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The Heart-Shaped Cave

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Gren Blockman
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm

Joined: 15 Oct 2007
Posts: 288
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Can Be Found: The forest, the woods, the trees
17071.58 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2018 7:32 pm    Post subject: The Heart-Shaped Cave Reply with quote

April 11, 2018

"Alright, alright! I know it’s Spring and you're hungry! Just . . . here, take it!" Gren had walked through the portal and up the gravel path towards the familiar door of the Inn. A dozen or so House Finches had crowded around him, chirping and looking for food. They knew Gren carried seed in his pocket for just such occasions. Reaching in his pocket, he began flinging handfuls of thistle seeds in the air, and scattering some on a nearby bench. "Sheesh. I guess it is Spring whether it feels like it or not." Now that the birds were distracted, he was able to finish his walk to the door. He opened it while pushing the grey hood of his Ranger's cloak out of his face. "Izira, I'm back!" He glanced around the main room to see if she was serving customers.

No customers today, or at least for the moment. Spring also found its way into Izira's mind... cleaning! Sure the inn was usually practically spotless, but there's always something somewhere to get through. The lady of the inn was not immediately visible as she stood behind the bar and upon the bar rested stacks upon stacks of books. It gave the appearance that she had moved her entire personal library out of her office and had managed to locate even more books in the process. A few tables held a smaller portion of the tomes, and a closer inspection might suggest that she was sorting them, although the categories were not apparent. "Gren!" She tipped her toes up on her heels and peeked over the stacks. "You have perfect timing."

Seeing Izira there caused him to brighten, and her telling him he had perfect timing made him brighten even more. Then he paused as he thought that could mean something other than his arrival. "Uhhh . . . is that because you're happy to see me, or because you need my help with these books?"

She came around from behind the bar to give him a proper greeting, a soft welcoming kiss. The warmth in her eyes matching her smile. She tilted her head, the grin spreading. "It cannot be both?"

Her soft kiss made any hesitation about carrying all those books vanish. He looked almost bashful. "Yeah, it could be. Your book collection is certainly growing bigger every day, it seems."

She nodded, staying near his side as she looked over the stacks. "It is about it get smaller, at least for a moment. I plan to donate a portion of it."

"Oh, really? Who exactly are you giving them all too?" He picked up one of the books lying on a stack on a nearby table and absently rifled through it.

She lifted a little brow as Gren happened to pick up a book from the nearby table. It was titled, The Lonely Ghouls Lover, Izira smiled and looked down at the books on the table. There were many similar titles and books were ear marked or had cracked spines to indicate where the good bits were tucked away. A finger delicately placed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "I have not fully decided on where to best house all of them. Perhaps you will have some suggestions? It seems I was... neglectful in tending to items that had piled up on the lost and found." So many lonesome travelers. She moved toward another table. "I did set something aside for you."

Gren mouthed the words "Ghouls" and "Lover", before oddly looking the book over. He didn't notice any naughty pictures, so he just shrugged and put it back on the pile. "I know the Public Library in RhyDin usually has a used book sale going on. People donate their used books and the Library sells them to raise money. Other than that, nothing else comes to mind." He followed Izira over to the table she stood by. "What kind of books did you set aside?"

"I happened to find this... I thought you might like it..." She picked up a green leather bound journal with leaves etched in the spine. A few of the front pages were torn out and the remaining pages blank. "A bit used, but still just as good." A soft chuckle, there was some joke to herself in the statement. "The Library might be a good place for the more... lustful books." A tip of her head toward the table Gren had been by, "But I thought you might be willing to look through these and tell me if the Rangers could make any use of them?" On the next table she brought together various items that included books of maps, plants, survival guides, and journals of fire pit meal ideas.

"Oh, yeah, this is great! I can keep a journal of my forest patrols!" He flipped through the pages to make sure none were used, then he tucked it into an inside pocket of his cloak. He opened one of the survival guides and looked at one of the articles. "This looks promising. It's telling about the helpful properties of the White Birch. Its sap is drinkable and doesn't need purification. You can also make a nice tea from the tender twigs or the bark if you need to. The bark is also some of the best fire tinder you can find. Yeah, these should be very helpful."

"Lovely!" Izira looked well pleased for a moment, then took in the clutter on her bar, "Hm. I do not think I will get through this before night fall." Looking back to Gren, "I got a bit caught up with it... How was your day?" It was almost apologetic, her tone, for not asking sooner.

Setting the guide back down, he smiled back. "It was very busy. Despite the cold weather, the animals know Spring is upon us, and are growing quite lively. Hopefully things will warm up in the next week or so. It's time for nest building and . . . well, you know." He tried not to look embarrassed, but he still has a smile on his face.

She nodded, leaning in to kiss his cheek. "Just the animals?" A small tease but the love behind it would take away any possible burn. She tipped her head to the former table with its troves of lustful books. "Those will likely go quickly from the library this time of year."

"Well, it has been a long Winter . . . " He is still a bit sheepish but the smile never left. " . . . and it is the season for Love . . . . " Before Gren can break out in song or do anything else romantic, voices could be heard approaching the Inn.

" . . . so Ferguson goes up to this woman and he's like 'Ma'am there's no smoking in this forest'. And she says 'But I'm not smoking'. And he waggles his eyebrows and says 'Oh hell yeah you are!' HAW HAW HAW!" The door burst open and there stood the portly, bald Ranger, Haddon. His drow companion, Moriana, followed behind, with her usual surly look at having to endure Haddon's stories. "Gren my buddy! I'm dying of hunger over here! I figured Izira could make me and Mori here some . . . . Holy crap, what's all this? Did this place turn into a library or something?" He pointed at all the stacks of books obscuring the bar.

The other rangers would not have caught it, the subtle difference in Izira's cheeks. The bar being a mess with Gren there was acceptable, since Gren had become as much a part of her life as the inn itself. But others, even those well known, she should have done the sorting elsewhere and she mentally scolded herself even as she extended the pair a welcoming smile. "Haddon, Moriana. I suppose your timing is perfect." She would look at the bright side, "I have a number of books to donate to the rangers and, now with your help, Gren will have less to carry on his own. I will, of course, be extending a proper level of thanks." That being food and coffee grinds to go as well.

"Missy! You're gonna make me work for my meal? What's this world coming too?" Haddon replied. Moriana punched him in the shoulder and glared.

Gren glared too. "Why don't you be nice for once and help Izira out after all the meals she's given you?"

"Oh, alright, if I have too", Haddon looked crestfallen. "But I want something special if I'm gonna be doing all this heavy lifting!"

Izira showed only amusement at Haddon's response. Being an inn keeper she'd gotten used to many sorts. "Are you suggesting the meals I have previously prepared for you were not?" She gave a curious look to Haddon, a bit of a smirk hidden.

"No, but I figured if they were free, then you were keepin' the really good stuff for yourself!" More punching and glaring for Moriana, and she pointed her finger imperiously to a barstool. "What? It's just a joke! She knows it's a joke! Although with all these books in the way, I don't know how she's gonna fit a plate big enough for my appetite here! HAW!" Haddon sat at the bar, found a napkin and tucked it into his collar like a bib, while Moriana sat down next to him, still giving him a sideways look.

"I do not believe they make tables that large." She playfully gibed back, moving with the pair and helping clear the space a bit further of the book collection. An additional space was cleared for Gren before Izira set a fitting drink down for each of her ‘regulars’.

Gren sighed and followed them all to the bar, helping Izira to clear a space. Then he sat down next to Haddon, taking a long drink of his usual Broot. "So what are you two doing out this way?" Gren asked them.

Haddon replied, "We've been protecting the entrance to your little love nest as usual, Gren my boy! It's hard work! Don't you know I caught a goblin sniffing around there once and chased him off? Just think what would have happened if me and Mori hadn't been there!"

Gren narrowed his eyes. "That was three years ago! I think you're just trying to score yourself a free meal!"

"Gren, I'm hurt! Do you really think I'd take advantage of Missy here just to fill my belly?" Haddon rebutted. Moriana nodded emphatically in the affirmative.

A soft chuckle, Izira moved toward the kitchen but paused as a book caught her eye. She almost picked it up, then did another glance over the books. "A.. small... request while I put your dinner together? I have not gone through the books on the bar fully... some of them... it is best not to read anything out loud." She made a small gesture with her hand to indicate magic. "I would not be pleased to return with your meal to find that you have somehow managed to turn yourselves into statues or bodies of snakes..."

Gren immediately turned pale and gave the books on the bar a nervous glance.

Haddon piped up, "Don't worry Missy, I'm the eatin' type, not the magic type! Your secrets are safe with me!" Haddon gave Gren and elbow to the ribs as if trying to get him to play along. Not knowing what Haddon was up to, Gren just gulped and weakly nodded yes.

"You are in charge while I am gone." A wink to Gren, she smiled and moved off to the kitchen. Picking up at least the one book as she passed and taking it with her. A black apron was wrapped about her waist, covering the soft heather pencil skirt, her blouse a brush of pink cream with loose sleeves. The book was tucked away into a pocket of the apron before she slipped through the swinging door back into the kitchen.

"Okay . . . " Gren trailed off as Izira slipped into the kitchen. Then he gave Haddon a questioning look.

Haddon was grinning broadly at him. "Now's your chance, Romeo. One of these books could have a love spell in 'em. You could make Izira so crazy hot for you that you wouldn't leave this Inn for a week!"

Gren turned red. "What? I would never do something so sneaky and underhanded! Besides, our love life is doing just fine, thank you very much! I don't need to use such devious means on the woman I love!"

Haddon threw his hands up in the air. "You two still aren't married after what, four years? I'm just trying to give you some help here!"

"We're doing just fine, and we'll get married when we are good and ready. Why don't you worry about your own love life?"

Haddon blinked and said, "What, you mean me and Mori?" Moriana held up a fist in Haddon's face and glared threateningly. "It's a joke, Mori, don't get sore! You'll spoil my appetite! Speaking of which . . . ", Haddon gave a few furtive glances towards the kitchen door then scooped up one of the books, pushing through the pages.

Gren pointed. "Hey! Didn't she tell you to be careful? You don't know what's in there!"

"Aw, come on, Gren, she just said don't read it out loud! It doesn't hurt to look, right? Besides, this all just looks like chicken scratch to me." Moriana looked over Haddon's shoulder. Her eyes slowly narrowed, then she began roughly slapping his shoulder and pointing emphatically back to the stack, as if telling him to put it back. "What? What's got you all hyper?" Moriana put her hands together and quickly separated them, as if simulating an explosion. "Really? Oh alright, I don't want to ruin my dinner anyway. What harm could the words brouka memena phooya do anyway?" Suddenly, the barstool on the other side of Moriana explodes into flames. Moriana smacks Haddon on his head, then removes her cloak, using it to smother the fire. "Hey, I'm sorry! I didn't know you were telling the truth! I thought this was some kind of potion cookbook or something!"

Gren gaped and put his hands on his face. "Look what you did! You destroyed a perfectly good barstool! What's Izira gonna say when she sees that? You could have burned the whole Inn down!"

Moriana stood up once she doused the flames and put her hands on her hips, glaring at Haddon. Haddon shrugged. "Hey, I told you I wasn't the magic type!"

The doors to the kitchen opened with Izira holding a large tray laden with plates. A couple steps and she paused, the scent of the fire easy for her to pick up even if she had not seen it. One gets used to the smell after setting so many fires themselves. A cursory glance told her that everything seemed fine. She sighed and moved forward, using the edge of the bar to prop up the large tray. The food was not removed as she glanced over the three, the silent look worn by so many mothers that just knew something was up. "You all appear to have all your parts."

Gren can't help staring at the smoldering barstool until he gets another elbow from Haddon. "Aw, it's nothing Missy! I just had a little pipeweed while we were waiting! Ain't that right?" Haddon looked back and forth between Gren, who looked abashed, and Moriana, who looked like she was going to murder Haddon.

A quirk of her brow at Haddon, Izira started to unload her tray. First a basket of fresh rolls, covered to keep them warm, along with a dish of butter and honey. There were three plates, each with a good portion of smoked glazed ham, green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, and a small cup of brown gravy. "You know Haddon... a good magic user would know how to make it so if you spoke a lie to them you would never be able to taste a single thing that touched your tongue." A plate set out before Moriana as she spoke. The next plate was, out of order, placed before Gren. She held the final plate, waiting for Haddon.

Gren and Moriana stared at Haddon, waiting for his answer. Haddon grinned. "That's true, Missy, but such a kind and generous inn keep as yourself wouldn't be so rude as too cast a spell on one of her best customers, now would she?"

"You would be surprised, Haddon." Considering her history, making someone unable to taste food was very low on the scale of 'rude' behavior. She set the plate of food down before him, "You are lucky that fire did not land in your lap."

"I am. Then I couldn't enjoy this feast here." Haddon dug into his plate as soon as Izira set it down, getting stray mashed potatoes and gravy on his napkin bib. Gren and Moriana followed, not making near as much of a mess. Trying to change the subject, Gren asked, "Do you think there would be room for some of these books at the Compound?" Haddon replied, "I guess so, we don't exactly have a library, but we can give them to Perrigan and he'll know what to do with them." Haddon let out a large belch, then tapped his chest with his fist. "Just makin' room." Then he set about cleaning his plate again.

Izira is tempted by the thought as she didn't need a spell book to light a fire. But she did not. With a wistful smirk to herself, she set the tray aside and moved out from the bar. She followed her nose to the burnt stool.

Haddon almost swallowed the wrong way. "Ahem. Ah, man it's hot in here. Lemme take my cloak off." Haddon quickly whipped his grey cloak from around his shoulders and reaching around Moriana, threw it over the charred barstool.

"I could lessen the fire... if you are warm." At her words the fire in the large fire place on the other side of the room slightly dimmed. She continued, approaching the three on the other side - a hand brushed over Gren's shoulder. "Do you think I should make a plate for you to take back to Perrigan?"

