Adelen stared into the bed of ferns for a long few seconds.
The child was asleep. Wisps of dark hair fell over his forehead, the evening sun gleaming on his olive-tinted skin. Snuggly swaddled in a rough, brownish cloth, the baby seemed perfectly comfortable. Soft hiccups — the sound that had stopped Adelen on the path — were the only sounds other than his slow breathing.
Adelen glanced all around the leafy cradle. There were no footprints or other signs of disturbance. It was as if the child had been let down out of the sky.
A breeze blew gently by. The child sneezed in his sleep.
How did you get here, little one?
Adelen’s thoughts were so focused that he forgot to lower their volume. The child suddenly awoke, and blinked up at the elf with large, golden brown eyes. He whimpered, then a sharp cry pierced the near silence of the forest.
“Shh.” Adelen’s voice, when he used it, was hardly a whisper. He reached down and lifted the child into his arms.
The baby’s cries began to subside as Adelen held him close and sent soothing thoughts to him.
Shh, little one. You are not alone. You are not in danger anymore.
Soon the child’s dark, innocent eyes were staring at Adelen’s, as if the older creature’s face had mesmerized him. The infant’s tiny fingers reached out to Adelen’s nose. He giggled.
The aging elf smiled down at the baby, but his eyes clouded with concern. The forest, quiet as it was at the moment, was no place for a child — especially after dark.
He looked once more at their surroundings. No tracks. No markers. No signs or sounds of anyone watching the place where the child had slept.
Lines of anger furrowed his brow. Whoever had left the child in this place, they obviously had no intentions of returning for him.
In normal circumstances, Adelen rarely spoke outside of his thoughts — perhaps once a week. But before he realized it, he found himself using his voice for the second time in five minutes. “Come,” he said in the same low, calm tone. “Let’s go home.”
The baby’s eyes widened as Adelen turned toward the path and Merid. The child giggled again when he saw the gryphon and stretched to touch his mane.
Merid stared at the child blankly for a moment. Then he stuck out a long, red tongue to taste him. At a stern thought from Adelen, Merid whined and sniffed the child instead. He shook his mane and snorted.
Adelen swung into the light leather saddle on the gryphon’s back. Holding the child in one arm and guiding Merid wih the other, he turned the golden beast back toward home and nudged him into motion.
Merid’s catlike gait was smooth but fast, especially as the setting sun told him that a full feed trough was waiting for him in the glen. As the forest sped by in a blur of green and gray, Adelen thought of Mara. He imagined what she would do when he walked though the door carrying his cooing burden.
He smiled. Normally he would surprise Mara by bringing her nightflowers, or ice lilies from the frozen falls.
This time, he would bring her a son.
Come back next Monday to find out what happens next!