Chapter 13: Sun
The day of their departure came too soon, and Leothir sighed to himself as he directed the porters in loading the last few wagons of supplies. Off to the side, his brother gleamed in golden plate, his regalia shined and ready to inspire as he directed the Duskfall troops called in from alliances and freeholds, about fifteen of the household slaves, and the blacksmith from the town down the road into their places, settling them in around wagons and carriages, pack kodos and saddled hawkstriders.
It was concentrated chaos, which meant Relare was in his element. Leothir just wanted to hide.
And so, when he’d finally seen the last cask of stored food and box of weaponry loaded, he swung his gaze out over the assembled crowds and toward the house, looking for refuge in the form of a serene priestess with silvery hair. He smiled when he spied her on the veranda outside his suite, near the front of the palatial manor and in easy blinking distance. She wasn’t startled when he suddenly appeared beside her with a flash and a crackle of Arcane, merely grinning at him warmly.
“I wondered,” she said softly as he took her hand and brought it to his lips, “just how long you would hold out before you came to escape.”
Leothir chuckled and used the hand he had captured already to draw her closer, running appreciative fingers over the soft fur at the shoulders of her dress before he slid it down to rest at her slim waist. “Precisely that long and not a second longer, my beautiful flower. I was about to fireball the next person who asked me about a crate of doodads they’d misplaced.”
His emerald gaze, glowing, traveled her form from head to toe, and his smile was sunshine that she basked in happily. “You are stunning in the House regalia, Rhoelyn. I am honored that you wore it to send us off.”
The priestess blushed slightly and glanced down at her formal dress, the tied-up curls of her carefully elegant hair falling forward by her temple with the motion. The red overdress was intricate and beautiful, the scarlet of blood on new-fallen snow accented by golden braids and embroidery and long, split front panels of perfect ebony velvet. Ivory lace at the bottom of the long skirt that was nearly a train was trimmed by more of the ivory fur that rolled over her slim shoulders and yet more black velvet. It laced beautifully over an underdress of shimmering silver silk, putting her form on display to her advantage (or perhaps to his) and giving just a peep at her crimson slippers.
“You are too kind, my dawn,” she muttered, embarrassed.
“And you are too modest, my stunning flower,” Leo answered, pride in his happy look and love lighting his luminous gaze. “I would kiss the princess, did she permit me.”
Rhoelyn giggled softly and stepped closer to him, raising her face to his. “The princess would, indeed, appreciate the favor of her dashing knight.”
“Your wish,” the mage interrupted himself to kiss her knuckles, “is my command.” And it was as he released her hand to sweep the rest of her into his arms fully, his lips claiming hers with wanton and thorough abandon.
Three seconds into a delicious kiss, a small voice from about the height of their knees chimed in, “Ewwwww! Das’ too much swobbers, an’nu!”
Leothir and Rhoelyn separated, the former chuckling and the latter blushing as they both looked down at the purple-haired little urchin who’d made his way out from the manor, a white-and-red kitten draped across one arm and the other groping for a hold on his adoptive mother’s skirt. The blood elf smirked as he crouched before the child and rescued Ala’delar from his grip. He would have sworn the little cat gave him a grateful look in the instant before he squirmed and dashed away, doubtless with a spot to nap already in mind.
“Why are you always critiquing my kisses, little plum?” he asked, reaching out to tousle the boy’s curls fondly. “Do you think you’re such the expert, then? A better kisser than I?”
His emerald gaze swept over the sweet child’s outfit with appreciation, and he couldn’t help but to reach out and straighten the tailored vest that Alensyr wore over his silken silver tunic. He was dressed to match the priestess beside them, the sleeveless vest crimson trimmed in gold with little longer panels down his hips. It was secured with an asymmetrical front panel with twin rows of golden buttons, like a little military jacket. The long sleeves of his undershirt were embroidered in more crimson, and all of it settled over his black velvet shorts and long, decorated knee socks with kid boots.
Leo smiled. Alen looked like a lord’s son, just as his adoptive mother looked like a lord’s wife. All that separated them from perfect respectability were the dusky hues of their skin, the exotic tints of their hair, and the silver glow of their eyes. Or, perhaps, moreso… the collars that circled their necks. Decorated, made from ermine fur for Rhoelyn and black velvet for Alensyr, beautiful creations perfectly coordinated with their regalia though they were, they were still marks of slavery. Marks of supposed inferiority.
