The ancient mage stood hunched over a large tome as he scratched out something on a piece of parchment to the side. He was so buried in his work, his ear barely twitched at the steps climbing the ramp. His fingers twitched, pale violet runes circling them. They shifted to the left, the right, then back again before locking into position. He murmured softly and the circle split into three separate rings that expanded outward. They pulled away from his hand and dropped over the crystal sitting on his left. With another whispered word, they tightened and penetrated the surface, binding themselves to center, leaving a soft glow.
Tindomiel wandered in and leaned against the table next to him, drawing a smile from the old elf. “Good evening, my child,” he said gently.
“Hello, An’da,” she replied, smiling back at him. Though her lips feigned mirth, her eyes did not share the same brightness to them. “You have some time to have a glass of wine with me?”
He arched a long, thick eyebrow. “Of course.”
Kalithil gestured towards his table beneath the window. Tindomiel chuckled, shaking her head. “I have food as well,” he offered, which shifted Tindomiel’s expression slightly. “What?”
“Lily is rubbing off on you,” she stated outright.
“Yes, because I did not spend thousands of years at a time sitting in towers doing research before we met,” he chuckled.
Tindomiel moved to the table and settled into a chair. Picking up a bottle of wine, she poured them each a glass. “An’da…before you and Lily started really looking after one another, I threw away countless plates of food that would best be described as prison rations,” she said, her tone only half serious. “You barely bothered.”
“I ate when it was necessary,” he grumbled, causing her to laugh as she made to sip her wine. “Did you come here today to berate me about my eating habits?”
“No. And I’m only teasing. And you know that.”
Kalithil smiled. “Well, out with it then. You have your concerned face on.
Tindomiel laughed. “All right, fair enough. I know Foro wants to help Borænin and Sellynna. But…” She took another sip and set the glass down, turning the base a little with her fingers.
“I know you. I have a feeling you’ve got some ideas.”
“I always have some ideas, Sel’de.” He picked up his own glass and sat down beside her. Leaning back, he smirked before drinking down half of the wine.
“I want to know how dangerous your ideas are,” she admitted, peering at him.
“I suppose that depends.” His own glass found its way to the table, though the mage hadn’t seemed to move.
“I’m serious…” He held his hands up in a surrender.
“Tell me what you are thinking,” she coaxed. Tindomiel tore a piece of bread off one of the fresh loaves and took a bite.
“We don’t really know how powerful this Lord protector is. Our two guests are terrified of him, but that could be nothing more than effective propaganda,” he explained. “You’ll notice that while they each fear him and speak of his power, they are never specific, they never describe him actually doing anything. The power he wields may be political rather than practical.”
“Hmmm, you have a point.” Her brow furrowed.
“Even if he is a gifted sorcerer, I have no doubt I could stand toe to toe with him.” For once, he wasn’t saying it to be smug, rather with the intention of sounding confident and reassuring. “But we need to assess the threat.”
“I was worried for a moment there that you meant to go after this man alone.
“I thought about it. I do feel…responsible,” he said softly.
The young woman’s expression was incredulous. “HOW? He is not your son. Your son is here.” Kalithil looked away, uncomfortable. “An’da?”
“Suburos.” he whispered.
Tindomiel blinked, her confusion growing. “I’m not certain I am following you.”
“I have begun to suspect Suburos is involved.” He picked up his glass and took another sip.
“You think because you pulled him out of his dimension, reality, whatever….that he is the cause of this?”
Kalithil made a face. “Perhaps indirectly, I am unsure. I cannot simply ask the thing, it doesn’t work that way.”
“How do you communicate with him?”
“And have you been able to get anything from him…with this whole situation
Kalithil sighed. “Like I said, it doesn’t work that way. The situation is far too complex to even explain to him.” He rubbed his face. “Here is what I suspect. This Lord Protector has a staff, he always has it on him. The staff is set with a large, blue glowing gem. Sound familiar?”
She nodded, chewing on another bit of bread. “I take it Borænin spoke with Lily? I didn’t think to ask that question.”
“He did.” He smiled appreciatively. “Also, I asked the other one.”
“Sellynna?” Her eyebrows raised as he nodded to confirm it. “So they both stated that he carried it. Interesting”
“Furthermore, and most interesting, he changed my enchantment.”
Kalithil slid his finger over his cheek, then into his hair. “The Greythorn’s are not pale and white haired, they are bronze-skinned and golden haired.
Tindomiel’s eyes went wide. He took the skin as far away as possible and complimented it with gold…” she murmured. “Gold for silver.”
Kalithil nodded. “He has apparently spent his life trying to erase my memory. In any case, he could not have changed the enchantment without Suburos.”
“All the SIlverthorns, from what I have heard,” she countered. “So you think the stone is Suburos. And you think he’s found a way to work with him.”
