[[ Four little short Valentine stories… three happy and one not. ]]
“Don’t peek,” Terellion said, stopping to check Hethurin’s blindfold.
“I’m not,” Hethurin protested. “Do I smell cake?”
Malwen covered her mouth to suppress a giggle. “Maybe,” said Terellion. “It’s just a little further.” He led Hethurin carefully, mindful that he wouldn’t trip and re-injure his leg. He’d checked the garden path carefully for any rocks or roots that might get in the way. The girls were already waiting there, Malwen in her frilly pink dress and holding her new doll, and Narise in her buggy. Terellion had given Malwen a lollipop to bribe her into not spoiling the surprise, and Narise kept trying to grab for it.
“Okay,” Terellion said at last. “You can look now!”
The garden was a riot of pink, red and white — though it was still too cold for real blooms, Terellion had tied paper roses to the ends of the branches. Ribbons were draped between the branches, and wrapped around the lamp posts. Paper hearts fluttered in the breeze, and on a table in the center rested a large heart-shaped cake.
“I helped!” Malwen exclaimed. She took Hethurin’s hand. “Come see!”
Raleth inspected the robe carefully, walking around the dressmaker’s mannequin to ensure that every detail was right. The tailor seemed anxious, waiting for his customer’s approval. If he thought it odd that the robe was such a large size, he hadn’t said anything to Raleth.
She hadn’t had a new robe in a very long time, and he wanted it to be a special one. Though the tailor had plenty of pink and red cloth in preparation for the holiday, Raleth didn’t think they would go well with Lali’s features. Instead, he chose a shade of cool blue and lilac for the main fabrics, and elaborate embroidery on the sleeves and hems. It would be fancy enough to wear for parties, but still safe enough that she could hold the babies and not worry about them swallowing a bead.
He wanted to do more though. Lali never once complained about missing her family or old friends, though she surely must. Here she was in this strange place, surrounded by strange people who didn’t even speak the same language most of the time. Raleth knew that she sometimes got letters from the Tauren back in Kalimdor, but she hadn’t gone to visit. He’d bring it up soon; he could take care of Naraleth for a few days. Or maybe she could bring him with, and he could finally meet his grandfather. It troubled him that the old man hadn’t even bothered to see Nareleth.
Raleth nodded to the tailor. “It’s perfect.” The tailor smiled, relieved, and began to fold the robe up to be wrapped.
Flower shops seemed to spring up like mushrooms around Stormwind close to the holiday. Normally, there were only two, with a couple of stands. Now, it seemed like they were on every corner, barrels bursting with blooms in every color imaginable. The Harrier took his time to visit them all, trying to decide which stand had the freshest and most lovely flowers. They all had roses, of course, but he wanted something unusual. One stand caught his eye, near the Cathedral. They had roses of every color, striped and white and yellow and pink, but the most outstanding were a deep purple in color, nearly black. The gnome claimed they were grown in Un’goro, in volcanic soil and watered with red wine. The Harrier didn’t really believe that was true, but he bought them anyway because they were stunning, and he thought that Rose might like them. He still had the ring he’d found in the ruins of Gilneas, it was still safely hidden away in his locked trunk, but it still didn’t seem like the right time. Perhaps it never would be, but he wasn’t willing to give up just yet.
He walked home along the streets, rather than take the roofs. It was slower, but he didn’t want to risk dropping or bruising the flowers. It also meant that he passed more stands selling things for the holiday — little candies, cheap perfumes, those flimsy night dresses. His ears perked when he saw the chocolates, though, packed neatly into bright red boxes. Josie would like some of those, so would Nash and Pup. He bought one for each, and carefully wrote their names with the quill provided at the stand. Maybe he ought to get him something else. He still felt guilty for the way things had gone, though Nash seemed to be less upset, maybe he was just better at hiding it. The Harrier certainly knew what that was like. He glanced around the marketplace. Most of what they were selling wasn’t really appropriate. But then he remembered the wine shop, it was even on the way home. Maybe they’d carry something from Silvermoon there.
Imralion woke in the chair, and it took him a moment to remember where he was. He was at the healer’s building in Tranquillien. Aeramin was still fast asleep, as he had been last night, but Imralion could see the slow rise and fall of his chest. He was breathing. It had not been an easy few days, but somehow things had got even worse. Lani, the healer, said that Aeramin had mixed a number of potions and was lucky to still be alive. Imralion felt responsible; if he hadn’t brought up wanting to live in the city, Aeramin would never have been so upset. He still didn’t know what was best — for him, for Aeramin, and for Lyorri — but he knew he couldn’t abandon Aeramin right now.
His father had been no help at all. He’d told Imralion that he should leave while Aeramin was with the healers, but that felt cowardly and cruel in his mind. Maybe Aeramin was right, maybe he should have tried harder. But he’d been trying for months now and it didn’t seem that things were getting any better between them. If anything, Aeramin had been spending more time in the basement and less time with him. He’d nearly begged Imralion to stay, which was not the reaction he’d expected. He thought Aeramin would agree, he could visit Lyorri more often and she could even stay over at the house, and he could come to visit Imralion at his leisure. But he didn’t see it that way. Part of it was that he wasn’t sure what sort of future they could have; Aeramin wanted to be involved in his daughter’s life, but Imralion didn’t. He resented his own father for leaving without a word, he didn’t want the same thing to happen to Lyorri. Her circumstances weren’t her fault, she was just a baby. But that didn’t make it any easier for Imralion to accept.
The door opened quietly, and Lani came in to check on Aeramin. She listened to his breathing and felt his forehead, and washed it with a damp cloth. She gave Imralion a look but didn’t say anything. Maybe she blamed him too, it was impossible to tell. The sun was already up, he would need to report to his post in the city soon. But he wanted to be there when Aeramin woke, Lani had said it would probably be later that day. He took a scrap of paper and wrote a short note on it.
I’ll be back after my shift. Your father will come today too. He paused. Should he write more? He wasn’t sure if Lani — or Arancon — would read it before Aeramin did. And he wasn’t really sure how things were between them. I’m glad you’re okay. ~Im
He folded the note and tucked it under Aeramin’s hand, on top of the blanket. Hopefully he would wake soon.