“Mishun… child… I would bet my own life that you are my granddaughter.”
The sound of his words rang in her ears. She only half felt the cup slipping from her fingers as the juice started cascading out onto her lap. She fumbled, trying to stop the spill, though she was mostly unsuccessful. Finally managing it, she righted the vessel and looked up at him, her eyes wide.
Kalithil winced, embarrassed at saying it so abruptly. “I am sorry,” he offered.
The look of shock on her face was unmistakable. “That…you…you are not saying this to confuse me, are you?” She watched him as he shook his head. Her hands seemed to move in slow motion as she set the cup back on the table.
“My son is Ælithil Silverthorn. Chronologically he is four years old, but appears much older. For much the same reason you do.” He sighed, his eyes viewing her in a different way than before. “And not too many years ago, he spent a lot of time in taverns. He was…um…working through some issues.” Mishun reached over to him suddenly and grabbed his hand. She lifted it up and laid her forehead against the back of it. He blinked a couple of times, “Um…”
She released his hand, smiling meekly. “Forgive me. I must show you the proper reverence.” Her hand came back down to settle neatly in her lap again. She found the wet spot and pulled back, setting her hands on the table instead.
One long, silver eyebrow shot up, a half smile appearing on the ancient face. “Proper reverence for what?”
“If you are indeed my grandfather, it is your due,” she explained.
“Ah,” Kalithil nodded. “Well…that is not necessary.”
“As you wish.” Mishun’s eyes slowly returned to their normal size, though her voice remained softer than it had been previously. “But, please, he skipped through time like I did?”
His hands came up, spreading apart for a moment before coming back together, meeting at all the fingertips. “He did,” he replied. “However, his skips were short-term. His subjective age is 27.”
“This is…a family trait? Something that will end?” Her unusually long ears tipped upwards, curious and hopeful.
The elf shook his head, old frustrations showing on his face. “It is the result of an accident my wife had while pregnant.”
“I see.” Her ears drooped, disappointed.
He held up a hand, looking at her in a way that he hoped was comforting. “A couple of years ago,” he continued, “I was able to stabilize Ælithil and his twin sister.”
“You can stop this then? I can be normal?”
He nodded. “I believe so. It may take a little work, your physiology is different and I don’t know if that will change anything.”
Her whole body straightened as if an enormous weight had been lifted from her. Even the glow of her eyes seemed brighter. “Oh thank the Light!”
“My wife and I… your grandmother, worked hard to stop the skips.”
“I have a grandmother also? The accident didn’t take her?”
He smiled gently as he nodded. His hands came down onto the rough wooden table, sweeping away some stray crumbs. “And an aunt,” he chuckled. “And an uncle, now that I think of it. And a number of other family members.”
The candle on the table flickered a little, dancing on the wick. The light caught her features shifting them in different ways. “I’ve never had a grandparent,” she murmured. She sat there, still, by all appearances, she was slightly in shock.
Kalithil reached across to her tentatively and traced his hand along her face. “Well… you do now,” he offered. Mishun searched his face, wondering why. His fingers traced the slope of her nose, over to her cheek, and down the side. He held his fingers below her face, his thumb gently stroking her chin. “I see it there,” he whispered. “Buried deep down, that line of the jaw…”
“And myself,” he smirked. “Ælithil favors me rather strongly.”
She smiled wide as she turned and waved a server over. Ordering a new drink, she took a bite of her food. “I should very much like to meet him. Will you take me?”
“Of course,” he replied, picking up a bit of fruit. He seemed to mull over it for a minute before continuing. “I am…unsure if he is in the city at the moment, however.”
Her shoulders slumped a little. “Yes. Of Course. It’s all so sudden.” She picked at a splinter of wood on the edge of the table, trying to hide her disappointment. “I expected to have far more failures at finding him.”
Kalithil glanced over his shoulder a moment. The gem in his staff shifted its glow almost imperceptibly. “A highly favorable coincidence, it seems,” he mused.
Mishun cocked her head. “What is it?”
“Hmm?” He placed the berry into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “Oh, nothing.”
“You seemed to be looking at something just now.”
“Just an idle thought,” he waved it off. Shifting his position, he leaned in with an excited expression on his face. “So! Tell me about yourself.”
She chuckled, brightening. “Well, let’s see. I like working with animals,” she offered. The server brought the new juice over, which Kalithil insisted on paying for. “Thank you. I ahh… I am a hunter, though I prefer to fight with a spear rather than a bow.”
“What of your mother?” The question came lightly, as one would ask over an old friend. He continued to eat while waiting on her answer. The candle began to gutter, causing him to reach over and wave a hand across it. The candle lengthened slightly and calmed. When he looked back at the girl, he found her features much saddened.
