Niqi pulled out her runestone and set it on the table. Pulling a piece of parchment, she wrote out a few simple words. She folded it gently and brought it to her lips, giving it a soft kiss. She placed it on the stone with a sad smile.
My Dearest Anas and Mehe,
I cannot begin to thank you enough for all that you did for me.
Please let me know when I may send something to you.
I don’t wish to wake Anas.
All of my love,
Anas blinked at the runestone as the parchment materialized on it. Picking it up, he unfurled it, his eyes skimming over the words. He pressed his thumb to the rune before saying, “Niqi? Are you there, little one?”
Surprised, Niqi picked up the stone and put her thumb in place. “Anas! You’re awake? Why aren’t you resting? You should be resting.” Her voice was tinged with concern.
He chuckled. “I am, little one, though I’m not tired enough to sleep right now.”
She sighed a little, relieved. “Please promise me you aren’t doing too much. You do too much.”
“I’m not.” He smiled. “Mehe wouldn’t let me. He wants me to rest as well.”
She turned the stone in her hands a few times, staring at the surface “All right. Where are you? Can I send some things to you?” Her voice came through clear, but its usual cheerful ring was missing entirely.
“I’m at home.” He frowned. “What’s wrong, little one?”
“I…no, it’s ok. You don’t need to worry right now.” She set the freshly washed clothes that Mehe had lent her onto the stone and watched as they disappeared.
“TelI me, little one,” he said, picking the clothes up from the stone and setting them aside. “Did something happen?”
“I’m afraid to sleep, Anas,” she murmured. “I…I don’t want to…to see him again. And people keep asking what happened and…and,” she sobbed out. She bit down on it hard forcing herself to stop. Taking a few breaths, she whispered, “I just want to forget…” She picked up a small jar of tea leaves and set that on the stone.
“I’m sorry, Niqi. I wish I could give you a hug.” Anas blinked at the jar. “Tea leaves?”
“It’s all right,” she replied. “Oh, yes. You remember that nice cool tea I sent you? I thought Mehe and Goldeneyes might like it while they are working outside. Though Goldeneyes might not touch it since it came from me.”
“He might prove hard to convince otherwise, little one.” Anas sighed regretfully as he took the jar carefully. “Still, thank you.”
“Well, maybe Mehe will like it at least. Just um..” she sniffled. “Steep it strong and then add cool water to it to taste.” She picked up another small jar and placed it on the runestone. Its contents shimmered with swirling light.
“What’s that?” Anas peered at the jar as it materialized on the stone.
“A little bit from the moon well? I thought it might help you, I..I wasn’t sure how much is good.” She sighed softly.
He chuckled. “It doesn’t really work that way, but thank you Niqi. I really appreciate it.”
“Oh…” she replied. “How does it work then?” Her curiosity started getting the better of her. Her voice started to lift a little. “I thought maybe you could drink some of it.”
Anas blinked at the stone before pressing a hand to his mouth in an attempt to stifle his laughter. “Oh Mother Moon,” he finally managed, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “No, they’re not for drinking, little one.”
“Oh…so I guess that little bit doesn’t help much.” She smiled slightly at the shift in his voice. “I guess I cheered you up a little though.”
“You did.” He smiled. “Thank you, Niqi.”
“Good,” she sighed. “I…I want to try to practice with the shadow again. But it’s not a good idea by myself, is it?”
“Maybe get Tindo to help you with it?” he suggested gently.
“Maybe. She was doing something with the Void I think. Earlier today. I could barely see her through the shadows around her and she was muttering in Shath’yar about locating something.” Niqi shuddered. “Then she banished it all and started writing things down.”
Anas frowned. “That sounds odd. Is she okay?”
“I’m not sure. She seemed a little frantic, so I just told Forosuul and let him take care of it.”
“Right.” Anas sighed. “I hope she’s okay.”
“Me too,” she agreed. “Is that normal? To delve into the Void to find things?” She pulled her legs up under her on the chair.
“Some people do it, but it can be unsafe.” Anas carefully set the jar of water on the bedside table. “Mehe tried it as well to find out about his family.”
Niqi gasped. “Is that why Gilræn called him ‘Umbric’s plaything’?” She clapped a hand over her mouth.
Anas nodded sadly. “Mehe really wants to find out about his family. Umbric promised that if Mehe assisted him willingly in his experiments, he would help Mehe obtain some information about them from the Void.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have repeated that though. It was not a nice way to put it.” She winced. “I really am sorry for how he was treated.”
“So am I.” Anas sighed. “He doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“I know,” she offered sadly.
He glanced out of the window, to where Mehe and Goldeneyes were working in the garden. “I hope I’ll be able to get back to work soon.”
Niqi squirmed a little. “I…um…” she sniffled. “I went back today.” Her voice was quiet and small. “I got a big order too. One of your court gowns.”
Anas blinked. “What? So soon? Are you sure you should be working, little one?”
She gently played with the runestone in front of her. “There was no choice, Anas. I had to. It’s been a week, and Wynne…it’s fine, really.”
