"Alicia? Alicia?" his voice rang out, rebounding off trees in the depths of the woods. He'd lost her again and it was only a matter of time before the rains set in, and then what was he to do? Absolutely nothing. "Alicia!"
A small, blue figure lounged comfortably on the stone, by the water's edge. Her head turned downward, her fingers delicately stroking the surface- creating ripples that carried on across the small pond. Her friends had since left, but she had become so engrossed in the fascinating energy of the water that she lost all track of time. It wasn't long before the shouts made their way to her small, pointed ears. She looked up, amazed at the dark sky, and scampered back towards where the calls were coming from.
"I'm right here, Papa!" a small voice shouted ahead of an even smaller figure. Small, being an important word around these two, for they were so small very few beings in the world knew of them. They were of the Tuatha de Danann, the faerie folk of the isles.
He stooped down and embraced her in a tight and thankful hug. "And now where were ya, my dearie, that ye did not hear me callin'?"
She bowed her head. "I was off playin' with the water, Papa. The most beautiful dryads came down to the pond to share its dance with me." She shook her head. "I am sorry I did not come when you called." Her voice was soft, pleading forgiveness through her childlike innocence and charm.
"Aye, well, my dearie, try to remember next time. As the water is our friend, the rain can hurt us sometimes. And when 'tis cold and frosty as today, we know we'd better be getting back home afore it comes, aye?"
She nodded obediently, setting into quick step beside him as her father's quick strides grew to be twice her own, and she had to nearly run to keep up with him. "Papa!" she exclaimed, holding her hand up to him, hoping for his help. Her energy was that of a child's, still, but her legs so short and young that they could not take what her father was giving them. "Father?!" she exclaimed, barely able to catch her breath. And at the moment she could take no more, and went to stop, her father scooped her up in his arms, hugged her against his body, and took off for their home in the glen with his wings outstretched and flying him there in a human second.
"I will be a knight!" he shouted with the full force of his lungs. "You shall see! You shall see!" He dropped down to his knees in a fit of rage, anger and sadness. His eyes burned with tears he was ashamed to shed, and his heart made a thrust forward with a sword that would never be his.
But she laid a hand upon his shoulder, and it gave him strength.
This time, he had been facing the shadows only, the demons that came from every dark corner of his mind to taunt him the way the others once had. No matter how many tournaments he won, or how many battles he fought, those doubts did him over a thousand times more. They had been real once, years back, when he was just a small boy, but he'd shown them then all they'd needed to know. And, still, the memories haunted him. The idea of failing at the only thing he knew how to do was simply not an option… but he knew it was something that would happen one day ahead of him. And on that day he had to be ready to face his defeat, and his tears. But with Eleanor, he knew it would not be alone.
"Greetings, Milady," he said with a sniff, rubbing tears from his face with his sleeve.
"Greetings, my Good Sir," she replied, awarding his display of emotions with a kiss. "You are well, I trust?"
"Aye," he cocked his head as the grin she always produced spread fast upon his face. He rose with an air of nobility that so rightfully came with his knighthood. "Very well now that you are here with me."
She giggled like a child and tip-toed to whisper in his ear, "I have secured bed chambers for tonight in the west wing. I have been lent the blue room, and have it on strict authority to enjoy myself for the night. Would you be so good as to come along, my Love?"
The grin on his face grew wider, and seemed to become his handsome face altogether. "Oh, aye, Milady. I can think of no other pleasure in this world that could match such a request."
"Well, if the request was so fine," she remarked, running one finger from the base of his ear down his face, cheek, chin, and neck, down his chest and side. "Then I suppose I shall just be required to make it again." She spoke in nothing above a whisper. "With the utmost secrecy… I do beg your presence tonight in my chambers, for the beds will require the warmth of your body in these cold months, and my body itself shall require your warmth…"
He chucked and resisted the urge to kiss her beautiful cheek. "Oh, aye, Milady. I will be there this night. Where nothing at all shall keep us apart."
