A few months later Piraniel went to find Coron. Coron kept mostly to himself. He liked to play by the creek so Piraniel followed the creek until he found the child sitting on the creek bank alone. Piraniel sat down by Coron. Coron turned his head to look at him. "Has something happened to mom?" he asked.
"No. Why would you think that?"
Coron shrugged. "You never come to see me much. You spend most of your time with mom." He tossed a pebble into the creek.
"Well, I decided I wanted to see you for a bit."
Coron looked at him suspiciously. "Why?"
"Why would I not?"
"My old dad used to answer his mom's questions with another question when he did not want to tell the truth. What do you really want?"
"What was your old dad like?"
"Nasty. He liked to hit me a lot." Coron's answer was abrupt and he turned his face away so Piraniel could not see the tears in his eyes. But Piraniel could hear the anguish in his voice.
"I am sorry," Piraniel said sympathetically.
"It-it does not matter now. I mean, he is gone forever now. Mom took me away from him. I-I was afraid she would leave me behind when she left. I could sort of see her thinking about it. I-I was terrified she would. I begged and begged her to take me with her. If she had left me behind, my dad would have beaten me to death. I-I—" Coron started to cry pathetically.
Piraniel reached out and drew the boy closer to him. Coron cried into his chest. Piraniel's heart ached in his chest. It was tragic that Coron had been forced to undergo such brutal treatment from his father.
"I am sorry," Coron murmured at last. "I did not mean to. Only, remembering how much he used to hurt me with his hands and chain and words, made me—remember how much it hurt. I-I hated him. He never listened to me. He never cared how much I cried and bled. He never cared he was hurting me. He was cruel. And he hurt mom to."
"You are safe now, Coron. No one is going to hurt you here. We do not do that to children. Do you not trust us?"
"I-I am a little scared of all of you sometimes. No one was ever kind to me except mom. When you get angry or upset or I do something wrong—I am always scared of you then."
"Even if you did something wrong, Coron, no one would hurt you."
Coron rested against him quietly. Presently, he pulled back and sat down next to Piraniel again. He threw another rock into the creek. He looked at Piraniel shyly. "Are you going to marry mom?"
Piraniel looked at him with a curious expression. His ear tips were slightly red. "Maybe. Why do you ask?"
Coron reddened. "Um, I just—just wondered . . . mom keeps saying she loves you and I am supposed to be nice to you and not seem like a brat. She keeps saying you will not marry her if her son is a brat."
Piraniel smiled. He reached over and pushed Coron's jagged hair out of the child's eyes with a gentle hand. "Oh, Coron, you are not a brat. You are a sweet boy. And I would marry your mother even if you were a brat. It just so happens that you are not."
"So you are going to marry her then?"
"Well, I was planning on it."
A frightened look came over Coron's face. "Was? Did I-I spoil it?"
"No. I was planning on it. Now I am sure that I want to marry your mother. That is, if you want me to be your father. Would you like me to be your new father?"
Coron swallowed nervously. "I-I think I would like you to be my father. I mean, you promised not to hit me. At least, you said you never hit kids. I-I do not think you are the kind of person who will hurt me."
"An excellent analysis. And you are quite correct; I will never hurt you. Do you like Justiniel?"
"Yes. And he likes me. He said so. I never had a brother before."
Piraniel hugged him tightly. This time Coron returned the embrace. Piraniel let go of Coron and said, "Do you know where your mother is? I am going to speak to her."
"I think she is with Druzil. She said she was going to see him this morning. Do you know what she says over and over every night? She says, 'Why is that damned Piraniel not asking him to marry me? I am going bloody crazy waiting for him to get up enough courage.'"
Piraniel pursed his lips. He had a hard time keeping the smile off his face. Sternly, he said, "I see. You must not talk like that, Coron."
"I was only repeating what she said. She said a lot of other words to, like—"
"Thank you, but I would not like to hear them. They are words you must never say. Excuse me." Piraniel left Coron on the creek bank and went to find Ek'Ressa.
Ek'Ressa was complaining loudly to Druzil. Piraniel overheard what she said as he came towards the glade where Druzil lived. "That wretched Piraniel is holding back on purpose, I tell you! He is enjoying torturing me! I do not know what you mean when you say he is the nice, decent sort! I shall crack up soon if he does not ask me to marry him soon. I shall crack up! I can feel it coming on, I tell you!"
Druzil's calm voice replied, "Really, Ek'Ressa, you are worrying about nothing. I am sure Piraniel is not enjoying torturing you. He must have his reasons for holding back. He will ask you soon."
