Laurana's Quest

Book Two

Questioning Order

Part One: Hard Lessons

Chapter One: Calm Before the Storm

It was the perfect day for a wedding. The sun beat down on the silver roof tops of Corillia, smiling joyfully. Birds chirped, and gave a sweet serenade to all who would listen. The sky was a brilliant blue, unmarred by any cloud as far as the eyes could see.

Laurana was still inside. Normally on such a beautiful day, she would be out tending her rose garden or her vegetable garden. Today, however, more important things were on her mind. Today, her brother Nathanalas was getting married to the love of his life, Bethanyla. Even if the day had been downcast, and wet, Laurana would have still been in a good mood. Nothing could spoil her good mood. Well, almost nothing.

Laurana slid into the expensive blue bridesmaid gown. Bethanyla had been Laurana's best friend since they were tots, less then four years old. Unfortunately, Bethanyla's parents, two racist, high society elves, did not approve of their friendship. Laurana's mother had not been rich, but she had been very well off. It wasn't the money, or lack there-of, that upset Bethanyla's parents. It was the fact that Laurana was half human, half elvin. Worse still, Laurana was the product of rape. To many of the higher society elves, Laurana and her kind were boils on an otherwise perfect society.

Laurana sighed as she ran her finger along the silky fabric of the dress. Laurana had a much curvier figure then that of most elves. The tailor had a hard time adjusting the dress. Most elvin garments were straight down, with virtually no hip room at all. Long ago, she could have easily pretended to be elvin, and in the same afternoon, pretended to be human. It was not so now. She could not fit into either world. She displayed obvious human traits, and obvious elvin ones. She fit in neither group though. In human society she was outcast because of her elvin heritage. Yet in elvin society, she was outcast because of her human blood, and her potential human faults.

Laurana removed the paints from the drawer. She carefully applied the red and pink paints to her face. Laurana rarely wore paints, but this time she found it necessary. She wanted to look her best for the wedding. Laurana wanted to make sure that she looked the part. She did not want to seem as plain as she knew she was.

The elvin men that had courted her had both told her that she was plain, at best, and that she could hope for very little. The human blood in her made her unattractive to the elvin men in general. Human men, however, would stare at her openly, often getting kicks from their wives. Laurana wondered what the humans saw that the elves did not, or vice versa.

She hoped that her brother and Bethanyla could find happiness. Laurana had never been in love, and she envied them greatly. Laurana was one hundred years old as of last week, finally coming of age in her people's eyes. She had not had any serious suitors, and she doubted she ever would. She was too strong minded, even for a liberal elvin man.

Laurana carefully stepped outside. She went to her backyard, taking in the beautiful flowers. She stepped into the tiny chapel at the back, where there was really only enough room for two people at any time. Laurana knelt on the polished wood step. She whispered a short prayer, and lit a candle for her mother.

"I know you are with me, mother," she whispered. "Bless Nathanalas and Bethanyla today."

Laurana blew out the candle, and left. As she passed by the white rose bush, her mother's favourite flowers, she was struck with an inspiration. She gently pinched the stem of a white rose in full bloom.

"Telorac," she intoned. The stem cut cleanly. Laurana would have Bethanyla add the rose to her bouquet.

Laurana made her way down the empty streets. In the distance, just on the outskirts of town, she could hear merry music. Most of the city was probably there. Bethanyla's family was very influential. Laurana's stepfather was also a city Elder. You could not say the name Willow without it being recognized.

Laurana knocked on the ornately carved wooden door. An older elvin woman, probably nearing two-hundred-and-fifty years old, answered the door. Her beautiful face creased with a frown when she saw Laurana.

"Oh, it's you, half-human. Go on to the foyer. My daughter has been waiting for you." Laurana smiled kindly at the stuck-up woman.

"Thank you, Mrs. Maple," Laurana said cheerily. She would not let that woman get the best of her today. Bethanyla's mother let out an annoyed huff, and let Laurana through.

Laurana opened the door carefully. Bethanyla sat on a chair, twisting her hands as she always did when she was nervous.

