Prologue: Displaced and Recalled
The apartment was quiet in the latter half of the afternoon, all three children napping and Yami and Sarren out at the market. Bright sunlight streamed through the high window outside of the kitchen, its angle long and the dust motes dancing in lazy circles through it. The small, banked fire in the fireplace made it just toasty and warm, no sign of the chill that was in the sea air outside, and its soft crackle filled the space with a homely, soothing din.
And all of it was lost on the sole occupant who perched on the edge of the couch, brow furrowed and hands trembling around the missive in her grip. Her luminous eggshell-blue eyes, dristy and not focused at all on the room around her, were bright with unshed tears as she muttered under her breath, a simple enough prayer but said in a thick, broken voice.
“Goddess… give me courage…”
Rhoelyn braced herself with a deep, shaky breath and looked down at the wrinkled parchment, her attention focusing once more as she swallowed the lump in her throat and forced herself to reread the scrawled, graceful Darnassian runes of the summons. Her vision swam wetly, giving the symbols a certain wavering, dizzy motion.
By order of the Temple:
Elune’s servant, Rhoelyn Silverwing, you are called to service in the name of Her vengeance, for the salvation of Her lost. You will report three moonrises after receipt of your orders to the command of one Eritheya Dewleaf in Bashal’Aran, Darkshore.
May Elune’s grace be yours and your gift to all of Her people.
A tear dripped free as she looked at the less formal note tucked into the bottom corner in a hasty hand: Rhoelyn, the lost need our help to find their release. This assignment is of a merciful nature. Noncombat. It was signed “Lannia”.
The words were meant as a comfort, she knew, but as the little healer looked around the small apartment, she could only feel the fear, see the flashes of pain and rage and blank, cold death on the faces of those she’d tried to save when the Horde invaded the Shore. The stability and safety of Boralus let her forget all that every day, locking it away as mere fodder for her nightmares.
Now she was called back to the waking nightmare.
The priestess would go. Of course she would go. Where the Temple needed her was were she belonged. But… the cost…
The cost of all that her goddess asked of her lay not only in her scars, few visible and most invisible, but in the days or weeks or months away from her family. Her beautiful little dream son. Her niece and nephews. The brother and sister who protected her. Kind, fatherly Sarren. They were the rocks she clung to, and the thought of leaving to go back to the warfront felt akin to jumping off solid ground into an uncertain and heart-dropping plummet.
But she would go. Of course she would.
The priestess curled forward with a little sob, crushing the page and clutching it to her heart as her face crumpled. The tears she shed, then, were selfish tears. Unworthy and unproductive. But fear drove them from her like a cruel mistress, assaulting her in all its colors and flavors. Fear for herself. Fear for her family without her. Fear that she wouldn’t be strong enough for another dose of the horrors of war. Fear… fear of the world outside the door, the one that held monsters who murdered innocents.
Rhoelyn cried alone like that for a while, muffling herself first with her fist and then by laying down and burying her face against the cushions… until finally she fell asleep sprawled across the couch, her cheeks wet and her orders laying in her open, slack palm.
Nysse slipped inside the apartment and closed the door carefully in case of the children’s afternoon nap. The quiet shuffling of fabric from the other room caught her attention as she peered about for Rhoelyn. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d fallen asleep with the little darlings.
She smiled gently as she made her way into the living room. A drape of fabric stopped the night elf in her tracks and she walked over to crouch in front of her sleeping sister. She murmured under her breath, “Did they wear you out, sister?”
Paper in the tired woman’s hand brushed Nysse’s arm, and the contact knocked it to the floor. She picked it up and started to place it on the table, but at the tense, worried lines on Rhoelyn’s features, she read it instead.
Concern creased the corners of her eyes as she brushed Rhoelyn’s hair back from her face. “Sister…”
The little healer stirred sleepily under Nysse’s touch and blinked her eyes open. Once she had cleared the drowsy fog from her head, she offered a slow, lazy smile to her dear sister and murmured, “Nysse? Oh, wonderful. You’ve returned safe once more.”
Rhoelyn shifted until she could free her arms to reach out and draw the other woman into a hug.
The younger woman hugged Rhoelyn tightly. She held on longer than normal, reluctant to release her. “Rhese will be home a bit later. He was dropping off the report from this mission, but I suspect Aris might convince him to go out for a drink…”
Rhoelyn nodded with her chin against her sister’s shoulder. “We will see him late, then. But I’m relieved to know you are both well.”
