((Critiques are encouraged for this story. The red coloring is because I am well aware that my writing, especially when it comes to storytelling, is mediocre at best. So, yeah. This is just something I did on my off-time for my chracter, Aleric. Those who have read my profile in the past, you'll notice that Aleric is... Well, almost completely different. *gestures at the date* That's why. This story takes place a good ten years prior to the events of ESO, and the man he is when I'll RP him at launch might as well be a different toon. So... don't go thinking I re-did him, he just hasn't learned to be arrogant or extremely cocky yet. ^^))
7th of Rain’s Hand, 2E 573
The thunder roared as a distant crack of lightning came crashing down onto the surface of Nirn. One of the riders tensed up, gripping the reins of his horse with a firm hand. Armored and armed, yet still afraid of a distant noise. He was convinced that thunder was only caused by the supernatural. Rituals, even. He was convinced that there were Daedra around every corner, awaiting their arrival. The others paid his superstitious paranoia no mind, offering but a scoff at the mention of ritualistic practices. Well, most of the others did not.
One, however, paid it too much mind. The boy was young, looking no older than twenty, though the look of uncertainty in his eyes would betray an age under eightteen. Fresh meat in a company of warriors, where most were hardened by both age and experience.
“Could ya tell me again why we’re here, sire?” asked a shaky voice, reeking of both nervousness and ignorance. “Ain’t very wise to wander into the unknown, ‘specially when you’re dealin’ with Daedra.”
“We have orders to check up on the camp,” muttered one of the pack of eight. “It’s been a few weeks since we last heard from them, and so we’re here to make sure nothing has happened. That’s it. Now shut your mouth, I think you’re starting to scare the green boy.”
Another zap of lightning came down from the heavens, landing with much more ferocity than any of its predecessors. Aleric, the young “green boy,” jumped in his saddle, breath catching in his throat. All that was uttered from him was a singular “Ah,” followed by the row of scowls from those who knew how to hold their tongue and steel their nerves.
“Sorry,” Aleric said, head hung slightly as he rode on. He was the one who wanted this, after all. A life off the farm, in the company of mercenaries and sellswords, with a comfortable amount of coin in his pockets and adventure in his everyday life. He would have fared much better, if not for the deserter’s superstitious ramblings.
The clouds roared, followed by a volley of rain. And when the rain fell, it fell as hard as it ever did in the northern lands of High Rock. The dirt underneath their horse’s feet turned to mud, the trees started to look more weighed with water, and the rocks began to grow slick with wetness.
Rain, thunder, and the howl of wolves were all that could be heard echoing through the night. Aleric pulled his hood firmly against his head, muttering something underneath his cold breath.
“Are we there yet?” He looked up at the faint glow of the torch which was the only thing keeping them all from veering off-course. Well, the one in the front and the one in the back, that is. “Sire,” he added, just before he began getting chewed out by the noble. No answer came.
The silence between the riders was only made more apparent by the clop of each step the horses took, the rain falling above their heads, and the soft sound of branches breaking underneath the tiny feet of fleeting animals in the distance. Aleric looked left, then right. He was green--unripe, even--and so everyone would ignore him? That was hardly fair. How was he supposed to learn? He waited for several moments, the silence becoming all the more eerie with each step.
“Sire,” Aleric said again, louder than he had before. Too loud for the dead of night. Irritation in its most primitive form. His words warranted no response, and the boy’s brows only furrowed further in his frustration. “Bertrum.” It was the lord’s name. Aleric knew this, and he knew the disrespect that came with calling his superior--especially a lord--by their first name, but he would not stand the man’s silence any further, and this was the most direct and personal level of conversation. He gave no ‘sire,’ nor was there any indication that said he recognized his mistake, even though he did.
The light that hovered in the distance came to a stop, as did the riders behind it. The fiery source of light moving from the left to right as the thick-bodied man handed the torch over to the rider at his side. The silhouette of the man slipped off of the horse, touching down on the ground with a squish of the mud making contact with his boots. He walked over to Aleric, a gauntleted hand coming up and firmly grasping the reins of the boy’s horse.
