Ties that Bind

Ties that Bind is a story about several characters that I play (and more than a few more), Roiya Shadowpaw, ‘Nikus Dawnstar, and Keydyn Silverstag.  It is at yet unfinished and takes place in large part shortly before the beginning of the War of the Ancients.

It was originally posted as both a serial on the Retribution of Arathor forums as well as on the Sentinels (US) realm forums.

Ties that Bind

Ten thousand years is a long time to be alive.
Ten thousand years is a long while to gather stories.
By Elune, the stories I know.

Corn flew up into the air, scattering as a young elf, raven-haired and laughing like the friends who chased him through the streets, as merry as he, bumped the merchant lifting the basket in an effort to caught the attention of the knot of novice priestesses moving among the shoppers.  The youngest of them, a slender maiden with grass-green hair, clapped both hands over her mouth, trying not to giggle, stopping to watch the aftermath of the chase even as her fellow novices continued on.
“Il, damn you!  Give me back that pendant!”
“You’ll have to catch me, first!”  The laughter died abruptly when the annoyed merchant caught the dark-haired one by the arm.
“Don’t you boys have anything better to do than chase each other pell-mell through the market?”  The merchant sighed a long-suffering sigh, untangling the fingers of his catch from around a disc-shaped pendant on a leather cord.  “Is this what he’s taken this time from you, Nikus?”
The eldest of the trio, hair red like heated iron, looked abashed as he came forward.  “I know, Master Harrowgrain, I should be more careful of my things.”
“Especially around this one.”  The merchant cast a glance at the first boy, giving him a gentle shake as he turned over the pendant to Nikus.  “By the Goddess, Ildanan Sunstar, didn’t your parents teach you any manners?”
Ildanan laughed a little, grinning at the merchant.  “Of course they did, Master Harrowgrain.  I just choose not to waste those manners on these two.”
The third of the trio, his white mane kept pulled neatly into a tail, sighed a long-suffering sigh and shook his head as Nikus fastened his pendant around his neck again.  “Forgive us yet again, Master Harrowgrain, I pray it won’t happen again.”
“Perhaps you should have the novice there help you with your prayers, Keydyn.  Seems they’ve not been enough every other time this has happened.”
Perhaps the youngest and most responsible of the trio, Keydyn managed a weak smile.  “Perhaps I will, sir.  If you’ll unhand Ildanan, we’ll clear out.  Unless you need help cleaning up?”
Master Harrowgrain waved a dismissive hand as he released his captive and turned back to his baskets of grain.  “I’ll have it well in hand in a moment, but I’ll thank you boys to take your games down a different thoroughfare for a few days, hmm?  I can ill afford to lose much more coin to your antics.”
“It won’t happen again, Master Harrowgrain.”  Keydyn tugged on Ildanan’s ear as Nikus’ expression soured.  “C’mon, if we hurry, we won’t be late.”
The young novice eased forward as the boys cleared out, blushing at her mirth.  “Does this happen often, Master Harrowdown?”
He gave her a kindly smile.  “Oh, only about twice a week, priestess.  Was there anything you needed this day?”
She shook her head quickly but thrust a coin at him anyhow.  “For the spilled corn.  I shouldn’t have laughed…”  She winced, studying him.  “You have some in your hair.”  Delicate fingers reached to free the kernels, but he waved her away.
“Acch, young lady, you’re much like your mother, Goddess safekeep her and your father, wherever they’ve managed to land.  I don’t need Shadowpaw silver, though, not on this account.  Come back tomorrow, though, I expect I’ll have some honey candy ready.”
Her eyes lit.  “This early in the season?”
He smiled.  “Only for you, priestess.  Now off with you.”
The girl smiled and hurried off on her way toward the temple.

