Upstairs in a private area of the Cathedral infirmary
Niqi was curled up in the corner of the room with a small blanket. She had hidden herself between the wall and a bookshelf in an attempt to have her own little space. Her hair was a tousled mess, ears turned down. She picked at the corner of the cloth, fussing over a badly stitched edge.
“Niqi?” Anas called, his footsteps swift as he hurried up the stairs. He paused at the landing, glancing around before spotting her tiny figure in the corner.
The young Ren’dorei looked up, purple eyes finding him. “Anas? They…they let you come?” Tears had streaked her face and had been allowed to dry on her cheeks.
He nodded, stepping towards her before falling to his knees. “I was… so worried… about you,” he choked out.
Niqi crawled out, curling up against him. “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed into his chest.
He hugged her tightly. “Are you hurt?”
Muffled by his embrace, she shook her head. “No. She didn’t hurt me,” she sniffled. “But Anas…you used your powers! I’m sorry! I know you don’t like to…to…” She leaned back to look at him, distressed.
He shook his head at once, sending his long ears waggling. “I thought she was trying to kidnap you. I couldn’t just stand by and let it happen.” He pulled her into him again, squeezing her small frame.
“I was so scared,” she cried out. “I thought she was going to hurt you! That’s why I told you to stop.”
He sighed. “Well, you’re safe now, thank Elune. How long will you be here?”
“I’m not certain.” She sat back, keeping herself close to him. “This whole thing is so scary. People attacked Æl’s sister. They tried to kill her.” She shuddered hard. “They said that I could be in danger because they have probably been watching Æl.”
“I saw Æl and Este on my way here. They look like they can keep you safe.” He patted her back reassuringly.
She searched the face of the Kaldorei she had grown so close to.. “But what about you? What if…what if they look for me..and you…” The worry behind her eyes darkened them further.
Anas sighed again. “Mehe wants us to leave the city,” he said reluctantly.
Niqi’s face shifted to one of shock and horror. “But…where will you go? You can’t…how will I find you?” Tears started to fill her eyes.
Anas’s heart twisted at the sight of her tearful eyes. “Don’t cry, little one,” he murmured, placing his hand atop her head. “You know I wouldn’t just vanish on you like that.”
“What about your shop? I thought we…we were going to…” her words failed her, unlike her grandfather. He would know what to say, she thought to herself. “You’re my brother now. No matter what happens,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“You mean that?” he asked softly. “You really think of me as your brother?”
The small Ren’dorei nodded. She hoped that Mehe had been truthful with her. If not, she was making a fool of herself. “You are more than my friend, dear Anas. I never had a brother before. But I imagine it feels very much like this.”
A joyful smile spread over Anas’s features. “I’ve thought of you the same way for the longest time, little one.” He gently smoothed down her unkempt hair before returning his hand to its former position atop her head, his voice becoming solemn. “With Mother Moon as my witness, I hereby take a vow to love and respect you, Niquisse Greythorn, as my own sister for as long as you’ll have me as your brother.”
She leaned back, the deep purple in her eyes fading away. “You really mean that? Truly?”
“Yes, I do.” He smiled at her.
Laughing brightly through her tears, she launched her tiny frame at him. Throwing her arms around his neck, she exclaimed, “Always! You will always be my brother!”
He chuckled, hugging her gently. “We’ll see to our shop once this business blows over.”
Releasing him from her hold, she revealed a expression of joy, surprise, and sadness, all blended into one. Despite all that, her voice was hopeful. “You promise?”
“I promise,” he said, still smiling.
She smiled happily at him. “Then you will have to find a location. Since I’m kinda stuck. Oh! And order a new work table! I won’t have my big brother hunching anymore.” She turned to grab her bag, realizing it wasn’t there. She looked under the bookshelf, and shrugged.
“I’ll have to try and talk Mehe out of leaving as well.” Anas rubbed his forehead tiredly.
The young Ren’dorei gently smoothed his long blue hair. “You need rest, Anas.”
“I doubt I’ll get any. Mehe can be incredibly stubborn sometimes, especially when someone tries to threaten me.”
“You mean Eliân?”
Anas blinked, surprised. “You know about that?”
“Well, she told me she was going to kill you. Isn’t that what you mean?” She looked confused.
He shook his head. “Mehe got into a confrontation with her. She ended up throwing daggers at the both of us.” He fingered the severed lock of hair, shivering.
