Timorean had spent a week traveling to the Kingdom of the Ancients to see his niece’s Life Mate. He was not only curious to know how these Elves were doing but wanted to check on Endural. Her Life Mate had never once gone to check on her since he first saw her as an infant, and he wondered why. Now he knew, or at least he thought he did. Endural had been working hard, first to help bring the training program he had copied from Gabriel to the same level as Gabriel’s then to build a home for his future bride.

The first thought that crossed Timorean’s mind when he saw the partially built fortress was to wonder what Endural was thinking. As he inspected the outer walls of the massive castle, he asked, “Have you been working on this project alone over the last century?”

Endural scrutinized the building that was far from being finished and answered, “I don’t want anyone else to touch it. It is my bonding gift for Eöwen.”

Timorean commented, “You are aware of the fact that Eöwen is a powerful Tratchar warrior, right?”

“Of course.” Endural picked up a heavy boulder, put it into place, secured it then gave Timorean his full attention. “What does being a Tratchar have to do with needing a place to live?”

Timorean slowly shook his head in disbelief at Endural’s words and admitted, “We thought the Ancients knew everything about our people. Did you miss a lesson?”

Endural laughed. “We are not really Ancients, not in the real sense of how it is meant. Over the millenniums, the different talents kept a lot of information to themselves about what it meant to be a member of the sect that held their Talents. We know how to tend to the forest, but not much about the higher powers associated with the guardians for the forest. By those, I mean the Elves of power who we all call Tratchars. We know Tratchars can be dangerous if pushed. At the same time, they are considered to be peace-loving Elves who live and serve the forest. It is said that if you cross them, they are prone to mood swings. They are considered to be elusive and are not plentiful in this part of the Elven Empire. It’s not like they are in the Light Elven Kingdom, but that has more to do with your family members than any other reason. I doubt if I have ever seen so many of the blood congregate so closely as when I was visiting your homeland.”

“We thought you were Ancients in reality. In amongst those who had been be spelled, there were many Elves of power,” Timorean informed him.

Endural conjured a couple of cool drinks and offered one to Timorean before beginning his explanation. “There probably exists as much time between the Elves who came here with Askandar and me, and those who actually qualify to be called Ancients as there is between my people and yours. According to rumors, those we are descended from were a part of the home guard.”

“I don’t understand what you mean by that,” Timorean admitted.

“I doubt if any of us know the whole story or meaning of it,” Endural stated. “Even Askandar. And he is the elf who brought us here, although he isn’t sure where here is in connection to where we came from. I know there was no castle where we lived before, yet there is. When we arrived, it was looming over us. We had to move quickly to fortify the fortress against the enemy who already held this territory, for they greatly outnumbered us. We fought for a long time before we were finally overcome.”

“What was it like where you came from?” Timorean wondered. There was a story here and he wanted to know what it was. He wasn’t as good at ferreting out information as his father, but Gabriel was forbidden to enter this land, so he had to do the best he could in his stead. He wondered why the Fates had forbidden Gabriel coming into this part of the Empire, but as the warning had come from the Fates, he accepted it for what it was.

“Where we come from, our people were at peace, but we knew those we considered the warriors of our land had left our world to fight so we would be safe. Some of us felt left out, inadequate. It made us feel that our ancestors had been considered unworthy and this slight to our powers made us bristle. We were thought to be the best warriors in the land we lived in.”

“I can see where you might feel this was the case, but there is no shame in being left to provide protection for those who are considered weaker. It is thought to be an honorable position and is strategic in its own right,” Timorean pointed out.

“We didn’t see it in the same light,” Endural sighed. “Our ancestors had been left behind because they weren’t amongst the primary Elven warriors of the Empire. They had not passed the test as the others had, although no one explained what that meant. We got tired of being considered second-class citizens of the empire. Askandar and I trained more Elves to serve as a home guard, and when the time was right, we pooled our powers to create a portal to cross into this world during a time when we thought we might be needed the most. It was quite an undertaking. We arrived in this land to find this part of the Empire deserted and overrun with demons. We fought our way into the castle and used it as a stronghold. Eventually, it became our prison.”

“Now you are working hard to create another such situation for my niece.” Timorean shook his head in disappointment. This man had no understanding of what living surrounded by rock would be like for a Tratchar as strong as Eöwen. He needed to be educated.

“Tratchars need to be surrounded by nature, more specifically, the trees of the forest,” Timorean clarified. “As long as we are in a forest, we are never without a home. Watch. I will show you what I mean.”

Timorean left the partially built structure Endural had been working on, walked to a massive oak tree, and sang as he placed his hand on the trunk. Immediately, a spiral staircase wound its way around the tree until it disappeared into the foliage overhead. Timorean motioned for Endural to join him. They climbed to the top, where a house was in the midst of being constructed by the entity. It was a part of the tree at this point, but before much longer, it would become a home.

