The auction house was teeming with people. Niquisse fought her way through the throng, elbowing and shoving as needed. Being short in a crowded space made for some very uncomfortable situations. She opted to get out before someone trampled her. As she found her way closer to the door she was confronted with the sight of a tall Kal’dorei in gleaming armor. He reached up and removed his helm, his unkempt silver hair tumbling out a little over his pale skin.
She blinked a few times, checking to be sure she wasn’t imagining it. No, this is an actual Silverthorn in front of me, her mind screamed at her. Another one! Should I do anything? Maybe I should just tell Gilræn. Oh stop it, Niqi! Just go say hello. Niquisse cleared her throat. and reached out a hand. He still hadn’t noticed her so she gently tapped him on the arm.
Jumping and whipping his head around, the tall elf searched for the source of the contact. Niqi jumped as well, not expecting him to jerk around like that. “Excuse me,” she said just loudly enough to be heard. “Um…hello.” He arched an eyebrow, looking her up and down. For some reason, Niqi felt heat running to her cheeks.
“Yes,” he asked warily.
“Hi. May I speak with you?” She waved up at him.
The tall man furrowed his brow. “…have we met?”
Niquisse smiled sweetly and shook her head. “No…but, I think we may have something in common.” He gave her a dubious look as she brushed the sapphire hair away from her face. “I could, buy you a drink…I’d just like to talk. If that’s all right.”
The Kal’dorei’s eyebrows raised slightly. Did this girl just… “You know what? Sure, why not.” Niquisse beamed. Confused, he blinked at her before asking, “Where do you like to do your drinking?”
“Do you have a place you like to go,” she asked at the very same moment. Niquisse giggled as he started to chuckle.
“I’ve only been to one tavern here,” she offered.
He looked Niquisse over appraisingly. “Let me guess. The Blue Recluse.”
Niquisse nodded slowly. “Is that bad?”
“Not really,” he shrugged. “You look like the type.”
Her face twisted, confused. “The type?”
The Kal’dorei twiddled his fingers in the air at her. “Mage, right?”
She shook her head. “No…”
Tilting his head to one side, “You’re some sort of spell slinger, right?”
“I am…trying to learn.” She turned away, a little embarrassed.
“Dark?” Glancing up, she looked nervous. “I am led to believe that my…path…is looked down upon in this city.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Well, all right then.” He smiled thinly.
“Does it bother you?”
“Not even a little. Not everyone is scared of the dark.”
Niquisse smiled wide. “Good.”
“You should meet my relatives,” he chuckled. Niquisse bit down on her lip. He looked at Niquisse oddly. “You’re a strange little thing.”
“Looks that way to me,” he shrugged. “Ok, tell you what. I need to change out of this.” He banged a fist on his breastplate. “Meet you at the Recluse in ten or so?”
“All right,” she smiled. “What shall I order for you?”
“Ale is fine,” he replied. She wrinkled up her nose. Barking out a laugh, “Not an ale lady, huh?”
“It tastes like an old boot,” she responded, making a face.
He snickered at her. “Pick a wine then, whatever you like will be fine with me.” Niquisse smiled, inclining her head in gratitude.
“Ten minutes, aye?” He pulled the helm back onto his head, his shopping forgotten.
“I’ll be waiting.”
The pale man grinned and bowed low to her. She returned his bow with a curtsey and stepped outside, her purchases looped over her arm. Walking across the street, she went into the inn to stash her things and make sure she was properly presentable.
The tavern was busy as usual. She made her way to the bar and inquired about the wine options. After some negotiation, she discovered that they had some better stock down in the cellar. She placed a couple of gold coins on the counter and the man very nearly tripped over his own feet in his effort to quickly retrieve it. When he returned, he was dusting it off with a wet cloth and presented it with two reasonably decent glasses.
She turned to face the door as her company approached. He bowed to her with a smile. “Hello again.” He had changed into a silk shirt of red, gold and brown. Fitted with it was an embroidered pair of pants and a coordinating belt. Finished off with soft leather boots topped in red and gold bands.
