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Fifteen

Fifteen

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
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Troem, Applemint, Gevin and Zaeya prepare for their journey and receive some assistance through magic.

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15.

 


‘A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.’

--Chinese Proverb

 

 

It was a busy and satisfyingly successful day for the four after they descended the mountain.   Although exhausted from the descent, Lady Zaeya was determined to cast her spell.   So as the others rested nearby on some benches outside of the old, worn way house that Troem had mentioned to them earlier, the Drow lady placed a tuff of grass on the ground in front of her, along with a cup of water taken from a mountain stream and chanted the spell.

The incantation did not take long, but it was nearly a half-hour before they saw any sort of result.   As they were about to give up waiting and instead search for something to eat, they heard the sound of hooves and a moment later two wild horses emerged from the trees, their coats sweaty as if they’d ran a long distance.  

They stopped for a moment and then slowly, almost shyly came forward and approached Zaeya.   Though the Dark Elf looked a bit apprehensive of approaching the animals, she held her hands out and spoke soothingly to them.   They were drawn to her by the enchantment of her spell and the Drow woman gently stroked the nose of a healthy looking brown stallion.

“Good, very good…” Gevin mumbled, halfway to himself as he monitored Zaeya’s progress, for he had been around horses his whole life and prided himself in knowledge of them.  Troem was approaching the second horse, watched by Zaeya out of the corner of her eye.

“That’s a fat one,” She said in a soft voice to Troem, gesturing with her head toward the second horse, which was a light tan color, “Look how big he is.”

“It’s not a ‘he’”, Gevin told her, watching the Elf speaking softly to the equine, “She’s a mare and extremely pregnant; probably about three months away from having her foal,” Gevin told her as he went to examine the horse.    Applemint, fearful that the stallion would spook once Zaeya’s enchantment ended, went over to him.

To Zaeya’s surprise, the Halfling girl very gracefully leaped up, caught a bit of his mane and swung on top of his back.   The stallion turned his head, still under the influence of the magic, but clearly uneasy with Applemint’s presence.

But to everyone’s amazement, the girl leaned over his neck and began speaking softly to him while caressing his tight neck muscles.    The horse relaxed quickly and Applemint kept mumbling to him.   The stallion kept his eyes on her, but Gevin could sense that he was relaxing.

“Okay…the spell is wearing off,”  Zaeya announced.   Though he was concerned about Applemint on the stallion, Gevin focused on the pregnant mare.   Troem was speaking gently to her and stroking her face and Gevin joined him, rubbing the mid of her back which was slightly bowed from the weight of her unborn foal.  

The stallion whinnied suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention to him (and causing Zaeya to step back in alarm) but Applemint seemed to possess some sort of magic of her own.   Her voice and gentle touch calmed the animal.   To everyone’s profound amazement, in a minute’s time the girl had complete control of the stallion and was controlling him with only soft taps of her heels.

“She’s not using a bridle,” Troem said to Gevin, who was watching in disbelief.

“Nor stirrups or a saddle,” the Half-Elf added in a whisper, “Either Zaeya’s spell is slow to wear off or else Apple is a regular horse charmer.”

“The spell has completely ended,” Zaeya replied, having heard Gevin’s words.   She came over to them and watched as Applemint led the stallion around as easily as if he had been trained years before.

“I’ve never seen a Halfling who could even ride a horse,” Troem told the others, “But to me she looks like she has more than a little of Elven in her ancestry.”

“Her feet are hairy as usual,” Zaeya commented as Applemint trotted by, the fiery red down on her feet proving her race, “But she isn’t exactly built like a surface Elf.”

The Drow lady grinned at Gevin’s sheepish reaction.

“She looks like she has him mastered,” The Half-Elf changed the subject.

“She should try her skills on the fat mare here,”  Zaeya suggested, patting the flank of the animal, who eyed her suspiciously while remaining calm.

“Apple, bring him over to me,” Gevin told her and a few moments later they were standing in front of him.   He smiled and patted the horse’s nose, which the animal allowed.   Moving slowly to one side, he touched the stallion’s back and then with grace equal to the Halfling, sprang onto him.   The stallion snorted and started to rear up, but Applemint’s soothing voice and reassurance calmed him as Gevin positioned himself on the horse.

“He’s young and strong,”  Gevin told the rest of them, “I’m guessing he is the sire of the foal of the mare.”

