A/N: Not much to say about this story. It's short and (I hope) sweet. It's connected distantly with other stories I've written, and of course set in the same world and concerning Elwens, but you don't have to have read those to read this one.

The language used in the story is Aril, the tongue of Raurfaen and his people. I mostly included it just to give a glimpse of what their language is like. It's translated in the story, and it's rather simple-looking for the most part, so I won't try to do a pronunciation key for it here.

The protagonists do have rather formidable names, however, so, if you like and don't want to stumble over them all the time:

Raurfaen- First syllable rhymes with flower, and second is pronounced like "fine." More or less.

Sahsraiinar- Sahs-RAY-ee-nayr.

Luviavanishay- loo-vee-ah-vay-nee-SHAY.

Sorry about that.

And here we go...

In Her Image

550, Age of Arcadia, Early Summer

"No exile is forever."

-Attributed to Sydordan Leaflaughter, when exiled from Rowan.


He started and looked up from the water. As always of late, his own image had hypnotized him, and he wasn't sure when his mother had started calling his name.

"Coming, Mother," he responded in a whisper, turning for one moment back to the stream and staring hard. But his face remained stubbornly the same. Golden eyes, golden hair, strange-looking features. He didn't look like either his mother or his father, and he was beginning to realize that he never would.

And he was old enough, at fourteen, to begin thinking about what that meant.

Raurfaen turned and trotted towards the sound of his mother's voice, head bowed as he watched the grass beneath his feet speed by. He was barefoot, as always. His mother would probably give him hell about that. She didn't like him leaving the house without shoes, always muttering about how he was going to stab himself in the foot and probably die of an infection before they could find him.

Raurfaen was used to ignoring such things. They were part of his life.

Besides, lately they didn't matter to him as much as his own concerns.

"There you are!"

Raurfaen jerked himself up in shock. His mother, Sahsraiinar Luviavanishay, stood in front of him with thin lips and pale cheeks. Raurfaen concealed a sigh as best as he could. He knew it would mean another lecture.

Actually, this time he turned out to be wrong.

"Why do you go alone to the stream so often, lonu?"

The sound of the name brought unexpected tears to Raurfaen's eyes. She hadn't called him that since he was a child, almost four years ago now. He gulped, swallowing back the tears that still threatened to come out, and said, wishing his voice sounded firmer, "I'm looking for the truth."

"The truth?" Sahsraiinar stared at him. Raurfaen studied her face desperately, hopefully, one more time. No, there was nothing there of him. She had deep blue eyes and long silver hair. She had a strong face, a face that he would have been proud to have, but nothing there of him.

Raurfaen steeled himself. He had tried to bring this up before, but she had ignored all his hints. His father, Ilend Luviavanishay, wasn't much better. He preferred tending to his farm and playing with Raurfaen's younger twin sisters to answering uncomfortable questions. Perhaps the direct approach was the only one that would work, and that only with his mother. "Mother, why don't I look like either of you?"

Sahsraiinar's eyes widened, and Raurfaen tensed. He could feel her emotions clearly; sometimes he wondered if she knew how clearly. Even when she tried to hide them, as his people could do sometimes, his inborn magic found them. Right now, it was pain like swords that stabbed at him.

Raurfaen licked his lips and spoke the words that had been echoing in his head for a dance now. "Am I a bastard?"

Sahsraiinar jerked as if struck. "No," she whispered. "No, oh no. You are my son, and you always were, and always will be."

Raurfaen studied her closely. He was somewhat reassured- after all, his magic would also have told him if she had tried to lie and escape the responsibility of telling the truth- but there were many things that her response could mean. And after spending ten days alone with the promptings of his distrustful mind, he felt that he had to ask.

"What does that mean?"

Sahsraiinar looked down at him for a long moment, then made a short, sharp gesture with her hand, as though she were yielding to something or fending off a blow. "All right," she whispered. "All right. Come with me, and sit down, and I will tell you the truth."

Raurfaen followed her unquestioningly to a small clearing where he knew that his mother often came to sit and think. He had used it, as well, during his increasingly desperate search for resemblances between himself and his mother. He hadn't found it that comforting. There was a pool in the center, too still, not comforting like the chattering stream. The trees around the clearing were rowans, not the hyleas he was used to and his father farmed.

If Ilend was his father.

Raurfaen looked up at his mother as Sahsraiinar sank to a seat of her own, and commenced to wring her hands. Raurfaen stared. He had never seen anyone actually wring her hands before. He had thought that it was a gesture the singers made up when they wanted their subjects to do something sufficiently dramatic.

But his mother was doing it now, and with no sign that it was anything other than a habitual gesture.

"It is- painful for me to look at you," whispered Sahsraiinar. "Save for a few features, and your eyes, you could be him come again."


But his mother said nothing for a long moment. Raurfaen waited, and nothing. He waited some more, and still nothing. He grew a little impatient. He had seen only fourteen years, after all. His mother might be more used to patience and silence, having seen over fifteen hundred, but Raurfaen knew he was too young to really understand such a length of time, and wanted her to speak now.

"Did you have a brother who died?" So far as he knew, his mother's family was all dead. She had taken his father's name as her own when she married Ilend, which was not usual at all, and so it was entirely possible that Raurfaen looked like her brother.

Not that he would know, of course, unless his mother had some image of him that Raurfaen had never seen.

"Not- not a brother," whispered Sahsraiinar. "And not dead." She took a deep breath. "You look like my father."

Raurfaen would have shouted for joy, since that was direct and at least indicated that he was his mother's son, but the depth of sorrow in her voice made him be quiet for a long moment. Then he said, "Is he dead?"


