Red Dragon Inn
Dreamweaver's Lair => From the Dragon's Mouth => Tales of the Cat => Topic started by: Panther on February 06, 2008, 09:10:28 PM
It was a bit after 11 as he crossed the bridge and turned up the road that would take him to the Red Dragon Inn. It had been a slow walk back to town. S'jira had dozed off to a fitful sleep as he carried her.
He entered the Dragon from a back door, pausing only briefly to speak with one of the stable hands. Making the arrangements for the other half of the promised gold to be sent southward. A description of Gracus and his men was given, along with a message of thanks and some extra gold for the tavern keep there.
Then up the rear staircase he went, taking her to his room. Somehow, with her still in his arms, he managed to pull back the covers and lay her in the bed without waking her.
As he stood there for a few moments, just looking down at her, he could only imagine the pain Gracus had inflicted on her in the short time she had been taken. He knew there were wounds that would need attention, but for now, if she was able to sleep he figured it best to let her.
He could use some himself, he though, as he moved to the large arm-chair near the foot of the bed. He turned it from it's usual position facing the window so it faced the bed and slumped down in to it. After a moment of trying to get comfortable, he reached behind his back and pulled the large knife from it's sheath and dropped it to the floor beside the chair before settling back again.
He sat there, watching her. Watching the slight rise and fall of her chest with each breath. It was not sounding as bad as it had last night. Hopefully the ribs, if any were broke, would heal ok.
He was relieved that he was able to return without anyone getting hurt. Not that he had not wanted to tear into everyone in that camp... but the risk of S'jira getting hurt, or worse, was too great. He knew Gracus, or at least his type. He doubted this was the last he would hear of him. It may be a while, but he was sure he would get an opportunity to turn the tables on him at some point.
His gaze stayed on her, watching her, until they finally drifted closed and he too got some much needed rest.
Hours. Or had it been days.
The small one simply didn't know. Passage of time had seemed to crawl once Gracus and his men had taken her, then held her withn the camp.
Darkness had fallen by the time she had woken, though she couldn't be certain if it was the same day Panther had come for her.
It was a thought that seeped into her consciousness slugishly. Perhaps she had drempt that Panther had been there, speaking with Gracus. She could have well still been within the tent.
Her hand moved, the back of it passing against the bed and the coverings. Sheets, more than pelts. The next breath stilled and an emotional lump formed within her throat. Again, she felt her hand against the bedding to find sheets there.
Hurriedly, she sat up with the excitement of being anywhere but Gracus' tent. The pain in her side smarted and she stilled yet another breath as it hit her. When it subsided, she blinked away a few tears and stared up at the darkness.
To think it was her room, she moved very slowly to sit up on the edge of the bed. The feel of the shift was unfamiliar and a bit too large for her. Ghetra's, it was thought even as she stopped gritting her teeth against her sore side.
Being parched, she finally left the side of the bed but it seemed to take forever to put her feet to the cool floor beside the bed. For a time more, she stood there, with her hand upon the bed and coverings to allow herself to get her barings.
Moonlight filtered through the window. It was a ghostly sight. But it wasn't what made the small one frown. The window was in the wrong place. And it was not her room.
Sounds, the rustle of cloth, a slight gasp cut short. They came to him during his dreamless sleep.
His ear twitched and his eyes slivered open. Those were the only movements made by him. Quickly they adjusted to the now dark room, slivers of light filtering in as the moon was rising over nearby roof-tops.
" 'jira..." He spoke quietly as he saw her pause, seated on the edge of the bed.
Opening his eyes fully he shifted in the chair, sitting up.
'How... are you?' he asked as he looked to her, suddenly quite unsure of what to do next.
Her head turned swiftly, her eyes searching the darkness not far from the bed.
"Panther?" Voice of hers, though quiet, was filled with emotion still stirring within her.
But his voice told her who it was. And it must have been in his room that she stood. Bare feet padded against the cool flooring as she stepped to the end of the bed. Her hand did not leave the bed or its coverings yet.
