“What did you find there?” Eruviel asked, leaning over in the fresh stream as Eboric sloshed over to her.
“Rocks!” he declared proudly, his wet little hands full of smoothed, colorful stones.
Chickadees fluttered above them in the thick, rusty gold leaves that trembled in the warm autumn breeze and shimmered in pale sunlight. The spring water that bubbled over its old path wove around behind the fair sized, cool spring pool surrounded by ruined, mossy stonework. Between several arches the Elf had hung the glowing stones she had scavenged from the road in Durrow, and they shimmered, casting dull blue and purple stars about the secret hall hidden in the woods. It had not taken too much convincing to keep Eboric from the deep, sunken room filled with crystal clear water. All it required was the hint of adventure, the fast pace of the stream that swirled around the shallow pools where they waded and splashed, and, of course, the crafting of a most excellent leaf boat.
“Throw in!?” Eboric asked, pointing to the ruins behind them, and tugging on the light blue cloth of her swim dress.
“Of course!” she chimed, brushing away little pebbles sticking to her shoulder that had been gifted by little hands. “But remember? What do we do at the big pool?”
Eboric dumped his wealth of shiny rocks into her open palms and hiked up his swim shorts that were on their last adventure before winter and a growth spurt. “Sit,” he said with a serious bob of his head. Wading out of the stream he reached to pull her after him.
With a soft huff of breath as she juggled holding his rocks, being led by the wrist, and not stumbling over the thin, dripping strips of her skirt, Eruviel rose to her feet and padded over the mossy ground with the little boy. Reaching the wide edge of the pool the two sat down side by side, their feet dangling over the ledge and into the crystalline water.
“Here we are,” she murmured, piling the stones between them. “Now don’t tell Raenarcam that — Where are you going?”
Eboric pushed himself to his feet and scampered away over the soft floor. He did not go far, however, and stopped at the broken foot of an ancient pillar to retrieve his top and the prize leaf boat that had been saved (with no small amount of effort on her part). Padding back, Eboric sat down and snuggled up beside her.
Eruviel paused, arching a brow down at him. “Throw…?”
“Please!” Eboric added, beaming up at her and doing his best not to look too sleepy.
“Thank you.” One arm around the boy just in case he got excited and scooted too close to the edge, she tossed a smooth red stone out to drop into the pool with an echoing plunk.
Eboric giggled and stifled a yawn. “Again!”
“Someone is getting tired,” Eruviel said in a sing-song voice.
“Nooo,” Eboric protested as he picked a green stone out of her palm and chucked it into the water with a resounding plop.
Eruviel tossed a blue-grey stone in. Plunk. “Yeeees. We had a long day! We ate cookies, and made a fort….”
“You like riding Voronwen?”
Eboric nodded enthusiastically. “Go fast!”
“A little too fast for even my comfort,” she said with a warm chuckle as she surrendered a red stone to the boy. Plop! it went, sending up a spray of water back onto them and drawing a string of giggles from Eboric. The sound echoed around the small ruins and quickly faded into him rubbing his eyes.
“Do… you want a story?”
Eboric nodded quickly. He loved stories.
“If you want a story you will need to lie down.”
He made a face at that, studying her as if it were some sort of trick.
“Do not give me that look. I will lie down, too. We have just enough time for a little rest before we should head back for supper.”
Pursing his lips, weighing the gravity of such an important decision, Eboric finally nodded. Trusting her to see that he would not fall into the pool, the little boy reached over her lap, and scooted the rest of the stones off the edge to tumble into the clear blue depths of the ancient room. He then took up his fine leaf boat and placed it upon the water.
Eboric nodded tiredly, and before Eruviel could lean over his head had found its way onto her lap.
“Oh, hold on, little Ric,” she said softly. “Not this close to the water.” Gathering him up, Eruviel scooted back to lean against a green-carpeted stone. Eboric settled on the dry moss, resting his head in her lap and rubbing his face against her leg.
“Thank you for that. Do you want to hear the tale of the forest hunter?”
He shook his head.
“Of the lonely dragon?”
Eboric shook his head again.
“What about the Ocean’s daughter, or the hunter who listened?”
Eboric shook his head once more and tilted his chin to look up at her.
“Goodness, little one. I do not have my story book with me… What about a song?”
Eboric smiled happily up at her and nodded, and Eruviel smiled back.
“A mountain king?”
He nodded again, and was quickly distracted by specks of light that danced over his hands. A song would have him asleep in no time.
The stream behind them serving as her accompaniment, Eruviel smoothed back Eboric’s hair from his brow as she began to quietly sing. The warm autumn wind blew through the ruined stone as the child and Elf looked out over the secret woodland hall, watching the little gold and green ship scuttle across the water.