Fable - Ask An Escort to Vel Anir

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Colette

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Colette grabbed at him tighter now. The pain in her chest amplified by his harsh breaths and tears. Never in her life had she felt so utterly helpless in a situation before. Someone she cared about was in pain, was hurting, and there wasn't a thing she could do.

"It's ok," she croaked back. "You'll be ok, we'll figure this out."

How would they figure it out? There wasn't anything Colette knew about changing into a wolf. Until tonight she wasn't even certain that werewolves were real.

Now she knew that magic wasn't so dangerous, neither were elves, but that monsters did exist.

Just as she once feared magic or elves though she was forced to question if monsters were really so scary after all. Varo was, by his own admission, some form of monster. He didn't scare her at all. The opposite, in fact, he made her feel safe.

A gentle pair of lips touched his wet cheek. "You aren't going to hurt anyone. You aren't that kind of a person." Colette failed at stifling the tears just as much as Varo had.
 
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Varo

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Another ragged breath pulled into his lungs, his eyes squeezing shut for a moment as his arms finally reached up and wrapped around her.

Varo couldn't remember what happened when the Wolf took him. There were always flashes, feelings, echoes of what the creature had done. Sometimes he woke up with blood on his tongue, pieces of fur in his teeth. The sensation was never better.

Never kinder.

It was like he was missing patches of himself. Pieces that by all rights he should have known. "I..."

Varo swallowed. He wanted to tell her that was true, and...perhaps it was. Yet the Wolf was not...not him. It was something else entirely.

"I don't know, Colette." The Half-Elf told her quietly. "I honestly just don't know."

He frowned. "I can't stop it. It just...happens."

Fingers tightened on her body for a moment.

"I can predict it, the moons, but...when I get too hurt it comes out. Like it's trying to protect itself." He bit his lower lip. "It's dangerous."

Varo said softly. "I'm dangerous."
 
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Colette

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For a few seconds she just clung to him in silence. Unsure what she could say to improve his spirits or make him feel better.

Maybe he was right? Maybe he was dangerous.

"You didn't turn when you got hurt in the woods," she argued. He'd been stabbed and yet he stayed normal. "And if it happens during the moon phases then you can predict it. We can make it safe."

How they'd make it safe she wasn't sure. But maybe he'd tried something in the past they could take advantage of. Or maybe there was something he hadn't tried yet.

She buried her face in his chest and sobbed with him. "We'll figure it out, I can help." She knew that somehow, someway, she could make it better for him.

What Colette didn't know was there was nothing she could do. Varo would continue to turn into a wolf. He'd continue to hunt. But the Anirian girl couldn't bring herself to believe that.
 
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Varo

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Varo didn't know how long he held Colette, how long they sat on that bed wrapped in each others arms spilling tears.

It all but wiped him out.

He had already been exhausted, pushed to his very edge by the march that they had forced upon themselves. It was enough that eventually he simply held Colette tightly enough and pulled her gently in the bed. He didn't bother pulling the blankets over them, didn't bother with anything else.

Varo just wanted to sleep.

Wanted to feel her arms around him as he rested.

His eyes fell closed, Colette still pressed to his chest. It was not a deep sleep, but at least one worry had been lifted away from it. She hadn't screamed. She hadn't yelled or called him a monster.

He only hoped she would still feel the same in the morning.
 
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Colette

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Sleep came easy enough.

Colette kept Varo close to her throughout the night. Wrapped up in him and he in her. She dispelled any thoughts at all so as not to let the negative ones creep in. It was a skill she had learned in the first few days of her guard training. If you fill your head with nothing there's no room for all of the worry and doubt to seep in. Corrode your sleeping pattern and pollute your feelings.

Tonight she just wanted to rest. Let him rest too. They both needed it but after his confession she couldn't help but think that he had needed it more. There hadn't even been time for Colette to really process what any of it meant, for her or him. In the moment she had just seen someone she cared about hurting.