* * *
At once he noticed the aroma, and thought nothing of it. A simple bed maid's idea of setting a mood. No need for that- to think that gazing upon her beauty was not enough for him to go wild with love… There was no need for a stimulating scent. No need at all. "No need," he spoke out loud, rubbing at his itchy, sensitive nose.
She made herself seen at that moment, her gorgeous form appearing in a cloud of sparkles and fog to lounge upon the bed on her back, propped up by her elbows. One leg was naked and outstretched, the other bent at the knee and sporting the soft, white gossamer gown she almost always wore to bed with him. Her jet black hair fell in curls past her ears, past her shoulders, down her back to her rear; bedtime was the only time she ever let it down, knowing that he loved it best that way. Her face was unmade and natural, glowing with her own beauty through rosy cheeks, an inviting smile, and excited eyes. "My Love," she spoke in a soft, seductive tone. "Is this pleasurable to you?"
He nodded, looking about the blue room and smiling in jest. "Oh, aye. The fixtures are quite well done, and the tapestries are—"
She laughed the sound of bells and harps. "I had meant the subject of the question to be me, rather than the room, My Good Sir."
"Ohh!" he pretended not to have known it, and looked at her again. Her left hand pushed some pillows behind her, and then slid itself under the covers towards the spot he so wanted to be at, as well. Her other hand rested itself up-top her bent, right knee, and motioned for him to come closer, with one finger. "Ah, but I can have you whenever, it is the surroundings you so wonderfully acquired that make this meeting unique, is it not?"
She laughed again, and he saw movement under the sheets, of her hand. It was nearly too much to bear.
"Milady?" he asked, meeting her luscious green eyes with his own hazel ones. "Please understand this… You could not look more stunningly radiant than you do at this very instant."
She smiled widely, perhaps wider than he'd ever seen her smile before. "Really, Teddy?"
At the sound of his nickname, he went to her, lying beside her, with one leg over her delicate leg. He wrapped his arms around her, and relaxed himself against the pillows and blankets as she began to stroke his cheek.
Suddenly, he sniffed strongly, wetly.
It startled her, and made her look over at him.
The gallant young knight's eyes were closed, eyebrows furrowed in concentration, nose wrinkling up and twitching ever so slightly with an itch that was no longer an itch, but a tickle. His nose was running now, and he opened his eyes to look upon her lovely face as he ran his hand below his nose, sniffing again. Then he let his hand remain there, two fingers pressed beneath his nose.
"My Teddy... you… are not sick, are y—"
"Nay, nay!" he exclaimed, closing his eyes and taking a deep gasp of breath, that he held a moment, then released slowly. "Nothing of the sort, I dare say."
The sensation came upon him faster than anticipated. "Uuuuuhhhh…" his voice so shaky and weak against his own strength. He took in a series of quick, short, shallow breaths that made his nostrils flair roundly and his chest fill gradually with air. "huh-huh-huh-huh-" then let out a breath quickly, only to draw an enormous and silent one. Even his hand, as he rubbed his two fingers beneath his nose, began to tremble a little. And then he froze. His head tilted back slightly, eyes squinching closed. Then he plowed forth with a great sneeze. "HARSHUSHH!" which shook the bed and the woman beside him. He shook his head in reaction, not sure what had caused it, and feeling his nose tickle again almost immediately.
She felt his forehead and shook her head. "No fever."
