The early morning sun was just beginning to break through the window. Ælithil dozed on his pillow, despite all attempts to remain awake. It had been hours upon hours since he brought her home. From beneath the blankets, Silannah began to stir, mumbling incoherently at first. Ælithil twitched an ear, and looked up.
Silannah voice broke the silence again, barely intelligible. “I will keep my word….”
Ælithil brow furrowed as he moved towards her. “Sil,” he asked softly. Her eyes fluttered open and she tried to sit up, surprised. “Hey, hey, slow…” he gently instructed.
The ancient Kaldorei woman gasped in pain. “Shit!” She dropped back down with a thump, her brow knitting. “Æl?” She managed the question weakly.
“I’m here,” he responded softly.
“How did I…how am I back here?”
“Here, take this first,” he coaxed. He handed her a mug and a hunk of crusted bread. “The ale will warm you up, but you need to eat. I’ll make tea for after that’s finished.” Silannah looked at the bread in her hand and sighed heavily. The younger elf snatched the kettle from the table and placed it on the runestone. Silannah sat up very slightly and sipped a little. She winced as the alcohol hit her busted lip. He watched her carefully, concerned.
Silannah looked down at herself, frowning at her state of undress. She pulled the blanket up and covered herself. Shivering a little, she took another sip of the ale, attempting to avoid the cut, but was not entirely successful.
“Your clothes were wet and frozen, I had to take you out of them,” he explained.
Silannah picked the bread back up, her hands shaking as she tried to tear it. “No..I understand,” was all she quietly managed. She made another attempt at pulling off a bite of the bread, but the crust would not cooperate.
“Do you need help?” He didn’t expect her to even acknowledge the offer. Instead, Silannah started to argue but restrained herself. She held it out to him, trembling. Ælithil’s eyes went wide in disbelief. He sat next to her, taking the bread and started to tear it into bite-sized pieces. “I got out some night clothes for you. When you feel up to it.”
Silannah picked up a piece of bread, chewing it very slowly and deliberately. “I would appreciate that,” she responded quietly.
He set them next to her head. “Can you do it, or do you need me to dress you?”
Her voice dropped to a whisper as she lay there looking completely ashamed “I…I….” She bit it back, afraid to meet his eyes.
He adjusted his postition and put the clothes on his lap. “It’s ok, I’ll do it. You were damn near dead, Aunt Sil.” Ælithil lifted her gently to a seated position, slowly pulling a shirt on for her. She whimpered uncomfortably.
Silannah took a shuddering breath. “It would have been best…”
Ælithil grimaced. “Please don’t talk like that.”
Silannah sighed heavily. “I am sorry you have to see this.” She took another bite of the bread, again chewing it with care.
“Aunt Sil, what happened?” He laid her back down with care, his face pulled tight in concern.
She looked at the mug in her hand. “I wanted to go, Ælithil.”
Ælithil looked confused. “Go?”
“To her. Kajeda.”
He looked confused for a moment, then his eyes went wide. “Shan’do, no….”
Silannah sipped again slowly, pulling air in with a wince. She shook her head. “Æl…I am hardly a Shan’do right now.
“You are my Shan’do, no matter what.”
Silannah chuckled softly. “Gods but you are stubborn.”
“I get it from you. And don’t tell me that is impossible, I don’t care. What were you doing out there? Did you do this to yourself?”
She took a slow breath and tried to sit up again. “I was…” She grunted with the exertion. “I was trying to get to Everlook.”
“You were nowhere near Everlook…” he retorted, not buying her story.
Silannah started to take another bite and put it down. “All right…let me…let me try to explain…it’s fuzzy.” He nodded slowly, waiting to see what she had to say. “I sent you away after you started asking questions. And I…Ælithil, I have tried to keep walls up inside, but you asked and they crumbled.” Ælithil furrowed his brow. She lifted her mug, sipping it again. “And I haven’t eaten since.”
Ælithil sighed heavily. “And you’ve been drinking, haven’t you?”
Silannah nodded, “Whatever was here.”
He scowled. “I saw the broken bottles.” He snatched the mug of ale from her hand. “That’s enough of that.” Silannah nodded wordlessly. Æl grabbed the boiling kettle from atop the runestone.
“Just some water would be fine.”
Ælithil took a moment to tidy up the table and prepare the teapot. “You’re getting tea, you need the warmth.”
Silannah frowned. “I was going to let go, Ælithil. If you wish the truth of it.” Ælithil clenched his jaw and poured the water into the pot. “I only needed a couple of days,” she continued quietly. “And then Este decided to show up instead of just reading the letter I had sent.”
“Estelæth? She was here?”
