Niquisse sat nervously in the inn. Ælithil had sprung the idea on her, and she couldn’t refuse him. She couldn’t refuse him much of anything if she were being honest. She smoothed out her hair for the hundredth time. She found the staff to be polite and attentive. The setting was rustic, but very refined. She thought about Kalithil. He had been dressed in regal armor that night they spoke. He obviously had excellent taste.
Her ears twitched as she picked up on Ælithil’s voice outside. Another voice could be heard, cheerful and laughing, as they approached. Niquisse stood and fluffed out her skirt. Taking a long steadying breath, she waited for the door to open.
The latch lifted slowly and the door swung inward. The tall Kaldorei male stepped inside, a smile on his pale face. She was surprised to see his hair had been straightened up a bit. He tended toward bed head most of the time. He turned back to the door and held his hand out. A pale blue hand clasped his and a lovely Kaldorei woman joined them. Soft waves of azure hair fell past her waist, draping her shoulders and framing her joyful face. She wore a gown of blue and lavender embroidered in shimmering silver. Niquisse blinked in surprise. The woman looked nothing like the other members of the House. Pretty, to be certain, but without the ethereal quality of the Silverthorns. She stepped forward and fell into a deep curtsey. She remained that way, waiting.
Lilybeth giggled as she bowed in turn. “Welcome! My name is Lilybeth Silverthorn. My son here tells me he has brought you to meet me. Please, stand up! There’s no need for such formality.!”
Niquisse rose and looked to Ælithil. He nodded and smiled at her reassuringly. “Thank you, my lady. I am Niquisse Greythorn. It is a pleasure to meet you.” Ælithil moved to her side, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her to him. She blushed furiously, smiling meekly at Lilybeth.
Lilybeth took in the little scene for a moment before turning her gaze to Ælithil. “Sel’do, would you do something for us?”
He blinked, confused. “Uh, sure, Min’da. What do you need?”
With an impish grin, she responded. “Go take a quick ride to the bakery and get us some treats. This feels like a night we should indulge a little.”
“All right. Your usual?” She grinned wide, her head bobbing quickly, tussling her azure hair. Turning to his newfound love, “Ummm, Niqi? What kind of sweets would you like? They’ve got just about everything.”
Niquisse reached up and pushed her sapphire hair away from her face. Raising her gaze to meet his, “Do you think the have lemon cake? Or maybe vanilla? Oh…I don’t know. Maybe just bring back whatever the two of you like.”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “I’ll find you something.” He gently stroked her cheek, his eyes not wanting to leave hers. Breaking free finally, he looked over at his mother and blushed. He ducked out the door without another word.
“Well,” Lilybeth grinned, “you’ve certainly got him wrapped around your tiny, little finger, don’t you?”
Niquisse’s pale skin went completely white. A look of abject horror passed over her features. Stammering, “I’m not…I don’t…he isn’t. Oh no…” Her ears drooped and she looked down at the floor. This is going to be terrible. The thought rang through her mind over and over.
Seeing the girl’s entire body language shift, Lilybeth realized her mistake. “Oh dear! No! I didn’t mean anything bad by that. Oh, please, don’t be upset! No, no. Sit. Let’s talk.” She motioned to the table by the fireplace. She padded over, her bare feet slapping against the stone floor.
Niqi tipped her head to the side, having just noticed the lack of shoes. “You’re barefoot? In public?” Her shock was evident in her voice.
Lily laughed brightly. “Well, it’s not really public, is it? And I personally hate wearing shoes if I don’t have to. If I am going to be sitting and working all day, comfort comes first. And besides ,” she leaned in close, lowering her voice. “Kalithil loves my bare feet.” She giggled knowingly.
The young Ren’dorei seemed to relax a bit. Æl’s mother spoke more like a friend than someone to be feared. But she still wanted to make a good impression. This was his mother, after all. But bare feet? Just walking around like that? She did her best to keep her face from showing her confusion at the odd practice.