"huh-huh-huh-huh-HUH-" pause "HUHCHISHH!" head bowing down as if to pay tribute to the sneeze itself. He gasped afterwards, trying to regain his breath, only to sneeze a third time, "huh-huh… " pause, deep breath, "HAHSHUSHH!" He pulled his handkerchief out from its spot, tucked beneath his belt. He held it a good few inches below his face, at the ready, and as his face reddened slightly and squeezed shut, he let go of all his control to its mighty force. "huh-huhhhh-huh-huh… HARCHOO! HuhCHUSHH! Huh-HEHSHOO! HIHSHUSHH! Uh-huh-huh-HARRCHUSHH!" With each his body lurched forward in an almost-spasm, head bobbing down, nose and mouth pointed toward the handkerchief but not embraced by it so that his sneezes were neat but completely free. "huh-huhCHISHH!" came a sudden one. "uhh, huh-huh-HUH-HUH-HUUUHHH…" he froze for a good five seconds. "HUHSHISHH! CHISHHH! HUH…HUHSHUSHHH! HIHSHUSHH!" So many, so fast, that they seemed to blend into each other. "Uhhh… huh-uh-uh-UUUHHHCHISHHHOO! Huh-huh.. huh… huh… HUHSHUSHH! Ihh.. HIHSHUSHH!" Twas the worst fit of sneezing he could remember having in a long time. "Huh.. CHUSHOO! HUHSHUSHH! HARCHOO! HARCHOO! CHOO! HUHSHOO! HARCHISHHH! HUHSHISHHO!" Well, ever since.. since… "HUHSHUSHHH! HUH… HUHSHOOO! UHHHCHISHHH! Huh-huh-huh-HIHSHOO! HUHCHISHH!" since… since… "Huh huh huh-uh-uhh-huh…" deep, silent breath, "CHIISHHHHH!!!" He rose from the bed, unable to open his eyes, and stumbled back a few unsteady steps to find a wall behind him. He leaned back, trying to find a window. "huhCHISHH! HARSHOO! HUHHHSHUSHHH!" he sneezed powerfully, freely, his mind racing, dizzily.
Eleanor rose at once, racing to the window and threw open the sash, then guided him over, as well.
He stuck his head out, letting the sneezing calm as he took in the fresh gulps of air. "HUHHSHOO! Huh… huh… huh-huh-huh-HUHSHOOO!" The fit passed presently, and he blew his nose a dozen times over. Then he turned around, leaning on the wall for support. "I'm so… huh… huh-huh-uh UHHCHOO!" he blew his nose. "I'm so sorry, Milady. I can't imagine what came over me." He was never the type to be embarrassed by his sneezing, as powerfully strong as they could be at times, but this was one occasion when he wished they hadn't chosen to hit.
She smiled kindly, sympathetically. "Is it the scent of the room? They are bluebells, lilacs, and hyacinth petals, prepared fresh—"
He shook his head. "Nay, nay. No flower ever makes.. makes me… uhh… " he turned away, attempting to blow his nose before the sneeze struck. He took in a deep breath and prepared to blow, but the sneeze struck too quickly. "HUHSHMPH! Huh… huh-huh-CHISHUSHMPHH!" he sneezed into the handkerchief, and took a deep breath afterwards.
"Well, it's obviously an allergy of some sort!" she exclaimed, rubbing her thumb against his cheek as her whole hand met his face in comfort.
"Aye, aye," he sniffed, regaining composure. His eyes lit up as he spotted the rather lumpy bed. "Those are goose feathers!"
"AYE!" she exclaimed loudly, shooting a glance at the bed. "Aye, all the pillows, and the mattress… oh, indeed? Goose feathers make you sneeze so?"
He nodded, sniffing, and smiled weakly. "I think the fit has passed for now. But I fear I cannot stay on the bed long, else I shall explode again… and not in the way you want me to." He felt incredibly daft for not having checked to see what the bed was made of before going to it… but she was simply too irresistible for him to hesitate. Through embarrassment, he put on a smile and joked, "We will have to make it fast."
She laughed, kissing him. "You are too good to waste on such a quick joining, My Love. We will rid ourselves of the mattress and pillows and make a nest on the floor with the blankets, aye? To give your poor, cute nose a good and needed rest."
He kissed her back. "Thank you, Eleanor."
She grunted as she moved the mattress far to the other side of the room, and threw the pillows there as well. Then they both pushed the wooden bed frame away to give them room. She laid out as many blankets as they had on the floor, and they laid down upon them, holding each other.
"I feel guilty," he said once they were settled. He was still sniffing softly, and sneezes came still every five or ten minutes, left over from the tickle.
