“A blanket, brother,” the priestess said, her tone as gentle as always and her smile warm as she handed him the soft, folded length of padded windwool. “And you are certain you have enough pillows? I cou-”
Relare chuckled and interrupted her, holding up a hand. “You’re fussing, again. I’m very comfortable on the couch, Rhoelyn, and if you give me so much as one more pillow, I won’t fit on it with them!”
His brother’s love ducked her head with a self-conscious blush, giggling softly. “I am sorry. I promised I would fuss less, didn’t I?”
The blood elf snorted as he plopped down on the couch, reaching for a boot. Sure enough, one of the many pillows already piled there was displaced by his presence and tumbled to the floor beside his foot. He picked it up and tossed it at her with a teasing grin.
“It might be impossible for you.”
Leothir strode through the doorway from the bedroom at the back of the small house, gleefully intoning, “Oh, it quite definitely is, Rel. I don’t know what she’d do with herself if she weren’t fussing over someone.” He paused to press a kiss to his lover’s cheek, giving her arm a quick squeeze.
“If I know you,” the paladin said to his sibling, tugging free the first of his leather boots, “you’re jealous that not all of her fusses are for you, these days. Admit it, brother.”
The elder of the two smirked and stepped over to the couch, arranging a couple of the pillows to his satisfaction. “But of course! When the rosy glow of your return wears off, I’ll be quite vexed at you. Absconding with my attention like this.”
Not a person in the room believed that the mage would ever begrudge his brother the time spent as a guest in their small Winterspring cottage. In fact, he loved it. Ten days ago, Leothir had been a disgraced and disowned former lordling mourning the brother he’d lost to Garrosh Hellscream’s “justice”. Now, he had that brother back, dragged through the timelines from a slightly different reality. The other blood elf may have been born into a series of events that diverged from this world, but he was still every bit his beloved Relare. His younger brother. His best friend. The man whose murder had changed his life forever.
Alive. Safe.. Written back into their world with the massive power that only a Bronze dragon could wield. That is, written back in for all but Leothir and Rhoelyn, Rhese and his mate, Nysse, those who’d helped to claim him back from the mists of time. They alone remembered the version of events where Relare died, executed for his ‘crimes’ against the Horde. And Leothir, alone, remembered the crushing grief and rage he was left with without his brother.
Thus, though neither admitted it, the Duskfall siblings were more than happy to cling to each other, to stay no more than a room apart and spend as many waking moments as they could manage together. The excuse that Relare needed time to adjust and learn his place and history in this timeline was just that, an excuse, and a transparent one at that. Had he not needed the shelter, Leo still would have insisted he stay. And the displaced paladin would have gladly, eagerly accepted.
Rhoelyn watched the pair of them together as they continued their playful banter, smiling tenderly and clutching the pillow Relare threw at her to her chest.
The alternate timeline that spawned this man was fuzzy in her head and growing fuzzier by the day, like a night mist fading before the warmth of dawn. It was being supplanted by reality, by the past pair of years sharing a love and a life with Leothir. By meeting him as his prisoner in Pandaria and being freed by her strong guardians, her darling, green-haired bondsister and the Pandarens, Mu Lin and Su Le, before his quest for vengeance against Garrosh could get them both killed. A twisted first kiss as he held her pinned against escape was giving way a forced first kiss caught in his grip in a serene temple garden, one that even the Sha of Anger infesting them both could not prevent from planting a seed of possibility. Love grown out of months of enslavement at his side had all but disappeared in favor of one fanned to life during a few short hours of saving each other in the depths of Yuen’s Prison. And most keenly, she remembered leaving him in a prison cell and sobbing on her sister’s shoulder over it, certain she had fallen in love with a man she would never see again.
Their relationship built across Horde and Alliance faction lines was more true, now, than the fading dream of a slave collar and a sin’dorei manor.
The priestess nibbled her lip as her thoughts pulled her attention away from the brothers entirely, and her luminous blue gaze slid to the snowy hillside visible through the window. There was… more than that, but she could no longer even remember what it was. When she tried, she only encountered an odd miasma of emotions that no longer had a basis, joy and love and worry and fear and grief without reason. Try as she might, she couldn’t rebuild the foundation, and it left her feeling unsettled and vaguely saddened.
Leothir catching her elbow recalled her from her attempt, and the priestess turned to him as he soothed his fingers along her furrowed brow. “A copper for your thoughts, princess? You’re frowning at the snow, again. I’m really quite unsure it deserves your ire.”
For him, she forced a smile she didn’t quite feel, a small one that at least cleared the wrinkles from above her nose. “Apologies, Leothir. I…”
“… was fretting about that unnamed thing you keep feeling like you’ve forgotten, perhaps?” he supplied when she hesitated, brushing his fingers along her skin as he cupped her cheek tenderly.
When his love nodded and dropped her gaze, he leaned forward to give her a brief kiss, well aware of his brother settling into bed not far away. “Come, now. Whatever it is, you suffer it more keenly when you’re tired. Let’s let Relare rest and tuck ourselves in bed. You’re just worn out, darling.”
Rhoelyn nodded with some reluctance, her gaze catching the paladin’s as he straightened from the couch and stepped over to the both of them. There was something both sad and knowing there in those emerald depths, but whatever he was thinking, he didn’t say it. He only leaned in, planting a kiss on the night elf’s cheek and resting a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“Goodnight, you two. Light grant you sweet dreams.”
