Stand With You
- Title: Stand with You
- Emitter: Ravenstongue
- Place: Temple of Eluna
- Summary: Ravenstongue goes to the Temple of Eluna in search of Seldan and finds him instructing younglings in using a starknife. When Seldan calls a break, Ravenstongue asks if she can speak with him privately. Once a private place is found, a heartfelt conversation is had, walls are broken down and built again--and a friendship is made, but curiosity lingers and follows.
Temple of Eluna, afternoon.
Some would argue that the daytime is not the proper time to look at the Temple of Eluna for guidance, given that the Seer is more known for Her place in the night sky--but there's a half-elf sorceress who walks in anyway. Cor'lana is dressed in a high-neckline violet dress that matches her eyes, which are sweeping about the room in search of something... or someone. Curiously enough, Pothy is not with her this day, either.
Her eyes linger on the altar to Eluna for a moment before she sighs and moves on. She moves further into the Temple, following a path she's been led down before to a quiet portion where a matter of faith was previously discussed.
Cor'lana's path through the temple takes her to one side of the temple courtyard, where a crop of young acolytes dressed in simple, clearly work robes, sit in a circle around an instructor working with a single student, watching intently. This is clearly a drill, for both of them hold practice starknives, and the student steps forward in a clumsily-executed opening move. The instructor stops him, corrects his stance and his hold, then sends him back to the beginning to try again. It takes a few tries, getting closer each time, before the youngster gets it and executes the drill cleanly, to the applause of the others. All of them are drenched in sweat, the instructor included, in this heat.
The instructor? Seldan Padaryn. Reunion is nowhere in evidence, nor is the rest of his gear.
"Very well. Well done, all of you. Return here after the noon meal, and we shall do it again. Do not forget to wash up!"
Cor'lana stops mid-stride to observe the training session. She seems somewhat taken by surprise to see and hear Seldan at first, then her face settles into an easier smile, and she waits a respectable distance away for the youngsters to disperse before she approaches.
"Sir Seldan," she greets him. "I believe the customary greeting is 'Her light on your path,' correct? A fine, if sweltering day." It's a rather conversational tone, even a warm one, that she uses to speak with him.
The kids are, of course, quick to scatter, chattering excitedly all the way, and Seldan has just reached for the other practice weapon when Cor'lana speaks. He starts, bows politely, and straightens. "There is no formal greeting, my lady," he returns, with the faintest of smiles. "It is merely my wish for those that I encounter. All the same, I shall take it in the spirit meant, and say to you that Her light be on yours as well. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?" He puts both practice knives in one hand, and uses the other to brush an unruly lock of hair, now drenched with sweat, out of his eyes.
Cor'lana continues to smile. Her eyes dart briefly down to the practice knives in Seldan's hand before she says, "I... Actually wanted to just talk," she replies. "Believe it or not, Sir Seldan, I have found myself contemplating many things as of late, and after... enduring certain events, I have wondered about some things. And some people."
She looks a little bashful as she asks, "I'm sure you're quite busy, Sir Seldan, and I don't mean to interfere in the instruction of young people, but is there perhaps a chance we could speak in private? I will try not to overstay my welcome."
Clearly not understanding what Cor'lana is driving at, Seldan takes the request easily enough. "They are quite finished with me, for the day, this do I assure you, and they must clean up for the evening meal ere evensong. Fear not for them. I am yours for a mark or so." Still that polite, even friendly exterior, a steady gaze. "Come, let us speak in private. I must beg your forgiveness for my state of dress."
Taking the practice weapons with him, he turns to lead her, back into the depths of the library where they had spoken before. It is clearly a place that the paladin uses fairly often, and he sets the wooden batons that serve as practice knives on the table between them, and offers her a chair. Someone has had a gentleman's upbringing, clear in the way he holds her chair for her.
Cor'lana giggles a little as they walk. "I can't exactly blame you for the light and heat that Daeus gifts to us all in this... wonderful season," she says as they walk, although the second to last word is said with some measure of sarcasm. "It's no wonder why the shores are so packed with people."
When they arrive at the small sanctuary in the library, Cor'lana nods and murmurs an appreciative "thank you" to Seldan. It's said in such a way that seems rather rote for her--perhaps used to it from living with Telamon for a rather long while. She leans back into her chair and smiles a little, before she puts her hands together in her lap.
"So, she says. Might as well break the ice. "I've been thinking about you, Sir Seldan. As I said before, certain events have made me think about things. And people. And I've come to realize that the people that this city speaks of in awed tones, the famous adventurers--I no longer have that world of detachment away from them."
Cor'lana sits up straighter in her chair. "Which means you. When I first came to this city, you were a name I heard of in murmurs at Resurrectionist meetings, when I was a scared little thing that ventured outside of my little rented room only to try and feed Pothy's appetite. And I had a good enough mask that I think most people never caught onto the fact that I was terrified of their judgment--let alone those like you. Powerful people who do things that I'd never dreamed of doing."
