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Before the Council of Silvermoon (Part 3)

Sheigh didn’t leave the room for this break. The short exchange he had with Ranger-General Brightwing was intriguing, and he attempted to contact him for more information. The general was deep in council with a few of his commanders, though, and Sheigh could not approach before the nobles began to return to the room.

The crowd had somehow grown. There were more lower lords, lesser magistrates, members of the Temple and Mage’s college. More blood knights were present, as were more Rangers. Word of his interrogation had spread, apparently.

Halduron Brightwing was the next to approach him. “Milord, I will keep this short, given the late hour. Militarily, you are well represented by your actions for the Sha’tari Skyguard, the Argent Crusade, and many others. My questions regard the motivation behind the particular groups you associate with.”

Sheigh nodded his understanding, encouraging the general to continue.

Brightwing cleared his throat. “Your actions, both military and civil, are public record up until the time of your exile. At that point, you joined several organizations, some not altogether reputable. Could you please enlighten us to why you did this, and what particular organizations?”

Sheigh breathed a sigh of relief. This particular line of questioning could have been quite hostile and uncomfortable, and he was glad General Brightwing had chosen to let him tell his story rather than interrogate him. Of course, some of the higher nobles were familiar with the truth from the hearings to end his exile, but there was still much gossip abounding.

He turned to face the crowd, gathering his thoughts before he began. “Shortly after my exile, I was approached by several irreputable organizations, several of them appearing to be seditious in nature. I chose a large and well-organized group which referred to themselves only as ‘Deviant’ and, using contacts with a former member of the Tuar’annwn, was able to gain entrance to the group. While they claimed to be working for the best interests of the Horde, their actions in the Serpentshrine Cavern and the lair of the demon Magtheridon made me begin researching the group more thoroughly. Many were wanted criminals, many more were engaged in criminal activity.”

“So you knew you were in a den of thieves, but remained?”

“Indeed I did. After contacting various intelligence services, I was able to speak with an unnamed Kor’kron commander about my findings. This led to several arrests of key leadership, which caused the group to collapse.”

Another noble stood. “Who was this commander, Lord Llyrandor?”

Sheigh bowed slightly. “That information is currently classified, milady. So too are the names of the members arrested. You would need to contact the Kor’kron Guard to learn more.” He turned to see if there were more questions before continuing. “I was able to exfiltrate the group during its collapse. At that time I was believed to be nothing more than an expatriate who wished to subvert the government in Silvermoon, so I continued to search for other groups like Deviant.”

“Let the record show that Lord Llyrandor’s loyalty to the crown has gone unquestioned,” General Brightwing added.

Several nobles cried out in anger or excitement. “Then why was he exiled?” one voice called out. “This is a man who desired the crown, left his kingdom, and associated with terrorists and subversives!”

A heavy staff beat against the council chambers floor, demanding attention. The crowd turned to see Grand Magister Rommarth step forward. “These matters are not for debate. Lord Llyrandor’s innocence was proven and his exile justly reversed. So says the courts, so must this council recognize.”

Sheigh bowed deeply, not surprised that others still distrusted him, but very surprised that it was Rommarth and Brightwing jumping to his defense. He waited for the crowd to die down before continuing.

“At that time I was contacted by Project Mayhem, a group you have perhaps heard of.” Many nodded – the name was known as a shadowy organization who carried out seemingly meaningless terrorist attacks such as burning empty buildings, freeing herds of kodos, and graffiti attacks. Publicly, the project involved the defeat of the elves who had followed Prince Kael’thas down his road to madness supporting the demon prince Illidan. “I joined immediately, eager to see if I could find out anything to repeat the successes I made against Deviant.

“The public face of Project Mayhem is very strong and very positive. We fought valiantly on several fronts, including at Tempest Keep, Serpentshrine Cavern, in Zul’Aman, Quel’Danas, even the Black Temple. While we did not defeat Illidan, we acted to keep supply routes open while the Iron Dragon legion and the Wrath of the Righteous brigade cleared the upper reaches of the temple.”

He cleared his throat. “I continued to delve deeper, looking for information about corruption, subversion, or anything underhanded. Unfortunately, other members of Deviant joined with me, and some began to suspect me. After the deaths of Zul’jin and Prince Kael’thas, that suspicion grew within the organization. My position was compromised and I was forced to leave the organization.”

“Without any useful data?”

He shook his head no. “If the group is involved in illegal activities, I was not privy to them.”

“What happened after that? You were still in exile, correct?”

He nodded. “Correct, even after the deaths of Prince Kael’thas and the demon prince Illidan, I was still considered suspect. I chose to openly pursue opportunities to show my loyalty, and with the increase of my powers as a battle mage, I seeked and gained acceptance into the Iron Dragon legion.”

“And how  did you gain entrance to such an esteemed and prestigious organization, given the stain of exile upon your honor?”

Sheigh smiled. “I had strong contacts within the Legion. Its founders included Rhamnousia, a powerful mage who was an acquaintence of mine. He had originally commanded the Myrmidon legion and when it disbanded, he requested services and land from my House. At the time, Onyxspear was serving my house and she took upon herself the task of organizing such a large merger of forces into my own.” There were many gasps – the petite elf operative known only as “Onyxspear” was famous, infamous really, for her abilities as a thief and assassin. “That effort ultimately failed. I was not aware of the size of the Myrmidon legion and we were unable to accommodate them all. Several of Rhamnousia’s senior leadership went on to found the Iron Dragon legion, and Onyxspear eventually followed them. Between Rhamnousia, Onyxspear, and the commander of the legion Grimmric, I was able to gain entry.”

“And you served with the Legion in Northrend?”

“Yes milord General, up to the end of my exile. I fought with them during the destruction of Naxxramas and also during the clearing of Ulduar. While I was present for the death of Yogg-Saron, I had been badly wounded fighting his commander, General Vezax. I was unable to continue my duties as a front-line battlemage at that point, so I left the Legion.”

“Why did you not recuperate and then rejoin them?”

“At the time, milord, I had completed the terms of my exile and was eager to prove my innocence and end my expatriation.”

Brightwing nodded. “At that time, Lord Llyrandor, you were one of the most powerful and experienced battlemages in the service of the Horde. Why, then, did you join a group like the . . . Outsiders, was it?”

Sheigh smiled. “Yes milord General, the Outsiders. I was still eager for action against the Lich King, and we all knew that a battle would eventually be fought at Icecrown Citadel. The Iron Dragon legion had helped to safeguard the construction of the castle and lists at the Argent Tourney grounds, and Lord Tirion Fordring had announced the Trial of the Crusader immediately after the destruction of Yogg-Saron.

“While I was recovering and taking care of matters concerning my exile, I was approached by old friends who had joined the Outsiders after leaving my employ. Mostly these were Tauren friends and members of the Tauren Roaming Oak tribe. Their commander, Tyserus von Lichtenstein, was a strong believer in small unit actions and an inspiring commander. After a brief stint acting as a military advisor for House Vermillion, I took a job with the Outsiders. It was there that I completed the Trial of the Crusader, and our mercenary band was hired as part of the assault on Icecrown Citadel.”

