Jarnath whirled at the crunching sound behind him, but it was nothing–only a squirrel shooting up the black bole of the nearby tree. Garl chuckled at him.
“Easy, young one,” Garl said. “Enemies rarely come to Dannenglor anymore.”
Jarnath nodded, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust the wisdom of Garl, his guard-partner. Garl was a veteran Morvul-guard who had survived the attacks of many elves at the gates of Dannenglor by flopping and pretending to be dead–or so the rumors went among the Morroval women.
Jarnath ruffled his wings and turned so Garl couldn’t see the expression on his face. If enemies attacked and Garl feigned death, leaving him to die by sword and fire, he had no plans to be so cowardly.
The mistresses forgave Garl because he was clever and good in their beds, but it was the job of the Morvul-guards to serve the women and do as they bid. The women had bid him guard the gate, so he would guard the gate from elves and all other attackers until their arrows pierced through his last dying breath.
What did Fenrah think about his new job guarding the gate? Was she worried for him? Did she even know that he was risking his life and limb to protect Dannenglor from being retaken by its residents of old? Jarnath sighed. Fenrah was so incredibly beautiful. He would love her forever, even if she scorned his love, and he died inside. He just wished he knew why.
He didn’t understand, but in his heart, he tried each day to forgive her. Perhaps such was the fate of any man who fell madly in love with a cruel pain-singer. Perhaps he had done something foolish in allowing Beyah to court him, but he had no choice. No Morvul could say no to a Morroval who wanted him.
Perhaps it was only Fenrah’s shag nath. The women always became tempestuous and more vicious when they endured their shag nath, but for three weeks Fenrah hadn’t even allowed him to see her in the aeries of the upper city. She had cut him off completely.
Jarnath flexed his claws. He almost wished someone would try to attack Dannenglor that day. It would at least allow him to relieve his anger. The scamper of feet on the path behind him roused him from his reverie. He swiveled and crouched, ready for combat, but it was only Beyah. She’d evidently come down from the upper city to see him at his post.
“You honor me, Mistress,” he offered hesitantly. He bowed to his occasional lover of the past several months–his only lover since Fenrah had begun to spurn his attention.
Beyah was a slender, wise, older Morroval. Her face was wrinkled around her eyes, and her black wings ended in brown tips. She was a fierce fighter, attractive, and much-admired among the older Morvul men. Beyah was covetous and liked to acquire things–jewels, trinkets, and younger men. She wasn’t the woman he loved, but he knew he should feel lucky for her attentions.
“Come,” Beyah rasped. “Over here to this sward, Jar. We’ll look down the hill for a while and scout for approaching enemies.”
Jarnath nodded obediently and allowed Beya to seize his hand and lead him. He wouldn’t dare argue with her, even if it meant trouble because he’d left his post. He looked over his shoulder at Garl, who grinned and flexed his arms mightily.
Garl understood. Even a Morvul-guard could not argue with a direct command from one of the female elders. Garl would need to hold the gate alone for a short while.
The sward on the hill was soft and mossy–the perfect place for a romantic encounter, offering a beautiful view of the ruined city of Audaghaim and the misty valleys of Mirkwood below. Jarnath looked back across the forest with a slight feeling of embarrassment.
He and Beyah were still well within view of Garl’s keen eyes, and worse yet, Beyah was a shrieker. Her cries would echo across the forest for all to hear, unlike in the muffled, close, cloistered stone room where they normally met in the depths of Dannenglor.
Jarnath gasped when Beya jerked him down. She enfolded him with her wing and hissed softly. Her lips brushed his ear, sending a thrill down his spine. She pulled away abruptly, however, leaving red scratches across his arm. A frown etched Beyah’s face.
“No. I can’t do this. Not today.”
Jarnath frowned. “Why not? My pleasure is yours, as always. Have I done something to offend?”
Beya looked away down the hill across Mirkwood. “Fenrah is laying in her bed right now. She is waiting for you. I told her I would bring you the message, but I was conflicted over doing it. I want you for myself.”
“Fenrah is laying in her bed, and she wants to see me?”
“That’s what I said, Jar. Have you gone deaf?” Beyah didn’t meet his eyes. “I will help Garl guard the gate while you go to the upper city.”
Jarnath felt his heart pound in his chest. He rose up and dashed across the forest past Garl and into Dannenglor. He ducked under a flitting ruins bat and ran up through the city, ignoring the suspicious looks of the Morroval mistresses who were engaged in quiet conversation or meditation. He found Fenrah in her sleeping niche just as Beyah had promised.
“You wanted to see me?” he said breathlessly.
“Come here, my love. I’ve missed you.” Fenrah smiled at him. Against her belly rested a smooth, wet-looking egg, near the size of a head. Jarnath blinked in shock. He went down on his knees and crawled into the bed. He cautiously slid against Fenrah with the egg between them. The egg was warm against his hip.
“This is yours?”
Fenrah nodded. “Ours. I just laid it a few minutes ago.”
Jarnath felt his heart skip a beat. He caressed the egg with his fingertip. It was so amazing to think that such a thing had emerged from inside of Fenrah. Would their child be a Morvul son, blessed with the sacred task of serving the women, or would she be a daughter, a glorious and beautiful little Fenrah?
Fenrah leaned, kissed him, and stretched her wing over him. Jarnath met her kiss full-on and returned the intimate embrace. He was so happy–happier than he’d ever been in his life. His true love smelled so good and sweet–like cinnamon, feathers, and fine-woven linen cloths stolen from the Mirkwood elves.