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Series: Children of Shattered Arlathan 1/?
Title: Golden Dawn
Author: Rhion
Rating: T for now
Disclaimer: Me no own, you no sue (though actually now that I think about it... I kinda do on this. Except any mentions of Arlathan and elvish that isn't Welsh-y.)
Summary: When the sun rises, it casts its golden rays upon the world. Even in the valleys, deep in the mountains, where those who abandoned their ancient forefathers' ways still speak, and remember when Arlathan was great. And so, primitive they are, naught but the ragged edges of stone that their people once claimed, they live. Subsist. Honor is paid for in blood. Dishonor is paid for in meat.
AN: Annd... I am insane. Yes, utterly. More codices are now needed, on the Ar'lath'an'len (children of Arlathen - which actually is directly translated into 'Children of I Love This Place' but whatever. That's too clunky.) And yes, Eu'rai'ddvinnen is Zevran's father. Aiesh. Not only that, but part of the story is begging for an au of itself. Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit. And still, I am paused on Guild-ed urf. Oh, and I'll be blending Welsh with in-game elvish, and some overlap between those two languages, and my Zamas Ga'hals which is the language of the horseclans/Ga'hals Iunimasilsh. Can I get a heartfelt fuckityfrom ya'll?
As usual translations will be contained within the story or at the bottom. Including for names, as well as their pronunciations.

XXX

Eu'rai'ddvinnen shook out his loose mane as he fell to a squat by the mountain pool, his hands hanging between his knees. Staring at the water and pursing his lips, the Ar'lath'an'lenwaited quietly to see if the fish may be near. Beside him Bel'dar'fen shifted restlessly, clacking his sharpened teeth in habitual anxiety. He supposed it was normal for the young warrior who, now that he was nearing his first century, would soon undergo the final phase of becoming a full member of the hunters. Scratching at one of his scarred cheeks, the tips of his fingers followed the ridge of dots and slashes that marked him as adult, as he remembered his own passage into adulthood.

Becoming agitated by Bel'dar'fen's soft clicks, Eu'rai'ddvinen swatted at the younger man's knee. "Cease! You act like a child, not a man. You will scare the fish with all your noise and movement."

Baring his teeth, the smooth gold skin of his face crinkled, resembling the snarl of a wolf. "You think with your belly; the fish have no ears."

Eu'rai'ddvinnen thwumped his chest with the flat of a palm, signalling his disagreement. "Enough. I am older, I know more."

There was little Bel'dar'fen could say to that, for which Eu'rai'ddvinnen was glad. Sighing to himself, the Ar'lath'an'lenshucked all but his leather loincloth, knowing that if they were to have fish for the village, he would have to swim out into the frigid snow-melt-filled pool. Snagging the net, he wrapped it tightly around one arm, not wishing to become tangled in it, and dove in. Icy water stole his air, the shock of it harsh, even after two hundred years raised and bred in the mountains. Holding his breath, he waited, allowing his body to settle and become used to the cold before he would allow himself to float to the surface for air.

Spring came late to the mountains, bringing with it the hope of new life, and with that new life came animals planning to breed. Moving slowly, winding his body this way and that in undulating movements akin to the fish he was seeking, Eu'rai'ddvinnen sensed the disturbance of his quarry through the mountain pool, and raised his arms up, throwing the net to the left. Rolling onto his back in the water, the elf carefully and very slowly began swimming backwards to the shore, dragging the net along. It had taken years of practice to perfect this method, for it was dangerous - if he didn't take great care, his limbs could get caught in the net, which could lead to drowning. Which would be bad, to say the least.