She dipped into a low curtsey, her soft red skirt, pooling onto the floor. Did he choose those colors intentionally? She couldn’t help but wonder. They complimented her own reds and golds perfectly. “Hello,” she smiled as she rose. Her small hands held up the bottle of wine and two glasses. “Where would you like to sit?”
He jerked his head upwards. “Let’s go upstairs.” He took the bottle of wine from her and held out his arm. She took it, blushing fiercely.
“All right,” she squeaked. They climbed the stairs and found an open table in the corner. He settled into one and gestured for her to take the other as he pushed the candles back. She carefully placed the glasses in front of them. Reaching over, she started to pick up the bottle of wine. He held a hand up and started to pour.
Once he had done do, he picked up the glass nearest him. Gesturing towards her with it, he asked, “So…what is i you think we could have in common?”
Niquisse looked over Ælithil’s clothing. “Well, for one thing, we have good taste.”
The man smirked. “I like to think so,” tasting his wine. He nodded appreciatively at the choice. “My grandmother was a tailor.”
Niquisse sipped her wine, watching Ælithil carefully. “Oh really? I am as well. I work as a seamstress over at Larson’s across the way.”
He smiled faintly. “You know you haven’t told me your name.”
She looked over at him, horrified at her improper behavior. She scrambled out of the chair to his bemused look. Niqi lowered into a deep curtsey, her eyes dropping to the floor. “My apologies, My Lord. My name is Niquisse Greythorn.”
He rose from his chair and bowed to her. “Ælithil Silverthorn, at your service, m’lady. And please, just call me Ælithil.”
She settled back into her chair with a surprising thump. “So you are one!”
Ælithil blinked. Very warily he asked, “One what?”
“I’m sorry…I have heard about the beautiful Silverthorns all my life,” she said, awestruck.
He looked at Niquisse oddly. “All your life?” He looked quite confused. “But you are Quel’dorei…well, from that stock at least.”
She blushed. “My family…we were once part of yours.” Ælithil narrowed his eyes in consternation. “It’s a lot to explain, I honestly don’t understand or know much of it.”
Very quietly he said, “You’re a cute little thing but you aren’t making any sense at all.”
Niquisse flushed purple. “I know. I am sorry.” She took a steadying breath. “The Greythorn family split from the Silverthorn line many millennia ago. If I understand the history correctly, Kalithil Silverthorn fathered many children.”
Ælithil blinked, shocked to have his father’s name stated so openly by a complete stranger. “Uh…well, um…yes, that is true.”
“And our line split away.”
“But…how did you…” at a loss, he gestured towards her. “How are you like this?
“Like what? Tiny?” She giggled at hime. “I told you, I really don’t know much. The only other living member of my family is telling me things a tiny piece at a time.”
“And who is this other person? Is he….what is it you people like to call yourselves?”
“He is…well, that’s complicated. But our family name is Greythorn.”
“No, I mean….” He shook his head and gestured at her again. “Tiny elves, whatever.”
“Oh! We are Ren’dorei,” she laughed nervously. “Void elves in the common tongue.”
“Huh…so you don’t think of yourself as Quel’dorei any more.”
Niqi looked down at the table, her eyes dimming. “Oh, I was, once.”
“But not any more?”
She lifted her hand towards him, showing the purple tint to her fingers. “Things have…changed.”
He held up his own pale hand. “Looks almost like you are coming home,” he whispered. Without thinking, she placed her hand against Ælithil’s. He closed his fingers over Niquisse’s. “Still tiny though,” he grinned.
Niquisse blushed. “I suppose I am. I’m sorry I don’t know how to explain the changes. Gilræn doesn’t tel me much.”
“Gilræn? This is your relative?” He slowly lowered their hands down to the table, but didn’t release hers right away. “What’s his story?”
“He’s…well, I used to call him cousin, but that’s not right. I met a man two nights ago. His name is Tellanon? He provided me with some information and…well, he’s more like my ancestor.”
Ælithil looked hopelessly lost. “Tellanon is your ancestor,” he asked incredulously.