Niqi reached out, placing her hand along his cheek. Her blue eyes were wide with concern. The voices in her head started whispering, but she pushed them away and focused on her brother. “Are you all right? She didn’t hurt you, did she?” She turned back toward the door for a moment, looking to see who might be listening. Finding no one, she brought her attention back to Anas.
He shook his head again. “She cut off some of my hair. Mehe was mad. He’s killed people for less.”
She gently moved her fingers down to the cut lock of hair. “Why would she do this?” Bringing her other hand up, letting it join the other. Her hands started to softly glow in shimmering violet and blue around the strands of hair.
Anas sighed. “You know Mehe and his sharp tongue. He took issue with Eli saying that we could be ‘involved’ and it just got worse from there.”
Her fingers slowly moved downwards, moving hand over hand as she passed the lock through. The cut hair grew longer as she did so. “So she accused you of having something to do with what happened to Kalimè? That’s terrible!”
He nodded distractedly. “What are you doing?” he asked, watching her glowing fingers with interest.
She smiled up at him. “Fixing my brother’s hair.”
He blinked. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
Niqi giggled as she continued her work. “Living in Silvermoon, everyone picks up a little arcane use. I can’t do a lot with it. And I am not doing it to mine right now because I made Æl a promise.”
He nodded. “Wonder if Mehe can do it,” he mused.
“He might be able to. It’s a mending spell. Different than healing. It’s more…like making repairs to the strands themselves.” She worked her way down, almost reaching the same length as the rest.
“It seems useful if you want to change your style once in awhile.” He grinned at her.
“It is!” She sighed happily as she finished her work. She released it from her fingers and tipped her head, giving it an appraising gaze. “There. All fixed. At least…the hair part.”
“Thank you, little one.” He ran his fingers through the restored strands, marvelling at her work. “I can’t even tell where she cut it.”
“It was the least I could do for all the trouble I’ve caused.” She sat back and pulled her knees to her chest. Resting her chin on them, she began to chew on the inside of her lower lip. Raking her fingers through her own hair, she left a trail of sparkles as the strands smoothed back into place.
Anas shook his head. “If you mean me using the Void, I’d do it without a thought if your safety was at stake.”
“I would do the same for you.” She smiled faintly. “You are very powerful. I had no idea.”
“You could tell?” Anas asked, his cheeks darkening with mortification.
She nodded, impressed. “It was like you were suddenly more. If that makes sense. And you held that horse at bay. And your voice!” She lifted her face as she spoke, making a gesture that indicated the booming quality that he had achieved.
“More?” he echoed confusedly before clearing his throat. “Ah yes. My, uh, voice.”
“It was like you suddenly had this commanding presence. My sweet brother became someone who should be listened to. Because refusing to do so would be very, very bad.” She placed a hand on his arm and gave him a squeeze.
“I probably would’ve done something very, very bad if she hadn’t threatened to kill you,” he admitted.
“Oh Anas!” She leaned into him. She sighed, looking around again for her bag. Soft footsteps were heard coming up the stairs. Niqi peered around Anas to see Lilybeth mounting the final step. She bowed her head slightly to the Kaldorei woman.
Anas glanced around, spotting her. “Lilybeth! How are you?”
The woman tried to smile, her face softening. “Hello, Anas.” She indicated the small room to the side where her daughter rested in a healing sleep. “I have had much better days.”
He nodded. “I’m sorry about what happened.”
“Thank you, Anas. You have always been so kind.” She turned to Niqi. “We will be leaving in the morning. Gilræn has sent for your gear. I assume you will be staying with my son while we are there?” Niqi nodded slowly, as though trying to understand. “We are gathering in a safe place until we can figure out what to do and how to safeguard everyone. Niqi…forgive me dear,” she winced at the Ren’dorei before turning back towards Anas. “She is not a good fighter. And until we know it is safe, she must remain among those who can protect her.”
He nodded. “I understand. She would be safer with everyone.”
Niqi turned purple. “I’m sorry to be a burden,” she whispered. “Is there any way I can still go to work?” She asked hopefully, but her eyes betrayed her doubts.
“Not right away. Could you work at the fortress?” Lily offered.
“I’m not sure how we could work it out with Wynne,” Anas said apologetically.
Niqi turned to Anas, her eyes wide and filled with tears. “There has to be some way I can help! I don’t want to leave you to do it all alone.”
Anas’s brow furrowed in thought. “If we had transference runestones, perhaps we could send orders back and forth?” He shrugged. “I don’t know, little one. I’m open to ideas.”
Lilybeth smiled wide. “Give me a moment.” She turned and wandered down the stairs.