She finally pulled back, sitting up and rubbing at her eyes. Her long hair tumbled in a light mess around her shoulders, but she ignored it in favor of looking Nysse up and down more carefully. “You are well, aren’t you? How was your worm -ah… work?”
The priestess winced and blushed slightly at the slip of the tongue, feeling sleepy and unsettled.
The huntress grimaced at the phrase. “It was fine. Less eventful this time, though…”
She hesitated, unwilling to put the weight of her and Rhese’s latest disagreement on Rhoelyn when she had a bigger worry. “…I missed the children.” She finished awkwardly.
“How are you doing, Rhoe? Do you need me to watch the children while you rest?” She clutched the paper in her hand, unsure how to broach the topic.
With a sheepish grin, her sister shook her head and ran a hand through her hair in an attempt to straighten it. “No. No, I am not so tired. I’m sorry that I slept, sister. I’d intended to work on the kitchen; it is in quite the state. But then-…”
Suddenly reminded, Rhoelyn gasped and looked down at her empty hand and then patted around on the couch, lifting the edges of her gown’s skirt to check beneath it.
Silently, Nysse grasped Rhoelyn’s hand and pressed the paper into it with her other hand. “It fell out of your hand when I came over to check on you…”
The priestess blinked at the crumpled and resmoothed missive, her face paling a bit.
“A-ah…” she said softly before she lifted her eyes and offered her other hand to Nysse, tilting her head to the seat beside her. Her expression was carefully filled with brittle calm.
The huntress shifted, lifting enough to scoot into the seat. She just clasped her sister’s hands quietly. Her searching gaze, the worried lines of her face, and her tension said more than any words would.
“You read it.” The priestess made the statement without rancor, instead filled with what was almost relief that she didn’t need to see her sister’s initial reaction. She did, however, wait for a nod of confirmation before her hands tightened on Nysse’s.
“I still have a few days. Perhaps I can try to find someone who we can hire to come and help around the apartment w-while I-“
“I’m coming with you. We can tell R-rhese… that… that… you needed to get out of the house for a bit. He’d try to stop or join us otherwise.” Nysse looked a little guilty at the mention of lying to Rhese.
She stopped awkwardly, feeling much like the girl that had met them years ago. Uncertainties and fear ran through her despite her bold suggestion. “May I, sister? R-rhese could use some time without me…” Her gaze flickered down.
Rhoelyn stared at her sister, brow furrowing. There was too much to parse there, too many complicated feelings for her to do it quickly. Too many secrets and hurts between them. She bit her lip and rubbed her thumbs along the huntress’ knuckles.
“Nysse, how could I take you back to the warfront? Rhese needs time without you?… No, I fear it is the opposite. He needs you. The children need you.”
Tugging their clenched hands against her heart, the priestess took a shaky breath.
Nysse’s smile doesn’t reach her eyes. “An’da and Yami will watch the children. I’m sure Rhese will appreciate missions where I don’t… restrict him.”
Biting her lip, the huntress admitted, “I was thinking of heading out by myself for bit, but I could be more useful if I went with you.” She didn’t meet Rhoelyn’s eyes.
Again, the priestess spent some time searching her sister’s face, sifting through her own tangle of emotions and Nysse’s as well. After a while, on a soft sigh, she freed one hand to rest against the other woman’s cheek and gently encourage her to raise her gaze.
“We are all hurting. You not least of all… but you hide it the best, my dear sister, behind duty and routine and… and running.” Rhoelyn closed her eyes, and when she opened them, they shone with the tears she’d tried to forget.
“Tell me what has happened. In all the years that I’ve known you, I’ve never heard you wish to spend time apart from Rhese. Just as I’ve never known him to bristle under your guidance.” She reclaimed her second grip on Nysse’s hands and said, “I would be a poor and selfish sister if I let you risk yourself to come back to war with me without at least understanding why.”
The huntress’ voice was soft, almost tiny, “I don’t want to be away from him, sister, but… we keep fighting over and over. He’s so angry and nothing I say or do seems to help. I don’t think all the Horde are evil or that they’ve betrayed us. My opinion isn’t… popular.”
