Everything looked the same. The tall seramythium gates were just as polished and welcoming as the day she left. The familiar scent of a mixture of foods, even the weather, a gentle sprinkle of rain, was exactly as she had left it so many years ago. She paused a moment to let her senses take in all of the familiar sights and smells. Tapping the side of her horse gently, they slowly rode through the tall gates from her childhood, as she entered the world of Seramythia.
As she strolled down the streets hesitantly, she began to question herself.
“Why am I coming back here? Didn’t I leave, swearing never to return? What madness has come over me?”
She stopped out front of the cabin, hearing voices of laughter and cheer coming from within. Slowly dismounting, she pulled the dark fabric of her cloak around her body tightly, and aimed for the door. Her gentle knock was greeted by a startling jerk of the door, bright lights, loud noises, and a large figure pulling her inside.
“Welcome! Welcome! Come in! Come in! There’s food and games!”
She was yanked through various rooms in the house by the plump, delicously perfumed man, who made sure to introduce her to various other people, of which only a few she recognized. She introduced herself as Caymen, which was her birth name and very few would be able to recognize. But someone did recognize the name. A firm touch to her shoulder, and her quick reaction to spin around, revealed her uncle, Bolarius. There he stood in all his glory, tall and strong, slightly aged, but still the warrior she remembered.
Upon the very sight of him, she embraced him. Her head buried deep within his chest as his strong arms comforted her. No words needed to be spoken. They stood there in the midst of spirited chaos, as their years apart slowly dissipated away.
Bolarius escorted her to a quiet room, offered her some fine wine, and they both rested by the fireplace. For hours they reminiced about old stories. Caymen told him of all of her worldy adventures and battles, stories of her death defying deeds and terrible tasks. He listened intently, absorbing the life of his young niece as much as he was able in such a small amount of time. He smiled to himself as he thought of what a bright young warrior she had turned out to be. When she had left many years ago, she was just a child.
“Hmm?” His thoughts were interupted by the mention of his son.
“How is he?”
“Oh. Well. He’s doing quite well for himself. He is the captain of the guard here in Seramythia.” he smiled.
“Is he…..or….does he..?” she desperately searched for the words to the one question that’s been haunting her since she left.
“He has never been angry with you, Caymen” he put a hand on her shoulder. “He loved you more than he had loved his own wife. He understood when you had to leave, and he missed you greatly.”
Just then there was a knock at the door, a butler poked his head in and motioned to Bolarius, who nodded and jumped to his feet. “Come with me, Caymen.”
She rose to her feet and followed her uncle to the main foyer. Bolarius held his glass up, which almost instantly quieted the room, as they respectfully listened to what he had to say.
“My friends, I have been blessed with many things in my lifetime. But never so much as today. Two things dear to me have been returned, unscathed and unharmed. My worldly niece, Caymen,” he stopped to motion to her, smiling, “and now, my son, Jeryn.”
Caymen’s eyes brightened suddenly in a desperate search around the room. Was he here? A few seconds of searching seemed like years, until she finally caught the tall blonde figure of what she believed to be her beloved cousin, Jeryn. He was beautiful, even moreso than she remembered. Jeryn removed the hood of his cloak, and smiled at his cousin.
Caymen sprinted across the room, nearly knocking over a young butler, causing him to spill every single wine glass on his tray. She wrapped her arms tightly around Jeryn’s neck, tears streaming down her face. He embraced her warmly, his eyes also moist with the mere sight of Caymen.
“My beloved Caymen!” he cried. “You’ve returned home!”
The room cheered loudly for Bolarius, and the music began to play. Couples tapered off into dancing partners and the room again filled with laughter and cheer.
Bolarius accompanied Caymen and Jeryn to a quiet room to allow them to catch up on so many heartbroken years while he attempted to be a good host to his guests.
Almost a month went by, and the two cousins were inseperable. They went for long walks through forgotten trails, raced horses like the days of their youth, stole cookies from the kitchen behind the cooks back.
For once, Caymen had forgotten about the life she had lived and began to rekindle her younger days. She was less cold, less introverted and withdrawn. Even Bolarius had noticed the new fire that sparked inside his weathered niece.
Caymen finally became comfortable with being home again when it happened. A broken rider from the north, seemingly near death, had barreled through the city one cold and crisp morning, clutching a beaten scroll with his dear life. As the cityfolk gathered round, Bolarius helped the riding down from his horse.
“Sir Bolarius! I bear a message from the Duke of El’Raanin!” he gasped, his hand shaking furiously as he handed the scroll to Bolarius.
“Take him to my quarters, and fetch my surgeon” Bolarious barked out to no one inparticular, but was greeted with much haste from some of the townsfolk.
