The golden-skinned girl picked up some herbs and put them in her basket. The valley was full of herbs and flowers. It was warm for this time of the year, almost the end of September. The fall harvest will be coming up soon. She couldn?elieve it was already one hundred and fifty years since her family and others ended up in Blue Mountain valley. The elven magess picked a few more herbs and put them in the basket with the others. This should be enough herbs for mother to do her spells. Magic ran in her family on her mother's side. Her mother was a full mage. She was only an apprentice. So far she was able to do some healing and moved objects with her mind. Sometimes, she spoke with others without moving her lips. The young mage stood up and dusted herself off. She was about ready to head home when she heard some commotion in the woods. The magess cautiously walked over to the edge of the woods. She pushed the branches back to get a look at what was going on. She looked into the clearing. There were two elven men practicing swordplay. They appeared young and had the same color skin she did. One in particular attracted the girl?nterest. He had shaggy blonde hair that fell to his shoulders. He had a muscular build and tall. The man was a head taller than she was. He wasn't all that bad at swordplay either. The elven girl took another brave step forward and sat down on the grass to watch the show.
The young man stepped forward and took a playful swing at his companion. His partner swung back and missed by a mile. He jumped out the way and turned around. He saw a red flash go by. Interested, he turned to see what it was. Seated in front of him was the most beautiful woman he ever saw.
Just then, a sword came out of nowhere and hit him from behind. Then all went dark.
In the Hall of Coroban, a bronze-skinned man stood in front of a mirror on the wall. He could see what all the Nino people were doing, if he chose to. Right now, he was only interested in two particular people.
"What are you doing?" asked a female voice. The image
faded away. "I am staking out my next victims, if you must know. Nice to see you too, Lyndra."
"I see you are still up to your old tricks, Coroban."
Coroban laughed, "Aren't I always?" Lyndra sighed, "I suppose I will have to stop you."
The mage saw what happened to the young man and ran to his side. His companion was surprised to see her standing there. "Where did you come from?" She ignored him instead looked over her patient. He was still breathing which was a good sign. She can see his chest rise and fall. She put her ear to his chest and got a heartbeat. "He still alive. He just got the wind knocked out of him." She rose and got some water from the nearby stream. She removed the herbs and filled the basket. When she reached the unconscious man, she threw the water at him. He sputtered and coughed. "He's awake now. Are you all right?"
The man regained his senses and took a good look at his savior. She had long, red, hair that went past her
shoulders. She had a small, thin build. Her white gown fit her figure perfectly and her eyes, they were the deepest shade of blue you were saw. "Have I died and gone to heaven because you are the most beautiful angel I have ever seen." She laughed a most musical laugh. "No, you are very much alive. He stood up. "My name is Jorvic Summers, at your service." He took her hand and kissed it. She smiled. " Mara Redwood."
"What a beautiful name for such a beautiful woman."
Jorvic's companion cleared his throat. " Oh Mara, This is Roderick." She curtsied toward his companion. "Pleased to meet you." Roderick acknowledged her with a nod. Jorvic moved closer to her. "Do you live in Blue Mountain? May I walk you home?" The elven mage smiled. "I would like that." When they reached her cottage, Mara turned to say good-bye. "Thank you for the walk home. The elven man kissed her hand. "My pleasure, my lady. Have a good evening. He turned and walked away towards his own cottage, companion a step behind him.
The next day, there was a knock at the door. Constance Redwood got up to answer it. She opened the door. Standing in front of her, was a young elven man with a bouquet of red roses and a picnic basket. "Yes. May I help you?" The young man bowed. "I am here to see Mara. Is she here?" The older woman looked him over. "Yes, she is here. Won't you come in?" The man stepped inside. "You have a lovely home."
"Thank you. I will get my daughter."
"Daughter? I thought you were her sister." The woman smiled. "No, but thank you for the compliment." A moment later, Mara appeared. She looked more beautiful than she did yesterday." he thought. She looked surprised to see him. "What are you doing here?"
