A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 06byTaLtos6©
*** So they parted badly and neither one wants to see the other. So what? That doesn't matter at all to his mother. She'll fix that right up, not that she'd dream of interfering. ~grin~
A little more about the mysterious Dahlgren. 0_o
Book of the Merren Part 3
It was early-morning and he was tired, riding slowly up the long path from the road below up to the orphanage. He knew that his horse was beat too, but he'd taken the time to let him eat and drink on occasion. He'd wanted to go to the small store there in the town below for some things and he almost did, but then he thought of her, and decided that they could do it together.
After a word with one of the sisters, he waited in the great hall.
Nahl'een sat in the garden watching a few of the small birds as they pecked at the seeds that she'd been given to feed them with. They chirped and chattered, flitting around as they found a seed and took it as though they were stealing something before they flew off to hide it in the crook of a tree branch or in some reeds for when the winter grew colder. The little girl smiled. She knew that they always did this with the first few seeds before they took some to eat themselves.
She liked just watching them. It was a new experience, and she'd only been allowed it lately. They'd had to wait until her language comprehension was sufficient for her to understand that she wasn't to eat them anymore. She still liked to watch them though.
Suddenly, she stopped watching. She sat up, looking straight ahead for a moment, sensing.
"AAh!" she cried in her little voice as she turned and ran off as fast as she could go. She almost collided with the nun who'd come to get her.
"Sorry," she said, and then she was gone, tearing a streak along the hall.
He heard her from far off down the hallway, but she grew louder as she ran.
"Dahl!" she cried, "Dahl, Dahl!"
He grinned at her and wondered why he'd been feeling so bad until now. He raised his hand, wanting to hold a finger to his mouth to get her to quiet down for once, but he gave it up and waited for the collision. He had no idea how she could run like that in her long dress.
She was so excited as she held onto him with her little arms, a girl with black hair and bright blue eyes, not quite six years old, and looking for all the world like nothing more than that. He looked down and saw her face against him, her eyes squeezed tightly shut as if she were drinking him in through her pores. He managed to loosen her grip only long enough to get to one knee before she flung her arms around his neck and held on so tightly that his vision was beginning to darken at the edges. He reached down and lifted her up and she settled to the change in position without even letting him go.
"Hey, Nahl'een," he said with a sigh, "I've missed you so much."
"I missed you, Dahl," she sighed herself, and then they were off after getting her coat on, almost forgetting her doll, and thanking the monks and the nuns for taking care of her once more.
"I think that we should go to the shop for some food for tonight," he smiled as he carried her out to his horse.
"Sweet?" she asked, "Nahl'een gets sweet?"
It made him laugh, "You already are sweet." But then he corrected her and said afterward, "Yes, I think so."
"Two?" she asked, knowing that she was pushing it, "One for later?"
"One for now," he said, as he lifted her onto his horse, "and one for that time far away, after dinner."
Nahl'een didn't care, she only waited for him to get on and put his arm around her. This was one of her favorite things to do in the whole world, to sit in front of him on his huge horse and ride with his arm holding her. It was one of her first memories of him, from when he'd found her to take her away, the day that he'd given her a name. Her life had never been the same since.
Her little universe was still a small thing, but right there at the center of it stood a mighty god, and his name was Dahl.
They rode down to the little shop in the town and then on to their home. A half an hour after leaving the road, since the horse was tired and they chose to walk for a while along the hidden pathway, they came to the gate. A chime rang in the distance from somewhere far off, and the gate swung open for them. Dahlgren had always wondered just where that chime was. He had no idea. It sounded as though it came from everywhere all at once, though it was never loud. They walked on, talking about anything as they made their way to the stables where he saw to his horse.
"I want to know things," she said as she sat holding still in the bath while he washed her hair.
He smirked as he carefully wiped some of the suds from her forehead before they could reach the dark eyes that she showed like this, "You always want to know things. What is it now?"
"Why we live here?" she asked, "Nobody comes. Why we live alone?"
