Titos helped Hal into bed. The traveling had been hard on him again. The warrior had every intention of asking the king how long this weakness was likely to last. He still could hardly stand the site of the ancient snob, but at least he could tolerate him that much. The green haired eagleman looked at him expectantly when Hal dozed off. "All right. Let's go find our year older friend." He couldn't help but choke on that last word a bit. Ridik was still not on his list of favorite people and still had his position on those he would rather not associate with. For whatever reason, Hal, Armin and even Ryn seemed to have forgiven him and taken a liking even. This forced Titos to swallow his pride and anger and merely deal with it. Armin snatched up his pouch and smiled brightly. For some reason, Armin had expressed admit desire to give the elf warrior some berries. Titos laughed lowly at his excitement. The young eagleman had been quiet and even distant since he joined them at the household. It was refreshing to see him a little more lively. Especially since Titos had a feeling that they would not be able to get him to his people after all. With the War of Powers quieting down, it forced all the armies and powers to scatter across the entire world. Not to mention, they still had only the slightest idea of where his people were. Sighing, he opened the door and closed it quietly. Then they went in search of the one the others had hoped to cheer up.

The warrior remembered where Ridik's old room had been, but it turned out he had been moved to another, perhaps a more lavishly decorated dwelling. However, he was not there either. Frowning, Titos decided it was best to go to the Temple as ask than search the entire palace. This place had more hallways and doors than any one building needed. He turned to tell Armin when he heard what sounded like a gasp and then weak yell. His eyes narrowed slightly as the sounds continued. A loud groan accompanied them and then another pained filled moan emitted. He followed the sounds to a door nearby. Without hesitating he threw it open. What he saw angered him immediately.

Ridik lay belly down on the bed, his pale form glistening from sweat. The elf was not alone. His hazel eyes instantly went to the figure standing in the door. The hazel globes looked dull and pained. "Titos, what are you doing? Get out of here!" The elf warrior managed to yell.

Titos ignored him completely and focused on his partner, a large elf with strange green tattoos. This one had jet black hair tainted with a few auburn strands. The elf's red eyes narrowed as he continued to pump into Ridik's body. Clearly, only one member of this joining was enjoying it, and it wasn't the elf he knew.

"Armin, stay in the hallway." Titos then addressed the offending elf. "Get off him."

"Mind your own business human." Came the reply.

"Titos, just..."

"Shut up Ridik. I said get off him and if you insist on testing my limits." He drew his sword. "Then by all mean, continue to do so."

The elf pulled away. "Your meager skills are no match to my centuries worth of battle experience." He picked up a strange two tipped spear. "Ready to die?"

"Drop it. Both of you." The king commanded. Titos merely readied his blade.

"Titos!" Fareal's loud voice reached him. "Do not disobey my father in his home and kingdom."

Grumbling, Titos stepped back. Going to the frightened eagleman whose dusty pink eyes darted from one angry face to another.

The king eyed him coldly as he stepped through the door. His grey eyes glanced from Ridik and to his partner. "My queen."

The female elf glided into the room, a small brew in her hand. She touched Ridik lightly. "Are you having difficulties breathing."

Ridik did not seem to hear her at first. His hazel eyes glanced at all those that witnessed his predicament. He attempted to speak to his father but nothing came out. Tears welled in his eyes and he nodded. The High Priestess touched his forehead and studied him for a few moments. Her practice eyes turned to her husband. "It is not poison, it is a reaction. He must be allergic to whatever he drank." Her attentions returned to her new son. "What have you eaten or drunk lately?"

"Father gave me..."

"It was merely water." The king voiced lowly.

"The nobles offered me some wine this afternoon. I have tasted it before with no troubles..."

She nodded. "They may have slipped a non-lethal drug in the liquid in hopes of a different result than the one achieved. Drink this tea slowly, it will wash the toxins from your body. Do not worry, I will personally see to it that the nobles know this is not acceptable." Her purple eyes glittered with a deep sadness for but a moment. Titos could not help but wonder if she felt guilty, as he did on a occasion, for delivering the elf to Rath. Then again, Fate had a funny way of working things out. If Ridik had not been tossed into slavery, would he be with his family now?

"Well, Well, well." A new voice entered the mix. A shorter elf, with light brown eyes and short brown hair wearing a fashionable tunic and matching pants stepped into the room uninvited. Titos was about to voice his objection when Fareal spoke.

