When Aria finally stirred from sleep, it was already dusk. The sun had set, the heat of the day leaving with the light. The sounds of crickets and chimes danced on the night air. Her side ached with the phantom whispers of her near-fatal wound, but otherwise, she was as comfortable as she'd ever been. A familiar scent, that of leather and cinder, caused her to open her weary eyes. Malachite lashes fluttered sleepily as she found the relaxed, unconscious face of Thraze above her, leaning against the wood of the cabin. She was curled in his lap like a kitten, her hair wild and splayed over her chest and his arms.
They curled around her protectively, giving her head and back support, while one lay over her thigh, his hand resting casually on her hip to hold her close. Fire burned in her cheeks as she realized their situation. They had slept together the entire day, she wrapped so comfortably in his arms. He could have lain her down to rest, and been on his way, but for some reason he had decided to hold her while she slept.
She couldn't really be upset, though, because for the first time in days, she had slept the entire night without a single dream or nightmare. In fact, she hadn't moved at all, from what she could tell, and she felt infinitely better than the day before.
Just then, Thraze woke up. No fluttering eyes, no sign of sleep on his face. He was wide awake a split second after being unconscious. Apparently, he was an incredibly light sleeper. The transition was so sudden that Aria flinched, worried that he'd sensed something wrong. His eyes met hers, and he seemed to stop breathing as he met her gaze.
"Good evening." he said hesitantly, a timidness in his baritone voice that she had never heard before, and she realized that he was nervous to have been caught in this position. Afraid of how she would react, just as she was nervous of the same.
She released a breath, a giggle escaping her parched lips. She playfully hooked a tusk with her finger, giving it a light tug, holding his gaze with her own.
"Good evening. Thank you, for keeping me company." She replied, trying to ease his discomfort. She pulled herself from his lap, her bare feet touching the cool wood floor as she stood and stretched her arms above her disheveled head..
She tried to pull her fingers through her tangled hair, taming the unruly mass piece by piece as it swung around her hips in malachite sheets. She smoothed her eyebrows with her fingers and wiped the sleep from her puffy eyes. She felt as if she looked like a child, fresh from a midnight nap, but when she turned to look at the rogue, his eyes were clouded over in an almost savage way.
He sat at the edge of the bed, elbows on his knees with his hands clasped in front of him, burning amber eyes watching her every move. She was only an arms length away, and when she turned, a scent that she had smelled only a few times assaulted her nose.
It was a thick musk. The smell of seduction. The same smell that had assaulted her when she had stepped naked from the lake in Sholazar. Her feral blood boiled with the animalistic aroma emanating from the rogue. Excitement, rather than fear, took hold of her body, causing her pulse to spike frantically.
His eyes raked over her body, pausing for long moments on the slit in her dress that showed her entire bare thigh, and the slice in her dress that revealed her toned stomach, ribs, and even a glimpse of the underside of her full, pale breast. The scar that now decorated that part of her body did not seem to dissuade him in the least, and his eyes seemed to find pleasure in it. As if he found her beautiful for what she had survived.
He shot to his feet suddenly, towering over Aria before taking a single step forward. The druidess took a small step backwards on impulse, and a growl escaped the trolls tusked mouth. His amber eyes seemed to be ringed in red, his breathing more erratic than normal.
His long arms shot out as she retreated, one hooking under her arms and the other around the back of her thighs to lift her to his chest. He sunk his face into the hollow of her neck, breathing in her sweet scent, just holding her against him. Her heart beat erratically, her breathing hitched. The closeness of their bodies caused her cheeks to burn, and the heat of his breath on her neck caused something in her lower abdomen to stir.
"Don't run from me.." he growled in a low tone, his lips barely caressing the flesh of her throat with his words. "I won't hurt you, I promise."
All she could manage was to nod, relaxing in to his arms as he held her off the ground with her pressed against his broad chest. They remained like that for a number a moments before his breathing evened out and the overwhelming scent of arousal dissipated. He released a large sigh after a time, allowing her to slip from his arms and touch the floor with her bare toes.
He was the first to take a step away, his head bowed in what appeared to be shame.
