• Mature • Mistakes

32nd of Ymiden 716

The capital city of the of Rynmere, here is seated the only King in Idalos.
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Elyna
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Perhaps, it was just that nothing Malcolm said would satisfied the stirring hunger for discontent within, because Elyna struggled to listen to him. He had a plan at least, which was more than she had accused him of. He had a starting point and it sounded a good place to begin. But where his explanation should have soothed, it added barbs to the open wound and insult to injury.

She remembered the story he’d told her. It had been described in such vivid clarity, that Elyna knew that no matter what she could never forget it. They’d been sat on cool spring grass with a falling hush of night around them. The crew had been laughing, playing cards and talking around the campfire. The world had stretched on with endless possibilities and the Captain had summoned her to his side, to tell her about how the rivers Avari and Zor had taken their names. Now, the Skyrider knew how he’d been able to bring the history to life for her. He had been there. It wasn’t a story, it was Malcolm’s memory of events. Piecing what she knew together, she realised that his time as a slave must have been the cause of the slave brand on his leg.

Why had he told her? Why had he summoned her that day? She could remember how he’d reached out, fingers brushing the back of her hand, and the skin tingled. Elyna dashed the back of her hand against her dress to wipe away the phantom sensation and forced herself to meet his gaze. Danger, run from danger. He remained just as dangerous as he had that night. Attraction and desire pooled in her body, singing through her veins and tugged her, ceaseless towards the tall man before her; and yet, despite everything she couldn’t see beyond inevitable disaster.

Ignoring his teasing remark, she scanned his expression, dreading the answers to her questions, “did you love her? Avari. When you sailed West before…did you?” She smoothed her hands over her dress, watching them on the fabric, “do you?”

The pulse flickered in her neck, jealousy was a bitter creature and Elyna had tried to contain it. She imagined the mysterious girl turned woman, as a blonde woman. She didn’t know what it was about women with golden hair, maybe because Vanessa had been so fair and beautiful, even in her advancing age, but whenever she imagined Malcolm, or saw him in bad dreams, he was with women who were her antithesis. Tall, blonde and blue-eyed to match his darkness. Gentle, quiet Ladies who didn’t get covered in mud, or grass and have horse straw caught in their hair. Ones who didn’t pick fight with their husbands, just for the sake of it. Someone who deserved him.
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Malcolm
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Love her? A man didn't need to live four hundred years to realise that this was a baited question and that if he didn't choose his words wisely, he would soon be treading dangerous ground. Malcolm looked at Elyna and reached up to press his thumb to her lower lip, sweeping it across the soft, plump piece of flesh; how could anyone so beautiful be jealous, he wondered.

Malcolm had been a young man, yet a boy, when he had first laid eyes on Avari. Having spent half his life glamoured by his sister Jesine, exploring the depths of Emea, Malcolm, then in his early twenties, may have appeared a man physically, but knew little of the living world. He hadn't known then of Avari's gifts, or mortalborn status, only that she had been important to the first men of Krome, just as Zor, a friend of his, has been important to the people sent to collect him from the mouth of the dragon.
Avari had been a thin girl, gimpy and not much to look at, with teeth too big for her smile if he remembered correctly, hair more white than gold, and skin the colour of clay. He would never forget her blue eyes and sharp features, the same she grew into only seven years later when their paths crossed again and the woman, once a girl, paid for the man's freedom and nursed him back to health during the long journey to the salt lake of Ne'haer, from the unforgiving shores of Rynmere.
Had he loved her? Like fire and air, he could liken their relationship to wildfire, there had been lust and passion, but Avari could be a cold soul and more often than not the man felt as if she had been able to take or leave his affection, only seldom returning it.

"If I did, I don't anymore," he said honestly, "besides, that was a long time ago, Elyna, over three hundred years ago, can you say the same for Yoreth?" His brow pinched again, what was the real reason behind her anger?
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So he had. Lashes lowered as the thumb moved in a delicate motion over her lip. Elyna nodded, more to herself than anything else. It would be so simple to wrap herself up him Malcolm some more, and spend the remaining trials in heady bliss. It would have been easier to lock away the future and ignore its relentless advance. It would have been easier to share the Mortalborns’ dream of sharing the passing seasons, cosy in their home, the three of them.

