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Somewhere in the Distance

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“Where exactly are you headed with those ?” Aidan straightened in his chair, eyeing his littlest sister over his morning mug of coffee. Avali was rarely up and about this early in the day, much less with anything like the burden she carried in her arms.

Avali wrinkled her nose at him around the stack of dusty tomes that was piled high enough she couldn’t properly look over them. “Nowhere,” she quickly barked, but eventually she folded under the weight of her brother’s knowing smirk. “Okay, fine. You know exactly where.” Her tail thrashed behind her in annoyance, and she had to quickly adjust her hold on the books to keep them from starting to topple over.

He arched a brow at her. “You know there’s more… normal ways of going about this.”

She huffed and her ears flattened. “Like you’re someone I should really take advice on such things from.” With that she spun on her heel and, not without some wobbling, and stormed out of the Rising Stones as much as her small and unimposing stature would allow.

Honoura blinked from behind a book, her quiet vigil in the corner causing her to have gone unnoticed by their sister. She waited until Avali was definitely gone before clearing her throat to get Aidan’s attention, not wanting to bring the wrath of the annoyance she’d heard before down on her head too. “I feel like I’ve missed something.”

Aidan just shook his head, waving a hand dismissively. “Its nothing,” he chuckled. He took another swig from his mug and returned to slumping lazily in his chair. “Don’t worry about it, sis.”

 

---

 

G’raha’s eyes grew to the size of saucers when he beheld the precious cargo Avali had come bearing from Revenant’s Toll. All manner of books decorated one of the tables outside his tent at Saint Coinach’s Find, a myriad collection of different sizes, thicknesses, and colored bindings. They were stacked haphazardly to his scholar’s sense, but obviously had been somehow arranged with a measure of love and care nonetheless on further inspection. 

“What is all this?” he asked, blinking a few more times at the offering laid before him before turning his gaze to her and gesturing to the pile.

Avali fidgeted a bit, suddenly self-conscious about the spectacle of her actions. She played with a longer section of her hair as her eyes wandered away from looking at him, her tail swaying behind her in embarrassment. “Just some of the tomes you’d mentioned wanting to acquire, and a few others I was recommended on the same subjects…”

“Is that so…” He looked up at her with still wider eyes. “Where did you come by these? I’d imagine their owners were not exactly forthcoming in wanting to part with them...”

“I may have had to collect on a few favours and dues owed,” she admitted sheepishly. She worried at her lip with her teeth as her ears flattened. She’s perhaps overdone it, just a bit.

“Surely you could have made better use of that leverage,” he muttered softly, a frown gracing his features as he dragged a finger down the brittle-looking spine of one particularly worn tome that had yellowed with age. His ears drooped and the lashing of his tail emphasized the annoyance in his tone of voice. “We’ve hit a roadblock, what with the doors to the principle spire being quite firmly sealed. I’m afraid the expedition isn’t going to hit its stride again anytime soon.”

She was beaming warmly at him when his eyes returned to her. “Well I suppose you’re going to nothing better to do than to dig into these then, with all that newfound free time you suddenly have.”

His cheeks colored and an ear twitched idly. He quickly busied himself with the task of sorting the books in front of him in a poor attempt to mask the involuntary response. “You do have a point. Still, you didn’t have to go to all the trouble.”

She shrugged lightly and daintily hopped up to sit on the table beside the piles of tomes. “There hasn’t been much else demanding my attention as of late, anyroad. And I wanted to help--” Her sentence quickly faltered at the end, leaving the unspoken addition of “ you ” hanging awkwardly in the air between them.

He eventually broke the silence as he spared her a glance from his task, holding out one of the less delicate-looking volumes to her with a gentle and sincere smile. “Then you've the time to assist me with my research, if you've naught else to occupy your time?”

She took the offered book with a soft blush, but her expression fell as she cradled it in her lap, her ears and tail wilting as well. “I’d love to, but I wouldn’t be much use to you.” 

The look he gave her was plainly confused, and she sighed. No use in trying to pretend. 

“I can’t read,” she blurted out, the color in her cheeks deepening. “I mean... I can, sort of, but not very well. Danny and Noura tried to teach me when we were kids but it didn’t stick. There’s not been much use for it most of where I’ve been.”

He hummed a soft melody to himself as he continued to sort through the spoils she’d presented him with, clearly lost in thought for a few moments before he finally responded. “Mayhap I could be of some assistance in that regard. I’d be a poor archon if I couldn’t teach another at least that much.”

His cheeks flushed again and and ear absentmindedly twitched when she giggled in response. 

When he looked back at her she smiled, blue eyes glittering like the crystalline landscape in the sunlight. “I think I’d like that.”