Chapter 4: Scarred Blossom
I am happy. Incomplete, yes. Caged, true. But I have tried to find a new focus on the joy that Leothir and I capture in the spaces between us, in the little moments of warmth: the touch of his hand, the wink he gives me when he thinks no one is watching, that sunny smile that gains sincerity when it is aimed at me.
I must be, as ever, honest with myself and within myself, dear brother. And so I must acknowledge that there is love in my heart, and its light drowns out the little sorrows that once cut me.
Rhoelyn smiled to herself and hummed a soft song as she wrote, waxing perhaps a bit more poetic than she might in a letter she knew Rhese would actually see. She wanted nothing more than to soak up this feeling, the warm comfort of having Leothir at her side, on her side. Of being protected, once more. Of not being alone amongst enemies.
Nothing in this life feels as right, as real as claiming him as my own in these past months,- She laid the page off to the side with the others and began from the top of the next. –but of course it is all still wrong when the moon rises. I can’t call this place home because it lacks you, not even in the face of what Leothir and I now share. You are the other half of me, and I remain lost without you. I mu-
A knock at the suite door interrupted the little priestess, and she lifted her head from her work, laying her charcoal across the bottom of the page before she stood. She hurried to the entry only to then pause long enough to brush an imaginary wrinkle or two out of her gown before she opened the door and gave a warm smile to the handsome mage on the other side.
“Leothir,” she greeted him, dipping into a deep, sin’dorei-style curtsey. “Welcome ba-”
He interrupted her by surging forward to grab her upper arms and drag her tight against him, slanting his lips across hers for a long, desperate kiss in the doorway. Then, before she could even recover enough to speak, he pushed her back into the entry and kicked the door shut behind them. She had a moment to giggle before her back was pressed against the wall and he reclaimed her lips. Rhoelyn raised both her hands to cup his jaw, her slender fingers tangling in his hair as her lover did his level best to make her feel just how much he’d missed her.
The little priestess finally pulled away when he started to tug at the buttons on the shoulder of her gown, grabbing his hands with a laugh. “Leothir, my dawn, take a breath. We are not alone here, you ridiculous man. Ryni and Alensyr are playing in the nursery.”
Forcing himself still with a groan, the sin’dorei leaned over and rested his golden head on her shoulder, drawing his hand down her arm. “A week is too long, my flower,” he complained, nuzzling her. “I’ve missed you for every moment, and it was too much for this poor elf.”
Rhoelyn smiled gently and soothed her hand along his back. “You were a while, this time, though I doubt you are in danger of imminent demise for lack of my touch. I hope all was well.”
Leothir nodded and pulled away with one last little kiss, tucking her hand around his arm as he led the way to her personal ensuite with hasty steps. “I just had to wait out a few odd leycurrents. You don’t need to worry, Rhoelyn.”
She gave him a sidelong glance as they stepped into her sitting room with its tidy little desk and comfortable settee, her lips quirking up. The blood elf closed the door behind them.
“Oh, did I imply that I was worried, Leothir? In truth, I was hoping you would be gone longer.” The little night elf stood on her tiptoes and leaned close to his ear, resting her hands against his chest as she muttered, “I do get more sleep with you gone.”
He chuckled and drew her back into his arms. “And here I imagined you spending sleepless nights worried sick about my fragile person. I shall simply have to revise my estimate of your regard, my flower.” He paused to kiss her gently. “Really, I’m surprised you tolerate me at all.”
Rhoelyn smiled up at him, tucking a strand of hair that had fallen free from his high ponytail behind his ear. Her gaze was tender as it danced over his face, as if deciding which feature to appreciate the most. “I tolerate you quite well, ilais’surfal. And of course I did and always do worry for you when you go.”
“I know.” Leothir smiled back. “It is terribly selfish, but I not-so-secretly adore that you are concerned for me.”
