Chapter 2: Gifts Once Given
The knock at the door was light and familiar, one that his twin had adopted especially in the few months since the twins had been born, a timid scratch meant to alert them without waking sleeping babes. Rhese answered with a grin, Rhylian cuddled in the crook of his arm, the little aqua-haired boy blinking sleepy golden eyes up at his father.
“Ah… Rhoe, is that you behind that stack of boxes?” he asked with a smirk, shifting aside. “Come in and put those down before you break, sis. I can’t help. I have a drowsy cub, here.”
The priestess maneuvered her way into the house, stepping carefully, and her muffled voice came from behind one of the four boxes, the pile of them stacked too high to see her. She was a bit out of breath from the short walk from her house to theirs. “Yes, of course, brother. Where shall I put them?”
He made a mystified face as he pointed, not that she could see either. “The dining table is clear. Give me a second, and I’ll hand Rhy off to Nysse. She’s in the other room with a hungry little girl.”
At her mumbled ‘hm’ of assent, the druid turned and strode to the bedroom only to return after a minute and a short, quiet conversation with his mate. He chuckled as he managed to be just in time to keep her from dropping the top two boxes on her own head when she tried to lift the pile high enough to settle onto the table.
“Rhoe, it’s awfully early in the evening for a package delivery. What are you even doing awake at this hour?”
Breathing a sigh of relief, she settled the remaining two boxes and watched as he put his beside them. “I have news, brother. Will Nysse be free, soon? I would like to speak with you both for a moment.” She dusted off her hands and brushed them down the front of her gown, eradicating imaginary wrinkles.
Rhese frowned slightly, watching his twin’s face carefully. There were lines of tension around her eyes and a darting, odd impatience to her mannerisms that was rare for her. He rested a hand on her arm, drawing it down to her own and clasping her fingers in his. “Rhoe? Is something wrong?”
The smile she gave him wasn’t faked, at least, and the priestess shook her head. “No, Rhese. Truly. But … I wish to explain to you both. Can you get N-”
“I’m here, sister,” the huntress smiled warmly from the doorway, her little teal-haired daughter still cuddled in her arm as she finished straightening her tunic. “Mirrase heard your voice, and she wants a hug from her aunt.”
“Oh!” Rhoelyn smiled brightly and freed her hand from Rhese’s to take advantage of one of her favorite offers. Nysse giggled softly as she handed the baby over and watched her sister happily stroke her cheek with a tender finger, commenting, “I couldn’t dare disappoint my beautiful little niece. Or her brother. Did Rhylian fall asleep?”
“Yes,” the huntress answered, glancing back at the little bundle of baby all wrapped up and content in his crib. “He likes his after-milk nap, even when auntie is visiting.”
Rhese chuckled. “Our boy has his priorities straight, I suppose.” He smiled at his mate and then his sister as she turned with the baby in her arms and led Nysse over toward the dining table, joining them both. “Now. Are you going to tell us what’s going on, Rhoe?”
The priestess nodded, gesturing to the boxes with one finger while Mirrase held the rest of her hand captive with a tight little fist gripping her pinky. “These… well, no. Please let me start at the beginning.” Her expression sobered into something neutral and a little bit resigned. “I need to leave unexpectedly. Today. Now.”
Rhese frowned, but Nysse gasped. “What do you mean? You’re leaving? But you were going with me to pick flowers, tomorrow. And who’s going to help me make sure the dress fitting goes right? You will be back in time for the wedding itself, right, sister?”
The healer winced, glancing away from the both of them. Rhese only frowned deeper at his twin.
“You don’t think you will,” he said, his tone grim.
“W-what?” Nysse stepped forward, grabbing her sister’s cold hands and wrapping her own around them. “Rhoe?!”
“I… I promise that I will try very hard to be back in time.” Rhoelyn met her sister’s worried gaze, her own brows furrowed. “It… I… It is only that I w-wonder… if…” She winced once more, seeking her brother’s eyes over Nysse’s shoulder.
“You don’t think you will,” he repeated. “Rhoe, what would take you away on the very cusp of our wedding?”
His mate turned back to watch the older woman’s reaction, feeling the tension in her hands.
“I cannot explain, brother. Sister. I am called by Elune to Darnassus. The Temple demands my presence.” At their expressions, she hurried on. “Oh! But it is only the city. It is hardly dire and worthy of worry. Still, my goddess’s timing is quite the disappointment.”
Rhoelyn sighed and squeezed Nysse’s hands.
