The duel has finally come to an end.
The chorus of howling seems loud enough to shatter steel, but, thankfully, it silences. It silences, and the air turns stale with fear. Its stench is overwhelming, but it's still sweeter than what once was nothing but the copper of fresh wounds. Besides, it's not Tor's fear that's hazing the room — it's theirs.
The deafening crowd of Werelupes that threatens the young hero from all sides gasps loudly, each gruff voice whimpering in unison — almost as if of one consciousness. And, truly, the way the brutes jeer and chant sounds like one chaotic, bestial hive mind. Still, it silences. It silences, and their collective aura of hungry anticipation dissolves into pure shock as each and every Werelupe breathes in the surprise of what's just happened, exhales a whine of confusion, then turns its attention to the young knight. A fierce terror takes hold of every feral mind as the Werelupes see that their leader has fallen at the feet of this young boy — a boy they had, with all confidence, thought would be dead by now. Once again acting as a collective consciousness, they turn and run, completely panicked. And with that, the howling dies along with its leader.
Well, maybe it's not dead. Maybe it's only been muted temporarily. Maybe.
The realisation of what Sir Tormund's just done holds him too tightly to allow any movement — if only for a second longer. The young knight stares down at the brute before him, his breathing shallow and his arms trembling from everything all at once — fear, adrenaline, pain, shock... he isn't sure which one is most toxic in his lungs. It's most likely a brew of them all, though. A loud part of him still doesn't know exactly what's just happened — a part of him louder than the howling that has, thankfully, just hushed itself — but he needs to move past this. He can't dwell here. This is a triumph, after all. He shouldn't feel this scared. He has won.
"Heyyy! A little help here, please?"
Tor hears the ghost of a voice ring clear from above him. Roberta's voice. It comes as a blessing, but, at the same time, she sounds... nervous? No, she can't be. She's never nervous. She's too headstrong to be nervous. Tor's mind must be playing tricks on him. His fright must still have control over him.
Tor looks up towards the sound. Roberta still stands within the bone-carved bars of the cage she's been imprisoned in, dangling precariously from a fraying rope. A strong sense of responsibility manages to silence the pressure in Tor's mind, and he finds he is able to refocus on the trapped sorceress. He feels himself smiling, though it seems a little misplaced. He might have just killed someone. He probably shouldn't be happy about that. But, no, no, that's not why he's smiling — he's just smiling because he's beyond excited to see his companion alive and well. Well, as close to "well" as one could possibly be in her position. Still, none of that really matters. The real problem is... how does he get her down from there?
He glances for one more second at the silenced Werelupe that lies breathless before him, then sheathes his blade, quickly darting towards the rocky ledge that encircles the arena. He scrambles to climb up towards Roberta, kicking up a cloud of ages-old dust and rock with each missed step. Unfortunately, when he finally makes it to the small plateau where the other Werelupes once stood cheering, he finds he's no closer to figuring out how to free the sorceress than he was from within the battlefield below. He looks around desperately, but no luck. Everything is empty. Hands on his hips, he lets out a dramatic sigh, then looks back up to Roberta. "Uh... how?" he asks with a nervous laugh.
Roberta matches the laugh, but it sounds forced. Tor is still confused by the sound. She's never sounded this tense before. "Tormund, if I knew how to get myself down, I would have left this stupid cage by now," she says, sassy as usual, though her voice trembles.
Tormund rolls his eyes. He climbs further up, but there's no sign of where her prison is being held from. The rope the cage hangs from disappears into the ceiling. The weight must be in another room. There's absolutely no way to reach her from here. Tormund thinks for a few seconds longer, humming loudly to himself, then, defeated, tells her, "It looks like it's being held up from somewhere else. I'll need to search the burrows some more..." He hops down a few tiers of rock, then begins to dash towards a doorway which a handful of the Werelupes had disappeared out of. "I'll be right back!" Tormund calls over his shoulder.
