Lost in the Woods: An Adventure
By Falerin and Eldron (Ahem, that's Eldron and Falerin)
"I'm hungry," cried Stephen.
"You're always hungry," replied Daniel.
"When are we gonna get out?" asked Stephen. "We've been here for a hundred hours!"
"It has not been a hundred hours," replied his big brother. "It's only been four."
"It feels like a hundred," insisted Stephen, "and I'm hungry!"
"Eat your candy bar," suggested Daniel.
"I did," cried Stephen. "Fifty hours ago."
Daniel just sighed. While it had not been a hundred hours since thirteen year old Daniel and six year old Stephen wandered away from the family's camp site, it had been, by Daniel's estimate, at least four or five. And, although he did his best to reassure his younger brother, Daniel was getting quite concerned.
"We're lost," suggested Stephen in his matter of fact way of stating the obvious.
"We're not lost," said Daniel. The brothers walked on in silence for a few minutes.
"Do you think they miss us yet?" asked Stephen.
"I don't know," answered Daniel. "They hardly notice when we're there, so I doubt they'd notice if we were gone."
"Why do they fight all the time?" asked Stephen in a hushed voice.
"I don't know," answered Daniel.
"Is it because I'm bad?" asked Stephen with a choked voice.
Daniel stopped and knelt in front of his little brother to look him in the eye. "You listen to me," Daniel said. "It is not because of you, do you understand?"
Stephen nodded and wiped a tear from his cheek. The brothers walked on for a while in silence.
"We're lost," Stephen said again.
"We're not lost," insisted Daniel. "We're on an adventure."
"What kind of adventure?" asked Stephen.
"An exciting one," replied his brother.
"Is it dangerous?" asked the youngster.
Daniel thought about this for a minute. He had to choose what he said carefully. His little brother was already showing signs of fatigue and he wasn’t sure how he would react to the wrong answer. "Do you want it to be dangerous?" asked Daniel.
"Hmmm," thought Stephen, "maybe just a little."
"Ok," offered Daniel. "Then it is just a little dangerous."
"Leprechauns?" inquired Stephen.
"What?" asked Daniel incredulously.
"Will there be Leprechauns?" replied Stephen.
"NO!" Daniel admonished. "You're such a dweeb sometimes!"
"I am not!" retorted Stephen. "There could be Leprechauns!"
"No there can't," insisted Daniel. "This is Pennsylvania and all the Leprechauns are in Ireland."
"Oh," said Stephen. "Fairies?"
Daniel hung his head down. "I don’t think so," he answered after a minute.
"Elves?" said Stephen, pushing the issue.
"Yeah sure," replied Daniel in exasperation. "We're in the heart of Elf country!"
The brothers wandered in silence for awhile. It was now becoming quite late and the trees began to cast long ominous shadows. In his mind, Daniel began to realize that they may be spending the night outside and he started to formulate a plan. He needed to find shelter and something for his perpetually hungry little brother. He walked oblivious to things around him when he felt his brother suddenly pull him back by his arm.
"What?" said Daniel startled.
Stephen pointed, mouth open, ahead of them. There, in a small clearing, sat an old man in front of a fire. Perched on his right shoulder was what had to be the largest owl Daniel had ever seen. Not only was this bird large, it was pure white. Science was Daniel's favorite subject and he knew this was not the locale, or for that matter the season, for Snow Owls. And, as far as he knew, birds didn't have baby blue eyes, at least he didn't think so.
"Don't be afraid," said the old man, without even looking up from the fire. "I'm harmless." The owl screeched what could almost be described as a laugh. The old man looked at the bird and chuckled to himself. "Well mostly. Are you hungry?"
The brothers both nodded with open mouths.
"Well, come on then, pull up a piece of ground," instructed the old man.
The two boys approached carefully. When they drew closer, Stephen began to pull urgently on his brother's sleeve.
"What?" whispered Daniel.
"His ears," said Stephen a little loudly.
