BY INVITATION ONLY Prologue: The Abduction

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Torsten was even more confused by the reply he received concerning young girl's behavior, but shrugged it off for now. both women were more than obviously tired and stressed. He wouldn't be able to get any real answers or information until they were able to recover their strength. He gave her a side glance as she questioned how long it would take to reach his home. He rolled his eyes at her suggestion. "I don't think making my neighboors angry with your thieving would help your case if whoever is after you really comes looking." He shook his head. "There's plenty of food to go around at my home and meat is on the table for tonight. Do you think you can handle about half an hour's walk? Otherwise I guess we can set up camp and cook these..." He pointed at the game hanging from his belt. "Right now." A cold, challenging stare from the woman was enough of an answer as she continued to trudge along with him. Torsten shook his head impressed at her tenacity.

The rest of the walk was silent and Torsten would keep an eye out for any signs of them being followed or of the woman fading from exhaustion. He was really glad that the way to his smithy didn't require them to get passed the town, that way nobody would see the two women just yet. Eventually the smithy came into view. It was nothing impressive. A modest house, big enough to shelter a small family, an open shed where the forge was situated and a fence surrounded the whole property. A well, a small garden and a shed occupied the rest of the land. No sounds were coming from the smithy and the house was quiet as well. It was quite evident that there was no one at home. However not Torsten, nor the dog seemed bothered about it. Nya was quick to run inside and bark with content as she sniffed around the familiar grounds.

"Here we are. I'll set up the fire. You can have a warm bath, new clothes and eat some bread and cheese until the meat is cooked." He told the woman, motioning for her to follow him inside. He passed through the main area to the house and went straight to one of the bedrooms. It held two single beds and Torsten carefully laid the sleeping girl on one of those. "Follow me. You can see if you find anything that fits." He opened the door to the next room, noticing that Nya was making herself comfortable on the floor next to the young girl's bed.

In there was a double bed and a wardrobe along with a nightstand that held a small mirror and a bowl and a pottery jug filled with water. Torsten moved over to the wardrope and opened it, revealing a couple of practical simple dresses of various sizes as well as towels and other everyday items. Torsten grabbed a bar of soap and a large towel, spreading them on the bed "You can take whatever dress you like. Soap and towel, I'll get some water from the well and get the tub ready. Take your time. I'll be cooking the game and have bread and cheese out while we wait." He told her and was about to exit the room and get water from the well before starting a fire and getting into cooking.
 
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For a change, Zea did not speak much. Partially dead tired and partially occupied by soaking in her surroundings, she had no time to think about leading an empty conversation. They surely had more than enough of it as it was. What a perfect way to shamelessly waste precious time. She'd figured their little stroll will be done all the faster if she simply did not provoke the devil.

A habit of hers was to observe and memorize the unknown space and so, she fully devoted to it. Spacial orientation mattered all the more when one was on the unfamiliar grounds and Zea of Lys knew better than to leave anything to chance. Certainly a trait that kept her rather alienated from all of her brothers and sisters of R'hllor's order. It was a fool's deed to rely on Him without making an effort and he surely rewarded it.

Rijagon Rullor.

Just as she'd assumed, before long, the man led her to a simple house with a forge.

"Well that makes sense", she commented briefly observing the forge, then the man's strong physique, then the forge again before catching up behind him. It served as a small relief to the woman. No dishonest man was a hardworking one. Not in a way the Blondie seemed to be. The property in general was a lot more charming than she had imagined, and certainly a generous upgrade from the rusty ship and a moldy bed.

The woman jerked slightly wen the dog barked, rushing into its home ahead of everyone. Her attention jumped back to the man when he stopped offering her to enter with a sweet promise of a warm bath, some clothes and most importantly, a meal. She nodded briefly, clearing her throat and stepping in after him. Just like on the outside, Zea couldn't help herself but observe the main area of the house as she followed deeper in. It seemed much bigger on the inside that it seemed to be on the outside. Or perhaps the man simply did not have too many things to begin with. He certainly did not seem like a type hoarding anything else but steel and game.

Once he laid the sleeping girl comfortably in one of the rooms, he motioned for her to follow him to the next one. The other room was somewhat bigger, fitting in a double bed and a couple pieces of furniture. She was more than happy to follow, marching into the room proudly as she assessed it with her inquisitorial glare.