And she knew she had to help.

When the sun arose the next morning Colette lifted both lids slowly. Gazing at him for a few seconds before deciding that she wasn't going to just let him sleep in this morning. At least, not without a fight. "Good morning."

Her words were soft, pleasant. She wore a warm smile that was undercut by the redness of her eyes from the night before. Truthfully, she couldn't remember a time when she was as distraught as she had been last night. Colette's family was by no means rich or well off but she'd had a good life. An easy life.

There hadn't been a time when she woke up with puffy eyes and a sore chest since, well, ever.
 
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Varo

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Varo opened his eyes, catching a glimpse of Colette in front of him.

His lips thinned for a brief moment, his eyes falling shut for a moment more as he murmured something unintelligible. Then sudden memories of the night before struck him like a falling brick. A surge of dread filled his stomach, and he squeezed his eyes shut.

He drew in a breath, opening his eyes. His blue eyes flickered up to Colette, ice staring up at her. "You're still here."

Varo said quietly.

Had he really expected her to leave? A part of him had thought that maybe the night before had been a dream, that she would be gone. That none of this had ever really happened. She could still go, could simply decide it was too dangerous.

But he hoped she didn't.
 
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Colette

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"Of course I'm still here." A gentle push of her hand pressed against his chest whilst her smile bloomed ever larger.

The idea of leaving hadn't occurred to her. He needed help, she'd be wrong to just leave him. Even if there was a part of her worried about her own well being the need to help Varo was the dominant concern on her mind. There wasn't any chance she'd walk away, not now.

Her thumb rose and rubbed at his chin. "I'm not scared," she lied, "we have a fun two weeks before I go back to the guard." Teeth chomped down on her lower lip as she debated what to say next.

"And once I'm done serving with the guard, maybe we can see each other again," her eyes ablazed locked onto his of ice. "You can't just run. That's no way to live."

If his plan was to flee from one place to another, steal and cheat and scrounge for food, then he wasn't living at all. They'd come up with something to make it work. He deserved to settle down, be happy, with someone. While she hoped, in the moment, that person would be her it didn't matter. He deserved it no matter who it was with.
 
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Varo

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Varo frowned for a moment, taking in a breath. There were three people in this world who knew his truth, and only one of them he'd told outright; her.

Irari had learned his secret by accident, found him the morning after he'd transformed practically buried in the corpse of a sheep and still covered in bits of fur. Wren...well...Wren hadn't learned in the most pleasant ways. A mage had forced his transformation, and though she had not killed him he was sure she would never forgive him.

Not completely.

He didn't want the same to happen to Colette, didn't want her to see him transform or suffer the consequence of it. "Two weeks."

Not a day more.

A breath filled his lungs.

"I can manage it okay." Most of the time. "I leave the city when the Moons are coming, go as far into the woods as I can."

For a second he paused, lips thinning, and then he reached up. His hand softly cupped her cheek, thumb stroking over her skin. "We'll meet up."

Varo assured her softly.
 
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Colette

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Two weeks. And he left the city when the moons would trigger a change. So, he already knew the next time he’d change and that meant Colette was safe for two weeks. Then there was nothing to worry about, she’d be perfectly safe. If there was a chance of danger he’d send her away now. She was certain.

”We’ll need to come up with a better solution,” she said before touching her lips to his nose in a gentle kiss. ”You’ll get cold out in the woods by yourself.”

But he mentioned they’d meet up once she was done with her service. That filled her with joy she didn’t know she could feel in that moment. ”I’ve probably got several more months but maybe I can write to you until I’m done.” She’d prefer to talk about this topic over the other one.

She assumed he’d prefer to talk about anything else too.

”Maybe we can go see the waterfall today. Or the rainbow fish.” Curling in closer she tried to stifle the natural reaction building up in her gut. It proved futile though as her stomach grumbled. ”Although, maybe we should eat something first.”