The rocks that weighted the net sank the handwoven ropes except the leash he held onto, the tug that came from fish or possibly a nice freshwater eel or two, heralding his success. So long as he didn't become too hasty and pull too hard. From long habit and experience, Eu'rai'ddvinnen knew when he was near the shallows without looking, with the change of sound, his ears twitching in reflex, searching for auditory clues at all times. Rocky sand bit into his soles, and he adjusted to the drag of net, water, the slide of not entirely secure footing in a way as natural as breathing. With smooth motions, he pulled the net in, hand under hand, until the ends of the net fully wrapped around the fish, and with a heave, the powerful muscles of chest, arms, and legs propelled the weight and bounty onto the shore. Bel'dar'fen fell upon the net, clubbing the fish, one hand clutching the weave closed at the mouth, while Eu'rai'ddvinnen exited the pool.

Goosepimples rose over his skin as the air hit him fully, however he ignored it in favor of snatching one of the fish that was small enough to almost gain freedom, snagging it by the slippery tail and smashing it on the ground several times. Taking his obsidian eating knife from his pile of clothing, he slit the fish's belly, scooping guts free. Making a pleased sound he encountered a trove of roe, which he slurped from his blade even as Bel'dar'fen growled at the impromptu meal.

"What?" Holding out a wedge of glistening flesh to the young hunter, Eu'rai'ddvinnen waited to hear any possible arguments. When none were forthcoming he smiled toothily. "Eat, it is stupid to not, when there is opportunity. Aiesh, how you have grown so I don't know."

Bel'dar'fen made a face but did as instructed, falling upon the raw meat with all the gusto of a young one.

XXX

Timber longhouses, with leafy boughs woven for roofs, all the cracks sealed with mud or clay, greeted Eu'rai'ddvinnen's eyes. There were four of them, making a box around a yard where garden vegetables, hardy tubers and cabbage, beans and squash were being planted, the women and the very young clad in short kilts as they dug homes for the seeds or roots. Smaller plots sat behind the longhouses, serving individual longhouses rather than the community at large. To one side of the large yard was the rack for smoking fish, which he made his way to quickly in a ground-eating stride, the wood pot he carried filled with roe, as Bel'dar'fen toted the greater weight of the net. As the elder, and the one who had done most of the 'real' work in attaining the small bounty, Eu'rai'ddvinnen had the lighter burden to himself.

It was all a series of trade-offs.

Hunters could eat first if there was time, but only while on the hunt itself. It was one of the few perks, otherwise the women and children, then the craftsmen, then the elders, would get priority, in that order. Only after the others had been fed, could the men eat their fill. Early spring was a hungry enough time that there were days when food was scarce and Eu'rai'ddvinnen would frequently forgo his own meal, passing it to his father, who was no longer as fit as he had once been. Blind the man had been, a hunt gone wrong, tussling with one of the mountain cats, but still too fit to go onto his sleep and give over his life. At least, it wasn't time yet. Eu'rai'ddvinnen was not happy with that matter, not wishing to end his father's life as of yet, who had been relegated to women's work, fingers turned to weaving baskets or nets, packing away stores for winter. Some said his father was a drain, yet Dorf'adahl was still his father, and a son took care of his parents, as well as his own younglings, if he had any.

Dorf'adahl was young enough, having sired Eu'rai'ddvinnen at a fairly tender age, which had been a scandal, being a mere handful of decades older than himself. So, shy of his third century, Dorf'adahl had at the least another to live if the Creators had been willing. They had not, and Bel'dar'fen was amongst those who believed it was punishment for having fathered a child out of turn that had robbed the hunter of his vision. Grimacing, Eu'rai'ddvinnen filched two fish from the smacking hand of his aunt, who shook her head, blond braids slapping her breasts with the motion.

"Da'lenyou know it is not his turn," her full mouth pulling a frown at him as she scolded him.

"It is two weeks until his time," locking his jaw stubbornly and grinding the words out. "Do not begrudge him Se'rendis'gleirio."

Her sharp silver eyes softened, and she reached out to stroke his jaw. "I forget that sometimes. Make sure after you see him, you comfort your mother."

