Thanks to EderNimrais for his extremely warm welcome and review and to my enthusiastic anonymous friend's review as well. Your feedback and gusto motivate me to keep writing as I do. To address EderNimrais's question, I do intend to work my way through all generations if possible, though in the interest of full disclosure, I have only played until generation 3. It is not a question of wanting to play more, it is merely a question of time. At any rate, as you all will probably get a sense, I intend to work my way through the generations at a fairly leisurely and wordy pace, adding a scene here and there, expanding on game scenes, etc.

This particular chapter was short, more of a bridging chapter than anything, but the action, drama, and romance that was promised is no more than days away in its final revision process.

As always, reviews, comments, feedback, suggestions/advice, is always a delight for me to read.

"Is this where you live Ellis?" asked Leonhardt, eyeing the sizable town they approached. The sun was setting and Leonhardt was grateful that they had made good progress though and out of the forest. By good fortune, they had avoided any Gridamas patrols and the bulk of the army on their way out.

"No, this is where the humans live, but they're quite nice to us. I live with all the other elves in Alfheim on the other side of the Slumber Forest," replied Ellis from atop Borgnine's shoulder. Her legs had tired from the arduous journey, but Borgnine seemed more than happy, perhaps even pleased, to allow his master to ride on his shoulder.

"Then this must be Dodone… Gridamas means to take Dodone, but they will likely remain in the forests for another day or two. Melchior has always been a meticulous man… he'll want to ensure there is no further enemy presence in the forest before moving the supply train and wounded to avoid ambush. The main host will likely stay behind to protect them as well," mused Leonhardt. "We should find lodgings for the evening and gather what supplies we can purchase before making for Alfheim."

"We should be safe," agreed Dyshana. "If that is your decision, then we should rest for the evening."

An elven girl, a giant the likes of which Leonhardt had never seen, a Gridamas general on the run from his own army, and a mysterious woman dressed as one of the ancients… Leonhardt could not imagine a stranger band to roam into Dodone and the locals clearly agreed. More than one door hastily closed as they approached and men had suddenly grabbed pitchforks to dig up their carrots. Frowning as another set of shutters snapped close on the cottage they were passing, Leonhardt casually set his hand on the pommel of his sword.

As the group rounded the corner onto Dodone's main street, they came face to face with a line of hastily armed men, clearly the town militia. Seeing the men giving each other nervous glances, Leonhardt could tell any man with actual fighting experience had left the town, likely to join the resistance against Gridamas's invasion. The line suddenly parted, however, as an elderly woman, shuffled towards them.

Leonhardt instinctively recognized that the woman was surely the town mayor, or whatever office they had chosen to have. Respectfully, he bowed as she drew near, subtly withdrawing his hand from his sword.

"I am Yulia, elder of Dodone. Pray tell, what business do you have with our humble town?" rasped Yulia.

"Yulia, it is a pleasure. My name is Leonhardt. My… colleagues, and I mean to simply pass through Dodone. We make for Alfheim. With your permission, we would lodge here for the night and purchase supplies before we continue on our travels."

The elder gazed into Leonhardt's eyes for a second before throwing her head back and giving a bark of laughter that broke the tension. With the spirit of a much younger woman and a fire in her eyes that previously hid behind a veil of age, Yulia turned around to address her constituents. "And what are you all looking at? Is there so little work to be had in Dodone that you'd all be busybodies? Never seen travelers before, eh? And you…" she said, walking up to her militia commander and poking him square in the chest with her cane, "why don't you dismiss your boys, General? If they meant to bring trouble to Dodone, I hardly think they would bother with such excellent manners no?"

The militia commander flushed crimson. "With respect, Elder, should we not watch these travelers just to be safe?"

"Yulia chortled, "An excellent idea! You boys could learn much from this one… look at his eyes, now there's the look of someone who has been tested by the fires of true battle." She turned back to the four, "Leonhardt, I would have you and your friends join me for tea at my cottage. Please indulge an old woman for an hour. As for my brash, young General, forgive him and his boys. Back in my time, we had others to protect us from any possible dangers… we called them Men! Hah!"

"What did she want, Leo?" asked Ellis as Leonhardt and Dyshana emerged from Yulia's cottage. Having felt sorry that Borgnine could not fit through the cottage doorway, Ellis had elected to stay outside and keep him company.

"Nothing we could not afford to give her. She merely wanted to know when the Gridamas Army would arrive."

