The day was sunny, as were all days in Quel’thalas, and the crowd sufficiently large that no one seemed to notice Astoreth as she slipped in late and moved silently to find a suitable viewing spot as a man stood in order to speak of Caloneth Sorrelon II, his life and his deeds. To be fair, Astoreth had only met Westel’s brother once, but after five minutes she was certain she had known Cal better than this elder elf of trembling hands and boisterous voice who so floweringly praised the deceased’s bravery, his charity, his devotion to his family and his prowess in combat. Cal had seemed a good fellow, to be sure, but somehow she thought even he might be embarrassed by the description of him as ‘an angel of the Light come to trod the unworthy soil of Azeroth’. The first speaker finished and another stood up, and Astoreth quickly decided to spare Cal further embarrassment by focusing on the people around her rather than the words being said.
There was Cal and Westel’s sister Melody, of course, face tired and eyes likely red behind those glasses, but standing tall: ever the rock of her family. At Melody’s side, clutching her arm, was her mother Cersei – and Astoreth could not help the stab that went through her heart at the sight of her mother-in-law, looking haggard and aged despite her still-lineless face and vibrant golden hair. For all that Westel resented his mother as shallow and uncaring, and for all the mistakes that she might have made, Astoreth could not imagine how it must feel to bury two sons and be estranged from a third. The man on Cersei’s left shot her an unkind look as she choked back a small sob, and though Astoreth had never met this man there was no mistaking him for anyone but Lord Magister Caloneth Sorrelon I; the young man in the casket had been the spitting image of his father.
As Astoreth observed them, Melody Sorrelon happened to glance her way and give her a heartfelt half-smile. Lord Sorrelon caught his daughter’s gaze and followed it, and even as she returned Melody’s gesture Astoreth did not miss how the magister’s eyes narrowed at her. So much for going unnoticed.
Further to Lord Sorrelon’s left stood his grandson Hadrian Sorrelon, the son of Westel’s brother Vathal, and he was accompanied by an older woman and a young girl who Astoreth guessed to be his mother and sister. All three shared matching copper-blonde hair, and Hadrian appeared to have inherited his mother’s handsome features. The young man stood tall and proud, though his brow was furrowed, and Astoreth remembered Caloneth telling her how he had tried to be a father figure to Hadrian since Vathal’s death. She wondered who would step in now.
Finally Astoreth turned her attention to the woman standing front and center before the family, who dabbed at her eyes with an embroidered cloth, and whose crimson tresses spilled down her back in a bold and impressive contrast to the white of her skin and the black of her gown. Her bosoms heaved as she drew in a shuddering sob, but Astoreth noted that her cheeks were rosy and her mascara did not run beneath her thin veil. Astoreth had never met Dessandra Sorrelon, but the stories she had heard had not inclined her to think kindly of the woman and at this moment Astoreth decided that she rather hated her.
Finally the last speech ended. The string quartet struck up a somber tune and all around Astoreth elves began rising to gather in small groups and to talk. She waited for a moment when the family appeared sufficiently occupied with other parties to slip up near the coffin and quietly place her small bouquet of mageroyal and peacebloom amongst several larger, more obviously expensive arrangements.
Rising, she rested her hand on the side of the casket for a moment and looked down on Cal’s peaceful face. I’m sorry, she said to him silently. I am glad I met you. I’m sorry it took so long. I’m sorry you missed your nieces. I’m sorry that Westel… She sighed, and shook her head. Westel’s sorry, too. He loves you, even if he never could say it. I hope you are at peace, Cal. You will not be forgotten.
Astoreth did not dare stay long. She turned to leave but had not quite made it to the edge of the little glade in which the ceremony had been held before her flickering ears caught a faint sound of someone calling for Miss Duskflame. She turned back… and her heart momentarily stopped, as she saw Lord Sorrelon striding towards her from across the clearing.
He was still a good fifteen feet away, however, when a stooped elf of advanced years and short breath suddenly cut in between them, out of breath. “It is you!” the elder beamed at her. “I told Marilla, I said Marilla, that’s Kieran’s eldest girl, or I’m a goblin’s grandpop.”