She took a shuddering breath. “I don’t want the children hating others just because they look different. This time… he was clawing up some Horde flags at the site we were investigating. I… I told him it wasn’t necessary. That it was a w-waste of time.”
Pulling her hands back, she rubbed at her eyes as if to prevent the tears from falling. “He starfalled the entire area…” Her shoulders rounded. “I y-yelled at him for destroying it because… because Grave might have wanted to research it more. Oh sister, I’m so sorry. You have so much going on and I shouldn’t put our personal disagreements on you as well.”
Nysse tried to force a weak smile. “We’ll… we’ll work it out. We always do. I just thought a little space might help him find some balance.”
The priestess rested her hands in her lap, clasping them together with a purposeful gentleness and calm as she listened to Nysse’s words. Her face settled into patient sympathy until the other woman fell silent, and then she reached up to brush Nysse’s green hair back from her temple soothingly.
“I know you will, but I also know how it upsets you when you two are not in accord. Rhese can be such a… such a bear, at times. Perhaps space is best until he chooses to let go of some of his anger.”
She searched Nysse’s face. “You mustn’t blame yourself if he is impossible, sister. And you mustn’t go with me if you will only worry yourself sick about him without you.”
Rhoelyn’s brow furrowed a bit. “Perhaps we should… be certain that Grave has had an introduction to Kaerryn?”
Nysse’s lips twisted in confusion. “Kaerryn? Are you thinking that he should keep her with Rhese on missions?”
“I… it would make me feel better if there was someone with him. And… he… he won’t understand if we tell him that we’re going back without him.” Clutching her hands on her knees, she nervously glanced over her shoulder at the children’s bedroom.
Following the younger woman’s glance just briefly, the healer nodded. “I would feel better, as well. And Kaerryn… our brash young friend is surprisingly good at keeping Rhese in line, given how out of line she likes to be. She is well equipped to deal with him when he is… like this.”
She rested a hand over Nysse’s. “I know we cannot tell him everything, but… Nysse, I do not wish to lie to my brother, and I am terrible at it as it is. I-I… If we hope to be convincing, we will need a better way to… obscure… where we will go and make it clear that he cannot follow.”
With a sigh, the priestess looked back down at the crumpled page in her other hand. Her voice became softer as she muttered, “… I should refuse you. You both love each other, and it will win through when Rhese has time to think of what a bore he’s been.” She didn’t say the rest of what she thought, but when she looked back up, her furrowed brow and nibbled lip broadcasted a quiet, uncertain, banked fear.
Nysse rubbed her face with a long sigh. “We love you as well, Rhoelyn. I can’t help but think that it would help him to know that at least one of us is with you. With time, I’m sure he’ll come around, but it is… difficult for me to give him the time he needs here.”
She gazed at Rhoelyn, drawing herself up. “I will help ensure that we all return safely to our children.” The younger night elf reached out to lightly touch Rhoe’s hand.
Drawing a shaky breath, her sister finally nodded. She leaned forward to rest her forehead on Nysse’s shoulder, a curling of her back that ended up draping the ends of her long hair over the other woman’s arms. There, she quietly admitted, “I cannot bring myself to refuse you. I… I-I am terrified, Nysse. It will… take me some time, yet, to find my courage about going back there, and so it is a great relief to me that you would be at my side.”
Her fingers clenched around the younger elf’s. “B-but what if the commander there separates us? What if you are tasked to the battle itself? With your skill, sh-“
“They won’t. I’m assigned to AESOP. We’ll need to inform Ardell, but I should be able to get an assignment to guard you.” Nysse wrapped her other arm around Rhoelyn.
A pair of soft sounds from the other room made Nysse sigh. “It seems that our break may almost be over. I hear them moving.”
The priestess nodded against her shoulder and hugged her sister tightly, repeating at a quiet mutter, “I should refuse you.”
She straightened and turned away, rubbing the heels of her hands over her eyes. “I-I’ll warm their milk and get started on Alen’s snack. We can prevent some of the tears if we predict them.”
Nysse smiled, almost a Rhese-like smirk, “Do you really think I’d let you refuse?”
She leaned over and kissed Rhoelyn’s forehead and then pushed to her feet. She stood a little straighter with something to do instead of worrying. “I’ll go check on our darlings. Maybe I can distract them until you have food ready.”
