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In The Beginning

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“Fuck!” An anguished cry rang out through the forest. The hunters were on edge, pacing quickly with bows at the ready. Children had been tucked away in their aravels as to hopefully shield them from some of the profanity being spewed about. The adults did their best to calm their young ones, but it was pretty clear that everyone was nervous. After all, this task was no easy one. Especially for one so young.

“FUCK!”

“I think you're scaring everyone,” Merrill told her friend quietly.

“Good!” The auburn-haired elf hissed, green eyes glaring at Merrill as she spoke. “With any luck, no one will be as stupid as I am… fuck this! Help me up! I can't sit here. It fucking hurts.”

With all the strength she could muster, Merrill pulled a very shaky elf to her feet. The two took a moment to steady themselves before slowly moving about the camp again. They had been alternating between sitting in the Keeper's Aravel or wandering camp to serve as a distraction from the agony.

“Where is Tamlen? He should be back by now!” Her voice was small, and terrified. Both elves were realizing how much time had passed, and it didn't bode well given the current situation.

“He's going to be back soon, Mahariel. You'll see.” Merrill replied, gently rubbing her back. “The hunters are keeping and eye out for him and Fenarel, and they have strict orders to make him come right back when they see him.”

“He does have an awful knack for showing up at the last fucking minute. Let's hope this one here doesn't inherit that.” Mahariel groaned, looking down at her massive stomach. How the fuck she managed to grow a baby in there was beyond her. She was still technically a child, as her face was clear of any Vallaslin. Definitely not old enough to be birthing her own baby. Fuck, she was not old enough to be a mother. 

“If anything,” Merrill commented, “it's going to inherit your flair for dramatics.”

“She.”

“She will inherit your flair for dramatics,” Merrill corrected. She didn't know how Aerinwyn knew, or seemed to know the gender of the unborn child. Keeper Marethari always said that mothers and children had incredible bonds even before the birth. Sometimes a mother could just tell.

“I'm going to punch him.” At this point Merrill didn't even bother talking back. Mahariel was in a lot of pain, and Merrill had already been swatted at for talking too much. After a full day of labor, Merrill learned pretty quick when her friend actually was holding a conversation, and when she was just in too much pain and she was just saying the weirdest of things. Most of them involved doing bodily harm to Tamlen… The Keeper assured Merrill that these statements were completely normal, but she would at least keep and eye on them for the next few days. Just in case.

As expected, Tamlen arrived just as Keeper Marethari ushered Aerin and Merrill to the Aravel. Mahariel screamed all sorts of phrases that honestly, no one quite knew where she learned those words. Either way, it left a small blush on everyone's cheeks… except hers. Once all was said and done, the three of them silently agreed to never speak of this moment again. For their own safety...

Shrill cries filled the camp and the forest. No one, except Merrill and Marethari dared to move in that moment. The Keeper quietly told Merrill that the little girl was perfectly healthy. She had all her fingers and toes. Her lungs were good and strong (rivaling that of Mahariel's when she was born, the Keeper added with a teasing smile), and she came just in time. The two mages cleaned the little one up and Mahariel slowly got her wits about her.

The new mother was not quite coherent after everything was said and done. She kept weakly calling for her baby. Tamlen did his best to assure her that Merrill and the Keeper were taking care of her, and cleaning her up, but Aerinwyn was having none of that. The Keeper quietly muttered to Merrill how Aerin seemed to inherit the Mahariel stubbornness, and she hoped to the Creators that the child would be able to see a little more reason. Merrill highly doubted that one. One look at the child had Merrill guessing that she would be exactly like Mahariel. How? She couldn't say, but she just had a feeling.

As the baby's cried grew more in volume, the more frantic Mahariel became. Knowing that no one would be able to get her to calm down, the Keeper careful wrapped the newborn up before passing her off to the new mother.

Shaky arms could barely support the weight of the child, but Tamlen could. He let Mahariel's back lean against her chest, and his arms helped support hers as they finally laid eyes on their child. She was red in the face, with no hair, crying angrily, but neither of them had seen anyone so perfect.

