It was mid-afternoon when the horn ending the hunt sounded, its call magically amplified so that it would reach to the ears of all the hunters. Many deer had been taken during the day.
In groups large and small, the hunters returned to Ravenscrag castle with their spoils. The skins were turned over to the tanners who would properly prepare them for future use. The meat was taken and stored away in cold cellars where it would age properly. In a short time, it would be distributed.
Richard swung down from his saddle and handed over the deer hide he had collected that day along with the meat from that deer. He was going to head for his room to bathe and relax for the evening when he was surrounded by Niall, and Aubric, Gaelin, Tassarion and Urddusk, four elves who were companions of Niall.
It was Aubric, not Niall, who confronted Richard directly. "Edan, lle holma ve' ba Orqu, er nelda enquier wanwa." ("Human, you smell like a dead Orc, one three weeks gone!")
If it had not been for Niall and the others laughter at this remark Richard would have drawn his sword and Aubric would have had a fight on his hands.
Richard looked at himself and then raised one arm to smell his armpit. His nose wrinkled at the scent that issued forth. The days hunt, the butchering of the animals and hours of riding had indeed produced a 'certain' aroma about him. He knew that elves had sensitive noses and his perspiration was, at times offensive to them, especially after a lot of exercise. This day he had done a lot of each. He realized that he was in desperate need of a bath. Turning to Aubric, Richard asked, "Aubric, manke na' kalp-amin, poik-amin?" ("Aubric, where can I find water to cleanse myself?")
Aubric looked at Niall, who grinned, and then, smiling, turned back to Richard. "Richard, My friend, It is time for you to enter 'The Cleansing'. It is similar to the process that your Teharissa is going through. I think that you will find it...interesting.
His comment was meant in jest, it was couched in language that was intentionally provocative. Aubric saw the Human's hand begin a dart for the hilt of his sword. Had it actually touched, Richard might have found himself in dire straits, for of the Elves only one, a female Elf whom Aubric did not particularly like, could best him routinely. His eyes sparkled dangerously as he thought of Eillea. His dislike grew from her efforts, as Aubric thought of it, to entrap his good friend Niall.
Besides, he really did not care for having Humans or the Uruloki in Avalon. This was the home of the Elves, and although Richard had been named as Elf-friend by the Queen herself, he did not have to like the designation. Then too, he had been raised in the air of tradition. All this nonsense of Humans and Dragons repeatedly coming to Avalon violated tradition in so many ways and on so many levels that it was a constant wrinkle in the rankle every time even one of them was present.
However, Richard did not touch that hilt, for the laughter of the other four Elves forestalled his movements and very good sense took charge of his actions. Aubric's fingers stopped the subtle wrigglings they had begun as soon as the words were out of his mouth, gestures that would have brought his own Mithrel sword to his hand.
Aubric's sense of valuation for Richard rose measurably. In the stories he had heard of the Human species, they were uniformly a short-lived, wrathful, aggressive race who had little if any sense of self control and no sense of humor. However, this one was less so, and it seemed that the difference was sufficient to mark him as special. Instead of becoming angry, Richard smelt of himself, grinned, and quite reasonably asked for a source of water to cleanse himself. Again, it was Aubric who responded before Niall could do so.
"Richard, my friend, it is time for you to enter 'The Cleansing'. It is similar to the process that your Teharissa is going through. I think that you will find it ... interesting." His eyes briefly glittered again. Here would be a chance to test the Human, to find out what his limits, and true maturity, and sense of judgement were.
Aubric had the good sense, before taking Richard inward, to let Eillea know of the start of Richard's Cleansing. His mental contact with her produced a result he had not expected. Her thought returned, diamond-hard and implacable.
(I am sending a female to begin the process by explaining it to Richard. Take him hence, but do nothing else until she arrives. Oh, and Aubric, you shall treat her commands as mine. Even Niall respects those.) The reminder that his Prince and friend Niall was required by custom to obey the whims of the Queen's Envoy irritated Aubric, but he gave no outward sign of it. Instead he spoke to Richard.
"Eillea has given me instructions. Come with me." Then he led the way inside.
(I am sending a female to begin the process by explaining it to Richard. Take him hence, but do nothing else until she arrives. Oh, and Aubric, you shall treat her commands as mine. Even Niall respects those.)
Turning to the females around Teharissa, she beckoned one. Sinnafain Tassarion came to her promptly.