"You can take whatever dress you like", the man spoke as he offered her fresh clothes. "Soap and towel, I'll get some water from the well and get the tub ready", he continued as Zea went through the garments resting in the closet, finally laying her eyes on a crimson dress, one of the less dull ones of the bunch. "Take your time. I'll be cooking the game and have bread and cheese out while we wait."

"Thank you", came from Zea almost absent-minded, as she laid the dress on the bed. "I will make sure I do." It was hardly a thank you that he possibly deserved, but even spoken out along the way, it had its weight that Zea was fully aware of. Ignoring the fact that the man was still somewhat inside the room, she proceeded to take off her belt and loosen up the upper part of her dress casually before she picked up everything, including the dress she had chosen and turned around to face him calmly.

"Off you go then," she gestured him away with the roof of her hand and a playful smirk, waiting for him to leave and get that oh so desired bath hot and ready.

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Eloise slept fitfully. Her exhausted mind droning in and out of reality, picking up fragmented sentences before going deep into sleep once more. Her dreams felt similarly, coming in as scenes and flashes disappearing before she could make any sense out of it.

However, one symbol remained stark in her mind’s eye. The deep red cloak and the golden lion on top. It haunted her in her memories and dreams, but she never recalled what it meant and why she dreamt of the lion. Just that the mere sight of it filled her with absolute dread and a feeling of hopeless betrayal.

When she finally woke the day had progressed far. The light had grown warmer in colour, the sun lower suggesting that it was near the end of the day. While Eloise had slept for hours her head still felt like splitting and her body was still exhausted. The girl didn’t feel rested and with that no memory had returned.

“Water,” she mumbled, smacking her lips and trying to wet them. Her tongue felt like leather and laid heavily in her mouth as her mouth had a nasty sour taste. Brushing with her hand over her face she also realised how grimly she felt, wanting nothing more but to wash.

Turning out of her bed the female soon realised the next and most obvious thing. This was not her room and nor was it her home or bed. Confused the female slowly recalled the kind man and his dog, along with the stranger she had jumped overboard with. Was this their home? Weakly she pulled herself out, making her way out into main room of the house.

The first thing she was greeted with was the dog, barking and jumping up. It didn’t seem to mind that Eloise was dirty and disgusting, busying itself to make the girl come out and play. However, Eloise was in no condition for that who only squatted down to hug the animal tightly. An act that confused both.
 
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Torsten had shaken his head, an amused smile lighting up his face as the woman seemed to be more relaxed and energetic, if that was even possible, than when he found her on the beach. She was definitely less grumpy and hissy. He took note of her choice in dresses. She had picked up his mother's best dress. He had nodded in acknowledgement of the thanks and he closed the door behind him as he left.

Setting up a fire was the first thing he did. He needed it to be nice and roaring by the time he had gathered enough water to get the tub ready. Informing the woman that the bath was pretty much ready, the tub being behind a makesift wooden screen that hid the tub from immediate view, he started preparing dinner.

Everything was ready by the time he heard Nya bark happily. The girl must have been awake at this point and he got up to check on her. He left the woman back at the table with enough food to feed four people.

He found the girl on the small hallway, hugging Nya for dear life. The sand dog was confused and it had sat perfectly still, her tail wagging a small whine announcing Torsten's arrival. "Good you're awake. Food's ready and I can have a bath set up again. How are you feeling?"
 

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The man certainly did not have to tell her twice to get ready for a bath. As soon as he gave out a hint that the tub was ready, Zea was already out the door and towards it, bringing the pile of things with herself. She was certain that a bathtub had never looked so wonderful and welcoming before. She was quick to strip and toss aside salty and torn garments before she let out a content hum and step into the heavenly warm water that immediately relaxed her aching muscles. Scrubbing the salt off of her skin and removing the stray sand and seaweed from her hair felt like shedding stones and stones of weight. Once she finally began to feel confident in her own image and the strength of her existence, her mind drifted to the event that played out from the night the young woman ended up afloat with her and passed on to a semi-meditation state as she sunk deeper into the warm water, drifting away.