"What will they do?" asked Ellis, eyes round with concern.

Leonhardt forced a smile and ruffled her hair, "If Yulia is right, nothing. Dodone will surrender without resistance and be inducted into the Empire. It is, perhaps, unpleasant, but Dodone and its people will survive unharmed. Melchior is likely less interested in razing the town as using it as a command and resupply base."

"What about us?"

"Yulia has offered to let us stay with her. It is a gracious offer and we will be less disruptive of the townsfolk if we stay here. Where Borgnine will sleep, I don't know, however…" said Leonhardt, frowning at the guardian's profile.

"Borgnine doesn't sleep!" said Ellis incredulously. "He can watch the house from the outside, he doesn't mind."

"Ah… of course. Forgive my silliness Ellis, it's been a long day," said Leonhardt with a smile. As he saw Dyshana approach however, his face dimmed. "Would you please go inside and help Yulia, Ellis?"

"Of course!"

Leonhardt sighed and looked out towards the rest of Dodone beneath the gentle hill that Yulia's cottage sat upon as Dyshana came to a halt beside him. "This feeling… I cannot explain it. It is equal parts joy and sorrow. Bitter yet sweet. I feel as though I belong here, that I would be content to stay and raise a family. But that it cannot be…"

Dyshana stared out at the sunset with him. "You sense your destiny. You will know that life, if only for a moment's time. It is your destiny that you should gaze upon life's most beautiful moments and have the courage to sacrifice yourself to protect it all."

As the sun dropped below the horizon and darkness moved to shroud Dodone, Leonhardt felt a peace he had never felt. "If that is truly to be my fate… then I have chosen well," he said, as much to himself as to Dyshana.

"Is this… Alfheim?" asked Leonhardt. "There are so many elves…"

After two days of navigating the Slumber Forest, Ellis had finally lead the party to her home. The forest had been a confusing labyrinth of twists and turns. Besides physical barriers the trees formed, Ellis had been careful to take detours to avoid places she had been warned away from. Leonhardt thought he could sense a magical energy about the forest, tranquil as they passed though, but he doubted any pursuing Gridamas scouts would find the forest quite so welcoming.

"Yes, it is" replied Ellis, "Are there no elves where you live, Leo? That must be so dull!"

Leonhardt smiled, "I had no idea elves made for such a lively town."

Ellis laughed, "Of course! And elven women are the most beautiful in the world! You should marry an elf Leo," she said, beaming.

Leonhardt flushed slightly, but joined in Ellis's laughter all the same.

"That is not his destiny…" said Dyshana in a deadpan voice, completely derailing the conversation.

As Leonhardt spluttered in surprise, Ellis ran off, oblivious to Dyshana's prediction, "Grandpa!"

"So not only will you decide my destiny, you aim to choose my wife for me as well?" demanded Leonhardt, flushing even redder.

Unimpressed, Dyshana merely shrugged, "That choice remains your own. I merely said your wife would not be an elf."

Sighing, Leonhardt put that thought from his mind, regaining his composure as Ellis returned with her grandfather.

"My name is Teonor. My granddaughter says that you are to thank for saving her. We feared for the worst when we heard Gridamas had invaded the Frontier and that Ellis had gone out on one of her trips. I cannot express my gratitude enough," said the elderly elf gratefully.

"In truth, Sir, you have Borgnine to thank. He protected Ellis when I could not," said Leonhardt humbly.

Teonor cast his gaze at Borgnine, who remained impassive as ever. "Ah… but where are my manners? I have but little, but you must accept my hospitality. Please, my home is your home."

"I shall cook us dinner!" declared Ellis, clearly intent on impressing Leonhardt, "Good-bye for now Leo. Come, Borgnine, your fists will tenderize the meat nicely…"

"Is she the only high-elf in this village?" asked Dyshana as Borgnine heeded his master's call.

Teonor's face saddened, "She is the only high elf in all of Lucrellia…"

Leonhardt's eyes widened, "I had thought all the high elves dead…"

"You see why she means such a great deal to our humble community," said Teonor. "She is the last remaining hope for our people; the old ways depend on her life. Even though the rest of Lucrellia is in pain and suffering, her connection to nature keeps us safe and our forests lush. So long as Ellis holds Alfheim in her heart, we shall flourish. But should anything have happened to her… time would sweep us away as it has with the other elven settlements."

