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[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/lruASf6.jpg]] [font roman Oraara was just about to calm down until she was quoted and laughed at. Her face went bright red with anger, and she had to stop herself from shooting up again. She wanted to argue back so badly and defend herself from this halfbreed but knew that wouldn't sort anything out. The thought lingered inside her head, though, and Oraara was mentally vilifying him as much as she possibly could. She could barely listen to his scolding before turning completely elsewhere and mumbling beneath her breath. [b "Biir..."] The elven slur commonly used for half-elves.
She exhaled deeply as an attempt to calm down her blistering rage before gripping the sides of the furry cloak wrapped around her shoulders. She tugged at the sides and unclipped the hook keeping the cloak together and discarded the piece of clothing by her side. The bunched-up hair kept inside the cloak fell down into long tangled strands all the way to her waist, and Oraara would grumble. The stench of freshly cut kill started to invade her sensitive nostrils... She always hated the butchering process of animals. Nearly every male in her former village tried to teach her the process of animal butchery and necessities for survival, but Oraara always had her nose stuck in a book.
She watched with a look of genuine disgust wrinkled on her face and nearly gagged at the sight of the wolfhound chomping down on the liver. She'd persistently try her best not to adhere to prevalent elvish stereotypes and appear pretentious and snobbish, but this time she couldn't hold back. She didn't look elsewhere however but was more keen on watching Haldon than she was in the meal preparation. She'd quickly turn away as soon as the preparation was over.
She'd look over at the bowl full of stew and watch the steam glide into the air. [b "Thank you."] She'd say quietly before cupping the bowl in her hands and taking a small sip. She still felt a sense of rage boiling deep inside her, but dwelling on that wasn't going to do anything productive. Oraara just wanted to regain her strength and be ready to leave for the morning. She'd recoil slightly at the meal burning her tongue after slurping a little too quickly. Oraara continued to enjoy her meal until Haldon would begin cooing at his hound. The sight made her raise her eyebrows slightly and lightly chuckle with an amused smile. She kept her silence still, however, and merely sighed as the familiar feeling of tiredness tugged at her body.
She'd lean back a little and lower her eyelids into a drowsy expression. Her arms crossed scarcely below her chest and legs tucked beneath her. She watched Haldon tuck himself into the bedroll and feel slightly envious. She had always been envious of other races ability to slumber deeply and dream, but Oraara's kind never acquired that ability. She merely sat back and lightly mediated for the rest of the night, slowly recovering the energy sapped away from her by the storm.
The morning had come quickly and Oraara woke at first light, clearly the only one too. She quietly yawned and ruffled up her long drapes of blonde hair before stretching out her arms and yawning once again. She looked over at Haldon for a second to check his condition and kept her eyes glued to his sleeping body for a few minutes. The slumbering half-elven looked so... peaceful. All the accusatory rage from early on had completely dissipated into nothing... She caught herself staring too much and looked away as soon as she saw him begin to stir. She pretended to be doing nothing and fiddled with her fingernails. She looked up when he started talking and listened intently. She appreciated the apology a lot and smiled warmly. [b "Apology accepted. You know not about me and therefore I can't blame your previous accusations. I... apologise as well."] She'd say in return. [b "Truthfully I was out searching for an ingredient for an elixir of mine. Spirit Cotton... I wouldn't expect you to understand. Ah!... I didn't mean anything by that."] She couldn't help the bouts of insensitivity, a common trait for high elves, and brushed the comment off with a nervous titter. [b "I'd, um, appreciate the... help."]
[b [i ''Equally] scorned?''] He let out a laugh, though there was no joy in it. [b ''More fool you, to think you suffered what I have. Elves do not look down on you. I am hated by all. Never have I had a place to truly call home, people to call a family. I am an abomination of nature. Spare me your perceived victomhood.''] He did not know when her response would come, if it even did, but he cared little. He drew a long, slender knife and dragged the doe aside, jamming the blade into the flesh violently.