"Nay!" she kissed him, then kissed his slightly-red nose. "You could not help it. And we can still have the most enjoyable night ever ahead of us. We are together, are we not?"
"Aye…" he said softly. "Aye, we are indeed. I love you, Eleanor."
She moved her hands to a choice spot she knew he loved being touched at. "And I love you, Teddy."
Teddy was exhausted and still a little stuffy when he crawled from beneath the sheets at dawn the next morning. He gave his love a tender kiss, and watched the corners of her mouth draw up into a precious smile just for him. He went to embrace her, and the sound of knuckles rapping upon the thick wooden door froze him in his place.
He gave a great sigh and called out, "Who be-ist thou at my door so early in the morn?"
"A messenger, Sir!" he heard a young man's voice call out, halting and pausing for breath. "I have quite urgent information for you!"
Was there nowhere in the entire kingdom he could be to escape his duties even for one night? And besides, how was it possible for this man to find him? "One moment as I dress!" he answered, looking around at the tangle of clothes and bed sheets that lay strewn about in that area of the room.
The Knight, Sir Tedngyun Alexandero Murtaugh, struggled to get his clothing back on quickly enough. The messenger waited impatiently outside his door, and the last thing he wanted was to be caught in such an uncompromising position with one of the Duchesses of the very kingdom he had sworn to his liege to protect with his life. He looked once more upon her beautiful, smiling face from which emanated a delightfully peaceful aura. She kissed her in her sleep, and bid her farewell before racing with sword and dagger in arm to the door.
"Aye? What news do you wake me from my sleep to receive?"
The messenger, quite red in the cheeks and breathing hard, handed him a small piece of paper. "You are to attend the King in his chamber at once. The matter is most urgent."
The Knight nodded. "Of course. I am on my way."
"You'd, uh, best run, Sir."
By the time he had arrived, all other knights had been assembled, most looking weary and still half asleep. Teddy found a corner of the waiting room to situate himself in, and stood with his eyes closed, thinking of the Duchess. Her lush black hair… her sweet and tender ways… her passion and love that both mind and body expelled to him at every instant when the two were together.
A messenger came through, causing overwhelming suspicion from all, and left the king's chambers just as mysteriously for the quickness.
Then a young man came out, calling them in one by one. Teddy's name was called fifth, which gave him a spot nearly right in front of the king's bed, standing behind a rope that went around the large thing. The others filed in quickly, standing to await orders.
The king sat in bed, propped up by pillows, attendants fussing at his hair and robe. "In the last twenty-four hours, there have been several acts that the guards of this kingdom have been unsuccessful in preventing. The last of such took place just a few minutes ago as you all stood here. I am of course speaking of the kidnappings of the Duchesses."
Teddy had heard the rumors, and had hoped to dismiss them; but now he feared for his love.
"Among those taken are the Duchess of Ellinsborough, Auguste, Sampson, Benedict, Killkenny, Tennents—" there was a cry from one of the men behind Teddy, and the sound of a man's sobbing heart pierced each ear-- "and as of the message I received this morning before you entered, those of Charlottes and Amerose." Teddy's heart leapt to his throat and anger coursed through his veins.
"Eleanor," he whispered, his voice shaky, his eyes closed for fear that there would be tears behind. He felt a man's hand pat him on the shoulder. If only he had stayed in the room with her. If only he hadn't been called to that very meeting…
FILL YOU IN:
Immediately after this, he has a small session with the King who also happens to have a feather mattress and pillows.
He then joins with a band of knights to rescue the Duchesses. Amidst things, all the other knights get killed by the enemy, as they burn their way through the land- also killing Alicia's village. Alicia and Teddy team up, and follow the leads to several different worlds, then back to their own once more. Obviously, they become close friends.
Suddenly he stopped rolling up his sleeping bag and froze in place. His face fell, his eyes dropping at the sides, his nose wiggling slightly. "hehhh… hihhhh.. heh-heh hehEHHTCHOO!" he sneezed, putting his hand over his mouth and nose and sniffing wetly at it.