The first thing she felt in the darkness was the slave collar around her neck, its weight on her skin and her soul, both familiar and sickening. She reached up to rest her fingertips on the dyed silk even before she opened her eyes to take in the sprawling camp of refugees and draenei rebels, its cobble of tents and lean-tos curving around the little aqua lake to her right. The grass was half-crushed beneath her slippers as she walked, purpose driving her, the chatter of voices and the clatter of pans as dinners were being prepared filling her long, graceful ears with a sort of reassuring cacophony. Busy, happy Sunbane people living a life out among the stars. No regimens, no walls, no blood elven order and stifled silence. No collars, save perhaps the one she still wore.
The little healer sucked in a deep, nervous breath despite the reassurance, following Aleesa’s precise instructions and hungrily searching for the right signs of the ones she wanted to find. Around the hut where the tailor had set up wares, to the right after the elekk stable, the tent was supposed to be a faded, patched blue with-
Rhoelyn froze the moment she saw her destination, anticipation stopping her for the heartbeat before it spurred her into a run, driving her to close the last bit of distance as quickly as she could until she could throw back the tent flap.
Ryni looked up from where she was playing on the floor with Alensyr, startled and then shocked and then joyous. “Rhoe!” she practically screeched, leaping to her feet so fast that the toddler was left perplexed.
He followed her gaze more slowly, clutching his stuffed saber in his chubby little hand until his attention finally landed on the figure in the tent’s opening. The toy dropped to the floor, utterly forgotten when he recognized his adoptive mother. Unlike his older keeper, the toddler couldn’t process the flood of emotions that assailed him. While Ryni laughed happily, he burst into a short-circuit of tears, reaching for Rhoelyn from his place on the floor and wailing, “Min’da!”
The healer sobbed just once, a smile underneath it, as she rushed to her boy and scooped him into her arms, holding him tight while he pressed his head to her shoulder. The child’s small arms around her neck and his violet curls against her cheek flooded her with a relief that weakened her knees, but Ryni wrapping her arms around them both kept her upright. Rhoelyn freed one arm to catch her scarred little sister as well before she raised her tearful gaze to where Faeroh watched with a quiet smile from a few steps away. When she held out her hand to him, he took it gently, pressing it between her own.
“Hello, ridiculous little girl. I wondered when you’d catch up,” he rumbled.
Her voice was thick when she answered, softly, “Apologies for being late, dori’delar. I was busy trying to help make things right.”
Faeroh smirked and tilted his head. “And did you succeed?”
“Very nearly,” the young healer said with a tender smile, squeezing his hand. “There is only a little more to do, but I have found my brother and sister, the rest of my family, to help me win through. We will put it all to rights, Faeroh. We will make it all better.”
The ancient druid’s white teeth showed through his beard as he smiled, and he bowed his head, another show of respect. “Tor ilisar’thera’nal, priestess. You’ll never be beaten.”
Closing her eyes, the young woman blushed and nodded, focusing on their contact and the soft, sweet smell of Alen’s hair. Love filled her, and she whispered a prayer of thanks to Elune. Her people. Her family. They were safe and free.
Rhoelyn finally burst into tears as she held them all close, her joyful sobs muffled against Ryni’s shoulder.
The little healer was mewling in her sleep when Leo shook her awake, his hand gentle but insistent against her shoulder.
“Rhoelyn. Rhoe! Princess, wake up. It’s only a dream.”
She blinked her eyes open, her watery gaze focusing on her love’s pale face as he leaned over her, peering down with a furrowed golden brow and brushing tears from her cheek. “Shhhh,” he soothed as he watched her wake, sluggish and upset, her pillow wet. “Oh, my love… come here.”
The priestess sniffled and nodded, sitting up to curl into her lover’s arms and rest her cheek over his heart as she cried quiet tears. Leothir tugged her close, kissing her hair and settling into a murmured litany of, “It’s all right, darling. It’ll be all right.”
His voice became a soft, comforting drone until long minutes had passed and the little healer’s emotions eased enough for her to lift her hand and rub at her wet cheek. She swiped her thumb across her skin self-consciously, nuzzling against her love’s bare chest.
“I… thank you, ilais’surfal. I feel calmer, now.”
Leo nodded and pressed another kiss against her hair, whispering, “Do you remember it, this time?”
He felt her shake her head ‘no’ against him, and it earned a sigh.
“Rhoelyn, my darling… everything is finally right. We have Relare back, and the right world where you can be free and be mine at the same time. Rhese and Nysse and Yami are a family, once more, safe and happy and whole. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. It’s so much better. But you still cry every night like your heart is breaking. What could we possibly be missing?”
They were both startled when the question brought an immediate rush of fresh tears to the night elf’s eyes. Leo tightened his arm around her, freeing a hand to brush the new escapees away with his thumb as they dripped down her dusky cheek.
“I wish I knew, my dawn,” she managed thickly, the only answer she could give as an irrational, focusless longing surged through her. Rhoelyn turned her face to bury it against his warmth, her voice muffled as she continued, “I dearly wish I knew, that I could remember. But whatever it is, I can only pray that Elune sees it back to us.”
The mage sighed sadly and shifted to lay down, dragging her along until she lay at his side, stretched out along him and warm in the circle of his arms. “I’ll pray the same, princess. I suppose, for now, that’s all we can do.”
Rhoelyn nodded, letting her sore eyes slip closed. As she listened to the beat of her love’s heart and the quiet cadence of his breathing, she softly murmured, “For now…”