“Vandamir,” Garoldth called to his son for the third time and frowned when he didn’t seem to be paying any attention to what was going on around him. What was wrong with that boy?
Only a father could have thought of Vandamir as anything but a man. Vandamir stood tall and proud, a warrior in his prime, and the way the women were looking at him made Garoldth smile. His sons were handsome men and deserving of all the attention they were getting, but Vandamir was not paying attention to the ladies. He didn’t notice how their eyes followed every muscle displayed with admiration, or lingered to study the male perfection of his face. He couldn’t see the way their fingers twitched as they checked him out, as if they would like to run their hands over his well-formed body and tangle in his long grey hair. His mind was on something else.
Garoldth would always see his sons as little boys. He remembered them as they were presented to him, all pink and glowing, wrapped in a tiny blanket and only a few moments old. His boys were his pride and joy. His girls were about to become his bright and shining stars. He wished he had known his girls in the same way as his boys, but fate had deemed otherwise. He would make sure he had time to get to know them now, though it wouldn’t be the same. It would be more difficult, as well, because his children were beginning to meet their Life Mates, and they were moving on with their lives.
Haldemir noted the frown on his father’s face as he looked at Vandamir and went to shake him out of his preoccupation with whatever was bothering him. Haldemir knew his twin well and could tell when something was not right. Vandamir never kept their father waiting for a reply, that was his trademark. He grinned as he thought about that little trait. They might look almost identical, but that was where the resemblance ended.
Vandamir was the serious one, the sensitive brother who loved to take the time to admire beauty when he had a moment to do so. Haldemir was the type to shove his brother into the water to see if he could swim when no one was looking, just for the fun of it; there was nothing better than a good romp.
“Vandamir,” Haldemir bumped his twin brother to catch his attention. “Father is calling you.”
The slight bump jogged Vandamir’s attention away from where his mind was settled and made him focus on what was happening around him. He had to admit, he had not been paying attention and he reddened to realize others had noticed. His mind had been on his Life Mate, the pretty little Grey Elven Female who had shunned him. He still couldn’t understand why. He had seen how strongly the thread between them shone when their eyes had connected and the bond was recognized. Why would she reject such a wonderful gift from the fates?
The Grey Elven Female had though. She had dug her face into the chest of the Grey Elf who had held her and closed her mind firmly on everything their bond meant and the golden thread had dimmed. Would she change her mind? Maybe, but with the stubborn tilt of her chin that he had noticed he doubted if she would be easy to sway. Should he walk away and give her time to think? The thought had some degree of merit. Perhaps the shock of discovering her Life Mate would take her time to get used to. He could afford to allow her a little time to think about it. Time was something Elves had plenty of, though it often felt like that wasn’t the case.
Vandamir remembered feeling the force that she had used to cut off their connection. She had slammed that door firmly, and he doubted if anything he would have to say to her would have any effect. He cursed the fact that he had little experience with females to help guide him. He wasn’t like his brother Haldemir who knew how to pour on the charm. When they had come to Daroth’s lands, women had flocked to Haldemir’s side, and often all it took was a smile from him to attract them. He sighed as he turned his attention onto his brother.
Vandamir decided it was time he stopped feeling sorry for himself and started tending to business. He needed to get his mind off his Life Mate. All his life he had been told that he would recognize her the moment he saw her. He was aware that the decision to accept the bond was ultimately in her hands. He had looked forward to meeting his Life Mate and watching her eyes light with the joy of knowing he was hers, but that wasn’t the way it was for them. Her reaction to their meeting had been one of shock and dismay, and he now understood what it felt like to not only find his Life Mate, but to be rejected by her.
“Father?” Vandamir spoke as he approached Garoldth.
Garoldth was immediately aware of a problem with one of his sons and wondered what it was. He knew his boys enough to recognize when one of them was feeling hurt. Vandamir was obviously devastated by something and it was not a trivial matter. He watched how his son’s eyes continued to travel back towards the tent that housed the Grey Princesses and he had an idea what that problem was. If what he suspected was true, there was nothing he could do to ease his pain. He would check into the matter closer when he had a moment to think. Unfortunately, this was not that time. There were too many things going on that needed his attention.