Caymen and Jeryn had just returned from one of their walks, as they noticed the crowd gathered around Bolarius. “What is going on uncle?” Caymen asked, almost startled by the seriousness of Bolarious’ expression.
Her uncle paused and unraveled the scroll, his eyes glancing over the elven script quickly, their expression never changing. “It appears we are at war again, my dear Caymen,” he sighed. He couldn’t bear to look up from the scroll to meet the expression on his nieces face. He knew that the last war that shook Seramythia, was the same war that had killed Caymen’s parents, and caused her to flee her home for so many years.
Caymen stood still, not knowing what to say even if she could speak through the lump that had now taken over her throat. Her hand squeezed Jeryn’s forcibly till there was not feeling left. Jeryn embraced his cousin lovingly. “Dear Caymen, let me take you away from here, I do not wish to see you hurt again.”
“No…” she whispered. “I will not leave you again.”
Jeryn began to speak, but stopped himself knowing well that he could not change his cousin’s mind in any way. He nodded and kissed her cheek lovingly.
Caymen turned to her uncle and bowed respectfully. “Uncle, I wish to become a part of your Guard, and to serve under your command.”
Bolarious smiled hesitantly, but nodded. “I would be honored, Caymen. We depart at sunrise.”
There was little sleep to be had by a single soul in Seramythia that night, except for one. Caymen slept soundfully in a chair next to Jeryn’s bed.
It felt like they had ridden for months, the soggy and damp weather made days seem like weeks. They rode north towards the gates of Mahalia where another army of their kin would be waiting. Once past the northern peaks of the Ka’sador mountains, Bolarius began to realize they were being followed. Humans most likely, many of them coming from the southeast. They must have been heading towards Seramythia when they found his army.
Bolarius signaled for one of this riders who sprinted to the front of the line to meet him. He quickly whispered something to his General who made his way back to the rear to signal other guards. Bolarius rose his hand in a motion to cease the train of riders as the guards began to determine the best location to make a stand against their new company.
Under Bolarius’ direction, the formation of their defense came together almost instantly. Caymen watched in facination as slight glances and hand motions from her uncle seemed to wave over the army flawlessly in an artful display. When finished, Bolarius motioned for his son and niece to join him at the front of the line as the quietly waited for their guests.
It didn’t take long, 2 hours at most, before they began to see human scouts in the distance. Bolarius motioned for a few of the archers up in the trees above to pick off the scouts silent and quick with arrows as they awaited for the actual army to arrive.
It was quiet. Deathly quiet. In all her years Caymen had never been as scared as she was at that moment. Fear for her cousin, fear for her people, or numbing thoughts of her parents death, she wasn’t sure.
She began to hear muffled noises in the distance, horses, stomping, the clanking of metal. She readied her bow and glanced at Jeryn for a moment, who smiled and winked back.
The first shots rang out almost instantly, the forest was overwhelmed with the whistling of arrows and the grunting and yelling of men. The human army began to rush the defensive line as arrows flew down from the trees. One by one Caymen began to pick off the men on horses as her brethren ran out with their swords to greet the infantry.
It lasted for what seemed like hours. The amount of death and blood that littered the forest ground was unsettling. Caymen kept watch over her cousin as he ran out to greet the enemy with his sword, making sure to focus her unblemished aim at any human that dared to near him.
In one swift moment, somehow a large brute of a man had reached close enough to the line to take a swing at Caymen, to which she reacted quick enough to fling a dagger into his chest, breaking her concentration on Jeryn. She gathered her bow quickly and searched through the crowd of warriors desperately, but was unable to find her cousin.
After several minutes she finally caught a glance of Jeryn in the far distance, struggling with a human much larger than himself. Suddenly two arrows pierced through Jeryn’s shoulder, causing him to collapse to the ground. Caymen jumped to her feet quickly and aimed for the large brutes head as he raised his sword over Jeryn. He fell unexpectedly, just as Caymen took an arrow to the chest. She fell to one knee, but jumped to her feet quickly to run to Jeryn’s rescue. From out of no where, Bolarius grabbed his niece by the shoulders and flung her to the ground, just as another arrow flew past.
“What are you thinking? You do no justice to him by dying, Caymen.” His grip was unbearable as she tried to squirm free, her thoughts clouded by the site of her cousin falling. Bolarius drug his niece off the ground and flung her onto his horse, mounting up just behind her. Bolarius began to motion for his troops to retreat, Caymen’s eyes still searching desperately for Jeryn. It was by chance that she caught a glimpse of him climbing into a covered human wagon. Their eyes met momentarily and she began to weep for him to come with them, but he put a finger to his mouth in silence. She nodded slightly, but kept her eyes locked with his as her uncle swiftly rode out.
She closed her eyes and mouthed to herself “We will be together soon, cousin.”