Private Tales Alpine Getaway

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Nathaira

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It might have been the strangest job Nathaira had ever been assigned. The Forsaken were versatile tools. Usually they were swords, killing and destroying, but from time to time they were keys, opening paths and stealing important items. She was a key today, but what was truly unusual was the item she had been sent to retrieve.

It was a person.

She was to free them, more specifically, from an obscure dwarven prison in the foothills near Belgrath. It was a daunting task, but luckily she had not been sent alone. Kasimir, the tall and secluded half-tiefling, would be her partner. This operation would take cunning, subtlety, and most of all stealth if it was to succeed, and so the Forsaken had sent two of their most clandestine.

What was more, the mission had been given top priority. Belgrath was a world away from Vel Anir, so Nathaira and Kasimir had been permitted to use a portal stone. This was tremendously out of the ordinary. Not only were the Forsaken not worthy enough to have their traveling comfort considered, portal stones were not exactly subtle. Two half-breed visitors appearing out of thin air were bound to draw some eyes, but for whatever reason it had been deemed an acceptable risk in this case.

She hadn’t enjoyed it. The experience had been over quick enough, but the nausea would linger for hours. People weren’t meant to shift across reality so suddenly, she had decided, and she would much rather return home via ship, if given the option.

Nathaira hugged thick fur around herself. The mountain air was cool, and the handlers had given her a thick, fur-lined coat for the job. She had also been provided with sturdier boots, and a woolen face wrap as opposed to the thinner fabric she was used to. The items were not given out of kindness, and the clothes were by no means fine. Her betters simply didn’t wish her to become sluggish in the northern climate. No doubt the expense would be covered by reduced rations once she returned.

They were to meet a contact in the “Boar’s Coil,” a mead hall carved into the stony cliffside. ”What a fasscinating place,” she hissed, gazing at the expertly carved structures and marvelling at the towering mountains in the distance. She turned her golden eyes upwards to her companion. He never seemed to mind the cold… at least she hadn’t seen him show it. ”Sshall we?”
 
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Kasimir

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But what's the catch?

This mission seemed too... nice. Nice wasn't what the Forsaken were for. They were for murdering in the shadows, destroying things, overthrowing and toppling towns that were proving resistance to rule. They were not for ... rescuing people. At least Kasimir had never been on one of those types of missions before. But even though there was a sense of unease at being allowed to go so far from Vel'Anir and do something good for once, Kasimir couldn't help the giddy feeling as he stepped through the Portal Stone.

Far away.

It was almost easy to imagine they couldn't touch them out here and it added a sense of joviality to his step. Kas had never seen the mountains before and as they wound their way towards their meeting point he found his attention drawn to every little new sensation and sight. The only thing that distracted him was the woman at his side. This was the first time he had truly been alone with Nat for longer than a brief spell and it was bringing out odd sensations in his body. For example, he found it a little harder to breathe and his palms definitely felt... sweaty.

Like always he was dressed in his usual trenchcoat, black breeches, and a black shirt. The only addition was a snug black jumper with an oddly tall neck he had been told worked better than a scarf. He too, had been given better boots also for walking in the snow which he found far clumpier than he was used to but slowly he was adjusting.

Kas' eyes were already on the tavern they were approaching when Nat spoke, his eyes a little wider than normal.

"Apparently these people make all of this with their own two hands, no magic," his breath fogged on the crisp mountain air as he spoke. Slowly, they started their ascent towards the welcoming golden lights of the tavern. Kas offered her his arm; the steps were slippery and he did not want her to fall. "Are you warm enough?"
 
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Nathaira

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She looked at the buildings and cave-dwellings with renewed admiration at Kasimir’s words. ”How?” she wondered? The dwarven-made buildings were not so tall as the towers of Vel Anir, but to have been made without magic of any sort? It seemed impossible.

The thin snow cover crunched beneath them, and Nathaira resented the sound. Why would people live in such a place? It was beautiful, yes, but the air was beginning to sting her face. The light from the tavern’s windows looked fiery and warm, though.

Kasimir offered his arm, and she took it happily, holding perhaps a bit tighter than was needed. She smiled at his question, only visible by a crinkling of her eyes over the scarf. She was never warm enough, but his concern was sweet. She didn’t have many people who would have cared. ”Yess,” she lied, leaning into his arm. The residual heat from the Anirian countryside that they had ported from was rapidly leeching away, but she could already sense the warmth from the hearths within the Boar’s Coil.

