"Wars of Light and Darkness"
By: Jade Lightning, a.k.a. ReverseTheEclipse
"The 1st Interlude"
Verse Twenty-Three: “Beautiful”
“I really wish you’d not bow to me.”
The hooded girl named Agatha spoke so gently as the trio sat together, sipping tea the Star Spirits had prepared for them. They remained in the top of the Eclipse Tower, so that Arandor could be there in spirit. Though they both knew her, Agatha had been silent, for the most part, until now.
Kalak grinned. “He bows because you deserve the reverence, that’s what I taught him,” he said, taking a sip of his tea, “He bows because you deserve it.”
Shadow glanced at the silent figure, the white robe obscuring all but her gentle voice, and the soft hissing that occasionally rose up along with it. He knew Agatha, oh he did, and he certainly remembered why she wore the silken white cloak, covering her from head to toe. It was hard to tell but, sometimes the folds of the sleeves slid just so you could see the tips of her fingers, gnarled and black, almost like they belonged to an old witch hag that had been burned one too many times by her own cauldron. She wore the white gloves, and the white robe, since before her fur was the same snow white color, to hide this hideous form. Such a sweet and humble voice did not match such a picture.
And yet, that was what was there. This poor girl deserved reverence, yes she did, because she was punished in a way she did not deserve, yet she always remained humble, and meek. Shadow remembered wishing his own soul could be even half that beautiful.
None would ever be as pure as she.
The thought of it nagged at Shadow’s heart however; what had been done to her, to make her hide behind this white veil, a façade that evokes images of a beauty underneath, which there was, only…
“Bah,” Shadow grumbled, as he did when cursing was neither appropriate nor feasible, downing more of his tea. “You deserve more than bowing. You deserve justice.”
Kalak glanced at Shadow, but only for a moment, as a small squeak escaped Agatha. She adjusted the sleeves so her hands could remain hidden under the cuffs. “No, no, Shadow, I do not need justice. How can I justify what I can’t remember?”
It was true. What happened to this girl, the unspeakable levels of torture, the ghastly methods, going on for such a long time nobody could remember the exact amount of time, and yet she remembered none of it. She knew it had happened, but either out of memories repressed from pain, or taken away from a sympathetic witness, the pain and torment of it, and most of the grotesque details, were absent from her mind.
For some reason she felt none of those involved should be punished, not just because she could not remember, but because the ones who harmed her, were the ones she loved like family.
Shadow had to hide his disgust, as did Kalak, and everyone close to her, that remained to love her.
“If you ask me…every last one of them needs to pay. …not just Mukot,” Shadow said, finishing his tea.
With a shake of his head, Kalak added, “Not all of them. Sith had no part in it, nor did Bolero and Ryu. …you also know that Mukot’s…”
“Omega and Serpent. …Uncle Serpent. Yes… …I know, he didn’t participate. …okay, so, most of them then,” Shadow muttered. His uncle, Serpent, Mukot’s younger brother, was probably the only good memory Shadow had from his first five years. However, like Agatha, he repressed a lot, and unfortunately those good memories were pushed down with the rest.
“No, no, no,” Agatha squeaked, speaking quickly. “None of them, not the Sins, Orpheous, any of them.” She took a deep breath, sipping her tea. “They’re all, my family, even Mukot. I…agree he must be stopped but…”
“But nothing! Mukot is one I won’t forgive! He’s not got a single redeeming factor; after all, he’s the one that ordered it! Your torture, the killings, everything! Why should he be forgiven?” Shadow blurted out, a momentary lapse in calmness causing him to throw respect out of the window.
“Shadow, calm down a moment,” Kalak ordered, his own voice still calm but stern.
Getting up from his seat, Shadow looked at Kalak. “Mukot killed Arandor! If not himself but through those…clones he tricked Uncle Serpent into creating! There’s no way in hell when the axe is about to fall that I’ll give a solitary thought to sparing him! Why should I? He didn’t spare us, did he?!”
