The sounds of cheering and children’s laughter was the only warning anyone got before they were forced to dive off the trail so they wouldn’t be run down by a pack of wolves being ridden by a group of very young Elves. Daroth heaved a heavy sigh and frowned as he watched them disappear around a bend in the trees and shook his head in frustration. Something was going to have to be done about the Eagle Claw offspring. He then did a double take as he focused on one of the last riders to disappear around the curve and recognized one of his sons. He quickly revised his thought, for it looked like something had to be done with all their children. The question was what?
Daroth had often gotten after Gabriel for how he was raising his children over the last few years because he thought there was no room in a child’s life for regimental training. Gabriel refused to listen to him and continued to train his family as if they were members of the Elven army. Despite his best efforts they were still the wildest Elves in the Kingdom. When he took the matter up with both Gabriel and Eden, Eden insisted the children needed time to play and would eventually settle down, after all she had. He agreed with her to a point, they did need time to play and they would settle down eventually just as she had over the years, unfortunately the signs didn’t bode well for that happening anytime soon. It had taken her over five hundred years, and Gabriel, to reach that point.
The time factor involved in Elven children maturing made him wonder about his own childhood. Daroth didn’t remember doing a quarter of the things his children got into trouble for, although he didn’t have an Eagle Claw to lead his way into trouble like his children had. Eagle Claw children when he was young were kept busy training how to lead armies because they would be needed to be ready to take their places in the war. There were no wars now, fortunately. That time was behind them, though Gabriel was training his sons to fight and wanted to do the same with his daughters. Eärwen was more interested in training than Ennacas. Ennacas wanted to be a regular girl and play with Haylo’s girls as well as a few of the offspring from the mixed pairings between Dark and Light Elves. The differences between what existed in the past and the way they lived now made him feel old and dull.
The older Elves had barely regained their equilibrium from the wolf race when the sound of snarling and howling warned them that they were about to be forced off the trail again by the returning pack. This time, when the wolves ran past them there were no young Elves on their backs. They were immediately concerned. What had happened? Where were their children? Were they safe? Were they injured? Wolves could be dangerous, even to Elves, though Daroth secretly thought a wolf wouldn’t stand a chance against one of Gabriel and Eden’s offspring.
It wasn’t long before Daroth’s fears were put to rest when he noticed a small group of young Elves chasing down the trail trying to catch up to the wolves. They were led by his first born son and they all came to an abrupt halt at the sight of him standing in the middle of the path blocking their way. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest and a look of disapproval on his face that told them they were in trouble. Again.
Fifteen, Daroth counted. Some girls, some boys and all looking at him with the guiltiest expressions he had ever seen on an Elven child. Scarier yet was the thought that there wasn’t an Elf amongst them over the age of eight. What were they going to be like when they got older? He resisted an urge to shake his head and burst into laughter, instead he sighed as if in irritation at their antics. He couldn’t stay mad at them, they were too cute and definitely too precious to him. They were the future of the Light Elven Kingdom, may the Creator help them all.
“Good afternoon children,” Daroth gave the impression of being disappointed.
The act didn’t fool even one of the young Elves as smiles replaced the guilty looks and they elbowed each other. Daroth’s eldest son spoke first.
“Did you see us riding the wolves father? Jerrol won but I was close.”
Eärwen’s snort of disbelief was quick to follow. “Close? You mean close to last. Told you that wolf was slow.”
“What would you know?” Daroth’s son snipped back.
“Danith.” Daroth reprimanded his son. “You don’t talk to a girl like that. It is a horrible habit to develop. You will show respect at all times.”
Danith looked at his father in surprise before transferring his attention back to Eärwen, who promptly stuck out her tongue at him before a smug expression settled onto her face.
Daroth was quick to reprimand Eärwen as well. “Eärwen, that is no way to treat a boy who could grow up to be your Life Mate one day.”
Eärwen looked at Daroth as if he had just grown a second head then replied. “That is so icky.”
Larien bumped Eärwen as she giggled and teased her friend. “Eärwen with a Life Mate.”
Eärwen bumped Larien back as she replied. “Look quick, he could be yours.”
Larien giggled harder as she leaned forward to look at Danith and answered: “Nope, not mine.”
Danith turned so red the tips of his ears almost glowed. Belwin came to his rescue.
“Who would want Life Mates like you two? Besides, you’re our cousins, that is so yuk. Silly girls.”
“Yes,” Soren added. “Why don’t you two go kiss a few toads, maybe you might get lucky?”
“You go kiss a toad,” Eärwen pushed Soren physically. “It is the only thing that might let you get near enough with something like that in mind.”