"Hey, that would be great, if you could. I know he would enjoy that . . . "

Suddenly, the few embers left on the barstool lit Haddon's cloak on fire, causing Haddon to jump and cough explosively, having swallowed the wrong way for real this time. "MY CLOAK!" Haddon jumped up and poured his ale over his burning cloak. "Oh no!" Holding it up, he turned and looked at the other three, through the newly formed hole.

The fire caught her attention, looking as Haddon jumped up and put it out with his drink. A comment about Haddon learning his lesson stopped before it crossed her lips, she bit her lower lip in thought. Haddon would likely do it all over again, given the chance she thought. "How did that happen?"

Figuring the jig was up anyhow, Haddon came clean. "Hey, I didn't know you were being serious, I just thought those were cookbooks or something. How was I supposed to know they were real? Now I'm gonna freeze all the way back to the Compound. I mean, uh . . . . . sorry about your barstool. I can do some work around here, like chop wood or something, next time I come by." Haddon shrugged his shoulders as if trying to pass everything off as a big misunderstanding.

"The cookbooks are over there." She pointed to one of the table stacks, regarding the stool. "The barstool is replaceable. It is good it was damaged and not one of you." Her eyes moved back to Gren, "Some things are too important and cannot be replaced." With that she moved to find a cloth, she needed to soak up the beer used to put out the fire. "Gren should be able to lend you a cloak, he has a few here." She glanced to Gren, her look asking him if it was alright.

"Yeah, you aren't kidding", Gren said, agreeing with Izira. Then he got a shocked look when Izira suggested he lend Haddon one of his cloaks. "Why should I after what he . . . . ", then he stopped and reconsidered. "Fine, I'll see what I can find." Gren stomped down the hallway to go find a cloak.

"Thanks, Gren! You were always a good buddy! Sorry about this, Missy." Haddon smiled and rubbed the back of his head.

Poor Gren. She would make it up to him. To Haddon, "You will, of course, return the cloak when you come back to chop wood." There was no room for argument even though her tone was casual as she cleaned up the beer from around the charred stool.

"Certainly I will! His cloaks don't exactly fit me, if you know what I mean. Don't worry about that firewood, I'm a master woodsman! Speaking of which, being a master woodsman means I can't afford to skip meals, I have to keep my energy up! Haw haw . . . " Haddon sat back down and tucked his napkin bib back in. Moriana shoved him and pointed at the spilled ale that Izira was cleaning up. "What? She's got it taken care of already! Mostly. And she wouldn't want me to let this meal she worked so hard to cook us go to waste, right?" Moriana narrowed her eyes and reached for the last roll. Haddon was quicker and snagged it first, giving her a big smile with bread stuck in his teeth. Moriana gave him a disgusted look in return.

Thus is the life of the inn keeper, keeping up the inn. She cleaned up the liquid and regarded the nearby books to assure no damage had gotten there. Thankfully, the stool seemed the only victim of the night. Well that and Haddon's cloak. Izira took the cloth, leaving it in a sink behind the bar. She moved the stool behind the bar as well, for the time being. She topped off Moriana's drink and Haddon's. "I will see about finding some crates for the books to go back with you."

"Sounds like a plan! Hah, I haven't had a good Ham dinner in the longest time." Moriana held up four fingers. "Hey, four days is a long time!"

Gren returned, looking slightly sullen, and hung up one of his spare cloaks on the peg next to the door. Then he sat down and tried to finish his meal before it got cold. He threw his hands up a bit as he noticed all the rolls were gone already. Sighing, he quickly made the ham, potatoes, and beans disappear from his plate while Izira got the crates.

While the party finished their meal, she got the crates together and loaded. She also brought out several sacks, each marked with a letter. H, for Haddon, was some leftovers. M, for Moriana, leftovers as well as the coffee grounds she enjoyed. P, for Perrigan, Izira had packed a couple good meals for him that included a couple of sweets. As she packed the bags, she brought out three plates of a berry pie with a side of vanilla bean ice cream for the trio to enjoy. The last pack was marked with a G, another meal, homemade bread and jam for him to enjoy, along with a little love note.

"Hot damn! Berry pie! Haw haw, you know I love pie, Mori!" He gave Mori a nudge, prompting her to swat at him with her hand. They quickly finished their dessert, and Gren was grateful that Haddon didn't cause any more problems. "Do you want to come back with us? Say hello to Perrigan?" Gren offered.

Izira considered the question. It was less seeing Perrigan and more spending time with Gren that sold her on it. She nodded, "I think there is enough here that a few extra hands would not hurt. And someone has to make sure Perrigan is eating..." Izira sometimes thought the man worked too much.

"Great! I know he'd love to see you again!" Gren smiled, pleased that Izira would make the trip with them.

Haddon sat back and absently picked his teeth. "Man, maybe carrying that crate is a good thing, I'm gonna have to work off a meal that big." Getting up from his seat, he went over by the peg at the door to snag the cloak Gren left there for him. Coming back over to the bar, he tried to hook it around him, but it looked very tight around his thick neck. "Damn Gren, you're gonna have to put on some weight if I'm gonna be wearing your clothes." He tucked the bag Izira made for him under his arm. "H for Hunk. Haw haw."

"That's not what it means", Gren countered, then set his bag on top of the crate he was going to have to carry. He set his legs and lifted the crate into the air. "Hey, not bad. I can handle this." Haddon and Moriana went to their respective crates as well as they got ready for the trip.

Izira took up a smaller crate and the pack for Perrigan. She lingered to be the last one out, "You three go ahead. I want to make sure the inn is secure. I would not want any further accidents to happen while I am away overnight." She gave a bit of a glance to Gren and a smile. "It will be good to get out for a while."

"It will be! Alright everyone, let's go!" Gren went out first, fumbling with the doorknob and bumping the door open with his hip, while Haddon and Moriana filed out behind him.
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Gren Blockman
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm

Joined: 15 Oct 2007
Posts: 288
See this user's pet
Can Be Found: The forest, the woods, the trees
17071.58 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2018 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Their trip through the forest was uneventful. The buds were coming out on the trees, and here and there they saw the local wildlife busy at work; birds looking for nesting places, squirrels hopping from branch to branch, groundhogs looking for grass. Gren's crate was heavier than he thought it would be, so he was huffing a bit before they got to the wooden gate of the Compound.

Poor Haddon was grunting in pain. Moriana just looked at the two of them as if there was something wrong with them. Haddon dropped his crate with an explosive outward breath. "I tell ya, Gren my boy, these books better be worth it. Like have treasure maps or the cure for the common cold or something."

Gren walked up to the gate and knocked several times. "Grace! It's Gren. Grace, open the door!" The pale elven face of Grace, with her sky blue eyes and leather helmet peeked through the guardhouse window at them. "Gren Blockman. Oh pardon me, a man who could be Gren Blockman. If that is you, you know I'm going to need a password, mister."

Moriana got a sour look on her face. She banged her fist on the door, then held it up at Grace threateningly. Grace jumped. "Oh! Moriana! I didn't notice you there!" Grace popped her head back into the guardhouse, and after some fumbling sounds, the doors swung open. Moriana nodded her head once and lifted her crate again.

Gren kind of stood there for a few moments. "Why doesn't she do that for me?" he wondered aloud.

Izira followed along with her lighter crate and the food for Perrigan. A small spell kept the food warm, but the crate did not require any additional effort to make it manageable. She had considered that next time, procuring a wagon might be a good idea. That allowed her thoughts to wander to a peaceful ride with Gren. Perhaps when they took the other books to the library? They could have a day in RhyDin. It could be nice. Izira suppressed an amused smile at the trouble Grace gave Gren and how quickly she gave in to Moriana. A small nod of approval was given for the other woman in the party. Izira moved closer to Gren and offered softly, "Either you did something to incur her irritation in this life or another, or she fancies you. For her health I hope it is the former, I am not keen to share or part with you." She ended the words with a little press of a kiss before moving through the open doors.

The idea of Grace fancying him got Gren all flustered. He tried to wave his arms around and form some sort of protest, but the kiss just befuddled him more. He finally just picked up his crate and filed through the doors with the others. They walked down the main thoroughfare towards Perrigan's office, grey cloaked Rangers passed them going about their business. They approached the two story log cabin that Gren's Headmaster called home, and Moriana held the door open as they entered the foyer.

"Finally!" Haddon exclaimed as he sat the books next to one of the benches. "I hope the Boss appreciated this. Hey, Boss!" Haddon knocked on the office door. It opened, and Perrigan stepped out into the foyer with them. The grey haired, deep blue eyed man smiled as he saw his Rangers and Izira standing there. "Well, good afternoon. Gren, I see you've brought Izira for a visit. It's been far too long." The elder Ranger quietly stepped over to her, extending his hand for a greeting.

Setting the crate down when they entered, Izira kept the food in hand. A soft smile for the older man at the offered hand, Izira dared a small side hug instead. "I agree, too long." The bag of food lifted for Perrigan to see, "I come with gifts as well."

The elder Ranger didn't shy away from the hug, he returned it. He was merely trying to be gentlemanly with the handshake. "Oh, a meal. That was thoughtful of you. A Ranger never turns down a good, hot meal. Books, I see." He stooped down and opened one from Izira's stack. It was an encyclopedia on various mushrooms. "You know, I always wanted to have a Library here at the Compound. This donation may be the nudge we need to make that happen."

"That would be a wonderful project." Izira did adore a good library. "I only had them bring those I thought more useful to the rangers, but I have volumes more of other subjects... should you wish to look them over. We could bring them here... by carriage," She added for the sake of the other three to let them know they would be spared another long haul, "Or you could come out to the inn. There is always a room for you and good, hot meals."

"Yeah, a carriage, please", agreed Haddon.

Perrigan gave the rotund Ranger a chuckle, then he perused the book for a few more moments before he decided. "I think it's a good idea. The library . . . . and the visit to the Inn." He gave a gentle smile to Izira. Then he turned his head to the door of his office. "Malcolm. Malcolm, come out here."

The lanky half-elf with the blonde crewcut came out of Perrigan's office, rubbing his eyes as if he had just woke up from a nap. "Yeah, man, yeah . . . . what's all the noise about?"

"Malcolm, I want you to clear out the old building over by the west wall, the one by Yolene's House of Healing. We're going to convert that into our new Library."

Malcolm blinked as if he was trying to process what Perrigan was saying. "You mean, like, everything?"

"Yes, Malcolm, everything."

"Aw, man, and it was time for my afternoon nap, too . . . . " Shuffling to the door, Malcolm struggled to keep his eyes open, but he did give Izira a little wave in passing.

Izira passed a pleased smile to Gren, the subtle amount of her enthusiasm on the prospect of helping set up a library showing in the sparkle of her eyes. She gave a little fluttering of fingers in a wave to Malcolm, hoping the work would not be too much trouble for him. "I would be happy to assist however I may in establishing a proper library, outside of providing books. There is good timber for shelves to be had and Haddon has already graciously offered to help chop wood. The forest surrounding the inn would be able to replenish quickly, so that you could have quality wood without upsetting any local wildlife." Izira looked to Gren, knowing how much the woods and wildlife meant to him.

"That would be a great idea! Wow, this'll be nice for us to have our own library", Gren responded. Haddon looked a bit upset, he had hoped Izira would have forgotten about him chopping wood by then.

Perrigan nodded, "It's settled then. I have several boxes of books in my own office I was saving as well. We can get started as soon as you are all ready. Speaking of which, why don't we carry everything to the new building right now." Perrigan went back into his office, and returned with two small cardboard boxes in his arms.

Not only had Izira not forgotten, she had effectively increased the amount of work that would need to be done. She was a woman of subtlety. She picked up her box again, setting the pack of food upon it. "I hope you do not intend to allow your food to get cold, Perrigan. Though, if you are thinking to set out to the inn now, I could fix you something fresh there... and Malcolm can have what I brought? It sounds that he has work enough to build up an appetite."

"Not that I don't want to come for a visit, but perhaps it would be better to begin this project with a fresh start in the morning. Besides . . . " Perrigan takes the pack from Izira's box and points at the P. "That's P for Perrigan, not Malcolm." He chuckled, "I wouldn't want your hard work to go to waste. I can always get another fine meal from you tomorrow. Come on, everyone, let's drop these books off and check on Malcolm." The Rangers begin pushing through the door, and up the path towards the west wall.

A soft chuckle at Perrigan's words, she nods her agreement. "I can make Malcolm something special tomorrow to bring back when we return." As the group set off Izira lingered toward the back to be beside Gren, she smiled to him, pleased with events. Speaking more in private to Gren, "I think Perrigan has a good idea, to set off back to the inn tomorrow..."

"I do too. Haddon looks like he's exhausted. Besides . . . that means we can stay at my treehouse . . . if you'd like . . . “He leaned closer to Izira with a playful smile on his face.

"I was waiting for you to ask." She grinned, kissing his cheek. She picked up her step to keep up with the others as she offered playfully, "There is more for dessert than berry pie."

"Not so loud!" He said, although he was still smiling. The group made it to a simple one story log cabin near the high wooden wall that encircled the compound. The door was already opened. As they entered the building, they saw it contained unused chairs, boxes, and empty shelves. Malcolm was there, standing, and being propped up by a broom, appearing to have fallen asleep in the middle of sweeping the floor. As they set their crates and boxes of books down, Moriana took a book and walked over to Malcolm. She lifted the book up and let it hit the floor with a bang. Malcolm, startled, slipped onto his butt and groaned. "I'm up, I'm up, geez . . . .”

Izira bit her tongue on any further comments, though a few came to mind and they existed there unspoken in her knowing smile. Her amber-brown eyes took in the surrounding as they moved through the compound. She set her box down and broke off from the group to look around. Not paying attention, there was a partial jump at the bang that drew her attention back toward Moriana. She lifted a brow toward the treatment of the book.

Moriana wasn't any more into books as Haddon was, so it didn't dawn on her she might have hurt it. As Malcolm scrambled to his feet, Gren scooped the book up and put it back.

“Alright, the Cafeteria is just next door. I'm going to enjoy this meal while I have a chance”, Perrigan said.

Haddon nodded, "I'm starving after all this manual labor."

