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Ever since the incident on Moonspear, Eljay had been feeling restless to visit Maia to make sure she was okay. Especially since he had found out that Towhee was hurt from it. However, he was also more scared than before; he felt that anything bad could happen at any time, if it could happen so suddenly to Moonspear. This made travelling outside of Redhawk Caldera more strenuous than ever before.

After days of pacing back and forth Eljay decided that he needed to go see her. Today he descended the Caldera, but he could feel a huge knot in his stomach as he descended down the Caldera. At the borders he paused and looked into the great outdoors skittishly. It seemed that the longer he stood still, the more his paws felt like lead and his head was all over the place. His breathing was growing rushed and unsteady and his posture uncertain the longer he paused. Eljay, standing maybe ten meters from Redhawk Caldera's borders, stared at the lake and the seemingly immeasurable distance between himself and Maia. He felt frustrated — with himself, with how he felt, with being seemingly unable to change how he felt, with the world and everything — and he hated that he felt this way. It made him feel like the little boy that was teased by Nightjar for being such a dweeby nerd, and he hated it.

Why couldn't he do what was so easy for other wolves?
Lucky for Eljay "You'll never walk alone" lyrics applied to him this very day, because Wraen happened to be outside the fen and taking a shortcut over the ice-cap of Lake Rodney. Sure, it had got warmer lately, but the thick blanket of snow prevented ice from melting immediately and for a small and dainty wolf that she was, there was no danger of falling through and engaging in a surprise swim in the lake. She spotted her son-in-law - no, that's not correct. Wait for it....? - brother-in-law in the distance and decided to meet him in person. While Maia met her beau on semi-regular basis, she had not spoken to the oldest Finwood son in quite a while.

"Hey!" she greeted him from afar to draw his attention to her and then closed the distance between them as quickly as her breathing apparatus permitted. "Long time, no see," she told him. "Is everything alright?" Wraen asked, looking at him and knowing that in case of Eljay it every thing was definitely not okay.
When someone approached in the distance, Eljay looked up and held his heart. Was it Maia??? But when he came closer, he soon realised that it wasn't her; it was Wraen. He wondered why it seemed that it was always a bad situation Wraen seemed to catch him in. He really wanted to make a good impression on Wraen, now more than ever. It was stupid, he realised; they'd been friends before he add Maia were. They'd lived together for a long time. Why was it different now?

Glad for a distraction from his fear to leave home though, Eljay smiled at Wraen though, covering up what he was feeling. Hi Wraen. It's nice to see you, he said with his trademark soft smile, reserved for pack mates, friends and children. I'm alright, he said, which was more a white lie pertaining his current situation, but in overall it was true (today was just a hiccup). How about you? How's the pack? Did you guys see the uh.. what happened to Moonspear? This would hopefully be a casual and not too overly worried way to ask "omg, is Maia okay?!?!?!"
"Nice to see you too," Wraen said, looking Eljay up and down and moving over to sit next to him with a polite distance between them. "You seem healthy and fit, but not exactly..." she furrowed her brow, "... happy." And after series of questions he shot at her, she got a vague impression of why was it so. "Uh... I am not exactly sure. Last I heard that something caused a massive fire and rockslide there. Territory's destroyed, there are casualties, but some have survived. Maybe, when Meerkat and Bronco come for a visit next time, they can tell you more details. I am just speculating here," she said.

"Pack's doing well. We have three wonderful leaders to do the job, which leaves me to pass wisdom around, while I sunbathe and wiggle my toes in the warmth," she told. Not 100% true, but that's, what she hoped to achieve, when spring came. "Were you on your way to visit us?" she asked.
Eljay knew he wasn't very good at hiding his emotions, which made it harder to talk about happy things when one didn't feel like discussing the unhappy ones. It was like Wraen understood when he asked and Moonspear, though, that much of his current state of being stemmed from what had happened there.

Yeah, I don't know much yet either. Just saw it from the Caldera. As he said it, it was clear that it had left a large impression on him.

Eljay could not help but smile as Wraen described that there were wonderful leaders in her pack which left her to do as she wished. It was nice; Wraen deserved some peace and quiet, even though Eljay knew that she would always step up and take that place if it was needed; it was simply who she was. Where Eljay often felt as though he should carry the world on his shoulders but couldn't manage, Wraen actually took the weight and succeeded whenever it was needed. It was one of her many admirable qualities.

