Private Tales On life's wayward trails

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Tzuriel Alanthis

Merchant King Of Arethil
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246
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It was a rare opportunity. The formerly self-sufficient country of Mardania was beginning to branch out and initiate more trade between themselves and other countries. The portal stones were finally up and running cutting valuable months off the travel time to reach them and shaving it down to only a few weeks.
Alanthis Trade and Co. Couldn't simply pass up the opportunity to be among the first to trade with one of the richest countries in the north.

However, Tzuriel Alanthis was loathed to travel at this juncture. Having officially become engaged to Divina Rosenstern of the Rosenstern brand, he found himself torn between his love for the road and his affection for his fiancée and a desire to be near her... He also couldn't pretend that there wasn't a certain amount of fear added to his plate at the thought of leaving her in Alliria, news of their engagement spread like wildfire and not all of it was well received.
But the solution was obvious, kill two birds with one stone!
So Tzuriel invited his fiancée along on the trip.

The Alanthis Trade and Co. Prided itself on protected and safe travel. They have contracts with the Adventurers Guild and the Monster Hunters Guild, hiring such skilled people many of whom have renown across Arethil tend to keep his caravans safe by their presence alone.
This caravan consisted of a ten cart convoy with mounted escort. Each covered cart loaded down with crated product and manned by a driver and crossbowman. Twenty mounted escort consisted of a healthy mix of adventurers, mercenaries and monster hunters each seeming to specialize in different forms of combat and protection with at least one magic user and a cleric.
While this road was reliably mapped out the wild was still the wild, chances couldn't be taken lightly.

Once they passed through the Allirian portal stone and arrived on the other side their journey truly began. They traveled at an even pace, the escort on the alert as they left the portal dias and entered the forest.
Tall pines grew on either side of the road like spears thrust into the clear blue sky, birch trees fluttered their summer leaves as birds chirped and flitted about and squirrels leapt from branch to branch and chattered amongst themselves.
Tzuriel and Divina rode in the pilot cart, Tzuriel switching with the driver or Crossbowman on occasion.
Thus far it has been an uneventful journey and Tzuriel was relaxed. It had been too long since he'd been on the road and he was starting to go a little stir crazy on Alliria, merchant politics can never be healthy even in small quantities.

After a stretch relieving the driver Tzuriel came back into the cart and sat down beside Divina.
"Two weeks on the road according to the charts. This road is well traveled so I don't expect any delays."
He stretched out on the seat and laced his fingers behind his head. He loved traveling in the north, especially on days when the smell of pine is strong to verge on overwhelming.
He loved that he could share this with Divina, he didn't know how often she got to travel with her brand, if at all.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

Merchant Noble
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Divina could remember precisely her first trip as a merchant. At the time, first wed to her husband Willem, they had begun the long journey down the Golden Road. How she was secretly wracked with fear, moving along at a snail's pace, every creak and groan of the caravan making her glance about, her husband fast asleep on the opposite side. And now here she was, older and possibly wiser, and like every time since the first, savoring the feel of losing the constraints of the prying eyes of Alliria. She had never ventured far north before, and though Rosenstern was quite wider-reaching than some others of the Council, she was not quite as well-traveled as Tzuriel. Though she had some skills of her own defense, she preferred others to assume her weak.

The first rule she had learned, first as a merchant's wife, then a businesswoman of her own right; never let your opponents see what you're capable of until it's too late.

She was sat, her cloak's hood thrown back from her face the moment they left the portal, lanternlight casting a warmth over her journal as the traveling writing set perched delicately on her lap. Another schematic was in the making; she had daydreamed it earlier, a method of flight that didn't require much magic. Though she was not the most staunch of constitutions compared to most, she did savor nature and being outdoors. Traveling with her fiance meant she would not miss a single moment with him. Though she thought of ways to keep him by her side for longer, the thought of even spending mere weeks apart brought another ache to her chest.

She enjoyed occasionally glancing up and seeing him keep himself busy; she had started getting to know the few of their guard that traveled with them, her natural curiosity beginning to overshadow her usual reserve. Still, when Tzuriel came back into the cart with her, she set aside her quill and journal, cool blue eyes warming slightly at the sight of him and a small smile touching her lips.

"Two weeks on the road according to the charts. This road is well traveled so I don't expect any delays."
"I don't mind it," she answered levelly, but the smile widened, reaching over to rest her hand lightly on his thigh, then peering through the entrance of the cart to enjoy the view of the pines. She loved the smell of them; though the salt of the ocean and the scent of her gardens were both lovely in their own rights, there was something about this wilder air that inspired excitement in her. She wasn't aware that her own cheeks flushed warmly, as her own smile also grew just thinking of the journey ahead. "I haven't had the luxury yet of traveling this far; it's still an adventure, even with it being so well-traveled." Settling back a little further, she winced as her lower back stiffened in protest. It seemed she had been sitting in the same position for far longer than she anticipated.

Her lips lightly pressed against his as she leaned over him, full lips tilted into a grin. "I'm glad to have gone with you. Staying in Alliria would have driven me mad."

With that, she leaned back again, beginning to reach for her journal to look for the last page she was on. There was a new schematic she had in mind.

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

Merchant King Of Arethil
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Messages
246
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His wife to be, a picture of beauty even without the trappings of Allirian courts and parties. A simple hood and cloak and sensible clothing simply made her appear as a goddess in contrast to her plain surroundings.

She was writing and drawing, unperturbed by the bumps in the road, her brilliant mind still hard at work on another outlandish and utterly ingenious invention that challenged every single perception of the world... But when he came back to join her she set aside her quill.
"I haven't had the luxury yet of traveling this far; it's still an adventure, even with it being so well-traveled."
He nodded in agreement. Even with a road so well traveled there was always an element of danger. His brand wasn't known in this part of the world, the local criminal element wouldn't have been taught to leave his caravans alone even if not intimidated by the high quality protection.
He wasn't worried either way though, the hired protection was exactly for this sort of thing, they could easily hand the average bandit gang or pack of monsters.