"Shhhhh," admonished Daniel, "be polite" He looked at the man. "I'm sorry mister," offered Daniel, "he's only six."
The old man chuckled, "That's ok, he is quite observant."
"Yeah," replied Daniel, "sometimes too observant for his own good."
"Are you an elf?" asked Stephen excitedly.
"Oh geeez," gasped Daniel.
"Ah, a non-believer," said the old man.
"Please don't encourage him mister," pleaded Daniel, "or he'll go off on a transit."
The old man chucked once again. "I think you mean tangent," he corrected.
"Yeah, tangent," agreed Daniel.
"I always speak the truth," replied the old man. Once again the owl screeched-laughed. The old man gave it a threatening look and the owl decided it would be safer perched on a near-by branch.
"Do you work for Santa Claus?" questioned Stephen excitedly.
Once again the owl gave its strange laugh at which the old man picked up a stone and threw it missing t he bird by a good yard. "No," grumbled the old man. "I have not had the pleasure of encountering the old gentleman."
"That is not for lack of trying," a new voice said, quite startling Daniel as it came from behind and his arrival was not accompanied by footsteps.
Daniel gave a perceptible start and it was Stephen's opportunity to parrot his idolized older brother. "You're such a dweeb sometimes."
Another figure stepped from the forest. He looked like he could be a twin of the old man, except that his hair was a darker shade of gray and he was attired in a strange purple three piece suit... And his eyes, there was something strange about his eyes.
"Are you twins?"
"No, we are not blood relatives, at all," the newcomer replied. "Though, in a sense, we are twins of a different sort."
"Hmm..." Stephen said.
"I am surprised you took time to come back for this. You have been very busy with your Lore lately," the old man spoke.
"Well, that is what I do there, collect lore. This, however, is monumental enough. The first such accidental arrival since the closing of the borders all that time ago. It feels like yesterday, and yet somehow forever."
"What is he talking about?" Daniel asked, curious in spite of himself.
"Mind your own business," Stephen admonished him pointedly, still emulating his brother.
"Boring dry politics, I am afraid," the first gentleman replied. "Now what would you like to eat..."
"Pizza!" Stephen exclaimed.
"You dork, you can't make pizza on a campfire," Daniel said.
"Still skeptical," the second noted. "My colleague and I are both phenomenal cooks. I assure you, if pie from the south of Italy is your desire, we can do something about it. All that it takes is a little Elven magic."
There was something about his saying this that made Daniel laugh aloud. Stephen looked at him curiously. "What is so funny?" he asked.
"Elfin' magic..." Daniel said, pausing between bursts of laughter, "just like the cookies!"
"Yes, though don't tell that to my friend here," the second man said. "He does not think Keebler hires very good elves."
"That is because they don't," the first responded. "How about we tell you a story to pass the time until the pizza is done."
"Oh this is going to be good," sneered the second gentleman.
"You don't like my stories?" queried the first.
"Let's just say all your stories have a certain 'slant' to them," answered the second.
"Fine," replied the first. "Why don't you go find us some mushrooms then?"
"As you wish," said the second, raising his hand.
"Perhaps," interrupted the first, nodding slightly in the children's direction, "a leisurely STROLL may do you good."
"Hmmmm," replied the second, "perhaps you are right. Though, to be sure, they will find out eventually...."
"I usually am," said the first with a chuckle that was once again punctuated by the owl's strange laugh. The first gentleman glared in the owl’s direction while the second stifled a laugh of his own.
"When your own familiar knows you that well, you know you are in trouble old friend."
"Perhaps," replied the first, "but right about now I'm considering OWL PIZZA!" The owl let out a loud screech and flew off to a safe distance.
The second turned and, offering a bow to the children, walked into the woods. A few moments later there was a slight flash of light.
"Was that lightning?" Daniel asked and Stephen appeared concerned.
"No. Just showing off," the man responded. "Now then, a story."
"Let us see," started the old man, "where should I begin?"
"Once upon a time!" said Stephen excitedly.