“We aren’t there yet,” he growled. “And you’ll address me as ‘Sire,’ otherwise I’ll make sure that you won’t make it back to Lord Pyke with your head. Now shut your mouth, and keep it shut unless you see something.”
The man had a rough, yet youthful voice. And when the light of the torch hit his face, he looked as young as he sounded. A proud noble, despite belonging to a minor house who served little purpose other than to provide men to the High King. He was young, and built like an ox, standing tall with broad shoulders, and thick arms.
“Entitled prat,” Aleric muttered through softly grit teeth, grudgingly bowing his head as an act of mock respect. “Nobles and their titles.” He scoffed quietly as Bertrum went back to his horse.
The armored figure riding behind him offering a soft, subtle look of sympathy. It was true, the noble was a bit entitled and prideful.
‘As if having the coin behind your name was not enough, you had to be reminded of it every moment of your day.’ Aleric dug his heels into the sides of the horse’s flank, coaxing it forward.
It was at least another hour of riding in the dark until they arrived at their destination. A large, empty camp. Thunder struck again, and a strong breeze of wind blew through the large camp. Not a single soul to be found among the site, dead or alive. In the middle was a large pyre, burning bright enough to light half of the tents, the candles inside lighting those which were on the outskirts. But yet it was still deserted.
“Looks empty,” commented one of the riders. Ashford, or Ash. “And it smells.” He waited on Bertrum to dismount before doing so himself, the other six riders following on his lead.
“Really? I never would have guessed that this camp was empty. Glad that we brought such a keen observer with us. And your nose, it’s so--” Aleric felt an elbow dig into his side, his entire face scrunching up at the sound of metal against metal. It was not his place to make sarcastic comments in the group. He was fresh meat, and he was no more than a servant to the others. A squire for hired swords, if you will. This was his first outing, and perhaps his last if things continued the way they were going. He cleared his throat and straightened, removing the hood that was clinging firmly to his scalp so that his sight would not be as obscured. “Apologies, m’lord.”
Ashford was not a lord, but rather, a superior. It mattered not. Well, Aleric hardly thought it mattered. Titles were titles, and so long as the title was one that denoted power, why should it matter? The man padded his way over to the young boy, staring him down.
“My lord,” he corrected, voice gruff. “And if you call me a ‘lord’ one more time, or make another one of your stupid sarcastic quips, I will personally skin you and string you up as an example.” Ashford was large. Larger than Bertrum, and at least twice as strong. Twice as skilled, too. However, he was only a commoner, and the noble Pyke would not have a commoner leading his men, small as his forces of hired men might have been.
The others looked in their direction, though Ash’s facial features quickly softened, along with his voice. His straight, gruff exterior was suddenly replaced with a smile as he let out a laugh, out of place as it might have been.
“Be grateful that I have respect for your father, boy, ‘else I might’ve seen my threats through to the end.” His thick hand squeezed Aleric firmly, before he gave the recruit a solid clap on the back, nudging him towards the pyre. “Check the camp for signs of life. If you find anything, report back to Lord Bertrum, or myself.”
And just like that, everyone dispersed.
The emptiness of the camp was eerily silent, the thunder, rain, and silent clank of metallic boots against the mud being the only audible noises in the area. Aleric rummaged through the tent, thoroughly checking everything. From books that laid on the floor, to the knapsacks that sat at the foot of the beds. It was not his place to do so, but he figured that no one would care. His idea was that everyone was slaughtered, or driven back, and the bodies burned. The ash would have scattered long before their arrival, and it would explain the great fire sitting in the middle. Assuming that fresh meat made for good fuel.
“Books, books, food, books, bo--Oh...” A wide grin spread onto his lips as he drew a dagger from the pack. A simple iron dagger, yet sharpened to death. In a good way, of course. He sheathed the dagger into the scabbard, tucking it in his belt. “...Books, books, food...” He stood, adjusting the shield on his back before departing for the horses. That was his tent, and there were only seven tents. Someone would take initiative and search the last one, he was certain.