"Are you all right, Teddy?" Alicia asked, taking a final stretch before crawling into the bag for a day's rest.
"Oh, fine, yes- just the cold air tickling my nose, I shouldn't wonder," the knight said with a laugh.
He tenderly drew the fabric around her, and she smiled up at him. "Wake me if you need anything."
He nodded. "Of course," he fibbed. "Sleep well, my friend."
He hated to worry her, but the fact remained that he felt as if he were coming down with a little something. His nose was running from much more than the cold winds, and though it was freezing enough to begin snowing at any moment, he felt rather oddly warm. But he wouldn't say anything to her. Teddy looked down to see her soft, smiling face where it protruded from the sack hung round his neck and off his shoulder. She looked cold but happy, and he was glad of her companionship. The last thing she needed now was to worry about a knight's case of the sniffles. "huh.. hehh.. heh-heh EhhhhhhTCHOO!" he sneezed wetly. A weak sneeze. The kind he only sneezed when he was ill. "Great, just great," he mumbled to himself as that, coupled with the fact that it had begun to snow, drew his attention.
The snow was light for a long while. But soon it became increasingly harder to see the path in front of him, and to keep his wits about him. He grew dizzy, tired, and unaware of what was going on around him. And cold. He felt ever so cold. His pace slowed, and he began to squint. "huhTSHOO! Heht-CHOO! Huhhhh huhh uhhhSHOOO!" He shivered violently for a moment, and felt the chill settle in his bones. He knew that he couldn't hold out too much longer. Finally he woke Alicia up with a few small shakes and closed his eyes as he leaned back against a tree.
She opened her eyes and looked up at him. "Teddy!" she exclaimed, pulling on her hat, coat and pants and flying out of her warm home to hover in front of his face. "You look terrible!"
His nose was visibly running, and all color had drained from his face, with he exception of a red nose, and two bright red cheeks. The suffering knight nodded, sniffing. "I thick I'b sick."
She touched her hand on his forehead for a brief second before quickly pulling it away. "You're burning up, Lad! We must find you shelter. You must rest!"
He shook his head. "No shelter here… I… ehhh… eehhhhhTISHOOO! HET-SHOOO!" he sneezed freely, towards his shoulder, his whole body shaking weakly from the force. "We'll keep.. k… k-k-keh-heh-huh-HEHHTCHOO! We'll keep on going. We're so close any… an.. ahh.. ehhhhh… eeeeeehhhhhhhhh-TSHOOO!"
She floated in front of him, and rubbed his nose softly with her tiny hand. Oddly enough, the tickle died down for the most part, and it felt cool and soothing.
"Thanks," he whispered, opening his eyes. "Or maybe I will just… rest here a little while after all…"
"Nay, not here!" she exclaimed, grabbing his coat collar and pulling him forward. "You have got to keep moving."
He shook his head. "Too cold…" His legs felt frozen, his body was exhausted. He hadn't realized how much the hiking had taken out of him until now. Now all he wanted to do was sleep. Still backed up against the tree, he let his legs give way and he slid down to the ground, sitting up, but with his head bent to the side. He hadn't enough strength to even keep it up.
Alicia was pleading with him to get up, and tugging on his coat, rocking his body a little, but not doing much more. One faerie alone was hardly enough to budge a full-grown Knight. "Please, Teddy! Lad, get up! Get up! You can do it! I know you can… Please? For me, Lad?"
He shook his head. "Sorry… hihhCHISHHH! <Sniffle> I just need a little… rest…" and as his eyelids grew heavy, and his breathing slowed, he drifted off into a deep sleep.
Alicia pulled at him, to no avail. However, she wasn't about to give up on him. She had friends nearby. Distant friends, almost family to her. They would help her, she knew. Whether they would help a human was a different matter. But they would do it for her. And right now, they were Teddy's only hope.