She watched him work his effortless magic, though it brought her little comfort in that moment. “Gone. She passed last month,” she answered dully.
Kalithil frowned. “I am sorry.” Damn, that was not what I was aiming for. He banished the thought, offering her a sympathetic smile. She inclined her head in appreciation. “I would like to have met her.”
“She was a good woman,” Mishun offered. “Kind, most called her a little sassy. She was quick with a laugh and did not hold a grudge.”
Kalithil smiled before his face shifted suddenly, expressing a good deal of concern. “You… ah, this is going to sound strange. I am not sure how to ask the question. Do you… remember the life you lived? The one within the skips?”
“Ahh,” she smiled slightly. “Some? They are a bit disjointed. When I would skip locations, or as it turned out, time, things would be slightly different. For a time, I was able to cast spells. But after my tenth? No…eleventh skip, that went away.”
“But…you only remember one life?”
“Only the one, with odd changes here and there.” She watched his face shift into one of relief. “Why do you ask?”
The man sat chewing on his lip for a moment. “Your father, his experience was…different.” He furrowed his brow and she could sense that it was something that pained him in a number of ways. “He experienced multiple overlapping possibilities.”
She gasped, not expecting to hear such a thing. “That sounds terrifying!”
Kalithil nodded, “It caused him great distress. Those issues I mentioned,” he trailed off.
“The ones he was working through when he and my mother met,” she offered.
“Yes. He spent a lot of time getting drunk and whori…” he winced, hard. “I am sorry.”
Mishun sighed, chuckling a little. “I understood what you meant. Mother was not a whore. She only did it for the thrill of it. Not to sell herself. But it is a common phrase for the…lifestyle.” She offered him a genuine smile, and it showed him a little piece of how she had been raised.
“I did not mean to suggest anything about your mother. My judgement was reserved for my son.”
“You do not approve of him.” It was not a question, and yet, she seemed more disappointed than angry.
A heavy sigh escaped his lips. “I do now. At the time? Well, it was difficult for everyone.” He rubbed his face with both hands before lifting his ale. “He remembers a childhood, many of them in fact, that I do not.”
She nodded. “My mother would say, We lost some time, Mishun. Let us find it again.”
Kalithil’s lips turned downward. “Your mother was wiser than I.”
“You did not handle it so well?”
“I lost time to the accident,” he shrugged. “Then lost more trying to fix it.”
“But you fixed it, yes?” Her hand crossed the span between them, resting on his forearm. “So, now you can find it.”
He smiled faintly. “We’re working on it.”
“Good,” she replied, giving his arm a pat. “I would not wish to be at odds with my grandfather when he is the very first one I have ever had.” Kalithil smiled at her wanly. “What about you, grandfather? What will you tell me of yourself?”
He scratched his chin before smoothing his beard back out with his whole hand. “That is a very long story, young one.”
“That’s it,” she asked incredulously. “Not even, I like snakes or…to dance under the stars?”
Kalithil barked out a laugh which she met with a smile. “Very well. I am a sorcerer, rather well-learned, if I do say so myself.”
“See? That wasn’t so long.”
“If I am being honest, I would have to admit I give myself very little time for frivolities like dancing under the stars. Almost my entire life has been given to understanding the arcane.”
She pulled a face at him, shaking her head disapprovingly. “Now Grandfather. That will not do. You must find some time for thins that bring you nothing but joy.”
“Who says it doesn’t” he asked with a cheshire grin.
“Ah, but it also brings you more things to study,” she countered. “More work.” She winked at him playfully.
“Which is how I like it,” came his retort. “I’ve been at it a very, very long time.”
Sensing that she would not win this debate, she changed tack. “What is my grandmother’s name? May I meet her as well?”
“Lilybeth,” he replied happily. “And your aunt’s name is Kalimè.”
“Pretty names,” she smiled. “So I suppose I have you to thank for my…glowing colors.” She held up a lock of her shimmering silver-white hair. “Because mother said that my father was like this. And so are you. Mother was such a pretty shade of deep blue.”
“All of us are like this,” he replied, grinning from one long ear to the other.
“Mother told me it’s a roll of the dice, who you will look like…wait. All of you?” She seemed stunned by the information. He sat there grinning and nodded. “How perfectly strange,” she murmured.
“It is not precisely natural.”
“My understanding of family is that many traits can be passed on, but there are always variances.”
He nodded, the smile on his face refusing to retreat. “Someone did it a very, very long time ago.”
“So it is not done on an individual basis,” she asked, trying to puzzle through it. He shook his head. “Interesting.”
