Valeria enters the Abbey Theatre and starts shadow-fencing to work off her nervous energy.
Jenner enters, clad in full armor and a crimson cloak. His visage grim, he says somberly, "Hello, Val. Are you well tonight?"
Startled, she drops her sword; it falls to the floor with a clang.
Val frowns. "I'm not certain..." She trails off as she notices his attire, and looks at him quizzically. "What's going on, love?"
Jenner cringes at her calling him "love." "I have something to tell you...and it may be hard for you to hear."
Wary of his somber mood and grim mien, Val looks up at him.
"No, this isn't right," Jenner mutters. He thinks for a moment before continuing. "May I tell you a story, Valeria?"
Val nods, a little hesitantly.
Jenner pauses as he struggles to recall his tale, and says, "You'll forgive me if my story lacks eloquence." He gives her a forced smile. "After all, I'm no Eshu..." Val gives him a little smile, but it disappears quickly.
"Oh, dear.... I'm sorry," Jenner says, clearly attempting to stall. "Where are my manners? I barge in here, and start shooting my mouth off." He looks with concern at her. "Are you all right tonight?" He picks up her fallen sword and offers it, hilt first, to her. "This is a fine blade..."
Val looks somewhat overwhelmed as she accepts the sword and slides it into its scabbard. "What's wrong?"
"Val, search your thoughts," Jenner pleads. "Try for me. I do love you, but..." He sighs deeply. "How should I start this?" He takes a deep breath, and plunges ahead. "Val, your mind has betrayed you. As have I. You and I were never meant to be, little one..." He pauses. "Val, what do you remember of your time in Arcadia?"
Val's eyes become distant, opaque, as memories of another place and time wash to the forefront of her mind. "I remember a woman with long red hair who never had time for me...I remember wanting to be a knight..."
"Look at me, Val," says Jenner softly. "Do I not look old to young eyes? I was already a knight when you were but a babe." Then he smiles as he looks appreciatively at her. "And now, you are grown...and quite beautiful, I might add. You always did remind me of your mother."
Val is clearly confused. "My mother...?"
"Yes, Val," Jenner says. "I knew your mother."
Puzzled, Val looks at him with pleading eyes. "But...we were together..." Her voice takes on a note of desperation. "Weren't we?"
"No, Val," Jenner says softly.
Tears spring to Val's eyes. "Then I've believed a lie, these past days..."
"Fear not, Val, not all of it is false," Jenner hastens to add.
Val tries to keep her tears from welling up, and fails. She turns away. "I don't know what to believe anymore...maybe I'm going mad..."
Shocked, Jenner turns her to face him. "Don't say that, Val! You're not mad...I'm the madman, remember?"
Val hugs herself, too lost in dejection to answer him. "I remember my knighting," she whispers. "...the way you smiled at me. You were so proud! And I remember that night..." Suddenly, she stops, her expression changing into one of astonishment.
"Good, Val! That's right... keep trying," Jenner urges.
"It...it wasn't you who lay with me when the sun rose, was it?" Val asks in a whisper.
"No, Val, it wasn't," Jenner answers gently. Then, "Do you remember what I used to call you?"
Val's eyes grow wide, and she shakes like a leaf in the wind as long-buried memories are suddenly revealed. Concerned, Jenner puts out a hand to steady her. "Val?"
Her voice is barely audible, and she pauses frequently as she struggles to recall the events that happened in another time and place. "I remember...I remember one night when I was small...I had a fever, and I woke up with nightmares..."
"Keep going, Val," Jenner urges gently.
Val looks up at him, and suddenly recognition dawns as she remembers completely. "...and you stayed with me, and held me until I stopped crying...you said you wouldn't let any of the monsters get me..."
"That's right, Little One," returns Jenner, an air of nostalgia surrounding him. "I was... I am ...your guardian."
Val's voice is soft with nostalgia. "I remember you taught me to use a sword, even when my mother said I couldn't..." She chuckles softly. "'Little Raven', you called me..."
"That's right, Val," Jenner returns.
She smiles. "You told me I could be a warrior, if I wanted to...even a knight like you."
"And quite a knight you have become, Little Raven," the Troll knight returns with an affectionate smile. "I'm not your lover, nor was I ever."
The young Sidhe's eyes are misty. "Yes, it all comes back to me now..." Suddenly, realization comes to her and she gasps, "Alan!"
"Aye. And I had my Morwen..." murmurs Jenner.
Val's eyes grow wide. "Alan...I remember it was he who held me that night in the unicorns' field..." Her eyes are full of love. "I remember how he used to smile at me, and how he used to play for me when I was sad."
Jenner kisses her forehead. "The funny thing is, I was never wrong to say that I love you. It's true, you know." He smiles. "But I am not your lover. I'm...."
Val looks up at him, her eyes soft with emotion. "My father...if not in blood, then in spirit, surely." She looks up at Jenner. "Is Alan out there somewhere, do you think? Could I find him again?"
"You'll find him.," Jenner declares. "I'll not rest until you do. I swore to your father that I'd always love you as he would have."
Val looks up at him, her eyes thoughtful. "Will you do something for me, godfather?"
"Please, child, call me Jenner," returns the Troll knight with a grin. "After all, you're a knight now." He looks at her with a father's eyes.
"Jenner, then," returns the Sidhe with a smile. "Tell me about my father? My blood father, that is...I never truly knew him..."
"He was a great warrior, and my truest friend," says Jenner. "Griffin looked on him with great favor."
"I came here searching for you, you know..." says the young Sidhe with a bemused smile. "You always did call me headstrong."