"You mean, why DO we live here," he said. "Not many know of this place, Nahl'een. Only a few of the monks at the temple. But they have a different faith, they just know that this is here. I have to live here, and you are my daughter now, so you live here too. And we are not really alone, are we? Shaevre is always here for you."
He got up onto his knees a little higher on the floor of the chamber so that he could reach more of her long hair, "But I don't think that it's good for a little girl to live in a place like this where it's always so quiet. That's why I take you with me whenever I can if I have to go anywhere. I always take you to the town, don't I?"
She nodded as she looked at his chest, and he had to wipe her forehead again.
"Hold still now and close your eyes so I don't get soap in them."
After he'd rinsed out her hair, he told her to open her eyes again and he kissed her forehead with a smile. "Do you want to play in the bath for a minute? I just have to look at the pots in the kitchen and I'll be right back."
She nodded and he left the room. A quick look at their dinner and he was back. He doubted that he'd been gone for longer than twenty seconds but Nahl'een was gone.
He looked at the floor and saw no water. He felt that she was still there in the tub and waited with a smile. After a moment, he saw the place where the water seemed stationary, not even a ripple there, so he knew where she was.
"I can wait longer than you can sit still," he smirked.
She began to laugh in the way that always made him happy to hear it and then she was there, at the other end of the tub, right where he knew that she'd been.
"I want get out now," she said.
"Oh," he said seriously, "Well, you're getting to be such a big girl, and I know that you want to do everything for yourself. But did you wash your back? Big people wash their backs you know, not only the parts they can see in front of them."
"Ah-hah," she said, nodding.
"Well, how did you do that?" he asked, "The brush is still there, where it was, and I can tell that it's still dry."
"Oh," she said, and then she explained that she had washed her backside and everything, but she had forgotten her back. "I have trouble washing back."
"I know," he said, "that's why I asked. Turn yourself around."
She slid around so that she faced away from him and he began.
He was a little relieved about the rest. When he'd adopted Nahl'een, he'd asked for some help and advice about bathing a little girl, and he was thankful for the lesson that he'd received from his mother when she'd come to visit the day that he'd brought her home. Without that, he'd have done his best – as he did in anything for her – but his mother had spent the time to patiently teach the little one to wash herself. For a while, his mother had repeated the lesson at least once each time that she'd come, but lately, she'd told Dahlgren that Nahl'een had now mastered it.
All in all, he was glad that she was learning to manage many things for herself. He just knew that her back was going to be an issue and that she'd likely forget.
Just like his own, her wings would always be a challenge for her to wash.
But at least she was getting to an age where he could expect that she'd have the balance to move them out, one at a time to wash them. It could be a troublesome thing in someone so small, and the bath was no place to slip and fall.
With the task completed, he rinsed her off and helped her out of the tub and into the thick towel that he had for her. He started with her hair, since gravity always worked, and there was so much of it to dry.
"Time for dinner?" she asked when he was done, "Nahl'een is hungry."
"Well that's good," he tried to look relieved. "I didn't think that I'd be able to eat all of it. I'll need your help."
She giggled at him, "I eat like mouse, Dahl. You eat like, ... like, ... not know what."
"Like a bigger mouse," he grinned and she rewarded him with a peal of laughter. "No," she chuckled, "you eat like horse, Dahl."
He let her keep the towel around her as they walked to the kitchen.
"Why so much?" she asked, looking at him a little suspiciously. "I see three pots. I see bread. Too much for us, Dahl."
"Well," he smiled down at her, "I might have bought a little too much at the shop, or, ..."
He sank down into a crouch, "Maybe I knew that we would need to have more. You know, like we do when Gramma comes sometimes."
He knew what her reaction would be and he was careful to watch for it. Her black eyes grew huge and her little mouth dropped open as she inhaled.
"Gramma? Gramma is here?" She sought to sense for her grandmother and in an instant, she knew.
He nodded, smiling, and then he was alone, her towel lying forgotten at his feet on the kitchen floor. She didn't even bother with running, she just leapt into the air in a little hop and she was gone as fast as her wings could carry her with that thin tail of hers stretched out behind her.