Kalak glared at him like a father does to his unruly son. During all this, Agatha kept quiet, save the soft hissing coming from beneath her hood. This hissing was in fact a mass of snakes crowning her head, taking the place of what used to be beautiful, snow white and pink hair. She twiddled her fingers gently, listening, taking in what Shadow had said. She knew he was right; Mukot had done a lot that was seemingly unforgivable. Seemingly.
She took a deep breath. Her voice was soft and meek, as usual, but even more so in the presence of the powerful shouts escaping Shadow’s hoarse throat. “Sh-Shadow I…understand your anger honey. I…am hurt at, losing baby Arandor as well.” She glanced back at the glass casket, a small smile forming on her gnarled lips, though none could see it. As her eyes drifted back to the table, she sighed. “But, neither you nor Kalak remember the boys that I do, the family I remember. …you don’t know what Mukot was truly born to be. …it wasn’t, Wrath.”
Both Kalak and Shadow dropped their stare down to look at Agatha, blinking. “If not Wrath, then…what was he, Agatha?” Kalak asked.
“…Better yet, what sent him down this path?” Shadow added. “…what reason do I have to forgive him?”
“Mmm,” Agatha breathed, “I’m not…saying we have to stop. We must, fight to defeat him. There is, no way to stop him.” She glanced at them. “Many of us thought that, you Shadow, or UnLight and UnDark, would pull Mukot out of it, which is…why Serpent helped him, and tried to take those two away when he realized it hadn’t worked. I just…try and be mindful, when you are trying to take him down that…he is, a victim, like all of us.”
“I don’t believe it.” Shadow sat back down, rolling his eyes. “I can’t feel sorry for that…that…”
“He was…meant to be one of the holiest of Guardians Shadow,” Agatha murmured. “…holier than his own mother, but meant to be her protector not her superior. I…can’t remember the exact name for what he was, but, when he was born, Wrath was not part of him. If he bore the element it was in check, and inferior to this true one that he bore. Somebody awoke the Wrath in his heart, torturing him within. …corrupting him.”
Kalak blinked, not knowing any of these things about his adversary. “You’re saying that he’s merely a puppet?”
Agatha sipped her tea. “I…I think so. …I seem, to remember, somebody, who was not part of our order, or Beledin’s, coming to watch the…torture.” She paused, as though struggling to remember the memory and find words with which to describe them. “He was…white, and bore a secret. He…enjoyed what happened to me and, said it was a punishment.” She sniffed softly, and then looked up. “This is our man; he’s the one that corrupted Mukot, had the two Jewels killed. …sadly I…can remember nothing of him. In all of my travels, nobody knows him at all.”
Shadow’s expression softened, his voice now having no venom behind it. “Oh…my lady, I’m so sorry. …I feel so ashamed.”
“Strange,” Kalak said, his hand stroking his beard thoughtfully. “Have you…asked Mukot’s father, Lord Omega?”
“…Memory Guardian,” Shadow remarked.
“I thought of it,” Agatha whispered. “…he said he would risk bringing back my memories of what happened if, he tried to uncover the one, and, said he could not do it to me. He and Serpent are trapped there, so, I don’t know how much he could possibly do. Nobody else I’ve asked seems to know. …Maybe I’m just…a dummy.” Her head hung low, the soft hissing going silent.
“Never.” Shadow blinked. “Never in a million years my lady.”
Kalak nodded. “He’s right Agatha. …regardless of who did it we know somebody is using Mukot as a puppet. I know, a little of his childhood, the first Guardian to be born as a child, and, remembering all this, what little I know, I certainly pity him. I pity those two boys Serpent created, just as I do Shadow. I’d take them in if they came to me.”
Shadow was silent for a moment. “…UnLight might come. UnDark is too like him. I’ve tried reasoning with UnLight, even UnDark but…” He paused, laughing softly. “Funny, I was so opposed to helping Mukot yet I try as hard as I can to help those two, even UnDark when I…swore I’d never do it.” He blinked.