She did not let go of Kasimir’s arm as they stepped in. To anyone looking on they would appear as a couple, perhaps tourists. They were quite obviously not local, so no use pretending otherwise. This close to the portal stone foreigners would be commonplace. It was not the only reason she held on, though. It was difficult to explain, but his closeness gave her a sort of nervous comfort that she craved.

She looked around, no one obvious stood out to her. Surely whatever informant was here would contact them. It was a large open room. The natural stone walls of the cave were adorned with carvings, shining bronze contraptions, and shields sporting various colors. There was a massive central firepit whose smoke wafted away into a black chimney, and Nathaira eyed it greedily. A wonderful smell filled the place, and Nathaira remembered how hungry traveling made her.

”We should have a drink,” she whispered to him. It was to further build their cover and blend in, but some part of her wished to pretend it wasn’t.
 
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Kasimir

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Kasimir wished he could answer her question for it was information he craved too. He just couldn't imagine someone building all of this with their own two hands. It was beautiful. The handlers probably believed that the Forsaken had no concept of beauty but Kasimir definitely did. Maybe he didn't know what he was feeling was appreciation or love of something because of how it looked but he still felt it. When he looked at certain pieces of art, or sometimes in the curves of a creatures wing, or in the way Nat's eyes crinkled when she smiled. He definitely felt it when he looked at the tavern.

It was uncomfortably warm inside of the tavern. There was a roaring fire that was doing a fantastic job of helping the residents inside forget how cold it was outside. His eyes swept around trying to see also if he could tell who their contact would be but hid it in a heavy amount of awe for the place, leaning in to the idea the pair were merely tourists of a sort.

He spied a table by the fire and began to guide them over.

"I will get us some food too," he had seen gentlemen do this sort of thing before so he pulled out the chair for her and then kissed her hand before leaving to order some drinks and food from the bar. He returned a few moments later with the drinks.

"They'll bring the food over,"
he sat down and slid the mug across to her before stripping off his trench coat. "Any idea who we are meant to meet?"
 
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Nathaira

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She held fast to Kasimir's arm as he lead her to the table. Contrary to her normal shame, shying away from the stares of strangers, she liked people looking at her now. She wanted the patrons to see the two of them walking together, arms intertwined. She wanted them to think that he belonged to her, and she to him. The table neared, and she didn't want the fantasy to end.

Apparently neither did Kasimir, and Nathaira momentarily didn't know how to respond to him pulling out the chair for her until he indicated that she should sit. She did so, and the kiss on her hand took the wind from her. Her arm remained extended in the position he'd left it for a few seconds. Her fingers felt like they were on fire. In that moment, she would have killed anyone who reminded her that they were actors.

She snapped out of it as a dwarf gave her a curious look from the next table, bringing herself back to a normal sitting position by the time Kasimir returned. She took the mug gratefully. "Thank you," was all she could say. Words seemed to get twisted in her head right now. She took a drink. It was rich and bitter, with a honeyed aftertaste.

The business talk brought her crashing back to reality. "No... and it sseems too public a placce for it." The building was packed, and while foreigners were plentiful a tiefling and a naga were hardly difficult to miss. The idea of meeting a contact at all was rather strange, usually she was just given a name and a location for someone to kill, and that was that.

It did not take long for their questions to be answered. A dwarven man... or woman, it was sometimes difficult to tell, dressed as a server approached them. Nathaira was excited for their food to arrive, but was disappointed when they carried no tray or plates.

"Mister and Missus Roden? Please, follow me." Nathaira looked from the dwarf to Kasimir, her face instantly set. They would be eating later, it seemed.

The dwarf lead them through the tables and happy crowds and into a side cavern. Multiple dwarves bustled to and fro, carrying plates and mugs and dishcloths. They descended an expertly carved set of steps and finally passed through a heavy wooden door into what appeared to be a storage area.

Waiting for them inside was a single man. He was tall and gaunt, with slick blonde hair and a hard expression. His clothing was fine and severe, and the symbol on his lapel struck ice through Nathaira's heart.

He was a Dreadlord.

She stood stone still, casting her eyes to the floor. She would not disrespect this man with her filthy gaze, she would not speak unless spoken to, and she would do nothing to invoke his wrath. The dwarf left them alone.