"I have come to take you on a picnic lunch. These are for you." Jorvic handed the bouquet to her. Mrs. Redwood walked up to her daughter. "Oh those are beautiful!" she exclaimed. The magess nodded. "Shall we go?" Jorivc offered his arm. Mara looked to her mother. Her mother nodded. "O.K." The girl took his arm and walked towards the door. Before they could open the door, her father walked through and almost collided into them. "Oh sorry Daddy."
Coroban saw his opportunity. He quickly dis-
appeared and reappeared in the cottage, unnoticed.
The god crept up to the older man. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?"
"Jorvic Winters, at your service, sir." He bowed towards his senior. The older man shook the younger man's hand when he heard a voice whisper Don't let the man out of your sight. Your daughter is in danger. Redwood shook the thought off. "Where are you going, honey?"
"We are going to the woods, Daddy. Jorvic made a picnic for us." Then Redwood heard the voice again. The woods are dangerous. She won't come back alive. "I don?now honey. The woods are dangerous."
"I promise to be back before dark, Daddy."
"Sir, I promise to have her home on time." replied the young man. Redwood gave him a stern look. "I don?et my daughter go off alone in the woods with strangers." Her father barred the door. Mrs. Redwood stepped forward.
"Dear, it's just a picnic. I am sure Mara can take care of herself." Aaron Redwood looked from his wife to his daughter. "Oh all right. You may go." You made a grave mistake Redwood. Then the King of Mischief disappeared as quickly as he came.
The two young people reached the clearing in the woods. Jorvic set the blanket down and started to put out the food. "I hope you are hungry otherwise my mother would be very disappointed."
"Your mother? " the young girl looked confused.
"Yes, she is the one that cooked this wonderful food. We wouldn't want to hurt her feelings by not eating it." The magess smiled, "I guess not." There was a moment of silence as she watched this strange man busy himself set up the picnic. "Why did you ask me to this picnic?"
"Ever since I met you yesterday, I wanted to get to know you better." he replied thoughtfully. The picnic was finally set out. "Ladies seated first." Mara sat down. After she was seated, he sat down himself. "Would you like a sandwich?" She accepted one from him and took a bite. "Tell me about yourself. What do you like to do?" Mara swallowed the last of her bite. "Well, I like picnics and long walks. I like people. That's why I became a mage. Jorvic listened with interest. "I hope to be as good as my mother is.
What about you?"
"I am a mercenary in training. It's good pay and there's room for advancement." The two talked all afternoon about interests, hobbies, and what was important to them. They went for a walk through the woods. Towards sunset, they reached the cottage. He looked into her eyes. "I had a
wonderful time. I like to see you again."
"Me too." She blushed. She only knew this handsome stranger a short time but she was already falling in love. Then he did something surprising. He leaned over and kissed her on the lips, lingering and gentle. The feeling of his
lips on hers felt good and natural. Then it was over as soon as it began. "May I see you tomorrow?" She nodded still stunned from the kiss. "Good. See you tomorrow Mara Redwood." He kissed her again, longer and more passionate
this time. He left her swooning.
Meanwhile, when the magess and the mercenary were on their picnic,trouble was brewing in the marketplace. Coroban, the King of Mischief, surveyed the scene. A mischievous smile spread across his lips. Time to have some fun. He disguised himself as an old man then made his way out into the crowd. He walked up to a group of people by a cart. "Did you hear what I heard? Young Jorvic is no good. He is a womanizer and a thief. He romances young,
unsuspecting girls then breaks their hearts." "You don't say" said a bystander. "I do say." the old man nodded. "I saw him just not half hour ago working his charm. Then he stole her heart and her money. I tell you he can't be trusted. He is like a spider luring young girls into his web." "You saw it with your own eyes?" asked the woman bystander. "As sure as I know the sun rises and sets." Pretty soon the whole marketplace was talking about Jorvic, the Womanizer.
Emily Whisperwind stood listening to the old man tell his story. So sad about young Jorvic. I thought he was such a polite boy. The Redwoods should know about this. They have a daughter and it is my duty as a neighbor to tell them. She rushed off to tell her dear friends.