"Ahh, so much like your father, with your mother's face," Jenner returns, gazing with pride at the woman the child he raised has become.
Val's voice takes on a hint of sadness as she continues. "But when I was reborn, I lost my memories of that time..."
"You brought my own memories back to the surface..." Jenner muses.
Val looks up at him then, her expression one of uncertainty, but looking like she feels she must say it anyway. "Would you hold me?" She blushes. "I feel like a little girl again..."
Jenner complies to her wish. His arms are massive, and they easily envelop her.
"Do you remember the last time you held me like this?" Val asks.
"Yes, Val, with utter clarity," Jenner answers. Then a smile tugs at his mouth. "Once you found Alan, I wasn't sure if you'd outgrown me. It is good to hold you once more, Little Raven."
A warm wetness falls on Jenner's chest, and he rocks her gently. "Don't cry, Val." Then he pauses. "I'm not sure what I should say next. Your father was called 'The Raven' by his enemies in the Unseelie Court. The nickname was coined by his adversary..."
Val wipes the tears from her eyes and looks up at him. "Who...?"
"Martiel Goldenheart," says Jenner grimly. "He slew your father in combat... the bastard rode on a clockwork horse made of Iron." He closes his eyes against a wash of remembered pain. "Your father was overwhelmed; I tried to save him, Val... but I was too late and his wounds were too deep. Goldenheart took the Nightlands and proclaimed himself ruler. He reigns over a hideous scar made of wood and Iron. When he became 'king' he changed his name..."
"Ironheart," whispers Val, as it all comes clear.
"Yes, Val. Your father died valiantly, and the battle nearly cost Ironheart his life. Even today, Ironheart relies on his machines to live," Jenner returns. Then, he sobers. "Ironheart has since seized many a fief and manor in Arcadia. And with no generals like your father to lead the Arcadian Legions to battle, Endless Winter may fall on Arcadia."
Val shudders involuntarily, but her voice is fierce. "Then let me go to finish what my father began."
"When you are ready, Val. I'm proud of you, my Raven. I'm sure your father would have been just as proud," Jenner says softly. Then, he pauses, and his expression grows somber. "I've been through much since I left Arcadia...My days are numbered, Val. But I will see you through this."
Val is still lost in the significance of the evening's revelations; she speaks more to herself than to Jenner. "The Raven had a chick...only Ironheart will learn that the chick is grown. Let Ironheart feel the talons of the Raven, and when I'm through, I'll have his eyes..."
Realizing what she is saying, Jenner locks his gaze with hers. "Too much vengeance rots the soul. Destroy Ironheart's kingdom, but do it for the ideals your father stood for... not for vengeance's sake." She appears not to hear him, and his voice turns stern. "Val! Are you listening to me?" His voice drops. "I know all too well the consequences of pursuing vengeance too long."
Sobered by his words, Val looks up at him, and gives him a resigned smile. "You're right...as usual, I'm not thinking. And you taught me better."
"Revenge has already soiled my life; I'll not let it destroy yours," vows Jenner. Then, his voice drops. "For every valiant deed in my life, I have committed atrocities tenfold. Except for you, Val, I cannot love. I have only impotent rage and sorrow now. And until there was you, even my honor was forfeit."
Val touches him on the cheek, her eyes filled with love. "You think very highly of me, don't you?" She gives him a resigned smile. "I'm not so sure I merit it."
"You do, Val." Jenner says emphatically. Then he turns away from her as his body begins to quiver. "I've lost so much in my despair over Morwen." His back is to her now. "Love is too precious to be wasted. I will find Alan for you, my little one, my daughter."
"Then let me go with you, at least," pleads Val, laying a hand on his shoulder.
Jenner is slouching now. "I often wish that you were yet a Childling. You rode on my shoulders..."
Val's voice catches. "And you put my first sword in my hands..."
Jenner's words are soft and resigned. "I'm afraid that I cannot allow you to come with me. Your mind may not be able to withstand the magick of the Arcadia Gate. Should Ironheart learn that you are grown, and that you plan to return to take the throne..." He lets it trail off.
The knowledge of what he is saying hits Val like a blow, and a shocked expression appears on her face. "NO! You can't mean that!"
"You mean too much to me," Jenner returns tenderly. "I will find your Alan, and I will deliver him, alive and safe, to your arms."
Val is sobbing. "No! I won't lose you again..."
"All right, then we shall have to bring him to us," says Jenner as he straightens up and turns to face Val once more. "Yes, we shall bring him to us. I can make no promises that he will come unless I go for him myself." He smiles tenderly at Val before continuing, "But if my staying here with you is what you wish, I'll obey."
"Where do we begin?" Val asks quietly.
"I'll send Dorian into the Dreaming with a message that you and I are here," Jenner answers. "If he can be found, Dorian will find him. The rest is up to Alan, though Dorian will lead him to Ashland. Now, all we can do is wait." He pauses. "I have much to tell you, Valeria. But these tales shall have to wait for another day."
Val nods. "Will Alan remember me, do you think?"
"I don't know, Val," Jenner answers quietly. "I just don't know. But if he does love you, then I'd venture to say that he will. What love can do that dares love attempt..." He smiles. "Who knows? Perhaps he has already left the Dreaming to look for you."
"Scathach grant that it's so..." Val whispers, her expression hopeful.
"I still recall the taste of your tears..." Jenner muses, as he wraps his cloak tightly around himself. His voice seems far away as he continues. "Echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears..."
Val droops a little, blinks, and doesn't quite catch a yawn. With a tender smile, Jenner places a fatherly kiss on her forehead. "Good night, Val---I venture into the Dreaming tonight."
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