“I have heard of this group,” one of the nobles said. Lady Arissyra, he noted, a minor noble whose house served in Dalaran. “My condolences for the death of Captain von Lichtenstein.”

“It will please milady to know that the captain did not die, after all,” Sheigh smiled. “He did fall in battle against the frost wyrm Sindragosa, but we were able to save him and he is slowly recovering from his injuries. Alas, he will probably never lead again, and the Outsiders disbanded before we could attack the Lich King.”

Regent-Lord Lor’themar asked the next question. “So what is this word that you have joined a business, RelicWorks, is it?”

Sheigh nodded. “Yes milord, I have put public support and monies behind this operation. I also spent two months healing from wounds taken in battle against Sindragosa, but I have begun joining this business in their field explorations, seeking relics plundered by the Scourge to be returned to the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor.”

Lor’themar nodded. “It must be rather rewarding work. My reports indicate you have grown fabulously rich over the last year.”

Hmm, a baiting question, Sheigh thought. “Indeed milord, perhaps not fabulously rich, but my business endeavors have been more fruitful this last year than were expected, as your tax collectors have verified.” Aha, this is about money. They want to put the squeeze on me.

Grand Magister Rommarth spoke next. “You have done great things for the defense of Quel’thalas, Lord Llyrandor. Including your actions with this ‘Shattered Sun Offensive’ to liberate the island of Quel’Danas. Reports indicate you donated heavily to both the Shattered Suns and to the Argent Crusade.”

“Indeed, Lord Magister. I spared no expense at the retaking of the Island, nor have I spared any expense in the defeat of the Lich King.”

“Were you present, Magister Llyrandor, when the Sunwell was re-lit?”

He shook his head no. “I was on the island, Lord Magister, but I did not participate in the events surrounding the Avatar of the Sunwell.”

“But you are familiar with them.” Rommarth stroked his beard in thought. “Magister, you were once rather outspoken in your negative opinion of the Na’aru and their followers, yet you are considered an exalted champion of the Scyers, the Sha’tari, and this Shattered Sun Offensive. Indeed you are a Champion of the Na’aru, if your titles are anything to go by. Did you change your mind about the Light and the magical beings who seem to represent it?”

There were several concerned murmurs from the priests and blood knights assembled. He answered quickly before the murmurs became shouts. “I no longer question the power of the Light, milord, nor the healing properties of the followers of Cenarius, nor the powers of tribal shamanism. While I am thankful for the rekindling of the Sunwell, my association with the Scryers and with the Shattered Sun Offensive were solely those of an ally fighting the same enemy – the fel influence that was corrupting our people through Prince Kael’thas. Any titles or distinctions they have given me were just that, honors given to me, not asked for. I did what I did for the sovereignty and defense of our lands and our people.”

“So you would turn against the Shattered Sun Offensive, if they threatened the sovereignty of our lands?”

“Yes milord Regent, I would.”

Lor’themar narrowed his eyes. “What if it cost you the opportunity to kill the Lich King?”

“I believe the Lich King is a significant enough threat, milord. The Shattered Suns are not.”

There was a murmur through the council. “The Lich King has been slain, Lord Llyrandor. This Bolvar Fordragon is a new, peaceful Lich King.”

“Then the Scourge must be systematically annihilated while under the control of Highlord Fordragon, milord Regent.”

Lor’themar smiled, leaning back into his seat. “Your sentiments are admirable, Lord Llyrandor, but your duties are to your people now. I believe everyone here has heard your words and supports my decision in your favor.”

Decision for what? his mind raced, but Lor’themar continued before he could speak. “Lord Sheigh Llyrandor, your kingdom needs you. Your people need you. I am assigning you a duty now which you must dedicate  your life to, above all other causes. Come with me, Lord Llyrandor, and I will inform you of this new task.”

Lor’themar, Rommarth and Brightwing turned away, indicating Sheigh follow them. The crowd murmured excitedly, but began to disperse. Whatever the decision was, Sheigh was eager to discover the truth. He ignored the crowd and followed quickly, leaving his entourage behind. Do not fear the unknown, he heard a voice whisper in the back of his mind. With new knowledge comes new opportunity.
He smiled at his father’s advice, given on his first day studying magic in Dalaran. You are right, Father. You are right, and hopefully you are proud. Protect me and guide me in whatever this task may be. He passed through a curtained door into a private chamber with the lords of Silvermoon. Whatever came next, he would be prepared.

((Auth: FINALLY done! “Before the Council” was supposed to be a short autobiography of Sheigh as a character, but it kept growing and growing, and more and more ideas kept popping into my head. What was the information Halduron Brightwing had about Mylasande? What ever happened to Sheigh’s dream of capturing Eldre’thalas? What is Sheigh’s new assignment? All cut out of this story, so stay tuned for more answers!)

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Before the Council of Silvermoon (part 2)

The procession of nobility filed into their seats, and Sheigh nervously awaited their continued questions. General Halduron Brightwing sidled up to him as the nobles milled about taking their seats. “Milord, I have some information about your wife that you might wish to know,” he casually commented. Sheigh turned to him, but the general was already walking toward the Lord-Regent’s dais.

The first questioner was Lord Sartheril, a noble often scoffed at for his large and continuous parties at his estate in western Eversong. Many nobles considered him a joke, but Sheigh knew the man well, and knew the secrets that flowed with wine. Sartheril was a man who saw much, and heard much, and was not to be underestimated.

“Milord, we have heard of your battle honors, but frequently you have supported peace, in one form or another, with the Alliance.” Sartheril actually walked toward Sheigh, addressing him across the floor instead of from his chair. “It is well-known that you often grant clemency to members of the League of Arathor. Your elaborate ballroom parties in Booty Bay are still famous throughout Alliance and Horde lands. How can a man be so civil toward an enemy he has fought so bitterly against?”

It was not the first time someone had asked him the question, and he hoped this crowd would appreciate the response he usually gave. The timing was now probably better than ever, though. “Milords and ladies, at one time the people of Stromgarde, of Dalaran, of Lordaeron were our close friends and allies. We fought alongside men of Arathor, dwarves of Grim Batol. We flew gryphons into battle, taught Men the art of magic, and prayed to the Light alongside each other.

“We were friends with the human kingdoms. In fact, we were friends with the humans themselves. I doubt a single person in this room cannot think of a man or woman of Stromgarde, or Dalaran, or Stratholme whom you do not include in your prayers for the dead.” He let the words hang a bit as each noble dug into their memories, seeing tangs of pain, of guilt, or fierce anger rising to hide remorse. Moreso than the common folk, Quel’thalas’ nobility had traveled to human kingdoms and fought alongside Humanity against the Orcs. “I myself was taught at Dalaran, and I have even faced old friends across the battlefield, friends who were lucky enough to survive the Scourge, only to be unlucky enough to die to propaganda.

