Looking Through Your Eyes

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Lady Alainn, Sep 18, 2014.

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  1. She was charged with guarding the one thing that could destroy the world.
    He was cursed to unleash it...

    Deep within the sleeping boughs of the Rembark Forest, a lonely guardian holds an ancient evil at bay while she dreams of the world outside. Though barely more than a youth herself, she alone wields the power to confront those seeking to claim this Darkness. Her magics and purpose are as much a mystery to her as the strange man sent to collect her charge.

    Despised, cursed, and homeless, an outcast is drawn to a fate he does not want. Born of Darkness and Sky to fulfill a long-forgotten contract, he balances precariously between two worlds that can neither accept nor deny him.

    Together, they must discover themselves and their pivotal roles in halting the inevitable doom before it covers the lands in eternal darkness...


    Early evening's leafy shadows stole across the young elven maid's still form as she lay slumbering on one of the Great Oak's broad branches. One arm crooked behind her head and rested against the tree trunk while the other draped across her abdomen and gently rose and fell with each breath. A leg dangled languidly from the limb as the slipper on its other end balanced haphazardly on her big toe. With her cupid-like features relaxed and full lips smiling softly as she dreamed high above the ground, she made a very pretty picture.

    Unruly chocolate tresses normally cascaded down her back, but for now they piled atop her head in a loose bun. Several strands of hair escaped and tickled her nose. She swatted them away as if they were a fly. Down, down, down fell the shoe until a light thump signaled it reached the ground.

    "Hm?" The Druid stirred enough to open a nutty brown eye. It was then she noticed the odd quiver in the bark upon which she rested. Scooting herself into a sitting position, she straddled the branch and placed a hand on the trunk. Footsteps. She frowned, lifted her hand away for a moment, and placed it back again. It was true, the tree vibrated with unfamiliar footsteps.

    Puzzlement furrowed her brow, for it had been a good many years since a soul dared step into her domain. The Rembark was cursed, someone said, and so most people stayed far away. She wasn’t sure who said it exactly, but knew better than to doubt the word of Rasha. The old raven was one of the few creatures living under the roof of the Rembark treetops who occasionally left the wood in search of fresh gossip. She was the only link the Druid had to the outside world.

    And so, the fact that someone had entered her cursed wood intrigued the maiden greatly. Whether friend or foe, a stranger in her wood was still an adventure to break up the monotony of her day. Swinging herself around the large trunk, she shimmied down the tree like a monkey. Once her feet touched solid ground, she placed her palm on the bark one last time to determine which direction she should run in search of the footsteps. A tiny bell attached to the tip of one of her elongated ears tingled lightly as her ear twitched. It was almost as if she were listening for them instead of feeling for them.

    The footsteps were coming from—over there. With a determined spring to her step, she darted off, completely oblivious to the fact that one foot was a little less clad than the other.
    #1 Lady Alainn, Sep 18, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
  2. He hadn't meant to come into the forest. He knew it was a forest by the smell - moss and pine-needles, rotting bark in the undergrowth, wet leaves - and by the cooler temperature that came over his skin as soon as he was out of the sun. His shoulder clipping a tree had been the next clue, a rather painful one, but the male had kept going. Oh, he knew the forest he entered. Rembark. Said to be haunted. Cursed. Evil. Malachi wasn't sure if he believed it or not, didn't really care one way or another as he'd been planning to avoid the place altogether, just passing by.

    The Bounty Hunters had other ideas, though, and he'd found himself chased into this place unwillingly. Once he'd realized where he was headed, where he was, Malachi had started to turn back. They'd swiftly made him change his mind. It was either the forest or the tips of their bows. He'd chosen the forest and all its mystery.

    Now he was just hopelessly lost. Eh, screw that, he'd been lost the moment he stepped more than ten feet into this place. That tended to happen when you couldn't see a bloody thing in front of you.

    Right now that was the least of his concerns, though. His double set of wings clipping against branches, the larger pair dragging the forest floor in exhaustion, even the many times he tripped, fell, gashed his hands, arms and legs open upon hitting a rock or a branch, it didn't matter to him. It barely registered. Such pain was trivial in the face of the fire that throbbed relentlessly in his side. Malachi knew he bled and heavily. His hand was wet all over, warm where his fingers tried to staunch the flow of the precious liquid from around the arrow shaft. It had broken at some point, during one of his falls, nearly making him black out with the agony, but it hadn't come out all the way. He'd not dared try to pull the shaft out, knowing he'd bleed to death within minutes, but damn if he did know what to do about it.

    Maybe nothing. Maybe it was just as well that he die. Who would miss him? Who would even notice?

    Malachi stilled, leaning against a tree slowly, his gold eyes slipping closed as he let his head thump against the bark, releasing a shuddering sigh. His fangs clenched tightly on the inhale, though, the process of expanding his lungs and rib cage almost convincing him that breathing was overrated it hurt so much. Sweat made his wild tangle of white hair stick to his face, neck, shoulders and a light breeze caused a shiver that had his wings moving slightly to shield him from another one.

    Even that cost effort, though, strength he was fast losing, but Malachi wasn't entirely sure he was up for caring anymore.
    #2 Kaisaan, Sep 18, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2014
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  3. Pausing periodically to set a hand to a tree to reassure herself she was headed in the right direction, the Druid practically flew on the wings of the wind. Her toes barely made contact with the warm earth from leap to bound to flinging herself from low-hanging branch to low-hanging branch. Eventually, her ears picked up the staggering gait on their own and she followed the sound until a lone figure came into view.