Raurfaen clenched his hands on the stone and tilted his head. "Then why have I never seen him?" he asked. Small trails of smoke began to rise from his palms as his emotional magic acted up. He let it. This was intolerable, that his mother had known all this time and never told him, and that his grandfather had never come to visit.

"He doesn't know that you exist." Before Raurfaen could shout, Sahsraiinar went on, staring at her hands, "He does not know that your sisters exist. He does not know that I am married. He does not even realize, I think, that I am still alive, though I am sure he hopes so."

Raurfaen caught his breath, and let his rising anger still. This was exciting. Songs, stories, and poems about xeloma, blood-feuds within the same family, crowded his head. "Did he try to kill you?" he asked. "Did you have to hide from him?"

Sahsraiinar shook her head, her eyes squeezed shut. "Much the other way around," she whispered. "I tried to kill him."

Raurfaen sat back, blinking. He knew his mother. She was gentle. His father had to do the slaughtering of the cattle and the pigs when the time was right, and when one of their horses had fallen and shattered a leg, Raurfaen had had to draw a knife across its throat to put it out of its screaming misery. His sisters were too little, of course, but his mother had fled as if humans were howling for her blood. "I can't imagine you killing anyone," he said.

Sahsraiinar said nothing.

"You have no sword-calluses on your hands," said Raurfaen. "How could you kill anyone?" It was a source of frustration to him that his parents had only given him scattered training with the blade so far, insisting that he didn't need it, living on an isolated farm as he was.

Sahsraiinar, her eyes still closed, extended her hands. Raurfaen studied them closely, and then drew back with a startled exclamation when blue light fountained up around her fingers. The light stretched out, shook itself like a cougar waking from sleep, and then spread out and into the water of the tiny pool in the center of the clearing. Raurfaen turned to watch it, his heart pounding hard.

The magic- it had to be, though Raurfaen had hardly even seen his mother wield emotional or earth magic, and this was something altogether different- created an image in the water. Raurfaen thought it was himself at first. Then he realized it was the image of an older man, an Elwen man with golden hair and pyrite eyes. Raurfaen came closer, kneeling beside the pond, devouring the image with his gaze.

Yes, this man- who had to be his grandfather- looked almost exactly like him, save for the slightly duller color of his eyes and a few other subtle features, like the curve of his nose. Raurfaen closed his own eyes and breathed out in relief. At least he knew he belonged somewhere, that he was not alone in the world, or found where he was born after humans slaughtered his parents, or-

Who knew what else? Already, he knew that some of his former speculations were rather silly.

He heard a soft sound, and turned to see Sahsraiinar crying. He came to her at once, taking her in his arms and asking, "Why haven't you gone back to see him and try to reconcile with him, almu?"

His mother managed to still her weeping long enough to reply. "I- was a great trouble to him. He nearly had to kill me. I nearly killed him. Duties and obligations that he could not abandon consumed him, something I knew before I was your age. And yet I tried to demand that he abandon those duties and treat me as though I mattered more than the rest of the world.

"We can't go back, Raurfaen. He would love you and your sisters, I know he would, and he would do the best that he could to protect you. But it wouldn't work. He has enemies, many, many enemies. His life is in danger every moment he draws breath- which makes what I did to him even more inexcusable, by giving him an enemy to fight within his own family. I'm amazed that someone hasn't managed to kill him yet, and prouder than I can say that he has survived.

"And more frightened than I can say at the thought of going back."

Raurfaen squeezed his eyes shut to stop his own tears from falling. He knew that that wasn't what she needed right now, that strength would help her more than his own weakness. How long had it been since she had left? How long since she had felt that she could tell someone this?

Had she ever told anyone this?

"I understand, almu," he whispered. "I won't ask to go back. I won't even ask who he was, if you don't want to tell me."

"Thank you, lonu." Sahsraiinar raised her head, rubbing at her cheeks. "I am sure that you can understand-"

She went silent, gaping at him.

Raurfaen looked down. Blue light limned his body. He stared in wonder. He hadn't even felt it arise, and certainly nothing like this had ever happened to him before.

"I didn't even think," whispered his mother, not taking her gaze from him. "I checked Elas and Yahnnea when they were born, of course, for magic. I had it, and so did my sister. But they don't possess it. And I didn't think that magic like this could pass from mother to son."

Raurfaen took a deep breath. "Magic like this?"

Sahsraiinar met his eyes. "When our mother was pregnant with us, her enemies, and our father's enemies, flung magic at her," she said quietly. "And our father had been the victim of magic himself, which caused profound changes in him. We should not have survived. We only did because we managed to take and use the power instead of being used by it. I was happy enough that my children were born normal, not deformed. I didn't even think that there was a chance they could continue the same, beneficial use of the magic." She shook her head.

Raurfaen took another deep breath. "If you lived in a place like that, then I'm just as glad that we don't live there," he whispered.

Sahsraiinar studied him. "Then you forgive me for not telling you about this before?"

Raurfaen held out a hand in answer. Sahsraiinar smiled and accepted it, blue light flowing from her own fingers. The radiances met and mingled, and Raurfaen smiled as he felt the last traces of feeling lost and alone vanish.

"Momasailun cyas rhondor," he said softly. "Both our exiles are ended."

His mother grabbed him and held him close, beginning to weep again, though healing tears this time. Raurfaen held her as best he could, his own tears trickling down his face, and looked over her shoulder at the image that still lingered in the pool.

The words he whispered this time to heal the last part of the exile, so softly that his mother never heard them, were, "Nuinda, dalu."

Farewell, Grandfather.