Hidden Blade: Chr. 26

I'd like to say I have a really good excuse for being so remiss in my story-posting, but I really don't, unless "It's my first semester of college" is a good excuse.
*Chorus of readers: It's NOT!*
Didn't think so..
Well, if any of you are still out there, here it is!


"...and I told him that if he wished to have me that badly, he was going to have to take it up with Arodan and Lee, because you know, Itir aren't allowed to-"

"I know, Deigh!" Aramir exclaimed, whirling around. "I've been an Itir for more than a hundred years now." He softened voice slightly when he saw the hurt look upon the young woman's face. "Sorry. I know the laws, though."

His fellow Itir's face widened into a grin. "I know you know them. Sorry. I don't mean to go on and on, especially about that; I think I may have picked it up from Kellian." A fond smile replaced her silly grin. "I love Kell."

"Be careful," Aramir warned, folding his arms over his chest. "Kell is my Elf."

"Your Elf?" She frowned at him, arms akimbo. "Why is he your Elf? Can't you share?" She capriciously drew her sword. "I'll fight you for him." Deigh moved into battle stance, considered her challenge and her adversary, and then sheathed her weapon. "No, I'd loose. Never mind."

"Deigh!" From down the hall, Lee gestured for the girl to approach.

"Oh, coming Lee! I'll see you later, Aramir!" Then she turned and dashed down the hall.

Aramir watched her go and then tossed his head back, eyeing the ceiling disinterestedly. "Thank you, Lee," he muttered before turning to go back to his room.

Halfway down the hall, he met `his' Elf. Kellian, true to his nature, was trotting lightly down the hall, humming an off-beat tune to himself, and completely unaware of any of the troubles in the world. The grin on his face belied the somber black Itir garments and sword at his side. He stopped when he saw Aramir and then laughed.

"How is Deigh?" he queried, swatting good-naturedly at his friend.

Aramir chuckled. "You can tell, hm? The Itir rolled his dark eyes and sighed. "If she weren't such a good Itir, I don't think I'd be able to tolerate her. Why does she insist upon following us everywhere?"

"She's fond of you," Kellian teased.

"She told me she loves you," Aramir shot back. He clapped his hands together in front of his chest and raised his voice in a bad imitation of the young woman. "I love Kell."

The Elf grimaced. "She said that?"

"Aye. I told her you were my Elf." Aramir grinned.

Kellian rolled his eyes and laughed. "Better your Elf than hers, I suppose. I had better go; I'm on duty." With a wave to Aramir, he turned and strode off in the direction of Lee and Deigh; Aramir's grin widened, despite his friend's plight, or perhaps because of it.

Aramir flopped down on his bed with a contented sigh and stared at the unfocused ceiling above him. He was off duty until tonight, and had absolutely nothing to do. It might have bothered him at another time, but today he was glad for the chance to lie on his bed and think. Every so often, doing nothing at all was just what he wanted.

He thought first of Deigh and smiled in spite of himself. The young woman--really, she was no more than a girl of nineteen--had been inducted into the Itir not two months ago and had already managed to annoy every single inhabitant of the palace and its surroundings on one occasion or another. She was still young and flighty and had yet to overcome what Lee had called `the natural desires of a girl her age.' Aramir had taken the Captain's words to heart--recalling them was the only way in which he was able to not feel uncomfortable when Deigh watched him, a fantasizing grin on her face. She had felt immediately drawn to Aramir and Kellian, and even Lee's "no matter her reasons for following you about, you had better be good roll models" speech had been unable to fully convince the two Itir that Deigh was following them to learn how to be a better Itir.
Still, Aramir thought, she was a good Itir, or would be in time, and that was what mattered the most. She was especially good in archery, and naturally gave all of the credit to Kellian for this, but Aramir had seen her before her training had begun, and he knew it was only partially true. Until she matured a bit, then, Aramir had only to wait.