Nodding once, smothering the upwelling of anguish that should be pride, Eu'rai'ddvinnen went to the farthest longhouse. Stooping through the door, smoke and the smell of bodies and home met his nose. He knew in the darkest corner his father would be sitting, mending things by touch alone, as light was wasted upon him. Dorf'adahl was a proud man, aggravated by the imprisonment being blind had locked him in far more deftly than any method their people would apply. At times Eu'rai'ddvinnen feared his father had lost the will to live, and that in the man's mind the passing would be a blessing. That was far from what Eu'rai'ddvinnen wanted, he wanted his father's boisterous laugh, the knowledge that he would awaken and see his father or at least feel his presence. Yet, what he wanted was not their way, and his desires were to be ignored no matter how much he willed it otherwise.

Finding a spot on the floor, he sat beside the hunched form, and tisked. "Your hair is ragged Father. Let me fix it for you."

There was a low grunt, sightless eyes swinging in his direction, hands remaining busy. "Leave it. You are worse than your mother."

"Please," he begged as he set the fish aside. "It does dishonor to us to leave you in this state."

"It does more to leave me breathing," he growled as he jerked his head away from Eu'rai'ddvinnen's reaching hands. "Best to use the meat than waste it."

Wincing, Eu'rai'ddvinnen hissed to himself. "Don't say those things Father."

"What? You know it's as true as true can be," he said, voice ringing hollow to Eu'rai'ddvinnen's ears. "You should have let me do this during winter, and you should stop trying to give me your meals."

Gnashing his teeth, Eu'rai'ddvinnen reached past his father's struggles to work his fingers through the tangles. "A son does what he must."

"As does a parent, da'vinnen," Dorf'adahl's words gained strength, conviction forced onto each word. "Life is about renewal and sacrifice, surely you have at least learned thismuch from me by now?

Scooting to his knees, he frowned at the silvery white snarls. Wishing there was some fat or oil to ease through the knots, Eu'rai'ddvinnen sighed. "I know. Each day is a triumph, a part of the cycles. But -" wrapping his arms about his father's shoulders, hugging him close, "- you are still alive and strong. You are not weak, your eyes are gone, but not your mind or heart. Your hands are strong, you are wiser than you let on, and you are still the man who taught me how to track and hunt and fish. You may only be six decades older, but is it not true that this is a lifetime to the shemlen? I wish you to stay until you are a grandfather, I wish you to stay until you are so old your hair falls from your head."

His father sighed, echoing similar pain. "It is my wish too, yet the Creators deemed it otherwise. Accept it; that is the only grace we have. Choice in life and death should be to bear it proudly and unbroken. Let me pass with my honor intact."

Reaching out, Eu'rai'ddvinnen slashed off bits of flesh from the fish, holding the morsel to his father's lips, doing his best to embrace some shade of humor. "Then eat, no need for you to be skin and bones. How much shame would there be if you were too stringy to eat? They will say me irresponsible and unworthy of life myself, if you are naught but too tough to chew."

Dorf'adahl chuckled darkly. "That's my boy. Just save my heart for your mother, and take my liver for yourself, eh?"

"Mph, I will take your spleen for that is where all your sharpness lies!" he said as brightly as he could manage, though his face didn't mirror the tone, and he watched his father chew, continuing to feed the man until there was nothing left of the fish.

XXX

There were no tears; Se'rendis'gleirio, Em'arla, and Eu'rai'ddvinnen would not display anything other than pride in this act. Dorf'adahl had bathed well, and Em'arla had shaved his hair, setting it aside as a spouse would do for their partner before their final journey. His father had fasted for two days, and said his goodbyes to his kin and the tribe. There was a pyre ready, and buckets woven from bark beside the bench Dorf'adahl sat. The entire enclave had gathered, from newborn to the other old ones who would join Dorf'adahls sending off: two others who had drawn the lots that it was their time from the pool of those who were infirm or too old, their own kin standing beside them.

