Inkyrius carefully stood up, finally certain the children were soundly trancing. After tucking the covers around them, the elf tiptoed towards the door.
“They’re brave.” Inkyrius said, backing out into the corridor and pulling the door closed until only a thin slice of the darkened room could be seen. “Braver than me it seems; I don’t think I’m going to be able to trance for a while.”
Aarindarius gave a sympathetic look, “They’re also exhausted. So are you by the looks of it.”
The other elf shrugged “Thanks again for letting us stay here.”
“It’s no problem. Really.” The wizard started towards the stairs, motioning for the other elf to follow. “You look like you need a drink. Perhaps something a little stronger than tea this time.”
Back in the drawing room, Aarindarius rummaged around in one of the cabinets, pulling out a mostly-full bottle of wine and two glasses. He flopped down onto the sofa next to the baker and poured each of them some wine then took a large sip out of his own glass. Inkyrius gazed down at the red liquid.
“Do you think Vaarsuvius is okay?” The elf asked suddenly, causing Aarindarius to choke on his wine.
“I mean, maybe I over-reacted.” Inkyrius said distractedly as the wizard coughed into his robe sleeve. “Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge. Maybe Vaarsuvius did do everything out of purely selfless intentions.” The elf took a nervous gulp of wine.
“Then why leave rather that stay with you?” Aarindarius said wheezily.
“Because I as good as told Suvie to!” the baker exclaimed. “I shouted, wouldn’t listen to the other side of the story!”
“You acted as anyone else would have in the same situation.”
“Anyone else would have thanked their rescuer, not driven them away. Especially when it cost that person so much.”
“What happened today is not your fault.”
“No, but it wasn’t Vaarsuvius’ fault either that a dragon suddenly decided we were easy prey!”
Aarundarius looked uncomfortable. “Inkyrius… don’t you find it a bit strange that a dragon not only targeted your family specifically, but that Vaarsuvius found out about it in time to contact and make a deal with someone from the lower planes?”
“W-what are you saying? That Vaarsuvius had met the dragon before?”
“I’m saying that the dragon probably attacked you as revenge for something Vaarsuvius did.”
The baker gave a slight snort of laughter. “Suvie left to learn more about magic, not to slay dragons!”
“Your mate is currently part of an adventuring party. Dragon slaying is certainly part of such a group’s agenda.”
The baker stared blankly at the wizard, and then slumped back against the cushions, eyes shut. “So Vaarsuvius though to tell you but not me? How long have you known? What else do you know about my mate that I haven’t been informed of?”
Aarindarius frowned slightly. “Nothing. At least nothing that has arisen during the last six years, since Vaarsuvius hasn’t contacted me either. I used a Scrying spell earlier today after you left.”
“And did that let you find out where Suvie is? Did you find out if…?”
“From what I could tell, it was by the sea, possibly an island. From what vegetation there was, I’d guess it’s somewhere in this continent, although I might be wrong. You still care, don’t you.”
“One event is hardly enough to undo many happy years.” But the elf looked uncertain. “It’s hard to know how to feel.”
“If you want my opinion…” the wizard hazarded “you never seemed that close.”
“We certainly disagreed over what was important.”
“Married people do argue. It doesn’t mean the relationship if a failure.” Aarindarius added hurredly.
“You’re switching sides now; you were right the first time. We didn’t argue – we hardly talked at all! If I hadn’t put my foot down over the issue, Vaarsuvius would have been reading spell books at the dinner table.”
“Really? Vaarsuvius always struck me as excessively verbose.”
“I don’t count having arcane theory babbled at me as us talking. Shame neither of our children took an interest in magic, maybe that would have prompted Suvie to actually take some responsibility in bringing them up.”
“Surely you don’t mean that.”
“You of all people should know how reclusive Vaarsuvius can get.”
To that, Aarindarius had no reply. Instead he poured each of them some more wine, and they both settled down to a night of contemplative silence.
Inkyrius bolted out of a trace as a scream tore through the air, which was followed by loud crying. Two voices crying, as the elf child’s sibling also awoke. Inkyrius scrambled up from the sofa, having been resting against Aarindarius’ shoulder, barely noticing where they were. The baker ran out the room towards the stairs leading up, leaving Aarindarius to blink sleepily at the numerous empty bottles on the table in front of him. The older elf brushed a tangle of lilac hair out of his face then stood and stumbled slightly, caught the table for balance, then headed towards the door unsteadily.
By the time Aarindarius reached the next floor the crying had quietened down, which he thanked the Elven gods for because his head currently felt like it had been run over by a dragon. He looked around the door and saw Inkyrius perched on the bed, arms around the two children who were both sobbing, muttering comfortingly to them. The lamp on the bedside table was casting a dim yellow light, giving Inkyrius’ soft features a golden glow. The wizard felt his mouth go dry.
Seeing him, Inkyrius looked up. “I’ll spend the rest of the night in here.”
Aarindarius nodded, then forced back the lump in his throat. “Err… do you want me to stay.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Aarindarius nodded mutely, backing out of the room. He went down the stairs again, collected up the empty bottles, and took them into the kitchen, where he ran the tap and splashed cold water onto his face. The cold shock helped clear his mind, but the emotions remained, as heavy as ever.
He turned the tap off and ran an unsteady hand distractedly through his hair. If only it were Inkyrius’ hair…
He brought his hand down hurriedly and clenched it, nails biting into his palm. That wasn’t helpful and it certainly wasn’t appropriate. Whatever happened with Vaarsuvius and Inkyrius’ relationship, he shouldn’t be one to drive a wedge between them. Resignedly, he headed for his room, intending to get a few hours trancing to help organise his thoughts before he made any decisions he might regret.
All the while a small voice insisted that this was the ideal time to act, that the other elf needed emotional support and now more than ever would accept it. He ignored the voice, pushing it to the back of his mind, but it would not be silenced.