Agatha smiled beneath her robe. “You’ve forgiven UnDark, somehow,” she looked at Arandor’s glass casket. “He killed Arandor but, you’ve forgiven him. …on the same token perhaps, you can forgive Mukot too, as he’s being used as much as UnDark is.”
“Used,” Shadow murmured, “…used.” He closed his eyes, sighing. “Wonderful. …Arandor would forgive him without needing convincing, at all.”
There was silence at the table, everyone digesting all that had been said. After awhile, Kalak sat up some, rubbing his forehead. “Forgiveness is important but, as Agatha said, we have to kill him, and perhaps UnDark as well. Shadow thinks there is hope UnLight can be turned, and we’ll continue to try with him and UnDark. If nothing can reach them, or Mukot, they must all be done away with. Not out of hatred but…”
“Mercy…” Agatha whispered. “Yes.” She looked back at Arandor’s spirit, smiling to herself. “I like to think Arandor wouldn’t care about revenge. He just, wants the world he loves, his family, to be safe.” She looked back. “I just, I know we’re getting close to the time that battles will resume. Mukot has discovered Arandor’s secret.”
Shadow blinked, sitting up fast. “The marks? He knows of the marks?”
Kalak’s face paled. Agatha sighed, hanging her head. “I’m sorry to bear bad news. UnDark mentioned words Durnam spoke before his death, and Mukot in his cleverness figured it out.” She looked up. “He’s planning to attack both colonies of echidnas, to completely wipe them out. Even now, though he doesn’t know it, his darkness controlled by evil, has seeped into the families of those close to Arandor’s special children.”
Shadow got up, hands on head, pacing around the room. “No, no, this was the only security we had. Ohhhh…no.”
Kalak raised his hand. “Calm down Shadow. We knew something bad was going to happen, that’s why you and Kashkie went down there to protect them. At least now we know the time to prepare is now.” He looked at Shadow. “You can get Thaileon and his people ready for an attack. When he has his children move them somewhere safe.”
“If he has them.” Shadow sat down rubbing his face. “Who’s to stop Mukot from killing Thaileon and Deannalee before they have their children? We already know Deannalee’s son is not the one we’re waiting on. …Kashkie’s already let down that he can’t save Baralai, that his sole focus must be the daughter.”
Agatha glanced at them. “He’s trying to find the Light Child. …he’s also trying to find the other children that bear Arandor’s power.”
Kalak glanced at her. “The other branches of his family tree. Durnam’s descendant, and the rest living in Valordian.”
Shadow looked up. “I just…sent Armundae to the Northern Kingdom, to find someone to love, since nobody in the village was speaking to his heart. Thaileon said, he’s going to wait a year or so, before having his first child, to build up trust in the village that everything will be well. Deannalee I only hear so much about her. As for the Light Child…I’ve…not found her yet.”
“Mmm,” Agatha mumbled. “You will need Arandor’s help with that one. Already Kashoku stirs inside Kashkie, this you know. Arandor’s memories of that life are returning.” She looked at Shadow. “Kashkie will be drawn to the Light within this child better than you because, it belongs to Arandor. …as for Armundae…”
Kalak nodded. “Then Kashkie will have to help Shadow. We must find this child’s parents before Mukot can corrupt them.” He paused, then looked at her. “What about Armundae?”
She shook her head. “It’s not her parents rather her grandparents. Deannalee’s mother is being swayed by the darkness, so much she’ll prevent anyone from saving the daughter she loves. Faeron would have been victim as well, but after dying the doom passed to Thaileon. The Daughter of Light, her mother’s parents, will try to keep her and her lover from ever conceiving the child. Her father will be hand-picked by Arandor’s spirit.” She glanced at the casket. “He must be strong, in order to protect them both.”
“Lord knows he’ll have to be a superhero,” Shadow rubbed his face. “What were you saying about Armundae?”
