Author Topic: Druid and Guardian  (Read 451 times)


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« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2019, 02:14:38 PM »
Greylin's smile only deepened as she reached down to pick Peppercorn up, arms full of cheerful raccoon within seconds. Queenie and Chipper considered Kal for a moment, their chirping taking on more of a questioning tone. It seemed as though they were asking if they were allowed to come home too.

Though Kal didn't understand Sparrow, he somehow seemed to sense what they were asking. "There are plenty of trees where we're going. I'm sure you would be very happy there," he assured the pair, before going to gather the fish to take home and retrieve his sword.

It took a moment, but as Kal straightened once again, he found himself the pedestal for a pair of sparrows, one on each shoulder. They were certainly going to make for an interesting sight going back to their new home.

Kal chuckled as the birds lit onto his shoulders. "Are you sure we aren't bringing home pets?" he asked Greylin with an amused gleam in his eyes and a smile on his face.

She certainly looked like a child carrying her pet. Peppercorn was bigger than she had seemed at first, all but enveloping Greylin's torso, nosing underneath the drow's hair to tease and chitter at Jester, nestled in the cloak's hood. As for Greylin herself, she was beaming, quietly delighted with the outcome of the day. "They can have a home with us for as long as they want it."

"I'd say that's a yes," he pointed out, with a grin, wondering what the villagers were going to say when they saw them coming back with a few furry and feathered friends. He had no idea what they were going to do with them, but he had a feeling things would all work out. It was a good thing they had the day to themselves, as they had a lot of settling in to do.

It seemed as though the guards on duty around the perimeter of Anarven were as good as their word. No one was lingering near the new druidic cottage to accost the drow as they returned. Greylin's smile had faded as they grew closer to the village, gone entirely by the time they were in sight of the stockade. It appeared that her smile was something she shared only with those she felt safe to share it with, and Kalan'ar was at the top of that list of one.

Kal's expression, too, sobered the closer they got to the village. He had been living there for some time and hadn't encountered many problems, but there was always one or two who were less friendly than others. Still, this was his home as much as theirs, and Anarven prided itself on being a peaceful community that welcomed all those who wished to live there, so long as they were willing to keep that peace. Though Kal tended to keep to himself, he was quietly happy to have made a few friends, even if they were furred and feathered, and was looking forward to getting to know Greylin better. He quietly led the way back to the little cottage that had been built for them, pausing outside as if unsure what to do about their new friends.

"Well, this is it," he said, addressing the animals that seemed to have adopted the pair of drow.

"You don't have to come inside," Greylin added to his address, bending to set Peppercorn on her paws and lift Jester down as well. "We could leave a window open, couldn't we?" she asked Kal in a curious tone.

"I suppose," Kal said, a little uncertainly. He wasn't sure he liked the idea of leaving a window open and risking something other than animals getting inside. "I could make a small door so that they could come and go as they please," he suggested.

"What about the birds?" she asked, tilting her head, unaware that the sparrows were mimicking her on his shoulders. Then she shook her head. "This is a problem for tomorrow. We can work around things for tonight, yes?"

Kal wasn't so sure the birds would want to come inside very often, but it would be simple enough to let them in if they came tapping at the window. "I think so, yes," he agreed. They didn't have to sort everything out in a single day. "For now, I think a change of clothes and these," he said, holding up the fish.

"Yes," she agreed, reaching to push open the door and step inside. Jester and Peppercorn hopped in after her, each scurrying in opposite directions to explore the unexpectedly large space beyond on their own terms.

"Why don't you change while I, uh ... get the fish ready to be cooked?" he asked, not quite as eloquently as he'd have liked. There wasn't much point in him changing clothes until the smelly business of descaling and gutting the fish was finished.

"All right." Greylin seemed tired, though they had not done so much today. Still, she had been a bird for most of the last year, and she had walked a long way today. "I will not be long," she promised, removing her cloak to hang it by the door and setting her staff on the shelf there.

He wasn't expecting her to give in so easily, but was pleased that she had. He didn't think she'd want to witness what he had to do to get the fish ready for cooking. Maybe in time, but not just yet. "I won't be long either," he promised, with a soft smile reserved just for her.