Everyone else had already gathered there. Ashford, Bertrum, Andrew, Elayne, and three others he had not spoken to in the past. Triplets, if he remembered correctly, though he was certain that he most definitely did not remember correctly.
“Nothing in my tent.” He glanced back at the tent, eyes squinted at the dim candle light that shone through the material. “Sire,” he added. ‘Titles,’ he reminded himself. He had to remember the titles.
“Nothing in mine, either,” said the girl to his left. She was only a few years older than him. Two or three, he remembered. Maybe. A pretty blonde haired girl that had very similar ambitions to his own. A farm girl that wanted to be more than just that. She looked over at Aleric, her delicate brow lifted up. “Something you want to say?”
Aleric shook his head.
“Huh? No, I was... uh... uhm...” A long, awkward cough escaped him as he found himself at a loss for words. “I thought I saw something in the distance. A light. Obviously, it was nothing.” He straightened, and turned his gaze back towards the noble and his superior.
“I found nothin’,” began Andrew, his eyes gliding over their dark surroundings. “But I swear I heard somethin’ out in the woods. Rustling, it was. They’re watchin’ us. I’ll swear on...” He began to mutter to himself, a sure sign of insanity blossoming, “...My month’s wages.”
Aleric raised his brow.
“I’ll call your bluff,” he said, turning his gaze over to his superiors. “If my lord would allow me to, that is.”
Bertrum scowled at him before shooting his gaze over towards Andrew.
“And you...” The highborn man took a step towards the twenty-some-odd old. “I’ve told you once, and I’ll tell you again, there isn’t anything out there. I’ll cut your tongue off and send you into the wilds searching for your rituals if you speak of it again.”
Bertrum had no respect for the commoner, and he definitely had no respect for his paranoia. It was, admittedly, quite annoying to hear him go on and on about it, but a good leader should have taken some consideration. Bertrum, however, was not a very good leader, since he thought more with a sword, than he did with his mind.
“Our tents were empty, as well.”
“That’s six. What of the seventh tent?” He nodded towards the big one at the end of the camp. A war room, or some sort of large housing unit. “Which one of you searched that one?” The young noble looked over everyone, looking his subordinates over with a cold gaze.
There was no answer.
“None of you, then? Aleric, go.”
The sellsword opened his mouth to protest, though was stopped with a look of disapproval. No one refused an order. Do or die.
“As you wish, sire.”
He turned on his heels, stalking his way over to the tent as the others began to chatter about what their next course of action would be. Aleric could hear Andrew and two of the triplets suggest that they all head back, but Elayne had none of it. ‘We have to help them if we can,’ he heard the girl protest. ‘Our task was to find them, and we can’t head back before we do.’
The young spellsword could not agree with her. Their job was to check up on the camp and its residences, not to ensure the safety of the men and women that stayed there.
As he approached the leather flaps of the tent, a loud CRASH was heard from the inside. Panicked by the sudden noise, Aleric jumped back, grabbing his longsword and baring the steel, his other hand frantically grasping for his shield as he backed up. Another loud CRASH was heard, and Aleric slipped, tumbling down into the mud. The sound of metal against the floor rang into the night, followed by a low, pain-stricken groan, silent as it might’ve been.
“WOOF!” the large dog barked, pushing past the leather flaps. It padded up to Aleric’s side, sniffing the aforementioned boy cautiously before smothering his face with licks of its long, slimy tongue.
“Eugh,” Aleric muttered, using his now empty sword hand to shield his face from the dog’s slobber. He sat upright, letting his shield slide out of his grasp as he pushed the dog aside. “Get off of me.” He looked down at his attire with a frown that deepened by the moment. His breeches tarnished by the wetness of the mud and the rain, as was his armor, though that was metal. Mud caked on armor was easy to scrub off, and it didn’t exactly feel bad to wear around. An eyesore, yes, but his armor was not very pretty to begin with. The dark blue hues of his eyes narrowed at the dog, and he growled an angry “You...” in the dog’s general direction.
The dog’s head tilted, and it whined.
