"Do you think Caithe will like this?"
Riannoc looked up from his sword, across the small pavillion in which he and Faolain were seated. The two had come out to work on their weapons, to ensure they were in good condition and if not, to repair them by peeling off the old damaged flora and coaxing new growth.
The pavillion itself was well-suited to their task, a gazebo constructed by Kahedins’s when he was first attempting to build their homes. It was small, only able to seat four people comfortably, but it was strong. It was grown from green leaves and turquoise flowers, from stubborn plants that refused to be seen as anything less than magnificent, even when compared to the large trees and beautiful blossoms that grew around it. Riannoc had always belived that it was because of this, rather than despite it, that Kahedin’s had chosen them over the others. The gazebo itself was well placed, grown beside a small river, and well protected, the large trees around it providing a suitable barrier against the elements. All things considered, it was the idle place to go to find peace, and to focus on any task one desired.
"I did not know you were creating a gift for Caithe," Riannoc said, shuffling around the seats of the pavillion until he could look closely at what Faolain held. It was not her own sceptre, but rather a dagger, of green and white leaves. Small purple and black petals were woven amongst the leaves, a mixture of her and Caithe’s colours. It was beautiful, and the blade itself was sharper than steel.
"Does it suit her? This weapon?" Faolain asked. Her voice lacked its usual smug lilt, replaced with one of uncertainty. Riannoc felt her anxiety, and her desire to please.
"It is a lovely dagger sister, and one Caithe will adore," Riannoc smiled. He leant back, resting his sword on the seat beside him. He still felt worry though, flowing through his link to Faolain. He watched her fingers touch the hilt of the dagger, dancing over the blade. His smile faded slightly.
"Faolain, sister, it is not like you to be so nervous," he murmured. "Even with your most ridiculous gifts you have never felt like this. What is it about this one that makes it so different from the rest?"
Faolain did not answer. Her hands continued to caress the blade, index finger sliding along the sharpest point as if daring it to slice her. Her brow furrowed, and her shoulders hunched ever so slightly. She was taut, tense, like a bow string drawn.
"Faolain?" Riannoc whispered, reaching out to touch her shoulder. She flinched away, but in the moment they touched her had felt her emotions tenfold. Fear and hope mingled together. Fear of failure, disappointment, rejection, embarrassment. Hope for love, success, acceptance, joy. They danced inside her as lovers would, bodies so close they could be mistaken for one being.
"I apologise, brother," Faolain said, after a moment. She stroked the dagger in her lap as she turned to look at him, eyes open and honest. "It is- this gift. It has more significance than most. This is not some bawdy trinket from the back alleys of Lion’s Arch, nor is it the usual romantic fare. It is a marriage token."
"Marriage token? Like the human rings?"
"No!" Faolain stood, recoiled. Riannoc sat back in shock as she glared at him, her eyes wild. The swam with all emotions, a vibrant array that overwhelmed him, forcing him to look away.
"It is…it is not like the human tradition," she continued, still staring down at Riannoc. "It is more. It is the pure confession of my love, my gift to her. I have grown it with only us in mind, a gift to suit her needs but bound to me until the end of all things. A dagger of Faolain, for Caithe. So that she knows I am her’s for all time."
Riannoc swallowed heavily, raising a hand to his hair and running his fingers through it. He turned back to Faolain, to her intense gaze and held it. He could feel her love for Caithe burning through her, burning through him. He could not know how it compared to a human’s love for their partner, could not see how her gift was different from the bands they exchanged. He could not understand why her face went foul at the very thought of her gift being the same as a human’s.
'Did you not learn of this from Ronan's own ring?' He thought. He opened his mouth to say it, but froze. Faolain’s eyes were fire and rage, but there was more there, more that lurked beyond. Fear, anger, love, the desperate desire to please her beloved. 'Perhaps a question for another day, then.'
"I am sorry, sister," he said finally, bowing his head. "I did not mean to imply your gift was a mere copy of humanity’s. But if this gift is as significant as you say, then please, do not falter when you give it to Caithe." Faolain tilted her head, bemused, and Riannoc smiled slightly.
"You know that Caithe is likely to misinterpret any fear," he explained. "She would see even the faintest tremble and think you did not seek to give this blade to her." He pointed to the dagger, and his grin grew larger. "She loves you, after all, and would not understand why you tremble as you gave a gift of such beauty to her. You, passionate Faolain, who never shows fear or frailty."
Faolain looked at him, her eyes dulling as both anger and fright faded. Then she slowly sat, holding the dagger to her chest. Riannoc spoke no more as Faolain simply hugged it, all her feelings flowing into the small weapon.
'Such a small thing, to hold so much love,' he thought, closing his eyes. Images danced through his mind. A red apple tossed to another’s hands. A gentle smile as cool rains fell. The twirl of his skirts when he danced. Eyes glimmering in the late hours of the night, with a dusty book bigger than him, and the sound of pages turning and quill scratching. Flowers, bright, dark, fresh and falling, decorating his head.