Rhoelyn rose beside her, brushing at her skirts and then the last of her tears. She sighed with exaggerated drama and lightheartedly complained, “Goodness. Whatever will I do if you continue to learn my brother’s stubbornness? I shall be overrun at every turn.”
Rhoelyn smiled and softened her statement by returning Nysse’s kiss with one on her cheek. She started to turn away, but she paused and looked back, sobering.
“Thank you, sister. We can decide how to manage our beloved bear while we feed the den’s cubs.” And then she grinned playfully before heading to the kitchen.
Chuckling, Nysse headed into the other room with the crib. She called over her shoulder. “I was planning to shove Rhy in his arms. Our calm little moon might do the trick.”
She leaned over the crib as the twins gurgled and poked each other, speaking in their baby language. “Is Alen in your room?”
“He’s in the bed, yes,” came the distant response as the healer stuck her head in a cupboard.
But a little pair of feet padding along the floor at a slappy gait made her a liar. The toddler dragged his favorite little blanket in one hand and rubbed his eye with the other, chubby fist clenched, as he wandered through the nursery doorway.
“A’ba…” he mumbled as he approached the crib.
“Hello, little one. Do you want to help me check on Rhy and Mirra?” Nysse crouched down to his level and opened her arms up.
The huntress continued, “Of course, Rhoelyn is in the kitchen if you want her, but I’d love your company.” She smiled brightly at him.
“Wrily abababa,” came her answer, but the more comprehensible part was when the child waddled halfway into her open arms and mystifyingly turned around. He then backed up in awkward little steps until he leaned back against her chest and stuck his thumb in his mouth, his sleep-mad curls tickling her neck.
Nysse chuckled and scooped him up like he was sitting and she was the back of the chair. Smoothly, she twisted and deposited him on the crib’s rail with an arm around to steady him.
“Say hello to the twins, Alen. I think they’re still half asleep as well.” She kissed his cheek and gazed down at her children.
“Wrily,” Alen announced, reaching his bare little toes toward the nearest twin. “Wrassa.” He tugged his blanket around and held it out to Rhylian, the woven corner tickling his aqua little head as the baby wiggled.
“Nysse?” Rhoe’s voice came from across the apartment, just loud enough to be heard and not a bit louder. “I think Alen might be awake. I heard him.”
Turning, but making sure that she’s holding onto Alen, she called back. “He’s awake and wanting to visit with the twins.”
At Alen’s squeal, her head snapped around. “Rhy, let go of his blanket.” The two boys tugged back and forth as she reached down and tried to free the blanket from the baby’s tight grip without dropping Alen. Rhy fussed angrily, bumping his sister and setting off a chain reaction of cries.
“Oh rot… that didn’t go as planned.” Nysse grimaced. She called back to Rhoelyn. “I… I’ve got it, Rhoe!” Then she mumbled softly, “I think…”
The priestess giggled softly at the sounds of typical chaos from the other room as she broke a few dry crackers apart for Alen and arranged them on a little wooden plate. The child’s utensils were ones she’d found in the market with great glee, a carved wooden leaf in the style of the trees that had once grown on Teldrassil, stained just slightly green and embellished with scrolled carvings and Darnassian runes on its underside. She smiled and ran her fingers lightly over the surface, wondering if she should show Nysse the matching flower and the second style of leaf that she’d gotten for the twins when they were older. With the way Rhy eyed Alen’s snacks, their useful time was probably coming soon.
The little night elf nodded to herself and stretched up to the high cupboard where she’d stored them, fetching the pair down to the counter top.
With some extra wrangling, Nysse managed to coordinate the toddler and babes to maneuver them into the living room. As they head to the table, Nysse asked, “When are Sarren and Yami coming back? Should we set out places for them?”
She carefully set the twins in their chairs. After a moment she turned to Alensyr, smiling. “Ready for your snack?”
The toddler raised both arms to her, blanket dropping, forgotten in the promise of food. “Ahb! Ahb!” he exclaimed urgently, waddling forward.
Rhoelyn smiled down at the boy as she glided past them both and offered matched bottles to the twins. Rhy grabbed his and stuffed the nipple in his mouth while Mirra needed to play with it a bit before she ate. As usual.
She giggled and leaned down to kiss each twin’s cheek before heading back to the kitchen.
Nysse lifted Alen and settled him into his seat.