His wandering thoughts were brought to focus by a pleasant yet chaste kiss on his lips.
"I'm glad to have gone with you. Staying in Alliria would have driven me mad.
He met her smile with one of his own, "Exactly. Alliria is no place for any sane person to build a life... Imagine how insane we must be already?"
He brushed his thumb over her cheek and cupped her face in his palm.

As she turned back to her writing he closed his eyes and folded his arms across his chest. Curious as he always was about her work he simply couldn't bring himself to focus on that while birds sang over their heads and he fell into the rhythm of the cart and the road. He let himself drift, drinking in the senses of sound and smell over his sense of sight, both sharpened by his former affliction.

If he focused he could faintly detect the sounds of little heartbeats pumping blood through tiny little veins, and he could almost pinpoint where they were in the trees. When he was a vampire that sound would be cacophonous and the blood would sing to him constantly if he didn't learn to shut it out. It was beautiful at the time and in some twisted way it still was even in its muted state, being able to sense life like that reminded him just how valuable life truly was.
He tuned out other sounds and found one heartbeat in particular, that of his fiance. Her heart was a healthy one, especially by vampiric standards, but he simply wanted to memorize it, to be able to recognize it in a crowd. Her heartbeat, steady and strong as opposed to his heart that beat ever so slightly slower because of choices he made on a whim.

He slowly opened his eyes and for a moment the feral gold consumed his blue irises, but when he turned to look at her and saw the faint vision of her veins standing out under her flawless skin he didn't look at her with hunger, but with compassion. Even her veins were beautiful... If such could ever be a compliment by human standards... But it would be a shame... no, it would be an insult and an injury to see those veins opened and wasting the precious life fluid that kept Divina Rosenstern healthy and strong.

He blinked and the gold vanished from his eyes.
He scooted closer to her and put an arm around her shoulders, planting a kiss on her head before looking down at her writing kit.
"What sort of outlandish contraption is that?"
 
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Divina Rosenstern

Merchant Noble
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At the brush of his palm against her cheek, she smiled, pressing a kiss into it before releasing him. She was entirely oblivious to the rest of the world once she settled into inventions, however. Several of them were ideas that would never work. Quite a number of them could possibly work, but finding investors would prove next to impossible with Alliria's form of merchant council. And the few that would be acceptable would likely have to wait some time. The processing mills from her first venture with Tzuriel and the water-wheeled ships were merely the start; the process to make change was slow work, but she loved it.

"Exactly. Alliria is no place for any sane person to build a life... Imagine how insane we must be already?"

She chuckled, nibbling on her lower lip in thought. "Absolutely insane," came her mild rejoinder, flicking her gaze up to meet his with a coy, flirtatious look. "It's why we're successful." With that, she turned back to her sketch, a faraway look in her eye. Previously, in ventures of her own, she hadn't ridden in a cart, but on her retired warhorse, Caeldes, nor had she traveled through portals before. All of this was novel... and it opened up so many ideas. She hadn't realised she was frowning and staring at an ink blot on the page when she felt an arm around her shoulders, and she smiled, leaning into him and chuckling once at the kiss.

"What sort of outlandish contraption is that?"

Her eyes glinted teasingly, full lips quirked into a grin. "A harvester. One of my primary exports is grain, and with summers so short and labor needed, I wanted to help them shorten time considerably." She ran a finger along the bottom of the page, her expression turning thoughtful. "If I can think of solutions to problems years before they become a true difficulty... I can spare years of headaches and heartaches from my people for years to come." Her brows drew in, and she sighed, absently rubbing her palm on her forehead. "I wish I could read the future, and solve those struggles ahead of time though." She tilted the journal at him, then cocked her head. "But what do you think?"

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

Merchant King Of Arethil
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Messages
246
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He examined the rough draft of her idea on the page. A harvester to increase the efficiency of the workers. It had its usual level of complexity that he'd come to accept and took it in stride, he'd understood some of it to a more or lesser degree as he studied her markings and calculations.
"Outlandish indeed my dear. But also consider the livelyhood of the workers we have. Were we to make their jobs obsolete that won't look well for us, if there was a way to increase efficiency and productivity without replacing the worker that would be our ideal scenario."
The corner of his mouth went up in a smile the more he thought about it.
"It's a good idea, though, perhaps we could sell it to smaller farms with fewer laborers, increase their efficiency to keep up with the demanding markets. More profit for myself is the least of my concerns these days..."

As she leaned into him he rested his cheek against the top of her head, the scent of her hair pervading his senses and he breathed in deeply.
Already they were set for life, what need did a doomed man have for more? At this point he was building something else... A trust in keeping for his legacy, perhaps they could reach greater heights after he was gone, but only if they didn't destroy it...

Outside the wagon he could hear the steady roar of a deep and fast river and moments later the sound of horseshoes and cart wheels on a wooden bridge.

He kissed the top of her head again, slowly and with more feeling. The vessel for his future... His soon to be...

... Danger...

He instinctively leaned forward and pushed her down to the seat, upsetting her writing kit and notebook as he pinned her down with his body protectively between her and danger... Seconds before a precisely calculated and aimed crossbow bolt buried itself in the wood of the bench exactly where a person's heart should have been... Her heart...

Before Tzuriel could shout an alarm he was drowned out by a deafening explosion all around them, their cart heaved upwards and they were momentarily weightless. Tzuriel took the opportunity to put both arms around her holding her as tight to him as he could, trying his best to completely surround her with his body, he moved around so he was beneath her and then braced himself.
When the cart landed again suddenly weight returned and he took the blow, but it was muted when the cart landed with a splash.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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When he kissed her forehead again she smiled, about to set pen and book aside, tilting her face up to his--

When he suddenly pushed her down into the seat. She let out a gasp and was about to laugh, to tease him about not waiting until they had broken camp... when she saw the crossbow bolt right where she had been. Her blood suddenly went cold, and she looked at him, parting her lips to say something when the explosion rocked them up, and she gripped onto him, alarm thudding in her veins as they went weightless. Which way was up? He wrapped himself around her and she gripped onto him, pressing herself against him so as to not lose her grip on him either.