“Propaganda, my lords and ladies. Lies, whispered and then spoken and then screamed by the ancient usurpers, by our betrayers among the Alliance, by those whom we should call cousins and brothers, but call hated enemies instead.”

“You speak of the Kel’dorei, milord? The Night Elves?”

“Aye, indeed I do. But that is not the answer Lord Sartheril looks for, and it is not the answer I hope to give. I sponsored the Booty Bay Ball because, milords, someday the fighting will be over. Someday soon there will be no more Lich King. The Scourge will be defeated, as were the Blackrock Orcs, as were the demons of the Burning Legion. Someday, this land will have peace thrust upon it by virtue of war.

“Every child born in the last thirty years has known nothing their entire life but war. Little boys never knew their fathers who fell in battle, watched as their brothers marched away to become veterans, and then in time took their turn as men with swords or bows. Girls often joined them, or even if they found the peace of the homefront, grew to marry men they would never grow old with, give birth to children who would die in the flower of their youth on the fields of war.

“An entire generation of Humanity has known nothing but war. Two generations of Orcs and Trolls know of nothing else. Our nations are nations under arms, filled with veteran soldiers to whom it is as natural to kill another man as it is to eat or drink. When peace comes, and it will come, our world will not know what to do with it. We are an entire world dominated by warcraft, and we may not remember how to beat swords into plowshares when that time comes.

“We can continue to see old hatreds, old wrongs, and find a reason to go back to Azeroth’s natural state of war. Or we can remember a pretty smile, a friendly glass of wine, a bow and a curtsy, a handshake between men and women whom on any other day would have been reaching for their blades.

“The Booty Bay Ball symbolized peace. It showed us that we’re not all so different. We enjoy celebration. We enjoy relaxation, and dancing, and laughter. We can enjoy peace. I intend to enjoy peace someday.”

The first clap cracked the silence of the room like a thunder strike. He did not see who clapped first. He saw the second was Lord Kelemar, the city’s ambassador. Another joined them, then another. Somebody stood up, clapping loudly. Soon the room was standing, the ovation was like a heavy summer sea rain, and Sheigh couldn’t help but smile to know his feelings were shared by these men and women.

All except one man. Steely eyes stared at him angrily, darkening the room for Sheigh as he locked eyes with Vranesh. The blood knight champion waited for the room to calm down before rising. “Lord Llyrandor, I find it more likely that the Booty Bay Ball was simply your excuse for drunken excess and whoring. As were your date auctions, pimping off the women of your Tuar’annwn to the highest bidder.” Someone booed him. “Oh, I am not done! No, indeed I am not. The . . . what was it called, Rave in the Cave? Dancing and drugs and garish, decadently indecent costumes! Cavorting about the Darkmoon Faire with Alliance sluts! I have it on good authority that you’ve bedded members of my order, common serving girls, trolls, piggish orcs, were unfaithful to your own wife, ended a marriage engagement over infidelity, have slept with your apprentices . . . why, I have even heard from the priests at the temple that you have been treated for no less than four different venereal diseases!” He spat on the floor. “You are a drunkard, a drug addled lecherous pervert, a sick man!”

“Hear hear!” shouted a single voice.

Sheigh turned to meet the angry eyes of Duke Deh’lorei. Islimah’s uncle, he cursed to himself. He had spoken with Vranesh, they planned this. His mind raced as he kept a stoic demeanor. Some of that was true, cannot deny that, but I cannot look as bad as they try to make me out to be, he thought guiltily. Finally he replied, “Milord champion, I cannot deny that I have indulged my vices in the past. Certainly not to the extent to which your sources report, but I was also never a champion of virtue. I am no temple priest, Lord Champion, and even they are caught with their hands occasionally reaching into the cookie jar.

“I cannot deny that, in my youth, I enjoyed a life of freedom and excess, as is not uncommon among today’s youth. It is the nature of our people.” He looked around the room, not wanting to see Vranesh anymore. “But I assure you, the gravitas of my exile, and the ferocity of the battles in Northrend, have cured me of youthful ignorance and the need for selfish indulgence. No Exalted Champion of the Horde could be a drug-addled lecherous fiend and pass the Warchief’s strict muster, nor could such a title be accepted by this Council when placed on such a drunkard.” That’s right, turn it back on them – do they admit they made a mistake, or do they forgive me the road I’ve paved with my indulgences?

“He does speak truth,” Deh’lorei replied, standing now, nodding to Sheigh. So fast he abandons his earlier intentions, why? “Lord Llyrandor remains engaged to my niece, and he remains faithful to his promise to her, though their wedding has been delayed by the war in the North.”

The room fell silent for several long moments, before Grand Magister Rommath rose. “Lords and ladies, if the floor has no further questions, I know that I and the High General have many we would like answered. Please convene for ten minutes, and we will continue this council meeting.”

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Before the Council of Silvermoon (part 1)

The room was small, but awe-inspiring in its scope. Elven nobles from all corners of Quel’Thalas were gathered about, lounging on soft pillows while their assistants ran messages back and forth between them. The walls were lined with the elite Royal Guard, standing sharply behind their long, slender shields. Their striking red armor wove a colorful tapestry against the backdrop of rich blue velvet along the walls. Nobles and courtiers wore clothing of all colors, a kaleidoscope of sight that matched the sound of a half-hundred voices speaking politely to each other.

Sheigh had been to the Throne Room of Silvermoon many times, but only a few times when the Council had been summoned together. He thought back to the last time, trying not to shudder as he remembered the disastrous outcome of the Council’s judgment that time.

Before the great winged throne of the kingdom of Quel’Thalas, Regent-Lord Lor’themar Theron stood in discussion with his close advisors, Grand Magister Rommath and Ranger-General Halduron Brightwing. Also in the crowd were various nobles and commanders, the elite of elven leadership and society.

The room hushed as Sheigh entered, his small entourage close behind him. Sir Garradh, Sir Velindren and Sir Connal flanked him in the traditional armor of the Tuar’annwn, emerald green chainmail with golden trim and long, elaborate spears of ruby and gold. He chose not to bring any other advisors, and his own dress was simple – a red robe and tabard in the colors of House Llyrandor. His jewelry was simple, and he bore no headdress or crown. Today, he told himself, he was a humble servant of the Council, nothing more, just as Garradh had instructed him. “Avoid pomp and circumstance,” the venerable knight had advised, “and accept graciously whatever task the Council puts before you. You are not a conqueror, you are not the Exalted Champion, today you are simply a minor noble among his betters.” Sheigh had protested, but Garradh’s words held experience and wisdom, and he eventually acquiesced.