The boy bounced happily. “Oud! Oud!” His little fists hit the table in his flailing and she patted his hand.
“Yes, food.” She glanced to see how her babes were doing. They were too focused on their meal to notice her attention. “Rhoelyn, do you need any help?”
“Not at all, my sister. His highness’ snack is ready.” The priestess swept back in with the carved leaf plate scattered with chunks of fruit and vegetables and bits of cracker. It even had a few pieces of a Kul’Tiran cheese on it. She put it and a cup of milk in front of him before she settled back to smile tenderly at them all.
As Alen joined his little ‘siblings’ in wolfing down his meal, she finally answered her sister’s earlier question. “I expect your father and Yami will be back any time, now. I thought I might start on a more adult meal. Are you hungry?”
The huntress nodded. “A bit actually. We hurried back without stopping to eat.” She blushed. “I still have to carry twice the food…”
She shifted around the table so she could rest her hands on the twins’ backs. “I’ll help until these three are done.”
Rhoelyn smiled happily and wandered back toward the kitchen. “That would be a great help. Ah, it’s such a simple luxury to only need to do one thing at a time!”
The little woman giggled, getting a few more things out of the enchanted cooling shelf. When she set them on the counter, she glanced again at the little carved plates.
“Oh! I’d nearly forgotten already.” Cooking set aside for just a moment, she swept the little aqua flower plate and the grey-green leaf plate into her hands and brought them through. She smiled as she held the pair of them up, one per slender hand, for Nysse’s approval. “Just look what I found for our moon and star, as well!”
“Oh, they’re beautiful, Rhoelyn! I can’t wait to use them.” The young woman’s expression was bright. “Wherever did you find them?”
She quickly nudged Rhy’s hand away from Alen’s plate as she regarded them. “It’s a shame that they’re too young to appreciate it fully, but I know they’ll get a lot of us-” Nysse sighed and pushed Alen and his plate further from the greedy twin. “-use soon.”
Her sister giggled to watch them. “Quite soon, if our little moon has his way. Perhaps I should get some of those mushie yellow fruits from the market. The ones from Northrend. Should we let him try a bit of solid food, tomorrow? And I should be willing to bet that Mirra will be inspired as soon as she sees him trying something new.”
She smiled warmly and leaned forward to smooth Mirra’s growing hair back from her forehead. “You are never one to come in second, are you, our girl…?”
Nysse nodded. “I think we should. I fear that he’ll eat us out of house and home once he really gets a taste for solid food though. At least Mirra is a bit more… moderate.”
She bowed down to kiss the top of his head and place his bottle back in his hands. “You still have a bit left, little moon.”
Rhoe brushed a hand along Nysse’s arm as she headed back to the task of dinner. It wasn’t long at all that the sound of the key in the lock and the door clicking open preceded Yami and Sarren with a basket full of goods.
“No, of course not, little light, but it’s always a compromise between speed and accuracy,” the elder was saying to his grandson as he stepped into the living room and closed the door behind the pair of them.
Yami waved broadly. “Yes, but min’da does fine while-” His gaze took in his mother, and he grinned broadly. “You’re home! Does that mean an’da will be home soon as well?”
The huntress nodded. “Of course. I think he’s socializing a bit while he drops off the report, but he should be home later tonight. He might miss dinner though. Are you both hungry?”
“I’m starving!” her son said as he came over and kissed her cheek and gave her a hug. He glanced back at Sarren, who smiled at them both as he sidled past and on into the kitchen.
“I’d eat,” Nysse’s father said, setting the basket on the counter beside where Rhoelyn was working. He rested a hand on her shoulder by way of greeting when she looked up from her work to smile at him.
Sarren started unloading the basket. “You didn’t have any problems while we were gone, did you?”
Smoothly, he handed her the next vegetable she had ready to cut and then continued store their shopping. He slowly filled up the shelf above the counter with the fresh produce. “I got a selection of fruits that we could try. I was interested in a few of the new ones.”
“Oh, lovely. Nysse and I were just discussing perhaps giving our curious little moon his first taste of something. Did you see those yellow ones that are very soft? I thought Rhy and Mirra might be ready to try some if we mush it up.”
Quietly recalling her earlier news and earlier tears, Rhoelyn ignored his first question, flicking an uncertain look over at the huntress before she turned her attention back to her work.