The ritual would then open up the chance for new life, symbolically and literally. Unattached men could petition to take a wife from one village or clan or another, and those who were already wedded could then enter the rotation to sire a child on their wife. It was said that in times long and long past that theelvehn had lived thousands of years. So long, in fact, that they would argue for years over the tiniest of minutia. Those times were gone, never to return. This was the now, and they were a ragged people, little like their ancestors. It was impossible for Eu'rai'ddvinnen to imagine a time when metal tools were the norm, that there were palatial dens where people would play parts in stories, or make music on a wild variety of instruments. Nor could he conceive of being surrounded by stone walls, and never having to fear hungry winters or sickness, let alone having to kill his own father because he was considered a drainon the resources.

But to ever voice such doubts or displeasure would earn swift reprisals, and probable death. His place was not to question, though sometimes he did. No, Eu'rai'ddvinnen knew to keep any flicker of dissent from his bearing, though he was old enough to have lived some and be aware that their way was not theonlyway.

So deep into his secret mind had he travelled, that it was only the singing reaching a crescendo that brought him free. Pursing his lips, his eyes flicked around the yard, at the stern, expectant faces of the elders, the confused ones of the littlest, and the accepting ones of all those in between. This was home, this was his people and clan. There could be no other place.

And so, he steeled himself for what he must do; stepping up behind his father's broad back, he forced his mind to focus on his task. Taking the knife Dorf'adahl had chipped for him when Eu'rai'ddvinnen had become a man in the clan's eyes, greenish black obsidian as sharp as any of the shemlenmetals, glinted in the sun's fading light. His right hand came around his father's neck, grasping the jaw firmly, pulling Dorf'adahl's weight into his chest, and Eu'rai'ddvinnen swallowed. Praying not to the Creators, but to the vastness and unknown, Eu'rai'ddvinnen wished for nothing other than to be a boy once more, with no worry of such grim tasks, and that his father would know how loved he had always been, even when Eu'rai'ddvinnen had been reckless.

Cutting Dorf'adahl's neck swiftly and cleanly from ear to ear, while his aunt and mother each took a bucket to catch the arterial spray, Eu'rai'ddvinnen stared up at the stars, keeping his father's body still as life flowed from him. Around him the ritual words were spoken, with typical deep austerity. Eu'rai'ddvinnen ignored them, in favor of supporting his father's weight until blood ceased its' pumping.

Shifting his father's corpse so that it lay along the bench, the husk no longer looked quite like Dorf'adahl. But only so long as he didn't focus on old scars, like the one that raked from hip to still-muscular thigh, scored by a wolf eight decades earlier while father and son had been searching for good pelts to trade to the Iuni'mas'ilsh, whom they had some contact with. Dorf'adahl shoved Eu'rai'ddvinnen aside after they had harried the pack, driving them to attack. Blinking the memory away, Eu'rai'ddvinnen realized his hands had known their business even as his mind slipped away. With economical movements he slammed the hilt of his knife along the connections of rib to breastbone, so that he would be able to pry the ribcage open and reach the heart.

"Mother." Turning to her, Eu'rai'ddvinnen held out the organ, his voice soft. "He wished you to have this, as you have always had it; now it will give you strength when he cannot be here to give it to you."

Em'arla's eyes shone with unshed tears, accepting it. "Da'vinnen, it should be yours by right."

Shaking his head, Eu'rai'ddvinnen gave her hands a gentle push, the stickiness on their fingers like a tacky glue that made the touch linger. "I cannot take what is not mine. It belongs to you."

XXX

Days passed into seasons, into years. The hunts were about as good as could be hoped for, and Eu'rai'ddvinnen found that if he only threw himself into his station he could blunt the sadness. Keeping busy with single-minded determination, the elf was able to win some honors for himself and his mother by proxy. Yn Cwridd'vehnwas fast approaching, and he had been selected as one of five hunters to compete in the games that ten of the enclaves would participate in. If Eu'rai'ddvinnen did well, he would be granted - granted being a word that thinly veiled 'required' - the chance to foster with another village. Most of the women in his group were too closely related to him, and anyone who thought about it would know that too many close blood relations could only result in unfortunate offspring.

