The sun was now hanging high in the afternoon sky hours later after her return. The city of Ao'lean was bustling with the everyday sounds of a lively province. Spring brought the promise of new things and changes to the old. There was the sound of happiness flowing through the open window and into Tirin’s room. It’s a sound that brought a smile to her still sleeping face at first, but then reminded her of the horrible reality that was her life. Today was her birthday. She was now twenty years of age. With age comes clarity the elders said often.
Every sign of sleep faded quickly as she sat up suddenly. When she was younger she had always dreamt of this day, the day she would show all of her father’s people how wrong they were about her. At an age when she thought that all the wrong done to her would be forgotten because she would share in a celebration that would make her like everyone else.
The celebration had two parts this year; one was the Comne the other was the Barryn Ritual. The Comne was the equivalent to a mass birthday party, for all of those now reaching the legal age of adulthood. Tirin wasn’t concerned with that. It was the last minute Barryn added two weeks prior. The Barryn was the impromptu ritual that awakened inert power or showed you some major factor of your future. Good or bad.
The clear noon sky didn’t seem so bright now as she peered out her window taking in the colorful decorations that were being put up for tonight. The festive ribbons and flowers wound around the same route as the streets leading toward the very center of the city. She could see the tables and the stage area for the performers, the dance area where she dreamed of showing her grace and ability. Then there was the heart of the city, the Dual Gardens where everything could be taken away from her.
The outer Garden was like another world, flowers and plants that were long extinct beyond the gates of Ao'lean grew here in the earth that housed roots of the oldest tree in this world. The inner Garden is where the Barryn will take place. Another stonewall at the center of this garden unsuccessfully contains the owner of the ancient roots that continued to give life to these plants. Tirin lets her eyes move up the drab stonewall that encompassed the tree she once thought would be her chance to gain the respect and adoration she’s always wanted. The Grand Ao'lean, the namesake of this city.
The Barryn ritual was a time selected by the Grand Ao'lean when it deemed it necessary to awaken what was dormant or to open one’s eyes to a possible future.
It didn’t matter what age the receiver was just whether or not they were ready. Not everyone that was summoned by the old tree received anything. But there was only one summoning and there were many never summoned. It just so happens that this year the Barryn would be on a Comne. She was told all her life that only Ao'lean Elves could be summoned by the tree, only those who were born here could receive an audience with the Grand Ao'lean. Tirin looked away from the old tree and then closed the curtains smartly almost ripping them from their anchor. That old tree was the same as those that surrounded the city. It was the same genus as the trees that populated the forest of Guardians beyond Ao'lean’s gates. Their magyk confused those that did not belong, those that were not of this town. Unless guided by a local they would never make it to the gates or out of the forest. Tirin has never had that problem. Never have the trees used their magyk on her to prevent her from getting in, this was an important discovery, but...
Tirin shook her head and moved to her closet; there was no choice she had to leave. History had no stories of Humans with magyk that didn’t try to take over the world or mindlessly destroyed civilizations. There were only stories of the magyk driving them crazy and evil. Even their deaths were horrible; the magyk built up within them would be released explosively taking large numbers of people with them. She couldn’t stay here and let that happen, she knew they would all want her to leave anyway or worse take her out and kill her themselves.
Soon after freshening up she quietly headed down stairs, carefully taking each step so as not to alert her father. She stood straight at the sudden realization at how quiet the house was.
Where was Tyrus? He was usually up around this time. She reached the bottom of the stairs and proceeded to look about, through the dining area, the living room, the library, the den, and then the kitchen. Tyrus was nowhere to be found. She eventually realized where he might be. Just as she would make her trips late in the night he would make a few of his own early in the mornings. She even dared to follow him once, careful to stay downwind of him due to his enhanced senses. For an hour he would travel at a pace that had been hard to maintain at first but strangely had gotten easier for her to keep. Noir Swamps would be his destination and at the very edge of it would he stand, never entering, sometimes threatening to, but never succeeding. She hoped with his lateness that it meant that he finally entered.