"Yes, Envoy?" she asked, using the formal address.
"You will go to the chamber where Teharissa's intended is being prepared. You will accompany him with the males, to see that they get started rightly and not trying to haze Richard. I wiant you to instruct them to ensure that they follow proper protocal, and add nothing to the rituals that might be harmful, or even embarrassing to him. Please remind them that he is an Elf-friend, and therefore is not to be trivialized or teased."
She regarded Sinnafain carefully. What she saw was an Elven female in very good condition. As she was, wearing nothing, she would give most sentient creatures pause to reflect. Based on the ancient tales, she would cause most Human men to have minor paralysis of the heart, followed by an immediate physical response. Nodding, in a whisper she added a request and one further instruction.
"Please allow me to dress thee for this errand. Then go to Richard, but tarry not. Deliver thy message and return. Under no circumstances allow him to touch thee. I wish to know of his reaction, for it is imperative that he really be in love with Teharissa."
Large, solemn eyes gauged her as Sinnafain considered her unusual request. Then, with a nod, came the Elven female's response.
"Of course, Envoy. I understand why the Queen has chosen thee. Thou art wise in all regards." She stood still, awaiting her clothing.
Eillea chose to use cloth that matched the light purple color of Sinnafain's eyes. The cloth itself was diaphonous, allowing everything to be seen through ... except from her hips to her upper thighs. In that area, the cloth seemed to obscure what lay within without preventing light from passing through. A simple band of violets appeared on her head, snuggled against her braids. No other adornment was needful, in Eillea's mind.
She wanted to tempt Richard, but only within certain limits. Outright seduction would be unforgivable. This garb gave him something to consider, but she felt the overall appearance was resistible by a Human male of good character. She judged him to be so, yet ... who could tell what went on in his mind without invading it?
When she was done, she caused a long mirror to appear for Sinnafain to use to inspect herself. The female did so, nodding, until a small line appeared on her forehead. She had noticed that her breasts were not completely hidden by the cloth, though they were shadowed and somewhat blurred. While an Elven male would not raise an eyebrow at this dress, what would a Human male do? She sent a glance toward Eillea, one eyebrow raised in question. Eillea smiled, making her intention plain. If Richard could not resist this temptation, he did not deserve to marry even a half-Elf, and Teharissa would be so advised.
Sinnafain left on her errand, her stride seeming leisurely, and yet she moved with considerable speed.
Her stride seeming leisurely, and yet she moved with considerable speed. Because she moved so quickly, she was able to be at the door of the chamber wherein Richard was to be confined for his Cleansing long before that young Human and his tail of Elves came into view. Sinnafain went first to Prince Niall, giving him the courtesy of a greeting. Then she briefly explained the reason for her presence.
"The Envoy has required of me that I give instructions for the Elf-friend's Cleansing." She turned away then, for since she was so appointed by an authority higher than his she had no further reason or need to explain either herself or her attire, nor was it incumbent upon her to debate the rightness of the instructions she gave. As they walked into the chamber, she continued speaking, addressing herself to Aubric since he would be leading the effort to Cleanse Richard.
"My Lady Eillea bids me charge that the Cleansing is to be strictly according to the accepted interpretations of the ancient rituals. The Elf-friend is not to be challenged with elements that are not part of the established rituals, nor is he to be treated in any manner that is impolite or that could be considered rude hazing. Maintain courtesy and decorum, for she will determine if the rituals have been followed satisfactorily, and will report her findings to the Queen."
As she spoke, she pirouetted, facing first one way, and then another as she looked toward various of Richard's Elven entourage. At all times when she could without seeming coquettish, she kept him in view of her peripheral vision and observed as he watched her.
(Ah!) she thought. (Eillea will be pleased, I believe. He looks, but ignores my physical attraction. I see no sign that I interest him other than for what I have to say, or that he desires me. Good!) As soon as she was done speaking, she left, careful to exude no trace of glamore that might break the reserve and resolve of this rather unusual Human. As soon as she left the room and the doors closed, the fabric of her dress became less translucent. Now properly clothed for public appearance, she went back to the Sequestration room, there to report her observations to Eillea. On completion of her report, she asked a boon.
"Envoy, might I retain this dress and wear it? It is rather pretty, and though very simple I like it." Eillea nodded thoughtfully, and since her duties were completed Sinnafain left.