Before he got to work, he removed his cloak and coat, after which he'd shed a layer of fur, a layer of brigandine and his gambeson, leaving him in little but an already sweat-stained tunic that was once the colour of snow but now more closely resembled an eggshell in hue. It was bloody work, butcher's work, and soon his hands and forearms were bloodied, his chest and face dotted with droplets of blood, and Jarl was beside him, panting, slaver running from his maw. He found the doe's liver and fed it to the dog, soon followed by the heart. Once fully dressed, he repeated the process with the hare.
The meat he cut into strips, most of which he hung on a rack dangling just underneath the smoke-hole he'd made. The awning above kept the snow off the meat as it was smoked. What little he did not smoke, he tossed into a cauldron filled with water, vegetables and potatoes which he planted over the fire. He seasoned it with salt and a few herbs, although both of those ingredients were hard to come by here. He'd look up, occasionally, to steal a glance at Oraara. Even for an Elf, he realized, she looked exceptional.
He let her know the food was finished by planting a bowl full of the hearty stew by her side. Then, he returned to help himself. He ate his fill sitting on his bedroll, watching Jarl as he dug into the carcasses, eagerly. [b ''You've it easy, don't you, furball? You can just stick your snout in, rip loose the choice bits and have at it. No need for cooking.''] He spoke, a tenderness in his voice as he addressed the animal. His eyes flitted over to catch Oraara looking his way, so he cast aside his empty bowl and settled into his bedroll.
He felt quite safe. He knew that Elves did not truly sleep and were always half awake, a blessing he lacked himself, but Jarl came and curled up against him soon enough. The hound did not sleep heavily and would wake at the lightest disturbance, so Haldon need not fear being murdered in his sleep. Part of him hoped she would try, if only to prove him right to be prejudiced against her. At the same time, he did not know what he'd do. This woman was clearly not deserving of being killed as a result of his prejudice and a chance encounter, but the world was harsh.
He woke the next morning to find her already awake. The winds were still fierce as ever. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and sat up, cross-legged, a hand on Jarl's head. [b ''Oraara, I...''] He swallowed - his nervosity, and his pride - before continuing. [b ''I was far too harsh. I thought you, like all Elves, would do little but curse me and expect me to grovel before them. You have my apologies. You may stay if you need to. Tell me what brings you to Caergwyn, and to remedy the situation, I will see if I can help you fulfill your purpose.'']
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/lruASf6.jpg]] [font roman Oraara could only smile awkwardly as her little statement was answered, and she lowered herself close to the gleaming fire to warm herself up. She kept her attention focused on the flickering flames and held her hands out to feel the comforting warmth as the man would move around. She looked up when he started speaking and listened, her eyes following his movements. [b "Perhaps so. I know the cruelties of humankind all too well."] The memories of oppression she routinely suffered in the nearby towns made her subtly grimace to herself. She shook the memories away and continued focusing on the conversation at hand.
She didn't quite understand his statement of being close to one of her own kind and cocked her head in slight confusion. She continued watching him until his clearly faint elven ears were revealed and looked away almost instantly. She had suspected the man to be anything but human, his features were all too familiar, but they were merely assumptions inside her head and Oraara never truly suspected them to be true. She didn't say anything and kept her mouth closed, though, she was noticeably nibbling her bottom lip with her front teeth in a slight bout of unease.
She kept her eyes off him and stared into the distance when the man announced his leave and slowly nodded her head. [b "Aye, of course."] Her voice was distant and quiet, and Oraara kept her gaze averted. She only looked back when the halfbreed made his leave, and Oraara watched him trudge into the cold dreary snowstorm accompanied by his wolfhound. She finally had some time to mull over the discovery. She didn't know what to truly conceive about him now, but yet, none of her thoughts was of hatred or contempt. She knew that somehow the halfbreed was exactly that, and that her theory was correct and feelings were justified. Oraara merely felt some momentary sympathy and relief with a mixture of curiosity and minor prejudice for him.
She stayed put inside the ramshackle home until the man returned alongside his dog. The sight of the hunted doe and hare widening her eyes with both interest and gloom for the poor creatures. She greeted the halfbreed and his dog with a warming smile and was just about to offer her help with the two kills until she was interrupted with his sudden bitter speech.
