Tension and Release, Part 4

She chuckled lightly at the sensation. “They tingle.” Once on level ground, she steadied a bit. “You can check on Anas this way as well. Whew…I don’t know how Sutrakarre does this. He won’t eat at all. Says the fasting helps.”

“Hmm.” Mehe glanced at his tendrils. “If you’re feeling steady enough, I’ll let go.”

“I think I am. Those are very handy.” She turned to the right and started towards the Mage Quarter. “Thank you for helping me.”

“You’re welcome.” His tendrils slipped free of her arm. “I admit I still forget about them a lot.”

“Still a new thing for you I would imagine. Do you have any control over them?” She asked, genuinely curious.

He nodded. “When I focus, yes.”

“And they react to your emotions. Interesting.” She turned towards the tunnel, holding out a hand to steady herself along the wall.

“Among other things,” he said. His tendrils reached out again to help steady her.

“Elune…” she whispered. “I didn’t think I was this weak.”

Mehe stepped closer, wrapping his arm around her waist to help her. “It’s okay. We’re almost there.”

She offered him a weary smile. “I have never had to deal with so many injuries before. What they did… killing her would have been much faster. They meant to be cruel.” She forced herself to keep moving.

Mehe’s tendrils curled around her shoulders and wrist as he walked slowly, bracing her as best as he could. “I’m sorry. Why did they go after her?”

“You remember I said that Eliân let someone live, believing she was innocent?”

He nodded. His eyes glanced around watchfully, scanning the passers by.

She lowered her voice, “Her House was responsible for the torture and subsequent murder of Lilybeth’s mother. The Matriarch of the House was my adoptive daughter’s birth mother. She pimped out my daughter for political favors. When Lilybeth’s mother was killed, Forosuul ordered everyone involved eliminated.”

He pondered this. “Which means someone was spared by your… assassin.

She nodded. “She went through, on very limited time and got the people out who had no apparent ties to the events. She couldn’t find any connection to Iasea. So she drugged her and stuck her on a boat to Pandaria. And then killed everyone else, save the Matriarch. Forosuul took care of her.”

“So this Iasea is behind the attack.” Mehe glanced up at her grimly. “Are you certain it’s still safe for Anas to be in the shop?”

“She is after the family. She has targeted Alsabe, her once sister. The note that was tied to Kalimè’s hand said ‘You will learn what it feels like.’ I do not think the Anas is in any real danger.” She paused a moment as her feet found the grass. “Niqi would have been a target to get to Ælithil.”

He nodded. “Is it safe for you to be out here then?”

“Probably not. But the family needs to eat. Someone had to go. The others are standing guard over the ones who cannot fight. Like Niqi and Kali. Anyone trying to enter will pay dearly if they do not have word from a family member. It’s why I gave Anas the feather.”

“Right.” He glanced at the door to the tavern. “We’re almost there.”

“Oh thank Elune.” She stumbled up the ramp, nodding to one of the tables close by. “I need to sit down.”

He helped her into a chair. “I’ll get your tea,” he said, his tendrils uncurling from her. She nodded dully and put her head down on the table. Mehe stepped inside briskly, calling for the server. Tindomiel fumbled into a pocket and retrieved a small piece of paper with a list of food items. She put it down on the table along with a handful of coins. He emerged moments later, the server behind him. “You want anything to eat?” the Ren’dorei asked.

“Just get this stuff… for the family…” she mumbled. “I’m fine.”

Mehe picked the list up, glancing over it briefly before handing it along with the coins to the server. “A cup of white tea and a few muffins for the lady as well,” he said.

Tindo lifted her head up, frowning. “I didn’t ask for muffins.” She sighed. “I just needed some tea to wake me up.”

He shook his head. “Muffins,” he repeated firmly. “Three of them.” The server nodded before returning inside.

“Mehe…” She pursed her lips. “That is not necessary.”

He sat down. “I’m not about to let you bloody fall over here if I can help it.”

“From that tone, I am going to assume this is not up for debate.” She chuckled a little.

“It isn’t.” He leaned back. “I was harsh with you earlier. I’m sorry.”

Tindo smiled gently. “It was a stressful situation. The fact that you see it, makes all the difference. Apology accepted, Mehe.” He nodded, his tendrils curling idly over his arm. She leaned against the stone wall, letting the chair and the building support her. “Anas seemed to be in good spirits when he came out. I hope that means everything went well.”

“I’d assume so. He looked better than when he went in, at least.”

“Good,” she sighed. “I admit, I am glad Anas came with you. I am not sure I could have handled much more of Niquisse’s fear. It’s part of why I was glad to go get the food.”

