Kel’ori, Bel’theas wrapped around her chest in his papoose, sighs in the warming morning as she stares down at the cellar door. She huffs in determination and lights a fire in her palm, raises the other to lift her cleaning supplies into a violet aura, and trudges into the darkness. In one corner she finds a small heating stove; she lights the lanterns that line the walls and looks around at the stained walls and floor and the few rat-gnawed bones in a corner.
She goes back upstairs when everything is cleaned up. She hums over the pot hanging from the hook over the fire. She blows on a spoonful and tastes it, then drops in a few more herbs from the supplies Anarchaia had deposited. Bel’theas’s little hand reaches out of the papoose to slap at her chest.
“We’re not waking him up. The stew isn’t done, yet.”
Bel’theas hums and slaps her again.
“You’re not getting my hair.” She slings the strands over her shoulder before they get into reach of the infant.
Stirred from his slumber, Baemalen inhales the strong scent of stew. He groans and sits up to have a look around, then scratches at an ear and gets to his feet. He wanders into the next room, hair a mess, and smiles at the high elf woman. “So, you made it into the basement?” he says and brushes away a lock with his fingers. “Proud of you.”
Kel’ori smiles. “I did. It wasn’t so bad once I lit it up some. I’m not finished, but it’s less…dungeony already.”
Bel’theas makes a gurgling sound as his eyes settle on the blood elf. He slaps at his mother and gives a small hiccup of sound which isn’t a cry.
“If he wasn’t a few days old I’d think he’s trying to laugh,” she says, easing him from the cloth around her shoulders. “Much too young for that. Did you want to say hi?” She smiles up at him.
Baemalen accepts the baby and laughs and leans away when it reaches aggressively for his nose. “Did you sleep well?” he asks while also throwing a lock over his shoulder and out of reach. “If you needed help with any of this, you don’t need to be afraid to wake me up.”
The mage shakes her head. “No. You needed to sleep.” She strokes the blond hair on the baby’s head and smiles. “This boy had other ideas, though. He doesn’t sleep like a newborn should.”
As she says this, the infant’s eyelids begin to droop and he yawns, then lazily reaches for the man’s red hair again.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she mumbles. “What did you do, give him candy?” Kel’ori giggles lightly.
Baemalen pushes the loose lock behind his ear and, again, out of reach. He chuckles and relaxes. “Like I’d risk incurring your wrath over some ‘good friend’ points.” Gently he lowers the infant into his crossed legs. “I just have a way with kids, I guess.” He glances at the simmering stew. “Whatcha got in the pot?”
Kel’ori gives the pot a stir and scoops some of the thickened liquid into the spoon. She blows on it, then tastes it. She nods then holds the spoon out for him to taste. “I thought we could have some real food. Stew. What do you think?”
Baemalen, flushing some, takes a small taste from the spoon. He groans and closes his eyes, savoring the taste. “Haven’t had anything that good since our Final Feast.” He gives her a gentle grin. “You’re quite a homemaker. I bet some man back at home is anxiously waiting for you to get back.”
Kel’ori’s smile fades and she turns back to the stew. “No. And even then, what man would stay with—” She goes quiet and casts her gaze to her son as if he can hear her. “When my mother died I had to help take care of my younger siblings. I guess I just…took to it?” She waves a hand and a small stool with a flask of water, a chipped bowl, and a bent metal mug appears. “It was all I could find. Sorry.” She pulls one container to herself and spoons in the stew. “This spoon was the only utensil I could find. Not sure orcs even use silverware.” Once both are filled she sits opposite him. “No cups, either. I guess I wasn’t prepared for house guests,” she says, laughing some at her attempt at humor in the situation.
Baemalen lifts his eyebrows and chooses the mug over the other option. He blows gently inside, being sure to hold it away from the baby. “Sorry to hear about your mother. How many siblings do you have?” He takes some stew into his mouth, then pauses and gives a quiet whine, his cheeks growing red.
