The sun in this country is pale. Strong. Northernly. She is unused to this type of light. It makes her squint her eyes and blink in frustration when there are no clouds to hide away the whiteness of the sun. The journey from the inn to Lothering had been fairly painless. The others on wagons had not bothered her much— she supposed that there was not much cause to bother a foreign elf armed to the teeth, and she is glad for their fear. She cannot understand, however, what in the seven hells the people in this forsaken country have against horses.
If she had a horse of her own, this would all have been so much easier. Shaking her head to clear such thoughts, Lady surveys her surroundings. A small, rather non-descript village lies out before her in a peaceful panorama. Now, she asks herself, if she were a drunkard and a runaway bodyguard of an Orlesian slaver, where would she go? The tavern, her mind tells her. She spots it easily enough. Her lips purse when she sees she’ll have to traverse the marketplace to get to the tavern.
She is not largely fond of crowds.
Grey eyes watched the skies as the eagle soared past. “By the Spirits,” Qanik thinks, “a sign… perhaps?” He is unsure so his fingers the amulet on his chest. It is caked with dried soil – soil from his home. He lingers for a moment, feeling the dirt in his fingers. And it disintegrates slowly until it is too small for him to hold. That was the last of his home that he had, and he had just lost it. As he looks at his fingers, a prayer escapes his lips.
“May I find home again.”
He purses his lips, feels the dryness of his skin, and decides to carry on.
“If it is a sign, then I better follow it. If it is not, well… at least I tried.” And he carries on. Anxiety fills his heart each step it takes.
/Qanik, don’t get lost, okay?/
He hears his sister, his dear baby sister, in his head. He feels his eyes sting, but before the pain pierces his heart, he spots what seems to be a settlement beyond the horizon. Qanik squints. This was not his land. No. His land was filled with tall trees and animals. This land… it smelled… differently. Instead of tents, he saw wooden houses. His father had told him of such places when he was but a child, but he never counted on seeing one. This was definitely not home, but it was better than being lost in the forest. So again, he walks forward.
His entrance was greeted with the sound of foreign tongue. It was familiar, Qanik decides. And the memory clicks in his head. He looks around in an attempt to find the kindest face in the crowd. He picks an old man, calmly sweeping the street.
“Hmmm,” he hums once he closes the distance between them, “son of a –“
She had hoped that the crowd would not seem so daunting if she were nearer. That had been entirely wrong, she finds, and her anxiety is just as raw as it was three minutes go. I am here for Carmen, she thinks, steeling herself. The thought emboldens her. She will find this runaway and make him speak— oh, she will make him speak. He will tell her exactly where to find what she seeks, and if he does not, she will make him wish his mother had died before having the chance to bring him into this blasted world. She is not above torture. Not now.
Lady nearly hisses at a person who jostles shoulders with her, but manages to keep her mouth shut. Undue attention will not do her any favors now. She is certain that being the way she is, she cuts quite the figure in Lothering’s usual populace. Tch.
She is passing a stall, back-to-back with a rather elderly man, when she hears a voice speaking with a deep rolling accent. The words escape her, but the sound of it stands out to her. Foreign, she thinks, or at least not from Lothering. The people here all speak as though they have corks jammed up their noses.
The man freezes. His eyes are of shock. Qanik furrows his brow. Didn’t he just say hello? He decides that maybe the old man had not understood him. Perhaps he was shocked by his appearance. After all he had war paint on his face and his manner of clothing was completely different from them. /Yes/, he decides. Perhaps he was shocked by how he appeared. He clears his throat, nods at the man and swiftly leaves him to bother the woman at the next stall. She is considerably younger.
“Whore,” he says, the accent of his native tongue thick in his voice. The woman looks up at him, her eyes wide. There’s a moment of silence. “Whore?” Qanik repeats, making sure the woman did hear him. The woman then grabs a stick and starts swinging it at him. If there was something Qanik was good at, it was battle. But still, he finds himself clumsily weaving through the streets. The woman manages to hit him hard on his thigh and he falls to the ground, just in front of where an elf is standing. Before there is time to look up and offer the elf an apologetic stare, Qanik feels the weight of the stick on his back so he curls into a ball, protecting his head from injury.