By the time she came back around, the water already cooled down enough to make her shiver and sit up embracing herself just as her nose caught a scent of freshly prepared food through the soap and her stomach sounded loudly again. Stretching, she rubbed the side of her neck that was stained by an ugly bruises not so long ago. Now, just like the rest of the purple patches on her body, it vanished without a trace and the ache was barely there. It was not something she would usually be spending her energy on with better things to conserve it for, but somehow she had a feeling that at least for the time being, she could allow herself such vanity.

After taking a great care to dry herself profoundly as she already had enough water for a day as it was, Zea reached out and took another glimpse of the dress she was given with a smirk. The man and his home both seemed rather humble and mundane, but whoever his mother was, certainly knew the quality in materials. And even better, once on her, the dress fit perfectly hugging her body snugly yet comfortably in all the right places while freely moving below her hips. All and all it was a major upgrade from the cheap fabric of the previous one.

Once dressed and with her raven hair ruffled across her back to slowly dry, Zea stepped from behind the screen and into the room where the smell of food circled and teased her. There was quite a bit of food prepared, all of it looking just as delicious as it smelled. By the time she had approached the table, the man was quick to stand up and follow his pet's barks and from there, she could hear him speak to who she assumed to be the other girl he found. Not like she quite cared however, the food was getting cold and the even the small amount of manners she honored were lost on her. Grabbing a piece of bread, she reached out to the closest piece of meat available and bit into it eagerly.

And she was right. It was bloody delicious.

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Blue eyes turned up against the stranger that had helped them. His name was still unknown, but not his character. As she released the dog Eloise got up from her position, for a moment pondering whether she wanted to eat first or take a bath.

“Better,” she answered the man after scraping her throat. “Can I have some water and then a bath?” she followed with a question, realising how dry her throat was. Despite the heaviness of her tongue Eloise still spoke in her own accent, revealing her birth and from where she came. At least that hadn’t been forgotten, though the female hardly remembered where that was.

Water first, then a bath and then food, the female decided, wanting to relieve herself from feeling dry and greasy. Reaching for a glass of water on the table she drank fast, finding that her tongue was almost soaking up the liquid.

Not too far away Eloise took note of the other stranger, the woman that had escaped with her. Washed up and dressed properly the woman already looked much better than before, though the wounds were still apparent just as her malnutrience. Whatever the story, their journey had not been the same in the slightest. Eloise could tell from the way the woman had been treated. However, despite all that she still saw a comrade in her.

“My name is Eloise,” she introduced herself, turning towards the man, but also to the woman. She knew she had already told the other her name, but Eloise had a feeling the stranger had either forgotten it or ignored her.
 
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Torsten had been about to comment how the girl could, of course, have water but she shouldn't drink it all at once in case it made her feel sick, yet he hadn't been fast enough. With an exasperated sigh he followed the girl into the room again and went straight for the fireplace, where he had another bit of water heating up.

He took note of the other woman eating from the food already. “My name is Eloise,” The girl introduced herself while he had his back turned on her, tending to the fire. "I'm Torsten. I'm going to fill the tub again. You can eat something or you can follow me outside for that bath." He told Eloise as he took the warm water off the fireplace. He lingered a bit to hear the response and then made his way out again.

Nya, the sand dog, was soon back in the main room and made herself comfortable at her spot near the fireplace, next to a single chair that Torsten would spend many nights woodcarving or doing other work.
 
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For a moment, there was only the enriched table, and unlike her usual self, Zea shut herself down towards anything that may have been going on around her until her mind would think less about her empty stomach. The presence of the others however, she still did not fail to notice, albeit only when they were well in the area. The girl from before entered first and instinctively, almost at once, Zea's amethyst eyes locked with girl's tired ones.

The anger over girl's recklessness was replaced with curiosity. She knew the girl was special. The fire had told her so, but any such power coming from any other source but the Light, had her on her feet and vary. R'hllor have mercy on her, she was just a naive child. Zea broke off her stare once the man walked in after the girl, returning her focus to her meal as the man proceeded towards the fireplace.