She nodded, “Came to check on me.” Ælithil poured a cup of tea and walked over to the bed. He held out the mug to her. Silannah reached out gingerly, her voice going tight. “Oh gods…”
Ælithil scowled at her. “What?”
She shook her head. “It’s not your fault…it’s just…” breaking off, she bit back the rest.
Growing annoyed with her, Ælithil snapped. “Oh, no, I just saved your damn life. You are talking to me.”
Silannah lip quivered as she fought to speak. “Ælithil…this is something I shared with her…It is no easy thing for me to…” She closed her eyes, fighting against the tightening in her chest. “To drink this.”
“Right now it is something to help make you well. Drink.” He stood over her, his arms crossed, indicating no arguments would be entertained. Silannah nodded and sipped it. A tear ran down her cheek as she swallowed. “So why were you going to Everlook?”
“Este figured out what I was doing,” she sighed. “She forced me to give my word I would take care of myself.” Gesturing around the cottage, “There’s nothing left to eat.”
“I’ve got some rations for the road. I can go get more later.” Silannah picked up a small piece of bread and placed it in her mouth. She started to chew, her face going a little green. So she pushed it into her cheek and let it sit. “So how does sitting out near the Hidden Grove a mile off the road count as taking care of yourself?”
She sipped her tea again. “I called Helin to me and I was going to go get some food. A tree fell? Maybe?” She shook her head, unable to recall. “Something frightened him… He took off.”
“That’s why he left the road?”
“I was taking the cut off between the path and the road. To shorten the trip,” she explained. “We were almost to the road when it happened. And he just zipped through, no commands obeyed.”
“I saw the tracks. Lucky for you it wasn’t snowing the yesterday.”
Nodding her agreement, “He threw me, not on purpose. And went to hide.” Ælithil muttered under his breath. Silannah continued quietly. “I couldn’t hold on. I tried to get up but…” Looking down, she attempted to move her leg. A short yelp escaped her lips before she could bite it back. Ælithil scowled at her. “I am fairly certain it is broken in more than one place.”
Ælithil nodded. “One is a compound fracture. I’ll put a splint on it. Finish your tea then lay down on your back.”
Silannah nodded. “I am afraid I am of no use to you now.”
“Your wounds will heal.”
She shook her head. “Some don’t, Ban’du.” Ælithil scowled at her again. Silannah quickly downed the last of the tea, holding the cup out to him, refusing to look at it. Ælithil took the cup and set it aside. She worked to get herself onto her back as Æl stepped towards the door.
“Be right back,” he told he and walked outside. The sharp crack of wood breaking could be heard, followed by the stomping of his boots as he knocked off the snow. He set several large branches on the floor and moved to his side of the space. He dug around in his pack before revealing several rolls of bandages. Carefully straightening the injured leg, he finally spoke again. “I came back….found the house trashed.” Silannah took a sharp breath, but said nothing. Very gently, he reminded her, “This is going to hurt…ready?” She nodded and gripped the bedclothes. Ælithil pulled down in a sharp, single motion, setting the bones.
Silannah screamed for a moment before nearly passing out. She gulped air, tears coming unbidden. Ælithil sighed, setting a couple of stripped branches along each side of the leg.”Tea set had been left out unwashed, ripped up dress or something on the floor. I thought you got raided.” He began to wind bandages around the leg, binding it to the sticks. “I looked around, found your tracks.”
Silannah choked out through gritted teeth. “I am sorry…I…I allowed myself to lose control.” She looked about the cottage. “You cleaned up.”
“Yeah. You were out for a while.” He continued his efforts, focused on his work. Silannah swallowed the soggy bread in her mouth and placed another in her cheek. “Your cat had just crashed through the woods, not trying to be stealthy or anything, so his path off the road was pretty easy to follow.” The woman chuckled mirthlessly. “Found you up by the grove, damn near frozen solid and more dead than alive.”
“I do not know why I keep the animal.” She winced, “Too tight, Ban’du!”
“It has to be tight, stop bitching. You taught me to do it when you broke my arm, and you didn’t listen to me when I complained either.”
“That’s because you were being a baby,” she snapped back, squeezing her eyes shut.
“Then what the fuck are you doing?”
“Trying to keep you from jamming that splint into my leg too far,” she grumbled. Silannah arched her back, trying to hold herself steady.
“Just let me do it, ok?” Silannah sighed, but nodded. “You taught me well, just trust me.”
“Was anyone out there with you?” She shook her head at him. “Hmm…”
“Este left and I went straight away.”
“There was another set of tracks out there, it came up to you and then went away,” he told her. He tied off the first bandage and started on the second.
“I…” her face twisted for a moment, “I thought I dreamt that.”
“Someone walking up to me,” she replied. She tried to sit up a little to watch him. He reached over and pushed her back down.