Fingers moved through his hair, separating out sections to be braided as he sat at his mother's feet. "Da'vinnen, you are are so far away; whence do you go?"

"Mmn? Nowhere Mother." Shaking off his ennui with a concerted effort, Eu'rai'ddvinnen cast a smile over his shoulder. "Only drifting."

The oil from rosehips held a soft hint of scent as Em'arla worked it into his locks. "You drift often, it seems. Where is it you go that no one can follow? Do not try to put me off so, you know I will not judge."

Shifting on the sawdust strewn floor, Eu'rai'ddvinnen sought a way to put it into words. "I chafe at things, that is all."

"Ah," she murmured, managing to sound as though all the meaning of Creation had been revealed to her and she wasn't quite impressed with it. "You have been patient - more patient than most - with the fact that you have been held back by your birth order. Even so, it is understandable... Or is that not what you were thinking on?"

He could neither deny nor admit that, so he remained silent while his mother plaited his hair, adding a few bones and bits of stone to the ensemble. As representatives, Eu'rai'ddvinnen, the others selected, and two of the seven hahren would be leaving at daybreak to meet with the next enclave's entourage, travelling on to the next, and then the next until all the members for the Yn Cwridd'vehn were gathered. All-in-all, it could be two seasons before he even had the opportunityto return home. Or it could be only long enough to fetch his mother.

Tipping his head back to look up at his mother, Eu'rai'ddvinnen forced a smile. "I think on many things of little consequence, Mother. I chafe most at leaving the nest. It is nothing, merely nerves."

"You'll be fine da'vinnen; I know you'll do nothing to dishonor yourself." She returned his smile, and kissed his forehead. "It just isn't your way."

XXX

One of the runners came breathlessly into the village. Eu'rai'ddvinnen glanced up from his position, where he had been relegated to skinning the carcasses the hunters brought in, and hid his curiosity behind a mask of neutrality. Of course he had done well during the Yn Cwridd'vehn, as was expected, pouring his all into matches of wrestling, foot races, and of course his one craft - hunting. He was no craftsman, who could make clever weapons or tools, though he could chip a decent arrow head or make a spear. Eu'rai'ddvinnen did make it a point now, spending time as he did around the women, and handful of craftsmasters, to try and pick up things. It was expected, after all, that he spend as much time as possible trying to win a woman's eye, and then the approval of her parents to court her.

Even so, it was galling to dig in the dirt, to smoke fish, weave baskets - albeit poor baskets - mend holes, and work with leather in the tanning process. Next they may even make him tend the sheep, if what he was doing currently wasn't insult enough. His hands knew their task, and it allowed his mind to drift over such things, mainly worrying over his mother, or grumbling silently to himself over this odd group of his people, and fight to ignore the discomfort of the constant late-spring rains that would come blasting in at random intervals. Physical discomfort itself wasn't so bad, it was that he would frequently have to cover whatever he was working on to protect it from the elements, or risk it being ruined. Which he had learned the hard way.

The eldest of the hunters had hair that was half blond, half brown, woven into a thick silver-striped braid, and the scar from a bear's claw raking from forehead to jaw, leaving the man bitterly sighted, and was currently approaching. They were of a height, Eu'rai'ddvinnen knew, as he had stood toe to toe with the hahren, Arr'weddu'durgen, during one of the wrestling matches. It was a rare thing for a hahren to participate, but the fact that the old man had joined in was also a statement of not wishing to invest new blood into the enclave, for what fool would willingly challenge an elder? Not only that, but Arr'weddu'durgen was the oldest person Eu'rai'ddvinnen had ever met. No matter, Eu'rai'ddvinnen had still fought, and had to struggle to win, as the hahrenwas still strong, despite his age. Meeting his elder's eyes in a daring manner, while exuding preternatural calm, the young man waited. He knew that appearing to have enough spine without being aggressive would gain him more headway with someone who was well past his four hundred and twentieth year than being meek. Also, the eldest of the clan's hunters rubbed him the wrong way.