You deserve it. I'm glad. I take it then that Maia's doing well as a leader? She was really honoured to have been asked. Eljay didn't share how nervous she had been about it when he last visited.

As for Wraen's question... He hesitated a moment, then said, I was considering it. But Towhee's gotten dizzy since the Moonspear thing, and I want to keep an eye on her. A bit of a lie, honestly, but not entirely; the weight of being Redhawk Caldera's caretaker rested as heavily on his shoulders as ever with puppy season coming up.
"You do realize that I cannot answer that question objectively," Wraen said with a smile. "And she is still new to the position - time will tell, if it's something she is suitable for and something she enjoys doing or not," she shrugged, though she had been glad that at almost four years of age her sister had finally decided to give the serious job a try. 

"Oh, I forgot that you have two pregnant ladies to look after," she had this "oooh, right!" moment, which made her wonder, whether this was just an excuse not to go anywhere. Knowing Eljay that might as well have been the case. On the other hand she knew that at some point Maia's persistence in making that trek back and forth the two territories to meet her beau might reach its limit. 

"What about yourself - do you get time to do things you enjoy or is it constant work around the clock for you?" she asked.
Eljay chuckled at Wraen's comment; it was very true. Just like he would never be able to tell whether Maia was good -- she'd always be good -- Wraen was too close as well. Eljay nodded at Wraen's comment. Yeah. It's great that she's getting the chance, Eljay said with a soft smile. He truly did think it would be good for Maia to give this a try and discover more about herself. More self confidence too, he hoped.

Wraen mentioned having two pregnant ladies to look after. Eljay's face fell initially in surprise; he did not know about this. Presumably this was about Niamh, and.. Towhee, maybe? It was the only one he could think of. Oh, uh — yeah, Eljay said, choking away his surprise. Why hadn't they told him? Why had they told Wraen, but not him? He felt a weird feeling of indignation. Eljay wasn't angry very often and he quickly swallowed his feelings, unsure how to deal with this hurt feeling.

He was easily lured back into the conversation by Wraen's next question. He was silent for a second or two before he said with a soft smile, I get to visit Maia sometimes. It was a bit corny, maybe, but it was just the first thing that came to mind when Wraen asked about things he enjoyed. And Fennec's back here, so it's not all on me. I'm not sure how much she knows about delivering pups, though, so... He'd be needed for that, at least, this season. But maybe she could learn. He hadn't forgotten about his thoughts when he lived back at the Copse, to follow Maia on her wild adventures and leave home.

Everything had changed when they'd moved back to Redhawk Caldera, though; his home. Where he really wanted to see his children grow up. Everything was muddled now, but at least Fennec was back and that brought some perspective, at the very least. He knew he should perhaps consider his own feelings more than the pack's in this -- they'd find a way, a new caretaker would take his place even if he left them without -- but he found it impossible to discount.
Well, had Eljay shared his concerns about being left out (once again) from the big news about the pregnancies, Wraen would probably roll her eyes and wonder, whether he was olfactory-blind or just pretended to be such. If one can smell a she-wolf in heat miles away, how had he missed two love-sick ladies right in front of his nose? Of course, knowing him well and long enough, that said speech would be something she would reserve only to that imaginary Eljay inside her mind. The one, who did not upset easily, but who patiently listened all she had to tell him, went off in the world and changed his personality 100%. The real one would simply earn an sympathetic smile and "Oh, they probably did not wish to share the news until they were totally sure. You know, how risky those first weeks of pregnancy are...".  But even with this careful wording there would be a very solid chance he would get upset about something else. Like not trusting his judgement or the likes. 

"Isn't it usually so that pups are good about delivering themselves?" Wraen asked, because she could not imagine, what kind of help a mother, who was giving birth, would need other than calming her down and preventing yourself from getting bitten in the face. "But she would..." she paused and gave a second thought of, what she had been about to say. "... need someone to calm her and not let run screaming from seeing all of the gore?" Ha! Fennec could not see a damn thing. Which led to the next reasonable thing - how could she be of any assistance during birth, if she was not able to see, what was going on? She did not doubt that the girl was very eager to learn and help, but there were limitations to, what she could actually do. And several rounds of thoughts further... it did not seem likely at all that Eljay would ever be able to leave Redhawks to be with Maia at Brecheliant. Good healers were hard to find after all and even if the blind one was superb, it would never be able to operate alone. In some capacity - definitely, but not for long. 

