EMBRACING THE LIGHT

CHAPTER I

“Do you hear what I hear?”  Eden murmured sleepily as she cuddled in closer to Gabriel under the covers.

 Gabriel gave a resigned sigh as he groaned.  Yes, he heard.  Unfortunately.  Their nice, warm, comfortable bed was about to be invaded by six rambunctious Elven toddlers.

 “I am on it.”

 A quick spell uttered in haste as the door to Gabriel and Eden’s sleeping quarters slammed open barely beat their two sets of triplets to their destination.  They were not going to be caught naked in bed by their children.  Within moments Gabriel and Eden, were smothered by their squealing, giggling, and bouncing toddlers.  The attack had been led by Gildren and planned by Jerrol.  Gabriel knew exactly who had set up the strategy and who directed the maneuver.

 Eden was quick to react to the attack, which was a good thing as Eärwen lost her balance and almost went over the side.  She gave a giggle as her mother caught her around the waist and pulled her back onto the mattress.  Ennacas jumped on her and she regained her balance.   Ennacas showed no more regard for safety than her sister.

 Gildren and Jerrol grabbed the pillows that had been left vacant by Eden and started pummeling each other with them as they tripped and fell over their father.  When Gabriel reached out to capture them, they shrieked and dove to attack him.  Their two brothers were right behind them.  Gabriel laughed as he attempted to control his sons and objected through his chuckles.

 “No fair.  Four against one.”

 “Defend your territory or surrender.”  Gildren crowed as he jumped on Gabriel’s stomach, landing on his small bottom.

“Prepare to go down in defeat,” Gabriel warned as he took the blanket that had kept him warm earlier and covered the four boys with it.

“No fair,” Timorean objected before calling in reinforcements.

By this time Eden had both Ennacas and Eärwen as subdued as two squirming, giggling girls could get.  She knew what was going to happen next.  One of the boys would find a way out from under the confining cover and reform a counter attack.

Eden didn’t count on a second and third strike attack force getting in on the game.  She had not been paying attention to what was going on in the rest of the house and only had a moment’s warning before another eight Elven toddlers invaded the room.  The arrival of more children so early in the day meant it was second middle week, their turn to spend the day with the Eagle Claw group. 

“Auntie Eden,” Larien screamed her battle cry as she tackled Eden from behind the knees and Eden went down like a pile of bricks.

Eden felt the impact, felt her knees buckle and knew she was about to fall.  To prevent injuries she tossed Ennacas and Eärwen onto the bed as she flailed with her arms to catch her balance.  The girls screamed in glee as they flew through the air before racing to help their new comrades at arms rescue their brothers.  When they had achieved that objective they turned their attentions back to their mother.  Ennacas sounded the order. 

“Attack.”

Gabriel suddenly found himself the focus of nine tiny Elven Warriors and noted things were about to get serious.  Gildren grabbed a length of his father’s rope and with a few quick orders he had heard Gabriel use in the past he tied Gabriel’s feet together.  Gabriel was more than a little shocked that his son knew the order to make the rope work.  Where had he learned that?  He took a quick look at Eden and noted she was having her own problems.

Five Elven girls were bouncing all around Eden.  She was pinned to the floor.  Ennacas was sitting on her mother’s abdomen and Larien was sitting on her chest.  The other three were crawling all over her as they laughed and joined in the fun.  Eden left it go on for a little while longer then decided it was time to bring the game to a halt.

“Maple butter pancakes for breakfast.  Help your father and uncle break free from the boys.   Show them you are just as powerful as they are.  Attack.”  Eden ordered.

Five screaming, giggling female Elven Warrior toddlers scrambled off Eden to climb onto the bed to attack their brothers.  Soon Gabriel was covered in tiny Elven bodies battling for supremacy.  Five girls versus the nine boys, the boys didn’t stand a chance.  Gabriel was on the bottom of the pile and every now and then you could hear him give off an gasp as a foot or elbow landed in the wrong place, or a small body would overbalance and land on him.

Eden got up, dusted off her clothing and turned to face four smiling parents.

“Pancakes for everyone?”  Eden offered.

Marious leaned back against the doorsill and laughed harder while Torrent asked.

“You are not going to leave Gabriel like that are you?”

“Like what?”  Eden asked innocently.

“He is on the bottom of that pile of barbarians.”  Torrent spoke as if he was slightly outraged, but the grin spread across his face told the real story.  He was having the time of his life.

“Gabriel is a big boy and can take care of himself.”  Eden replied.  “Besides, I sent him help.”

“Need help in the kitchen?”  Serenity offered as she ignored the antics of the children. 

“I will bring out the ingredients for the pancakes,” Tamarak spoke as she turned and made a beeline for the cupboard where Eden kept her cooking supplies.

“I will set the table.”  Serenity replied.

Eden took one last look at the squirming stack of tiny Elven bodies and left.  It was time to make breakfast.

Torrent looked at Marious as he heard someone at the front door and watched as Haylo and Larek escorted their sets of twins into the house.  Reinforcements.  He wondered how much more Gabriel could take.

“Are we really going to leave him alone like that?”