“She's going to be strong,” Tamlen whispered to Aerin as the baby grasped at his finger. He couldn't even hide the smile that took over his face.

“She is going to be great,” Aerinwyn whispered back, her head leaning against his chest. Already their baby's cried were quieting down. It was as if she knew these were her parents. 

Tamlen hummed in agreement. “Well she can't do much worse than us.”

“If there weren't little ears present…” Mahariel playfully threatened.

“Now, now, no fighting in front of the baby, Aerin.”

“She has a name,” Aerin pointed out, her eyes already starting to droop shut. Having a baby was exhausting. Never again.

“That she does. And it's a lovely name if I do say so myself!”

Aerinwyn snorted at his antics. Some days she thought that Tamlen had a bigger ego than her.

Merrill and the Keeper quietly left the Aravel, giving the new parents some time to go bond with their child, and spreading the news. The fact that Aerin survived childbirth (at least for now. Tamlen was keeping a careful watch over her) was enough cause to celebrate, given that she was so young. And the birth of a new Dalish was always a cause for celebration!

As the news was spread, Tamlen and Aerin found themselves absolutely drained. For the first, a good few days hunting with little sleep would do that. And for Aerin, well. Childbirth was hard.

“She kind of looks like you,” Tamlen commented before her let out a huge yawn. “She certainly sleeps like you.”

Aerin grinned a little. Sure the both of them were still red in the face, but that probably wasn't what Tamlen was referring to (at least, if he was smart). Their baby's mouth was barely parted and she let out the these tiny little baby snores. If she hadn't gone through a torturous labor with her, Aerin might have trouble doubting that this kid was hers. And was that? Yup. That was a little bit of drool. This was definitely her kid.

“Well it looks like all of us had a tough day, didn't we, Faenra?” Aerin asked her sleeping child.

“Told you it was a good name,” Tamlen mumbled, already falling asleep.

“Yeah, yeah. Go to sleep. We're going to have out hands full the next few years,” Aerin told him.

“If she's anything like you, we're going to have our hands full for the rest of our life.”

That was probably true. This was her kid after all.

Soon enough Tamlen's snores could be heard from behind her. His head was leaned against a wall and he looked absolutely uncomfortable. He could deal with it. She just pushed a tiny elf out of her still developing body. He could handle sleeping at an odd angle.

“Your father has some good ideas, munchkin. But you can't tell him I said that. He already has a big ego. We mustn't let it get any larger than it is.”

Of course the infant didn't respond. She seemed very content to nap on her mother's chest, and drool on her. Though, given the amount of other bodily fluids she has had on her, baby drool didn't even rate. Some days she still smelled deer bile and that was just gross.

Then it suddenly hit her. Hard. Like a Halla to the chest. She now had to keep this tiny elf alive. She had to clothe her, feed her, protect her, not completely fuck her up. Essentially, Aerin had to make sure that this kid didn't turn out like her! She actually had to be a good role model! That meant she had to do all sorts of things that good parents actually did! Like, like, like stop swearing! And become an adult! Oh Creators, she should have paid more attention to Ashalle and her lessons. She was going to be a terrible mother! Not like she had a mother to learn from (Ok, that was unfair to Ashalle, she shouldn't think that). The only thing she was good at was picking fights! She was definitely not mother material.

As Aerin began thinking of all the things that she was terrible at, and how she would fail as a mother, little Faenra's sleepy noises brought her out of her thoughts.

She was so tiny. So perfect. She had the world ahead of her, and Aerin knew that she would be great. This girl was destined for greatness in some way or another. She could feel it deep in her bones. All Aerin had to do was protect her, and keep her safe until that time came.

She could do that. She's a damn good fighter. If there is anything she could do, she could protect.

“I will always protect you, Faenra.” Aerin swore to the sleeping child. She may fail at all those other mothering things, but she would protect this child with everything she had. Nothing would keep her from that. Not even a big honking dragon, or, fuck, not even one of those big ol' Archdemons that she heard about in stories. Nothing would keep her from protecting her child.

“Always.”