PART ONE: THE OUTCASTS
For Dav, the first few days after the birth of his daughter were nightmarish. While Lora was recovering from her ordeal, the care of the child was left to him, even though he found it difficult to look at the baby, much less pick her up, keep her clean, and feed her. A deep-rooted sense of responsibility forced him to do what was necessary to provide for the child's health and well-being. Love, nurturing, and affection, however, he could not give.
The choice of a name was supposed to be his, but he had avoided the decision so far, despite prompting from his recuperating "wife." Naming the child was too personal an action for him to accept at this point. He could not deny his connection to Lora's daughter, but he shrank from the implications of an emotional bond. She was a half-breed, a misbegotten creature that should never have been conceived or allowed to be carried to term. Not only that, but she was an irrefutable reminder of his greatest sin.
Eya and Reg adored their tiny half-sister. They were fascinated by the obvious differences between her and them. Part of Dav wanted to sever all contact between the twins - the products of a loving union - and the half-elf, but he realized the impracticality of that desire.
The curiosity of the people of Haven knew no bounds. Dav's house had become a gathering place for gossip-mongers. They loitered outside, waiting for someone to emerge. By now, they had learned the folly of questioning Dav, but Reg and Eya faced harassment every time they stepped out for a breath of fresh air or a stroll.
Finally, after over a week of convalescence, Lora was able to begin helping with the baby. She wasn't pleased by the way Dav had handled matters, but, since she had already handed over the reigns of responsibility to him, she offered no open criticism. There was sadness in her eyes, however, every time she saw the coldness with which he treated his youngest child.
"When are you going to name her?" asked Lora one evening while Dav's two human offspring played with their sibling.
"What does it matter? I don't know any elf names and I don't want to know any."
"She must have a name," insisted Lora.
"Then you name her."
"That is not permitted."
Dav, who had been standing with his back to Lora, rounded on her. She flinched, but it was more an instinctive reaction than from fear of violence. "Is not permitted?? Your people have rejected you, yet you cling to their customs like they give your life meaning!"
"You would not understand."
"I want to know!"
"Being an elf is not like being a human. There is no human lifestyle. Humanness is a condition of birth. It is different for elves. It is not enough to be born with elf blood to be an elf. The life of an elf is defined by her - or his - actions. Were I to reject elf custom because my people have rejected me, I would be denying myself - the essence of who I am. To be an elf only by birth and not by how I live is to become as much a half-breed as our daughter." One look at Dav's expression convinced Lora that her initial assessment of his ability to comprehend elf traditions and lifestyle had been correct. "I knew you would not understand."
"But how can you follow a way of life that means nothing and offers only burdens?"
"I can not deny that I am an elf, nor do I wish to. The people of Heltala, humans and elves, have branded me an outcast, not the elf community of Devforth. It is a question of beliefs that have divided me from my family, not one of race."
"They may not be discussed with an outsider."
"I'm not an outsider. I live here. I'm more a member of this community than you are."
Lora smiled sadly at him. "Not for long, I fear. By taking three outcasts into your house, you have marked yourself to be labeled as one of us."
"Let them try to drive me out."
"Without food and water, you can not survive. They will see that you get none. Force is not their way, nor will it be necessary."
"So I'm to become like you."
"It is unavoidable," replied Lora.
"Yet knowing that, and that my children and I are caught up in this because of our association with you, you still won't tell me what separates you from the rest of your kind in Haven? What is this 'belief'' that causes them to shun you while you struggle to maintain their customs and traditions?"
"I can say nothing."
"You're protecting something you don't believe in?"
"I protect their right to believe in their creed, not the creed itself."
"If anyone treated me the way they've treated you..."
"...You would tell all you knew to anyone who would listen to you. We are fundamentally different, Dav. We do not share the same values, nor do we look at life in the same way. That much was proven behind my hut in the valley. You saw something you wanted and took it."
Dav didn't respond. He found it disturbing that she could talk about the rape while he was unable to. She had come to grips with something that his conscience was hiding from. The truth was stark, and Dav had not yet steeled himself to confront it head-on.
"Our daughter must have a name, and you must give it to her," said Lora, bringing the conversation full circle. "It may be a human name. The choice is yours."
"She doesn't deserve a human name. She's not human."
"An elf one, then."
"I've already told you, I don't..." began Dav, then let his voice trail off. This argument was getting tiresome, especially considering how pointless it was. How difficult could it be to come up with an elf-sounding name? Four letters arranged in such a way that they could be pronounced. "Mora," he announced suddenly. "Let's call her Mora."
Lora appeared surprised, maybe even shocked, by his choice. Or perhaps her expression was the result of his relenting. He didn't care which. His task, or at least one of them, was finished.
"That is your choice, then?" asked Lora. "You will not change it?"
"No. That's it," said Dav.
"Do you know what 'Mora' means in elf?"
"Of course not."
"The best translation is 'child of pain and sadness'. Never have I known an elf called by that name or anything similar."
"A name's a name," replied Dav, although unsettled by the ease with which his random choice fit the circumstances of his daughter's birth.
"So be it," stated Lora, her voice sounding formal. "Her name is Mora."
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