Private Tales The Last Resort

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"I would not know of such things, Draedmyr," she said, her heart twisting in her chest as she spoke. "I have neither child nor apprentice. When I was young, I craved power and had no time for such things as followers or families. And now...."

She made a gesture, as empty and devoid of meaning as her life was. Once, she had the choice. Now she did not, and now she had no purpose, either. "It is good that you have something to drive your forward with purpose," she said after a long moment of contemplation. She was certain that the objectives set forth for him in his life are what had driven him to remain alive so much longer than his kin.

She looked out the window, and saw that night was falling. The sun cast golden light across everything, the shadows growing long. Had they really sat at a table and whiled away an entire afternoon? Of course they had, she realized with a rueful expression. Time meant less to him than those around them in the common room, and was utterly meaningless to her.

Whatever confounding thing had twisted her emotions into knots remained. She did not understand them, but did not wish to examine them too closely here, in the common room, or in the presence of her savior and companion. "Where do we go from here, in the morning?"
 
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Draedamyr

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Draedamyr noticed the sun when she turned to look out the window. Once, he had been so enraptured in a conversation with a group of passing elves that the sun had passed over them three times before they took rest.

"First we go where you feel the magic is strongest," he replied. "North or South along the main road will be the most safe. I don't think either of us are looking to tangle with monsters of the wilds. Common bandits I could deal with," he said with a flick of one hand. It wasn't a boast. He was more capable against half-trained swordsmen than beasts.

He didn't want to talk about the stables again. Not with the recollection of Nightwind's fate so fresh. They might not have much to offer. He might have to walk alongside her on a pony or they might have to share a horse.

"I might retire soon," he admitted. What he didn't admit was why he was tired already. The chair beside her bed had not been the most comfortable spot and she has frequently woken him, tossing and turning and calling out as if in pain.
 
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She closed her eyes, breathing softly, and allowed herself to fell the workd around her. Many mages were sensitive to things like mana, but she was hypersensitive to it. It eddies gently in the air in amounts that were, more or less, average. Places with living things tended to be fairly rich, but that was not always the case.

A gentle flow from the north, a river of raw sorcery, wild and untamed. She opened her eyes.

"North," she said, looking up at him with earnest eyes. And then away again, as if something had occurred to her and was troubling her then.

She nodded to the man when he said he was ready to retire. In truth, she had been for a while...but the company was good, welcome, and rare. There was something here that she did not really understand, but it echoed of something in the deep past. Something beyond her ability to recall, but something that stirred life within her dead, hollow soul. "It may be for the best," she admitted, still looking away.
 
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Draedamyr

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His eyes narrowed a fraction when she turned away. Draedamyr was used to studying subtle gestures, but his body reacted to a shift in posture better than his mind could read an expression.

"North along the road it is. Further from Alliria so spices will be more costly but I'm sure we'll find something to your tastes if we go as far as Caltess."

Draedamyr hoped they would travel that far at least. They might have strayed into some dark depths over just one evening, but he found he quite enjoyed her company so far. It would make a change from silence, as much as he actually enjoyed a lengthy silence at times.

Draedamyr made a neat little stack of coins on the table. A handful of silver and a smattering of coppers for the serving staff and stood up.

"Should I ask for the girl to help you again?" he asked, unsure how steady she would be now.
 
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She waved away the concern absently, or rather the offered suggestion. She did not feel like being am subjected to such unthinking and casual insults anymore for this day. And in any case...

"No. But...you can grant me that assistance, should I need it," shecsaid as she slid over the edge of her seat. She was indeed unsteady on her feet, born from exhaustion and not a little wine. It was a miracle she could speak clearly. Well, mostly clearly anyway.

She gave home an uneasy, if somewhat impish grin. "I do not think you will have to carry me again," she added.
 

Draedamyr

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He smiled in reply to her own grin. Draedamyr offered his hand. His smile widened as an amusing thought occurred to him.

"Should you stumble, you might need to sing out a drunken ditty to avoid attention," he laughed. Halfings were well known for their love of a good song after a session of drinking. Though perhaps it would be unexpected given the relatively somber cloud that had hung over their table for much of the evening.

Whether she needed his hand or not, Draedamyr made eye contact with the innkeeper and offered a polite nod before they made their way up the stairs and to he room. He pointed out that his own door was next to hers, not that he had spent much time in that bed.
 