Elune works in strange ways—of that, I’m more than fully aware.  I would meet those three boys again, come to know them, come to befriend them.  One would die with his head resting in my lap, a product—no, an example—of my myriad failures as a healer.  In that aspect of my service, I have always been somewhat lacking.
‘Nikus would be my friend of long years, the only one that I never lost touch with, not until Hyjal.  His wife told me what happened after that.  I wish I had half her strength.
Il got married only a few years after I met him and died sometime after the destruction wrought by the Legion.  I hear he has many times over great-grandchildren yet living in what’s left of Quel’Thalas.  I wish them no ill; as much of an imp he could be, he was at his core a sweet boy.
When Keydyn died in my arms, on my watch, I took it upon myself to be there when his family learned of the event.  After that, the only one I ever saw much of was one of his brothers, Ascalon.
Goddess, is he another story altogether.
Two nights, now, he’s slept in my bed in this tiny cell in Darnassus, and two nights I’ve sat up and worked on putting order to the jumble of tales in my head.  I wonder, idly, how many of these stories, especially from those idyllic days before the war—and the dark days after it began—he knows.  Many of them I’m certain he doesn’t.  I wish that his brother had been granted time enough to tell them.
The point is moot, now, though, with Her latest blessing to the Silverstag line.  He wondered aloud how much more he had to give to her…but I think, were his head a bit clearer, he might have realized how much he has already been given in return for his dedication.

“Did something more happen after we left?”
She startled.  “What?  Oh.  No, nothing more happened.  Master Harrowgrain handled it.”
“Like he always does.”  One of the other novices chuckled shaking her head, then paused as she glanced toward the entryway to the temple.  “…well, bless my soul.”
The youngest of them followed her gaze, then blinked.  “Oh.  I guess…I guess he decided to take Master Harrowgrain’s advice.”
Keydyn’s eyes lit on the young priestess and he made his way in her direction.  She cast a glance at her fellow novices and moved to meet him partway.
“Come for help with your prayers, sir?”
He blushed and looked down at his boots.  “No…yes.  Maybe.  I wanted to apologize to you and your companions for what you saw today.  My friends…they’re miscreants and can’t help themselves.”
She clasped her hands behind her back, smiling.  “So my fellow priestesses have informed me.  Do they really do that twice a week?”
“It usually takes a day or two for the shame to wear away.  Then they’re at it again.”  His argent gaze flicked back toward her and he smiled meekly back at her.  “I’ve spent many an evening praying to Elune that she would find a way to teach them restraint, but as yet I’ve gotten little answer.  Perhaps you could illuminate me on why that may be?”
Her shrug was fluid.  “Perhaps Elune has other plans for them that involves their current state of affairs.”
Keydyn snorted slightly, shaking his head and looking away for a moment, taking in the sights of the large chamber.  “If that’s the case, I’d hate to know what those plans are…and I pray that I’m not involved in them.”  He paused, silent a moment, before he sketched a bow.  “Forgive me, priestess.  And them, I hope.”
“Forgiven, Master…?”
He blushed again.  “No ‘master,’ just Keydyn.  Silverstag.  From…acch.  From here.”
“From Suramar.”
He nodded, blushing fiercely.  She struggled not to laugh.
“All’s forgiven, Keydyn Silverstag of the Suramar Silverstags.  You have brothers, don’t you?  I seem to vaguely recall word reaching me about your family.”
He seemed uncomfortable as he nodded.  “Yes, priestess, I do.  By your leave?  There’s…tch.  I need to make sure they’ve not set anything on fire, you know?”
She blinked, then nodded.  “Oh.  Of course.  Elune guide your steps.”
“Thank you, priestess.  Perhaps another time you’ll be able to help me learn a few new prayers?  In case Elune’s plan doesn’t include them being miscreants?”
“Of course.”  She smiled warmly as he bowed quickly again and scrambled out, like a cat trying to escape from being underfoot.  She tried not to laugh, shaking her head slightly.
“Seems you had an effect on him, Roiya.”
“Do you think so?”  Roiya Shadowpaw tilted her head, staring at the doors through which he’d retreated.  “Ah, it doesn’t matter anyway.  I think he has his hands more than full, don’t you?”
The elder novice nodded.  “More than likely.  Come on, we’ll be late.”
Roiya turned and hurried in her elder’s footsteps.  Wouldn’t do to be late, after all.

‘Nikus taught me a song, long ago, one he said he had from his mother, though I think in truth Il taught it to him.  I don’t remember all of it, only a few fragments.  It was a song about love, about losing, about not wanting to let go.  It comforted many in those dark days following the war, when we had all lost so much.