"Anath ara, young one; a word." With a voice like gravel, Arr'weddu'durgen reached an appropriate speaking distance.

Straightening from how he was slouched to do his work, Eu'rai'ddvinnen nodded in greeting. "Dirth'era, wise one, I will listen."

The old man studied him closely for a moment, eyes narrowed, searching for any sign of disrespect. Then with a gruff growl he waved a hand. "A group of interlopers have invaded our territory. They infringe, and are a threat. We hunt."

A thrill traveled down his spine, however, Eu'rai'ddvinnen held himself in check. Patiently he waited, keeping his entire being steady and unconcerned. Stoicism and personal honor were all he had here, living on a basic sort of sufferance. One misstep, and he would be sent back to his own clan, denied a chance to continue his family's line.

"Mph, you can fight," he said, stating the obvious, "Which I know first-hand." Arr'weddu'durgen smacked his thigh, indicating where Eu'rai'ddvinnen had scored a solid hit. "We need fighters, and two of my sons are still young. You have some experience; you will come with us."

Dipping in a light bow, Eu'rai'ddvinnen voiced his acceptance. "I hear your will, and obey."

XXX

It was warmer on this end of the mountain, so while the others were dressed in far more than himself, Eu'rai'ddvinnen opted to keep only his boots, wool pants and loincloth. It was more important that he was unencumbered, so he could move silently. Four long daggers graced him, one made of precious ironbark, inherited from his father, as well as a spear with a chipped crystal head. Some of the others had metalweapons, which gave him a flash of envy, but it was quickly repressed.

Beside him Arr'weddu'durgen slinked, blending in the shadows the pre-dawn cast. They were near enough the trespassing group that Eu'rai'ddvinnen could smell more than smoke, but cooked meals, and if he sniffed carefully, sifting the layers of scents, then the hint of infrequently washed bodies and animals. He hadn't smelled them often, but he never forgot the way shemlen smelled: sour and salty, an acidic tang to their sweat that made him grimace at its foulness. At least the Ga'hals Iuni'mas'ilshdidn't reek, carrying the perfume of rocky dessert or loam with them, almost as though they were truly people, rather than animals.

The small handful of huts presided over poorly tilled soil, and no one was about; everyone must be abed, he figured. It was only natural, for what Eu'rai'ddvinnen did know of humans was that they were diurnal, on the main, while elvehn were as alert during the night as during the day. Many of his people slept in shifts, so that there were always those awake to warn of anyone approaching, or simply to make better use of time.

A ripple went through himself and the other hunters, unspoken and no signal need be given. They all knew; that perfect moment that balanced during a hunt that said it was time to move. In a silent sweep they converged, breaking through the ridge of underbrush that had been made into a sloppy fence, or vaulting it as he chose to do. Packed ground met the soles of his boots, and Eu'rai'ddvinnen settled into that focused trance state that came over him along with the surge of adrenaline. Thirty men, himself included, got the doors open, and he slid in first, taking point - the most dangerous duty. Any sound would waken the shemlenfrom their beds, and there would be a flurry of possible attack.

Sneaking into the hut he had chosen, Eu'rai'ddvinnen looked dispassionately at the sleeping forms. Lifting back a blanket with the edge of his blade, just enough to see who was male and who was female, he checked before making the first kill. The man made barely a sound, but he thrashed just enough to waken his bedmate. Before she could give cry, Eu'rai'ddvinnen smacked his hand over the female's mouth, flashing his teeth at her, and she quivered, shaking in terror. Sparing a glance over his shoulder he saw that the four who had followed into the cramped hut had made their own kills, and were already beginning to haul any likely looking females from their beds.