“Yeah, that’s right, [/i]you[/i] did this.” He wiped the mud out of his eyes, then spat off to the side. As if the ride back was not enough of a hassle when his clothes were dry. “Now I’m muddy, wet, and we have to carry you back.” The dog whined again, and Aleric’s brows creased slightly. “Don’t give me that look.” The dog whined yet again, this time laying down in the mud and looking up at the young man. “I hate you,” Aleric muttered, though in a playful kind of way. “You and your dog-like ways...”
He took up his sword, using it to open up the flaps from where he sat. It was definitely nicer inside than it was in the previous tents. A home for at least a half dozen men. What exactly was the purpose of the camp, anyway? Aleric had always assumed that it was a fortified position, though the area hardly needed protecting. Maybe it was for a trade route. He slung his shield over his shoulder, and slogged into the tent. Empty, just like the rest of the camp. How predictable.
“Gold,” he murmured, pocketing the loose pieces of coin. “Books, books, maps, documents, books, books...” He was beginning to tire of this. It was all the same. No signs of struggle, nothing of interest, and too many useless books that were not even worth a read. Fairy Tales for little children.
The dog began to nudge its snout against Aleric’s leg, as if trying to get the man’s attention. He, of course, ignored it, and the dog persisted.
“Stop it,” he said. The dog persisted.
“Please, stop it.” The dog continued to nudge itself against the man.
“WHAT?” He looked over at the dog with furrowed brows. “What is it that you are so keen on--Oh...” His irritation faded, and his brows quickly unfurrowed. A faded trail, leading to the edge of the tent and underneath it. However, there were no signs of struggle, much like the rest of the camp. Aleric’s brows knit together for a moment before he dug his newly found dagger into the rough leather, dragging downwards to create another entranceway. Ingrained in the slickness of the mud were--to no one’s surprise--the large footprints of several men and women. “Is everyone daft? It’s nice here, and cozy. Why would you...” He let out an audible “Hrm” when he realized that he was questioning a dog.
“Sire!” he called out from inside the tent, loud as can be. There was no answer. “SIRE!” He slowly padded his way over to the door, along with the dog, which he had already named “Snowball” for its greyish-white appearance. “Damn nobles, and their damned titles...” He opened the flaps, looking out into the darkness of the camp. It felt much darker. His eyes squinted, and he only just realized that the pyre had dimmed significantly, the once large flame coming to an end.
Snowball barked fiercely into the cold night air, giving the darkness its all before darting off into the blackness of the camp.
“Hey! No, you can’t--Aaaaand, you’re off.” He sighed and took the shield off of his back, stepping into the darkness of the campsite, weapon held firm in the grasp of his other hand. “Sire? We’ve found a few... uh...” With each word, his voice began to grow meeker and quieter, until he was speaking no longer. His eyes fought to adjust to the darkness, but it was most assuredly a fight that they were losing. He squinted them together slightly, in hopes of making his natural night vision kick in faster than it was.
It was so quiet. Before, there was enough light to keep everything more or less lit, but now there was little more than a solitary flame, dying atop the pyre. Each step seemed so much louder, and each metallic creak of his armor made the boy cringe with an uneasy discomfort. The voices of his companions had long but faded away, as did the sounds of the local wildlife. Even Snowball bolted off into the dark, leaving him all by his lonesome. It was not often that Aleric found himself loitering in the dark, since there had always been a curfew on him, and a fairly strict one, at that.
The eeriness of the night scared him.
He took the final step towards the fire, looking into it. Nothing. All it was was a fire that was slowly burning to its end, no doubt because of the rain they were getting. Drip, drip, drip, drip. Aleric’s ears perked up at one of the faintest sounds he had ever heard. Drip, drip.His gaze followed the noise of dripping, fearing that the worst had befallen his comrades while he was searching the tents.
Drip, drip, drip--WOOF!
Aleric tensed, the abrupt loudness of the dog’s bark stopping his heart for but a moment before he bolted off into the direction. Every step warranted a sickening noise of boot meeting thick layers of mud. A loud squish for every step. And, simple as it might have been, in the dark, it might well fill the hearts of brave warriors with dread.