Moriana rolled her eyes but she moved to follow Perrigan and Haddon.

"We're gonna head back, I guess we'll see you tomorrow then?" Gren asked.

Perrigan nodded in the affirmative. "I look forward to it. Thank you for the books and the good idea, Izira. Have a good night you two."

Izira's look turned grateful as Gren rescued the book. She moved over to the group, "Good night Perrigan" The older man was graced with another light hug, "I hope you enjoy your meal." A nod for the other two rangers, "Enjoy your evening Moriana, Haddon." Izira moved closer to Gren, brushing the edge of her finger against him.

"Yeah, see you guys in the hmmmm--morning." Izira's touch had filled him with a sudden warm feeling, and he turned and smiled, offering her his hand. "Let's go to my place, shall we?"

Taking the offered hand, "I am all yours Gren Blockman."

He made an "ooo" face and led her back to the gate. As they entered the forest again, Gren began thinking about something Haddon had said at the Inn. About how it had been four years and they still weren't married. He didn't want to ruin their peaceful walk through the forest, but he felt he needed to ask her. "Izira . . . are you happy with how our relationship is going?"

It was a curious question after four years and one she wasn't expecting during their walk. She had been entertaining other thoughts, and it took her a moment to process Gren's words. Her steps paused, moving on again but slower as she looked at Gren. "Of course." Unsure if she answered his question fully, she continued. "There are times when I miss your presence, but I know you will return to me. I try not to worry too much about you on the job." Lightly squeezing his hand, she regarded him with care, watching his face and taking it in. Even after four years, his presence still could speed her heart.

He smiled and nodded, looking at the forest path for a moment as they continued to walk. "I know. I'm glad you're alright with me continuing to be a Ranger. I was hoping I might still find out something about who I was before I came to RhyDin, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen any time soon. I also meant . . . do you think we're taking things too slow . . . or are you happy with the way things are? As boyfriend and girlfriend?"

"It is never too late." She said, lifting his hand in hers to place a kiss upon the back of it. It had taken Izira a long time to find out more about her own heritage, she kept faith that Gren could someday find the same knowledge of his own past. "As.. oh." Her lashed fluttered, "I... had not thought on it." Her smile turned apologetic, it seemed, now, something she should have thought on. "I am grateful to simply have you in my life, Gren. A label does not mean we care for each other any less."

He gave her hand a squeeze in return. "I am grateful too. I remember you told me you had few long term relationships. Same with me. I am hoping we both feel comfortable enough with each other now, after four years. I know I do. And I hope the door is open for something more . . . I mean . . . that next step in our relationship . . . " He gestured vaguely with his free hand, hoping she would take the hint.

"You have lasted the longest of them." She bit her lip, but could not suppress the smile. She had to look away, but kept close to him. Her other hand found a resting place on his arm. She brought her thoughts back on track, "Cohabitation?" The amber-brown eyes returned to Gren, "I could not leave the inn..."

Her other hand resting on his arm got him excited again, and he cleared his throat to steady himself. "No, I understand you need to be at the Inn. What I meant was . . . now this is just a thought, I'm just . . . testing the waters here . . . . would one day you want a . . . deeper sort of relationship, like something permanent? Like, 'this is it, just me and you'?" He is too nervous to get the 'M' word out.

"That is how I feel, Gren. Do you think I would want to go be with anyone else?" She smiled. Leaning still closer, her voice lowered and soft despite their isolation together in the woods, "You are my heart Gren Blockman."

"Wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh", he gulped, "Well. That's exactly how I feel too. I'm glad to hear you say that." In his mind, he began to formulate plans. But just this introductory conversation was enough to get him off balance, so he remained quiet for a few minutes.

"Then I have nothing to worry about from Grace?" She teased him playfully, knowing full well she had nothing to worry about.

"No, the idea of me being tortured for the rest of my life doesn't appeal to me. It's probably why I've been able to avoid Tara's advances for all these years."

"Among others." Gren seemed to be a magnet for some of the more interesting characters in RhyDin.

"Well, I can't help that. You know, Tahlia, my teammate on Real RhyDin, tells me it’s because I use Tree Ranger Beard Oil. Its pine scent gives me that rugged, outdoorsy feel." He slightly leaned towards her so she could get a sniff.

She used it as an excuse to get closer, not that it was needed. "I know the scent well." A soft chuckle, "You leave it on my pillows."

"Something to remember me by during those lonely days at the Inn." His mind was still focused on how he was going to tackle that particular question with Izira as they approached his treehouse. "Well, here we are. You know, I can put on more of that oil if you like it so much . . . "

Before Gren could open the door, the head of a unicorn poked around from one side of the tree. "Pssst. Hey Gren. I'm hungry. Have you got any of those oats laying around? Come on, buddy, I'm starving."

Gren gaped at the unicorn then set his jaw. "Alfred! Can't you see I have company?"

Alfred blinked at Izira. "Oh. Yeah. Hi, Izira." Then he looked at Gren again. "Now can I have those oats?"

"That is why I am with you, your consideration." She chuckled and kissed his cheek. Izira was about to tackled the topic on oils when Alfred appeared. "Hello Alfred."

"Why aren't you back at the Compound?"

"Because they won't feed me, they expect me to eat grass like a mule. Also Grace says I'm rude. Just because I told her she should remove that iron rod from her ass and have a little fun once in a while. Come on, Gren, be a pal."

"I don't want to hear it, look, if I give you something, will you go away? I'm kind of in the middle of something here."

"Oooooh, I get it, heh, you and the little lady. Don't worry, big guy, I can take a hint."

"Alright, alright . . . wait right here . . . " Gren went around the tree to a little shed, he grabbed a feed bag and filled it with oats, strapping it on around Alfred's head. "There now, feel better? Now go on back to the Compound."

"Muwwamuffawuffawuff", Alfred said, chewing on the oats and trotting back up the path that Gren and Izira had just taken.

"Sheesh. It's always something around here, I tell you."

"Maybe you should turn it into an inn." A soft chuckle, "I think you receive more visitors than I do." A small wave at Alfred as he went on his way, Izira glanced at the door, "Will there be any more unexpected guests?"

Gren blinked at Izira's question, getting a worried look on his face. "Let's hope not. Suddenly an image of Tara just popped into my head." He whipped his keys out of his pocket and unlocked his door. Slowly he opened it and glanced around, finally giving a sigh of relief. "No, looks like the coast is clear."

"Mm. That is good.” She stepped into his tree house, her hand moving to his cloak to bring him in after. "Now let me see what I can do to chase those images in your head away..."
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2018 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

April 12, 2018

It had not been too long since dawn when Gren and Izira headed back out to the Ranger's Compound. Leading Izira through the gate and past Perrigan's house, they walked up the dusty path to the west wall and the building that would house the new library. Haddon was sitting outside, munching on what looked like a large egg and bacon sandwich. Voices could be heard from inside. Haddon gave Gren and Izira a smile full of breakfast sandwich. "Up and at 'em early, I see. I thought I could at least relax and enjoy my breakfast before we got into the hard work again."

"Early indeed." A secret smiled toward Gren. Izira patted Haddon's shoulder, "You will have plenty of time to eat your sandwich before we get to the chopping part of your day." Her attention moved from Haddon to the voices inside. A brow lifted toward Gren. "Shall we go in?"

Haddon looked like he swallowed the wrong way as Izira brought up him chopping wood again. Gren looked a bit red face at Izira's comment about being up early, but he covered it by ushering them through the doorway. Perrigan was standing near the entrance glancing at the walls and the few shelving units that someone must have moved inside since they'd last been there. Moriana was glaring at one of the boxes of books as if wondering what use they could really be. Yolene was there. Her hair was longer than Grace's although they shared almost every other feature. She wore a white dress and held a clipboard that she seemed to be writing on. Perrigan was speaking. "You know, I don't even know how you would organize a library. What sections go where?"

"My suggestion, Perrigan," cutting into the conversation with a smile and a nod of greeting, "Would be to see what books you have and build from there..." She gave another nod to Yolene and Moriana, "Good morning." Then continuing on, she picked up a book from the box. “Hmm... medicinal plants... that could be a section, surely?"

Perrigan turned around and smiled at the sound of Izira's voice. "Good morning, Izira." Yolene waved and smiled, while Moriana nodded. "Yes, we could do that. Medicine could be a section. The Survival Guides could be in a section. What's this . . . The Lonely Ghouls Lover . . . ? What section would that be in?"

Gren turned red and grabbed the book from Perrigan. "I'm sorry, sir! I must have put that book back on the wrong crate!"

Yolene bounced over and yanked it away from Gren. "Ooooh! That sounds fascinating! I do love a good romance! We'll make a Romance section!" Moriana curled her lip up at Yolene.

She covered her mouth and managed to suppress a chuckle. "I would leave that up to Perrigan's discretion”, she said, then looked back into the box. "Tracking?" She then looked to Gren for a suggestion of a section.

"Yes. Tracking." Trying to change the subject, Gren reached for another book. "I'm sure this building has enough room to have bookshelves down each wall, and maybe a row down the middle."

Yolene set her clipboard down, picked up a feather duster, and skipped over to one of the sets of shelves, dusting it off. "It would be better to get all the shelving ready and set up before we start with the books."

"Agreed. Haddon?" Perrigan called out the door. Haddon appeared, shoveling the last bit of his sandwich in his mouth. "You can start cutting the boards now. Moriana, you help him." Moriana got a surly look and pointed at herself as if to ask what she did to deserve that. "Please just help Haddon." Moriana huffed and strode out the doorway. Perrigan then turned to Izira. "Any other suggestions?"

She looked through the book curiously and put it back. A glance to the one Gren picked up, she stood beside him a hand upon his back. She watched the others with the exchange until Perrigan prompted her with another question, "Seating." It was rather obvious, "A good library should have some nice places to sit... some for comfort, some for studying. Tables as well then." She looked the room over, "Should you want to, you could make a public space and offer to educate the public on particular items of merit. What plants to avoid eating, what to do should you encounter any particular animal in the forest, what it means to be a ranger and the importance the title holds."

"Do you know of any spare chairs or tables we could use?" Gren asked. Perrigan thought for a minute as the rhythmic sound of an axe chopping wood could be heard outside. "There might be some in the Eastern Barracks. Gren, check with Brienne, she would know."

Gren immediately looked nervous. "Uh . . . well, I could if you . . . I mean . . . " Perrigan gave him a questioning look. Gren gulped. "Yes, sir. I'll go ask her." He looked at Izira. "Let's go to the Eastern Barracks then."

Gren got a bit of a brow lift, four years and there were still surprises to be found. "Let's." She offered Perrigan a smile, moving by Yolene she lowered her voice "If Perrigan does not want the romance section I will be sure to send you some of the other books I have." A little wink and she moved to the door with Gren.

Yolene clapped happily at Izira's offer, and dusted with renewed vigor. As Gren moved with Izira out the door and towards the other end of the Compound, he began to grow more nervous, running his hand through his hair and adjusting his collar.

"Love?" A simple question said after watching him fidgeting.

"NO! No . . . uh . . . " Gren jumped a bit at Izira's suggestion. "She's just . . . uh . . . distracting. And . . . passionate." Gren looked worried, then realized he said that to Izira and soldiered on. "Not just to me . . . to everyone . . . especially of the male persuasion. Don't worry, it's more like a game with her. To get things out of people. Oh, you'll see." He sighed tragically, hoping Izira would never have to bump into her, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.

"She must be terrible... beyond Tara levels." Izira for her part was now curious, given all the other stories she'd heard.

"I don't know about that, but she is more . . . endowed than Tara, let's put it that way." Gren is already starting to turn pink as if just making that comment is getting him nervous. Moving around to one of the taller barracks buildings, Gren ushered Izira inside to what looked like an office. There stood a six foot tall, buxom blonde female. She wore the grey cloak of the rangers, but her undershirt was low cut and revealing. She had her hand cupped under the chin of a young male ranger, and she was sweet talking him into doing her a favor.

"Be a doll, Gerard, and bring that heavy couch into my office."

"R-Right away, Miss Brienne!"

"I'll get it for you, Miss Brienne!" Another young ranger piped up.

"No! She asked me!"

The two rangers started fighting down the hallway as they raced to get to the couch first. Brienne smiled at the mayhem she had created then turned to the door to see Gren. "Oh, Grenny, it's such a pleasure to see you pay me a visit!"

Gren was beet red at this point, and practically held Izira in front of him like she was a shield. "This is my girlfriend Izira!" He blurted out, with no other preamble.

Brienne pouted prettily. "Awwww, she does exist. What a shame."

Curiously she watched the men falling over themselves to help the woman. Izira remained quiet, her brow lifted slightly yet again. It settled as she found herself shielding Gren from the buxom lass. "Indeed, you could start a club with all the women I have caused Gren to disappoint." A hint of amusement was in her voice. "Perrigan sent us to inquire on spare chairs and tables for the Library project over by the west wall. Perhaps your eager suitors would be able to bring them over?" She asked, looking the way the men had gone.

Brienne sighed and did indeed look disappointed. "Perrigan said that? Oh alright." Just in that brief time, the two young rangers had already managed to lug the bulky couch into the office to please Brienne. "Gerard, Allen, could you two dears do me another favor and bring those extra tables and chairs to the new Library? Pretty please?" Brienne batted her eyelashes at the two.

Gerard and Allen stood at attention. "Yes, Ma'am! Right away!" The two took off down the hallway shoving each other again.

Brienne, smiling, turned back to Gren and Izira. "There you go. Now Gren, I do believe you owe me a favor . . .”

"THANKS FOR YOUR HELP, BRIENNE, GOODBYE!" Gren hurried Izira out the door and quickly slammed it behind him, letting out a huge breath of relief.

Izira didn't appear to mind disappointing the woman. Amber-browns turning on the returning men, watching them fall over themselves again. Izira looked amused at Brienne suggesting Gren owed her a favor, her mouth opening to inquire - but before a sound could be made Gren pulled them both out. "She seemed relatively harmless."

