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[2005: JUN-JUL] *WINNER* Adoption


ethan
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((Cha'Rihan))

Tearing through the forests, sharp stones and fallen branches digging into his bare feet. He cold hear the commands echoing behind him, all of them rippling through the trees, falling into his ears, lurching through him, telling him to cease his futile escape and join, go with them. They already had her, he knew that much. There was no purpose behind the chase except for the mere fun of it.

Tears were freely flowing down his face; he didn't deserve to die. He'd done nothing. As he ran forward, the knife in the darkness skewered his body, the sword that ran through his stomach as he ran into its sharp edge, coming face to face with her smirking smile, her simpering grin. Eyes coated over with lust for blood, passion, power... He gasped as she thrust the sword further into him, releasing the handle from her grasp and letting him fall to the forest floor.

"On your knees, veruul," she commanded, her voice sounding out across the giant forest of cha'Rihan. "V'yy'al, fvai..."

***

Galan gasped loudly as the pain rippled through his body and he lurched upward, crying out to the bloody face in the darkness. He grasped into the thin air in front of him, kicking at the covers over his legs, the bindings, and the shackles holding him down onto the bed. Gasping loudly for breath, he looked down and pulled his feet towards him, throwing back the covers. No shackles. He covered his face with his hands. No blood.

He felt his chest rising and falling heavily, his body racked with a fresh sheen of sweat, covering him from head to toe. As he slowly sat up in the bed, pressing his back against the headboard, he looked at the scar on his arm, tracing it softly with his thumb. He shouldn't have been there that day; he shouldn't have been there at all.

The room's brightness grew to a dim light, banishing the shadows into the crevices, away from his mind and the edges of his bed. Kicking off the covers, Galan swung his legs over the side, his bare feet touching on the cold floor. A hand pressed lightly to his back and he snapped. His calm reserve over taken by a wanton need for blood. Turning sharply, he grasped the hand and forced it down to the bed above the head of his bedfellow.

She groaned softly, fighting the grip he had on her hand weakly. Opening her eyes as the light began to pour in, the first image she saw was his face above her, remembering that it was also the last image she had seen in the night before sleep had took over. She smiled slightly and settled her fingers into his hand, arching up into him. "Tell me it isn't the morning…"

Galan smiled, releasing his grip on her hand and softly holding it above her tired head on the pillow. Turning onto his side, he brought his other hand up to trace the curves of her body down her side, coming to rest on her hip. "I will not tell you."

**

His sleep disturbed, Galan cuddled closer to his wife, burying his face in her hair, pressing his face into her softness and closing his eyes again. His children did the same with pillows, teddy bears and his daughter with her doll but their father liked to cuddle with his wife, her cushiony soft flesh much nicer then the small belongings. His mumblings came and went as his body twisted and writhed under the veil of a dream before tugging away from his wife and landing on his side of the marital bed.

Slowly, his eyes flickered open to the darkness of the bedroom, the only light source coming from his daughter’s night light from underneath the doorway. It wasn’t enough to actually see what was in his room, only enough to let his imagination make the assumptions. The canopy was a white-sheeted ghost, the robe hanging from the bedpost was someone watching them sleep, and the tall wardrobe was barely open and so was hiding someone inside then a shadow moved across the light from the small gap below the door.

Galan blinked, rapidly but lay back and looked to the door. There was no shadow there; he’d been mistaken. He frowned in the darkness then covered his face with his hands… feanna. His mind was settling down, that was the problem. A bad day and now a bad night, that was all he needed. He closed his eyes and slowly settled back down into the pillow and comfortable mattress again, his wife’s noises, her breathing calming him down. He yawned and let his forearm rest across his eyes. One sheep, two sheep, three sheep…

A noise from outside, like a footstep on the wooden slating outside the bedroom window. His eyes immediately looked to the light below the door. What the hell was that?

“One of the children,” came his wife’s sleepy addition and he believed her. It was probably Maec getting out of bed for a drink or something to eat, or even one of the servants still wandering around the House preparing for the morning’s work.