    The sight of her visitor caused a sharp intake of breath as she recoiled in aversion. It wasn't the blood, nor the way he hunched against the whispering breeze, nor the broken arrow shaft protruding from his side that sent shivers down her spine and wrinkled her nose. It was the wings. Dragonkin wings. The elf slipped from shadow to shadow, her footsteps sounding nothing more than like a gust of wind stirring the scattered dried leaves upon the ground. Reaching the elm her visitor leaned against, she flattened herself against the gnarled bark and cautiously tip-toed around the trunk until his winged back came into view. Her breath eased into a normal rise and fall of the chest so as not to be overheard. She studied his features intently, taking in the strong back, the limp wings, the shudders of pain. Who was he? What was he doing here? Why was he wounded?

    As far as she knew, the few remaining dragonkin had scattered after the Great War, blending in with the humans and elves to escape the purge following the defeat of Azamuthel. Many had clipped their wings, some had ripped them out all together. Some had fled to the northern mountains and dwelt in the caverns there to live out their days in reptile glory. But this one, he was a human form who wore his wings proudly. Her hand clenched into a fist and flew to her lips as her eyes widened. Could he... could this dragonkin be seeking the Darkness? Could he be working to complete what Azamuthel had failed in doing? Was he what her mother had warned her against? But why now? After so many decades, why seek to reclaim that lost power now? Did it matter? He would die here, and the quest with him.

    So thinking, she almost turned away. How could she heal someone bent on unleashing the corrupted magic she guarded with her very life? 'Can you be so sure?' a small voice whispered in her head. 'Is it not your place to offer refuge to the weary? Healing to the broken? Food to the hungry? Did the Druidic oath exclude any one person?' The maiden closed her eyes. No. Unless he haboured malice in his heart, she was bound to help him.

    Her hand uncurled from her lips and inched across the bark until her fingertips lighted upon the hardened muscle of the man's back, just under his second pair of wings. His skin was cool to the touch, yet it burned like fire. Eyes squeezed shut, she pressed the final distance until her calloused palm lay flat against his back. Emotions knotted up inside him. Feelings she could not relate to. Probing deeper with magic tendrils, she sought his heart for any sign of evil. What she found there sent her sprawling back from the tree, a cry upon her lips as she cradled the hand that had touched him against her chest. He frightened her.

    'That isn't enough to turn your back,' the voice whispered again. 'He is not here for destruction. You must help him.'

    The maiden whimpered, but obeyed, slowly creeping forward to the man. Her tongue loosed reluctantly into the Common Tongue, the words awkward from little use. "Please... please, sir," she stammered in a voice that resembled the melodies of a songbird, "You are...wounded. Let... let me help you." Her eyes roved over his body as she paced from side to side, making a mental note of every little scratch and slash on his body.
    #3 Lady Alainn, Sep 19, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  4. Later, Malachi would blame the pain, the fever setting in, the exhaustion that pulled at him like a relentless ocean tide for his lack of awareness. He should have smelled her, but his nose picked up nothing but forest - and perhaps that was because the elven Druid herself smelled completely like the forest, the undercurrent scent of her species so faint it was nearly undetectable. He might have heard her if his head hadn't been so fuzzy, his blood rushing through his finely tuned ears. As it was, her steps, her breath had gone unnoticed. He should have sensed her, a presence that went beyond smell and sound, even sight. Something he couldn't even give a name to that told him when someone, if not something, was near.

    But this time he didn't have any warning at all that she was near, much less directly behind him, and to his shame later, Malachi would recall that it took much too long for him to register her touch at all. Oh, his skin felt it, quivered as if to recoil and his wings twitched at the disturbance, but where his reaction would have been far more violent and swift had he been uninjured, the blood loss alone made him slower, less aware. The wound was taking its toll and it was only when the white-haired male heard the sudden cry that he started.

    The movement sent a jolt of agony through his side, but he grit his teeth and ignored it, whirling swiftly, catching the sound of a whimper that he was unsure the cause for. His reaction? Him? Something he wasn't aware of yet? He didn't know and found it instantly frustrating, and chose to hold on to that emotion.

    It was far better than the fear that wanted to creep over him. No. No, he wasn't going to succumb to that. He was blind, not helpless. He was injured, not dead. Fear was not acceptable and Malachi pushed it back and down rather brutally, a growl starting in his throat as the mysterious person started to speak. He immediately registered the tone as female, knew her species by the way she spoke - like the trilling of a sweet flute - to be elven and he knew her location rather quickly after that, his gold eyes fixing on a point he thought her to be...until he realized she was moving, pacing and the growl in his throat deepened.

    He could feel her eyes on him, like heat against his skin and resisted the urge to shudder. His swift turning motion from before had been enough movement already to make the blood from his wound flow faster and Malachi was beginning to feel dizzy, truly so as he shook his head and closed sightless eyes, knowing it wouldn't make a difference anyway. "I d-don't need help. L-Leave me alone."

    The male knew he was lying through his fangs, but didn't care. He didn't know this person, didn't know where he was and he'd not even heard this elf coming, much less known she was near enough to touch him. It unnerved Malachi, made him feel weak, and he hated that feeling above all else. So it was that he denied the elf maiden and tried to move away from the tree. His body protested, though. It had endured enough and his legs buckled on him, his left wing clipping a low-hanging branch. His knee hit the forest floor right after the abuse to his wing and Malachi gave an involuntary cry before cutting it off in a strangled kind of sound.

    He didn't try to rise again, though, his torso flaring with fire and if he'd been able to see, his vision would have been going dark around the edges. No, the male stayed where he'd stumbled, managing to sit with his back against the tree, wings limp around him and his hand carefully pressed around the arrow shaft as he struggled to steady his ragged breathing.
    #4 Kaisaan, Sep 20, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2014
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  5. He refused her offer of help, thus freeing her from any obligation to linger, but something stayed her feet. Perhaps it was the hint of fear in his growl, or the agonized cry he bit back as he fell, or the way his weary body seemed to shudder as he propped himself against the tree. Whatever the reason, compassion swelled within her breast. She could not abandon him. The maiden inched her way closer, not wanting to alarm the winged man still further, and dropped to sit on her heels beside him.