She looked at him now, to see a handsome face turning as blue as her own. He was still breathing, she realized, but too cold for that to remain the case for long. She had to warm him up before she went anywhere. After a moment's thinking, her tiny brain produced an idea. Quickly she gathered some dead leaves from trees, shaking them dry from the snow. After making them into a firm and large ball, she unhooked the strap from the sack he carried her in. It was wet from the snow, and she now soaked it thoroughly. Then, fastening one end to the ball of dry leaves, she hung the other to the tree branch above Teddy. She adjusted the height so that the ball was inches in front of his chest. Summoning up her powers of fire, she lit the ball. The fire danced in front of the sleeping knight, warming him, protecting him from the cold.
"There now," she said softly to him. "I will be right back with help. You, hold on!" And she was off, racing with the wind to find the others.
Find them she did, in a nearby cave. It was a place hidden with magick, so that only a select few could see it from the outside… humans, not included.
They covered him in a blanket, and used his cloak as a pillow. It was good to keep his head up, one of them said, to help his breathing. There were fires all around him, keeping the area as warm as possible, without getting too hot for the winter faeries. Alicia snuggled up under the blankets, too, sleeping on his chest. She had no clue how he would react when he awoke, but with the fever he sported, she was not taking any chances by leaving him unattended.
"Uhhh?" came the audible, soft moan of the knight, and he woke to find himself in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar things.
"Shhhh," came Alicia's soft voice. "I'm right here. You're safe now."
He shook his head, feeling panicked still. "Where? Must go.. Eleanor… oh! Head hurts…"
She helped him sit up, coughing, and she touched his hot forehead again with her cool hands. "Would you like some water?"
He nodded, wheezing.
There were cups hollowed out from wood that the elves used. They were small, but they would have to do for the time being. She filled one up from the spring and took it back to him, finding him in the midst of an attack of sneezes.
"ehhhh… hehhIIHHHSHOO! Ehh-heh-TICHOOO! HETCHOO!" he sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. He looked up at her worried face, as she struggled to smile and to hold up the heavy cup. "I don't… feel… too well… Alicia," he whispered.
She nodded, handing him the cup and sitting down on his knee, looking up at his face in their normal position. "You're safe here, Teddy. We can stay here until you feel better and the snow has stopped a little."
He coughed, and rubbed the back of his neck. The water felt wonderful to his throat and dry mouth. If only something could be done about his runny, tickling nose. "Alicia, you know we've got to… get… go… ihhhhTISHOO! Heh-heh-heh," it wavered on the edge, "HEHSHOO!" it shook him so hard, Alicia was tossed onto the make-shift bed with a hard thump. "Oh! Alicia!" he exclaimed when he'd regained his breath. "Are you hurt? I'b so sorry!"
She laughed and flew up to pat his cheek. "I'm fine, Teddy. I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
He sniffed and rubbed at his nose viscously, trying to rid it of the fierce tickle. "Can I… I…iiiihhhTSHOO! HehhTICHOO!" he sniffed again. "Cad I ask where we are?"
Smiling, "We are in a cave shared by elves, gnomes, and faeries like me. It is their sacred spot, and where they all pass the days away when the cold times come about throughout the land. They were all kind enough to let you come in. They trust me, and I trust you. Aye?"
He understood that he was the guest. One false move and he'd be out of there in an instant. Or possibly even dead. And it would be his friend, Alicia, who would suffer painfully for it. "Aye."
"Good, then. You get some rest now, aye? You look very tired."
Teddy nodded and laid down, feeling dizzy and weary again, indeed. "We really should go…" He sounded terribly congested.
She shook her head. "Nay, nay, my Lad. We will go nowhere until you are well."
He hated to have to give up for the time being, but he knew she was right. He closed his eyes. "Then will ye sit ub a while with me udtil I fall asleeb, by fried?" He sniffed and sneezed again, and again, looking and feeling altogether lousy.
"Of course, Teddy, of course." She sat down next to his face, rubbing his nose to help it give him peace enough for him to sleep.
A smile spread across his face, though it was still drenched in fevered sweat. And his breathing slowed again as he drifted off into a light but well-needed sleep. Alicia put a cold washcloth on his forehead, and continued to rub his nose until she felt her stomach rumble. She apologized to the sleeping knight, and fluttered off in search of food.