"Oh good grief," retorted Daniel.
The old man smiled. "Very well then. Once upon a time, a very long time ago--"
"How long?" asked Stephen.
"Don't interrupt!" admonished Daniel.
"Oh, a very long time ago indeed," answered the old man. "The race of man was in its infancy. The world was a beautiful place and the creatures that resided there were at peace. The elves built their great ringed cities, the dwarves built huge cities underground, and the humans settled into small quiet villages. The gods of that world managed to prosper and harmony spread throughout the land."
"Gods?" asked Stephen. "More than one?"
"It's a story," cried Daniel. "Be quiet and listen!" For Daniel it seemed was beginning, despite his protestations, to really get into the old man's tale.
"These were different times," said the old man. "There were many gods, each with their own job to do."
"What were their names?" asked Stephen.
"Stephen!" yelled Daniel.
The old man held up a hand to Daniel as if to say it was ok. "Let me see, there was Loco Strongarm, he was the god of war by now."
"Loco," snickered Daniel, "you mean he was crazy?"
The old man laughed out loud. "There were those who thought so, but none would dare say it to his face! Then there was Serian, the god of law, Aslyn was the god of magic..."
"Wasn't he a..." interrupted Daniel.
"NO, he was not!" answered the old man. "May I continue?"
"Sorry," said Daniel, chastened.
"Now then, where was I?" resumed the old man. "Mariel, also known as the Hermit, was the coming god of Chaos. Chronos was the god of time, though he came from elsewhere, and then there was Falerin, who was at this point was the god of forbidden magic but soon, would become the god of evil."
"Evil!" cried Stephen. "You mean he was a bad man?"
"Evil," said the second elderly gentleman, returning with an armful of strange multi-colored mushrooms, he had appeared as if from nowhere but by this point both Daniel and Stephen were too enthralled by the story to be startled by the strange method of his arrival, "is relative. Besides, it is a position. He was placed in charge of evil things. He himself was not so much evil. Which, is not to say he was very good either."
"Ahem." The first gentleman continued, "At this point, Therlion was the God of Creation and Invention, though indirect actions of his own three avatars would lead to him losing the position and placing him instead in charge of diversity. He would be replaced by Prometheus as god of Creation. The Lady Chrysalia was the Goddess of Life and of Healing and the Lord Oxalis in charge of death. There also were several other minor gods, very much in fact, but they do not play any part in this story. "
"Thran was there in the final battle along with MacKinnon and the others who ascended. And it was the entire pantheon voted to establish the order. You also are muddling the issue. You and I..." the second man stopped, noting a somewhat peculiar look crossing the first gentleman's face. "I am doing it again."
"You are," the first said.
"I am sorry," the second said, falling silent.
"Is that it?" questioned Daniel.
"Pretty much," replied the old man.
"But," questioned Daniel, "if there was a god of evil, there must have been a god of good right? And if this Falerin became the God of Evil after being someone else, then it follows the god of good once held another position too."
"What a very astute young man," the second noted, drawing a glare from the first, but then a nod of affirmation.
"Yes," said the old man, "there was. Eldron was the god of good, and he once held the position of Creator of the Elves, a position he inherited when his Father left the world to return to his other concerns."
"Modesty?" questioned the second gentleman.
"I prefer the term humble," replied the first.
Once again the strange owl's laugh could be heard from the forest. The old man jumped to his feet and pointed towards the trees. A ball of fire appeared at his finger tips and shot off into the woods exploding into a ball of bright light. The young children sat there with their mouths agape.
"It would appear," snickered the second gentleman, "that good is relative as well."
"You ARE an elf!" shouted Daniel.
"Busted," chuckled the second gentleman.
"Sometimes," began the first, somewhat red faced, "you can be a real pain, Ardendor."
"That," replied the second with a smile, "is my raison d'ętre. Though, with you it has always been friendly. You know very well that as much as we chide each other, I value you as among my closest friends."
"But you just..." stammered Daniel.
