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A Midnight Talk

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Rina was still unsure what she got herself into. Being magically transported from her beautiful, quiet, familiar forest into an abandoned, cursed (maybe? She was still not very clear on the details) tower half-way across the continent was jarring, and being expected to just follow around a bunch of strangers even more so. Aramil seems to trust them, and she trusts Aramil, but still. It was pretty terrifying.

It didn’t help that they all seem to already know each other pretty well. Rina wasn’t used to meeting new people – she knew the other forest elves all of her life, knew all the jokes and traditions. She didn’t even ever see a human before today, never mind a dwarf and a halfling. They were loud and boisterous, and she had trouble keeping their names straight, the vowels and consonants so different than what she was familiar with.

Figuring out she had powers – well, that was less unexpected. She knew for a few weeks already that something was different. More of her shots hit than not, but when they didn’t it tended to go worse than usual. Sometimes she could swear she felt the entire world re-arranging itself around her, pieces swirling and clicking into place, other possible futures sliding past her. It was weird, but it didn’t feel unnatural, not for her. It felt…. Right, in a way so few things ever felt – the presence of Aramil next to her, the quiet hum of the trees, launching an arrow. It felt as easy as breathing, sometimes, and that was what was scary about it. Not its existence, but the way it felt like an essential part of her very being. Aramil, at least, didn’t seem concerned (not surprising, considering his own unique abilities), but the other elves seemed a bit more wary of her, a bit less friendly.

In a way, it was almost a blessing being away from them. She missed the forest and she missed the people – well, some of them, Sabu can choke – but she didn’t miss the suspicion. Being here, with Dorro, and Pera, and Xion, and Torrvic (such strange names!), felt freeing in a way the forest didn’t feel for a while now.

Rina shuffled a bit, still uncomfortable with thinking of the forest like that. It was her home, but it didn’t really feel like home, not anymore, and that felt… sacrileges? Like a betrayal?  Her movement disturbed the journal she had in her lap and it fell down, landing with a soft thud. Quickly, she looked at her companions to check if she had disturbed their rest.

(And oh, that was another thing – sleep! What a curious thing, to think that humans and dwarfs and halflings spent at least a quarter – usually more, she was informed by Dorro – unconscious, vulnerable to the world. Sometimes they had dreams, Dorro told her, vivid hallucinations that felt like reality. She asked him what they dreamed of, and he laughed, telling her he hardly ever remembers his dreams, but he is sure it involves a lot of gold and maybe setting LeFlure on fire. She wonders what she would dream of. The forest? Aramil? Hunting? It seemed useless to hallucinate things she could do in real life, but it seemed just as impossible to imagine things she could not do in real life. She was the reborn goddess of luck, and little seems unattainable with a little stroke of good fortune on your side).

“Can’t sleep?”

It was Pera. He didn’t speak much, before – Rina can’t remember even hearing his voice until now. Dorro and the others seemed much more boisterous, and Pera seemed content to let them talk for him, saying little from his place next to Xion.

“Elves don’t sleep,” she told him, picking up the journal and placing it in her lap once more. “Sorry for waking you”.

“Ah, right, sorry. I forgot,” he shuffled into seating, his blanket pooling at his waist. “Don’t worry about it, I wasn’t sleeping either”. He seemed… wary, somewhat, soft-spoken but in a way that wasn’t just about consideration for his sleeping friends. It was almost like he was afraid to disturb the world at large with his words, wished to make as little ripple as he could.

Rina frowned, concerned. “I thought humans needed sleep to survive”.

Pera huffed out a quiet laugh. “We do, we do. I should sleep, but I just… can’t seem to, tonight”.

“Does that happen often?” Rina asked, hesitantly, still unsure about the particular details of sleep.

Pera shrugged. “Sometimes, I guess? If you have a lot on your mind, or you are stressed, or something. Never used to happen to me, when I was still on the farm, but… well. I’m not, anymore”. That seemed to send him into a downward spiral, his mouth tightening, his fingers clenched in the blanket.

Despite not knowing him at all, really, Rina still didn’t like seeing other people in distress. “Do you want to talk about it?” she offered. “Aramil always says I’m a pretty good listener, if I sit quietly long enough to actually listen”.

Pera’s face didn’t light up exactly, but it softened. “Did that happen a lot?”

Rina snorted. “Not really, or at least, probably not as much as Aramil would have liked”. She missed him, then, suddenly and fiercely. He was there all of her life, really, a constant figure in her memories, and it felt even more wrong to not have him there than to be out of the forest.

Pera, maybe sensing her sudden downward spiral, cut into her thoughts. “It’s pretty weird, isn’t it, to live all of your life one place, with the same people, doing the same things, and then suddenly…. Not”.

Rina smiled at him. “You sure you are the godling of the sun and not thought-reading?”

Now Pera snorted, quickly quieting with a guilty look at Xion, sleeping peacefully next to him. “Would have been easier if I was”.

“He loves you,” Rina said. She might not have known them a long time, she didn’t know them at all, really, but Xion was about as subtle about Pera as Pera was about him, which is to say, not at all.

“Yeah, I know,” Pera sighed, brushing one hand over Xion’s messy hair. “Don’t know why, really… I used to cry a lot, in the beginning. Like nonstop. It’s kinda embarrassing, in retrospect, and Phryanne especially didn’t like it, and Xion… I know he was trying to be nice about it, but he can be kind of a jerk sometimes, and a little bit impatient, and I know it bothered him”.

Rina didn’t really know who Phryanne was (a queen, she assumed from past conversations, but she doesn’t really know how this rag-tag team could have possibly known a queen), but seeing Pera looking so forlorn and self-deprecating hurt, just a bit. Pera was… well shit, that was a cliché, considering what he was the godling of, but he was warm. She suddenly remembered how, earlier in the day, he offered her a smile and a quiet explanation of a joke she had missed when the others were talking. He wasn’t supposed to be this self-conscious, have this much doubt about himself.

“Pera, I almost cried three times just today, and the only reason I didn’t was because things were trying to kill us at the time,” she told him, and she wasn’t even lying, really. It was a long day, and she missed Aramil, and she hardly knew what was going on.

Pera’s eyes widened, just a bit. “Seriously? You seem really unflappable. You are kind of a bad ass,” he admitted with a sheepish smile.

Rina blushed, just a bit. “And apparently a good actress. Nah, the past few days were super scary, for real, and honestly the fact none of us are crying right now is probably really commendable”.

Xion shifted in his bedroll and the two of them froze for a second, before he settled in and Pera continued to gently card his fingers through his hair. “That’s us, a bunch of bad asses”.

“Now, see, if I was anyone else, I would make a really bad pun right about now,” she smirked at Pera, who blushed a bit and replied: “Lucky for me that you aren’t”. Rina gave him a second, raising her eyebrow at him, before he realized the bad pun he made and groaning quietly. ‘”Oh, that was bad”.

The two sat quietly for a few more moments, the sounds of Torrvic and Oinkers snoring in unison providing background noise. Finally, Pera sighed. “I should probably try to catch at least a few hours”.

“Did this help?” Rina asked, curious.

Pera shrugged. “Maybe? I hope so”. He settled into his bedroll once more, but before rolling over, he addressed Rina again. “You know, I don’t know about you being a good listener, but I think you make for a pretty good friend”.

Rina startled, for a second, before smiling. “Good night, Pera”.

“Good night, Rina”.