A few hours had passed before I was roused from my guise of sleep by cool silver goblet nudged against my hand. With a small groan against fuzzy head I straightened in my chair and accepted the vessel more securely against my palm, my senses stirring quickly to snatch at the slightly acidic scent it contained. “And today’s trial is?” I asked of her, the one to offer the drink.
I heard a subtle soft snort of amusement even if, like me, this same daily routine was starting to grow frustrating in its failure. At clink of glass I imagined her turning bottle label towards her to squint at in scrutiny. “Hmm some kind of absinthe” she replied then again another soft snort “Oblivion they call it…the usual images of hell, fire and brimstone” she added pessimistically and I was near certain she rolled her eyes.
Shiloh was a tiefling; a diluted demon with such watered down abyssal blood that many of my kin refused to acknowledge her and those like her as our own. Such prejudiced demons were ignorant for they failed to recognise the value and worth of the plane-touched. Shiloh could be devilishly fiendish when facing danger or challenge plus she held many invaluable skills and uses.
I’d never seen her in the flesh yet from my own gatherings and what she had told me she appeared rather like me as more or less human though there were always subtle signs if one looked hard enough. She’d been with me for a few centuries now, my quirky eccentric little apprentice. At least that’s how we’d come to tread the same path, via a mage guild of long ago. It had been a long time since we’d behaved as teacher and student, slowly morphed to a more complacent relationship though to label it was something I was not sure I could do. I was her master yet there was no bind between us. She acted as my carer yet she was no slave. She was my eyes in the ever changing world and in return I gave her my protection and a purpose. I liked to think of her now as my ward. The mortals may describe us as chalk and cheese yet somehow our shared domain drew benefit for us both even if I always quietly suspected I came off far better in the unspoken deal between us. Often I wondered ultimately what kept her around yet would never question it and risk disturbing the waters.
I heard her set the bottle down and clear her throat, waiting. With a lacking optimism I brought goblet to my lips, inhaling the scent that already told of disappointment. Single sip was taken, swirled against gums and swallowed back with flick of tongue. It drew a feeble warm sensation down my throat momentarily before the tingle extinguished for good. Lifting my head I shook it slowly with a purse of lips. “Better than the last but nowhere near good enough” knocking back the rest just to confirm but my verdict stood. “Any other to sample?” I asked hopefully.
“I have the name of someone who may be able to help, one who deals in medicines from the Far East, collector of exotic plants…” she replied and could read the spark of hope she held for this was a promising avenue of enquiry. “He is abroad now but I have arranged to meet with him upon return, a few days yet”
I nodded holding the empty vessel toward her “Very well, I shall cope until then” my tone accepting, I’d waited long enough so another few days would not matter. For months we’d gone through the same routine near every day but were yet to find a substance that even began to compare to the noxious yet soothing, bliss-granting nectar of the black lotus.
She appeared at my side, her aura shimmering in hues of red and gold, like two snakes chasing each other in a rising spiral. As she took the goblet into her hand her fingertips touched mine, far cooler in comparison. Just for a moment. Slowly my head turned toward her and began to shake once more.
“No Shiloh, I will not…” pre-empting her offer with a firm tone as drummed my fingers upon arms of my chair.
“But…” I heard soft growl in her throat, her aura flared briefly before settling as she knelt at side of my chair and unknown to me ran hand through her hair. Her heart pulsed quickly, anticipation dashed. “I could help ease the pain, I don’t mind, how many times do I have to tell you I would not protest, I offer myself…” she tried to persuade before quickly adding “You know, just until we find the right substitute”
“No. Now do not ask again. It irks me” my voice still stern, almost snapping. I grew weary of these repetitive conversations. “And you know why” I added, head turning toward her, feeling her shrink back as if feeling the weight of my unseen stare.
“Yes yes, I know why” she mumbled in repetition, straightening with a huff much like a disgruntled teenager even if I’d never strictly given her the reasoning. “I’m going out” she sighed, as usual departing to spare me her mood, or perhaps to evade mine; slipping away with click of the door knowing well enough to not expect a response. I would not beg her to stay. She was not stupid despite continuing to make same offer each time fresh sampling brought disappointment. Sometimes she showed far too much duty for her own good.
I held uneasy feeling that one day I might not be able to refuse.
© Rachel Ellen, 2012