She smiles again. It's a cordial thing, that smile. "And yet I have found you are not someone who does that without good reason. You give advice when asked for. You help when asked for. And... yet I recall a conversation we had some time ago when I asked if you were okay, and you reacted in a way that reminded me of myself not that long ago. So... I want to know you better, Sir Seldan."
The smile on her face widens. "I want to be your friend."
Once Cor'lana is seated, Seldan retires to his own chair across from her, and traces a sigil in the air. It's a simple thing, a cantrip really that is the first one that many an apprentice learns. The cleaning cantrip. He appears to be both skilled in and accustomed to its use, though, passing his hands slowly over himself from head to foot. The sweat vanishes in its wake, leaving clean if simple clothing and no-longer-damp-but-still-unruly hair behind. He does this while she talks, but when she gets to the last part, he stops short, ice-blue eyes wide and startled, quite clearly taken aback.
"My lady," he begins carefully, the spell falling unheeded into the aether. He's suddenly tense and uncertain. "Are you certain you know what it is that you ask? Once already have the remnants of my troubles fallen upon you, and your husband-to-be near paid the price. To associate closely with me is a dangerous thing."
"I know," Cor'lana says. It's a statement that's both perfectly aware of the gravity of that ask and the consequences. "But I don't hold what happened against you--you are not the thing that put your hands around Telamon's neck--and as I have grown in my own abilities, as has Telamon, I realize I cannot be protected from such things forever. I am already sought out for my... close relations with the fey. I am already asked for when it comes to 'accomplished spellcasters'. My mother was a powerful sorceress, and I walk in her path--I am already what my cousin calls 'the stuff of unimaginable stories.'"
But then she smiles, her brows creasing in a note that seems... worried. No, saddened. "More importantly, however--I cannot ignore what seems to me like the plight of a man who has tried to help me. A plight that I know to my own degree in a different circumstance, but one that I struggled with for a very long time. I truly and sincerely want to help you. I get the feeling people often don't."
For a moment, Seldan freezes. Hesitates. His eyes lower to the table before him, staring intently, tracing every detail of the practice weapons before him. "I - do not doubt that your intentions are good, my lady," he starts gently. His eyes remain lowered, though. "Are you prepared to be a target, for those who would deny me? Can you withstand the magic of the mind? For my enemies hesitate not to use such things, and more times than I can readily count have I felt the claws, teeth, spells, and weapons of those who would call me friend. There are spells that I keep to hand each day, and shall until She calls me home, for just that purpose."
His chest rises and falls more quickly, but he falls silent, and at length, he looks up. "It matters not how strong you think yourself, my lady. There will always be those stronger than you. Stronger than me, even. And yet -" He eyes lower again. "At least you care for someone besides yourself."
"My grandfather has granted me gifts against mental manipulation," Cor'lana replies. "They do not make me impervious, but I am prepared to some measure."
But there's the kindness in her eyes again, the brows still creased in that worried fashion. "I understand. I understand your hesitation. It's..."
Cor'lana pauses for a moment. Her hands knit together in her lap, fingers clenching each other as she tries to pick out the right words to say. Then she says, "It's close, as I said, to what I have endured before. There was a long period in my life where I didn't want to leave my home, because I feared other people. I feared what they would say and what they would do, because I experienced their cruel words and their cruel actions."
Her gaze lowers, too--only briefly, darting down to her hands and then back up at Seldan again. "I kept myself locked up in that home for almost the entirety of the eighteen years I lived in that village in Rune. And that was a horrible and miserable existence. Even when I did leave to go to the market when Mother fell ill from time to time, I feared everyone around me. I feared what could happen. And that's why I care about you, Sir Seldan. I know that these are not the same circumstances--but I am concerned. And if I can possibly help you with my friendship, then I want to."
"Even knowing that those who stand by me are targets?" Beneath the table, Seldan had gathered the fabric of his loose trousers, clenching them in his hand as she spoke, but now he draws a deep, careful, slow breath, and then another. When he looks up, his gaze is again that even, steady thing, but it is, at least, open. "No, the circumstances are not the same. The things I speak of are not shadows, nor tricks of the mind. They are quite real, and of no small power. And yet - if you are willing to try-" Here, he slows down. "How, then, shall I refuse one true of heart? Few enough are there of such, in Alexandria."
Cor'lana pauses again. It's a long enough pause that suggests she's mulling over her words or her decision--but there's a certain conviction in her eyes that suggest it's only the words as she looks back up at Seldan.
She reaches out with her her right hand, holding it out to Seldan. "Everyone is a target in the end," she says. "If evil has its way and those who stand in defense of the common people are overwhelmed, then they will move on to the rest. And while there is always an inherent danger in being close to people... I've learned that it's worth it. No one should be an island. That includes you... Seldan."