His question surprised her and she blinked, peering uncertainly into green eyes. The mention of Yoreth at any point in their relationship had always caused an argument and she felt that the ground was already unsteady beneath her feet. She had thought they were done talking about Yoreth, she was certainly done thinking about him. No, it wasn’t three hundred years past but even if the scars on her heart were still healing, the man himself was a distant memory. She forced herself to hold Malcolm’s gaze as she replied, “the man I loved doesn’t exist anymore, and I already mourned him. I-I told you before, he doesn’t deserve anything of my thoughts Mal. I meant that.”

She reached up, careful and pushed a lock of stray hair back from his face, tucking it behind his ear with gentle fingers.

“You…You told me I had to choose between you and my family and you were right,” she lifted a shoulder in a shrug, “I couldn’t have both. I chose you and I would make the same decision again, every trial from now until I die…and that is why I married you; because I love you.”

But the hand dropped listless back to her side and unable to watch his expression, her gaze dropped to the grass that poked her bare feet. Green shoots sneaking through between her toes.

“You can’t have both either, but you don’t get a choice…they bought you back from the dead because you’re needed. You’re needed for a bigger purpose then taking care of a stupid girl who got pregnant when she had no right loving you in the first place,” fingers flinched at her sides as she forced her shoulders back and lifted her chin again, determined. “Keeping you is selfish, and I don’t deserve you.”

“You…ended things that day on the docks because it was the right thing to do,” she lifted a hand and touched the palm lightly against the central parting of his shirt, patting the fabric. “Let us…stop pretending Malcolm. If you go sailing across the world, only to sail straight back then you’re only giving half of yourself to the task you’ve been set,” back teeth ground together and she held onto the tip of her tongue with the front before continuing, weary of the world they lived in. “I thought that maybe you’d return and I’d come with you when you went again, but I don’t…I can’t see it happening.”

Defeated she stared at the point her fingers brushed the bare chest beneath, blinking fast. "When you go," she fumbled for the words, "don’t – don’t…come back till you’re done.”
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The man waited, letting Elyna say her piece before he spoke up, his tone calm, even, but deep. "You couldn't please your family and have what you wanted. I ended things on the dock that morning because you didn't know what you wanted, Elyna!" Malcolm raised his voice without realising his own anger. "I thought that you marrying me meant otherwise," it softened again, "but it's quite clear to see that you will never know what it is you want until it isn't an option anymore. You have me," he looked her in the eye, "but I'm not wholly convinced anymore that it's me you want."
He turned and made a move to head down the hill, stopping at the first gate to look back at her. "Perhaps this time away will give you the time you need to decide what it is you want, my lady."
Malcolm excused himself with a bow made in jest and slammed the gate behind him so hard that it jumped away from its lock and bounced open again. The man, however, did not turn or look back after that, carrying on to the house he disappeared behind in order to finish the work he had started on the window. He wanted to make sure the bathroom had light in it so that Elyna didn't knock into anything or slip during the daytime while he was gone and she only had Kathryn and Benjamin to check in on her from time to time, as both had promised him they would do.
The glass had already been framed and the job was as simple as lifting it into the whole he had cut to make sure it would fit. With a hammer and chisel he cut out the corners and sanded back some of his lines before trying the window again, and knocked it in lightly, finding that it had been a very snug fit. When all the work was done and the planks he had pulled away from the wall were split for kindling, Malcolm packed up his tools and returned them to their place outside the front door, all the while dreading running into Elyna again.
It shouldn't be like this, he thought to himself, they had been married all of two days and already he had convinced himself some time apart would be good for them both. Elyna wasn't like anyone else he had been with, not that he was known for sticking around, with Vanessa being the only longterm relationship he had kept. Was it wrong to think of her now, of the past, of their broken promises, and the way everything had turned out so wrong? Malcolm sighed and went inside the house, watching his shadow shorten beyond the doorway before he looked around for Elyna, ready to apologise.
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What did he mean by that? That he wasn’t convinced she wanted him? Stunned once more into silence she watched Malcolm walk off. Scowl deepening as he made his final pass and bow.