Too flustered to tell whether Izira was being funny or not, he said "That's because you were there. She'll close in on you with her . . . ", then he cleared his throat. “Never mind. We got what we came for, let's get back before she gets any ideas." He walked with Izira back towards the Library, and gave her a few nervous glances. "Nothing happened. You know. Me and her." He shook his head and waved it off like that should be an understood fact.

"Of course not." She laughs softly, touching his arm, "You told me you lose that level of... nervousness... after being intimate with someone." She gave a tip of her head back the way they came as she cuddled up closer.

Gren brightened as he realized his nervousness just gave him a solid alibi. "Yeah! That's right!" He put his arm around her shoulders. "I mean, she's not my type anyway. I'm a brunette guy." Then he gulped and figured he'd better shut up while he's ahead.

"Does that mean I should reconsider changing my hair color?" Teasing, as she would never do that.

"You were . . . wait a minute, when did all this happen? I thought we had a connection about this!" He frantically pointed his index finger between them.

Her easy laugh bubbled up. She moved to catch his pointing finger and pull him into a kiss.

His momentary vexation disappeared when Izira's lips met his. He gladly pressed his own back. "Whew! Don't scare me like that."

"Let me know if you need a further reminder of my affections for you." Lowering her voice, though there really wasn't anyone around. "We could test to see if the kissing tree is more effective the further you go..."

"Now I wouldn't mind that suggestion, but then Perrigan will wonder where we are . . . . " Gren answered, looking back and forth between the Library and where the Kissing Tree was. "Maybe later". He gave her a little smile and a tickle of her ribs.

She giggled, pulling away and heading back to the library, "You will have to explain to me later how the Kissing Tree is acceptable, but the Outback was not..."

"Now hold on, that was apples and oranges! We only kissed at the tree, the Outback thing was after we . . . you know, the first time! The idea of doing that in a public place, well I get cold sweats just thinking about it."

"Correct me if I am wrong... but that first time was not in a private spot either. Or those times during our walks..." She lightly touched her lip, giving an appearance of thinking, "That natural spring?"

"Aha!" He raised a finger. "That was outdoors, but it was surrounded by the beauty of the forest, not in a building in the middle of RhyDin City. Encompassed by nature, it gives me a warm, secure feeling inside. Plus I can see if anyone's coming, with my keen Ranger eyesight." He nodded sagely.

Izira bit the side of her lip and decidedly did not add to Gren's comment. It was there, in the sparkle of her eyes. She chuckled saying instead, "I will be sure to keep that in mind."

"You should", Gren nodded emphatically, oblivious to any comment Izira could have held back. As they approached the Library, Gren stopped and stared as he saw Gerard and Allen hustling past them, pushing a cart filled with the wooden tables and chairs that Perrigan had requested. They furiously offloaded the furniture, then ran back down the path, shoving at each other, trying to be the first to get back to Brienne. "Well that was quick at least", Gren commented.

"Do they... actually get anything for their effort?" Watching the two men hustle first one way and then the other.

"Not really. But it doesn't stop them from trying." They walked back into the Library where Perrigan was testing the sturdiness of the tables. "That should be about right. It's beginning to look like a Library here already."

"Poor lads." Izira was smiling as she entered the library building, taking in the change with tables. "I have to agree Perrigan. It is coming together nicely."

Yolene skipped back over to the tables. "I think we should put some bright, happy ferns in here. Give it some life and color.”

Haddon and Moriana were busy situating a newly cut bookshelf in one corner. Haddon let out a huff when they were finished, then glared at Gren. "Gren, my boy, I think you should be doing more sweating, seeing as this was all your idea."

"Remember the barstool . . . " Gren said with a wag of his finger. Haddon grunted and trudged back outside to his workbench. "Maybe I could help a little bit", he said to Izira with a smile.

"You could." She gazed around the interior of the building, "With your help the shelves would be put up that much faster." Looking back to Gren, then over to Perrigan, she continued. "And Perrigan and I could return to the inn to look at the books? Yolene too, if she wished."

"That sounds fine to me. Plus I won't have to use my beard oil cutting all that pine." Gren wiggled his eyebrows comically.

Perrigan stood up from one of the chairs and nodded. "I'd love to see the Inn again. Are you coming, Yolene?"

Yolene danced from one of the far corners up to the old Ranger and Izira. "Oh yes, I do relish the opportunity to revisit a whole other realm. I don't think I've been to Izira's home since the buffet she held so may years ago."

"Then it's settled. Let's take a look at those other books”, Perrigan replied.

"You and the outdoors." She grinned at the comment about Gren’s beard oil, as it mixed with their prior exchange. Izira gave Gren a kiss and a hug, then a wave for Haddon and Moriana. "It has been that long?" She shook her head, "Something to be remedied. The inn is for people to visit after all."

Gren returned Izi's kiss and hug, and went over to the workbench to help Haddon and Moriana.

"So let's go!" Yolene said in a chipper mood.

Perrigan chuckled at Yolene's enthusiasm. "We'll follow you, Izira."

Izira moved to the door, opening it for the departing Rangers. "While you two look over the books, I will fix you up something to eat. Work always goes smoother with a good meal."
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2018 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Bye Grace!" Yolene waved over her head in Grace's direction as Izira, Perrigan and her passed under the wooden gate, heading towards the Inn. "Oh, it's so beautiful out today! The sun is shiny and the birds are chirping and Springtime is here!" Yolene does a little twirl as they move up the path.

Perrigan gives Yolene a chuckle before turning his attention to Izira. "So what brought on your generous donation towards our Library? Was it just as simple as a little Spring Cleaning?"

Izira offered a nod to Grace as they passed. She smiled at Yolene's enthusiasm for being out in the fresh air. She looked around, taking in the spring day it a quiet way. She had decided to take Perrigan's arm for the walk, though it was not in the same manner as she would with Gren - more so a close friend. "One can only check and recheck inventory so many times. It gave me something new to do. I had not realized how many books I had acquired during my time there, not to mention those that were there when I arrived.... I think I could fill a few libraries, had I a need to. But I have my private one, and the other books will be of use in places that see more... traffic."

Perrigan smiled and took no offense at Izira's arm twined in his. "It's nice to see you thinking of others. So how are things at the Inn? I can't remember the last time I've been there . . . . don't tell me it was that buffet you held for us so many years ago?"

"Oh, I remember that!" Yolene exclaimed, butting in. "There was chicken and green beans and mashed potatoes and lemon crumb pie and cherry crumb pie and more lemon crumb pie . . . oh, and the coffee!" Yolene held her hands under her chin as if recalling a fond memory.

Her smile bloomed at Yolene's memory of the buffet. Izira offered a nod, "I believe it is.... my fault, truly. I am not out enough to extend invitations. Do know that you are always welcome a visit." This said to Perrigan as she patted his arm, extending to Yolene, "Yolene, too. Truly, any ranger that wishes. It is my pleasure to give back to you lot for doing so much and at times with so little."

"I know I appreciate the sentiment. I will make an effort to come see you more. I know that Haddon and Moriana are constant visitors, not to mention Gren, and they are grateful for the warm meals you provide them during their patrols”, Perrigan replied.

"Yeah, even though they don't really patrol that area!" Yolene interjected.

"All the same, it is a kindness not often found, but most enjoyed by us Rangers”, Perrigan affirmed.

"Izira! You have to teach me how to bake a lemon crumb pie like you do! Pleeeeease?" Yolene grasped her hands in front of her as if pleading.

"You must. I will even provide you with a key to one of the nicer suites. It is good to get away, allow your mind a chance to let go of the day to day worries." She softly chuckled at Yolene, Izira nodded, "I would be happy to teach you Yolene. Are you... making it for yourself or is there someone to share it with?"

"Welllllll . . . . .” Yolene giggled and pulled her hair in front of her face as if embarrassed. "I know Crawford really liked it. And I really like Crawford! Oops!" Yolene covered her mouth with a hand as if she had let slip a secret.

Perrigan smiled at Yolene. "I think we all know you really like Crawford."

"Awww, Headmaster!" Yolene whined as if Perrigan was being a tattletale.

"He seemed a fine lad." Izira dipped her head gently in approval. "The weather is nice, you should offer to take him on a picnic." She often enjoyed the outdoors with Gren, it seemed a very appropriate setting for the two.

"Oh, I do! We take picnics and walks and eat at the cafeteria and go on missions together and sit by the fire and ohhh!" Yolene threw her hands up as if she had said too much. "I just wish Crawford was more . . . . more . . . "

"Forward?" Perrigan offered.

"Well, he is the quiet, shy type . . . but that's why I like him."

"Maybe you should let Crawford know how you feel", Perrigan answered.

"Oh, no, I couldn't do that! Just flat out telling him like that? I mean, I would do it if I thought, oh no, that's not me, I'm not the kind to talk and talk and talk and go on and on about . . . . oooh." Yolene covered her face with her hair again, while Perrigan just looked at Izira and smiled.

Izira well remembered her own dance with Gren and how long it took her to get where they were now, "What is the worst that could happen? If he does not feel the same, then you know. If he does... you have more time to enjoy each other on a new level."

Something about the words "new level" filled Yolene with more emotion than normal, and she went skipping off up the path past Izira and Perrigan. "Oh, Crawford my love, la la la la la . . . .” Perrigan chuckled watching her. "It must be true what they say about Spring. I remember what it was like to be that young and in love." Perrigan's gaze stared off into the distance as he recalled his own memories.

A wide smile broke out, she was happy for Yolene. It softened with Perrigan's words, Izira turning her attention to him, looking empathetic, "Where is your mind traveling to, Perrigan?"

Perrigan did have a smile on his face, but only a close look would show a slight sadness to his eyes, and a downward curve to that smile. "I'm remembering a long time ago. When I wasn't a Headmaster. When I was just a young Ranger like Yolene and Crawford. Or even Gren. How those years have just seemed to fly by. I thought I had so many friends and we would live forever. Now there's just me and Westerguard. I remember how we were always in competition. I think Westerguard has survived this long just so I wouldn't beat him at that either."

There is a muted look of knowing of the life of a ranger, Gren had told her much the same so many years ago. It was a thought that stayed with her when he was out on patrol or missions. But she brushed those things aside, "I am pretty sure that man would fight death himself before passing on." Izira had not forgotten her interactions with the stone serious Westerguard. "I would not be surprised if he won, either." She was quiet a moment before following with, "What advice would you give to us younger couples?"

Perrigan continued looking off into the distance for a few moments, then lowered his head and smiled. "Probably the same advice all people my age would give. Enjoy every moment you have. Don't take anything for granted. Trust your feelings. You'll know whether the person you're with is the right one. Don't second guess it."

"If only there were moments to have." Izira agreed with much the rest of it, but time was a creature she had no control over. "I have no doubt on my feelings for Gren nor his for me." Something of an assurance there was offered to the older man who seemed so much of a father figure to Gren.

"I'm glad to hear that. I've noticed a change in Gren over the years. Subtle, maybe . . . ", he chuckled, ". . . but it is there. He's happier, more confident. I'm glad he's found some stability in his life. I do hope that he has had a positive effect on you as well."

"He brings a level of enjoyment to my life I had not thought to expect... or thought I deserved." The bit of honesty there, "That is not a concern of mine, anymore. I love him and am happy with each moment I get." She was very much living in Perrigan's advice. Looking over to Yolene, "It is a feeling I hope everyone can experience."

"I do too, Izira, I do too". He patted the hand she had laid on his arm fondly, then stopped his daydreaming. "This is quite a walk, I forgot just how long it was to the Inn."

"You see why it is that I do not get out often enough”, a soft chuckle, "And I why I bribe your rangers with coffee and food."

"Horses", Perrigan nodded, "we need more horses in this guild. Travel Time will certainly be placed on my 'To-Do List' when we get back."

"Not impossible, though you want someone skilled and alert less you end up somewhere you do not want to be... or not as whole as when you left." Silent for a while, "I would not want to turn back the clock, the past is better where it is. Better for having the experience once." Lost in her own thoughts for a bit. "Perhaps when we get there I will send a raven to Gren to acquire horses and a cart for the return."

"The past is the past, I cannot argue with that", he agreed, "I'm sure Gren could send us a cart. I imagine that would depend upon how many books we intend on bringing back. Perhaps I should have brought more help", he looked thoughtful. "Ah well, we can always come back if we need to. As you say, you would welcome more visits by us, anyway."

By this time, Yolene had found her way back to Izira and Perrigan, absently picking the petals off a Spring daffodil in a silent game of "He loves me, he loves me not".

"You are welcome to stay at the Inn should you wish while going through the books." She thought to add more, but then Yolene arrived. Izira released Perrigan's arm to pluck the flower from Yolene's grasp before she could finish the flower's fortune. "He loves you."

"Awww, you didn't let me finish!" Yolene protested before resuming her skipping alongside them. "Do you have any herbal medicine books? That's what I'm most interested in. The Rangers are always getting beat up and scraped. I heard that you can use certain leaves for bandages! I have had to use leaves as bandages . . . sometimes . . . but only when I run out of real bandages."

Perrigan waited until Yolene finished, so that he didn't interrupt. "If time runs long, then I am most willing to stay."

"I can stay too!" Yolene put her hand up as if answering a question in school.

"I am sure you will find many things that you are looking for." Izira moved to put the partially plucked flower into Yolene's hair. "You two can get started on the books while I fix up refreshments, food, and rooms. You are my guests of honor." With that said they slipped through RhyDin to her realm with little notice of the path changing, but Izira could feel it as it became her woods. The dirt path ahead gave way to the white stone walkway that lead through immaculately trimmed rose hedges and around the large fountain.

Yolene barely noticed the flower being stuck in her hair as the forest path opened onto the front of the Inn and its beautiful gardens. "Yay, we made it!" Yolene scampered up to the rose bushes and started sniffing the varieties that bloomed in the spring. "La la la . . . where's Silas? I want to pet the kitty!"

"Come on, Yolene, let's keep our attention on the task at hand." Perrigan held onto Izira's arm as they walked up the porch steps and towards the door.

