Alaion glanced across the room and barely stopped a sigh of amusement and annoyance from escaping him.

Put the book away. You are being an embarrassment. Again.” He thought as he watched his sister surreptitiously flipping through pages of palm-sized leather bound book. She squeaked and quickly shoved it back into the sleeve of her dress, shooting a glance over her shoulder.  

He’s so boring,” He heard echo back from her as he watched her turn and face the elder elf who had been carrying on conversation at her.

He smiled slightly to himself as he moved around the room. The job felt tedious, but thus, the lives of nobles were often so. He spent a few moments with each person who came to speak with him. At every turn, they were either frightened away or disgusted by him. He heard a laugh, high and tinkling like broken glass across the room and shook his head. He glanced back at Penelope and noticed her fists clenched, covered mostly by the jagged hems of her sleeves and sighed. As he continued to watch, her hand twitched, regularly, the the small dark leather spell book she had only just been reprimanded over sliding back into her palm.

Relax, you’re cocked tighter than a bowstring. If he’s that bad come introduce him to me. I seem to be scaring everyone else off today. He shouldn’t be hard.” He thought to her, trying to keep the laughter out of his mental voice.

It had taken years to school her on keeping her face neutral, to allows no stray thoughts to dance in her eyes, but with those words, from across the room, he watched her hands unfist and a true smile come to her lips. Moments later, arm in arm, she walked up to him, escorted by another high elf, old enough to be their father. “Lord Tremaine Clearwater, allow me to introduce you to my brother Alaion Greymoore.”  As he bowed his head in acknowledgement to the older man, Penelope’s voice continued in his head, “Don’t scare him to bad. He’s the ancient of ages. He probably lived in these woods before the first tent for the city was even an idea.”

Damn her, making him smile.

He pitched his voice lower than normal, gravelly, and cold as the caverns he wandered for years. “Lord Clearwater, your appearance here is greatly appreciated. I understand how unsettled travel has been lately, with the storms. The road must have been treacherous.” 

Alaion listened as Clearwater stammered out a hasty answer about it being no trouble. The conversation didn’t last long.  Alaion asked to borrow Penelope before settling in for dinner and Clearwater, bowing quickly, seized the obvious escape and scuttled quickly away from the pair.

Sighing, he turned his attention to his sister, who stared at Clearwater’s retreating back with disgust evident in every line of her face. He blinked slowly, “ You heard all that then?” he asked quietly.

She shrugged. “You need to remember to remove me from the conversation if you don’t want me listening in. I will say, this did not improve my opinion of him. Hearing him mentally screaming, ‘unnatural’ and ‘freak’ is not endearing in the least.”

His shoulders slumped slightly and he shook his head. “He isn’t exactly wrong. This isn’t exactly normal.”

Penelope snorted, rolled her eyes, and held her arm out to be escorted to dinner. “I never said he was wrong, but this,” she said waving vaguely at her brother’s head, “has nothing to do with it. It’s your gigantic ears and how bad your feet smell that makes you unnatural.”

Alaion snorted audibly and took her arm, stooping to accommodate her tiny size.She carried on as they made their way out of the room, “He doesn’t know how bad your feet smell, does he? Is there something you are not telling me? Or Father? Should I tell father I can’t possibly marry someone who is ‘known’ to my brother? That’s it isn’t it? I knew it.

She continued her ridiculous prodding as they walked through the atrium to the dining room.Night blooming flowers and fountains dotted the space as people walked in small groups or pairs to be seated. There was a noticeable space between the siblings and everyone else. Rather Alaion noticed, Penelope had pulled out her spellbook and proceeded to lecture some obscure bit of arcana at him.

She was tiresome, irritating and often embarrassing, but for just a moment it warmed the cold place in his chest. Society as a whole consigned him, at best, to the realm of oddities. Mother treated him like spun glass and Father, well, he was an issue all his own. She hadn’t changed. Once he was well enough to be teased, she teased him. To her, he was simply Alaion, her big brother. It was nice to only be himself, even if he wasn’t sure exactly what the meant any more.