The title is gone, replaced only with a warm smile. "So I'm willing to try. Let's stand together."
"As you will -," Here, Seldan hesitates, but what is wanted is clear enough. "Cor'lana." He offers a hand in turn, that is callused both from sword and pen - more the first than the second, and with it reaches to take hers. He is cautious and gentle, unexpectedly so for a swordsman, but still firm, and watches her intently. Although there is no anger, some guardedness remains in the ice-blue gaze. "You said that you are a spellcaster of some consequence? If that is so, then I would bid you study magical protection circles. The one against evil will aid you against the threats that stalk this city. I fear that my teaching in magic is of little use to most."
Cor'lana's hand is soft to the touch, albeit for the part of her hand where, if one thinks about it, corresponds to where a pencil or another writing instrument might be held in hand--there's the slight indication of callousing there, but not to the degree where a practiced swordsman like Seldan would have callouses. She nods at the mention of magic circles. "I am not quite so familiar in their casting, as I have not yet... figured out how to do such a thing," she says, a bit of bashfulness again in her voice and in her smile, "but I am familiar with their purpose. After the incident with the entity, I had the house warded by Mourner Verna against evil."
She does take the opportunity to squeeze his hand--a gentle thing, like her gentle smile. "I have a feeling even if you tried to teach me anyway, it would not take. My magic is from bloodlines, not a thing learned from instruction. Over time I've... felt things come into place, learned how to use the magic in my blood to do as I wish. If you'd believe it, that is where Pothy comes from, as well--I inherited both my magic and him from my mother."
"I cannot teach it, for the same reason." Seldan's smile is small, gentle, tolerant. "So the bird is your familiar, then. Much is explained." He seems to hesitate for a moment, at the discussion of circles, but nods. "She did the same for myself and Mal some years past. It was a wedding gift, for which we were both grateful." Again, he hesitates, and seems to silently toy with something else in the depths of his mind. At length, he dismisses it. "It seems that you were quite fond of your mother."
Cor'lana lets go of Seldan's hand, as it's never a good idea to overstay one's welcome when it comes to touching body parts. Her smile widens a little as he reveals their mutual magical sources--as much as being a sorcerer can be considered 'mutual'.
And then he brings up her mother. She nods, and her gaze turns thoughtful and reflective. "She was... Well, she was not perfect. No one is. She inherited her magic and Pothy from her father when she was a child and he died--that's how it's passed down, there's always someone who awakens when the previous 'inheritor' of Apotheosis passes--and she lived like she was going to live forever. She went on adventures, killed all manner of creatures, took on a hundred lovers, if not two or three hundred... and then she found out she was pregnant with me. She intended on trying to co-raise me with my father until she gave birth to me and witnessed my father trying to hand me over to what she interpreted as a monster trying to eat me."
Cor'lana looks a little bashful. "So she blasted both my father and the 'monster', stole me away, and teleported far away. We were in hiding my whole childhood, and I didn't know. And she made quite a few bad decisions as I got older--but she loved me enough to die for me."
There's a sad little note in her last sentence, but she offers Seldan a small smile. "Like my mother, I specialize in enchantment magic," she says. "And I take after her physically, moreso than my father. Sometimes Pothy says that I remind him of her. He... misses her, too."
"It seems as if Pothy is a very intelligent bird," Seldan offers, withdrawing the hand willingly enough and resting it again in his lap. "That is quite the tale, of your mother. The adventurer's life can be a fast one, and many such live every day as though it is their last. What was the monster?"
Cor'lana looks bashful again. "Not a monster at all, although he can look very scary to most people," she says. "It was my fey ancestor on my father's side of the family--the Feathered One. I call him Grandfather, even though there should probably be a few dozen 'greats' in front of that title. He is... well, he's a hermit, who eventually secluded himself from the fey courts. But he loves me intensely--love that's truly unconditional and warm. I finally met him after I lost my mother and was... disappointed by my father, and it was like the hole in my heart was healed."
She gestures to her chest, which is covered up by the high neckline of her dress. "You can't see it now, but that mark I have on my chest? That's proof I am descended from him. All the firstborn children of my Grandfather's bloodline are marked with it. And I was my father's firstborn--and only. Which is a good thing, as he is not fit to be a father."
The mention of a fey ancestor closes Seldan's expression, just a little bit, and his entire demeanor takes on a little of the cast of an alabaster pillar, blank, featureless, and beautiful. "That you have a beautiful relationship with at least some of your family is a blessing, Cor'lana. He is not of the fey courts?" He is sitting now, perfectly proper and gentlemanly, hands lifting before him to rest on the table where they are visible.