Kel’ori thinks fast, snatching the mug with her magic and Bel’theas in her hands. “Spit it out!” After tucking the infant in one arm, she grabs the flask and cools the water within, causing a sheen of ice to form on the outside. “Are you okay? Oh, gods, I knew I should have found spoons. I’m so sorry.”
Baemalen watches as all of this unfolds, and by the time she’s handing him the flagon the bite in his mouth has cooled. He swallows, then chuckles. “I’m fine! Just…won’t be able to taste much for a week, now.” He laughs and drinks the water anyway. “But what I did taste was delicious.”
Kel’ori sticks her lower lip out. “If only I was a healer. I’m so sorry.” She sits back and bites her upper lip. “You know, no one ever told me I’d keep getting emotional over everything.” She flicks a tear from her lashes before it can roll down her cheek. “I just wanted to do something nice and I couldn’t find any spoons—which I knew was just a bad idea because you can’t blow on a mug the same way—I should have tried harder.”
As the mage grows more frustrated, Bel’theas responds by slowly pouting. He whimpers, then begins to cry.
Kel’ori lowers her face into her hands. “I just want…” she whispers.
Baemalen watches her with slight amusement and sympathy. He sets the mug aside and eases Bel’theas back into his lap, then sets a comforting hand on her knee. “Hey. You’re doing just fine. It was my fault, anyway. Just too hungry to be patient,” he chuckles over the sobbing baby.
Kel’ori forces a sigh and a deep breath. She gives a small giggle. “I know, I just feel so bad that it happened.” She scoots closer on her knees, circling around the stool, until she’s beside the Illidari. She first puts her fingertips to the soft tuft of hair on Bel’theas’s head, then suddenly wraps her arms around Baemalen. “Thank you for everything, though. That’s why it’s not fair that I burned you.”
Baemalen stiffens some at the embrace, then brings a hand up to pat her on the shoulder blade all the same. “I-it’s really no trouble…”
Kel’ori releases the man as his muscles tense. “I’m sorry. That was sudden. I just wanted to thank you.” She eyes him carefully. “If I had materials, I’d make you a shirt, instead of being some crazy lady throwing herself on you—not like that. It was just a hug.” She scoots away, suddenly uncomfortable, herself. “I’m not like that. I’m…really…” She chews on her lower lip and casts her embarrassed gaze away from him. “I guess I used to be.” Her eyes flare as she decides to change the subject. “I wonder if I can get my hands on any materials. Make some nice curtains, some clothes for Bel…and you, if you’d like. There’s just a lack of anything to do around here.”
Baemalen simply nods and smiles throughout all of the woman’s rambling. She swipes her finger through the stew and slips it into Bel’theas’s mouth. The infant slowly quiets as he sucks on her fingertip. The mage screams as his sharp teeth clamp down on the tip, which causes the baby to start crying again.
The man jerks and pulls the baby away, seemingly protecting one from the other. “Are you all right? What happened?” he asks, green eyes wide.
“I’m just…not used to babies having teeth.” She reaches for the infant. “Bel, it’s okay, baby. You just gave mother an ouchie.” She smiles as she remembers Taveth’s present. She swirls her hand and the green metal spoon and the matching rattle pop between her fingers. “Here, if you don’t mind.” She hands Baemalen the rattle, then dips the tip of the spoon in the broth. The mage hesitates. “I’m afraid he’ll bite it and hurt his teeth.” She droops as the infant calms some. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m sorry you’re involved in this. Ana will be back with Grim in a few days… You can go with her if you’d rather have more of an adventure. Though, I kind of enjoy your company.”
Baemalen furrows his brow as he idly rattles the toy above the baby. “Is she the pretty elf girl or the pretty albino girl?” He shakes his head. “All the same, I don’t mind being here with you. I’m accustomed to taking care of kids.” His smile grows somber as he looks down at Bel’theas. “At least it seems all I’m good for anyway.”
“Ana is the albino, yes. I’m not used to her without a mask.” Kel’ori tentatively reaches out to touch his bicep. “I doubt that’s all you’re good for. In fact, I know it’s not. You did great cleaning and getting firewood. Chugged molten stew like it was water.” She grins. “Come on, you have to have some hidden talents?”