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"Should I stumble," she began, but then looked Draedmyr up and down, and shook her head. "You are too big for me to knock the both of us down," she said, finally, then took his hand. Hers was almost swallowed by his, despite the fact that the elf was not really a large man. She took up her staff in the other hand, and - unsteadily - made her way back to the part of the inn that held the rooms.

It was not far, after all, though the fact that his room was next door was...comforting to her, for some reason she could hardly fathom. She released his hand, and with glassy eyes that were more than a little tired (and a little drunk) she smiled and made to curtsy. And nearly fell in the attempt, aborting it before she ended up on the floor.

"A pleasant evening, sir," she said with mock formality. "I should very much like to court with you again."
 
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Draedamyr

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"Good to see you back in the world of the living Seska," he replied back. Even if it was the wrong one for her. "Keep a hold of that staff. When you miss the bed and fall on the floor from wine you can knock it against my door and claim it was the exhaustion."

He smiled and very nearly laughed. It seemed the wrong time for laughter. They had both delved into dark memories. For Draedamyr, perhaps not Seska, the demons closing on their heels had been one of the few times when he had truly felt the claws of despair catch at his heart.

Draedamyr turned away, then turned back sharply. "Are you? Actually going to make it across to your room?"
 
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She looked across the distance between the door and the bed, the bed that called to her in as many languages as there were. The language of sleep was the strongest, most sweet and enticing. It seemed so very far away, but she drew herself up to her full height, seeming the strain for every inch available to her.

Whatever was on her tongue died at the sharp look he was giving her. She stared into those eyes, her own bleary but calm, and then slowly relaxed. "Probably," she said, trying to make it sound more convincing to him than it was to her. Her cheeks heated faintly, and she looked away again.

What the hell is wrong with me? The tangled mess of emotions within her would have been indicative of a playful kitten in a yarn basket, given shape and form. As it was, she did not understand it, and could not put to words the emotions that lay beneath the placid-seeming surface. It was disquieting, for one who was usually firmly in control of her feelings. If for no other reason than a complete disconnection with the world around her.

Maybe that was it? Maybe it was simply alloying herself to...to slip into the stream of time again, to become a part of the world, however ephemeral that might be.

It did not help with the butterflies batting at her insides, though, thinking on it. "Reasonably certain," she mumbled.
 
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Draedamyr

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Seska none of the decision fire he had seen in her eyes before. It was such a simple situation. Yet there was no reply coming quickly from himself. Not even some quick deadpan humour to deflect.

It occurred to Draedamyr that she might have recalled being carried up the ridge, but she would never remember what came after the demons. He had barely been able to lift Reverie after that brief battle, yet somehow he had found the strength the carry her for almost an entire day onto the next town. He had not even known if the small bundle in his arms was going to live trough that first night.

"Grab me if you lose your balance," he finally said. He didn't offer his hand to lead her on out of some sense of proprietary, but he stepped ahead of her in case she fell. It was only a few last yards after all.
 
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She fiddled with her skirt a moment, face aflame. It was not just alcohol now, although that certainly led nearly into the tangle she found herself in. She looked up at him through her lashes, not out of an attempt to be alluring. She just could not meet his eyes.

Gratitude. Interest, and companionship. A sense of understanding that could only be had by two ancients that had walked a mile in each others shoes more than once, even if they were only now meeting for the first time. Buried withing that, a curiosity she had not felt in memory, and more startling than all of it was a muted sense of lust. What for, she could not say; companionship and camaraderie certainly were there, but there was more to it than simply that. It had been an exceedingly long time since she had thought of that, centuries upon centuries.

In fact, she could scarcely recall the last.

Foolish, chided herself without speaking. The man had saved her life, nothing more. Really, not that important is it? He seemed to genuinely find her company pleasant, and seemed to have more than a passing care for the so-called demi-God so many immediately assumed her to be.

She was definitely unsteady as she tottered across the room, her benefactor before her. A steady rock during a storm, albeit one of emotion rather than rain. She doubted that the swordsman had any trouble keeping his emotions in check, now. Kindness was one thing, but it did not mean reciprocity.

She was almost to the bed, calling its sweet siren song, when her legs buckled and she dropped, catching herself on the legs of his pants with a muffled yelp.
 
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Draedamyr

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Draedamyr might have been tired and with a few mugs of potent wine down, but it would take more than that to lessen his reflexes. As her fingers grasped fabric he was already twisting around.