Cor'lana nods. "He does not actively attend any of them nor take up residence in them. In fact, I am told that he turned down an offer from the Queen of Air and Darkness to become one of her Ravens--something that is never done. He has... always marched to the beat of his own drum, an oddity among a people that we mortals consider odd to begin with."
She sighs, leaning back into her chair. "And, having interacted with other fey nobility... I see why he withdrew from them. Anything else I say on the matter might devolve into swearing, and I don't think that's comely in a holy house."
At this, Seldan's expression both darkens and goes more stone-like. "Count yourself immeasurably fortunate that he did so," he replies darkly, although that is all he says on the matter, as well. "I am quite aware of the nature of the one of which you speak. He is wise to have refused, and you are the safer for it.
Cor'lana nods, a weight in her eyes as he speaks briefly of it. "I am, as well," she replies. "I did go with Aya. I knew what would happen based on what you told us. We got what we came for. And... the price was paid."
She pauses for a moment. "Pothy still isn't the same. He's... I know you probably think of him as just a little bottomless bird with a bad attitude at times. But I grew up with him, with him acting as my shadow, and since I was able to hear his true voice... He sounds like a child, so I call him my 'little brother', even though he's lived a long time. And when he heard what that... woman wanted me to do... The price was too high. So he volunteered. We both knew what would happen, and I begged with him to make sure it was what he wanted--"
A tear rolls down Cor'lana's cheek, and she stops, surprised by it. She wipes it and shakes her head. "When he came back, he was different. He matured a bit, but he won't talk about it. But I wonder if I should have insisted harder--if I should have gone instead. That's my only regret."
Seldan's stare is once again steady, even, and sober, and he listens intently to every word. "Do not be too hard on yourself," he replies gently, leaning forward in his chair and reaching a hand across the table, towards her. He does not touch, though, nad seem s to come back to himself, withdrawing the hand. "For do you not suffer, knowing that he suffered? For suffering pleases the Queen, and that is what she would desire. If you would be a true friend to him now, listen when he speaks. Learn his wants and desires, and support him in them, speaking not of yourself."
Cor'lana does smile as she watches Seldan reach out to her. She holds out her hand to him, indicating that it is okay to hold it in that subtle notion. "You are right," she says. "I... hadn't even considered that angle. I have been listening to him. I... also admit I've absolutely spoiled him for all the snacks he could ever want. The precious boy keeps wanting to share them with me, though. It warms my heart and it also breaks it just a little. So I'll have to keep listening."
"The cries of one who has suffered are not always in words, Cor'lana, and at times may you read their needs merely by watching them." When she reaches back, Seldan reaches out again, and squeezes her hand gently. "For this much did my brother teach me. One who has been broken to pieces cannot return to being that which you wish, merely because you wish it so. They must pick up the pieces themselves, at their speed. One can do no more than be there when they ask for you. They know what they need, and when they need it. The process cannot be hastened."
There's another nod from Cor'lana as she listens. There's a twinkle of comfort in her eyes, a warmth as Seldan holds and squeezes her hand. "I didn't know you had a brother, Seldan," she says. "But that is a good lesson that he taught you. It's true--the traumatized cannot be rushed along. I know that from first hand experience."
She pulls her hand away as she also seems to realize herself, a surprised expression taking hold on her face. "Oh--oh goodness. I just remembered, you have youngsters to train. I shouldn't keep you here longer, should I? After all, you likely need lunch, too--you looked like you were working up a sweat out there, and that tends to make hunger worse for most people."
"I speak of my kin, but that is a separate tale." Seldan's smile is a very small one, but meant to be a reassuring thing. "Emerind has not been seen or heard of in some time, and I had thought to seek news of him upon the road. Not since I was eight summers old have I seen or heard from him. But, enough of that. Doubtless you, too, wish to be on your way, and I shall not keep you."
He rises, and picks up the practice weapons on the table between them. "The mark of a true friend changes not, whether the friendship is long-held or new-hatched," he adds, his gaze on her direct as if trying to convey something.
GAME: Ravenstongue rolls Sense Motive: (13)+7: 20
Cor'lana seems to pick up on that something, a dawning of understanding in her eyes--followed by another look in her violet eyes, that of compassion and understanding. "Then I hope our true friendship is a comfort to you, and will become a long-held one given time," she replies. "And I will keep listening to all you have to say, as well, when you choose to speak." The last sentence is the verbal acknowledgement, light as it is, of what she's intuited. It does not bid him to bare everything out in front of her--only an invitation to speak so she can listen.
She rises from her chair and politely pushes it back in to the table, offering him a small smile. "Hmm. I feel I should give you a greeting of sorts... Perhaps I'll try this on like it feels like I've been trying on all the gods' clothes. Muse's verse in your heart, Seldan."
Cor'lana blinks a little. "That one actually felt a little right," she murmurs offhand. "Hmm."