“OH…uh…sorry. You’ve got me a little confused,” he responded, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.
Niquisse winced, “I do that to people.” Ælithil chuckled ruefully as she sipped her wine again, closing her eyes and savoring it. “So, Gilræn’s a mage, apparently he wanted to study alongside Azshara’s followers. That went poorly, he told me. He admits that it was not the best decision.” Ælithil’s face showed that he was trying very hard to make sense of all this. She frowned. “I am really bad at this.”
Nodding emphatically, “You really are. Just…terrible.” She laughed lightly. “Good thing you’re pretty.” Niqi stopped laughing and blinked at him. He grinned wide.
“I can’t decide if that was a compliment or an insult,” she stated. Ælithil chuckled, putting her nerves at ease. “Let’s just say that…well, I’m still figuring it all out.”
“Ok, ok…so, this Gilræn, he wanted to learn from, as you said, ‘Azshara’s followers’…” he reiterated. She nodded at him. “Now, when you say that, I am going to go out on a limb and assume you do not mean the Naga.”
“Oh…” she stammered. “Um, no.”
“You are talking about the old Highborn, the Kal’dorei that became the Quel’dorei after the Sundering.” She nodded again. “So this Gilræn person…was…there…for that.”
She tilted her head to the side. “You seem confused.”
“You understand that was a very long time ago, right?”
“I do,” she smiled. She took another sip of her wine. “When I asked Gilræn how old he was, he said it is a very large number. And that he doesn’t recall it any more. He is…,” she fidgets slightly, cutting herself off.
He looked at her face, concerned. “What’s wrong?”
Her ears drooped, “I am not sure if I am supposed to say,” she murmured. “It’s his secret that he has kept for a long time. Who he is.”
His mouth opened and closed twice. “…but you already told me his name.”
“No…I…um..” She looked around nervously before releasing a heavy sigh. “He’s…he’s Kalithil’s son.”
Ælithil face lost what little color it had. “…w…what?
Niquisse looked immediately regrettful. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to upset you!” Ælithil’s jaw dropped open as he found himself at a loss for words. “What did I say wrong?”
Niquisse nodded slowly. “One of the first?” She pulled her legs up, squeezing them to herself. The tendrils about her neck twisted and curled tightly. Wonderful job you are doing there, child. You’ve managed to upset another one, the whispers hissed at her.
Ælithil’s eyes opened even wider. He whispered hoarsely, “He would have been Kal’dorei once. He sailed east with the highborn remnant and became…” He pointed at Niquisse again. She nodded, looking at the table. He stared at her, completely dumbfounded. “The silverthorn spreads its branches further than we ever imagined….”
“I am sorry to have upset you,” she apologized sullenly.
He blinked, finally snapping out of it. “No, Niquisse, you did not upset me. Shocked me, sure.”
Uncurling herself, Niquisse refilled their glasses. “You can call me Niqi, if you like.”
Ælithil smiled slightly. “Family calls me Æl. And I guess that’s what you are, many times removed.”
Bolstering her herself, she reached up and brushed a stray hair from Ælithil’s cheek. He looked down, coloring slightly. “You have the most captivating eyes…No one in my family had eyes of that hue.” Ælithil full on blushed, looking away self consciously. “Am I embarrassing you?” She felt guilty, unsure of what she should do.
“Yes, damnit…I am normally a little better at this,” he smiled wryly. “Out of practice I guess.”
“Well, I am not usually good at this,” she offered. “It seems we have brought out something new in each other.”
“You seem to be handling it pretty well,” he shrugged.
“Are you kidding? I feel like I am shaking all over! I’m not sure what it is but…I’m nervous, only…not?”
“What are you nervous about?”
Very softly, she replied, “That you won’t like me.”
Ælithil blinked, surprised. “Why would you be nervous about that? You don’t even know me really.”
“And I…well, you…Oh fel!” She covered her face with her hands, her long tendrils curling up her arms. The tips of her ears darkened.
He grinned wide. “Ok, now we’re even,” he teased her, chuckling. Niquisse laughed lightly. “So, did you say that you and this Gilræn are the last of your line?”