"Never mind. How's her training coming along?" she asked instead.
Eljay chuckled when Wraen said that pups were good about delivering themselves — but a moment later he realised that she was serious! Eljay blinked, a little surprised. Oh, you're serious! He supposed it did usually go well enough - and before he decided to become a midwife, the pack had been fine, too. Still, he could not help but think of the one time that mom almost died when she'd given birth. He wanted more than anything to prevent that.

Of course, it wasn't always easy — there was only so much a wolf could do, since most of it took place on the inside — but aside from the emotional support, he hoped he could help if anything was amiss, at least, if not only with things like painkillers and anti-inflammatory herbs, were it necessary, if things were wrong in any way. That's also why he thought it important that he know they were pregnant, because then he would know to watch out for trouble. He possibly should've seen Niamh's coming, but Towhee hadn't even been with a man, he thought...

Well, he thought wrong. No matter, now. He didn't further explain to Wraen why he thought that being a midwife was actually an important thing, only mulling the thoughts over inside his own head.

Wraen asked how Fennec's training was going. Eljay thought she was doing fine, honestly, and that there wasn't much he needed to teach her still. She's doing good, he said with a nod. She's out travelling right now, I think. She was a lot more well-travelled than he was, so she left a lot. But it's nice to have her back in the pack. And just on time too, he thought to himself as he found himself glancing at Moonspear.
"There's no reining in that one, is it?" Wraen remarked, thinking about the day, when she had caught Fennec making her way out in the world all on her own out of spite. And were it not for that, perhaps, she would not have come as far as she had in her almost two years long of a life. "It would be nice to see her again and have a chat," she said to herself, not remembering the last time they had met in person.

"Do you remember the very first time we met?" she asked him suddenly, struck by a different memory. A very old one with faded pictures and a bit rag-tag along the edges. "I had just come to the valley and you had just left the caldera and we ran into each other by a lake," she recounted the details. "I don't know, whether it was this one or the other, but I do know that I was pretty convinced that you were either fishing or considering going with the mermaids," she smiled.

"And... I sort of hoped to become friends with you, but we happened not to run into each other for almost a lifetime after that," Wraen went on. "Us being here now after another lifetime of events and experience, nearing the sunset years of our lives... kind of makes it a full circle. Poetic even," she finished.
Eljay nodded with a smirk when Wraen said that there was no reining in Fennec. Very true, he agreed. Then, as Wraen mused — seemingly mostly to herself — that she should talk to Fennec again, Eljay reminded himself to tell @Fennec about Wraen's thoughts so that maybe she would feel inspired to visit the Fen (feel free to reference that he did that behind the scenes, Starr).

Wraen asked if he remembered when they'd first met. He looked thoughtful for a moment. Wasn't it at the Copse? He didn't remember in what circumstances, though. Before he could voice his thoughts though, Wraen confirmed that they were wrong and told him they'd met when he had left the Caldera and she was new to the valley. Eljay blinked, trying to think back to that. Was that really when he'd left the Caldera the first time..? It must've been, as that was the only time he had ever left the Caldera. Had he met Wraen then? He didn't remember at all and it showed on his confused face.

I don't remember that at all, Eljay said. Maybe if he would recall some specific details of the meeting he might've remembered and thought — ooooh, was that you! — but as it were all the events of that journey were kind of muddled and he did not remember her at all.

That's pretty funny. I mean, that we didn't meet again until a few years later. Eljay never really stopped to think about time very much, but now that he thought about it, time did go very fast. Very fast in the sense that he was getting older, even though he didn't like to admit that to himself. Yeah, I suppose it is, he agreed thoughtfully. I guess I never really felt old or thought much about age and all that until... Until my mom and dad died. Only then did he realise the greying of their coats that his would undergo not too long from now. When he thought about it, it was around this age, if not even younger, that his mother decided not to travel so much anymore. It was strange to think about. He didn't feel like he was old at all, but when he thought about it, well, he supposed he was definitely getting up there. Do you? I mean, ever feel like you're getting old?
"Are you kidding me? I was born old! Ever being young was just an illusion," Wraen laughed sincerely at Eljay's question and it was true - nearing her fifth birthday now, the time, when she had been a puppy, a yearling or a dashing two-year-old seemed such a long time ago. Surreal even. She looked at Penn, Bronco, Fennec and all the other kids she had seen being born and grow up - and often find herself wondering, had she been such an annoying brat too? Sure. Definitely. 100%. Because repention of sins of the youth comes only at very old age.

