Elrick had become disgruntled, Berhalis knew, but he stayed quiet concerning the situation of the dryad’s. It had been Daylor’s responsibility to keep Adalam near the men and protected, not pulled off the beaten path. Thallan assured Berhalis that Daylor was to lose that responsibility now.
The elves were the human’s guardians. The elves were meant to balance and protect all of Arlania once the day came for change. Berhalis knew the words Daylor spoke were true. Their world was soon to be altered. Berhalis had a hard time accepting it, however, and he prayed they could rectify this situation and everything would return to the way it should be.
They walked from morning until Vhedril shone down on them at midday. He had made this trek several times during his life, from the time he was a small lad of five and perhaps even before then if his parents had traveled to the temple. The path led to the temple that served many functions for the elves.
Berhalis would be bound there to Lysian, and that thought alone made him smile.
When the pathway opened into a large clearing, the humans stopped in their tracks to look upon the temple that rose higher than anything else on the island. Smaller buildings surrounded the temple, each with gold- and silver-crafted vines rising alongside real gailenia vines and flowers on each building. The gray stone set amongst the snow displayed the many colorful shades of gailenias well.
Some ways from the grand entrance was the river of Gaia that let out into a nearby lake set off in the forest. The twin goddesses, Vhedril and Ghedril, wearing their gold and silver masks and flowing stolas, framed the entrance. Raised above their heads were a golden sun and a silver moon. Their height was outdone by two towers rising further. Berhalis smiled up at the refreshing sight, knowing that here the gods kept a constant watch above all other places.
Berhalis, along with the other elves and the leaders of men, continued on their path. Those younger elves already visiting the temple were afraid and ran inside for protection, shouting in their tongue that outsiders had arrived.
“The Council will be here before we even get inside,” Daylor remarked quietly. Berhalis nodded his agreement in silence. Many shouted in the space, Elders rushed inside while their Apprentices stayed their ground amongst the students and those in need of spiritual aid.
Shortly after, a rush of elves in sky blue robes came running out of the temple. Elders surrounded the Council of Kothes who stood in dark gray robes, all assembled around King Valis Adesaim. They were a mixture of confusion, wonderment, and fear just as those in their village had been.
“Thallan,” Valis called out, striding towards them as they too closed the distance, “what—”
“Humans,” Thallan remarked in their native tongue, looking over his shoulder at Elrick. “We’ve brought all the men and left the women and children in our village. We are in great need of food.”
“In time,” Valis murmured, tilting his chin upwards. White hair fell away to reveal stern, broad features set between long slanted ears. This was their leader, and Berhalis thought he looked the part of regality, admiring the elf who had tutored him on occasion. A privilege others did not have.
“Do they understand our language?” High Elder Ësyne Ionran asked, her swirling brown eyes wide. Thallan shook his head. “Why are they here?”
“The prophet spoke of this,” another Elder spoke up.
“Where is the prophet?” Daylor asked. Berhalis knew he intended to speak with the prophet and his concerns were not solely with the humans.
“At the temple of Vhedril,” Ësyne replied. “He made mention but left for an important matter.”
“What do they need?” Valis asked, eyebrows growing heavier with each head he counted.
“Refuge,” Thallan replied. “They say they are in need of refuge from Thaos.”
“Thaos,” Elrick said, understanding that name. He strode forward and extended his hand to Valis who stared at it. “I am Elrick Loinsigh and our kingdom—”
Valis raised his hand, quieting the young prince. When he spoke the common tongue, it drifted outwards with much more elegance than when Thallan first spoke it. “All in time, Elrick.” His voice was gentle, though still commanding in many respects. “I would like to hear all that has happened, but I need more counsel than is present. You’ve come for aid—”
“We do not want to leave,” Adalam blurted, and all eyes fell on her. Berhalis watched intently as Valis acknowledged her with a tilt of his head. The king was always ready to listen, kind to those who were impatient, and hard on those who needed discipline, all while overseeing that each village had their respective leaders.
“That will be something to see in a few days’ time.” Valis smiled at her. “It has been a hard winter for us, and we have other matters that need to be tended to.” Pulling his cloak tight to him, he turned to Raedhel Evanros, the eldest who sat on the Council. They whispered amongst one another for a long moment, anything said drowned out by the murmurs of the gathered crowd.