Endural stared at the evolving interior in wide-eyed astonishment. How was he to make one of these? Were all his efforts for nothing? What could he say to express his feelings? What could he offer his Life Mate to let her know the extent of his love and worthiness? He sighed in disappointment as he realized he would never be able to compete with nature.

Timorean had a good idea what Endural was thinking and grinned. He could have been cruel and left him to believe the thoughts going through his mind were the way things were, or he could ease Endural’s mind. With any other Elf, Timorean would have been tempted to do just that. Endural, however, was his niece’s Life Mate and for Eöwen to be happy in her future life, they both needed to be.

Timorean placed an arm around Endural’s shoulders. “We are all aware of the differences that exist between us and the rest of the Elves in the Empire. We also know that no one can improve upon nature. We can help the elements to enhance its beauty or to heal when needed, but we have limitations. Eöwen can do the same as I did only a few moments ago. You can be assured that Eärwen has trained her daughter well, I guarantee this.”

Endural turned from the still-forming house and walked outside to sit on the top step. He sighed sadly. “I have neglected my Life Mate for no good reason, haven’t I?”

“Depends how you look at it,” Timorean replied, as he sat beside Endural.

“How do you figure that?” Endural asked. “I have not gone to visit Eöwen since I first saw her as a newborn baby being held by her mother in a very protective embrace.”

“You remember well.” Timorean chuckled. “I think Eärwen would have gutted you before allowing you to touch her daughter at that moment. It is difficult for any woman to see a child of hers being acknowledged as a Life Mate to a grown Elven Male when they are that young. You probably made the best choice possible by keeping your distance for so long.”

“Does Eöwen know anything about me or of our bond?” Endural worried.

“Eärwen and Eöl have made sure Eöwen is aware of it,” Timorean assured. “I know for a fact Eärwen hasn’t left Eöwen ignorant of the fact that she has a Life Mate.”

“What else has Eärwen taught her?” He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like the answer. Endural had heard a lot about Eärwen Eagle Claw over the last century. Eärwen was known to be a powerful Elf, an Eagle Claw daughter through and through. Her Tratchar powers were strong enough to earn her the care and protection of a Great Guardian in a troubled land. Few could claim to be her equal. The same could be said for her proficiency with a weapon.

Timorean could tell where this was going and he didn’t blame Endural for feeling insecure. Eärwen had taught Eöwen well and Eöl had honed what she was into a well-trained warrior. Eöwen was one of the best blade masters in the Elven Empire, even though she was only a century old. If she had followed the rules, she would be considered proficient enough to spar with her grandfather, Gabriel Eagle Claw. She would never be good enough to match him but was still rated to be amongst the best in the land. Did he dare tell Endural, or should he let him discover this on his own? He assumed the Elf would find out sooner or later, if he hadn’t heard the news from some wayward traveler already. Endural deserved to know everything about his Life Mate now, and it was his right to be told.

“Eärwen has taught Eöwen all she knows. Eöwen is a master of weaponry as well as an extremely powerful Tratchar. She is not going to be easily tamed,” Timorean warned.

“I suspected as much,” Endural admitted. “Eärwen gave me the impression she didn’t particularly approve of the match when we connected. Eöl was slightly more receptive, but there was a challenging gleam in his eyes that told me he wasn’t going to make it easy for me to claim Eöwen when the time came.”

“Be happy you are not facing him on the field of battle. He is good enough to make my father break into a sweat. I doubt if there are more than two in the entire Elven Empire who can claim to have made Gabriel do that.”

“I have a feeling I should take the time to make a trip across the desert to see what I will be facing when the time comes,” Endural decided.

“Beware of the sand snakes,” Timorean warned. “Eöwen has taken it upon herself to rid the world of them, but they don’t die easily and the desert is a big place. She has taken on a huge challenge, and has a massive task ahead of her if she thinks she can do it on her own.”

Endural grinned as he bragged, “We used to kill them for sport. I know a few tricks that might help Eöwen up her game. She might appreciate knowing about those.”

“Eöwen is the type to listen to helpful advice depending on how well meaning it is and who it comes from,” Timorean teased.

“I think I know how to impress Eöwen, at least enough so she will speak to me cordially if not with respect,” Endural replied.

“I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much if I were you,” Timorean warned.

Endural answered, “I doubt if I have much to lose. Who knows? Eöwen might actually decide I am worth keeping, although she will not be ready to form a complete bond for several hundred years yet. I won’t overstay my welcome, but I intend to be around long enough to capture her attention. It will be a start.”

Yes, Timorean agreed, it would definitely be a start.


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