The food area was well-stocked for the harsh cold-times, and she was glad they'd be able to spare enough for two extra visitors.
"You look terribly thin and hungry, my dearie," said a sweet-sounding male voice behind her. She looked back to see a red faerie, hovering behind her, with a welcoming smile. "My name is N'Darnin," he said, his beating wings slowing to let his feet touch the ground softly.
"Mine is Alicia," she told him, looking down at the ground. "I was just a little hungry—" and her stomach rumbled to prove it. He blue cheeks turned red from embarrassment. "But I can go without if there is not enough to spare…"
"Nay! I wouldn't dream of it!" N'Darnin said, taking some food and shoving it into her arms. "Eat! Eat! With such a trek as the one you must be on, I can imagine how a small thing like you must be famished day in and day out! While you're here, please, eat as much as you wish and more."
Quickly she began nibbling at one of the berries. "You are too kind," she said with a smile. He got a few berries for himself and pointed over to a toadstool near the spring for them to sit by. She followed, finding him pleasant company. It was nice to be around her own kind again. As much as she loved Teddy's friendship, he was human, above all else. And he simply couldn't understand the bond creatures of pure magick could have with each other.
"So," he began, as soon as he was sure she'd had sufficient time to fill her hunger. "Do you feel a little better?"
Alicia nodded, chewing on some grain seeds. "Oh, yes. Thank you so very much!"
There was a long pause, while the two just said, drinking in the other's company and newly-forming friendship. N'Darnin was a handsome fellow- with kind-looking yellow eyes and a light red tone to him. She'd heard that yellow-eyed faeries were incapable of telling lies… and she wondered if it were true. But above all she wondered what he was thinking of her during the silence.
"Where are you from?" he asked quickly, out of the blue.
She froze a moment, then looked at him with furrowed brow. "Why do you ask so quickly?" His eyes went down to the ground, and he looked embarrassed. "Do not take offense. I was simply curious as to your train of thought. Let me assure you that there is no place I would rather speak of than my wonderful home. Of its wondrous ponds and woods and trees. Of its perfect blue skies and its soft rain. Of its clear air and its lovely song birds' tunes. I'm sure you can say the same about yours?"
He shook his head. "No, not at all. My home is beautiful, yes… but I have known no other place. How I long to be out. To see all the worlds and all they can hold. To see the splendors of oceans and deserts and barren craters. 'Tis why I asked, I could hold back my own curiosity no longer."
She looked down at the water, staring at her reflection. She'd once had that dream. No longer could she know that kind of innocence. "There is more to the worlds than simply their beauties, N'Darnin." A tear fell from her face, and she caught it quickly in her hand before it reached the ground, the way her father used to when she cried. "There is much more. Some of it very bad…"
"Aye! But to be able to see it… are there faeries on other worlds? And if so, do they have the same sorts of faces and same holds on magick as those here? And are there beings more powerful than our elders? There must be… but what else could they possibly do?"
She took a deep breath and looked into his excited eyes. "Do you really want to see it, N'Darnin?"
He paused a moment in thought, then eagerly nodded his head. "I would give up everything here for a chance at seeing more."
"Then you shall," she told him, holding her hand up, palm up and out towards him. He did the same quickly, and they brought their hand slowly together, to touch…
A bright flash. The cries of the dying. The dead. The fire that killed, and the rain which drowned the fire, and the rest of the woods, as well. The dragon's nest, and the hunger of the land. The starvation. The thirst. The destitute. The hurt and mutilated soldiers. The hurt and mutilated ladies. The hurt and mutilated innocents.
"Stop!" he cried out, breaking the bond and burying his face in his hands as he sobbed.
She rubbed his back with one hand to comfort him. "Do you understand now, N'Darnin?"
He nodded, taking her in his arms suddenly, and hugging her tightly against him. "You poor thing."