The elf was down on one knee with an arm extended for her in a heartbeat. He found himself almost at eye level with her. He also found the Seska had already gathered her balance. This close, he could see the embarrassment already starting on her eyes. The blush had barely left her cheeks from her moment of indecision on the threshold.

Seksa might have slipped through this world almost unnoticed but he saw her. There was the weariness of the world that he shared. Other things, some that she was wrangling with, uncertain of.

Draedamyr didn't look away from them. A thoughtful look crossed his brow. One that was smoothed out fairly quickly. There were many layers to his thoughts. It took time for concepts to sink in nd take hold. He offered his hand.

"Not far to go, I'll help you these last steps," he said so quietly, as if they hunted game together.
 
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A moment caught in another's eyes, where the windows of the soul laid everything bare. If only everything was clear, if only uncertainty wasn't a steady stream, a torrent rolling through her like the power she so often wielded.

She took his hand, a steadying rock in the current sea of uncertainty, and went with him the last few steps, feet like lead, exhaustion a grim specter hanging over her shoulder. Without any embarrassment at all, she used him as leverage to pull herself up, and then found herself facing him, sitting on the edge of the very inviting bed.

"Why did you save my life?" The sudden question was delivered in a strange tone, as if she couldn't quite conceive of an answer herself. "Why did you remain by my side?" Why, when at best another would have left me here and moved on. At worst...
 
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Draedamyr

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"You nearly killed yourself saving mine," he replied. "Before you say it, of course I could have left you on that ridge before the demons came on. Or down in the town when you had exhausted yourself."

Draedamyr grimaced, now that he had tried to avoid the question in such an obvious way that he had been forced to admit it immediately. Backed into a corner now.

"I brought you back because it was the right thing to do. I stayed because I like you, think I have done since you demanded what was behind that bar," his frown of concern changed to a thin smile. "Wanted to make sure you were safe."
 
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She stared at him, expression...well, not unreadable exactly. Just...confused. If her soul truly was bared in the heart of her eyes, what would he see?

Perhaps a trace of denial, a refusal to believe that anyone could find her company pleasant enough to put their life on the line for her. That she had stood in the firing line for him, a man she did not know but could, before this day, relate to on some level.

How had he cut through layers of workd weariness like a knife through butter? Were her defenses so thin, so inadequate that the first person to try to pierce that hardened shell did so without breaking a sweat? Is that what he has done, then? Tried to cut to your core, to find the soft center of a weary stranger, so easily disarmed by a simple kind word?

No. This was not the man she had seen. Not the man that had stood his ground in the face of certain annihilation, his soul at risk to demons that thirsts for power and dominion. Not the man that had carried her from her own zealous wrath.

Not the man who had carried that same woman, tiny and frail and babbling incoherent nothings, away from the ruins of the very evil he had nearly met his match with.

A single tear glistened in her eye, and slid down her cheek, dangling like a precious gem before plopping in her lap. "I..," she began, but could not continue for that moment. Caught in a swell of unfamiliar emotion, she could only endure the tide with trepidation and no small amount of wonder.

"I...do not know what to say," she finally managed. In all her long years, all she could remember was loneliness aside from fleeting animal companions. She had little defense against honest kindness from another. It shocked her to the core, and laid her bare before the world, all the shields, shells, and obstacles erected over the years stripped away.
 
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Draedamyr

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Draedamyr felt as if he should have had some profound response for her. When he looked at Seska he saw her confusion, her need for some clarity in the murky mire of pain and emotions.

There was not so much of a difference between them. Not between all the humans and elves, dwarves and sidhe. The viper dragons of Kalit might have been born into solitary existences, but their own had not.

Her wounds had left a fragility and living in isolation had perhaps not been the shield she had needed. Even he had sought out others after he had sent his young apprentice from this world.

"I'm not really...expecting anything, not even words," he said. Draedamyr reached out and placed his hand on top of hers again. For the first time she seemed as small as she really was.

It started to sink in that it had been a very long time since he had started to form a new connection with someone else. Uncertainly flashed across his face. A glimmer of fear found a home in his eyes. She was not the only one exposing herself to a chance of being hurt.
 
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It was good that he did not expect and answer in words, for she had none to give. Dumbstruck by all of this, she sat there in silence, his hand atop hers while her eyes drifted down to look upon that. The touch of another.