    "If you are determined against accepting my help, I shall not ask again," she whispered as she ran her fingers down the scraped flesh of the underside of his forearm. "But I cannot, in good conscience, leave you to suffer in my wood alone."

    As soon as the words left her lips, she pressed her fingers firmly against his arm and scraped the broken flesh with her fingernails. The emeralds studding her leather bracers began glowing as the pain transferred from the man to herself. A soft moan escaped as the scrapes vanished from the man's arm to appear on her own for a moment before it melted into her sun-bronzed skin. Hopefully, this first demonstration would prepare the wounded man for the more grievous wound on his side. As a rule, the pain always multiplied before ebbing-- both in the victim and the healer. Her fingers flew to the layered necklaces of leaves she wore around her neck and tore off one of the dried leaves. Biting off a piece, she chewed it slowly, allowing her saliva to mix with the bitter leaf to create a paste. When it became the right texture, she spat the mush into her hand and gently applied it to his side around the arrow shaft. She gulped, wondering if she had the stamina to endure that kind of pain.

    "This will dull the pain," she explained, "but it won't eradicate it." The Druid placed a thumb and forefinger on either side of his closed eyes, applying a gentle pressure. "Please, you must relax."

    Now came the part she was dreading. From her little leather belt around her waist, the maiden extracted her hunting knife and rubbed the remaining leaf paste onto the blade. She held the knife with a shaking hand against the man's side. Several panting breaths passed before she could gather her courage. Then she slid the blade into his flesh. She must be quick. In moments, the arrowhead was carved out of his skin and she was pressing her fingers inside the wound to stop the flow of blood. The gems glowed fiercely, letting off a faint hum as the rush of magic travelled through her fingers to encourage the man's body to heal the wound rapidly.

    She screamed in agony as an identical wound ate away at the flesh on her side, her blood pouring freely down her leather breaches in exchange for the blood he had lost. The pain intensified for them both as the flesh smoothed over in perfect health. Then, the Druid gave one last cry and swooned.
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  6. This time the male was completely aware of the elf's growing proximity, but he was too tired to care. Well, actually, that wasn't true at all, but he couldn't do much about it and so he chose to ignore her...at least he did until she touched the tender flesh of his arm. He jerked, not with the pain - it was minimal compared to his side - but at the contact. Her words barely registered at first, not until her contact grew far more painful, purposeful and forceful. Malachi knew instantly what she was doing and he grit his teeth against his own sound of pain, wanting nothing more than to jerk away or to lash out, but refraining for reasons not even he was sure of.

    He did not like touch. Not even people he was familiar with and to be in pain, unable to see, with a stranger AND being touched - painfully - was pushing greatly beyond Malachi's limits. The only reason he wasn't doing something about it was because of the condition he was in...and this elf, stranger that she was, was actually trying to help.

    Malachi had seen elves heal before and he knew how the elves did it with their magic, at least those that were gifted in it. He'd had it done himself by his own people a few times, and while it was gone about differently, the principles were still the same. He knew what to expect more or less. Still, knowing and experiencing were two separate things and the white-haired male shook his head slightly to rid the hand near his eyes, a growl in his throat.

    But he didn't move away or stop the female from her self-appointed task. Her shaking hand didn't inspire a great deal of confidence in the male, but he knew it was better than trying to cut the arrowhead out himself. He'd do a butcher's job of it and then bleed out afterward. No, better to let the nervous elf do it. And when she finally did...

    Gods, he'd known it was going to hurt, but even similar injuries from the past couldn't fully prepare him for fresh ones. Each wound had its own brand of pain, its own flavor and this one was kicking his arse. Damn bounty hunters. He'd have to repay their kindness later. For now Malachi worked not to scream, to not buck against the pain as the arrowhead was finally retrieved. He gave the control up as futile when the actual healing began, though, and his own cry of pain joined the elf's as his body was knit back together. The agony was nearly beyond bearable...and then it was over and the male fought for the ragged lungfuls of air that swept into his body, shuddering from head to toe, but far more alert than he'd been for some time now.

    Even blind, he knew almost instantly that the elf had passed out. For one, her cry had cut off abruptly and the second driving force behind his knowledge was the change in her breathing pattern, heard easily by his oversensitive ears. She wasn't controlling herself anymore, dead to the world and for a long time Malachi stayed exactly where he was, simply letting the pain fade and his equilibrium stabilize again. Eventually, though, he moved, wings shifting to fold against his back as he moved away from the tree, sitting up more fully and then, carefully, reaching out to feel where the elven female was. He would have liked nothing more than to just leave, to get out of this blasted forest and back on his self-appointed task and journey, but he couldn't just....leave her like this. Despite his protests, she'd saved his life.

    A debt was now owed.

    So his hand found her leg and then carefully, her hip, and then even more hesitantly - not wanting to touch anything he shouldn't - her arm, shoulder and then face. The backs of his fingers felt her forehead, noted the slight fever she'd taken from him and into herself, and the male sighed but sat back again, resigned to waiting. He couldn't do much more. If he tried to get wood he might never find his way back to her and if he did manage that and built a fire, he might unwittingly burn something he didn't see. He didn't have any blanket to give her or even water.

    All he had was grudging commitment to stay until she woke.
    #6 Kaisaan, Sep 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 20, 2015
  7. Eventually, the gems on her bracers lost their luster as the hum of magic faded away. The flow of blood from her side decreased until only the occasional drip rolled off her bare midriff. With the end of the spell came the return of the maiden's awareness. Wind rushed through her tender ears as the pounding blood roared and subsided into normality. Her fingers stretched and curled into the warm earth beneath her body, and then brushed against the smooth handle of her hunting knife. Weak, she felt oh so weak, and the dull ache lingering from the excruciating pain did not help any. Her eyelids fluttered open to behold the winged one still sitting against the elm. Surprise sucked her breath in and released it slowly. He did not leave her?