"My name is Eloise", the girl spoke up, introducing herself briefly to those present. She surely paid a lot of attention to formalities as such, but it went along with her image of a highborn. The man responded with his own, and for whatever reason, it suited him quite well. He returned right back to his business, leaving the girl to pay Zea attention once more, waiting for her response. Briefly distracted by the dog passing by, Zea swallowed the bite and cleared her throat, tracking the creature with her eyes until it settled on the ground nearby. She started off on the wrong foot with that dog and perhaps for the best. It kept its distance and it was much appreciated.

"Zea", she finally responded, turning her attention back to the young female with a straight face. "Just Zea is fine. Nothing is fine just as much. Whore is another one I got used to, but less desired", she concluded with a hint of humor in it, extending her arm with an invitation for the female to sit with her. "Would be a shame to let Blondie's effort turn stale now, wouldn't it?" she smirked, referring to the man with a nickname, regardless o now being familiar with his name. "Plenty for everyone", she said just before she bit off another piece, continuing to eat quietly.


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“Torsten,” Eloise repeated after the man as he introduced himself. A smile passing her lips at the mention of a bath, a longing thought drifting off to the touch of warm, fragrant waters, with fresh flowers and smooth oils, with soft silk afterwards. Strange how she remembered these details, but not the place from where she came.

The woman that had escaped with her seemed to be already comfortable, chewing away on the food and all washed up. Zea she introduced herself as, to which Eloise curtsied at. She owed Zea her life and much more.

“Zea,” she repeated again, letting the name linger as well before nodding. “To me you are a hero,” Eloise continued, not forgetting the help the woman had given her. Whores were, unfortunately common and Eloise could feel an anger boiling within her for the injustice Zea must have suffered for being born a woman in this world. An injustice Eloise never had to endue.

“I owe you my life, and my freedom,” she followed again bending her knees a little to lower her head. “For that you have my gratitude,” the female continued promising herself that she would do everything within her power to help Zea.

Though her clothes felt crusty and Eloise found her skin incredibly icky and dirty the female also felt hungry. As soon as she had seated herself at the table the girl couldn’t help but reach for the bread immediately. She had only intended to nibble a little, but as she popped a piece of bread in her mouth the next one followed easily, then another, and yet another. Before she knew it she had finished a whole clump.

Realisation settling in that she had just devoured a whole clump of bread Eloise quickly stood up, her cheeks turning a little red. “Ah, I should probably wash up first before dining more,” she mumbled. How unbecoming, to eat so without restraint! Quickly she turned around on her heels, heading into the direction Torsten had gone off to with a quiet thanks thrown into the man’s direction.

While the bath wasn’t as luxurious as she had imagined it to be Eloise did appreciate the warm water all the same. Fragrance or not the heat of the water instantly helped her muscles to relax and made it easier to scrub off the dirt from her skin. Holding her head down the water until she couldn’t hold her breath anymore she rose up from the water, satisfied with the wash she had.

Drying herself the best she could. With her hair still damp and loose she then dressed herself in the clothes that were left out. The clothes were simple, but they fit and were surprisingly enough meant to be worn by a female. It made Eloise wonder if Torsten had gone out of his way to buy new clothes while she was out, or that he lived with others in this small cottage. She found it hard to imagine, having to share a room with others in a space as small as the cottage. It was the most plausible reason she could come up with, however.

Running her hands through the fabrics of her old clothes Eloise contemplated for a moment what to do with it. They certainly were made of a different type and quality from the clothes she wore now and a whole lot more impractical. It was a clue to her background, but also a dead giveaway to whoever had caused her to land in this situation.

Frowning the girl pulled at a black string, revealing a pendant that had been hidden beneath the layers. For a moment she stared down at a stag pendant in her hands. Gold was its head, with golden antlers strung on supple black leather. Its eyes held small black gems as was the crown that strung around its neck. It had been carefully folded underneath her clothes, as if meant to be hidden. What it meant she couldn’t recall, but it felt familiar and weighed of importance, so she kept it, once more hiding it underneath the layers of her clothes.

Bunching up her clothes Eloise walked into the main room again where she went straight for the fire and threw in the old drags. “Best to burn,” she mumbled, expression stern for a split second before she turned back to the table.

“Zea, what do you recommend? Of course the question goes to the chef Torsten as well. What do you recommend?” she exclaimed seemingly much more cheerful now and pretending as if she hadn't thrown expensive silks into the fire to burn. Seating herself at the table the girl eyed the full table, her hunger flaring up once more at the smell and sight of all that goodness.
 