Many nobles rose as he entered. He saw faces familiar and strange. Among them were lords of houses such as Silvacce and Vermillion, DeTrais, Evermoon, and other minor noble houses. Major houses such as Windrunner and Sunsworn dotted the room. Dame Auriferous of Tranquillien, Duke Deh’lorei of Eversong and Lord Saltheril of the Western Marches were also present, as were many Blood Knight, Blood Hawk, Ranger and Farstrider commanders and nobles. They gazed upon him curiously, so different than the last time he had entered this room before them. It unnerved him all the same, and in his mind he felt the shackles on his ankles and wrists just as he had worn last time.

He entered the room slowly and deliberately, descending to the bottom of the room and bowing before the Lord Regent. Lor’themar nodded and smiled before taking a seat in front of the throne. The room fell silent as the Lord Regent raised his hand to speak.

“Lord Sheigh of House Llyrandor, thank you for joining us so quickly,” he said, speaking without a hint of deceit or sarcasm. Sheigh was off-put by that – he and Lor’themar were no fast friends. “The Council is looking forward to speaking with you today.”

Sheigh bowed again. “Thank you, my lord. I wish naught but to serve the will of Quel’Thalas.”

Strangely it was Magister Rommarth who replied. “Lord Llyrandor, the Council has a very specific task which we believe you may have the skills to accomplish. It will not be easy or quick, and it is of the utmost importance to our people. We must be sure we are choosing the right man for the job, so we have summoned you here to answer the Council’s questions.”

He swallowed hard, fear of the unknown creeping into the back of his mind. “I will answer truthfully, Lord Magister.”

“Indeed.” The voice came from his left, and he turned to face Dame Auriferous. That confirms my suspicions and those of Sir Garradh, he thought. I am being tasked with retaking Suncrown Village from the Scourge! He tried not to show his happiness as she spoke. “Lord Llyrandor, your House was charged with the defense of Lake Elrendar, a duty it failed to accomplish during the Lich King’s invasion of our lands. Your family’s traditional home was overrun and remains occupied to this day, is that correct?”

He nodded, “It is, milady.”

“Most lands in the south were overrun by the Scourge, thanks to the actions of the traitor Drathir,” a voice to his right spoke. “Very few of those lands have been liberated even to this day. Undead and Amani trolls roam the land. Yet you fought against both Deatholme and Zul’Aman with great success, did  you not, Lord Llyrandor?”

“I did, milord,” he responded, unsure if he should elaborate. It was a strange counter to the Dame of Tranquillien’s rather pointed question, and he wondered what exactly it foretold.

“Later you fought in the Plaguelands and became a champion of the Argent Dawn, did you not?”

He nodded again. “I am an Argent Champion and Crusader amongst the Argent Dawn, milord.”

“But after that, you took the bulk of your house and its allies into Draenor to follow your Prince, abandoning the defense of Quel’Thalas!” The harshness of the speaker made Sheigh cringe. A blood knight, a nobleman, was angrily pointing at him. He recognized his old nemesis, Vranesh. “I personally know that many of your finest knights were killed in battle in that foolhardy crusade as you seeked to join Prine Kael’thas and his Illidari forces!”

Sheigh bit his tongue as the crowd murmered, some in agreement with Champion Vranesh, some in dissent. “You were tried as a traitor!” a voice cried out, followed by another. “Why should we consider this man?”

“SILENCE!” the voice of Lor’themar echoed across the room, forcing the nobles to calm themselves. As the crowd died down, he turned to Sheigh. “Lord Llyrandor, you may answer this yourself. We seek your truthful answer.”

Sheigh nodded, gathering his thoughts. He needed to say this correctly or risk more trouble. With a deep breath, he cleared his mind and began. “Lord and ladies, I was sent to trial for treason, for supporting Prince Kael’thas. As was stated in my pardon, my intentions were not to see through those foul actions that we know occurred in Draenor and on Quel’Danas, but rather to attempt to save our beloved line of Sunstrider kings. Prince Kael’thas was a friend of my father’s, and my grandfather served King Anestarion to his death, as did my father. I believed that, if there were any way to save the Prince from the path he was taking, it was my duty as his vassal to try to save him. I failed in that effort, and the Prince made his unholy pact with the Burning Legion.

“Yes, many of my finest knights and followers died in Draenor, died in a fool’s errand to save a madman from himself as Lord Vranesh would have  you believe. Rather, as  you all now know, I fought to save the lives of those who had lost the ability to think rationally for themselves. The charges of usurpation against me were trumped up, as was later proven in testimony. All here who know me know my heart was true, and was looking after the best interests of the kingdom.”

Lor’themar nodded his approval.

One of the minor nobles of House Sunsworn stood, looking at a piece of paper. “Lord Llyrandor, we have all reviewed your letters and marques of note. Champion of the Argent Dawn, Guardian of the Cenarion Circle, Champion of the Na’aru, Undying Champion of Naxxramas, one of the first Twilight Vanquishers, and even this Exalted Champion of the Horde. I must ask, milord, are you truly such a great philanthropist or do you only seek fame and glory?”

Sheigh smiled, deciding to answer honestly. “Some of both, milord.” The crowd chuckled, or frowned. “I have earned many titles for many reasons. You will note, milord, that the reason behind earning those titles was my work fighting against enemies of the Horde, enemies of the Kingdom. Some of my marques are for recognizing peace amongst the Alliance and Horde, or for helping victims of the wars.”

“And yet you were involved in the organization of Golavar the Hellcaller’s attack on the Alliance?”

Another weighty question, Sheigh realized. “Yes, milord. Following the attempt on Lord-Regent Theron’s life, I felt a warlike response was needed. I commanded the attack on Darnassus.”

“You did a fair bit more than command it, based on eyewitness accounts, Lord Llyrandor.” The unidentified noble opened a scroll. “Lord Sheigh was instrumental in swaying public opinion in favor of the attack, during a meeting of leaders in Orgrimmar. Lord Sheigh established the four-city plan and organized the attackers into four columns. Lord Sheigh established the date as well as the timetable for the attack. Lord Sheigh participated in the attack on Theramore.” He rolled the scroll back up. “Do you deny any of this, milord?”

Sheigh shook his head no. “I do not, though I might add attacking Theramore was not part of the plan, more of an impromptu march after our victories in Darnassus and the Exodar. I participated because the other commanders willed it.”

“Against the Warchief’s express orders to not attack Theramore.”

Sheigh nodded. “It was an unwise decision, if a victorious one. Theramore’s defenders did not expect our attack.” Here comes the fire and damnation, he thought to himself.

“So you were insubordinate, but an effective general both in organizing the attack and on the field of battle itself. Am I led to believe that you actually attempted to crucify Tyrande Whisperwind?” A muffled laughter surged through the crowd.

Sheigh nodded. “The keldorei have been nothing but a plague upon our people since their awakening from the Dream, milord. I wished to send them a message of what happens when you cross Quel’Thalas.”

General Brightwing answered. “A powerful message indeed, Lord Llyrandor. Most admirable.”

Sheigh’s heart skipped a beat. Admirable? This wasn’t a condemnation? What is going on here?