Tears began to flow for them both, and for the first time, she felt that someone finally understood her. "Oh Alicia… Alicia," he whispered as he rubbed his hand up and down her back. "How terrible these things you have been through."
"There have been many joyous moments," she told him, her voice muffled in his shoulder.
"Aye… but your village… "
"Died for a cause that was not their own. That is why I made it my cause… to give their death a purpose…"
He held her tightly. It seemed they were that way for ages. Time passed around them, and their arms only brought their bodies closer and tighter together in their hug.
"The worlds are wonderful, N'Darnin," she told him, leaning back, looking into his eyes. "And one day I hope that you do see all there is out there. But never, ever want to give up the happiness you have now for it."
"Why did you share all of that with me, Alicia?" he asked, as she was nearly too far away to hear it.
She turned, and paused there a moment. "Because… you cared for me. And because I know we will have many times together in the future. And I wanted you to realize and know the worst part of me before we got any further along."
He nodded, smiling at her beautiful blue face. "I think, another reason, as well." He smiled and put his hand on his heart. "Because you cared for me."
She nodded, looking down at the ground. "Perhaps, my new friend… " She smiled, looking back up at him. "I will see you later?"
With a grin, "Yes, I think you will."
She returned to Teddy, guilty at once to find him awake and without food for him. "How are you?" she asked, hovering beside him and turning the cold washcloth over so that the hot side which had been against his head was now up, and the cooler side down against his skin. He shivered, bringing the blankets up around him more.
"I feel ill," he told her, coughing a few times. He managed a weak smile. "But I guess I've told you that be… before… ihhh… hehCHIIIICHH!" Not wanting to get his handkerchief, he rubbed his nose on the corner of the blanket and closed his eyes.
She smiled at him, stroking his nose. "You'll get well soon. I promise you."
He shivered again, and sneezed, "heh-heh-HEH-TCHISHHHH!" almost spraying her in the process. He apologized for it profusely, but she just quieted him and told him that it was all right. She knew he couldn't help it, and if the temperature of his head was any indication, she knew he must be feeling absolutely horrible.
"hehh.. heh-HETISHOO! HETCHOO! EHHTCHOOO! HITCHOO!" he shook strongly at each, his eyes tightly shut, his face wearing an expression of discomfort. "Heh-hih-hehhhTISHUSHH!" He sighed, and sniffed wetly. "Felt good to finally get those out…" he mumbled, shaking with sudden, feverish chill.
"I'll be right back," she whispered, returning a few moments later with four other faeries, brining him another, thick blanket. Together, they draped it over him, and tucked it around him tightly. Alicia thanked them, and sat back down to turn the cloth on his head back so that the now cool side was again against his forehead. "Feel a little better?" she asked him, hoping he would not say he was hungry.
"Much, thanks, Alicia." He whispered, his eyes tightly shut, his nose twitching slightly. "But I've got… a tickle… right… right there…" he whispered between gasps and breaths. "Could you… uhh…" he felt bad about requesting such an odd thing.
She nodded, running her hand down his nose, fingers tickling at it, lightly flying across his reddened nostrils, making his nose twitch violently.
"Hehhh.. hehhhh…" he was trying to draw it out.
She giggled and blew softly into his nose.
He gasped in reaction, the sneeze finally taking full hold of him. "HEH…" he held it back a moment, letting her get out of the way. "Hehhh HEHHH-TISHIIISHHHHH!" The sneeze was quite powerful, making him gasp for air and sigh after its release.
"Feel better?" she asked softly, as he gave a light moan afterwards.
"Yes… thadks so buch, Alicia," he whispered with a stuffy voice. "I thidk I'd like to sleeb a little bore dow."
It worried her that he be so tired, but there was little he could do awake save lie miserably and sneeze, so she welcomed the weariness as it came. "Good idea, Lad. I'll sit right here beside you until you fall to sleep again. Dream of… Teddy? Lad?" she giggled, her hand cupped over her mouth to muffle the sound. He was asleep already. She gave him a soft kiss on the cheek and flew off to explore the caverns.