It took her eyes much longer to see what he could easily enough in the dark. But she finally managed to see him in the faint, moonlight that seeped in by way of that window.
How she wanted to throw her arms about his neck, to hold to him. But he had not moved. "What is injured will heal." For him, that hope intoned from her on a quiet exhale. "Remembered is talk of payment. You were not harmed, were you?"
Concern bled into her voice just a bit, her hand offered out towards him where he sat within the chair.
He almost scowled at her words.
'No. Nobody was hurt.' He stood and took a step towards her. 'I do not think he will be bothering you again. If he knows what is good for him.'
Reaching out, he brushed a few stray bits of hair from her face, finger tips lingering a moment as they stroked down her cheek.
He turned and stuck a flint, lighting a lamp on the nearby dresser.
'I am glad you are back, but you should get cleaned up, and we should tend to any...wounds.' He motioned to the tub in the adjacent room, 'Go. Take your time. I will go get some of your clothes and bring them here... and some food.' He lit a taper from the lamp and held it out for her to take with her.
As he held the lit candle out towards her, she stepped in to embrace him. It was a slight and brief thing. A creature of emotion, little could ever be kept too deep beneath the surface and she acted upon them.
The candle was minded in that short-lived, though gently gained hug. Words were lost in times like these. She failed at them, no good at them at all. Touch lifted as she stepped back and took the taper from him.
A glance to the adjacent room, she moved towards it. Muscles and flesh complained with the merest effort of movements. Her stomach protested in the otherwise quiet room, growling loudly at just the mention of food; glad that she was stepping into that next room so that it wasn't too loud.
The candle was used to light the lamps that were in the bathing room. Then, for a moment or two she stood there to just look about at what he had within the room. The bath, the bench, and more. The bench drew her attention and she eased herself down upon it for a short while.
With Panther to step out soon to get clothing and food, she rested there while the bath was drawn.
When the water was drawn, she watched the ruddy play of light from the lamps against the walls.
There had been a time when she would have eagerly gone back to that way of life. Eagerly and without much of a pause. But Gracus had helped seal something that the small one did not know there was even the most minute crack left in: she did not ever want to go back to the tribes again, especially as what she was.
Tinted fingerstips curled over the side of the small bench as she slowly gained her feet. The broken rib was giving her a great deal of pain, but the bath was needed and the heat of it, even more.
Somehow, she was in the bath, with the water up about her chest and shoulders. Half-slumped and trying to gain a full breath again after the wave of pain, she remembered the whelts that littered her skin.
He had come for her. Panther had taken the risk of life and limb to do so. A risk that could very well have involved it upon others, and still could. Worry settled a bit into her heart even as her form eased.
Would he rid himself of her the first chance he had to ensure the safety of those better known to him? Would Gracus leave as bargained to?
Her head ached and spun with the thoughts.
He stepped out of the room. Closing the door behind him, he leaned back against it. His head was swimming with thoughts that raced in many different directions.
He had been trying to deny what he had been feeling, but after the last few days he was not sure how much longer he could. The thought of her being taken and hurt, or worse. The fighting he did with himself to keep from just springing in to that camp... the fight now to keep from just going and hunting them down anyways.
The fact that he was here, tending to her instead of doing just that was maybe the most telling thing of all.
A slow breath was let out and pushed from the lean and moved downstairs. A few hellos were exchanged as he moved through the common room to the kitchen, only to emerge shortly with a plate stacked with smoked meat, cheese, and fruit, along with a half-loaf of bread. A couple of mugs were hooked on a finger by their handles and a bottle of juice was grabbed with the other hand before he left the bar area and moved back upstairs.
Passing his own room, he moved down the hall to hers and let himself in. There was a lightweight gown or something laid out on the end of the bed, a night-shirt perhaps? He tucked the bottle under the arm holding the plate and grabbed it before stepping out again.
Upon returning to his room he could smell and feel the warm moisture in the air. The plate, mugs and bottle were set on the long dresser across from the bed, the night-shirt on it at the edge nearest the doorway.