“The stone is a link to Suburos, not Suburos itself,” Kalithil corrected. “I think that Gilræn found a way to tap into the power, I do not think he understands it or can use it fully.”
“So he’s dabbling and slashing without any real knowledge or control.” She ran her fingers through her long hair, shaking her head.
“Something like that. Did you notice that these Greythorn Ren’dorei varied in complexion and hair color?”
“I did. Is there a significance to that?”
“You have seen the Greythorn Ren’dorei here. What do they look like?”
“Mostly like us, but the sapphire hair,” she replied.
“Exactly. And all them the same.”
“The new one is only slightly different. Her hair has more purple to it.” She tapped the table, her brows knitting together for a moment before relaxing. “Sulime,” she added, recalling the name.”
“A minor variation.” He waved that off.
“So does this mean that your enchantment is more stable?”
“It means when he changed it, he did not know how to do it correctly.” He grunted. “I would wager that while they may all be bronze and gold, there is a more tonal variation among the Greythorns than there is among us.”
“Hmmm. I wonder if all of them bear the color because of the arranged marriage requirement.”
“A possibility,” he agreed.
“That without that, the variations would be more prominent.” She chewed on the tip of her nail. Eventually she released it. “So what then? He has the staff, he has some access to the power. How will that affect what you may have to do?”
“I do not yet know. I still don’t know his limits,” he sighed. “I merely suspect that power leeched from Suburos may have enabled him to rise to power.”
“Will we ever? If every piece of knowledge we have comes from those two…how do we figure out what we are actually dealing with?”
Kalithil grinned like a cat. “We meet him, of course.”
Tindomiel blinked. “What?..”
“Did you think we were going to stop him without ever facing him?”
“I was hoping it would be a one and done kind of thing,” she winced.
“While that would be nice, it is unlikely. Even if he is only a middling sorcerer, he still commands other forces,” he reminded her. “Which brings me to step one.”
“All right? And what is that?” She leaned forward, listening intently. Sighing, she took a long sip from her wine glass.
“Gilræn must convince Borænin to accompany him to see Umbric.”
Tindomiel rubbed her face with her hand. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
He held up his hands. “I know that Borænin has some vendetta against him. I don’t care. We need Umbric’s assistance.” He gestured in a way to indicate that this was the only option.
“For what exactly?”
“Umbric is by far the greatest authority on void rifts in our world. I want him to disrupt the flow of the one that bright the Lord Protector and his servants here.” Kalithil’s fingers conjured a tiny portal on the table, along with a few chess pieces on either side. Moving them around, he placed only a single king on one side and set the others up in rows like a squadron. “I want him unable to call for reinforcements,” he said matter of factly, dissolving the portal and assisting pieces.
“I see. And you think the best choice to convince Borænin of that is Gilræn. The double of the man he is trying to kill,” she countered, disbelieving.
Kalithil waved it away. “He’s met him already, and Gilræn knows Umbric well.”
Tindomiel sighed and sat back again. “If you think it’s wise.”
“It is necessary, I want Borænin to tell Umbric his story. He will also have information Umbric may need to help disrupt the rift.”
The woman nodded. “All right. But you best send Sellynna with him when he does.”
“Having them together in a place where their Gilræn could strike is a very bad idea.”
Tindomiel threw her hands up. “Fine. You are right. But she needs to be somewhere he can get back to quickly,” she added pointedly.
“She will be.”
“She is his grounding force right now, even if he is refusing to admit it.”
“Keeping her safe will be part of the bargain we make with him.” Kalithil smirked.
She glanced at him narrowing her eyes. “What?”
“You don’t know the latest.”
Kalithil only chuckled.
“An’da…what secrets are you keeping from me now?” She set her glass down with a touch of annoyance.
“They have grown closer.”
Tindomiel raised an eyebrow. “How so?”
Kalithil responded with a pointed look.
“How? Because he was so very angry when I brought it up.”
“That’s because you were pushy and smug about it.”
“I was not,” she cried out. Kalithil shot her a look. “I wasn’t…” Kalithil’s gaze did not falter. Tindomiel looked at the floor. “I told him he needed to figure out what his feelings were. Because it was a factor in how things could happen.”
“That was all you said?”
“Maybe I suggested that she meant more to him than he was admitting.”
Tindomiel glared at him only to be met with a completely bland expression. “Don’t start.”
“Then tell the truth.”
“I asked him how he felt. He kept repeating that she was his associate.” She shook her head. “His compatriot. And it was a load of elekk dung”
“And you, of course, did not smile knowingly and call her his sweetheart or anything like that.” Tindomiel sighed. “Yes, you did,” he answered for her. “He is a very tightly wound, proper man.”
“And she’s not his sweetheart?”
“Of course she is! But, he did not want it to be exposed.”
“Then he needs to face it,” she remarked.
“On his terms, not yours. His feelings are his business, let him keep them.” Kalithil said not unkindly.
