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The infirmary nurse was taken aback by the newcomer. Stammering, she pointed the way to the gardens, where she gave Esme permission to walk. She of course didn't realize Faheem was there with her, but assumed he still lay where she left him before...

Eldredge wasn't an overly talkative Twili, and a bit on the imposing side. He was tall, with a thick upper body and long arms. He offered a bow to the nurse before he turned to leave, heading for the gardens at a steady pace. He had not heard from his sister in months, but word had reached him of what had happened... A concerned frown settled on his face, if he had lived closer he could have heard sooner.... or even helped her. He entered the garden to hear most of the conversation, and stopped short.

Neither had noticed him...

"Esme!" His voice broke the silence, cutting off the edge of Faheem's words. At his voice Esme jumped, pulling away from Faheem in alarm.

"Eldredge!"

Even Faheem was startled by the man, and stood from the bench to gather himself. Eldredge's fierce gaze was directed at him, and he said nothing at first. Who...who was this man? Faheem felt flustered and frustrated, not only being interrupted, but also caught in a delicate moment with Esme. Instinctively, he held the top of his robe to cover what had been bare collarbones. He cleared his throat. But after another moment of awkward silence, he noticed similar features to Esme, and made the connection immediately.

"...You must be Esme's brother, I assume...?" He asked tentatively, but firm in voice.

"Esme is this not your old teacher?" He asked, eyes on Faheem but seeming to ignore him.

"Yes... Eldredge please..."

"You will not marry him." He turned his gaze to Esme, "Forgive me, sister, but I believe this is not in your best interests." Esme sighed and shook her head.

Eldredge turned his gaze back to Faheem, stern eyes the same color as Esme's. "When our father died he entrusted your care to me, you are young yet Esme, this care still stands. You... Master Faheem, forgive me, but you are not to marry her." He turned, and sighed. "I had heard you were injured... Had I heard sooner I would have come sooner, forgive me sister... I am glad to see you are well."

Faheem frowned, growing furious with each word said. "'This'? ...You believe me not to be of Esme's best interests?" He asked, stepping closer to Esme, towering over both her and Eldredge. "You cannot deny this without knowing what Esme would prefer."

Eldredge held up a hand to silence Esme before she could speak. "You are twice her age!" His eyes narrowed. "Not only this, but the message sent to me has all but confirmed that had she not returned for you, she would not be so harmed!"

Esme grabbed her brother’s arm. "Eldredge, stop it!"

He seemed startled, and turned to look at her. The look on her face made him flinch, and he turned away. "... Forgive me, but circumstances do not hold in his favor, sister."

Esme kept hold of his arm, frowning. "I can decide for myself, Eldredge, when father died I wasn't there, I was here. It’s been years since then, with what has happened..." She seemed to sag just slightly. "I am not a child."

The look he leveled on her then was steady, and solemn. "You are my only family, Esme, if I cannot protect you from hurt then I have failed. Only hurt will come from this."

Faheem shook his head, a deep frown firmly set in his features and wanting to put a word in. But before he could, the infirmary nurse entered the gardens in a huff with her hands on her hips. Faheem never felt more relieved to see her, knowing his adventure outside was about to end.

"Master Faheem!! There you are!" she proclaimed, padding her way over to them and paying no mind to the tense air. "That cracked rib isn't going to get better if you don't rest! And you, Esme, also need to rest! I need to check your bandages, after all." She took Faheem's arm in one hand, and then Esme in the other, leading them away from Eldredge. "Forgive me, sir. Visits will have to be over for today. Please come back tomorrow when they've gotten rest!" she said to him as they walked passed. The sudden interruption was welcoming, though the nurse was very pushy as she guided the two back to the infirmary. When they arrived, she ushered them inside and shut the door behind them. She looked around for a moment and deciding it was all clear, she let out a big breath.

Faheem cleared his throat. "You were watching."

"I have to keep an eye out for my patients, of course!" She laughed, waving her hand at him and moving Esme to sit. Faheem turned away and looked at his bed, which looked rather inviting after walking around too much. He quietly sat down as she spoke up again. "...besides, I think everyone needs to take some time to sort things out."