After grabbing some meat and cheese and an apple, he returned to the chair, leaning back in to it and put his feet up on the chest at the foot of the bed. He tried to keep his mind from wandering too much as he picked at the food and waited for her to finish with her bath.
When she had soaked long enough for the whelts to be numb, she wrapped her hand over the tub and managed to stand. A faint whimper left her, then a rushed exhale though the pain did not last as long this time.
A towel was used to dry herself well, then worked slowly on her hair. Shivering, she kept the towel in near self until she reached the doorway. A look about swiftly found him in the chair, the sight of the food and drink that he had brought.. and the shift. Her hand reached for it from the very edge of the dresser and slipped, with it, back into the bathing room.
"You are so quiet." Soft tones lifted just a little, though in afterthought it wasn't necessary with him. She grew quiet longer than a moment's pause as thoughts held her in distraction. The shift was pulled over her head and down about her form. Touch lifted her damp lengths of dark hair from against her back until they rested against the back of the garment. As she stepped into the doorway, her hands tended the towel against her hair some more where droplets were. "I.. am sorry."
To have used that singular, selfish word when it came to herself was monumental. And terribly difficult for her to utter. Her head lowered a bit, but her gaze was still on him where he rested within the chair.
He was aware of where she was at all times. From the sounds of her breathing to the scents that drifted out of the adjoining room. Her footsteps, approaching, then retreating.
"You are so quiet." he heard her say.
He turned slightly as she approached the doorway again, just in time to look to her face as she spoke again. "I.. am sorry."
A brief flash of anger passed through him. Not towards her, but towards the one who could put her through such, and yet make her feel as if it was her fault.
Standing, he moved towards the dresser. "You have nothing to be sorry for 'jira." He steered her towards the chair before grabbing the plate of food and sitting on the chest at the foot of the bed, holding the plate to her in offering.
"You... " The words were not coming easy... they had been in the back of his mind for awhile, and they were reluctant to yet come forward. "you mean so much to me. I am sorry I could not get there sooner, that I could not have prevented it from happening. But it is over now."
He watched her take a few tentative bites of food. "It pains me to think of what you went through, and I will do everything I can to make sure you never have to go through that again."
Worriment was borne within that dark gaze of hers.
She gingerly adjusted her seating within his chair, favoring her side. The food was tried, but for ears to hear his words made it difficult to swallow some of the bites.
As he said the latter, her left hand lifted to meet with the side of his face. "It was thought these eyes would never see you again. Then, your voice was heard.. " At the corner of her mouth, a slight smile was there but it faded with the seriousness of matters. Though she meant to speak, it took her a few moments. Touch lingered and when it finally moved away, she winced.
"There must be more asked of you, it is feared. One rib, at least, it bringing pain and there's not enough strength in these hands tonight to bind ribs to heal without help.."
She knew well his thoughts were on else, as were hers ...save every half-ful breath she took.
He nodded and move to the other room. From one of the wardrobes he fetched some bandaging material and a clean towel. "Stand up please..." he said as he came back in to the main room. As she did, he took a seat on the edge of the bed and motioned her close.
"You will need to get rid of this for the moment..." he motioned to the night shirt he had brought for her, and held out the towel "... so you don't freeze entirely."
She took the towel, and as the night dress was lifted over her shoulders, the towel was wrapped about her waist. He tried not to stare, but his gaze could not help but linger on the exposed curves for a moment before he had her step closer. Reaching out his fingers traced the ribs under a rather large bruise on her side.
His hand nearly flinched aside as she let him know he found the 'one' with a sharp intake of her breath. His eyes moved to hers, "I think it is just cracked. It seems to still be in place. Mostly."
He moved his hands to her hips and turned her about, scowling at the welts across her back. Fortunately, they did not seem to be too deep, and the bath seemed to have cleaned them well.