“It effects the entire bloodline,” he explained. “Though I am somewhat surprised it carried over to you.”
“Oh? Why?” she inquired. “Even within normal couples, a child would take on aspects of both parents.”
“Well, to my knowledge, none of us has previously had a child with anyone other than a Kal’dorei. So I had no way of knowing if the coloration would pass.”
“Well, it is a small sample pool, but,” she gestured at herself. “It seems to carry.” Kalithil chuckled at her. She sat back in her chair, gazing at him thoughtfully. She put a bite of food in her moth and chewed slowly, her look never faltering from him.
He smiled faintly. “Well. I know that look. What is on your mind?”
“You choose your words carefully,” she replied softly.
“I do,” he confirmed. “When you’ve been around as long as I have, you have to.”
“You are hoping I would notice something though,” she said. He arched a long eyebrow, gesturing for her to continue. “I am thinking that you are the very, very old man who did things a very, very long time ago. And have been studying the Arcane for a Very. Very. Long Time.”
He smiled wide. “You’re clever. Runs in the family,” he winked.
“You did make it fairly obvious, but I had too many questions to ask all at once.”
He chuckled before sighing, looking wistful for a moment. “I used to hide it. Hid my face, used false names, that sort of thing.”
“Why would you do this?”
“I wanted to be left alone,” he said flatly.
“Then should I…” she indicated the door. She started to push her chair back, the legs scraping along the floor.
His hand came down on her arm as he chuckled. “Past tense, child. Stay.”
She tipped her head to one side. “Something changed,” she surmised.
The right side of his mouth crept up into a half smile. “No, child. Everything changed.”
She smirked. “I know that look. Someone changed you.”
Kalithil grinned, proud of her. “There’s more to it than that. It was some several people, but one person did more than others.”
Mishun regarded him a little. “Not your wife though,” she guessed.
“Lily was…the final straw.”
Mishun chuckled. “Someone else tipped the scales in that direction, before you met her, yes?”
“I suppose it started with one of my daughters,” he offered with a nod.
“You have more than one,”she asked excitedly. “The I have two aunts!” She wiggled in her chair happily before noticing his face had tightened. “Oh…” She lowered her head.
“No, ah…this one is gone. Her son, however, survived. So you do have a cousin,” he explained, inclining his head in return. “He is head of the House, in fact.”
“I had hoped to find my father. To find out what had happened to me.” Her eyes shone brightly. “To discover I have this giant family is incredible.”
He scratched his chin, looking thoughtful. “Are you familiar with Kal’dorei society?” She shook her head in answer. “Hmm… I really don’t feel like explaining all right now. I will have Lily give you some things to read.”
She shifted in her chair uncomfortably. “These would be…are they in Common? I cannot read Elvish scripts.”
“We have a translation, I am sure,” he reassured her. “It will help you understand your family.” She smiled at him as his face shifted into an odd expression. “What is your opinion of demon hunters. And shadow magic practitioners, now that I think of it?”
Mishun finished her meal silently and placed the utensils perfectly parallel to one another across the plate. Her brow furrowed. “That is a complicated question.”
“Do you have a complicated answer?”
“I will attempt to make it simple.” She lifted her cup and took a long sip as she gathered her thoughts. She set it down and laced her fingers together, placing her hands down on the table. “Demon hunters were most helpful in the recent war against the Legion. I find their method distasteful, though some that I met were reasonable people.” He nodded as he listened. “Shadow magic practitioners? I have not encountered many. It is a balance to the Light, not inherently evil as many believe. Though it opens them to the Void which is quite dangerous for not only themselves, but those around them. So I would worry.”
“All right, fair enough,” he conceded. “And quite reasonable.”
“I suppose it would be a question of learning about them and whether they are capable of handling the pull of that magic.”
Kalithil nodded. “Just so you are aware, our House is nontraditional in many ways. And very…ah…open minded.” He took another swig of his ale. “Your cousin I mentioned? The head of the House?”
“He is a demon hunter,” he said simply.
She looked very confused. “That does not make sense. I thought that they had to have lost everything. To have no connections to become one.”
“He thought he had,” he explained. “He was unaware of his lineage until just after the Legion invasion. Lily will give you books outlining our family history as well.”
She blinked a few times. “You have books on all of this?”
“We have books on everything,” he smiled.
“Incredible,” came her whisper.
“Well, someone may have started a treasury of books and artifacts of both our people and our family a very, very long time ago.” He winked at her. She laughed brightly before chewing on her lip, thinking quietly to herself. Kalithil’s brow furrowed. “What is it?”