Niqi looked confused. “I don’t know what it was you just suggested, but I think Lady Lilybeth got an idea.”
“They’re enchanted stones that come in pairs,” Anas explained. “You put something on one of them and it’ll be sent to its pair.”
“So I could still help?”
He nodded. “Almost like you were right there beside me.” He rubbed his forehead again. “Though I don’t know where we could find a pair like that. They’re really expensive to come by.”
Lily’s soft voice comes from behind him. “You ask a mage who doesn’t mind making them.” The woman set a small basket beside him and settled onto the floor. Carefully, she selected a couple of reasonably flat stones from within. Lily placed them on the floor and raised her left hand. It glowed violet as a rune appeared on the first stone. She held her hand above it for a moment as the image turned twice before bringing her hand down with an audible thud. She repeated the process with the other.
Anas watched, fascinated. “Where did you learn it?” he asked.
“Oh, let’s see… my preferred method is from a book titled ‘Migration of Solids’ written about 2 thousand years ago by a stuffy old Quel’dorei.” She picked up a smaller stone and tested the two runestones out. Once satisfied, she turned them over and began the process again. But this time, a small circle of runes appeared.
“What are those for?” he asked, pointing at the runes.
Lily grinned. “A little something I stumbled on by accident recently. Put your thumbs in the center please,” she instructed.
Anas carefully did as he was bid. “What happens now?” Niqi did the same, watching carefully.
Lily smiled. She brought her hands down over theirs and a flash of purple filled the air. “You can remove them now.” She picked them up and inspected each carefully. “Something special for you both. If you want to speak with one another, place your thumb on the print there and say the other’s name. You’ll be able to hear each other speak.”
“Really?” Anas peered at the stones, intrigued. “Even if we’re really far away?”
“Even if,” she smiled wearily. Gathering up her things, she wandered into Kalimè’s room and closed the door. Niqi sat there, dumbfounded.
Anas picked one of the stones up to examine it. “How amazing,” he murmured. “Well, these would make our work a lot easier, little one. It’d be like you were right there in the shop with me.”
“Not quite as good as being right there with you. But close!” She looked at the stone in her hand then held it to her chest. “At least I know you won’t have to it all alone.”
“I’m glad.” Anas pocketed his stone. “I’ll explain it to Wynne.”
He glanced at her askance. “Yes, little one?”
He smiled at her. “No. Thank you, Niqi. For everything you’ve done.”
She blushed. “I haven’t even done anything!”
He chuckled. “Of course you have! You stood up for me, gave Mehe and myself food, let me design your wedding dress, helped share the workload…” He grinned. “Need I go on?”
Niqi practically turned black, she blushed so hard. “I just wanted to help,” she replied softly.
“And you did, so very much.” He smiled at her.
“You made me feel like I belonged. Before I even met my family, you helped me find my feet here. I can never repay that,” she whispered. “And what you did today…”
“It was the least I could do for you.” He patted her shoulder. “Well, I suppose I should get back to Mehe and talk to him. Get him to reconsider leaving Stormwind.”
Niqi nodded. She scrambled to her feet, straightening her blouse. “Tell him I am sorry? Please?”
He nodded, rising as well. “I will, little one. Promise me you’ll look after yourself, okay?”
“Only If you promise the same,” she countered with a smile. “I love you, Anas.”
“I promise.” He bent to kiss her forehead. “I love you too, Niqi.”
She wrapped her arms about his waist. “Al diel shala, Anas.”
“Elune be with you, little one.” He straightened. “I’ll be in touch with you through the runestone.”
“Remember to stretch,” she instructed, fussing over the folds in his cloth belt. “And eat. And…” She tried to hold back her tears. “I will send word when we are at the fortress.”’
“I will.” He squeezed her shoulders gently. “Chin up, little one. This will all be over soon.”
“Thanks, Anas.” She gave him one last squeeze before stepping back to allow him to leave.
He nodded before turning to leave. “I love you, my brother,” she whispered to his back.
His ears twitched at her words. He turned around and swept her up into a warm hug. “I love you too, little one,” he said, smiling at her.
She giggled at the hug. “I’m going to miss you so much. But you better go or Mehe is going to think we did something to you.”
“Yes, of course.” He set her down carefully. “Be safe, Niqi. I’ll miss you too.” With a final wave of farewell, he descended the stairs, vanishing from sight. Niqi picked up the blanket and went back to her corner. She curled up against the wall wishing things could go back to normal.