It had been a few days since either of them had a proper meal.
 
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Varo

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He smiled when she spoke of him getting cold in the woods. It was a small thing, a tiny gesture, but it was more than anyone had thought of before.

Varo himself had always cared more about making sure that he didn't murder anyone rather than his comfort. Sure he brought an extra set of clothes eat time, but mostly only because his first either ended up torn to shreds or covered in blood. That was never a good look when returning to town.

Softly he leaned forward and kissed her lips. Lingering there for a moment before he pulled back.

"There's a postal House near where I live in Alliria." They didn't exactly deliver mail into the Shallows. After the fourth time getting a carrier jumped they decided to discontinue that particular service.

Not that Varo blamed them.

He took a breath, and then nodded to her request. It would be good to do something normal, ordinary. They could think about this problem more later. "Yes."

Varo agreed.

"Food first." The werewolf said as he gently nudged her off the bed. "I hope you don't mind vegetarian."

His people didn't tend to eat much meat.
 
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Colette

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The idea of any prepared meal was tantalizing. Anirian diets tended to combine meat, vegetables, and sometimes grains in a 'normal' meal. But there were certainly vegetarian dishes that were just as good as the typical offerings. "Anything delicious is fine by me." She gave him a knowing wink after those words.

A smile graced her features as she rolled of the bed. She didn't immediately head to the door, instead moving towards a set of dressers and opening a few drawers to inspect their contents. Normally Colette would have asked permission or checked with someone to see if it was ok. But this was a special case, she'd been in the same fatigues for three or four days now. They were covered in dirt and dried blood and sweat and she just couldn't stand it any longer.

Elvish clothes were odd to her. Flowing, lithe, she was pretty sure none of it would fit right. But she grabbed a pair of green capris and a long yellowed tunic and called back, "just a second," before she retreated into the lone closet and changed.

When she emerged her face was beaming and she headed towards the door out of the lavish little apartment.

"Lead the way," she offered. Less scared of the elves than yesterday but still not wanting to be seen in the city without him by her side.
 
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Varo

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Varo changed as well, throwing out the ragged tunic and trousers he'd been wearing since before being caught and donning something more fitting.

Unlike Colette he was used to the clothes, and truth be told felt far more comfortable in them than the old ones. It was like a piece of home. A small piece, but a piece nonetheless. He smiled as he glanced in a mirror, almost recognizing the prince he'd been when he's first left Ivradin.

When Colette popped back out and whisked passed where he was standing Varo smiled.

It was clear she was eager, but he was guessing that was far more due to the food than seeing more elves. At least for now. His head dipped in nod. "Let's go."

Varo said as he stepped in behind her and opened the door. For the moment the secret he had told her was forgotten, and their day turned into something more ordinary.

When they stepped outside the warm sun greeted them, along with the sound of chirping birds and the milling of people below. They descended the steps, a few looks passing their way as people noticed the couple.

No one walked towards them, but no one peered at them with disgust or anger either. Most often Colette would find glances of pure curiosity.
 
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Colette

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Velem during the day was much different than it had been at night. More people, more smells, and natural sunlight illuminating the fortress-town. It was easier to see the elaborate patterns the tree branches grew into or the sheer size of some of the tree trunks. Briefly she wondered just how many elves could live in a single tree although that thought was interrupted by...

The stares. Only a few and only ever so often. They practically confirmed that either Varo truly was a prince or Colette was one of the first humans here in a very long time. She couldn't quite place it. Perhaps it was a bit of both.

"They're staring," she whispered to him with a hint of concern.

Her heartrate stayed steady though, she knew that the half-elf wouldn't let anything harm either of them here. It was more a discomfort than anything else. Many of those minor worries dissipated when they entered the banquet hall that Varo had guided them towards.

She was immediately hit by a flurry of scents of garlic, leek, rosemary, and who knows what other non-human spices or concoctions they had.
 