"Are those Senarian?" questioned the first, changing the subject and indicating the strange mushrooms.
"Of course," replied the second, handing them over.
"Excellent," said the first as he tossed them into the fire.
A delicious smell began to fill the air. The white owl returned and tentatively perched on a nearby branch. The group sat quietly, as the children were still quite dumbfounded. The old man fiddled with the fire.
"I do believe we have a pizza," said the old man. He pulled a stick from the fire that mysteriously turned into a long wooden paddle. Atop the paddle was a bubbling pie with a delicate golden crust. It was decorated with the strange colored mushrooms. The old man placed the pizza on a rock and began to pass out pieces.
Daniel eyed his slice suspiciously. "I don't like mushrooms," he complained.
"These are not like your usual mushrooms," replied the old man.
"They're purple!" exclaimed Daniel.
"Indeed they are," said the old man.
"I don't know," said the boy with much trepidation.
"What do you like?" questioned the old man.
"Pepperoni," replied Daniel.
"Then, close your eyes and take a bite," instructed the old man, "and think pepperoni."
Daniel did as he was told. A wide smile broke out on his face. "It tastes like pepperoni!"
"These are Senarian," offered the second. "They taste like whatever you want them to taste like."
"Pickles!" shouted Stephen. The others froze as they stared at the young boy. "I like pizza," he offered.
"Oh gross," said Daniel.
"To each his own," stated the second and returned to his slice. "I have certainly eaten worse things. The young yellow moglin once gave me a sardine sundae."
"I think," said the first with a grin, "mine tastes like a tender roasted owl."
At this comment, the owl swooped down from the branch and began to peck wildly at the old man. He laughed jovially. "I surrender, I surrender!" he shouted.
The owl stopped its attack but eyed the old man threateningly. "If you can't take," offered the old man, "You shouldn't give!"
They finished their meal without any further incidents. As the second banked the fire, the first old man prepared to resume his tale.
"Were there dragons?" questioned the young boy.
"Dragons," repeated the old man, "yes, there were dragons, but not like in your story books. Dragons were weak, insignificant creatures."
The owl screeched and opened its wings threateningly. "Kidding, just kidding," laughed the old man quickly.
"I should say so." The second chuckled again. "Had it not been for dragons, that affair with Dragon Shadow should never have occurred."
"Indeed," said the first "but let's not distract them with other stories for now."
"As you wish," the second responded, "you are the storyteller."
"Now, where was I..." began the old man. "Ah yes, it was a peaceful time on Caelestia. But, as time would have it, there were those who had other plans. Powerful individuals from outside our realm, spurred on by dark forces from within it, sought to usurp the positions of the gods."
"One god in particular," interjected the second, "and let us be fair. Garavandar had previous claim. Before Loco ascended, the position was his. From his perspective, it was revenge..."
The old man looked at his companion. "May I continue?"
"Fine," replied the second, "but there was still one primary target!"
"Let it go," suggested the first.
When his companion offered no other comments, the old man continued his tale. "There was great upheaval amongst the gods. Sides were drawn and great battles ensued.
As the old man talked, the woods around them seamed to shimmer and fade. The children listened rapturously.
At some point in the tale Daniel realized that something was different. He jumped to his feet. "Holy cow!" shouted Daniel.
"What?" shouted his little brother, jumping up as well.
"Look," said Daniel, pointing.
The little group was no longer sitting around a large campfire in the woods. They were, in fact, standing on a mountain top in broad daylight overlooking a valley. Below them in the valley two massive armies clashed. Only now did they realize the sounds of battle were all around them.
"Daniel, I'm scared," said the little boy as he clung tightly to his big brother.
"Oh good heavens child..." said the second. His tone indicated a sneer of exasperation, or something more sinister but this changed somewhat as he looked at the child directly. His tone becoming more gentle and peculiarly almost fatherly, he placed a hand on the child’s back reassuringly. "You are perfectly safe."
"He's correct," said the first, shooting his companion a quick look. "These are only images of what was. All these things happened ages ago. They cannot harm you."