She is debating whether or not to beat the far too forward stall-keeper over the head or not when she hears a thud behind her. The earth beneath her heels jolts with the impact, and her first instinct is to turn around, dagger drawn.
But this is a packed street and a Rivaini-made curved dagger is not the best thing to show villagers first thing in the afternoon. Her hand hovers over the pommel nonetheless, but she can see no danger. Look down, her mind tells her, and she does. The last thing she would have expected at her feet is a Chasind wilder, but there he is. Head shaved, hair gathered into a ceremonial braid, the blue of his warpaint stark against the cool steel-gray of his eyes. She catches her breath. He looks… lost. She is about to speak when a woman, wiry and of ill countenance, wheedles her way through the crowd and brings down a heavy walking stick on the Chasind’s back.
She does not know this man and she is a stranger in this land, but the action curdles ire in her gut. The wilder is a warrior. Even a half-minded lackwit could see that. He could snap the woman in half. The Fereldan woman raises her hand again but this time it is too much.
Lady catches the thin wrist as it swings down cruelly, her fingers tightening the grip unmercifully. She shakes her head, and the cowl of her hood falls back from her head. The woman gives a hiss of surprise— wasn’t expecting an elf, no doubt.
“What a spectacular show of bad manners,” she says coolly, and the woman flinches. She shifts to the side so the hilt of her daggers slides out of the cover of her cloak. “Wouldn’t you be best off playing with your backwater playmates?”
The woman wrenches her wrist from Lady’s grip, spitting curses and muttering something about knife-eared bitches who don’t know their own business. Lady glares at her as she disappears back into the crowd, and when she is satisfied that the hag is gone, she kneels. Down here, at eye-level with the wilder, the world seems to be rather far away. The crowd is a distant buzz of humming energy. Her lips twist into a grimace of indecision, but she holds out a hand anyway.
“Are you alright?”
Qanik breathes sharply. Thoughts race through his mind. He remembers his father saying that a man would see his life flash before him when he dies. And he asks himself if this was his own version of that flashback . /Death by stick-beating/, he muses. His sister would have laughed at him. And he sees her, running through the forest, her long dark hair dancing in the wind. This time he lets the tears flow.
/Forgive me, chwaer fach. I won’t be able to avenge your death./
He curls his fists until he can feel his fingernails on his palm. And then suddenly, the pain stops. He stays curled for a few more seconds. And then he looks up, sees the elven woman standing before him. He finds kindness in her dark brown eyes.
Qanik feels something catch in his throat as he stares at her hand outstretched towards him. She says something in the foreign tongue, but it is drowned out by the sound of his own blood beating in his ears. He reaches for her hands. Their fingers touch before they tangle together.
/She is strong,/ he thinks as she pulls him up to his feet. /I like it./ And in that moment, he finds renewed strength in his joints. The pain on his back is quickly fading.
She grits her teeth in surprise when the wilder’s hands touch hers. He’s warm, for a man walking around clothed in furred rags. She blinks at him, feeling a small knot lodge in her throat as she realizes just how much taller he is now that he is standing. A head or two’s difference at least, she thinks, and suddenly feels rather small. All the people in this accursed land are so tall!
Her ears twitch as she hears him try to say something. There are— streaks of tears, on his face, she thinks incredulously, but they haven’t smeared the warpaint. She vaguely wonders what it is made of, that it doesn’t run when one cries. But what he calls her makes her snap to attention.
It’s an instinctive reaction, to tense when hearing the word ‘whore’— it had been as good as her middle name some years past, and for a brief, dark time, her profession. One part of her mind sees her slapping him. But that is the small frightened girl, who is hurt by words and is locked away now— the part that makes her take a deep breath and assess the fact that the tone of his voice and the word spoken are most incongruous is the one that is in charge.
“That’s a grand greeting,” she murmurs, and then finds herself at a loss. “Are you lost?” she asks, slowly and clearly.