'We will need to keep an eye on these for the next few days... '
He started winding the long bandage about her mid-section, pausing to have her take a few deep breaths now and again to make sure he was not binding it too tight. In just a few minutes the ribs were tightly wrapped, the end of the bandaged tucked in to keep it in place.
'There. You should take it off for a bit in the morning, then we can re-do it about mid-day.'
It was difficult to stand so close without even the merest garment on her. The towel had possibly been meant to ease them both, but it only proved to get in the way of the bandaging that needed to be done. As he spoke, she nodded, not trusting her voice for a while. She could only imagine how her back looked from the thrashing she had endured under Gracus' quirt.
More difficult was to not react, to know that his gaze was on her or that his touch was so near. But to do so might well have sent him for the door, and sent him looking for one of the women who helped with the inn who could help him finish the task. After those first few, deep breaths she found the cloth helping to keep her very breaths within limits to keep the pain from being so prominant. When the end was tucked up into place, she nodded at his instruction.
Her head had turned the while that he worked at bringing the cloth about her ribs, cheeks heated. When the bandage was in place, she slowly lifted the shift over her head again and slid it back into place.
Silence held for a time until, her voice a little unsteady when she finally ruined the quiet. "Thank you..very much, Panther." The towel in one hand, her other lifted to greet his forearm lightly beside the woven, leather item about his wrist as earlier words of his were recalled. "Going back to those ways was not a wanted thing." Fingerstips wrapped a little firmer against the side of his wrist, giving it a slight squeeze as gaze lifted to find his face. Lips parted, as if to say more, but she stilled the thoughts and offered as best a smile as she could muster.
"Tomorrow, at midday, you will be sought for more help with the bandages.. " Her hand moved to slip away. "What will you do? About Gracus?"
'Do?' He took the towel from her, rising to move to the door to the other room, her fingers trailing from his wrist as he did. He tossed the towel with the others for the laundry. He turned and looked back to her. 'It is nothing you need to worry about. He will not risk his own life to return. And I think he knows I will find him should he try to send others.'
'Either way,' he said as he took a step back to her, sliding his arms lightly about her shoulders, drawing her into an embrace, 'it is not something you need to worry over.'
His head tipped forward slightly as she looked up at him, and he brushed a kiss to her forehead and softly spoke, 'I will not lose you like that.'
With the kiss to her forehead, dark eyes lulled closed for a brief moment then sought his face and gaze again.
"Time worrying on it will not be wasted, then." Another smile was given, this time a little more at ease before she brought her cheek against his shoulder. There, she listened to the sound of his breathing and the beat of his heart through his chest. "It is much better spent on other things."
A slight shiver of form before a yawn snuck up on her. Touch lifted to cover her mouth, laughing at how sudden it had caught her. Only to wince a little through her smile for laughing and bringing a mere complaint from her sore side.
"Sleep should be sought." Smiling a little up to him, though weariness was in her gaze.
Taking a deep breath, he let her scent wash over him, ending up somewhat lost in the moment. Until she spoke..
'Sleep?' A nod.
Slowly he unfolded his arms from about her and took her hand in his. 'Stay here, with me?' It was no order, but a simple request. One he should have made weeks, if not months ago.
She had nearly stepped away when his hand caught hers. Before him, she stood to look up again to him with a question in those dark eyes. A question he answered with that request.
Fingers curled over the side of his hand. "Yes." Gently, it was answered but upon something closer to that of a whisper. "Yes," To say it again, lest it was not heard the first time. That simple request found an important portion of her heart and made her smile because of it.
Another yawn ruined the moment and she smiled a little more even as she shook her head. Her other hand met with his jaw before she moved to withdraw. Consideration was given to his bed, then moved towards it.
Its coverings were moved aside, long enough to manage a climb into it. Then drew the sheet and blanket against self.
After extinguishing the lamp, he slid under the covers as well, an arm was slid about her shoulders as he moved to get comfortable against the pillows.
He nearly whispered... and then lay there, feeling her nestled against him, listening to her breathing, breathing in her scent... until he drifted off to sleep himself.