Agatha squeaked, looking up. “I…I… …mmm, forgive me, I, when I placed my hand on the glass casket, Arandor showed me that he went to Valordian.”
Kalak blinked. Shadow just shook his head. “I figured that out right before you two came upstairs,” Shadow glanced at the casket, “That grin on his face said it all.”
A look of relief came to Kalak’s face, but Agatha just shook her head, giggling so softly it could easily be missed. “Oh but that’s not all he was trying to tell you.” She looked up. “He will find the one he loves there. Arandor’s spirit guided him right to her. You see, she is in fact, the last link in his bloodline that remains in Valordian, and has the same golden fur he and his daughter bore to prove it. When they come together, they will be the first to bring both sides of Arandor’s family back together.”
Shadow blinked for a moment. “I’ll…I’ll be damned. We thought the Son of Strength and Daughter of Light might be the first to do it.” He glanced at the casket, smirking, “Leave it to Arandor. He’s taking care of his family still. But…” He shook his head, looking up at the stars. “Hooking up Armundae with her…”
“Aerealei,” Agatha added, smiling under her hood. “They’re bonding now. They even met in the same place Arandor first saw Hailamei.” Glancing at her lap, she added, “They’re a spark of Light in a dark place.” She glanced at Shadow. “I fear Thaileon will not believe Arandor’s story. He may reject you. Yet…, I have faith Armundae will not. If possible, try your best to protect him. You will have many children to protect but very few adult hands to help you. I’ve thought of asking some of the Terra Guardians for assistance, but if you can save Armundae, and Aerealei, and perhaps the Daughter of Light’s parents, they will be a big help to you.”
Kalak took a breath. “These parents have to be willing to save themselves, and not doom themselves like you fear Thaileon will do. Perhaps Deannalee might be saved. Kashkie just must convince her to save herself.” He looked at Shadow. “We’ll ask the Terra Guardians to help you try and find the Daughter of Light, Vincent and Manny, and the few others. You must try and convince Armundae, even Thaileon to save themselves, otherwise they’ll be doomed, and Kashkie must do the same for Deannalee and her son.”
“Yes,” Agatha said. “I will try to remember the one who corrupted my order, and see if there’s any way to stop Mukot. I will do whatever I can to help.” She paused, lowering her head. “My blood sister was also corrupted I…want to save her as well, so, I will try my best with everything I have, not just for her, but for us all, including Arandor.”
A rare smile cracked Shadow’s lips. “Lady Agatha, I’m so grateful for that help too. …it’s been, crazy. The last two-thousand years feel like a nap I’ve woken up from, and the past twenty or so years the rush of the new morning after it. We may be heading into dark days, but I think, there’s some hope.” He paused, then looked at them. “I remember something, on the edge of my mind. Right before Arandor was killed, well, before UnDark put him into the Eclipse,” he took a breath, trying to remember, “I remember, he said this. ‘In you three,’ talking about his children, ‘the birth of hope remains.’ If he was holding on to hope at the edge of the deepest despair, then, we all must do the same.” He looked up. “It isn’t just in his children that hope remains, it’s, because of his children, that it does, and so, we must do everything in our power to protect them.”
Kalak wiped a tear away, looking over at the spirit of his son, while Agatha smiled to herself. “Yes. We can protect them, and we will,” she looked up. “You return to Angel Island Shadow, and inform Kashkie when you can. I will go and find Sith, and Ratar and Lormin as well. …I’ll get Phantom in touch with Vincent, and the Terra Guardians will get to searching. As for Armundae and Aerealei,” she paused, looking up at the stars, “I think we’ll trust Arandor’s spirit, and let their story unfold on its own, just the way his did.”
“A silken hood of white,
Gloves of softest thread,
Behind them hides the ugliness,
That insecure hearts dread.
And yet behind the ugliness,
Hides a shining heart of gold,
Hearts like these receive,
What insecure ones cannot hold.”
