"You're a good woman, Shalea." The man's voice was absent the vigor it used to have, and she knew: New, even if it pained her to, that he would not be here much longer. She rested the comb against what was left of his once luxuriant, if rather short-kept hair and nearly let out the tears she was holding back.
"Thank you, Merkuso. It...that means a lot, coming from you." She was glad that her voice betrayed none of the emotion she was holding back, except for perhaps a slight tremor: A tremor only Tristen could here. He gave Shalea a bit of an odd look-worry perhaps? But did no more than that. He knew better than to out her. Especially here, here in the semi-privat quartters shared by the pair who ruled here.
"You have been a good student: I am proud of you. I had not thought you would learn this much in such a short peariod of time, Little Singer. Little Songbird. Little Dusk Rose, ... Little Fallen star..." He trailed off. The names: They were enough. Enough. For now.
She smiled,then blinked. The names-all of them-he'd given her. Everyone, including the one he said he would never speak aloud to any but those he trusted most. It must mean that the pair were somewhere near by, and their friends. The trusted two that were never far from said pair...or he would not have said them. Not aloud, anyway.
She could no longer hold back the tears, and it was the first time...the first ever time that she actually cried and combed her tears into the hair of the person whom she was working on. No...no, that was not true, there had been two perhaps three other instances, but none like this. None with such power, such emotion.
For just a brief space of time, the man's hair was back, falling to his shoulders this time instead of merely to his chin. For the briefest, all too briefest, of moments, it was as if he were not the weakend man he had become, but the strong one Shalea remembered.
"Merkuso." Her voice broke and she bent to hug him, kiss his cheek, then rise again. "I shall miss you. Miss you horribly..."
Merkuso took her hands in his own. "Do not grieve for me, Weaver of tales. I will not be away long. I promise."
"I-I will still miss you. Your gentle firm guidance..."
"Which you have from the Man here." Merkuso said quietly.
"The way you showed me your world..."
"Which comes from those here, not least of wich is the Lady."
Shalea sighed and closed her eyes tightly, but not before he saw the doubt in them.
"I will be back, Little Rose. DO you not trust me?"
"I-I do." Shalea, greatful for having chosen leathers she could crouch safely in had shifted to fase him. His chare was a low one, but made so he could slide his legs under it, if he chose, so that it seemed that they ended at the knees.
He was sitting that way now, with his hands folded in his lap. A serine look on his face that belighed the sadness in his eyes. He could not wait. He had hoped to give it to her at a later time, but he could not wait. "Then have faith, Little Fallen Star. Have faith that I will return. In the meantime, have this. TO remember me by."
He held out a silver band, a clasp at each end. He had had it specially made for her. It held hints of what she was, who she was, who and what she could become. Little starlight fires danced through it as he held it out for her.
She blinked. This was no ordinary band: It was silver with bits of magery inlayed as carefully as the wood carver inlays chips of precious woods into the bases of his works. As finely crafted as the emerald encrusted dragons the jeweler who worked this particular area was fond of making. She took it, again glad that she had chosen to wear her hair in a long, nearly elaborate braid. It would fit perfectly in the space in the middle, or even at the bace near her head.
She knew what this ment: He had the highest respect for her: The highest esteem...and he was truly, deeply, utterly proud of her.
She broke then, and he let her cry herself out on him. Did not stop her when she burrowe into him and held him-though it was technically a breach of edikit, even here.
He stroked back her own hair and placed one tender kiss on her forhead. "I bless you, Shalea, Lady of the Dustk, the Stars, and everything between. I bless you, Lady Twilight. Lady of the Night. You, Shalea, are the only one I have known of to surpass me in my lessons. For this, I give you my gifts...my gifts when I leave. As a sign of my respect and trust for you, my highest esteem."
She blinked, then nodded. Then kissed him in return. "Safe journeys, Elder Teacher." She whispered back. "Be well...be safe, and most of all, be happy where you go. I shall miss you...wait for your return. I will think often of you. I promise you this."
She rose then, turning to Tristen, who now was having his own issues with holding in check his emotions. He had not known they had meant that much to each other. Had not realized what it meant for them to honor each other this way.
He guided her from the room, guided her out just before the attendants came to put him to bed once more...lead her out for the last time.
The last time, he knewe, though Shalea did not...not until much, much later.
Home game submition for therealljidol. Thank you for reading.