Marious was only half listening to what Torrent asked as he watched Haylo and Larek take the winter apparel from their children.  A nasty grin spread across his face to accompany the twinkle in his eyes and he yelled.

“Uncle Torrent has announced tickle time.”

“Tickle time?”  Torrent asked.  He had never heard of it.

The toddlers had.  Every child knew what tickle time meant.  Eighteen bright-eyed children focused their attention on Torrent as all sounds of laughter stopped.  Open smiles soon followed.  Tickle time, and called by Uncle Torrent.  This was going to be fun.

Torrent took one look at the grin on Marious’ face, turned to take note of the eager looks and smiles spread across the toddlers faces and had a horrible feeling he was in serious trouble.  A moment later he was certain of it as Gildren sounded the charge.

“Attack.”

The lone word was soon followed by the sounds, and sight of eighteen Elven Children as some bounced off the bed to run across the floor, others just ran.  They all had one destination in mind.  Uncle Torrent.  It was tickle time.

Torrent gave Marious a horrified look as he realized what was about to happen.  He then took off in the opposite direction running as he snarled his threat back at Marious.

“You are going to pay for this Eagle Claw.”

In a house half filled with Eagle Claws that was a true invitation for trouble.

“For the honor of the Eagle Claw name,” Gabriel ordered from the bed.  “Charge. Conquer the enemy, tickle him until he cries Uncle.”

The sound of a large body hitting the floor in amongst the screaming battle cries of the toddlers told everyone the children had achieved their objective.  Uncle Torrent was down and vulnerable.

Daroth and C’Liandra entered the house with the six remaining toddler cousins, and with help from Haylo and Larek they managed to keep them subdued long enough to get their coats and boots off before they streaked off to join their friends.  They didn’t know what was going on, but they wanted to be a part of it.

Daroth looked at the mass of frolicking children then turned to Larek and asked.  “You going to just stand there and let a fellow Elf get mauled like that?”

“Looks like it to me,” Larek responded with a chuckle as Torrent gave an outraged bellow that was half laughter.

Daroth looked at Gabriel and noted the rumpled state of his High Lord General and grinned.  He wasn’t about to ask him the same question as he had Larek.  One look at Marious sitting on the floor lost in tearful laughter told him where that Elf stood on the matter.  He wondered if the women would be able to help, but when he turned to ask Haylo and C’Liandra they were gone.  He shrugged and grinned as he watched his boys plunge into the crowd to join in the fun.  At least the children were enjoying themselves.

“You not going to lend a fellow Elf a helping hand Daroth?”  Larek asked with a crooked grin.

“I am not much of a warrior.”  Daroth admitted.

“And if you were?”  Larek asked.

“I am not stupid enough to get into the middle of something like that.”  Daroth stated bluntly.

“Enough.”  The muffled sounds of Torrent’s voice sounded from the bottom of the crowd of Elven bodies.  It was followed by the sounds of stifled laughter.

One of the toddlers ordered.  “Say Uncle.”

“Never,” Torrent replied and he found himself in the center of a renewed attack.

Gabriel raised his face to take in the fragrance of fresh pancakes cooking and knew it wouldn’t be long before Eden came out to announce the morning meal.  He hoped the little game would be over before then because it was going to take someone braver than him to walk into that battle.

A fresh bought of laughter came from the middle of the group, along with a few ouches, and Torrent gave in.

“Uncle, I said, Uncle.”

It wasn’t a moment too soon, as Eden came out of the kitchen and in a voice half choked with laughter, announced.  “There is blueberry pancakes in the kitchen with butter and maple syrup.  Anyone interested?”

The room silenced as the cousins exchanged looks and one whispered word rippled through the crowd.  “Pancakes.”

Gabriel took one look at the overeager expressions.  The eyes shinning like sunlight through trees.  The smiles of anticipation, and he knew it was going to take more control than what any of the little wonders had to keep any type of order in the ranks.

As Eden turned to go back to the kitchen he tossed her a wink and took over.

“Troop, line up.  Anyone breaking rank goes into the kitchen last.”

With astounding quickness the toddlers lined up and stood at attention before Gabriel.  A few took peeks over their shoulders at the kitchen doorway where they could hear sounds of activity.  They were hungry and wanted to eat.

“About face.”  Gabriel ordered.

Together the youngsters turned to face the kitchen.  “Gildren, lead your troops.”  Gabriel gave another command.

Gildren smiled and in his best imitation of his father’s voice, issued the order.

“To your right, march.”

Everyone knew that as soon as they were seated and the food was placed in front of them that pandemonium would break loose, that was to be expected.  They were still very young and needed time to be children.

Torrent got up off the floor and walked over to where Gabriel was standing.  Together they watched their children march off to breakfast.  Two proud, happy Elven fathers who felt they were watching a parade from heaven.

“I never thought I would live to see the day I would have children.”  Torrent admitted.

“Most of us felt the same way.”  Gabriel replied.

Marious walked up to stand between them and added.  “We are the luckiest Elves in the world.”

“Some of us are.”  Torrent agreed.  “Others are going to be sore tomorrow.”

“Yes, you probably will be.”  Marious agreed as he walked into the kitchen to join the gathering, the food smelled good, and he was starved.  Life was precious.

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