When they landed, she landed on top of him, earning a grunt and a sympathetic wince. It had to hurt. She opened her mouth to apologize when she glanced up to check on the guard that had been there before.

Nothing remained of them. Her eyes widened as she took in what little they could see from inside. Smoke mingled with pine from the explosion that had scattered the caravan. Fire would spread soon, and there seemed to be fighting. But the two adventurers that had been up front with their cart were entirely gone, a massive hole where they once sat.

And the water was rising fast to meet them.

It was already beginning to fill up the front half; she shivered once, knowing she would have to swim. And though she had been swimming since she was small, it was the ocean, predictable in some ways with high and low tide, following the currents. But this river was different. Colder, more savage. Reaching down to hold Tzuriel's hand tightly, she began to clamber to her feet, stuffing her journal into a cloak pocket with a defiant scowl.

She was not going to die today.

"Hold onto me tight, love," she spoke to him, feeling the icy water begin to rush up to her ankles. Her legs began to tremble, to shiver in the icy shock. They had to be careful; if she got too waterlogged, she could drown from the weight of her clothing alone, never mind the shock from the cold that would leave her gasping for air. She had to focus, drown out the melee.

The water was one of her elements. Though this was different, she could feel its' flow, its' current and raw power, and began to channel it, forcing it to cleave around them, to slow around them in a protective bubble against the powerful pull. But the cold water was beginning to get to her, her arms shaking as she fought to focus against the biting chill now up to mid-calf. She began to slog forward, gripping tightly to his hand. "Gods... give me strength," she managed to gasp out, knowing they couldn't stay in the cart. It would sink them faster; they would have to be careful of the current and pray to find smoother waters soon. It was getting harder and harder to focus.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

Merchant King Of Arethil
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He let out the held air in his lungs with the blow and then groaned at the sharp pang. They landed on the floor of the wagon but Tzuriel caught the edge of the seat on his left shoulder, he didn't have time to assess the damage though, the wagon was being swiftly pulled downstream.

He could hear shouting and the sounds of combat, on whatever is left of the bridge, on the side of the river where the rest of the caravan had yet to cross. Tzuriel wanted to get back to them, to join the fight and teach these assassins a lesson in choosing your clients wisely... But their own survival took priority at the moment.
"Hold onto me tight, love,"
Divina took his hand as he pulled himself off the floor, he could feel a familiar tingle in the air as she began working her magic on the water.
Tzuriel had another advantage to his condition, he felt temperatures less sharply, but he could tell that Divina was struggling with the icy chill of the river even as she worked to divert the current around them.
The wagon was definitely drifting rapidly and all it would take is a single wheel to snag on the bottom to flip them over, he had the presence of mind to grab his sword and a backpack before stepping into the water. At least he didn't have to worry about the running water destroying him anymore.

He proceeded her as much as he could, imposing himself in front of Divina while staying within the effects of her spell. The bank of the river was a good thirty feet away. Looking up river he could still see the remains of the bridge and the combat unfolding, and they were getting farther away.
He looked at Divina and he could see her struggling to focus through the cold, she wasn't used to the glacial waters of the north. He looked back to the bank to calculate the distance to reach it and how long Divina could last without getting hypothermia...

... Assassins were chasing along the bank on horseback, men dressed in tight fitting black leather armor with swords and daggers on their belts, nocking crossbows and taking aim as they appeared from the wagon.
"Get back!"
He pulled her hand back and followed her into the cart as crossbow bolts began tearing holes in the canvas cover.
"Out the back of the cart! We're sitting ducks out here, we need to use the cart as cover!"
He quickly untied the canvas at the back and opened it. The water was rising quickly, with all the supplies weighing it down they only had so much time.
"Focus on staying warm, Divina. Put your arms around my neck and hold on, I'll swim us both."
He poked his head up briefly and looked downstream. There was a bend coming up but the cart wouldn't last long enough to reach it, he took the opportunity to glance at their attackers, immediately he cursed and ducked back down.
"No more time, they've got a spellcaster, Jump!"
He looped her arms around his neck and jumped off the cart, diving into the frigid water as the rest of their cart was blasted to kindling in a second explosion.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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"Focus on staying warm, Divina. Put your arms around my neck and hold on, I'll swim us both."
She was already shivering. Focus was difficult enough as it was with the combat and the smell of smoke; with the water rising up and their drifting further downriver, it was almost impossible. When he pulled her with him back into the cart, she had given up for now. She couldn't act on the defensive to protect them and not be a target. Giving up, she heard him curse. Seeing his face, she didn't even have to ask if they had any time; she nodded, wrapping her arms around him.

She took a deep breath, and then down into the chaotic, freezing depths they went.

The sudden, savage current dragged at her skirts and cloak, and her lungs burned. The cold bit deep into her bones as water roared around them, raking at her with savage frozen fingers. As he swam, she struggled to hold on, to keep her breath until they'd surface, but it was getting harder and harder to cling on.

She couldn't drag him down with her. Advantages or not, she knew the sheer weight of her clothing alone would be difficult swimming; with the current, even more so. She could feel her grip begin to slip as she shivered, hard enough for her whole body to tremor, and she tried to dig frozen fingers into her sleeves, to maintain her grip, but it was being lost against the river's brutal current. Closing her eyes, she could feel the coldness sink further and further in, biting deep into her bones.

I won't let him drown.

Summoning the dregs of whatever stubbornness she could prevail on, she began to manipulate the water again, softening its' savagery, easing it enough to make his swimming easier, but all the while she began to drift, pouring her strength into protecting him from the assassins and the river.