"I'm sorry if I frightened you…" he grunted.
The amber of his eyes were back to their normal hue, the savagery that had been there moments before, completely gone. He was back to being cool and collected.
Aria suspected that the wildness in his nature was what was normal for him, normal for his kind. But he hid it well in order to blend with the rest of society. And the times that it came out, seemed so out of character for his chilling demeanor. But he also seemed the most real, when he was out of control, when he allowed the savagery in his blood to mix with the man that constantly held it back. Aria pondered on what it would feel like, to suppress her animal natures, and a chill ran through her. She didn't have that power. She couldn't shut those parts of her down, because they were what made her her.
She seemed to understand now, why he struggled so.
She placed her small hands on his chest, trying to find his eyes again, even as he tried to look away. She reached up to hook a tusk, like she'd done when they woke, and forced him to face her. His brows were pinched together in anger, furious that he'd allowed her to see him in such a light again. Afraid that she would hate him, if she ever knew what was truly beneath the surface. But she'd seen this from him before, and she had rightfully been terrified. But now, she knew that he was not capable of causing her harm.
The fear that she had held for those days few was gone, and she only had curiosity for the animalistic man before her. Curiosity, because she felt many of the same things. She did not feel inherently like a kaldorei, because her druidic tendencies made her half animal herself. She had all the same urges and hungers and instincts as her saber, her bear, her owl, and sometimes, even her doe. She was a naturally fragmented woman, and it was something she struggled with just the same. Society told her she had to remain demure, when all she wanted was to run wild.
With a finger still hooked on his tusk, and his eyes finally meeting hers, she growled at him. It was low, and vicious, as if it had come from the throat of a full grown moonstalker, and not the small woman before him. His eyes widened as her face turned in to a snarl, her eyes darkening just the slightest as her lips curled up to flash her elongated fangs. She wrapped her entire hand around the curve of his ivory tusk, using it as a handhold to pull herself up his chest, her legs wrapping around his hips so that she was level with his startled face.
Before she could think of anything else, and before she could talk herself out of it, she crashed her lips to his in a violent kiss. He stood, frozen, for only a moment longer before his arms snaked around her waist, pinning her to him. His other hand found her exposed thigh, snaking up the exposed flesh to cup her bare cheek beneath the flowing satin of her dress. Her back met the wall of the cabin, the hand that had been supporting her spine finding it's home at the base of her head. His fingers wound frantically in her hair as he tilted her head back to break their feverish kiss. A smear of blood decorated his mouth from where her sharp fangs had punctured his lower lip in her haste to taste him. She watched as the cuts sealed themselves almost instantly, and his tongue snaked out to clean the evidence from his lips.
The red in his eyes had returned, but he seemed himself despite the rising tensions in the air.
"Do you know what you've done?" He asked her huskily, lust dripping from his words.
Her breathing was erratic, and she could feel the claws of her saber growing from her elven hands, just as her fangs had begun to grow. She felt in control of her halfway shift this time, and it was exhilarating to let herself free. She did not reply, only nodded her head timidly, biting her bottom lip.
She knew she was playing with fire, but she couldn't stop herself. She had known from the beginning that he'd lusted after her, and she would be a fool to deny that he had not lit a flame within her as well. He was more than attractive, and in fact, was downright captivating. And had he not been so utterly persistent in following her around, she would have been dead.
"You will never… be able to keep me from these lips." He grunted then, molding his mouth hungrily to hers again, and she giggled in excited glee from behind her wicked smile.
Something had changed, so quickly, that she couldn't place it. She felt at home in his grasp, his hands wandering her body as he suckled and bit at her tender lips. He was so firm, and yet so gentle, that she melted into his massive hands.
A crisp knock at the door startled the two, Thraze releasing her mouth very reluctantly. He turned his head to the door, just as Aria did. She tried to wiggle out of his grasp, his hands disinclined to release her. After a moment, he let her go with a sigh as he straightened up, running a hand through his disheveled red hair.
Aria tried desperately to straighten her skirts and pat down her mussed green locks, wiping her moist lips of the saliva and blood that mingled there.