A woman he recognized as Magistrix Landra Dawnstrider rose to speak. “Lord Llyrandor, you are an admirable warrior. You served in the Iron Dragon Legion, fought for the Frostwolf Clan in the Alterac Mountains, and have accolades serving in the Skyguard of Shattrath, the Horde Expedition to Northrend, battling the League of Arathor, serving the Warsong clan in Ashenvale, truly the list goes on and on. Do you love war, milord? What of your son, do you wish him to live in a time of war as you did?”

Sheigh opened his mouth to speak, but the words froze in his throat. He closed his eyes, imagining what seemed like a lifetime ago, holding his wife, holding his son, a few truly happy days before his exile. My son, his heart ached. Poor Aearion.

The crowd murmured. He felt his head hang heavily, lost for words as grief threatened to overcome him. Sir Garradh spoke for him. “Forgive my intrusion, lords and ladies, but perhaps milady is unfamiliar with the loss of Lord Llyrandor’s wife and son.” Sheigh felt a gauntleted hand squeeze his shoulder, but he was fighting too hard to maintain his composure. Don’t, he told himself. Do not weep here, save your pain for when this is over.

“Indeed?” the magistrix replied. “In my preparation for this meeting, I learned that Lady Mylasande Sylvranesti and your son Aearion Llyrandor took passage to Northrend shortly after your exile, Lord Llyrandor.” She checked her notes. “In fact, I have some questions concerning your relationship with Lady Mylasande that I believe need answered.”

His temper flared, but the reassuring hand on his shoulder squeezed again. To think I treated Sir Garradh so poorly, when he shows himself to be such a good friend, he cursed himself. Taking a deep breath, he looked up at the magistrix. “Yes,” he sighed, “you may ask.”

Lord-Regent Lor’Themar stood. “I believe, perhaps, we should take a short recess. I have some notes I would like to review as well.” He gave Sheigh a sympathetic nod, and Sheigh returned it. “Thirty minutes, ladies and lords, and then we shall continue, hmm?”

(Auth-It is getting a bit long, so we’ll continue later!)

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Forgiveness and Counsel

His mind raced all night. The beautiful disaster laying next to him slept soundly but he hadn’t been able to settle himself. Finally he slipped his arm from under her, listening to her half-asleep protests as he rose from bed. A bath didn’t settle his mind, so he slipped down to the kitchen.

“My lord,” the gravelly, rasping voice broke his thoughts, making his heart skip a beat. He cursed to himself as the undead knight seemed to appear from nowhere next to him.

He gathered himself as he took in the knight’s leathery scent. “Sir Garradh, I did not expect you to arrive so soon.”

The knight bowed, the still-black hair on his head tumbling down to expose his dried, curled-over ears. Sheigh often didn’t think of the corpse-man as an elf, but he was one, a famous knight who had been alive for centuries before he fell in battle against the Scourge. “I came as quickly as possible, my lord. I have read the letter. It offers great portents.”

Sheigh led Garradh down to the dining room, poured each of them a glass of wine, and then sat at the head of the table. Garradh sat next to him. He ignored the undead knight for a long while before finally swallowing deep of his wine and turning to look at him.

“Sir Garradh Sideath, I am aware that you are a bit of a legend. No, more than a legend, especially within my house.” He took another sip of wine, finding the words hard to put together for what he had to say. “You have served the Llyrandor family since time immemorial. You were wise and ancient before my grandfather was born, sustained to your long life because of both the Sunwell and because of the prowess of your blade.”

Garradh nodded, not drinking his wine. “I live but to serve my prince, my prince.”

Sheigh was caught at Garradh’s use of his family’s ancient title. He looked away from the Forsaken knight again before continuing. “Sir Garradh, through my . . . misunderstanding of your state as a . . . Forsaken, and through my youthful callousness and pride, I have ignored you. No sir, I have abused your trust, wasted your talents on fool’s errands, and squandered your love for my ancestors.”

The ancient knight bowed his head. “Please, my prince, you are too hard upon yourself. I-”

“No, no I am not.” Sheigh took a thick drink of wine. “I am not too hard on myself. I have wronged you, sir knight, and it took me many years to see the wrongness of my actions. I did not see you as a man, I did not see you as a knight or as a commander or as one possessing wisdom of the ages to counter the inexperience of youth.” His throat tightened as he regretted what he would have to say next, knowing it would hurt the old warrior. “I saw you as a creature, as a loathsome undead creature, as little more than a Scourge of my own to order away from me at all turns, to ignore at all turns, keeping you around only as a testament to the love my father and grandfather bore you. For this, I am profoundly, and truly sorry, dear knight. Please know I see you now as so much more.”

Garradh said nothing, staring at the table. Sheigh’s heart ached, terrified to know what the old man was thinking and realizing the blackness and callousness of his own soul. The undead knight sipped his wine softly before speaking. “My prince, I would ask your permission to speak freely.”

“I owe you that much.”

The knight nodded, taking another sip of his wine before setting the glass away from him. He squared his shoulders and straightened his back, struggling with his undead form to rise to his full height. His spine protested and his leathery skin tightened, but in his yellowed, dully glowing eyes Sheigh could see the honor in the knight that once was so alive, so proud, and so faithful. The undead knight licked his lips to whet them before speaking.

“I remember having a conversation like this with your grandfather,” he spoke slowly. “I remember having a conversation like this with your great grandfather, and his great grandfather, and his father before him. Twelve Princes of House Llyrandor have I served, from a man who rivalled the Sunstrider family in honor and glory, to men who were not fit to lick their boots. My sons served House Llyrandor. They died for your forefathers. When my boys died, I swore only service to my Prince, and his son, and his son.

“You are proud men. All of you have been, from the greatest to the least. You are not the first of your line to suffer from the folly of youth, and you are not the first of your line to apologize to me when you realize the value of my experience. But I made an oath to you, as I did to your forefathers, for twelve generations. I will serve you, I will fight for you, and I will die for you. I have fought for you, my Prince, and I have served your every request to the best of my ability.”

Sheigh nodded, feeling tears begin to well up in his eyes. “You have, Sir Garradh.”

“I do not do these things simply for the sake of obedient service, my Prince. I do these things because a great man asks me to.”

Sheigh felt the first tear break free, whetting his cheek with his hot shame. Garradh continued.

“I have seen the way men follow you. I have seen how you work for the greater good of all races, not just for the Sin’dorei. I have see you act with terrible purpose, yet hold your hand back in mercy even when justice cried for death. I have seen your drive, your will to accomplish all you set out to do. You are one of the greatest of your line, my Prince, and that is why I cannot act but to forgive you.”

Sheigh stood, stepping over to the old knight and catching him as he rose from his seat. He pulled the dead knight to him, embracing him as tears rained from his eyes. The scents of fish oil and leather rose from the corpse-man, but Sheigh did not notice, holding him tightly. “Thank you, dear servant! Thank you, thank you so much for being here for me! You are the one reminder I have of my grandfather, one tangible bit of everything I must strive to be. I’m sorry, and I thank you for your forgiveness!”