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Varo

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He glanced back at some of the Elves they passed by. More than a few offered smiles, though some just gave him blank looks that spoke no way or the other.

It was clear they knew who he was.

Rumor spread quickly even among the Elves. His people liked to think of themselves as better than humanity, but the truth was that in some ways they were just as bad. Elves could be gossip mongers just like men, and it seemed Velem was absolutely no different.

"Well." He said as he leaned into Colette. "You're probably the first Human that's ever been in this city, and I'm..."

Varo trailed off. "Well, my dad is important."

The Half-Elf would offer an explanation if Colette asked, but the moment they stepped into the banquet hall it seemed to disappear.

There were half a dozen or so elves within, half a dozen large tables scattered around. Men and women dressed in robes of white were flurrying about the room, each one going from table to table and serving some type of food.

He leaned into Colette. "It's not like a restaurant, you don't pay here...it's more like...an art exhibit. We sit, and they'll serve us their craft; the food."

It was free to everyone of course, and allowed the chefs to perfect their craft and passion.
 
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Colette

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Colette was a bit surprised when Varo mentioned she was likely the first human here. She was more shocked by his statement about his father. The Anirian had assumed that if Varo was a prince then surely his father was some sort of king or emperor or whatever elves had.

But she didn’t push it. He’d elaborate on it at some point if he wished. She’d already pushed him once about his… affliction and she didn’t want to push some other topic he was uncomfortable with.

Free? ”How do they acquire ingredients or afford their homes or,” she trailed off as the duo took a seat.

Colette understood that cooking could be viewed as an art. A craft that delighted the chef when a patron enjoyed what they had made. But, in Vel Anir it was expected that the cook be compensated. Just as you’d pay a blacksmith or carpenter for their work.

Maybe elves didn’t even use money? She couldn’t comprehend such a thing ever working in human society.
 
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Varo

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"Well, we don't really use money for much." He told her with as he took his seat opposite her.

It was a rather easy system. People were provided for. Homes were easy enough to create and food was grown aplenty. There wasn't ever really any need for money, except of course when dealing with traders and outsiders.

That was really the only reason his father had ever kept any gold coins around. Ivladrin was The Hidden City, but they allowed a select few traders into the port every now and again. "Homes are grown, and same with food. It helps that our population doesn't really grow that fast."

Elven children were rare. The fact that Ivladrin had a dozen or so around the time of his own birth had been considered a mircal.

As he was about to open his mouth to explain a woman wandered over to them. She spoke a greeting in Elvish, bowing before them.

"You must be the two the rumors are swirling about. The young Prince of Ivladrin and his human companion."

Varo looked up at the woman, offering the same greeting in return. "You may call me Varo, and this is Colette."

The woman offered another bow to Colette, then the same Elvish greeting.

"You'll have to excuse me, I have never made a meal for a human palette before, but I revel in getting to attempt it."

She held an expression that might have been defined as 'passive excitement'.
 
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Colette

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Growing homes, right, he’d said that already she just assumed they still cost something. And they were all vegetarians as well. So they just grew the food too. Didn’t even really use money.

”But then how do,” Colette’s lips sealed as she saw the elven woman approach them. She stayed silent as the elf addressed then and Varo introduced the duo. A curt nod followed his mention of her name and wide eyes stared back at the chef as she sounded genuinely excited to cook for a human.

Colette smiled, ”I’m sure whatever you make will be lovely.” She wasn’t a picky eater and always thought it rude when requests were made to the chef.

Although, truthfully, she didn’t actually know if she could just eat whatever the elves did. Some of it might be poisonous to humans. By that logic some human foods could be poisonous to elves.

”I’ll have whatever he thinks is good.” Varo would probably know which elven dishes killed humans.
 
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Varo

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Varo smiled, said something in Elvish, and then the woman took another bow and swept herself away.

