When the two elves returned to town, Moraenor reined Glathwere in.
"What has passed here?"
Laurel shook her head; well he might ask that. Elves and belongings: furniture, livestock, clothing and whatnot, lined the streets of Glastor City. No one really wept, but an intense melancholy covered the area. The Andarians, only just removed from their dwellings and clueless as to any alternative, milled about discussing the issue quietly with their neighbors.
Laurel and Moraenor found their pile of belongings and servants, and slipped off their horses.
"Polograth, as his last act as King, decreed that no Andarian is allowed to remain in the houses of Glastor City. We have all had to remove." Laurel sighed and shook her head.
Moraenor noticed a group of robed Andarians--the Royal Council, who basically took leadership over the Andarian people in the absence of the Elvenking or his heir (many wondered if he even had one). Moraenor took Laurel's arm and began leading her toward them.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Come with me, and let's find out," he said quietly.
Seated at the head of the group was the chief advisor, Mauriol. His pure white hair gleamed in the dying sunlight. In his hand he held a parchment with a royal seal fixed at the bottom, though the crest was unfamiliar. Most likely it was the royal crest of Fortinskan.
Mauriol looked up when Laurel approached and smiled Elf-fashion: a mere flicker at the corners of his mouth.
"Ah! Wenda-an-Nareandor," he greeted her as her father's daughter instead of her mother’s, as the custom usually was, "How kind of you to join us!"
She blushed as Moraenor helped her into the last empty chair in the circle and stood rather officially behind it. Laurel wondered that Mauriol still stared expectantly at her.
"Please," she waved her hand, "by all means continue."
Mauriol nodded and held up the paper.
"I have just come from a meeting with the new king, King Brabantes, and we have agreed to a solution to the housing problem, now that none of us can remain in the town."
"What?" a councilor cried, "Do you mean that he will not allow us to return, now that he rules the land?"
Mauriol shook his head, "Apparently he needs our houses for his own people. The king and I reached an alternative."
Here Mauriol paused, obviously waiting to be asked. He looked around at the other councilors.
"Well," prompted a seasoned councilor in a long blue robe with black lapels trimmed with gold, "What is it, Mauriol? Is this what that paper is about?"
Mauriol nodded. "The king has decreed that no elf can remain in the town, but must reside in one of two places. We must either live in Beilon forest, or we may return to Andar." Mauriol gazed around the crowd at the surprised faces of the Elves. He spread his arms magnanimously.
"Fellow elves, we have been away from our home for a very long time. Surely by now the blight has died out. We can return to our homeland and start afresh. Since the only alternative is sleeping out in the woods," he sneered at the word, "like a common animal, returning to Andar sounds like our only option."
"How will we return over the sea?" someone asked.
Mauriol shrugged, "The king will lend us ships to transport us, I'm sure. With all the favors we have done for this country, I dare say the humans owe it to us!"
Laurel could not sit still and silent under this arrogant, brazen entitlement mentality. She stood. "Mauriol, gentle Elves of the council," she began, "do you not recall the agreement between our nation and Glastor, that the Elvenking first contracted? All he required was a place to live, and in return the king promised our skills and our steel. Now, the whole reason we are negotiating with a new king is because our soldiers perished upholding that agreement. Is it right for us to then sneer at the thing our heroes supported with their very lives?"
The councilors looked at one another, the second thoughts showing plainly on their faces.
"That's all very heart-wrenching," Mauriol argued, "but wouldn't it be better to sleep once again in houses of our own, even if it is an empty land, than be relegated out-of-doors like so many dogs?"
Laurel held Mauriol's gaze, “It is a place to sleep, and to ‘start afresh,’ as you say. Moreover, it is the agreement we have made with this country, no matter who is leading it.” Laurel gazed over the assembly, “I stand by the Elvenking,” she declared simply and quietly.
The councilors gazed at each other uncomfortably.
Mauriol, on the other hand, grinned. “It is well that you feel that way,” he told Laurel, “you wouldn’t be able to return to Andar as matters stand.”
Laurel furrowed her brow, “Why not?”