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Torsten had been observing the scenes that unfolded before his eyes. It had been a while since he had conversation during dinner so he had been quieter than most would expect from him to be. It wasn't because he was hiding or because he was afraid. He had just forgot how that was like. To have people in the house again. Seeing the girl eating had brought a soft smile on his face and he had gone out to fill the tub again, so he had missed the little blushing moment. However he had noticed the girl's behavior and the clothes she had and it troubled him. The girl was clearly of high status, though just how high he had no way of knowing. He just hoped he hadn't landed himself in trouble he couldn't fight his way through.

"They will be looking for you." He said once the girl was gone and only he and Zea remained. He had claimed his chair and he frowned thoughtfully. "If not for you, they will definitely come after her. It would be best if you don't leave the house for the next few days. I will go to the village tomorrow and hear the news. You should sleep with that knife I gave you under the pillow tonight. Nia will alert us if anyone approaches tonight."

With Eloise arriving again, more cheerful than before, he stopped himself from continuing any further. Smart move, he thought to himself as the girl unceremoniously burned the dress that could give her identity away. "Eat a little bit of everything, it will get you your strenght back, but try not to eat too much. We don't want you emptying your stomach at this point."
 
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"Zea".

The girl repeated her name carefully as if she is weighting it out. "Yes. Exactly so," the woman confirmed once again formally, keeping her eyes on the food. Having no last name felt both liberating and lonely at times, but hearing it as plain and as clean as it came was certainly something she preferred no matter how it felt in each individual moment. Paired up with 'hero' however...

Once Eloise started singing her praises to her, Zea stopped eating for a moment, turning her head to eye the young girl suspiciously, as if she was vary of the little show. Far from it that she did not trust girl's words. On the contrary. She truly seemed like someone who doesn't know better. With her mouth still occupied, but firmly brought to a halt as she stared at Eloise with slow blinks, Zea smiled as widely as her face would let her with her mouth closed and with an obvious exaggeration.

"Right.Yeah. No problem," she responded casually, turning her head back towards the table, waving it off with her hand. "Just put a good word for me up there or something," she jested as she treated herself with cheese laid in front of her. She only stopped again when Eloise approached the table, eyes fixated on a small basked of bread in front of her. She sat herself and quickly dug into the bagel. It might have been the first time that Zea truly took a good look at the girl. Until that very moment, with her behavior as strange as it was, the girl seemed like a slightly older child. Now that she took a good look at her in a decent light, she was not much older from Zea's original assumption. Certainly not yet in her twenties.

Her skin was visibly pale and well maintained, regardless of its current state, and certainly so, from head to toes, Eloise indeed seemed like she was a pampered young woman. Plenty of thoughts went through Zea's mind as she sat there connecting the dots, before she had realized that she quite possibly was staring for too long. By the time Eloise finished an entire clump, Zea blinked at her lifting a piece of cheese upwards. "Would you like some food with that bread?" At that moment, it seemed as if the young woman snapped out of her sudden hungry assault against the bread loafs as she quickly excused herself, heading away to take the man's offer for a warm bath.

"Well she is bloody weird," Zea rolled her eyes and shook her head, taking a sip out of her cup and sitting up straight with a long stretch, before falling backwards onto the floor in bliss of being well fed and finally clean. "Rhllor light your way, my good man," she thanked the man with a chuckle.

"They will be looking for you. If not for you, they will definitely come after her." The man seemed to have dared speaking up only when the girl was out of the room. Pausing briefly, Zea that until then stared at the ceiling, turned her head aside to give the man a perplexed glare, cocking her eyebrow. "I really do not know where have you been so far, but that is more than obvious at this point, is it not?" Turning her head to gaze upwards again, she added with a cold jest. "And mind you. Never underestimate the value of a high class bed warmer. They could easily be looking for me as well," she chuckled again, but the man did not seem to be doing well on humor. Not at that very moment. Could people not be serious and not so serious about being serious at the same time? Was that not a familiar concept in those lands? She immediately supposed she still had a lot to learn about all things not Essosi.

"It would be best if you don't leave the house for the next few days."