    Her heart squeezed within her chest, eliciting a fresh pain to well tears in her eyes. This was not one of external origins, but of internal. Earlier, the maiden had wanted to leave him in an even greater peril than he would have left her in. He'd spurned her offer. He wanted nothing to do with her. He'd growled at her. He had no loyalties to her, no reason to see to her well-being. Yet the man stayed. Chagrin pushed the tears from their ducts to silently join the dampness already on her cheeks. She'd failed this test.

    Slowly, The Druid pushed herself up into a sitting position, stars clouding her vision and whisking away again as she regained her equilibrium. Unsure of what to say to the man, she busied herself in balancing the wide neck of her loose-fitting blouse on her narrow shoulders and flicking the leaves off of it. Then she retrieved her blade from where it'd fallen. Her fingers clasped around the hilt of her knife and brought it to rest in her lap.

    In the end, she said nothing, staring at the knife in her hands.
  8. He tensed the moment she woke, unsure what to expect, but assuming the worst. He always did that, though, and it was no kind of personal insult to the elven maiden herself. It was just how Malachi was. It was how he'd always been, but then again, getting screwed over repeatedly would do that to anyone. Or at least it should, logically, as far as he was concerned. The male had been betrayed too many times to see the good in anyone. No, he saw the worst in them first and foremost....and no one had ever given him reason to think there was much more than that to a person.

    But he didn't see the good in others and this female was no different.

    She'd helped him, yes, but for what ends? Rarely, very rarely, did people do something for someone else without expecting something in return. That was Malachi's life; bartering, deals, pain, punishment, blackmail, threats. You didn't get something for nothing. He'd been given his life. What would she want in return for that?

    So far it seemed nothing at all as the silence stretched on uncomfortably and Malachi resisted the urge to growl into it. In lieu of sight, sound was his biggest sense and in the absence of it he felt lost and hated that with a passion. He disliked the overwhelming need to break the silence, too, but in the end, the male caved to the urge, seeing no other true option other than simply leaving and his honor wouldn't let him do that. Besides, what if the elf was being so quiet because something was wrong? Did he really want that on his conscience along with everything else?

    Not really.

    "I know I told you not to, but thank you for what you did." There. He could be polite and he WAS grateful he wasn't dead....well, sort of, but still. Best not to go down that road of thinking. The male frowned just slightly at even the hint of the thought before the expression faded away again and his gold eyes once again tried to focus on where he thought the elf was, not aware in the least that he was looking somewhere just to her left. His wings shifted, an indication of being uncomfortable, even awkward, but it didn't show in his expression.

    "I know I shouldn't be here and I've caused disturbance to these woods. I would be more than willing to leave if pointed in the right direction." Well, pointed wasn't REALLY going to work, but...it would be a start.
    #8 Kaisaan, Sep 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 20, 2015
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  9. As he spoke, her gaze shifted from her lap to his golden eyes. The faraway look puzzled her, as well as the fact that he could not bring himself to look at her. Then, she understood. He could not look at her. Darkness had stolen his sight. A fresh wave of empathy washed over her.

    "Please, you haven't intruded, sir. Though your fatal wound is no more-" a gasp of surprise interrupted the flow of her words as a sharp throb racked her body in remembrance of the arrow. Holding a hand to her side, she pressed against the ache until the phantom pains dissipated. "Your strength still needs replenishing," she continued, her voice strained at first but giving way to an undercurrent of pleading. "Rest, heal, and at least wait until the morrow to be on your way."

    Was it truly only guilt that extended this offer to the dragonkin? No, it was more than that. Sitting here, conversing with someone-- even a dragonkin --opened the floodgates of her loneliness. Spoken words fell onto her ears in pleasurable waves, a simple touch was divine. More than anything, she wanted company, if even just a few hours. This contact, this meeting serendipitously arranged, would have to last her for years. But who would want to linger in a rumoured wood? She resigned herself to the inevitable, knowing this interview was probably swiftly drawing to a close. The dragonkin could not be trusted.

    The maiden bit her lip as she drank in every detail of the man's face. Boldness-- inspired by the fact that he was oblivious to her gaze-- allowed her brown eyes wander down his neck and travel down his muscled arm. Finally, they gawked curiously at his clawed hand. My, what strange creatures these dragonkin were! A desire grew within her to learn more, but she quickly hushed it. A dragonkin was the reason she was a hermit in the first place. But if he gave her a little piece of himself, seeing as how the remnants of his wound still swirled within her body, she could conjure an image of this stranger in her thoughts and whisper to it when the nights grew darkest. If only to break up her solitude until the next encounter.

    "If it is your desire to depart now, I-I understand. Seldom does a person want to stay in a place of ill-repute. But I would-- I would have something from you first." Embarrassment pinked her cheeks at what she was about to ask for, but she did nothing to dissuade it. What did it matter? He could not see her and to try to mask it in her tone would only draw attention to it. "A name, whether it be your own or the person who did this to you, though I would prefer the former. If you don't mind?"
    #9 Lady Alainn, Sep 22, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2014
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  10. She wanted him to stay...and yet, she also wanted him to leave....or didn't trust him to stay.

    Malachi never know HOW he sensed these things, knew them, but he did. There was an undercurrent of longing to her voice, a tang of emotion he knew well how to interpret. It wasn't lust or desperation or fear, but loneliness. She was not unhappy here in her woods, but they lacked something only the outside world could give; companionship. For all her nerves, she seemed to like to speak, that he could sense plainly and for all the fear she held toward him - that he knew instantly - she had also used many an excuse to have contact with him, even if some of that contact had been inevitably painful. Touch. Speech. Presence.