"The only difference between then and now is that I have grown more aware of the fact that the stretch of time left for me to walk has become shorter. It does not feel like an indefinite amount anymore," she told him.  "It will be almost a year now, since they passed away, won't it?" she asked him. Funny, how at first Finwood's loss had felt as if nothing and no one would ever replace them. Now... she had grown used to and forgotten a great deal about them by now. That's, how people fade from our memories.
Eljay chuckled at Wraen's comment about being born old. Eljay could not help but say, I sometimes feel the other way around. Like... As if time is slipping away and everyone expects me to be an adult but nobody ever taught me how? He felt very alone in this feeling, as it seemed that others did not have similar problems. That sounds more awful and childish than I meant it — I probably shouldn't be saying this kind of stuff to my — uh, to Maia's sister. Eljay grinned sheepishly at Wraen.

As she addressed that it had been almost a year since his parents had passed, he nodded solemnly. It felt both a lot longer ago and a lot shorter. To him, it was a painful wound that would probably always bring up heavy feelings of grief. Just thinking about having to go through the rest of his life without his parents' guidance in some or other form made him feel upset. Thinking about how he'd never get to snuggle up to mommy and daddy... Yeah, he said, distracted. I... It feels both really long ago and as if it was just yesterday... The grief was clear in his voice as he said it; it was clear that to him, it was a lot different, and although he had learned how to function again in daily life, he definitely was still suffering from losing them.
"I am glad you shared this," Wraen told him after a brief pause, realizing that she had caught a glimpse of a very personal side of Eljay's, one that was different from what she was used of seeing. That one other time had been, when he had approached her to tell her that she should not leave Firebirds. What had he told her then: the strength of a wolf lies in a pack? There had not been many opportunities for her to show support to him - quite frankly she had felt very disappointed with, how she had first dealt with him after Wildfire's death and then simply let to his own devices. Thought him spineless even. Yet with all the insecurities he was a good person, a very loyal one and desperate to belong and keep a family together. He did not seem to have taken insult at all, had he even noticed the things that she lamented?

"Eljay, I have not always been a friend that you deserve..." she began slowly. "But I want you to know that, if you ever need it... decide, you'll have a family waiting for you with us," Wraen told. "I will be glad to welcome you in the circle," she finished.
Eljay looked a little surprised when Wraen said she was glad he had shared it. It made him feel a bit stupid to say something like that. Often it felt as though all the wolves around him were all grown up, a lot like Wraen. Towhee was also a wolf who he felt had been grown up from the start; it wasn't very long until she assumed leadership and until she seemed a lot further and better along on the path of life than Eljay himself. It often made him feel like the weird kid on the playground; the odd cousin who only was invited along because he was part of the family of one of the cool kids, but who maybe they'd rather not have along.

It surprised him again when Wraen said that she hadn't always been the friend he deserved. Oh, that's... he murmured, a little taken aback, but there was more to come and so he easily slipped back into listening to what else Wraen would say.

Months ago this would've meant a lot to him, when he had found himself insecure if Wraen even wanted him along, when he had considered running off with Maia himself. Maybe if she had told him something along these lines when she'd left the Copse, Eljay could've convinced himself to leave the Redhawks and join up with them earlier. Then, everything would be different.

As it stood, he still appreciated her saying it, but he didn't need the confidence boost as such because felt much more comfortable around Wraen now and their last encounters had been more pleasant. Probably because he'd been less depressed, himself. Eljay hadn't considered Wraen might not be happy to have him join Brechelliant, although honestly, a big part of it had been because he knew that meant Wraen got to keep Maia extra close.

