The hulking man stood in the doorway, reading over the note in his hand again. He seemed to be debating the best course of action. If he went straight to Forosuul, the man would likely leave straightaway to take matters into his own hands. And Alsa would be hurt. But if he told Alsa first, she would want to go and see what could be done. And the Patriarch will be angry with him. There’s no winning here. No choice that resolves things. He sighed heavily and stepped into the small cottage he shared with his mate.
The space was cozy and comfortable, all decorated with Alsabe’s beautiful wall hangings that made the space bright and joyful. He spotted her plucking leaves into a bowl, her soft, silver-white hair tumbling down her back. Placing a hand on her shoulder, he gave her the gentlest of squeezes to get her attention.
“Big Bear!” She jumped up and hugged him tightly, her task forgotten. She kissed him happily before pulling back to see his concerned face. “What’s wrong, Dæ?”
He set her back down on her feet and lumbered over to a chair. “Sit down, beautiful. Please.” He indicated the chair across from him. She did as he requested, her brow furrowing. He placed the parchment in front of her, giving her some time to read it.
“She wants me to meet with her? At the Blue Recluse?” She read it again, her confusion only building.
“This could be a trap, Alsa. But it might be what she is offering too. Just to talk. It’s a very public place, so I would think it might not be too bad,” he offered. His eyes were sad, knowing the pain this whole situation had brought everyone.
She stared at the paper, nodding. “I’m going.” She set her features and stood. Without further discussion, she started changing into her fighting kit. As she wrapped the adorned belt about her waist, Dæsin’s heavy hand pulled her backwards against him. He wrapped his arms around her, leaning down, he kissed the top of her head.
“Not alone, beautiful. Let me come with you,” he held her still, forcing her to talk it through. She tried to push free to keep dressing, her heart pounding in her chest. She didn’t want to stop. Didn’t want to talk. He knew she would do this, so he held her close, keeping his voice gentle. “Alsa, please. I could never forgive myself if something happened. And your father won’t forgive me for telling you. Please.”
She sighed, accepting his request. They dressed together and stepped out side. Dæsin closed his eyes, opened his arms wide and shifted into the form of a large grey owl. He lowered his belly to the ground and she pulled herself up onto his back. Once she had settled, he took flight and headed to the Shrine and the portals.
Dæsin nodded as he let his form morph into a large cat. He bumped her side, purring before shimmering out of view. He stalked off a bit away, hopefully out of notice and waited. Alsabe drew the shadows around herself, preparing for a fight that she was uncertain would come. The district was busy as usual, people coming and going from shops, the tavern and the mage tower. A drunk man wandered a little too close to her. Moments later the same man could be heard cursing a blue streak while spinning around to find the cause of his now shredded trousers. A small smile cracked Alsa’s features as she shook her head. The amusement was short lived as a familiar head of pink hair moved into view.
Iasea Moonwhisper approached slowly, looking around. She spotted her target and walked up, keeping her hands in full view. As she stepped in front of Alsabe, she bowed her smile quickly fading. The shadows around Alsa pulsed as she eyed Iasea warily. Iasea watched Alsabe, surprised. “You were expecting me to fight with you? Here?”
“You attacked my niece not far from here, in broad daylight,” Alsabe spat.
“I attacked no one,” she responded calmly.
The younger woman narrowed her pale violet eyes. “Fine,” she clipped. “Your people did.” She turned her back and walked inside to order herself something to calm her nerves.
Iasea gestured to an empty table and found a chair for herself. “I came to call a truce, Alsabe. Will you sit with me?” She indicated the chair beside her. I’m going to have to work for this. Damn.
Alsabe sighed. “Very well,” she responded, dismissing the shadow.
For the first time that day, Iasea could see her clearly. The halter top, thigh high leggings and a detailed belt. The entire look designed to accentuate Alsabe’s full hips and chest. Iasea, unable to stop herself, chuckled. Alsabe frowned at her. “I see some things haven’t changed,” she indicated the way the younger elf was dressed.
“A lot about me has changed, Iasea. You can blame your former matron for that.”
“Who our House served was not my choice,” she sighed.
“I don’t remember you protesting,” Alsabe sneered.
“What would have been the point,” Iasea asked. “Min’da made the decisions. The best I could do was work with what was available.” Alsabe nodded, conceding the point. She picked up her drink and took a slow sip. “You were her favorite, I don’t know what you are complaining about.”