And then she realizes she’s still holding onto his hand like a little girl. Blast it.
It is a bizarre experience to converse with a stranger who speaks a language you cannot understand. Qanik had only heard this tongue from two people – the witch girl from many years ago and the man who stole his sister from the world. For a brief moment, he sees the pain in her eyes after he spoke. Now he’s not quite sure the word he said meant what he thinks it does. He clenches his teeth as she speaks once more, her voice gentle and clear. A part of him wants to run away but another part of him wants to stay to listen to her speak. Her voice was… soothing? Qanik thinks for a moment. /Yes. It is definitely soothing. Like a lullaby… easing you to sleep./ He could not understand what she was saying, but he could feel the warmth in her voice.
He feels her hand squeeze his, and at that moment, the thought hits him.
/Hands./ He pauses. /No. No. This cannot be. Spirits -/
He flinches away, backs from her a step. Their hands disconnect, but somehow the absence of her smaller hands feels like he has lost something important. Unconsciously, he reaches for his amulet as thoughts race in his head.
“/Spirits, I just married a foreign woman,/” he speaks in his native tongue.
She watches some sort of conflict make its way across the wilder’s face, the emotions changing the planes and lines of his expressions. It’s rather fascinating to watch, she thinks. The man is an open book. She can’t stop the sharp intake of breath when he moves away quickly— she goes on the defensive for a split second, legs poised to run. Paranoia. It has saved her from a near death too many times for her not to trust it.
He reaches for something and for a moment she thinks he is going for a weapon but he only holds the amulet hanging from a leather thong around his neck. It is a trinket of metal and feathers, but it no doubt has some sort of meaning to him. He talks to himself more than anyone in a language she can’t understand— Chasind, she thinks, judging from the almost singsong inflection of the words. She has a mind for languages, always has, but the dialect of the wilders here is near to incomprehensible, even for her. Orlesian conjunctions are like child’s play compared to it.
Lady shows him her hands, palm facing upwards. She is unarmed. Hopefully he will take that as a sign that she means him no harm.
“I will not hurt you,” she says quietly, though she might as well have been trying to talk to a wall, judging from his perplexed expression.
He stares at her as he stands a step away. It is the only time he can really /see/ her. She has sun-kissed skin, darker than anyone he can see now. Her hair is pulled back, but Qanik can see how it almost has a life of its own as it curls here and there in the most fascinating manner. He cocks his head sideways as she shows her empty palm. He knew she did not mean any harm, but the implications of the hand-holding weighed heavily on him.
His family valued their tribe’s tradition like it was the most important thing in the world. And the spirits, oh the spirits would burn his soul if he did not honor what it meant. Such a bond was rather… sensitive and important. He could hear the shaman’s voice in his head. The bond of marriage was destiny. The spirits bring you to the one you will be with the rest of your life. And it is law. But how is that possible that the spirits dictated that he be married to this foreign (albeit beautiful) woman he had just met?
They couldn’t even understand one another.
He looks up to the sky and sees the eagle once again.
/Spirits, I do not find your sense of humor amusing./ And the eagle screams. /I give up./
And he turns his gaze back to her. He still doesn’t understand her, but words aren’t the only way to communicate. He crosses the distance between them. He puts his hand on his chest and says, “Qanik, / ngwraig/.”
Well, he’s not going to kill her. She supposes that is a step forward. Lady blinks as he faces her again. His gaze is uncomfortably clear, free of any pretense. Whatever he says, she is sure it will be nothing more than the unadulterated truth. The thought zips so quickly through her mind that she nearly laughs. What a notion. A completely honest person. Such a thing doesn’t exist. Even Carmen, precious little Carmen with the fire-red hair, is not a creature entirely made of earnestness.
The man makes a sound like a drake coughing up a ball of venom. She startles at the strange sound of the word, curiosity mixed a bit of apprehension. He seems… determined, now, and she’s not sure if she likes the change much. Something had altered in him after he had looked upward to look at the wheeling eagle in the sky. Maker knows what it could mean to him.