Without thinking, the woman reached up her arms, closed them around the lower branch of the tree and twisted, climbing up. Her bare feet took an easy purchase on the rough back and it was simple enough to swing up, hooking her knees on the branch and sit up. She watched from her perch as he vanished behind the house, gate knocking against the post as it struggled to catch. Elyna set her back to the trunk and tucked her feet up, hiding them beneath the dress.

The rustle of summer leaves was constant, with the warm dappled light that broke through. Maybe she should have spoken to him somewhere else, said something else? The last time they’d had a heated argument beside the tree, Malcolm had spent the night in Andaris. His retort stung, as did his explanation for his actions. Elyna had known on the docks what she’d wanted, or who. But what had he offered her? A brief fantasy of running away together? A promise to find a home, together? She knew now that he’d found the house on the hill, but he hadn’t told her back then. It had been a wisp of an idea, easily lost in the wind. He hadn’t told her about the will either…there he was, making preparations she knew nothing about.

The sounds of hammering, sawing, sanding broke the idyllic quiet of the day. His determined effort to put in the window, something he had mentioned before. The Skyrider rested her chin on her knees. But what else? What other plans did he make without speaking? Simple, well thought out, well-meaning plans that came unstuck because she had no warning. The woman had always thought she was reactive, flexible and willing to adapt, but maybe not.

A few more moments passed before she shook her head and climbed back down. Enough of this moping. She was right. If he refused to see her words as anything other than pushing him away, then that was his problem. It didn’t make them any less true. Elyna was done moping, done being cross with Malcolm and already tired of contemplating his time away. For Seven’s sake, she was a Skyrider and she was meant to be better than this.

She collected her bow, quiver and brace and returned up the hill. The bow was strung and she stood, readying her stance and shot arrow after arrow into the target hung on the central trunk of the tree. The steady, repetitive motion was enough to soothe her frustration and she retrieved the arrows then shot them all again, repeating the actions until her arms ached and sweat slid down her back with the sun high overhead. Reaching the limit of her endurance she packed the equipment away and returned to change, stripping off the dress and replacing it with her usual breaches and shirt, sleeves shoved back to the elbow. It was only as she returned to the main room that she realised that the noise from Malcolms’ work had stopped.

Half-way to the door she looked up as his shadow blocked her exit. Elyna paused for a moment, moving her weight from one foot to the other before she approached and slid past him and out of the house before he could say anything, eyes on his boots then the grass, “excuse me.” Her heart jumped in her chest, painful. Moving in such close proximity, she could smell him. The heady mixture of Malcolm, sweat, sawdust and pine and it tugged at her. But she walked past and back up the hill to retrieve her sewing back. Snatching it up from the ground she bundled it between her both hands and made the short journey back again. If the day started to cool, she didn’t want the fabric to get wet and either shrink or stretch.

With careful, deliberate actions she returned to the house and put the kit away, along with her dress. Unwilling to fight anymore Elyna remained silent until she took the chance to peek into the bathroom, lips parting in amazement at the light that flooded in. She glanced around the house to summon Malcolm if she could, before edging into the room, eyes widening when she spotted the layer of dust that lined the corners of the room. Light was handy, but it also showed up the dirt! She ran her fingertips over the smooth wood and explored the frame gently by touch, as though it was fragile.