"No!" Roberta shouts, terrified, and Tormund comes to a skidding halt at the sound of her voice, flailing his arms a bit to try to keep from falling over. He spins around, concern grabbing hold of him, and begins to walk briskly back towards her.
Strangely, Roberta doesn't add anything to her interjection. She looks away from him, seeming both scared and embarrassed. Tor's confusion is only continuing to fester. He prods, "What's wrong, Roberta?"
She hugs herself tightly. He can see her shiver, even at this great distance. "Please," she says, almost inaudibly, "just... don't leave me alone again."
Tormund can't comprehend the confusion that washes over him this time. He doesn't have the ability to dwell on it — much to Roberta's relief. He takes his typical hands-on-his-hips-in-contemplation pose once again, surveying the room uselessly. "Well... I don't know what to do, then," he says, looking back up at her.
Roberta sighs, the breath lazily lifting a tangled lock of her hair. She looks around, shaking her head. "Just... just cut me down, or something," she says.
Tormund laughs lightly. "Roberta, you're, like, fifty feet up in the air," he says, cocking an eyebrow.
Roberta rolls her eyes. "If I can survive a fall from Faerieland, I'm sure I'll survive this," she says, gesturing to the cage around her with both arms outstretched.
Tormund's laughter is finally becoming genuine again. His shock is finally settling. "Fine, I'll take your word for it." He begins to ascend the walls once more. "Uh, problem though," he says as he clambers onto a somewhat-sturdy edge, and Roberta bites her lip nervously. "I don't have your, uh, fancy ranged magic abilities," Tor continues. "And I don't have a bow or anything, either. How am I supposed to do this?"
"Uh... throw your sword?" Roberta suggests, only half-sarcastically.
"Uh, and rescue you by impaling you?" Tor says, snickering. "I'm flattered you think I'm skilled enough to slice through a rope from, like, a million feet away with a flung sword, but, no thanks. I'd rather you not die."
Roberta rolls her eyes again. "Just... use a fire mote to burn the rope," she says. "You know how to charge that stuff, right?"
Tor's surprised he forgot about that. He almost always keeps the mote on his weapon. Well, he supposes it's not completely his fault he forgot about the motes' hidden attack power. This whole mess began incredibly soon after the, unfortunately, only lesson he received from Master Torak about the strange magical globes. Still, the idea works. He just hopes he can pull it off... He nods as he finishes climbing the arena walls once more.
This is still going to be tricky, though... but there's a lot of room for error. Motes are pretty incredible, after all. He tries to have confidence. As he steadies his footing on the highest ledge he can climb to, he pulls out his now incredibly-worn blade, then begins to mutter to the smiling, dancing flame that enchants its surface. "Don't let me down, little buddy," he says, unsure if the mote can actually hear him, then he focuses all his attention and power on the magic hidden within the weapon.
Roberta ducks, covering her head, as Tormund shouts, "Brace yourself!"
With a whoosh of flame, a burst of soothing heat, and then a frightening loud snap! from the old rope, the cage plummets to the ground. Roberta shrieks, but, as she hits the ground, she finds that the fall actually wasn't as horrible as she had expected it to be. Not like it was pleasant or anything, but, still. Better than expected. The surprisingly-flimsy prison crumbles with the impact, and Roberta feels her knees painfully buckle — her ankles jolted with an agonising weight. She tumbles to the ground, underneath the hollow bones that once held her prisoner. She groans, half in pain, half in frustration, but she's still relieved.
Tormund cringes as he watches her hit the ground. He leaps from the ledge, losing his footing for only a few seconds, then rushes to her side. "Are you alright?" he calls.
Her reply is déjà vu, honestly. "No," she says, huffing angrily, sitting up straight and picking some rubble from out of her hair. "Not really."
Tormund smiles, reminded of the time he first met this incredible girl. "Looks like you're still in one piece to me," he says, echoing himself, then offers his hand to help her to her feet.