The older hunter pulled out a couple of yellow gourds and held them in her view. “Are you talking about these?”
Squeals of laughter erupted in the other room, interrupting Rhoelyn’s answer. They both smiled and regarded the doorway where they could see Yami spinning with Mirra in his arms. It was another moment before they returned to their conversation.
“No,” she said with a residual little giggle as Mirra squealed in laughter from the other room, again. “But perhaps that will be nice as well. What… what is it? Should we cut it to see what it smells like?”
The priestess picked up one of the gourds, tapping at it gently with one finger. She grinned at the pleasant, oddly hollow sound it made.
Sarren grinned. “I think we should. I don’t know if it requires any cooking, but we should be able to tell after opening it. If not, wrap it up and I can ask around tomorrow.”
He picked up one of the large knives. “Let’s see.” She handed it back and watched him cut it in half. He offered one side to her as he regarded the other.
With the pair of them working together on the odd, new “fruit” and their collective dinner, Nysse was free to stay in the conjoined living room and dining room with the children, both born and borrowed. She smiled at Yami, lifting a restless Alen from his chair and setting him down. The young man juggled both wiggly, happy twins in his strong arms, blowing raspberries against their chubby little violet cheeks.
“They adore you, my light. I’m afraid that they’ll be quite a handful when they can walk and show it more… energetically.” Nysse laughed.
Yami smirked. “I can’t wait.”
She gestured to the floor as she sat next to Alen and started playing. Yami and the twins soon joined her as Alen fetched a ball and they rolled it between them as the twins rolled, scooted and crawled around the floor.
Sarren paused after he slid the casserole dish into the oven, taking a moment to go back to the doorway and peer through at the happy, peaceful family. The babies were every bit as happy playing as the adults who watched them, and for the moment, there was only joy in absence of everything that waited outside of the doors of the small Boralus apartment. He smiled tenderly and rested his shoulder against the wall, feeling his age creep in a bit.
They were all so young, Nysse and Rhese and Rhoelyn included, and so afflicted by the war and by the Tree and by the displacement to the Kul’Tiran city. He sighed softly and glanced back at the priestess, all her tiny tells as she worked with extra focus on their dinner screaming that she was upset. That something new was wrong. His daughter as well; she had that hunger behind her smile and tension in her shoulders even as her love shone in her silver eyes.
The senior hunter shook his head slightly to himself before he set his smile back in place and turned back to the kitchen. Rhoelyn had ignored his earlier question, and there was something there to learn. But it could wait.
Dinner, first. Family time together at their ease. And then, maybe later, when Rhese was back, he would make them share what was wrong and help them all figure out just what to do about it.
It was hours later when Nysse sat at the dining table sipping her cooling tea. They’d set out folding mats in Rhoe’s room and the nursery for Yami and her father. Everyone else had long gone to sleep.
The young woman stared at her cup, forcing her drooping eyes to stay open. Surely, he’d be home soon. There was no point in trying to sleep without him. She’d worry… more.
Her arms were propped on the table holding up her rounding shoulders. She hated this feeling. She always worried more after they fought. The huntress fell into her groggy depression, losing herself to her thoughts.
The click of the door barely reached her through her drowse, but Rhese strode into the house, pulling his helm from his head. Bags under his eyes spoke of his exhaustion just as much as the slight sway to his step spoke to what he’d gotten up to most of the evening. Still, his amber eyes softened when he saw his love sitting at the dining table instead of sleeping.
He dumped helm and gloves on the table by the couch before he stepped over to her, his footfalls as light as they were in the forest. “Nysse,” he said softly, leaning down to rest a gentle hand on her back.
His mate turned her head up to look at him with shimmering eyes. “R-rhese. Welcome home.” Her voice was soft and tentative. “Did you eat while you were out? We… we saved you some dinner.”
Nyssera bit her lip as she examined his face.
“I’m not hungry,” he answered with a little shake of his head, crouching by her chair.
He wrapped his arms around her waist, suddenly, and laid his head in the crook of her neck, silent for the moment.
The young woman brought her hand up to the back of his head, fingers sliding into the silken strands as she cradled him close. Nysse blinked furiously and then closed her eyes tightly in a furious attempt to stop the tears that threatened to escape.
Her thick throat betrayed her when she whispered, “Dalah’surfal…” Her other hand bunched his shirt into a fist as she held onto him.
