Friday, June 7, 2019

Dwarven Diplomacy

"You truly intend to take him with you on a diplomatic mission to the Dwarves?" Hirethal Moonshadow looked baffled and affronted. "The boy could ruin everything."

Baethira Anthelorn regarded her once-husband with amused patience. "He will not. The dwarves value strength, and our son is strong."

"Our son is damaged," snapped Hirethal, then stopped abruptly as though surprised to have said the words aloud.

Baethira's amusement vanished. "Our sons -- both of them -- are fine."

"Darvinin is fine. He knows what he wants, and he's on the path to get it. His brother, by contrast, lives mostly alone among the trees, chooses his clothes in defiance of all propriety, and accepts no teaching from anyone. For the love of Corellan, he won't even choose an adult name -- and he refuses to answer to the name we gave him in childhood."

"Hirethal Moonshadow," said Baethira, standing up from the elegantly decorated chair where she'd been looking through her spellbook. She paused, taking a deep breath, then continued: "I have no desire to sit in judgement on my own child, and neither should you. I know your work with the council keeps you busy, so permit me to educate you on a few matters that may help lessen this... embarrassment of yours.

"Yes: the younger twin keeps to himself and lives rough among the trees. But I seem to recall someone telling me he once spent three years without speaking to anyone, do I not?"

Hirethal stiffened. "That was different. I was training as a ranger."

Baethira tilted her head. "You were angry at your parents for trying to get you to consort with Caliphira. And our son is close to his brother and the others of the Rebirth, as well as many of the grey elves and thinbloods. It only doesn't seem so because he isolates himself from his elders..." She paused to draw breath, but Hirethal remained silent. "...Including us."

"He has no mentor or trainer; this is true. But Darvinin considers his twin formidable, and given who he studies under I would hesitate to dismiss that. To be self-taught is not always to be poorly taught. And as for names, well: if you wish to know what to call him, you have only to ask. He uses Ruin more often than anything else. This is not so great a burden for us to bear." She paused, then added: "Though I'll grant you that his clothing is flamboyant."

Hirethal sighed. "No, I suppose it is not such a burden. At least we still have him. And I am not embarrassed by him -- I'm worried for him. Though what you've said does reassure me."

"That," said Baethira, "is good to hear. Because there's one other thing you should know about our younger son: he's standing right behind you."

Hirethal spun around as Ruin unfoldered himself from where he'd been leaning against the elegantly-carved door frame. "Father," he said.

"How fare you, my son?"

"You may call me Ruin, if you wish. And I am well, on the whole."

"On the whole?"

"The True King has returned, the humans raise armies to deny us any chance at freedom or self-rule, those of our blood are being murdered or tortured as we speak, and you were not wholly wrong: I am damaged. But I will find my own way back out of that. Meanwhile I am healthy, and intrigued by the task that Mother has asked me to assist with. So: I am well, on the whole."

"That is good to hear," said Hirethal, still looking a little stunned.

"I came to tell you, mother, that I am packed and ready for the journey."

"Thank you. Will we see you at dinner?"

"As you wish." Ruin's mouth quirked just slightly, and Baethira thought, It won't be quite so awkward as you think, my son. She watched as he turned and left the room again.

Hirethal was still staring after him. "He snuck up on me. He snuck up on me."

"Formidable," she reminded him.

"...More than I'd thought, anyway." Hirethal's expression was oddly blank -- Caught between relief and embarrassment, she thought.

"I know you want pass on our traditions, but his cousins can carry that burden. He must find his own way."

For a long moment, Hirethal looked thoughtful. "If he's so set on remaining apart from the elders, how did you convince him to come with you?"

Baethira gave a small shrug. "I went out into the forest and asked him." She set her spellbook on the table, then moved to kiss her once-husband on the cheek. He was slightly shorter than she was, but broader through the shoulders, and his scent was as pleasant as always. "Now, if you'll forgive me, I need to lay out instructions for the apprentices, and give the garden a last looking-over."

"Take care of your apprentices," said Hirethal gruffly. "I'll go and look over the garden." He kissed her twice, once on each cheek. "It will give me some time to think."

Notes: True Elves are immortal, or near enough, so I'm working out a theory about how marriage works for them -- I don't think this campaign really has a canon on the topic, and in any case it could always vary from area to area and relationship to relationship. Hirethal is Baethira's "once-husband" because they have lived out the length of their marriage by raising their children to adulthood. At this point it would be possible for them to renew the marriage (perhaps having other children), consider marriages with other people, or remain solitary for a time. There's an entire etiquette for once-spouses, who -- assuming the marriage ended amicably -- are essentially considered close family members even if their once-spouse has remarried.


  1. I like that theory. It makes sense!

    1. Our Dungeon Master seems pretty pleased with it too. Thanks!


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