Chapter #2 – On her First Birthday

The bell rang not long after dawn. Faybien had been going to check on his crying daughter, who was still in her crib at that very moment…but he stopped dead in his tracks. As soon as the bell began tolling, her crying had instantly stopped. She began to coo and laugh for some reason he did not quite understand, bouncing up and down as she stood holding onto the rails. He shook his head at her and finished walked to her. When he picked her up, he felt that she had a wet diaper. He handed her over to his already-dressed wife so she could tend to her while he finished dressing himself.

Once they were dressed and the baby changed and dressed warmly, as that this first day of spring was exceptionally cold, he grabbed the two purses of coins from the hiding place he always put them in. He looked at the two purses in his hand. One was from the year before, when his daughter had been born. He had not been able to give the tribute from his family then, so he had made himself promise not to spend this extra money, even though it was nearly a month's worth of wages. It would have come in so handy with the new baby.

Faybien led his wife from the house with Aeslynn in her arms. The cobble stone streets were still laden with the snow they had gotten just a few days before. The wind was just a breeze, but it was enough to make him shiver still. He watched his wife hold their daughter closer to her to protect her from the cold. He put his arm around her to help warm them all.

When they reached the edge of town, Lord Lonryo was already there. He was dressed, as always, in just a simple white toga, seemingly unaffected by the cold. Currently, the richer members of the town were gathering around him, laying their offerings in front of the dragon. That was the way it always was. The richest gifts were given first. Faybien was one of the last to give offering, as that he was one of the poorer members of the community. After waiting nearly an hour, it was finally his turn. He and his wife went forward and he gently placed the two bags at the dragon's feet and bowed to him. His wife's gasp, though, made him look up quickly. The noble dragon had taken their infant gently from Rhea's arms. The entire town was hushed behind them…

"Shall the child be my Offering as well," he asked, his voice full of mirth and a broad smile upon his face as he looked at the happily cooing baby. His normally fathomless eyes were filled with the reflection of the infant.

The child's father was completely taken aback, as he was sure the rest of the town was, too. Words failed him as he watched the dragon continue to hold his daughter gently, still smiling at her. This was unheard of…

The dragon lord closed his eyes then, still smiling, kissed Aeslynn's forehead. That made her make the most happy noise her parents had ever heard from her. "May you grow to be beautiful and wise, young one."

Rhea still stood shocked as she was handed back her baby. Lonryo rarely blessed children. Had he possibly heard that she was born on his offering day? She bowed deeply to him. Aeslynn was still reaching out her hands to the dragon, acting like she wanted him to hold her again. Her parents, though, left the front of the crowd and slipped to the back as quickly as they could. Everyone seemed to be whispering about them and their daughter.

Aeslynn's parents watched her as she still continued to watch the dragon lord, one hand reached out towards him. His expression had returned to one of stone as he watched the last of the townspeople dropping their offerings at his feet.

"Did he summon you into this world?" Faybien watched her turn to him with a babbled word and a happy sound. "Is that why you were born on this day last year?"

"I do truly believe she is special," Rhea whispered to her husband. She had often thought that over the past year. Her daughter always seemed entranced with the mountain Lonryo lived on whenever they were out and about in town.

"I see that now. It almost seems that she wishes to be his offering." He laughed a little as he looked up at Lonryo who was having the last of the tributes being placed before him. "I'm sure, though, he would never take her, surely."

"He blessed her, though." Rhea hugged her daughter to her. "Lonryo blessed our little girl. I haven't seen him do that since the baron's son was born. Even then he seemed to do it only because it was probably tradition. But today…"

"I know. He seemed to change markedly when he held her."

With the last offering given, Lonryo waved his hand over the treasure that lay at his feet. He smiled to himself, though, as he willed all but two of the bags of coins he had been given to appear in his lair. Those two bags returned to the house of the one that had given them. He nodded to the baron then flew off, his mind on the infant that he had held briefly…that he had asked a blessing upon. He was sure she was the one that had been born this day the year before. He had felt a connection with her when he had seen her mother carrying her towards him. She had reached out for him and he had been inclined to take her from her mother. The child had seemed so happy.

There were sayings about children born on the Day of Offering. He wondered if they would come true in this case…or if they were to remain simple stories. His mind stayed on the happy child as he returned home, though. There truly was something about her. He could not deny that. He would have to keep an eye on her.

The townsfolk then headed back to their homes with the Offering completed. There were still some whispers that the Braeymans heard on their way back to their house. They ignored what they heard – that Lonryo was going to ask their daughter be a maiden sacrifice to him when she got older. When they entered their house, though, Faybien's eyes immediately noted what was on the kitchen table. There were two small purses there that looked identical to the ones he had given at the offering. He walked to them and picked them up. There was a small note attached. He handed that to his wife, as that he barely knew how to read.

My dear Braeymans, please do not worry about these bags. I have returned them to you for you need them far more than I. Use the money for yourselves and your dear daughter.

Rhea looked at her husband's shocked expression then looked at her Aeslynn as she tried to grab at the parchment the note had been written on. She let Aeslynn have it and the baby laughed, flailing the paper happily. Her mother ignored her, gazing at the bags her husband held. "Lord Lonryo…"

"I have heard that he often does this for new parents, though I thought they were just rumors. I had not expected…" He looked at his happy daughter, who was still playing with the paper. "Though I wonder…"

"I'm sure he does this for other parents as well. They just don't want to spread around the truth so let it stay a rumor."

Aeslynn continued to wave the paper around, sometimes gazing at the writing she did not understand yet. She would then laugh and dance around the house on her unsteady feet, as she was just learning to walk. Her parents could not help but smile as they watched, and remembering that Lonryo had blessed her.

There indeed had to be something special about her…