In the days of ease there lieth no challenge save that which we create. There exists no trials of life. No responsibilities overshadow to force upon us that which might make our way difficult. No one emerges to force us to participate in the hardships of life. So we play. We avoid reality. We immerse ourselves in mayhem. Reality falls from view and is replaced by fantasy.
“Ancient proverb of the Dales”
“No way!” Vinnie growled, in response to Stephen’s suggestion.
“I was the Elf the last time, it is your turn to be the enemy.” He continued, bringing his cold grey eyed stare to bear upon Stephen.
The two boys, though friends and co-combatants in every sense of the words, had decidedly selective views in respect to the other races about the Sardist Realms. Dwarves, while hardy and formerly allied to the Scarlottis were no longer the trustworthy, dependable fellows they once were. Since the War of Fellows they had become withdrawn and seemed to have abandoned the works they once pursued with the men of House Scarlotti.
The Elves, on the other hand, had always been the secretive guerrillas who, from the edges of civilization, surgically strike, killing the odd and seemingly random foe regardless of how well protected they seem. The Silent Enemy. Despised by Scarlotti forces who embrace frontal combat and hand to hand conflict over all other forms.
But then from aside and unexpected came wisdom well known, yet embarrassingly unwelcome. “Perhaps the history of your people, and the true nature of the world in which you live has eluded you, my son.”
Deirdre Scarlotti, though foreboding, held an air about her which drew others in. Mystery and great wonder were harmonized into her soothing voice. While Vinnie loved his mother, he was afraid of her in a strange way. Not that she would harm him the way that his father might, were he to disobey his father’s word. Yet she, despite her proven love and devotion, had a way of making his his hair stand up on his arm and a chilling shudder run the full length of his body. She could make him feel like she was sifting his mind for the secrets he held while, at the same instant, making him feel so very comfortable and loved. He was certain she was aware of his knowledge of her powers, but she never acknowledged it to him and that made her even more mysterious.
With a dry mouth and eyes widening in her smiling gaze, “I, I am not certain of your meaning, mother? Our… history?”
Her eyes narrowed and he backed away ever so slightly toward his friend, Stephen, who even now would have ran were it not for some force refusing his legs their motive energies. “You forget your ancestors. You forget Antoni and then you forget the grace of Duchess Gabriella Dulccinae, and her strength of character during the War of Fellows.”
Deirdre did not wish to embarrass her son in the presence of his friend, but when he disrespected the Mae her blood began to boil and she felt driven to address the attack personally. Not simply out of respect for the Mae’n people, but that Vincenso might not grow up ignorant of those things which defined his family, and that she might work to form his destiny. She knew that even at fourteen he should have a far greater command of the history of all three races upon Maenatae. She knew that her sons would all be thrust onto the field of combat soon enough. She would have them armed not simply with strength of will and martial prowess, but with a mind full of the things of this world; prepared to make decisions based upon all of the facts available.
And so she beheld her son and his friend now caught in her tale for they began floating back into her grace, with looks of curiosity and perhaps wonder upon their faces. They moved with a mechanical grace as though their movements, while not their own were somehow desired by them, and resisted. The two young men, moving at the very edge of her gaze slid past her and seated themselves upon a nearby bench there in the wide garden of Demon’s Wrest. That garden which she herself tended.
She longed to tell her son of the wonders within the Great Tree. Of how there shone the light of the Lunactris tree on a scale not witnessed outside within the bare and open world. She would tell him of running water and brooks that did flow and sound and splash. Perhaps even the grand celebrations which were held by royalty aged across such a span of time that mankind might scarce fathom the wisdom held within those fleshly vessels. Her own long life too would she divulge, but such could never be while reason prevailed. Even now she felt the change taking place; her body was beginning to age. She would have Vincenso informed of those things that mattered to her. Those things too she did bless upon her niece, Yylyssa as was the custom of her mothers, but there was a part of her that said within, “He must know”.
Vinnie saw his mother falter; he felt her hold weaken and her gaze he witnessed move off to the distance. Yet he remained, “Father mentions only and always of the great leadership and fighting prowess of Lord Antoni”, he spoke in a reserved tone, almost as if it were a question.
Turning and realizing that they remained despite her releasing them she responded, “My Duke is wise and with that wisdom he does rule his people, however Lord Antoni was compassionate and above all men he possessed a humility and grace that we have been desirous of, though we knew it not, for a long count of seasons”. She saw on their faces wonder and disbelief moreover confusion, though it quickly departed as her gaze was directed upon the young men as she set one eyebrow up, ever so slightly.
Struggling to respond with some fact which might be seen to agree with the points which his mother had made Vinnie responded, “Lord Antoni planted the great tree in the garden there in Merriccia!”.
Smiling at her son and considering his desire to please her she continued, “Indeed he did, but with the aid of the Mae; the very elves which you despise as enemy.” Looking upon the young man she could see the first waves of regret, and perhaps some element of sorrow, upon his face. Perhaps her message was awakening knowledge that already lay within. Perhaps his open disdain for the Mae was simply an outward show of adolescent bravado and nothing more. Then her mind wandered and she allowed herself to wonder if the entire war and the great losses to all sides could be attributed to such a foolish display of insecurity? Men can be childish, she thought.
She allowed silence to work it’s good upon the young prince. Waiting patiently for him to speak. Knowing that he did not wish to do so, but realizing that some lessons which are learned by men they must teach themselves. She noticed him, for the longest time looking at the floor and then about the room, but always avoiding her gaze. He didn’t even look at his friend, rather he avoided his eyes also. Not that looking to Stephen would have helped for he had been practicing his best at remaining invisible to all in the room.
Vinnie knew what was going on. His mother was waiting for an answer, and not just a few words to pacify, but the actual thing which should be said. She waited on some notion that, while within his grasp remained on the very edge of it. When she did this and entered one of these, “teaching moments” as she chose to call them, she would stand him up and they would be locked there in mental combat until that answer came forth. That one thing which best described not only an answer he understood, but a concept that she wanted him to understand. And she was relentless. He knew that, should it be necessary, his mother would sit there looking at him until the full week spun out to its end.
Looking over, he noticed Stephen asleep there on the couch and a thought came to him. He offered his notion quietly, “We are young, mother. Perhaps we do have much to learn”.
Without yet blinking she responded, “I look not for excuses, Vincenso”.
He’d guessed her response and smiled ever so slightly, causing her to raise an eyebrow. “Mother, I mean all of humanity. We are just kinda like, well, we aren’t grown up just yet.” Upon his face there was the beginning of an answer and he, struggling to get it out, was, even now, teaching himself. “The el, er… the Mae. They live so very long and we so very short of a time. By the time we get the idea we don’t know what we are doing we die and go on”. He looked up into her eyes, “it isn’t fair, mother. We will never get our selves under control in such a short lifetime.”
Dierdre smiled and moved across the span to her son and embraced him, “I am very proud of you, Vinnie.”
“Whew, that’s good, she only calls me Vinnie when she is indeed very happy with me.”, he thought as she held him close.
She continued her thoughts, “however, while you have answered my question you have raised another and incorrectly applied an answer”. She could see the shock on his face and the fear in his eyes.
“Yet, we will not address your suggestion that humanity has been dealt with unfairly in their span of life”, she responded in hopes of easing his fears. “That is a lesson that will require more of life’s days to pass over you before the true answer might be attained”