She takes his offered hand, but the smile she gives in return is incredibly hollow. The expression confuses him again. He pulls her up regardless, but he overestimates her strength — and so does she. She falls forward, unable to support herself with her weakened legs, but he manages to catch her with one clumsy arm. She lets out a little oof as her ribs collide with the armour protecting his forearm, her joints still aching from the fall, but Tor's laughter that follows the awkward series of motions manages to calm her down. Just the slightest bit, though. She's still completely shaken up.
The small wave of relief lasts barely half a second. As Tor helps her stand straight, she looks over his shoulder to see the Werelupe King lying still and breathless on the ground only a few dozen feet away. She breathes in sharply. She had almost forgotten what had just happened. Tormund feels her go rigid in his arms, and he spins around to see what she's staring at, worried again. He sees the hulking black beast and he thinks, Oh. Right. He'd almost forgotten, too. In fact, he supposes he was actually trying to forget.
Roberta pulls herself a little closer to the young knight. She hasn't been this terrified since as long as she can remember, and seeing the monster on the ground before her only brings whatever traces she had managed to brush away come surging back. She stutters a bit. "Is he..." — she swallows hard — "did you..."
Tormund knows what she's going to say, but he doesn't want to hear the words come out of her mouth. He doesn't want to think about it. "I, uh..." He cuts her off loudly before he actually takes the time to check. He doesn't want to hear it. He doesn't want to think of himself as a person who would do such a thing.
He had tried to avoid looking at his muted enemy, but now he's forced to. Roberta has a point. And, Tormund realises, he honestly doesn't know if the villain is still alive or not. The beast lies on his back, his weapon fallen from his claws and lying across the ground, his legs tangled beneath him painfully. His eyes are closed, and there's blood matted into the cream-coloured fur of his chest, but there doesn't appear to be any deep wounds. There's barely any blood on the ground. He looks almost... peaceful. Tor watches for a few aching seconds, looking for any signs of life, a painful knot forming in his gut. When he sees the Werelupe's stomach slowly rise and fall with a weak but soldiering breath, Tormund doesn't know if he's more relived or angry. A painful memory of this beast attacking Lady Illusen and possibly killing his mentor flashes through Tor's brain, and he feels his brow furrow and his lips turn to a scowl... but it quickly disappears as he realises that it's either this — the pathetic monster living to see another day — or Tor becoming a murderer. The sickness returns tenfold, but he manages to release it with a small sigh. Part of it, at least. He can't tear his eyes away, but he finally finishes responding to Roberta. "I don't think so," he says. "I think he just... exhausted himself. I didn't land any fatal hits, I don't think. He just... fell. Like he just..."
Tor doesn't know exactly where he was going with that sentence. He shakes his head slightly and shrugs almost unnoticeably, and Roberta accepts that as a valid answer. She's just glad she's not alone anymore.
Tormund manages to tear his attention away from the Werelupe as a realisation hits him: "Wait, where is your wand?" he asks, his words rushed and his cadence everywhere. Roberta's spells have kept the two of them alive for so long. Without her...
"I think I just... dropped it, or something," Roberta says, meeting Tor's golden eyes. "There was an, uh, a mote — like, like a patch of water — around where the pedestal was, and when I fell, I guess I..." Her voice trails off and her eyes widen as she remembers the whole reason they came to this Fyoraforsaken place, and why she got trapped. Her strength in her legs returning, she takes a few steps back, out from Tor's arms, and slaps an open palm against her forehead. "Oh, duh!" she says, then frantically pats at all of her pockets, searching for something.
Tor watches with puzzled eyes as she awkwardly taps around her tunic, but then, she pulls Illusen's radiant green charm from one of her pockets, and he smiles bright. "Roberta, you did it!" he shouts, taking the charm from her hands, examining it as though he doesn't quite believe she managed to pull it off. "You found it! Now we can free Lady Illusen!"
He looks back to the sorceress, his eyes alight with excitement, but she doesn't reciprocate the look. Her smile is halfhearted. She looks... like she could cry, almost. Why does she look like that? She never looks like that... Tor's worry just keeps rooting itself further, but he doesn't want it to blossom. He's overwhelmed with too much at this point, so he does something stupid — or, maybe it's not stupid. He doesn't know. Regardless, he finds himself wrapping his arms around her, lifting her and twirling her around, much to her dismay.