“Vandamir, I am going to put you in charge of moving Gilraen’s artwork. The other Kings have offered their resources to help, which means you are allowed to use any Elf in the meadow. It should not take too long for you to get the job done with so many helping hands.” Garoldth pointed out.
Vandamir frowned as he listened to his father talk about the move. His words showed how little he knew about the monumental task ahead of them. His father obviously had no idea what kind of work Gilraen did. Garoldth needed to view the results of Gilraen’s talent, and the number of artifacts she owned, then he might have a better understanding of the scope of the job he had given them.
As Vandamir thought about his father’s lack of clarity on Gilraen’s behalf, Garoldth was wondering if keeping Vandamir’s mind busy was going to help his son. Garoldth was unable to think of anything else he could do. It was obvious to him that Vandamir had met his Life Mate, he showed all the signs of a male Elf in love. He could also see the signs of her rejection, which was never a good thing. Reiss had handled it in his way and secured the bond despite the opposition, but he had a different temperament. Vandamir had a tendency to be somewhat sensitive in matters such as this. Garoldth was curious to see how this particular son was going to handle his problem, but saddened that he wasn’t going to be around much to give him any advice because he was being pressed for time by matters of state.
Vandamir and Haldemir turned to leave and Garoldth stopped Haldemir from going. “I would like a quick word with you, Haldemir.”
Haldemir turned back to wait for his father to speak while Vandamir continued to walk away.
“What has happened?” Garoldth got to the point. He was sure that if anyone knew the story behind Vandamir’s mood it would be his twin.
“I didn’t see it all, only a glimpse and Vandamir filled me in on the rest a little later.” Haldemir confessed.
“Not surprising,” Garoldth remarked. He knew these things happened fast, and they had only finished fighting a battle, there could not have been much time to notice much of anything. “Tell me what you know.”
“Vandamir had just finished saving King Ingwër’s life when I noticed the King race to guard a young Grey Elven Female. Vandamir noticed her about the same time and froze. He almost got himself killed doing that. I saw their eyes meet, then she turned from him and walked away at King Ingwër’s side.”
“Did she have grey hair?” Garoldth asked.
There were only two women Haldemir could be talking about when it came to any Grey Elven female walking off under the protection of King Ingwër, his daughters. The most visible difference between the two was the color of their hair. Garoldth wanted to know which one they were talking about. He doubted if it was the older girl, she was still too ill to go anywhere, but you never knew what to expect from an Elven female. He was finding most women on this side of the boundary were very resilient.
“Yes she did,” Haldemir answered before adding. “Don’t all Grey Elven females have grey hair?”
Garoldth smiled at Haldemir in amusement. His son was showing his lack of knowledge, but he would learn.
“The Elf Maiden you saw was King Ingwër’s younger daughter, Ailumn. You are saying that she refused to acknowledge the bond between her and Vandamir?”
“She looked horrified when she saw him. Vandamir saw the look on her face and he was devastated.” Haldemir declared, and he sounded almost angry about it.
“He would be.” Garoldth replied with a sad sigh.
It was an Elven father’s nightmare as far as Garoldth was concerned. No man wanted to sit aside and watch when his son’s Life Mate rejected the bond but there was nothing he could do to help. His son would have to handle this on his own. A Life Mate bond was a private matter between a man and a woman and they had to work their way through it together, or face the consequences. He felt so helpless. His sons had never asked him for anything in their lives, and when one needed his guidance, there was nothing he could offer.
“What are you going to do?” Haldemir asked.
Haldemir looked at the sorrow that crossed Garoldth’s face and he understood, his father could not interfere. Vandamir needed to deal with this problem on his own, there was nothing anyone else could do to help. Even in his position as his brother’s twin, the most he could offer was a little support. He could do that best by working at his side and listening whenever he needed to talk. He hoped it would be enough to allow him to deal with the pain of his rejection.
“We can only be there for him and let him know that he is loved. His Life Mate could change her mind, they often do.” Garoldth replied as he placed a caring hand on Haldemir’s shoulder. “It is a painful time for any man.”