It took Astoreth a heartbeat to place the voice and the face as an old friend of her father. “Magister Larkspur,” she smiled. “I’ve not seen you in ages. How have you been? And Marilla? Elliani?”
He waved his hand back towards the Sorrelon family, where a woman of matching age stood talking to Lady Cersei and Melody; a bit closer, Lord Sorrelon glared in puzzlement at Astoreth and her new companion briefly before someone else came up to speak to him and he was obligated to divert his attention. “Marilla and Cersei were great friends back in the day, you know,” Larkspur commented, and Astoreth did not bother to explain that she did not. “Fell out of touch for awhile, but you know how these things are. Such a shame, that handsome young man. How is your mother, dear?”
Astoreth shook her head. “Gone these ten years, sir. She fell grievously ill after the Fall, and did not recover.”
He tsked. “Such a shame,” he said again. “I knew about your father, of course. And your brothers, too. Elliani’s engaged again, did you hear? But she never forgot your Beirgin. Takes flowers to the wall every year for him, still.”
The thought brought an odd smile to Astoreth’s face, even as it brought a little ache with it. Her brother Beirgin had been betrothed to Elliani Larkspur at the time of his death. They’d postponed the wedding due to the war. “I had not,” she admitted. “Please give her my congratulations. I wish her every happiness.”
“Mmm.” Magister Larkspur sniffed. “The boy’s a bit frivolous, if you ask me. Overfond of the hawkstrider races. But he’s from a good family; she could do worse.” He peered up at Astoreth curiously. “But I admit I’m surprised to see you here today. I didn’t think your people were close to the Sorrelons.”
“Well – no, not as such,” Astoreth hedged. “In fact I’ve only –“
“Your father wasn’t fond of the nouveau riche,” Larkspur nodded. “And then there was that scandal with – ah, but that would have been before you were born.” He smiled at her. “How did you say you knew young Caloneth again?”
“I didn’t say,” Astoreth said patiently. “But he was my brother in law.”
Magister Larkspur blinked at Astoreth. He turned and looked back at the Sorrelons, and Astoreth could almost see him counting in his head. She sighed and saved him the trouble. “I married Caloneth’s brother Westel last June,” she explained simply.
He peered back at her with an intensity that indicated the implications of her statement were not lost on him. “Married Westel Sorrelon?” he asked. “Hmmph.” He looked around. “And… where is your husband today? Seems a man should come to his brother’s funeral. Especially given the circumstances.”
“He is unwell, and was compelled to remain at home,” Astoreth said, again as simply as possible. “He would have been here if he could.” If he could put one foot before the other. “I am here in his stead.”
“I see. And so why are you over here, and not over there?”
Astoreth forced a smile. “I’ve not yet had a chance to truly get to know my new, extended family,” she explained patiently. “It seems inappropriate to force myself upon them in their grief, and I practically a stranger.”
The magister harrumphed again. “Indeed. And tell me, what do you think your father would have made of this match?”
The question caught Astoreth off-guard. “I think he would have liked Westel very much,” she answered honestly. “He’s honest, and straightforward. He has a cutting sense of humour. He’s intelligent and practical, and has little patience for fools. He adores me, and he is a good father. If you mean to comment on his profession – my own brothers were rangers, if you recall, and Westel has risen high in their ranks.”
The old magister waved a hand. “I’m not speaking of his profession at all, and you know that. Liking a man is one thing, child. Letting him marry your eldest daughter is another.” He sighed, and shook his head.
Astoreth bit her tongue as a memory of her father urging her to respect your elders, even the ones you don’t like drifted through her mind. “I am very happy with him,” she said evenly, “and I believe that’s what my father would have cared about most. As I am certain Elliani’s happiness is paramount to you and Marilla.”
Larkspur snorted. “There is such a thing as too much time at the races,” he grumbled, and Astoreth smiled at him. He waved her off. “Yes, yes. Well, best wishes to you, dear. I hope your husband is recovered soon. It was good to see you, dear, good indeed, but I must see to my wife.”
“I’m sure he will be. Shorel’aran, Magister,” Astoreth offered him another smile as he nodded at her, but let it fall into a frown as his back was turned. She did not watch him long, however; Lord Sorrelon had been looking her way again, and she wanted to leave before he decided to corner her with questions as well.