"Oh, Beth, you look so beautiful," Laurana breathed. Bethanyla smiled thinly. She had her mother's perfect complexion, though thankfully not her attitude. Her hair was a soft, cornsilk colour. Her innocent eyes were a ghostly blue.

"Thanks, Laura," Bethanyla whispered, her pale cheeks turning scarlet. "Do you think Nathan will like the dress?"

"I think Nathan will be too busy staring into your eyes to notice the dress." Laurana smiled. She handed the white rose to Bethanyla. "Honestly, Beth, you could wear a burlap sack, and he would still think you were the most beautiful girl alive." Bethanyla giggled furiously.

"Thanks, Laura." She smiled, and tucked the rose into her bouquet. "Is this from your garden?" Laurana nodded. "It's absolutely exquisite. My mother's roses never turn out this beautiful."

"I've been growing roses since I was old enough to walk. It's not a chore to me. That's the difference, Beth."

Laurana picked up the long veil, and lifted it up over Bethanyla's head.

"Let's go, Beth. You wouldn't want to keep Nathan waiting, would you?" She held the delicate train in her hands, and followed Bethanyla out to the waiting carnage.

"Laura, I'm so nervous," Bethanyla whispered excitedly. "Nathan and I will be together forever after today."

"What's there to be nervous about, Beth? You and Nathanalas are finally going to be together. You never have to worry about what everyone else may think is right ever again."

They arrived at the temple just before noon. Soft flute and harp music reached Laurana's ears. She felt tingly as she stepped into the temple of Rizulutezza, her patron godess. It had taken a lot of arguing on the part of Nathanalas to get them to accept the Temple of Rizulutezza as the place of the wedding. Most elves worshiped Gentilezza, god of goodness and light. However, Nathanalas had won over her parents only because he was paying for the whole wedding, and not asking for a dowry from Bethanyla's parents.

Bethanyla slowly walked up the aisle, her face ablaze with her smile. Blue and pink lights fluttered around them like fairies. Two white temple doves flew around overhead. Laurana let the train fall as she joined Bethanyla at the alter. Her brother knelt beside Bethanyla.

"Who gives this child away?" asked the priest.

"I do," replied Bethanyla's father. He held a ring of white flowers. He placed the flower-ring on Bethanyla's head. "I give you my blessing, daughter." Bethanyla beamed at her father.

"Bride and groom, step forward, and receive the blessing," ordered the priest. He began to speak in Old Elvin. Laurana mentally translated.

"Bless this Daughter of Sun and Son of Moon

That they may eternally be loyal to their love

That they remain together through heartache and sorrow

Through joy and laughter.

Bless this holy union, that it may remain sacred

Bless the families of these two, that they may never feud

Grant the power to heal any wound of soul by their love

And bless them as they begin their journey together.

In the name of Rizulutezza and in the name of all gods of goodness,

I pronounce you husband and wife

Until the end of time."

The elf sprinkled them both with golden dust.

"You may now kiss the bride," the old priest added in common, for the sake of the humans who sat just behind Laurana.

Nathanalas leaned over, and kissed Bethanyla. He then slipped the golden ring on her finger. She slipped an identical one onto his finger. The happy newly-weds proceeded down the aisle, hand in hand. Bethanyla stopped at the door.

"Thank you, my friends!" she called. "Thank you, mother and father, for the most wonderful childhood."

The single women all followed them out to the carnage. Bethanyla removed the flower ring on her head, and tossed it into the air.

"My blessing on whomever this finds, to be the next to share in joy like mine!" Bethanyla called into the air. The ring of flowers landed on Laurana's head. Laurana felt her jaw drop open. Some of the other women grumbled. Laurana waved to her new sister-in-law and her brother drove off to their new home.

AN: Well guys, as I promised, here it is... To anyone who hasn't figured it out, this is the second book in the series... I believe there may be three, but only time will tell. And see, I can be nice, occassionally to my characters... but... well... that's not going to last... So, please review, and I'll see you next chapter!