They would pull closer to the bend in the river, and she would begin to sink into unconsciousness, hands losing their grip and arms drifting free once they rounded the bend and began to be pulled out of sight of the assault and the caravan. She was cold, so cold she couldn't think, couldn't focus anymore. There was just the promise of the deep water, and if she stayed in it, a long, deep sleep.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

Merchant King Of Arethil
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The cold was a shock, even to him and his muted temperature sense, he could feel his muscles locking up but he fought through the panic and forced his limbs to move. Her clothing did make it difficult to swim but he wasn't going against the current, he was using it to speed them along, he just needed to aim them and come up at the right moment... Of course it was impossible to know where they were since he had his eyes squeezed shut against the water.

He pulled against the water with his arms and kicking with his legs, making powerful strokes to keep them moving. On occasion he would feel a piece of wood bump against him as they made their way down the river, and once or twice he touched bottom. His lungs were beginning to burn and the cold was numbing his flesh but more importantly he began to notice Divina's grip loosening. Desperately he grabbed her wrist and held on to her so he wouldn't lose track of her. Damn the assassins, they had to come up now!
Defying the current which Divina had previously protected them from he began to swim upwards, dragging on her heavy clothes. It was impossible to know if he was making any progress, his lungs were burning and it seemed to be taking way too long, was he even moving?

He let some air out to ease his burning lungs... But there was nothing left to let out, instinctively he tried to breath in which only rewarded him with a lung full of water... Which began the deadly cycle of drowning...
He desperately tried once more to reach the surface, he made a powerful pull with his arms... And there was nothing, still water, he didn't reach the surface and despair filled his heart like the water filling his lungs and the convulsing of his body... Until a moment later when his outstretched fingers broke water! Before he lost consciousness he desperately grabbed for the surface, pulling his head up above water and then dragging Divina up till her head broke the surface as well.

He coughed violently, heedless of any danger simply desperate to get the water out of his lungs. As an undead he didn't need to breath and water in his lungs wasn't a concern... But this was proof that he was alive again.
He kept kicking and working to keep them both aloft, Divina was unconscious if not dead... He chose not to think about that. Still coughing he tried to swim but now the cold finally claimed him and he could feel his muscles cramp savagely when he tried to move, he looked about and his eyes seized on a floating piece of the wagon. With whatever was left of his strength he hooked his arm over the board and put it under both of them, still coughing up water he tried to focus and look around, scanning the shore for danger. Nobody immediately made themselves apparent so he decided to focus on survival for now.

This section of the river was fast. They were well beyond the first bend and were now being pulled around a second one. The sounds of combat were drowned out by distance and the noise of the river. He tried to kick his legs to move them over towards the bank but immediately the cramps froze his muscles in place, so he did the only thing he could do, cling to the piece of wood and Divina and pray... He prayed like he'd never prayed before... Which he hadn't, not really. Trust in gods never really came into the equation when it came to business. But now he prayed, desperately and fervently for a way out, for a way to save his wife-to-be, for a way to somehow keep everything he'd built... For a way to actually atone for the things he's done.

He didn't know how long they were drifting or how long he prayed, the cold made it harder and harder to think.

His prayers were answered when he felt his numb legs touch bottom, and then his rear and his back as the current pushed them up against a little mound of gravel in the middle of the river. He breathed out a small thanks that was immediately interrupted by coughing, he turned over to his stomach and finally let his body properly reject the water from his lungs.
Then he crawled to Divina, pulling her up fully onto the gravel bar. He began pushing against her chest, hoping against hope that she wasn't dead yet, he gave her mouth to mouth, blowing air into her lungs before going back to pushing on her chest.
He was still freezing and they both were soaked but that was a problem for later.
"Please... Wake up..."
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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She drifted further in the dark. It wasn't easy to let go, but the cold, the pain, was enough that she could descend into this quiet darkness. It felt almost warm here, insular from the savage river. She couldn't remember why she fought so hard. She slipped further down into this warmth, and began to drift in her mind.

She was in Chateau Mor'dalaise again, sitting in her garden. She reveled in the warm sea breeze, the familiar distant chatter of sailors and the scents of flowers in bloom. Wine was sweet on her lips, and she was warm, safe. She closed her eyes to savor the sun, but a sound broke the peace.

The cry of a child.

She opened her eyes, looking around. There were no guards... no servants. Frowning, she stood, brushing off her skirt at the continued sound. She knew it only by her sisters' children, the mewling of a babe that broke the stillness, and in a haze she began walking towards it, looking both for it, and for someone to help her. But there were no other footsteps, no other voices. She walked into her private entrance, and then the great hall. The cry continued upstairs, and she paced towards it, holding up her skirts.

When she made it to the first guest room, the cry had stopped. Straining her ears to listen, she almost jumped when it started again, further down the hall. She began to move towards it, then to run, to rush, and when she broke in she could see it, lying on the bed. She didn't think, but wrapped her arms around it, and though she didn't see its' face, she knew whose it was.

"You need to return."

The deep voice made her jump, whipping around to face them. It was an unfamiliar figure, cloaked in black. "Who are you?" she demanded, but the figure ignored her. "You cannot linger here."

Suddenly, she could remember. The caravan, the explosion, the rushing water--- the cold bit deep into her bones, hard enough to hurt, and she gasped, flinching back at the sudden assault. The baby whimpered, and she began to rock it, shivering. "This tale will not be, if you do not return."


"Please... Wake up..."
The faintest echo of a voice through her mind. She looked around for him, then down at the child, and she felt her arms tremble.

"Will you... keep him safe? Until it's time?" She didn't mean Tzuriel. She meant the small one she held. There was a slow, deep intake of breath, and though she couldn't see the being's face, she could sense them smile, as the vision faded to black once more.