Returning from Noir Swamp Tyrus howled in utter disgust with himself. To visit and revisit the swamps and to only stand there at its edge staring into its depths instead of entering to confront the human witch that cursed him in the first place was growing old quickly. Something snagged his cloak as he stormed into Ao'lean Forest and without thinking he turned and attacked the bush that caught him. Not even bothering to take notice that only his hands had transformed. His ebon claws became evilly hooked rapiers as he blindly ripped the bush apart. When the twigs and leaves settled he covered his face in humiliation.
But he felt better.
Tyrus turned and continued for home wondering if he would ever be brave enough to confront Bayne. He needed to get her to remove this curse. He would beg for her forgiveness, nothing would be too humiliating that he would not do.
He sighed as he looked at his hands now elven save for his ebon nails, finally feeling the sting of the few scratched he received. Certain aspects of his transformation were a little disturbing. The howl earlier was a surprise to him. He wondered what else was going to change.
The wind suddenly picked up and he found himself watching the path it took. Seemingly from his feet it blew up into the brush ahead and then into the glittering foliage of the trees. The emerald leaves of the guardians of Ao'lean; younger versions of the Grand Ao'lean, shimmering like a thousand flash beetles. He observed the surrounding area, still amazed at the blessing most of them as elves took for granted. He found it more than a privilege to live within the protection of this mysterious fortune such as these Ao'lean trees. These trees had been studied and marveled at for hundreds of years and yet their secret remained well hidden. No one knew how the trees worked, how they came to hold magyk and enough to protect a large and still growing city. He had seen the boundary of the city expand three times and each time the edge of Ao'lean Forrest remained exactly half a mile away from the city’s walls. He had often wondered how it was that no other living being could enter the forest without getting hopelessly lost within its magyk. Except for the Ao'lean Elves … and Tirin … even though human.
How was it that the magyk of these trees could know that she belonged and other humans or beings did not? This fact brought on more questions as to how exactly did Sire Baelor meet Tirin’s mother and what really went on between them? This man who was ashamed of nothing, who dared to return from his captivity disfigured in a way that was considered obscene, as the loss of a limb was a weakness that could never be strengthened. He wouldn’t say he loved Tirin and continue to refuse her as his own blood if she was. Sire Baelor would not keep such information hidden to himself. Maybe Tirin had been here long enough that the trees … or the magyk they possessed specifically protected those who lived there. Like a certain aura that only they could discern.
Tyrus looked up at the bright sky and found himself, with reluctance, remembering that today was of great importance. Whether he wanted to or not he was required to get back. His presence, although not entirely wanted, was a must. He sighed, tearing his eyes from the Ao'lean trees and started back for home.
Tirin grabbed some sweet bread and some fruit before heading toward the front door. As she exited she prayed that a tongue-lashing was all she got when she returned well after the festivities.
“What’re you up…” the Young Lord, Darec Shiey, began, startling her and causing the small gathering of food to fall from her hands as she greeted him with wide eyes. She picked up her breakfast, grabbed him and dragged him back toward the gate of the property.
Tirin looked at the house carefully eyeing each window for movement. Tirin sighed with relief as the curtains to every window remained still before turning to face Darec, who simply looked at her with this world’s biggest grin.
“I’m sorry, did I startle you?” He asked, his voice trembling with laughter.
Tirin raised her pert little nose and looked away from him. “You will have to do more than that to scare me, Darec.” She started to walk away and frowned as the Young Lord followed her.
“What’re you up to?” He asked again keeping her pace with ease.
“What makes you think that I’m up to something? Aren’t you the Lord of mischief?” She picked up her pace a little and watched as he did too.
Darec shook his head and memories of the past filled her, she remembered how she had been so attracted to him. How she wished that his heart then had changed to adore her. But lingering hatred rose to replace past adoration and with this she added more speed to her pace. The hatred still surprised her because she couldn’t remember why she felt that way. Yes, he used to bully her when they were younger, but he changed as the years went on. But she was missing something, something horrible that he had done and no matter what she did she couldn’t remember what it was.