He laughed a little to himself as he heard her cry out, calling out for his mother.
He just hoped that she'd manage to make the turns this time.
He picked up the towel and went back to the bath chamber to hang it up. He'd almost begun to empty the tub before his eye caught sight of the worn little doll lying there drowned. He picked it up and set it in the small basin while he rinsed the tub out.
He went back to the doll and thought about it. It was nothing more than a stuffed doll made of cloth. It was an old thing and it was so worn that he'd repaired it a few times already, and he wondered what he'd do when it finally gave up the ghost. She'd made a big deal out of how dirty it was, insisting that it needed a bath as well. He didn't often allow it for the sake of the doll's longevity, but he had this time.
He picked it up again and squeezed it out carefully before holding it in his hand and causing the rest of the water inside to leave the damp fabric as a mist. Nahl'een ran in then, asking for her doll. He handed it to her with a smile and she was gone again as fast as she could go. He'd bought her other dolls and though she liked them and was thankful, none of them could replace that worn-out old thing in her heart. She took it along with her everywhere.
He looked down and sighed. He knew where it had come from, and he now knew its previous owner.
He walked through the kitchen and out down the hall.
His home was something that he could never decide about. He didn't know the right word for the home that he'd been given as a part of what he was here to do. The word 'palace' came to mind, though that didn't really fit. He supposed that since it sat on a secluded peak, hidden in groves of trees, that it might be a castle as well. But that didn't suit what it was either. If it was anything, he thought, it was a fortress – a large, low fortress which seemed rather lonely at times, since it appeared that he and his little daughter were the almost the only ones in it, aside from his horse out in the stables.
But that wasn't strictly true. It was defended by other means than only its location and gated walls. Anyone trying to get inside who was not recognized would soon find that it was inhabited by other things, placed there expressly for the defense of the building itself and the ones inside.
There were six hellhounds who walked these halls and the grounds. They were here when he'd come. He didn't know who fed them or what they lived on, but they were friendly to him and they loved Nahl'een. One of them especially, the seventh, a young female named Shaevre who'd assumed the role of his daughter's close companion and playmate. Like most of her kind when in the hound-ish form, she could comprehend speech, though she couldn't speak.
There were other things here as well. He'd just never seen them, but he knew that the hellhounds were not the worst that an intruder might have to fear.
On the whole, it was an attractive place to live, the style being very open with many monolithic walls and tables and benches here and there crafted out of stone, with gleaming stone floors everywhere. There were decorations, stone mostly, and the open and sparse theme was very comfortable and easy to live in even though it seemed more like a museum or a temple in some respects. Whatever the intent of its design, it lent itself to being the home of a warrior who served a faith so ancient that no one knew its origins.
Despite its location, it was never cold inside and it never grew too hot. The thing managed itself, and it was always best to pick up after oneself before retiring for the night. Articles left out and not put away might be found in the kitchen the next morning. Then again, they might never be found again at all. He'd never seen who cleaned up, though he'd tried to a few times. He just knew that someone did, that was all.
There were many rooms to the place, and a few large chambers were one could go to relax and collect one's thoughts. One of his favorites was the large arboretum, a place almost at the center of things, though it wasn't laid out as a formal thing. It was more like a self-managing jungle of sorts. All manner of plants and birds lived there in a rather perfect balance and he was very careful never to upset that balance.
There was the temple chamber at the back of that. It was his place of worship and Nahl'een's as well now, though he was still teaching her. The whole thing was based on the same sort of balance that the arboretum thrived on – one thing led to another, everything was a part of a whole and had a place, either large or small. The gods of the faith were neither malevolent nor benevolent, though they could be, if the balance was badly affected. That was where Dahlgren came in. He was here to be an instrument of their combined wills.