"Of course. You are all my children, after all..."

She came to with sudden, searing clarity. Gasping raggedly, her chest stabbed with pain, every breath burning with sudden, sharp life, and she grasped at hands, hands probably as numb as hers, and abruptly rolled over to cough the water out, clinging to the gravel.

"Gods... damn it..." she managed to wheeze, then looked limply over her shoulder at the man with her. The man she loved. The man she defied her death for... and for just a moment, she could feel tears burn, though she blinked them away, taking another ragged breath.

"How far...?"
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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She awoke coughing, almost vomiting water into his mouth as he resuscitated her. He breathed a sigh of relief that was almost a groan, rubbing her back vigorously both to help her get the water out of her lungs and a feeble attempt to warm her up slightly.
"How far...?"
He shook his head and hugged her tightly once she was done coughing up water, "It doesn't matter... Are you alright? Do you feel anything off? Do you think you can walk? How would you rate your pain right now?"
He mentally shifted to survival mode, mostly to keep himself from totally succumbing to his emotions and the fear he felt at almost losing her. He was absolutely frigid, they both were, but he was striving to get them both to at least shiver, to get their bodies working on a most basic level to survive and hopefully not go into too bad of hypothermic episodes.

Getting to shore was next on the list but first he needed to make sure Divina could move. He moved his numb hands over her body, her arms and legs trying to feel for any injuries while trying to rub some feeling back into her.
"I couldn't keep track of how long we drifted, it felt like hours, could have been a few minutes... Either way we're on our own at least for now. If we've not totally lost our sense of direction we can eventually find the road and maybe meet up with the caravan if they've survived and managed to cross the river..."
He finally got to her hands and held the icy appendages cupped in his, he brought them to his mouth and blew on them, hoping some warm air came out of his chattering teeth.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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She almost fell into him when he wrapped his arms around her, eyes closing as feeling came rushing back. Almost without meaning to, a tear slipped free; she could blame it on the water, but for now she just leaned into him, too numb to say anything witty. Just hearing his voice, feeling his arms around her, was enough for now. She also held onto him, beginning to shiver, and also to rub at his sides, his arms, shuddering both from the cold and in pain once sensation started to bite through the numbness.

All the questions at once made her blink a few times, but finally, she slipped free one of her hands, pressing it against his chest, where his heart beat.


"It doesn't matter... Are you alright? Do you feel anything off? Do you think you can walk? How would you rate your pain right now?"

"I'm all ri--right," she managed firmly, even through the shudders. "I-it hurts, but I ca-can manage." Determination blazed in blue eyes. She'd worried him enough; she wouldn't give him more cause for grief on top of his other anxieties. "Y-you need to get warmed up too," she spoke.

She looked around them, then realized they would still have to swim to get to shore. Now that the initial shock had worn off, she realized she would have to be mindful of a few things. The weight of her clothing, for one. The wool was soaked, making it so much heavier... but once it would dry, it would be useful to keep warm.


"I couldn't keep track of how long we drifted, it felt like hours, could have been a few minutes... Either way we're on our own at least for now. If we've not totally lost our sense of direction we can eventually find the road and maybe meet up with the caravan if they've survived and managed to cross the river..."

"We h-have to k-k-keep moving," she managed again, looking back at him. "Will you be all right?" Her hand moved from his chest to his cheek, lightly caressing it as brows dented over blue eyes. It was a shame they didn't have anything warm and dry between them, but getting to a safer, less open place would be ideal. She couldn't guess who sent those assassins, but she doubted they would simply give up looking for them. They couldn't walk on the roads, they would risk being spotted.

She had never camped before... and she wasn't quite looking forward to it.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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"I'm all ri--right," she managed firmly, even through the shudders. "I-it hurts, but I ca-can manage." Determination blazed in blue eyes. She'd worried him enough; she wouldn't give him more cause for grief on top of his other anxieties. "Y-you need to get warmed up too,"
"I'll m-manage..." Good... She could still move, the relief almost relaxed him to the point where he nearly nodded off then and there, consciousness wasn't being cooperative to their immediate needs, his eyes blinked once, refused to open for the brief moment and his head tilted forward until he caught himself almost on her shoulder... They had to move, they had to get out of the open, they had to get to the relative safety of the trees.

"We h-have to k-k-keep moving," she managed again, looking back at him. "Will you be all right?"
She had the same notion. He cold hand on his cheek was so gentle he wanted to just lose himself in her touch and just sleep... Sleep was his enemy at the moment, more deadly than any assassin.
He shook his head and answered honestly, "I-in our c-c-c-current c-condition, no... Neither of-f us will b-be alright unless we f-find some shelter soon and get a f-fire g-going... Even t-then it might not be enough t-to prevent hyp-p-pothermia."

He took her by the hands and shakily rose to his feet, numbly walking to the edge of the gravel-bar. He took a strap from his soaked backpack and tied her wrists together, "L-loop around my neck and k-keep your head up... The bank isn't far, but d-don't let go."

Once she was ready he would stride into the water and start swimming again. The numbness was dangerous in itself, he might have been slightly in shock at this point, but it didn't prevent his aching body from swimming them both the short distance across and down stream to the bank of the river.
There was a bit of a lip on the bank made of sod and moss, he turned around and lifted her up onto the bank before climbing up himself, breathing heavily and trying desperately to force sensation into his limbs.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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He was as weak, if not weaker, than she was. He had done so much to keep them both alive; watching him struggle, to continue on when she could see the shadow of exhaustion in his eyes, ached at her heart. She wanted nothing more than to take that pain away. Perhaps, if she had stayed in Alliria, this wouldn't have happened to him, but even if she thought like that... it wouldn't have changed a thing. They were powerful people in their own rights, so naturally others would want them dead.