She waits, a bit uncertain as to what she should do. After a moment’s thought, she pats her own chest, and says, “Lady.”
Maybe what he had said was his name…?
And he smiles at her. He’s half fascinated at how there’s this second when she almost appears to laugh, but more fascinated by how she was willing to talk with him – a foreigner in this strange land. Well now that’s something different, he thinks. Ever since the current washed him by the river, all he had known was dread and confusion. But this… this is certainly different. Somehow this stranger – who carries daggers, he notes – didn’t even want to kill him. And she seemed to radiate this aura that made him feel…. like he was home. He shook his head. This was what a puppy imprinting on its future owner must feel like. For a moment, he is ashamed. But the feeling won’t wash away. He likes her, he decides for the second time in the span of a few minutes.
“Ngwraig,” he repeats, “La-dy.” He tries his best to say it as she had. He reaches out, hesitates, and puts his hand on her shoulder. “La-dy? La-dy.”
He waits for her to say his name. But she only looks at him in a confused manner.
“La-dy,” he repeats, “Qa-nik.” He places takes her hand and puts it on his chest.
She startles genuinely this time, a small sound of surprise escaping her as his hand comes down on her shoulder. Maker, he could throttle her with one hand. What in the world is the matter with her? She’s acting like a frightened sheepling with nothing better to do than skitter about in a throes of a senseless fear.
Then he says her name. Yes, he divides it into two syllables, and it sounds like he chews the sound before he spits them out, but he’s trying. She is ready to pull away, apologize politely— the man clearly doesn’t understand her, and he’s safe from the stick-wielding hag, and so her business is finished here, correct?— but he takes her hand and doesn’t let go.
“Qanik,” she repeats, if a bit shakily. The last time she stood this close to a person, a throat was slit. “That’s your name, isn’t it? Qanik. Alright.” She takes a wavering breath. A gentle stranger was not something often found.
She doesn’t know what to do. Pull away? Stay here? Try to tell him… something? She fidgets.
Qanik clenches his jaw. Her small hands are surprisingly warm against his chest. She watches different emotions swim inside her eyes, and then she says his name. She gets it right, so right that he cannot stop his mouth from curling upward.
And then she just had to ruin the moment with saying more things that he did not understand.
So he ends up narrowing her eyes at her in an effort to decipher her language. He bites his lip when he deems he still doesn’t know what she’s saying. This is going to be a long, long day, Qanik decides. Well, at least they already got the name part right. That’s definitely a leap.
He squeezes her hand against his and finds this tiniest shake. He furrows his brows as he finds uneasiness in her eyes. Was he frightening her? He releases her hand gently. Slowly, he bows his head to look at her closer. Then he places his palm on both her cheeks.
He wanted to ask her if she was all right. He had this urge to help her with whatever that was troubling her. He wondered why he felt the urge, but he chalked it up to the fact that she was the only one who helped him.
He wanted to say a lot of things, but it was the only thing he could really say.
So close. Too close. Oh, Maker, does this man have no concept of personal space? They met minutes ago and now— you’d think she’d have married him! This is ridiculous. Unplanned. Unexpected. Her mind is a jumble of indecipherable sounds and possible choices. What to do? She has to… to… she doesn’t know what she has to do, but the first step involves /distance/. Distance, because like this she can’t think quite clearly and that’s absolutely inconceivable to even consider, that this proximity is throwing her off.
And then he bends to observe her from a closer standpoint. It is the first time in years that she prays again for the ground to open beneath her feet and swallow her whole. Anything to escape this wordless appraisal. He sees straight through her, and it bothers her. Her skills in sparring with words is useless here— he doesn’t understand anything beyond her name.
She tries to step back, but it is a little ineffective, seeing as he has her /clasped/ from all sides. She gulps.
The small utterance of her name makes her pause and look back at him from where she was staring resolutely at the ground.
“What do you want?” she asks in a small voice, though she knows he won’t be able to answer her.
