Posted by Darth Krzysztof
The scimitar slipped from Rayne’s fingers, but she took no notice. Once sure that Vrack was free of the silt, the assassin turned away from the scene of the battle and walked away, not stopping until the others were well out of sight.
She turned her face to the newly-risen sun and squeezed her eyes shut, wondering how she could feel so cold in this place. Had she ever come so close to death? Had its face ever been this familiar?
She struggled to control her breathing, to will her heart back into stillness. The strength of the Hidden lay untold miles away, under the sundered pyramid at Kalidnay, but their teachings were with her. Her Shadow came when called, and left after its counsel was heard. When Rayne opened her eyes, she had stopped trembling.
Les stood a short distance away, cradling Rayne’s scimitar. “You dropped this,” Les said, offering the weapon to her, hilt first.
Rayne’s blood iced over. How much had Les seen? What would Les tell the others? What would they say? Would they call her weak, and leave her here?
Stop it, she told herself. There’s strength enough in you. You’re still alive, and you’re going to stay that way.
“I…” She took the weapon from Les and returned it to the worn leather scabbard at her hip. “Thanks.”
“Rayne? Are you all right?” Les asked, head bobbing to the side.
“Sure,” she said, much too brightly.
Les sighed, then with a smirk, said, “Liar. You shouldn’t lie; it’s a nasty habit.” The words were laced with irony.
Rayne had never mastered the Hidden technique for reading people, but she found Les utterly mysterious. Where was this concern coming from? From fear that Rayne might let the group down? From genuine concern? Or was Les just feigning concern? It didn’t matter; Rayne had no reason to deceive her fellow travelers, and no energy to spare for it.
“My father drowned in the Sea of Silt,” she said. “Right in front of me. I was five years old, maybe six.”
“Oh.” Again, Rayne struggled to find meaning in the reply, but she thought that Les hadn’t expected such an honest answer. Les cast a look over one shoulder, back toward the battlefield, and Rayne felt sure that Les had already had enough of this… intimacy. After a moment, though, Les turned back to her and asked, “What about the rest of your family? Surely you had more than just your father, back in Balic?” Noticing her reaction, Les added, “It’s your accent.”
Rayne shook her head. “Not any more, no. The Profit’s crew was my real family. They’re all gone now, though.” Something that had been bothering Rayne returned to mind. “You know, we had a few elves on board. They weren’t nearly as pale as you are.”
Les blinked at her, then chuckled, almost inaudibly. “I never said I was an elf, Rayne. I’m an eladrin.”
“Oh!” Rayne felt color blooming in her cheeks, and she looked away. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to insult you… I’ve never heard of eladrin.” When she glanced up again, though, she saw a smile on Les’s lips.
“It’s all right,” Les said. “Few have. Honestly, it helps with the mystique.” The smile spread to a grin. “Care to hear a tale?”
Les told Rayne about the history of the eladrin and their green world, which they called the Lands Within the Wind. Though Les smiled throughout the story, Rayne sensed sorrow behind it. She had the idea that Les was, at heart, a shy and reserved person, who had trained to become a talkative and outgoing one. She couldn’t say for sure where that idea had come from.
“I could scarcely imagine a place untouched by sand as being real,” Rayne sighed. “I’m far more familiar with the Gray.”
“Tell me,” Les said, with an odd undercurrent of urgency.
She told Les about Kavros and the Devourer, and said as much about Kalidnay and the Hidden as she felt comfortable saying; she found it strangely liberating. As she talked, Rayne thought that the eladrin’s discomfort had passed, now paying equal attention to the tale and the teller. When Rayne was done, Les nodded thoughtfully. “In a sense, then, you were also born in a world that few have ever heard of, and fewer still have ever seen.”
Despite their common shadows, Rayne now felt very different from Les. “A dark world, surely. Not a green one. Not a place of light.”
“All places have light and darkness,” Les said. “Shadow touches all, and leaves its mark everywhere.”
Now that sounded like genuine concern. Indeed, Les seemed more surprised than Rayne. The eladrin looked back toward Ralo and the group again. Something Ralo had said before had upset Les, but Rayne didn’t dare to press the issue. Nor could she bring herself to ask why Les had left the Lands Within the Wind. She sensed connection between them, now, but it was still fragile, tentative. And she knew far too little of such things to take foolish chances…
“We should be getting back,” Les said.
Still, this was no place to leave the conversation. Rayne stared at Les’s new amulet, trying to think of something clever or insightful to say about it. No, not that… something to thank Les for listening, to show that she also cared… “Les?”
“You told Vrack that ‘Les’ was short for something. What is it?”
Les bowed slightly. “Lesallai Lollanthas.” The syllables fairly glowed as they rolled from the eladrin’s lips.
“You were right. I don’t think I could pronounce that.”
Les smiled, friendly and shy all at once. “It’s kind of you to ask, in any case.”
“All right. Let’s rejoin the others.”