His lover laughed. “I suppose that I can indulge your selfish nature just a bit. W-”
A crash from down the hall interrupted them, followed immediately by wailing. She winced, pressing his hands between hers. “Wait here, please. I’ll be just a moment.”
The cries increased in volume the moment the ensuite door opened, and it was Leothir’s turn to wince until his lady slipped from the room and closed the door behind her, shutting the sound out. He chuckled and shook his head as he turned away, his gaze roaming in an impatient meander through the room.
It was designated as Rhoelyn’s personal space, but as he peered at the adornments on the walls and the trinkets decorating the shelf, he realized she had chosen almost nothing for herself. Very little here was authentically hers in style or theme.
Certainly, she had liked his gifts over the months. She’d exclaimed about the graceful little hawkstrider statue he’d brought her and smiled at the dangling spun glass globes he’d thought matched her eyes and the violet tattoos down her right temple and cheek. His priestess had even thanked him for the crystal and gold filigree stardust rose that lay across the mantle of her fireplace.
But the paintings of Quel’thalas and the central square in Silvermoon City had come from his mother’s store of artwork. The burgundy and cream window dressings he’d borrowed from the storage room in Relare’s chalet. Even the upholstery of the comfortable settee – a sumptuous burgundy velvet that matched the drapes – seemed… too showy for his quiet, nature-loving beauty. The space simply didn’t reflect its owner.
Frowning slightly, Leothir circled the room with an eye for what was Rhoelyn. The potted plant on the windowsill, certainly. The little ceramic water bowl beside it with fragrant herbs afloat on its glassy surface. A charcoal and sheafs of paper on her desk. A ribbon lain in a neat spiral on the table beside the settee, a hairbrush discarded beside it.
Leothir thought them all rather utilitarian until he spied a trinket lain reverently across the top of the escritoire: a smooth, silver disc the size of a large coin with the stylized pair of mother and child moon carved into its surface and etched with flowing, organic lines. Below the medallion, suspended on a fine, delicate matching chain, rested a glimmering if rough-hewn purple crystal and a clean, colorful feather. It was elegant and beautiful and ever-so-slightly wild, just like his kal’dorei love.
The blood elf smiled as he ran a gentle hand along the soft feather, his curiosity pricked. He’d noticed the trinket on her belt when they’d first captured her in Pandaria, but he hadn’t seen her wear it at all since. He wondered where she’d kept it and what it meant to her, his gaze wandering the desk for answers and falling on the sheaf of papers at its center. The top of the stack was marked with her scrawling handwriting, and – nosy – he pulled it free, rolling the charcoal pencil away.
As the sin’dorei read, the door clicked back open and Rhoelyn stepped into the suite, shaking her head with a little laugh. “That boy, Leothir… He is a storm at tim-”
The priestess cut off as she shoved the portal closed behind her, her gaze on his pallid features. “My dawn?” she asked, rushing over to him. “You’re pale. Are you hurt?”
His answer was a hand clamped on her forearm as his brows dropped and his expression filled with roiling thunder. He lifted the page in his hand, reading aloud with a cold inflection, “I cannot call this place home because it lacks you… You are the other half of me…”
Rhoelyn’s eyes widened. “W-why are you reading my lett-… my writing? Leothir, surely y-”
The mage’s grip on her arm tightened, his lip curling as he cut her off. “Who is the letter for, Rhoelyn?”
Twisting her arm a bit in his fist, the woman searched his face and then glanced at the piece of paper. The kal’dorei’s surprise began to drain away in favor of a wary mistrust. He could see when her expression shuttered behind one of her placid masks, this one simply obstinate and blank. Leothir grit his teeth even harder just to see her withdraw.
