By Sharon T. Rose
Posted June 24, 2011
This story is part of ULTRA. Support the author by liking it on Facebook!
The lord’s eyes ranged again, finally picking out a silhouette standing by the far window, looking at the night-covered grounds.
“Eudainudas val Rilaughe! Explain yourself! Where have you been–”
“My lord!” Morerver, hands raised in placation, stepped up to the furious nobleman. “All will be explained, but I beg you to be seated first.”
Lal Rilaughe halted, turning his hot gaze to his son’s dearest friend since childhood. “And you! You knew where he was all this time, and you told us nothing!”
“I did, my lord, and I told you nothing for two reasons,” Morerver replied humbly, deftly guiding his friend’s father towards the wingbacked chairs. “One was that Eudainudas bade me not to. Another is that I did not understand what was happening; in truth, I know little more now than you do.”
“Take a seat, Father.”
The quiet words brought the lord’s head around with a near-audible snap. Lal Rilaughe’s eyes narrowed as his brow creased. Eudainudas sounded … weak. In the darkness, it was difficult to see him, to assess his health after a full season of unexpected absence. His coat hung loosely from his shoulders, as though he had been very ill the past twelve weeks. And his tail, that evidence of his adoption from the heathen southern lands, did not flick with its customary vigor. Instead, it lay limp against the floor, its muscled tip still.
“Eudainudas … are you well, son?” Soft concern replaced heated anger inside Lord Digycos. The young man was over thirty-five turnings in age, yet he was still the tiny elfling the nobleman had rescued from the waters after the seaquake destroyed the forested wetlands so long ago. The courtiers of Besir had scoffed at lal Rilaughe’s decision to make an elf, from lascivious Sato Ome no less, his son, but that had stopped nothing. Eudainudas had grown up as wanton as his heritage promised, yet he was for all that a gentle man, caring of his adopted family.
Which made his abrupt disappearance the more terrible for them to endure.
The narrow shoulders lifted slightly. “I am … not ill, Father. Take a seat, and I will explain what I now know.”
Finally allowing val Asiaugh to lead him to the upholstered seats, Lord Digycos did not take his eyes from his offspring by choice. Therefore he did not miss when Eudainudas turned to face the firelight. “Great Yos protect us!” The oath slipped out as lal Rilaughe’s eyes threatened to burst.
His son had become a woman.
Under the loose coat, Eudainudas’ body was shrunken, yet unmistakably feminine. His face was leaner and subtly changed, though none would mistake that visage, even were it not so obviously unhuman. Elves were slender creatures with tapered ears, richly dark hair, and sharp features. Their long, thin tails ended in muscles that gave them the look of leaves; those tails aided their love of tree-climbing. Lord Digycos had numerous memories of his child, from tiny boy to grown man, darting through leafy limbs.
The womanish figure of his son walked out of the shadows. “It would seem, Father, that my race has yet another difference from humans. This was not my choice nor my doing; I did not seek this out.”
“Do …” Lord Digycos cleared his throat. “Do all of your people … go through this?”
Eudainudas’ lips curled softly. “I have vague memories of the change being rare, so I will say no. But it does explain a great deal of the … rumors about Sato Ome elves, does it not?”
Lord Digycos frowned. “It does. Do you have any idea why this happened, or how?”
Eudainudas sighed, settling into the other chair. Morerver leaned against the carved mantelpiece, arms folded. “I can guess. You recall that I did not feel well this past Winter? So erratic was my behavior that Morerver came to check my health early in Thaw. By that time, I was insensible, knowing only that I needed my tree, here at the Summer House. So desperate was I that Morerver insisted on coming with me.”
The young human nodded. “I found him babbling, my lord, and determined to put himself on a horse. It was all I could do to set my gelding after him. We rode without stopping, nearly killing our mounts. When we arrived, Eudainudas lept into that big tree of his and climbed to the top. The last thing he said was that he mustn’t be wakened or moved, lest he die. My lord, I didn’t know what to do, save watch over him.” He shrugged, helpless.
The elf continued. “I awoke three days past to find the old giant dead and myself thus. The change obviously requires the life energy of a great tree, which may be why I always favored it over all others. To why this happened at all, I am what elves call a shaman.”
“But you could already do magik, Eudainudas; what makes this any different?” Lord Digycos continued to frown.
His son-turned-daughter looked at him with solemn eyes. “The paltry spells of Sulcash’s Wizards are nothing compared to the Ilo, Father. This power is my Master now; it teaches me every moment, wakening my memories. To make me capable of wielding it, it remade me in body and mind. While I am still very much the same person I once was, I am not exactly who I was. I am still your child, Father, but I can no longer bear a man’s name.
“So perhaps you should now call me Eudainudeu.” She arched her brows, looking from father to friend.
All content released under a Creative Commons license unless otherwise noted.