Still, her saying it meant something, maybe not on a practical level, but on.. well, some level, at least, he could tell by the way his heart felt warmed. Eljay smiled as Wraen finished speaking and said, Thank you, Wraen. That means a lot to me. He wished things were more simple than they were, but he knew that eventually, he or Maia would have to move. And right now, he wasn't so sure he wanted to move, but he also totally understood if Maia didn't want to move, so he was trying to get himself in a position where he might. He'd felt more confident leaving the Caldera, which had helped that decision process a lot — because he didn't feel so alone when Maia was gone if he could just visit the Fen — but then the Moonspear crash happened and as he stared out at lake Rodney Eljay realised what a stark reminder that was of how hard it was for him to live apart from her... because he had no power over visiting her. At least, only in theory, but not in practise; not right now, with his core shaken and his anxiety spurred on.
Wraen made herself a promise that if ever Maia and Eljay came to a point to tie the knot officially and settle, she would never have an ill thought about the man, who her sister had chosen. Never become cross with him. Be patient. As Wildfire had advised her and it felt as if this time she could really go through with it and not mess it up. Because not only had he proven to be a better friend than she deserved, especially at critical situations, he also was already a family. And if she had not done it enough in the past, she knew that she had to cherish the fact that he was her close friend. 

"Has Maia taken you on a tour at the fen? It's large and diverse - we have lived there for a bit, but there is still much to discover," she told him. "We even named some landmarks there - Warden's Watch for our siblings and we have Arthur's Seat for Arcturus. It is a large rock and a poor substitute for mountains and cliffs that my friend is used to, but I hope he has some consolation in this," she said and smiled.
Eljay nodded when Wraen asked if Maia had given him a tour of the Fen yet. He listened patiently as Wraen described a few places -- some he remembered being shown, while others not so much -- and then said, She's shown me a few of those. I'd love to visit again to see more some day, though. Eljay smiled softly at Wraen. Their home seemed to have a soft spot with them. Eljay could to some level relate to Arcturus; he was used to elevation, even though his wasn't necessarily a rocky sort. Eljay loved being able to look out over the lands from the Caldera. It made him feel as though he actually could explore, a bit, even if it was just with his eyes. The Fen would impair that, he knew, and it was definitely one of his bigger doubts in the whole decision making process of where they would settle.
"Well, in that case I extend my invitation," Wraen smiled at the choice of words, because they essentially said the same thing as earlier, just sounded more official and leader-like. One had to pretend they were working and taking their elected job seriously time from time. "And in the meanwhile you can make a list of fancy names for landmarks. I am sure that Finley and Elwood's ghosts will want to have a spot there too hang around, when they visit," she said. "And maybe they can even chat with my old folks too. Wouldn't that be lovely?" a ghost party - wouldn't that be awesome? Along with dragons and other mythical creatures that had begun to fill up all the nooks and crannies.

"It was nice talking to you, but I will probably start to head back home. I was thinking about visiting Towhee, but, if I want to make it home on time, I will have to postpone it for another time. Pass on my well wishes to her and Niamh and Phox!" she told, getting to her feet and preparing to leave. If Eljay had anything else to add, she would stay and listen and then would walk back to the fen.

Last one from me and I would love to have an updated one in Brecheliant!
Eljay chuckled when Wraen invited him to think of landmarks where his parents' ghosts could hang around. It was probably the first time since they died that he ever thought of them and their deaths in a light-hearted manner. It was nice though, to see that Wraen was trying so hard. She really seemed to want to make him feel at home in the Fen. Maybe it was only because she wanted to keep Maia close and knew that the key to that was keeping Eljay close... but none of his pack mates had extended such effort, as far as Eljay knew. Even if it was only on Maia's behalf, Eljay still could not help but smile at the thought. Wraen truly was the best big sister, if that was the case. And if not, well, then she was simply a great friend.

Eljay nodded to Wraen as she said she had to go and asked to pass on greetings to Niamh and Phox. Will do, he promised. See you later, Wraen. He didn't know precisely how soon that would be. After she left, Eljay sighed as he stared out into the great beyond. He was still frustrated that he couldn't just leave the territory to visit Maia, but at least he knew that she was alright now.

Eventually he turned away from the lake and started up the slope of the Caldera again. Once he reached the inner territory he passed on Wraen's greetings to @Niamh and @Phox and then found a place to take a nap.