“There are other things you should know. Some of the artifacts we will be moving have scenes in them that should be checked out by you in person.” Haldemir attempted to capture his father’s attention and sway it towards something he felt equally important.
It didn’t work. Garoldth smiled indulgently and sent Haldemir off with a dismissive comment. “I will see what you are talking about as soon as I have a chance. The Counsel of the Elves has been reconvened and I have to rush to get to the meeting. Go see to your task, Haldemir, as I need to attend to mine.”
Garoldth walked away from Haldemir and he shook his head in disappointment. His father had not given him a moment to tell him about the window they found. He needed to know about it, yet he refused to listen. How could they get him to pay attention? Life was becoming more and more complicated as politics were beginning to take over their lives. The end of the war was bringing them problems they would never have imagined, despite that he was glad to see that the fighting had finally come to an end.
Haldemir turned his back on the convening conclave and went to see about Vandamir. He had a feeling that their lives were never going to be the same. He was not certain he was happy about the situation, but there was nothing anyone could do to change it. It was time to go forward, to forge a new future for themselves and everyone their lives were about to touch.
Haldemir joined the group where Vandamir was beginning to issue orders. His brother was quick to notice him and assigned him to a position immediately.
“Haldemir, you will direct operations from this end. I will take one thousand Elves back into our world to begin preparations for the arrival of the windows.” Vandamir decided.
Haldemir disagreed. “I think you are needed here more.”
“There is nothing here that needs my attention. The fortress will need to be readied for the fitting of the windows. We will go to the caves and collect some of the artwork to take with us before leaving.” Vandamir stood firm in his decision.
“You are wrong and you know why.” Haldemir argued. He wasn’t about to tell everyone in attendance what Vandamir’s problem was. That was too personal.
Vandamir snapped back in irritation. “The reasons for my decision are none of your business brother. Father told me to take command, not you.”
“Block headed Elf, you are being stubborn.” Haldemir retuned. “You are about make the biggest mistake of your life.”
“It is my life to make it with, isn’t it?” Vandamir returned.
Lexior and Gilraen stood by and watched the verbal sparring going on between the brothers for a while. When it looked like things were about to get out of hand, Gilraen stepped between them.
“Haldemir, let it go, things will work out. Vandamir will return to check on how things are progressing here from time to time, he will need to know.”
“No, Gilraen, I won’t be coming back, there is nothing here for me.” Vandamir’s clipped response came out. He immediately regretted his reaction.
The look on Gilraen’s face when Vandamir snapped at her made him feel cruel when that was the last thing he wanted. He could tell his answer had caused her disappointment and pain. His sister was precious and if she wanted to see him during their work, then he would make sure it happened. He wasn’t about to disappoint her. As far as he knew, she might have a valid reason for his presence at both ends of the task they had been assigned. He also knew that if it would make her happy, he would be more than happy to travel back and forth between the two Kingdoms, even if it was for nothing more than to see the smile on her face as she greeted him.
Taking Gilraen into the cradle of his embrace, Vandamir held her against his chest as he apologized.
“For you, I would travel the world over. I don’t mean to be cruel or unthinking, but I do need to go home.”
“I understand, Vandamir and I know more than you can imagine.” Gilraen replied.
Vandamir chuckled as he answered her back. “I imagine you do. Sometimes it is too easy to forget what you are capable of. I think we tend to underestimate our little sister.”
“My brother,” Gilraen returned. “You underestimate your own power. Someday you will get the chance to explore the boundaries of your talents. I hope you find satisfaction and pleasure in the things you create but first you must defeat the Demons that eat at your heart. They are not as invincible as you fear.”
“A very cryptic message, little sister. What am I to make of that?” Vandamir sounded his wonder.
Gilraen had given Vandamir his own little prophecy and he wondered what she meant by it. Was she talking about his relationship with his Life Mate? How could she know about that? Then again, he wondered, how did she know anything? His sister was such a mystery. The message held a lot of meaning in it, and he found it suddenly appealing; it gave him strength to go on. Perhaps Gilraen knew something, and he decided it was worth giving further thought. He would do that as he traveled back home, but for now, there was work to get done.
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