“We need to stay,” Adalam muttered. Both Berhalis and Daylor looked at the young leaders while Elrick placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Thallan,” Valis said at last. Thallan stood ready to listen. “If the others are to come, we do not have the room to house all of these men, certainly not more in the village. Your attention to detail is flawless, as usual, you needed to keep an eye on them, but in the snow, it will take days.”
“I understand,” Thallan bowed his head.
“We will send with you more food; we have enough here.” Valis paused, briefly narrowing his eyes at Elrick and Adalam. “Allow Elrick to stay and any others he requires. We’ve never had a situation like this, not even with…” His words trailed off, but all knew that he implied the Moon Elves. “We will send for the prophet and oracle, and we will send word of our decision.”
Thallan bowed his head to the younger king.
The tension surrounded them before Elrick spoke. “My people will be cared for?”
“For the moment, yes,” Valis replied in the common tongue, his sun-touched, amber eyes passing over Elrick several times. “We’ve never seen a human, though we’ve heard about them, as well as the orcs of the north and the dwarves who dwell within the mountains on Nudomri. However, that does not mean we cannot show you some hospitality. Some people would rather we send you back out to sea at once. But I will not have that.”
Elrick nodded, talking over Adalam when she opened her mouth to speak. “We should be grateful for that.”
Both siblings looked into the eyes of the other before Adalam looked away, defeated. Such a curious interaction, it did not sit well with Berhalis, but with the proper people informed, he no longer had to worry about it as much as he did before.
“Please see yourselves inside,” Valis said after a long pause. “The Elders will escort you and provide you with food to sustain yourselves for your return journey to Thallan’s village. You may even bathe and pray within if you desire to.”
A slight curve on his lips, Valis stood with his hands behind his back while the men filed past them. Each of them walked in through the heavy doors surrounded by the twin goddesses. Each of them looked up at the great statues in awe. The elves’ goddesses shone with fine detail carved in stone. Each fold of fabric present against their slender forms, they overlooked any who entered.
When they had all gone, Valis took on a deep frown.
“This is troubling news,” Valis said, his eyes downcast.
“We did what we thought was best,” Thallan said. “My son spotted their arrival, and we thought it might have been an attack, but Daylor thought another way. Many were in need, and someone wounded their prince.”
“How did they get here?” Elinirla Vidas asked, pushing her long honey-colored hair over her shoulders. The youngest on the council, she was only a few years older than Berhalis, but she already held much insight and wisdom required of one in her position.
“They say their god showed them the way,” Calowen replied, his arms crossed over his shoulders. “Thaos drove them from their homeland.”
“No others would help them,” Daylor spoke up before the question could be asked.
“Of course Daylor helped them,” Valis said, a flit of a smile passing his lips to show he meant no ire. “We may need to send people out with them to return them to their land. Are you and yours willing to do this, Thallan?”
Thallan was still against this question, showing his immediate response to be no. Berhalis knew that no elf wanted to leave Vheria; it was their home and the birthplace of the gods. It was sacred ground that even the elves should not have been warring on. Nevertheless, it had been that way since the time the gods walked the world. If they called upon his family to complete that task, Berhalis doubted he would leave. He needed to be near his would-be wife.
“We will,” Thallan murmured, “though not without a great heaviness.”
“Of course.” Valis nodded.
“What if they refuse to leave?” Berhalis voiced his question. “Are we to go to war with them? And if the Moon Elves see this—”
“We will come to that decision hastily if need be,” Valis reassured him, his lips tight. “Let us pray that it does not.” He waved his hand in the air with a weary sigh. “Leave your sons, and come with me to retrieve the supplies you need. I need to send word to the other temples, to call a gathering.”
“I need to speak with the High Elder, please,” Daylor said before any of them could leave. “With Berhalis, if he wouldn’t mind.” When his cousin glanced at him, Berhalis nodded.
“Of course,” High Elder Ësyne said, honey eyes filled with years of wisdom falling heavy on him. She took Daylor by the arm and led him and Berhalis away from anyone else before asking, “What do you need, Daylor?”