The war was immediately on as one push warranted another in retaliation until they were all pushing at each other. Daroth waded into the war zone to separate the few that were getting out of hand but it looked like he was losing ground. He searched for help and noted a half dozen other Elven parents standing around looking sheepish, but no volunteers. No one seemed brave enough, or stupid enough, to wade into that group of children. He noticed Eden coming towards them on the path and sent her a beseeching look.
Eden gave a sigh as she noted her six children in the thickest part of the battle. It didn’t take much imagination to figure that one or more of the little terrors had been a part of whatever was happening since the beginning of the fight.
“Next child that pushes, insults, or tries to fight with another will have to kiss all the other children who was involved in this fight.” Eden announced.
Daroth could hardly hear Eden’s threat over the noise of the skirmish, but obviously there was nothing wrong with the children’s ears as they immediately froze. Seconds later they were speaking spells of cleansing and standing in line as if for inspection, starting with Eden’s own brood. Not one child spoke in the defense of their actions, although Marious’ boys were trying hard to restrain grins. Eden was immediately on top of that. She knew her hold on the control of the group was tenuous at best. With one sign of weakness she would be a dead Elf.
“What were the little hooligans doing before this?” Eden asked Daroth, she was sure this wasn’t their first infraction, though it was about to be their last for a while. She hoped.
“Wolf racing.” Daroth informed Eden.
Not one child frowned or twitched, although Daroth could tell it was difficult for them to maintain straight faces. There wasn’t one set of eyes amongst the group that didn’t reflect their disgust at him. Their king was a stool pigeon. He saw the fingers on one of Marious’ daughters wiggle and he moved in time to barely miss being struck by an offensive flying object.
Eden didn’t miss that move either. “Dweena, I don’t think your mother will be very pleased to hear about that.”
The look on Dweena’s face was priceless. She was definitely not happy about being caught and Daroth wondered what Tamarak would use as an effective punishment.
“Now,” Eden crossed her arms in front of her. “What were you told about riding the wolves?”
There was a few muted replies but nothing anyone could understand. Eden immediately followed up on that.
“I don’t think I heard that reply. Who wants to do extra practice rounds under Gabriel’s watch tomorrow?”
As a unit they all replied. “We are not to ride the wolves because they can be dangerous. We are also too young to control them properly.”
Except that Eden could tell none of the children believed it. They were giving her lip service to satisfy her demands while guaranteeing that the racing would happen again. The sad part of it all was that she could remember doing the same thing and listening to her mother give her the same reasons for not doing it when she was a child. What made that scary was that she could imagine her girls repeating the same pattern five hundred years in the future.
“Keep that in mind.” Eden warned before changing subject. “Now for what I really came for. There have been some really heavy rains upstream over the last few weeks and the river will be running fast and high for some time in the near future. I am going to ask each of you to spread the word that no one is safe near the water and not to go near the river until we say you can. Do you understand what that means?”
All fifteen children nodded their heads and Eden narrowed her eyes suspiciously as she watched them. Some, she knew, would follow her instructions to the letter, but there were others who were bound to press their luck. She could think of two little female Tratchars who fit that definition perfectly and she would have to watch them both carefully or they would get their friends into trouble too.
“Can we go now Aunt Eden?” Amy asked.
Eden looked in question at Daroth and he nodded. She immediately followed up with an answer. “Go, but remember to let everyone know about the river. No one will be safe until the water level has returned to normal. That goes for adults as well as silly children who won’t listen to common sense. It is not fun to fall into rushing water and drown. It is even less fun to watch one of your friends or family die because they weren’t careful, or didn’t listen to reason.”
“Mommy had this talk with me earlier in spring,” one of the smaller Elves noted. “She said if anything happened to me both daddy and her would cry.”
“I wouldn’t want my parents sad.” Séreméla pointed out.
“There might be six of us children in the family but losing even one of us would break mommy’s heart.” Dweena agreed.
As the group of children walked away deep in discussion Daroth approached Eden and asked. “How long do you think that warning will last?”
“One, maybe two days.” Eden estimated. “Face it Daroth, they are children and very young. Their attention spans are short.”
“They also have selective memories. The only one who seldom ever gets into trouble from my three is S’Larea and we all know why.”
“Yes, the poor baby. She feels hundreds of years older than she is.” Eden replied.
“There are times she says things older than time.” Daroth agreed.
“It is no life for a child and I wish the Creator would have given her a chance to be one before allowing her powers to manifest.”
Daroth wished the same thing, but it was not his decision to make and both Eden and he understood that fighting nature was a losing battle.