Chapter 1: Shortcomings and Goings.
The colourful veil of twilight hung peacefully over the lush, sheltered landscape of Erestine, dyeing the clouds dusky shades of pink and lending the many rivers tones of purple and crimson to flaunt as they gurgled their musical way toward Lake Astine.
A light breeze shivered through the abundant grass, making it dance along to the melody of the brook, while small birds flitted here and there among the trees of this epitome of serenity.
The cry of a baby split the lull of the atmosphere in a small, homely house near the road to the Doren Ruins. A petite woman dressed in a maroon kimono rushed to answer to her child's distress.
'Oh, sh, sh, shh…' Serina gathered the baby in her arms and held him close. 'It's okay, I'm here now.' She crooned lovingly, caressing the child's soft skin. He whimpered, thrashing his arms around and catching some of his mother's auburn hair in his fingers. She grimaced, and gently detached it.
'Are you hungry?'
The baby stared dolefully up at her with his radiant blue eyes.
'Is that a 'yes'?'
He smiled slightly, and Serina carried him towards the living room.
'I thought so.'
The next day at around noon, Serina sat gazing into space on the large, plushy sofa in the lounge. Her three week old infant dozed peacefully beside her, and she couldn't help but notice the odd way in which he slept. He lay on his stomach, head rested on the cushion of the sofa, and his legs were tucked under his bottom, causing it to protrude upwards. It looked very uncomfortable, but he seemed content, so Serina left him to it.
The front door creaked, and she heard light footsteps in the porch. She leapt up, instantly alert, and ran to meet her husband.
'Calintz!' she cried, flinging herself into his strong, thin arms.
Her eyes were closed, but she could sense that he was smiling. He held her close, and planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
'Hello, Serina.' He murmured fondly. 'I'm back. Hopefully for good.'
They adjourned into the living room and Calintz chuckled fondly at the obscure position in which his baby son was lying.
'We really need to think of a name soon.'
Serina nodded blandly and sat down, gazing at her husband. He looked tired and a little windswept, but his grey eyes glittered with a satisfied gleam.
'I'm glad you're home.' She said with a meaningful smile. 'So, what was the problem this time? That call you received seemed pretty urgent.'
Calintz gave a nonchalant wave of his hand. 'The usual. Yason thugs were provoking some hot headed humans- clerics from the Holy Order of Eryu, to be precise. I was amazed at them; they, of all people, should be able to respect the peace and ignore taunts from the Yason. We don't want another war on our hands.'
Serina shifted in her seat. 'Well, with someone like you to keep the peace, there won't be.' She shuddered. 'No… there won't be another war…'
A light rain began to drum on the roof of the house. The infant beside Serina gave a tiny yawn and rolled onto his back, still asleep and breathing steadily.
Calintz spoke again. 'Did you know that Orha has been appointed as a Peacekeeper as well?'
Serina raised her eyebrows and shook her head. 'No.' she seemed taken aback. 'Doesn't he have enough to do already? Like… running a country?!'
A small frown crossed the small woman's face, but it was quickly replaced with a sceptical expression.
'Hmm… I think he's biting off more than he can chew.'
Calintz shrugged. 'Orha seems quite at ease with his hectic life.'
His wife snorted, then snuggled comfortably into her seat and sighed.
'I'm glad I abdicated the throne.'
The pale haired man gave a small, rueful grin. 'So am I. I don't think being a Prince would quite have suited me. Besides, I would have been the only human in the Yason-Roven royal family, and I don't think your people would have taken too kindly to that, war or no war.'
Serina laughed. Calintz had changed, changed for the better. He smiled often now, and even chuckled at rare intervals. She had liked the serious Calintz, but she adored this new man he had become since the end of the war. Their marriage had been very public, and had, in effect, sealed the fragile peace treaty between the two races. Mistress Ladrinne; the Great Priestess of Amabat and Calintz's mother, had conducted the ceremony and since then, Serina had lived a relatively quiet life in Erestine with her husband, with old friends dropping by now and then.
The birth of their son three weeks ago had only been announced to a select group of good friends, all of which had given some sort of useful trinket to the baby: Mistress Ladrinne had brought a charmed bottle, Eonis a book of magic lore for when he was older, Azel a geckra teddy, and Chris…well, no one had quite worked out what the twisted piece of plastic he called an 'ingenious breakthrough' was meant to do yet, but he had brought some gorgeous blue bootees from Maya. Justina had sent a rattle fashioned like a miniature blue magic rod and Rianna some woollen mittens and a bunch of flowers for Serina.
As yet, Haren had not visited, so Serina made the (probably wrong) assumption that he simply had not heard the news. Haren's hatred for Yason and half-Yason alike still burned within him, and he had not approved of the fact that Calintz would be willing to be married to one. He had not been in contact since he had received the wedding invitation.
A confident rap on the front door interrupted Serina's musings. With effort, Calintz stood up and went to answer it.