If Colette watched her closely she would see that the woman moved with a certain amount of grace. It was as though she floated instead of walking. In fact it was that way with many of the elves. They seemed to glide across the floor as though undisturbed by anything at all.

"I think you'll like it." He told her quietly. "At least it will be a proper meal."

Not berries and mosses they randomly found on the forest floor.

His...affliction, had meant his taste in food had changed. Before he'd been infected he'd always preferred the elven diet of different vegetables and fruits, but now? Now there were times were he utterly craved meat above anything else.

A fact which he decided not to share with Colette, at least not in that moment. "What do you think?"

He asked her softly.

"Of your first Elven city." She hadn't seen much of it, but enough to form a bit of an opinion at least.
 
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Colette

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”At first,” Colette started before stopping. Then she decided she could just speak plainly to him. ”I didn’t even think it was a city. It barely looks different from the forest.” She bit at her lower lip before continuing, ”and I was scared. It’s not that I didn’t trust you it’s just…”

She allowed herself to be distracted by the elven woman’s grace and poise as she walked off. There was definitely a sort of charm to much of it. ”I do think I’ll love the food. Something prepared instead of whatever we find on the ground of the woods.” The Anirian showed him a playful smile.

Before, of course, she got somber again.

”It’s hard to forget everything they tell you back in Ve-,” Colette gulped and corrected herself, ”back home. But the longer I’m here the more normal it’s becoming. It just feels foreign now but,” she pressed her thinning lips together and stared at Varo hard. She was positive she couldn’t be doing this without him here. Making it in an elvish town or roughing it through the forest or any of it. ”It's not bad, just different.”

Colette was sure it wasn’t the answer he wanted. But it was the truth and she wasn’t capable of lying to him.
 
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Varo

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As Colette spoke Varo only smiled.

A part of what she said made him concerned. Made him wonder if she had somehow made her feel unsafe. Yet as she explained more and more he couldn't help but feel a pang in his heart. How much had Vel Anir lied to her? How much had she learned that was simply...false.

His hand reached out across the table, fingers wrapping around one of her palms. His thumbs slowly stroked across her skin, a gentle and reassuring touch. "Thank you."

He told her softly.

The words spilled from his lips without much thought.

"For being you." Varo said quietly. "For accepting something so different than what you're used to."

His heart ached with need. With a desire to kiss her. With a need to break every little bit of decorum. "For being with me."

Varo said softly.

"For being everything that you are." His eyes met hers, and in that moment he could only feel a single thing; love.
 

Colette

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Colette hadn’t realized just how tense she had become until Varo placed his hand upon her palm. Almost instantly her shoulders eased and her muscles went limp. She simply smiled as he kept speaking although what she really wanted to do was cry.

No one had ever been so kind to her. And for someone with as nice and cozy of a life as her the sentiment of being treated so well was something to be savored. To cherish.

Awkwardly she formed the words, ”I like you,” not quite meeting his gaze yet not quite looking away. ”That’s why I’m with you.”

There wasn’t any ‘truth’ from her childhood in Vel Anir or any hidden secrets about himself that would change that. Colette liked Varo more than she liked anyone before him. There wasn’t anything that was going to change her opinion or perception of him at this point other than his own words and actions. If he needed help she’d be there, no matter what.

”You make me really happy.” Her eyes resumed looking towards his, blues met blues. Colette’s cheeks turned a deep red at her confession while deep down she hoped the elven chef would return quickly with their dishes.

She didn’t know why she got so nervous around him. How she could feel like she could tell him anything yet at the same time be so concerned about his opinion of her. ”Thanks for being who you are too.”
 
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Varo

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Varo felt his heart ache again as she spoke.

He wondered what he had done to deserve running into her. What sort of twist of fate he'd earned in order to meet Colette. A smile pulled at his lips, and he took in a slow breath. His thumb softly traced over her hand, fingers interlacing softly with hers.