Stephen, unconvinced clung tighter to his brother. "They're kinda like a movie, right", offered Daniel.
"Movie?" queried the old man.
"Motion pictures," responded the second.
"Ah, the cinema, yes, yes, indeed. It is as you say, like a movie."
Stephen relaxed his grip a bit but stayed very close to his brother. The group watched for a while as the battle raged far below.
"Who won?" questioned Daniel.
"The good guys," answered the old man.
"So, your side won," stated Daniel.
"Why do you say that?" asked the old man.
"Because," said Daniel, "if the other side won, you wouldn't call them the good guys."
The old man smiled. "Good point. The good guys won and this is how Falerin and Eldron and the others assumed their new position. An age and order known as the Farpoint was established. Those from outside this world who wished it harm were cast out. Those who were from this world that took part were locked away in a prison of ages. The world itself had its borders tightened so only the most powerful could enter and then only by the will of the gods. And so this world remained for mill.."
"This is boring," interjected Stephen.
"And what would you prefer?" asked the old man.
"I want to see some dragons," replied Stephen.
"I don't think that's a good idea," said Daniel.
"Why not?" asked Stephen, pointing to the second gentleman. "He said this was all a movie."
"Yes, indeed," offered the second with a chuckle. "Why don't you take them to see Grandma," he nodded towards the owl. "It was her actions with the Wicked Dhe Ehmn that lead to the borders reopening after all, if only indirectly. It is the conclusion to this story"
The owl screeched.
"What is a Dhe Ehmn?" Stephen asked.
"Er... At risk of doing it again." The second answered, "A Dhe Ehmn is a being from a higher plane of reality. They can be just like you or like a god, or like an even more powerful being. It depends on what they have learned. Because they come from a higher plane, they have higher potential..."
"Like parallel worlds, alternate realities?" Daniel asked inquisitively.
"You truly are a very bright young man," the second answered. "Yes, very much like that. Reality is like an onion with many layers. The closer you get to the core, the stronger the flavor as it were. You can move between any of those layers but those in the core cannot move out and those outside the core cannot move in."
"I think I understand," Daniel answered, "but an onion is not a very tasty analogy."
"Ha. I will grant you that young man. So, what say you? Shall we show them the end of the Farpoint even as we showed them its beginning?"
"The end?" asked Stephen, again suddenly attentive and almost worried. "Did the gods who took control die? Falerin and Eldron and Muriel and Eustace."
"I think you mean Mariel and Serian."
"Yeah them!" Stephen demanded pointedly.
"No, they lived. They simply decided that it is perhaps for the best that these borders opened again. That Caelestia returned to being open," the first answered.
"It was not the Gods that ended, just the age," supplied the second. "The war among the good and bad Dhe Ehmn changed things. It is not over, but ongoing. It may never end. The gods decided to reopen the world once again and allow the outside in. For the hope of all worlds is that they unite and the Good Dhe Ehmn join. Then we would not have the risk of something very sinister happening." The second stopped himself, changing course. "Never mind that. Suffice to say, Caelestia opened the walls and a dragon was involved in that decision"
"Caelestia?" Stephen asked.
"Oh dear," the second said.
"The world of the story," the first answered.
"You know," Daniel responded, "I do not recall hearing of any elves in the woods of Lancaster County..." He looked at the two men curiously, but did not say anything further.
"Let's continue a story," the second said anxiously, "the young child wishes to see a Dragon. If not the dark queen, perhaps the magnificent Keeshish. Owl, if that makes you nervous you can fly off of course..."
The owl cocked its head and looked at the old man. The man sighed. "In for a penny, in for a pound." "But, perhaps it would be best for you to be elsewhere." The owl blinked as if to say it understood and flew off.
"Can you be brave, my young friend?" he asked Stephen.
"Brave?" cried Stephen, once again clutching his brother.
"If you wish to meet a dragon, you must be brave," replied the old man. "Can you do it?"