Darec watched her pull away, smiling as she continued to act suspicious. He remembered how it had been between them before, too. He remembered clearly the abuse he and his friends put her through just because she was human. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t trying to forget them or why he felt no remorse for them. He looked around at the cheerful street. Just about each corner on any street he chose had a memory of abuse for Tirin. Darec looked up and find that she had more than doubled the distance between them. He rushed to catch up picking random flowers as he did. Noticing how bothered she seemed at his persistence to keep up with her, he smiled regardless.
“What?” She whined. He smiled as he handed her the small bouquet of flowers. She tried to fight it, but found it hard not to smile. Her brown face reddening as she tried to keep her eyes on the flowers.
“What’s this for?” She looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the gift. “You know if anyone saw this what they would think.” She watched as he shrugged, wishing there was one person out there to see it. Tirin silently reprimanded herself for such a selfish thought. Daynel Amforle wouldn’t be jealous of such a menial gift from the one that she had vowed would be her husband.
“Your thoughts are the only ones that matter.” He watched as she looked at him. “But seriously now, Tirin. What are you up to?”
Tirin continued to look at him a little confused as to what he meant by that remark.
Tirin blinks her confusion away as she realized she was losing time. “I’m going on a trip.”
Darec laughed. “Today’s a Comne, you can’t go anywhere.” He grinned at her. “Your father would skin you if you left.”
“My father’s preoccupied!” She said impatiently. “And I can go where I please, I’m not an elf.”
The young Lord looked at her amused slightly. “No, but you are the daughter of a High Imperial Guard … “
“Retired!” She cut him off irritated.
Darec shook his head, “If a war was to suddenly come up, whom do you think my father would call upon? The new Imperial or the old?”
She looked away from him saying nothing as she continued to walk.
“Tirin! Tirin, don’t be angry. We all have to…” She whirled on him her large brown eyes threatening tears.
“How would you feel in my place? Having to be forced to go to every Comne that could never be yours!” She swallowed the urge to cry refusing to let him see that. Darec grabbed her arm and led her toward a more isolated area.
“I know what you’re going through.” He forced her to look into his eyes, making her see that he sympathized with her. “Being who I am I have to constantly go to meetings and other gatherings just because I’m the only heir my father has.”
Tirin shook her head and pulled away from him, “Not the same!” she hissed. “Not the same at all!”
She pointed back toward the street indicating the excitement the people had and the decorations that would soon take over the whole area.
“My heart is filled with jealousy, Darec, because of what you and your friends in the past made me realize over and over again. I’m human, not an Ao'lean elf. I can never enjoy these Comnes because I…”
Darec’s hand slid down the length of her arm to hold her hand. Gently intertwining his fingers with hers. She looked at him, her tongue frozen.
“That’s not the only reason for the Comne, Tirin.” He said with a wistful gaze. “It’s also to welcome young elves and in your case, a young human into adulthood. It’s a time for realizing that childish ways are now to be put away. It’s time to think on your future, to prepare for marriage, making new families…”
Tirin’s heart suddenly stopped. All this time she’s been looking at having a Comne the wrong way. Wanting to show all of Ao’lean that she did belong and then waking up to realize that her magyk could cause her to be banished or executed. It never occurred to her that the main reason for their excitement in this celebration was to see who got whom. She hadn’t even considered that. Her depression deepened; who would want a human for a wife? The life span of an elf could go on for several hundred years and they aged slowly while her kind, if lived carefully, could only last maybe a few years past a hundred. Daynel was going to have a ball on her behalf. What man would want a short relationship with a woman they knew would die long before they did? The idea of having children with her, what father would want to outlive their children due to her blood? Tirin jerked away from Darec and ran full tilt toward the main gates quickly leaving him behind. He watched as she disappeared down the road.
An Epic Fantasy
-WARNING!-This Is a rough draft! (That means typos and other editing issues will be found within!)
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