"Willith. This is not your affair cousin. Leave it to the family..."

"It is very much my affair. If you cannot control him, then I suggest you leash him like the rest of the animals before he causes even more embarrassment." The defiant brown eyes turned to the king. "Is it our policy now to allow illegitimate children to use your study, which leads to your bedroom, to bed strange males in the daylight hours for all to see. Then again, I hear he "gets off" while being displayed." His eyes darted to Ryn. "It must run in the family."

Titos gripped his sword tightly, his blood boiling. Ryn eyed his cousin with a dangerous glint the warrior had not seen before. "I suggest you make yourself scarce. Your noble blood is not strong enough to spit in our direction. Tell me, how does it feel to be the only noble member of the family who does not have any pursuing you for marriage."

"That is enough. Leave us immediately before measures are taken." Fareal glared at them both.

Willith shrugged. "Very well. But the tongue will tell what the eyes cannot witness themselves." With that, he was gone.

Everyone's attention then returned to the problem at hand. The king approached his naked son as the queen stood and departed. She spoke briefly to Fareal in the elven tongue and then parted. Ridik closed his eyes, the tears still flowing down his cheeks. All ready, he looked a bit healthier from the tea. The king brushed the tears aside and frowned as Ridik's cheek visibly became red and puffy. He then embraced his son gently, his grey eyes lifting slightly as his son clung on to him almost desperately. "Father I..."

"Hush." He then turned to the strange elf in his room. "Your name?"

The tattooed elf eyed him warily. "This was purely mutual and not forced. Ridik and I go a long ways back."

"Mutual my ass." Titos hissed, no longer willing to be silent.

The king eyed him quietly and then spoke to his weeping son. "Is what he says true?"

"I... he..." Ridik buried his face in his father robes and nodded.

"Well it seems the mood has been lost. Another time Ridik." The elf began to dress.

Everyone seemed to freeze at the admittance though Titos fumed. Couldn't they see what their own almond shaped eyes showed them? What kind of a society was this any ways? Then, something in the kings eyes kept him quiet. Perhaps it kept the others silent as well. He was watching the elf dress with a deep loathing all over his face. His impassive face was like stone while his eyes merely watched. "Fareal, come. Take your brother from me."

"No..." Ridik sobbed. "Father please. Do not... I cannot leave you again. Father..."

Fareal managed to pull him away, throwing his brother a questioning glance. Clearly, the eldest prince did not know his father's intentions either.

The king strode foreword, halting the departure of the elf. Titos, pulled Ryn to him, for some reason, he felt it was a good thing to do. Then the ancient elf spoke. "Did you sell my son for your own gain or merely for the pleasure of watching and participation?"

The red eyes narrowed. "I am not aware of what you are referring to."

"I want to know what goes through the mind of a being who would rape a child who asks of him for food and shelter and then continues to do so through his adulthood. Have you the slightest notion of the emotional and mental damage you have caused which may never be wholly repaired."

A horrid smile creeped across the opposing elves face. "This coming from a man who did not take the time to see if his summer fling had made it home safely? What can a king know of the passions of life? What is pleasure without pain? Ask you youngest."

The small group felt like time stood still as the king merely eyed the man who had raised his son.

The elf continued. "While you were off dancing in your balls and bedding your wife, laughing with your family and drinking your wealth, the rest of world starved. The old farmer whose barn became the birthplace of the one at question, could not wait around for him to mature into a useful farm hand. They packed him a bag and sent him on his way. Telling him his mother's name in case he sought family. It was winter when he came to my door step." The elf approached the king. "He was wet and half starved, barely old enough to find berries let alone hunt in the snow. I had barely enough food to maintain myself, yet I took him in. Where were you?" The elf waited but he there was no answer. "You do not know. Let me tell you. You were in his mind daily and nightly. All he talked about was the father he was going to find. The elf that had to be out there somewhere wondering why his pregnant wife had not returned. Such vivid imaginations children have." The elf moved in closer, nearly nose to nose with the king of elves. "I showed him a pleasure in life that wealth does not buy. Then he became soiled. Sold himself to the first buyer who flashed gold his way. Gold he needed to buy the information. Information to find you. Ridik had no right. He is mine. I found him. I saved his life and he betrayed me, so I showed him where the real money is. Where the fat cats laze pretending no one knows what they are doing or if they are even there. All he had to do was not deny me. Do not deny me, I said. And I will show you how to make it to this golden father you dream about." The elf stepped back when he did not get a rise. "Imagine the numbers it took to make it so far. Hundreds, thousands even. How many people can one bed in over 300 years of whoring? Well, how much gold does it take to travel nearly half the word paying for half truths and out right lies. Ask him, if you dare."