Esme could only give Eldredge a helpless look as the nurse ushered them inside, wishing she could have tried just a bit more to talk with her brother. As it were though, she didn't struggle. Once the door was shut, Esme sat where the nurse told her too, loosening the ties on the neck of her robe carefully. She was silent a moment, before she spoke softly. "Faheem... Don't be angry with him, it’s just very sudden." She smiled softly, wishing things had gone better... "He'll come around—he has to.” Her smile was warm, a little weary and worried, but warm nonetheless.

The bandages on her arms were itching, but she didn't rush the nurse. "... Besides, I said yes didn't I?" She said, looking back at him with glowing eyes. Her smile was full of love, as weary as her face was. If she could have kissed him then, she would have, but she was stuck where she sat as the nurse hurried about around her preparing new bandages.

Faheem's face softened and he sighed, now sitting on his bed. His eyes glowed as hers did. "...yes, you are correct." he replied. He watched the nurse removed the bandages from Esme's neck, and proceeded to check the wounds. Faheem frowned slightly, seeing some wounds that were still there, though they were healing. His gaze then turned from Esme to his hand on his knee. "...I cannot help but remember just how old I am...your brother was kind enough to remind me..." He said quietly, beginning to feel inadequate in the situation.

"... He made a hasty judgement." Esme said at length, keeping still as the nurse worked. She flinched when one of the cuts was touched, it was still tender. "He did the same when I was little, it got him in trouble sometimes..." She chewed her lip, then sighed. "Faheem..." Silence again, trying to find the right words for this. "Your age doesn't matter. Besides... If people want to get that particular I'm closer to thirty years than twenty." She bristled a bit, frowning at the back of her hand. "I don't understand why people get so caught up, think I am so young. I'm not, not really. Experience is half of what makes your age. It’s not just the number of years! People seem to treat me like I am so young and inexperienced!" Her hand had balled up in frustration, she didn't really realize she'd had such... frustration pent up. "You are not too old, you... you aren't even that old! I said yes, and I will be your wife. No matter..." She trailed off, tears hugging the corners of her eyes and feeling a little lightheaded. "No matter what other people say."

Her voice lost the fire it had seconds ago, she slumped a little and put a hand on her forehead. The nurse looked at her worriedly. "Esme? You shouldn't get so excited, your brother was shocked, and I’m sure he’s just concerned about things going to quickly." The kindly nurse said, smiling to both of them. Esme watched her, and then settled back in the chair after wiping her eyes. She looked over at Faheem as the nurse continued to work on the bandages around her neck and arms. "... -" She was about to speak when the nurse interrupted with a sheepish look. "I need to change the bandages around your chest and stomach, Esme."

Esme looked away from Faheem then, back at the nurse and nodded slowly. The cuts on her neck would all heal; except one which would leave a very fine scar, but... on her torso... a few would leave noticeable scars. In the infirmary, she didn't wear the layer of shadows like she usually did. The marks on her torso would be a bad reminder of what had happened, and she didn't want Faheem to see. The nurse drew a curtain around them, and helped Esme out of her robes.

Faheem nodded, listening intently to every word that Esme said. He was even surprised at how fired up she was, as she had never spoken about those frustrations before. There were several moments where he wanted to interject, but he kept his mouth shut. When the nurse piped up about the other bandages, Faheem cleared his throat nervously and turned his back, even though a curtain was between them. After several moments of silence, he let out a deep sigh. "...I believe your brother has yet to realize that you are not a child as he remembers you by, Esme." He mulled over his thoughts for the right words, and continued. "I certainly see you as the woman that you are...and we have experienced many trials together. The only protest that I foresee is the fact that you had also been a student of mine..." He finished, and held his ribcage.

Esme fell into a thoughtful silence a moment after he had spoken, considering his words as the nurse changed the bandages and tended the slow healing wounds. She wished her healing would work on those cuts, but she had tried and failed. As the nurse began to re-wrap her bandages, Esme finally took a steady breath and replied. "Faheem... I believe even if I hadn't been your student, I would have come here and found you anyway." Her voice was warm as she said that, and it was her honest belief.

