Auris stared into her glass of red wine at the Blue Recluse. She didn’t frequent taverns, but she needed the drink. Across the table from her sat Adrian. The young soldier wouldn’t meet her eyes, and he barely touched the meal she’d bought him. To her right was Robin, the monk had only ordered a pint of ale.

Star sauntered up to the table two mugs in hand, filled to the brim with milk. She sat on Auris’ left, setting one of the mugs before Adrian. “Here you go, kid.”

Adrian’s cheeks turned bright red. “I’m not a child. I can drink ale…”

“Oh, come on, how old are you? Fourteen?”

“I—I—no, I’m sixteen! Almost…seventeen.” He glared at Auris’ sister. The elf let out a heavy sigh and exchanged glances with Robin. She still didn’t know what the monk thought of her, but there was a sense of distrust between them still. But, family was family.

“Sixteen. Still a pup.”

“I’m a soldier!”

Star took a deep drink of her milk and slammed the mug onto the table. “Because we’re desperate. You’ve got no business being in the military, or Argus. You’ll get eaten alive.”

“I’m tougher than I look.”

Auris watched the exchange as Robin spoke. The monk was soft spoken, gentle. “Adrian, I think we all admire your courage. But it takes more than boldness to fight the Legion. I assume you’ve seen Miss Rainewind fight, and, even she is threatened by them. Why do you want to charge into this fight?”

Miss Rainewind. Auris kept her expression neutral, nodding to Robin. So, I am still Miss Rainewind to her. She does not trust me yet. Or, perhaps, she fears me as I fear her. The elf returned her attention to the conversation. “I believe Robin presents a valid question, Adrian.”

Adrian stared glumly into his untouched mug of milk. “I have to. My sister…I have to make sure nothing can happen to her.”

“That is why you wish her to remain with me while you run off and die as cannon fodder on an alien world? Tell me, Adrian, do you wish for your soul to be tortured for all eternity? To become a weapon used by the Legion?” Adrian’s eyes widened as he met her gaze. She was being harsh, she had to be.

“Well, no…I don’t intend—“

“Then stop being a fool.”

The table went silent. Adrian stared at the table. Star was the first to speak. “Maybe I can show him a thing or two with a blade. Or…Robin could train him some. Her style is probably more to his tastes.”

Auris shook her head. “You sympathize with his feelings, but if it were simply training with a blade he required, I could do that.”

“What can’t you do?” Adrian finally looked up, head tilted.

“Quite a few things. I was trained by my brother. I am not as proficient as some, but I keep up the practice.” Auris took a long sip of her wine. “You wish for me to take you in as a formality, then raise your sister and comfort her after your death. I cannot do what you ask of me.”

Both gnomes blinked.

“But…I heard…you take in…strays. I asked…around.” Adrian’s cheeks darkened.

Auris tilted her head, gazing at the boy. “I cannot save every person in need, Adrian. That is not within my power, or my resources. Especially, not one so foolhardy that he would throw his life away and empower one of the greatest threats our world has ever faced in the process.”

Robin frowned. She’d displeased the monk. “Auris, I know we haven’t been family for long. But this is…selfish of you. I respect you for what you’ve done for my little sister, but…you’d let these kids suffer?”

“Robin, I’m sure that’s not it…is it…?” Star was frowning as well, confused. But her eyes still held a sense of trust. No one knew her better than Star.

Auris turned to Robin and shrugged. “I never said that. I simply said I cannot save everyone I come into contact with. Can any of us?”

The monk hesitated. “Well, no, but…what has he done to not deserve your help?”

“I have no home I can offer either of them. Not a traditional one, of course. A safe place, yes, but my family resides in the Twilight Grove. You know this. I could have a small one built, I suppose. But, even so. I intend to return to Argus, myself. I cannot promise protection to either of them while I am away.” Auris watched for Robin’s reaction.

The gnome sighed and nodded. “I see your point, but it doesn’t feel right. We are out of room at our house.”

Star smirked. “I doubt Adrian wants his sister anywhere near me.”

The boy pushed back his chair and stood, bowing to the women. “Thank you for the meal and your time…”

“Where are you going?” Adrian paused at her words, standing uncertainly before the table. “I never said I would not help you.”

“But, you just…”

Auris smiled at him. “I must consult with my mate-to-be. And, you must decide whether you truly wish to run off to your untimely death. Or if you wish to remain with your sister.”

Adrian took a deep breath. “I have to go. I can make a difference.” He believed what he said, she heard it in his tone. The troubles of youth.

Robin piped up before Auris could speak. “What matters most to you, Adrian?”

“My sister. Rose. She matters to me more than anything else. I have to protect her.”

The monk leaned forward in her chair. “You’ve lost your parents. Don’t make her suffer anymore. You can’t be replaced by Auris or Peter, or anyone. Your sister can’t be the reason you fight. She should be the reason you stay. If you’re not being ordered to go, don’t volunteer to abandon her.”

“I’m not trying to abandon anyone. I just…I have to help. I want to fight.”

“It is unwise to run into a battle unprepared. Sometimes the greatest strength is knowing when you should not fight.” Auris sat back in her chair, thinking there was not enough wine in the world to let her escape this disaster.

“I have training!”

“Do you?”

Star grinned. “Then let’s take this outside, kid. See what you’re made of.”

Adrian paled. “Well…I…I’m a little full right now. I wouldn’t be ready.”

Auris listened to Star tease Adrian mercilessly for the next few moments. She knew he wasn’t ready to fight, much less kill a demon. How could she convince him to stay? Not. Enough. Wine. In. The. World. “Adrian, stay in the city. Provide me a few hours. I will see what I can do for you. Star, Robin. Keep him out of trouble.”

The gnomes nodded. Adrian blinked. “Does this mean you’ll adopt her?” He looked hopeful.

“This means I will try to help you.” Auris stood and set the payment for their respective meals on the table, plus extra. She stepped out into the street and let out a sigh. She wanted to get home to Peter, to Avelyra. She wondered if the gnomes understood her plan. She’d taken in so many, Avelyra, most recently. How many more could she protect? She need to consult Peter. Besides, there was more wine at home. 

Author Robin
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Comments (3)

  • October 28, 2017 at 11:29 pm
    In case it isn't known, it isn't a typo that Adrian is glaring at Auris' sister, above. This is intentional as Auris sort of adopted Star into her family. They often refer to one another as siblings. (Just background info!) It was brought to my attention that some may not know this. Don't worry, no night gnomes here.
  • October 30, 2017 at 11:20 am
    Will be reading this! Bookmarking it in the meantime. Best thing about the new site is being able to filter the activity feed and never lose a journal. :D
  • Ari
    October 30, 2017 at 11:45 pm
    I was endlessly tickled that Adrian was served milk at the start of conversation. "I'm sixteen!" Still a baby in these ladies' eyes, you twerp. :P

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