The blood elf again tenses at the touch but smiles all the same. “Not particularly,” he chuckles. “I’m one of the few that could beat Donnie in hand-to-hand, and I’m a mean pickpocket, but those are hardly talents.” He tilts his head some. “Not nearly as useful as a mage, like yourself.” Bel’theas gives a quiet groan, alerting him to the fact that he’s stopped rattling the toy, so he continues. “Sorry.”
Kel’ori notices the flinch and rubs her fingers against her palm. “I’m sorry. My fingers are cold. Didn’t…realize.” He doesn’t like when I touch him at all, it seems. She twists her fingers together as a first step to avoiding touching the man. “Nothing wrong with a good pickpocket. Might actually come in handy, actually. No one brought money. I mean, we didn’t have time to prepare. One minute we’re opening presents and then next we were here. You can get us some supplies when what they left us runs out.” She smiles encouragingly. “Just as long as you don’t get in trouble for it, of course.”
The Illidari nods slowly, relaxing. “Anything I can do to be useful, really.” He tilts his head again. “Opening presents, hm? What for? Was it someone’s birthday?” He looks down when Bel’theas rips the rattle from his hand and shakes it around himself instead. “Fine, take it…”
“Winter Veil,” she says. Her smile drops as she realizes it is no longer Winter Veil, and so her answer makes no sense. She flinches at the sound of the furious rattling, though raises an eyebrow at the infant’s advanced motor skills. “So, um, if you don’t mind can you clear the bones from the cellar? I…didn’t want to touch them—even with my magic. Not immediately, of course,” she says quickly, hoping it distracts him from the mention of the holiday.
Baemalen swallows the questions that immediately arise, then perks his ears at the request. “O-oh. Right now? Sure.” He offers the baby back and smiles. “Leave it to me.”
“I said not imme—” She stops to observe the complaining infant trying to suck on the rattle. “Oh. I guess it’s mealtime. You can…do that if you really must.” She takes the baby and begins unbuttoning her bodice.
Bel’theas grows more restless, dropping the rattle and reaching for something.
“You little stinker.” Kel’ori giggles. “Sorry, Uncle Bae can’t do this. You’re stuck with me.” Her smile falls and she looks at him. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to… It’s just kind of a habit.”
Baemalen looks away and blushes. “No, it’s all right. It…has a ring to it, really.” He stands and stretches his legs. “I’ll be back in a jiff. Uh…watch out for the teeth. …Again.” He makes his way outside and to the back of the building where the cellar doors reside. He pauses just outside and takes a moment to breathe in deeply, then lets it all out before throwing the doors open.
“What did I do to make him so skittish?” she asks, her eyes on the door.
A short while later Baemalen returns, dusting his hands off on one another, spiderwebs in his long hair. “Done. And not a moment too soon,” he chuckles. “It’s getting late.”
Kel’ori cocks her head at the man. “You slept all day, though. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.” She looks down at the still-nursing infant. “You’re just ravenous, huh?” The angles of her face betray her weariness as she slides back to lean against the wall. “I’d kill for something to occupy my time.”
Baemalen chuckles. “I didn’t say I was going to sleep.” He sits in the worn chair across from her and pulls his knees up to himself. “Hm. I’m sure there’s something we can do.” He sets to combing the webs out of his hair with his fingers.
Kel’ori blinks at the man. “Did you clean the ceiling with your head?” She laughs and taps her lip in thought. “Well, I was wondering if there were any tools about so I could build a crib. I’m…not really comfortable with him sleeping in a hammock. There’s plenty of wood outside. Um… I noticed an outhouse a bit away, sort of hiding behind the hill. That probably needs…cleaned.” She shudders at the thought of orcs using it. Kel’ori purses her lips at the elf, then uses her magic to clear the cobwebs and comb his hair smooth. “Unless you mean fun things. I’m not sure this place has fun things.”