She could only sit back and stare with a look of shock and offence on her face. She soon started glaring deep into his eyes and stood up from her position. Her glare was almost ominous as she listened to every single preconceived word and she'd open her mouth to speak her piece. [b "Wherefore that tone with me? I have been met with nothing but scorn my entire life because of my kind. It is not my intention to bestow that upon another as equally scorned as I. Your blood medley is of no concern of mine."] Her voice was eerily calm and quiet. She'd cross her arms. [b "You need not worry. I will be gone as soon as the sky is clear. Clearly I am not all too welcome here."] She'd keep standing with an almost sense of authority before deeply sighing and sitting down again. She'd look away again, almost waiting for his response.]
The fire radiated light and warmth as though it were a significantly down-sized, blessed sun. The cracks in the stones and mortar of the walls were apparent, drinking the light, and the thick cloth drapes hiding the boarded-up windows lashed loudly against the windowsills, a result of the scourging wind. Haldon moved about the fire, nimble as a forest lion, and stowed his weaponry away. He chose to seat himself next to his dog, one hand splayed out on a furry haunch. He looked up at her as she spoke. [b “It’ll do that to you.”] He’d allow, a subtle nod reinforcing his statement.
[b “You need not thank me for the help. It’s an unspoken rule here. When the storms come, you help any living creature you can. Though, truth be told, if any folk from Caergwyn had found you here, they’d be more likely to cut your ears off, dry them by a fire and wear them around their neck. Mind, they’d not do it in public, or if you had company, but all alone and on the road?”] He spat into the fire and shook his head. [b “But there is no need to worry, here.”] He explained. [b “I am not of your folk, but the closest you’d find this far North.”] With both hands, he’d tuck his hair behind his pointed ears. They were nowhere near as defined as hers, but he remained easily identifiable as a halfbreed.
He immediately questioned his decision to reveal his identity and averted his eyes. [b “I must hunt. You may stay. Jarl, come!”] With that, his wolfhound rose. Not long after Haldon was back on his feet had he armed himself and left the rubble, leaving the fire and the stew to her. He marched downhill with long strides, shadowed by his hound.
[b “Half-mad Haldon, more fool you! Most like she will think you a mongrel, her and her ivory skin,”] He growled to himself. He ignored the shaggy dog padding beside him, despite the animal clearly being alert for all the wrong reasons. [b “You’ll return to scorn and spite, or worse yet, along knife to be buried in your belly. Damned fool! Damn! Why did I have to let her know? I’d ought to know better.”] His dog yelped at the outburst. Haldon only then donned his hood, the snow in his hair already melting.
Angrily, he kicked at a mound of snow, sending a flurry of the stuff up into the wind, and then against his chest. He had to clear his head to face whatever he’d return to. He drew an arrow, nocked it on his bow and watched as best as he could for the dark, jagged treeline in the distance. Before long, his well-placed steps saw him between the tall pines. Bar the occasional howling gale, or the creak of branches, the forest drank up all sound. He strode betwixt arboreal sentinels, eyes glued to the ground for fear that he’d fail to spy a set of tracks.
Soon, Jarl was on a trail. Haldon followed swiftly and soundlessly, and before long he spied the lean doe his hound had smelt. With a sudden arrow to the lung, he brought it down. Jarl rushed off but Haldon did not care - the doe meant life for another few weeks. He’d retrieve the animal, hoisting it over his shoulders with a groan. Jarl returned, a hare between his jaws. He gave the hound a look and a nod. [b “Good boy.”] He spoke, eventually, before starting back. He followed his own tracks, easing him along the track.
The trail back was long and hard, owing to the doe he carried. He took breaks every ten minutes, but he did not regain his energy when he did. The cold sapped him of whatever strength he had, ever so slowly. When dark had just fallen his knees were about to give out, stopped only by how stiff his legs were, but he saw the brilliant glow of fire in the distance. The light traveled far. Soon, he was atop the hill and past the fur ‘door’. He dropped the frozen carcass by the fire, and Jarl followed suit.