She stood as well, swaying on her feet as her legs cramped in protest, making her grit her jaw. She forced herself to move forward, but at his strapping her wrists together, she opened her mouth to protest. But the look in his eyes didn't leave room for debate; she firmed her lips, then reluctantly nodded once, stretching so her arms were around his neck.

The second time in the water made her reflexively gasp, then bite down on her lip, almost hard enough to bleed. It immediately took her breath away, but she kept awake, moving with him, helping in what ways she could. It was good he lashed her hands together, as she wasn't sure of her grip, but once they were on land, she helped to pull him up, staggering and shuddering hard enough for her teeth to rattle.

"C-come here," she managed, "we h-have to keep moving, my love. Find a c-c-cave, shelter." She began to rub briskly at his arms, his torso, what little she could reach with her bound hands. They would have to remove their wet clothes; thankfully, the air was warmer, and the shelter would protect them from prying eyes while they would get their strength back. She was sure she looked a disaster, but she couldn't focus on that. Strands of long dark hair kept falling in her face, and she impatiently brushed them aside, focusing on him.

"Stay awake. W-we have to g-get these clothes off." There were only practical things on her mind now; it was dangerous to stay in wet clothing, when the air itself was not exactly a balmy summer day either. They would have to move, as well. If her mind wasn't set on survival, she would have been embarrassed to be in such a state, but as it was, she didn't have the luxury of thinking that way just this moment.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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Finally they were both out of the river. Naturally nothing looked familiar, they were in a strange part of the world and any maps he had in his pack were likely soaked and useless. They simply had to go with what they thought was best at the moment.
"C-come here," she managed, "we h-have to keep moving, my love. Find a c-c-cave, shelter."
She was still trying to warm him up, trying to rub sensation back into his flesh but it was a feeble effort. A fire was what they needed now, their lives depended on it.
He untied her wrists and put her arm over his shoulder while he did the same around hers, they needed to support each other to walk.
"Stay awake. W-we have to g-get these clothes off."
He could only nod in agreement at this point, he couldn't remember when he had last been this cold, shock had worn off, numbness muted everything and he felt like he moved with lead weights on his limbs.

They limped away from the river, making their way as deep as they could into the forest and pray that the assassins were better killers than they were trackers.
Tzuriel struggled to remain conscious, keeping his arm around Divina helped, she could feel his arm tighten and jump whenever he caught himself drifting.
His attention wasn't all there, the best he could hope for was to find a hollow in a fallen tree or some roots to take shelter in, a cave was asking too much.

Luckily they eventually found such a tree, a large fallen pine with long dirt covered roots reaching for the sky. He lurched the both of them over to the tree and immediately began working to stay awake. He clumsily shouldered out of his backpack and dropped it on the ground.
"Find the flint and steel, the tinder is probably ruined... I'll g-get wood."
He immediately found some dry twigs and began twisting them together, some dry grass and a few larger pieces of wood from the fallen tree. He came back with the supplies and would begin building their fire, numb fingers made the work difficult but he somehow managed.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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She limped with him, every movement nerve-gratingly numb and heavy. The weight of her cloak and clothing felt impossible to carry, but with their arms about each other, it was slow but steady going. Her legs began to tremble with exhaustion, the sapping heat from her sodden clothes, and the persistent, light breeze that began to dry her hair slowly. She could only nod numbly at his words, undoing her cloak with dull-feeling fingertips and feeling the sodden weight splat to the ground.

With effort, she picked it up and limply heaved it up against the trunk of the fallen pine; it would dry faster held off the ground. She had momentarily forgotten her journal.

Staggering towards his pack, she began to try and undo the straps that held it in place. It seemed to take a maddening eternity before she finally managed to open it, almost chuckling at the sodden contents within. At first, it was a tired chuckle, which slipped into a sigh. But she managed a smile at him, pulling the flint and steel free with numbed fingers.

"Gods... we're a mess."

Sighing again, she ran a hand over her face, grimacing at the feeling of grit beneath her fingertips. Eventually, they would have to wash, but she hoped never to swim that river again if she could ever help it. "We h-have to get out of wet cl-clothes," she managed out when the fire began to grow. She forced herself to stand, because if she sat, she wasn't sure she would be able to get up again. Holding her hands out to him, she gestured over. "W-we can h-help each other," she explained. "I-I'm not sure if I can g-get this dr-dress off alone," she smiled, with a twist of her lips that could only be bemusement.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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Starting the fire was slow and tedious, but the dry grass caught quickly and Tzuriel was able to coax a small blaze from the embers which he fed with the sticks and wood he'd gathered. The heat was a shock to his hands and he couldn't help but hover his fingers before the fire for a moment before turning to Divina.
"We h-have to get out of wet cl-clothes," she managed out when the fire began to grow. She forced herself to stand, because if she sat, she wasn't sure she would be able to get up again. Holding her hands out to him, she gestured over. "W-we can h-help each other," she explained. "I-I'm not sure if I can g-get this dr-dress off alone,"
She smiled and he could only envy her through his chattering teeth, she was so strong to be able to smile at a time like this.
He stood with her.
"S-sure... Let's get you out of these."
He began to strip her out of her sodden clothes, draping the various articles on the tree. Then with her help he began taking off his clothes as well. His black leather duster was probably the most waterproof thing he had on him, everything else was soaked and cold.
With their clothes arranged on the tree he brought Divina over to the fire, wrapping his arms around her body and holding her close to share what little body heat they had between them as they sat before the fire. The tree and roots sheltered them and their fire from the cool breeze, but the fire wasn't a large one and the heat it provided barely cut through their chilled flesh and bone.