“Maybe you’re in the wrong profession,” she spoke quietly, uncertain if he would hear her.
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Elyna walked right by the man and he swallowed his apology as if it were poison, resenting the fact that she would not talk to him but instead returned to the hilltop, even if only briefly. Malcolm disappeared into the bathroom to wash his hands and face before slipping away to the bedroom where he changed his shirt and wandered out to the kitchen, taking up a knife and apple to peel and keep his hands busy while he mulled over what he might be able to say to the woman; sorry didn't seem to cut it.
There was still sawdust on the man's trousers, and so he avoided sitting on the edge of the bed as he had first intended, instead choosing to stand by the window and look out at the road. Malcolm didn't waste the skin of the apple, eating it as he slowly peeled pieces away until all that remained was the white flesh, marred closer to the core with light bruises. He heard Elyna return to the house and pad across the floor into the bathroom, only to pay him a compliment he didn't quite hear, but had assumed was offered in relation to the newly installed window.
The apple, despite the man's initial presumptions, on account of the bruising, had been crunchy and delicious, and the knight finished it, core and all before he left the room, returned the knife to the kitchen, and moved to stand in the bathroom doorway. The house looked complete now, and though there would always be room for expansion, it would do them for now. Malcolm didn't ask Elyna if she approved of the work, nor did he extend the apology he had returned to the house with every intention to bring up. Instead he just watched the woman in the soft morning light and leaned against the doorframe, disappointed in himself.
"Once upon a time, there was an old king who extended an invitation to every craftsmen in the land to join him at the castle on a warm day in early Vhalar. Three men accepted the strange invitation and arranged to meet the king in secret, just as his instructions had deemed. Each of the men were well known for their crafts, one a master painter, the other, a sculptor, and the third, a humble carpenter. The king summoned the men to the tower and set in front of them everything they would need for what he had planned. I am old, the king explained, and I have no sons to rule the kingdom once I am gone. To the man who can convince me through his craft of his love for this land, I bestow the title to my kingdom."
"So each man set about his work, with just a single break, and all the right tools at his disposal, to prove what the king had asked of them. At the end of the permitted timeframe, the king returned to the tower and sat down on his throne, three works of art placed about the room, ready to be unveiled. The painter presented his work first, lifting the dust sheet to reveal a painting of a scene from the town, of a fountain and a beautiful woman feeding the birds. It is the people, he said, nowhere in all of Idalos can one find such beautiful people. The king nodded and turned his attention to the sculptor, who lifted a wooden crate from over the top of a castle he had chiseled from a slab of white marble. It is the buildings, he told the king, no city in the known world constructs buildings quite like we do."
"The king was amazed by both the painting and the sculpture, and flattered by the kind words each man had to say about his kingdom. Finally, he turned his eye on the carpenter, who stepped away from the wall of the tower to reveal a newly installed window. The painter sniggered and the sculptor sneered, while the king sat staring out through the small window at the walls of the castle, the city below, and the surrounding land. What is the meaning of this? He asked. Opportunity, the carpenter replied."
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He was standing in the door, again. Was this turning into a bad habit, or was he really trying to trap her in whatever room she stood in? Elyna scanned the tall mans' expression, confused by the set of his features and then he started to talk. Despite her weary frustration the woman found herself leaning against the heavy bath, palms flat against the metal as she perched to listen. The story was unexpected and unannounced, but she loved it. Even if she'd given up her surname, Elyna was a Burhan by blood and loved a well- told tale. She wondered if the first moment she's fallen in love with Malcolm hadn't been that night on the road when he'd told her about Avari and Zor; not that the scene wasn't a little tainted by her new found knowledge of his relationship with the Mortalborn. Three hundred years earlier or not.

As the words came to an end she approached, hesitant and unsure how he would react as she reached up. Elyna slid her hands, with care around his sides. Her thumbs moved, bunching the fabric so that her palms could brush bare skin. The next part was trickier. Baring any sudden moves from the man, Elyna rose into her toes. Her breath caught in her throat but she pressed a soft kiss to his neck, beneath the jaw. Seeking out the places she knew to be most sensitive. It wasn't an apology but it was an offer of peace, "Mal," she murmured, "wanting the best for you, it's not the same as not wanting you...I want you," she drew back enough to look up at him, brows raised, hopeful that he wouldn't react in the same way she had earlier, and reject the advance. He didn't seem angry, but he'd certainly approached the line of his temper earlier.

