The gardens around Zelika's home were beautiful that spring. Fruit trees covered in blossoms dropped petals that blanketed the ground and drifted in the wind. The air was cool and sweet and the pools were full of lilies and young fish glinting gold in the sunlight. The lady of the house loved to sit on the low wall around the pool and had done so quite often in the past month because her condition made sparring dangerous. There was only one small thing disturbing the peace there as she sat enjoying a lovely afternoon and letting wind carry away her restlessness.

She heard the scratching sound of sandals against metal followed by a light but firm thump.

She smiled.

"Zelika. So our little runaway has returned?"

"I wasn't runnin' off Mother. I was just exploring."

"And to do this exploring, you had to knock down your father's bookshelf?"

"I made a distraction, like Great-grandfather from my lessons yesterday. The servants never let me go anywhere. I'm not a baby."

"You're right, you are not a baby, but that does not does not give you cause to be a nuisance. Who was looking after your brothers while you were off exploring?"

"The servants?"

"They have enough work of their own without doing your duties as well. Soon you'll have another little one to look after. I can't have you running off and leaving his or her care to the servants. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mother."

She patted a place on the wall next to her.

"Come sit with me, Zel."

The girl smiled, seeing that her mother wasn't too angry, and quickly joined her.

"So, little runaway, put your hand on my belly and you can tell us about your travels while we wait to see if our dear one will kick."

"Yes, Mother," she said respectfully, before taking a deep breath and starting her story with all the excitement in her ten year old body. "I climbed over the back wall, and it was really high but there was a tree close to it. So I climbed up the tree and jumped onto the top and I could see so far! I tried to see the tower where the Nameless One lives, but all I could see were houses, and the market place, and streets and people. There were so many people, how did all those people get here?"

"Some came like your brothers, in their mother's bellies. Some walked and came by wagons or were carried in arms. What did do next? Did you jump down into the alley?"

"No, I know I'm not allowed to go into the alley. I walked down the wall like a road and went to the training ground. Grandfather was there and he helped me get down. He sparred with this man who was almost as big as Father! It was amazing! Then, he taught me some new techniques and I sparred with a boy who was older than me and I won! Grandfather says that I will be a true daughter of our house when I'm older. Do you miss sparring mother? Why can't you train?"

"I can't train now because…your brother is sleeping inside me now and if I movie around too much I'll wake him up. If I wake him up too soon he'll be cross. I miss sparring and training. I've done it my whole life, as will you, but the rest is an interesting change of pace. OH! Did you feel it?"

Zelika nodded and smiled. Privately she thought that the world might witness a kind smile in Dén Raven before ever seeing a day when exploring wasn't more fun than anything else in the world. Then again, this was nice.

The chance to Sit and talk with her mother without having to look after the boys was rare and welcome. They'd been there for as long as she could remember, and for the majority of her life Zelika had had to accept her role as their last line of defense and the first person that they should alert if they had problems. She was the only child who could go to their parents first and directly if there was a problem and the boys knew that she had the same authority over them as their parents. She was also responsible for breaking up disputes between the two boys and making sure that they understood their lessons.

With this newest sibling she'd have more duties, because the baby would have more needs but, at the same time, her brothers would share work. She was very excited.

"Mother, I'd better go look in on the boys. Then I should study before my lesson with Grandmother and call a servant to watch them while I'm busy. I'm sorry I ran off. I know that I'm supposed to protect them but you also said to be brave and resourceful and I did that, right?"

"Yes, you did. I love that you find such joy in our city. The soldiers at the training fields are rather fond of your visits, but your responsibilities to your family come first. Explore before they wake up, and you will not have to cause mischief to get away, because the servants will be too busy with breakfast to notice you. If I have to come and find you, you will wish you'd slept in."

Zelika ran to go fulfill her duties and her mother was left in peace to enjoy the beautiful spring day.

That's my girl, She thought. Distracting the servants so she can climb a wall four times her size and explaining it in just such a way that it's endearing rather than rebellious.

She could see the future stretched like out before them like the plains to the east of Baladh. Her girl would go from evading servants to evading hulls or opponents in competitions and would hopefully approach them in the same way, taking cues from her ancestors and coming home un injured and victorious.

She looked around at the flowers and pictured Zelika in her mind. Dark hair, pale skin, and eyes alight with curiosity, intelligence and strength as yet untested, she was beautiful. She tried to picture Zelika sitting in her place, older and round with child and she settled comfortably into her dream of what could be.

The gardens were peaceful and lovely and full of life, but as she rested warm and happy, scooping up water lilies in her palm to see the fish swimming beneath, she realized just how much she loved the occasional distraction.


Hey, this was basically just a way of using what I thought about while writing Baladh's Fall. This is just a nice sort of day that might have happened before the Dark Army started moving.

It's the first in a series of one shots about various characters before the war these will be set at times ranging from before the destruction of Pellinor to around the time when Baladh fell. I'm doing this because happy fics are fun to write.

Thanks to my reviewers, they are awesome. Become one of them!!!!

Thank you all for reading,

PM