"Agh, Tor!" Roberta gently bangs a fist against the armour on Tor's back, frustrated that he's treating her like a little girl, but, at the same time, she's giggling. The sound of her finally genuine laughter helps ease Tor's mind a bit. He hates how worried she's been looking since they reunited. She's supposed to be the strong one, after all... But he ignores the thought. He matches her gentle giggling, then places her back down, holding her shoulders proudly. He looks to her with sheer admiration, and a blush settles across her freckled cheeks.
It's ridiculously adorable, he decides.
But... that's not important.
And, worse, it doesn't last.
Tormund drapes Illusen's charm around his neck, keeping it safe beside his crystal amulet. He meets Roberta's gaze again, smiling, but she looks down and away. She takes a few steps away from him, rubbing one of her shoulders nervously. She sighs again, and a strange watery film hazes her violet eyes.
Tormund doesn't understand.
And, honestly, Roberta doesn't quite understand, either.
The thing is, she's never really been scared before. She's an eternal flame — feisty, sassy, and probably a little too stubborn for her own good. She's always been the strong one, back at the castle growing up, and especially on this quest with the young knight. She's never backed down in the face of a challenge, and her thirst for knowledge has led her into some pretty nasty situations, but... this experience left her realising something, and it's something she'd never thought about before. It's something she's been able to be blissfully unaware of for her whole life, it seems... but now it's all she can focus on.
She's never been alone before.
Growing up in the castle with Uncle Hagan, she was under a painfully consistent watch. The guards never let her out of their sight; unless, of course, she was with Seradar, but even he was hesitant to leave her to herself or allow her to attempt anything he considered "dangerous." For her whole life, she's been so sick of being watched over and treated like a child, like she couldn't care for herself — and Fyora knows she didn't need to be protected as if she were a fragile little Beekadoodle — yet still...
That morning in Faerieland, when she awoke to find herself surrounded by darkness, and her mentor possessed by some horrible magic, her panic overwhelmed her. All she was aware of was a desperate need to run. She didn't have the opportunity to realise how alone she was, because her terror kept her company. Once fallen from Faerieland, Tormund was there. Immediately. A strong part of her mind had convinced the rest of her that that was where her independence began — the fall, and her needing to protect herself, and make decisions by herself, and fight like a true hero... but Tormund was there. She didn't really understand it at first — didn't even realise it — but Tormund was always beside her. She was never alone.
But when they split up to search the burrows... that's when it hit her. Her footsteps' lonely echo through the caverns, and her singular breathing unaccompanied by anyone else's. The faint hum from her wand beside her, but nothing and nobody else. The knowing that she didn't have anyone to watch her back. The knowing that she wouldn't have anyone to yell, "Watch out!" if she were attacked by surprise. And, when she found Illusen's charm, and the floor collapsed beneath her, and nobody was there to catch her arm and say, "I've got you," or fall beside her and help her to her feet... the loneliness took over her. She didn't want to admit it, but she was afraid. And, more achingly, standing here now, with her ankles bruised and strained, and her magic growing weary from stress, she realises that, in a lot of ways, she still is.
Tormund can't handle the silence anymore. Roberta looks too, too pained. But he's never really been an eloquent speaker. He places his hands on her shoulders again, still proudly, if not completely worriedly. "Roberta?"
She doesn't respond. Her lip quivers slightly.
Tor, on the other hand... he's been independent for most of his life. Whether it was picking juppies on his family's farm as a small child while everyone else was away, or when he delivered that package to Meridell, and even more so when he began his quest to become a squire — rescuing his sister from Shadowglen, alone. Fighting Slorgs and Sludgies in the disgusting castle sewers, alone. Taking on the Chief of the Ixi Raiders, alone. Fighting the four-armed beast Gnarfas, alone. Running from the Dark Faerie Sisters, alone. This wandering through the burrows was nothing to him. Child's play. No more difficult than the farming chores of his childhood.