“Anas was really worried about her,” he said. “I’ve never seen him use his powers within Stormwind.”

Her eyes went wide. “He used his powers?”

He nodded. “He doesn’t do it very often.”

“To stop Eliân?” She seemed surprised.

“Yes.” Mehe peered at her solemnly.

“He really cares about Niquisse, doesn’t he?”

“He does.” He smiled. “He thinks of her as a little sister.”

“She called him her brother. I’d never heard her say that before. But when she was crying, she kept saying she wanted her brother. It took us a little while to realize who she meant.”

“Hmm. Seems it was mutual then.” He glanced up as the server arrived with a tray laden with food. She set it down before looking expectantly at Mehe. The Ren’dorei man fished out a few silver and copper coins, handing it to her. “Thank you.” Turning back, he pushed the cup of tea and the plate of muffins towards Tindo. “Help yourself.”

Tindo picked up the tea cup and breathed in the aroma. She closed her eyes as she took a sip. “Hmmmmm,” was the only thing heard as she wrapped both hands around the beverage.

Mehe watched her reaction without comment. “How long has it been since you last ate?” he asked instead.

“I have no idea,” she answered sleepily. “I haven’t even thought about it.”

“Hmm. Well, eat up.” He waved at the muffins.

She chuckled a little. “You’re not going to let up, are you?” She selected what appeared to be a berry muffin and broke off a piece, popping it into her mouth.

“Not until you get some food in you.” He glanced around at the other patrons, scanning them carefully.

“What are you looking for?” she asked before taking another bite.

“I like being aware of my surroundings,“ he said evenly.

“You do it all the time. Almost like you are expecting something to happen.” She took a few more bites of the muffin. She picked up another and tore off a piece.

He shrugged. “Can’t hurt to be prepared.”

“Hmmm.” She picked up her tea and took another long sip.

“How’s the tea?” he asked.

“It’s quite good. Would you like to try it?” She held the cup out to him with a smile.

He shook his head. “All for you,” he said. He tried to raise his hand, only to blink at the tendrils curling over his arm. He loosened them before flicking one of them over his shoulder.

Tindomiel laughed for the first time in days. She bit down on it and flushed. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me.”

Mehe peered at her askance. “What’s so funny?”

“I’m sorry. The look on your face when you were tangled up… forgive me, Mehe. It seems that I am incapable of maintaining some decorum.” She stifled a giggle before taking another sip.

“Hmm.” He glanced at the food in the paper bags. “Can you carry all that back?”

“Only one way to figure it out,” she shrugged.

“I’ll help you if you like,” he offered.

“That is very nice of you. Thank you.” She sat up and pushed her chair back. Taking a final sip of tea, she stood slowly.

“Ready to go back?” He stood as well.

“I have to. I have a whole infirmary suite full of people to look after.” She took a deep breath before gathering up several of the bags.

Mehe helped gather the rest. He carefully picked up a few with his tendrils as well. “Let’s go.”

Looking over, she tried unsuccessfully not to giggle. “You are making me think I need some of those…. oh… wait.” She closed her eyes for a moment and four thin tendrils sprouted from the backs of her shoulders. She  let them reach out and each take a bag.

He offered her a small smile. “Convenient.”

“Hey, I can adapt.” She chuckled a little. “Thank you, Mehe.”

“You’re welcome.” He nodded towards the path. “Shall we?”

“Yes.” She started along. “Mehe, can we talk about Sutrakarre?”

Keeping pace with her, he arched an eyebrow. “What about that malanore?”

“I know he stepped in at a bad moment. But I can tell you that that man cares about one thing. Helping people. Everyone he can. If he stepped in, it’s because he thought something worse was going to happen.” She tried to keep her tone gentle and reassuring.

“Hmm.” Mehe pursed his lips. “He’s bloody deluded though.”

“He’s actually a good counselor and someone I trust to care for my family. He misread you in the heat of the moment. But he also made sure that no one was hurt.” She offered her words carefully, trying to keep things calm.

Mehe’s eyes flashed. “By letting that woman throw a dagger at Anas and get away with it?”

“Were either of you hurt?”

“She could’ve hurt him. Wasn’t that the point of her little demonstration?”

“Yes. And she was showing you that she was choosing not to. And Sutrakarre knows her well enough to know that she wouldn’t.” She sighed. “You and Eliân were at the point of pushing each other to a bad place. He stopped it. He kept everyone safe.”

“Hmm.” Noticing a passing rabbit, he stepped carefully out of its path.

She smiled at the movement, noting his kindness that showed in little ways. “I am just saying, please do not judge him poorly for a difficult situation.”