The young boy nodded, but his face was ashen with fear. A loud tramping sound echoed all around him.
"Do not be afraid," said the old man, "he will not harm you."
A large white dragon with pale blue eyes entered the clearing. His magnificent wings outstretched to either side. He was massive. Both children stared dumbfounded.
"This," said the old man, by way on introduction, "is Keeshish."
"Keeshish?" inquired Daniel.
"Yes," replied the old man. "In the old tongue, it means little dragon."
"That's a little dragon?" stammered Stephen.
"This is another movie right?" question Daniel, a little unsure of things.
"Well, not exactly," said the old man.
Stephen jumped on his brother and attempted to climb up his back to get as far away as possible.
"Do not be afraid," said the old man. "He is a friend."
With some coaxing, Stephen eventually calmed down. But he kept his brother between himself and the massive creature.
"Can I pet it?" asked Daniel. His little brother's eyes exploded outwards at the shear insanity of what Daniel was proposing.
"I do not know," said the old man. "You will have to ask him."
Daniel looked at the dragon and swallowed hard. "May I... Touch you?"
The dragon lowered his head towards the boy who instinctively stepped back. Stephen howled. Daniel tentatively reached out and touched the dragon's snout. He quickly drew his hand back. The dragon cocked his head and looked deep into the little boy's eyes.
As if mesmerized, Stephen stepped forward. He first lightly touched the dragon's snout. Then becoming more brazen, he moved close to the dragon and wrapped his arms around the dragon's neck. The dragon slowly lifted his head, and with it, the small boy whom he gently deposited on his back. Stephen shivered slightly, but that was all. Daniel stood agape. With a sudden motion the dragon spread its wings and leaped into the air with the young child clinging to its neck. The boy screamed, though the group wasn't sure if it was a scream of fear or delight.
The three stood in silence, watching. Fifteen minutes later, Keeshish returned with young Stephen. The dragon gently returned the child to the ground. Stephen ran excitedly towards his brother. "I rode on a dragon!"
"We saw," replied Daniel.
The dragon bowed his head and looked at Daniel staring directly into his face. Daniel stepped back quickly. "I think I'll pass," he said. The dragon snorted and a large puff of smoke came from his nostrils. The dragon stretched his neck out over Daniel. Grabbing the boy by the collar, he lifted him from the ground and deposited him on his back.
"It would appear," said the old man, "that he won't take no for an answer."
Once again the dragon leapt into the air. Instinctively, Daniel clutched the dragon's neck, burying his face in the dragon's back.
"That was cool," cried Stephen.
"Indeed," said the old man.
Sometime later, the dragon returned. At this point, Daniel rode like a rodeo star. He held on only with his knees. He waved his arms in the air and shouted with joy. The dragon alighted on the ground and Daniel slipped from his back.
"That was awesome!" he gasped to his brother.
"I know!" replied Stephen.
The old man nodded at the dragon and smiled.
"Dawn approaches," said the second gentleman.
"So it does," replied the first.
The old man made a gesture with his hands and they were once again in the clearing within the woods. The ashes of their fire had long gone cold. In the distance a woman's voice was heard calling for Stephen. This was followed by a male voice calling for Daniel.
"Our parents," said Daniel.
"So it would seem," replied the old man.
Daniel looked at the old man studying him. "You're him," he said.
"Him?" asked the old man.
"Eldron," said Daniel. "You're Eldron, the god of good." Turning to the second he continued, "And you're Falerin."
"Do we look like gods?" chuckled the old man.
"I don't know," retorted Daniel. "What does a god look like?"
"He's got you there," laughed the second.
"Hmm," replied the old man.
"And... This is not Pennsylvania. We are somehow on Caelestia. Are my parents stuck here too?"
"No," the second responded. "They remain at the campsite where you left them."
Once again the voice calling for the boys could be heard, closer this time.
"Head that way," said the old man, "and you will meet your parents."
"Thank you," said Daniel.
