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Two Divided (Companion)

They were constant companions:  twin brother and sister, brought into the world together. Seldom did you see Haleth without Haldar or Haldar without Haleth.

The Orcs have changed that within a few breaths. Haldar saw it first, the cruel treatment of their father’s body. With a defiant shout, he vaulted from the top of the stockade.

“Let us go after them,” old Gelmas urges, gripping his sword. “We will bring them back, your father and brother both.”

“No,” Haleth says, her face like stone. “I will spend no more lives to rescue the dead. My care is for the living.”

The Protection of the Eldar (Comrade)

As the Elf-lord rides back to his guards, Ildis goes to Haleth’s side. “What did he say?”

“He offers us friendship and protection, if we take him as lord.”

Ildis could not take her eyes off the two while they spoke: the Elf, made even taller by his horse’s height and too arrogant to dismount, and Haleth, weary and wounded but facing him proudly as a queen. “Will you accept?”

“No,” Haleth answers immediately. “I will leave these lands—alone, if need be.”

 “I will go as your comrade,” Ildis promises. “But I think I am not the only one.”

To the West (Ally)

“Should we accept the Elf-lord’s offer?” one of them says doubtfully. “His people are strong. They would be mighty allies.”

“We need no allies,” Haleth says, standing tall and straight in their midst. “We will defend ourselves and live by our own laws, as we have always done.”

“How?” another man says bitterly. “Will we crouch here in this stockade until the Orcs return?”

“We go west,” Haleth says with certainty. “There are still lands where we can live in safety.”

It is a soft murmur at first, but rising in strength: “Haleth. Haleth, lead us. We will follow you.”

Offered Comfort (Friend)

“They will not think less of you if you grieve for your father and brother,” Ildis says softly. They have paused for a brief rest. Haleth sits apart from the others, her back leaning against a tree.

Haleth shakes her head. “I am better this way, as long as there is something to do.”

Ildis hesitates, then kneels beside her. “As you will, Haleth. Yet do not hold yourself too much apart. It is not forbidden for a chief to seek comfort from a friend.”

Haleth’s face does not soften, but she reaches for Ildis’s hand. Their fingers twine together.

Two Together (Mate)

“They are saying you should marry,” Ildis says cautiously.

Haleth laughs. “Am I in need of a husband’s counsel?”

“For the sake of an heir . . .”

“Let my nephew be chief after me—or any man or woman with good sense. The headship of our people is not an heirloom that must pass from father to son. And I am not a lost glove that needs a mate.” She reaches for Ildis’s hand, a familiar gesture. “While I have a friend—”

Ildis dares to say, “I am your friend, or anything you ask of me.”

And Haleth leans to kiss her.