The nurse helped her back into her robes, and as she pushed back the curtain Esme thanked her and moved to sit beside Faheem's bed.

Faheem sat heavily against the head-board that propped him up, and reached for Esme's hand. When she offered it, he took it firmly and gazed at her. "...if you had never been my student...I believe it would have taken more to convince me that I am deserving of you." He replied thoughtfully. Looking back on their trials he could see just how fearful he was; even now he still struggles with that, for fear that Eldredge would forbid their union.

The nurse had then turned her attention to Faheem, who also needed to be checked. She helped Faheem sit up a little bit more, and he opened the robe covering his chest. But as he was not sure if he needed to be hidden, he turned his gaze to the nurse, shyly from Esme. The nurse removed the bandage and only paid attention to the wound that was there. His ribs on his side were dark with bruises, having bled internally from the impact that cracked them. "How is the pain?" She asked, lightly touching the bruise to feel how the bone was healing. Faheem winced, hissing a little when he took in a breath.

Despite herself, Esme watched, biting her lip when she saw the bruises and the wound. His reaction to the pain made her a little more uneasy. She wished she could just heal away those injuries. Something was still wrong with her though, she couldn't focus enough of the magic energy within her to heal even a minor scrape, let alone his bruises. As her eyes lingered she realized she was staring, and with a blush she turned away. She knew he wasn't comfortable; at least not completely, with this sort of thing. She would respect that even if she had seen him shirtless more than this time. The blush deepened just slightly, and she toyed with the hem of her sleeve a bit. "I wish I could help with the bruises..." She said to him, covering her blush up well.

Faheem shook his head. "...I know you wish to..." he replied slowly, wincing again when the nurse touched another bruise.  "...however I must point out it was my lack of grace that caused such a painful impact with the kargorok." He mused, turning his gaze towards Esme. "And these wounds will heal according to nature's course. I am in no rush at the moment..."

The nurse quietly moved to apply new bandages to the bruises, but not before pressing a medicinal black flower onto the area. "This flower will help with the pain, Master Faheem. It won't take too much time for the ribs to heal now." she smiled, and finished her work. She busied herself in putting things away and making sure everything was settled before taking her leave. "If you two need anything, call for me and I'll return swiftly!" she chirped, and finally left the room.

Faheem sighed and leaned back into his bed a little more comfortably, while Esme nestled up against him. He began to wonder about the rituals of betrothal and marriage of the twili, and, after searching his memories he came to realize that he did not know much about it. He cleared his throat and shifted a little. "...Esme?" He asked quietly. When he got a little response from her, he continued. "I realize that I have little knowledge of the process of marriage...” He trailed for a moment, and then remembered his master's journal lying atop the little table at the foot of his bed. Perhaps it would give some insight? "...my master's journal...I am curious to read if he may have written about my mother and father." He mused aloud.

Esme shifted uncomfortably, remembering some small details of what Otheno had read to her. Closing her eyes, she shook her head. "Not tonight... please?" She said, though it was almost asking. She smiled, snuggling closer as her somewhat awkward position would allow. "Wait for tomorrow, today has been... Well, hectic." She laughed softly, "When you've rested, okay?"
Faheem sighed as Esme drew closer to him, and shut his eyes. "...then I will wait." he replied quietly.

-----------------------------------------------------

A new day began and found Faheem resting by the window. His gaze was fixed on the particles floating in and out of existence within the sky. His thoughts trailed to the journal that lay on the table by his bed, and so his gaze turned to look at it. Though he wanted to read through it, a large part of him did not want to...for fear of learning the unknown. To him it was as a forbidden treasure that, once opened, would lay a curse on whoever touched it. He hesitated. Otheno had likely read through it again and again, which is why he knew everything about Faheem's past that he did not.

But what if this journal was a fake? That everything inside was false...? Faheem shook his head. It must be real. And before he realized it, the journal was in his hand and he sat on the edge of his bed. His thumb traced the leather binding, his brow furrowed. He must read it. No matter the pain it would cause, he needed to know the truth.

