Another installment of The Elfling. If you missed the first one, it is either just down below this, or can be found here. Continue through the break for part 2!
The Elfling, pt 2
Bam, bam, bam.
Naerel looked up sharply at the knock on his door. He wasn’t expecting anyone. He never expected anyone anymore. He glanced around his sitting room. A few of Syllar’s toys lay scattered about. He had made her a flexing stick from a strong sapling he found a few weeks back. She would grab the small end in her front feet, the larger end was held with the rear. By rolling onto her back, she pulled the ends together, then relaxed, letting the wooden toy stretch her body tight. He watched as she played, clicking with laughter when it would pop loose from her grip.
The knocking was more insistent this time. Sliding the book he had been reading her under the chair out of sight, he picked her up and brought her to her climbing tree. Her feet waved in the air until they made contact with the upper branch. Clutching it with her back feet, she swung upside down, back and forth, catching and releasing the wall in front of her. Naerel smiled to himself, watching her from the corner of his eye while he quickly gathered the toys and pushed them into the closet.
When he opened the door, his smile fell into a scowl. Two elves, both wearing white one-piece outfits that extended from their neck to their knees were waiting. “Naerel Brien?” The taller elf read from a parchment, then looked up at him expectantly.
“Yes,” he answered. They knew who he was.
“My name is Thieren. This is Drell. We are here from the Committee for Larva Welfare and Services. May we come in?”
Naerel forced the scowl off his face. It sounded like a question, but he knew it wasn’t. These elves were dangerous. Not dangerous like he was, but dangerous in a much worse way. He had to be careful. “Certainly,” he replied. He even managed to force what he hoped looked like a smile to his face. “What can I help you–”
“Oh! The little one,” Thieren pushed past him and plucked Syllar off her branch. “You shouldn’t leave her to play so high without being supervised. Or better, you should have a safety harness for her in case she falls.”
“She doesn’t fall,” Naerel replied, his voice barely above a whisper.
“You can never be too careful,” Thieren put Syllar on the floor. She sat there a moment, then crawled toward her climbing tree once more.
Drell stood just inside the door, surveying the room. “Naerel, I think you know why we are here.”
He turned to address Drell. “Not at all. I don’t see how anything that goes on inside my home is any of your business.”
Drell was unfazed. “We must ensure that the young ones’ safety is secure. The low birth rate and their fragility before they pupate makes their safety everyone’s concern.”
Thieren touched his arm. “After the attack on the nursemaid after your daughter’s birth…” He paused. “The child is still a daughter, correct? You haven’t neglected her feedings?”
“I have enough torageth for a herd of females. She is my daughter, my only connection to my wife.”
“Touching,” Thieren replied, his voice gave no indication that he even heard what he said. He made a note on his parchment. “Where was I? Oh, yes. When you attacked the nursemaid, there was obviously concern regarding your mental stability.”
“She’s fine. I did nothing to her.”
Drell spoke up, “Nothing? It has taken her two months to recover from the break in her arm. She is just now able to return to work, and still does not have her strength back.”
“She fell oddly. I didn’t break anything.”
Thieren’s voice rose slightly. “You were still responsible for it.” His eyes narrowed a bit, calculating. “Wasn’t there some question about your mental condition when you were released from the military?”
Naerel’s jaw clenched. He forced his face to remain passive, but the muscles in his arms quivered with rage. “I retired with full honor. Any charges were proven to be lies,” he said through clenched teeth.
Thieren glanced down at his arms and clenched fists. Making a few more notes, he mumbled, “As I thought.”
Naerel had had enough. “I believe it is time for Syllar’s nap. I’m afraid I will have to ask you to leave. Now.”
Neither of the intruders moved. They exchanged a glance. Drell replied, “Certainly. The Committee does not want to intrude on anyone. We are here, after all, only to serve and look out for the welfare of the larva. We will bring your case before the group. If they decide that you are mentally fit to care for the child, then you will not hear from us again.”
Naerel’s blood ran cold at the implied threat. He said nothing, but opened the door for them, holding it expectantly.
Thieren smiled as he left. “You really should get her a harness. Then again, you may not need it much longer.” With that, he swept out the door and away.
Naerel locked the door behind them, then stood leaning his back against it as he tried to calm himself. “Evil, back stabbing, two faced, child stealing, sons of a jabalier,” he muttered to himself. He glanced out the window. It was too late for them to get to a committee meeting today. It would be tomorrow, at the earliest.
There would be nothing for them to return to, he decided. His eyes shifted back to the climbing tree. Syllar once again hung from the top branch, swinging back and forth as she touched and released the wall. He had to think. He needed a plan, and quickly.
He opened the closet and pulled out her favorite toys. The flexing stick, of course. A smaller version of the climbing tree. She hadn’t used that since he got her the large one in the corner. The rolling ball would have to stay. It was too bulky. He frowned. She would climb into the woven ball and roll around the room for hours. Still, perhaps he could make a new one.
He scooped up a couple of her books, not looking at the titles. It all went into a large bag. Where was he to go? Anywhere inside the forest wasn’t safe. Someone would report him once word got out he was hiding. He had to leave the forest.
He stopped packing. Leave the forest. He looked at his daughter, playing happily. Could he really do that to her? Take her out of the forest, away from everyone else? Was he really concerned for her, or was he being selfish?
He walked over to the tree and gently pulled her away from it. She twisted in his hands, and nestled against his chest. Her head found the warm skin where his shoulder met his neck. His head twisted involuntarily as the bristles on her head tickled him.
No, it was for the best. “Come along, Syllar. Daddy’s taking you on a trip.” He stroked her back as her breathing deepened. “I just don’t know where we are going yet.”