“I have spent so much of my life trying to disguise some of my features,” she revealed. “It is strange to discover that I am welcome, despite not being normal.”
Kalithil chuckled. “None of us are especially nor…” he started as she lifted up her bangs, exposing her completely smooth forehead. His eyebrows shot straight up. “Fascinating,” he murmured.
“There are a few things that made me,’ she cleared her throat. “Stand out.”
“I see the ears,” he stated, gesturing at them. “A bit small for my taste,” he joked with a wink. She blinked, not sure how to react to that. “And your horns are finer.” He reached over and patted the back of her hand a moment. “Have you been ill treated over these?”
“Those, the crest being missing and…I have to paint my hooves.” She moved her leg out from under the table, showing the smooth black hoof at the end of it.
“Paint them,” he asked, blinking in confusion.
“They are white,” she told him. She tucked her leg back under, crossing it gracefully over the other. “Draenei hooves are not white.”
“Oh..you can blame me for that, I suppose.”
“As you said, different physiology.” Mishun laughed lightly. “You wouldn’t have planned for it. And,” she sighed heavily. “To answer your question, I would not say I was mistreated per-say.”
“That is good to hear.”
“But the sideways glances, the whispers, it was simpler to do what I could to minimize the differences.” She covered her ears with her hair and fixed her bangs, leaving only the small horns to draw attention to her mixed lineage.
Kalithil nodded sadly. “I understand. I am sorry it was difficult for you.”
She shrugged. “Life is never easy. For anyone.”
He smiled knowingly. “So. Tell me about your time skips. How many have you had?” His tone shifted towards a more focused, serious one. Small talk was over, time to work.
“Twenty-six so far.”
“When was the last?”
“One month and three weeks ago.”
He sighed, “How great was the jump?”
“Four years this time,” she replied quietly.
Sensing the shift in her, he asked his next question very gently. “Did your mother pass during the skip?” She nodded, saying nothing. He closed his eyes. “I am sorry, Mishun.”
“I thank you,” she whispered.
“A bigger question, how long was it between the last one and the one before?”
“About two months. Just a moment, let me check the dates.” She pulled her bag out from beneath her chair and opened it. Sifting through it, she came back out with a very worn journal. Kalithil’s eyebrow crept upward. She untied the string wrapped about it and turned the pages. Landing on one about a third of the way through, she scanned it carefully. “Yes, two months minus three days.”
“Do you know how long between them on average?”
“They have been speeding up at a rate of 2 days per cycle. The next one will be here on…” She tapped the date written on the page below the other notes and turned the book to him to see.
He read it over the page. “I commend you on your record-keeping.” He sighed. “We have less than three days.”
She nodded in gratitude. “I began keeping track so I would be able to prepare myself for its arrival.”
“Wise. Is there any pattern to the amount of time skipped?”
“That I cannot figure out,” she complained. “Perhaps someone with a better mind than my own?”
Kalithil skimmed over the notes. “It seems fairly random, but Lily could probably discern something.”
“It would be nice to know in advance,” she agreed.
He looked up at her, almost appearing to be a mixture of amused and serious. “You won’t need to know in advance. You are not having another one.”
“But,” she asked, confused. “I thought you said it would take some experimenting?”
“Which I have just under three days to do.”
“I thought we may have two or three to deal with…”
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” he smirked. “And I always have my say, child.”
She smiled gratefully. “It would be very nice to get to know everyone only the one time.”
“Do you have any personal belongings you need to gather?” He pushed his chair back and stood, fixing the cuffs of his sleeves.
The Draenei woman blinked at him, standing out of courtesy. “Gather? Am I going somewhere?”
“Yes, you are coming with me.” He headed towards the steps and started down.
“I…where?” She picked up her bag and scrambled to follow behind him. The click of her hooves was a sharp contrast to the whisper of the cloth boots her grandfather wore.
“To my home, if I can manage it,” he explained as they reached the bottom of the stairs. He held out his arm once again. “If not, I have a back up plan.”
She took it as they crossed the tavern floor, heading towards the door out. “All right. I have to pick up my hunting gear at my room in the inn. I don’t generally walk around town with a spear on my back.”
He stopped just inside the door, smiling sardonically. “Very well. I will meet you back here, but out front, in fifteen minutes.” She nodded and started to turn for the door when he began to speak again. “Hurry now. No time to lose.” She bowed before him. “Somewhat ironically, I know.” He bowed to her in return. The two chuckled and headed out the door.
As Mishun hurried towards the inn, Kalithil pulled a runed stone from his pocket. Placing his thumb in the center, he took a deep breath. “Lily?”
“Yes, my love?” Her voice came through, clear as always.
“Something is happening that you will not believe.”