He held her seated on the ground and shivered, he took shivering as a good sign, it meant his body was trying to warm up. He rubbed his hands up and down her arms and shoulders, hoping the friction will produce some added warmth... But more dangerously, he was noticing darkness creeping in from the edges of his vision, dark spots in his vision... Consciousness... slipping away... He didn't have the energy to force himself awake again, he slumped against her, exhaustion overcoming him.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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This close, feeling his body heat, she could feel bits and pieces of sensation returning slowly. The fire was barely enough, even if it had only been one person, but when Tzuriel wrapped her in his arms, for a moment, she closed her eyes and leaned into him, for a moment merely trying to remember what it was to be warm. It was when she was struggling vainly to remember, that she realized his hands had stopped moving. There was a pressure against her back, as at first he was leaning, then suddenly his weight pressing down, and she gasped, suddenly tensing her spine to keep his unconscious weight from crushing and pinning her down.

Immediately, she froze in a silent panic. What if he was dying? Hypothermia setting in? She couldn't remember what it was that she had to do first. Carefully, slowly, she eased her way out from under him, and checked him over for wounds. He didn't seem to be bleeding or concussed, but his lips were blue. He was still so cold to the touch.

Perhaps for the first time ever, she wished he had remained a vampire. Then, the answer to his recovery would be simple, if the legends were true. But he had been cured, he told her as much. She checked his breathing, listened for his heart. The water that had previously sapped her of all strength was beginning to dry, but she would have to get more wood, more fuel to warm their little space and to keep him alive.

"I'll be back," she murmured, pressing a kiss to his cheek, and carefully laying him out. Close enough that the fire's warmth could reach him, and hopefully buy her a little more time to keep him safe.

It didn't take her long to find more fuel for the flames, but by the time she returned her whole body screamed in protest. The movement had been good, but the returning bloodflow meant sensation, and as sensation returned, it meant pain. She had to remember the pain was good, but tears slipped free, her throat closing as she wouldn't give in to the pained cries she wanted to.

No, even then she wouldn't allow herself to emote until she knew he was safe.

She began to add a few more sticks to the fire, and knelt next to him, his head carefully set in her lap as she began to rub at his neck, and then his shoulders, arms and hands. Lower down his torso, thighs and even to feet, the coldness sending streaks of pain back up. Her eyes burned from exhaustion and some of the smoke still travelling her way, but she didn't stop, not until her arms shook from fatigue and the blue left his lips.

A foggy idea sparked to mind. She could control water, couldn't she? Then perhaps, she could remove water...

Sluggishly pulling away, she stared tiredly at her still-dripping cloak not too far away. She had to try. It couldn't hurt.

Blinking, she grimaced as she began to focus, and nothing happened. Not the first time, not the third nor even the fifth. Not until sweat stung in her eyes, and she finally broke, her voice sharp and heartrending in its' frustration.

"By all the curses! Why the hell will you not obey?!"

That final snarl came with a fling of her fingers... and suddenly it happened. Like a mist, a fine spray that scattered out, leaving her shaken, eyes wide as her fingers still outstretched. She sat there for perhaps a minute staring like a mute, until she woodenly got up again. Dully, she realized the cloak was dry now; a blessing for him.

She carefully wrapped him in it, then carefully stretched out beside him, wrapping an arm around his waist to share her warmth. To hell with it, she couldn't keep her eyes open another moment. There was feeding the fire enough to sustain for a while longer, but she, too, soon felt herself suddenly fall to unconsciousness again.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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He was unconscious, his breathing irregular but stable. He lay naked and oblivious to the world while Divina worried over him.
Some say that you don't dream when you're unconscious, and maybe he didn't... But for a time he knew complete darkness in his mind and a steady tapping sound, like a hammer against a stone. He couldn't see or sense anything, but he knew that they were wielded by vampires... Beating steadily as if keeping time, like the ticking of a clock.

He didn't know how long he was unconscious, his unconscious dream seemed to last only a minute, or a few seconds.
The next time he opened his eyes he was in a different position, the fire was still going, there was a dry cloak around him and Divina was with him.
Cold hit him next but it was less severe than before, perhaps he was lucky enough to avoid hypothermia.
He immediately thought of her and opened the cloak to wrap her in it as well. He kissed her as he huddled closer to her body, "Thank you, my love."
He put his arms around her naked body and held her against his chest. They were both still cold to the touch but it was less severe, the meager fire warmed them as best it could and now they had some insulation to keep the heat contained.

He started flexing his fingers and toes, trying to work out the remaining numbness and welcoming the pain of sensation. He shivered which he took as a good sign, he also looked for such signs in Divina, making sure she wasn't showing bad symptoms from prolonged exposure. He really didn't know how hardy she was, if she could handle such rigors of travel. He'd traveled often and been in a few bad situations with the weather, but never to this degree.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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She was still shivering, but the pain was beginning to lessen as darkness flooded through her mind. Movement and a voice brought her up to consciousness long enough to snuggle in closer, shuddering at the cold as arms wrapped around her, then lips against hers. Blue eyes fluttered open groggily, and as before, she offered an exhausted smile, before resting her head on his chest, drifting back to unconsciousness.

"Always, darling."

She might have been made of sterner stuff, but she wasn't quite certain herself. She was a noblewoman, and though her family had been almost to destitution as a child, she had survived clawing through the ranks of the merchant and noble Allirian class to be what she was today. She had survived ocean tempests and highwaymen, but nothing like that. Never had she felt so helpless, nor so weak. Even in her sleep, she trembled, but her pulse was weaker, slowed by the previous chill, growing stronger the longer they held on together.

Her next rest was a dreamless sleep.

When she came to again, the pain had lessened, but there was still a chill at her back. Something warm was in front of her; she snuggled closer to it, wrapping her arms around Tzuriel, hair pulling from its' usual careful tying back and curling over her face as she blinked groggily.

"Don't move, stay a bit longer..."
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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They simply rested, it was all they could do while the fire lasted, their energy sapped and their bodies abused and cold all they could do was rest and recover.
Wrapped in her cloak they slept, Tzuriel couldn't track the time, between sleep and wakefulness he was vaguely aware of the lengthening shadows.
The fire was only a few glowing embers now and they only had each other for warmth.