By the constraints laid by Sinnafain's directions, he would not be able to test this Human's discretion. However, he was fully aware that Eillea had constructed a test that was far more subtle and effective than any the males might concoct. His evaluation of Richard rose many notches. Either the Human was completely blinded by his love for Teharissa, or he had no emotions at all, or he had very good control of himself.
From what Niall had told of Richard, Aubric knew it was not the second case, and Richard did see Sinnafain in that scanty gown. If he was as course and inept and undisciplined as the ancient tales accused Humans of being, he should have lept at the chance to be in the same room with such a beautiful and desirable creature. In fact, Aubric himself felt some minor stirrings, for he was past his entry into the age of procreating. That left the conclusion that Richard was indeed well-named as Elf-friend.
Aubric sighed. Then he gathered the five males around him as he asked the questions for which Teharissa had been required to provide answers.
"Richard, named Elf-friend, I would know if you are comfortable with your body. That is to say, are you able to be without clothing in the presence of the other males around you who are likewise? We can deal with your preference if you are not, but the process we are to perform will be easier if you are." He saw Richard think for only an instant, and then the young man's fingers began to open his clothing. Moments later, they all stood as the Creator had made them, fine males in prime condition. Aubric continued.
"Now, is there one present here whom you would have stand at your side to provide for your needs? Your choice will be in effect through the Joining. It can not be me, for I am charged by the Envoy with directing the events that are to occur in this chamber."
as they made their way through the maze of corridors that made up the labyrinth that was Ravenscrag castle. The total of three years he had lived in Avalon had served him well, as he now knew many of the twists and turns of the hallways. There were some parts of the castle, which had been off limits to him, it was true, such as the "Royal Apartments." He had never been there at all. But, then again, neither had many of the inhabitants of Ravenscrag. If they had no business to conduct there, they could not find the way to those precincts. It had been that way with Richard as well. If he had been summoned there, he would have found his way.
This section of the castle was unknown to him as well. He place of confinement while he was recovering from injuries received while he was fighting for the benefit of the elves were on the opposite side of the castle, nearly a mile distant; and that was if one could travel in a straight line! The twists and turns of the corridors had always confused Richard.
Even when he had been made "Sha'Quessir" (elf friend) after saving the life of a drowning elven youth, the passages of the castle still left him slightly bewildered. How the elves made their way around and through the castle on their daily errands was beyond him. Of course they did have the benefit of extraordinarily long lives to learn the intricacies of the castle.
Arriving at a chamber Richard had never seen before he glimpsed the figure of an elven woman standing there in a diaphanous dress of some purple fabric. He looked her for a minute and listened to what she had to say to Niall and the others. Her first announcement told him much. She had said, "The Envoy has required of me that I give instructions for the Elf-friend's Cleansing."
By the term "envoy" Richard felt that she meant Lady Eillea, as he had heard Eillea addressed as such. There might have been others with that title as well as Eillea, but he was reasonably certain that it was she to whom the female elf referred.
(So) Richard thought,(I am to be cleansed? What exactly, I wonder, does that entail?)
He was to find out shortly.
As the woman spoke to Aubric Richard heard her say, "My Lady Eillea bids me charge that the Cleansing is to be strictly according to the accepted interpretations of the ancient rituals. The Elf-friend is not to be challenged with elements that are not part of the established rituals, nor is he to be treated in any manner that is impolite or that could be considered rude hazing. Maintain courtesy and decorum, for she will determine if the rituals have been followed satisfactorily, and will report her findings to the Queen."
As she spoke she walked about the chamber allowing the fabric of her dress to move in subtle ways, from moment revealing more and more enticing bits of skin. Richard grinned to himself and made note of the womans figure. She was older than Teressa by some number of years. Exactly how many, he could not tell, as elves held their looks and beauty far into their later years.
Richard paid the woman little attention, choosing to focus on what was to come.
When she had finished speaking she looked at Richard one last time and the left the chamber.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Aubric sighed. Then he gathered the five males around him as he asked the same questions for which Teharissa had been required to provide answers.
"Richard, named Elf-friend, I would know if you are comfortable with your body. That is to say, are you able to be without clothing in the presence of the other males around you who are likewise? We can deal with your preference if you are not, but the process we are to perform will be easier if you are." He saw Richard think for only an instant, and then the young man's fingers began to open his clothing. Moments later, they all stood as the Creator had made them, fine males in prime condition.