Agatha’s advice to let Armundae and Aerealei’s story unfold on its own was heeded. While Shadow, Agatha, and Kalak did what they had to in order to begin the search for the Daughter of Light while preparing for Mukot’s war, Arandor’s spirit stayed with Armundae and Aerealei. Though only Kashoku was alive inside Kashkie, the parts of his spirit with the teenagers had full memory of his life, namely any time he spent in Valordian. Guiding Armundae there was playful on his behalf, as it was all too similar to Kashoku first seeing Hailamei on the other side of the river. However, he guided them now in all seriousness.
Armundae needed a lover, and Aerealei was single, though highly desired in her village. Though any children they had would not bear a mark or power significant like Space and Time or the Elements, because Armundae came from Kashoku and Aerealei from Arandor, their children would have special powers, likely something like healing. Healing abilities of the same level Arandor possessed would be very important.
In the end, the Children of Arandor had strength in numbers. Deannalee’s and Thaileon’s children would have more to share a common bond with. It was tactical, a strategic move to put Armundae and Aerealei together.
At least, that’s how he’d have pled his case to Shadow. In the end Arandor was just being somewhat cheeky, something Shadow knew by the grin on the face of his spirit. He couldn’t help but look after the teenagers though. He could tell their hearts were suited, and that together they’d have many happy years filled with love. All they needed was a little nudge, and in reality, had Arandor never interceded, they would never have met. They would have lived and loved yes, but been truly happy? Not likely.
Had Armundae known all this he would be thanking Arandor in his prayers every day, but instead his time was all dedicated to Aerealei. After the first week, he pushed leaving back by another one, and another, until by the third week he had forgotten leaving for the Northern Kingdom completely. After a little longer, he had almost completely forgotten Angel Island. The only reason he remembered was because Aerealei would ask him about it.
Staying in the shack that Armundae built up so much you couldn’t really call it a shack anymore, the teens spent all the time in the world together. Aerealei would come early in the morning with breakfast, and brought Armundae meals. One day they started a garden just for the fun of it, and would go setting snares and hunting together. They went fishing at Lake Vala, even swimming in it. They would sing songs, teach each other a little of their own languages, draw pictures together, and end their days by a fire and watching the stars come out. Armundae would walk her to the village as close as he dared. He wanted to enter and try to convince the villagers that the echidnas could be trusted, but Aerealei insisted he wait. It was too soon, and she didn’t want to risk losing him to a mob of hedgehogs that didn’t understand.
She was going to start by telling her grandmother, the one who taught her about Angel Island and the echidnas and offered the only opinion of its kind that the echidnas were simply misunderstood. Aerealei hoped her grandmother could meet Armundae, and that together the three of them could soothe relations between Angel Island and Valordian. It was the only way she and Armundae could truly be together.
They knew their time together couldn’t last forever.
Armundae learned everything about her life. His eyes were always on her when she spoke, listening closely, taking in every word. He had never been so consumed by another person before. Beautiful. He loved the sound of her voice, her spirit, those gorgeous eyes, her long shining hair. It didn’t take long for him to latch on to the notion that he was in love. Not only was he in love, he had fallen into it head first and had no inclination to try refuting it. This wasn’t love he struggled to feel for some girl just to satisfy the village elders. This was love that arrested him and held him tightly within its embrace, one he never wanted to be released from.
She was the one. He was going to bring her back to the village, and marry her.
Aerealei didn’t know this. She knew she loved him, and she felt it in return. The way he’d splash water at her playfully and grin while they were swimming. The way he’d hold the door flap open for her and bow his head. The way he kept a secure arm around her while they were gazing at the stars. The way he looked into her eyes, and they somehow managed to shine brighter than the stars and both moons in the sky all put together. How he would move her bangs back from her face when she looked up from weeding their garden. How he placed a flower behind her ear each afternoon, his fingers lingering and stroking the side of her head before pulling away. A gentle nuzzle to her head and the softest of kisses to her head, perhaps because he wasn’t certain if she was still awake or not. It stirred feelings in her chest, something she had never felt even from the boys that tried to get her attention in the village.