Into the inn, it was much as it had been the day before, less the few crates of books - that didn't seem to reduce the number of books there. Books on tables, books on the bar and stools. It seemed as though Izira's inn had lost a small, very orderly battle to books. For the time, Silas was away. Izira slipped from Perrigan's arm. "Be mindful of the books at the bar, there are a few volumes of spells. Best not to read anything you are not fluent in out loud. Agreed? What would you like to drink?"

"Most agreeable", Perrigan replied, he was not well versed in the arcane himself. "I would like a nice ale. A light one, if you have it."

Yolene was already ping-ponging betwen tables, looking through the various crates. "Here's some history books . . . . oh there are some quilting books . . . " then she gasped and grabbed a tome from the next table. "Romance . . . “, she held a book up to her face entitled "Summer's End, Love's End". Turning a few pages, she answered Izira without lowering the book. "I'll have a Lemonade, please."

A small nod, she gestured Perrigan to the books, "Start anywhere you like." And with that, she went to fetch the drinks.

"Thank you" Perrigan said, before turning his attention to Yolene as Izira moved into the kitchen. "Yolene, perhaps you should focus on the medicinal books. I do not wish to impose upon Izira any more than I have to."

Yolene sighed tragically. "Oh, alright. Boring old medicinal hey . . . . “, she rummaged through a crate and held up a book with a leaf on the cover. “”How to Identify and Harvest Leaves for Medicinal Purposes". Ha ha ha! That's just what I was talking about!" Hopping up and down in place, she began reading.

Perrigan doubted he would get much concentration from her, so he directed his attention to some sword fighting manuals.

Izira returned, bringing the requested drink to each. A tankard of a light ale for Perrigan, and fresh lemonade for Yolene. Izira started a pot of water for tea, moving off to prepare a meal to fortify them for the long work.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

April 13, 2018

From the work the night before, the trio had managed to clear a portion of the bar. The books having been moved into new stacks of assortment - those going to the rangers' library and those to be donated later. Any volumes Izira decided to hold on to went with her into her quarters, which Perrigan and Yolene received a tour of (along with the rest of the inn and garden) during a break. She had fed them well and insisted that they call a night of it following the meal. The selection of the rooms, keys gifted to each to keep even after they left, was mindfully done. Perrigan received the room Gren once occupied, the fire place splitting the two rooms. Izira was sure to have a warm fire going, offering that she hoped he enjoyed the room as Gren once had. It seemed fitting that this room now go to Perrigan as Gren shared her bed. Yolene got an open suite with a private bath. The large claw tub able to hold two, Izira had even started a bath with oils and lit candles, 'a luxury she thought Yolene would enjoy.' She wish the both of them good night and headed to her own quarters to sleep. Now, with daylight, Izira rose, moving to see if anyone else had gotten up.

"La la la la la . . .” Yolene appeared in the door to her room with a towel around her head to hold back her wet hair. She smelled of the lavender oils that Izira had left in the bath. "I loved my bath so much I took another one this morning!" Twirling down the stairs she made her way into the main room.

Perrigan made his appearance a few minutes later, yawning and scratching his back. "That was an enjoyable rest. I haven't slept on a mattress that soft in years." He too descended to the main room.

"I am glad the rooms are to your liking. Feel free to use them anytime." Looking toward Yolene, "Perhaps with company?" Izira smiled, tucking some hair behind her ear. She had started a pot of water for tea and coffee when no one was awake. "I was thinking about making waffles with fruit for breakfast." She set out a couple of mugs, pouring a cup of coffee for both before making herself some tea.

"Company? Me and Crawford haven't even kissed yet!" Yolene hopped over to the bar and sipped from her mug of coffee. "I want berries!"

Perrigan ambled over and sat next to Yolene. "Apples will be fine with me." He took his own mug and drank from it appreciatively.

"In its time it will happen." She smiled with a nod to the orders, "I will return shortly with breakfast." Taking her tea and vanishing into the kitchen to leave her guests to enjoy their coffee.

Yolene looked at Perrigan then and rolled her eyes. "Boy, these fire elementals are the passionate types, aren't they?"

Perrigan chuckled and didn't reply.

Yolene got up from her stool and danced over to the fireplace area. Since Izira wasn't there she might as well explore the Inn some more. "I haven't seen Silas the whole time we've been here! I wonder where he could be?"

Perrigan rolled his shoulders, still trying to wake up completely.

As Yolene moved around she might have spotted a small black rabbit hidden under a coffee table, peeking out just enough to be in view. The little flame like mark of red on his forehead could be seen as he poked his head out.

Yolene's face lit up as she saw Pascal! "A bunny! How cute!" She squatted down on her knees and held her hands out. "Come here little one! Come on come on come on!" She wiggled her fingers trying to urge the rabbit towards her.

At first the rabbit tucked away, but then slowly stretched himself out checking to see if Yolene had any food.

Yolene made a grab for Pascal, to cuddle him in her arms. "I didn't know Izira had a bunny too! Aw, poor thing, he looks hungry! Don't worry, little bunny, when Izira comes back we'll get you something to eat! La la la la . . . . ", she ran back over to Perrigan.”I wonder if bunnies like waffles with berries?"

Perrigan glanced at Yolene and Pascal. "I don't think rabbits eat waffles. But maybe the berries."

For having been grabbed the rabbit was very subdued, not trying to escape, though he did shuffle to get comfortable. Izira returned with a tray, a plate of waffles loaded with the selected fruit set before each. "I see you've found Pascal”, to Yolene as she set the berry plate before her. Wrapped silverware was set down, and she also brought a communal plate with bacon and sausage. "I went out to feed him and found he had managed to get out of his hutch." The tray was set aside and refilled their coffee mugs.

"Pascal! Oh, I want to feed him! Here Pascal, have a raspberry!" Yolene took one off the plate and held it up to the rabbit's mouth.

The rabbit eagerly enjoyed the bit of fruit. "Feed away. Do either of you need anything else?" Izira had done her usual feeding herself while she cooked.

"I'm just fine, thank you", said Perrigan, eating a large portion of the bacon and sausage.

Yolene giggled and fed Pascal more of the berries, taking more delight in watching the rabbit chew that in eating her own meal. "I want a bunny like Pascal!"

Perrigan glanced at her. "You're going to have to feed it and take care of it. This isn't the first time you've wanted a pet, and when you do get one they tend to run away on you."

"That's not my fault!" Yolene huffed, then went back to eating her waffles and feeding Pascal as if Perrigan burst her bubble.

"I do not know that there are many rabbits that are like Pascal. He seems to have a head for mischief." Izira refilled her tea, settling onto the barstool. "I wonder when he snuck in." How wasn't impossible.

"Awwww, he doesn't look mischievous at all! He looks like a good boy! Aren't you Pascaaaal?" She held Pascal up to her face while the rabbit was still chewing on a raspberry.

"Looks can be deceiving."

At some point Silas had slipped into the room. Hopping up on the bar beside Perrigan, the cat took in the people and rabbit, showing little interest in the flick of his tail.

"Siiilaaaaasss!" Yolene jumped off the stool, still holding Pascal in one hand, and started petting Silas' head. "I bet a good kitty like Silas would like a sausage!" She plucked one off the plate before Perrigan can get his fork into it. "There isn't a lot of salt in these sausages aren’t there? I wouldn't want poor Silas to eat something that wasn't good for him." She is holding the sausage dangerously close to the cat regardless.

"Silas... will be fine." She glanced to the cat. His tail flicked and he regarded the sausage with a lack of interest as well. The feline hunkered down, wrapping his tail around him. "He is not much for scraps”, Izira explained.

"But this isn't a scrap, Izira made it fresh and with love! Awww . . . “, she noticed Silas' disinterest, so she bit off the end so it wouldn't go to waste, and immediately made a face.”Ew. Now I remember why I'm a vegetarian. No offense, Izira, but I'll stick to waffles and berries." Speaking of which, she forgot how hungry she was, so she abandoned the disinterested Silas and went back to her plate, eating up her waffles and occasionally feeding Pascal a berry in the process.

"No offense taken." Izira is already thinking of various vegetarian things she could do. Perhaps a corn soup. She's adding it to her lunch menu as she takes another sip of her tea.

Perrigan and Yolene had just about finished their breakfast when a muffled string of curse words could be heard outside, coupled with the rumbling of a wooden cart.

"Hey! Come on out and put me into whatever forced labor you have to punish me with! I'm a $#%&ing unicorn not a pack mule. I can't believe they've lowered me to this." It was Alfred's voice.

"Alfreeeeed!" Yolene put Pascal down on the bar and ran outside. She could be seen through the window throwing her arms around Alfred's neck.

"Aw, come on! Aw, no stop that! What am I, a teddy bear? Let's just get this humiliation over with!"

"Aw, Alfred, you look cute with your little wooden cart!" Yolene gushed.

"I don't want to look cute! Perrigaaan! Get Yolene off me!"

Perrigan laughed and strolled to the door. "Alright, Yolene, let's not upset Alfred, come back in and let's get these books loaded!"

Looking to the sound, Izira shook her head. Poor Alfred. Izira picked up the rabbit, following the other two. She gave a nod to the unicorn, "Hello Alfred. I did not think Gren was going to send you." Her tone was apologetic. As they moved for the door the cat stretched out, hopping from the bar to jog out of the main room.

"Yeah, you know how Gren is. Always volunteering me like I'm his noble steed and can't wait to do something goody-two-shoes-like."

"Aw, don't be that way cutie Alfred!" Yolene was more bouncy than she had been and was hurriedly skipping back and forth from the Inn hauling crates to put in the little cart. Perrigan did most of the heavy lifting, and soon the cart was full. "Izira, can I have this one?" Yolene held up the Summer's End, Love's End book. "I read the first few chapters and I really want to know what happens!"

"I will make sure to get a horse next time, Alfred. And see that Gren gives you some oats for the good work you are doing." Izira took the chance to put Pascal up, telling the creature to stay put for all the good it would do. Then back to the group to help load the cart as she could. A nod given to Yolene, "Consider it yours."

Yolene pumped her fists in the air and tucked the book into the cart.

"Yeah, Gren owes me one. More than one." Alfred still looked disgruntled. "Alright, let's get this show on the road, I'm not getting any younger."
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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“. . . Any number of things could happen to me in this dangerous forest. A tree limb could fall on my skull. We could be attacked by bloodthirsty orcs. I might trip over something and break my leg. And you know how it is for us horses, no restful stay at an animal hospital, it's "Shotgun Therapy" for yours truly. Next thing you know they're hauling my dead carcass to the glue factory." Alfred slogged along the forest track, continuing his self-pitying diatribe. Yolene seemed oblivious and rode happily on Alfred's back.

Izira walked beside Alfred, petting his mane soothingly. "You are no mere horse, Alfred. Rest assured, should your untimely demise happen, there are far more profitable actions to take." She gave the unicorn a little sideways glance with a quiet smile, "It is a good thing we are in the company of these fine rangers that would not let such terrible fates fall upon you."

"Izira is right, Alfred, your alicorn alone is worth more than a trip to the glue factory would be", Perrigan joked with the unicorn.

Alfred did not seem pleased. "Oh yeah, the Headmaster here is just like those jerks that hunt unicorns just to saw off their horn and grind them up for their "medicinal properties". I see how it is."

"I was merely jesting with you, stop feeling sorry for yourself", Perrigan rebutted.

Yolene piped up, "Yeah Alfred, I won't let them put you down! You have to keep giving me rides around the Compound!"

"Oh, that's supposed to be some incentive for me to keep living? Suddenly the shotgun doesn't seem so bad."

"Too messy. There is value in the blood as well." Izira has seen many things in her books and within the assortment of her procurements over the years at the inn. She continued petting Alfred's mane, lost a moment in her own wandering thoughts. She offered a smile to the group, "Dear Alfred is truly quite priceless."

"Don't try to butter me up. Next thing you know they're gonna hook a plow to my ass and have me planting rows of corn."

"We do have that empty field over by the southern wall . . . " Perrigan mused aloud.

"Yay, Alfred, think of our food supply!" Yolene said, backing up Perrigan. "See that, I'm going to be a broken down nag in no time, hobbling around the forest, just waiting for some ogre to make a snack out of me."

"Aw, we'll protect you Alfred! You're too cute for us to mistreat!" Yolene smiled.

A light chuckle for Perrigan's words, "If they do happen to get you to plow, you should really consider negotiating for a portion of oats to be planted for you."

"Portion? Let me tell you something, any oats I plow are going directly to me. Perrigan can hook a plow to himself and plant his own."

Perrigan laughed, "That is a rather humorous image. I think I'll just buy my oatmeal at the general store like everyone else."

"I thought you liked apples better than oats, Alfred!" Yolene said.

"Apples. Oats. Now I'm getting hungry. Lugging books through this scary forest has given me an appetite."

Izira looked amused as well at the visual of Perrigan pulling a plow. "I dare say Perrigan could do it with less talking." Izira dropped back from her walk beside the unicorn toward the cart, bringing out a small sack. "It was only a matter of time. Would either of you care for an apple?" She took one apple from the sack, offering it to Alfred.

"Aw, yeah, now you're talkin' my language. Is that a Red Delicious? No, Winchester? Honeycrisp? Om nom nom nom . . . ", Alfred started eating the apple as Izira held it up to his mouth.

"You can give mine to Alfred since he's been such a GOOD BOY!" Yolene offered.

"What am I, a Golden Retriever? No, never mind, just keep those apples coming, I need them to keep my strength up."

"I'm still full from all those waffles, bacon, and sausages", said Perrigan.

"Aw, man, where's MY waffles?" Alfred complained.

Yolene giggled. "Unicorns don't eat waffles!"

"I'll eat pretty much anything, you'd be surprised", Alfred rebutted.

"Fuji." Offering the apple type to Alfred. She nodded to Yolene and Perrigan. "I will take that as a compliment, Perrigan." Izira offered the unicorn another apple. Izira mouthed the word 'anything' to the other two in agreement. "Perhaps another morning, Alfred, and I will make you waffles."

Alfred started crunching on the other Fuji apple. "How about waffles with apples in them?"