Aubric continued, "Now, is there one present here whom you would have stand at your side to provide for your needs? Your choice will be in effect through the Joining. It can not be me, for I am charged by the Envoy with directing the events that are to occur in this chamber."
Richard nodded and replied, "There is such a person. I name Prince Niall of Ravenscrag to stand at my side and to provide for my needs."
In truth, Richard would have preferred to have his father at his side. However, Sir Ian was not present in the room and it would delay the procedure, if he were to ask for him to be summoned. Falkirk would have been next on his list as the two men were good friends and had often traveled together on adventures. Again, since he was not among the ones present in the room, he was set aside as well. Niall was the last and most logical choice, considering the circumstances.
Richard liked the young elf and had had a few adventures with him as well. Niall and his sister Muireall were good companions. Their youthful exuberance belied their age.
Looking around the ornately decorated chamber Richard spied a tub. Built into the floor of the room, it was quite large, being some six feet wide by eight feet long and nearly three feet deep. Richard could see that it was already filled with steaming hot water.
Richard walked over to the tub and stepped down into it, doing so by the steps at one end. The water was HOT on his skin, as hot or hotter than the hottest baths he had taken at the Sleeping Dragon. He could stand the heat, however, and also, he thought, whatever was to come.
stewed ever since Sinnafain's appearance. He was tired of Eillea's constant interference, was he not old enough to keep his four friends in control, so Richard would not come to harm? He did not consider it fair to test a young human male by so blatantly displaying the considerable charms of an Elven female, even if she was well over a thousand years of age. He silently laughed as he noted the complete disinterest exhibited by Richard. Which was more than a few of his Elven companions had managed.
One of her comments especially rankled She will determine if the rituals have been followed satisfactorily, and will report her findings to the Queen. He needed no ENVOY to send reports to the queen, his own mother, about any ceremony that he could control with ease. He thought that he knew Richard well enough to trust that he would not be troubled by the Cleansing ritual as long as it was kept to the established rules. It was true that the male attendants sometimes became carried away and the Ritual might erupt into hazing, especially since the subject here was Human and unaccustomed to their ways. But Niall had made certain that he would be among the chosen attendants, to protect the Elf Friend from such indignities.
Niall's dark ruminations scattered like the wind at Richard's reply to Aubrick's question. "There is such a person. I name Prince Niall of Ravenscrag to stand at my side and to provide for my needs."
He could read in Richard's eyes that he would have much preferred to have one of the humans, close to his heart, but this was an Elven ceremony, and an Elf would serve better to stand by him. Like the sun erupting from dark storm clouds, Niall smiled at the young Human.
"I happily accept your request and trust, Sha'Quessir, and will serve you to the best of my ability in the role, which in Human terms, you would call your "Best Man." He grinned cheerfully at Richard, who stood like the Gods had created him, about to step into a steaming tub of water.
that she had missed the hunt, which had taken place earlier in the day. She had heard the horn that summoned all the hunters back form the fields and forests surrounding Ravenscrag Castle and word had been brought to her room that the hunt had been successful. Seventy-five deer had been taken, not including the ones taken by the Uruloki (dragons). Their take brought the hides to around one hundred and ten.
She and Z'beryl currently lay semi-reclined on the lounges that flanked a long table. On that table a sumptuous feast had been laid out for them, but Teressa had barely touched her food that evening. She had other things on her mind. Namely, the cleansing ceremony in which Richard would take part.
In the mundane world in which we mortals live, most think of elves as beings that dance, play and frolic in the forests all day. Nothing is further from the truth. For the most part, elves are much like us. They have their times for work and times for relaxation, just as we do. They have similar temperaments and moods to us, as well. They get angry and they even cry at times. They are prone to fits of jealousy, as well.
Some Elves tend to get carried away with things at times. Certain ceremonies or rituals tend to bring out the darker side of some elves. Hazing is common among elves, especially younger ones who are trying exert their dominance over others, so as to partially establish their place in elven society.
After a while Teressa stood up and walked away from the table. Pacing the floor she thought about Richard. Finally, she sent out a mental call to Eillea (Eillea, Selen,(cousin) I must speak with you, as soon as possible.)
A few minutes later Eillea entered the room. "What is the Problem, Teharissa? I could sense the worry in your thoughts. Ah I see it is Richard, isn't it? You worry about him, do you not?"
"Yes, Eillea I do."