As the next noise came, it was too heavy to be Maec but it was a footstep. Then another. And another. Galan’s jaw stiffened and he looked down to the door again. Nothing. Old creaking of the floor boards, the house was old, it was bound to creak at some point during the night he must’ve always been asleep when it decided to do so.

But THAT wasn’t someone’s footsteps. He lurched himself out of bed and pulled his trousers on, walking to the doorway and opening the heavy wooden door quickly to catch someone outside. No one was there in the pitch-blackness but Ael’s nightlight wasn’t on. Galan craned his neck to listen for her soft sobs but there was nothing. His stomach dropped. He ran to her room, flinging the door open and caught it just before it slammed against the wall. Ael wasn’t in bed.

His daughter was missing. He crossed the landing to his son’s bedroom and opened the door; nothing. He wasn’t there either. Panic had settled in, where were they? They knew better then to venture from their rooms at night, not alone but together. He stood for a second, feeling nauseous, trying to work out where either of them would or could be before running back to the bedroom and alerting his wife.

In less than half an hour, the whole House was awake and searching for the two youths. Servants, Uncles and Aunts, cousins, grandparents; all out looking for them. The men took up the household weapons and went outside to the grounds, searching around the mazes, through he forest and returning with nothing. The House had been turned upside down, searched from top to bottom, every hiding place, ever nook and cranny was searched.

By morning there was still no sign of them.

“Snatched from their beds!” Galan shouted, pacing back and forth in the living quarters, tears making their quivering pathways down his cheeks and plunging the distance onto the floor beneath his walking feet. His arms folded protectively across his chest as his wife sat on the sofa and watched her husband; her heart breaking into the arms of her mother.

Everything made him ill as he looked out of the long French windows into the gardens of their home, dawn just breaking over the hills in the distance and the promise that his children were out there somewhere, only where? His beloved daughter, Ael; the muse herself, beautiful long flowing black hair that would make her the perfect young woman to bring up and marry off then his son, Maec, who would be starting his training soon. Gone.

Counseled into staying at home and waiting for the children to return in due time, it was understood by the local authority that teenagers ran away to prove themselves in the eyes of their parents but Maec wouldn’t have taken his sister with him. A weighty hand fell upon Galan’s shoulder, rousing him from a blissful daydream. His own father’s eyes boring into his, still giving him instruction, still trying to show him the Rihannsu methods but this time he knew what must be done. With a regretful nod, Galan lowered his head to his father.

**

For two months, neither the House nor Eivess had seen Galan Taev. He had vanished it seemed, just like her children into the deserted plains of Ch’Rihan. The children however, were accounted for eventually. Their lifeless bodies were found by a local in the city and returned to the mother to be properly buried. The two were laid out on the biers, heads next to one another and dressed ceremonially, cried over by countless followers of their household and those who journeyed out of their own cities to be with the family during this time of grief.

Still there was no sign of Galan. If he had received word of his children’s death, he would have come home but there was nothing. No tap on the window, no shadow beside the bath in the grounds, no footsteps following behind his faithful wife in the hedge maze and no playful baiting in their private quarters. She was left alone to deal with this, surrounded only by her own parents and their servants.

Eivess took a lover but spent her nights lying awake and watching the shapes form on the ceiling, watching and waiting for her husband’s return. For four months there was no word from him until the servant came bounding up through the House and bursting into Eivess’s private chambers clutching something.

The lover launched from the bed and was about to reprimand the hfai when the servant handed a small bundle over to Eivess, placing the baby in her arms. A look passed between them; an honour bound servant to her mistress, making Eivess leave her lover and run with the child now tucked safely against her breast down the stairs to the living quarters.

A shape in the doorway, her rain covered husband watching for her. When she saw him, she saw his face. Bruised, beaten, cut and splintered, gaunt, pale and unhealthy in the moonlight streaming through the open window but it was unmistakably Galan. She instinctively wanted to throw her arms around him but refrained, glancing from his eyes to the baby’s now sleeping effortlessly curled to her breast.

“Honour,” Galan replied simply.

Lt,JG Ethan Brice

Engineering Officer

USS Independence

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