Sialin settled Groyven on her bed, lying him down on the dark blanket that she had the Captain prepare before he took his leave. She shook her head, gently cleansing his skin of the blackened remains from his clothing with a damp cloth. Rinsing the cloth out in a basin of fresh water, she sighed to herself before continuing. Blowing a rogue hair out of her face as she leaned over him, she continued to carefully clean his face and neck.
‘My Little Prince of flame and fire, tonight you will rest well. I just hope the events of this evening mark a change for the better. If this behaviour continues, I will have to separate you from her.’ she glanced up at the ceiling as if towards the heavens and shook her head, ‘Returning to a home you can’t remember should be an adventure to be wondered at, not a fight led by a mixture of contradictory attitude and immature ignorance.’
She breathed deeply and continued to calmly cleanse his body. She took particular care as she raised his limbs, one by one. Sliding one arm to the side, she frowned as she noticed the dark welts on the inside of his left arm, near to his chest and into his armpit. She spoke under her breath in disbelief, ‘No, Little Prince.’
Lifting his other arm and inspecting carefully she noted another three faded bruises.
She pursed her lips tightly, ‘No, please no.’ she whispered to herself.
Sialin shook her head in dismay, looking at his calm face, ‘Little Prince, how much pain have you been holding inside of you to be compelled to do this?’
She resettled his arms and gently stroked his jet black hair, ‘No more pain, Little Prince. Now it is time to heal.’
Sialin covered him with the blanket, tucking it down to secure him. Turning to the door she left the cabin, and entered the twin’s. Quickly lighting the lamp, she opened the under-bed storage and picked out some linen trunks. Before leaving, she glanced around, the floor where he had backed away and the back of the door had scorch marks along with the blackened latch drew her eyes. She frowned, running a hand over the blackened hand prints. Closing the door behind her, she returned to her cabin, her eyes on Groyven as he lay.
Untying her sash, she parting her robe and slid it off her shoulders, hanging it over the end of the bed. She slipped out of her scorched sleepwear and quickly towelled herself off, cleaning the soot off her chest and arms from where she held him when he was afire and from carrying him to her room. After changing into fresh sleepwear, she leaned over him and rolled him onto his side, sliding the dark blanket out from under him. After slipping his trunks on, she took a clean blanket, unfolded it and tucked it into the end of the bed before covering him.
Standing near the single window, she opened it and looked out, the reflection of the moon and stars reflecting off the surface of the calm sea. As she sipped water from a glass, she could make out the dark outline the coast in the distance and almost immediately a dull ache formed in her chest, she felt more than saw the faint glow under her skin.
‘So close.’ she whispered to herself.
She shook her head, withdrawing and returning to Groyven’s side, watching the boy she had first met as a curious and cheeky toddler. Sialin smiled to herself as she reached down and caressed his cheek. She frowned, he was shaking, the over expenditure of his thread had pushed his young body into shock. Placing a hand on his forehead was a simple confirmation, he was starting to burn up, he was running a fever. Taking another sip of water, she watched him carefully as he murmuring incoherently in his sleep. Sialin shook her head.
‘Gods, he has lost too much. I am sorry, Selera. But I must do what is needed. I can not stand by anymore, watching this slow moving shipwreck. Until my love comes for me, Groyven shall be in my care. As we discussed many times, it is for the best.’ she said as she freed her hair from its braid while sitting on the edge of the bed.
She leaned in and slipped under the sheets, drawing Groyven into a protective embrace, resting his head on her arm. She concentrated; her blue, ethereal fire slowly grew and swept over the both of them, penetrating their clothing and covering their bodies in non-burning, healing flame. After a few long moments his trembling and elevated temperature calmed and returned to normal. Sialin held him closely, sharing her warmth, letting her healing flame do its work, cleansing his body of the self-inflicted bruises and hurts. She started to shake slightly, giving even more as his thread drank her flames eagerly. She was starting to rapidly tire after spending much of the day filling the sails.
‘Sleep, my Little Prince. In the morning you will wake renewed in mind and body.’ she settled her head comfortably on the pillow before whispering in his ear, ‘I asked you to burn for me, now I shall burn for you.’
Sialin yawned lightly, her flames awash around them both, giving colour to the walls of the room. She smiled, feeling him snuggling back against her as he settled deeper into sleep, as he had done many a time as a youngling. She continued to let her fire burn, letting it use her remaining energy as fuel. She kissed the top of his head and let sleep take her.
* * * * *
The soft light of pre-dawn slanted through the window, flickering across her eye, waking her. She could feel his body against hers, his torso expanding and contracting with every breath. Sialin smiled to herself, she also had slept well and deeply as she had not moved from her position. Opening an eye, she looked down to see that Groyven had turned in his sleep, now facing her, though still curled against her, his arm hooked over her waist and using her arm as a pillow.
She smelled his hair; it still held the faint odour of ash from the night before. Sialin watched his face calmly, she could see his eyes moving under their lids as he neared waking. There was a faint knock at the door, a pattern that was unmistakably Selera’s. Sialin slowly moved her head, checking the small but private cabin. With her free hand she pulled back the blanket and stretched out a leg, concentrating as she carefully slid the shot-bolt open with a toe before gracefully returning her dark-bronzed leg back under the covers.
The door slowly opened into the room, Sialin did not watch as Selera entered and softly closed the door behind her. She smiled to herself as she heard a sudden intake of breath from Selera.
She looked up to see Selera’s slightly shocked expression, ‘This brings back memories, I hope at least that you are wearing something.’ Selera said with a forced whisper.
Sialin shook her head, stifling a laugh. Selera glared at her before kneeling beside the bed, bringing her face close to Sialin’s ear.