    She wanted him to stay, to fill the void of emptiness if just for a time.

    But she was scared of him, too, distrusting. She was hiding something and while the male could not have said what it was, he knew it to be true with the same unfathomable knowledge he had about everything else. Such a thing came and went, but it was strong upon him now and even as he could feel the heat from her gaze as it traveled across his face, he could feel indecision creeping swiftly upon him. Such a feeling quickly turned to defensive apprehension, though, at her last words and Malachi's body tensed imperceptibly at hearing she wanted something from him. He'd known it was coming, but perhaps had not expected it so soon and his mind was instantly on guard, his muscles coiled, wings poised - for what, he could not have said, but in his experience, very few requests made of him were pleasant.

    But all she asked for was...his name.

    Gold eyes blinked, startled and the male slowly dropped the tense posture of his wings, letting his shoulders relax just a little as his head tilted, an unconsciously animal-like gesture of question, puzzlement as a small frown marred his features. His name? What could she do with his name? A binding spell, for one. A curse. Identity spell. The possibilities were numerous and it made the male uneasy, but she'd just saved his life. He could hardly deny such a simple, seemingly harmless, request.

    "It's Malachi."

    No second-name. That would reduce the damage somewhat, but she had his first one and common courtesy now dictated that he find out her own name, too. Malachi seemed to sigh just slightly, knowing there was great power in names. Knowing them meant they were not merely strangers anymore, but subtly owed each other certain things like food, conversation, healing care and the like as traditional custom dictated. There was reason that strangers rarely shared names while traveling - it complicated things. But the elf had saved his life, was offering to lead him out of here, the least he could do was not treat her like a stranger. Honor really wouldn't let him.

    It would appear he'd be spending the night after all.

    "And your name, maiden?"
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  11. His reaction to her request did not escape her notice. The tension, the doubt, the confusion, and then the determined resolve. She gave him time to think it over while sliding her knife onto her belt again. If he'd wanted to harm her, he would have done it long ago. But why was it taking him so long to decide? Had it really been that significant of a favour? Or was he afraid? She bit back a laugh at the thought. Him afraid of her? He had her trembling in her own forest! The Druid tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and locked her arms around her crossed legs, lifting them towards her chest. She leaned her forehead against one knee and waited for his response.

    "It's Malachi," he said at last.

    A smile lit her face as her head popped back up. It was a beautiful name. "Malachi." She repeated it a few more times, enjoying the way it rolled off her tongue. "Thank you. Your name, Malachi... it's lovely."

    Then it was her turn to answer the question. Excitedly, her lips parted to answer, "It's-" but she could answer no further. Brows furrowing, she sat up straighter and cocked her head. What was her name? It started with a P, didn't it? Pa-- Or was it an N? Nila-something-or-other. No, that didn't sound right, either. P sounded right, though. Pen-something? Yes, Pen-something. But the rest was completely escaping her for the moment.

    "It's been so long," she chuckled sadly. "But I think, I'm pretty sure, it started with a P. It'll come back to me eventually. I hope."

    The sun dipped lower in the horizon, not that she could see the horizon from within the forest. Night would soon blanket the forest and with night came the unsavoury creatures that gave her home a bad name. Rocking onto the balls of her feet, she propped her hands on her thighs and pushed herself into a standing position.

    "I must get back, Malachi. If you want to join me for supper, I will try my best to remember my name... not that it really matters to you, I'm sure."
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  12. His head tilted again, hearing his own name on her lips for she said it strangely, in an accent he'd not yet heard before, but more than that, she spoke it as if it were a song, a mysterious note she was trying to understand. It made the male shiver slightly, not necessarily in a bad way, but he couldn't have described the feeling that made him do so accurately and didn't have to. So he stopped trying to mentally and instead tuned his ears back to what the elven female was saying.

    Which wasn't much.

    If anyone else had told him they couldn't remember their name, he probably would have scoffed and called them a liar outright, but the elf...she sounded genuinely confused and then disappointed by the fact, enough so that he found himself believing her. After all, she HAD been here a long time...and how he knew that, Malachi again could not have said. He simply found himself knowing details like that and had ever since he was a child, as far back as he could remember. The ones who'd raised him had called it The Knowing, but that had simply been their name for something they could not explain and Malachi didn't place much stock in it.

    Others called it by different names, but most them were...well, less than pleasant. Most thought what he could do to be...bad. So Malachi did his best not to let it be known that he had such talents. It wasn't as if he knew what he was doing or how to control it anyway. Better to just not draw attention.

    Still, that same talent told him that the elf wasn't lying and he sighed inwardly, but grudgingly accepted her answer. A 'P', huh? Well, that didn't really narrow it down, but it did give him a stirring of an idea, a word at the tip of his tongue and hearing the female stand, the male did as well, his wings stretching somewhat for a moment before folding inwardly tightly again. He was tired of hitting them on things and he was tired enough as it was without falling over repeatedly, even if he wasn't in pain anymore. Malachi wanted to keep it that way.

    "I will join you, Pen'neth, but I must be going on the 'morrow."

    Strange how just a few minutes ago he'd been adamant about leaving and just a short time before that, dying. But then, Malachi had never really known what 'normal' was. He was rather used to things like this now. Changing plans in a heartbeat wasn't exactly new for him. Subtly shaking the thought away, looked to where he thought the female was and nodded slightly. "Just be sure to make some sound. I can follow."