"Berodo Silvermitt was apprehended two weeks ago by the Belgrath authorities and placed in Dhustratir Prison. He was tried and sentenced to death. Vel Anir needs him alive." He paused, standing in front of the pair with an illustration of Berodo. He was a dwarf, and Nathaira found this very curious.

"It pains me that we need to use creatures such as yourselves for this..." the contempt in his voice washed over them, "...but time has forced our hand. Berodo will be beheaded at sunrise three days from now. Vel Anir has no desire for war, and so as a foreign guest I am not permitted to act openly in his release. Instead, you will use whatever disingenuous means you possess to bring Berodo to the portal stone undetected. Deliver him any time before his scheduled execution, and you can consider your jobs done."

He looked as though being in the same room as the Forsaken was a terrible insult... and depending on his status, it very well could have been. Still, Nathaira couldn't help but think that Vel Anir would not have sent their absolute best all the way to the mountains. As if hearing her thoughts, the dreadlord stepped closer to her, and pulled back her hood with his finger and thumb as though he could scarcely stand touching it.

"So you're the naga," he said with a cruel fascination. Nathaira said nothing and kept her eyes downturned. She wished very much to take Kasimir's arm again. "I am glad they gave you a sturdy coat, I hear you do not like the cold, is this true?" as he spoke, he lifted his hand to the side of her face. Ice crystallized out of the air into his palm, and it swirled in a miniature blizzard next to her cheek.

"Yess, my lord," she said. The magic leeched what little heat remained in her face, and only through years of practice was she able to hide her pain.

"Does this hurt?" he sneered, pushing the ice closer.

It did hurt. "Yes, my lord."

Seemingly satisfied, the flurry vanished, and the blonde man turned his attention to Kasimir. He needed to look up at the tiefling, but this did not seem to phase him. He stepped very close, squinting at his horns. "You know what I told your masters, when I learned of your pitiful little group? I said, 'we ought to castrate the males so they cannot spread their fetid seed.' They assured me that no Forsaken would dare touch an Anirian woman... but I swear, if you fail, I will have your balls in a box on my mantle."

He left. The drawing of Berodo had been left on a small table along with a very rough outline of Dhustratir Prison. Nathaira did not move as the door slammed, and after a minute or so, she finally looked up to Kasimir.

"I suppose we'd best eat in our room," she said, her tone light and lilting once more as she pressed the recent events deep, deep down inside.
 

Kasimir

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Kasimir took a sip of his own mug as his eyes cast surreptitiously around the room, pretending to be interested in all of the different shields that were on display. His eyes caught the dwarf making their way over to their table. He was pretty sure he had just seen him behind the bar but he couldn't be entirely sure and he had no tray or plates with him. They probably both looked as equally disappointed; travelling had been tiring. When he greeted them however his gaze flicked to Nat and he offered nothing more than a small shrug then got up to follow him.

It had been a surprise to find a Dreadlord in the room and Kasimir instantly adopted the look he knew the humans expected from them. Eyes on the floor, hands behind his back. Submissive. The information was all important for the job so he listened and made notes to himself. Ideas were forming of plans for escape and also of ways to get the other dwarf back to the portal stone was rescued. It didn't seem liked a terribly hard job in the physical sense but it did require tact. It made sense two Forsaken who could turn themselves into little more than shadows would be selected.

When it did begin to bother him was when he spoke to Nat just so. His hands slowly tightened into fists. He wasn't sure why it upset him so but it did. They were there to do a job for one and it would serve Kas no good if Nat were hurt before they had even started... but no. It went deeper than that. He cared for her and at that moment all he wanted to do was punch the man. When the Dreadlord finally came to stand in front of him he didn't raise his eyes, didn't so much as show any sense of having heard him apart from the nod of affirmation at the end. Only when they were alone did he let out a breath.

"Yes, I will tell the barkeep to bring our food up to us," he went to turn to the door then paused, looking to Nat. After a moment he raised his hand to her cheek where it looked almost... blue from the cold. "Are you ok?" his eyes searched hers.
 
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Nathaira

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Already Nathaira’s psyche was burying the aggression she had just suffered. It was nothing compared to what the pair of them had endured in their lives, just another day and another reminder of her place.

Kasimir had a queer look about him for a moment, and he surprised her with his hand on her cheek. She took a sharp but silent inhale at the contact. The heat of his hand was so wonderful. Her skin had prickled from the cold, and Kasimir's hot blood was like a drug. She leaned her face into it, and felt her own blood moving to spread the warmth across her body. "I will be," she answered him.

