The Plight of Ilar í Sontir

Summary: Set at the end of "The White Road," Ilar watches the rescue boat leave with Seregil, Alec, Micum, and Rieser, and he weighs his options.

Warning: The Nightrunner Series is dark and fraught with images of death, cruelty, and adult themes. This story earns its "T" rating.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Nightrunner Series.


"Seregil! Seregil, don't leave me here! Please! Come back. Take me with you! You know what they'll do to me!"

Captain Urien, the head of security of the august Aurënfaie Ulan í Sathil, khirnari of Virésse, stared at this pathetic, pleading 'faie. "They're gone. Nothing we have will be suited up in time to catch them."

"But… but…" Ilar collapsed in a heap, covering his face as he wept.

The captain wasn't sure of the man's source of agitation, but he was a favored… Well, no one knew precisely what Khenir was to Ulan, but he stepped away respectfully. Once this outburst of emotion was through, he would take the wretched man back to Ulan.

Ilar thought a mile a minute. Seregil was gone! His last chance at… To be honest, even in his own mind, he wasn't sure what he wanted.

Ilban Yhakobin had been as kind a master as a Plenimaran 'faie slave ever could have. Ilar had been a slave in Plenimar for a very long time, and had many cruel masters who broke his body and spirit, leaving him castrated, heavily scarred, and… Ilar knew what it was to be thankful for a kind master, particularly one who saved him from the last one, who might have killed him. He was well favored, and he served this family well. He was the most beloved slave in the Yhakobin household, until that last horrible night.

Seregil was given to him as a gift – a slave of his own, even as he was a slave to Yhakobin. It was music to his ears to hear Seregil call him Ilban, the Plenimaran word for 'master.' Ilar beat and tormented him, resentful of the fact that Seregil was free for all those years, exiled though he was, and Ilar was a slave. But then… Seregil was a useful slave, and particularly tractable when he thought Ilar could help him save his lover Alec, Ilban's slave for the purposes of his pet project, creating the rhekaro.

But when Seregil escaped, having killed Rhania (Yhakobin's 'faie slave nurse for his children), Ilar – called Khenir, as slavery was a shame he could not stand to be known in his real name – was held responsible for the actions of his slave. He was beaten by Ilban, flogged by Ilban's other servants, salt was thrown on Ilar's wounds, and he would have been sent back to the slave markets. However, Seregil saved him from the fate of facing the markets again.

Seregil, and his talímenios Alec, took him with them as they escaped the house, escaping slavery altogether. But they left him alone – well, to be fair, that time he left them alone, because Ilban caught up to them. As beloved as he was (for a time, anyway), Ilar was just another slave, but Alec was something else. But without Ilban, without Seregil, Ilar was alone and went for days without shelter and resources. He was cold, and left to the elements, starved, and on his way to death until the servants of Ulan found him.

Ulan nursed him back to health, promising safety, promising protection, promising friendship, and as the things Ulan asked for became less tenable, he promised him Seregil again. But without the rhekaro and its magical healing, lung disease and old age were catching up to the Clan Leader of 270 years, who was over four centuries old. Even Ilar could see that without a magical healing, Ulan was not long for this world.

But Seregil! Ilar seduced him when Seregil was a teenager many decades ago. And for only a few short weeks, he had Seregil back in his grasp as a slave, and what a slave he was! Seregil massaged away his tensions. He rubbed his feet with rose oil. He was the perfect body slave. He… Ilar figured it out. Seregil touched him – gently, tenderly, and possibly even lovingly. It was the soft, gentle caresses he missed.

Seregil had Alec now. The blond ya'shel was a pretty thing, he certainly was. Most Aurënfaie were dark-haired, and perhaps it was the Tírfaie blood from his human father that caused the unusual but very pleasant coloring. The boy was fiercely loyal to his lover, and now he was just as loyal to that rhekaro.

What did Ilar care for that pale white creature, born from alchemy and bits of Alec? The rhekaro had the power to heal; it had the power to hurt. Ilban worked so hard to create it, and Ulan wanted to create one for himself. But they stole away the books that explained how to do it. They stole away Alec, who had the Hâzadriëlfaie blood in his veins (half-blood though it was) necessary to make it. And they stole away Seregil, the man Ilar loved. Now Ilar would never have the chance to prove… What did he want to prove?

Perhaps he wanted to prove that he was worthy of being loved. Not by means of trickery, as he did when Seregil was a boy. Not by means of coercion, as he did when Seregil was his slave. But just because he could. He would never have Seregil's heart; Alec had that. But he could, perhaps, be worthy to be a friend. Perhaps. But that was all over now. Seregil went away to Aura knew where.