Worry not, selen, I have sent instructions that he is not to be harmed in any way during his cleansing. Niall is with him as one of his attendants and will watch over him. I do worry about Aubric, though. He is not as progressive as others are. He does not like the fact that you are to be joined with an Edan (human) male."
"Eillea, Does he not realize that "I" am of both worlds? I am Elandili a half elf, Half human and half 'Quessir? I do not truly belong to either world. But until I close my eyes in that final rest, I intend to be as happy as I can be. For this time period, Richard makes me happy.
I have decided to stay at his side for as long as he lives. That can be a day or two or perhaps a hundred years, only the Seldarine (The Gods of the elves) know for certain.
Eillea entered the room. "What is the problem, Teharissa? I could sense the worry in your thoughts. Ah. I see, it is Richard, isn't it? You worry about him, do you not?"
"Yes, Eillea I do," her cousin responded.
"Worry not, Selen, I have sent instructions that he is not to be harmed in any way during his cleansing. Niall is with him as one of his attendants, and will watch over him. I do worry about Aubric, though. He is not as progressive as others are. He does not like the fact that you are to be joined with an Edan (human) male." Teharissa's face set in a mask of defiance.
"Eillea, does he not realize that I am of both worlds? I am Elandili, a half-Elf, half Human and half 'Quessir? I do not truly belong to either world. But until I close my eyes in that final rest, I intend to be as happy as I can be. For this time period, Richard makes me happy.
"I have decided to stay at his side for as long as he lives. That can be a day or two, or perhaps a hundred years. Only the Seldarine (The Gods of the Elves) know for certain." Eillea nodded. She waived to the other female Elves, dismissing them. After they had left, and speaking in a calm voice, she responded.
"Teharissa, I pray to the Seldarine that some day I might find one who pleases me as much as Richard does thee." She shook her head and her shapely body slumped. "I do not understand the ways of our Gods. They make us desire, make us crave the affection of another, and yet they set against us the mind of the very person who might give surcease to those needs." Then, with a sigh and a straightening of her back, she looked Terahissa in the eye and spoke more positively.
"Still, in thy case, Richard has accepted love. I do not know why, but I accept the fact of it. It is well, and I will not take from thee and thy Joining day any jot of happiness." Her expression became thoughtful. "Perhaps, if I had lived longer among the Humans, I might have learned and might understand better from seeing their ways, as ye seem to have." Her face set with purpose. "Mayhap I shall, in future." Then a light came to her eyes. "I might come and visit Richard and thee, for instance?"
Teharissa looked slightly uncomfortable. Sudden horror flooded Eillea. "Oh, no, Selen, I will not invade thy privacy, at least not until I am invited. That would not be right, not at all." As Teharissa looked immediately relieved, she added, "Now, then, come ye and eat, for ye have barely touched this. The Queen gave me directions that both Richard and thee were to have what would best satisfy the hunger of the stomach." She smiled warmly. "Fear not for Richard. Even though he knew not of the Cleansing, still is he acquitting himself well I am told. He now enjoys food like to that before us."
Truth told, Eillea was a bit surprised at this, for it was Niall himself who told her mentally of Richard's progress. She thought it might be because he was concerned for Teharissa's well-being and state of mind, rather than hers, for his mental comment to her had been devoid of any sense of personal feelings at all. Still, she appreciated that he unbent enough to inform her, rather than Teharissa directly. Perhaps, at long last, a tiny amount of progress had been made.
Her eyes glistened at that thought, as she reached for a plum. While sweet-tasting, it had a companion tartness that suited her mood. To her enjoyment, the Elandili did similarly, taking up a bunch of grapes and pulling them one by one from the vine with glistening teeth. They continued to munch, eventually consuming far more than they might have had they been just sitting at a table, for that is the way of things when one takes time.
Meanwhile, they conversed regarding hopes, aspirations, a little of fears, and a great deal about what it meant to take on the responsibilities of Joining. In this, Eillea was able to offer much, for in her role as the Queen's Envoy it had been needful for her to be taught carefully and completely. Thus, she knew of the traditions, the conventions, and the practical side of day-to-day living with another being. Even though she herself had not experienced such a closeness as yet, she was a font of wisdom gleaned over the ages from those who had.
Eventually, the pair grew tired and ready for rest. Rising, Eillea went to one side of the chamber and drew aside a curtain that revealed a bed that was circular in shape. Teharissa looked at it and smiled, for she knew that these circular beds could link sleepers mentally. Turning to Eillea, she asked, "I am to sleep here?" Eillea nodded and replied that it was to be so.