Squish, squish, squish--”WAH!” he yelped, the suction of the mud pulling his boot down just far enough to throw the man off of his feet and flat onto his face. “Mrhngph,” he groaned, lifting his head up from the wet dirt. First a dog scares him into falling onto his behind, tarnishing his already dirty clothing with mud, and now a dog leads him face first into a well of mud. It would seem that the night only gets better as it goes on. He brought a gloved hand up to his face, wiping the mud off of his face, or more specifically, his eyes and lips.
Aleric was half tempted to leave. The trek back was not that far, was it? Report their enormous losses, explain to his superiors that he knew not where the others went and be on with his life? He might even earn himself a promotion, since someone would have to take Ashford’s position. The boy actually pondered this, and for several moments, too. The worst that would happen is that he would be chewed out for abandoning his comrades, but before that’d be over, he would be commended for getting backup, rather than getting himself killed. That is, if everyone else was dead. If they weren’t, he would be flogged for running away without giving it his all.
“All right!” he called back, getting off of his rump. “Damned dog and its damned barking.” He began to mumble angrily to himself as he ventured forth into the darkness, taking every step with more caution this time around. Squish, squish, sq--CLANG! Aleric’s entire body tensed, and he raised his sword and shield, standing his ground as he listened to the sounds of metal against metal. Fighting. He picked up his pace, making haste towards the noises. VROOSH! That was an oddly familiar noise.
Each step rewarded him with a louder noise until he was upon them. Four armored men, a sorcerer, and a few archers who had long drawn their blades fighting what looked to be his fellow mercenaries and comrades. But this wasn’t even the direction in which the footsteps were leading. He shook the thought from his head, stalking his way behind one of the large stumps whilst everyone was busy with their fighting. “A handful of soldiers, one mage. Easy.” He took a deep breath, then rounded the corner in his attempt to get the jump on one of them. The mage, to be exact, standing far in the back with his leather armor and a stave.
If it were not for the combatants so firmly interlocking swords and firing projectiles at one another, Aleric would most certainly have been heard. His chainmail rustled with every movement he made, and what plate armor he had on was in no way helping with maintaining his stealth. However, despite having all the odds against him, the sorcerer only turned towards him at the last moment, a pure display of shock and disbelief in his eyes. He had not expected another person, not to mention a rabid dog, after all.
“Over the--” was all that the man could shout before the green boy wrestled the lanky middle-aged man onto the floor, sheathing his sword through the leather and into the flesh of the mage with a sickening noise. His eyes went wide with fear as he felt the warm blood of the man pool around his chest, his heart raced, and everything seemed to slow down around him before he collapsed onto his side, and into the world of unconsciousness.
It was at least an hour, if not longer, before Aleric woke. The rain had relented slightly, and he awoke inside one of the tents within the camp. A smaller one, of course. It was also evident that whoever brought him there had drug him through the mud, as his back was covered with it. It was a sickly feeling, but nothing that he had not felt before. His eyes fluttered groggily, and when he finally forced his mind into waking up entirely, he laid in the bed, staring blankly up at the ceiling.
Aleric tensed at the sudden loudness of the dog, his hand reaching over to the nothingness located around his waist. It was where his sword had been, but now there was only air and emptiness. He was stripped of his weapons when he slept, and the dog of all people, though unable to show his gratitude, would be thankful for it, no doubt.
It replied with a whine and laid down at the foot of the bed.
He yelped, both in fear and surprise that the dog had...
“Oh.” It was Elayne and Andrew, both standing at the flaps of the tent.
“Oh... what?” Andrew asked, stepping out of the rain and into the tent with a bucket of warmed water in hand, Elayne following close behind.
“Oh, it’s none of your business.”
The paranoid man carried a smug grin, etched firmly onto his face.
“You blacked out.”
“I did not. The mage cast a spell on me. Made me fall asleep, is all.”