Even if she hadn't been chilled, though, she would have reacted to his touch. Gentle touch, kind and intimate contact... it was not something either of them were used to. She stared back into his eyes... his perfect, sunset eyes, and she knew what she wanted more than anything in that moment.

And then, she bristled. She had been reeling from fear moments before, but now the nameless dreadlord's words to Kasimir came back to her. She withstood and witnessed a hundred insults a day, but she no longer wished to tolerate such things directed at Kasimir... or Rumer, she remembered fondly. She knew these attachments were not wise, but they were too strong to overcome.

With her anger came a spark of rebellion, and she leaned in close to Kasimir with a devious smirk and whispered, "I wonder who took his balls that he's so eager for replacementss." It was not a good joke, but the fact that she had dared speak ill of a dreadlord spoke volumes, and the sting at her neck confirmed it. She didn't care, with Kasimir's warmth on her she felt... invincible. She decided to push her luck just a bit further.

She allowed her eyes to look down, then up. Just once. "He could do worse," she said, and then slipped out from Kasimir's hand to the door. She was eager to get their food and get to work.
 
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Kasimir

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Kasimir stood there like a blinded deer as she said her comments then left.

He opened his mouth as if he were going to respond but all that came out was a strangled noise so he shut it promptly. Where had that come from? Nat was always so reserved and in control of her feelings. He had seen what she had done to Rumer and someone would have to be blind not to see that Nat cared deeply for her. So he had not been expecting her anger on his behalf. In truth he couldn't have cared less about what the Dreadlord had said - it was a very mild insult to what had been said to him before. He had been far more angered about what the man had done to her.

Finally he managed to shake himself out of the shock and slunk out of the room to go and find where their food had got to, even if his mind wasn't at all on the job.

A while later, still in a semi state of shock, Kasimir nudged open the door to their rooms carrying two steaming slices of hot three bird pie. Kas hadn't asked what the three birds were but it smelt delicious. He'd also scooped up their drinks on the way back.

"Here we go," he set them all down on the table and then moved to the fire to build it up a little more for her. They were lucky really to even get rooms at the inn, he wouldn't have been surprised to be told to sleep outside but even the Handlers must have recognised the dangers of certain death in the frigid temperatures. They had, obviously, only spent the money for one room though.

"It is a curious thing that Vel'Anir wants a dwarf alive," he said softly.
 
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Nathaira

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Her words seemed to knock something loose in that beautiful, horned head, and Nathaira couldn’t help but feel rather pleased with herself. She liked the idea of Kasimir thinking about her... she certainly had him on her mind. She unconciously touched her cheek where his palm had been as they were shown to their room.

While having a room at all could be called a luxury, it was clear that the handlers had chosen the cheapest option they could get away with. There was a fireplace, mercifully, and although it was small it burned brightly. A lone table would serve their purposes just fine and... a single bed.

Nathaira’s mouth went rather dry as she saw it. Had she been with anyone but Kasimir she wouldn’t have thought much of it, sharing a bed would be nothing, or maybe she could have slept by the fire. Her mind immediately filled with distracting thoughts. They would be so close. Alone. All night. It was enough to make even her cold, slow heart beat a few paces quicker.

She spread the drawing and plans out on the table as Kasimir went to collect their food and drink. ”Sso kind of you to fetch these,” she said, eagerly taking the warm meal. Her tongue moved greedily through the air, tasting the thick steam. The pie was tender and delicious, and she restrained herself from unhinging her jaw and devouring the slice whole, taking measured bites for a change.

She looked up as he mentioned the dwarf, then furrowed her brow as she swallowed. ”Yess, I thought sso too. And a criminal, to boot.“ It certainly seemed underhanded, but then again that’s exactly what the Forsaken were for. ”Do the dwarvess execute their prisoners often?” she wondered aloud. Her question implied a second, more pressing query: what exactly had this Berodo done to earn himself the death penalty?

”Can you make ssense of thiss?” she asked, handing him the prison sketch. It was meant to be a map of sorts, but it had quite obviously been drawn from incomplete memory.