“Are the Elders able to divine dreams?” Daylor asked, adjusting the rucksack on his shoulder and shifting on his feet.
“Perhaps, what dream did you have?”
Daylor was hesitant now, looking to Berhalis for support. However, Berhalis could only shrug. He only stayed near after the mention of his name, and he was curious as to the dreams Daylor had been having.
Licking his lips, Daylor pressed on, “Always I dream of snow. I dreamt of boats on the water long before the humans arrived, and I should have said something, but I never thought much of it until now.” He shook his head several times. “Last night someone told me to watch over the elves. The snow hung in the air, suspended on nothing, and a voice told me that the dead would sing in my honor. The gailenias were red and iced over, and I was naked.”
Unable to help himself, Berhalis covered his mouth to hide a wide smile. Daylor, however, carried no amusement. His eyes, filled with hot anger, looked down at the soft snow while his cheeks brightened.
Ësyne sighed. “Have respect, Berhalis.”
“My apologies, High Elder,” Berhalis replied, covering his mouth with his hand.
“Does it mean anything?” Daylor asked, glaring at Berhalis for a moment.
Ësyne clasped her hands in front of her. “It could merely mean that you seek more power, more responsibility, while your nakedness is everything stripped from you and you are vulnerable. I’ve never heard of anything like the iced gailenias, and you say you saw them coming before they arrived.” She looked between the two of them for a long moment, her lips pursed in thought. His descriptions seemed to sit with much deeper meaning for her than Berhalis thought they would. “It may mean something more,” she said softly. “With the arrival of the humans, I wonder if it could have more meaning, perhaps godsent.”
“What do you recommend?” Daylor politely asked.
“That you speak with the prophet.” She nodded her head to them. “I will arrange a meeting for you. The two of you will come of age, and I think it would be a good idea to have this interpreted as soon as possible. You need as much insight as possible before your ceremony.”
“I understand.” Daylor bowed his head to the High Elder.
The High Elder looked at Daylor for a long moment, and Berhalis sensed some uneasiness coming from her. However, she bid her farewell and left without another word, disappearing swiftly through the large double doors.
“You were naked,” Berhalis snickered, “in the snow?”
“Quiet,” Daylor muttered before walking towards the temple.
Berhalis followed. “If there were meaning in that, perhaps my dreams of wolves dancing would be something far greater.”
“This is something you do not understand,” Daylor said, glaring at Berhalis. “You did not hear the voice or what was said. It was as though it came from somewhere else altogether, yet she was here.”
“Dreams are often like this.”
Daylor shook his head. “Not like this one, or the ones I’ve had before.”
“Cousin,” Berhalis paused, both of them stopped to look up to the great statues of Vhedril and Ghedril wearing their sun and moon masks to either side of the doors. They were tall and fair, elf-like in appearance, nothing like the humans. Berhalis recalled the stories of the elves’ creation, knowing they were made in the image of the gods, near in likeness and with more power than any other creature would be granted.
Yet they were just as mortal as the humans were.
“If your dream means something, you were told to protect the elves.” This caught Daylor’s attention; his eyes remained steady on Berhalis, who briefly rubbed at the patch of hair under his lip. “You say you do not think the humans have come to harm, but if the dream is a message, then—”
“I can remain hopeful,” Daylor said. No amount of joy was in Berhalis’s heart, only doubt at the far edges of his mind. “We are called to protect. Maybe we are to protect them, but protect ourselves from the same thing.”
“I will attempt to hold on to your optimism, cousin,” Berhalis said, watching the men staring about the ornate building filled with statues within. When the two islands had been one, the gods had built these temples as a home, adding on to them to help keep the elves close to them when they knew the time for the gods’ ascension would come. War tore the two islands apart, but it never stopped either elves from crossing the distance to continue to fight with one another.
The threat of another enemy wearied Berhalis. He always prayed that the time of the gods’ war would come long after he had left the mortal realm, he and all those he loved. However, with the elven life expectancy nearly two hundred years, he always knew that he could not avoid some sort of sorrow.
Gods willing, that sorrow was still some distance from them.
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