“I’m sorry,” Rhese told his mate at nearly a whisper, hugging her tight. He nuzzled her even as he sighed. “You were right, and I was… just too angry and frustrated to listen. You didn’t deserve that, my lovely.”
Nysse kissed his temple, ignoring the tear that slipped down her cheek. “You’re forgiven, Rhese. I… I…,” she paused as she tried to figure out what she wanted to say. “I don’t like that we’ve been at odds recently, but things have been difficult for us all.”
The huntress tried changing the topic. “R-rhy crawled a little today when Yami, Alen, and I were playing. He… he wanted to grab the ball.” Talking about it only made her heart throb and eyes burn with fresh tears. She wished he’d been there to see them.
Rhese raised his head to regard her tenderly, lifting a hand to caress her cheek. He smiled softly.
“So our little moon is finally caught up to his sister. I’ll have to get him to show me his new trick, tomorrow. Everyone’s lives are going to be more hectic with those two crawling.” His thumb brushed along her skin, wiping away the trail of a tear.
“I love you, Nysse,” he said, sobering. The smell of mead was on his breath, but not overpowering. Just soft, like his mood. “Nothing else going on around us and no number of arguments can change that. I just… just…”
He let the thought trail, shaking his head slightly, uncertain.
“Need space to think and deal with things. You and I aren’t so different in some regards.” Her lips turned upwards and she ran her hands through his hair. “I love you as well.”
She leaned forward and kissed the corner of his mouth chastely. “We’ve hardly had time to ourselves to process all the changes happening around us. It’s… overwhelming. We both have to deal with it in our own ways.”
The druid’s shoulders rounded with some combination of relief and resignation, and he nodded, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against his wife’s shoulder. “War and the Horde… And now people just disappearing. It’s… It’s all hard. And I don’t know how to protect everyone without being hard, too.”
He sighed softly and squeezed her once more. “I don’t want to be hard on you. Only for you.”
Nysse hugged him tighter. “I don’t want you to be hard at all, but… you need to be you. Please don’t let your frustration and anger cause you to forget what you have here at home.”
The huntress sighed. “Even if things are difficult, I will still love you. We all do. I’m… just disappointed that you missed out on being with us and playing with the children.”
Rhese nodded against Nysse’s shoulder and mumbled, “I know, lovely. I won’t let it happen often.”
After a moment of being still, he raised his head once more and pulled away with a weary sigh. “Are you ready to sleep? I’m just about done in.”
She slumped and nodded. “So ready, my love, but… would you like to check on the children? Yami is sleeping on the floor, but he should be asleep.”
The druid nodded and leaned in to steal a kiss. “I’d like that.”
Nysse lingered for a moment before reluctantly pulling away. She tugged him to his feet as she stood. “Let’s go see before you fall off your feet.”
Entwining her fingers with his, they padded quietly to the nursery and creaked the door open. Yami laid curled away from them, giving them clear access to the crib.
Rhese led the way to where the twins slept, little swaddled bodies half escaped from their blankets and night-greyed heads bent together as their breath shushed in and out of their parted lips. Rhy clutched a corner of his sister’s blanket in one round fist and Mirra had worked her leg free and lain her foot on his round, diaper-thick bum.
Their parents both smiled tenderly to see it, sharing amused glances in the dark before they settled in to just watch the twins sleep for a drowsy moment.
Though he didn’t dare touch them and risk waking them, the druid did lean down close and whisper with barely any sound, “Have sweet dreams, my moon and star. Elune’s light shines bright in you both.”
He straightened and glanced down at Yami, the apparent young man nevertheless sleeping with his favorite little blankie clutched to his chest. Rhese’s smile widened, and he looked at Nysse.
“In all of them. In all of our family.” He whispered it by her ear, wrapping her in his arms.
“Oh Rhese…” The darkness blissfully hid her darkening cheeks, but not her joyful smile. Tears pricked her eyes for a different reason as she slid her arms around him and raised up to kiss him. She pulled away slightly to murmur near his lips, “An’da is sleeping in Rhoelyn’s room. We have our bedroom to ourselves…”
Her mate grinned at her and whispered back, “It’s amazing how you manage to banish how tired I am with a few little words, dalah’surfal.”
Moving quietly, he swept her into his arms and headed for the door, silence settling in behind them.