Throwing the rough blanket back, Eu'rai'ddvinnen held his blade to the female's neck, jerking his chin at her to stand. No words were traded, and they all filed out, the others carrying their prizes into the main yards. Arr'weddu'durgen had ropes ready to gag and hobble their prisoners, and set to his business along with two other hunters. Eu'rai'ddvinnen returned to drag out the carcasses of the males, but he did feel a flinch of upset seeing one of the hunters pulling out a very small carcass. One of the females took up keening at the sight, even through her bonds, and Arr'weddu'durgen gave her a lazy smack that laid her flat onto the ground. Biting the inside of his cheek when the female struggled, crawling towards the small one, Eu'rai'ddvinnen stepped in front of her. Leaning down, he grabbed her by the back of her hair, and spun her in the other direction, so she couldn't see what was happening.

Under normal circumstances in his tribe, everyone would have been killed but for one or two females, while now his foster tribe seemed intent on keeping allof them. How that could be useful eluded him - prisoners were kept for only so long as there was enough food to feed them, and then they became food. With so many though, it seemed... foolish. There was certainly not enough room in the longhalls, nor enough chores to put them to work on. So space was an issue, as was usefulness. However Eu'rai'ddvinnen was thinking mainly in his tribe's method rather than thisone's. Perhaps there was some other services the females could fill, but it would take actually looking for such jobs, instead of the easily presented ones.

It was not his place to question, so he said nothing, merely holding the female shemlenfaced away from what was being done behind them.

Arr'weddu'durgen nudged him. "Leave it; toss it with the others. Go eat before it is time for us to return."

"Who will stay to cover this place and return it to the way it was, hahren?" he asked, hoping even as he said it that he wasn't overstepping his bounds.

With blood flecked lips, the old elf grinned. "You volunteer?"

"If it is your will, ma nuvenin," he responded readily, tamping down the irritation that he had fallen into that trap.

Arr'weddu'durgen slapped his back, grin widening. "No, you will escort these back. You moved well young one." The female was grabbed from his hands, and shoved into the pile of other females, a squawk working its way through her throat, while the hahren grunted in disgust. "Mph, shemlen. Filthy things." Eu'rai'ddvinnen allowed the hunter to take him by the arm and guide him to his kill, giving him a far gentler push. "Sit, eat. Tell me of yourself."

Doing as directed, Eu'rai'ddvinnen accepted a portion of what turned out to be liver. Raising a brow at the hunter for the honor that implied, he took a moment to mentally gather up the list of his family for a recitation. "My father was Dorf'adahl, who was sent to his final rest by my hand in spring of five years ago. He was a hunter, like myself, for many decades. It took one of the hungriest mountain cats to steal his vision."

"Hmm, no dishonor in that." He was nodding as he touched his own facial scars. "It can be a narrow thing, when beasts are hungry. Enough; tell me ofyourselfyoung one."

Tearing off a bite of meat, he chewed it and swallowed rapidly, the coppery thick taste of rich blood filling his mouth and belly. "I am twenty decades and seven years. I was sired young, and it caused a stir, as did the fact that my father was a hunter, when what my grandfather wished for my mother was a craftsman or lorekeeper. It was because of this that I was made to learn to read and write as he did. I know some of the Zamas Ga'hals Iuni'mas'ilsh, and can read their rune writing. I have hunted bear, boar, wolves, moose, elk, and mountain cats from the small lynx to the large lions, gone into dens, and Dreamed my manhood Dream of hot sand. I prefer fishing to hunting large game, and can speak to the herd of halla that comes to winter near our valley. I have sired no children, but have dallied."

At that Arr'weddu'durgen barked a laugh. "Ah, far more carefully than your father, neh?" Eu'rai'ddvinnen found himself pinned by a hard stare. "My enclave desired no new blood, and yet you chose to fight me. Why?"

Polishing off the last of the liver, he wiped bloody hands over his chest, speaking around his full mouth. "You are as fit as my father was before the cat got him. You may not be as fast as you were when a young one, but there is strength in your limbs, and cunning in your eyes, hahren. It would be more disservice to you to be treated as too delicate to fight, and it would also dishonor me to do such a thing. So long as a body is hardy enough to fight, then it should. To treat a man otherwise is rude."