"I tell you Constance, I heard it from a reliable source. Young Jorvic plays with young girls' hearts then leaves them stranded. I even heard he impregnates young girls then runs off." Coroban couldn?elieve his luck.
This is better than he ever expected. "I am sure you are mistaken Emily. Mara isn't that type of girl." The old woman smirked. "You tell me this Constnace, where is your daughter now?" The old mage sighed. "She out, Emily, having fun like all young girls do."
"You mark my words Constance. Nothing good will come of it." Just the Aaron Redwood stormed through the door. "Where is she! Where's Mara?!"
"She's still out, dear." Mr. Redwood's eyes blazed. "Have you heard, Constance! It's all over the marketplace."
"Yes, dear. Emily have been telling me about it."
"You aren't going anything about it?!" her husband bellowed. Just then, Mara walked in the door. Her father turned on her. "Where have you been!" The young magess was quite surprised. "I told you where I was Daddy." "You were
out with that hustler!" her father bellowed. "He isn't a hustler, Daddy. He is a good man." Aaron Redwood marched up to his daughter. "I forbid you to see him!"
"You can't stop me!" she shot back then ran off to her room. "See? I hate to say I told you so." replied the old woman knowingly.
Mara ran to her room and slammed the door. Tears running down her cheeks, she prayed to Lyndra for help. She wasn?ure if the goddess had heard her. All she knew was, she wasn't staying here. The girl walked over to the window and sneaked out, leaving the window open. Then she ran as fast as she could to Jorvic's house.
There was a knock at the door. Jorvic Winters got up to answer it. There stood Mara, out of breath from running. "Mara, what are you doing here?" He led her inside. "I sneaked out. Father and I had a big argument over you. We both lost our tempers. He said such horrible things about you. He said you were a hustler and a womanizer. You got girls pregnant and then deserted
"Do you believe that?" Mara looked into his eyes. They looked so honest and genuine. "No, I can tell in your eyes it isn't true." The young mercenary leaned over and kissed her. "I never do anything to hurt you." He gave her several passionate kisses. "There you are!" bellowed a voice. Startled, they turned around. "Daddy." Aaron Redwood pulled his daughter to her feet. "I knew you were up to no good. Let't go!" Redwood turned his eyes on Jorvic.
"You! Stay AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!" He grabbed his daughter's hair and dragged her home.
Once, home Redwood dragged his daughter to her room. "I will make sure you will not sneak out again." He walked over to the window, shut and locked it. Then walked over to the door and locked it on the way out. The elven magess burst into tears. Again, she prayed to Lyndra. Oh goddess of kindness. I need your help. Please help me.
In Lyndra's castle, the goddess heard the plea of the young girl. Prayer answered. Your talents shall be strengthened to aid you in your dilemma. Mara opened her eyes. She thought she heard the voice of her goddess. "Thank you." she whispered. Satisfied, her prayer was answered, the young magess finally fell asleep.
For two months Mara sneaked out to meet Jorvic. Every night she was back in her bed before her father locked the door at night. One night was a special
night. This was Mara's birthday and she had a special night planned with her true love. The young magess arrived on time for their date. Jorvic opened the door. His first glimpse of her was breathtaking. She wore the same white
gown she had on when they met. Her hair was down, loose and wild. The only thing that held the hair in place was a single red rose. "You look beautiful." he breathed. He led the birthday girl inside.
In the center of the room sat a dining room table set for two. In the center of the table sat two lit candles with two piping, hot soups ready to be eaten. Mara looked around the house. "Where are your parents?" The handsome, young, man grinned. "They are out. We have the whole place to ourselves." She smiled. The gentleman led his lady to the table. "Before we have this delicious meal, I have a present to give you, two actually." Jorvic handed
her a small box wrapped in silver paper. "What?his?" she asked."Open it and find it." Mara carefully opened the silver package and lifted the box. Then she gasped. Inside was a silver ring with two rubies in the shape of a heart. The two hearts were intertwined. "This is beautiful. It must have cost you a fortune." He shrugged. He put it on her finger. "See, a perfect fit." The young girl smiled. "You said two presents." Jorvic grinned again. "One now and one after dinner."