Titos wanted to put an end to this in one true and tried fashion, yet the king remained silent, still impassive.

The elf's eyes blazed with fury. "What did you do for him when he finally reached your doorsteps. All but spit at him and yet the loyalty stayed. The little bastard stayed loyal to his ideal father than the one that pulled him out of a horrid death. I nursed him for 1 whole month on gruel that was in a quantity barely enough to sustain one. And he goes to you and kisses your feet for nearly 100 years, being kind enough to tell me where he is and giving me a key in case I feel the need to come. I came all right, and I stayed. Ridik is mine."

Finally the king spoke softly. "You are mad. I apologize for you hardships."

"Apologize. I lost my wife and my daughter to the cold. Where was this grand elven hospitality then? We sent your armies our sons and you did not even bother to send aid!"

The king frowned. "If you are referring to a human land that..."

"Yes! You worthless creation. I am referring to the human lands that elven families still dwell in. The human lands you claim to be your allies but you leave to rot in time of need."

The king eyed him carefully. "Our forces were at war with the dark army that cut us off. I lost my own son in the battle that finally broke through the barrier that blocked our allies from us. By then, the damage had been great."

"You lie." The elf hissed. "Your pretty words do not work with me." Then, as quick as lightning, the elf drew a dagger and lunged at him.

Nearly equally quick, Armin leaped through the air, his wings propelling him and snatched the weapon. The young eagleman backed away as the elf turned on him. "Not nice!" Armin shouted, a bit panicked.

Luckily, Ryn and Titos had the elf pinned to the floor in heartbeats, the warrior more than ready to end the hateful being now.

"No!" Ridik finally yelled, shoving Fareal aside with the ease that comes from a warrior driven by raging emotion. "Do not kill him! No!" He turned to his father.

"You wish him to live even after all this?" came a quiet question?

"Yes. Father..."

"Very well. Ryn, get the guards and have this elf escorted out off our lands and out of the city. Let them know he is to be watched and is hereby banished from the palace and the capital." Ryn glanced at Titos and then complied to the order.

"Father...?" Ridik looked at the king, his hazel eyes tearing all over again.

"Is it true?"

"Which... which parts?"

"Any of them..."

Ridik looked around, perhaps looking for some sort of support. Titos didn't know how to give it. Fareal tried. "Father, I do not think this is appropriate."

"I am 1600 years old Fareal do not lecture me. Ridik, what he has said, is it true? How often has he been here and when?"

Ridik blinked a couple of times and stifled a sob. "May I... sit down?"

The king nodded once.

Ridik sat down and brought the blankets around his bruised body. "This morning, I went to Fareal's room. I told him I had been mugged by angry nobles. I did look in the market.. I..." He sobbed for a moment and then continued. "My father came to me. It stared out fine. Then I told him that I had been accepted. I thanked him and asked that he go live someplace further away. Just until I was ready, I said he could keep the key and visit whenever he liked, but only at night. He got angry... so angry. Afterwards, I went to Fareal's room thinking that he would not dare go there. I did not know how to tell you..."

The king took a deep breath. "And your occupation prior to a warrior and guard?"

The hazel eyes dropped to the floor. "We did not have enough money to even buy steel let alone a sword. I wanted to find you... I... I... You turned from Ryn when he took on a male lover, acted like a whore, you said. How could I tell you that I am one? That I did what he did but for money and so many...? Father??" Ridik's voice raised in panic as the king closed his eyes briefly

"That is all I needed to hear."

The king turned and walked to Titos, he meant to say something but Ridik loud voice broke off.

"Father please. I will do anything. Please. Do not leave me. I cannot bare to loose you..." He sobbed loudly. "Father I am sorry. I am so sorry. I will make it up to you. Please..."