“Won’t he be dangerous when her baby is born?”  Zaeya asked, “Will he kill it?”

“Not usually, especially if it is his.   Stallions with open access to females tend to behave better around their offspring.   This one seems very smart and accepting…thanks to our horse expert here.”  Gevin patted Applemint on the shoulder and she turned and grinned.

“He’s not a bad guy at all, sir.”

“No, we can see that.    Do you think you can tame the mare over there?”

“Will it hurt her to get on her back when she’s pregnant?”

“No, most probably not - you and Zaeya will ride her as you both weigh less.   In a few weeks though, she shouldn’t be ridden at all.    I think she’ll be fine for both of you as long as she is tamed and we keep her at a slow walk.”

“Should I go work with her?”

“Sure; do you need help getting down?”

Her response was to slide off so smoothly that the stallion didn’t notice at first.   When he did see that she had left him, he looked back at Gevin with slightly lowered ears, but the Half-Elf kept him calm and he soon settled down as he watched Applemint with the mare.

She took some time with the pregnant horse and the mare took to her even better than the stallion.   Applemint had Troem help her get onto her back so she wouldn’t disturb her too much.   The horse didn’t seem to mind and in no time at all, Applemint was leading her around wherever she wanted her to go.

“She makes it look so simple,”  Troem said as they watched her work.

“It isn’t usually that easy,” Gevin replied, “If I’d known of her skill with them, I could have saved a lot of time.   Zaeya, notice what she is doing - coaxing softly, not ramming her heels into the horse’s side.   That is the secret with them, and especially this one, since she is pregnant.”

The Drow lady smirked and rolled her eyes, “I’m not stupid, Sir Gevin.”

“No, but you aren’t used to horses and your last ride did not end well, if you’ll remember.”

She nodded, accepting that and resumed watching the Halfling moving the mare around.   “They need names, you know.”

“The horses?”

“They are usually named, aren’t they?”

“Usually…what names did you have in mind?”

“Call the pregnant mare ‘Ihar’ which is the Drow word for mother.   The stallion we’ll call ‘Harn’ which is a shortened version of the word for father, ‘Ilharn’.

“Ihar and Harn, huh?   What do you think, Apple?” Gevin called out to the girl who was approaching on the mare.

“It’s up to the horses; it’s their names.”

Gevin laughed and turned to Zaeya, “Do you have a spell that can help us talk to them to get their opinion on their names?”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” She snapped, “I don’t really care - call them whatever you want!”

“Ihar and Harn are acceptable,” Applemint announced.

“What a relief!” Zaeya snorted, sarcastically and Applemint just sighed and sadly shook her head at the testy Dark Elf.

 

***

 

For the rest of the afternoon, Gevin and Applemint worked to get the horses used to them, while Troem and Zaeya watched.   The Drow lady tried to look bored with the whole process and sat in the shade of a large tree shielding her light-sensitive eyes, but they both could tell that she was actually very fascinated with the horses.

By early evening, they were ready to let the two Elves try mastering the horses.  Troem was completely at ease with them and the mare accepted him nearly as well as she had Applemint.   But Zaeya made both horses rather nervous, which only frustrated her as she seemed to be secretly hoping they’d like her too without the aid of magic.

“You’re just nervous,” Troem assured her and he had her sit behind him on the mare as he walked her around.

“I’ll never get the hang of horses,” Zaeya grumbled, but Troem kept reassuring her.

“Why don’t you ride with Troem tomorrow on the mare, as she is comfortable with him.   Apple will ride with me.”

“Won’t we be too much for her in her maternal condition?” Zaeya asked about the horse.

“You both are Elves; you are both lighter than me, so she should be fine as long as we don’t tax her too much.”

“I’m fine with those arrangements,”  Troem told Gevin with a twinkle in his eyes.   He turned to the Drow woman, “Is that okay with you, Zaeya?”

“It’s fine with me, as long as the horse is okay with it.”

“Don’t worry, she’ll be fine and her foal should be too,” Troem reassured her.

Zaeya snorted as if concern was the farthest thing from her mind, but she didn’t respond and Gevin noticed a bit later that she took it upon herself to feed Ihar some dried apples that Troem had prepared for them as part of their dinner.