“Please my Prince, we have much to discuss. I know you ask because you need me, and in this hour I feel you might need my advice more than ever.”

Sheigh nodded as he released the man, struggling to regain his composure. “Indeed, Sir Garradh, indeed I do need your experience and your wisdom. Often you attended court at the Convocation of Silvermoon. I must appear before the Council of Nobles, and I need your advice on how to act, what to say.” He pointed at the letter. “This appointment, it could mean anything. I must be ready for anything. I must not make the mistakes I made at my trial, my dear friend. I need  your counsel.”

Sir Garradh nodded heavily. “I believe I can help, my lord Prince. We have much to discuss, and only a short time to discuss it. Shall we begin?”

*Auth: I really don’t like this story, after I re-read it. Expect an edit on this chapter some time in the future, to explain just how Sheigh has marginalized his most loyal follower for years, and to get rid of Weepy Sheigh. Sheigh isn’t weepy over people he genuinely doesn’t like. Sheigh sets them on fire.*

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Nobody eats cat!

“Oh good, you did get my message!” he beamed a grin as he crossed the small restaurant, meeting her as she rose to her feet. Sheigh took Elleiria’s hand in his, bringing her fingers to his lips gently. “It would have been rather embarrassing if you hadn’t.”

She blushed as all the eyes in the restaurant turned to them. “Oh please, you sent in somebody to make certain I was here before you came in!” She winked playfully (even though yes, he had) and then took a step back. “So did I get it right? Is this appropriate?”

He eyed her up and down. Instead of her traditional ponytail she wore her auburn hair in voluminous waves that covered all but the ends of her long elfin ears. A barely-there splash of eyeshadow and touch of blush made her smile warm and soft. Bright red lipstick offset the creaminess of her skin, a splash of color that kept his attention focused on her soft, inviting lips.

Her dress was equally elegant, a strapless red taffeta gown that hugged her sleek form down past her hips before layering and expanding through the knees to her feet. Emerald beads splashed a sharp contrast in a thin under-bust pattern, drawing his eyes in that direction enough that he wanted to blush in embarrassment. The emerald matched her eyes, along with a stunning silver necklace that hung across her throat, a large ruby amulet dangling from a thin silver cord against her skin.

He raised an eyebrow. “I recognize that necklace! It’s absolutely beautiful on you.” He grinned and nudged her playfully as he helped her take a seat. “I suppose you can keep it after all this.”

“Oh I didn’t intend to give it back,” she replied without missing a beat. “So . . . you like it? Will I fit in?”

He nodded as he took his seat. “I didn’t think you could become more beautiful, and yet I am proven wrong again.” He looked down at his own attire. “I feel like some common steward next to what you are wearing.”

“Nonsense!” she laughed, taking a sip of water from one of the table’s fine crystal glasses. “You look marvelous in a tuxedo. Is that one new?”

He nodded as the waiter arrived. Sheigh reviewed the wine list before selecting a Redridge vintage, then looked up at his dinner partner. “Wait, have you been through all my clothes?”

She giggled softly. Elleiria might call herself many things – a gambler, a professional at the games usually – but she was a masterclass thief. Sheigh had been impressed when his housekeepers admitted things were missing from the kitchen and larders, but when the beautiful thief appeared in his private chambers one night, that impression had become admiration. The girl had been an enigma, coming to take his food and drink, dismissing his powerful magical works and items as merely “trinkets and junk,” stealing not one of his library’s priceless ancient tomes but rather a just-bound book of blank pages . . . the mystery of it all intrigued him, and he set out to get to know her.

He grinned to himself at the silliness of it all, courting a burglar, but here they were on what was not their first date.

“What is so amusing tonight?” she asked, kicking his shin lightly under the table. Her foot didn’t leave his leg, teasing his bruised shin and calf through her toeless heels seductively.

He smiled and lowered his voice. “Just thinking about how I am taking a cat burglar to the finest restaurant in Silvermoon, before she is my guest at the grand reopening of the opera house, when she is wearing jewelry she stole from me.”

“Oh hush,” she smiled as the waiter poured them two thin glasses of the wine. “It was in one of your little treasure shipments from up north, not your precious family jewelry.” She reached out to him, taking his hand in hers, letting her fingers tease his family signet ring that she had briefly stolen.

He squeezed her fingers softly, warmly. “It is good to see you again. Two months is too long.”

She nodded, her eyes darkening. “You’ve been home. I wish there was a better way for us to communicate when we are apart.” She withdrew her hand as the waiter came. They listened to the night’s menu, and though Sheigh smiled to hear it was in older Thalassian as befit such a fine establishment, he saw the sad loneliness in Elleiria’s eyes. He resolved to himself that he would find a way for them to talk more while he was gone fighting the Scourge in Northrend.

He liked her, he couldn’t deny it. Her personality was a match for his own, at least for his real personality, not the one he hid behind the facade of lordship and duty as an archmage fighting in the war against the Lich King. She could be frivilous and funny, finding an inside joke and whispering just a single word of it into his ear off and on all night until even he was laughing from the ridiculousness of it. At other times she hid a deep sorrow, or tried to mask a heartache that she refused to tell him about. He often suspected she was in love with someone else, or had been deeply in love and had been hurt badly. He didn’t press her on it, nor did he press too deeply into his own feelings for her. He often asked himself if he loved her, and his answer was always the same – maybe. He knew he was keeping himself at a distance from her emotionally after learning about his fiancee Islimah and losing his concubine Abegail. Still, when he looked at Elleiria, his heart raced, his tongue became dry, his head spun at night when he thought about her. Did he love her? Maybe.

“And the good sir?” the waiter asked, more than a little annoyed. Sheigh snapped out of his reverie and realized Elleiria and the waiter were both looking at him strangely.

“I . . . ahh . . . the steak please,” he stammered, throwing out something he knew every restaurant would have while he tried to cover his embarrassment.

The waiter snorted slightly in frustration. “The lynx medallion or the shoveltusk porter, sir?”

Damn it, he thought, two steaks! “Umm, the lynx will be fine, thank you.” Elleiria kicked him under the table again as she brought a napkin up to her lips, trying to stifle a laugh.

“I can’t believe you eat cat,” she laughed as soon as the waiter was gone.

He shrugged. “Everyone eats lynx. I’ve been eating lynx that my family hunted ever since I was born.”

She rolled her eyes. “Nobody eats cat anymore! It’s unfashionable. Nobody even hunts them anymore!”

He laughed and sipped his wine. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Did I embarrass you?”

“Yes!” she smiled, blushing. “So . . . tell me how beautiful I am. You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through to get this dress.”

“I probably don’t want to know,” he grinned. “That would make me an accomplice to the crime!” That earned him another kick to the shins, so he winked at her and began to remind her of how lovely she looked. She wasn’t used to such compliments, least of all from high lordlings who were used to preening noble girls, and she loved hearing him fawn over her.