"Funny, that's exactly what Izira made me for breakfast", Perrigan observed.

"AW, COME ON! I don't know how much more of this I can take!"

Yolene laughed and put her hand over her mouth.

A soft chuckle by Izira, "Yes, I will make you waffles with apples in them in thanks for your help. Are there any other requests?" Offering Alfred another apple.

"Yeah, tell Gren next time to lug his own damn cart."

"I will ask Gren to hire a horse."

"Pffft. I doubt it will do any good. Alfred, go do this. Alfred, go do that. One of these days . . . ", then the wooden gate of the Compound came into view.

Perrigan looked at Alfred. "There you are, Alfred, your suffering is almost over."

"We made it!" Yolene climbed off Alfred and ran up to the gate to get Grace to open it. Not that there would have been a problem, Grace wouldn't cross Perrigan.

"One of these days?" A lift of a brow, Izira was curious where Alfred planned to go with it. Though she ended the question with offering Alfred another apple before returning the sack into the cart.

"Mmmffmmmwwaffamuffa", Alfred answered her with a mouth full of apple.

The cart lumbered through the gate and up to the building at the west wall. Gren was wiping his face off with a towel, while standing next to two stumps that were serving as a makeshift workbench. The axe laying near and the freshly cut timber showed that Gren was helping with the cutting of shelves. Haddon was sitting near the door, napping, showing that Gren at this point was doing most of the work. Gren put his towel down as Izira and the others approached, and he greeted them with a big smile. "Izira! I missed you last night!" He went over to give his girlfriend a good morning hug and kiss.

Alfred replied grumpily, "Oh yeah, 'Oh Izira I missed you'. What about 'Hey thanks Alfred for plodding through the forest all morning carrying your precious books?' “

Gren gave Alfred a perturbed look. "Thanks, Alfred. I hope it wasn't too much trouble."

"He nearly perished, many times. For his bravery I have decided to make him waffles with apples”, she said with a private smile for Gren. Then lowering her voice, "I missed you last night as well." She looked over him and took in the appearance of his hard work with pleasure. She put those thoughts aside to return to later. "I provided Yolene and Perrigan with keys for a couple of rooms. I gave Perrigan your old suite."

"Yeah, that's just what a unicorn needs, waffles with apples", Gren gave Alfred a disapproving stare.

"Don't judge me", Alfred retorted.

Gren then put on a smile for Yolene and Perrigan. "That's great! I know Izira loves to have visitors. I hope you can come by again and keep us company!"

Just then Moriana and Crawford came out of the building and began to pick up the newly made shelves. Crawford, the quiet, grey eyed Ranger, looked like he finally hit puberty. He looked taller, and his face was scruffier. Yolene saw him and ran up to him, carrying her romance book. "Omigoodness, Crawford, I was at the Inn and Izira was great and she fed me waffles and she has a bunny and a kitty and she gave me this great romance novel ohmigosh you have to read it let's go inside!" She said it all in one breath then ran into the building.

Crawford watched her without flinching, then looked at Izira. "She talks a lot."

Izira offered Morianna a nod in greeting and a warm smile to Crawford. The smile remained as Yolene went off on her list of noteworthy items. "One of her many qualities."

Moriana nodded back, but the amount of sawdust on her and the scowl on her face showed she was just as disgruntled as Alfred was. Moriana wasn't the library type. Crawford gave Izira a shy smile back, then followed Yolene into the building.

"We're about finished here, we just have to set up these last few shelves. We could've been done sooner if . . . well . . . “Gren gave a perturbed look to the lightly snoring Haddon. Moriana walked back out of the Library and saw Haddon, then put her fist on her hip. She slapped Haddon on top of his bald head, causing Haddon to sputter awake and almost fall out of his chair.

Izira gave the smallest shake of her head at Haddon. She had packed some coffee grinds as well, and would make sure Moriana received them but would wait until Haddon was otherwise occupied. She kissed Gren's cheek and picked up the box, placing the apple sack over the two packs. "At least you are nearly done. Is it alright if we start unloading books?"

Gren got a pleased look on his face over the cheek kiss and nodded. "Sure, let's get started." Gren took a crate from the cart, and Perrigan, Moriana, and finally Haddon all took their turns carrying a new batch of books inside.

Izira took her box inside, giving a look around for Crawford and Yolene. She set the box down on a table closer to a corner, unpacking books until she could catch Morianna's attention to gesture her over.

Yolene was holding the romance book to her chest, and gushing at Crawford about the plot and the characters while Crawford just stoically stood there and listened.

Moriana caught Izira's gesture and sauntered over, placing her hand on her hip while she waited for Izira to speak.

A smile to the younger couple, Izira hoped it would take them less time to figure it out than it had for her. As Moriana walked over, Izira moved the last couple of apples from the sack and set them on the table. The two packs of coffee grounds were covertly put into the newly emptied sack and offered to the ranger woman. "Thank you Moriana for your help in this task. It is greatly appreciated."

Moriana looked conflicted for a few moments as if deciding whether to remain angry or not, then she merely took the sack with a nod of thanks to Izira. She was only asked to carry the shelves, so her task done, she stepped towards the door, giving Haddon another shove of frustration before disappearing.

Gren was picking through the crate he had hauled inside with a curious look. "I don't remember ever seeing these books before. They look like poetry books."

Moriana's response was enough for Izira. Watching the pair leave, her attention turned to Gren. "I imagine a number of poets went for a thoughtful walk only to end up lost and upon the road to the inn. There were a number of volumes I was unfamiliar with."

"Huh. Well, you know I'm a W.B. Yeats fan . . . ", while handling a few of the books of authors he didn't recognize, he dutifully began to stack them on the shelving units for the Poetry section. After a few minutes of rifling through the sometimes worn volumes, Gren found a leather-bound book with a stitching of a heart surrounded by flames on the cover. Flipping through the tattered pages, he could not make out the words. "This is an odd one. I don't think I've ever seen this language before."

Yolene was next to him, doing more reading than shelving. "Let me see, I bet I could read it!" As Yolene grabbed the book from Gren's hands, an audible crack could be heard from the book's spine. Yolene was silent for a moment, then said, "Ooops."

"You didn't break it, did you?" Gren replied worriedly. "I don't think so . . .” Yolene went to turn the book over, and slowly from the spine what looked like a rolled piece of paper fell out onto the floor.

She nodded, moving to place the books she had on a shelf nearby as Gren went through his own stack. His comment on not recognizing the language caught her attention, she turned his way but Yolene was there before she could say anything. Her mouth open with unvoiced words when the spine of the book cracked. She covered her mouth with a hand.

"Well that sure didn't sound good, I mean . . . " Gren looked down and saw the piece of rolled paper on the floor.”What's this?" Bending down, he picked it up and unrolled it. "It's a secret message!"

Yolene clapped the book shut and leaned in to see what the note had to say. Gren began to read.

"Dearest Love, Words cannot describe my dismay that your father has rejected my proposal for your hand in marriage. Just because I am Ny'Halian does not mean I cannot love you and provide for you. Please know that I have adored you from the first day I saw you crossing the garden at the University. Your ebony hair was blowing in the wind, and the blue of your eyes matched the clear Spring sky of April. Normally I was quite timid when it came to women, but I knew I had to talk to you. I didn't know how, or what I was going to say, but I had to. I remember I followed you into the Library, wracking my brain for some way to strike up a conversation with you. Frustrated, I finally sat down and began reading a magazine I had purchased about Archaeology. Like a sign from the gods, you sat down next to me and asked me about it. We struck up a conversation about Elven tribal pottery. I asked if you would go to an exhibit at the Museum and you agreed. The rest is history. My love, I cannot be seen with you in the City any more, you know your father has spies everywhere. There is a map on the back of this note. I have a surprise waiting for you there. If you see it, you will know what I am asking, and what must be done so we can be together. I will wait for you, but if I do not hear from you in a month's time, I will have my answer. With all my heart I hope it will be yes. I pray I see you soon, my love. Yours, Mannix."

As Gren read, Izira moved closer, taking the book from Yolene and looking through it as though it would have some clue to the letter's origin. It was a book of Ny'Halian poetry, love poems. Izira's heart broke for the writer of the scroll, for if these words were here to be read, than what had happened to the love he wrote to? Marrying outsiders was vastly frowned upon within their culture, but like her father this man thought nothing on it. The book was closed and held to her chest, as though there she could keep safe the love this man might have lost. Her other hand reached out to Gren, touching lightly upon his arm.

Gren watched Izira clutch the book to her and felt her touch. "What is it? Do you know something about this?”

"My father was Ny'Halian. The book.... Alain brought it back from his visit..." So many years ago, the second book Izira had not given that much attention to. After the break-up she'd buried it away, having realized what it was and not wanting the reminder. But even in that state, she had no heart to destroy the book. "The back?" Her attention turning to the letter he held.

"Oh, wow." Gren now realized what he was holding, and how it could be important to Izira. When Izira mentioned the back, he flipped the paper over. There was a map of the forest north of RhyDin City. Various points were placed so the person the letter was intended for could follow a trail. "It looks like there is a cave to the north of the City. This Mannix wanted his love to go there."

"Oh, it's so romantic!" Yolene clapped her hands to her chest.

"Izira . . . . maybe we could go and take a look. You might find out something about your people." Gren held the map out to her so she could see.

Amber-brown eyes searched over the bit of paper. "I... know as much as I think I need to of them. But... Mannix... he meant for his love to find this. Does it mean that she did not? Or did she... ", Izira thought of the time she spent waiting for Gren's return and worried that he would not come back to her. She nodded, "We should go look."

Gren nodded at Izira's words. "You said Alain found it. So that would have been, wow, ten years ago. Mannix said he would wait a month. By his own words, he would have moved on." Gren is saddened by the tragic love story, but excited at the fact that Izira might find valuable clues about her heritage. "Should we finish up the Library? Or do you want to go now?"

With Gren's question, Izira looked to Perrigan, leaving it to him to decide if they were still needed for the library project.

Noticing Izira's eyes on him, Perrigan shrugged. "We've got the shelving up now. I'm sure between myself, Yolene and Crawford we can finish sorting the books. If you want to go, go right on ahead. I hope you find something interesting and special."

'Then... it is decided..." Looking back to Gren, Izira still held the book - the volume having a different meaning than it held before. She looked to the map again, "It is a long journey? Should we return to the inn first? I was not expecting to be away more than a night.."

Gren thought about it. "Maybe it would be a good idea to go back to the Inn first. Not only to get supplies, but I know you need to go back to the realm for both your sakes. We can start the journey from there, that way you'll have more time."

"Yes. Thank you." She was still trying to put it all together in her mind, which is why she fell silent. Running it through her thoughts, she smiled, "It will be nice to do this with you, Gren."

"It will be", Gren smiled gently, putting his arm around Izira's shoulders. "I'm looking forward to having an adventure . . . a romantic adventure together with you."

She leaned in, giving Gren a kiss. She paused, "... tell me we can make the trip without a horse...”

Gren's smile faded as he suddenly thought of Alfred. No, not a good idea. "I do believe we can do this with our own two legs." Thank goodness, he thought.

Mirrored relief in Izira's expression. "A romantic adventure. Just the two of us."

Gren seesawed his finger between himself and Izira. "So what are we waiting for?"
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2018 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back at the Inn, Gren was sitting on a barstool, looking the map over in preparation for their hike. It was hand-drawn, and featured a dashed line that led from the northern outskirts of the city all the way out to a cave several miles distant. "This doesn't look too difficult . . . I hope . . .”

Izira stood beside Gren, a hand on his shoulder as she looked over it. For the journey she hand found a pair of brown thigh-high boots, paired with a light grey sweater dress. A brown belt cinched around her waist. "I have faith."

He looked up and smiled as she touched his shoulder. "Whoa, you look beautiful. It's a shame we're going to be hiking through the woods all day." He chuckled and stood up. "Do you think we should take a meal just in case?"

She held up the small rucksack in her other hand. "I have some traveling foods. Fruits, dried meat, cheese, bread. Water. Do you think we would need anything else?"

"No, that should be good enough. I'm looking forward to going on an adventure with you. It seems you're here at the Inn most of the time." Gren slid his arm around Izira's waist. "Well, are you ready?"

She kissed his cheek. "I am. Jeremiah will watch over the realm while we are away."

"Great, let's go" Leading Izira to the door and holding it open for her, he walked out into the sunshine and down the gravel path towards the gate to RhyDin. One arm around Izira's waist and his other used to hold the map. "This map starts at the City's edge, and there are four landmarks we're supposed to find before we get to the cave."

She paused at the door to grab a light maroon cloak, sliding into Gren's arm as they left. She looked at the map he held, "What are the landmarks?"

"Well, it starts off with . . . oh, boy . . . 'The Shrieking Tree'. Now that sounds rather scary. Then as we head north, we go into the Mountains to find the 'Maiden in the Cliff'. Then there is a river we have to cross by using 'The Circle Bridge'. Then we go into a valley where we go past the 'Stairs to Nowhere', and from there we will see the 'Heart Shaped Cave'. I hope that first one was just a metaphor or something." He looked slightly nervous.

"Hopefully... but you never know." She ran the list of locations through her mind. "If it is loud, perhaps we can cover our ears."

"Maybe he's just upset over the deforestation of one of our most precious resources." Gren coughed. "I mean, uh, certain people feel strongly about those sorts of issues."

"Some people who are handsome rangers?"

"Well, I do have a particular affinity for our leafy friends . . .” Leaving the Inn's pocket dimension behind, the pair headed towards the outskirts of RhyDin city. The trees were beginning to bloom, and birds could be seen flying overhead as they moved down the pathway. "I don't go towards the north of the city very often. It's not really my territory."

Izira took in their surroundings as they moved, "I am glad that you have a stronger affinity for me... ", she said, teasing with her smile to him. “Does another ranger patrol it?"

"Actually, it's a whole different outfit. Perrigan's Rangers are responsible for the Northwest. To the North and Northeast are Brallin's Rangers. We wear grey, they wear green. Perrigan and Brallin have had a rocky relationship over the years, but as long as we mind our business we shouldn't be in any trouble."