Lily looked her over, her face shifting and twisting as she tried not to laugh too hard. The younger elf tipped her head to the side, curious. When Lily could no longer hold back, the words simply burst from her. “You’re so tiny! You are completely adorable and I can’t even stand it!” Niquisse sat there, her mouth open. Lilybeth composed herself. “Forgive me. Sometimes I simply cannot help myself. But seeing you next to my son…well, it accentuated it. Please forgive me. My outbursts are not my finest trait, but I do my best to get past it. And they are not meant with malice, truly.”
Niquisse nodded slowly. “It’s quite all right, my lady. Think nothing of it, Ælithil says it often. And among my own people, I was petite. Though it is not something I am used to hearing.” She smiled slightly. “To be honest, I sometimes say things I shouldn’t.” She blushed and ran her fingers through her hair, her tendrils twisting around each other.
“Then we have something in common, you and I! That’s wonderful.” She seemed to almost squeal with delight as she rose from her chair. “Come. Walk with me. I’ll give you a tour of the place. And I find it makes it easier to calm your nerves when you have a little distraction. And it seems you need it a little bit.” Niqi stood and followed her out the door.
They spent the next hour talking of this and that, Lily guiding her through the fortress, pointing out important spots. Niqi relaxed fairly quickly as she saw all of the beautiful things there were to look at. The pond full of water lilies in particular. She felt like she could stare out over that water forever. By the time they wandered back to the inn, she felt so much more comfortable. As they approached, she saw Ælithil step out the door. He leaned against the door frame smiling at them.
“They had lemon cake,” he chuckled. “And some vanilla, so I got both. And don’t worry, Min’da. I picked the prettiest one for you. I took my time and found this one.” He opened the box and lifted out a chocolate cupcake with an impossible number of berries on top. She almost seemed to vibrate as she reached for it.
“You know me so well.” She kissed him on the cheek and sat down, her eyes sparkling at the confection.
“These look tasty,” Niqi offered. She reached into the box, retrieving the lemon cake. Taking a dainty bite, her eyes went fully round. “By the gods, that is amazing!”
“Isn’t it just?” Lily grinned at her, licking the chocolate from her lips. “Now,” she took another bite and chewed it. “One little thing we have left. Sel’do, would you give me that stone I gave you earlier?” He dug into his pocket and handed it over. A simple blue stone, with a tiny rune inscribed on it. She held it up, letting the glow from the candles shimmer on its surface. “My son tells me he had taken you to our tower in Westfall.”
Niqi nodded nervously. “Yes, ma’am. Is that all right? I don’t want Æl to get into trouble.” Ælithil put his arm around her, doing his best to bolster her. “It was quite lovely.”
Lily beamed. “I’m so glad you found it so! It used to be dusty and dark. But I gave it some comforts.” She watched the two young loves as they gazed into each other’s eyes. “Would you like to stay there instead at the inn in Stormwind?” Niqi’s eyes flashed with surprise as she turned back to Lily. Ælithil grinned down at her. “This stone will allow you to come and go as you please. You may use my old space, the second floor. But you must promise me you will stay off of the top floor. That is Kalithil’s sanctum. You may only enter with his permission.”
Niqi opened her hand, extending it toward Lily. Lily placed the stone in her palm and closed her fingers around it. “Are you certain? This is so generous of you!” Lily nodded, smiling. “I…” Niqi stood, embracing Lily without warning. “Oh! Thank you!” She pulled back. “I’m sorry, that was inappropriate. I just…”
Lily laughed brightly. She pulled Niqi back in and hugged her close. Gently, she spoke into Niqi’s ear. “With me, hugs are not inappropriate. I welcome them.”
Off to the side, Ælithil watched with a smile. As Niquisse turned toward him, he opened his arms to her. She moved into them and gave him a squeeze. He looked over her head to Lilybeth. “Thank you, Min’da.”