‘It was adorable when he was three, sneaking into your bed almost every night, but he is older now. I do not approve of what I see, he is my younger brother.’ Selera peeked under the blanket, ‘Thank the Gods, you are clothed. Sometimes I worry about your lack of care around family.’
Sialin chuckled softly, ‘Don’t insult me Lera. His body went into shock after he burnt through everything.’
‘You shared your flame?’ asked Selera.
‘Yes, he needed more than a hug and a pat on the back,’ she looked at Groyven’s peaceful face, remembering the evidence she found the night before, ‘He needs much more. He needs gentle affection, respect and unconditional love without any attachments or secrets.’
Selera looked at Sialin in a different light, the fyrelf’s soft-whispered words sinking in, ‘He needs his mother, I can’t be that. He is my brother.’
‘No, Selera. He needs to feel like he is safe and like he belongs. He needs shameless acceptance, trust. Allow me to be that stability.’ Sialin looked to Selera, meeting her eyes. ‘Please, let me mentor him. Let me do it my way.’
‘What of Tiffaniel?’
Sialin smiled softly, ‘She needs a firm hand on the till, boundaries to respect and a role model to look up to. How was last night?’
Selera pursed her lips, ‘We made progress. Less than I would like, but better than nothing. I need your eyes, I need help. I just can’t see.’
Sialin, nodded slowly, ‘Groyven will be my apprentice, and I will take Tiffaniel for tutelage as I have been. But, no questions, I will do as I see fit. Selera, you have to focus on what needs to be done. When we get home in a couple of weeks, I am free, I have no one to visit and I will be staying at home anyway, our home.’
Selera looked at her, ‘You want me to clear you and send your letter of recommendation. So you can receive your title at the academy. And with a young but capable apprentice under you who is also a carrier of the Demon’s Thread…’
‘I knew you would understand.’
Selera shook her head, ‘What happens if the one you promised yourself to arrives?’
Sialin smiled confidently, correcting her, ‘When he arrives. It does not change my responsibilities.’
Selera raised a brow. ‘I agree to your terms, Sialin. He is in your care, if he agrees. I brought a change of clothes for him. There is also something else.’ she showed Sialin a small forest-green pouch.
‘Really? Are you sure?’ asked Sialin.
Selera looked at Groyven suspiciously before whispering in Sialin’s ear, ‘I am returning it to him. Last night, he showed me he is ready.’
‘But, cou…’ she stopped as she saw the look on Selera’s face.
‘I am only its caretaker, nothing more. After the way you took control last night, I do not feel I have the right to.’ whispered Selera.
Sialin nodded, ‘I understand.’
‘Now I must go and see to Tiff, she is exhausted.’ said Selera.
Sialin nodded and watched while Selera quietly left the room, holding the door closed while Sialin locked it. She watched Groyven’s face, his breathing stable and calm. Too calm. A broad smile grew on her lips. She leaned forwards and whispered directly in his ear, ‘Little Prince, you can stop pretending to be asleep. Your elder sister has left the room.’
As she shifted back into a comfortable position, Groyven opened his eyes, his cheeks and face flushing to a rosy red as he took visual stock of the situation.
‘Yes, Little Prince. You spent the night in my arms.’ she smiled, ‘Does that help?’ she smiled even further as she noticed his blushing reaching into his hairline.
Sialin shifted, making herself more comfortable, rearranging the blanket to remained covered.
‘When did you wake, Little Prince?’ she asked.
‘I-I, when-when sister spoke about a letter of recommendation.’ he said, stammering in embarrassment.
She made a noise in agreement as she stretched a little.
‘There is no need for the coy act, Little Prince.’
‘What happened?’ he asked quietly.
‘After you burned out I carried you here, cleaned you and slept with you in my arms. I promised you last night that I would keep you close and safe. You can’t get much closer and safer than this.’
‘You cleaned me?’
Sialin stretched again, ‘You were black with soot all over after that display.’ speaking offhand.
She met his eyes, noticing the serious expression mixed with guilt as he tensed up in the bed.
‘Oh, you wonder if I saw those. Yes, I did.’
‘I-I just.’ he averted his eyes in shame.
Sialin smiled gently and pulled him in close, embracing him tightly. She felt his arm around her waist again as he started to cry quietly. She ran her hand through his hair.
‘Calm, my Little Prince. I understand. You have been through a lot and you have been coping with much more than you should have. I know your eyes are open and you can see the danger.’
She felt small tremors run through him.
‘You no longer need to fear the unknown. You have a family around you, maybe not all of us are of blood, but we are of mind. You need to leave some of the responsibilities you feel on your shoulders to the adults.’
She continued to hold him close as he shook. Slowly running her hand through his hair and humming quietly.
She carefully guided his face until he met her eyes, ‘Groyven, let me shoulder some of your fears, leave some of those responsibilities in my hands. Soon we will be away from this place where there are shades and ghosts of memories.’
She took his hand and held it in in her own, ‘Little Prince, let me take your hand, let me be your shield. You can trust me.’
Sialin looked deeply into his intense blue eyes as he looked back into her sea of amber.
‘Let me guide you; for as long as you need me to. I can not promise that it will be easy, but I do promise that you can place your trust in me.’
‘Just know, regardless of what you decide I will be keeping an eye on you and I will keep you close. What I saw last night can stay between you and me.’
Groyven nodded, ‘Decision?’
‘Yes, do you wish to be under my tutelage as my apprentice and ward?’ Sialin asked.
‘What of her? I will still teach her. You need to prioritise yourself for a change, be true to what you desire in your heart, not her moods. The question is: what do you want, Little Prince?’