All of it.

He set the book in his lap and, fingers trembling, opened the book. The first page had a signature that only he knew so well. Signed, ‘Master Tellah’, in fine twilin script. Faheem shut his eyes for a moment, feeling overwhelmed with memories of his master. All of the times he stood by and watched the old man scratch notes on paper, which seemed to be everywhere, curious young eyes just watching and learning. But he also remembered being shooed from his master's books, as if there was a secret he was trying to keep, Faheem realized. Finally, he turned the next page and began to read.

Esme had been glad to accompany Seda out from the infirmary, thankful for the chance to stretch her legs properly without the nurses hounding her. She was in better spirits away from the infirmary, but she was still healing. She still wore the same covering dress as before, but she had bound her hair behind her neck.

The two only ran a couple errands, getting a few things to make the stay in the infirmary a little more comfortable for Faheem. She returned alone however, entering the room with a smile. “Faheem, I’m back…” She trailed off, seeing the journal in his hands. Her mind scrambled a moment, trying to figure out how to get his attention away from it. The book had nothing good in it, Esme was certain of this. She did not want him to read it…ever. The lapse in her smile was momentary; she moved across the room to set down the books and staff, then draped her arms over his shoulders, kissing his cheek with a smile. “I brought some books from the library and your staff… Seda found it among the isle ruins and wanted me to bring it to you.” She added the last bit with a smile and an intent gaze, subtly but effectively trying to draw his attention away from the journal; or so she hoped.

Faheem had been reading mid-sentence when Esme kissed his cheek. In response, he promptly shut the journal and set it aside. He would continue reading later.

Esme stepped back from him, and folded her arms. "Oh... I wanted to mention, since Eldredge is on my mind..." She gave Faheem a sheepish look. "I don't have any other family but him, so... we will need his blessings." Without a mother, father, or anyone else older than her to consent, the duty fell to Eldredge as her older brother. Without his blessings it would be ill luck to wed herself to Faheem. The thought made her frown, but she shook her head. "He'll come around, trust me." Her smiled returned easily, she felt much better today. The thought of her wounds did not bother her as they had days ago, though some had yet to heal.

Faheem nodded. He already knew of the basic customs of weddings, such as obtaining blessings for the women, but for the men… “That is common knowledge, however it is less common to know that even the men need approval to leave their mothers.” He replied, quietly and sadly. “The tradition derives from a time when it was required of sons to care for their mothers. If the son wanted to leave and marry, he needed to ask his mother first, before he were to ask for the hand of his beloved…however, seeing as I am the last of my family line, it is not necessary for me to inquire permission at this time on my behalf.”  He finished, and remained quiet. After a moment, he picked up the journal again. “…before you returned, I had been reading a passage with mention of my father and mother. Perhaps my master’s journal will give us additional insight on the matter…”

Esme watched him carefully as he spoke, seeing very plainly the sorrow that had altered his expression. The changes were subtle, but visible if you looked, in her expression and posture when he mentioned the journal. A slight bite on the inside of her cheek, standing just a little straighter. She wanted to be married, and to know what to do, but she did not want him to read the journal. When he trailed off, she looked at the book, then around the room in an attempt to find a way to change his focus...

"Wouldn't the palace historian know?" She almost blurted it, but managed to keep her speech even. She flushed a little, "We could ask them where to begin?" Esme smiled and held his hand a little tighter. "At the very least they would be able to tell us where to go to seek our answers."

Faheem observed the sudden change in Esme once he brought up the journal, and putting two together, realized just what she was doing. He shut his eyes for a moment and breathed in slowly. When he opened them it was clear he was becoming even angry, but cleared his throat and refused to make eye contact with her for a moment. After setting the journal aside again, he didn’t speak a word, instead rubbing with two fingers both sides of the bridge of his nose with eyes shut tight. “…Esme…” he started, and finally looked at his beloved. “…if you do not want me to read the journal, then you must tell me so.” He held his ribcage as he spoke, frowning all the while. “Do not avoid the subject now, it must be discussed.”