He heard a disturbance by the door but thought nothing of it, just whispered voices having a quick conversation about something other than reservations and seating arrangements. But when he heard the sound of heavy footsteps accompanied by the rattle of sword belts, he knew something was more than just awry.

A shadow fell over his table. “Lord Sheigh of House Llyrandor?”

Sheigh tensed, a spell of shielding quickening in his mind. Elleiria flashed concerned eyes at him, then up at the man behind him. Her hands disappeared under the table.

Sheigh stood and turned. A royal courier and two city guards waited impatiently. “I am Lord Sheigh. What is the meaning of this interruption of my dinner?”

The courier bowed respectfully, helping set Sheigh at ease. “Milord, my sincere apologies but I have been trying to track you down for three days. The Lord Regent said I was to deliver this note to you personally and make sure to witness you reading it, milord.”

His heckles rose. News from Lord Lor’themar himself was almost never pleasant. Sheigh’s dealings with the Lord Regent of Quel’thalas had been a rollercoaster of difficulty, including exile, reinstatement, and all places in between. He broke the wax seal of the note and read it. “Appointment?” he muttered in confusion at the note’s almost unbelievable message.

The courier bowed again, turning and marching for the door, satisfied his job was done. As Sheigh turned back to his seat, he saw the waiter was coming with his steak and Elleiria’s pasta. He took his seat and looked across at her . . . only to see she wasn’t there.

The waiter cleared his throat. “Is milady returning shortly, good sir?” he asked, setting the steak in front of Sheigh.

Sheigh sighed heavily, knowing the girl was gone. The guards must have scared her off, he reckoned. His ire rose . . . one night alone in two months, ruined by politics! He looked around the room for any clue where she was hiding, but saw nothing. Damn!

Then he noticed the origami on her side of the table. He reached out, picking up the napkin gently so it didn’t lose its shape. Rolling it around in his fingers, he clearly made out the figure of the climbing cat, smiling at her quick message to him.

“Sir? Is the steak to your liking, sir?” the waiter interrupted his thoughts.

He looked down at the perfectly browned steak, its scent making his mouth water and his stomach rumble. The origami cat sat next to it, leaning on his wine glass – a cat burglar climbing a tower to steal inside of it. He chuckled to himself and rolled his eyes before handing the waiter a pouch of gold coins for the meal and turning to leave. “No thank you garcon, apparently nobody eats cat anymore.”

*Auth. Note: I used this gown (and its description, obviously) as a reference for those interested: http://www.rissyroos.com/products/Alyce_Designs_br_Style_6572-14184-25.html

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Beautiful Disaster

He had sent the letter to Islimah telling her the wedding was off. He told her to sell the ring, and as a side note drew up a paper saying her apprenticeship was complete.

Abegail he heard about, though his heart knew the truth. She never wanted to be a concubine, and when he had pulled Sir Garradh from House Vermillion, well, she became more distant quickly. She left to visit “an old friend” and the night she left they fought, they fought terribly and angrily. It was clear that love didn’t drive her to stay with him, and whatever reason she had quickly faded as her own influence grew within House Vermillion and she didn’t need a proper elf lord keeping her as a pet lover and never-wife. It stung even worse than telling Islimah things were over. Perhaps it stung worse since it wasn’t his choice. Perhaps it was because her professed love was a lie. He knew he loved her, knew he showed it in all the wrong ways, and her leaving was probably exactly what he deserved. But it made the end no easier.

Elleiria was a challenge. He cared about her but he knew it could never be. He at least spoke to her about it. He wanted to recant, but ending it was sensible, was for the best. Beautiful disaster, he thought of her, feeling the words like fresh stitching on his heart. He didn’t want to, but he oh so wanted to. So he had.

Lord Sheigh Llyrandor sat in his tower, upon his wooden throne, and wept for that which would not be. And in his loneliness and pain, he knew joy, for that was how it always ended.

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Terrible Revelation

(Author’s Note: I cannot for the life of me remember Islimah’s family name! Thus the striking, I’ll fix it when I find out! 7/8/10 Thank you Isli for clarifying!)

“My lady, he is here!” her handmaiden hissed. Her eyes were wide with terror, causing Lithil’s heart to skip a beat. “He knows!”

The pruning shears fell from her hands, clattering off the tile walkway. By the Light, he knows! He knows! Her heart was in her throat. So many things she had done, so many things she feared he might learn about, might become angry about, might . . . But what exactly does he know?

She took three deep breaths, calming herself. The handmaiden handed her a heavy robe as curious onlookers edged closer, wondering what caused such commotion within the temple grounds. Lithil slipped into the robe, its blandness covering the light, revealing clothing that was the height of elven fashion, and that my son would be more angry to see me in she reminded herself. What exactly does he know?

MOTHER!” The yell made her tremble in primal fear. Her son was beyond angry, furious, almost hateful in his tone. She tried to calm her racing heart but it was impossible. He had discovered something, he was coming to her now to learn if it were true, and she feared she might die if he did not like her answers. Such horror, to die by the hand of the only person I still love in this world. Still, she didn’t weep. What exactly does he know?

Lady Lithil Llyrandor was the dowager of House Llyrandor, and she had striven ever since overcoming the grief of her husband’s death to make her son as great and powerful a man as she believed he was. She would have done anything for him, from murder to treason, from prostituting herself to dying for him. And she had done most of that. Sarenadia was dead because of her. Sheigh’s exile was because of her. His return, equally, was because of her. His exaltation was because of her. But for him to know, for him to see her for what she really was instead of what she portrayed herself to be, would break his heart. And when her son’s heart broke, the terrible rage grew in him. The fires grew. People died. She had thought hiding herself behind the cloak of a priestess would save her from her enemies, but if her own beloved boy was now her enemy . . . Calm yourself. What exactly does he know?

The aura preceded him. A light, a horrible orange and red flaming light grew down the hall from the temple entrance. The fires were upon him, dear gods those terrible fires, all the power and glory of an archmage wrapped around him like a grand fury given vision and form. His face was a mask of rage as he strode into the temple garden, roses wilting and dying in the heat of his anger as he marched purposefully toward him. He opened his mouth, his neck straining as if to scream his rage again, but the fury was contained. He breathed deeply, the fiery aura seemed to shrink around him as he too fought for control over his emotions. “I know, Mother. I know what  you did.”

A fool acted. She had been afraid someone would try to interfere, she saw the movement out of the corner of her eye and knew the man was already dead. “Listen here, sir, you must AAAUGH!” With a word her son spoke of immolation and the man erupted in flame. Instinctively Lithil spoke the power word of shielding, watching the poor wretch dance in pain as his clothes burned, his skin already blackened and his hair scorched away. This is a house of healing, he might yet live, Lithil thought, beginning to chant a prayer of healing.

