Ælithil took a deep breath to steel himself. He was unsure about what he was about to attempt, but he knew he had to try. Squaring his shoulders, he stepped through the barracks door. Once inside, his eyes adjusted quickly to the relative darkness. Usually, a number of troops were billeted here, but they had been moved to a temporary camp just outside the south wall. The Patriarch had taken the space for his own use during the latest crisis.
The man himself sat a large table in the center of the room, his muscle-corded back to the door. He had no torches or candles lit, despite the fact that he was writing. Ælithil was momentarily confused, but then remembered that a Demon Hunter did not need light to see what he was doing. With a final breath, Ælithil took one more step forward and spoke.
“You need to put your dog on a leash,” he declared, with effort concealing the fear that washed over him at speaking to his Uncle in this way. As the words rang out, the pen in Forosuul’s hand ceased moving across the parchment. The smoldering crimson tattoos on his shoulders spasmed and changed shape as the muscles beneath them tensed at the interruption. Forosuul’s head swiveled around slowly, almost mechanically, to take in the sight of his nephew standing behind him.
With his special perception, Forosuul could see that the younger kal’dorei was nervous as hell. He could also see that he was was hiding it pretty well. Stifling a small smile, he simple replied, “Excuse me?”
Swallowing hard, Ælithil replied, “Eliân, your friend.”
“You mean my assassin. What about her?”
“Um, yeah, her, uh…”
Becoming slightly annoyed, Forosuul turned fully around and rose to his feet, saying, “Spit it out, boy. You come in here trying to sound like a man, then you better back it up.”
Ælithil stammered a bit more, but finally managed to gather his wits and reply, “Have you heard what happened? What she did?”
“You mean her little confrontation with that irritating void elf and the tailor?”
“Well, yes, but it’s not them I’m concerned about.”
“That’s good to hear. I am a little tired of hearing how I should treat those two.” Ælithil blinked rapidly, taken by surprise by the comment. Before he could form a reply, Forosuul went on, “I take it this is about your little girl?”
Snapped back by the dismissive wording, Ælithil scowled and retorted, “She is not a child!
“I didn’t say child, I said little. She is less than half your size, and more than twice your age. Calm down.” Ælithil’s mouth worked for a moment but no sound came out. Seeing him struggle Forosuul could no longer restrain himself and burst out laughing. After a moment to recover, he spoke through light chuckling, “Relax, Ælithil. Talk to me.”
Ælithil’s shoulders slumped and he seemed almost to deflate. He rubbed a hand over his face and said softly, “She scared Niqi to death. If she had just spoken to people the whole thing could have been avoided.”
Sighing deeply, Forosuul responded, “I won’t stand here and tell you she handled it great, Ælithil, but you need to ask yourself why the hell you sent her in the first place.”
“Niqi was in danger! I had to get her to saf…”
Forosuul held up a hand, cutting him off and saying, “I didn’t ask why you sent someone, I asked why you sent her.”
Ælithil blinked, his eyes flickering around the room before answering, “She was available. I had to act fast.”
Nodding, his Uncle replied, “You did. I won’t even say you did wrong, but you what did had risks. You assumed command of the situation, and you took a risk, right?”
“I guess so.”
Scowling, Forosuul replied in a low tone, “If you will command, you don’t guess. You must know.”
“What should I have known,” the younger man asked, confused.
“How Eli would handle the task,” Forosuul replied, looking at him like he was slightly stupid.
Stifling a laugh, Forosuul went on, “What do you even know about Eliân?”
Ælithil replied with a shrug, “Not much. She’s some old friend of yours, right?”
“That she is. My oldest friend. We served in SI:7 a few decades back.”
“So why would I know how she’d handle herself?”
His face growing dark, Forosuul replied slowly, choosing each word with care, “If you are going to start issuing orders, you better damn well know the people you’re giving them to.”
Annoyed, Ælithil retorted, “What difference does it make? If I order a retainer to do something, they just need to do it!”
Forosuul’s jaw dropped a fraction of an inch, the looks on his face completely disbelieving. He took a step forward, the muscles in his neck twitching in agitation. “I’ve got half a mind to call Silannah in here and tell her what you just said.”
Ælithil looked confused for a moment, them stammered a reply, “Would…would she not like it?”
“Let’s just say you’d be real lucky she’s not 100% healed yet.”
“She orders me around all the time!”
“And I bet she always knows exactly what you’ll do.” Ælithil’s mouth opened as if to reply, but he froze, his face twisting in hopeless consternation. Throwing his hands in the air, he walked over to a nearby stool and flopped onto it, sinking into a credible imitation of a sulking toddler. Forosuul watched the display, then folded his arms over his chest, saying, “Is that you think command is, Æltihil? Just telling people what to do?”
“What is it then,” came the sullen reply.
With a heavy sigh, Forosuul said, “I could try and explain, but words don’t capture it well. And it’s really not my place. Silannah is your Shan’do.”
Barely above a whisper, Ælithil responded, “She doesn’t have time for me any more.”
Scowling, Forosuul replied, “I doubt very much that is true. If so, she will be reminded of her responsibilities. It looks like her assessment of your progress was premature.”
“What do you mean?”
“Silannah told me some time ago she thought you no longer needed her.”
Quietly, sounding very much like the boy he still was, Ælithil asked, “Why would she say that? Is she just done with me? She doesn’t want me around?”
“I won’t speak for her. I will, however, make sure she knows that she is not done with you.”
Ælithil put his face in his hands, groaning. Muffled through his fingers, he said, “She’s going to be furious. So much for not having any broken bones.”
Chuckling lightly, Forosuul replied, “You know when she beats you, you’re supposed to stop her, right?”
Looking up incredulously, the younger man cried out, “Oh, it’s just that easy, huh? Do you have any idea how good she is?”
“I do. You’ve done it before, Æl.”
“When I got lucky, sure.” As soon as the words left him, there was a red flash, and his Uncle went from across the room to standing inches away in a blink. Without thinking, Ælithil reacted. He brought up his hands in a guard position, twisting to minimize the target he presented. He brought his left forearm up and around to ward off the clawed hand that was striking towards his chest. Forosuul’s blow landed glancingly, stoking the forearm and spinning Æltihil like a top, tumbling him to the floor. Ælithil rolled quickly away, scrambling to his feet while trying to keep his uncle in view. Forosuul, for his part, assumed a relaxed stance and crossed his arms over his tattooed chest, favoring his nephew with a small smile.
“Not bad,” he said simply.
Confused, Ælithil replied, “But your strike landed…”
“It did. But it didn’t cave in your chest.”
Pausing a moment to see if his uncle was serious, Ælithil finally asked, “Was…it going to?”
“Maybe. I guess we’ll never know.” With that Forosuul turned and went back to his seat. He took up his pen to resume his writing. Ælithil stood, ready to fight, unsure what to do. Eventually Forosuul broke the silence again, “I will speak to Silannah about your training. And while I will be speaking to Eli, she will not be fitted with a leash.” Looking over his shoulder with a grin, he added, “A hound does better when given its head, after all.” Forosuul waved towards the door, dismissing his nephew.
Ælithil fled, deciding to call it a win.