Fable - Ask Of Books & Brothers

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Elspeth Sirl

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Even the Gilded District was gloomy beneath an overcast sky pregnant with rain. Elspeth Sirl watched through the window of her carriage as the shadow of dark storm clouds to the east slowly loomed overhead, promising to shatter the evening peace with the song of storm and thunder. Normally she wouldn't mind, but after a long day she would have liked a bit of quiet.

It was later afternoon when she returned home to her flat and the rain had just begun to fall. It pooled in small puddles among the brick and cobble of the street, splashing as hoof and wheel chartered through. Having nodded off on the long ride home from Sirl manor, Elsi's head dipped forward slightly when the carriage came to a stop. Delicately brushing the sleep from her eyes and loose strands of red from her face, she peered out as the stagecoach opened her door, and took his hand to disembark.

With a short farewell and a gloved hand held over her head to shield her eyes from the patter of rain, Elspeth turned to the steps of her flat and took the first two before coming to an abrupt halt. To her right a tall, dark figure emerged from beneath the shadow of a tree.

"Hello?" she said to the man, "Are you here for the clinic? I'm afraid it's closed until the 'morrow."
 
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Elias

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Tall, clad head-to-toe in black with a menacing physique, one would reasonably assume that the man who stepped out possessed ill intentions. The truth couldn't be farther away. Elias pulls the hood on his mantle back over his head.

The boy nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders and flashes a half-smile, "Nah, just lookin' to get out of this weather 'fore I get soaked."

It was fortunate the weather turned when it did. Elias had waited for the better part of the afternoon, unsure exactly when his sister would return. Stubborn as he was, Eli would've stood out in the rain all day if he had to, partly because there wasn't anywhere else for him to go except for with Ralene. But things needed doing before he made that step.
 

Elspeth Sirl

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Ill-intent wasn't far from the forefront of her thoughts, of course, but Elspeth tried not to judge too quickly or jump to conclusions. After all, only a year ago the very presence of an elf in Vel Anir would have spelled chaos, fear, perhaps even death. Now they had their own district ... if one could truly call the pittance given them such - but that was a train of thought for another day. Another thread.

For her patience and her faith in her fellow Vel Anirians, she was rewarded with the handsome face of her brother as he pulled away his cowl. Elspeth blinked in shock and found her feet invariably staking claim to another step up simply for the surprise of it all. As if one more step might raise her above such social faux-pas as being caught off-guard.

"It's you!" she exclaimed blithely, mouth hanging open for a few breaths too long, "I, ah - well," and her blue eyes flickered skyward as if to check that it was indeed raining as he said because the notion of it had fled her mind at his appearance, "yes, it is a bit wet ... out here. Won't-" another check, eyes narrowed and brow fretted this time to see that she had truly seen the man who was her brother and not just imagined it, "won't you come in? Please?"

Her smile was a broken greeting late, but may no one ever say Elspeth Sirl did not welcome friends, family, and even strangers alike warmly into her home and out of the rain. With but a moment of uncertainty and dawning excitement--he was here, he was really, actually here--she trotted the last of the steps, opened the door and lead him inside to the front foyer where the Help arrived to take wet coats, cloaks, hats, gloves, and whatever else needed taking.
 

Elias

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Watching her perform emotional gymnastics made the wait worth it for Eli. His small smile grew into a full-on smirk, "Yeah. Thanks."

He follows Elsi in and is rather firm, but strains himself to be especially polite as he refuses the help and chooses to hang his cloak himself. It was all he'd brought with him, except for the small novel tucked in the waistline of his trousers behind his back.

"Nice place," he comments as they step through the foyer, "You always live here?"
 

Elspeth Sirl

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A questioning glance from the maid drew a curious look from the Lady of the house, but she was not unaccustomed to such things. Soldiers were often much the same - stalwart do-it-themself-ers. Stubborn. Prideful. It was best just to let them be as they wished. She gently shook her head and dismissed the Maid after doffing her own traveling overcoat, gloves, and scarf.

The bracelet from Olvir gleamed on her wrist, elegant and understated as the only piece of jewelry she presently wore.