“SILENCE!” Sheigh shouted, and Lithil was stunned into inaction. She tried to open her mouth to form the prayer but found she was unable. The burned man looked up at her in pain and horror, watching in terror as the flames scintillated around the power shield she had thrown up around him, watching as the flames ate through the shield second by second. Lithil was unable to save him, Sheigh had already forgotten he existed. The fires tore through the shield, engulfing him, stealing the air from his lungs so he couldn’t even scream his death. A tear formed in Lithil’s eye. Poor fool, he died for me.

Sheigh stared at her, hatred and rage burning in his eyes. She dared not speak, she dared not move, and the rest of the priests and acolytes in the garden kept a fearful distance. She noticed his sword was in his hand, somehow that had escaped her before now. Will I die on it?

“How . . . how could you?” Sheigh asked. The rage melted into sorrow, into pain and disappointment and disbelief, and Lithil felt her heart tear out of her body at the sight of it. Suddenly for all her fear at the murderous archmage before her, he was once again a little five year old boy, his eyes puffy and red as he cried in pain and showed her where a bee had stung his finger. She wanted to hug him, wanted to hold him and tell him everything would be okay, Mother was here for him, and yet the burning fires emanating from him kept her at check.

She snapped back to the present, remembering that her actions would save her life or end it, and perhaps his own as well. Her crimes against him were many, but he was nothing if not a pragmatic nobleman himself, perhaps she could explain her reasons and he might see the truth from her point of view. Or perhaps it would buy her time to stop him from doing anything worse. Powerful he might be, but she knew enough magic of her own to get by. “I did it because I love you, and I did it because it was best for you.” That might draw the discovered secret out.

His rage flared – she hit the nerve. “And what of Father?” he screamed at her, the blade rising menacingly in his sword arm. “Did you not love him, did you not care for him while you were whoring yourself to Deh’Lorei?” He lowered his arm. “You sold yourself to him. You sold me to him.”

All the strength, all the fear and adrenalin rushed out of her. She eyed his sword, willed it to strike, willed it to bring the end before the eruption of pain his words would bring to her heart, but it did not. All her betrayal of her beloved Rhaedd, of her little boy Sheigh, of her wedding vows and her promises to her husband’s grave, tore down her emotional defenses. Her face contorted in agony and tears burned down her cheeks. No, no no! This is not how I am supposed to feel! her mind screamed at itself, but her emotion could not be stopped.

“How could you?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper.

She fell to her knees, buried her face in her hands and curled up into herself so she could not see him, could not see the world. She cried, sobs wracking her body. I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! Rhaedd, I’m so sorry! The wedding band of her lost husband felt cold and lifeless against her eyebrow. Forgive me, I’m so sorry! Father, I’m sorry! Daddy, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to, I had to for my son! Her throat felt raw from her sobs, but she could not form words. Sheigh, oh Sheigh, my darling baby boy, I had to for you! I’m so sorry!

Strong hands pulled her to her feet, but she refused to look. His hands singed her robes, heat like a fireplace emanating from the body as it pulled her against it, powerful arms holding her tight. She buried her face in his robes so he could not see her eyes, sobbing apologies into his chest, shameful, heartbroken, every bit of her deceit and malfeasance, her iron persona, gone at the revelation of the one act she prayed he would never discover.

She had been lonely, so lonely since her Rhaedd died. She lied to herself about it, hated herself for it, but she was still a woman, still young in the lives of the Sin’dorei, still beautiful. She saw their eyes, she basked in their attentions, she dreamed of being with someone else again. She had centuries of her life ahead of her and to remain alone, to remain untouched, tortured her into wanting to know a man’s touch that much worse. Yet her heart belonged to her husband, and she could not bring herself to break her vows to him. Not even seven years after he died.

She wanted to say he seduced her, but she knew the opposite was true. Duke Deh’Lorei was the one vote on the Council of the Moon that her son needed to have his exile overturned, his rights and properties returned, for the good of House Llyrandor and for the good of all the Tuar’annwn. Her father had been a great nobleman within the Tuar’annwn, and it shamed his name as well as her husband’s that her son had been exiled. She had promised her father’s grave, her husband’s grave, her father-in-law’s grave that she would save her son from his punishment, for crimes that she, not he, had committed.

She entered Duke Deh’Lorei’s’ carriage that night to change his mind with one final argument, the one trump card she still had left – her son’s hand in a marriage that would bring prestige to the Deh’Lorei line. Even in disgrace, the name Llyandor was ancient, powerful, and most importantly rich. Marry a girl of his family to her son, she would say, and the Llyrandors would cover some of the outstanding debts of his own family before they were made public. That is what she meant to do.

She had dressed revealingly because she was an ambassador by trade, she wanted his mind to be in two places at once while he struggled to make the decision. He was a married man, so a bit of forbidden fruit would only make him less focused, more eager to please a lovely lady, anything for attention from a beautiful woman who wasn’t his wife. But once she was in the carriage with him, alone in the dark next to him, only faint lantern light outlining the strong features of his chiseled, matured face, the heat of his body so close to hers, the scent of his hair, the warmth of his breath as it touched her face . . . She knew he wanted her. She knew he would do anything to have her. She knew she wanted him, too. So she made the deal.

Sheigh spoke, breaking her reflection. She didn’t hear his words, she was still crying in shame, still burying herself in her son’s robes and unwilling to face him or anyone else, but she realized they had been walking, he was guiding her somewhere. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she repeated as a mantra into the tears-whetted silk of his robes. Finally she looked up as she realized they were outside the temple gates. She couldn’t bear to look at him, he looks so much like his father I couldn’t stand to see him, oh gods my love, I am so sorry!

There was a carriage waiting for them. Knights, fully armored knights squared away with the temple guards, both groups seemingly eager for violence, both groups stepping down as they saw the crying priestess and her archmage son. She did not look at them, did not look at Sheigh, but climbed into the carriage and lay down on one of its upholstered benches, grabbing a pillow to cover her head in shame. Her son entered behind her, taking a seat opposite her, and the carriage started rolling. He did not speak, and as the carriage continued her sorrow and shame turned to fear. What does he have planned for me? Her heart raced.

***

Sheigh folded the letter neatly, dripping wax from a candle onto the last fold. He watched it cool, reflecting everything the letter meant. Pressing his father’s signet into the wax, he thought of his mother. Of course he would forgive her, in time, he had no choice. But she had to be punished, and he needed to think of something appropriate.

Sheigh Llyrandor was not a commodity to be bought and sold. He was not a prize to be won. Whatever good intentions his mother may have had, they demeaned him, made him a pawn. He was no pawn, not for weak men like the Duke. The letter made that clear. There would be a reckoning. The marriage to Islimah, and it hurt his heart to admit it because he loved her in a rare, special way and knew her heart would break at the news, was postponed. Perhaps it would be off altogether.

“What we do for love,” he whispered to nobody in particular, before getting up to deliver the letter to a courier. What we do for love, he reflected, and what we do for honor. And which should win out in this case? His heart ached, his mind raced, and he knew it would be no easy decision.

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