The priestess clenched her free hand by her hip, her knuckles turning white. “You need not concern yourself wi-”
He cut her off, his fury growing. “Who is he? I demand you tell me who you write to like a lover even when you’re warming my bed. Do you think about him when you moan a-”
“Leothir!” She gasped, paling and losing the calm mask as quickly as she gained it. She reached for his hands, only to have him yank them away. “Vulgarity is not called for. You misunderstand, my dawn. Utterl-”
“It’s right before my eyes!” he interrupted, waving the page in her face. He didn’t even need to glance at it again to quote, sneering. “‘… it’s all still wrong… I can’t call this place home… I remain lost without you.’ I’ve tried so hard, Rhoelyn. I thought we were doing well, but all along you were just hiding your true feelings behind another of your damned false smiles? Feigned affection, even? I didn’t realize your acting was that good.”
“No, Leo. I am n-” When she reached for him again, the mage turned away, crushing the page in his fist as he grabbed the metal and feather trinket off her desk. She screamed when his fist around it began to crackle with fire magic, grabbing at it, at him, desperately as her tears began to fall. “No! No, give me that. Leothir!”
He held her at bay with some difficulty, his wild emotions making him rough. “Is it a gift from him? Your lover back home, perhaps? Your kal’dorei mate?” When she was too slow, too upset to answer him, he raised it above his head, fisting his hand in the fabric of her gown and holding her away. “I should destroy it to help you forget him!”
“Don’t you dare!” Rhoelyn sobbed, shoving against his grip. The delicate silk of her gown ripped across the shoulder, and she lunged, grabbing his arm and trying to pull it back down to where her petite frame could reach. “Leothir, you don’t understand!”
For a long moment, he let her struggle futilely, watching the desperation with which she fought to save the trinket from what he presumed was her other lover. It only made the rage burn hotter, and he glanced at the other gifts around the room, the ones he had given her, wondering with poisonous bitterness if she would fight anywhere near so desperately for any of them.
Finally, with a sickened ‘tsk’, he shoved her hard enough to send her stumbling until her back hit the wall, and threw the feathered trinket into the farthest corner of the room with disdain. The blood elf turned and stalked to the window. Pain and rage warred in his expression as he stared out over the grounds and her gardens.
He spoke without turning, gritting the words out as his anger knotted every part of him into something tight and hot and burning. “You are mine, Rhoelyn. It’s right this way, and you know it! I thought you felt it as keenly as I, but perhaps I was wrong about that as well.” His neatly-trimmed nails dug into his palms as he closed his eyes on a grimace, power roiling through him with his emotions.
“No, let me speak.” He pressed a hand against the cool glass, not calmed at all by its steady surface. His voice was harsh and growly as he said, “You need to understand that I’m not letting you go. This is your home, now, Rhoelyn! Stop pining for the one you had because it’s going to be destroyed in this war.”
Rhoelyn’s voice cracked behind him as she stuttered, “N-no. Leo, p-please s-”
“You’ll stay safe and happy at my side,” he growled, shaking his head, “and eventually you won’t need to worry about any of your old, savage life. Just worry about me. I’m all you need to-”
Her pained grunt was barely audible, as was her gasp of “Leo!”. But the loud crash stabbed through his self-absorbed rage, and Leothir spun instantly.
The priestess lay collapsed on the floor by the fallen side table and lantern, one hand clutched around the glowing chain threaded through the decoration on her dress from her collar to her chest, the other pressed desperately against the floor as agony washed through her. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she sobbed in quiet breaths through clenched teeth. The mage looked down, wide-eyed, at the magic surging around his fist, his rage washing away in a torrent of regret.
“Rhoe!” Shaking the power away instantly, he threw himself to the floor at her side, gathering her into his arms quickly enough to feel the rigid tension drain out of her, leaving her gasping with relief. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to! I-”
Leothir was interrupted by her shuddering cry of pain and frustration when she curled around his arms, her back to his stomach as she lay across his thighs. There was a moment where she clearly struggled for control, her long hair dripping around her shocked face, but finally she relented, drooping against him as she wailed in his embrace, a hurt and heartbroken sound of old wounds scarring and new ones bleeding freely that was muffled as she buried her face against his arms.