"No," she replied, "only a few months now." Elsi's eyes searched the immediate room of the home as though she were trying to prove she was familiar with it. Truth be told, it all still felt rather new to her.

"I've only just returned to Vel Anir proper from Dornoch a little over a year ago..." and spent most of her time living in the abyss of her father's overbearing shadow. Buying the flat had been half about opening her first clinic next door and half about finding relief from the smothering of Doran Sirl's merciless judgemental gaze.

"I-" she felt her lips part to say something else, ask something, but she couldn't get past her immediate confusion and curiosity. Frowning, Elsi clasped her hands together at her front and wrung them, "Please don't take this the wrong way but ... this is very unexpected. What are you doing here?"
 

Elias

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Eli tucks his thumbs in the waistline of his pants and rocks on his feet as Elsi talks.

"Dornoch, huh," Elias rifles through the pages of his memory to past assignments and missions. He recalls a vague image of the city. Pretty place.

Suddenly he whips a hand up in the air, snaps his fingers, and points at Elsi. "Ah! Yeah, that's right." He reaches behind his back and produces The Winterspike Road from where it was tucked. He holds it out to her.

"Sorry that I came without any warning. It, uh, well. It was easier this way. I thought that we might be able to talk some, but if it's a bad time..."
 

Elspeth Sirl

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The sudden raising and pointing of his hand would have been enough to startle just about anyone, including Elsi who jumped and found herself staring at the book she'd leant him several months ago, "Oh! You ... you didn't have to return that. It was my gift to you. Keep it if you like."

A faint frown plied her lips downward at his apology. He was quite different and, she noted as she gave him a quick look-over, very much seemed to have healed from his grievous wounds last she saw him. She supposed the change of locale and situation likely calmed that petulant nerve of his.

"It's not," she shook her head, "a bad time, I mean. I would be happy to talk ... are you hungry? We can speak over dinner."
 

Elias

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Eli holds the book in the air between them a moment longer, then pulls it back and lightly slaps it against the palm of his free hand before tucking it away against the small of his back.

"I can eat," he nods and hooks his thumbs through the belt loops on his pants. He wasn't particularly hungry, but that never stopped him from eating. Elias was a black hole that consumed anything set before him and, at the Academy, would snack on anything he could get his hands on.

"What's on the menu?" the Dreadlord asks almost excitedly.
 

Elspeth Sirl

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"A good question," Elsi looked about for the hired help and found none, "I will have to track down the answer. Please make yourself at home, Elias. We'll dine in the Solar, it's the door at the end of the main hall." Finally she felt the warmth return to her and it showed in her smile that she turned back to him. Now that the shock of his impromptu appearance had worn off and he seemed in amiable spirits, she was hopeful this evening chat might turn them into something more than strangers.

Family would be a good start, but she'd settle with friends.

"I won't be long," Elsi said to him as she headed off down a side hall at a clipped pace toward the kitchen.
 

Elias

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Elias watches his sister recede down the hall and only moved himself as she finally left his sight. He proceeds through this new place to the indicated room with excessive caution, that of which had been throughly trained into him. It was certainly, undeniably a safe place but there was no fighting what had been engrained into him from a young age.

Entering the solar, he only briefly scans the room of its decor as he crosses the floor, sets his gifted book on the table, and stands in front of the windows to look outside at the rainfall. The light shower had picked up to a full-on downpour. Raindrops fall aggressively at an angle and loudly pitter-patter against the windows.

The Dreadlord closes his eyes and breathes in deeply through his nostrils, only then relaxing himself and letting his guard drop, if only ever so slightly. He stands there in silence for a while until Elsi returns, entirely at peace and content to simply listen in to the tunes of nature.
 
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Elspeth Sirl

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"Hope you like roast duck," Elspeth broke the silence as she smoothly stepped into the solar, carrying with her a tea tray complete with pot, cups, and fixings, "it will be a bit before it's ready. I've hot tea if you like? Or coffee?"

Hard to say how long the young man had been waiting for her ... or how long he'd been standing in the rain. Nevermind how unusual it was for a Lady of High Nobility to be serving her own tea, let alone carrying the tray. Not that Elias would likely be privy to such social norms or rules - but maybe he was. Who was she to assume?