The mage quietly wanted them gone even as he gathered the boy into his arms and stood, hiding his thoughts. There was nothing productive within them, only a fool’s longing in an impossible situation.
Alen supplied him with a convenient distraction when he answered, “Wass expurt?”
Rhoelyn answered him with a giggle. “He asks if you are a very good kisser, my little love. And I think the answer is yes.” She leaned forward and kissed his smooth cheek, undeterred by the high, stiff neck on her dress.
Alen giggled in return and grabbed her ear long enough to keep her there while he planted a return kiss on her own cheek.
“Sees, an’nu? Min’da wikes!” he crowed proudly as she grinned at him.
“So she does, cad. I am afraid that I am simply crushed by jealousy and must now eliminate my stylish and adorable small rival!” Leothir smirked at the boy and freed one hand to tickle his little belly as the priestess straightened.
The pair of them giggled, one more desperately and with far more squirm than the other until finally the mage paused in his assault. Leo chuckled as Alen wrapped chubby arms around his neck to catch his breath.
“Do you yield, little plum?” the mage asked, amused and patting his back.
His answer was his own kiss on the cheek and a little boy whispering in his long ear, “Gots a’sekret, an’nu.”
That made Leothir blink in surprise, and he whispered back, his gaze seeking Rhoelyn’s with a question in the emerald glow, “Oh, do you? May I know it?”
The priestess raised her eyebrows and shrugged in answer to her love’s unspoken question, the childish whispers easy enough to catch in their bubble of relative quiet. Alen scowled and looked back at her, a serious expression falling onto his little face.
“Min’da!” he announced, imperious, “Gotsa doe ‘way! A’soraf tharim ess.”
Rhoelyn blinked and grinned at that before she curtseyed with formal grace.
“As you command, my little prince. I will leave you gentlemen to your secrets,” she answered in Thalassian before she laughingly made her way to the far railing of the veranda to look out over the continuing bustle of the force’s imminent departure. Carefully out of secrets range.
Leothir watched her for a moment, her long skirt stretching out behind her, back straight, head high and shining silver hair elegantly braided and draped, and he allowed himself one more brief daydream about making his flower the beautiful Lady of the House. One little bittersweet daydream. He sighed under his breath, wondering if his fixation on the idea was motivated by the knowledge that they would part within the hour for who-knew-how-long.
Alen’s little hands gripping his chin and turning his face back popped the bubble of that thought, and he welcomed the distraction, smirking at the demanding urchin. “Right, then. Alensyr. You have my full attention. What, dear boy, is your secret?”
The kal’dorei child made great show of looking around to make sure they had no dastardly eavesdroppers before he leaned close, his arms wrapping back around the lordling’s neck, and said, “Wants you be my an’da.”
And that was it. The mage blinked, stunned, and pulled back to look the boy in the face. His pale, silver eyes were completely serious and perhaps just a little bit innocently vulnerable as he stared at the blood elf who held him. He meant it with all the three-year-old will he could muster.
Leothir suddenly felt flushed and a little bit weak in the knees, and he stepped back to lean against the stone balustrade. “You… you want me to be your father?”
“An’da,” the child corrected, stern. He was loud enough that Rhoelyn glanced over out of the corner of her eye before she went back to studiously ignoring them, her cheeks darkened.
“Right… sorry.” The blood elf nodded and corrected himself. “You really want me to be your an’da?”
Alensyr nodded and hugged his neck a little tighter. “An’da wikes min’da, an’ pways wif me. An’ gots me ala’delar. An’… an’… an’da doesen go, now,” he said softly, casting his eyes down.
Suddenly Leothir understood the impetus for the decision. The mage’s expression softened, and his brow furrowed as he hugged Alen tight to his chest. “Oh, little plum. Is that what you’re worried about?”
The boy nodded, sniffling, and rubbed his nose on Leo’s shoulder. “Sal’an’da hadda go,” he admitted quietly.
“… and he didn’t come back, did he?” the lord asked softly, soothing his hand along Alen’s back. That little purple head shook back and forth against him, a wordless answer.
Leo bent his head and held the boy tight, his thoughts racing and his heart warm. A little gift for the woman he loved had easily become a gift for himself as well, and he acknowledged that the child’s simple request brought him a rush of joy.