"Then Borgnine is a larva, summoned by the girl," remarked Dyshana.

"Yes, I thought as much. He is one of the Fey, a lesser God, given form and a body to cross over into our own world by Ellis. Only the most powerful of high elves possessed this gift… that Ellis should have summoned Borgnine… I suppose her latent power was realized when she faced mortal danger."

The group was silent for a time as they walked to Teonor's home. Around them, elves of all ages went about their business, giving Leonhardt a wide berth and avoiding eye contact.

"Is it… is it alright for me to be here?" asked Leonhardt, nervously flattening the sides of his hair over his ears.

Teonor glanced knowingly, but with sympathy towards Leonhardt.

"My people have brought little but suffering to the Frontier for the last generation… I would understand if your people felt uncomfortable at the notion of a former Gridamas general staying in their village," continued Leonhardt.

"A person cannot be judged by the actions of the many. You have returned Ellis to us. Whatever your previous actions, you cannot dwell on them now. I can sense that you are a man changed. I am an old man now and I have seen much in my time on Agarest. Winds of change blow through these woods… our world needs only the proper catalyst to restore balance. I think it no mistake that it was you who happened upon my granddaughter and brought her to safety. Something tells me the time is right for a man of integrity and courage to end this suffering and fear that twists our land… Well, perhaps this is a conversation best left for later. For now, let us sup and speak of lighter topics."

"Are you leaving so soon?" asked Teonor as Leonhardt and Dyshana stood ready to leave on the second morning of their arrival to Alfheim.

"Yes, I do not wish to overstay my welcome," replied Leonhardt, "You have been a gracious host and I thank you for everything. I know not if I can change the course of an entire empire, but Gridamas has lost its way. I swore to protect Ellis and to end this war. The time to act is now, before it is too late."

"Ellis will be sad, but perhaps you are right… I wish you the best of luck," replied Teonor gravely.

"Thank you, it is my… destiny."

"Indeed it is," said a voice from behind them. Leonhardt and Teonor looked up in surprise at the approaching stranger. Only Dyshana seemed unsurprised.

"Worry not for the high-elven girl nor for the Bracelet of the Covenant," continued the Oneltes woman as she drew up to face Leonhardt.

"Who are you?" asked Leonhardt with surprise. Oneltes were an extremely rare sight, especially after the Oneltes hunts throughout history. Of those who survived, many hid or concealed their third eye, living out their lives as ersatz humans. To see an Oneltes woman showing her third eye so brazenly was a shocking testament to her power and survivability. She wore a beautiful tunic of subtle rose with burgundy accents that perfectly complimented her eyes and makeup. The tunic ended in a short skirt ending at her upper thighs, though her modesty was preserved with long thigh-high stockings of the same burgundy, held up by satin ribbons tied with golden bells. Leonhardt was careful to not let his gaze linger too long; the Oneltes woman was one part alluring, one part uninterested, and one part dangerous.

"Does my third eye shock you so that you have forgotten your manners?" asked the Oneltes woman smoothly. Though her third eye remained open and staring, her two binocular ones shone with knowing playfulness.

"My lady, please forgive my rudeness. My name is-"

"You are Golden Leo of Gridamas, yes? I knew we would be meeting here," interrupted the Oneltes. "My name is Vira-Lorr, I am a seer. You are more… handsome than I had expected… yes, I can now see what they see in you after all…" said Vira-Lorr with a smirk and a coquettish wink.

Leonhardt felt his cheeks warm, "Th-they?! Wonderful… another woman who knows more about my love life than I do…"

Vira-Lorr and Dyshana looked at each other and merely nodded. There seemed to be no need for the two to converse for only Leonhardt and Teonor's benefit.

"Vira-Lorr… is he…?" asked Teonor tentatively.

"Indeed. He is the one I have sought," Turning to Leonhardt, Vira-Lorr explained, "My third eye gives me visions of the future. For a while now, my visions have been only of one man, you. There exists an artifact… a talisman… its danger cannot be overstated; it holds the power to destroy the entire world. I believe it is your fate to seek this Bracelet of the Covenant. Teonor has been seeking a champion to take this task for some time."

Leonhardt glanced at the elderly elf, who nodded. "Of course I would be willing to, but why me?"

"It is your destiny" Vira-Lorr and Dyshana said together.