The light through their small, stone-carved window dimmed steadily. Gods, it got dark early up here. The fire was more than adequate to light the small room, and Kasimir had done such a marvelous job at tending to it that the room became quite comfortable. Nathaira had undone the front of her coat, and it was even more obvious how serpentine and thin she was when compared the thick furs. In contrast to her normal draping wrap, she wore close-fitting cloth that could easily slip under the thicker garment.

She was content to review the schematics and plot with Kasimir until they retired for the night. It was a job like any other, she told herself, and tried not to think about how small that bed was.
 
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Kasimir

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Kasimir's brows drew together and he chewed slowly on the mouthful of pie he had just put in his mouth when she asked her questions. Carefully he took the sketch from her and began to trace the lines thoughtfully, imagining the methodology the maker had used when trying to draw it. It looked almost like it was done from the perspective of someone walking through the halls rather than an aerial view.

"I didn't think they did but in truth I don't know," he threw her an apologetic look. Kas liked to know as much about a job as he could which included knowing about the people involved. Other races were, ironically, often an unknown. Everything he knew about his own kind was what he had learnt from Kala which was barely anything apart from that they seemed to wander the world. "I guess it is not us for us to wonder why merely to do," though the thought clearly troubled him as he ate another piece of his pie.

The map, however, finally clicked into place.

"Oh, this is actually rather clever. It's a layered prison and the maker has drawn each one on top of the other," the different colours appeared to be a different layer. "We need the fourth one down," he scooted the chair around so they sat next to each other. Dragging the piece of parchment with him he pointed it out to her.
 
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Nathaira

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Nathaira raised her eyebrows and nodded in agreement, it was not their place to question, although sometimes she did wish they would give her more information, if only to help her assess her prey more accurately.

She squinted as Kasimir explained the map, trying to see each color as it's own layer. "Ah... I ssee!" she said finally, as each floor popped into focus. "Fourth one down... what do you... oh," she realized with a gulp that the prison was built down rather than up. It actually made more sense when she thought about it. Digging down into rock would be much easier than building up into it.

"Ssecurity must increasse as one goes down," why else would they put a death-row inmate so far below? Seeing the map more clearly now, the corridors seemed to shrink as the levels descended, and while the fourth level took up roughly the same area as the first, more of it was taken up by walls of solid rock. Breaking their way into cells through force would be impossible.

She enjoyed Kasimir's closeness, but for the next while she was focused on studying. "Unless the path is straightforward, I will not be able to stay invisible the entire time, especially not shielding another. And there appear to be locked doors between each level, not to mention the cell."

It was a difficult nut to crack, which made it all the more enjoyable. "As for getting inside, I'm not sure... short of getting arrested oursselves."
 
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Kasimir

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"That might not be a bad idea," Kasimir leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind the back of his head. He would have suggested posing as Guards if either of them were short or hairy enough to pass as a dwarf but there was nothing in his arsenal that would allow them that luxury. He could walk the shadow ways but he wasn't sure if Nat would be able to travel with him for that long. It wasn't that he didn't have the skill to keep her in his other world but more the fact it was cold, far colder than it was in the real world. He could feel how icy the shadows of the mountain were even without touching them now.

"The only issue with that plan is trying to get our dwarf back out," his thumb rubbed along the stubble on his jaw and he realised belatedly he hadn't shaved before leaving. If they were here for the full three days he would have more than afternoon shade on his jawline. "I could use the Shadows but it is very cold - very, very cold. I'm not sure if you would be ... comfortable," it was why he burned so hot. The world didn't seem to cold when you could walk in a realm devoid of heat and light. "If we did go for that option we'd still need the key for the doors like you said. Maybe it would be easier to be prisoners going out and break out after. I would prefer to see inside before we attempt it ourselves though, maybe we could go have a look tomorrow?"
 

Nathaira

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Nathaira’s tongue danced intermittently through the air in thought, and she ran her fingers through her thick cords of hair as she pondered their options. She felt a chill run down her spine as Kasimir spoke of the shadow world that he could step through. She did wish to see it sometime, but preferably when she could escape to warmth afterwards.

”The dwarf shouldn’t mind the cold, and I could find my own way out.” She leaned back to stretch her neck after craning it over the map for so long and found herself resting against the crook of Kasimir’s arm, from which she easily slid over to rest against his chest. The fire was lovely, but heat from another living being had a feeling that was hard to describe.

She nodded at his suggestion of a visit. ”Agreed. They have given us enough time for that, at leasst. They aren’t likely to give us a tour, though.” The prison didn’t seem like the sort of place two foreigners would be allowed to just walk through, they would need good reason.