Setting the tray down on the table, Elspeth set to work quietly pouring herself some tea, glancing up at Eli every so often while she thought on how she wished to broach the subject of I'm sorry I didn't tell you who I was ...

Had he even figured it out?

"I'm glad to see you doing so well," she settled on, "you've healed up nicely. Not even a limp."
 

Elias

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Elias' absent gaze breaks away from the dark and moody scenery outside the window to glance over his shoulder at Elspeth as she enters the room. He accompanies a slight nod with an affirmatory grunt. Roast duck—it felt like it's been a while since he'd had an actual meal. And he couldn't say if he liked duck in particular or not, but meat was meat.

"Ah, no, thanks." The memory of trying tea prepared by Chasmine ages ago came to mind. He hadn't been a fan. Not a bit.

Facing the window again, Eli ruefully smiles as he imagines their self-image-obsessed father flying into a fit at Elsi prepping her own beverages. Not that he knew the man well, but Elias felt safe that his image of Doran wasn't far from the truth.

The Dreadlord was fully aware of proper etiquette and rules that those of high society followed, but the young man never did subscribe to them himself. Call him many things, but never a conformist. He always has and always will march to the beat of his own drum. So seeing his sister take matters into her own hands, even with such a trivial thing, was mildly pleasing.

"I was in good hands," he responds with uncharacteristic modesty. The truth of the matter was the quality of hands that tended to him might have made little difference in his recovery. But it had been timely, and things may have been far worse for him had he been seen any later.

"It was just another day. You should've seen me one time after- ...well, never mind."
 

Elspeth Sirl

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Of course he didn't want tea, but it felt rude not to offer and Elsi couldn't abide rudeness in general, let alone her own home. The silence between words gave her time to tend her tea with a splash of milk and a spoonful of honey. No sugar. She stirred and the spoon gently clinked against cup. Practiced movements. Perfected movements, even, from a childhood spent at a finishing school before she'd been shipped off to Dornoch where they untaught her everything to prepare her for the world.

Nobility didn't make the woman, nor her manners - her mind and actions did.

But even with his modesty, the way he brushed off the wounds he'd carried at their first meeting was worrisome. Brought to mind the conversation she'd had with Olvir about the life of a Dreadlord Initiate. Elsi frowned over her first sip of tea and the scald of the liquid only served to drive the thought home.

"I'm glad I can be of service to Vel Anir's brave men and women."

Like as she was want to bite that hook, Elsi didn't care to speak of warfare and she let her gaze linger off, landing upon the book he'd set on the table.

"How did you like the book?"
 

Elias

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Elias could have talked about the bravery of his cohort at great length. Or, rather, the facade of it. Instead, he turns away from the window and stepped up to the table, across from his sister.

"I don't read much. Well, at all, really. After the battle things slowed down for me, so it was nice to have on hand, you know, with all the downtime. I enjoyed it."

The buildup to their graduation. The one he'd been absent for. Eli's brows subtly furrow, but he sighs. Shakes his head.

"The story was easy to follow. Never felt lost in it."

Eli pauses, looks like he wants to say something else. Clears his throat.

"You know any others that are similar?"
 
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Elspeth Sirl

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"Of course," she smiled warmly, "I've a small collection of novels like that one. You can borrow any of them. All of them, if you like. I've read them all at least twice."

One of her favorite hobbies outside causing her father no end of grief and saving lives. Hearing her brother's interest in reading more was wonderful and she felt it warming that cold knot in her chest that had been there for many years now. The one that had slowly twisted itself tighter and larger over time, not knowing the fate of her brother.

"You didn't come here to talk about the book." It wasn't a question, but a rhetoric observation. Intuited by many small things.

Elspeth watched him closely, carefully, breaking her gaze to consider some things and gather her own bravery, "You know who I am now?" That was a question.
 

Elias

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Elias nods. Perhaps before he leaves, he'd take a look for something that jumps out at him.

Then he flashes a wry smile and folds his arms. Nods again.

"Wouldn't be here if I didn't."

It was a good thing that Ralene was much more thorough than he. Not ever having many personal belongings of much meaning or importance, he would've never thought to have checked the inside cover for Elspeth's name.

"And you knew who I was back then."
 