“Did he now?” Elayne sat down on the bunk across from him, eyeing him both curiously and cautiously. “Well, since none of us were paying enough attention to the warlock, it must have been true.” She nodded towards Andrew, and the man soaked a rag in the warm water, placing it upon Aleric’s head.
The boy retaliated with squirming, shoving the man away in his grogginess.
“Is your mind addled?! What in the name of the Eight do you think you’re doing?” Aleric asked, looking up at him incredulously. “What is that?” He began to sit up, though was only forced back onto his back by Elayne. Strong for her age and size, definitely.
“It’s water,” she assured, taking the rag from the soldier and setting it atop Aleric’s forehead. “We fear that you may have a sickness, so we are taking certain precautions.” She kept him on the bed with a firm grasp, making certain that he would not move away.
Of course, since a girl was doing it, everything was better. Aleric gave objection, and showed very little restraint.
“Sickness? Don’t be absurd, I’m...” His protests were hushed as Ashford stepped into the tent and took a seat. “Oh, wonderful, another one. This tent seems to get cozier and cozier by the minute. Shall we bring a bigger bed in here? I saw a nice, big, fluffy one in the other--Oof!” Elayne had delivered the elbow this time, straight to his side. He had been a loudmouth at heart, since the day he was born.
“Maybe,” Ash mused, his brow raising. “Though are you certain that you would not black out on the way back to your tent?” He reached forward, giving the boy’s cheek a patronizing pat. “You seem to have a tendency of doing so.” Ashford shook his head, offering a laugh. His voice resonated in the emptiness of the night, stretching far into the woods before it faded. Slowly, his gaze turned itself over to Elayne, then to Andrew.
Both mercenaries closed their mouths, letting the other speak. Silence.
“I’m fine,” Aleric answered for the both of them. “Heavens, I know I am a blessing upon you two, but you needn’t speak for me. That, I can do myself. Cooking, cleaning, and fighting, however...” A smile spread upon his lips, and a soft hum of amusement slipped from his mouth. Having a few servants would be a wonderful thing. No more chores or menial tasks that keep him fed in his everyday life. He gave a contented sigh, then brought his gaze over his surroundings, watching Snowball rise from where he was laying so that he could pad aimlessly around the relatively cramped tent.
Finally, after a long, drawn out moment of silence, he cast his gaze upwards to Ashford, finally giving him the explanation he had conjured up, “All that happened was that...” For but a moment, he fell silent as he caught the dogs pacing in the corner of his eye, “...It was a lack of willpower on my part, and a nasty spell on the mage’s part. I swear.” He lied.
The broad-chested soldier looked towards the lanky man, then the girl, the other giving much of the same looks to one another. They showed skepticism, though they were not outright denying his words. Breton mages were dangerous opponents, every citizen of High Rock knew this. But to put someone asleep with your dying breath? It was far-fetched, but not impossible. They all turned to Aleric with raised brows.
“It’s the truth!” the boy protested, defending his pride with every last ounce of strength left. He would not admit defeat, even though it stood but an inch away from his face. “And besides, why does it matter? You should all be thankful for what I did. Heavens forbid that I get a little gratitude for saving your hides from a slow burning death.” He sat back against the headboard of his bed, arms crossed defiantly.
Ashford sighed. Andrew rolled his eyes. Elayne remained, for the most part, silent.
“Well, silence is better than skepticism. I’ll take it and a small portion of your payments as gratitude.” The dark blue hues in his eyes looked over the others before he nodded towards the flaps. “Now, if you all don’t mind, I’d like to get a bit of rest. Er...” He caught himself before it was too late, “...If I am permitted to rest, that is.” He found himself looking between everyone else in a small fit of panic, as if he would be flogged for his suggestion.
The elderly soldier reached forward, firmly holding the boy’s shoulder with a gloved hand. Reassurance. Aleric breathed a long sigh of relief as he let his head fall back against the headboard.
“We set out when dawn breaks.”
“Where exactly are we going, if I may be so bold as to ask?”
“We’re heading back,” said Ashford, as if it were obvious. “To report what we’ve found.”
