Elaejia (prime)/2021-08-22 - Slough

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: Slough

Author: Elaejia Silithyr Loenthra

Routine. Starting every day with the same routine was important. A cup or two of strong black coffee, a glance through her ledgers and calendar, perhaps a few moments with a familiar book. Then a long hot bath, a few moments spent at the mirror with a brush, and at the wardrobe with a critical eye. These little rituals were important to center oneself and prepare for the day ahead.

However, on this morning, and on those of the past several weeks, Elaejia made a small but salient change to her routine. She drank wine.

Wilver delivered her requested bottle each morning with a worried look, and had on several occasions attempted to chide her, but after the first week even his most cantankerous exhortations were silenced by Elaejia’s temper.

Another new addition to the routine: reading the letter. It was the second letter he had ever written to her, and like the first, it had arrived late.

"I thought it high time I ceased my retreat from accountability... Leaving you was no easy feat... There is nothing I desire more in the lands than to be in your company."

Seven years. That was the span of time she had believed him dead.

Three years, the span of time since she received his first letter, a bolt from the blue.

Two years, the span of time since she watched him pledge himself to another.

At each juncture, Elaejia had endured a different ember of torment, and employed different effort to douse it. The first was a heavy, leaden thing, a collar that burned her throat and compressed her heart. She had drunk endless cups of tea with his widowed mother Maescia, as the grieving woman attempted to divine any rhyme or reason in their leaves.

The second was a breathless, pulse-pounding storm of white hot sparks that tore through her breast, shattering the collar. She had tried brandy then, to dull their pinpricks of confused ire and hope, as she set her mind to the journey west.

The third was a bitter and grainy coal that sat lumpen in her mouth, and could not be dislodged, only swallowed time and time again. This last she doused in coffee, strong and equally bitter, busied herself frenetically with work, and believed if she befriended his fiance, she could at last choke it down for good.

This last of course was accompanied by her introduction to Rauka, who seemed to be summoned by the tempestuous storms of her emotions. Had he been there every time before, lingering nearby, waiting? She could not say for certain. What peace she had not been able to find in her conversations with the Lorekeeper, she had finally managed to locate in his alien, vulturine companionship. But now outside the window, Rauka perched in his usual spot, and she studiously ignored his piercing crimson gaze.

This latest outrage had undone all her work again, and a new heat flared to life around her heart: a delicate molten glass lamina, threatening to harden... or shatter.

In truth, Elaejia felt made all of glass, liable to crack at any moment. The wine created a comfortable cotton feeling of safety that let her go about her days with relative normalcy. Elaejia poured the last of today’s bottle into her goblet and stared moodily at nothing as she drank it mechanically, without enjoyment, waiting for its swaddling armor to surround her.

"Wilver, draw the bath," she whispered tonelessly into the wind, knowing it would carry her request to his ear. It was time to start the day.

Some days later, her morning review of her calendar revealed that today she had agreed to travel west with Daevian. They had discussed this trip excitedly some time ago, to trek back to the uncanny Broken Lands and revisit the flora there to study whether its properties might be of interest or use.

She glanced longingly at the still-corked bottle set on her table that morning, but knew she should not. Daevian was far too perceptive. It was likely only the social settings of their past few meetings that had allowed her to mask her wine-steeped mind with apparent good humor.

"Aside from the foolish spectacle you made last week, of course," she thought grimly as she sorted through her wardrobe. She cursed herself for the hundredth time for her inability to contain that outburst at Aquilon and Lady Veloth. "There’s no way to salvage that gracefully, either, you bloody-minded fool."

Dry amusement tinged with a hint of pity once again filtered through the link she shared with Rauka, where he’d settled in the back of her mind. She glanced disgustedly through the open window at the vulture ready to snap at him, but the molten heat around her heart crackled dangerously and closed her eyes instead, turning away. His amusement faded and the pity transformed into a perversely comforting feeling of determination.

"Yes, today I will manage to appear normal. I can do that much, at least. Though I do wish you would come with me today, Rauka." The link shivered with revulsion and Elaejia got the sense that the bird could not understand her desire to return.

Shaking her head again, she finished dressing and braided her hair. "Well, I intend to stay in the west for some time. I cannot look at this villa one more day. So at the very least you can make your way to Vornavis and await me there."

Rauka regarded her with one red-ringed eye for a long moment, before leaping into the sky with heavy beats of his powerful wings.