Elian paused, his hand floating barely above the door handle. He worriedly glanced down the hall in both directions to make sure no one was watching him. He grasped the handle which felt cool and rough beneath his fingers. The latch lifted with a click and the old weather worn wood door groaned as it swung inward.
Immediately Elian noticed a bowl, spoon and cup that had been carefully placed on one side of the small round table in the center of the room. Next to it was a small pot of stew that was half empty. Without touching it, Elian already knew it was cold. At the center of the table a small candle was burning. The wick was only two finger widths off the table and was surrounded by a small ragged heap of wax. It had been burning a long time. The single small candle was the only source of light in the room and it cast dancing shadows on the walls.
In the far right corner of the room, barely illuminated by the candlelight, curled up in a threadbare chair was his daughter Bethine. She had fallen asleep waiting up for him.
As he crossed the room towards her he noticed that she was shivering in her sleep. For the first time Elian noticed the chilly air in the room. A cool breeze wafted into the room through the slightly open door next to Bethine. Elian opened the door and crossed the small floor of his bedroom to close the shutters on the window. As he walked back past his bed he picked up the blanket from his bed and brought it into the main room. He covered his daughter with it and tucked it in tightly around her. She moaned softly as he did this, but did not awaken.
He then turned back to the table and moved the pot of stew over to the stove. Then he kneeled down next to the stove and lifted up a lose board in the floor. Below it was a small hole which contained a hand carved wooden box. Elian removed the box and set it on the table.
Inside the box was a small black pouch and five smooth black stones that were difficult to find because the absorbed light. He took a deep breath and removed the stones.
Elian went back over to his daughter and with tears brimming in his eyes placed the stones around the chair she was occupying. He placed them in the four directions, north, south, east and west. The fifth one he placed in the direction of Drymlight which was to the north-west.
When he was finished he returned to the table and poured a small pile of shimmering white powder into the bowl. To that he added several drops of water from the pitcher on the stove. He mixed the powder and water until it was a thick paste that glowed brightly.
He was about to bring pick up the bowl and spoon when a soft knock came at the door. Elian glanced over at Bethine who was still sleeping and then walked to the door, "Who is it?" he asked nervously through the wood.
"Dreayne," the voice replied.
Elian sighed with relief and pulled the door open, "Thank goodness you're here Dreayne, I'm about to do it," Dreayne's tall frame filled the doorway and he stepped inside.
"Have you told her?" he asked Elian.
With a shake of his head, Elian responded with a "No, she's sleeping," and waved to where Bethine was curled up in the chair. He picked up the bowl and spoon from the table and walked over to his daughter. Dreayne followed.
"Bethine," Elian called to his daughter softly. He did not want to wake her up, but knew that he had to. He started to reach out towards her, but stopped, "Dreayne, will you wake her for me?" he asked quietly.
Dreayne looked at Elian curiously and then shrugged his shoulders. He reached over and gently shook Bethine. She moaned softly and turned her head to the other side. Dreayne shook her a little harder.
Bethine's eyes fluttered open but were still clouded with sleep. She smiled slightly when she saw Dreayne and streatched, "What are you doing here Dreayne?" she asked. Then she noticed her father and her eyes widened, "Father?" she noticed the worried look on his face and Bethine paled, "What's wrong?"
Elian glanced at the floor, for a moment he was unable to meet his daughter's gaze. Then he forced his eyes back up, "Bethine," he started slowly, "my identity has been discovered, you must get away from here." His daughter nodded and started to pull herself to her feet, "I'll pack our things immediately," she said calmly, although the fear was visible in her eyes.
Her father shook his head and looked to Dreayne for help. Dreayne took hold of Bethine's shoulders and gently pushed her back into the chair, "It's too late for me," Elian explained.
"No," Bethine whispered, tears beginning to glisten in her eyes.
It hurt Elian to see the pain reflected in his daughters eyes, but he knew he had to be strong for the both of them, "We all knew the consequences Bethine. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. You have to go on without me. I have an important message that needs to be delivered to the King."
"No father," Bethine protested. She tried to get up, but Dreayne kept her pinned to the chair, "No!" she continued to struggle, "I can't go without you," tears began streaming down her face. She looked down and saw the glowing substance in the bowl, "Please father," she begged, "I can't do it."
Elian forced himself to be strong, "Bethine, please, you must do this. Forget about me, I'm already lost. Therron will kill me for the knowledge I have. You must see that it reaches our king. The Elven world depends on it."
"No, no, no, no, no," she cried, her protests sounded weaker each time, but she continued to struggle against Dreayne's strong arms.
A glance from Elian to Dreayne sent a silent message. Dreayne nodded in understanding and grasped Bethine's jaw, forcing it open. She fought him with every ounce of strength she possessed but it was not enough. Elian scooped the paste up from the bowl and put it in his daughter's mouth. Dreayne pulled her mouth shut again and held it closed.
"Please swallow Bethine," Elian asked quietly, "You're are our only chance," Bethine cried harder, but dutifully swallowed. Dreayne let go of her. "Thank you Bethine," Elian said, then added, "I love you."
"I love you too father," she reached out and gave him a hard hug. In his ear she whispered, "I'm scared."
Elian let go of his daughter who fell back against the chair she was sitting in. Her body was tense with anticipation. He closed his eyes and concentrated. When he was ready he reached out and grabbed the sides of Bethine's head with both hands, "I'm sorry," he whispered. Within seconds her body went slack, but Elian kept a firm grip on her head for nearly a minute. When he let go and opened his eyes, Bethine's head dropped down onto her chest. Her entire body was limp.
"I'm finished," Elian said to Dreayne.
Dreayne nodded, "How long until she regains consciousness?" he asked picking Bethine up from the chair. Her head rolled backwards and her arm fell down to one side.
"Two hours at the most and she should be fine. Here, cover her up," Elian said grabbing the blanket from where it had fallen to the ground and covering Bethine with it, "It's cold outside."
Dreayne moved Bethine in his arms, helping her father wrap her in the blanket. When they were finished he carried Bethine to the door.
Following closely behind Elian gave Bethine a kiss on the forehead before he reached to open the door.
"Why Bethine, Elian?" Dreayne asked. Elian's hand rested on the door handle, "Any of us could carry the message. Why her?" Elian sighed, "She would never leave me without it. I chose her to save her. She's dead with me. I'm trusting you now to protect her. Take good care of her Dreayne, and good luck."
"Thanks," Dreayne nodded.
The hallway was still empty when Elian opened the door. Dreayne quickly slipped out with Bethine and disappeared down the gloomy hall. Elian wanted to tell Dreayne to be careful, but he already knew that he would.
A tear slid down Elian's face as he whispered, "Goodbye Bethine."