“I found tracks,” Aleric added. “Shouldn’t we follow them? They might lead to whoever did... whatever to the citizens of this fair camp.” The camp was fairly bland, and definitely a long ways off from being ‘fair’.
“Aye, and you’ll tell Pyke exactly what you found when we get back.”
“Get some rest. It’s a long ride back, and we can’t have you blacking out on us because of loud noises or ‘spells’.” Ashford gave the boy’s cheek another patronizing pat, then took his leave. “Andrew, get over here. We can’t have you scaring him with your stupid stories, either.” Andrew grudgingly followed after, mumbling to himself about how they weren’t stories, and how his paranoia was just.
Several horribly awkward moments passed, Elayne and Aleric laying on either bunk, silent. Drip, drip, drip. A smile plastered itself onto Aleric’s lips, the sound of raindrops hitting the top of the roof was soothing. Enough to bring his eyes to a close, and his mind back into...
“What’re you doing?” Elayne asked, looking over at him. Still curious, and still cautious, yet amused. She laid on her side, her head propped up by her hand. She had stripped herself of her armor, dressing in a much more simple outfit that laid underneath all the leather and plate she wore prior. “Your smile is awfully wide for someone who just passed out in the midst of a fight not but a few hours ago.”
“I didn’t pass out, you...” His voice trailed off.
“Nothing.” He sat upright, pulling off bits of his armor. It was a hard task to do alone, not to mention tediously long. The spaulders came off first, then the breastplate, then the chainmail and boots. Removal of the armor was easy, but the straps had always given him more trouble than they were worth half the time. It was worth the time it took, though, since he was a good few pounds lighter when it was all off of his chest, and he expressed this newfound relief with yet another sigh. “Now...” He turned onto his side, propping his chin into his hand as she had done. “...Why are you still here?”
“I am here to rest.”
“Well, I assumed that you chose to stay in this tent, rather than the other ones, because you had something you wanted to discuss, or...” He offered a roll of his shoulder, a shrug, “...y’know, things.”
“Things? What kind of ‘things’?”
“I...” He heard himself ‘hrm’ in thought. “You weren’t supposed to say that.”
“And what was I supposed to do?”
“You were...” He cursed underneath his breath, though did so with a smile on his face. “You’re an interesting girl, Elayne.” It was an honest compliment, spoken truthfully, rather than for the sake of benefiting himself.
“Am I now? I’ve always thought of myself as rather bland, honestly.”
“No, I take it back, you’re right.” He looked her up and down, letting his eyes casually linger on places one should not casually linger on. “You are quite bland. I think Snowball’s got a better personality than you.” Elayne raised a brow, and Aleric nodded towards the dog.
The dog stopped its pacing, turned towards them, and barked before returning to its pacing shortly afterwards.
“See? He... She... agrees with me. However, bland as you might be, you’re definitely not an eyesore. Far from it.” He stretched his legs out along the bunk, making the most out of a fairly iffy bed. “Looks blessed by Dibella, yet a personality that rivals that of Bertrum’s. Alas.” They looked at one another with a flat, blank look on their faces, before breaking out into a bit of hushed laughter.
Elayne shifted, slipping her booted feet off the side of the bed. Now, instead of staring at him from a relaxed position, she sat on the edge of her bed... staring at him in a position that was less relaxed, or at least, less comfortable. It didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest, not that she would be in any discomfort, anyway. She simply sat there, watching him. More amusement, less caution.
“I don’t think I’m very beautiful, either.”
“Oh? I beg to differ. But then again, I’ve never laid eyes upon an Aedra until this day, so who am I to compare?”
She shook her head, clearly amused, if not entirely impressed.
Outside, the droplets of rain could still be heard colliding with the leather of their tent, as could the soft crash of thunder against the surface of High Rock. It all helped in drowning out any and all noises that one might hear within the camp. Each tent might as well have been its own realm of existence, given how hard it was to listen in on one another. Soon, the dark skies managed to become darker, and the slick mud began to grow muddier. If the rain let up by morning, the ride back would have been a pleasant change for everyone’s behinds.
The rain did not let up.
[End of Chapter 1]