The young man strolled through the marketplace, humming a jaunty tune under his breath. He slipped easily around the crowded stalls, his mind clearly elsewhere, pausing now and then to nod a greeting to someone whose path he crossed, or to offer a smile and a flirtatious comment to an attractive young woman. He glanced up at the sky, for a moment, then brushed hair from his eye and shifted direction.
His attention was drawn by an old woman, hunched over in front of a flowercart, and he chuckled softly. Shifting direction, he nodded to her as he approached. â€œVenerable madam, how much for a bouquet of those fine blue roses?â€ He pointed to where two samples of the stock shared space with a dozen other flowers.
The woman glanced over at him, and considered for a moment, tugging on her shawl thoughtfully. â€œTwo bits each. If you want them, Iâ€™ve only two left.â€
The man checked his purse, one eye still on the flowers. â€œIâ€™m afraid I only have silver. Is that a problem?â€
â€œSilver or jade, it makes no difference to me.â€ The woman waved a hand, breaking into a gap-toothed smile. â€œCome into the shop, and choose which one you would like.â€
The two strolled into the shop, and the elderly woman turned and slid the lock of the door. As she turned, she straightened her back, and her shawl fell backwards, and she suddenly didnâ€™t seem nearly so old, or weathered. Instead, she was a radiant young woman with long black hair, smoothing out her dress and shaking her head. â€œI donâ€™t know, Mom. You always seem to find me first.â€
â€œWell, I have the advantage.â€ Hair grew out and colour shifted as the young man stepped forwards. His face shortened, and his body shrunk inwards, as his chest grew out. Within moments, it was a very different young woman who caught the other into a hug. â€œHello, Millia. How are you doing?â€
Twice-Breathing Millia sighed dramatically, walking over to the small roomâ€™s stove and picking up the kettle. â€œAbout the same. The last few years have run me off my feet. Youâ€™re lucky to be your own master, Mom.â€
Serafin laughed, taking a seat, as Millia returned with the tea. â€œSome own master. Iâ€™m running myself off my feet, too. Ever since the Empress vanished, itâ€™s been nothing but work. Alakazar sends his regards, by the way. And Eiluned wants to know if youâ€™ve heard anything from Scathach?â€
â€œShe still hasnâ€™t come back?â€ Millia shook her head. â€œI canâ€™t track the fae, Mom. You know that.â€
â€œI do, dear, but Eilunedâ€™s a little vague.â€ Taking a teacup in hand, Serafin took a deep sip. â€œWeâ€™ve all been very busy, though, thatâ€™s the important thing. Split five or ten ways trying to put out little brushfires. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m here alone, by the way. Howâ€™s the Silver Faction treating you?â€
Millia made a rude noise. â€œThick as ever.â€ She sat across from her mother, setting her teacup down quickly. â€œTheyâ€™re a lot like Eiluned â€“ a little vague. They havenâ€™t quite grasped that you canâ€™t control Celestial Exalts, just work with them. But theyâ€™re nice enough sorts, for all that.â€ She chuckled. â€œAll four of them. And the Bronze thinks Iâ€™m Bronze, and the Gold thinks Iâ€™m independent, so they mostly leave me alone.â€ She paused. â€œAnd send me after any fae that they suspect is causing trouble, hence why Iâ€™m here alone.â€
â€œMm. That was always the risk.â€ Serfain sipped thoughtfully.
â€œI know, I know. But Iâ€™m close to six hundred years old.â€ Millia sighed, sitting back. â€œThere might be three hundred humans in the world older than me, and I still get treated like a child. Because compared to our elders, I am.â€
â€œThatâ€™s also a risk.â€ Serfain chuckled. â€œMy own elders are better about that, but I still get my fair share of â€˜little oneâ€™ and â€˜younglingâ€™ tossed around.â€ She shrugged. â€œWorth it, though.â€
â€œTrue.â€ There was a short paused. â€œAnd your dreams?â€
â€œStill happening.â€ Serafin stared off into space. â€œThey keep getting more frequent, too. Theyâ€™re up to once a week now. An elemental dragon, the â€˜Storm is comingâ€™ line. I know that they want something, I just donâ€™t know what. And what sort of storm takes seven hundred years to gather, anyway?â€ She frowned.
â€œA big one.â€ Millia was quiet for a moment, and then sighed. â€œWell, I still canâ€™t find anything. I take it youâ€™re here about that Elidath Bloodbane fae thatâ€™s been spotted around Greyfalls?â€
â€œThatâ€™s the one. Heâ€™s up to something big; moving troops around like water. What do the Sidereals know about it?â€
â€œJust that there have been some odd blips in fate around here for the last week or so.â€ Millia shook her head. â€œIâ€™m going to start investigating tonight.â€
â€œIâ€™ll join you.â€ Serafin grinned. â€œItâ€™ll give us a chance to catch up. Hey, you remember Thetram Nash?â€
â€œHow could I forget him?â€
â€œHe got his ass handed to him by a Lunar thatâ€™s not even a century old. Sirrim, you may remember my mentioning him?â€
â€œThe one in the North? The guy who tried to attack the Loverâ€™s citadel a few decades back?â€
â€œThatâ€™s the one.â€ Serafin and Millia fell to reminiscing. Later, there would be investigations and a hunt. For now, there was just a family reunion.