Groyven looked into Sialin’s eyes again. The thought of thinking only of himself foreign to him.
‘I want more of this. I mean, I…’ he said, stumbling over his words as he realised what he was saying.
Sialin smiled, ‘If you wish time to consider.’
‘No, Mistress Sialin, I would be honoured to be your apprentice.’
She laughed gently, ‘Groyven, to you, I am just Sialin.’ she rubbed his cheek and smiled, ‘Then it is settled.’
‘Once we get out of bed, we will make a seal of fire and blood. Do you know what that means?’ she asked gently.
Groyven shook his head.
‘It is among those of us with the Demon’s thread. When we apprentice or spend time learning from one of our own, we share a seal, a symbol of sorts.’
Sialin tilted her face down and folded her left ear forwards; exposing three, small and round symbols in a tight cluster. Each with their own distinct design.
‘You have three?’ asked Groyven .
‘Yes, the slightly larger one is Selera’s, as I was her apprentice. The two smaller ones are your Mother and Father’s.’
‘You learnt from my parents?’
Sialin nodded with a small smile, ‘For a short time, but what I learned from them had a value to me that can’t be explained with words. It is more of a feeling, to belong.’
Groyven nodded, ‘I recognise Selera’s, but my parents, they are both a faded, a burned brown colour.’
Sialin tipped her head, ‘I do not think I need to explain why.’
Groyven nodded, understanding her insinuation.
He looked down, noticing the edge of a glow, ‘What is that one?’
‘Which one?’ she instinctively looked to her chest where a dull glow was forming, still partially covered by the blanket.
She frowned, drawing the blanket higher, covering it, ‘I will tell you when you are older.’
She smiled at him, checking under her hand quickly, the glowing already dispersed.
‘It is like mine and Tiffaniel’s?’
‘The ones that Selera gave you? A little like them. She used your family sigil for those.’
‘Now, Little Prince, Selera was nice enough to bring a change of clothes for you. So, let us rise and greet the day.’
‘But?’ said Groyven, his face turning red again.
Sialin smiled, ‘There is no need to be embarrassed. Trust is an important thing between a master and her apprentice. We have already shared a bed to sleep, many a time when you were just a youngling. There are no secrets between us. I trust you to do the right thing, Groyven. I will rise first and get dressed.’
As Groyven averted his eyes, his cheeks aflame; she rose from the bed and opened some drawers, bringing out fresh clothing and slipped into flowing leggings and a sheer, armless top. Sialin glanced back at Groyven over her shoulder to find him facing the wall. She smiled, shaking her head in amusement.
‘I trust you Groyven, just closing your eyes would have sufficed. You can turn.’ she said.
‘And what if I would have watched you dress?’ Groyven asked as he rolled back over looking at her.
‘Then you would have seen me with all my imperfections, that is all. It does not concern me when I am among those I trust. I am who I am, nothing more, nothing less.’
She sat on the edge of the bed, her hair tumbling around her shoulders, meeting his eyes with a smile. He looked at her, his eyes wide.
‘I can see that I shall have to teach you of you heritage. You are an elf, Groyven. When among family we respect each other, our kind lives for hundreds and many reach thousands of years, there is nothing that we have never seen before.’
Groyven looked at her, ‘But you are young.’
Sialin laughed, ‘Well spotted, I am only in my twenties. The rules are a little different for those that bear the Thread. We mature faster than our brethren, and generally we are misunderstood for it, as I was.’ her luminous, amber eyes catching the soft light, making them seem like they glowed.
‘In my village, where I lived until I was your age, we all bathed communally. Seeing another unclothed, be it neighbours, friends, the village elders or even the blacksmith was a weekly occurrence. Nudity is separate from indecency; it is just that many can’t make the distinction between the two, they can’t separate them.’ she said while keeping her eyes on him.
Groyven frowned, ‘Were you testing me?’
She reached out and tousled his hair, smiling, ‘No, I just trusted you to do what felt right for you. In return, I will do the same. As Selera likes to point out, I often lack care when around those closest to me.’
Sialin picked up his clothing, placing it on the bed, ‘Here, Little Prince.’
Groyven swallowed again, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and pulled on some pants as Sialin looked away. He gasped lightly as he noticed that the pain of the bruises on his inner arms were no longer. He lifted an arm to find unmarked skin.
‘Sialin?’ he asked, meeting her eyes as she turned.
She quickly understood, ‘I shared my flame with you last night while you slept, I used it to heal your body and to settle your mind. You were quite sick after you burnt yourself out.’
‘You can heal with flame?’ asked Groyven.
Sialin nodded, ‘I can, my Little Prince. Here, let me give you a quick hug.’
She embraced Groyven, holding him close for a moment before handing him his robes. After he finished dressing he sat on her bed and watched as Sialin efficiently plaited her hair and secured it into a bun. Finishing, she leaned against the table and smiled. Groyven returned the smile, his whole face lighting up.
‘Much better. I have not seen a smile from you like that for a long time; I hope to see more. Now, there is something that I have been asked to present to you, by its caretaker.’ Sialin said.
She reached out and took Groyven’s hand, placing the small, forest-green velvet pouch in it and closed his fingers over it. Groyven’s face grew serious and he swallowed hard as he felt the shape within. She knelt to his level as he sat on the bed, looking into his eyes.
‘You know what this is, Little Prince? You know what it means?’ Sialin asked with all seriousness.
Groyven nodded, not taking his eyes of hers, ‘I do.’