He had become exceptionally good at waiting, owing mostly to over a hundred year's of experience in the Itir, a hundred years of watching, of experiencing, of taking careful notes about everything around him. His mind wandered through time, through events, past friends and foes. He had seen his share of death, the deaths of fellow Itir and of complete strangers, of those in battle, and of those lying in bed, peacefully taking their last breaths, as Ryal had. Itir had come and gone, passing through his life and his memories in a slow dance of recollection which faded like old parchment. Some faces he could still see clearly, while others had passed into the shadows. The world spun before his glazed eyes; was this what it was like to die? They said your life passed before your eyes, but he wasn't dying. He was far from it.
Now in his mind, Aramir saw Rin, his old friend who had died nearly forty years ago after a full, happy, and successful life. Jac, who was getting on in age himself, was now the owner of the shop, and training apprentices of his own under his careful guidance. Aramir had seen him only last week, and the two had recalled the events so long ago that had led to Jac becoming a sword smith. It seemed so long ago, and yet by the Elven reckoning, little time had passed.

Time. It had done little to his features, and nothing to his blood, nothing to that terrible truth that he still kept within him, hidden from all but Kellian. The Elf was silent as Aramir himself; nothing had ever given the Itir reason to believe that Kellian would betray him. They kept the secret between them, glancing at each other now and then with a look that transcended words. One blink, one smile, one tear was all that was needed to pass a message between the two friends.

Aramir sighed. He had once thought the guilt would dissipate and eventually vanish completely, that he would one day no longer feel bad for keeping such a secret from those close to him. Alas, his hopes had vanished instead of his guilt. Each time he had to bring out his little bottle, each time he had to blatantly lie to someone, he felt the pang that he had come to expect. It hurt the most when he was lying to Lee. Deceiving the Captain was like deceiving Aramir's own father. Over and over he debated revealing the truth to Lee, and every time he came closer to actually carrying through. But each time reason struck at last. He trusted Lee more than just about anyone in the world, as much as he trusted Kellian. But despite the fact that Aramir knew indubitably that Lee cared for him and would want to keep his secret (or at least he hoped) the truth was that Lee was the Captain of the Itir. For all Aramir knew, Lee's sense of commitment to his job, to his king, to the honour of the Itir, might prove to be stronger than his affection for Aramir. That was something the young Itir would not risk. It made him feel terrible to admit, even to himself, that he wouldn't trust Lee with his secret, but even such feelings were unable to completely sway him. Kellian was the only other who knew; until something convinced Aramir otherwise, it would remain that way.

Suddenly his door swung open and Aramir leapt to his feet as his blonde friend darted inside, shutting the door viciously behind him.

"She's after me!" the Elf hissed, eyes flashing as though he were a hunted animal.

"Who, Deigh?" Aramir asked with a grin.

"Shh! She'll hear you!" He moved away from the door. "Who else?"

Aramir began to laugh (quietly, so as to appease Kellian). He shook his head and folded his arms over his chest. "Aren't you supposed to be on duty somewhere?"

Kellian rolled his eyes. "Duty can come to me this time, Ar...too dangerous to go out and find it. Really, when will she learn to leave me alone?"

"You?" Aramir snorted. "What about me?"

"Kellian?"

The two men jumped at the sound of Deigh's voice; the girl was coming down the hall, making no attempt to hide her presence. Kellian, naturally, did not answer.

"Kellian, where are you!? It's important!"

"I'll bet it is," Kellian muttered. "I love you, Kell!"

Aramir opened his mouth to laugh and instead a startled yelp jumped out when his door suddenly swung open again and hit the wall with a loud bang. Deigh stood in the doorframe, anxiety painted across her young face. She didn't see Kellian, who had managed to leap behind the door in time, but that didn't seem to matter.

"Aramir, come quickly! There's an attack...Orcs...village..."

She was so flustered that Aramir could barely understand her, but he did, and his stomach did a flop. He stepped forward and took her hands. "Calm down, Deigh. Where is Lee?"

She told him. "But I'm supposed to find Kell..."

Aramir reached behind the door and dragged Kellian into view. "That was easy. Let's go."

Together the three ran from Aramir's room; the latter strapped his weapons to his side as he moved down the hall and towards the stables, where Lee and the others were waiting.

The distraction of his weapons was all that kept Aramir from noticing the terrible feeling of dread that had risen inside of him.

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