He was the love of her life. She wasn’t sure how deep it was, but she never wanted to be without him.
And yet, they only had short time left. Armundae was expected home in a week, and he needed three days to get home. He was going to go back by himself, but he told Aerealei he’d come back for her. She was going to tell her grandmother about him before he left, so she could meet him. That way, she could cover while Aerealei was gone.
They didn’t talk about these plans much. The thought of Armundae leaving began to hurt them both very deeply.
With just a few days left, Armundae and Aerealei went to Lake Vala one evening. The middle of June was approaching, the first breaths of summer still kissing the world. This brought the lake to life, and yet with the young lovers here, a light was reflected in the rippling water that had not been seen since Arandor’s age.
Much like it was on that night for Arandor and Hailamei, the forest was alive with the sounds and sensations of summer. While summer was about to go to sleep for another year in Arandor’s age, it was still just beginning on this evening for Armundae and Aerealei. They had spent the afternoon fishing, then swimming after a picnic lunch. They had had a playful time while the sun was still high, but for some reason they both got quiet as the afternoon started to end.
Without needing to say it, they realized it was because they both knew their time was coming to an end. Armundae would have to leave and return to the floating island in the sky. Even if they had plans for him to come back for her, somehow the thought of him leaving seemed so final, like a dream that once woken up from, is gone forever.
He looked at her now, gazing really, as they sat beside the water. Their hair was still drying from the swim earlier. Aerealei wore a simple two-piece bathing suit, showing off the curves that were starting to shape her body, despite being only fourteen. His eyes focused on every inch of her skin, hair, and face, taking her in. Over the past few months he had gotten to know her so deeply, he knew her better than he knew anyone. In return, he told her things about himself nobody, not his father, or even Thaileon knew. He trusted her implicitly, and the thought of this beautiful girl not being a part of his life for even a day was frustrating to him.
Looking back out at the lake, he watched it, the sparkles of light coming out as the fireflies emerged with the coming of dusk. Crickets began their songs, and the frogs joined in with them. It was an evening very similar to one these shores saw once upon a time with another pair of young lovers, facing some adversity that tried to keep them apart.
Like that man from long ago, Armundae desired to make it so this didn’t happen, so that their hearts would be forever joined. As he stared at her, the thoughts of what this meant, and the wondering how it would happen flooded his mind, and, more than anything, a rush of feelings ranging from anticipation, to fear, to joy, to love, completely seized him.
He knew it in his heart. She was the one, the one he was sent to find, but so easily guided to by some unknown desire in his heart. Though he knew not the reason, chalking it up to fate, he was ready to take it. He was ready to choose his future.
His future was with her. His future was Aerealei.
Something caught his attention, waking him from the dreams. He saw her shivering, which, though it was June, was to be expected since it was a slightly chiller evening. He grinned, putting his arm around her instinctively, something they had become accustomed to over the past months. The first time sent flutters throughout their bodies. Now, it was something they couldn’t imagine themselves without; the closeness, the intimacy.
Aerealei looked at him and smiled when he did this. “Is this my reward for being a good loser in the splashing contest?” She rested her head on his shoulder. She loved this boy, even if she hadn’t said it.
“No. That’ll come later. This is just me giving the girl I love what she deserves,” he replied, looking out at the water.
She looked up at him. This was the first time he had mentioned the word love, but she felt it coming. He had stopped talking about leaving for the Northern Kingdom. He never even said it, he just never left. When she noticed this, that was when she felt love erupting from her own heart. Somehow, hearing him say it brought back all of those feelings.
“Oh?” she breathed softly, still looking at him. Her eyes glanced at the water, before looking back just as his gaze met hers, a twinge of pink coloring her cheeks.