Spirits, he was indeed terrifying her. He pulls back, afraid to break her more. He doesn’t want to frighten the only person who was kind to him. He lets out a groan, the frustration getting to his nerves. He hears several footsteps all around him, and he turns his head.
There are templars surrounding them. He had only seen templars once, and it was such a distant memory. But he knew their emblem well. He straightened his back. His breathing grew heavy and he glanced at Lady.
“You!” One of them speaks to him. The frustration lingers in his veins. “You’re not allowed here!” Their voices are laden with hostility.
“/I don’t understand./” He tells them, prays to the spirits they can sense the confusion in his voice. “/Please I just want to go home./” And he steps forward, points to the part of town where he could see trees.
Wrong move it seems.
The templars unsheathe their swords.
It takes her all but a few moments to realize where this is going. Maker, she hates templars when they don’t mind their own business. Or, rather, she hates the Chantry. Sending out the templars like their twisted minions and pawns to do their bidding. She grits her teeth and tries to ignore the tug of her heart when the man speaks, the confusion evident in his tone. He is lost. And he does not have any concept of personal space. But she cannot leave him here.
She sizes up the templars. This is something she’s good with. Chase. Run. Games of hide and seek. She walks lightly up to the wilder and steps in front of him easily, hands held out in a mock gesture of surrender.
“There there, gentlemen, surely we can discuss this in a civilized manner…?” she says, eyes bright with excitement.
There’s a moment of deliberation before one of the templars gives a grunt of surprise and he levels his sword at her. “Do not interfere, elf. This man is a wilder. They have no rights here where the creed of His Bride Andraste rules. Step aside and we will not involve you in this.”
“So very welcoming of you,” she says jovially, and seems completely unguarded as the templar steps toward her.
She waits. One or two more steps. And then they will all be in range.
“I said, step awa —”
“I heard you the first time!” she says, and then disarms the templar with a swift kick to the wrist. His longsword goes flying, and he is left with his shield.
Lady digs in her pouch— it takes only a moment for her to draw out the circular object. With a particularly fierce movement, she smashes the bauble to the ground. Inky black smoke explodes in the square. People cry out.
She turns to the wilder, almost laughing with the exhilaration. She grasps his hand and tugs him along, starting to run.
Suddenly, his world is a blur of the earthen colors of this land. The wind is cold against his skin as he runs with Lady. She was swift and nimble but she has enough strength in her arms to tug at him. It was a good thing his legs are not strangers to running, but still he lags behind her. She would shout at him now and then. He still could not understand, but he could hear the urgency in her tone.
So they run, and he lets her drag him by his hands. And it was another strange experience - to be tugged by a woman much smaller and have several thoughts running inside his brain. He lingers on the fact that she’s holding his hand again.
/For the second time./
And this time, he just sighs. If this woman knew the implications of such an act….
They come to a small backalley crammed with barrels and crates, and finding a space to fit a horrendously tall wilder is a challenge, but Lady has always been one for challenges and she finds a place that is adequate enough to conceal his height and breadth, and she makes a firm gesture with her free hand.
She lets go and then climbs her way quickly up a stack of crates, her weight barely affecting the pile’s balance, and crawls up to the roof of the mud-brick house the wall belongs to. She whistles piercingly and waves very enthusiastically.
“Tally ho, gents! Miss me?”
She disappears with a light laugh over the crest of the rooftops as the templars chase after her.
This will take no time at all.
Before he could say anything, she’s gone. There’s a whistle in the air followed by clunky footsteps. Qanik looks around. For a tall man, he feels small in that alley. The barrels and the crates feels like they’re feet higher than him. And he backs into the corner, drowned by the shadows.
He feels lost. Just when he finds someone who was kind to him, something happens. His hands find their way to his amulet. He traces the carving on it, feeling the slopes where the metal sinks. It was a gift from his sister - his baby sister who was always wiser than him.
/Only if I could tell you what happened today,chwaer fach. I met this woman. She’s kind. You don’t really meet kind strangers in this land. But I trust her… because it seems she’s someone you’d like. She’s a lot like you… now that I think of it. /
Qanik looks up the sky, the clouds now tainted with orange.