Off to one side was what he called the beach, since that was what it was - a huge room with rock cliffs which appeared to be very high, but were really only simulations created to look like that. There was a wide sort of sandy beach which had some pebbles as well, and there was what looked at first glance to be an ocean, though it was in fact a rather large and warmed pool where waves rolled gently inward. There was something up above which resembled the sun and it moved as time went by, if one paid attention, though the arc through which it travelled always kept it in view above. The relative time of day could be changed with a thought throughout the twenty-four hours of the regular solar day. He and Nahl'een loved to go there together. She already knew how to swim after a fashion, but he taught her better ways, and when they weren't doing that, he built her sand castles.
That was where he found them, a pair of demons playing together in the waves.
He sighed, "I just gave her a bath."
His mother laughed, "Well then she'll be even cleaner, won't she? She's turning into a regular tadpole, I see."
"What is tad ... pole?" Nahl'een asked.
"It's a little frog," her grandmother smiled, "A baby frog just like you, they even have a tail. They're always in the water."
"Not tadpole," the little girl laughed, but then she stopped and grew a sly little grin. "If I am tadpole, then Gramma and Dahl are frogs!" she laughed, "Big frogs!" Her squealing laughter was infectious, though the squeals hurt a little.
"I want to talk with your father," her grandmother said as she kissed the little face in front of her, "You play with the boat that I brought you, alright? We'll watch from the beach."
Nahl'een nodded and pushed the little toy along in the water. Dahlgren wondered how it would brave the waves, but he guessed that it wouldn't sink right away.
Ny'Zeille Runei turned and began to walk out, a very wet and still very beautiful female. She sat down on the towel that she'd brought and her tail curled on the sand behind her as she regarded her son.
"I was told that you have met the girl," she said, "You spoke of it in your prayers."
He nodded as he watched his daughter play, "Yes. It was a bit of an adventure. Though it began rather well, it didn't end that way. I didn't know that she was the one from the family at the farm. I only thought of that later."
He smiled as he looked down at a pebble on the sand. "She stole my horse – twice. I helped her when I saw that she was in danger of freezing, and I slept with her, though not in the usual way, I suppose."
His mother looked at him. She was very proud of her son. Given what he was – what his heritage had dealt to him, he'd made more than the best of it, seeking the faith and returning to Earth to take up the mantle of the Ranger – the only one on this world.
By likely any female's standards, he was very attractive when he took his human shape, and that was not something that could be changed any more than his natural shape could be. And in that shape, she knew that here were many females who would want one such as him for a male as well, demons, mostly, and more than a few who were like him, some of both.
She smiled a little, knowing that there were likely many human females who wouldn't pass him by without at least a longing look – even in his natural form. She just knew that they wouldn't do that in public, most of them, anyway.
He was her only child and she doted on him at least a little, though she did try very hard to hide it. But he was alone here, and it bothered her somewhat. Somehow, he'd even found a way to give her a grandchild, a wonderful little girl who, though she had such huge troubles in her past and her beginning, had found ways to deal with it - just as soon as her little arms had wound themselves around his strong neck and the tiny tendrils of her love had entwined and ensnared his great heart. She sometimes wondered which of them had managed what, since it quite obviously went both ways. It didn't matter, she supposed.
She remembered the first time that she'd laid eyes on Nahl'een. Such a sad little thing, and so nervous and fearful out having lived the first few years of her life as almost an animal. A feral little thing, she'd been then. She only knew one word and it was 'Dahl'. It had taken a half an hour to teach her that she had a name now, and that it was Nahl'een. Her speech was non-existent then, but you'd almost never know it now. She was still behind, but she made up for that with her effort and the speed at which she learned most things, once they'd been shown or explained to her. She was catching up quickly, and had become a little chatterbox. Which was just the thing that the place needed, Ny'Zeille decided.
The Ranger now had a daughter, and the Great Ones had accepted that she was a part of his life and allowed him that. It was quite an honor for both father and daughter, since such a thing was not lightly given, and it meant far more that their acceptance. If there were any on this world who had a thought to do this little one any harm, they had better look to make their peace with their own gods, whoever they were, because it wouldn't save them from the wrath which would come of it.