Despite all fears and worries, no horryifying events or assassination attempts happened. The Ethereals had moved in because of their territory invaded by a family of Devehkrino (a vicious race known for having a knack for killing shapeshifters). The Elves recovered completely and appointed a new and very able chief, and the minotaurs were never heard from again. The birth of Phinelli's child had been mercifully short and many healing mages had been on hand to cast pain-numbing spells on her.
The baby was a beautiful little girl, with Phinelli's curly black hair and Zarador's near-black blue eyes. They named the infant Nisha, meaning 'sign; emblem'. But not too soon after Nisha's birth troubling news was received. The Taykaoshu, an ancient, evil race of snake-people, were reported to be planning seige on the Tree. This was a mighty surprise, as they come from far south beyond the borders of Wherrem and their wars are usually against the smaller countries clustered there, such as Oloria and Amaali.
Over the next month it was learned that the Taykoashu had completely conquered most of the southern countries and were now coming from the east and south to attack Mt. Angem. The colonies in the lower cities were told to move up to higher levels in the Tree, and armed forces from just about every race gathered as a defense guard in the evacuated cities.
But this was not going to be a simple small skirmish. It was bound to be a very long and dreadful war, as the Taykaoshu were one of the most powerful races known in history...
"What's bothering you, dear?" said an older maid, Ivana, as she fixed the bed.
Phinelli sat in a finely-crafted cherrywood rocker, her gaze distant and her eyes tinted more blue than usual. Nisha, now four, sat on the floor, playing with little wooden animals and very absorbed in her games.
"What?" Phinelli asked, blinking and looking at Ivana.
"You've been troubled lately," the maid said, poofing a pillow. "And don't try to hide it, I know you." Ivana had taken on the role of a sort of big sister to everyone, and was always conveniently present when they were in need of confiding their troubles in someone.
"Oh..." Phinelli said, averting her gaze to little Nisha. "It's nothing serious."
"Oh, you big liar," Ivana said. "Come on, tell me."
"I never see him any more...We're so distant, like strangers..."
"That can't be true, dear, you sleep in the same bed. Unless you close your eyes when you tuck him in, you must see him at least then."
"We never speak. We never really look at each other. He's always so busy...And I..." she looked again to Nisha, and sighed.
"Well I can get some maids to take care of the little one and give you some spare time," said Ivana, now dusting off random knick-knacks on the bedstand.
"But what about him? He can't just get a servant or a chef to order the armies and defend the cities and hire people and fire people and collect the taxes and speak with diplomats and - "
"Settle down, dear! You're going to faint if you talk so much," Ivana interrupted. "What do YOU want to do about it then?"
"I don't know..."
Over the next week, Phinelli and Zarador became increasingly distant. The seige had lessened for a while, but this did not improve things. In fact, Zarador now seemed to deliberately avoid Phinelli, and wouldn't tell her why.
One day, Ivana had found an abundant amount of leftover purple fabric and red ribbon and had sewn a very elegant dress for Phinelli. Extremely pleased, Phinelli had gone to show Zarador. She caught him walking the halls, and was expecting him to say something pleasant (like he always did), but he looked for some reason very sad.
"What...what's wrong?" she said. She wondered what she had done to upset him.
He opened his mouth, but shook his head and turned away. "Nothing."
"Please tell me...You look so sad..." she pleaded.
"It's just..." He turned to face her again. "You remind me so much of...No, no one...It's not important."
"No...Who is it?"
"Just...Sierra...Lillieth. I used to know her...When I was young."
"What do you mean young? You...You don't even look as old as me," she said.
"I'm actually much older, if you must know," he said.
"Centuries...I stopped counting...When I realized I wasn't aging."
She felt astonished...Why hadn't he told her? Who was this Sierra? What other secrets was he keeping? She was his wife, she deserved to know!
He spoke again before she had a chance to. "Sierra's favorite color was purple as well. She always wore dresses just like that."
"And why is it so bad that I remind you of her? Was she a bad person?" Phinelli said.
"No, actually, quite the opposite. I..." he said. "You wouldn't want to hear it."
"Yes I do! Tell me! Tell me tell me tell me tell me tell me!" she said.
"Very well!" he said to calm her rantings. "We grew up together. We...erhm...She had my child when we were sixteen or so. When we were twenty, I was going to propose...But she was murdered."
"Why didn't you tell me any of this!" Phinelli shrieked. "Why did you never tell you were a hundred-year-old with a kid already and were going to have a wife already too and that she was killed and that she liked purple and that I reminded you of her and - "
"Because I knew you'd act like this," he said, stopping her from saying whatever else she was going to say.
Her eyes turned deep blue almost instantly. "Do you still love her?"
"She's dead," he said.
"THAT'S NOT WHAT I ASKED!" she snapped.
"Phinelli, please - "
She cut him off. "Do you? Well? Do you still have feelings for her? Did you like her better? Am I...Am I not as good and perfect as her? Is my child not as good as her runt?"
"I...I can't possibly answer that. I couldn't ever choose...Please, must we talk about this?"
"Why? What can be much worse about your past? What else are you hiding?"
"Nothing of any importance," he said. "It was an incredibly long time ago. It doesn't matter anymore."
"Then why did you marry me?"