Armundae grinned. He always felt so good inside looking into those eyes. He had memorized every part of her face, her life, so even in his dreams he didn’t have to leave her. They had had little naps together in the woods, but never slept in the same bed at night, as Aerealei always went home at night so she didn’t raise any suspicions. He was beginning to crave her touch, the chance to hold her slender body so perfectly pressed against his own. He wanted to fall asleep with her there, have her in his dreams, then wake up to find her in his arms still, safe and secure, their hearts beating as one.
His expression changed then. He was happy. He knew in his heart that he loved her; that after all the time and frustration and anguish he found her, the one who would bear his children, and be bound to him forever. Knowing this, having carved it into his heart, there was no need left to question it. He had to make it real. He had to make her his, and leaving her here while he returned to Angel Island wasn’t part of this.
His spirit took control away from any better judgment or question, and his eyes closed. He leaned his face forward slowly, as if giving Aerealei time to prepare and decide whether to flee from his embrace or reciprocate it. She saw it coming when his expression first changed. Though only fourteen, and this being the one and only time she had fallen in love, she knew what was coming, and not only did she return it, she invited more. With perfect timing, their lips met.
It was slow at first; neither of them had kissed another pair of lips. There were little kisses shared between parents and their children, but nothing like this, a kiss between lovers, two hearts separated at birth that spent their entire lives trying to reunite. These two had at a young age, but they knew they had found their place. Yes. The beginning of the kiss was slow, curious. Though it was somewhat chilly that evening, both pairs of lips felt warm, soft, inviting. After the meeting, the kiss spread from their lips to their entire beings. Arms were raised; fingers from a strong but gentle hand stroked a blushing cheek; delicate arms trembling with delight, and a hint of fear, wrapped around his strong neck, holding fast, finding comfort in the secure presence of his body. Any nervousness was felt, and in response his other hand felt the small of her back, pressing against it gently, pulling her into his warmth. Their lips intertwined even deeper, becoming deeply familiar with each other, finding niches to sink into, and both hold and nurture the embrace.
Breathing, feeling, pulse, thoughts, everything began to unite. A curious tongue slipped forward, searching for the other, fluids spilling forward, bonding them further. A gentle moan escaped her, not of fear, but of pleasure, for she had found her place. She didn’t pull away, instead she moved closer, feeling the curves of his abs against her soft fur, his fingers pressed against her back still, the ones dancing on her cheek now stroking the side of her neck. His head tilted to the side as they moved closer, out of instinct, some deep-seeded knowledge only meant to awaken when this moment finally arrived.
A collection of seconds can feel like a lifetime. Those same ancient instructions bid them pull away, though their lips reconnected briefly, once or twice, already hungry for their next embrace. Armundae gently kissed the tip of her nose, pulling back, opening his eyes. Gentle, so gentle they were, a window to the nature of his heart and soul. Strong but easy, and overflowing with affection. Aerealei’s eyes shown as she took this all in. She brought her fingers to her quivering lips, touching them gently, as if to seal the feeling of his pressed against them inside of her forever. He simply touched his with his tongue gently, as if for the same reason. He swallowed, tasting the saliva that had escaped into him from her. It only drove his need for another.
She was so innocent, so beautiful, everything his heart desired but that no dream could ever imagine. In feeling this kiss he heard the whisperings of her heart. It was everything he needed to know, from that one act. That one embrace.
Their eyes met at the same time. He was grinning at her, which was an understatement as to what he was feeling. She only blushed more than she had before, smiling at him shyly. To say she felt like she was in heaven was accurate, as heaven was a place of perfection and peace, the happiest of feelings, and what Armundae had awakened inside of her was nothing less than this.
Lowering her fingers she looked at him innocently. She had so much she could have said, or done, but instead, playfully, she simply replied, “Oh?” Only now, it was softer and more curious than before.
Armundae tilted his head, thinking, then grinned. “Aerealei,” he chuckled. How he loved this girl. He couldn’t remind himself of it enough. He kissed her forehead gently, and answered, “That means, I love you, Aerealei. I want to…make you mine, forever,” he spoke slowly, pulling back and looking at her.