“Wynne?” Anas’s brow knitted. “What did she do? Did she threaten you?”
“It’s ok, Anas. Just get better, that’s what’s important.” She pulled a blanket around her shoulders.
“No, it’s not okay,” he growled. “You should be resting, Niqi.”
“Please don’t be upset, Anas,” she pleaded. “She said one of us had to come back or we would both be fired. I couldn’t just let her do that to you.”
“She said what?!” Anas exclaimed, outraged. Mehe glanced at him through the window in concern.
Niqi shrank, her voice quivering. “Sh-she said we can’t both be out like this… so she… I,” trailing off, she took a deep breath. “I can do it, Anas. I just wanted to make sure she didn’t try to force you to come back yet.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “She can’t do this to you. To either of us,” he said in a more measured tone.
“I shouldn’t have mentioned it. I’m sorry. Please relax, brother. I didn’t mean to upset you,” concerned pain evident in her voice. “But I got another person who likes your designs, that’s good, right,” she asked, trying to change the subject.
“That’s not the point, little one.” Anas sighed. “Mother Moon. I’d hand in my resignation on the spot if we could get our shop up and running.”
Niqi blinked at the stone. “We just need to choose a spot, Anas. The rest is just getting everything delivered.”
He nodded firmly. “I like the one facing Lion’s Rest. We should take that and start setting up.”
Niqi smiled. “That one was very nice. I’ll see to setting up the orders for things if I get a break tomorrow.” She took out a piece of paper and wrote out a list of items they needed. Setting it on the stone, she giggled. “I need help. I don’t know who the fabric suppliers are.”
“I’ve already met one in Boralus, though we’ll have to see to the other suppliers.” Anas smiled at the stone. “If it’s all certain, you don’t have to go in to work after that. I’d imagine we’ll be quite busy getting everything in order and tracking down suppliers.”
“Not we, Anas. You have to rest,” she chided.
“I think I’ve been resting long enough.” Anas glanced at the blanket. “Any longer and I’ll be bored stiff.”
“Are you certain? I don’t want you to push too hard. I have to get that order done anyway. They wanted the gown in a week and a half.” She looked down at her hands, realizing how much they were going to hurt soon. “I spent all day tracing and cutting the pieces.”
Anas shook his head. “Give it back to Wynne. Let her figure it out. We need to see to our shop now.”
Niqi laughed aloud. “Anas! She couldn’t make that gown if she had a year!” Pulling the blanket closer around her, she sat thoughtfully for a few minutes. “I wonder…I wonder if I could convince the client to let me finish it. Wynne has the money for the materials. So if I convinced him to demand them, and he brought them to us…”
“I’d rather let Wynne get through it on her own.” Anas’s face darkened. “Let her understand exactly what she was demanding that you do.”
“All right, my brother. All right.” She leaned back against the wall. “I won’t suggest anything to the client. If he comes to us, it will be his choice.”
He nodded, picking up the paper on the stone. “I’ll help you with this.” He rose from the bed. Stepping towards the window, he waved Mehe inside as Goldeneyes watched curiously.
“Please don’t do too much though?” She urged him gently.
“I will as much as I can, little one,” he said.
“What would you like me to start with?” She took a new piece of paper and started a numbered list. Her pencil made a soft scratching noise as it moved over the parchment.
“We need to confirm with the landlord that we’re taking that place.” Anas nodded as Mehe entered the room. “Niqi and I are going to start our shop.”
“About damn time.” Mehe scowled. “Get out from under that bloody woman’s thumb.”
“I’ll secure it and pay the first few months rent to ensure they don’t try to give it to someone else,” she jotted it down. “Hello, Mehe. How are you?”
Mehe dusted off his hands. “Doing fine. How are you, Niqi?”
She whispered, “Tired, but managing. I went back to work today.”
“So soon?” Mehe threw Anas a concerned glance.
“Not anymore,” the Kaldorei said firmly. “I won’t let Wynne exploit us any longer.”
“Wynne didn’t give me a choice, Mehe. She said if I didn’t show, she would fire both of us. I was trying to make sure Anas could rest,” she offered through a tired yawn.
“Well, you won’t have to worry about that anymore, little one.” Anas glanced through her list. “We should get started on these in the meantime.”
“After I secure the space, I will see if I can hire someone to move your work table,” she marked that down. “What else?”
A very soft knock could be heard. “Miss? Are you in here?” Niqi took a quick, sharp breath before letting it out.
Anas and Mehe glanced at the stone. “Who’s that?” the Kaldorei asked.
Gerald inclined his head. “Names Gerald, Sir. Master Kalithil asked that I keep an eye on Miss Niquisse.”
“It’s all right, Anas,” she reassured. “I’m just a little jumpy when I’m alone.”
“Are you a friend of Kalithil’s?” Mehe asked.
Gerald chuckled. “Don’t suppose he’s got many that call him friend, ‘cept maybe his wife, sir. I’m part of the guard here. I helped Miss Lilybeth when she had troubles. So he asked me to do the same for Miss Niquisse.”
