In his office high above the city, the dark figure brooded.


He looked up, irritated at the intrusion. Standing just inside the door was a young man he had never seen before. The man was blond and unremarkable in appearance, dressed in a conservative suit and looking very much like all the other earnest young underlings who had passed through these portals over the years. He could barely tell them apart, and had never particularly cared to try. "How did you get up here?"

"That isn't important, sir. I've come to tell you that you have a visitor." The young man's voice held the proper level of respect and deference, but no hesitation or fear. That in and of itself captured the dark figure's attention.

"A visitor? I am expecting no visitors." He swung his chair around and leaned across the desk, fixing the messenger with his chilly gaze. "I ask again—how did you get up here?"

The young man smiled. "I'll just send him in, then."

Before the dark figure could protest, the messenger turned smartly on his heels, opened the door, and disappeared through it, the very picture of unobtrusive competence.

Another figure entered the office then, approaching the desk with an air of casual familiarity. A tall man, slightly built, clad in faded jeans, white shirt, and loose-fitting leather bomber jacket. His long silvery hair was pulled back into a ponytail; his eyes were a clear shade of aqua, wise and ageless. His face, attractive without quite reaching handsome, currently wore an expression of mild curiosity. "Hello, Sildarath."

The dark figure's eyes widened, his features rearranging themselves from annoyance to astonishment. Quickly he brought them under control. "Telanwyr," he said carefully. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Telanwyr's gaze took in the office. "Nice place," he commented. "You're doing well for yourself."

"Is there something I can do for you, Telanwyr?" The dark figure—Sildarath—leaned back in his chair, his eyes never leaving the man who stood before his desk.

The other man began to pace around the office, well aware of Sildarath's gaze following him. "Tales have reached me," he said noncommittally. "Tales that disturb me."

"Oh?" Sildarath tensed a bit, a fact that was not lost on his visitor.

Telanwyr nodded, returning to the front of the desk. Sitting down in one of the guest chairs, he hooked one leg casually over its arm. "Your name came up. Again."


"This is the second time, Sildarath, in less than two years. Perhaps your corporate activities are not sufficiently occupying your time?" There was an odd undercurrent in Telanwyr's voice.

A very slight smirk crossed Sildarath's face. "Need I speculate regarding where you have heard these tales?"

Telanwyr shrugged. "If you wish. Likely you would be wrong."

"Then he has not gone to hide behind his old mentor to protect his own neck, and those of his miserable pets?" Sildarath rubbed his eye unconsciously. The pain was long gone, with no sign that there had ever been an injury, but the knowledge still plagued him.

"Gethelwain knows nothing of this." Telanwyr's voice dropped a bit. "It would please me if that fact were to remain true."

"A threat, Telanwyr?" Sildarath knew he was pushing his luck, but let the question stand nonetheless.

"Sildarath, you should know me well enough after all these years to know that I do not make threats," the other said, unperturbed. "I merely stated my wishes. You may, of course, do as you will."

"What do you want, then?"

Telanwyr swung his leg around so he was once more sitting properly in the chair, although his posture still evidenced a distinct nonchalant slouch. He smiled slightly, his clear aqua eyes meeting Sildarath's. "It would please me," he said again, "if you were to confine your interest to your own affairs, and allow Gethelwain to do the same."

Sildarath snorted. "So there it is. The favorite son once again receives the protection of the elders. Do you ever plan to let him handle his own affairs without your interference, Telanwyr?"

"I think he has done so admirably," Telanwyr said with a gentle but maddening smile. "Regarding that, I hope that your eyes are doing better than your building in Seattle."

With great effort, Sildarath submerged the tide of rage that washed over him at Telanwyr's mocking words. The other's calm courtesy could be every bit as deceptive as Sildarath's own, and it would not be wise to anger him. "Surely," he said tightly, "you do not expect me to allow those—pets—of his to go unpunished for what they have done to me?"

Telanwyr shrugged. "I expect nothing," he said. "I've merely come to inform you that I would be grateful were you to honor my request. Gethelwain is but a child. Those he chooses to associate with are nothing to you. You could end their existences with the barest flick of your thoughts. But what would it show if you did?"

"They caused me injury," Sildarath said, almost petulantly.

"They have also taught you a valuable lesson," Telanwyr pointed out. "One it would be wise for you not to forget." He spread his hands, indicating the office and, by extension, the building in which they stood. "You have much here to occupy yourself, young one. Your differences with Gethelwain are from another time. Let them go. I ask this of you." The last words were spoken in a tone that suggested cold steel encased in the softest of velvet.

Sildarath rose slowly, turning for a moment to gaze out the window at the view of the Boston skyline laid out before him. It was a long time before he answered, and when he did, he spoke with carefully controlled reluctance. "As you wish, Telanwyr." In front of him, where Telanwyr could not see, his hands were balled into tight fists.

"I have your word, then?"

Slowly, Sildarath turned. "Yes," he said through clenched teeth. "You have my word."

Telanwyr smiled, rising gracefully. "Good. Thank you, Sildarath. It's been good seeing you again. I'm glad that we had this chance to talk. I wish you success with your ventures." Nodding, he slipped off his jacket, hooked it over his shoulder on one finger, and exited the room.

Sildarath stood behind the desk, pressing his palms down on the obsidian surface, unable to lift his gaze from the now-closed door. The child had won again. Closing his eyes, he almost involuntarily brought his fingers in until his hands were once again clenched into fists. He stood there for several moments, and then, very slowly, his hands relaxed again, and his eyes opened. A tiny smile played around the corners of his thin lips.

He had given his word, true. The puppies would be safe. But the puppies were inconsequential. Soon enough, their short lives would be over without any influence from him. However, the important thing was that he had allowed himself to be swayed from his goal, and he had paid for it. He wouldn't make the same mistake again.

Even those of his own kind did not always live forever. Some day, the child's protector might be no more and his promise would be released. Perhaps that day could even, with the right preparations, be hastened.

Yes, he thought with satisfaction. He could wait.

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