The druid behind the younger night elf stepped forward with a matching sigh, resting his hand on Rhoelyn’s shoulder. “Then we’ll postpone it. A day or two. Until you’re back.”
The priestess gasped, “Oh, no. You mustn’t delay again.”
“She… she isn’t wrong, surfal,” Nysse said with an unhappy wince. “So many of our friends are making special arrangements to be here, and min’da doesn’t have much time before she has to go back to duty. I… I want Rhoe to be there as much as you, but we’re so close to the day.”
Rhese pressed his lips together, frowning unhappily as he looked between the two of them. “But-”
“Brother,” his twin interrupted, taking his hand in her free one with a tender smile. “I promise to do whatever I can to be back, even if it’s just for the day. Do not disappoint all of our friends. They are waiting to celebrate your love with you.” Her gaze flitted between him and Nysse as Mirrase wiggled and played with the end of a lock of her loose silver hair.
There was a long silence, but in the end, the druid relented under the combined weight of their stares, his shoulders rounding.
“Fine,” he bit out, leaning forward to kiss his sister on the cheek. “You promised to come. I have as much faith in you as I do in Elune, so I’ll trust you to keep that promise. I want you at the wedding, Rhoe.”
“And I want to be there…” Rhoelyn looked over at the boxes, the attempt at optimism on her face unconvincing. “But as a… I… I want to give you both your wedding presents before I go. In… In case I cannot stay long enough to see you open them after.”
Nysse smiled and looked at the unmarked brown boxes. “That’s what all this is? Wedding presents? Did you get too much, again, sister?”
The priestess laughed, tugging her toward the presents and watching to make sure her brother followed. “I really did not, Nysse. They are only large and… well. Open them and see!” She smiled and pulled two of the boxes to the edge of the table, nudging the huntress toward them.
“All right, all right.” Her younger sister grinned and pulled the lid from the first package, peering in at the neatly folded armor in green and brown leather and bronze-tinted scale, the breastplate detailed with a tooled medallion near the waist and hints of ivory. The matching pants and undertunic weren’t obvious until she’d lifted the smooth-lined and small curved bronze-scaled pauldrons from atop it all, laying them out on the table. At the very bottom were a simple matching hair tie; tall, brown leather boots with green fabric stitched around the arches; and a pair of brown-leather archer’s gloves with verdant accents and attached armguards.
“Oh, Rhoe. It’s so beautiful!” Nysse smiled tearfully and grabbed the priestess, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek followed by an exuberant hug that had her sister blushing and smiling even brighter.
“Darling sister. I hope you don’t have to use it for anything more strenuous than hunting deer for months to come. Now, open the other box.”
With a laugh at her rare bossy tone, the younger night elf did as ordered, revealing the graceful bow decorated with cross-braced natural wood and vines of ivy that yet lived and grew, enchanted onto the weapon. The matching leather quiver similarly lived, the plants climbing along one side.
Nysse blinked at it, stunned and reverent. It took her a few seconds before she reached in and withdrew the weapon, feeling immediately the power of it in her hand. “… this… this is amazing.”
Rhese grinned, enjoying the pleasure on his favorite two women’s faces. “It is beautiful. How does it handle, lovely?”
His mate turned to him with a broad grin, raising it and tugging on the string a bit. Back straight, chin up, and confidence and power in every part of her body – that was the time when Nysse always looked the most in her element, and both twins enjoyed watching her as she experimented.
“It’s so smooth! Feel the draw, Rhese.”
His chuckle preceded him raising his hands. “My beloved, you could hand it to me, and I could pluck at the string, but it would be a waste. They all feel like bows to this clawed heathen.”
Nysse giggled and lowered the weapon to make space to reach his scruffy cheek with a kiss. “You have a point, fuzzbutt. Trust me: our sister has found me a masterpiece.”
“You are too kind, Nysse,” the little priestess said with a quiet smile, folding her hands in front of her waist. “Will you try on your armor first, or should we have Rhese open his?”
“I want to see Rhese’s present!” the huntress exclaimed with girlish enthusiasm, setting the bow carefully along the top of her laid-out armor. “And as soon as he’s done, then I want to try it on.”
The druid chuckled, leaning down to snag her for a brief kiss. “Anything my lady wishes, of course.”
His eyes gleamed with ill-concealed excitement as he glanced at his sister and released his mate to step over to the other two boxes. As he lifted the top one, he grunted, “Oh. I remember this one. It’s got some heft to it. Weapons?”
Rhoelyn giggled softly and waved a hand at him. “Open it and see.”