Wordlessly, he sat down across from her, his joints protesting the action, to warm himself by the fire. His hood remained up. [b “Speak your poison, then. Let me have it; I am but a mongrel, a half-blood, a spot upon your eternal and noble bloodline. Say as you will, do as you will, but then keep your silence and leave me in peace. You may use my fire and home but I wish you gone once the winds die down.”] The stare he gave her was bitter, his scowl grim. The pain of a lifetime of oppression was behind his eyes, the rage of a marginalised man inside him.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/lruASf6.jpg]] [font roman The wind howled like a thousand wolves, the cold frost mercilessly biting into every inch of uncovered skin, but the young elven girl knew she couldn't turn back. She had come this far from the town just to find the ingredient she needed and knew to turn back and give up now would be an awful waste, so she trudged on forward through the pure white curtains of snow that threatened to freeze her, her faithful horse Edda by her side.
The ingredient she so desperately searched for was nothing more than the rare flower, Spirit Cotton, a pure white flower covered in glistening blue speckles on every inch of its beautiful petals, the centre a bundle of soft cotton used for the creation of multiple different potions and elixirs, namely possession and spiritual magic. Oraara needed this flower for a potion she was commissioned to make by a desperate village girl looking to cleanse the soul of her fallen father, and Oraara had felt so much sympathy for the girl, that she couldn't decline, and had decided to set out in search for the essential element for the potion.
After a long time of searching and upturning mounds of snow in hopes of uncovering the flower, Oraara had soon given up on walking and had instead mounted her horse to rest her weary bones, the unforgiving pull of the snow finally wearing down what little muscle she had. She thought about using magic to light her way through the frosty storm, thinking that perhaps her magic would lead her the right way, but the storm had sucked so much energy away from her small body, that she couldn't even muster a simple enchantment for an illumination spell, and instead opted for the small lantern attached to her horse's saddle to light her way.
Oraara thought that perhaps returning home empty-handed might've been better than freezing to death in this snowstorm. For all, she knew she was alone in the dark forest, alone with her horse with nothing but the wildlife around, and the cold wind to keep her company.
She feared to encounter a ghoul in this storm or some monster aligned with snow. If anything had seen her and had decided to take her away and snuff out what little life she had left in this storm, now was the moment they'd be most successful, and Oraara thought for a second that her fears had finally come true, that something had sensed her presence and plotted to erase her existence forever, a voice in the distance threatening to lead her astray from her path and into the dark unknown, but as the voice got closer and clearer, Oraara's fears slowly dwindled into a mere anxiety.
A shape of a man waving for her attention could be seen through the veil of snowflakes, and Oraara could feel a slight hope rising up inside her. She picked up the reins of her horse and signalled for Edda to slowly walk closer, pushing through the icy white veil and towards the strange figure who beckoned her to come. She could see now who this man truly was, and whatever suspicion she had, slowly melted away into relief instead, relief that she was potentially safe and that she wouldn't freeze in this blizzard. He was no brigand nor vagabond, no thief waiting for the right moment to pounce, he was, at the moment, her saviour - or at least in her mind, he was.
All while he spoke, she took quick note of what little of his appearance she could see, his features, his clothing, his body. She surveyed and studied every inch every single time the man would look away, and felt a familiar feeling rise up inside her. She couldn't place her finger on the feeling, but she knew the emotion was no stranger to her. He seemed so familiar, not in the deja vu way, but as if she had seen someone with his features before, someone like her. Whatever, she brushed away those feelings and followed the man on horseback to his ruined residence, the promise of warmth and food settling wonderfully in her mind. She felt slightly crazy for following a man she had never met before to his home, and she neither spoke or answered whenever he spoke, but with the town so far away and the storm so cruel and threatening, only someone suicidal could turn down this gracious offer.
