Eternity

"Parn!"

His head turned and blue eyes met the green. How perfectly sculpted they were, reminding him of the fruits that fell from the tree once they had become too ripe. Her love for the land went further than the simple type of love—not that he would have defined love as… 'simple'. (Or at all, for that matter.) That fact aside, Parn believed she thought of the planet as a mother of sorts. She'd once said that there were faeries in all living things. Perhaps that meant the planet's true form was a faerie of some sort as well.

He watched his companion lift her hands and between them she created a sphere of blue, which grew to white. Manipulating the elements; that was what she was doing. Except she wouldn't call it "manipulation". When he listened closely, he could hear her requests of the spirits. Wind to guide her safely, water to lend her aid, and light to bring salvation to the darkness.

That's clever, he thought to himself.

"What is it, Deed?" he finally asked.

Her ears wiggled up and down as she responded in that matter-of-fact tone, "Aren't you ready yet? I've been waiting a long time for you." She tried so hard to sound annoyed, but her smile betrayed her.

Parn looked around, escaping the glee lying within her gaze. "…Uh… Where's Etoh and the others? I thought they were going to wait until I arrived."

His companion pulled an expression filled with disbelief. "You took too long, so they left. I'm the only one who wanted to stay. Think of it as though they wanted to give us some time alone."

He tried to ignore her grin. Of course she would think like that. She was so forward. For being an elf, she wasn't so eloquent when it came to her feelings, he'd noticed. He folded his arms across his chest, looking unamused.

"Stop that," he replied as she approached him.

It was the first time he got a good look at her horse. It was white, somewhat anticipated with royalty, he thought. After all, he'd heard of her defined as a 'snooty princess'. Perhaps she was… a little

"How long are you going to pout? We'll never get to them as long as we're stuck here. You do know that, right?"

He eyed her for a moment and watched her lend a hand with a kind smile. He hadn't brought his own steed, of course, since he'd arrived tardy. It wouldn't do too badly to accept her offer. He took her hand and hoisted himself up behind her.

"I wasn't pouting, Deedlit."

The elf smiled knowingly. When he adjusted himself, she took the reins and turned the heels of her boots into the sides of the horse, causing it to break into a slow canter.

"Whatever you say, Parn."

They wandered in silence for some time before Parn adjusted his position once more.

"Are you all right?" his companion asked rather nonchalantly.

"I'm fine."

Except perhaps he wasn't. With Karla virtually out of the way and Lodoss at a state of uneasy peace, he wondered what else there was for him. It was hard to lead the Holy Knights of Valis when there was no place to lead them. It would have led him to believe he was hardly more than a shepherd of sheep.

The others had moved on.

Etoh was busy as a priest for Pharis. Slayn and Leylia had been married after their journey. Ghim had made a permanent mark upon their minds and they would gather each year to honour his memory. Woodchuck was still at large and Parn found himself thinking about it often, reminded by Deedlit that it wasn't his fault or anyone else's. Shiris and Orson were likely still traveling Lodoss in search of something more meaningful (much to Deedlit's delight). In the end, he could only hope that the others were well.

That left him with Deedlit.

She never seemed to think of doing other things. They spent the days wandering the countryside. The nights were spent on one of the castle terraces where she would play for him. Something about the two of them had changed. Perhaps. It may not have been them as people, but rather the two of them together.

Parn remembered his feeling tugging upon his heart when he pulled Deedlit from the rubble of Kardis' underworld. A true hero he must have resembled, but the only thing that mattered at the time was the elf he carried. Parn wouldn't lose her to anyone or anything. When had this evolved, however…? …Or perhaps it had always been there?

"Deed."

She paused for a moment. Then she smiled as she lifted a hand and gestured off into the distance.

"Isn't it pretty, Parn? The snow, I mean. It'll start getting colder soon. It's a good thing you have me to keep you company."

He stared at her, catching the movements of her ears. She must have been anxious. Or nervous. That wasn't like her, in the least.

Is it just me, or are you avoiding something?

She had grown understanding since the recent war. Parn believed that in spite of personal ideals, she had a gentle heart. Yes, she could be arrogant or think of herself as superior. There was more beneath that, however. She stayed at his side during the difficult times and supported him. The best part about it was that she did these things because she wanted to.

"Yes, Deedlit. It's beautiful, isn't it?" he asked, a smile creeping over his lips.