"Does that mean we need to refrain from ranger-like activities while there? I would not want to cause you or Perrigan any troubles."

"No, simple hiking and exploring should be fine. They get enough City folk coming into that area doing the same thing we're doing. Just to be on the safe side, I put my cloak in my backpack. If we run into any of Brallin's Rangers, I doubt any of them would recognize me."

"What if they watched that show? They could be fans."

Gren laughed. "Yeah, I forgot about that. Meet the Brockmans. Luckily for me few of them actually go into the city. There aren't too many televisions out in the forest. Anything's possible, but like I said, I think we'll be fine as long as we don't do anything too provocative."

Izira pouted at Gren's choice of words, "No?"

"Yeah, this isn't one of those places where we should be seen having . . . . relations."

"Where should we be seen having relations?"

"Hopefully nowhere. I am a gentleman, you know."

"Oh, I know." She nodded, but the wicked hint of a smile did not leave her face.

He cleared his throat. "Let's be discreet here, we're entering Brallin's territory." The forest gave way to great towering oaks and poplars. The trees looked huge and advanced in age. The spring leaves hadn't quite filled the forest sky yet, but it did seem to be a darker and more mysterious section of the forest. The path turned rocky and meandered up a low ridge where by looking off to the right, they could see RhyDin City began to appear. "I like to view the City from here sometimes."

"I believe I am being told to behave." But Izira said no more on it as their surroundings changed. She paused, taking in the view. "Imagine all the many beings living out their lives..."

"I'm merely asking for the famous discretion of a well-mannered proprietress of an Inn." He gave her a little squeeze, then joined her as she paused to take in the view. "Yeah. It makes you wonder how a city full of all those different races and species can co-exist. Then again, the marketplace does blow up rather frequently."

"A rarely visited inn. It does not require much discretion. But you are safe." Watching the city from a distance, it was still something of a stranger to her at times. Close, but far.

He stood there with her for a few minutes, before turning to go back up the rocky path. "Alright, now we have to be on the lookout for the 'Shrieking Tree'." He paused his speech and listened to see if he could hear anything in the surrounding forest. "Sounds pretty quiet to me."

"That... is good... is it not?" Following behind him, Izira moved with care on the rocky path. Amber-brown eyes scanning their surroundings and the trees.

"Yeah, definitely." A few more minutes up the path, and they came upon a dead tree on the left. The trunk was hollowed out and appeared to be a mouth in the process of screaming. Two knots formed what looked like eyes, and its bare limbs looked like arms reaching upwards in fright. Gren reflexively took a startled step back. "Yah!" Then he peered at the evil looking tree. "Yeesh. Well this must be it. It's not a very romantic landmark, is it?"

The startled sound that Gren made pulled Iriza's attention to the tree. It appeared to be locked in a moment of horror, perhaps something from a fairytale. She placed a hand on Gren's arm. "Tara might find it romantic."

"Tara is probably the cause of this!"

"Not an impossibility. You should ask her when you next speak."

"Maybe I should just skip it. Well, at least we know we're on the right track. Let's hope the 'Maiden in the Cliff' is a lot less spooky." The rocky path evened out into a dirt road that moved further upward into a small chain of mountains. The trees thinned out a bit. Here and there they could see a mountain goat grazing on a patch of grass. From somewhere ahead they can hear the sound of fast moving water.

Before they moved on, Izira brushed a hand against the tree, feeling nothing there more than the bark beneath her fingers. "It would not be hard." Izira smiled at the goats, taking enjoyment as they grazed. "I hear water”, said to Gren as they moved on.

"I do too. I remember this area. There's a large mountain river that goes through here. By the look of the map, we'll be crossing it over the 'Circle Bridge'. But first we have to find the 'Maiden in the Cliff'." As the path continued, Gren and Izira could soon see the aforementioned river running below them and to the right. Beyond the river, they could see a steep cliff. After a few more minutes, Gren suddenly pointed to the cliff. "Look! Right there! Doesn't that look like a woman's face? I think we found it!" There was a spot in the cliff that resembled eyes, nose, and mouth, with hair flowing on both sides of the face.

Izira took a moment, looking at where Gren pointed. Tilting her head, "Less terrifying. Not very romantic." The edge of her lips curved upward, "I wonder if Mannix came here often… to know about it."

"He must have, he's the one that drew the map. It sounded like this was a secret place for him." He glanced more closely at the face. "I don't know . . . It might not be very romantic, but at least she's not screaming."

"Do you think he spoke to her?"

"You mean the 'Maiden on the Cliff'?" He pointed at the formation.

"Yes”, she confirmed, looking from the formation to Gren.

"Asking for romantic advice, possibly. She looks like she's been there for quite a while, she's probably seen a thing or two."

"Well. I know one thing she will not be seeing." A pointed brow and a playful smile, Izira moved on down the path.

"That might be for the better. That way Maidens on Cliffs can't tell tales, you know."

"She did not look like much of a talker."

"She looks positively stone-faced." Gren laughed at his little joke.

Softly chuckling at the play of words, Izira turned to look at Gren, reminded in the little joke of the many reasons she loved him. Falling silent, she moved to him, brushing the back of her fingers over his cheek and beard. She pulled him into a kiss.

"And, you know, I . . . uh . . . " Izira's hand running over his face caused his words to trail off, and the press of her lips to his caused him to forget all about whatever follow up joke he was going to tell. When their lips finally parted, he blinked as if breaking out of a daze. “. . . What was I talking about?"

Smiling, her eyes sparkled with a warmth her heart held only for him. "The next landmark?"

"Eh . . . oh, yeah! The 'Circle Bridge'!" Gren ran his fingers through his hair as if snapping out of a pleasant daydream. "Well, the bridge should be right up the road here. Although I'm not sure how a bridge could be a Circle." The dirt road they travelled on began to follow closely to the river, which began to calm and spread wider. The forest began again as they left the small group of mountains. As they passed a wooden fence, they saw the path curve into the river. An arched stone bridge passed over, and its reflection could be plainly seen in the clear river water below.

Izira took Gren's hand, lacing her fingers with his as they moved on. Walking close, she enjoyed the mixture of the scents of nature and him. "Perhaps when the water completes the circle?" She pointed to the bridge, gesturing to the water's reflection to draw a circle.

Gren blinked a few times as Izira pointed and explained, then he broke out into a broad smile. "Yeah, a circle! Whoa, that's beautiful."

She squeezed Gren's hand. "It is."

"We're getting close now." They moved closer to the river and went over the stone bridge. Looking down in the water, it was clear enough to see a few bass swimming around. As they made it to the opposite shore, the forest began to get thick again in the valley. Squirrels were running around looking for food. They began to see signs of what was once a small village. Broken down stone houses with no roofs had moss growing and slowly climbing up their walls. At the far edge of the abandoned village, there was a set of stairs from an old mansion that were the only part of it still standing. They looked like they ended up in mid-air.

Izira gave a quiet nod. As the forest returned, her hand rested on Gren's arm while she continued to hold his hand with the other. "So strange..." Spoken at the abandoned village, "... to think people went about their lives here and now... oh, Gren. The stairs to nowhere."

"It's kind of sad in a way. I wonder where all the people went." His eyes lifted as Izira refers to the stairs. "Hah, we found it! Now we've just got to find the cave . . . “, Gren's voice trailed off and he squinted hard, looking into the trees beyond the stairs. He did not make any sudden movements, but he began whispering to Izira. "There. Beyond the tallest arch. See that dark green patch moving past the trees?" Being a Ranger, he was accustomed to seeing movements in the foliage of the forest.

Izira stilled as Gren quieted. She was not accustomed to picking out movements, but she had a lifetime of building up her guard. Her eyes moved, looking to seek out the green patch.

"If it was an animal or an orc, we'd have known it by now. It's one of Brallin's men. Come on, let's go to the cave. But just act naturally like we didn't see him."

"Stealthy." Izira stayed close to Gren, "Which way?"

"Up this path here to that mountain." They followed the narrow track until it met back up with the river on the other side of the village. There was a large mountain there and as they reached the end of the meandering track. The cave was on the other side of the mountain, effectively blocking it from the view of people who would have lived in the village. The entrance went down into the depths of the mountain, and the entrance bore a resemblance to a heart. "Well, you wanted romantic." Gren smiled at Izira.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Do we... go in?" Izira questioned.

"Yeah. If we're lucky, we won't be followed. But we should be safe enough." Leading Izira down into the tunnel entrance, it began to get dark rather quick. Gren pulled a torch and tinderbox from his backpack and quickly lit it.

"I am more concerned about what might be found in the cave... or finding our way out again...” Izira pulled her cloak closer as the cave grew darker.

Lifting the torch over his head to see, the cave was not deep, but ended in a towering chamber. There was an underground waterfall that spilled into a pool. At the edge of this pool there was a stone table that looked like it had lain undisturbed for years. A dead bouquet of flowers in a wooden vase rested on the table. There was a letter in the unknown language it was resting on top of. Gren kind of frowned and went up to the table, picking the bouquet up by the vase. "I hope this isn't all there is . . . " When he did a ring fell out of the holder. It was silver with flowers engraved in it, and held amber stone. Gren gaped at the beautiful ring. "Izira, look at this!"

Izira moved to the table, taking in a small heart breaking scene: forgotten flowers and the letter left behind. She picked up the letter, reading it silently. A line of water showed in her eyes, one tear slipping out. She looked to Gren and the ring. "He meant to wed her."

"Aw, poor guy." Gren went over to Izira and held her in an embrace. "When she didn't come, he must have just abandoned this place."

She couldn't voice her empathy for the man. She held Gren close, closing her eyes. She let the scent of him comfort her.

Gren listened to the sound of the waterfall behind him. He felt Izira's soft, warm body pressed against him, and smelled the faint scent of lavender. He felt the cold touch of the ring in his hand. He briefly held it up, and he felt as if he had found it and this place for a reason. "Izira . . . I think there was a purpose to us finding this place. I think there is a way that Mannix' sacrifice will not have been in vain. You know how much I love you. These last four and a half years we've spent together have been the best of my life. You're warm, caring, giving, and have been a constant source of love and support. I've known for the longest time that you're the one I want to spend the rest of my life with." Gren lowered himself to one knee, and lifted the ring up in his hand. "I may not be the first person to kiss you, or say they loved you, but I can be the first person to say this. Izira Nyte, will you marry me?"

Izira heart skipped a beat as Gren lowered to his knee, offering the ring out. She had not thought of marriage during their time together. Not because she did not want to marry Gren, but in being with Gren she had all she wanted - him. It did not matter to her what the labels were. She saw no end to her life with him. Now, it made sense. Mannix did not get the ending he had wanted, but Izira here found herself with a life that on some level she had not thought of for herself. One that only felt right. Her teary eyes sparkled with her smile, she could not find the word. Instead, she moved, closing the gap between them and kissed him. Finally, "Yes. Yes. With every beat of my heart, Gren, Yes." Kissing him again, her love and need fed into that kiss.

Gren almost blurted out a "Really?" before Izira's kiss thankfully spared him from sputtering out anything embarrassing. He returned her passionate kiss, pressing her to him, running his hands up and down her back. He was too deliriously happy to even process what had just happened over the last few moments. The sound of the waterfall crashed in his ears and he ran his fingers through her hair.

The outpouring of passion overwhelmed Gren, and before he knew it, he was lying beside Izira on a mossy bank near the pool, naked and breathing heavy from his exertions. He ran his fingers through his hair and looked at her. "I should have asked you to marry me a long time ago."

She kissed him, a soft laugh in her throat, "You can always ask me to marry you again." A light hand brushing through his beard. The ring, forgotten in the moment, hadn't found its way to her finger.

"Speaking of that, in all the . . . uh, excitement, I think I forgot one important thing . . . . ow . . . . " Reaching under him, with a grimace, he pulled out the ring that he had been laying on. "I think you need to be wearing this to make things official." He held up the amber stoned ring for her to slip her finger into.

"I would hate for all that effort to be for nothing if it were not official" Slipping her finger into the ring while keeping eye contact with him.

He absently ran his other hand up and down her back. "I guess I broke my rule again about no relations in open places."

"A cave is not entirely open." The ring tingled against her skin. The amber in her eyes warmed. "Oh..." A light blink of her lashes toward the ring, then she smiled softly. "Ny'Halian crafted...”

He glanced at the ring as she did. "Amber just like your eyes. Or do you mean it has some . . . magical properties?"

"It is... hard to explain. It is not exactly magic... but it... ", Izira bit her lip, trying to think of how to describe it, "It feels right. As right as you and I feel."

"Then it’s the perfect ring. Geez . . . . I can't believe I'm actually engaged. After all those years being together with you . . . it feels like a brand new start for us."

"Does this mean.... your tree house?"

He laughed. "If we can keep our hands off each other for that long. Remember, Brallin's men are lurking about."

"Mm, I make no promises, My Ranger."

"Speaking of which, maybe we should head back now that we've found what we're looking for. In more ways than one. Where the heck are my clothes anyway? Please tell me they're not in the pool."

Izira's thoughts lingered on Gren, her hand trailing over his chest. But, yes, they should go. Her eyes moved toward the pool. "There is... bad news... but there is also good news."

Gren blinked rapidly. "What's the bad news?"

Izira untwined herself from Gren, moving to the pool to pull out his pants.

"Oh, no!" Standing up, Gren put his hands on top of his head. "Please tell me the good news is you can use some of your fire to dry them out so I don't have to walk back all squishy."

Softly chuckling, "That is the good news”, she held up the pants, and they started to dry from the top down to the end of the leg. Izira stood, comfortable in her nakedness, and handed Gren his pants.

"Whew, thank you." He quickly slipped his pants back on, then hunted around for his shirt. "Did you notice anything else around this cave that might be useful?"

"Useful?" She tilted her head, watching him dress. "Other than you?" Smiling and having to turn away, she located her lingerie and started to get dressed as well.