Did the surge of unfamiliar emotion within her mean anything? Could she put a name to it? She found that she could not, and found that any semblance of control over this situation, real or imagined, had long since been lost. So cool, her insistence to adhere to the logic in her head, but when the heart was involved all of that went straight out the window, and she could no sooner have stopped it than she could have stood down a charging bull.

And should she even try to curb this thing, precious beyond belief?

She wiped the single tear from her face, and then rested her other hand tentatively atop his, soft and delicate fingers resting upon the back of his hand like a butterfly. "It is...madness, to even think it so," she began, carefully picking her words without looking directly at him. "But...I think that I... that I like you as well." Her face had taken on the flushed, sunset complexion of a blush - out of embarrassment or some other reason, it was difficult to say. "More than mere gratitude, more than I should for so short an acquaintance," she admitted with the faintest tremble to her words.

There was fear within her too, for she knew that all things eventually ended. There was no such thing as true immortality, but she would be here long after everything she could see now was going. Fear at the suffering to come, tinged with the taint of the inevitable.
 
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Draedamyr

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Seska didn't meet his gaze. A part of him was grateful for that. He did not know what face he would try and present, what she would see in his expression. No planning had gone into this moment. No thought beyond responding to her questions.

Draedamyr suddenly felt two very different kinds of fear. The first was the rational, welcome bubble from deep inside. It was the pleasant tingle of trepidation, like walking near the edge of a castle wall and looking down. The other was the irrational fear of himself. It was a darker thing, numbing, clawing at the back of his mind.

Emotions were complex for his kind. They ran deeper than what humans felt and were often a tangled web that was difficult to work through. In that web was one new thread, strong despite being new. Direct. Connecting up this new bundle of memories and forming what he felt for Seska.

Pushing past both kinds of fear he reached out with his free hand. With one slender finger he touched the sheen on her cheek where she had smeared the lone tear. A gentle touch, but he lifted her gaze to meet his. Draedamyr wore nothing but a warm smile.

"I'm glad."
 
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It too is soon, she told herself in her head, but some things logic could not fight. Maybe it was that it had been too long since the unfamiliar tides had rolled through her, long enough to have been totally forgotten.

Looking into those calm eyes of his, she could not hand wave away the regard she saw within them. She was sure it reflected in her own as well, and suddenly the fear that he would see the emptiness within her melted away. It did not change the fact that she felt entirely unworthy of that regard. How could he seem to care so much not only having just met her, but having heard of the dark things she had done in her life? Thise things had left her debased and spoiled, soul stained black with the blood of the innocent, with greed.

He should have recoiled from her. Instead...

She raised a trembling hand to his, and tilted her head into it, pressing her cheek against him. "I am not worthy of this regard," she said softly, closing her eyes. Expecting the moment to vanish like a fever dream, to find herself waking in darkness, alone again. When she opened her eyes, he was still there. "Not worthy," she repeated in a whisper.
 

Draedamyr

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Draedamyr sighed, holding her gaze a moment longer. She was a picture of the weakest part of himself. The part that had been hurt by the world changing and breaking around him. The part that wanted to stay isolated through his last centuries of life.

He still found himself pleased that Seska even entertained the notion. She hadn't dismissed him out of hand, clearly conflicted with herself. There was no need to force the matter further, he decided.

He pushed himself up off the floor and turned to seat himself on the mattress beside her. The hat shifted beneath his weight, pressing them shoulder to shoulder. Draedamyr still had her hand inside his own. For the moment, he simply enjoyed the contact. This time it wasn't out of necessity.

He shrugged against her, as if that was an answer to her statement.
 
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She stiffened for a moment, and then relaxed. Such close contact was an unaccustomed thing for her and yet, for some reason, it felt..right. She had no reason to think this, but then, she had no reason to even entertain the notion of another soul sharing this moment, this space, with her. All of her msigivings seemed to melt away in the solid, stolid presence of Draedmyr.

She was envious, in a way, with how easily he conducted himself around her. She was lost, a fish out of the sea, with nothing to guide her onwards. In a way it was...refreshing and exciting, while at the same time being terrifying. A new experience, or if not new, then so rare and unaccustomed as to be all but the same thing. She laid her head against his shoulder, and closed her eyes. Listening to the thump of her own heart, slow and steady, and the faint but measured tread of his own.

There was no need for words. Words would have complicated things unnecessarily in this fragile moment.