In answer to his smile, her own lips curved, her expression soft and girlish for just a moment before she ducked away. A ghost of a giggle came back to him as she all but skipped through the door to the adjoining bedrooms, leaving him in the main space under Jester's curious eyes.

Kal's smiled deepened as he watched her scamper away, giggling like a girl, and he shook his head in amusement before realizing he was being watched by the ferret. "What?" he asked, unsure why the creature was staring his way. Was it the fish that had caught his attention or had he sensed Kal's mood? "Come on, Jester. We have a job to do," he said, heading back outside to properly gut the fish.

By the time Greylin returned to them, dressed now in a warm sleeveless shift, feet bare once more and hair unbound, the fish had been gutted and deboned, ready to be cooked, and she never need know that Jester and Peppercorn had gobbled up the entrails, intestines, and roe that had spilled out during the messy process. She smiled up at Kal. "What should I do while you are getting dry?"

"Can you find us a pan to cook the fish in?" he asked, unsure if she knew her way around a kitchen enough to do that. He had the fish wrapped in paper to carry back inside for cooking. Fortunately, Jester and Peppercorn had taken care of the mess for him.

"Of course I can," Greylin assured him confidently, managing to hide the fact that she wasn't entirely sure what she was being asked to do. "I will find something for the birds to eat, too."

"I'm sure they can find their own food," he assured her, though the birds might appreciate a smattering of seeds. "I need to clean up," he told her, stating the obvious. Not only were his clothes still wet from the stream, but now they also smelled like fish guts.

"Yes, you should," she agreed amiably. "You smell terrible." It wasn't meant as an insult or comment on his cleanliness; just an agreement that he was not pleasantly fragrant at this moment. She smiled up at him, twisting her hair over her shoulder, and turned to hunt around the kitchen for something that looked suitable to cook a fish in.

He chuckled, looking over at Jester and Peppercorn as Greylin disappeared back into the house. "I guess she told me," he said, as if they understood. Thankfully, Kal had noticed a hot spring running in back of the little house, and that was where Kal went to wash up, rather than going inside and having to pump water. He couldn't have picked a better place for a house, with the woods and the spring nearby, just far enough from the village to ensure a little privacy.

Peppercorn went with him to wash up, the little raccoon apparently fastidious about being clean herself, splashing in the warm water delightfully to amuse him. And from inside the little house came the sound of singing - Greylin singing, not in Undercommon, but in Sylvan, an elvish dialect from their shared home world she could not possibly have learned from the drow. Proof that she had at least made friends among other slaves, however briefly, during her tenure as a prisoner of her own people. The song was gentle and slow, a ballad that likely told a story of love, and her voice was a little shaky but sweet and pure in tone. It seemed as though she might be learning what happiness was.

Given that he was going to change his clothes, Kal didn't bother rolling the sleeves of his tunic up, plunging his hands into the water and scrubbing the remains of the fish from his hands as best he could. The raccoon chittered at him, and he looked down to find that his tunic needed a good scrubbing, too. He paused a moment at the sound of singing coming from somewhere nearby and realized with amazement that it had to be Greylin, singing a song that spoke of happiness and sunshine. He smiled as he listened, her voice and the song sweetly pleasant to his ears. Entranced by the music, he almost forgot what he was doing, before Peppercorn wandered over to poke him with a paw, drawing him out of his reverie.

The song halted briefly, and Greylin called to the little raccoon, who went scurrying off in answer to her newly given name. She wasn't gone long, returning with a hop and a skip, and a bundle of towels and fresh clothing for Kalan'ar, all wrapped up in a sheet to protect them from the dirt on the ground.

By the time the raccoon got back, Kal had stripped out of his tunic and was scrubbing it clean in the stream, the sun warm on his bare back, despite the cool breeze. He might have stripped down to nothing and immersed himself in the water, but he was still a little too self-conscious of the very female voice singing in the kitchen. As it was he was taking a chance at her catching sight of him, the evidence of the many years spent as a slave clearly seen in the scars that marked his torso, though they had become such a part of him that he paid them little heed these days..