Still wrapped only in a light drying cloth, Eillea walked over to the bed and picked up a pair of very short pants. These were quite light in weight, being gossamer thin and soft as well. She drew them on and found that they fit perfectly. Then she sat on the edge of the bed.
Eillea spoke in English. "You did much better than I thought you would, as did Richard. Most Humans would not have been able to go through what you have and stay conscious through the whole thing."
Teharissa chuckled. Then she commented softly, "To be honest, there were moments when I almost passed out. Especially when going from the hot tub into the icy shower and back. That was a shock to my body." Eillea nodded. She too had used the hot tub and cold shower, mostly to sooth and unwind her jangled nerves when she felt flashes of the rwal'coiasira (literally, lust-time). Gently, she commented, "Now my friend, I think it is best that you get some rest. Sleep well, Teharissa. Tomorrow is thy day of Joining. If you need me just call, for I will be close by."
Teharissa nodded and lay back on the bed. So exhausted was she that she was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow...
Eillea smiled softly and went to stand by her cousin's resting place. Looking down, she observed first the perfection of form that this Elandili had. She was not quite as slender as most female Elves, for something of her Human parent had pushed forward there. Still, the blending of backgrounds was most pleasing. Next, she noticed that, while not large by any standard, her cousin's breasts were of size and shape to provide quite adequately for any infant the pair might have. (Yes,) she decided, (it is a good pairing.) She smiled at that thought. Then she used a small spell to lower the light level of the room and retired to her adjacent alcove for the night.
...literally. The temperature of the water in the tub in which he stood was uncomfortably hot, indeed it was nearly scalding. That, coupled with the coarse sponges that the elven men around him were using to scrub him clean of dirt, real or imagined, were almost too much for him to bear. But if his believed Teressa could undergo such treatment so could he.
While in the bath three more male elves joined the group, making a total of eight.
At one point he was required to immerse himself completely beneath the surface of the water "to help rid him of vermin that might infest his hair." While he doubted that there were many 'vermin' in his hair and short beard, he did as he was bid. Rising to the surface after remaining submerged for nearly a minute he gasped for breath. while his scalp was scrubbed by Niall, of all people.
After the scrubbing, Richard was led from the steaming tub of water to another room where a shower awaited him. When he stepped into the area of the shower he was greeted by a deluge of icy water, almost as cold as the lochs of Scotland in the springtime. He was whisked back to the hot tub, dunked again beneath surface and then taken back to the icy shower where he was again scrubbed down with coarse sponges. This process was repeated thrice.
Finally, Richard was given the chance to sit down. He looked at himself and saw that his skin now glowed a healthy pink. He was somewhat surprised that he had any skin left after the scrubbing treatment he had been given. Indeed he had once asked his attendants if they had left any skin on him at all and they reassured him that they had. During this cleansing process they had left no portion of his body unattended. He had been scrubbed from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, and everythingin between. He, himself, had thankfully been allowed to scrub the more tender portions of his anatomy.
Now seated on a comfortable lounge, Richard was given something to drink. The elf called Tassarion Moonglamaer placed in his hand a goblet carved from the finest quartz crystal. In the goblet was a reddish-gold liquid. Realizing what it was, he drank it down greedily. Almost at once his hunger faded to a dull pang. The draught he imbibed was "Pirya en`kulumamelesaipio " (Literally - Juice of the Orange Passion Plum.) It banished hunger and restored the body for a short period of time. In an hours time he would be hungry again, but by then he would have had a chance to eat a proper meal.
Now Richard was gone over with a fine toothed comb. He was subjected to something he had never endured. He was given a manicure and pedicure. This time, however, the males attending him were not as rough in their ministrations. In fact, they were quite gentle with him. his hands and feet were subjected to close scrutiny. calluses were buffed away with Pumice stones and his toe and finger nails were clipped, shaped and polished. There were times during this treatment when they did cause some minor pain, but for the most part, it was interesting for Richard to watch.
After the treatment of his hands and feet, Richard was led to a padded table where he was instructed to lie face down. Now a special ointment was rubbed into his skin. This ointment worked on the many scars he had acquired in his twenty-five short years of life and caused them to fade from view. It did not remove them, but rendered them invisible. They would remain so for the next week. After that, they would gradually become visible, once again. For the joining ceremony Richard had to appear flawless and without blemish. This ointment would achieve that effect.