He did so, revealing large, wicked pauldrons in a solid metal with a bronze tone that matched the scale of Nysse’s armor, etched all over in flowing lines of graceful scrollwork and topped by a neat row of three bladed spines. With a broad grin, he pulled the pair free and turned them over in his hands, examining the straps and buckles and laying one experimentally over one shoulder.
At his eager, questioning look, Rhoe giggled and gestured at the other box, and in record time, it was opened to reveal the ornate armor within. Rhese’s grin only widened as he tugged out the stitched suit of tooled leather, a blue cuirass laced over the abdomen and a brown hardened overvest wrapping around the upper chest, secured by a single strap. It was beautiful and functional as well, the matching leather pants fitted with multiple pouches and removable satchels of various sizes. He ran his hands appreciatively over the golden scrollwork on the high calf boots, his eyes wide.
“Sis,” the druid said softly, as reverent as Nysse was. “You’ve really outdone yourself with this one. It’s even styled after my old armor from Northrend.”
His twin smiled brightly, steepling her fingers by her lips. “Oh, you noticed. I am so pleased…”
Nysse gaped, stepping closer to run her hands over the gear as well. As her mate lifted the cuirass free of the box, she gasped.
“Look, beloved. Daggers and a helm and gloves, too!” She brushed her fingers through the blue-grey fur of the bears-head helmet and over the bone claws styled onto the similarly-furred gloves. “It’s almost as soft as your own pelt…”
He chuckled softly, muttering a mock-insulted, “How dare you, lovely!”
But then he was distracted by the daggers, lifting them free and taking one in each hand. The silver blades were hardened ghost iron among other things, lit with an enchantment that gave the keen edges and angular runes decorating their deadly length a glow like the blue of the morning sky. The magical light was caught and echoed in the prismatic gem set into the chappe below the grip on the bronze-toned hilts as well as the rougher-hewn matching gems that floated with ill-defined attachment in the air around his hands.
Rhese swung the blades carefully a few times, his jaw dropping at the perfect balance and feel of them.
“Rhoelyn…” he gasped, glancing up at his sister.
The priestess just smiled and stepped forward to kiss his cheek. “May they protect you, my brother. May they help you always be able to protect your family.”
“Our family,” he corrected tenderly, setting down the daggers to pull her and the now-sleeping little girl she held into his arms. “Our family, sister. And thank you. Both sets of armor are magnificent.”
“I am glad…”
For a moment, Rhoelyn leaned in to her brother and closed her eyes, wrapping her free arm around his ribs. His hug was gratefully loving. Hers was more… needy, absorbing comfort and gathering love as much as giving it. She lingered for reasons she couldn’t define, and he let her, lifting his head and glancing over at Nysse with a little frown. The huntress shook her head and shrugged slightly, as perplexed as he.
Rhese leaned down and asked his sister at a whisper, “Rhoe? What’s wrong? Why are you trembling?”
She shook her head against his chest before raising her face to him with a little, hollow laugh. “I truly don’t know, Rhese. I am… unsettled. I have been since I woke.”
Rhoelyn straightened with some reluctance, busying herself with looking down at the adorable little niece content in the crook of her arm and rubbing a thoughtful finger over her short, silken hair. She tried and failed to analyze the tremble in her hands, the wobble that went all the way to the core of her. All she could find was one crystalline, clear thought:
“I must go. My answers are in Darnassus.” The priestess looked back up at her brother and his mate, offering a reassuring smile. “I’ll be certain to call your hearth and let you know when I arrive.”
Rhese sighed and forced a smile, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “You can be so enigmatic when you try, Rhoe.”
Nysse laughed and crowded forward as he released the little healer, planting a kiss on her other cheek. “Be safe, sister.”
Handing Mirrase back to her father, the older night elf smiled and said, “It is Darnassus, Nysse. How could I be anything but?”
Her brother wrinkled his nose, rocking the baby when she stirred with a sleepy mewl and grouching, “Still enigmatic.”
“Mm,” the priestess grinned, patting his cheek. “You, my brother, worry too much. Now, if you both will excuse me. I want to claim a kiss from my nephews before I go, and if I delay much longer, Yami will have finished with his work at the shop in town. I wouldn’t wish to risk missing him.”
Recognizing her mate’s anxiety, Nysse rested a soothing hand on his arm and smiled tenderly at Rhoelyn. She gestured to the crib in the other room. “Go on, sister. And then I’ll help you with your pack and cloak and give you one last hug to thank you for the wonderful gifts.”
The priestess giggled and nodded, managing a quick, “Thank you,” before she padded quietly over to her youngest, sleeping nephew.