“They love most fruit and vegetables, especially apples and carrots,”  Applemint told the Dark Elf after she returned to the campfire.  Gevin nodded in agreement.

“I was full and didn’t want to waste anything,” Zaeya answered as if embarrassed over being kind to an animal.

“Grapes and raisins are good too,” Applemint told her, but Zaeya sneered as if the whole conversation was stupid.   But they could tell that it was information that pleased her even if she wouldn’t allow herself to admit affection for an animal.

 

They all agreed to rise at dawn and ride to Shelterhaven, where they’d camp the following night.   They could have ridden much farther, for the abandoned village was only five miles from the base of the mountain, but Gevin expressed a desire to see the village ruins.

They camped out in the old building at the foot of the mountain and it was several hours later when Gevin felt someone tapping him on the shoulder.   He’d not been able to get to sleep yet, and when he rolled over to see who was there, he found Applemint squatting down near him with her blanket wrapped around her like a cloak.

“Apple?  What’s wrong?” he asked in a whisper.

“Nothing, sir, I just couldn’t sleep because I kept wondering about something.   So I thought maybe I ought to ask you so I can clear my mind.”

“What is it?”  He sat up and she plopped down next to him.

“Well, when you said earlier that you wanted to see Shelterhaven, you had a very strange look on your face and I saw Troem give you a sympathetic glance.   It was as if the place bothered you somehow, yet you said this was your first time to see it.   I couldn’t help wondering about it.   Was your mother from Shelterhaven, sir?”

“Possibly; she was Troem’s grand niece.   If she wasn’t from Shelterhaven, she certainly had family there.”

“Is that why you had such a strange look on your face this evening when you mentioned wanting to see it?”

“That look was because of guilt, Apple.   My father destroyed most of Albsidhe and I burned up the last remaining part of the Albsylvia woods.   Between the two of us, we destroyed most of my mother’s people.   Now I want to see the place, but I feel responsible -at least in part- for it being a ruin.   Conflicting emotions are hard to balance out.   That’s why I looked that way.”

“Sir Gevin, I’d say that Troem has forgiven you for your involvement in the destruction, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, he’s a godly man who trusts Yesh.”

“He’s also your great uncle…or grand uncle…whatever…anyway, he is your family, sir.”

“Yes, but it is surely difficult for him to have a great grand nephew who is the son of the vile man who destroyed his home and killed or enslaved most of his people.”

“Troem knows it wasn’t you, sir.   You’re not guilty of something just because you’re related to someone evil.    Look at my family, for example.   Did you know my grandmother Tori’s mother, Aelentorrli Thoerinfle?”

“No, I’d remember that name.   That doesn’t sound like a Halfling name.”

“There’s a reason for that sir.    Our family doesn’t talk about it; it is one of those dark family secrets.   You see, Aelentorrli was the daughter of Brandy Mintlepipe, who worked as a prostitute in a brothel connected to an old tavern in Whiteberry.   It’s long gone now, but have you ever heard of the Cherry Blossom Tavern on the east side of the city?”

“I remember hearing it mentioned - it was still there when I first came to the royal court.”

“It was the most popular stopping off point for Halflings and Elves as it catered to non-humans.    The brothel was as popular as the tavern for the same reason.   Brandy was known for…showing a preference…for Elven men.   Back then they were more numerous than they are now, I guess.’

“Yes, but most of the Elves that came here were ‘humanized’.   They lived among humans and were ostracized by the Elves still living in hiding in their old haunts.”

“Well, this handful of Elven men apparently had a very human-like obsession with prostitutes and apparently Brandy Mintlepipe was their favorite.   One of Brandy’s…patrons… was Lanel Thoerinfle, who sold Elven goods to human merchants, and vice versa.   He was so obsessed with Brandy that he offered her a fortune in gold if she would bare him a child.   He didn’t want her to marry him or even quit her…profession…he only wanted a child by her.    Brandy was rather greedy for money and to her family’s further shame, she agreed.   Brandy had already been disowned by the Mintlepipes for being a w***e, but when she agreed to try to have a child with a man from another race, that was too much.   The Mintlepipe clan convinced the other Halfling families to also ostracize her.   They didn’t think she’d succeed in conceiving a child by Lanel, because no Halfling had ever heard of one of their own becoming pregnant by anyone except a Halfling man.”

“But she did?”