It wasn’t the first time he pondered the meaning of “son”, but it was the first time he let himself do so with honesty, with openness to his own feelings. The truth he faced and accepted in that split-second of thought was simple: Alensyr was already well established in his heart as his boy. As his son. As the child of the woman he loved, certainly, but … more than that, as someone he loved as well. The son of his heart, if not his blo-
“Leothir, darling!” His mother’s voice cut into his reverie, her slippered feet shushing along the stone stairs from the yard below. “Do please put the slave down and rejoin us, won’t you? Relare is nearly done, and we need to conduct your send off.”
The mage did not sigh aloud, nor let his irritation at the interruption show on his face as he turned to her. “Give me a few minutes, mother. I’ll join you shortly.”
“Of course, my boy,” Emeria said, pausing to look between the child in Leo’s arms on her right and the stunning night elf waiting by the balustrade to her left. There was ice in her eyes that made him want to shiver, and his brow furrowed. “I’ll trust you not to let these distractions keep you from your place for much longer. If you’ll excuse me.”
And with that, the lady was gone once more, wafting away like an imperious breeze before anyone could think to compare her beauty to the kal’dorei priestess’. Her son thought it and then regretted it, feeling uncharitable and unfair. He was irritated, and it took him a minute to recognize why: he hadn’t liked her to refer to the boy as a slave, he realized, even as he recognized that the term was accurate.
Brow furrowing, Leo’s gaze dropped to the black velvet collar around Alen’s little neck, the medallion of his house stamped in gold to hide the clasp to the chain that dangled down to his belt. It slid from there over to Rhoelyn, who watched his mother go with her hands folded nervously, her face ever-so-slightly pale. The collar she wore was ivory fur with a garnet pendant and a golden chain. But it was still a mark. His brow only furrowed more.
“An’da?” Alen’s little voice pulled the blood elf free of his thoughts, and he turned his attention back, smiling softly at the child and at the word.
“Yes, my little plum. Alensyr, I would be honored to be your an’da,” he said, the weight of the words making his voice quiet. “But I must still go with my brother. Do you understand?”
Horrified, the boy shoved his face back into Leo’s shoulder and shook it there, squirming against him as if he might get closer to the man than he already was. “No go!” he cried, bursting into tears.
Rhoelyn was at their side in a heartbeat, her hands carefully folded at her waist to avoid the temptation to interfere, thoroughly distracted from Emeria. “A-Alen?” she inquired, looking between the child and the man holding him.
“An’da no go!”
Leothir blushed at the wide-eyed look she gave him, unable to stop his lips from quirking up once more at the term. He soothed a hand along the child’s back. “Now, now. It’s okay, Alen. An’da will return, this time. Do you know why?”
The child just sobbed, clinging to him and shaking his head until Leo insisted, pulling away just enough to lift his chin and look him in the eye. “Do you know why?” he repeated, insistent.
“Vhey?” Alen hiccuped the word out, trying to calm and wiping his sleeve across his nose.
“Because, little plum,” the mage answered gently, offering the boy a reassuring smile as his green eyes took on a tinge of arcane blue, “I can go anywhere I like. It’s my special gift.”
With a quick gesture, the magic snapped around them, and they were suddenly standing on the grassy yard at the base of the veranda, facing the pond off in the distance. Alen gasped, his tears almost instantly forgotten. He whipped around in Leo’s arms to stare back at where they’d come from, and Rhoelyn smiled and lifted her hand, waggling her fingers at them from a distance.
That was all it took to convince the toddler. He whipped back around to Leothir, smiled brightly, and wrapped his arms around the lordling’s neck, squeezing as if to choke the man.
“Aiiya! Doit ‘gin, an’da!” he screeched, giggling.
So Leothir did, chuckling and Blinking them back to Rhoelyn’s side, where he snaked an arm out and dragged her into their embrace. The priestess squeaked and then smiled at them both while Alen happily smothered her cheek with kisses.
“An’da, was it, my dawn?” she asked as she wrapped her arms as far as she could manage around the pair, her amused gaze finding her lover’s over Alensyr’s head.
Leo nodded proudly and looked down at the child in his arm. He chuckled as he nuzzled the boy’s cheek with his nose and answered her with far more flippancy than he felt. “Apparently so, my flower. I do believe I have earned a royal promotion from our little prince.”
Alen confirmed that with a bright smile and a thumb in his mouth, laying his head down on his newly-promoted father’s shoulder.
“An’da,” he announced around the tasty digit, staking his claim with an authority that no one on the veranda cared to dispute. Not in the slightest.