“And they didn’t help?”
“I asked for help…but I..I couldn’t open my eyes.” Silannah reached down, touching her hip. “My coin pouch,” she stopped, concentrating on the memory. “They took my coin pouch.”
“What?” The word came out with a growl. “Gods damned goblins.”
“I heard it move…” She made a face. “It could have been anyone, Æl.”
“Around here?” He grunted. “Goblins is the best bet, especially for thieving. Little bastards.”
She sighed, “You are probably right.” Ælithil finished tying off the bindings. Silannah shifted and tried to move her toes. She managed some jerky twitches. “Well, that’s something, I suppose.”
Ælithil muttered, “Should just clean this continent of anyone not kaldorei….” Silannah swallowed the bread and lay back down. Ælithil blinked. His voice dropped to a whisper. suddenly. “Or other elves….” He began to clean up the tea service.
“I was supposed to go to Este’s place,” Silannah told him.
“Was she coming back for you?”
“She told me…what was it?” She rubbed her face. “Something about getting me away from here? I cannot recall it.”
“Well, I can’t get you that far.”
“She’s gonna be pissed off then,” she grunted, an odd smile on her face. “Good. That’s what she gets.” She muttered to herself about people staying out of her business.
“What I am going to do is sit you on my panther and walk your ass to Everlook,” he stated, matter-of-factly. Silannah blinked at him. “I will write my father, he can come get us we can port to his place.”
“Oh for fel’s sake…”
“Why would I need to go there?”
“Min’da will take care of you. And you can get looked after,” he scowled at her, adding, “and watched to make sure you don’t do anything else stupid.”
“I’m nearly twelve thousand years old. If I want to do something stupid, that’s my choice.” Ælithil glared at her.
“You know, months and months ago, you showed up when I was sitting minding my own business at that great tavern in Stormwind. I heard a lot of shit about being ready and doing my duty and crap like that.”
“You’re 25! You haven’t yet done your duty!”
“And I came here, and got my ass kicked and my gods damned bones broken for months on end.”
“Sounds like I did my job then,” she retorted.
“And I didn’t complain, I took it. I did anything you asked of me.” His voice had an edge to it that she didn’t quite recognize at first.
“That’s what you are supposed to do.”
“And because of you I learned how to be me after everything I’d lost…”
“My job was to get you to this point! So you don’t need me. I’ve done it. Someone throw me a damned parade,” she mocked.
He turned to her, tears in his eyes. “And you are the most important gods damned person in my life and you are not going to quit on me now! And if you make one more gods damn smart remark I swear I am going to re-break that fucking leg.”
“Don’t…don’t…” she begged. “You take me off that fucking pedestal right now!”
Ælithil was shaking with anger. “SHUT UP,” he bellowed at her. “Just shut the fel up and accept what you are, gods damnit!” Silannah shuddered, tears forming despite her every effort to stop them. He softened and continued quietly. “You’re my family….”
“I cannot be Æl…I do not have that within me,” she whispered.
“Don’t talk shit. You already are.” He sounded truly hurt. “My father is distant by nature, my mother is wounded. You are the family I got in this life after all the others got erased.” Silannah pushed herself up, trying to stand. “Get off that fucking leg you twit,” he barked at her.
She shook her head. “You listen to me, Ban’du. You hear me, whether you want to or not. You want to call me family? Fine. But I am not special. I am just a broken soldier who follows orders. Your uncle told me to train you. And I did. But you don’t dare put me before your mother. Not ever. Because I promise you that no one one this planet, or any other loves you the way she does. You got it?”
“I didn’t say you are before her,” he glared.
“Damned fucking straight.”
“But you are here, and when you look at me you don’t just see what you missed.”
“No. I see a man who is finally figuring himself out,” Silannah grabbed his shoulder, holding herself steady. Ælithil scowled. “Now. I will sit back down, if only to get that stupid look off your face.”
Ælithil sighed. “Gods you are a pain in the ass.”
She lowered herself, shaking. “Don’t tell me you just figured that part out. I thought you were smarter than that.”
“Pretty sure I got that on day one,” he replied bitterly. “When you had me bare knuckle fighting in the snow wearing only my undergarments and kicked me in the balls and then broke my arm.” Silannah’s eyes go somewhat blank suddenly and she started to pitch forward. Ælithil lurched forward to catch her. He wrapped his arms around her, lifting her back into the bed gently. “For fel’s sake, just lay down.”
Silannah shakes as she lowers herself onto the pillow. “Dammit,” she mumbles.
You are the toughest thing in all the land, now lay down and shut up.”
“Mocking me now?”
“No. Anyone else would be dead.” He watched her carefully. Silannah nodded.
“Is that water still warm,” she asked.