Now came the final stage of Richards cleansing... The group began to apply a sweet, light oil to his skin as he lay on a padded, raised couch. This also was an interesting activity, for it involved Richard allowing himself to be touched all over by eight pairs of hands at once. He found this activity bit disturbing as he disliked being touched by so many hands at once.
Each person involved did one-eighth of his body, then moved in a sunward direction to do the next. Thus his entire back was done eight times. Then he turned over, and the process was repeated on his front. Every muscle was massaged, every part of her oiled. As soon as that was completed, he was wrapped in five layers of huge leaves from the tupsa'lasse (literally, "thatch-leaf") tree. The table on which he lay was then moved closer to the bathing tub.
Once again, the bath was drawn, this time being with water of near-boiling temperature. Immersion in that would have killed any living creature, yet that was not its purpose. Instead it was to heat the chamber and create steam. They left Richard lying in relative comfort on the well-padded table, and retreated into the next room. Before leaving, Niall smiled Richard and said, "Relax, my friend, the torment is nearly over with. Then you can relax for the night!"
One property of the tupsa'lasse is that while they shed all traces of water, they readily absorb oils. Thus, the sweat that the room temperature caused was mostly absorbed by the leaves. After about a quarter hour, Niall indicated that Richard had suffered enough and they returned to cut him out of his wrappings.
Richard stood and stretched. He looked at his arms and legs and saw them ripple subtely, in the light of the room. The many little imperfections in his skin were no longer there to be seen. Scars that had once covered his hands and arms seemed to have vanished. He knew that in time they would return, but for now he was as perfect a male specimen as any man could be.
Suddenly, his stomach let out a loud rumble. He looked about, embarrassed, but the elves about him only grinned.
One of them helped him to a lounge where he could sit and relax now that the Tumba Poik'gela (literally - Deep Cleansing Rite)was over with. As he sat, he thought (Did Teressa have to go through all of this? And if so, How did she fare?)
The truth be told Richard was hungry, but he was also tired. So tired was he, that he almost fell asleep while sitting there in the lounge chair.
Niall came to his side and handed him a small glass of wine, a *Saerluneian Black, a deep purple colored wine w/ nutty quality and bold fruit overtones. The major effect of drinking this was to bring Richard back to his full senses. It would last long enough so that he could partake of a light meal. After this he would be led to a sleeping chamber where he would spend the night.
Richard and the eight others reclined around the table and ate. The food was mainly fruit and nuts, but there was some meat as well. These meats were lightly spiced and very flavorful. They also seemed to melt on the tongue.
At last the meal was finished and the majority of the elves departed. Richard was now left alone, except for Niall, who slept in a small room right off the one where Richard was to sleep. Niall drew aside a curtain that revealed a bed that was circular in shape. Richard looked at it and smiled. Turning to Niall he raised one eyebrow and asked, "I am to sleep here?" Niall nodded and replied that it was to be so.
Richard, still wrapped only in a light towel, walked over to the bed and picked up a pair of short pants with a draw-string around the waist. These were very light in weight and soft as well. He drew them on and found that they fit him perfectly. Pulling the draw-string comfortable tight around his waist, he sat on the edge of the bed. Richard looked at Niall and asked in the elven tongue, "Niall, amin toror, umilya quessir ya omenta ten vesta lema imya sina gela?" ( translated best as - Niall, my brother, do all elves who want to marry go through this rite?)
Niall nodded and replied, "Uma, toror amin, um'ron." (Yes, my brother, they do) Then he added in English, "You did much better than I thought you would. Most humans would not have been able to go through what you have and stay conscious through the whole thing."
Richard chuckled and said to be honest, "Niall, there WERE a few time I almost passed out. Especially when i was going from the hot tub into the icy shower and back. That was a shock to my body. Now my friend, I think it is best that I get some rest."
Niall nodded and said, "Sleep well, Richard. Tomorrow is your day of Joining. If you need me just call, I will be close by."
Richard nodded and lay back on the bed. So exhausted was he that he was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow...
Niall smiled softly and then lowered the light level of the room with a small spell and retired to his chamber for the night.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 8 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
*Saerlune - an elven city some two months distance from Ravenscrag Castle. It sits at the end if the roaring river, where that river empties into the great sea.