/She’s gone though. And… I’m alone again./
It is more than forty minutes later when she slips into the backalley again. The sun is lowering and late evening has fallen over Lothering. She hops down the incline of a particularly badly-built roof and then uses a rather conveniently placed iron post to swing herself down to the ground. She lands with a light thud, her boots absorbing the shock. Lady looks around the corner of the barrels she left the wilder behind and surprises herself with smiling when she finds him there.
“Hello,” she says. “Here I am. Again.”
She had run the templars all the way to the outskirts of the village— where, luckily enough, they had come across a very poorly-concealed bandit camp. She let them deal with the thieves as a distraction, because quite honestly, it was a damn bright spot of luck and it let her get away. She guesses this is the most excitement Lothering has seen in months. A foreign elf, a runaway wilder /and/ a bandit caravan? Positively spectacular.
That said, Lothering’s templars are no Legions of Andraste. There are only ten of them here at most, and half of them do not know what she looks like. This is most wonderful. There is also an abandoned— if ransacked— bandit camp ready for her express use. Who needed inns anyway?
She pulls the hair-tie from her ponytail, letting her hair conceal her pointed ears, and then turns her cloak inside out. A basic disguise, but sometimes the simplest works best. Then she turns to the wilder, questioning in her eyes. She can’t /ask/ him to come with her, not verbally, anyway.
So she holds out a hand again. It’s seemed to work before.
He doesn’t know how long it has been but the sky has taken a dark orange glow. Qanik clenches his jaw, readies himself to leave. It’s no use sitting in the corner when he can be up and about.
/Trying not get really lost if that’s possible,/ he whispers to himself. /What a mess, Qanik. What a mess./
As he berates himself, he hears a light thud somewhere near. The next thing he knows there is a someone standing before him. He looks up and sees a hooded woman, finds the her silhouette familiar.
“Lady?” He asks, this time her name rolls better in his tongue. He spots a smile on her face.
And then there is that hand again. Now he was sure that it /is/ her.
/Spirits, this woman./ He narrows his eyes momentarily before reaching out to her. /Small hands. Fit perfectly in mine./ He finds the thought amusing and catches himself smiling. It was a strange thought for someone he had just met -
All too soon, the moment is broken. The feeling of his empty stomach charges him like a wild boar would. Qanik feels his ears burning.
She pauses for a moment after she hears the monstrous growling of the wilder’s stomach, and then she bursts out laughing, feeling absolutely ridiculous for doing so too. She still has a runaway bodyguard to catch but here she is guiding a lost Chasind warrior around… by hand. The thought nearly makes her snort. She pats the backs of his knuckles when she sees the red spread across his face.
“Nothing to be ashamed of,” she says, and then digs in her pouch for a strip of dried meat. It should tide him over until she settles in at the campsite and sorts out the wreckage the templars left behind. No one ever said they were neat soldiers…
Lady hands him the strip of meat, saying clearly, “Food.” As he takes it, she tugs him along gently, leading him to the shadows of the backalley. Leaving him at the campsite would be best while she goes to deal with the man at the tavern.
Qanik feels like a child again.
“Food,” he mirrors Lady’s words as he accepts the strip of what seemed to be dried meat. She takes his hand again, and by this time Qanik is used to the feeling of her palm againts his. He wonders if this would be what everyday would be like if he spends it with her. And then he catches himself thinking of the future with her. Does he really see her helping him even after this day? He clenches his jaw, unsure about that. They were strangers to one another. Help after this day would be too much to ask of her. And he promises himself he’d have to find a way to repay her somehow.
As Lady leads him from alley to alley, he takes his first bite. Somehow, it tastes like the best meal he has ever had. He can’t pinpoint it, but it felt strangely like dinner by the fire at home. Before he knows it, he had already consumed what Lady had given her. And by the time he noticed it, they were in the outskirts of the town.
Lady tugged at him gently, throwing him glances now and then. He could feel the muscles on his face relax. Qanik is pretty sure he’s smiling the next time Lady throws him a glance. He hopes she’d see that he was thankful for her kindness.
