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Three years then passed. Elizabeth gave birth to two more daughters.
The first one was named Alexia, a name similar to those of the guardians of the past. She was born with blonde hair and blue eyes. During her naming ceremony Grace predicted she would be a difficult child and face many challenges throughout her life. Her premonition so far had been correct. Alexia suffered many ailments including a long-term bought of colic and a sickness so serious the priestesses didn’t believe she would survive it.
The second one was named Faethandriel, after an ancient ancestral hero. She was also born with blonde hair, though fairer, and blue eyes. Grace told of her following in the footsteps of Elizabeth and that she would one day become a great healer and take her place as High Priestess.
It took Elizabeth little convincing with Abraham to build her and the girls a small summer home out in the outlands but close enough to Hawthorne’s Rest that they would be safe. He valued the time they spent there, or rather he valued the break from four women.
The four of them strode through the fields of tall grass in the simplest of white dresses and their hair tied back in braids each uniquely done. Eventually they sat down together and Elizabeth pulled out her book of poetry. She never read them anything dark or disheartening, only hopeful and thoughtful material. Nina leaned back on her hands and stared up at the trees as she listened, Faethandriel stared on intently with big eyes, and Alexia began slowly picking at the grass.
It was a beautiful day, which was rare for the Northerners. The spring sun’s warmth blessed their faces but not so harshly that it burned. The wind that passed through their hair and the leafy branches in the forest yards away was just soft enough to provide comfort. The birds sang, several deer grazed unafraid nearby, and everywhere around them their nostrils were filled with the sweet scent of nature. There was something about a day like that that would cause one to be nostalgic and completely at peace.
When Elizabeth was finished, she closed the book gently and closed her own eyes in consideration of the day’s "lesson." All three, to some degree, contemplated on it as well. Elizabeth’s goal in reading to them was to ignite exactly that.
“Do you know why we come out here to do this, girls?” Elizabeth asked.
Alexia shrugged, completely stumped. Nina was quiet too and Faethandriel continued her longing stare for answers. So, Elizabeth continued.
“One day all three of you will be leaders; that fate has already been written. But your successes as one are still up to you. A leader is only as great as her mind and it’s important to constantly nourish it. We read because it teaches us. It teaches us to be mindful, to be aware of what is going on around us, to discover our ancestors and the paths they took to help us make our own decisions. A leader considers not only the law of the land but what is best for her people. Do you girls understand?”
All three nodded thoughtfully and Elizabeth smiled in satisfaction.
“Now go and play,” she shooed them.
Nina and Alexia were not about to ask questions, they stood and were off running to begin a game of hide and seek together. Faethandriel stood and brushed herself off but stayed behind. She preferred the company of her mother most of the time. Elizabeth noticed this and reached out to take her hand, which Faethandriel gladly gave. The two of them took a stroll through the field as the tall grass danced with the breeze and bees went from flower to flower in a quest of pollination. A single blue butterfly grabbed Faethandriel’s attention from the corners of her eyes and she stopped but still held her mother’s hand. The elegant creature slowly floated into her direction and landed on her finger as she reached out for it.
“Well look at that!” Elizabeth chuckled. “That’s a sign if I ever saw one.”
Faethandriel smiled an innocent, sweet smile at the butterfly as she observed it closely. It flapped its wings so gradually one might think it was giving the small girl a better look at its unique beauty.
“Hello wittle buttafly!” Faethandriel giggled.
The butterfly eventually took back off into the sky and she watched it float away higher and higher then waved goodbye to it.
“You know Faeth, butterflies are said to be a good sign from Earth Mother or so the Druids say.”
Faethandriel giggled again before she freed her mother’s hand and began playfully skipping and twirling out ahead of her but never too far. After some time, she tumbled down into the grass to lie on her back and stared up at the clouds. Elizabeth joined her and took a deep sigh of relaxation. They all deserved it with the chaos back at home.
Hawthorne’s Rest, or Clan Stonewolf territory, was nestled at the entrance to their peninsula. To the north and south were small mountain ranges along the strip of land and a great stone wall, which their ancestors had built, that allowed them to control who passed into their homelands and who could not. It has been said that it not only was constructed to enforce traveler laws but also to keep evil away. Clan Stonewolf had seen peace for a century thus far, but the stresses of leading a clan were enough to be desperate for breaks like camels in the desert searching for water.
Suddenly the two of them heard the other two girls laughing. Their game had turned into one of tagging.
“No fair, Nina! Yous a Hunter!”
The girls did several laps around the two on the ground before they collapsed in a heap from exhaustion. It was, in fact, unfair. Nina’s gift as a Hunter had already emerged, and as a Hunter one gained abilities necessary for hunting. She could hear as well as a hawk, see as well as a cat, smell as far as a wolf, step as quietly as a mouse, and run as fast as a gazelle. Her skill with a bow had not yet been harnessed given her age, but each girl was geared with the smallest of daggers with a single ruby in the hilt’s end "just in case."
Elizabeth sat up.
“What do you girls think about heading back for some lunch? I’m sure Grace has made something lovely again today.”
“Cupcakes?!” Nina squeeled.
“Hopefully,” Elizabeth chuckled. Grace was the avid baker of the priestesses. “First one back to the house gets two!”
Then all at once the four of them were off into the field as fast as their legs could carry them.