Nodding, “The very last.”
Ælithil frowned, looking at Niquisse intently. “That’s a shame.”
Niquisse blushed under Ælithil’s gaze. “Yes…it is,” she whispered.
“You and he have no plans to..um..continue the family?”
“With him? No! Oh, Light…” She shuddered. “I like him about as well as I can, but until the other day, I thought he was my cousin. And now…well no. Not even now. He keeps things from me. Holds me apart.”
Ælithil frowned. “So your bloodline will die out because of this.”
“The bloodline could continue. With others,” she started. Ælithil arched an eyebrow. “If he or I were to…um…” Niquisse suddenly felt very self conscious, turning a deep shade of purple. Ælithil bit his lip to stop himself laughing. “Not that I am trying to…didn’t mean…” He sat there, grinning. The young Ren’dorei buried her face in her arms, dropping them down onto the table.
Ælithil leaned in and whispered, “You’re cute when you’re flustered.”
“Great, Niqi….some first impression you make.” she muttered, her voice muffled under her arms and hair.
“You really did.”
Niquisse peeked out at Ælithil. “Now you’re making fun of me, aren’t you?” Ælithil held up a thumb and finger, a hair’s breadth apart. “Ugggghh,” she replied, putting her head back down. Ælithil laughed, and so did she, despite her attempts to not. Turning all manner of colors, “All right, I am making a complete fool of myself.”’
He chuckled. “It’s kind of endearing, actually.”
“It is?” Her voice was soft, gentle.
Ælithil nodded, smiling. His eyes twinkled at her. “What does it take to get you to relax?”
“I…um…I usually read or…have some wine in the bath,” she offered, lifting her head up. She pushed her hair back from her face, smiled at him. Looking at his face a moment she realizes that he has raised both eyebrows. Her eyes went open wide. “Oh, you meant….oh fel…”
“Well I can’t follow you there.”
“Maybe we could go for a walk? Somewhere pretty?” She took a few shuddering breaths, desperately trying to calm herself. “If there is such a place in this city.”
“Oh, there’s a few.”
“Will you show me?”
Ælithil smiled. “Surely. You mean now?”
Her eyes dimmed slightly. “Did you not?”
“Fine by me,” he offered.
“You meant another time…I’m sorry…” she looked away, distraught.
Ælithil sighed with exasperation and stood. Grabbing her hand, he hauled her from the chair. “Come on,” he urged, pulling her towards the stairs. She set down her glass and allowed him to lead her. Once outside, they began to walk through the Mage Quarter. “This district is actually one of the loveliest in the city.”
“I had noticed that,” she smiled. I am just…I’m following him without even considering what could happen. Why am I so captivated by this man?
“Especially if you know the quiet spots,” he winked. She blushed at him. His eyes trailed down to her, the way her hair shimmered with vibrant blues and deep indigo. She’s not like anyone the other girls. But this whole thing was her idea. So…just show her around. See what happens. “There’s a few I could show you some time. But I have something else in mind tonight.” He flushed a little, seeing her eyes widen. Why do I keep doing that?
They wandered through and took the tunnel out towards the canals. As he nudged her forward, Lion’s Rest came into view. The sound of running water and wind rustling through leaves quickly drowned out the noise of the city. The smell of the sea air blew in as they came to the overlook. Salt and fresh, carrying a bit of the green earthy smell of the gardens below them, it was a welcome change from the food and alcohol laden air of the pub.
“These fountains!” She gasped and leaned over the railing.
“I thought you might like them,” he smiled as he pulled her towards the steps leading down. Her eyes were attempting to take it all in.
“So lovely…” She focused on the fountain ahead of them, trying not to blush as his fingers entwined with hers. Have I been holding his hand this whole time? Does he realize?
He gestured to the right as they turned the corner. “And the waterfalls.” She turned her head to follow his line of sight. They continued down the steps, finding their way to the long walkways lined with manicured hedges.
“Oh my,” she murmured. Stepping ahead of him, she climbed up onto a bench to see past the shrubbery. She was captivated by the way the water rippled in patterns over the perfect, clean edge that had been created.