‘Last night you impressed her, you showed her that you are ready to take on the responsibility that Mother left to you.’
Groyven nodded again. His face hot.
Sialin looked at him with a warm smile, ‘I think you are ready too. It is my honour, Groyven, to recognise you as the future head and protector of the family Desilantre. For now, you need not concern yourself as Selera will do so in your place until you are ready.’ she held his hand cupped in her own, ‘Do you remember his name?’
Groyven nodded, he tried to speak, but for the lump in his throat, ‘I thought I lost him.’
Sialin smiled, a tear in her eye, ‘No, he came to us, to me. He entrusted himself to me and I brought him to your sister. Your Mother sent him with her dying breath. That is why it is my place to present him to you.’
‘Mother taught me how to summon him, she made me practice.’ He looked at Selera curiously, ‘He came to you?’
‘Then Mother sent him to you specifically. It was no accident on his part, you are the caretaker.’
Sialin looked at him as his words slowly impacted on her, she sat back onto her heels, a beautiful smile on her face, ‘I was the caretaker, not Selera? Mother sent him to me to pass to you. She trusted me to deliver him to you.’
She looked into Groyven’s eyes, with tears in her own, smiling uncontrollably with the newfound knowledge.
Sialin closed her amber eyes, and breathed in deeply. ‘Little Prince, do you understand him?’
Groyven looked at her, nodding.
She looked at him, remembering the moment, ‘When he came to me, looking me in the eyes, he firstly bowed his head over my shoulder and swept his right wing around me. He was so gentle, it was like he was embracing me. He stepped back and bowed again, and placed that in my hand. He then stood beside me and faced the direction he came from and reared, his wings outstretched and shrieked with everything he had.’
Groyven smiled, looking at the pouch in his hand.
‘Was it dawn or dusk? And he sat with you afterwards, watching it?’
Sialin tilted her head, ‘Dawn and yes.’
‘He delivered himself to you at Mother’s request, to family not of blood, his message was Mother’s final embrace and a salute to the fallen. His company when watching the dawn was for rebirth of lost souls.’ Groyven finished, looking into her eyes, ‘Sialin, thank you for delivering to me my Mother’s final wish.’
Sialin nodded, smiling at him, her eyes glistening. ‘Thank you, for giving me her final message, I am honoured. This makes what we are about to do even more meaningful. Come, my Little Prince, we shall now make our union as mentor and apprentice proper and right.’
‘The seal of blood and fire?’ he asked as he slipped the pouch into a concealed inner pocket of his robes.
Sialin nodded, she drew a thin and long needle from a concealed sheath built into her belt.
‘One drop of blood each, an amalgam of our joined powers and a seal signifying our bond will present itself. You will touch your fingertip behind my right ear. And I will do the same for your left. This seal will demonstrate to others our bond, if it is ever called into question.’ She explained.
Groyven came forward and they both leaned over the small table, she took his hand and in one swift movement pricked his fingertip, barely drawing a twitch from him. As he squeezed his finger making a bead of blood appear, Sialin drew forth her own, piercing her finger.
‘Whenever two who bear the Demon’s Thread share their blood like this, their power is drawn forth when their blood mixes. Do not be afraid, touch your finger to mine so that our blood mingles.’ she directed.
She held out her finger and Groyven reached out. As his finger neared hers, his flames started to burn, engulfing his hand in comforting heat. He looked to Sialin’s to see the same, though hers were many hues of blue. As their fingers touched, their flames joined and their mixed blood turned violet and bright as the fires died back down. He looked to Sialin who was smiling back at him, a broad grin came to his lips.
‘Now, Little Prince, with that droplet of blood on your finger you will touch behind my right ear.’ she said as she leaned down and folded her ear forward, exposing the soft skin behind.
Breaking contact with her fingertip, the shining violet blood glowing and pulsing, he reached out and touched behind her ear. The blood instantly drawing into her skin, forming a gently glowing disc the size of a fingernail.
‘My turn, Little Prince.’ she said, gently drawing him closer and folded his left ear and touching, also leaving behind a disc of glowing light.
‘But, Sialin, there is no symbol.’ he said as he looked at his mark on her.
Again Sialin smiled, ‘Not yet. Over the next few days, to a week, a symbol will mature and form.’
Groyven nodded in understanding, ‘But how do they form? Do we decide what they will look like?’
‘Nobody truly knows how, the reason has become lost in time as our kind has been scattered throughout the land. We just remember the ritual, and what it symbolises. Soon we will see the symbol born from your blood.’ she looked him in the eye, ‘I would take a guess and say that it would bear some similarity to your Mother’s and elder sister’s. Your Mother’s seems to be dominant and elements of it carried on to Selera. See?’
She leaned down and showed Groyven, his Mother’s a circle overlaid with a sharp angular trident and Selera’s similar, but with a trident of rounded design with hooked tips. His Father’s was a triangle with a stylised simple tick of a line overlapping it, signifying wings.
‘It is like they have been designed by someone.’ observed Groyven.
‘I think they were in times lost, maybe they proved lineage or class of people. But we do know they are passed on through blood of those with the Demon’s Thread.’
Sialin placed a hand on Groyven’s shoulder, ‘That is enough of that for now. There are whole volumes with theories that can be explored regarding these symbols. There is so much more out there of greater importance and more worthy of query. And most importantly, Little Prince, we are both with an empty stomach.’
‘Come, let’s break our fast in the galley; then we will check in on your sisters.’ said Sialin as she led Groyven from her cabin.