So now what? The khirnari told him, 'Come back with the books, Ilar, or don't come back at all.' The books were gone. Alec was gone. Seregil was gone. And now, Ulan didn't want him back.

Without Ulan's protection, where was he to go? He couldn't simply go back to Aurënen. While Ulan promised to protect him, that was one thing. But without Ulan, he would be subject to dwai sholo for what he did to Seregil. For seducing him as a boy, for… Well, killing the man was young Seregil's invention, but if he didn't send Seregil to steal those diplomatic documents, that death at Seregil's hand would never have happened.

Any and all of that would be cause for the trial of dwai sholo, or Two Bowls. In a cell, the subject would have the option to choose to eat from one of the two bowls: one bowl's food would be perfectly fine, and the other bowl would be poisoned with wolfbane. The prisoner could choose not to eat, or if he chose the untreated food, he would live another day. And the bowls would again be presented the next day. This would go on for a year and a day. If he made it, he would be set free. But that was a big 'if.'

This year's gamble of dwai sholo made sense for those crimes. But the enslavement? While such a thing was perfectly acceptable in Plenimar, it was an abomination in Aurënen. The option for life might very well be taken away.

Never mind that Ulan intended to keep Alec as a slave, particularly for the making and maintenance of the rhekaro he intended to create from the boy. Ulan í Sathil was a powerful khirnari, and was a law unto himself.

Without Ulan, Aurënen was not an option.

Here in Plenimar, things hardly looked better. His continued good health was connected to Ulan, who rejected him. Otherwise, he was an Aurënfaie without a home, and prime prey for the slave takers. If he was taken and recognized, he would be discovered to be a runaway slave of Lord Charis Yhakobin, and was one of the three runaway slaves implicated in his master's murder, never mind that it was Seregil who killed Ilban.

Ilar heard tales of the dismemberment, the live disembowelment, the setting on fire of said bowels while they were out of the body but still attached, the eyes gouged out, and then finally the decapitation that was the punishment of a slave who killed his master. Such would be Ilar's fate if he were caught.

Without love, without prospects, without hope, he saw only one option. If he took it, it would be relatively painless. It would be shameless, as it would be private. No one would know until it was too late, and by then, no one would care.

Ilar removed his hands from his face, raised his head, and took a breath. "Captain?"

"Yes, Khenir." It was good to see the favored 'faie back in control of himself.

"I'm ready to go home." Well, such as it was. No one else knew of Ulan's displeasure with him.

As Captain Urien escorted him back to Ulan's home, Ilar reflected on his chosen slave name. It was a good cover in Virésse, where the name Ilar í Sontir was covered with shame. But here in Plenimar, the name Khenir was anathema, if the wrong people heard it. The danger was nearly at an end.

The good captain delivered him to the khirnari's library. "Captain, where is Ulan?"

"Hold on, let me check." He was a good sort. It was comforting to know that the last man Ilar would see in life was an Aurënfaie, just like Seregil.

"Thank you, but please don't let him know I'm back yet." The last thing Ilar needed was to be thrown out, before he could carry out his plan.

The captain came back. "The khirnari is resting."

"Very good. Captain Urien, can you get something for me?"

"If it is within my power."

Ilar smiled wryly. "I'm sure it will be. Please bring me a bowl of water and a cupful of wolfbane." Puzzled by this request , Urien raised his eyebrows, but retrieved the items. "Thank you, Captain. Now, please leave me." Urien saluted and returned to his post.

Ilar only needed to drink the mixture, and then he could rest. No one could hurt him anymore.


Glossary

Aurënen and Plenimar – two countries in the world of the Nightrunner Series

Virésse – a territory in Aurënen

Khirnari – an Aurënfaie Clan Leader, and governor of one of the territories of Aurënen

Aurënfaie – ('faie for short) a magical people, not too dissimilar from Tolkien Elves. Their natural life span is approximately 400 years or so.

Tírfaie – average human, in the Aurënfaie language. It literally means 'short-lived folk'.

Ya'shel – the polite Aurënfaie word to describe a half-blood, a person with one Aurënfaie parent and one Tírfaie parent

Hâzadriëlfaie – a tribe of Aurënfaie that has more magical properties in their blood than others.

Rhekaro – a magical creature created by alchemy. The most important ingredients in its creation are the blood and other life fluids of a Hâzadriëlfaie. A rhekaro's blood (or what passes for blood) dropped in water can create flowers that heal wounds and other illness.

Talímenios – Aurënfaie word for 'lover' or 'life partner.'

Ilban – Plenimaran word for 'master'

Dwai sholo – Aurënfaie punishment of Two Bowls. It is defined in the text of the story.