'Is Araienn here?' the short man asked. Green eyes framed by silky
black hair surveyed the elf guard standing at the entry to the tower of
The guard opened his mouth to reply, but a soft voice from within the tower spoke first. 'I am.' Araienn emerged from the tower and a broad smile bloomed on her face as she saw Rylorn. 'You came back!'
'Indeed I did, my lady.'
'Well, come in!' Araienn took him by the arm and led him inside. As soon as they were well up the stairs and out of the guard's earshort, she turned to face him. 'How are you?'
'Very well, thank you.' He paused a moment before speaking again. 'I went back to Arleath.'
'Why? And what happened to you there?'
'I went there to prove my innocence. What happened... I was captured again.'
Araienn flinched. 'So I suppose you managed to escape again and are now running for your life, just like last time.'
'Not at all. I was found innocent.' He held out his right hand, displaying his golden th'Sarien ring on his smallest finger.
'That's wonderful!' Araienn threw her arms around Rylorn and crushed him to her. Then she drew back and looked at him at arm's length. 'Why did they change their minds?'
'It is a long story; I will bore you with it later.'
'How long ago did it happen?'
'About a year, now.'
'And what have you been doing since?'
'Well, I've left Arleath; I live now in the Ladoran court. And now I'm here.'
'Do you still have the horse I gave you?'
'The horse I left with you when we last met. Do you still have it?'
'Oh, Forsaken! Yes, I do. He's in your stables at this very moment.'
'You named him Forsaken?' laughed Araienn. 'Why?'
'Well, that's what I kept calling him anyway, and it seemed to fit. He still doesn't listen to me, though, little troublemaker that he is.'
'You're a funny one, Rylorn. How long will you be staying here?'
'As long as you will have me, my lady.'
'Then I'd best see you get a room, shouldn't I?' Still smiling, she took his hand and hurried further up the stairs.
'You've learned to handle him quite well,' Araienn observed approvingly as she stroked her bay mare.
'Thank you,' Rylorn replied through gritted teeth as he struggled furiously to keep his own horse from crabbing sideways. 'I take it that by that you are referring to how I've managed to keep my seat this long.' At this, Forsaken snorted as if to say that that could soon be remedied.
Together, elf anf Man rode out through Iradale's wide gates and onto the plains of Elvenhome. They did this many mornings, after the sun had gazed long enough over the broad valley to make the morning's dew disappear. Rylorn enjoyed his conversations with Araienn, even if much of his attention was taken up with trying to keep Forsaken moving in a straight line. This morning, they were discussing Lador.
'So, what is the court there like?' Araienn queried.
Rylorn shrugged. 'Well, it's still a bit strange to have one single lord with all the power rather than a council of nobles like Arleath has. But it isn't bad.'
'You are considered a noble there, correct?'
'Since I was one in Arleath, yes.'
'And your lands in Arleath- do you still own them?'
'I do. I'm just not living there right now. I would perhaps have sold them had I not wanted to leave them for any children I might have.' He glanced meaningfully at the elf, but Araienn was looking the other way.
All of a sudden, Forsaken shot forward at full speed. Rylorn pulled frantically at the reins, but his horse paid him no mind, as usual. He head Araienn shout something behind him, but could not catch the words of it. Then the world spun as Forsaken reared and he was sent flying backwards.
Araienn saw Rylorn fall from his mount's back and roll several times on the ground before coming to a stop. A pit of dread in her stomach, she cantered up to him and dismounted hastily. Rylorn sprawled face up in the grass, eyes closed, perfectly still. Dread catching in her suddenly dry throat, she knelt beside him and managed to speak. 'Rylorn? Rylorn, are you all right? Rylorn, please, say something. Oh, swift Maithr...' She looked desperately around, wondering if it would harm him if she tried to move him.
Then Rylorn opened his green eyes and smiled at her. 'Will you take me as your husband?'
'Will you consent to marry me?'
'Rylorn, what a time to ask! Are you hurt?'
'What is wrong with the time?' His smile widened. 'I'm fine. You don't have to answer me now; I can wait a week.' He shoved himself to his feet and made for Forsaken, who now stood a few paces off, grazing innocently; but, much to Rylorn's annoyance, he sidled away whenever the Man tried to get close.
Upon their return to Iradale, Araienn immediately went to see
her father. 'Rylorn asked me to marry him today,' she began nonchalantly.
Master Abryïn, a tall elf garbed in robes of a deep blue velvet, did not lift his head from the desk where he sat writing. 'Took him long enough.'
'What do you mean?'
'It's obvious that he loves you; I was merely commenting that it took him a while to ask for your hand.' He set his black quill aside and turned to face his daughter. 'So, will you take the man's heart, or will you break it?'
Araienn straightened indignantly. 'What kind of question is that? You know I wouldn't hurt him like that! I'm going to speak to him right now.'