That afternoon not so long ago when he, beaten, burned, and half-drowned, washed up on the Brightvale coast and met Roberta — the strange sorceress fallen from the sky — he thought she was the epitome of bravery — and, in a way, she is. In a lot of ways, actually. Still, a part of him didn't realise how... mortal she was. He idolised her gutsiness, and considered her strength almost godlike. Her aggression in battle, and her zeal for life, and her overwhelming cleverness, and her eagerness to explore... he thought that could never be broken. He didn't realise that, at the core, this brave girl was... normal.
And, even now, looking into her watery eyes, he still doesn't quite realise it. All he feels is confusion, and, though he doesn't like the fact, he is fearful. If this girl — this overwhelming force of courage — is being torn apart by the world that's collapsing around them, then all hope must be gone. If the strongest person he knows is crumbling, how is he supposed to stay upright? If Roberta can't do this, how is he supposed to?
What have they gotten themselves into?
Still, Tormund tries to be brave. Brave for his kingdom. Brave for his family. Brave for Roberta. He brushes a tangled lock of her Crokabek black hair out of her eyes, then tries to speak again, but softer: "Roberta, what's wrong?"
She doesn't want to admit it. She's spent so many of her years trying to convince her uncle and his court — Seradar and the guards — that she could handle herself. That she could face anything. That she could be left by herself. She feels that, if she were to admit her fright, she will have let herself down, and proven them all right — all the ones who thought she couldn't do it. She doesn't want to admit to what she feels is defeat. She doesn't want to be weak.
But, for once, her stubbornness isn't strong enough to push the feelings back.
She doesn't know what to do.
And neither does Tor.
Still, again, the knight is persistent. He refuses to allow this awful silence to roost. He takes a few steps closer, grasping Roberta's shoulders firmer. A core part of him worries that, if she comes undone, he will too, but that isn't an option. They can't give up. They can't allow the darkness to take over. Tor tries to get the silent Acara to look to him, but she refuses to. She's afraid to. He can see that, and it only worries him more. "Roberta," he begins, but he's honestly not sure what he wants to say. He just starts speaking and hopes something decent comes out. "Roberta, I don't know what happened to you while you were up there, but—"
"Nothing happened to me," Roberta snaps, but her violent reaction only further proves that something is wrong — something did happen.
Tormund doesn't let her aggression keep him from speaking. His brow furrows, and Roberta knows this is because he can see right through her, but she still tries to stay silent and look unafraid. Her tears have nearly stormed her fragile façade now, though. Tormund continues. "Roberta, please, I don't want you to be upset." She still doesn't say anything. Tormund's mind is going everywhere. He doesn't know what's wrong. "If... Roberta, if I did something to hurt you, I'm sorry, but please..."
"You did nothing, Tor," Roberta snaps again, but her voice trembles. She sniffles. "You... it was my fault. You didn't..."
One tear finally spills down her cheek, and then she can't hold it back anymore. Everything comes flooding out. All the terror from the towers of Fyora's palace. All the hopelessness from seeing Seradar's possessed eyes. All the crawling under her skin from feeling like she could be attacked by Werelupes at any second... it all surges out, and she cries. She inhales, her voice catching on her nerves, and a pained squeak of pure emotion echoes through the jagged stones of the Werelupe King's throne room. She blinks, and her eyes cascade. She's come so far, only to lose the fight with herself...
She gives up. She's never given up before, but this time, there's no other choice. She throws herself into Tor's arms, grabbing him tight, as if he's the only thing keeping her tied to this miserable world. She breathes as deep as she can, buries her face in the crook of his neck, and she cries.
Tor almost doesn't reciprocate the embrace. The flood of emotion happened so fast. He never thought this would happen. He never thought he'd see her so... vulnerable...
It breaks his heart.
But his heart is that of a knight, and a knight draws strength from those he loves.
