Chapter 3 – The Autumn Harvest

Muttering a dwarven curse under her breath, Valna left the council chamber, disinheartened. The pleasure that she would normally take out of this bright and sunny autumn day, the air thick with excitement for the upcoming festival, was lost on her. Her heart wept, yet again, for her lost mother and the ongoing misunderstanding that was her life.

 

The Thistlepatch House held its heritage in baking. A young elven man at the time, Aelar Thistlepatch went forth to the neighboring cities, towns and villages to find new ingredients to incorporate into the family’s recipes. What he found instead was a beautiful, young human female, Gwenn Millerton.

 

Their union had been one not sanctioned by the Elven Council, but love prevailed and Aelar wed Gwenn. Their union and love was consecrated; the result, the birth of his eldest and only daughter, Valna.  Birthing the half-elf proved too strenuous on fair Gwenn, and living without a cleric in the village turned fatal. The desolate Aelar was forced to return to Elmwood, to raise his daughter, not on his own since the Thistlepatch House had a strong lineage, but without his beloved wife.

 

Aelar knew the look of disappointment on Valna’s face as she entered their home’s common room; he had seen it many times when she was growing up.

 

“Daughter, care to bend my ear with your troubles?” her father asked solemnly.

 

“I cannot speak of the issues, yet, Father. The council has asked me to hold my tongue until they deliberate on the facts at hand,” Valna expressed passionately.

 

Aelar moved towards his daughter, and folded her into his arms.

 

“I thought this was behind me, that this was over with – that I had proved that I’m part…” her choked words broke off.

 

“Hush,” Aelar intoned, “there are many who love you for who you are, it matters not what you are. In my eyes, I have two daughters… you and Kithri both have blessed my life –“

 

His was cut off by a clatter in the cooking area.

 

“– and definitely made it more interesting,” he finished with a chuckle. “Dry your eyes, my dear, and help this old elf with finishing up the baking for the feast tonight.”

 

“Yes, Father,” Valna conceded, heading to the cistern to wash up.

 

“Now, you little vagabond!” Aelar called out, “What have you done with my baking trays?”

 

“I was hungry,” Kithri said, innocently, “again.”

 

“Of course you were, Trouble,” the elf chucked, pulling at the halfling’s topknot.

 

Valna unpacked the dried roots she had collected, putting them in the various pouches near the spices hanging on the trellis, before donning an apron and aiding in the final preparation of the baked goods that would be carried to the feast at the High Hall.

 

After much flour was worn and childlike fingers licked uncountable times, the baking was completed and the hour had arrived for the great feast.

 

Seating in the High Hall was assigned by Patriarch, mate and first heir, with the remaining family sitting outside in the warm evening, the area outdoors being lighted by scented torches. At every table inside the High Hall, this seating was followed – until it got to the Thistlepatch House. There sitting proudly were Aelar, Valna and the oblivious Kithri, in their finest feast day attire.

 

"Why do we have to sit so quietly," Kithri asked, not bothering to hush her voice as the clerics began the ritual of thanks.

 

"Hush, try to be a little more respectful," Valna shushed.

 

"But why would anyone need a dual alter, I thought that elves only worshipped one god - well, except for you, but you're not a whole elf either, so..." Kithri prattled on, gaining stares of disapproval from the elves seated nearby.

"The story of the elven gods go like this," Valna began.

 

"Oh, it's story time, you should hear the one about," Kithri interrupted, loudly.

 

"Some other time," Valna countered, "it is my turn to speak. Lolth and Sehanine were twin sister lunar goddesses. Lolth represented the dark side of the moon, her skin the reflection of the rich black of a moonless sky and her hair the color of the starshine. Sehanine was her mirrored image, her skin a luminous white of a full moon and her hair the dark velvet tapestry of the night sky. Alongside these two beautiful goddesses stood Corellon, first Lolth’s partner, and then, Sehanine’s lover after Lolth’s fall into darkness. Do you understand?"

 

"Where's the altar to Lolth, then?" the halfling asked, straining in her seat to look around the High Hall.

 

"Sit down," Valna growled. "They don't have an alter for her, it remains empty until she is forgiven of her sins and returns to her god family."

 

"Oh, well, did you know that your god, Melora,  and my god, Sehanine, created the halflings together, giving us a love of both nature and the gift of stealth," which she proved while slipping a stolen pastry into her mouth before the meal was served.

 

Valna could do nothing but hold her own tongue.

  

The clerics performed the rituals of thanks and offering prior to the beginning of the meal. All in attendance, including Kithri, give thanks to their respective gods. All but Valna, whose god, Melora, was not represented at this feast.

 

Melora was the god of the wilderness and the sea. She represented both the wild beast and the peaceful forest, something that Valna could identify with growing up and especially after becoming a ranger. It had not caused any tensions in the Thistlepatch House, not any more than what could have transpired with a half-elf living beneath the roof.

 

The roasted meats were carved and served to the head tables first, slowly making their way outside after the rituals were completed. Potatoes and stewed roots, breads and pastries, gravies and sauces were passed around freely from table to table.  Mugs of spiced and mulled wines were poured and were drunk freely by all but the youngest in attendance.

 

“I think that you have had quite enough to drink,” Aelar chuckled, taking the mug away from the halfling, before she launched into yet another tale of adventure passed down from generation to generation. They were never the same tale told twice, there was always a new twist or turn that made each seem as original as they had once been. 

 

Valna, still on her first mug wine, was sharing conversation with the others around her, often being interrupted by the now tipsy Kithri. It was after one such interruption when Lucan Briarglen, the head councilmember came up behind her chair and whispered in her ear to follow him.

 

Excusing herself from the table, she left the High Hall, and entered the council chamber for the second time that day.

 

“I apologize for the cloak and dagger approach, child,” Lucan stated, when the door closed behind them. The elder elf waved his hand, muttering words in an ancient arcane language, and nodded satisfied.

 

“That will prevent unwanted listeners,” he smiled, sadly.

 

“What is so private that only I may hear, Elder?” Valna queried, trepidation slowly creeping up her spine.

 

“The council has come to a decision, child,” Lucan began, and raised a hand to stave off any interruption from Valna.  A pained look came over his face, unchecked, before he continued. “The council has decided that you and Kithri will need to leave Elmwood…”

The End

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