"Yes."

"I will go to the village tomorrow and hear the news."

"Sure as death."

"You should sleep with that knife I gave you under the pillow tonight."

"Oh, I intend to."

"Nia will alert us if anyone approaches tonight."

With a sigh, Zea propped herself up against her elbows briefly, before sitting up and leaning against the table, her gaze now fully focused on the man, her cat-like eyes narrowed at him.

"Your concerns are great for someone that just met us. Typical, isn't it?" she scoffed with a mischievous grin. "Two damsels in distress on your doorstep, and you a big strong man protecting them," she paused before she decided to get up with a curious glance around the room, making her way around in circle, wall to wall. "Not to say we are not grateful for all of this," she gestured around with her arms briefly extended. "But make no mistake. We can handle ourselves. At least that much is true for me and that is enough."

In her tour around the room, she approached the man with an amused smirk. "So don't you worry your handsome little head over it," she chirped, patting the man's broad chest freely, before continuing her tour. "If anyone comes by tonight, your little snappy friend here will need to make no effort to get a nice juicy bone to chew on."

Moment after, Eloise made her way back into the room, carrying her old clothes in her hands. The glimpse of her burning a valuable bunch made Zea wince slightly with an emotional pain. She knew what an expensive cloth look and felt like, and all of that was certainly expensive... back when it was still whole and maintained, she'd imagine. Getting rid of it now was most likely the most sane thing the young woman did so far and so Zea chose not to mention it.

Her attention turned back to the girl herself when she heard a question being thrown her way about the food on the table and what should she try. "Rabbit," Zea responded almost with no thought to it. "The rabbit is wonderful. Cheese just as much," she nodded, sure of her words. As the man offered his own answer, Zea looked around some more with a subtle yawn as the drowsiness slowly crept up at her.

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Romance
“The rabbit, huh?” the female reached for the meat, ignoring the question from the man. He didn’t have to know that she just downed a whole bread earlier.

How long had it been that she ate anything decent? Eloise couldn’t recall, but she felt famished, despite the days not having stretched that far apart. Swallowing down the meat the female smiled again, turning towards Torsten.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” the female started, finally remembering that she couldn’t just take the man’s kindness for granted. After all, she had first-hand experienced how cruel humans, and how cold the world could be. “I believe we shall be imposing on your kindness a bit further until we have strengthened and figured out our path,” Eloise continued, having missed out on Zea’s earlier determination not to stick around for any longer. She just assumed that now that they had escaped they would continue together as well.

“Though, where are we right now?” she questioned, finally realising that she actually had no idea where she was. The image of the golden lion flashed past her memory, making the female reach a hand for her head as she flinched.

It was over as soon as it came, leaving a dull throbbing.
 
  • Sympathy
Reactions: Ritual Lobotomy

DayDreamer

Badger Supreme
Writing Levels
Adaptable
While initially surprised by Zea's attitude, Torsten smilled. "You have an awful loud bark for someone who was on the brink of death mere hours ago. Let's hope your bite is equally strong. But I would rather not have my house burned by taking chances." He said amused at her line of thinking. He had saved them on the spot, but now he had stuck his neck under a pirate's sword if they ever found out. A couple of men he could take out by himself, an entire crew or more..... he was done for.

He had been making himself comfortable in his seat, grabbing a piece of half-carved oak and a small carving knife from a nearby table as Eloise turned her focus on the food, completely ignoring his warnings. He sighed and turned the wood in his palm, thinking before placing his knife on it and making that first cut. That knife handle ought to be comfortable in the hand before he could deliver it. Hunting knives always took the longest because he knew the importance of a comfortable handle.

He looked up surprised at Eloise's gratitude. He was not used to such fancy wording and even though he knew the girl was from a well-off family, it still got him every time. "You are in Dorne, near the Step Stones." The wince did not go unnoticed by Torsten though it's true nature elluded him. "It is best if you don't leave the house for a couple of days anyways, to make sure the pirates are no longer looking for you. I would rather not wake up in a pool of my own blood for helping you at the beach." He pointed his carving knife relaxed at Eloise's direction. "And you should take it easy, especially. That wound in your head is not pulling any punches."

And with that, he resumed his carving.