The king turned to him sharply, his eyes blazing. "There is nothing that you can ever say that will make me turn from you. You have nothing to be sorry for. This is not your fault, none of it is. I am 1600 years old, and I do not know how to deal with this correctly. You must know, my son, that I am not going to turn from you. I love you, nothing can change that now. I loved you from the moment you announced yourself to me. My heart needed time to overcome the rest of the opposing powers, but it was always there." He took a deep breath. "Titos, and Armin. Thank you for coming on my son's birthday. It means very much to both of us. I am afraid the large dinner tonight will need to be postponed. It is my hope that you will all remain at least for a little while. I would hate for your visit to have ended with this scene." The ancient elf then turned to his other son. "Fareal, please go and speak to your mother and you brother. Tell them what has occurred, comfort them for I am needed. If your sister writes, let her know. She will not see me..."

Fareal nodded and spoke. "She will. In time. Time is something we all have." He brushed away a couple of stray tears, and managed to smile. "Have a good evening Titos." Then he left.

Titos went to leave but suddenly turned to the king, releasing his almost viselike grip on Armin. "This is not your fault. I barely top 100 years; I know this. Age does not guarantee the ability to foresee everything. We will stay as long as needed an then some. Ryn needs you as well, but he is patient enough to wait." He stroked the long green hair next to him and led them back their portion of the palace. Just before they turned the corner, he could heard Ridik's loud sobs again but did not miss the quieter one right along side them....


Titos sighed heavily as he stood outside their room's door. His mind was in a whirl, and Armin seemed more than a bit excited about the evening's events. That being the case, he decided they should choose a different room for the night and let Hal sleep. Luckily, the one next door was not only open, but clean and ready. He shut the door and relaxed on the bed, his eyes running over Armin as he sat beside him. The young eagleman's dusty pink eyes slowly met his own dark globes. They watched each other for a moment before Armin went to him, his small hands loosening the warrior leather pants. Titos groaned and removed the garments himself, grabbing the youth's wrist and staring into the gorgeous eyes. "Is this what you want?" he asked slowly

Armin blinked and frowned slowly. "I want.... you not want?"

Titos smiled. "I do. I don't want you to think you have to. I don't want to force you."

Armin grinned. "Not forced." He then lowered his head and took Titos large organ into his mouth.

Titos leaned back and relaxed, enjoying the slow movements of the moist warm tongue. He watched the green heard creature bob up and down on his hard flesh, groaning when he was taken down into the throat. His hips flexed instantly as the muscles enveloped him. Titos sat up and guided the eagleman, with his large hands running through the thick green strands, to faster pace. In a few moments, he came with a low grunt. Taking only a few seconds to recover, he stripped his lover and pinned him beneath him. Armin's sweet tongue bathed his nipples as his hand rubbed against the soft downy feathers below. His other hand cupped the youth's chin and tipped the head back, giving him easy access to claim the trembling lips with his own. He explored the sweet mouth openly, his tongue reaching into the depths easily while the small finger gripped his large shoulder tightly. He backed away and then descended on the small neck, nipping his way down to the rosy pink nipples below that were also graced with small downy feather. The warrior rolled the tiny nubs with his tongue, drawing a few small groans from the small figure beneath him. Meanwhile, his fingers sought and found the warm desired opening. He forced one finger into the heated haven easily and then another, holding the body with his second hand as Armin bucked from the sudden intrusion. The eagleman's figure was so small and he was still very tight. Titos kissed him one more time briefly before he stood and withdrew a small vial from his belt pouch. He coated his finger and applied it to the tight opening, all the while speaking to Armin soothingly. It took a great deal of patience for Titos to stretch and soothe the young eagleman to acceptable limits, yet he was willing to do it. His hands glided over the brown feathers, touch with gold, and down to the small waist. The warrior gripped him tightly and then plunged into the tight, heated opening. Armin cried out in his own tongue, his head rolling back. Titos eased in and out slowly, hissing from the intense hotness that covered his pulsing member. He continued to move within the eagleman, receiving drawn out groans and gasps as he rubbed against all the right places. The heat nearly reached his head as he pushed on faster, plunging in and out of the delicious destination. Somehow, through it all, he remained in complete control. They both came together, crying out as he filled his haven and warm moisture struck his tight abdomen. Titos stayed in Armin for a few more moments before pulling out. The warrior kissed him slowly, grabbing onto the thick green hair and pulling him closer. He pulled away and stretched briefly, pouring some warm water into the water basin. A soft cloth was used to clean them both up. He then smiled at Armin who smiled back. He kissed the eagleman's ear and whisper. "I love you." Armin sighed and slipped under the blankets. "Be right back." Titos assured as he slipped out the door.