    She'd be blind to not have figured out that he was by this point.
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  13. "Of course," she said simply, as if asking for sound was the most natural request in the world. One so natural that it would have been awkward not to make a raucous in the wood. The elven maiden pivoted on her heel to face the direction of home, a smile upon her lips. Pen'neth, he'd called her. It wasn't her name, but it would do for the present. But best of all, he'd agreed to her hospitality. Goodness, she hoped she remembered how to cook! Then another thought butted its way in. Where would he sleep? Her tree house, though spacious, was still only one room and she had nothing resembling a bed to offer him. There had been no reason to include a guest room when the beavers and woodpeckers constructed her hut. There never was a reason to need a second room, not until now. She shook her head stubbornly. Where there was a will, there was a way, and she would find the way to make it all work. Regardless of sleeping and eating arrangements, they still needed to travel to her home.

    Spreading her arms out to either side of her, the palms of her hands facing downward toward the earth, the Druid issued a long, low note from her throat. Like raindrops falling from heaven, the sound soaked the leaves of the forest undergrowth, wrapped its warm tones around every bush, every flower, and echoed back toward the singer. Slowly, her palms angled upwards to follow the towering trunks of the trees as her voice changed in volume and syllables to reflect the majesty and sad memories locked away beneath the gnarled bark. The music soon had them outlined in echoes as well. Then, she brought her palms toward her body and sang clear, high notes as she lowered her palms from her head to her feet.

    The Sound of the Forest, she called this tune. No words, no set notes to follow, only melodic sounds for the flora and fauna to respond eagerly to. Her guest wanted sound to hear, she gave him sound to see. As long as she kept coaxing the echoes to resound with her voice, they would continue to impress themselves as shadowy outlines for her visitor. Holding the echoes captive with her melody, the Druid closed her eyes and began walking in the direction of home.
  14. Of all the things he'd expected of the Druid - and Malachi wasn't really sure what that was in and of itself - for her to start singing wordlessly was not one of them and he frowned, faltered in his step for a moment as she started forward. He blinked his eyes and then did so again once more, squinting just a little, as for the first time in nearly eight weeks the male thought he could SEE something. No matter how he tried to truly see it, though, he could not and Malachi felt unwelcome disappointment threatening to crash over him. He pushed it back, though, stubbornly ignoring it as he made himself accept whatever this...this half-sight was.

    It consisted of outlines, shadowy shapes that faded in intensity, waxing and waning, and disappearing entirely as if something had passed them by and was no longer illuminating them for him.

    It didn't take Malachi long to figure out the source of the 'light' being shed on the forest around him was Pen'neth. Against his better judgement, he found himself instantly curious as to how she was doing such a thing. Healing was one thing. It was still semi-common practice in Iruknel with just enough people who knew the basics about it to teach it to others who showed aptitude for it. But magic like this, something so...beautiful, most-likely difficult, and yet something that would be deemed worthless by those outside these woods....well, it was like something he'd never seen before...or at least, not in a long while. A very long while. More than a hundred years ago if he remembered correctly.

    And Malachi had a very, very good memory.

    Regardless of how she was doing it, though, or how it would be viewed by others, the male found that being able to almost-see, to be walking without stumbling, without hitting his wings, without having to be ready to run into things....it was a relief he could have nearly cried over. His gold eyes stayed dry though with a little effort and Malachi made himself simply follow the elf without comment.

    But he savored every moment of relative normalcy that her magic provided him, her voice lulling his nervousness about where they were going. It was...rather nice and for the first time since coming into these woods - or even getting close to them - the white-haired male found himself not so wary about his surroundings and regretful of taking the route he had.
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  15. The Druid's song of light led the pair in a winding path through the forest. Magic burned within her lungs, replacing her need for air as her unwavering voice continued the melody and her palms directed the placement of the echoes. Sometimes her voice lifted in joy as her palms passed over a sapling, other times it dropped in despair as they walked by a fallen log. All manner of creatures who had shied away from this stranger now approached with curiosity and delight to see their Lady so exuberant. Here a sparrow, there a single-horned rabbit, the fauna of the forest poked their heads out from hiding. The elf pointed out one or two of her dear animals to Malachi with a flick of her wrist and a change in her song. For the rabbit, her tone almost took on a laughter to indicate the rhythmic way it ran. For the purple-breasted songbird, her voice trilled to mimic its song. She kept these visions to a minimum, though, not wanting to overload his senses with swiftly moving images unless a fox-squirrel darted unexpectedly across his path.

    Then they arrived.

    The Towering Oak, not to be confused with her sister The Great Oak, did exactly what her name suggested. One of the tallest trees in the entire forest, the scarred and stiff bark protecting her massive trunk ran a good ways skyward before it disappeared into a flat deck that stretched across the broad limbs. On top of this deck sat a small cottage built around the trunk of the oak. A little red door sandwiched by two square windows with freshly painted flower boxes graced the front of the cottage. A tiny smokestack peeked from the thatched roof. The deck was a bit longer than the house, thus creating a front porch just wide enough for two log stools and a log table under the flower boxes.

    Smiling broadly, the maiden held her palms out to the oak and raised her arms and voice skyward to sketch the house into the mind of her visitor. Then, her hands dropped to her sides and the song slipped softly away from her lips, whisking the images away with it. Drawing in a deep breath to fill her lungs once again with air and opening her eyes once more, she turned to Malachi and said proudly, "Welcome to my home, Malachi."

    A shrill whistle sounded after her greeting, alerting her housekeeper, a brown spotted sparrow named Wryn, to their presence. Immediately, the tiny bird flew out of one of the windows and set about pushing the ladder of vines over the side of the deck with its head. The elf caught the bottom rung as it tumbled and held it out towards Malachi. To be sure the man had wings, but she was fairly certain he would not wish to attempt to fly without a clear picture of where he was headed.