Her heart pounded and fluttered at the same time. She kept staring at his handsome face, knowing he was the only anchor that kept her from soaring high into the sky in order to embrace the moon and stars. Somehow a first kiss, and hearing him say he loved her for the first time, gave more weight to all the other romantic gestures than they already had, highlighting them in her mind. His arm around her, the little nuzzles, the playful teasing, the smiles, the hugs. Yes. It was as if they all flooded her mind at once to give all the more power to what she had to say. All so she could say she too, felt the same.
“I love you too, Armundae,” she replied, smiling. No hesitation was in her voice, no pausing when she spoke, but afterwards, upon seeing his smile, she tilted her head. “You want to make me yours, forever?” She blushed more, giggling softly. “You mean to marry me?”
He blinked, then laughed. “Oh Aerealei, of course I will marry you,” he moved her hair from her face, stroking gently, his eyes on his fingers. “Yes, but, I had something else in mind.” He breathed slowly, his movements much slower and deliberate, and he paid extra attention to each one as he spoke.
Aerealei noticed this, seeing something preoccupying his attention. She wondered what he must have meant, ignoring all of the screaming of delight in her head over talk of marriage, a family…then, that’s when she understood. She found out in time to notice him looking at her expectantly, as if waiting for her to realize it. He grinned suddenly, to which she immediately blushed deeply. “O-Oh…,” she breathed, her voice tiny. Though her eyes glanced away, they returned after a moment, just in time to catch him chuckling.
“Ah, you’re so adorable, you know that?” He grinned, kissing her nose again. “Mmm, yes, now you see,” he glanced at her, “If not now as soon as I can. …as soon as you’re ready.”
She could tell he was being playful, but being gentle won out in his heart. He knew she was young, and he could sense how this might be overwhelming for her. His love was pure, and all he was concerned for was her well-being. He would go as slow as she needed to, even if it meant shouting at the village elders if she wanted to wait until she was thirty to have children. Her heart exploded with feelings of warmth and love that it took feeling his hand stroking her cheek again to wake her up from it.
Grabbing his hand gently, she smiled at him. “Come on,” she said, getting up and pulling him up with her. Making sure she had her clothes and sandals she started walking, leading him behind her. They were heading for the other side of the lake, away from their usual spot.
Armundae tilted his head, following without complaint. He grinned, loving her playfulness, as he felt this was. “Where are we going?”
She glanced back. “See the willow tree?” she nodded with her head, “It’s over two-thousand years old. It’s a very special place.” She giggled. “Grandma took me here once. I’ve never brought anyone else here. I know it was special to the royal family.”
He looked, seeing a tall willow tree, its tendrils long and thick, so much so he could barely make out the tree they hung from. It was the perfect place to hide…the perfect place to be alone, and share an intimate moment. He felt his heart flutter before he could have a chance to think about it.
Under the tree there was a flowery knoll. The brush was soft, like lying on a bed of feathers and silk. Hidden from view of those outside, Aerealei sat down what she was carrying, then knelt down on the crest of this hill, pulling Armundae down gently. He too sat on his knees, looking at her. Her eyes were on their hands as she patted the one she held gently, much like she had the day they met.
“Aerealei?” he asked gently, his voice soft and soothing.
She swallowed a bit, looking up at him. She smiled, not needing another moment to think over her choice. She leaned forward, kissing his cheek, pausing where she sat to whisper in his ear. “This is…to tell you that, I’m yours forever.”
He blinked, feeling shivers as she nuzzled his cheek, her ears brushing near his where it was hidden. He felt this desire so strongly, yet it still sent shivers down his spine. His security was in her presence, though, and so out of instinct he nuzzled back, putting his arms around her. He pulled her up slowly, so they could continue the nuzzle, until their lips could meet again. When they did, he pulled her closer, then laid her down gently.
What followed was nothing short of perfect bliss, the kind that occurs so rarely, since two souls meant for such a destiny are only so fortunate to find each other.