“Light! Rhoelyn… my flower… ” He arched his back to curl his body around her, brow furrowed sadly as he apologized. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Please, princess, please forgive me. Here, we’ll see the chain disenchanted so that it can never happen again. I swear it. We won’t talk about the letter any more, or the trinket, and it will be as if none of it happened.” The sin’dorei rambled on and on, searching for the words that could make everything better within them both as his lover cried against him. Finally, devolving into a simple litany of whispered, “It’s all right, darling,” he stroked her hair and held her and gave her the only comfort he could until she was calm enough to stir slightly and speak.
“My twin…” the priestess said, her normally melodious voice a grey, dispirited mutter. “I write the letters for my twin. And the charm… he made it for me. I-it is all I… h-have of him, here.” She sobbed at that, pressing her face once more into his arm as her shoulders shook and her hands where they gripped his tunic sleeve trembled.
Leothir choked on his guilt, curling tighter around her. There were no more apologies worth voicing, so all he could do was hold her tight and weather the storm of her grief with her, his thoughts trapped on the unresolvable dilemma of how he could not bear to let her go and could not seem to stop wounding her by making her stay.
Across the room, the scarred young woman called Ryni pulled the door closed once more, hatred and fear and no small amount of mad, twisted-up, desperate concern playing across her expression before she turned and made her way back down the hall.
Late afternoon the next day found the priestess in the nursery, stretched out on the too-small toddler bed with Alensyr snuggled lovingly in her arms. The pair of them slept, his soft little cheek pressed against her silk-clad breast, his violet hair an intense, colorful contrast to her own silver braid that lay on the bed behind his head. As was his habit, the toddler had fallen asleep with his thumb in his mouth, and the comforting little digit now lay against his slack lips, forgotten mid-slumber. Safe and secure beneath the gentle weight of her limp hands, the night elven boy’s face was peaceful and calm, and every so often, his little lips would curl up into an inexplicable sleepy smile.
Ryni knew that part of what she felt as she sat on the floor and watched them sleep was jealousy. For his innocence. For her sweet nature. For every ounce of attention she gave to the child. For the ability to sleep so calmly, so deeply with no nightmares.
She also knew that the other part was brilliant, blinding adoration. The three-year-old was impossible not to love: a cherub with a sparkling, ready smile and intelligent mischief dancing around him at all times. His laugh was enough to make her temporarily forget all the dark things that skittered around in her memory, and Ryni took delight in soaking up his joy. The priestess was loving perfection, precisely what Ryni might imagine a mother to be like: sweet, caring, gentle, graceful and beautiful. The little silver-haired woman ran their tiny household with a soft, efficient hand, keeping them all safe and well cared for.
The girl had never felt so warm in all her short life, so secure and at peace. And treasured. Appreciated. Rhoelyn was always saying kind things and touching her in comforting ways, from the simplest brush of her arm to the way she would lay her warm hand along Ryni’s cheek, heedless of the ridged scars. She had a smile like the soft light of the moon, and it lit all of the young woman’s shadows.
That was why-
Rhoelyn stirred and interrupted the girl’s thoughts, blinking herself awake from her unintended nap. Her eggshell blue gaze landed on Ryni, and the initial second of surprise quickly dissolved to precisely one of those moonlight smiles, this one sheepish and still sleepy.
“Ah, good afternoon, Ryni. It… it seems I put myself to sleep along with Alen.” She giggled softly, extricating herself from the child with great care so as not to wake him. “I… didn’t manage much sleep, last night. Did you have your luncheon, yet?”
The young night elf got to her feet and stepped back as the priestess climbed out of the little bed, stretching out cramped limbs. Her voice was soft when she answered, “Yes, but there’s more waiting for you in the dining room. You haven’t eaten yet, Rhoe.”
Her friend’s stomach growled on cue, and Rhoelyn blushed, pressing her hands over her belly. “You are right about that, falore. What are you doing, now? Would you like to keep me company?”