“Hey, you’re as tall as me now,” he chuckled. You’re still holding her hand, let go of her hand. She’s going to think you’re being weird. He stared at their fingers a moment before releasing hers.
She turned back to face him and grinned. “I might even have a little on you.”
“Still tiny though,” he teased.
“That really fascinates you, doesn’t it?” She giggled at him. Ælithil chuckled in return. Niquisse ran a hand along Ælithil’s arm. He shivered slightly at her touch.
“It’s just different,” Ælithil blushed slightly. “I am always around my family, so I am used to other Kal’dorei. And humans, well, they are smaller, but sort of….stout, you know?”
Niquisse nodded. “Most of them larger than me, I know.”
Ælithil touched Niquisse’s face. “You’re….delicate.” And perfect. What? Where did that come from?
She closed her eyes, blushing. “Well, you’re sturdy and strong from the looks of it. I think you could wrap me up completely in these arms.”
He smirked. “Maybe. I do all right.” Gods, but I want to. His thoughts filled so quickly with the image, he almost lost focus on her.
She laughed. “Modesty? That’s a new one for me.”
“You don’t like modesty?”
“I didn’t say that,” she smiled. “But where I come from, it’s unusual.” Many of the men are more preening than the women.
“I am just being…well, compared to some of my family, I don’t measure up.” Compared to most of them, I’m nothing special at all. No, stop. Don’t go down that road right now. Focus.
“Somehow, I think you are selling yourself short. And I am pretty short compared to you, so I should know.”
Ælithil chuckled. “Well, maybe you’ll understand if you meet them.”
“Or maybe, I will see how well you fit in,” she stated, matter-of-factly. Ælithil grinned, blushing. OH Light! Don’t say things like that again! Niquisse eyes went really wide. “I mean..I…oh fel!” She turned away, her ears taking on a fascinating shade. Ælithil continued, describing Silannah’s training, answering her questions along the way.
Ælithil turned and sat on the bench, sighing happily. Niqi looked over and gently ran her fingers up the length of his ear. He jumped up, exclaiming, “Hey!”
Niquisse giggled. “Sorry. Do you not like people touching your ears?”
“I just wasn’t expecting it….” He settled back down next to her.
“They are different from mine, I couldn’t help it.”
“Yeah,” he said. “They’re bigger, which is kind of the theme.” He grinned at her and she giggled as she sat down beside him.
He sighed heavily, looking distracted for a moment, but shook his head and returned his attention to her. Niquisse reached out and lightly touched Ælithil’s hand. She studied his face, her eyes searching for something. “What is it,” he asked gently.
“I just…I’m not sure how to explain it.” Her mind responded though she held it back. I want you to kiss me. Why do I want you to kiss me?
He smiled. “Let me try. I am simultaneously totally flustered but also find you very easy to talk to.”
She giggled. “That sounds about right. I was not expecting this. But I…I wouldn’t change tonight for anything.” Ælithil just kept smiling. Niquisse reached up, playing with a bit of her hair. Ælithil watched it as the color swirled and shifted in the fading light.
Despite his fears, Ælithil found himself sharing everything with her. The time skips, the family history, who his father really was. She took it with some shock, but a surprising amount of compassion. One that he found not only a welcome change, but comforting in a way he didn’t expect. Before long, even secrets, like The Pull and how its effects on relationships amplified feelings between members of the family worked. Though it scared her at first, she seemed to accept that their quick connection was in fact, genuine. Niquisse slowly reached out and placed her hand in Ælithil’s. He flexed his hand, watching how Niquisse’s rested within it. “Your hands are tiny too.”
She giggled. “Well, your’s are huge.”
Ælithi’s face cracked into a wicked grin. “Well…you know what they say.” Niquisse stammered, making sounds that almost approach words, but not quite. “Oh, gods, I’m sorry! That was completely inappropriate! It just slipped out..” he blushed furiously.
“Do you…do you say such things often?”