Alsabe eyes widened. “Her what,” she asked incredulously.
“Her favorite,” came the fit reply. Alsabe looked both shocked and outraged. “You were the one she counted on. You always got things done.”
Alsabe glared at her. “I hope, Iasea, that someday you know how it feels to be the favorite of someone like her.” Her voice dripped with hatred. “I really, really do.”
“I tried,” she sighed. “Never managed to get her to look at me the same way.”
“Lucky you,” Alsa stated bitterly, looking away.
Iasea shook her head. “You seem to have done quite well for yourself now. Unlike the rest of us.”
“Blame her for that too, she cast me out.”
“So you are unhappy then?” She seemed surprised. All indications were that she was being absolutely spoiled in her new home. Could I find another way to make you miserable? I wonder…
“I am unhappy my niece was nearly killed,” she snapped. Taking a breath, she managed to level out her voice. “Other than that, no, not even a little.”
“I’m not exactly happy that my entire family is dead.”
“I am,” Alsa smirked, crossing her arms in front of her.
Iasea sighed. “I didn’t come here to fight with you, truly.”
“Why did you try to kill her?” Alsabe stared at her once sister. “Kalimè did nothing to you.”
Iasea’s voice grew quiet. “And I did nothing to this House of yours. Yet I am the one who suffers.”
Alsabe scowled. “Kasuura murdered my sister’s mother. Ufnas and Shefyura helped her do it.”
“They did,” Iasea confirmed.
“Our people thought you innocent of it, so they let you go.”
“Min’da was obsessed with getting back into Mire’s graces,” she replied in surrender.
“Well, perhaps she is, as the two of them roam the netherworld together,” she muttered.
“I heard Mire died as well. But no one seems to want to tell me what happened,” she pried, hoping Alsabe would give her something of use. “To either of them.”
Alsabe smirked, “They crossed my father.” She gave the older woman nothing more.
“There’s nothing left, Alsabe,” she whispered. “Everything is gone. I lashed out, it was horrible. I am sorry for it.”
Alsabe narrowed her eyes. “…what are you saying?”
“What I did was wrong and I am sorry. This is done with.”
“You’re sorry…” she repeated dubiously.
“I am sorry for sending people after the young one,” she amended quietly.
“What did you think you were going to accomplish?”
“I don’t know! Make you hurt as much as I did?” Her ice blue eyes, searched Alsa’s pale face. It was so unlike her own pink one. “Make you understand what it feels like to have nothing and no one. Permanently?”
Alsabe face hardened. “I faced that a long time ago, Iasea. I spent my life hurting, until Kajeda took me in.”
Iasea nodded. “But you still had a place to live. Clothes, food, people who would get whatever you needed.”
“Would you rather they had killed you?”
“Since the world tree burned,” she whispered. “Very much so.” Alsabe eye twitched. “I was a fool. I let myself be bitter and horrible, just like Min’da was. And now? Now I really know what it’s like to feel alone. And with no chance of seeing our home again. I see our people hurting and I think it would be better if I did something…I don’t know, better than what I was doing?” Alsabe looked confused. It’s working. If I just keep playing on her sympathies, I’ll have her. Iasea sniffled a little. “I just wanted you to know that I am not going to harm anyone else in your family.”
Alsa watched her in silence for a long few minutes. Very quietly she asked, “Are you expecting this to simply be forgiven?”
Iasea shook her head. “No. But I am hoping that maybe I can give you something in return.”
“What could you possibly offer?”
Iasea withdrew a piece of paper from her pocket. “The names of the three men I paid.”
Alsabe frowned. “You will give them up?”
Iasea placed the parchment on the table and slid it over to her with a single finger. “If I turn them over to you, I cannot ever use them against your family again.”
“Why, Iasea, what do you hope to gain?”
“Nothing. I just want to put it all behind me.” Alsabe looked uncertain, but lifted the note from the table. “What else can I do…sister?”
Alsabe eyes flashed a darker shade of purple. “I am not your sister,” came her guttural reply.
“Not by my choice.”
“My sister is the one whose child you tried to murder.” Iasea nodded, casting her eyes to the table. “I was cast aside, you did not reach out, you never even asked if I was all right.”
“I was forbidden to do so,” she offered quietly.
Alsabe frowned. “Where is this coming from. Iasea? It’s not like we were close before,” she stated, looking at the names on the paper in her hand.