And they continue trudging on in silence towards a place only Lady has an idea of.
She kicks aside an empty barrel and watches it go rolling into the long grass. What a mess, she thinks, looking around the ruined campsite and the smoking remains of a fire trampled by a dozen feet over.
Lady looks back at the wilder and notices him smiling, and she gives a small expression of kindness in return, and lets go of his hand to bend and swipe things out of the way, set a crate the right-side up so it can serve as a sitting place once again. There is a small upended cauldron that she sticks into the hearth again. Water from the little lakes nearby would have to suffice. She busies herself with restoking the fire and thinking about what she will say once she finds that bodyguard. Her expression tightens at the thought and she jabs at the fire particularly viciously with the stick she is using as a poker.
She sighs frustratedly and rakes her hands through her hair. /And what do you plan to do with him?/ a little voice inside her head asks. /Keep him as a pet? Fine idea there, Lady. Returning to the inn with a wilder at your heels/.
Lady simply sits at the crate and then gestures for him to take a seat too.
She doesn’t know what she’ll do about him yet, but she supposes she’ll cross that bridge when she comes to it.
The silence continues with only the howling of the wind occasionally providing some noise. Lady lets go of him to light a fire. Qanik’s brows furrow as he notices the sudden hardening of her expression. He searches for the kind woman who had accompanied him most of the day, but only finds steel emotions plastered on her face. He feels the urge to comfort her, but stops himself out of fear that he will frighten her again. Lady exhibits her strength once again… by poking the fire. Sparks fly, but she is undaunted. Qanik can see determination in her face, and the look in her eyes is all too familiar.
He had seen that look more than a couple of times beforehand. Not long ago, he saw it on his own reflection.
/She’s out for blood,/ he thinks. And the worry multiplies tenfold. He hoped that she would not find the same luck he had when he was the one out to stain his hands red.
Her expression changes when she gestures for him to sit down next to her. And he wasn’t about to refuse, for he could feel the muscles in his legs screaming for rest.
“Lady,” he says before he sits. He fidgets on his spot, reaches for the dagger on his back. Then he presses the blade against his left palm. Blood falls to the floor. Then he kneels before her, sets the dagger on her feet, bows his head.
Qanik raises his hand for her to see and clenches it hard. His hand grew number by the second as his blood dripped to the floor.
/Tonight, this Chasind Warrior swears his life to you,/ He didn’t know how to say it in her tongue. And he didn’t even know if she knew what he was doing. But at least to him, it was clear that he had just pledged to protect her with his life.
The train of her thoughts— which had been running along the lines of quiet shadows and wondering what expression would be the bodyguard’s last when she finds him— comes to a screeching halt when he says her name. She is about to ask him what he wants when she remembers that it would not do much to clear the air, so instead she watches, tensed, as he reaches for the dagger at his back. She is faster than him, surely he knows that, and—
She barely restrains a shriek when he cuts his own palm. Blasted unpredictable Chasind with the large eyes and the unexpected kindness and… /curses!/ She lets out a colorful Rivaini expletive as the blood creates a small pool by the toe of her boot. Lady moves out of her seat to kneel at his height and clasp him by the shoulders.
“Are you touched in the head? What have I done to deserve a blood-oath?!” she says with surprise making the notes of her words higher and sharper. People she has known for decades want nothing to do with her, do not want to touch her, hear her name— and she hasn’t known this man for more than a day and now he binds himself to her this way. She’s not sure whether she considers him devoted or insane. Perhaps both. And rather likeable.
Lady takes a section of her cloak between her teeth and tears it without second thought. She can replace and repair the cloak, but a warrior’s hands have no substitute. She binds the cut, careful not to tie the fabric too tightly, and then pulls him to his feet, unsure of what to say. She is… grateful, in a way. Lady just pats his hands awkwardly again before she pulls away hesitantly, head hung a little lower.
“Don’t bow to me.”