Peppercorn chittered at him insistently, throwing the bundle down next to the spring, and returning to rubbing the warm water over her face and fur. Inside the house, the singing resumed, punctuated every now and then with a chirp or trill from their new sparrow friends.

"Yes, I know. I need a bath. I promise I'll take one later," Kal promised the raccoon, though he wasn't entirely sure that was what the little creature was telling him. At least, he had noticed the towels and the change of clothes he knew hadn't come from the raccoon. He glanced at the little house, wondering for a moment what it would be make a home here - a real home, with a wife and children and their animal friends. Could it happen? Could he ever be that lucky?
"The Dark Lady smiles on those who see the deeper beauty within."

- Lords of Waterdeep


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« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2019, 02:15:10 PM »
There was a reason she was known as The Mother - a guiding hand that could be harsh or gentle, but always knew best for those she watched over. Who knew how long she had been watching Kalan'ar, how long she had been waiting for Greylin to find the surface? It seemed her plan had been to bring them together, like this. What else could she have planned for? A flutter of wings drew his attention to Queenie alighting on a low branch over the water. She fluffed herself up imperiously and chirruped at him. Perhaps it was time to go inside.

It wasn't only the sparrow, but the rumbling in his stomach that reminded him he had some cooking to do. "Very well," he called to the bird. "I haven't forgotten!" He grabbed a towel, rubbing himself dry, before donning a fresh tunic, and hanging the wet tunic and towels to dry on a low branch. That done, he started back toward the house feeling a least a little less smelly, if not entirely bathed.

Inside the house, the smell of frying fish made itself known, drawing the eye to where Greylin was prodding at the fish in a skillet over the fire as it cooked and sizzled. Chipper was on the mantle, watching her, and Jester was on her shoulder, watching the fish with fascinated interest.

"You started without me," Kal said, looking surprised, the smell of cooking fish significantly better than gutting fish, enough to make his stomach rumble noisily. He looked just a little crestfallen, as he'd promised to teach her how to do it, and yet, there she was figuring it all out on her own. He wasn't sure if he should feel pleased or disappointed.

"I wanted to see if I could do something for you," she offered, looking over at him worriedly. "Should I not have done it? I am probably doing it wrong."

"No, no," he was quick to point out, not wanting to upset her. "It's all right. I just didn't think you knew how," he explained, moving over to inspect the fish as it sizzled in the skillet. There wasn't much she could do to ruin it really, other than burn it.

"I have never cooked before," she admitted in embarrassment. "It will probably not taste as nice as it would if you had cooked it. But I watched you cook yesterday. You put things in the pot over the fire, and it cooked."

"It's not hard," he assured her, though he knew some thought cooking almost a form of art. He had never had much time to experiment in the kitchen. Cooking had always been more about nourishment and necessity than about skill and creativity. "I am not a very good cook, but I no longer go hungry," he admitted, a bit sheepishly.

"It is stuck to the pan," she reported, prodding at the cooked fish with a spatula she had found. "Is it supposed to do that?" His comment hadn't gone unnoticed, but she didn't know enough to be able to agree or disagree.

"Here, let me," he offered, his fingers accidentally brushing against hers as he reached for the spatula, moving to change places with her. He thought his heart stopped for a moment as their fingers touched, but he made no mention of it.

It was almost a pity he didn't comment on it, because she, too, felt the unexpected shock of intimacy in that careless touch. It took a moment for her to give up the spatula, her cheeks flushing dark for a moment before she forced her fingers to let go and stepped back. Her other hand touched his back hesitantly as they switched places, standing close to watch as he took over the cooking.

He was all too aware of her touch, as faint and fleeting as it was, struggling to keep his quickening pulse in check. He, too, felt his face flush, too self-conscious of his own reaction to notice the mirrored reaction in her.

"You-you just have to flip it more often," he said, stammering a little, evidence of his nervousness, as close to her as he was.

She finally seemed to notice that her proximity was causing him problems, drawing back and placing her hands very firmly behind her back. "I am sorry," she apologized. "I forgot that people do not like to be touched without warning."