She yawned, a giant, gaping thing that saw her chin nearly reach her clavicle and revealed the scores of curved, pointed teeth she hid. ”Maybe the local underground knowss someone due for a visit?” she said as her face returned to less monstrous proportions. Every town had its criminals, and maybe some of them would have an idea of how they could sneak a peek at the prison.
 

Kasimir

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Kasimir's lips pressed into a thin line. For some reason the idea of leaving her to find her own way was... unsatisfactory. He was about to protest when she slid her way over to him and rested her head against his chest. The Tiefling didn't know what to do. He knew that logically it made sense, he provided the heat she needed especially in this climate. Then why did he feel so stiff, why was his pulse going to fast? He thought about Rumer's smirk and odd little look and the way the pair of them had hidden a drawing from him.

"I think it might be worth asking," he forced the words out and they sounded a little less collected and aloof than usual. He swallowed the lump in his throat and banished the thoughts from his mind. With a slight clearing of his throat he brought over another map. "The prisons are built on top of a ... town hall? Palace? Of some sorts which is apparently open. I heard one of the others downstairs discussing a tour. Perhaps that is a good way in."

He also partly wanted to learn more about how such people had built all of this without the use of magic.
 
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Nathaira

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She could feel his heartbeat in his chest, see the ebbing heat from his hands on the table in front of her. Both of them seemed to grow with her closeness, and she could not suppress a small, satisfied smile from crossing her lips. Her tongue slipped in and out of her lips lazily, and Kasimir dominated her senses, well above the smoke and stone.

”How nicce,” she mentioned about the tour. ”The dwavess are very welcoming.” She was frankly surprised at how warmly the pair of them had been received by their stout hosts. Not once had they been made to feel out of place, and the very idea of a tour showed that they were open to sharing at least some of their culture with the world. Nathaira could not imagine Vel Anir ever being so open, and the horrible dreadlord they had met downstairs confirmed it.

”A tour tomorrow would be lovely,” she cooed lazily, and leaned further into him. She could feel her own blood pumping faster than usual, too. ”Mister Roden,” she teased. She enjoyed the thought of acting like a traveling couple, even if it was pretend. She enjoyed his closeness. It was nice... but also strangely terrifying. It made her body ache, though so long as she didn’t look at him she could pretend it was nothing out of the ordinary.

The fire crackled, slowly becoming the sole source of light as the window dimmed. She let her hand fall to rest on Kasimir’s leg, lying to herself that it was just the closest spot to rest her fingers.
 
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Kasimir

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Their mission to the Empire was the only other place where he hadn't felt so... out of place. He knew that Vel'Anir was not the only city in the world to be against outsiders - in fact, he had heard the dwarfs weren't particularly keen on outsiders too - but the Anirian's just seemed to take it to a whole new level. He decided to enjoy it whilst he was here. The shadows were a welcoming world for him but perhaps here he could enjoy not having to seek comfort in it to feel like he wasn't about to be lynched for the way he looked.

"Mrs Roden," he chuckled and shook his head as he leaned back in the chair. His eyes ran critically over the rest of the documents they had been given on what information they had when he felt the touch of her hand against his leg. Kasimir froze. He had been with women before but it had tended to be more in the call of duty than anything else; maids were still the best source of information and were far looser with their tongue if they felt they were with a potential partner not just a stranger. But he had never been with someone he actually... cared for. Never felt these things before for anyone.

Kas cleared his throat.

"I could also do a preliminary scout whilst we're on that tour via the shadows, see if I can at least figure out the routines and the way down."
 
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Nathaira

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”Yess, but you would need to make sure you were not missed. I doubt the palace guides want foreigners snooping about off the tour.” Few people, if any, could move as silently and unseen as Kasimir and Nathaira, but the tiefling had other tricks quite literally up his sleeve. Nathaira already knew he could walk through the shadow world, and about the helpful little butterfly, but she had seen tattoos on his body that hadn’t been called to action. Would it be possible for him to scout the prison whilst appearing not to have left? It seemed impossible, but the Forsaken did the impossible all the time.

She felt him tense as she touched his leg. If she moved her hand she would be admitting that she had felt it, and admitting that it was a very intimate gesture. She left it, but did not attempt to move it further. She knew she should not read into such things, but it was difficult not to. She reminded herself that Kasimir had always been a gentleman to her, and that genuine physical touch, even as light as fingertips, was a rarity for them both.