"Oh, I dare say!" Ek'Ressa said sarcastically. "I bet it is all Coron's fault. He must be acting up. He can be such a crybaby at times. He must disgust Piraniel! I will have a long talk with him when I get back!"
"Ek'Ressa, have a little pity. If your father with chains and whips beat you, and he never cared how much he hurt you, you would be haunted and upset by bad memories to sometimes. He just needs support and the reassurance that he is safe and no one will hurt him."
Ek'Ressa snorted. "Piraniel can do all of that. And my father never dared lay a hand on me!"
"I know, Ek'Ressa. But females do not get subjected to torture like we males do."
"You males are subjected to floggings at young ages to make you learn your place!" Ek'Ressa snapped. "Females are far more superior to any old male!"
Druzil raised his eyebrows. "Warning to you; Piraniel will not stand to be bossed around and called inferior."
"Well, I am trying to readapt! It is not my fault Coron was born a boy! My husband could have had a girl trained as a priestess. A girl would have gained him higher position and rank. He hated Coron. I only just managed to convince him not to kill Coron by promising extra bed time. But he still beat Coron at the drop of a dead spider and there was nothing I could do about it, so there!"
Piraniel came out of the woods with a guilty expression. Ek'Ressa leapt up when she saw him. "There you are! I can tell from your expression that you have come to ask me to marry you! And the answer is yes!" Ek'Ressa grabbed Piraniel before he could say a word and kissed him passionately.
"Mmmph!" said Piraniel in alarm. Druzil tactfully turned away. He went into his cave to fetch a skin for tanning.
Justiniel came out from behind a tree and grinned at his father, who was kissing Ek'Ressa. Piraniel flushed when he saw his son. "You little spy! What a nerve! Trees above, I thought I taught you not to spy and eavesdrop!"
"You eavesdropped on Druzil and Ek'Ressa conversation for ten minutes before you came out of hiding!" Justiniel objected. "And I saw you eavesdropping from behind my tree!"
"Well!" said Ek'Ressa indignantly. "What cheek!"
When Druzil came out of his home, Ek'Ressa demanded, "Are you going to wish me happy married life, eh? We are getting married almost at once! It is only fair after all the time Piraniel made me wait." She shot Piraniel a look.
"Congratulations," Druzil said politely. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do and it is not proper for Rizzen to see too many smooch scenes."
"But I liked watching!" Rizzen objected from his perch in a tree. "It is not fair that you have to say that! I bet I am old enough!"
Druzil folded his arms and looked severely at Rizzen. "And I bet you are not. What I say goes."
"You should whip him," Ek'Ressa said maliciously and skipped away with Piraniel.
Rizzen looked at Druzil anxiously. "Are you going to?"
"No, Rizzen. Come down here and help me tan this hide."
At the start of the fall season, Piraniel and Ek'Ressa were married in the lovely start of all the colors of autumn. The harvesting was put to a halt for the wedding. The forest was a sunset of red, orange and yellow leaves. Under all that beauty, Piraniel and Ek'Ressa celebrated their joining day. The feasting, singing, and dancing lasted for three days. Then the newly wed couple went to share their wedding night alone in the forest for a good long while. The elves had prepared for them a tent of silk with a glowing mattress and candles.
"I wish I could go with them," Coron said wistfully.
"You cannot. But you can help us build their new house," Rizzen said importantly.
The elves all got together to build Piraniel and Ek'Ressa's new house. Druzil was put in charge of all the children.
"I guess I will get married one day to, huh?" Rizzen asked. He was sewing long sheaf's of hay together into mats for the roof of the new house.
"No, not if you do not want to," Druzil said, biting off the red thread from his needle.
"Will you ever get married?"
"That is hard question, little brother. I might if I meet the right woman."
Meril ran up to them. "Father says he is ready to put the first mats on the roof now. He says to hurry up bringing them."
Druzil called to his child charges. "Enough play. Help me carry these to the new house."
The mats of hay were lugged to the new house and fastened down tightly to the roof beams. When that was done, the house was complete. Druzil went inside the new house while Faraniel made it pour rain for half an hour. But not a single leak was discovered and Druzil came out of the dripping house to report all was fine.
"We can move in the furniture now," Sela said. "They should be back any day now."
"I can hardly wait to live in my new house," Coron said excitedly. "Do you think mom will like it?"
"She better!" Druzil exclaimed. "It took me ages to carve all the House Sinafey symbols into the wall beams!"
"I can hardly wait to meet my first half-drow nephew," Riff said dreamily. "I wonder who he will take after?"
Piraniel and Ek'Ressa came home the next day. They were pleased and extremely thankful with their new house.
AN: The more exciting adventures of Druzil an Rizzen are continued in Tangled Webs: Brother's In Arms