AR 1216-06-21 Elsie Travels to Butterpond with the group
Yari could tell that Elsie was exhausted from the way she walked. They had ended up with her in the lead, as she was the slowest of the group. Everyone else was used to hiking long distances for days on end; Elsie was not, and it showed. Krunch had said something about needing a few days to, “Get her legs.” Yari lapsed into pleasant daydreams about Elsie’s legs. Elsie limped along on her legs.
It had taken several doses of healing energy from both clerics to get the poor girl this far. At one point, Wolf relieved Elsie of her pack and strapped in on top of his. Even so, the very weight of her own body was proving too much a burden for her. And, of course, it hadn’t stopped raining since the night before.
As Elsie stumbled again, Yari snapped out of his reverie and hastened his step some to move aside her. Just as he was reaching out to touch her, and send more of the healing power of Odin into her, she slipped in the mud and went down hard. He had her back up in an instant, but he could feel he was supporting the entirety of her weight. She hung in Yari’s arms like a ragdoll.
Are you okay? he asked her, using his talent from Caelus to touch her thoughts and send her calm, reassuring feelings.
“Go on without me,” she moaned. “Let me down, I’ll just sleep here!” Her voice, soft but still strong, carried to the rest of the group. Not even total physical collapse could erase years of training to be heard over the din of tavern patrons.
You’re acting like Rissa, Yari thought at her, though he said aloud, “Guys? I think we need to stop.”
“We’re almost there,” Krunch grumbled. “Just get ‘er to Butterpond, and we c’n all rest at an inn.”
Sardi walked over and laid a hand on Elsie’s shoulder. “Here,” he said, and channeled his own restorative magic into her. The girl straightened somewhat, and Yari was able to let go of her weight. “When we get to the inn, I can give you a good massage. Trust me, you’ll need it if you want to move at all tomorrow.”
“Excuse me?” came a dangerous warning from behind them. Rissa double-timed it to the front of the group to at Sardi. “You do what now?”
“No, not like that!” Sardi stammered. “I mean she –”
“You mean you’d rather give her a massage than your girlfriend?”
“Rissa, Elsie needs it!”
“Give it up, dude,” interjected Yar. “You’re not winning this one. I’ll take care of Elsie; you see to your jealous girlfriend,” he teased, mimicking the same inflection his sister had used. “‘Sides, I got better marks in that section [No, seriously, what’s the name of the cleric who would have taught the basic medicines class?]’s class, anyway.”
Elsie gingerly eased herself back to standing on her own and scowled. “Okay, okay! I am fine! I just need sleep. I can my own now; let’s get going.”
After a few careful steps, she tilted her head to the sky and shouted, “Sure would make it easier if you would turn off the water, though!” At that moment, a bolt of lightning chose to streak across the sky, followed quickly by a clap of thunder. “Oh, get a sense of humor, will! I was just kidding!”
She put her head down powered through the rest of the way to town. Yari’s love her deepened.
They reached Butterpond’s inn about an hour later. Krunch and Zen negotiated prices for rooms for everyone. Rissa made sure everyone knew she was sharing a room with Sardi. Sardi blushed and wished Rissa would stop announcing that every time they slept indoors.
Elsie managed to limp her way to her room – her single room, much to her dissatisfaction – and close the door. With her last ounce of strength, she plopped into a chair and sobbed. She was exhausted thoroughly, both in body and mind, and all she could think to do was to cry. Wanting only to be with Yari, and to help stop this ‘master’ character, she had agreed to come along with the group, but it was clear Elsie was in no condition to be of any use. From how she was feeling, she doubted it would only take a few days to get into proper walking shape, and even if it, she doubted she could contribute meaningfully. Her doubts turned into shivers, and her shivers into shakes.
A light knock on the door, and then Yari was in the room. Elsie hadn’t noticed the door open, but then, just about all she was noticing at the moment was how cold she was.
I thought I heard you crying, his thoughts came to hers. Sure you don’t want that massage? I’m very good at them, you may recall.