He pauses, then chuckles at the sensation of having his hair done by an unseen force. He shrugs. “There weren’t any carpentry tools down there. Just old daggers, pliers, and chains.” He shrugs a shoulder. “And I did mean fun things, but if you’re more if a worker bee then I’m happy to help with anything you want to work on. I could go get some supplies to build a crib? I’m sure Shattrath has something for us…”
Kel’ori thinks on it. “I can’t leave. Not until Ana gets back. And even then, Taveth told me that you can’t go see Grim, so I have to stay and handle that…” She looks around as though missing something. “Where is that confounded dragon now that I actually want his help. If he’ll help.” She leans her head back and closes her eyes. “Fun… I wonder what that’s like? I haven’t had fun in at least four months.”
Baemalen gives the tiniest smirk. “Well, if you need a refresher on what fun is…”
Vendormu’s voice carries through the open doorway and bounces off the quiet walls. “Why? What do you want?”
Kel’ori jumps. “When did you get back? Where did you go? We were hoping to get some things from Shattrath. Can you come out here so I don’t have to yell?”
The aspect steps into the doorway, again visible. “What sort of things?” He scratches at the patch of hair beneath his lip.
Kel’ori looks to the other elf and shrugs. “Things we need. Things for fun. Fabrics, sewing supplies, a crib, or something to make one.” She motions at Baemalen. “What did you need? Should you go with?” She widens her eyes in a hinting manner. “Cause of the money situation?”
Baemalen takes the hint and smiles wide. “Yes! I’ve actually been there a few times on supply runs for the temple. Some of the vendors may recognize me.”
Vendormu knits his brow and looks between the two. “You know I could just—no. Y’know what? Sure. Let’s go, boy.”
The elf hops to his feet, tosses his hair over his shoulder, and gives Kel’ori a wink. “Back in a jiff. Last call for requests?”
Kel’ori opens her mouth, then closes it several times. “M…Makeup…?” She averts her gaze as though she asked for something shameful. “I mean, it’s not…important…I guess.”
“You got it. You don’t need it, but you’ll get it.” He smiles and turns to the aspect. “So, we heading out or—” Before he can finish, however, the two are gone in a swirl of golden light.
Kel’ori sighs and gets up to walk around. She circles the house several times, stopping and stooping every few steps to pick up the rattle as Bel’theas drops it. She returns it to his hand and he returns to shaking it. “Don’t worry, your grip will get better.” After several hours she yawns and sets a fire in the stove in the bedroom, lays in her chosen hammock, and falls asleep.
~ * ~
With a quiet whoosh, Baemalen and Vendormu appear in another whorl of light, a large bag of goods with them. The elf, adorned in a tiger fur that covers his arms and head, lifts his hands and chuckles. “Rawr,” he says tiredly, then lifts it up to peek at Kel’ori. “Sorry. I had quite a bit of money left over after gambling. I couldn’t resist.”
Kel’ori blinks at the man, her eyes squinted through her exhaustion. “Mmmwhat time is it?”
Baemalen blinks at the newly acquired pocket watch he pulls out of his pocket. “Oh! Nearly seven in the morning. I’m so sorry! Go back to sleep.” He sets the fur skin rug down and rummages through the large sack. He pulls out a book. “I’ll be in the next room when you want to get some projects going.”
Kel’ori glances down at the infant, nosing insistently against her chest as he begins to grumble. “No. I’m up. Apparently it’s breakfast time.” She sits up to unbutton her dress. “He’s just getting hungrier. Kept me up all night.” She yawns and rubs at the dark circles around her eyes. “Growing so fast.” She glances at his book, then tries to focus her bleary eyes on his face. “I’ll be out in a few minutes. Promise.”
Baemalen again looks away as her brassier falls to the side. “R-right. Well you know where to find me. Haha.” He scurries into the next room, book in hand.
Vendormu smirks after him, then at the woman and her baby. “Anything else? Or am I just so utterly useless?”
Kel’ori flushes the slightest bit. “Thank you. This time.” She leans back with Bel’theas in her arms, her eyelids growing heavy.
Vendormu rolls his eyes. “Mmhm,” he grumbles before again melding into the surroundings and disappearing.
It’s not long before Baemalen is completely gone, snoring quietly in his chair with his chosen book over his face.