"An interesting logic, and one I like," he replied, giving rare praise. "It's true I am not young, but it's also true that I still hunt. I assume you are so old to be fostered out because of the circumstances of your birth?"

Licking his lips, Eu'rai'ddvinnen met the metallic blue eyes, nodding. "It has been something of an aggravation, yet if it was not for my parents indiscretion, I would not live. On the all, it is better than the alternative."

"Era'adah'len has asked me to inquire if you have noticed her." Arr'weddu'durgen held him still in the firm grip of his stare.

Eu'rai'ddvinnen had to think a moment to recall which of the many females the enclave boasted could be Era'adah'len. Giving a small start he realized that the woman in question was Arr'weddu'durgen's granddaughter, a young one that was barely twelve decades old. She had a sprightly smile, that he had found comely enough, but seemed shy and just slightly... weak. At least when compared to his mother. Em'arla could actually hunt, which few women could, but she had been an only child, and felt it was her duty to learn as many roles as she could to win favor. Not only that, but from what he had been told, Em'arla had had her eyes set on Dorf'adahl most of her life, and wished to impress him on her own terms rather than the usual way of things. Most any female would be weak in comparison, in all likelihood.

"She is kind when we speak," he responded slowly, choosing with great care what he said. "And her hair is lovely."

"And what is it you have spoken on, young one?" Arr'weddu'durgen held out another large chunk of meat, taking one for himself after Eu'rai'ddvinnen accepted.

Tipping his head back to watch the sun beginning to peek over the trees and mountains, Eu'rai'ddvinnen stalled, biting off chunks of flesh with his sharpened teeth. "Not much. What I thought of learning how to make baskets. 'Frustrating' was my answer, 'but rewarding enough when I managed to do it properly, if inelegantly'. The weather, and if it was different in my family's valley. Things of that nature." Taking the waterskin held out to him, Eu'rai'ddvinnen drank deeply. "Also history, but I realized quickly she found that uninteresting. I do not know much, but I can tell when I've lost someone's interest while conversing."

Arr'weddu'durgen chuckled. "She is young yet; give her time."

XXX

Ar'lath'an'len - Children of Arlathan, lit. "Children of I love this place"

Da'len - little one

Da'vinnen - little morning, little dawn, affectionate pet name

Shemlen - quick children; human(s)

Elvehn - our people

(Ga'hals) Iunimasilsh/Iuni'mas'ilsh - People of the ancient horses, Antivan horseclans, nomads

Yn Cwridd'vehn - People's Meeting/Meeting of People

Anath ara - greeting, informal.

Dirth'era - tell your story/tell me

Ma nuvenin - as you wish/your will

Hahren - elder, denotes for most of the clan a leader of the various groups within a clan. One for the hunters, one for the craftsmen, one for the lorekeeper, one for the women, one who is a mage and one for the sheperds

Characters:
Eu'rai'ddvinnen - Golden Dawn (Nune, Zevran's father, main character)pronounced: You-ray-dtha-vee-nen

Bel'dar'fen - Being of many wolves (young hunter) pronounced: Bell-dar-fen

Dorf'adahl - Grey tree (Nune/Eu'rai'ddvinnen's father)pronounced: DORF-add-all

Se'rendis'gleirio - Shinning Star/Star Shine (Nune's aunt, Dorf'adahl's sister) pronounced: Say-rend-iss-glee-rio

Em'arla - I am home (Nune's mother, Dorf'adahl's wife) pronounced: EM-are-lah

Arr'weddu'durgen - stone bear (oldest elf in new enclave, still hale and a hunter, hahren of the hunters) pronounced: ARE-wee-dthu-dur-gen

Era'adah'len - story/tale/dream of forest/dream forest/forest of dreams (Arr'weddu'durgen's granddaughter) pronounced: Era-add-ah-len