"You know he will have to go, right? A mixed blood can only bring doom upon us all, you remember the ancient scriptures." The young Alf who had spoken lifted his head and looked at the beautiful green clad older Alv sitting on the bed across from him holding a baby boy in her arms. "It must be done, and quickly! If we leave it too long the Alven side of his appearance will surface from the spirit of the Wildwood and he will never fit in on either side." Adopting a rather angry and frustrated expression the Alf said "I still cannot fathom what you could possibly have been thinking of, to have a child from a Human is both unthinkable and taboo. Remember, you, are, our, Queen! If you do not obey the laws, who will?"

The Alv turned to look at the younger Alf, "you are right, as always, Enlin. Allow me one last gift." She turned and, using the quill and parchment permanently kept on her bedside table, wrote a note. After folding this up she unclipped a necklace from her slender neck before taking out a key from a drawer in her table. The key fitted into a keyhole on the surface of the oval, silver locket on the necklace, after opening the locket she inserted the note inside before closing the locket, putting it on her boy's neck and wrapping him in a blanket with an envelope carrying the key and a note to the finder of her son.

"It is time" she said, and the man took her baby and walked off in the direction of the land of humans after wrapping a bandage round his head to conceal his slanted eyebrows and pointed ears.

A plough pulled by two oxen drew to a halt. A teenager released the handle and wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his left hand, the heat was sweltering and the grass was brown and dry. He squinted his eyes against the glare and, using his already raised left hand to shield his face, he looked towards a range of mountains a few miles away to the west. He knew the opposite side of the mountains was wet and lush but as always the rain had all fallen on that side. He looked back at the furrowed field behind him and on sight of the dry parched soil he sighed inwardly. The two oxen were breathing heavily and fighting a hopeless battle with swarms of flies. The small forest a half mile or so to the east clustered around a small lake, fed by underground streams, which was the only reason that area was not a desert like the sea of sand to the south. A few metres away another teenager was clearing the irrigation channels that ran round the farm from the lake which had been filled with dust and sand over the hot season when the lake dried up.

He detached the animals from the plough and led them back to a paddock where another oxen lay in the wooden shelter hiding from the heat, heavy with a calf. He walked over to the well near the farmhouse and drew two buckets of water. The well was linked to the source of the lake but could not be used to water the crops as it required too much effort. The buckets filled a trough for the animals, both animals that had been working shoved each other out the way to get at the cool liquid. The pregnant one tried to stumble to it's feet and get some water but was denied by the bodies of the other two. The teenager drew another bucket and gave it directly to the third.

He hefted the heavy wood and iron plough onto his back with a grunt and slowly carted it back to a large tool shed. Upon depositing it in its proper place he groaned. The plough was incredibly heavy, ordinarily at least two of the farmers would carry it but only five of the normal eight farmers were available right now. One had died of thirst after getting lost in the great southern desert, one had had his house destroyed during a nasty sandstorm and was rebuilding and the other was bedridden with an infected wound on his right leg. He stretched his back and picked up another tool to join the other worker cleaning the irrigation ditches.

When he was a few metres away he cried out, "Hey Aren! How long is that taking!" The new youth was just as tall as the first but considerably less heavily built, instead of the sandy or brown hair that was the norm in that area Aren had pure white hair. His eyes were also unusual. Everyone else in the area had the same blue eyes as the first youth, but Aren's were blood red. He had always stood apart from the others but the community was always kind, in an environment as tough as theirs everyone helped everyone else.

"It's absolutely ridiculous. I think the desert hates me."

He sat down on the edge of the ditch, looking at the thick calluses on his hands he picked at a blister.

"Did you finish with the ploughing Noren? I thought it would have taken all day."

"I just hitched up both working oxen, i need to help you or you would never finish before the sowing."

Aren looked shocked, "You used both oxen? You know we can't do that! We can't have them both being tired, Uncle Duren needs one of them to pull his cart when he goes to buy the seeds this afternoon"

Noren looked at Aren with an annoyed stare. "How many times have i told you Aren, what Father doesn't know can't hurt him. If the cart is slow it just means more time for us to clean out the ditches"

Noren stood up and began scooping the dust out the ditch. Aren looked at Noren angrily. "Did you forget? Imperator Morgreth has his soldiers travelling through the villages confiscating food for the supposed war effort against the elves. If Uncle doesn't get to Pelgoret by sundown that group of soldiers that has been prowling this area of the country will get there first and take everything. If that happens the entire town will starve, and you know this is the only chance, he would have gone last week but the soldiers were here then, the tavern still isn't repaired and the storehouses are already dangerously low."

By this point Aren was shouting angrily.

"Okay, okay Aren, i get what you are saying but look, even with a tired ox Father will be halfway back home by sundown, you always look at the bad side of things, it means you get to do less work after all."

Aren looked annoyed at that, it felt to him that he was being told by Noren he was weak. And here? No one could afford to be weak.

They toiled away beneath the blazing sun for an hour or two before a greying man with a hook nose and the same piercing blue eyes as Noren stuck his neck out the farmhouse and called to the workers. "Guys, you've been working hard all morning, or at least i hope you have, its time to get some food in you."

As the workers filed into the house they greeted each other with tired grunts. The farmhouse was the only building on the farm with stone walls, though it still shared the same wooden frame as all the other buildings, the ceiling was low and there were only four rooms. Everyone filed into the main room which contained a large wooden table, nine stools, a fireplace, and an entrance to the underground ice larder. The five workers and the old man sat down at the table in front of a meal of chilled vegetables from the ice larder left from the last harvest, some fried desert lizards that were a staple of the diet for them, dumb and easy to catch, and some water, again chilled in the ice larder. Like most midday meals in the area the food was chilled due to the extreme heat. Across the table from Noren sat his twin, Nor. The old man who sat at the head of the table beside the twins was Aren's Uncle Duren and the father of the twins. Also present were a thirty-something year old man called Viren, who had been working at the farm since for longer than Aren or the twins could remember, and the twenty-something year old Per, the second son of the village blacksmith.

As they were nearing the end of their meal Duren cleared his throat and began to speak, "As you know, i am travelling to Pelgoret after this with the ox-cart to buy this year's seeds. Wish me luck boys. If i am not back by the morning begin using the emergency famine program, rationing, all effort on getting that calf born, harvest all the eggs possible for food, not growing more chickens, and be careful with the amount of vegetables you eat, you don't want to run out. At least with the well and the lake you won't lack for water."

"Stop being so negative dad." Said Nor, "you've done this plenty of times, it will just be the same as before, stop winding yourself up, you always do."