Esme sensed and saw his anger, wincing slightly and drawing a little away from him. She crossed her arms and hugged her middle, looking down then back up at him. "What do you mean? I just think that the palace historian might be able to tell us more than a journal would."

She looked back at him again, nervous, but trying not to show it. Seeing him holding his rib cage she moved forward, reaching out gently. "Are you sore? I can try to heal you if you are." Her ability to heal had returned a little, though still weakened because of whatever was slowing her own wounds from healing. But she could help him now, and maybe that would take his mind away from the journal.

She was afraid now, and it could show in her eyes. She did not want him to read it; in fact, she wished she had hidden it while he was asleep.

Faheem shook his head. "Whether or not I am sore is not relevant to the conversation." he replied, but sighed, realizing he was only becoming angry. The last time he was angry it only made him shut his feelings and push Esme away. But he let go of his ribcage and took Esme by the hand and pulled her to him, just so he could look her in the eyes.

"...we may learn much from the historian, Esme, but there is nothing to learn in regards to my mother and father save from this journal. Understand this, Esme...I have no living kin. You still have your elder brother and more memories of your parents than I could ever ask for..." he paused, blinking his eyes and clearing his throat to avoid emotional pain. "...what is it that you fear so greatly? Tell me, beloved..." he finished, knowing full well that she would feel his pain--and that he was pleading for the truth.

Esme winced, able to hear the anger tinging his voice just before he took her hand. Close to him, her hand in his and the other hand now against his chest, Esme bit her lip and avoided his gaze.

She felt his pain and his... yearning for truth. She closed her eyes, shook her head, and looked up at him pleadingly. "Please... My love, that journal..." Her gaze fell again, the fingers of her free hand toying with the hem of his robes just around his neck. "... It will only bring pain, please do not read it." She did not look back up, but gripped the front of his robe tightly. "He read from it, read it to me as he... I don't want you to read it because I am afraid of what it will do to you." Now she did look up at him, pleading and close to tears.

Faheem frowned, feeling torn between his desire for the truth and Esme's pleading for him not to read it. He held her gaze and, finally, released a heavy sigh. "...I did not know he read it to you...however, his every word, even if it had been true, was twisted and stretched..." He held Esme's hand even firmer, yet gently. "There are many questions about my birth and upbringing that have need of an answer. I have yearned for this truth throughout my life...long before Otheno sought to destroy us. The truth will likely be painful, and I acknowledge this...but I can suffer it." He finished, releasing Esme's hand and pulling her to rest against his chest and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

Esme chewed her lip and lowered her gaze, her free hand playing with the collar of her dress. Closing her eyes she cuddled close against his chest, wrapping her arms around him. "A-all right... I'm sorry, you have a right..." She shuddered, and gazed up at him. "I just... didn't want you to be hurt." She managed a small smile, hugging him tight and resting her head against his chest once more. "I-I will be right here...” she added, though felt a great sense of dread.

Faheem picked up the journal again, but fumbled it as it slipped from his hand. When the book landed on the bed, it opened to a page toward the back of the book. Curiously, it looked as though there was a secret message there. He looked up at Esme for a moment to see if she saw what he was seeing. “…there is writing hidden here.” He commented, feeling the page under his fingers. Then he revealed the page’s contents with a spell. The writings appeared as though it was being written again by an invisible hand, and Faheem’s eyes widened. It was a message for him.

‘Faheem,
It has been many a year since I left you, my apprentice. Return to the isle of your training. You shall find me there. So says I, Tellah.’


Faheem shook his head. He recognized this spell. It was not an old message…it was active. The author was writing as Faheem viewed the page. Esme looked on, feeling her breath hitch in her throat as the writing continued.

‘Come boy…my end is nigh.’

Esme touched Faheem’s arm, trying to pull him away from the journal. “Faheem, please! I-I can’t watch you go through this…” she begged, but Faheem shook his head in response.