It’s not long before he feels her small hands on his shoulders. He had expecting some sort of positive silent acknowledgment for his pact, but instead he was greeted by the sharpness of her voice. His expression crumples into a mix of regret and confusion. Was she not happy that now she had a companion to protect her? And Qanik catches himself agreeing that maybe he did take it too far. /Because according to my tribe’s law we’re married but then I swore on my blood to protect her. Maybe, it IS too far./ He starts to berate himself again, but then he does not regret the pact. It was the only way he could thank her for what she did for him today.
/A life for a life,/ he whispers and readies himself for her fury. He watches her as she tears the cloth of her cloak and wonders if this was how foreigners dealt with their anger.But then she his hand once again (for the fourth time - Qanik steels his jaw upon realizing that he was counting the instances). Her hands are still gentle. The cloth is wrapped around his palm just enough to stop the bleeding. But Qanik can still feel the veins near his wound throbbing in protest.
Lady pulls him to stand. There’s that comforting pat on his hands again before she pulls away.
Qanik hears her say something. Her voice was sad. And it was enough for him to know that something was wrong. If there was something he learned from his departed sister, it was how to make people smile. And he hoped it worked for foreigners too.
He crosses the distance between them. With his unwounded hand, he cups her chin to push her gaze to meet his.
“Lady?” His lips curve slowly upwards. /I don’t why you’re sad, but don’t be./
She doesn’t know why she talks anyway. It’s not like he can understand her. Maybe it’s just to reassure herself. She watches his expression fall in on itself and feels like she’s just kicked a puppy.
A man this tall or broad shouldn’t be able to make that face. Her breath catches when he ducks her under the chin and tips her head up so she can look at him. It’s— strange. She usually hates it when men do this, because time and time again it’s only to force some sick acknowledgment (“Look at me when I’m talking to you, pretty bird!”), but this feels honest and quiet. Genuine. She smiles when he does, because the way he smiles is infectious and this is completely foolish. So much for being lethal. How Carmen would laugh if she could see Lady now.
Lady feels her cheeks warm and her ears flick in embarrassment. Maker! You’d think she were a girl of seventeen, the way she’s acting. She clears her throat, coughing, and tucking a strand of wayward hair behind her ear.
Well. This is… awkward.
His smile turns to a grin when Lady returns it with hers. And he notes that she is more beautiful when she does. /And she looks better with her hair down. And how her ears flick is adoraaable -/ His thoughts trail off and end in silence when he notices he’s staring at her with a big grin on his face. Qanik quickly pulls away from her as he feels the blood rushing to his face. He looks away, afraid to show Lady how embarrassed he was.
He traces his lips, feels the cracks on them and thinks that he should end this. He was not about to get attached to a very beautiful foreign woman in an unknown land. She doesn’t know what the hand holding meant and it should be enough reason to not hold true to it. Yes, there is a hole. And he could leave her and avoid all the feelings inside of him. He still had to avenge his sister.
/But the blood pact, and the eagle. It was a sign./ He scratches the stubble on his chin and glances her. The wind howls past them and her hair dances just like his sister’s. He clenches his jaw. /And what if she gets into trouble if I leave? I am a formidable warrior. I can help her./
He reaches for his amulet again and feels the engraved sparrow against his fingers. Then he faces her again, holds out his hand.
“Lady,” he says her name again. And this time, he had gotten it almost perfect.
She just manages to hold in a laugh when she sees he notices he’s been staring. She didn’t know someone so dusky could turn red so easily. She lets him turn away, if it’ll make him feel better about it. He seems to be deep in thought when he finally faces her once more, a determined set to his jaw. Lady has no clue of what he might be thinking, but it looks like he has come to some sort of a conclusion.
She blinks at his outstretched hand and then looks up at him when he says her name. His pronunciation is getting better. But she likes the way he says it. The thought makes her gulp. That’s not a very friendly or innocent idea she has there. She beats it out of her head determinedly and clears her throat again.
Lady gives her hand (it seems to be a thing with him, doesn’t it?) and shakes it firmly. “That’s how you say hello.”