The lines on the map were starting to blur, and she blinked heavily. She lifted herself from Kasimir’s shoulder and stood to stretch, bending her back quite a bit further back than one would expect a spine to be able to do. ”We will discuss more in the morning, I must resst.” She walked behind him to the bed, letting her fingers slide across the back of his shoulders as she did so. The closeness had been nice, and he hadn’t truly objected to her touching him yet.

She slipped beneath the thick fur covers. They were somewhat cooler than the air in the room, but they would do. She was grateful to Kasimir for sacrificing his preferred chill for her comfort, she would be sure to repay the kindness somehow.
 
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Kasimir

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A small crease formed between his brows as he considered her words and the papers in front of them. His thoughts went over what he could indeed do in order to scout out the below levels without leaving the group. It was a puzzle that Kasimir was already enjoying trying to solve. There were definitely shadowy creatures that used his skin for their home to escape their own realm that could help but he needed to decide which was the best. Everything was a drain on energy after all and some of his companions required more energy than other; the greater the skill the higher the price.

He was so lost in thought that he didn't quite catch what Nat had said and it only seemed to register when he heard the creak of the bed when she folded herself into the covers. Kas stiffened a little then glanced over his shoulder. It seemed to only register then that they only had one bed to share between them. His eyes flicked briefly to her and then the floor.

After a moment he stood and double checked the door to ensure it was locked. There was a flicker of a shadow as something settled over the handle. If anyone tried to enter he would wake. Then he grabbed his coat from the back of the chair, bundled it up, and settled down on the rug beside the bed.

"Goodnight, Nat," he put his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling.
 
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Nathaira

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She had slipped off her heavy coat some time ago and lay comfortably beneath the heavy blankets. The furs were so thick and the mattress so soft that her presence scarcely seemed to make any difference. If it weren’t for her tangle of hair at the pillows one might not have noticed anyone was in there at all.

The fire was dim now, a pleasant sleepy flickering. The bed was cozy, and while it was likely sub-par compared to most, it was leagues above the stone floors Nathaira was most acquainted with. Everything was lovely, and she should have been able to sleep soundly.

But she couldn’t. Her body was tired but her mind would not let her rest. It burned with thoughts. Thoughts about their work tomorrow, thoughts about that horrible dreadlord who would oversee them, but thoughts about Kasimir most of all.

They were far away from Vel Anir. They were locked safely in a stone room. He was so close, she could reach out from the covers and touch him if she wanted to. Rumer had been right, and Nathaira knew it. She liked Kasimir, craved his stable and calming presence. His quiet strength and poise, and his incredible ability to care, in spite of all that had been done to him. It was Kasimir that had nudged her to be gentler with Rumer, and Kasimir who had recognized her need for peaceful contemplation by the stream.

There was another yearning in her, too, and although she knew full well what it was, it intimidated her. It was no longer enough to simply be in his company.

You will not get another chance, the voice within said to her. She swallowed, her mouth was suddenly very dry.

”Kas,” she said quietly after a few minutes, ”I... it’s cold,” she lied. ”The bed, could you please warm it?”
 

Kasimir

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Such an innocent question but it made him feel both hot and cold at the same time. For a while silence stretched out like a dark shadow across the room.

"As you wish," Kas said after a length of time that felt as though it could have been seconds or hours. He hesitated another moment before rolling to his feet. This time he kicked his winter boots off and then peeled off his jumper and shirt. He was the opposite to Nat; the warmth of the bed would make him overheat. Tentatively he then slid into the narrow bed. It creaked and bowed under his weight for a moment as he adjusted himself.

His arm slipped beneath her neck and gently nudged her onto her side to lay against his side and chest.

"You'll be warmer..." he said by way of awkward explanation.
 
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Nathaira

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The silence that followed her question was agonizing. She knew he had heard her, his breathing had changed as soon as she asked. Everything moved slowly, the moments stretched into infinities. It gave her ample opportunity to consider the ten thousand doubts that bounced around her mind. She waited, still and quiet, biting her lip in anticipation.

Then those words, his words, the first thing he had ever said to her. It was a relief that came with more tension than ever before. The room was dimly lit, but she could see the heat from Kasimir glowing against the stone, and it was blinding as he uncovered his skin.