People, his mind echoed. Was he just people? He had never thought of himself that way - apart and different from almost everyone else who called Anarven home but for Greylin, who was just like him. "I do not mind your touch, little bird," he assured her, as he used the spatula to scrape the fish from the pan and flip it over. "I am just ... not used to being touched, I suppose," he said with a faint shrug. There was more to it than that, but he was still trying to figure that part out.

She considered this for a moment, but leaned closer, as though imparting a secret. "I am a very strange slave," she confided in him. "I did not like to be touched by the mistresses and the masters. But I liked to be held by people who would not hurt me. I do not mind your touch, either, Kalan'ar."

"Because it is different to be touched by those you-you care for, Greylin," he tried to explain, stammering a little in his explanation, but that was because being so close to her still made him nervous. There was little of that in the Underdark for him. Slaves were usually too exhausted or hurting to spend much time caring for each other.

"I do not want to make you uncomfortable," she promised, drawing back with a faint light of disappointment in her eyes. "I will not touch you unless you ask me to. I do not wish to distress you with my touch. I know I am ... unclean."

Kalan'ar frowned, not just because she was misunderstanding him, but because she seemed to think herself less than worthy of his friendship. He sighed as he slid the fish onto a plate and turned to face her. "Greylin, you are not unclean, and you do not make me uncomfortable," he assured her.

"But I am a whore," she pointed out. There was no obvious shame in her as she said it; just a sense of disappointment that she could not be worthy of the kind man who did not seem to mind being forced to look after her.

Kal's eyes flashed with anger at her words, though that anger was not directed at her, so much as at those who had hurt her and used her and made her feel less than worthy. "No, you are not," he said, his tone of voice leaving no room for argument. "I do not care what they told you or what they made you do. You were a slave, just as I was a slave. You did what you had to do to survive. And now, you are free."

"I am sorry," she murmured, ducking her head. "I did not mean to distress you. I will not speak." A lifetime of self-protection through silence and obedience was not going to be corrected within a day.

"Greylin," he said, gentling his voice. "Do you know what it means to be free? Do you remember?" he asked, daring to tip her chin upwards to meet his gaze. Yes, the fish still needed to be cooked and eaten, but it was important that she understood this.

Her head rose with his touch, violet eyes looking at him with contrite uncertainty. "To have no mistress," she whispered. "No orders. I ... I do not know what else."

"It means you are free to do and say whatever you wish, so long as you do not harm anyone," he said, though he didn't think he needed to add that caveat to his statement. "If I do not wish to be touched, I will tell you, and if you say something that offends me, I will tell you. I want you to be happy, Greylin. I am not your Master. I am your friend."

She gazed into his eyes, her uncertainty fading as he spoke, trust rising to fill her expression as she looked up at him. "Will ... could you ... hold me?" she asked hesitantly. "I ... no one has for so long, and ..." She looked down again, oddly ashamed of herself for asking.

A single brow arched upwards in surprise at her request. As awkward and strange as it made him feel, he could not find bear to deny her request. Her timing could have been better, as they were both hungry, but there was no harm in waiting a little bit longer to feed her.

"I can do that," he told her, lifting his arms but pausing a moment before he awkwardly slid his arms around her and pulled her into his embrace.

She went so willingly into the circle of his arms, her own rising to wrap about his waist as she burrowed into him, breathing in his scent and sighing with what might have been contentment. No doubt he felt her tension flee as she leaned into him, closing her eyes to enjoy the sensation of having someone who cared just a little about her close enough to squeeze.

Thankfully, he no longer smelled of fish or the forge, though there was a faint smell of the wild about him - of the stream and the woods and the springtime air. He felt warm and solid, surprisingly more solid that one might expect from the looks of him. As for her, she felt soft and strangely fragile in his arms, as though if he were not careful, she might break. He could almost feel her heart beating against his chest, and he closed his eyes to savor a moment which might never come again. He could not remember when he had last held someone like this or when he had last been held, but there was a strange familiarity to it, and a strange sort of comfort.