Silence descended upon the pavillion as brother and sister dwelled in their thoughts, hearts reaching for lovers somewhere beyond them.
Trahearne had been gone for two weeks. His absence was something Riannoc had grown used to, but his heart still ached when he woke in the night to find him missing. Not in his bed or at his desk, or sitting outside looking at the stars. Trahearne was often quiet, but like all living things there was constant sound that followed him. Breathing, footfalls, pages crinkling, soft sighs, a discontent hum.
"How could I live a life without you?" Riannoc murmured aloud, his feet dangling off the edge of his bed. It was too empty to sleep in tonight, so he stood and wandered. He let himself go, reaching for his sword absentmindedly as he went. He travelled across the Grove, away from the house’s of his Firstborn siblings. He did not go to Kahedins, though his brother was often lonely without Malomedies and enjoyed Riannoc’s company. He did not visit his other sisters and brothers either, instead walking to a small clearing.
Before him stood a tree, just like any other. But it wasn’t, not for Riannoc.
He did not recall how long ago it had been, when he had encountered Trahearne beneath this tree. Saplings awakened and in fear of the world, in fear of their dreams, in fear of themselves. Haunted by a Wyld Hunt he believed beyond him, Trahearne had sat and sobbed. Overwhelmed and alone, Riannoc had felt him. His heart had slowly torn itself in two as he searched for him.
'How could anyone have left you alone like that?' He thought, fingers trailing over the tree’s bark. ‘To leave you there crying like you were?’ He leant his forehead against it. 'My dear Trahearne, how could anyone ever hurt you without it tearing them apart?'
He sank down as Trahearne once did here, resting his head in his arms, and his arms against his raised knees. He let his mind go, as he’d let his feet before. It wandered through pleasant memories, warm and comfortable. It passed by the sad thoughts, acknowledging but not lingering as it turned to look at an image of Faolain clutching a dagger.
Riannoc opened his eyes, looking at the grass beneath him. A marriage token, like the ones the humans gave each other. Faolain may have raged against such a thing, but Riannoc still failed to see the difference. He had not spoken with her since that day two weeks ago in the pavillion. He knew not if she had given Caithe her binding gift, or if she still held it close and stroked it.
'Would Trahearne want a gift like that?' He wondered. A gift to profess all of Riannoc's love. All the happiness and love that Trahearne brought to him. Could something represent all of that?
'Faolain's dagger surely did.'
With that thought, Riannoc stood. He had no idea how long Trahearne would be away, but he knew that every moment he spent glumly beneath this tree was a moment he could be spending on his gift for Trahearne.
His wedding gift.
With a sudden burst of giddiness, Riannoc took off. He opened his mouth and whooped loudly as he charged through the trees, leaping over roots and twirling among the flowers. His voice was louder than necessary, perhaps, but he couldn’t keep quiet. The sorrow he had felt was pushed away by the sudden flurry of joy. He was going to propose! To Trahearne!
But first he needed the perfect gift.
He fell into a bed of clover as chewed his lip. ‘What is the perfect gift for Trahearne?’ He plucked a tiny white flower and peered at it. Its small petals were smooth, soft to touch and pristine. With deft fingers, Riannoc twisted the tiny stem carefully. Then with a smile he slid the small flower onto his finger.
"So simple…" he murmured, looking at the makeshift ring. It was naught more than a flower, but its simple beauty shone. The complexities of its woven stem weren’t visible to those who did not look for them, but they were there. Just like his beloved, it would be judged by only what people saw, or believed they saw, and its wonders would be ignored by all those who were not worthy of seeing them.
"But none can deny your beauty," he said, holding out his hand and admiring the way the flower reflected the moonlight. It appeared to glow despite its lack of luminescence, shining out in the darkness.
Riannoc pushed himself to his feet, still wearing the small ring on his finger. With bright eyes he began his walk to Kahedins’s home. His brother would no doubt help him confirm if his plans would be suitable for Trahearne. For though his beloved had many interests; reading and studying, the art of necromancy, the collecting of pretty dresses, he believed that a simple flower band would be perfect. It was perhaps an idea Faolain would find strange, so similar to what humanity did, but he was not Faolain, and Trahearne was not Caithe.
While he would not say that Caithe did not love and admire the beauty of the world around them, he would say that Trahearne appreciated it more. Trahearne, who dragged his feet through Orr, hiding amidst ruins full of mold and rock, surrounded by death and putrefaction. He who struggled to bring growing green back in a world were all living things eventually died and decayed, and those that were once sentient were brought back as shambling corpses.
Trahearne who wept at the thought of that place, so desolate and without life. He whose gentlest smile could be brought forth by light rains and wind in the trees, and the glimmering glow of flowers in the night.