“Yes, to the horror of most in the Halfling community.  I’m told that she strutted around like a peacock for her entire pregnancy, proud of her feat.   But she grew extremely large and when she gave birth to Aelentorrli Thoerinfle she died of complications due to her small size.    Lanel didn’t want to raise Aelentorrli, as he was married, but he did name her and paid for a human family to raise her.   Aelentorrli was Half-Elven and was about my height.    When she grew up, she married Phorm Finklecruix, who was a foot shorter than she was, and my grandmother Tori was born.   We’ve kept the real story a family secret for years.   Aelentorrli had eight children by Phorm and their descendants are the source for the Taphelo subspecies.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Few other than Halflings do, sir.   That is why many Halflings won’t associate with Taphelo folk as they consider them a tainted race.   The women in my family tend to inherit physical traits from Aelentorrli and when we are taller and more…developed… than other Halflings, we tend to feel shame and disgust over our mixed heritage.”

“There is nothing you could do about that.”

“Of course not, but my grandma Tori, while she seems all confident and self-assured, still struggles with shame and is paranoid that Halflings are talking about her with disgust.   Her grandmother was a prostitute that catered to Elves and her mother was an offspring abomination because of it.    But she told my dad, Mangle, to always remember that you are not responsible for something your ancestor did and you should not let yourself be consumed with guilt and shame.   I’d say that message is relevant to your current situation.”

Gevin slowly nodded, “I guess she is right.   That does explain why your family is so tall and have such attractive Elven features.”

“Please don’t share that with anyone, sir.   I don’t think my parents would mind me telling you this, but I’m sure they don’t want new rumors and stories to go out again.   They’ve battled whispers in the Halfling community for many years.”

“So what happened to Aelentorrli?  If she was Half-Elven, she should have stopped aging as she reached maturity.”

“Oh, she’s still alive -she lives with some of the Zanderwalsh clan-descendants of her youngest daughter Frayla- in Southport.   She’s somewhat reclusive because she’s outlived her husband and a few of her children, yet looks as young as her mature great grandchildren.   It hurts her to see all her descendants aging, but she loves seeing the younger generations.   I’ve only seen her…four times, I think…but she is very sweet and loving.   Sir, she probably understands what you are going through as much as anyone.   She told me once that the secret to happiness is to enjoy moments but to not rely on the memories of them to keep you going.   Move on to new moments, she tells her descendants.   She endured many years of disgrace as the ‘abomination’ of Brandy Mintlepipe, but she has made peace with who she is, which, ironically, is something that my grandmother Tori struggles with all the time.”

“Does Tori see her mother often?”

“Well, she’s seen her exactly the same number of times that I’ve seen her - at least in the past decade or so-- since we all travel to visit her together.”

“So Tori and Aelentorrli were not close?”

“Actually, they were extremely close, but Aelentorrli moved south which created a slight rift between them.   It never completely healed.”

“Aelentorrli probably was bothered to see her children age when she didn’t.”

“I think that was it.   So she chose one daughter’s family to live with after her husband died of old age, and maybe the distance between her and her other children makes it easier for her, somehow.   I don’t know really; grandma Tori won’t talk about her parents much.”

 

Gevin sighed, wondering if Aelentorrli felt as out of place as he did.

“Are you alright, sir?”   Applemint asked after hearing his sigh.

“Yeah, I think so; I was just wondering about how she copes with her life.   Apple, why didn’t you mention this story to me when you were trying to talk me out of going through the Nihility Gate?  It would have been very relevant.”

“Honestly, I thought I was persuasive enough on my own to convince you.   That was really immature, wasn’t it?”

Before Gevin could respond, the voice of Zaeya drifted out to them.

“Would you two please go to sleep or take the conversation outside?   I thought we all were supposed to get up tomorrow early.”

“Sorry,” Gevin and Applemint said together and with a slight nod, the Halfling girl returned to her own bed, while Gevin laid down and considered everything.




© 2020 Eddie Davis


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Added on November 24, 2020
Last Updated on November 24, 2020
Tags: Synomenia, Nihility_Gate, fantasy, elf, sword_and_sorcery, magic, knights, Halflings, Drow


Author

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis

Springfield, MO



About
I'm a fantasy and science-fiction writer that enjoys sharing my tales with everyone. Three trilogies are offered here, all taking place in the same fantasy world of Synomenia. Other books and stor.. more..

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