She had forgotten the ferret on her shoulder. Jester appeared to be enjoying the embrace as well, scrambling up over Kalan'ar's chest to his shoulder to rub his whiskered face against the dark elf's jaw affectionately.

It was Jester's scratchy caress that distracted Kal from his thoughts, chuckling as he turned his head to find the ferret vying for a little attention of his own. "I like you, too, Jester," he assured the creature, loosening his embrace so that he could scritch the ferret's head.

Feeling his arms loosen around her, Greylin raised her head, loosening her own grasp. She giggled softly at the sight of Jester claiming his own affection. "Did I make our meal go cold?"

"It's all right," he told her. There was always an abundance of food in the village, and no one ever had to go hungry. "Why don't you see if you can find us some water, while I finish cooking the fish?" he asked. "It won't take long."
"The Dark Lady smiles on those who see the deeper beauty within."

- Lords of Waterdeep


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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2019, 02:17:56 PM »
"All right." Seemingly reassured by just a few moments of warm contact, Greylin turned to Peppercorn. "There must be water somewhere, mustn't there? Shall we find some?" The two of them scampered off, leaving Kal with Jester on his shoulder to keep him company.

"I think she likes me," Kal said, once he was left alone with the ferret and the cooking. There was a smile on his face again, feeling strangely warm inside after their brief embrace. He broke off a piece of fish from the plate, and offered it to his furry friend, before going about cooking up the rest of their meager meal.

There was bread, left by the villagers, and Greylin found a natural spring with Peppercorn's help, filling a heavy jug with the ice-cold water to bring it back to Kalan'ar. Meager or not, it was a feast to her. She wouldn't be very likely to be able to eat more than a few mouthfuls at a time for a while.

Upon her return, she'd find two places set at the table, each with a plate of fish, a knife, fork, and cup. The table setting wasn't fancy by any means, but it was more than either had been privy to in the Underdark. Despite the meagerness of the meal, Kal couldn't help but feel a swell of pride that this was theirs and that they had caught and cooked the fish on their own.

The sight of the table set for them both brought a bright smile to her face as she set the jug down, bouncing on her toes for a moment, clenching her fists to keep herself from embracing him again without his permission. "Thank you, Kal."

"For what?" he asked, brows arching upwards curiously. She need not thank him for cooking, when he had to eat, as well. He moved to take the jug, so that he could fill their glasses, nodding his head for her to sit.

"For staying." She smiled once again, the expression softer now, and eased herself down into the seat he indicated, watching him pour out the water. Whether she was anxious to eat or not, she was quite prepared to wait for him to be ready before she took up her knife and fork.

He frowned back, but only because he was a little confused what she meant by that. "Where would I go?" he asked, with a shrug of his shoulders. While it was true he could go back to his shop and his life at the forge, why would he when the Mother had given him all this? She seemed to have chosen him for a greater purpose and wanted something more for him. Why would he ignore that and abandon Greylin to return to a life that had been simple and peaceful, but lonely? Once he was finished filling their glasses, he broke off a hunk of bread and set it on her plate before doing the same for himself.

"You did not have to make me your responsibility," she reminded him gently. "You did not have to agree to look after me. Am I not allowed to be grateful that a kind man chose to become my guardian in a world I know so little of?"

"Should I not be grateful, too?" he asked as he took a seat at the table. "You did not have to agree to allowing me to be your guardian, to staying here with you, to helping look after you," he said, as if all that was more privilege than responsibility. It had been the Mother who had tasked him with it, but Greylin had not complained or denied him it.

"But my agreement is not selfless," she pointed out in a soft tone. "I know very little about living. It is a good thing for me to have someone looking over me. But I am very glad it is you."

"I do not know if I will be a good teacher, Greylin, but I will try," he promised with a serious expression on his face. "Now," he said, that expression softening into a smile. "Eat before it gets cold."

Her head bobbed in agreement, lithe fingers picking up her fork to pick out the flaked flesh before her and eat with dainty bites. After her reaction to a full meal last night, she was very careful to eat slowly and pay attention to how full her stomach felt, but it was no great hardship. Not when she kept pausing to watch Kal eating across from her.