"I'm going to make this the best time of your life." Varo declared calmly, making a promise not only to her, but himself.

He wanted their time spent together to be special. Something that both of them could remember when they were apart. If they had to spend months separated, then at least they would have these memories.

The Half-Elf smiled, but was interrupted before he could say anything by the Elven cook returning.

She was holding three platters, each of them filled to the brim with cooked vegetables and several grilled fruits. All of them looked as exotic as could be, some striped, a few spotted with white and black. The placed the platters down onto the table, glancing between the two of them.

"We'll start here. We have grilled and seasoned Yara Fruit, along with some steamed Dragon Root and Sauteed Tiller Vine. I'd suggest starting with the Yara fruit, then sampling some of the vine. The combination goes well together."

The woman smiled at them, though it was clear she had not quite described everything nor the complexity that had gone into cooking it. She stayed for a moment more, and then suddenly swept away towards the kitchen to prepare more food.
 
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Colette

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Cerulean doe eyes practically fell out of Colette's skull. The arrangement of food that was placed before them would've looked alien in Vel Anir, sure, but it was still a meal that seemed fit for a king. Or at least the nobility. Delicately and carefully she picked up a fork and cut a piece of what the elven woman called Yara fruit.

She chewed at it slowly, softly, and then nibbled on the tiller vine.

Her eyes lit up and a half-smile formed as she continued to chew. "Oh wow, it really is a great combination," she said only after she had finished chewing. The Yara wasn't a sweet fruit, it was rather tart, and the vine was slightly sweet but also helped to mellow out some of the acidity from the Yara. Alone each of them was tasty enough but combined it was absolutely delicious.

A few of the other aromatics entered her mouth and Colette tried her best to stifle the urge to stuff her face. She didn't want to appear uncouth to Varo but the opportunity to eat real food for the first time in days was causing her to want to abandon her fork and just dig in.

"This is really good, I don't even know what I'm eating. I just know it's good," she said as she took another bite.
 
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Varo

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Varo sat quite happily for a few seconds, watching Colette dig into her food. The expression of joy that crossed her face sparked a feeling of unmitigated joy in his chest.

He liked when he saw her enjoy pieces of his culture. When she embraced the small bits of Elven society that she had seen. It caused a small spark of mirth to roll through him, as if in some strange way he himself had done something correctly.

"Try with some of this sauce." Varo said as he picked up his fork and grabbed a bit of everything before dipping it into a sauce that had been put onto the side of the platter.

"It's good." He told her. "A bit spicy."

Varo had recognized it from back home. "They make it with some peppers that can only be found deep in the Falwood."

He had always found the sensation pleasant, but he had no idea if the Anirians were the same. He offered the fork to Colette, a smile on his face.
 
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Colette

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"Yum," Colette said with enthusiasm as she dipped some of the Yara into the sauce. Her lips went red quickly and she jolted her eyes up at Varo. "Oh wow, that is spicy!" It wasn't unpleasantly so but enough that she was going to have to be careful with just how much she dipped onto her other vegetables.

A salad consisting of various beans and lentils were the Anirian's next target and she munched on those while staring at the half-elf across from her. This was the first, actual, meal they had shared together. It had suddenly dawned on her that they hadn't gotten to just sit and break bread together. The feeling was almost strange in a way but she was pretty sure it was because of just how hectic and bizarre the past few days had been.

Regardless of the eerie feeling it was undeniable that this moment was simply nice.

Colette tried to scoop some of the sauce into a serving of the bean and lentil salad although after taking the first bite of it she opened her lips and exhaled, hoping to find relief. "Too much. Too hot." A slender hand grasped at the glass of water that had accompanied their food and she swallowed most of it in a single gulp.

Her tastebuds still tingled a bit but they'd mellowed out enough to enjoy some of the other items on the tray. "This piece is really good," she said between bites while pointing her utensil at one of the striped, long, pieces of vegetation.
 
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