Ah’nar’la’ti, ah’nar’la’ti
Stay with my, my love, stay with me.
Ah’nar’la’ti, ah’nar’la’ti
The heavens come down and the mountains rise up,
Stay with me, my love, stay with me.
The Gods come to call,
The Lady holds out her hand to thee
Stay with me, my love, stay with me.
Ah’nar’la’ti, ah’nar’la’ti…

I really don’t remember the rest.  Someday, perhaps, I’ll ask him, or ask Siryn.  She may know the rest of it; it was his lullaby to her, in those early years, before something kindled between them beyond friendship, beyond the relationship of doting older brother and young sister.
Goddess, she misses him so much.  As many prayers as I offer, I fear that there will be no answering them.  The forces at work that keep him from his family are forces I cannot hope to quite understand, even given all that I know of them—of him, of his wife, of the forces arrayed in the Dream…
I don’t think anyone can quite understand the war they fight, both waking and Dreaming.

She stood on the steps of the temple, watching as the sun sunk below the horizon, sliding soundlessly from sight.  The gathering twilight painted the world in muted grays, even the brightest of colors losing vibrancy, as if their hue was being sucked away by the dying light as it struggled to retain its power.  Wind tugged at the hem of the novice’s robes, played with her hair, tossing it this way and that.  She flicked a lock of grass-green from her face, tilting her gaze skyward.  There would be no moon tonight, no glimpse of Elune’s face, just a shadow of her passage.  It was the new moon, and she embraced it where so many of her brethren did not.
The young priestess had no illusions of ever being a skilled healer; she had little talent for that, and this fact had been discovered early in the days of her training at the temple here in Suramar.  She was a creature of the dimness of the shadows; her talents lay in a more active defense than handling the aftermath of combat.  Her teachers knew this, identified it early on.  Her training, thusly, was slowly coming along as a hand of Elune, one of Her agents in the shadows.
Someone cleared their throat below her on the steps and she glanced down, brow furrowing.  “ ‘Nikus?  Something wrong?”
The red-haired kaldorei was quick to shake his head.  “No, no.  Nothing wrong, Priestess.”
Tilting her head to one side, she planted a hand against her hip, watching him shift uncomfortably from one foot to the other.  “Then why are you here?”  And fidgety besides?
“Keydyn sent me.”
She came partway down the steps, eyes widening.  “What’s wrong?”
He put up his hands.  “Nothing!  He’s fine!  He wanted me to come if he hadn’t made it home yet.”
“Hadn’t made it home yet?”  She was within arms’ reach of the other elf now, verging on panic.  And he says there’s nothing wrong!
‘Nikus grasped her by her shoulders and gave her a gentle shake.  “From having dinner with Il’s family!  For pity’s sake, Priestess, if it was something dangerous, do you think we’d still be standing here?”  He frowned.  “Do you think I’d have wasted the time to come at all?”
She frowned at that, hand twitching, thoughts racing.  He doesn’t think I’d do a damned whiff of good in a dangerous situation!  One of these days, ‘Nikus, I’ll have to show you exactly what I can do! Her eyes narrowed a moment, but only until she could tamp down her anger at the other elf.  He didn’t know her training—what he knew about a priestess’s training, she realized, could probably fit into a thimble and still have room leftover.  “So he sent you to tell me that he wouldn’t be meeting me tonight.”
His hands dropped from her shoulders.  “Actually, he sent me to tell you that you should come with me back to our home and wait for him to come back with me.”  ‘Nikus scuffed a toe against the stones, an almost shy expression on his face, something she was unaccustomed to seeing.  “He and Il shouldn’t be much longer, and you have the evening free, don’t you?”
She nodded mutely.  Those Sisters who were dedicated to Elune’s new moon aspect largely practiced their rites alone, rather than as groups in the great chamber within the temple.
‘Nikus offered her his hand and a faint smile.  “It’s not far to walk.  Will you come?”
The novice smiled, nodding and taking his hand.  “Of course I’ll come.  Lead on.”

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