Starrlei
Chapter 5: Visitors
By Selenity Jade

After Klitos left, he drank himself into a stupor and stumbled his way down the alley towards the inn. He barely remembered making it to the bed he had rented and he didn't remember falling asleep at all.

He woke up with the worst hangover he had had in years.

With a groan, Dylyan pulled himself from the scratchy sheets he had entangled himself with and towards the small chamber pot in the corner, where he proceeded to expel all liquid and food products he had ingested the night before and had yet to digest.

When the heaving subsided, he leaned against the wall beside the container and concentrated on simply breathing and pray that nothing loud or bright would intrude on him.

The Goddess of Luck, Fortuna, was not with him that day.

Someone banged heavily on the door to his room, causing pain to explode in his skull. Tottering to the door, he leaned against the wall beside it and closed his eyes. "What?" he called as loudly through the door as he could despite the pain and nausea.

"Are you the one known as Dylyan?" The voice was masculine but pleasing and soothing to hear.

The black-haired man stiffened. "Who wants to know?" he demanded cautiously.

"I am a friend."

"Who's friend? I have no friends whose voice I do not recognize."

"I come from Galan," the voice answered, surprising the warrior.

He remembered Galan quite clearly as the wizard had saved Dylyan's life a couple months ago, though he felt resentment towards the old man for complicating his life so much.

While the voice didn't sound false, Dylyan knew one could lie just as well with their tone as with their face. He had even met those who could lie with their eyes, disproving the common thought that they were the window into a person's true self. Contemplating his options, Dylyan decided he might as well let the man on the other side of the door in. He was very good with a sword and could probably turn any dangerous situation to his favor, so he decided he was most likely in no real danger at all.

Besides, only one person other than himself and Galan knew he had met the old man, and that was Starrlei. He refused to believe she had betrayed him.

Opening the door, Dylyan blinked at the man standing in the frame in surprise. Dylyan had always known he was beautiful, he had seen himself often enough in ponds and glass surfaces and he knew how women reacted to him as well as the men that assumed just because he was beautiful and not ruggedly handsome that he must crave intimacy with men. The man standing outside his room was painfully beautiful in an almost otherworldly way. He nearly glowed and even Dylyan found himself attracted to the pale blond man.

"I apologize if I surprise you," the man said with a voice Dylyan realized truly belonged with a man who looked like that.

::Lyan, look closer at him.::

The voice in his mind of the horse-like creature who had won his trust and love instantaneously managed to get him to think past the man's beauty and he realized the man wasn't really a man at all.

"You're an elf," Dylyan accused.

The fair creature smiled faintly. "May I enter? We should discuss this inside where I can ward against unfriendly ears."

Ice-blue eyes regarded the green-eyed elf searchingly before Dylyan finally asked his steed what he thought. ::Well?::

::Elves are peculiar to you short-lived humans, and their many tribes are as different as night and day. This one is not a forest elf. I am unsure what tribe he hales from. However, all elves believe the same about certain things. Elves will never lie, though they are adept at omitting enough that you can be misled. Ask if he intends you harm.::

Dylyan frowned and followed Lyrian's advice. "Do you intend me harm?"

The elf smiled mysteriously. "No, I do not intend to harm you."

"Will you attack me or attempt to harm me in any way?"

"Only if I am attacked first will I defend myself, Dylyan. I am here by Galan's request and have every interest in keeping you alive and safe."

Dylyan figured that was clear enough and opened the door to allow the fair-haired being into his room.

The elf nearly glided along the bare, hardwood floors with such grace that Dylyan was suddenly jealous. He wasn't a vain man, but he had always been used to being beautiful to others, and compared to the individual in his room, he was the ugly cousin no one liked to speak about.

::Do not be so jealous, Dylyan. Their beauty is both their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. Their beauty attracts humans like moths to fire, but it also causes humans to be envious and that leads to hate and fear and it leads to the elves being arrogant about their appearance. However, most elves make themselves more beautiful the longer they live. Their greatest magickal strength lies in changing themselves and other living creatures. That is one of the many reasons elves never mate with humans. They seek beauty above everything else.::

::They are very shallow creatures, aren't they?::

He felt his steeds amusement. ::Oh, yes. The immortality they have been cursed with at the beginning of time has given the entire species their obsession with beauty and their arrogance. Do not be intimidated or jealous, my friend. He is what he is because he had made himself so.::

The elf raised a delicate eyebrow as Dylyan finished conversing with Lyrian. "The steed is advising you?"

"Something like that," Dylyan agreed cautiously. "What is your name?"

The self-conscious human felt better when he saw the unnaturally gorgeous elven man blink in surprise at such a simple question. "Why?" the creature asked guardedly.

"Because I like to know who I am speaking with. It's a human thing, humor me."

Still the elf hesitated. "To my people, names have power, Dylyan."

"Yet you still know my name while I have yet to know yours."

He was taller than Dylyan by a good four inches, making the elf at least six three, and when he shook his head – whether in confusion or disturbance, it wasn't clear – his obscenely long, fine gold colored hair flowed over his shoulder and down to his calves. Dylyan had an absurd thought that the elf must have problems engaging in any form of physical activity with hair like that.