“My Master. He’s alive after all these years…I should have known he faked his own death. I must go…this cannot be ignored.” He said quietly and with dread. He stood from the bed to begin preparing to leave, and Esme looked at him in alarm. “But wait…Faheem!” she panicked, grabbing his arm. “What if it’s a trick? You aren’t fully recovered yet…it could be dangerous.” She bit her lip, looking at her free hand. She didn’t want him to go. She wanted him to stay with her. All she could think of was when Otheno took her away and they were apart. If everything Otheno said was true, she wasn’t sure she could handle it. The idea scared her, walking into some unknown place, not fully recovered and unable to use her magic properly. She was terrified of being rendered helpless again, so to be at another’s mercy as she had… Esme tugged the collar of her gown lightly, unconsciously drawing closer to Faheem and gripping his hand tightly.

Faheem pulled his hand away and prepared his robes, reaching for his mantle and placing it on his shoulders. If Tellah was indeed alive, he had to learn the truth. Esme felt as though her world was crashing around her. This man was responsible for Faheem losing his arm…he’s the reason why Otheno exists and the reason why he hurt her. Her mind filled with horror as she suddenly relived the memories of Otheno’s torture…of the curse he placed on her and the nightmare she witnessed Faheem become in her mind. It was too much. How could she live every day of the rest of her life, with thoughts like this of her beloved?

She loved him, but her heart broke as she realized she would never be safe with Faheem, as long as he was the Master of Magic.

Faheem straightened out his regular robes and turned to Esme with his staff in hand. “…will you come with me?” he asked.

Esme shook her head. “I’m sorry…I-I can’t go.” She replied, turning away. “I’m not ready for this.” She added, trying to keep her frazzled emotions at bay. “…go and see your old Master, Faheem. But I-I don’t know if I’ll be here when you come back.” Tears, now in her eyes, she looked at him.

The older twili just met her gaze in silence. He felt deeply that nothing would be the same after this day. How could they be? In only a few short months, Esme captured his heart and read his emotions through the gift she had. Because of him, Otheno targeted her. Faheem was an intelligent man. It was obvious that Esme was going to leave again, as she once did already...so he must let her go. He approached her quietly, bending slightly to gently kiss her forehead. Esme hugged him tightly one last time.

“Farewell, Esme…do as you feel is best, as I must. May the goddesses be with you…until we meet again.”

Esme nodded and stepped back from him, her teacher and Master, she, a sorceress. Esme left with her brother after Faheem moved on, where they would never see each other again.

-End-
I thought I had wrapped up this story, but realized as I began working on Faheem again that this story needed to come to a close. Using parts of writings that Oomsda and I already created a few years ago, I was able to finish this. I know it's probably not what anyone expected, but going forward, Faheem and Esme have gone their separate ways and do not marry. I'm so thankful for the experience I've had and the memories made while working on this story over the last several years! But as it came to a point where I was the only one working on this, I needed to do what was best for the characters. The Master and the Sorceress as it's written is still canon for Faheem. He will visit with Tellah at some point in the companion story, "A Remedy for Madness". :heart: Follow that so you don't miss out on further developments! 


Chapter 23 <--- Part 23 Bullet; Green

Read from the beginning? ganondorfs-girl.deviantart.com…

Esme © Oomsda
Faheem © Me
Story © Both myself and Oomsda
:iconmetroid-tamer:
Metroid-Tamer Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017
I didn't get a chance to give input last night but after reading this through I don't think you needed any. ; ) It makes sense to me why Esme would leave and can I just say, "wonderful cliffhanger"? Because I think that was a great way to end the story! It definitely makes me want to continue reading from here, wherever it might go. Hopefully people who read it will move to the companion story and read that too. ^^

It stinks that things ended the way they did for the pair, but I think how you're choosing to handle it is good. Moving forward can sometimes be difficult, tbh, but in the end you do have to do what's best for you. In this case that would be continuing on with your stuff. I think you do a fantastic job with character developments and that this story was definitely a good one. Fun and memorable but also a great learning experience. I can hardly wait to see how Faheem and your other characters develop from here. :heart:
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:iconanilede:
Anilede Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2017  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you so much for reading! It'll be some time before it's revealed what happens when Faheem sees Tellah though XD

It is, but I feel at peace with the decision now. It's amazing how much better I feel knowing that I can move forward, and that Faheem can as well :heart:
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