    "Here is the ladder. If your grip stays true, the vines will not let you fall. Do not fear!"
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  16. Malachi nearly spoke when the song faded, a protest, a plea on his lips, but he caught it in time and held the words back, remaining silent. No, he would not ask for the strange sight back. Pen'neth had been gracious enough to use it for as long as she had and he didn't need it. But oh, how he wanted it. To be able to see again...the thought was an ache within him, but Malachi knew it wasn't actually something she could give him. Even if it was, he already owed her his life and that was easily repaid for it meant less to him than one might think, but sight? He didn't know how he would BEGIN to repay that kind of debt.

    So the male remained quiet and he took the ladder when it was offered, giving the female elf just a hint of a sardonic smile as his sightless gold eyes looked up to where the house in the tree had been visible to him - sort of - just moments before. "I am hardly afraid of falling from a ladder, Pen'neth." It was the least of his worries after the last five years.

    His wings folding in tightly to his body, the white-haired male started up the ladder, surprising quick and agile despite his blindness once he'd gone up a foot or two, gauging the distance between handholds and where to put his feet. Malachi's mind was quick with such things and it was only when he got to the deck that he slowed, was a little more cautious about hoisting himself onto the wood. Once steady on the platform, he found the wall of the house and simply stayed put.

    He wasn't afraid of falling - he never had been afraid of heights and that had not changed - but that didn't mean he was reckless or stupid. Not being afraid of something didn't mean you put yourself at risk of it.

    That was just stupid.

    No, he stayed where he knew it was safe until the female elf joined him and then Malachi tilted his head in her direction, looking for all the world like a wild animal himself with his tangled, red-stained hair and dried, but bloodied body.

    "Does the sparrow stay with you?"
  17. After seeing to it that the elf could ascend, Wryn busied herself with pecking dead leaves off of the porch. It wasn't necessary, but the sight of the dragonkin with her Lady unnerved the little sparrow. She trusted that breed about as far as she could kick them. One can guess how far that is.

    The elven maiden waited for her guest to clear the first few looping rungs before she tossed herself onto the ladder. Careful not to climb too quickly lest her hand sneak under his foot, she kept a safe distance between them and marvelled at his accuracy and ability to scale the vines quickly. Truly, clambering skyward was the least of his worries. Upon reaching the deck after Malachi, the Druid followed suit in lifting herself onto the platform. However, instead of getting to her feet again, she turned herself around and dropped a leg on either side of the vines. Hooking her legs under the underside of the deck, she bent over to scoop the first rung of the ladder and steadily gathered the vines up.

    At Malachi's question, she shot a glance in the mangy man's direction. For being blind, he certainly looked very much at ease leaning there against her house. A brief smile flickered across her face. It would be nice to have someone with her frequently who displayed such ease in the tree tops, but not a dragonkin. No, not even one with a musical name like Malachi.

    But if it was a choice between no company or his company-- no, she must not allow such thoughts in. She must remain wary.

    "Wryn adopted me when my mother died. She practically has full run of the house," she answered. "I stay with her as much as she stays with me--"

    The sparrow protested the truth of that statement vehemently with several loud chirps and quickly added a few more tweets to convey her disapproval of her Lady's visitor. The short lecture earned a peal of laughter from the maiden. With one last beady-eyed glare at the dragonkin, Wryn fluffed her feathers and flew into the house. "Don't you listen to a word she says, Malachi! It is all conjectures and rude opinions."

    Finally, the last of the ladder made it into the maiden's hands and coiled into the rest of the pile. She hopped to her feet again, the sensation of rough wood under one foot finally bringing her attention to her shoeless foot. The maiden wiggled her bare toes and shook her head with a chuckle, rustling the leaves hanging from around her neck.

    "Ah, me! It seems I lost a slipper somewhere in my wanders today. Well! Cannot be helped now. Shall we see about getting food into that stomach of yours and perhaps a bath?" So saying, she brushed past Malachi and ducked into her home. "You will want to lower your head through the doorway!" she called over her shoulder.

    Inside the cozy one-room cottage, a few of the oak's branches worked their way through the floorboards and out through the walls. A stone fireplace took up a third of the right wall. Shelves filled with drawers of overflowing herbs, books and scrolls, and glass bottles stuffed with oddities of all kinds took up the remaining two-thirds, one set of shelves on either side of the hearth. More herbs and strings of fruit hung from the rafters in the ceiling, waiting to dry out and join the other bundles within the drawers or become breakfast. The back wall sported nothing, as it was the wall against the Towering Oak's broad trunk. On the floor by the left wall were a pile of furs and pillows. The whole cottage smelled of sweet herbs, spicy cinnamon, dried apples, ancient wood, and a hint of musk.

    Wryn perched above on one of the rafters, her suspicious eye trained on the pale man's form.
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  18. Well, it was nice to know what the sparrow thought of him!

    Malachi had nearly grinned at the bird's ranting, understanding every single chirped word, but he held it in with self-control learned over many years, simply nodding at the female elf's explanation, though, his brow rose at the suggestion of a bath. Hmm, it would appear he was rather filthy - not exactly shocking - and on that thought, yes, he would rather like a bath. He wasn't quite sure how she planned to do that as his wings really were not cooperative with such ventures, but he could at least spot-clean he supposed. There was a reason he bathed in rivers.

    Oh well, they'd see what came of it.

    The food sounded heavenly, though, and Malachi ducked last-minute at Pen'neth's warning, though, he hissed just under his breath as his already tender wings hit the frame of the door. With a long-suffering patience, but frustration nonetheless, he pulled them tighter to his body and proceeded with more caution inside. Once there....he didn't move. Unable to see a thing, the male didn't want to risk knocking something over, injuring himself or worse yet, burn himself on the fire he could both hear and smell. The thought made him shiver slightly before he forced himself to focus on something else...like the sense that he was being watched.