::Rian?::

::Elves only give out their names to the closest kin and their loved ones. They name themselves and their names have power. He wishes to show good faith and make you comfortable with it, but he fears giving you a name, so he hesitates. You have unnerved him.::

::Good.::

::It is a petty emotion you are projecting.::

::I can't help it! He's so beautiful I can't stand to look at him and it makes me want to hate him.::

::I see,:: the intelligent equine stated simply, unwilling to comment on Dylyan's childish behavior.

"Well?" Dylyan pushed.

The elf sighed and even that sound was beautiful. "You must understand, it is a great sign of trust and love for my people to give their name to others. I feel... uneasy doing so."

"And it is a human characteristic not to trust a person who refuses to give a name."

Suddenly, the elf began to pace, obviously agitated. Dylyan was surprised as this was a lot more emotion than the elves he had seen in the forest had shown.

"Look," Dylyan began in his deeper, rougher voice. "I understand it is difficult for you, but I simply cannot trust you without a name. Everything in me might listen and try to trust what message you carry, but there will be that nagging uncertainty that will keep reminding me the information came from a creature who refused to impart his name. I do not trust elves, no offense to your or your people, but I have never met one until recently and I know nothing about you or the other elves. Lyrian tells me things when I need to know them, but I do not have time to have him teach me all he knows. So I need a name, or you can refuse and give me this message and what advice Galan has, but I will not completely trust it or you."

Slender hands pushed back the long, spider thread hair over his shoulder and the emerald eyes focused on him. "If you could swear never to reveal my name," the soft voice began before he said something almost guttural and harsh sounding that must have been a curse in a language Dylyan had no knowledge of. "I would not believe your word, either. Humans lie with every word they utter."

Dylyan sighed. "I swear I will reveal your name to no one, even if I am tortured for it. Only time will prove my word true, so you would have no choice but to believe me."

::Remind him of me, Dylyan.::

The blue-eyed man started, surprised and irritated he hadn't thought of that himself. "Remember, I was chosen by an elven steed, and do you think one would have chosen me if I would break my word to any of the people who he owes his allegiance to?"

That surprised the elf and he went back to pacing. Dylyan leaned against the dresser with his arms crossed over his chest, watching the disgustingly graceful immortal wear a trail in his room.

After a few minutes, the flaxen-haired being turned towards him and inclined his head. "You are right. I should trust the steed's choice." There was a slight hesitation before the elf went on. "To us names are very private to the individual and they are almost never given out. Immediate family members, like a sister, and less often are names given out to beloved friends and lovers. To give you my name is like if you were to strip yourself of all defenses, physical, mystical, and emotional and gave someone the weapon to utterly destroy you."

There was another pause while Dylyan let him collect himself. As a human, Dylyan did not understand how exactly how hard it would be on the elf, and he almost regretted insisting on it, but his view of names being commonly uttered made him unable to take the demand back.

"Do you swear never to utter my name within the hearing of any creature capable of understanding it?" the sidhe finally asked and Dylyan swore the elf was afraid.

Dylyan didn't joke as he might have normally. He nodded soberly. "I swear I will never speak your name where any being may hear or understand it."

"Do you swear never to use it against me? Do you swear never to use my name magickally? Do you swear never to use it to make me do what you ask in return for your silence? Do you swear it will never be used except when addressing me in private?"

Brushing his black hair from his forehead, Dylyan fought down nausea as he answered as seriously as possible, knowing if he bungled this now, he'd never get the name or the message. Trust was interesting. He wondered why the elf didn't just tell him the message and leave, letting him believe or disbelieve it on his own. "I swear I will never use your name against you and will never use it except for addressing you where we cannot be overheard."

The elf nodded curtly and squared his almost delicate shoulders. "I am trusting you with an elf's most private possession, Dylyan. Do not break your oath to me, human, because I will hunt you down and destroy you completely," the suddenly forbidding elf stated before he took a breath.

Dylyan nodded, waiting for this name, the name Dylyan didn't understand the significance of. Dylyan didn't understand how this elf could fear giving up such a simple thing as a name to someone, especially since Dylyan couldn't use magick to use it against him in the first place.

"My name is Zaynel," he whispered so softly, Dylyan had to lean forward to hear him. The confident elf's voice even trembled and a sudden wave of guilt flowered in his gut.

"Nice to meet you," Dylyan said instead of expressing his guilt. "Would you mind if I called you Zane? That way, I will not slip in front of anyone and can still address you publicly if I need to."

The elf frowned nervously. "It is similar."

"No one will guess the true name behind the nickname. There are a million ways to take Zane from other names, especially if you created the name yourself."

After another thoughtful pause, the elf nodded. "Agreed."

"Good. Now, Zane, what is this message?"

x

AN: Well, here it is folks. A new chapter for the person who requested an update. I hope you all are pleased with it, it is the best one yet, I think out of the entire story. ;

Lovies!