The day that General Allaen Ravenwing, Sae’lyns beloved father, walked out the doors of the family home in Eversong to play his part in the Third War was the day that the girl stopped speaking entirely. So much was her grief at watching him go that she couldn’t find the words to express her sorrow when her mother tried to talk with her about it, to tell her that it was his duty, and that everything would be alright, and so she gave up trying at that very moment and never started again.
She would curl up on her bed at nights, the handcrafted bow that had belonged to her father beside her and she would weep every night that he had still not returned, and that bow was all she had of him, so in a way it was like being close to him. Had he actually been there instead, he’d have been sitting beside her bed, stroking her dark auburn hair from her forehead telling her bedtime stories. How his own father had taught him how to wield a bow and how to use it, arming the weapon as an extension of oneself, how to shoot with precision and skill. For he’d begun as a ranger in his younger years, and he boasted during these stories every night that he’d been the best of them all.
“Of course you were the best, Daddy, you’re the best at everything!” Sae’lyn would giggle, and he would laugh with her, that deep throaty laugh of his and she’d snuggle into him for a cuddle, his rough beard scratching at her cheek and she’d hold him tightly until he’d have to say goodnight, and she’d reluctantly let him go until morning.
And every morning as soon as she was awake, and it was usually so early that the sun would only just be beginning to rise in the sky, Sae’lyn would dress for the day, sling her bow on her back and head out the door to hunt, to practice everything he had taught her, because if, no,when he came home she wanted to make him as proud as he could be. Her mother would watch her leave, from her place in the kitchen, handing her a parcel of bread and fruit and sigh, muttering to herself.
“How on earth are we ever going to get you groomed and married into a nice, respectable family with you off frolicking in the woods like some kind of wild sprite every day.”
To which Sae’lyn would just roll her eyes, take the food from her mother, kiss her on the cheek and run off out the door.
And then at nights, when she came home, hours spent outdoors and exhausted, it was her mother that would sit beside her bed now, Ennaya Ravenwing, heavy with child, alternating between rubbing her belly and trying to reach out to her only daughter, but in vain as she’d hold the girls hand, half coaxing, half begging her.
“Please Sae’lyn, my beautiful girl, you can’t be silent forever. Talk to me, please…”
And every night she said those same words, the girl would just look at her mother, a blank expression on her face, for many months of her fathers absence had allowed her the leisure to become well practiced at showing, and in fact feeling as little emotion as possible and she would just roll over, her back turned to her mother and close her eyes, willing her silently to go away and leave her with her bow and her dreams. Dreams of when things were happy, and their family was whole.
Her baby sister was born some months after her fathers departure, and the house felt a little fuller again. Full of life, or at least full of noise, because right from the minute of her sudden and dramatic arrival into the household it had become apparent that little Maiija Ravenwing did not like to sleep, ever it seemed. Sae’lyn did what she could for her mother when she was at the absolute point of falling down exhaustion, which was often, and she’d push her towards her bed and scoop her baby sister up and smile at her, marvelling at her tiny perfect little features and hum her lullabies until she fell asleep cradled in her arms. Her mother would grumble that babies needed to learn to sleep in their own beds when she awoke and found her oldest daughter holding her infant, but she’d not complain for long, only smile fondly at the two of them, and for a time, they were almost happy again.
Until the day the letter arrived.
A knock on the door would reveal a very tired, sombre looking man in full armor handing Ennaya Ravenwing a piece of rolled up parchment which would hold those terrible words that her father was gone forever. Sae’lyn had snatched it out of her hands, gaped at the words, wanting to disbelieve them, and tearing it up into tiny pieces before throwing them on the fire would still not change the fact that they were in fact real, and it was true.
And then she ran. And ran, and ran some more, wanting to be as far away from reality as possible, and she almost attained that, living after some time in a small house in the deep forest away from her family home, alone, with just a cat to keep her company, and a dragonhawk that she’d taken in, but even that didn’t stay with her long; it had been unwell and a little frail to begin with when she’d found it injured in the woods one late afternoon, and while she’d coaxed it back to health and nurtured it as best she could, it had died some weeks later. Sometimes she would sit, in front of the burning embers in the fireplace and just stare at them, trying to will herself to have the courage to go back and see her family, her mother and her sister, but always, each day, she would find an excuse not to, or a resolve with herself that she would maybe do it tomorrow. But tomorrow never did come. Because each day she would get up, as she had done for all of those years at home and take her bow, well worn now but still very much functional and spend entire days in the woods hunting.
The sun was beginning to set already, and the deer she’d been tracking that afternoon had proven troublesome, but she would not let it beat her. She would get it before the last light of the day faded, and crouching as low as she could be, moving slowly but silently forward, she finally had it in her sights, and she would get it this time, pulling the arrow back slowly, squinting one eye shut to ensure her aim was at true as it could be and then a large, sudden cracking sound of something breaking underfoot, a twig, a fallen tree branch rung out over the forest and startled, she let the arrow fly even as the deer flew forward, startled itself, and quickly out of sight.
What followed was something she hadn’t expected. A man, a fairly large man at that, stumbled into view, and she realized at once that she’d shot him. It had been him that startled the animal and her wayward arrow was now stuck in his lower leg. His eyes widened when he saw her, moving forward tentatively but with a look of concern on her face. Her first instinct was to help, but he was a big man, and though she had her bow, she wouldn’t be able to defend herself up close should he choose to physically lash out at her; she had shot him after all. But the expression on his face quickly changed, even as he lashed out at her verbally for a moment, for at the same time the words were spat out, he collapsed onto his ass, and his face twisted with pain.
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I’m sorry!” She blurted out quickly, but the words didn’t sound out loud as they had in her head, and in fact, she’d spoken them so fast and without any thought at all that she hadn’t expected anything to come out at all. Her hand flew to her mouth, and her face flushed a deep crimson with embarassment at the words which didn’t really sound like coherent words, and she wasn’t sure why she should care, but this man was now staring at her, and she quickly shook her head, more to herself than to him, resolved not to open her mouth again, took a few steps forward and simply offered him her hand to help him up.
Offering him a place to stay and to heal was the least that Sae’lyn could do, and it should have been strange to have another person in her space who could talk, who could speak volumes even in the way that he looked at her sometimes, and who could, when he eventually did, touch her physically, but it had never been strange. The only time that it had been uncomfortable was the moment when he realized that she couldn’t talk. It wasn’t that she’d forgotten how, but that she’d become so used to not doing so for so many years, that when she finally did start again, it was like being a child and learning how to all over again. But he made her want to, to be able to give him something of herself, when they sat together for long nights in front of the fire, and Daeron would tell her stories and she wanted to tell him stories in return, and so she began to try. He never laughed at her, he was always patient, and underneath his rough exterior at first, he was kind and gentle, and she, for the first time in as long as she could remember, felt safe and loved.
Well after the man healed, he stayed on, and at some point, and one that was never spoken out loud, or decided in that way, it became apparent that he wouldn’t be leaving again, and Sae’lyn was okay with that. She was his, and he was hers, and one thing that she knew for certain was that she would do everything within her power to never let him out of her sight. For as staunchly protective and physically available as he was to her, she knew too well how easily one could walk out the door, never to return again as her father had done, and while he had no reason that she knew of to do so, and that he was true to his word that he would not, the fear would still be there, for the rest of her days.
They sat in front of the fire, like every other night before it, and Sae’lyn reached for his hand, looked at him and smiled, and no words were needed, as often was the case. And she was happy that he understood, as well as she did, that there was a certain kind of sanctuary in silence.