“Oh,” he said out loud, dropping his playful approach and adopting a very serious one. “What’s the matter, love?”
When she didn’t answer, the young healer quickly assessed the situation and deduced she was in the beginning stage of hypothermia. He moved quickly, removing all her wet clothes and wrapping her in blankets. Then, poured his divinely-granted magic into her body, and he rubbed and massaged her through the sheets. Using abilities he gained from his pact with the Sky, he removed the cold from the fabrics while he worked, warming everything up slowly.
“I c-can’t s-s-seem to st-top sh-sh-aking, Yari. W-what’s-s w-wrong with m-m-m-me?”
“You’re dying, Elsie. I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do,” answered Yari deadpan. Then, before Elsie had time to worry, he added in a more soothing voice, “Basically, you got too cold and tired, and your body started to shut down. Don’t worry, girl, Captain Boyfriend’s on the job!”
“M-my he-r-ro.” She was too tired to be mad at him for his initial statement, and just let him continue to rub her, heating and relaxing her rebellious muscles. After a couple of minutes, her body re-approached equilibrium, and she was able to relax and stop shivering.
“I must be so weak!” sobbed Elsie. “I’m not fit to be with you. It’s obvious even the gods think so!”
“You’re the strongest woman I know, Elsie,” he chided, “so none of that, now. I swear, you’ve been spending too much time around my sister; you’re developing her flair for the dramatic.”
He sat with her in silence a while longer, continuing his massage. Reaching out with his thoughts, he sent calming images her way as further comfort. Scenes of Elsie easily climbing to the top of a great mountain; a picnic in a green meadow with Yari; a warm, brightly-burning hearth fire. When her breathing finally steadied, he said, “So, wanna tell me what’s eatin’ ya? Surely it takes more’n a little hypothermia to get you down!”
She looked at Yari and sighed, “All day as I was hurting, I wanted to reach out and just hold your hand or lean on your shoulder but I couldn’t. What was so exciting to think about last night is so much harder to do in reality.”
“I’m sorry, love,” he said with genuine remorse. “I wanted to hold your hand, too. We’re together now, though. I don’t know, I think the waiting makes this moment even better.” Yari almost asked his last sentence. He fell silent again for a while. Embarrassment virtually hung in the air, permeating the space between the two.
Reaching under the covers, Yari found her hand and brought it to his lips. “Thanks for putting up with me.”
She smiled for the first time that day that he could remember, “You’re putting up with my ‘dramatic flairs’, so I guess I can put up with you wanting to keep us a secret for the moment.
“You know, with the rain coming down, talking to you was also impossible. Could we come up with some method of you knowing I want to mind-chat, so we can make this work?”
Yari grimaced, “I don’t like calling it ‘mind-chatting’. It’s awkward and embarrassing when I share thoughts like that with others. Like I’m somehow invading their private-most spaces, and they in turn are invading mine. I’ve only ever done it with you and Rissa; it’s too personal, too intimate a thing to be called ‘mind-chatting’.”
Elsie apologized, and asked, “Well, what are we going to call it, then?”
“I don’t know. Does it need a name? Let’s stay the course here, and focus on a signal for me to reach out to you.” Thinking out loud, he continued, “I guess I could try to keep our thoughts connected all the time. Seems like a lot of work, though. I mean, it’s not like we can’t talk to each other in public normally. Why don’t you just ask me what I’m thinking, or something, as a signal?”
“That works if you’re near me, but if we’re walking farther apart, how about I kick or throw a rock off the path?”
“Alright,” he shrugged, then smiled. “I’m anticipating a lot of pebbles getting kicked in the near future.”
“Hey,” Elsie said
“Did you really never… share thoughts with Verona?”
“Nope. Never did. Well, not until she became queen, and that was to say goodbye.”
“Cool,” smiled she.
“Hey,” Yari said.
“Do you think there’s room for me under these blankets?”
“Oh, I think there might be.”
“Cool,” smiled he.