With only a few seconds spent between her beginning to break down and his realising that, in this moment, he is now the one that needs to be strong, he wraps his arms around her, softly but protectively, gently brushing his fingers down her arm in an attempt to soothe her trembling.
Roberta doesn't know what's wrong with her. Truthfully, nothing is, but she can't really see that in this moment. She feels weak, and she feels defeated, and she feels hopeless, and she doesn't know what to do about it. Still, at the same time, she feels Tormund's arms around her. She feels his warm breath mingling with her hair. She feels... safe.
It's all just really, really confusing.
"Please don't leave me alone again," Roberta says through messy sobs, though she doesn't realise she's spoken until she hears the words echo back to her.
That's when Tormund finally gets it.
She's just... scared.
And, honestly? He is too. He has been this whole time.
"Roberta..." He doesn't know what to say, but he pulls her closer.
As if she wasn't already unglued, her mouth just starts running, and it feels like an entire lifetime's worth of unreleased worry comes flooding out. "I'm so sorry Tor, I was just so scared to be alone. I was trying to be brave, but I've never been alone before, and I didn't realise it until I was, and then... then I was, and I was so scared, and I didn't know what was going to happen, and I didn't know what had happened to you, and I didn't... I don't want to be alone... Please, Tor, I'm sorry, I just—"
"Shh..." Tormund forces her to release her embrace by pulling away. He holds her at a slight distance, his strong hands still protectively clasping her shoulders, and he looks her straight in the eyes. She's too embarrassed to meet his worried gaze, but he doesn't try to push her to. He brushes her hair out of her face again, then wipes some of the tears from her cheeks with his thumb. "Roberta," he begins, his voice full of a royal strength more befitting of a king than a knight, "I give you my oath, as a knight of Meridell, that, for as long as you desire, I will never, ever leave you alone again."
Roberta still can't rein in her gasping, but the sound of his confident tenor helps to calm her mind. She lowers her eyes further. She doesn't respond.
"Roberta," Tor continues, refusing to look away from her, "I... I didn't know. I'm sorry. I didn't know how... hard this was for you."
Roberta opens her mouth to retort — she doesn't like that it sounds like he's patronising her — but he silences her with a delicate finger on her lips. He continues, raising his voice ever so slightly, before she can say anything. "And it's been so, so hard for me, too," he says.
Roberta turns away, her cheeks now flushed from embarrassment as well as from her outburst. Tor continues. "Roberta, honestly, I've been terrified this whole time," he says. "You... you're the bravest person I know, Roberta. No amount of worry or crying or whatever could ever change that, okay?"
He pauses, waiting for her to respond. She doesn't want to say anything — can't say anything — but she nods, slowly and weakly.
He sighs. "Roberta, to tell you the truth, I... well..." He sighs again, but softer. "You have helped me find so much strength that I didn't even know I had in me. I... I wouldn't be alive without you. I think you know that as well as I do, right?"
She thinks for a few seconds. She doesn't want to seem haughty by agreeing, but... she did save him a couple times, she supposes. She'd just forgotten about it during the paralysis of her guilt. She nods sheepishly.
Tor matches the nod, out of pure nervousness if nothing else. "Look, Roberta, you don't need to be all stone-faced all the time to be strong," he says, laughing nervously. He hopes that his nerves' reflex to laugh doesn't upset her, but she doesn't seem to be bothered by it. He continues. "You're still the bravest person I know. You were the bravest person I knew when... when you fell from Faerieland like it was nothing, and then immediately fought off those giant monsters... and when you stepped in front of me to help fight off that crazy assassin outside of Brightvale, and... and you're still the bravest person I know now. Nothing has changed. Roberta, you're..."
He doesn't really know what else to say. He feels a tugging in his heartstrings, but he refuses to say any of that garbage now. This is not the right time for that. Instead, he shakes his head. He doesn't know. She's just... "You're incredible, Roberta," he says. "I think... I think it takes more strength to admit that you're scared than it does to put up a front. And..." He takes another awkward pause. He can't think of where else to go with that thought, because that's really all there is to it: she's incredible. He winds in a circle a little longer. "If... if anything, you're... even braver than I thought," he says with a firm nod of his head. He takes one more long pause while she catches her breath before finally concluding with, "You're incredible."