As they arrived at the hobbled down rubble home, Oraara would dismount Edda and lead her inside after the man, taking quick note of the home's disrepair. The inviting glow of the fire and the comforting warmth that quickly washed over her soon made her forget about the condition of the shack, and she'd brush away the snow from her cloak's furry brim and look up at the man. She'd finally speak, her voice quiet and a little unsure. "[b My name is Oraara. I...]" She'd pause for a few seconds, trying to find the right words to show her gratitude all the while trying to not suck up to this stranger. "[b Thank you, for helping me.]" Now that she had found her voice, she'd feel a sense of awkwardness and uncertainty inside her, the two emotions very clear in the tone she spoke in. She waited for his response, but as he'd move back his hood to show his hair and his appearance, that sense of familiarity rose up inside her again and she knew that there was something amiss about him, nothing bad but nothing true to what she originally thought he was.
She'd brush away a strand of blonde hair from her face and study his appearance again, the glow from the fire illuminating his features for Oraara to see. He was handsome, tall, well-built, the scar making up questions inside her head. She felt oddly comfortable around him, despite the brief moment of awkwardness in her voice earlier, and made up some small conversation to break the small bit of tension she felt. "[b I'll take that gladly, the offer I mean. That storm was something terrible, chilled me straight to the bone.]"]
The wind was as piercing as ever as it howled around the small, ruined house. It was closer to a pile of rubble to a proper residence, but it seemed inhabited still. The holes in the roof were patched with sheets of canvas, and those in the walls had thick rugs hung behind them. They whipped and snapped in the wind. A heavy fur that once belonged to a bear served as a door. It was not much, but he liked to think of it as his castle. It was better than sleeping under the stars, particularly in this weather. He had once lived a lavish life, but that was over a decade ago. Even though his current residence was little more than a hovel, especially compared to the manse he was once accustomed to, he was glad to be there, far away from prying eyes and judgemental stares.
He went out dressed for the weather. He stepped into the wild flurry of snow, pulling his carmine cloak tight about him, the hood shielding him from the army of raging snowflakes. Hidden under his cloak was a quiver of arrows, over his left shoulder a longbow. He held a long spear in hands. At six and a half feet, it was only half a foot taller than himself. He looked up and down the road that curved around his hilltop home, but the sheet of white filling the air made it impossible to see. He ploughed through the snow, and though it was downhill, he still struggled. The butt of his spear tapped the ground quietly as he walked. When he reached the road, the only reason he noticed was due to the fact that the ground suddenly had some resemblance to a level surface.
Southward bound, with the bitter wind blowing in his face, he went out. He did not quite know why, but go he would, all the same. After half an hour of walking, he saw a silhouette through the snow. It seemed to be a woman ahorse, but the shoulders looked to be far too broad. When he finally came close enough to see, it became clear it was a finely-dressed woman with a heavy fur cloak draped about her narrow shoulders. She was lissome and fair, he noticed, as he looked up underneath her hood. No doubt she was headed to the town, unnamed as it were, given that it was the only sign of civilization within leagues. It would be a two day's ride from here, at the least, longer with the current weather. He hesitated. Should he help her?
He made his choice. He cleared his throat and raised his voice, though she could likely barely hear him through the wind and snow. [b ''Here, traveler, here! Come!''] He waved his arms about. At least he was far too well-dressed to be some common brigand. When within reach, he explained his proposition to her. [b ''You have far to go to the last town you'll find for weeks, maybe months. Come share my fire and my stew until this storm blows over.''] He offered. All it took for him to take the reins was her agreement. He lead the horse down the road and up the hill in respectful silence. When he came upon his hovel, he moved the bear-fur flap aside. [b ''I think it best if you get your horse inside as well.'']
It certainly wasn't much, but it was warm and comfortable. His own bedroll lie by the fire, half-hidden underneath a great, shaggy hound, curled up for warmth. Only when she was inside did he speak again. [b ''I am Haldon. I am known as Haldon Whitehair.''] He moved back his hood to show her why. He was fair of complexion and seemed to be a handsome young man, until the light of the fire shifted and revealed the cruel scar marring his face. [b ''You are welcome to rest here as you like.''] His hair hid his ears, for now.
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