She wandered the halls. She had been here longer than any student. She was also the student who had been here longest without getting a name. She had no name. All students who went to the Yerab got a new name—something fearsome. But her…she had nothing. She was named at birth Irduin. She was faced with prejudice—she was an elf.
Elves were a lost race, distinguishable by their pale skin, dark hair, and violet eyes. Only elders had the pointed ears ignorant humans thought all elves inherited, though. Elves had once been lords of this land, second only to Ashbeard the Layson. But then it changed. Idodaru, renamed by Yerab Hateslash the Enraged, decided to lead a rebellion against Ashbeard. Ashbeard sent his strongest Laysons to crush the elf rebellion, and it was over quickly. But now elves were shunned.
Irduin was wandering the halls, wondering whether her father, Idodaru, had walked here, where she was standing. She was a small elf—only 397—but she was as beautiful as her mother, Ephemine the Fair, princess of the elves. Her mother had been very ill when Irduin was sent from the elf realm, which was now in the hands of King Juxtax, renamed Province of the Codexes, to Yerab, which was located in King Juxtax's Province of the Diamond Castle's Pupil. Irduin had heard nothing from the realm since.
That had been 95 years ago.
Irduin wondered what was going on over there—her best friend, Ocroll, hadn't written to her in 60 years. Many of her few friends here had died since then. She hadn't made one in very many years—even Irduin had lost count—because she lived so long, and no one else did. She had kept in contact with them, at least, but then they died off.
All of them but Taimu. Taimu had lived a long time, especially since he was such a weakling. That's how he had met Irduin. Neither of them fit in. Taimu was not brilliant, strong, or even a good entertainer. He belonged nowhere. And since she was an elf, neither did Irduin. Every month, Irduin received a letter from Taimu, but it worried her that every month showed a shakier hand than before, a less steady mind than before. Her mind drifted to the last one.
My mind grows strange, even to me. I feel the madness of old age coming upon me. I fear that soon, you and I will be estranged. I shall forget you eventually.
I forget much these days. I cannot remember how old you were when we met, and how old you are now. I cannot even remember my own age….
Oh, Irduin. Remember when I was younger by far, a man struck by love for Einanyi? I did in fact marry her as you suggested. I can see your fair face turning red, but then I remember that you are not human, and therefore you are not subject to the flushing of the cheeks. I did marry her. She died yesterday, peacefully, of old age. I can only hope that my own death is much the same.
I know you well enough to know that you will be protesting my death, but I know it is coming. My breathing is slower, my heartbeat is slower, everything about me is slower, except for the shaking of my hands. I miss seeing you, and though I would like to see you at least once before I die, I know that I probably won't.
However, I know that soon I will see our dear friends Tarox, Xenod, and Cimound once more.
On this very happy note, I must bid you farewell, Irduin.
As she finished replaying the letter in her mind, she felt a growing sorrow in her heart. If Taimu died like he said he was (and Taimu was never wrong), that would leave her with no one. No one but Ocroll, and even he ignored her.
Irduin wondered why she was here, why she was at Yerab. She returned to the day her mother had sent her away.
Her mother hadn't actually been there, she was too ill to see her daughter leave for the place where she would live her life for 95 years. There had been three people there—her mother's trusted advisor (Hibenriln), Irduin's nursemaid (Ahereit), and Ocroll.
"You must go, Irduin," Hibenriln had told her.
"Why?" young Irduin had asked.
"Your mother asked," he had said simply.
Ahereit had been a wreck. She was the only human to ever enter the elf realm, and so she was the only one who was able to cry. She blew her nose on a light yet durable fabric, created by the finest elven tailors. She had wrinkles that even elves couldn't conceal, and all she could do was pat Irduin on the leg.
"I'll be okay," Irduin assured her.
Ahereit gave a choked hiccup and nodded, patting Irduin's leg as she sat astride her favorite bay mare, Erorgah.
Ocroll didn't look at her the whole time. He had a staring contest with his boots all the while.
"I'll miss you," he had said in a shushed voice.
"I'll miss you too," Irduin had told him.
He had poked her in the shoulder playfully, the way they had a thousand times, but instead of laughing out loud, a melodious sound since she was an elf, she gave a sad smile. She pulled him close in something Ahereit had called a hug, and she didn't let go until Hibenriln told her to get going. She swung herself over the horse, and rode off, not looking back.
Maybe she should have.