As Aridon Everlin paused in his stride, lingering halfway down the southern wing of the palace, he was illuminated by the fragile light streaming through the nearby open window. There was the faintest chill to the air, hinting of the dark winter to come, but for now the Narkanato Forest and the Leafhall of Elderidge—the Elven capital city—were reveling in the briefest of seasons. Autumn this far north in the Realm of Venawyn was a short-lived, fickle thing, blowing in on the last summer winds one day and then sweeping right back out the next with the first snowstorm.
But for now it was fall, and the seventeen-year-old Elf continued on his way with a soft laugh and a vague shake of his head. His silent footsteps were paced evenly, relaxed in nature, and it took him a minute more to arrive at the tall, peaked double doors at the end of the southern wing. He crossed the threshold without breaking his stride and gave the impressive, domed chamber a cursory glance as he passed into the maze of bookshelves. Nearly every surface area in the ancient Archives was occupied with even more ancient volumes; they crowded shelves and littered tables in towering stacks, disturbed from their slumber every so often by one of the Elven Scholars, whose distinctive long robes made soft swishing sounds whenever they moved.
Aridon began to turn down a new row but halted in his tracks, one foot hovering in stasis above the floor. Grumbling a swift curse under his breath, he ducked back into his previous row and peered surreptitiously around the bookcase. The Elf who had caused him his alarm, a tall man with long, white-blond hair, was still perusing one of the shelves and happily oblivious to the boy’s presence.
Aridon exhaled a short sigh of relief and hurried in the opposite direction. There were several reasons he did not make a point of visiting the Archives, and running into the Elder Scholar, Aubrim Palindreun, was the highest on the list. When you tended to shirk your studies as often as Aridon, spontaneous rendezvous with Aubrim were uncomfortable situations, to say the very least. He wouldn’t have bothered coming to the library at all today, except…
A grin curved his lips as he found what he was looking for—or whom, to be more accurate. Dark eyes crinkling at the corners, Aridon ambled to the end of the aisle, where floor-length, point-arched windows allowed crystalline light inside. Occupying the space immediately before the window was an Elven girl, her gaze fixed on the massive tome she had open in her lap. Her head was tilted to one side, causing her long auburn hair to slide forward and block her view of him.