They ate in watchful silence of the other, as if speaking might break the spell. Hungry as he was, Kal had to force himself to slow down, so that she didn't feel rushed or pressured to eat more than her fill. He easily ate twice as much as she did, devouring it hungrily, even as he tried to keep a slower pace. Whatever was left went to Jester and Peppercorn, whose name was probably going to get shortened to simply Pepper before too long.

Queenie and Chipper were on the table as the two elves ate, attacking the bread to remove the seeds from the crust and eat them. Greylin smiled to see the animals so comfortable in a home that had not even existed a day ago, though that smile became shy again as she glanced at Kalan'ar. "I-I have never slept on my own."

Others might have scolded the pair of birds or shooed them from the table, but Kal and Greylin seemed to welcome their company, happy to share the meager meal with their woodland friends. Kal was just washing his meal down with a swig of water when Greylin broke the silence.

"Never?" Kal asked, brows arching upwards again.

She shook her head, silver white hair swaying about her face as she absently stroked Chipper's head with one finger. "Never," she confirmed softly. "When I was a child, I slept with my sisters, and ... well, no slave is given the luxury of their own bed."

Now that they had finished eating, Kal almost wished she was wearing a shawl or a cloak, as the sight of her in the sleeveless shift was a distracting one. He remembered the smell of her skin as he'd held her, and the softness of her hair, and there was that strange feeling in the pit of his stomach again, which was not due to hunger or digestion. He was furrowing his brows at her again, leaning forward, arms folded against the table as she told him about her childhood.

"There was no bed in the Underdark," he confessed. "Not for the likes of us. When we could, we slept where we worked and woke to start again. But I have always slept alone, even as a child," he told her, contrasting her experience with his.

"I am sorry." Her hand stretched toward his, hesitating just a moment before laying her fingers over his knuckles. "Your life in the Underdark was harsh. I am glad you survived, and escaped."

"As was yours," he said, his fingers moving as if of their own accord to tangle with hers. "I am glad you are here," he said, returning the sentiment in not so many words. He did not wish to make light of her past, nor compare it to his. They had both suffered, but he was grateful they were both now free.

"So am I." She squeezed gently before drawing her hand away, looking at the plates between them. "Oh! I know how to wash dishes!" This probably didn't deserve the enthusiasm with which she offered it, but it was nice to find something she wouldn't need to be taught over several weeks.

Kal laughed at her eager declaration. "It is not so difficult," he said, eyes twinkling with amusement. He liked how her fingers felt tangled with his, but it was the light in her eyes that made him smile just then. "Shall we do them together?"

"Yes." It didn't need thinking about; being able to do something with another person and not worry about being punished for it was a luxury in itself. She rose from her seat, stacking the plates as Jester finally scrabbled down from Kal's shoulder to curl up with Peppercorn in front of the fire.

It seemed almost natural, almost comforting to share these simple pleasures of life, even the chores that came with them. To enjoy a meal together, the warmth of a fire, the ease of companionship - these were all things most people took for granted. Ordinary things that both Kal and Greylin had not known for a very long time. Even the simplicity of cooking the fish and scrubbing the dishes was more enjoyable with whom to share the chore, and Kal thought he could find contentment, happiness even, here with this sweet, gentle creature, if she would only let him.

One day was not enough to undo the pains and torments of the past, but it seemed that Greylin was prepared to face all those memories if she had to. She liked Kalan'ar; she trusted him, relying on the kindness he had shown her without failing since she had fallen into his grasp the day before. If she was going to make a home here ... she would like it to be with him, if he would allow it, even knowing everything that might entail.

It seemed the Mother had chosen wisely in bringing the two of them together, but whatever happened between them, even she could not know what the future might bring. Whatever came, they would face it together, guardians of the forest and of each other.

((Whew! That one really got away from us. Kudos to anyone who managed to even skim all of that. It's probably longer than it needs to be, but we were having too much fun to stop. :D))
"The Dark Lady smiles on those who see the deeper beauty within."

- Lords of Waterdeep