Elspeth Sirl

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There came a swell of ... she wasn't sure if it was embarrassment or shame, guilt maybe? A mixture of many things. Ever since he'd left on that horse with her book she'd replayed how she might've better approached that interaction with him. Gone over time and time again of whether or not she should have just told him outright. In the end, there was nothing to be done for it.

Her lips formed a thin, stretched line as she gave a innocently-guilty shrug of her shoulders, "Not at first, but the Nurses pulled your information from your tags and the Captain's roster. I knew who you were the morning after your surgery."

Brows knitting over a wince, she turned an apologetic look up at him, so stately and tall. His silhouette could have passed for their father by the window.

"I wanted to tell you, truly I did. I was just ... afraid ..." her sullen look returned at the admission, "that you would hate me."
 

Elias

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Perhaps Eli's expression was passing, too. He watches with his face a lithic mask as Elsi explains, his features unchanging as emotional quirks shift through his sister's countenance. It all crumbles apart in the end, and he snorts with amusement and breaks into a smile.

"What? Hate you? Why would I?"
 

Elspeth Sirl

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His reaction wasn't quite what she'd expected nor did it make her feel assured of anything.

"For the life that I had and you did not?"

Was that silly to think? Her frown deepened as she looked away, "I've been thinking about you since they separated us. Wanting to find you for as long as I can remember. It was so unfair that you were sent away for something you had no control over. I thought why wouldn't you hate the family that gave you up?"
 

Elias

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"That road never leads anywhere good."

If any of the Initiates ever said that they'd never laid up at night cursing their misfortune for being born with their abilities, then Elias would have said adamantly that they were lying. He had once been jealous of those that lived comfortable lives. He'd harbored no small amount of resentment towards Olvir at that time. Lived like that for far too long.

Until one day, he'd come to terms with his fate. Things became a lot easier after that.

Eli shakes his head, "None of that is on you. It's all on the old man, isn't it?"
 

Elspeth Sirl

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Elspeth chanced a look back up at him to see the expression on his face. He was difficult to read and perhaps that was simply a product of his upbringing and training at the Academy. But she had to believe he was more than a stone face if he could befriend Olvir and earn so much trust from him. There had to be more there beneath the veneer.

"I don't know," she admitted, pulling breath in through her nose and straightening her posture, "he refuses to speak to me about you... but he refuses to speak about many things, including mother."
 

Elias

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Elias became deathly quiet. His crossed arms tense up, and he tightly squeezes his bicep.

"I didn't know about mother 'til over half a year after she died."
 

Elspeth Sirl

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"I was in Dornoch for my studies when she passed," Elspeth's brow furrowed at the memory of the letter, "father never said a word about it, I was not even aware she'd been so terribly ill. I only learned about it from mother's Handmaiden, Miss Darcy. She wrote me months after and I traveled home. Father was furious when he found out and fired her."
 
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Elias

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There was a menacing look on Eli's face and though there was much he wanted to say, none of it pleasant, he held his tongue. He shakes his head with a grumble and resists the impulse to punch a hole through Elsi's nice table.

"It's some comfort knowing that I'm not the only one he leaves uninformed..." That wry smile of his rears its head once again and he deeply sighs. Just thinking of their father greatly riled Eli up. Exhausted him.

"You know, shortly before we ran into each other I'd visited the old castle with Ventress. Some of mother's things were still there."
 

Elspeth Sirl

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She didn't find it a comfort at all. Doran Sirl had become a recluse after their mother's death to the point that the Courtiers questioned if Doran had died as well. It was only after she had taken up the duty herself to make appearances and set the record straight that the rumor stopped getting whispered down the alley.

Doran Sirl was deep in grief over the loss of his beloved even so many years later. He'd never been the same since.

"Castle?" Elsi lifted a curious brow, "You mean ... the estate along the coast? I haven't been there since ..." she blinked, plying through her memory bank, "since just after Finishing School. We used to over-summer there every year. Mother liked the ocean."

She couldn't recall if Elias had ever been there or not. Perhaps before he'd been given to the Academy? When they were both too young to really remember?

"Dreadlord Ventress is a good woman," Elsi nodded, "she has been steadfast to our House over the years. Have you trained with her?"
 
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