He went to their original door and peeked in, beaming when he saw Hal slept with Ryn in his arms. The serenity warmed his heart and he closed the door quietly, returning to Armin's side and holding the youth in his arms. His finger tracing the red G that displayed his status as once a slave. A part of him would have it removed, another, more fearful part left it in case they were to loose this rare creature in a kingdom that gave him no rights. Only with it, could Titos legally claim him again. He kissed the tender spot light and he too fell asleep.

***

Maraethal kissed the pale brow before her, her hands lightly gliding over the long braid. Her deep purple eyes met her husbands gaze as they lay in the bed together. It had been sometime since a child lay between them, feeling safe in either of their arms. She smiled. "He does not look much like you."

Haavel returned the smile. "No, he does not. He looks very much like his mother."

The queen nodded. "He sleeps quietly as do the rest of the children."

The king agreed. "Yes, he does. Are you all right with this... life-mate?"

She sat up and brushed her long, blonde to the point of being white hair. Her eyes traveled over the other two in the bed. "There is not much choice in the matter. If you are asking if I feel betrayed due to the obvious sexual relation you had with this child's mother during our marriage... the answer is no. We have been together over 500 years. I think this arranged marriage has developed into a relationship that we can both trust and depend on. My duties to the priesthood and my goddess have often conflicted and come first, on occasion, to that of my family, including you. If I do not put you first, how can I expect the you to do so?"

The king sat up as well, careful not to disturb Ridik's slumber. He stopped her hand and enclosed it with both of his. His steady grey eyes finally caused her to look away. "You are my love, my only true love. His mother was at the right place and time when a king needed someone to turn to. I sought comfort in her arms in a time when the crown felt so heavy. I never meant to hurt you or our family."

The High priestess closed her eyes briefly and then leaned forward, seeking and finding a kiss from her long time husband and love. "Be at ease. Your family does not feel betrayed for we are all forgiving in nature. I have trusted you with my heart and our children, and even at a time when I forced our parting till you let the elf I love resurface again, I did not forsake you." She eased back into the large bed, allow her head to rest on the soft silky pillows. "Relax, my love. It is a time of healing for us all. Let us not ponder our own predicaments for both of us are strong and sure in each other, like few others." When her husband complied, she continued. "When I return from the sea where I shall receive the cleansing of my soul, we have matters to attend to. I intend to discuss a more formal arrangement with Titos in regards to Ryn. I believe their love and attachment is very evident, but a ceremony of some kind should take place for our son. He is still royalty and anything less would be unthinkable. Do not worry, it will be my task." She smiled slowly as she saw a hint of relief in the ancient globes that anyone else would have missed. "I also intend to find Fareal a suitable mate. He is lonely even when surrounded by others. I feel that he has been hurt in some manner unknown to us. I think a kind heart will lift his spirit."

"Female?" The king questioned cautiously.

The queen smiled quickly. "Of course. Even if he has ventured in the arms of a male, I am certain he would prefer a female elf companion. If for nothing else, but to be sure he can attain his duty to have an heir. He will wish to do what is best."

"How is it you can discuss this matter so calmly?" came the tense reply.

Again, she merely smiled. "Love has few boundaries. Many have asked how I can stand to still be with you. An elf nearly 1000 years my senior. It is love. Not long ago, your father had a mistress as well as a wife. It does not seem, to me, for it to be unfit for the same to take place even if it were male instead. As a father, you do not have to like our children's choices or even accept it. You must tolerate it and do not make them miserable and feel unwanted."

The king sighed. "It seems like such a horrid abomination to me still... I will not let it cost us our children. This, I swear."

She smiled. "I am pleased to hear this. My decision to return to the same dwelling and bed has not been for not." Then, the female elf frowned slowly. "Amaiat will need time to feel comfortable to return home. Once she feels the doors are open with no toll, then she shall be amongst the family once again." Her eyes roamed over father and son briefly. "It also bring us to our last task. I must voice that I believe that Ridik's emotionally damage may never heal completely. A great deal of time and patience will be required to heal but a portion. Despite his age and skill as a guard, we will need to treat him very much like a child in matters that are hurtful and have left him confused." She sighed. What else could she say. No words would prepare them for the hardships ahead. "Fareal needs to become more sociably active thus I will relieve him of the duty to seek out these hateful noble spirits that tear at open wounds so readily. I have a priestess that is more than willing and able to take on my own tasks when I thus preoccupied."

"My wife, it makes me ponder and fear for our relations when you take upon yourself such an ugly task as this."