Mauriol held up the parchment, “The document explicitly states, all pure Elves will be allowed to return to Andar. If I recall correctly, this does not include you.”
Laurel’s mouth flew open in shock at the cruelty of the Chief Councilor.
Mauriol ignored her and looked at the rest of the Elves, “Shall we prepare to embark?”
The whole assembly nodded their heads. Laurel ran from the group, sobbing.
How could he? The meanness of the other elves was almost too much to bear! Laurel collapsed by her pile of belongings, sobbing with shame.
“Laurel!” She heard Moraenor approach, but she had difficulty curbing her emotions.
“I’m fine, it’s all right,” she sobbed, “You must go with the rest. I deserve this anyway, even if I had no control over the circumstances that created this situation.” She looked up at her former guardian with tears in her eyes and streaming down her face. “I suppose since I feel that someone must stay and abide by the Elvenking’s promise, I then must be the one to fulfill it since everyone else is returning to Andar.”
Moraenor helped her to her feet as she continued, “Moraenor, I want you to do one last thing for me before you go.”
The faithful Elf nodded, “What is it?”
Moraenor chuckled, “All right, what am I promising to do?”
Laurel reached down and unbuckled Golon’s sword from around her waist. She laid it in Moraenor’s hands. “Take this sword back to Andar for me. Grandfather gave it to me because he thought I would be able to do it, but now since I will most likely never see Andar, I want you to do what I cannot.”
Moraenor shook his head and tried to give the sword back to the young Elf-maiden. “No, you must keep the sword, if only for protection—“
“No,” Laurel would not accept it, “you must do it, for it must be done, and you gave me your word. I’ll get another sword. Now, go; the ships are already in the harbor, you must leave.” She set her chin bravely. “Thank you so much for your friendship, Moraenor; it means the world to me. I will never forget you. Fare you well, and goodbye for the present.”
Moraenor saw that she was set in her decision, and there was no convincing her otherwise. He sighed, “Hello for the future,” he replied, taking her hand momentarily.
Laurel saw the stream of Elves slowly moving toward the harbor. “Go now,” she told Moraenor.
The Elvish lieutenant nodded and joined the throng.
Laurel was truly alone.
She almost felt like crying, but she steeled herself. She had to move out of the town, and find a place in the woods to live. She focused all her attention on loading the belongings from her father’s house into a large wagon, and hitching Zarta to the wagon. Glathwere, and Nareandor’s horse Turgynn were also left to her.
Laurel stroked the mare’s neck, “Come, Zarta,” she whispered, “Let’s find our new home.” Together they headed into Beilon Forest. To get there, though, she had to pass near the harbor, near enough to see the wide, magnificent ships, the ones that were carrying all her kin back to their home. She thought of Moraenor, carrying Grandfather’s sword back to Andar. Laurel bit her lip and turned sharply into the forest.
Laurel traveled through the forest for several hours, but there seemed to be no suitable place for permanent residence, only trees, shrubs, and grass. She persisted, steadily making her way toward Mt. Horbaroth, and away from the town.
About five miles from the mountain, Laurel came upon a huge cave in the forest, its mouth facing Mt. Horbaroth, and several trees about it. The floor was wide, and the ceiling was high; it was just suitable for a dwelling.
“At any rate, it’s the only one to be had,” she murmured to herself.
She turned to unload the wagon, and saw Moraenor standing at the mouth of the cave.
“Moraenor!” She gasped. “What are you doing here? You should be boarding the ship!”
He shrugged, “I could not go,” he said simply.
Laurel tipped her head, “What do you mean? You are a pure Elf! You must go!”
Moraenor shook his head with a smile. “I have a duty,” he said, “one that was given to me by my commanding officer, and I am bound to fulfill that duty, above all others, until I am discharged by the same commanding officer or a lieutenant appointed by him.” He offered Laurel’s sword back to her.
Laurel looked into his eyes, and realized what he meant. She smiled warmly in spite of the tears still moistening her cheeks. “Thank you, Moraenor,” she whispered, taking the sword and buckling it on again.
“It is only a duty,” Moraenor replied, but he winked at his young charge.
Together the two Elves unpacked the wagon and prepared for their new lives as Elves of the woods.