“I can heat it back up, what do you need?”
“Just something to drink, but warm would be nice…it’s so cold in here.” She pulled the blanket up to her chin, shivering a little.
Ælithil furrowed his brow. “I’ll make more tea.” He rose and moved to gather up the kettle. He set it back on the runestone to bring it back to a boil.
“No…no…” she pleaded.
“Well it’s that or hot water….”
“Is there…um…” she cleared her throat, trying to keep her voice even. “Is there any honey in Kajeda’s little pot?”
Ælithil rummaged around the little containers on the table. Finally finding the one she meant, he looked inside. “Yeah.” The kettle started to whistle and he lifted it up, returning it to the table.
“Some of that in water will be fine.”
“The tea will make me need to use the out house. And I would prefer to limit the trips out there.”
Ælithil prepared a cup for her. “You’re dehydrated, I doubt your body will give up fluids right now.”
“Perhaps. But please…just…just the water.” She shivered again, her hands visibly shaking.
Ælithil held out the cup, looking very worried. “Here…” She reached for it. She wrapped her fingers around and tried to pull it away. Unsure of her grip, she brought her other hand up to support to. Ælithil knelt down, helping her guide the cup to her lips. “Thank you,” she whispered before taking a drink. “You are rather good at this…”
Ælithil shrugged. “I was a healer once…sort of.” He guided the cup for her to drink again. “In another life,” he whispered.
“Hmmm,” she said, sighing. “Thank you for..well everything today, nephew.” He nodded curtly. “Sit, please.” She pointed to the bed. “Wherever you wish.” He sat quietly at the edge of the bed. She continued in a gentle way that was unlike her usual demeanor. “I want you to understand something. It may seem like very little to you, for all you have been through. But I gave my word that I would take care of myself. And once I am able to, I will keep that word.” She shifted, wincing a moment before settling into a less uncomfortable position. “Este knows that it binds me, no matter what my own desires may be. It’s why she forced it from me.” Ælithil listened, nodding slowly. “So no, I will not be leaving you. But I am,” She started shivering again. “I am going to need….” She grit her teeth and forced herself to be still. He watched her, his fear written across his features. “I will need your help.”
“I’ll do anything you need,” he whispered, his eyes filled with tears.
“Oh stop crying, Ban’du.”
He sighed. “I have every right to be afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“Losing you,” he answered sullenly.
Silannah sighed. “I told you, I will keep my word.”
“You are badly injured,” he countered. “I wasn’t kidding when I said most people would be dead.”
“Then you better find someone to fix me up,” she instructed.
“That’s the plan, as soon as I can move you.” He nodded.
“Ælithil…I cannot go anywhere for some time. It would be better if you rode to Everlook and sent for someone.”
“I don’t like the idea of leaving you alone,” he stated flatly. He stood and fussed over the blanket, making sure she was completely covered
“I will survive the short time it would take you,” she chided him with a smirk.
“Get some sleep. I will go later after you wake again.”
Silannah nodded, conceding the point. “All right. Just…can you get another blanket? Or my coat? It’s cold…”
“Yeah…” He crossed to the trunk near the far wall and opened it up. Pulling a heavy wool blanket out, he returned to her. He unfolded it and threw it over the bed. Ælithil gestured over the runestone, instructing it to put out more heat. “Better?”
Silannah has softened down to a whisper. “Yes…thank you.” He started to turn away when she called out to him again. “Æl?”
“Yeah?” He faces her again, concerned.
“You smell like perfume,” she pointed out. Ælithil colored slightly. “You back to your old habits?”
Ælithil shook his head emphatically. “No, Shan’do.”
She nodded. “Because I would have to kick you in the balls again if you are.”
He smiled faintly. “I did meet someone….but…it wasn’t like that. She’s…nice”
Ælithil flushed, “Yeah.” He smiled slightly. “I only just met her….we’ll see what happens.”
Silannah shuddered a little. “Do you feel it?”
“Feel what?” He looked confused at first.
“You know what,” she prodded. He looked down, nodding quickly. Silannah chuckled. Her voice started to fade. “About time….” Ælithil blushed deep purple. “It’s nice to see you blushing, instead of the other way around.”
“To be fair, she was doing it too.”
“Hmmmm,” she responded. “Well…you’re a goner.” He glanced at her, looking sheepish. Silannah’s eyes close. “She’s a Silverthorn…isn’t she?” Her voice grows quieter with each word.
“Maybe…it’s a little complicated,” he whispered.
Silannah sighed and her breath grew more deep and even. “Tell me about…..” she drifted off to sleep mid sentence.
Ælithil sighed, relieved. He gently squeezed her shoulder before finding his way to his corner of the cottage to rest.