Roberta's breath is still catching in her throat, but she's nodding. She doesn't know why she's nodding, but she is. It feels like the only gesture she's able to muster at this point. She doesn't agree with him — she still feels weak and embarrassed — but... hearing him say it helps. Hearing him say she's incredible...
Tor can't fight back his own emotions at this point. He tries to summon all courage within him, and he takes a risk — what, to him, feels like his biggest risk yet. He tightens his grip around her shoulder with one hand, brushes her hair out of her eyes with the other, takes a few steps closer, then slowly leans his face towards hers to...
No. No, he can't. He changes his mind, though the decision makes his motions awkward. His lips linger painfully close to hers for a few seconds, and she feels his breath against hers, and he feels her start to lean forward into him, but he trips on his nerves. He lifts his head and instead presses his gentle kiss to her forehead.
Well... it's not really a kiss, both of them decide.
But it's close enough.
Roberta, though internally a bit frustrated that he didn't follow through with the romantic gesture, feels most of the overwhelming everything that was troubling her begin to melt away. Maybe he's right. Maybe she is strong. Maybe this isn't a bad thing.
Well... no, she doesn't know about that.
But what she does know is none of that really matters. It doesn't matter because, right now, he is here with her. She doesn't need to be afraid, because she doesn't need to be alone. She isn't alone. And she won't be — not so long as Tor is around. She doesn't have faith in herself at this moment, but she has faith in him. She's still wildly embarrassed by her outburst, but hearing that he cares for her all the same helps her push that aside. She may not feel as strong as he insists she is, but the knowing that that's how he sees her is good enough for now.
Tormund combs his fingers through her hair as he pulls her towards him again in a tight hug. Their embrace is finally calm. They both relax, and close their eyes, and breathe deep, and...
Something moves audibly from behind Tormund, and he spins around violently. They both let out audible gasps at the sound. Tormund instinctively reaches for his sword, and Roberta for her wand, though she painfully remembers she's lost her weapon when she ends up grabbing nothing but her thigh. Right... gotta get on that...
The Werelupe King has begun to stir awake from his unconsciousness. Oh. Right. They forgot he was there. They forgot that the whole duel was a thing that had happened. They were too lost in...
No, no, they can't think about that anymore. The beast is moving. His breathing is gaining strength. His fingers curl threateningly, though he still lies glued shamefully to the ground by his own exhausted paralysis. He's obviously still not conscious... but he's moving.
They both are knocked suddenly back into their hero's mindset at the sight. Tormund feels at the charm and the amulet around his neck, remembering the mission the two of them still have to complete, and a strong sense of responsibility takes him over.
Roberta is the first to speak. Her strength has almost completely returned in this short period of time. She truly is strong... "Uh, you don't think he's gonna" — her voice cracks from the residue of her crying, but she clears her throat and continues — "gonna... try to fight you again, since you already defeated him once... right?"
Tormund begins to take a few nervous steps towards the entryway to the arena, and Roberta copies his actions. "I mean... I don't think so," Tor responds, cringing. "No sensible man would, but... he seems like kind of an idiot."
Roberta nods. "Yyyeah..."
Tor laughs nervously again. "Uh... how about we go find your wand now?"
Roberta nods a little more frantically as the king begins to untangle his legs from underneath him. "Uh, quickly, please," she mumbles in the same second Tormund grabs her by the hand and starts to dart towards the doorway.
Forgetting the turbulence of everything that's just happened — well, trying to, at least — the two escape back into the maze of the burrows, and, shortly after, the king begins to slowly stir awake, aching from head to toe and more than a little confused about what the hell just happened.
What the... did I just... get defeated by a child...?
Pfft. Now that's something worth being embarrassed about.