The closeness that they shared now was....wonderful. She could draw from his strength, simply by sitting beside him. A thing that she had not experienced in years beyond counting. So profound was the security she took from him that it was not long before her breathing slowed, and she drifted off to sleep leaning against him.
 
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Draedamyr

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He immersed himself in the moment. Until everything else faded to the periphery. Until there was just her warm weight against his shoulder and the sound of her slow breathing. It was more regular, more calm than it had been before. The soothing lap of waves against a shore, not the turbulent storm.

Draedamyr remained there, perfectly content until part of his arm started to go numb. The sun had long sunk below the horizon, but Lessat was bright, casting a pale green light through the small window.

With his hand released he shifted his tingling arm behind Seska and tried to ease her back.

"Come on now," be barely whispered. He already had a mind to just settle the blanket over her and return to his well worn spot on the chair beside the bed.
 
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She murmured something indistinct as he shifted her and lay her down atop the coverlets of the bed. One tired eye opened, regarding him glassy-eyed and bleary, the weight of a fight weeks gone still heavy upon it. The weight had been shifted by this new found thing, at least.

"Don't have to go," she murmured low and slow, not really fully awake. "Bed is big enough for..." she uttered, but trailed off, her eye closing and the deep, peaceful rhythm of her breathing took on the lighter cadence of slumber. However and whatever he decided to do, she was...content, more than she had been in years. The ghost of her little pony looked on approvingly, understanding to a human level the complexities of all of this. The troubles seemed to have faded in the light of something pure and bright and new.

The Sidhe dreamed her dreams.
 
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Draedamyr

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Draedamyr pulled the blankets over her small form, then laid the shift the inn had lent him as bed clothes at the foot of her bed. Oddly, he felt almost like an intruder. For the last few weeks he had often slept at the side of this bed but he had been there to wait for her to wake.

He stood in silence for a few moments, waiting until he was certain she was quite asleep. A few more seconds were wasted vacillating between two options before he settled back into the chair. It was a familiar comfort now. He joined her in slumber quickly.



The following morning he woke first. He decided to slink away and let her sleep for a little longer. This turned out to be a mistake.

Seska would be woken by a loud scraping sound just beyond her door. Then Draedamyr's voice would follow in a harsh whisper.

"I didn't say bring the tub now, she is still sleeping!" he chided the same girl who had helped Seska the previous afternoon. At his request they had set some water over the fire for a hot bath, but he hadn't expected someone to drag a tub to her room.
 
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Drifting.

She was drifting through the world - a world. Everything a blur around her, indistinct. People moving along, running in place as they were wont to do, while all around them the world itself changed - trees growing, maturing, falling and melting away to be replaced by others. Mountains rising in fire and falling to wind and water.

But people still moving about, running in place. And her a ghost moving among them all, chains shackling her and trailing off into the distance behind her. Hundreds of them. Thousands, numbers beyond counting.

My ghosts, the thought clear as crystalline waters, cold and crisp.

Moving forward, towards a shape moving away from her, step by step. And no matter how hard she ran after that shape, it retreated from her. Rejection and denial evident in every move, every gesture.

Soundless screams chasing after the apparition before her, the representation of all her fears. The grim specter of loneliness that had been her only companion for years...

---

Her eyes snapped open to the sound of something being drug across the floor, and she found herself beneath a coverlet, still in the same clothes she had worn the day before. The dress struck to her unpleasantly as she shifted, fabric twisted around her legs, hopelessly rumpled. She rolled onto her back, and stared at the ceiling before realizing that she was alone in the room. The haunting ghost of her drinking the night before hung on, reluctant to let her forget she had overindulged the night before.

The room was empty. That was what she noted immediately, and a hand flung to one side found sheets untouched by another, relatively smooth. She did not remember drifting off, but she recalled the comforting presence of the elderly elfin swordsman at her side, and for a moment she flushed brilliant crimson, wonder if anything had...happened.

Sitting up, hair tangled from sleep (she should have loosely braided it to prevent that), she looked around the room, and then down at herself. Still fully dressed, and no sign of the man she had spent the entire prior day with. He had....left her to herself, it would seem. She didn't know what to think of it, and an echo of something in her head and her heart twisted her a little inside.

Kicking her feet over the edge of the bed, she looked blearily on. A commotion in the hallway, which was what had woken her from her slumber. And a familiar voice.

"It is fine," she said. "I am awake," she added. Now, anyway.
 
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