Thankfully, through the pain he felt he could at least move without killing himself... Except when he tried...
"Don't move, stay a bit longer..."
He looked at her huddled under the cloak. Her hair was a mess but you never would have guessed it, tangled and tousled as it was and still quite a bit damp she still looked... well... Divine.
He moved his cold fingers to her face and brushed a few locks out of her eyes. They were both grainy and dirty from the silty river, but a proper wash was likely too much to ask in this situation.
"I'll be back soon... Night's coming and I need to gather a proper pile of firewood, moving around will get us warm. I'll see about setting up a proper camp here and then..."
He hugged her against himself and gently kissed her on the lips, "... We can warm up properly."
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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He hugged her against himself and gently kissed her on the lips, "... We can warm up properly."
"It's a deal, then."

She twined an arm around his neck, pressing up to give him a kiss in return. All over, everything ached and hurt beyond belief, but she was grateful. Pain meant being alive. But still...

"Let me help," she replied, shivering at the cooler air touching her skin as she sat upright and crossing her arms over her chest to hug some warmth. "I've never camped like this before, so you'll have to tell me what to do. It will be easier if there are two of us." The set of her jaw proved she wasn't going to be argued from this point; she intended to help, one way or the other. Slowly rising up, she winced as her feet scraped against the rough ground; she had never really walked barefoot before, apart from within the secrecy of her garden. She attempted to play it off by rubbing her hands up and down her arms, then glancing at him.

"The clothes will still take some time to dry, but now I've got some strength back, I might be able to pull the water free." She glanced around, listening for any footfalls, any sounds of others coming up, but there was little else to hear, apart from the sounds of the wind in the trees and nature. He was right, they'd have to move to get warmer. She wanted to be useful; the idea of sitting around doing nothing disturbed her.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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He kissed her again before slowly and reluctantly extracted himself from the cloak.
"Let me help," she replied, shivering at the cooler air touching her skin as she sat upright and crossing her arms over her chest to hug some warmth. "I've never camped like this before, so you'll have to tell me what to do. It will be easier if there are two of us."
He sat up with her and immediately goosebumps appeared across his skin. He looked around their surroundings as if for the first time, and the sun was definitely lower in the sky now, shadows were getting longer and the temperature was dropping.
He could see that she wouldn't be dissuaded and he wasn't of a mind to tell her no, she needed to move and get her blood flowing as much as he did.
"The clothes will still take some time to dry, but now I've got some strength back, I might be able to pull the water free."
"Save your strength on that for now. You can gather some rocks, about fist sized if you can, and make a barrier around the fire place. I'll get some more wood and get the fire going again, If you feel confident you won't use all your energy you can start working on drying our clothes your way, otherwise you can hang them on the tree roots around the fire."
He stood up and braced himself against the cold, putting the cloak around her shoulders before walking out into the forest to gather wood and get a lay of the land.

He scouted around for a bit until he had a full load of wood in his arms and came back. He made a pile of wood and started rebuilding the fire, stoking up the embers and getting the dry twigs to catch. He was less rushed this time so he was able to get a good sized blaze going, using tricks he'd learned from some of his employed adventurers when traveling through hostile territories to create smokeless fire.
He wasn't a woodsmen, but he had a smattering of skills across the board that he's picked up along the way.
 
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Divina Rosenstern

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When he wrapped the cloak around her, she leaned into his touch for a moment, nodding as he walked off. She wouldn't admit it, but she was leery of the deeper woods. True, there had been times she had to sleep off the road, but it was always with her guard, and ample supplies. There was never any true threat of predators, and she often slept with some degree of leisure. Now, alone, she pulled the cloak tighter around herself. Was he just going to walk out naked like that in this chill?

Looks like he just did.

It took her some time to find stones big enough; on a few occasions she was close enough to hear the river. She knelt for a moment, cocking her head to the sounds. She could hear no hoofbeats, no voices, not even the creaking of wagon loads or carts. She hoped that the rest of the caravan managed to make it, but the lack of even trail noises alarmed.

She glanced around a moment longer, digging some stones up. Some of them scraped against her arms or hands, but she ignored the dull pain as she continued, tidying up the area around their limited space and waiting for him to come back.

Arranging the stones in a bigger circle around their previous fire, a glint caught her eye, and she paused. Her ring still remained on her finger; relief broke through, and she fell back on her heels for a moment, staring at it.

She didn't regret her choices.

When he came back she lifted her head up to stare at him, then slowly rose, beginning to rearrange their clothes to dry better. It would take a while before they would be fully dry, but it was a start. "How are you feeling now?" she glanced back over her shoulder, spreading out her dress over some of the thicker roots.
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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"How are you feeling now?"
He finished reviving the fire and looked up at her spreading out the clothes, "It hurts all over, but I can feel again. I think that's a good start. How about you? do you think you're up to using more of your magic to dry our clothes?"
She definitely looked like she had something on her mind, or she just looked tired and cold, it was hard to tell right now and he was too exhausted to think too hard on it.

He arranged the stocked up wood into a pile and began dragging over loose shrubs and longer pieces of wood. He found a large spidery branch from the dead tree that offered them shelter and placed the narrow end at the top of the roots of the tree so the branches provided a crude screen over the indented dirt below while leaving a sort of opening facing the fire. He then began piling sod, moss and leaves on the branch to start building a bit of a lean-to shelter against the roots of the tree.

They just needed shelter for the night, staying in one place for too long while being hunted was akin to suicide but they had no choice, they couldn't travel with their clothes and equipment in this condition. They needed to make sure they were warm and dry and fit for the journey ahead.

Once he finished on the shelter he began sorting through his backpack and setting out the contents to dry. They had some rations that somehow survived the water, but they would likely need to supplement it with whatever they could find out here.
He tore apart half a jerky ration and handed it to Divina.
"Eat this, we'll have to be sparing with it until we find another source of food."
 
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