The old man nodded. Stephen ran to the second and threw his arms around him. The second stiffened at first, then relaxed, melting as a candle on a sunny window sill.
Daniel turned to the dragon. "Thank you," he said softly. The dragon leaned towards him lightly touching his forehead against the boy's.
"It is time," said the old man.
"I think it best," instructed the old man, "that you omit the details of our time together."
Daniel nodded in understanding. "Will we ever see you again?"
"Perhaps," answered the old man. "One can never know what their future holds."
"In my own experience," offered the second, "things happen as they should. Meeting you once may very well mean we meet again."
Daniel nodded at this and the boys turned to leave. As they approached the edge of the clearing Stephen turned back. "Thank you!"
The two nodded in reply.
As Stephen turned to catch up with his brother, he yelled back, "Say hi to Santa for me."
The old man stiffened. He turned to the dragon and said, "Not a word!" The dragon shrugged and blew a puff of smoke as if to say, "Who me?"
The second chuckled. "I have come to accept your maternal side," said Falerin, for Daniel was indeed correct. "But wouldn't it have just been easier to send them home?"
"Perhaps," replied Eldron, "but then we would have lost the opportunity to teach a lesson. Besides, you are hardly one to talk about what is easier or about being parental. You have your hands involved with multiple worlds, trying to save them. You are constantly pretending indifference, or that your activities are solely out of personal interest, and yet you maintain a home for wayward travelers, and it was their activities that helped lead to the borders of Caelestia reopening. Even with those children, I saw you with the younger one when he was frightened. Moreover, you were almost fawning over the older one's cleverness."
"True enough," Falerin nodded, not bothering to deny the truth that the God of good offered. "Do you think that they are the ones?"
"I do not know," answered Eldron. "They did cross the barrier."
"That they did," returned Falerin ."Of course, accidental crossings were common long ago."
"Yes, but they have been rare and even non-existent for over a 1000 years," said Eldron. "Come, there is much to do."
"You go ahead," replied Falerin. "I will meet you later, there is something I must attend to."
"You cannot save every instance," suggested Eldron.
"I know," replied Falerin with a smile, "but that doesn't mean I cannot try."
"And I," offered Eldon with a chuckle, "am the own with an over active maternal instinct."
The boys walked through the brush and soon came upon their parents. Stephen ran to his father who whisked him off the ground. Daniel ran to his mother and threw his arms around her.
"Where have you been?" asked their mother.
"On an adventure," said Stephen excitedly. "We met some elves and I got to ride a dragon!"
"A dragon," said his father, looking at his wife who simply raised her eyebrows and shrugged.
Daniel's mother took him by the shoulders, "Why did you run off like that before the sun was even up?"
"You were always fighting," answered Daniel, becoming angry. "It was like we weren't there anyway. You were yelling again, so we snuck away for a walk. That's right, we were not just gone since before sunrise, we have been gone all night! I am surprised you noticed at all..."
The parents look at each other quietly.
"You're right," said his father, "and we were wrong to do that. Your mother and I have been having some hard times. We didn't want to worry you, but I guess we really mucked it up. I think we have it worked out though."
"No more fighting?" asked Daniel.
The parents looked at each other.
"We will try," answered his mother.
"And," said his father, "we promise not to ignore you anymore. We're a family, and as long as we remember that, we can get through anything."
"I bet you two are starved." offered their mother. "What will it be?"
"Pizza!" yelled Stephen.
"Pizza it is," said his father.
"With mushrooms," added Daniel.
"Mushrooms?" asked his mother in disbelief. She glanced at her husband who returned her previous gesture.
The four walked back to their campsite. Stephen was in his father's arms, Daniel took his mother's hand, and the parents took each other's hand as well.
As they walked, Daniel spotted something on the ground. He bent over and picked up a feather. It was pure white, but not like a duck or goose feather. The vanes and barbs look more like reptillian scales than a normal feather.
"So," said their father, "tell me about the dragon."
Daniel looked closely at the feather and chucked softly to himself.