Ælithil looked down, the purple in his cheeks weeping by the moment. “I used to…” he whispered. “I had a period when…well…I spent a lot of time carousing and hanging around in taverns…” Ælithil looked away, very embarrassed to be admitting it. And now she’s going to walk away. You blew it.
“And is this a habit that is likely to return?” Her ears fell, but she did her best not to let her worry color her voice.
“What? No!” Aunt Sil would KILL me.
“I’m sorry…I just wanted to be sure.” She squeezed his hand.
“My Aunt, Silannah, my Shan’do. She took me in and..well, kind of beat it out of me.”
“She beat it out of you,” Niqi questioned. “That’s terrible!”
“She believes in a very strict and physical training regimen.” He nodded firmly.
“I mean, I’m glad you aren’t doing that any longer, but that…” she looked up at him, concerned.
Ælithil shrugged. “I kind of deserved it.” Well, maybe not some of it. I could have lived without her kicking me in the balls.
“I don’t have to train with her, do I? If the family accepts me, I mean,” she asked nervously.
“I would not think so, she trains fighters,” he reassured her.
Niquisse sighed, relieved. “I am not made for physical fighting.”
He gravelly tenor murmured at her, “What are you made for, Niquisse Greythorn?” She looked at the ground, flushing deep purple. “I’m sorry, I keep embarrassing you.”
She whispered her response. “I….um…I dance?”
Ælithil blinked. “Really?”
She nodded. “My parents kept me tucked away from most of the world until they died. But I was given private instruction.”
“Will you show me?”
Niquisse blushed. “Here?” Oh Gods, make something up, make something up! You’re too weak in the knees right now to even try. You’ll fall on your face.
“Never mind, you don’t have to…”
“No…it’s just…I have never danced for someone before.”
Ælithil smiled faintly. “Well…if you ever feel up to it. I think I would like to see it.” Niquisse pulled into herself a little, giggling. Ælithil arched an eyebrow. “What’s funny?”
“Just that when we started our evening, you looked at me like some random crazy person. And now?” She smiled at him.
“Well, to be fair…” he grinned. “Well, I had to be nice to you. You’re so tiny.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” She made a face at him.
Ælithil laughed. “I just like saying it.”
“I have a feeling I am going to hear it a lot,” she sighed.
“Does that bother you?”
“No,” she chuckled. “It’s just a bit new is all.” Ælithil grinned. Niqi reached up, tracing her hand down Ælithil’s arm. He shuddered, his eyes closing slightly. “I’m sorry…”
Ælithil shook his head. “I don’t mind at all.”
“I’m glad,” she smiled. “I just felt compelled to touch you.”
Ælithil blushed slightly. “Well, you have my permission,” his voice softened. “As much as you like.”
She whispered, “The same…” She stopped and cleared her throat nervously. “The same goes for you.” Niquisse shivered slightly.
“Are you all right?” He gave her a worried glance.
“It’s a bit cold out here now,” she answered, wrapping her arms around herself.
Ælithil looked around, noticing the lamps flickering in the late evening light. “Oh, yeah, I guess the sun went down…” When did that happen?
“We’ve been talking for hours,” she offered. And I don’t want to stop.
He smiled. “I could keep going….”
“I would love that, but…”
Ælithil face fell. “But?” Told you. You blew it. She’s just been humoring you. Why did you have to blow it with this beautiful creature. You actually like talking to her.
She pulled her shoulders up slightly, shivering. “But it’s cold out here?”
Do it. Don’t hesitate, do it. He wrapped his large arms arounds her, pulling her up into his lap. She curled into him, soaking up the warmth of his embrace. She looked up at him, her eyes shining. He leaned in, touching his forehead to hers.
“This is much better. Don’t stop, I can stay right here,” she murmured.
Without a thought his lips met hers, and she fell into it, her eyes sliding closed. Just as she thought she would melt away, he pulled back suddenly. She opened her eyes, confused. He whispered softly, “I’m sorry, are you sure you…” His words were lost as she brought her mouth to his again.
She let the kiss linger before looking up at him. “I’m sure.” Light preserve me, I’m sure.