Careful not to put any pressure on the healing scar, the Skyrider returned to run her lips down the side of his neck to the collar bone, gently nipping the sun-warmed skin before she spoke again, her voice a murmur against flesh, confident that she held his attention, "you're cross because you know I'm right Malcolm. You shouldn't be rushing home like you plan...I'm not going anywhere."
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Like a she-wolf nosing her mate, Elyna moved to entice the man gently, testing the waters hesitantly, waiting for his lip to curl, for bared teeth to negate any words that might follow, and the silence to become more unbearable than a scream. Malcolm bowed his head to seek out her mouth without a word and share in a kiss that would make all their problem small, if only for a while. The captain put his arms around the skyrider and hooked his thumbs into the back of her trousers, closing his fingers against the fabric to pull her forwards against his form.
"You're right," he said without admitting too much more, after all, hadn't he just spoken the two magic words every woman wanted to hear?
Malcolm didn't stop there, however, instead he pushed Elyna's body against the wall just left of the doorframe and kissed her again, this time going as far as to seek out her tongue with his own while his fingers slowly undid the lowest three buttons of her shirt. The kiss soon ceased, as too did his attempt to undress her before he nudged the woman's cheek with his nose and nipped the edge of her jaw.
"But I don't have to like it," he scolded playfully and abandoned his lover to pick up a paintbrush and see to it that the frame of the newest window matched the rest of the existing window frames in the house.
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The man was intoxicating. The young woman struggled to keep her mind clear as he bent his head to hers and rendered her speechless. She had, of course, approached with the intention of clearing the air between them and finding a way that they could move forward without cross and bitter words exchanged. She also had every intention to persuade the Mortalborn to her point of view. But pressed back against the wall and breathless, it became difficult to remember who was convincing who, and what and why they’d been fighting in the first place. Too quickly, she was gone and lost in passion. Eager to forget everything except the touch of his skin against hers and the taste of him on her tongue. But the kiss seemed to end in punishment as he withdrew and left her cold in his absence. Aware of cool air on her abdomen the Skyrider paused to ponder her response.

He was a cruel man, to torment her and leave her lent against the wall like a discarded doll. Fun; he’d said on the docks. It had been fun. Flustered, with heat scorching her cheeks, Elyna opened her mouth to reply, then pressed lips closed again. She waited till her heart stopped pounding before she straightened up and pulled away from the wall. Everything was sticky in this heat and she pulled the back of her shirt away from where it clung to her spine.

“If you’re going to paint, you might as well sweep up, it’s disgusting,” she fixed her gaze on the piles of dust she hadn’t been able to see in the dark. There was nothing sexier than housework, she thought cross and ironic. Elyna considered, briefly, pouncing on her husband and showing him that he couldn’t just pick her up and put her down again, but refrained, afraid that she’d somehow hurt his injured side and in fear of opening up the healing scar.

So Elyna left the room, only to return moments later with a bucket filled with clean water. She gave her actions only a second of thought and hesitation before she gripped the bucket at the base and threw it over the man who stood, foolishly with his back to her. Dousing him in icy water with an impish grin, "and now everything is clean," she announced, set the bucket down again and sprinted, laughing out of the room.
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"You're in charge of the housework," he teased, "why don't you go get the broom?"
Malcolm was just opening the lid on the small pot of paint and smiling to himself over the cheeky little retort when he was suddenly covered from head to toe in cold water. He sucked in a deep, sharp breath of air and held his arms out as water ran off his clothing, all over the floor. Malcolm put the paintbrush down and turned slowly only to find that Elyna had long since escaped the room and possibly even the house.
The man stood still a moment in the living room and listened for footsteps or any other sound that might give away Elyna's location before he struggled out of the wet shirt, ready to whip her with it should she dare to cross his path. He edged towards the bedroom and peeked beyond the doorframe quickly before drawing away from the edge out of sight, just in case Elyna was waiting with another pot of cold water beyond the door. Hesitantly he stepped inside the room and looked behind the door before checking either side of the bed.
Casting his shirt aside, Malcolm walked outside and looked up the hill before checking the ground, half a wet footprint pointing him in the woman's direction, where she had fled around the side of the house. He ran then, giving chase, and made his way to the back of the section only to see Elyna disappear around another corner and make for the hill, where he was able to just about catch up to the woman, reaching out to grab at her only to feel the fabric of her top slip through his fingers. Instead he reached forwards as she continued on up the slope and grabbed her ankle, halting her escape.
Malcolm crawled over the woman like a spider ready to wrap up and trap a fly, his hands planted either side of her in the long grass, the same which had cushioned Elyna's fall. He turned her over and straddled the woman, trapping her on her back as he sat lightly across her hips so that she couldn't escape and tickled her sides and anywhere else her hands weren't quick enough to defend.
"Clean, huh?" He laughed, his movements slowing to the point where Elyna would be able to stop or even catch his hands, holding them away from her form. "I guess I'll leave you to paint the window while I'm gone," Malcolm smiled and bowed to try and kiss his defiant wife.
word count: 439
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