Seeing Leonhardt's disbelief, Dyshana spoke, "Consider it a step in your meandering journey to fulfill your destiny. Though the end may be out of sight, your path will lead you where you are needed. Accept this request Leonhardt."

"I believe I would have done so anyways… there is little point in stopping this war if someone were to destroy the entire world after all my hard work, no?" said Leonhardt with a smile.

"Then if there are no objections, lead the way, Leo," said Vira-Lorr. "Oh, don't even try to stop me from coming. You cannot expect me to idly stand when Fate calls so strongly," she admonished before Leonhardt could even open his mouth. "Your concern is appreciated, but I am more than capable of taking care of myself. You would do well to acquaint yourself with the idea of women capable of fighting alongside you. You can ill afford misogyny with the women we are about to meet, trust me."

Deciding against saying anything, Leonhardt merely nodded.

"Also, the high-elven girl comes with us," Vira-Lorr said, then softening her tone, "Worry not, Teonor, she will be safe with Leo and Borgnine. Her part in things to come is at hand and it is high time that she develop her gifts. Alfheim rests in good hands with you leading these people."

The elderly elf bowed his head, sadness filling his voice, "You are right… I can no longer shelter her from the world she lives in. I wish you all safe travels."

"Excellent. Leo, we should make for Mimas as soon as Ellis is ready to depart."

"This may very well be the last time Ellis sees her grandfather for a long time, Vira-Lorr. I'll not rush such a moment," replied Leonhardt, smiling back as Teonor blinked gratefully and returned inside to Ellis.

Dusk was falling as Leonhardt arranged the wood to light the campfire. The ground trembled slightly as Vira-Lorr helped Ellis to practice channeling her magic abilities into combat skills. Beside them, Borgnine stood, ever vigilant to his master's safety. As the kindling caught, Leonhardt stepped back to allow the fire to breathe and sat gratefully. They had made good progress through the forests and along country paths as they cut across the Frontier to Mimas. Aside from the odd Gridamas patrol, the group had little to contend with aside from minor beasts that served more or less as target practice to Ellis's growing abilities.

As he felt another series of strong reverberations through the ground, Leonhardt smiled. The elven girl may not have been of his blood, but he felt the tug of pride at her growing powers nonetheless. Though Vira-Lorr had only been with them since departing Alfheim five days ago, Ellis had already mastered the combat spells that had served Vira-Lorr so well in evading periodic Oneltes hunts and looked now to outshine her tutor in terms of sheer magic strength.

Feeling the wind ruffle his hair, Leonhardt closed his eyes and felt the tension leaving his body. Truly, with nature so pristine and an evening so fine, it was almost possible to forget that Gridamas had brought so much war and death to the Frontier.

"We make good time to Mimas; your destiny awaits," came Dyshana's voice, intruding on the moment.

Leonhardt opened one eye and saw that the woman had come to a halt next to him, staring into the flames of the now crackling fire. "Dyshana, please, forgive me for not rising, this moment is too peaceful. Sit, I would share the sunset with another."

Dyshana shifted her gaze from the flames to Leonhardt, her intensity unbroken. "Evenings such as this grow more infrequent as the forces of darkness consume your lands."

"Which makes this evening even more beautiful and all the more important to value." said Leonhardt, frowning at Dyshana's pessimism.

The woman said nothing, but deigned to take a seat beside him all the same.

Taking it as a victory, Leonhardt smiled and turned to his pack, rummaging until he had extracted a small box from the bottom. Seeing Dyshana's gaze fall on the box, Leonhardt explained, "I bought this small luxury when we were in Dodone as a surprise for Ellis. It seems as good a night as I could hope for to share it."

"What… are these?" asked Dyshana, prodding the box's contents with her finger.

Leonhardt laughed, "I take it you have never experienced much of the mortal plane, have you?"

Dyshana remained silent, but watched with interest as Leonhardt proceeded to spear one of the box's contents on the end of a stick and caramelize it in the fire.

"It's called a marshmallow. Here, try it," encouraged Leonhardt as he offered the puff of confectionary to Dyshana.

Gingerly, the woman took a delicate nibble of the marshmallow's golden crust and found the sweet within. Slowly, her face broke into the first smile Leonhardt had ever seen the woman wear. Though she wore it somewhat awkwardly, to Leonhardt's eyes, Dyshana had never appeared more human. "Thank you, Leonhar… Leo. I think Ellis will love them."