Was it cruel of her, she wondered, to lure him closer to her with a lie? She knew he preferred to stay cool, knew the heavy furs might be uncomfortable. She was being selfish, and wielding Kasimir’s own chivalry against him. What if he didn’t want what she wanted? What if he was truly just being kind?

Her doubts evaporated when his arm found its way beneath her neck. He pulled her close effortlessly, but not forcefully, just guiding her body to where it ought to go.

”Uh huh...” she mumbled stupidly to his explanation.

She wanted to melt into him. His skin was like fire, radiant and blinding. The warmth was intoxicating, as was the heartbeat she could feel beneath it. Her own body would likely feel cool to him as she leached his warmth. She hoped he would not mind.

She was still for a long time, blissfully paralyzed. As she grew more accustomed to the rise and fall of Kasimir’s breathing, she moved a thumb back and forth, just a small, innocent tic. Slowly, testing the waters, she slid her hand over his chest and down to his side. She began to repeat this motion, back and forth.

It was strange to feel someone, anyone, like this. She had never explored a body without intent to harm it... and she was enjoying the journey very much. She tilted her head up to look at him, and squirmed a little closer, deliberately moving as much of herself against him as she could.
 
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Kasimir

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Kas kept his eyes on the ceiling like his life depended on it. He tried to think of the small little lines in the plaster and not on the lines of her body moulding to his. He thought about the fact he could hear muffled sounds downstairs and not the sounds of Nat breathing against his skin.

Definitely not the touch of her hand across his skin.

Definitely....

His eyes tore from the ceiling and he turned his face slowly towards her. His heart was pounding in his chest. Was she trying to tell him something or was he reading everything wrong here? It wasn't the first time he had shared a bed with another Forsaken and usually there was a lot less ... cuddling.

"I'm... really glad we're on this mission together. Without worrying about the Little Mouse," his thumb gently stroked down his arm.
 
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Nathaira

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It would be easy to overthink everything right now. Was his lack of reaction from lack of interest, or was he even more nervous than she was? Was she making him uncomfortable in a good or bad way? Should she even be thinking about such things when they had a job to do? How would this affect their missions in the future? Gods, what if the handlers found out?

And then he looked at her, and her mind went quiet. Before a mission, Nathaira planned and prepared as they all did. There were pros and cons to every approach, and backup plans on backup plans were needed. When it came down to it, though, in the actual moment, she followed her gut. Her instincts had been honed aggressively for years and when she made the kill it was smooth, straightforward, and most of all natural.

She slipped into that instinct now. He was glad they were here together. He was glad they were here together alone. The gentle caress of her arm was all the encouragement she needed. With her heart thundering through her ribs, she pulled herself forwards and pressed her lips against his.
 
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Kasimir

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Kasimir froze when her lips touched his.

Her lips were cool and soft against his. He could taste the sweet tang of cider still on her lips but there was something else beneath that that was distinctly her. For a moment he struggled to remember how to breathe and then his hand came up to cradle her cheek. His lips returned the pressure of her kiss and his eyes fell shut as he melted into it. He should have been thinking about how dangerous this was. He should have pushed her aside, turned his back, and gotten on with the mission.

But he didn't.

Instead his arm tightened about her, his fingers sliding under her tunic to the soft sweep of her skin and gently coaxed her closer to him. He hadn't quite realised how much he had wanted this. The knot in his chest tightened and then... and then it faded. This was right.
 
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Nathaira

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It was the kind of giddy satisfaction that came from getting what you want after yearning for it for so, so long. Nathaira did not usually get what she wanted. Her clothes were provided. Her weapons were provided. Her poisons, tools, and even most of the glittering copper rings in her hair: provided. Forsaken were not encouraged to develop independent identities, and certainly not encouraged to enjoy themselves.

But this… this was better than any of that. Kasimir dominated her senses. His lips burned against hers, and though the room was dim he glowed white-hot to the secret eyes along her lip and nose. Their lips parted, just long enough for her tongue to flash out and graze his face, then she was back on him, drinking in his scent. Her mind fell deeper and deeper into a place it had never been allowed to go.

His hand on her face was so tender. Yes, she thought, bringing her own hand up to his chest. Everything was new, everything felt amplified, from his hand on her back to the prickling stubble on his chin. She had never felt so much skin against her. She wanted to be caressed, she wanted to be held. ”Touch me.” She hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but it escaped her in a breathy whisper.