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They headed off for a quiet vacation in Aruba.
Now, I must return to my duties"
Before Orlaigh could open his mouth to question her again, Nia strode away to retake her place at the front of their party, leaving Orlaigh alone with his thoughts again.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully although Orlaigh was glad when they stopped to make camp that evening. He wasn't used to walking much anyway and to walk through the forest and keep pace with a band of Elves was more tiring than he had realised.
He sat by the fire and stared into the flames, wondering what he was here for. The call he had been following had ceased but he knew that if he turned back now, it would restart and this time he may not even be given a guide to help him. Deep in thought, he hadn't realised that someone had sat next to him
"You trouble me, mage" said Nia, softly
Orlaigh started and turned to look at her. In the firelight, she was beautiful. In fact, Orlaigh realised, she was beautiful anyway. He had just been too busy watching where he was going to fully realise it. Pulling his mind back to what she had just said he opened his mouth to ask her why. Before he could frame the question though, Nia had started answering
"I have watched you since you left the city. I was supposed to guard you and then guide you through the forest. I thought you were going to be...childish. I was raised to believe that humans are children that can never grow to their full potential. You are not what I was raised to believe in."
Once again, Nia walked away before he could answer and left him with more to wonder about than why he was here.
The next day was more of the same. Orlaigh followed the Elves ever deeper into the forest as they walked in silence. At mid day, they stopped to rest and eat. Orlaigh opened his pack and brought out some of the food that he had brought with him to share with the group.
Nia came and sat with him while the others busied themselves preparing the meal and started questioning him on his knowledge of Elven history.
"I am surprised that you know of our scholars, I would not have thought a human would have the patience to study our history" she told him
"I have made it a point to learn what I can of all the people that help in the battle with The Shadow" he replied.
"There is much we need to know in order to use our forces effectively. It helps that it is a fascinating thing to study. You have a beautiful culture and language."
Nia smiled and flushed slightly
"A pretty compliment mage. Do all your people flatter strangers in this manner?"
"It is not flattery. I have studied the history of Elves and Dwarves as closely as I have studied my own people's. I find the Elves to be the most interesting. Your long lives mean that you have a complex and varied past when you deal with humans. You are more aware than we are...although, there are times when your great age does seem to work against you"
As the words came out of his mouth, Orlaigh wished he could snatch them back.
Nia's eyes flashed with anger at the implied criticism.
"Pray tell me how someone so young can see so much" she said in a tone that made it clear Orlaigh must tread carefully
"I meant no disrespect. It is only that, as you have so much time to grow and mature, you can gain your wisdom over centuries. What you can take seventy years to learn, the average human must learn before they become adults. I phrased this badly. I had no intention to anger you, only to explain where one of the biggest differences between our races come from."
Surprisingly, Nia smiled again. Such quick changes in emotion were rare in the Elves that Orlaigh had met in the past and he was unsure of how to continue. Before he could decide how to proceed, Nia spoke. As before, it seemed that she was answering a question he hadn't yet asked
"Yes, you are right and I believe my temper has just proved your point.