She stroked the dark hair lightly, her purple eyes meeting her life-mates steady grey gaze. "I played no small role in delivering your son to Rath's mercy. It was my belief that you would not only let him free but go unpunished. Your favor towards him was evident to me if not a bit confusing."

The king tilted his head slightly. "What is done is done. You need not my forgiveness for you have done nothing that requires it. You are a mother and tried to shield your children from what you believed to be a threat. Do you not think he will take offense to our treatment of him as a child?"

Maraethal pondered a moment. "I think that he wants from you is the kind of nourishment that he lacked as a child of any age. I know that open emotion is not easy for you, but you must try."

The king sighed heavily. "Yes I must. Must I postpone instating his birthright as well? In all my years, this is not something I have been prepared to deal with. That such monstrosities could be done by elven blood and even within our borders...?" He shook his head slowly. "How could I have missed it?"

"Easily, my love. War has torn the world apart, even the gods. Betrayal has become an art form and a highly priced skill. We strove to keep our kingdom together and our race alive while trying to endorse such ideals as freedom and righteousness. It is not our crime that we missed the corruption the nobility became. The desperation and fear the war instilled in our upper class has finally taken its toll. It is for this reason, that I shall address the issue myself and not our son. Persecution and threats will only create more fear. I will seek the heart of the matter."

"Partners in love, bed, and power. What would I do without you my love?"

Her heart warmed. "Be lost in a sea of cold lifeless water as I have been these past months. Alone after centuries of a such a bond is not easy." Their hands clasped. "Postpone any official arrangements for Ridik's involvement with his birthright and nobility. Take it slow, for we have centuries to do so."

He nodded. "I received a letter and package today."

"Really, from whom?"

"Rath, or Lord Rath as he calls himself. It makes me wonder why he choose to address his letters with such an improper term as Lord Rath."

She smiled. "Perhaps he has grown an attachment to those who chose to call him by such a title. What was the letter?"

"It was a declaration of peace and an assurance that he never had any malice towards our cause or race. He described very vividly the nature behind the beast's hate for use and announced he would use every means in his power to keep the creature from becoming thus hateful again. The package was a gift to Ridik."

The queen raised an eyebrow. "How odd. What was in it?"

"Two items. A sword, that my mages have declared to be not only safe but of ancient quality. And a portrait."

"A portrait."

"Yes. It is one that must have been done by a customer who visited the Pearl Palace perhaps daily. It would seem Ridik was on the center stage on more than one occasion."

The High Priestess frowned. "Odd that he would send it to you. Perhaps he is still malicious."

"Yes," the king nodded. "But not towards us. He stole the portrait from the very nobles I sent Ridik to see this very day. Rath overtook the delivery wagon, and the message that stated it was the portrait they had requested and purchased. It describe a very detailed means of blackmailing my son into disappearance."

"Gods, it must be a very explicit painting."

"Yes." Was all he said.

"With your permission, I would like to visit the Pearl Palace and discover what other information we can gather on your son. Our son if he so wishes it."

"Wife..."

"Let the nobles talk if they wish. I know very well that a number of them frequent the place. Was a returned letter issued to Rath?"

"Yes."

"Dear... what did it say. How did you address the slayer of our son?" She asked softly.

"What could I say but thank you?" A distant gleam enter the grey eyes as he looked away. "Halith died in a war and not at the hands of a murderer. It is time we let him go and live in paradise in peace. He will always be with us, in memory and heart. My son would have been honored to see his adversary step away from the dark lord he once defended and turn his back yet again to the evils such as this war... He is missed."

***

Rath stepped out the door and was surprised to find a letter waiting there addressed to Lord Rath. Odd, he was not expecting any letters yet. He opened it slowly and peered at the contents.

: Your gifts were well received. Any information that may follow will also be welcomed. If it is peace you desire, than we shall have it. The conditions will shortly follow. As my potential ally, I request that you apprehend any more such questionable items and deliver them as was done.

Thank You.

Rath smiled slowly, his hand briefly touching his permanent scar. Thank you indeed. It is not everyday that one had an official document giving him the right to the search the persons of the elven nobles. Perhaps, this peace time would not prove to be as dull as expected. He frowned slowly. The letter mentioned nothing of his once elven slave, but then again, he could gain all he wanted to know from Titos. Yes. As soon as the warrior and his lovers returned, it would be time for another visit.

-Please let me Know what you think-  Paladin

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