    It was something other than absent sight, something other than smell or hearing that made his head tilt and his sightless gaze travel the rafters before eerily stopping on the sparrow he simply knew was there. A smile flitted across his mouth, but he didn't open his lips, didn't reveal the fangs beneath, habit making it so. Few people liked seeing them and even fewer liked what he was. Dragonkin...a curse upon the lips now days. Not that he could really blame their distrust, but still....it amused him.

    Dragonkin was the least threatening part of what he was.

    "I'm not here to harm your friend, Wryn, nor do I care at all for the power that lurks here. I will be gone come tomorrow with nothing more than what I came into this forest with, you have my word....if you can accept such from a Dragonkin." He spoke perfect 'sparrow', the same kinds of sounds Wryn had uttered coming fluidly from his own lips.

    He knew very well that Pen'neth, who'd understood the sparrow, would understand every word as well.
  19. Surprise and delight lit up the maiden's eyes at the sound of Malachi's sparrow-speak. Her visitor must have put her on edge more than she realized, for her whole body released tensed muscles in one collective sigh that escaped between her lips. What evil person would spend the time to learn the language of a lesser creature, she reasoned, let alone a dragonkin? Surely Malachi spoke in truth and she had nothing to fear from him. The Druid happily returned to her task of sorting through her vegetables and herbs in preparation for a soup.

    Wryn, however, was not appeased and also a bit miffed. Not only had the dragonkin stolen her sense of security that she could communicate privately with the Lady, she also suspected him of intentionally using such endearing tactics to blindside her Lady and take advantage of her. Dragonkin were tricky, cunning characters, and this one would prove to be no exception. Rather than putting the little sparrow at ease, the message heightened her alarm and hardened her gaze. She hopped in agitation back and forth across the beam, unnerved that those unseeing golden eyes could still pinpoint her so accurately. That alone reeked of sorcery or other dark magic. And if he was some kind of sorcerer who had her beloved Lady under a spell, why else would he be here than to tap into the power--

    As if reading her thoughts, the maiden turned sharply on her heel with her hands on her hips. "Wryn," she reprimanded softly, "Malachi is my guest." The Druid's eyes travelled from the rafters to Malachi standing awkwardly in the doorway, as if he was afraid to fully enter her small room. Of course! She hadn't visualized the inside of the cottage for him. For all he knew, it could be cluttered with straw brooms, driftwood furniture, and potted plants-- though the latter wasn't far from the truth. Her plants hung from the ceiling, though, and only brushed against taller heads than her own. Like Malachi's.

    "I'm afraid my home is rather sparse for furniture. I do not usually entertain guests," she apologized. "To your left is a pile of furs if you would like to sit down."

    Returning to her drawers she added, "Wryn, would you mind finding Lyle and asking him to fill the water bucket for me?" The little bird squawked in alarm at leaving the two of them alone, but another stern prodding of "Wryn..." sent her flapping out the door. The Druid stole a glance toward the man as she rolled a counter out from a slot in the shelving unit and began slicing up the vegetables with her knife. A sudden, troubling thought entered her head and she spoke it quickly.

    "Malachi, who wounded you? Would they have followed you into the wood?"
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  20. Malachi did his best not to smile his amusement as the sparrow was scolded, not wanting to upset the dignified little creature anymore than she already was. He wasn't offended by the distrust, nor the protectiveness of the bird. Such was a good thing for Pen'neth as far as the male could tell. If she was alone here - most likely - and she was guarding something that could effect a whole forest...yes, the elf needed all the protection and friends she could get and the sparrow's loyalty was admirable even in a creature so small.

    The white-haired male had long ago learned that size hardly mattered where the heart was concerned. A sparrow could be as deadly as the greatest eagle if they held enough courage and determination to protect that which they loved. He would not look down at Wryn simply for her species and size, though, he hardly doubted the sparrow would care for his opinion.

    The casual way in which Pen'neth explained that it was safe for him to move, not drawing attention to his blindness and yet easily giving him a safe route to take, was greatly appreciated and Malachi did as she suggested. Still careful and conscientious of his wings, he let himself relax just a little once he was off his feet and in no danger of damaging himself or anything else. His nose was working overtime without any conscious consent, telling him details about the herbs and foods in the house and his head moved subtly back and forth, tilting, giving slight jerks as his ears caught different sounds such as the rhythmic one of the knife hitting the board, the animals starting to emerge outside , the wind outside the house, the unpredictable snapping of the fire and then some other sound...one he could not describe, but it was like a low background buzz curling around his mind.

    It was that sound and the sensation of something just barely brushing over his skin that kept Malachi's guard up - but not for the reason most would assume. He felt no threat from it. No, what he felt was far worse and it was himself the male was keeping tight control of.

    The female's question made him start slightly, not expecting it, but the reaction was soon gone again and a wry smile flitted over his features. "Bounty Hunters, but don't worry yourself about it, Pen'neth. I wasn't moving quickly, and certainly not stealthily after they shot me, and they still didn't follow after me into your woods. Whatever legends surround this place, they seemed to take them seriously."

    A clawed handed went back though his hair, catching on knots and places were blood had crusted the strands together, but Malachi didn't seem to note it or rather he was so used to the minor pricks of pain that he didn't care. "I don't begrudge Wryn her distrust. It is rather wise of her, in truth. I don't know what the power that lurks here is, but for someone of your skill to be here, guarding it and for its influence to infect an entire forest, it must be great indeed." Malachi shook his head and his gold eyes looked down at his hand as if he could see it, something unnameable passing over his face, a combination of bitterness, acceptance and longing.

    "I can feel it like faint breath on my skin and I can hear it like a whisper, but I don't want to listen to it. It's better that I don't and that I leave as soon as possible tomorrow. Your Wryn is right to be protective of you."
    #20 Kaisaan, Sep 29, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
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