She heard the click of the lock and her husband's startled exclamation of 'Orha!'
A deep, rich voice replied to this. 'Long time no see, Calintz.' The voice held a hint of coldness.
'Yes…' A long, awkward silence ensued, broken only by a roll of thunder from outside.
Orha Duren, a well built Yason and the steward of Yason-Roven stood on the cottage doorstep framed by the lightning that flashed across the sky. His sandy hair was plastered to his head by the heavy downpour and his clothes were soaked through and dripping. He was clutching a bouquet of white roses, and he held them out to Calintz.
'These are for Serina to congratulate her on the birth of your child.'
Calintz gave a curt nod and took the flowers from his former enemy. 'Thank you.' He said stiffly. 'Won't you come in?'
'Oh, well, I don't want to intrude.' The Yason said smoothly, water running from his ears onto his neck and back.
Serina bounded to stand beside her husband.
'Come in, Orha! Please. We have so much to catch up on!' Her soulful blue eyes shone with sincerity and appeal and a half smile softened Orha's harsh features.
He stepped into the lamp lit porch, creating puddles where he stood. Calintz moved carefully aside, and Orha squelched his way into the hall, leaving a trail of damp, muddy footprints behind him on the cream carpet. Serina grimaced, and showed him into the living room where her baby son was lying.
Orha gave a small grunt, though what it symbolised was a mystery to Serina. The former leader of the Four Warriors had always been an enigma, keeping his emotions guarded behind his endearing frankness and battle-worn exterior. Much like Calintz, she thought in surprise. So why couldn't they get along?
Serina realised with a jolt that both Orha and Calintz were sitting down, though on opposite sides of the room, and were staring expectantly at her.
'Hmm?' she said unhelpfully.
Calintz shifted uncomfortably, and Orha stretched casually, taking the liberty of removing some water from his ear as he did so.
'Orha, I'll get you a towel.' Serina started to get up, but Calintz beat her to it.
'I'll do it.' He paced quickly out of the room.
For the first time, Orha took a good look at the former Queen of Yason-Roven. It was astounding how much a person could change in two years, but taking into account all that had happened, it was hardly surprising.
She had gotten a little plumper, thought Orha approvingly, she used to be as gaunt and emaciated as a wraith. And her eyes-they were brighter than what they used to be, if that were possible. They glistened softly in the light like moonshine on midnight blue sapphires. She was lovely, with the glowing pride of a new mother. Yes, altogether lovely, and anyone would agree with him. Wouldn't they?
Orha's own green eyes narrowed. Thoughts like that were dangerous and futile, and best left untouched. But touched upon them he had, and was finding it difficult to stop. With a will of steel, he clenched his teeth and forced himself back to reality, only to find the object of his thoughts watching him calmly.
'Oh, ah…' he stammered, trying hard to keep his pale complexion and not quite succeeding.
He looked around frantically for a topic of conversation and noticed that Calintz had left the bouquet of flowers he had brought on a handy armchair beside a quaint oak table.
'These…are for you.' He muttered, and, standing up, he lifted them over to her.
'Thank you, Orha.' She said with a smile in the queenly voice he knew so well.
'My pleasure.' Orha gave a small, ornate bow then returned to his seat.
The tiny infant beside Serina moaned, then began to cry quietly. His mother lifted him and cradled him in her arms, rocking back and forth softly singing an Efferian lullaby:
'A journey through dreams,
O'er hill and glen.
Until the magic stirs again.
A journey through time,
To tales untold.
That you'll retain in a heart of gold.
So cast off now,
Dream of magic anew.
And I shall be here
To watch over you.
The child dozed soundly in Serina's loving arms, his innocent face in perfect peace.
Calintz re-entered the room quietly, and flung a towel at Orha, who hadn't been expecting this, and promptly dropped it. He supposed that that was fairly appropriate, seeing as nearly all the water that had covered him had, by this time, run off him onto the floor.
Nevertheless, he picked it up and rubbed himself down with it.
An urgent banging threatened to break the front door from it's hinges, disturbing the awkward yet peaceful lull that had come over the room.
Calintz gave a quick and worried scowl before creeping warily to answer it, drawing precautionary Chi from the atmosphere in case of a hostile attack.
The varnished oak door burst open just as he reached for the handle, and a group of gloved and hooded men stormed in.
'Wha..?!!' Calintz was pushed roughly back, falling hard on his side. His concentration broke, and the Chi dispersed back into the air. Leather booted feet clumped hastily past him, and one lashed out at him, hitting him beneath the ribs and winding him. Calintz's eyes prickled with tears, and he felt bile rising in his throat. He had to get up…
As this frantic thought passed through his mind, he heard a shriek from the direction of the living room. Adrenaline screamed through his body, and breath returned easily to his lungs. His pain was forgotten in the blind panic that pervaded him.'
End of chapter 1. Hope you liked it! Please review, a comment to tell me what you thought would be much appreciated!! Thanks; Clairesse.