"Kahedins!" Riannoc called out, as he stood at the door to his brother’s home. The petals of the entrance drew away, leaving a gaping opening through which he could enter. He hopped through, spotting the other Firstborn seated at his table. The air in Kahedins’s home was not as heavy as it had been of late, filled with depressing thoughts of Malomedies, and his absence.
"You seem in high spirits, Riannoc," Kahedins smiled, looking away from the tiny plant on the table before him. The plant itself resembled the drawn designs for Kahedins’s turrets, which were neatly spread around the miniature turret. "I hope you can excuse the mess, I’ve just managed to coax this little one into firing some seeds for me."
"There is no need to apologise, Kahedins," Riannoc said, "but if you’re willing to listen to me speak while you work, I would ask you for advice."
"I’ll always listen, brother." Kahedins gestured towards a second chair by his table, and Riannoc seated himself in it. "Now tell me, what advice do you need?"
"Advice on this." Riannic murmured, holding out the hand that still bore the little ring.
The wind in the Grove was cool and fresh, soothing against Trahearne’s tired body. A hint of moisture in the air and grey skies above were signs of a coming rain, and he was glad of it. The stench of Orr still clung to him, and his whole body ached with its pollution.
As he walked the paths of his home, Trahearne smiled. He was tired, but the sweet scent of grass beneath his feet was uplifting. He could ignore the scrapes and bruises on his body as long as he was here.
"Here," he murmured, as he looked up at the house before him. The large structure was the home of him and Riannoc, a magnificent bloom that symbolised safety and joy. But perhaps those qualities were brought about not by the place itself, but by the man who lived within it.
He ran his hand along the door, the petals curling at his touch and shifting to let him inside. With soft steps he entered, looking around the interior with bright eyes. While there was no sign of Riannoc, he felt the tell tale emotions of him through their connection. Excitement, happiness, love. But like the moisture in the air outside, there was a hint of something else. Riannoc was nervous.
"Love?" Riannoc’s voice called from the next room.
"Yes dear?" Trahearne answered, as he slipped the contents of his pack onto the table. His record book slid onto its surface, surrounded by many loose leaflets of paper. With more care, he removed the old scroll he had found, caught in a small crevasse in which he had chosen to hide. Out with it came a small packet of omnomberries, wrapped in a torn fragment of his skirt.
Trahearne looked up from his pack, turning his head so he could look at Riannoc. His beloved stood in the threshold between the entrance and their bedroom, hands cradling something carefully. His lips were curled into a smile, and though there was a hint of apprehension, his eyes sparkled with love.
"I love you, Trahearne," Riannoc said, a thing he had confessed many times, whenever it suited him. In front of crowds or alone in bed, they were words given regularly. Sometimes light, sometimes full of emotion and feeling. "I will love you every day, every night, even if the sun fled the sky and the moon turned away, I will love you. Even if the Dream itself turned to nothing, I will love you. I could not imagine a life without you in it, and I would not want to."
"You know I feel the same, dear," Trahearne smiled, though his expression turned to one of shock when Riannoc approached and fell to one knee. He held in one hand a flower, its petals drawn inwards hiding its centre from view. With the other, he took Trahearne’s hand and kissed it.
"You already have my heart, love, but I would give you something else," Riannoc murmured, before holding out the flower. It was a beautiful thing, long black petals streaked with pale luminescence. Trahearne reached out and took the bloom, and his mouth fell open. The blooms long petals burst outwards, falling backward to reveal what lay within.
It was small, only meant for a finger. A pretty little white thing, with smooth, plump petals. At its core lay a gem of pale gold, that glowered a faint yellow as Trahearne himself did. The band itself was made of green stem and dark oak, woven together intricately. It reminded him of Riannoc, and himself, as no doubt it was meant to.
"Some would call it a marriage token," Riannoc whispered. "I would call it a manifestation of my heart. Yours to keep, until the end of all things."
Trahearne couldn’t speak. The words stuck in his throat as he looked at the ring. He and Riannoc were bound by love, forever, but this was something he had not expected. Happy tears welled in his eyes as Riannoc gently took the larger flower from his fingers and removed the ring. He lay the dark bloom on the floor as he reached out and took Trahearne’s left hand in his own and carefully slid the ring onto the finger beside his smallest.
"B-but I haven’t got one for you," Trahearne managed to choke out. "You know if I have your heart, then you must have mine." Riannoc grinned, before picking up the black flower and standing. He wrapped his arms around Trahearne, who clutched his back and buried his head in the space between his neck and shoulders.
"Then I await it patiently, the manifestation of your heart," Riannoc said. Trahearne laughed softly, his insides a warm mess as he felt the ring against his finger.
"Do you like it, dear?" Riannoc asked.
"I love it, Riannoc."
He held him tighter.
"I love you."