“Maybe that is the very problem. We never got close. Isn’t that what sisters are supposed to be,” she asked gently. “Maybe we missed out on something and Min’da’s cruelty dug in too deep.” Alsabe looked troubled as Iasea shifted in the ill fitted robe. Iasea looked at her hands before returning her gaze to Alsabe. “I don’t expect you will forgive me. But I hope you will trust that this is over. There will be no more threats, no more attempts on anyone.”
Alsabe rubbed her eyes. “ Iasea…” Iasea let her breath catch in her throat. Alsabe waved the note at her. “I will give them your peace offering, but…Papa does not forgive. There will be a price for what you did.”
Iasea stood and held out her hands. “You are looking at everything I have.” Alsabe looked stricken but tried to hide it. Iasea gestured to herself, “This…this is the entirety of the House of Moonwhisper. All the members, all the funding, everything.” Iasea flopped down into the chair, a tear rolling down her cheek.
Alsabe’s voice cracked slightly. “Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?”
“You feel whatever you want to feel. I am merely telling you how things stand. If there is a price to be paid, he will have to take it from me. There’s nothing else.”
“It won’t be money, Iasea. Papa takes payment in blood.”
Iasea held out her wrists. Her voice was quiet, resigned. “Then let him take it.” Alsabe recoiled, unprepared for that response. “I don’t know what else I can do or say. If I must pay for what I did, and the price if in blood, then take it.”
“It is not my place. Papa will decide what to do.”
Iasea’s eyes filled with tears, but she nodded. “I will be in the survivor’s camp on the other side of the city.”
Alsabe waved the note again. “This may buy you some measure of mercy.” She looked the other woman over. “Have you eaten?” Iasea shook her head. At that, Alsabe asked the server to bring over a small meal. The other started to argue, but Alsabe insisted.
Iasea nodded her gratitude. “Is she all right? The young one, I mean.”
“She will be, she has had a team of healers on her day and night. The Silverthorns take care of their own.”
“That is good,” she whispered.
“If she died, you understand, nothing would save you,” Alsa told her. “No power in this world.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” she countered. She nodded her thanks at the server placing the sandwich in front of her. Alsabe’s face hardened. “I don’t know what was done to her, only that she was killed.”
“Pray you never do,” Alsa answered coldly.
“Who did it?”
“That is not for me to say.” Iasea sighed, and tugged on the dress again, trying to get it to sit more comfortably. Alsabe looked Iasea over. “You keep picking at that dress.”
“It doesn’t fit right,” she replied quietly. “It’s not mine. My clothes were destroyed escaping the tree.”
“Where did you get it?”
“One of the other survivors.” She picked up the sandwich and took a bite.
“Did you steal it,” Alsa accused her.
Iasea scowled and shook her head. “No. They gave some of their clothes to the healers.” Alsabe gazed at Iasea impassively for a moment. “It’s fine. At least it’s better than the singed one I had on.”
“I shall give your message to my family,” Alsa sighed.
“Thank you Alsabe. Please, let them all know that I mean them no more harm. Nor you.”
“I can’t be sure how they will react,” she responded. “Well, except in the case of your friends,” she smirked, brandishing the note. “I hope you weren’t fond of them.”
“I will take my meal and go sit back at the camp then. I wouldn’t want to ruin any appetite you may have. Be safe, Alsabe.”
Alsabe gazed at Iasea, looking conflicted. “Where are you sleeping, Iasea?”
“At the camp. There’s some soft patches on the ground that the druids have created. I will be fine.”
Alsabe reached into a purse and pulls out a few gold pieces, setting them on the table. “Get yourself a bed, Iasea.” Iasea shook her head, turning away. “Oh for Elune’s sake don’t argue.”
“Keep your money. I don’t deserve it.” She stood and dusted the crumbs from the front of her dress. “Not after what I did.”
“I won’t miss it, just take it.”
Iasea sighed and picked up the gold. “That is exceedingly generous of you.”
Alsabe chewed her lip. “I will try to convince my father to leave you alone for now.”
“Good night, Alsabe. Go home to your family. I won’t trouble you again.”
Alsabe sighed and bowed. “Goodnight, Iasea,” she whispered. She turned and walked away as Iasea picked up the food on the table and wrapped it in a napkin. Once Alsabe was out of sight, she grinned like a cat. Go, little girl. Go off to your snug bed and think I am done with you.