Tindomiel’s toned was exasperated. “I can’t let people keep their feelings when they pour out of them and into me!”
“But you don’t need to rub them in their faces, especially a man like that.”
“UUggggh…” Kalithil smirked at her frustration. “I didn’t call her his one true love or tell him to run off and marry her.”
“As good as,” he countered.
“I told him to go be with his sweetheart. That’s all!”
Kalithil sighed and shook his head.
“You act like I planned their wedding . All I did was give him a nudge,” she whined.
Kalithil arched an eyebrow. “Sel’de, I adore you, but the man did not need a nudge. He left his whole world behind to save her. His feelings were there for anyone to see.”
She told me he’d been thinking of doing this for a long time and was waiting to find the right help. Was that elekk dung too?”
Kalithil rolled his eyes. “Maybe not entirely, I have no doubt his guilt over the things he’s done had been building for a long time. But he did this for her.” He patted her knee. “Sutrakarre agrees with me, by the way.”
“You brought Sutra in on this…”
“No, you did. You told him to talk to them and see that they were all right,” he reminded her.
“Just a basic how are they holding up check-” she stopped herself and sighed. “But he doesn’t do that.”
“And you knew that.”
Kalithil chuckled and finished off his glass of wine. “Anyway, no harm done in the long term. They are almost openly affectionate.”
“So…not like you.” Tindomiel stuck her tongue out.
The ancient elf grinned. “Not at all. To guarantee her safety, he will do what we ask. Especially the second part, I have a feeling he will enjoy it.”
“And that is,” she asked, realizing he had transitioned back into his plans.
“We’re going to confront the Lord Protector.”
“You think he will enjoy that? I think he’s going to throw up.”
“I am going to be there covering him,” Kalithil reassured her. “I am going to give him the opportunity to tell Gilræn to go to hell.”
Tindomiel tilted her head to the side. “Why?”
“I want to get him angry.”
“Oh…this isn’t for Borænin,” she groaned.
“His enjoyment is a side benefit,” the man shrugged. He created a tiny version of Borænin next to the chess piece from earlier. “When he has said his piece, and Gilræn is spitting mad, I will translocate and switch places with Borænin.” With a wave of hs hand, Borænin vanished and a double of Kalithil appeared in his place. “And the Lord Protector will be facing the man he fears more than anything in all Realms.”
Tindomiel grinned finally. “I like this plan. But I am going to request one addition. You have me or Sutrakarre waiting in the wings.”
“In case things go badly?”
“I don’t want you attempting this without a healer.”
Kalithil nodded. “I will accept your suggestion. In all honesty, I do not expect violence.”
“You want to piss off a potentially powerful sorcerer and you don’t expect violence?”
“I think my appearance will unman him,” he said simply.
“I suppose we shall find out. When?”
“As soon as we get word from Umbric”
Tindomiel nodded. “So as soon as Gil can convince Borænin.”
“I think it will be easier than you believe.”
“I hope you are right.” Tindomiel raised a hand to her face and yawned.
“I usually am.” Kalithil chuckled.
Kalithil blinked. “Oh, I thought you yawned to show me I am tiresome.”
“No, An’da. I yawned because I have been dealing with tidal waves of emotion for weeks,” she explained.
In that moment, the old mage noticed that her face was actually drawn with deeper circles beneath her eyes than usual. Her pale skin, usually bearing a hint of violet, was more grey. Kalithil looked concerned. “So go rest, Sel’de.”
“I think a soak in the moonwell first.”
Kalithil smiled, relieved. “Even better.” The priestess rose from her chair. He took her arm to steady her. “Things are well in hand, do not worry yourself.”
Tindomiel chuckled. “It’s like you don’t know me at all.”
He smirked. “We both know that is untrue.”
“Then we both know I am going to worry.”
“I do,” he murmured with a smile.
Tindomiel hugged him, placing her head against his chest. Kalithil wrapped his ams around her. “Goodnight, An’da.”
“Goodnight, Sel’de.” He released her from his embrace and she turned to head back towards the ramp down. “Sel’de,” he called to her.
She paused, looking back. “Yes?”
“I know why you worry, and I cherish you for it.”
Why must you say anything but what you actually feel? Tindomiel rolled her eyes. “I love you too.” Kalithil smiled at her. “Go to bed, An’da.”
“You first,” he said gently.
“I told you. Soak first,” she answered through a yawn.
Kalithil nodded. “Go.” He watched her descend down the ramp. Once he was certain she was out of earshot, he conjured an arcane familiar. He stood and moved to his worktable, taking up his quill once more. He scrawled out a note and handed it over to the glowing form. “Take this to my grandson. See that he reads it.” The familiar didn’t respond, it simply drifted down the ramp at a fair pace.
Rest, my child. Please. For I cannot bear to lose you.