“Did you need something, Gerald? I was just talking to my brother and Mehe,” Niqi asked, not unkindly.
“Just wanted to see if you would be stayin’ here tomorrow or going back to Stormwind again. Wasn’t sure if I’d be needed.” He smiled.
“Will he be coming along with you?” Anas asked curiously.
“I can if she needs me, sir. Master Ælithil took her to work yesterday. But he’s got some training to do tomorrow.” Gerald stated plainly.
“I…I won’t be at work, it would be a lot of errands, Gerald,” she apologized, sounding completely embarrassed.
Anas glanced at Mehe, who shrugged. “Having someone to help you with errands would be a good idea,” he opined.
“You’re probably right…” she nodded.
Gerald bowed and moved for the door. “See you in the morning, Miss.”
“Thanks, Anas. I…feel like I…” she swallowed. “I shouldn’t be scared. But I am. It’s foolish.”
“It’s not,” Mehe said quietly. “You’ve been through a terrible ordeal. It’s only natural.”
“I’m afraid he’s going to find me again,” she whispered. “Æl says they’re gonna find him. But what if…if he…”
“He won’t, little one,” Anas said gently. “Ælithil would never let that happen on his watch.”
She took a shuddering breath, nodding. “Thank you both. I..I’m trying not to let it…” she choked it back. Clearing her throat. “I’m sorry. We were,” she sniffled. “We were talking about the shop. I will umm, get your new work table moved and then what?”
“If you’re not feeling up to it, we’ll get it all sorted out,” Anas offered, glancing at Mehe. The Ren’dorei nodded in agreement.
“I can do some. Please,” she pleaded. “You’re supposed to be resting.”
“Only if you want, Niqi,” Mehe said. “Your brother and I don’t want you to wear yourself out.”
Niqi chuckled mirthlessly. “I need something to do if Æl will be training. But thank you, Mehe. You’re very kind.”
A soft humming from a male voice could be heard from outside the room. Mehe raised an eyebrow. “Is that your friend Gerald?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling slightly. “He’s always humming. Or singing.” She picked up a small purple flower on the table and set it on the stone. “Mehe? Do you know what this is? It’s pretty.”
Mehe lifted the newly materialized flower from the stone, examining it. “Looks like a Twilight Jasmine to me,” he said. “Did you recently visit the Twilight Highlands?”
“No, Lilybeth has a garden here full of all sorts of flowers. She grinds them for pigments,” she explained. “Is that where it normally grows? I was thinking, maybe for my wedding?”
“Yeah, they’re from that area.” He set the flower back onto the stone. “A garden, you say? What other flowers does she grow there?”
“Yes, Niqi. They look perfect for your wedding,” Anas said, grinning.
“All kinds of things. There’s something that looks like an orchid, there’s some roses, a few varieties of lilies, ummm…” she stopped suddenly. “I don’t know what the others are.”
“I’d love to see that,” Mehe said thoughtfully.
“I will ask if you can visit sometime,” she offered.
“That would be nice. Thank you.”
Anas smiled at his mate, placing an arm around the other man’s shoulders. “Are you planning on having just those jasmines at your wedding?” he asked, returning his attention to the stone.
“I don’t know. I wanted a couple of things, for variety, but…” she sighed. “I don’t know what would look nice and also smell nice together. The jasmine is pretty with the orchids but the smell together was terrible!” Niqi yawned wide, and shook her head. “Excuse me. I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“You should rest, little one,” Anas said, his voice concerned.
“I’m ok…” she murmured, setting her head down on the table in front of her with a soft thud. “I…I don’t want to…” she started to softly snore. The humming from the other room stopped and soft footfalls could be heard approaching.
Mehe’s ears twitched. “Is that you, Gerald?”
“Yes’sir. It looks like Miss Niqi fell asleep on the table here,” he clicked his tongue. “Hmmm,” he shuffled about the room and found the blanket that had fallen from her shoulders. “I’ll cover her up and see what the Master thinks I should do. Not sure if I should touch her or not, what with what happened.”
“Perhaps that’s a good idea,” Anas said thoughtfully. “Thank you for looking after my sister, friend.”
“Don’t mind at all, Sir. She’s a sweet soul. Not right someone should hurt her.” He picked up the stone. “How do I turn this thing off? So she can rest, I mean.”
“Press her thumb against the rune,” Mehe instructed.
“Please see that she rests,” Anas added.
“I’ll try, Sir. ‘Cept she’s trying not to. You got ideas on how to convince her, I’m all ears.” The man sighed. “She just keeps goin’ till she nods off. Then she apologizes for fallin’ asleep.”
“She’s afraid to sleep,” Mehe murmured. “It was like that when she was here too.”
“Hmmm, all right. I’ll see what can be done,” he turned the stone over. “Good night, Sirs.”
“Goodnight,” Anas said before severing the connection. Gerald held the stone against Niqi’s thumb and went to find Kalithil.