Out of Hate Love...

After leaving the strange bini-filled village, Lars was deep in thought. The party had been many places since leaving Shadwood Academy. To be perfectly honest with himself he had changed since then, which was an incredibly awkward business. He reflected on the wide, wide world he had still seen so little of. It was filled with all kinds f people, some with petty problems, others with serious troubles, and still others who had been treated kindly by the world. But the strangest people he had seen were the ones who had been dealt a poor hand but treated others well none-the-less.

He was still annoyed with the Snow Queen and the Mountain King for their petty fighting. They hurt each other and their people over a matter so inconsequential it was hardly worth even mentioning. Suddenly, Lars felt a stab of guilt when he looked up to see Rhen at the head of the party. He had despised her, and others, for a chance of birth or simple life. He had thought her no more than the dust beneath his feet, yet she had (reluctantly) accepted him as a helpmate on her quest and shown him more of the world, nay life than he had ever seen before. And there were still many things he had not seen or learned, but he was beginning to understand that none of the things he could master would ever be so important as the illusive lesson he had been taught by the rag-tag group of travelers they were.

However, despite the fact his changes were for the better they were not easily accepted. The view people held of him was too rigid to allow for that change to be made apparent all at once. Even his occasional concerns for others of the party were looked at askance as he had once despised most of them. But what really ate at him was that he could never tell Rhen how he felt. All he had ever shown her was hatred and scorn, or at best tolerance; how could he tell her he loved her?

With a sad sigh he abandoned his musings.

Rhen looked back when she thought she heard Lars sigh. He had been acting strangely lately. She wondered if something was wrong and he just didn't feel a group of 'scum' would be able to help. She gave a small smile at the thought. It seemed Lars had been using his derogatory terms with a degree of fondness recently. Sometimes he even spoke kindly to everyone in the party, though that was still rare.

She wondered if the largeness of the world had finally hit home for him and he was realizing how truly tiny was the aristocracy with which he was familiar. That would be a real world-shaker for him since he had been raised to believe it was all that mattered. For him, class was almost a religion. It must have hurt him to wave it so much. Even at the beginning of the quest he treated all the party as equals, he simply spoke to them as lesser beings. But in all other ways he extended the courtesies of Gheldrah nobles.

She smiled again, maybe Lars had been growing since the start of this and would become a good man yet.

Lars looked longingly over at Rhen on the way back to the temple in Aveyond. Galahad and Te'ijal had married (with some protest on Galahad's part) and were fairly happy despite all pretenses to the contrary. Elini had found herself a new husband. Even Mad Marge was fairly happy. Talia and Devin were pleased to see each other after so many years and Lars had some suspicions about a marriage proposal in that quarter. But Lars himself was left feeling empty with the downfall of Ahriman.

He now had no mission in life. He no longer despised slaves, the party had accepted him for who he had become and did not hold his previous life against him, demons no longer threatened the land, yet he was not whole. He had wrestled with his heart the whole journey to the temple but he could not convince it that Rhen was really nothing more than a friend to him. He loved her body and soul, but he couldn't tell her. If his love was rejected he would be utterly crushed, yet how could a beautiful and pure girl accept a love born out of hate?

Upon entering the temple he could no longer school his tongue into silence for he perceived that Dameon was similarly minded. One thought he could not bear was his Rhen marrying that snooty Sun-Priest. So he dropped to his knee, and with an agony of fear, longing, and love roiling through him he asked.

"Rhen, could you find love in your heart for me? Enough to become my wife?"

He heard her gasp and saw her face go pale, tears nearly bubbled over in front of the whole temple for he was certain the next words from her mouth would be the ones to forever destroy his soul. But to his absolute shock he was pulled to his feet and into a wild embrace while Rhen shouted.

"YES! Oh, Lars, yes! I thought you would never ask! Nothing in this world could make me happier!"

Before Lars could give voice to his joy he was pulled into a long, loving kiss.

Three children sat in the middle of their comfortable sitting-room floor, playing with blocks and various types of dolls and stuffed animals. The eldest, a boy with purple eyes and green hair, smirked as their parents voices traveled in from the kitchen.

"Slave, what is for dinner?" There was no malice in the voice, merely teasing affection.

"Sedonian meatballs with gravy and lots of cheese. Not to mention broccoli. Does it please you, brat?" The answering voice was equally loving and gentle in its tone, belaying the words.

Back in the sitting-room, the youngest child, a girl with silvery hair and striking, green eyes, asked "Why do Mommy and Daddy always call each other such horrible things when we aren't there?"

Her oldest brother assured her. "It's because they love each other."

At his sister's puzzled look he explained. "They love each other so much than can say horrible things and it doesn't mean anything other than love. They are proving that love is stronger than hate."

The End