“Look, Tindo. He can do or say whatever the hell he wants. I really don’t care as long as Anas comes to no harm,” he said. One of his tendrils carefully adjusted its hold on the paper bag in its grasp.

“Fair enough. I just don’t want there to be bad feelings in the future.”

He shrugged, glancing around idly. “I won’t unless he does something that warrants it. Though I’m surprised he lasted this long in the Army of the Light with his damn ’trust people you’ve never met before’ shtick. Bloody hell, I’m surprised he’s even alive at all.”

“Sometimes, my friend, it is the right choice,” she encouraged lightly.

He threw her an incredulous look. “It makes no sense.”

She chuckled. “You’re right. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Sometimes we find friends in unexpected places.” She frowned as they reached the tunnel, her bare feet finding stone again.

“Something bothering you?” he asked, noticing her frown.

“Setting foot on the stones means leaving the grass. That probably sounds silly.” She shook her head. The motion made her stumble and she reached out to grab the wall.

In a smooth motion, Mehe’s tendril dropped the paper bag atop the rest in his arms before whipping out, latching onto her arm.

“I’m all right…I’m all right.” She closed her eyes and stopped. “Shaking my head made me a little dizzy. I’m ok now. Thank you.”

“You need to get some rest,” he said, his brow furrowing.

“I will, as soon as we are safe at the fortress. Tomorrow, mostly likely.”

He nodded though his expression remained unconvinced.

“I can’t right now. Not until my niece has been moved and the family is secure.” She looked at him. “Would you do any less for Anas?”

“I’d be of no use exhausted and unable to defend him,” he pointed out.

At that, she seemed to crumble a bit. “I don’t… it feels wrong. It’s not right, that I should rest when others need me.”

“Think of it this way. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll collapse. Then they’ll have to look after you as well as your niece,” he said seriously. “It’s better for you and them if you take care of yourself.”

“I will consider it.” She straightened herself and gestured to continue. “It won’t be much longer before we all leave.”

He nodded, his tendril releasing her arm. The sinuous limb retrieved the paper bag it had been holding before he continued on towards the Cathedral.

She moved beside him, sighing. “You are a good man, Mehe. Even if you don’t let people see it all the time.”

“Hmm,” came the reply.

“Why are you so indifferent to that?”

“Good, bad. It’s all relative.” He shrugged.

“I suppose it is.” She smiled slightly. “What do you consider Anas to be?”

“Oh, definitely a good man,” he said with a smile.

“And why do you consider him a good man, but not yourself?”

“I’m not him,” he said simply.

“No. You aren’t. But do you think Anas is a bad judge of character?” she asked softly, prodding a little without pushing too hard.

“He trusts very easily. Sometimes to his detriment.”

“I would say that we are all guilty of that. But it doesn’t change our nature.”

“Perhaps,” he allowed. “Which is why I’m there to watch his back.”

“So if you are there, to protect a good man, does it not follow that you are also a good man?”

He chuckled. “Perhaps,” he repeated noncommittally. “It doesn’t matter how anyone chooses to see me.”

“You are a curious one, Mehe. But I like you.” He raised an eyebrow at that but made no comment. Walking slowly, the tendrils sprouting from her back twisted around. Their length seemed to shift several times, almost imperceptible at first. “I am very sorry you got dragged into this mess, Mehe. Here I thought things were peaceful and I could simply make a friend.”

“It’s not your fault,” he said, watching her tendrils.

As they left the tunnel and entered the Cathedral district, one of the tendrils started to flicker out, the bag slipping from its grip. She managed to catch it with her arm with a heavy sigh. “Well, I had enough energy to do that for a little while.”

“Try not to strain yourself too much,” he said, concern in his pale blue eyes.

“We are almost there. I will find a place to sit for a while. I know Niquisse was curled up in a corner for a while. Maybe I can do the same.”  She tipped her head to the side. “Mehe? Don’t worry too much. I’ll be all right.”

He nodded again before glancing up at the Cathedral. “I’d help you carry these inside, but I don’t think your family would appreciate it.”

“Unfortunately, not right now. But if we can figure out a way to smooth things out, I would love it.” She adjusted the bags she had into one arm and reached out for the rest.

He held them out to her one at a time. “Can you manage?”

She offered him a gentle smile. “I think so.” She arranged them as best she could, until everything was settled. “Thank you, Mehe. For all of your help today. And for trying to look after our Niquisse.”

He nodded. “I’ll take my leave. Shorel’aran, Tindo. Be safe.”

She inclined her head to him. “Elune be with you, Mehe. Please give Anas my love.” She took a breath before beginning to climb the long steps to the Cathedral door. He watched her for a moment before turning and heading back towards the Mage Quarter.