"I meant anything of Ny'Halian origin. Maybe Mannix used this cave as a hideout." His shirt was found and pulled back over his head.

Izira looked around, "I do not see anything." Back into her dress, she slipped the boots and belt on.

"Right, well . . . keep the letter in the poetry book, just in case." Gren glanced around the cave to see if he could discern something special, but he didn't see anything that stood out to him. "Are you ready to head back?"

Putting her cloak on and picking up the rucksack, she put the letter into it. She cuddled up to Gren, "Unless you want to celebrate again?"

"I do, but not in front of Brallin's men. Let's head for the treehouse where we can continue our . . . celebration." He put his arm around her shoulders as they moved out of the cave and back into the sunlight.

"If you insist”, she grinned, "Are you hungry? For something other than me."

"Yeah, I could eat something . . . . you know what . . . as much as I would love to have you cook me one of your homemade meals, would you like to go to a restaurant? Since this is a special occasion?"

"If you would like. Being with you is special enough, wherever we are." She took some fruit from the sack. "To tide you over, either way."

"Thank you. Mmm, Fuji Apple." He chewed for a while thinking about it, then looked down at his hiking shirt and pants. "Maybe I should get a change of clothes first."

She took a small bit of apple for herself, looking around in the sun to see if she could spot one of the other rangers.

They were walking through the abandoned village with the Stairs to Nowhere, and Gren peered into the distant leaves, looking for any signs of movement. "I don't see anyone around. Hopefully they think we're just two lovers looking for a secluded spot for a romantic afternoon. Uh, even though we are two lovers looking for a secluded spot . . .”

"Looking? We found our spot... and enjoyed ourselves. I can refresh your memory if need be." Giving Gren a look as she pulled her eyes away from the surroundings.

He lowered his voice to a whisper, and pointed into the trees with a finger from the hand cupped around her shoulder. "Maybe later, I think I spoke too soon.”

Looking to where Gren pointed, she leaned close. Lowering her voice back to him, "Would they not be more convinced of our amorous ways if we were... amorous?" Kissing his cheek, she took his hand and continued down the trail.

He kissed her hair. "I'm sure a kiss here or there wouldn't hurt, but I'd rather not be caught in a . . . compromising situation." Trying to discreetly glance over his shoulder as they left the abandoned village, he was trying to walk quickly enough to keep up a brisk pace, but not quick enough that someone would think he knew they were being watched.

"I would not want my husband-to-be to be caught in any compromising situations." She moved to keep up with Gren.

Thankfully, Gren and Izira saw no more signs of Brallin's Rangers. They followed the landmarks back to the City, then went to Gren's treehouse to change. Or that was Gren's plan, until they decided to "celebrate" their engagement again. Dinner at a restaurant turned into a romantic evening at home, then breakfast in bed.
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2018 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

April 14, 2018

After a long, and fun, morning in bed celebrating, Izira finally rose to get ready to return to the inn. Gren's closet included a small portion of her own wardrobe, that she looked over decisively."We should see Perrigan before going back to the inn... tell him the good news."

"Sure thing. I'm glad he and the others will be glad to hear. Plus we can see how the Library is coming. Are you going to be alright having been gone from the Inn for so long?" Gren put on his brown shirt and pants and was rubbing his pine scented oil in his beard.

She found a pink shirt with a sheer knitted pattern over the shoulders and the sleeves, and paired it with a simple white pencil skirt and white sling back heels. Pulling her hair up, "You would notice if there was an issue, it is a two-sided coin my love."

He chuckled, and ran a comb through his hair and beard. "Just trying to be safe. I can't remember the last time you've been away from the Inn for this long. I wouldn't want the happiness of our engagement to be suddenly cut short."

The engagement ring and her locket finished the ensemble. "Speaking of the inn.... do you want to talk about our... future living situation?"

Gren paused in his combing. He set the comb down on his dresser and turned to look at her. "I know you're tied to the Inn. When we get married, I'd like to stay at the Inn with you."

She smiled and nodded, "After we get married?" Moving over and kissing him on the cheek, "I would accuse you of being old fashioned, but nothing we did this morning was old fashioned."

He laughed and put his arms around her. "I think I've stayed over at the Inn, with you, enough times over the years for you to know that's not true."

She slipped her arms around him. "Are you ready to go see Perrigan? I fear if we linger we will end up in bed all day. Not that I am opposed to further celebration... but there are a lot of places we can celebrate at the inn."

"Mmmm. Since you put it that way, let's go right now." He smiled and inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. He had no problem living with Izira at the Inn. But he thought she was going to ask him to be tied to the Inn and its realm as she was. It's not that it scared him, but it was a big step. Just like engagement. Just like marriage. That could be a discussion for another time. He didn't want to possibly spoil Izira and his good mood. "I hope Yolene has been stacking books and not reading those romance novels and bothering Crawford."

"I hope she has been bothering Crawford." Kissing Gren's cheek, Izira headed out of his room and down to the door. "How else will she make any traction toward a real life romance?"

"They'll know when the time is right. Just like we did. Let's go." He grabbed his grey cloak from a nearby chair and slipped it over his head.

Izira grabbed the light maroon one. "You were persistent."

"I knew who I wanted to be with. For the first time, really." He put his arm around her and led her down the steps to the door. He closed and locked the door behind him, giving the clearing a few looks to make sure nothing was amiss, then he moved with Izira off on the path towards the Ranger's Compound. "You know, maybe you should read through Mannix' book. You might find some other things about the Ny'Halians."

"I could do that... when I am not otherwise occupied. Perhaps when you are patrolling." She curled up next to him as they walk.

"That's fine." He is quiet for a moment. "That book was in the stack that you were giving away. Is there some reason why you didn't want it?"

"I have no connection to my father's people other than that which I cannot shake... no fondness for them. The book itself... Alain brought it to me after he visited them. It did not seem important to keep."

"Alright." Gren didn't know what more to say about that. He didn't want to push her about her painful past. "Geez, all morning it’s really hit me. I mean, where are we going to get married at? Who are we going to invite? When is it going to happen? What will I wear?" He then stopped and gulped deeply. "Oh, my gut, I think my stomach just did a somersault."

"The inn?" She was thinking mainly for Jeremiah to be able to see. What few friends Izira had she wasn't sure they would be able to attend. She saw them so rarely. A comforting hand placed on Gren's arm. "There is time to decide. We have not even set a date yet."

"Yeah. Right. The Inn. Plenty of time. No rush." He roughly tugged at his collar and took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself.

"Getting cold feet already?" She asked, teasing him for his nervousness. Izira smiled, taking his hand and holding it throughout the journey. The metal of the ring a curious mixture of warmth and cool.

They headed through the forest to the wooden bridge, then through the gate (thankfully Grace wasn't on duty that day). They walked up to the west wall and the small building which was the Ranger's new library. The stumps and crates were all cleaned up outside. Gren grabbed the doorknob and let out a long breath. Then he looked at Izira. "Ready?"

"Ready." She was eager to see what the library looked like now.

Gren nodded and smiled, and opened the door. The inside of the building looked freshly scrubbed, and the walls were lined with fresh cut pine shelving units. There was a row of shelves down the middle as well. On the side closest to the door, there were several tables with chairs that also looked like they had been newly carved. Yolene was sitting at one table with Crawford. She had an open romance novel in one hand and was eagerly relaying the details of it to Crawford, who was gently nodding with a little smile. Perrigan was standing near one of the shelves, perusing what books were actually there now. Haddon was blowing wood chips from one of the tables and dusting it off as if he just finished it. Moriana was standing behind him with her arms crossed.

Gren gaped at the sight. "Wow . . . it actually looks nice in here."

Izira stepped into the library, marveling at the change. The fingertips of one hand lightly brushing her lower lip in wonder. "Oh my... it is lovely."

Haddon poked Moriana and pointed at Izira. "See? She appreciates my handiwork." Moriana curled her lip up at Haddon.

Perrigan smiled at them as they made their presence known. "Good morning you two. How did your adventure go yesterday?"

Gren rubbed the back of his head and had a sheepish smile on his face. "Better than expected, Headmaster. Uh . . . we kind of have an announcement to make." Gren looked at Izira, then back at those Rangers gathered. "I asked Izira to marry me!"

Perrigan's smile increased as he walked over to the two, while Yolene and Crawford stood up and clapped.

Haddon laughed, "HAW HAW, It's about time! Well, she said yes, didn't she?"

"It would be a fairly awkward announcement if I were here to tell you otherwise." Izira moved to hug Perrigan as he came over.

Gren gave Haddon an exasperated look.

Yolene was jumping up and down next to Izira. "Ohmigod Ohmigod Ohmigod! What did he say? What did you do? Where is the ring??"

Izira offered her hand out with the ring to Yolene, "It was a lovely speech, I do not think I could do it justice in the retelling. I... eagerly accepted his offer, of course."

"Wowwww . . . " Yolene fingered the amber stone. "It's the same color as your eyes!"

Perrigan clapped Gren on the shoulder. "I'm happy for you Gren. And you too, Izira."

"It is Ny'Halian crafted, of my father's people”, she offered to Yolene. Izira gave Perrigan a bow of her head in thanks.

Moriana's face softened to a look that almost seemed magnanimous. She offered Izira a nod. Crawford looked happy for them as well. Haddon butted in, "Well, hey, this calls for a celebration! I think we should get those big barrels of ale out of the storehouse and . . .”

Perrigan gave Haddon a stern look. "We can have a celebration, but let's keep the ale to a minimum, shall we?"

A soft bow of her head while she smiled at Moriana. "I have yet to see how a party goes down here, it would be good to see." Looking to Gren on the suggestion of a celebration.

"Hey, a celebration sounds fine to me”, Gren answered.

Haddon seemed cheery about the idea, giving Gren a rough bear hug. He got a punch on the shoulder from Moriana, about as close to a hug as he was going to get.

"Lovely. Perrigan, is there anything I can do to assist?" Izira asked.

"This time, let us fix you something. It's the least we could do”, Perrigan replied.

"Only if you insist." She laced her fingers with Gren’s while addressing Perrigan, "How much time do you need to get ready?"

"Why don't you come back tomorrow? We've just finished this project, it'll give us time to rest and make something nice."

Yolene clapped in agreement. "Oh I want to be the flower girl at the wedding! Please can I be the flower girl? No wait, I'm too old! I want to be a maid of honor! I want to catch the bouquet!"

"Agreed. The library is lovely, Perrigan. You all did great work with it." Izira smiled to those there, "I appreciate the enthusiasm Yolene." A soft chuckle as she looked to Gren, "Shall we, head home?"

"Sure, thanks everyone!" Gren said.

"Congratulations you two!" The Rangers waved and wished them well as they exited the Library.

"Whew . . .” Gren smiled after he had shut the door. "Well, now it seems more . . . . official."

Nodding softly, she paused. "Is... there somewhere here I could send a quick letter? I would like to tell Eva."

"Yes, we could do that. The main guardhouse collects our letters and delivers them by horse. It's over by the main gate." Gren led Izira back towards the gate and up to the large boarding house where the wall guards lived. He knocked on the door, which opened at the sound. Grace was standing there, holding the door open with a little salute. Then she saw it was Gren and her eyes narrowed. The door opened into the common room, and there was a table set before the door to check visitors. Westerguard, the grizzled old General, was sitting at the table, sorting through papers.

"Look at this mess, I don't care how long it takes, I want all these requisitions to be properly stamped and sorted." As Gren and Izira stood before the table, Westerguard gave Gren a quizzical look. "Captain Blockman, what are you doing here?"

"Uh . . . sir, General, sir . . . . I just got engaged, and I . . .”

"Well, good for you, Captain, but forgive me for not joining you in your romantic bliss, I have very important work to do here."

"Uh, General, what I meant to say is, Izira here needs to send a letter. Can we, uh, please?"

Westerguard shifted his gaze from Gren to Izira as if looking for a better explanation.

Izira took in Grace, Westerguard, and the common room. She moved to sit down as she spoke, "I have few people in life dear to me, Westerguard. Eva is the only person drawing breath that I need to share this news with. That requires a letter. Surely, you know what it is like to have that one friend?" Thinking back to Perrigan's conversation about his history with Westerguard. "I would be happy to delay our return to the inn to help you with this, running an inn has taught me a great deal in keeping items in order."

Westerguard rolled his jaw around while Izira spoke, as if turning the matter over in his mind. "Yes, I do know what it is like to have that one friend, young lady. Very well, I'll allow it this once. Since our Captain has gone and gotten himself engaged. And thank you, but no, I'll handle the paperwork. These are delicate matters I entrust only to myself." Westerguard handed Izira a sheet of blank paper, and pushed an inkwell and quill in her direction.

"Understood, you have my thanks." Izira quickly wrote out a note in her flowing lettering, folding the letter and addressing it to Eva. She found a bit of wax, using her gift to melt it to seal the letter. Standing up, she held the letter looking to Gren on where best to leave it.

"I'll handle that." Westerguard took the letter from Izira, and waved over Grace with a hand. "Grace, take this letter and this bag of mail, and deliver it to the City." Grace hurried over to Westerguard and gave him her little salute, before scooping up the letter and bag of mail, and running out the door to find a horse. "There. I trust that is all you need from me, Captain?" Westerguard gave Gren a pointed look.

"Thank you Grace”, Izira said even though the woman was doing her job. She glanced to Gren, then back to Westerguard. "I hope once we set a date you will be able to attend, should work allow.”

"Yeah, that should do it, thanks, General." Gren still looked nervous, but grateful the task was accomplished. "Yes, Izira and I would love for you to attend."

Westerguard grunted, and looked back at his paperwork. "I'll think about it."

“We will leave you to it." She bowed her head in thanks and headed out.
"Sir", Gren saluted the General, then followed Izira out. "Whew. Well that was relatively painless. Do you want to go back to the Inn now?"

"That would be nice." She kissed him, "I want to spend some more private time with my husband to be."

Gren returned her kiss. "This is shaping up to be a productive day." A little squeeze of Izira's shoulder as they walked to the gate and out of the Compound towards the Inn.

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