Ryni smiled, nodding. “Yes. I want to talk to you.”
“Lovely.” There it was, one of those comforting touches. The priestess pressed her warm hand on Ryni’s upper arm, half of a hint of a hug in the gentle pressure of it. “I’d love to hear of your day as I eat. I haven’t seen much of you, today.”
The young woman followed her through the suite’s hall and into the common sitting room, her bare feet – a preference that Rhoelyn indulged – scuffing the carpeting with her shuffling walk. “I don’t get up to much, sister.”
“Are you bored?” The priestess glanced over her shoulder as she swept through into the marble-tiled dining area, her own soft slippers as silent as Ryni’s feet.
“Sometimes,” came the answer, and the girl glanced out the large windows toward the balcony on which they sometimes ate their breakfast. “It’s not bad. I go running when I get too antsy.”
The older woman paused by the buffet, her hand resting on the shined wood as she looked her young friend over. “If there’s something you would like to have – a hobby, perhaps, you’d like to indulge – I can request materials for you. Or perhaps you’d prefer to help out elsewhere in the manor? Baritold could find you a task you’d enjoy, I’m s-”
“You’re too sweet, Rhoelyn.” Ryni interrupted her, shaking her head sadly. The little priestess blinked at the sudden depth of grief on her face, brow furrowing. “Too kind and gentle and fragile. When Leothir tires of you and passes you on… No, you don’t know how vicious they are, these awful, rot-hearted highborn.”
Rhoelyn winced and reached for her, but Ryni shied away. The other woman bowed her head, closing her eyes in sympathetic pain as she turned away. “Ryni, I know you have… been trapped in horrible places in the past, but h-”
The flower vase full of dreaming glory from the dining table shattered across the back of her head, a shower of water and petals and blue-tinted blown glass falling with her to the tiled floor. Ryni held what little remained intact in her hand as she stepped close, staring down at the priestess with wild eyes as her silver lashes fluttered once before she went limp.
“I’ll save you from it, Rhoe.” The scarred young woman knelt by her fallen form, muttering to her as she studiously sifted through the sharp glass shards for exactly what she wanted. “I’ll free you. Because you’ve been so kind to me. Because I love you like a big sister. Like a mother. Like something, anyway. Something I love, so I won’t let them have you and break you and b-beat you…”
Tears flowed freely down Ryni’s face as she gently rolled the priestess to her side and rested her arms, bent, against the cold marble. “… a-and… and use your body. It’s really… it’s really the worst, sister. They’re really the worst. Rotting, fel-born blood elves. You think Leothir is different. Relare is different. You think you’re safe, here. But we’re never ever really safe, and it burns worse when they rip away the beautiful things. The… the t-tiny… beautiful thing…”
She sniffed and scrubbed her silk sleeve across her eyes, her voice small and half insane. “I can’t let them rip you away, Rhoelyn. I can’t let them rip things away from you. I’ll protect you,” Ryni repeated, brushing a hand through her cropped, pink-dyed hair before leaning down to kiss the unconscious priestess on the cheek. For a long moment, she stayed that way, crouched with her face close to Rhoelyn’s, her grey gaze searching the priestess’ unconscious features for… something. Ryni just wanted the moment, the breezy warmth of breath against her face.
And then the troubled young night elf straightened and shifted over her erstwhile friend, drawing her shard of glass across Rhoelyn’s dainty wrists, first the right and then the left. Perfect, straight lines that immediately filled and then overflowed with blood. Ryni stood and looked down at the older woman with a sweet smile as the scarlet puddle grew around her hands.
“Goodbye, Rhoelyn. Ande’thoras’ethil. You can be free.”
At first, she thought she might stay and keep her sister company as she passed into Elune’s embrace, but the girl found very quickly that her heart hurt too much at the goodbye and her sight was blurry with tears. Biting her lip around a sob, she turned and ran from the room, the piece of glass still clutched in her hand.