They picked up their spoons and ate the delicious meal. They ate every bite until it was all gone. "Now my dear, for present number two." Jorvic took her hand and led her upstairs to his room. He sat her down on the bed and they started kissing. "Is this the present?" Mara wondered. The mercenary looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. "Yes. Do you object?" The mage thought for a moment. "No." She had the same twinkle. "Good." He reached out and slipped the gown over her head.
A couple hours later they were lying on the bed. "You are so wonderful."
The young mercenary kissed her on the lips. She returned his kiss. "I have many skills. I must go. Daddy will be worried." The gentleman kissed his lady again. "I will walk you to the door."
Three more blissful months passed. The two lovers spent every waking moment with each other. On one such day, Jorvic found Mara very agitated. "What's wrong?"
"I have something to tell you. The golden elf paced back and forth. "Well, sit down and tell me sweetling." He took her hand and sat her down. "Jorvic...."
she sighed. "Yes? What is it?" She took a deep breath.
"Jorvic, I am pregnant." The mercenary felt like he was going to faint. "Are you sure?" She nodded and burst out in tears. He put his arms around her to comfort her. "There, there. Everything will be all right." The scared girl
looked up into his eyes. "How do you know?" He gave her one of his winning smiles. "I know because I am going to marry you." The elven girl gasped. "You what?!" The young man got down on one knee. "Mara Redwood, would you marry me?" The magess stared at him in disbelief. Finally, she got her voice back. "Yes. Yes, I will marry you." Jorvic felt a flood of joy wipe over him. " I think we shall tell our parents right away." Mara expression fell from her face. "There's no need. I already told my parents. My father disowned me."
"He what?!" exclaimed the elven man. "Well, I guess you will have to come live with me." The elven magess started to protest. "I can't. What will your parents think?"
"They love the idea. No more arguing. It?ettled."
The young couple arrived at the Summers cottage."Mother, I am home!" shouted the young man. Mrs. Summers came running to greet her son. "Mother, this is Mara, the woman I am going to marry." Mrs. Summers smile widened. "Well it?bout time." She hugged and congratulated the bride-to-be. "Mother, we are going to have a baby." Mrs. Summers looked at her son and then at the girl. "Well, you didn?aste any time, did you
son?" Her son smiled. "I knew you would understand Mother. Mara?arents disowned her. I said it was OK to stay here."
"Well, of course it is."
The next day, the two love birds were man and wife. The ceremony was lovely with the arch decorated in white and red roses. The ceremony took place in the Summers?ckyard. Mrs. Summers was there, of course. The Redwoods
unfortunately didn't show up. Despite everything, it was a nice ceremony.
Then one day, Mara helped Mrs. Summers cook dinner when she felt a sharp pain in her stomach. She doubled over in pain. "What's the matter dear?" asked the older woman. "I think I am having the baby. Please run and get Jorvic." The older woman sent someone to fetch her son. "Lie down dear. I will run to get clean blankets." As the blankets were being fetched, the soon mother-to-be huffed and puffed through the contractions. "I got the blankets dear." yelled the older woman. "Look like you are about ready to give birth. I have some experience. I was a midwife and a delivered a few babies." Just then the father-to-be ran in. He grabbed his wife's hand. She was in labor for ten hours. "OK honey, it's time to push. Push!" Mara pushed then fell back panting. "Good girl." replied Mrs. Summers. "Now push again. The baby is almost out." The pregnant mage pushed again. This time, the baby was out
and screaming at the top of her lungs. "It's girl!" shouted the midwife. The baby was wrapped up in a blanket. "She beautiful." whispered the proud father. She had red hair and blue eyes like her mother and her father's nose and ears.
"What will you call her" The new mother thought very hard. "We will call her, Altheia."
Avalon Publication July 2000