Along their way to meet with the others, they took the path, leading through the Forest of No Return. It was near her homeland, a place she was not entirely interested in visiting just yet. Deedlit loved her kind and perhaps all species to some degree, but she had no desire to hear potential lectures on how she chose to live her life.

She nodded, "I think so. It… makes me happy to be with you like this."

"Me too," Parn agreed.

They traveled once more in silence, both contemplating their own positions. For that time, they seemed not so much together in sync, but rather two entirely separate entities who were not even familiar with one another. That ended when Deedlit finally pressed her heels into her steed's sides once more before tugging on the reins.

"What is it, Parn?"

He helped himself down from the horse and then offered the same to her. When she declined, she simply escorted herself and folded her arms over her chest.

"Well?"

When had he finally realized he thought she was beautiful? Well, he'd always known it, but he hadn't given it actual thought. Even when she had a stern demeanour, there was something about her. Perhaps it was the sculpture of her face. Like any other elf, her features were sharp, signs of intelligence he'd heard. And her ears… They made her so delightfully easy to read.

"Are you just going to stare at me, Parn?"

He shook himself free of his thoughts and then smiled thoughtfully, "I'm sorry. I guess I was admiring you."

Deedlit looked surprised, "Oh? I guess I am pretty admirable." She broke into soft laughter.

Her companion shook his head and he regarded her silently before speaking again.

"What does eternity mean to you?"

It was an odd question. Her father had said something like it, but it was always suggesting that she took advantage of that gift.

Deedlit didn't respond immediately. Turning her back to the knight, she watched her horse pace himself in the direction of the river—well within eyesight. She bent down and reached for one of the pinecones at the base of a deciduous tree. There were many littering the ground, but the one she had taken seemed special. Perhaps it was the shape or the individual ridges that caused it to stand out.

One sniff and her nerves seemed soothed. It reminded her of how close she was and wanted to be to the earth. To hear its cries and lullabies, Deedlit felt genuinely privileged. Perhaps eternity could be represented by that feeling.

"What do you mean? Can you elaborate a little?" she finally asked.

Parn nodded. "You're a High Elf, prided for her immortality. It was used to raise Kardis from her tomb. Does that make you… no longer immortal? Is so, then are you afraid of your end? Tell me, what does eternity mean to you, Deed?"

He was serious. It was the tone he used. Parn didn't often ask a lot of questions. Not about her, at least. He was normally more interested in swords and King Kashue.

She smiled and with her hands, she coaxed the faeries from the pinecone before replacing it at the tree. When she turned back to the dashing young man, who had once been a reckless boy, the faeries had dissipated into the air. She wondered idly if one day she would fade as well. She could endure that ending if…

"I could live forever or perhaps one more day. It wouldn't matter to me. What does matter is that I want to spend the time I have with you."

Deedlit paused for a moment and then a shade of pink kissed her cheeks, "I guess that means that when I think of eternity, I think of you, Parn."

Part of him had anticipated this response. The other part could not mask his surprise. It was pleasant to hear. And she was embarrassed. He mused, briefly, if the loyalty she felt for him was the same that Pirotess had felt toward Lord Ashram. Loyalty and love. Those were two sides of the same coin to Deedlit apparently.

"Deed…"

She offered him a reassuring nod and then began to follow in the direction of her horse.

"W-wait for me!" Parn exclaimed.

When he caught up to her, she was eying her steed. He seemed to have forgotten the rest of the world in favour of the river's water. Parn stopped at the side of the elf.

"We'll need to leave as soon as possible, so the others don't have to wait any longer," she suddenly spoke up.

He'd thought that before too, but after hearing what she had to say he wasn't sure he wanted to ruin the moment. Not like he usually did.

"Let's stay here for a little more," he replied.

When she looked up to him, he continued with a smile, "They could handle things a bit longer without us."

"Parn…"

She curled an arm around his. How valiant he had become. He didn't need to be a prince. He didn't need to be a legendary hero. He only needed to be himself. Her head inclined and she pressed the tip of her nose into his neck.

He freed his arm and slipped it around her shoulder. In times of war, he never would have been able to act so affectionate toward her. This time was different, however. He wanted it to last for a time more.

"…Deedlit."

The world was filled with eternal concepts. Deedlit had decided that her own eternity lied with him. Slayn had found his, and so had Etoh. Shiris and Orson had found it between the two of them. Even Ashram had found it with Pirotess, or so Parn wanted to think. And surely Ghim would have found his as well.

Where was his…?

As he looked down to the beaming elf, Parn knew he'd found the answer.