The persistent knocking sounded again, a bit quicker this time and with more percussion.
Aria went to the door, opening it so that her face could peek through the crack. Claire stood there, her hands wringing nervously as she looked around, and tried to peer in through the crack of the door. She didn't look directly at Aria at first, and when her wandering eyes did find the elf's, she startled. Her eyes widened as they took in the larger than average fangs that pushed from behind the druid's plump lips. The elf's eyes were alight with a wildness about them, something Claire had not seen on Aria's expressive face before. She looked like the embodiment of her saber.
"I.. uhh… We can't find the troll." She stuttered, her eyes still wide in astonishment.
Aria had the clarity of mind to cover her mouth with her hands as she tried to control the energies within her that had just been going wild. It took a moment of concentration before she felt suitable to speak without growling out her words. When she removed her fingers, she looked the clean, demure part of a young kaldorei woman.
When Claire's words finally registered, the elf blushed, her cheeks darkening with heat. She didn't know what to say, or how to respond, so she instead opened the door to its fullest, allowing Claire to see behind her in to the small building. Allowing her to Thraze with her own eyes.
Claire gasped, her pale hand flying to her mouth to try and cover the pink in her cheeks. Aria looked over her shoulder as well, her eyes landing on Thraze as he leaned against a support beam within the room. He had one ankle crossed casually over the other, his right hand in the pocket of his pants, while his left raked through the lax red hair of his mohawk. He watched Aria with blatantly sultry eyes, his amber orbs still tinged heavily in red. He looked absolutely heart-stopping, and the druidess couldn't blame Claire for the pink in her cheeks. Any woman with a set of eyes could see his sexual appeal.
"I'll inform the others that he's been found." she muttered, handing a small pile of clothing to Aria and then turning her back to the two. She cast one more glance over her shoulder, her eyes glimpsing over Thraze once more before she looked to Aria. "Your family has arrived. Your Mother is giving the druids some trouble. She desperately wants to see you, but I had hoped to give you some time to wake and dress beforehand." She bowed her head once to the druidess, taking her leave as quickly as possible.
Aria closed the door, and in her haste, caused it to slam. Her heart was suddenly in her throat. She was glad to hear that her family had come, but she was terrified of what they would think of her 'savior'. Aria was shocked that her brother, of all people, had taken it so well. She did not think Min'da or An'da would like it at all. In fact, she could almost guarantee that her Mother would want blood.
Her frightened eyes found Thraze, who still stood, completely unphased by the news of her parents arrival. Of course he would not care. And even if he did, he did not show it. This news did not affect him in the least.
He watched as she turned away, unfolding the armload of clothing that Claire had passed off to her. With her back turned to him, she peeled off the top layer of her dress, revealing the entirety of her sculpted bare back down to her shapely hips. She pulled a top made of black leather down over her chest, the garment fitting snug against her breasts and waist, cutting off just above her belly button. The bottom end the large scar could still be seen peeking out beneath the crop-top. She pulled the tight, ankle-length leather pants up her shapely hips from beneath the skirt, keeping some modesty while Thraze watched her every move. She fastened the green belt she was given around the swell of her hips to keep her pants from sliding, and removed the torn, bloodied dress, discarding it haphazardly on the floor.
When she turned to face the troll, he could not keep from taking a sharp intake of breath. She looked stunning in the black garb, the wideness of her muscled shoulders feeding in to a dainty waist, which flared dramatically in to wide hips and thick thighs, calves and glutes. She was the pinnacle of health, and the most attractive thing he'd ever set his hungry eyes on.
Her mass of emerald hair swung heavily around the swell of her hips, creating a mesmerizing, shimmering curtain around her small body from which her long ears poked through.
He took a bold step forward, her luminescent eyes looking up to find his. His hand grasped the back of her neck through her hair, and he leaned down to place a chaste kiss on her swollen lips. It was quick, only a second really, but it still turned her heart to flames in her chest. He pulled away almost as quickly as he'd begun, turning her toward the door of the cabin.
"Go to your family. I have to find that big 'ol beast of a dragon. Probably still fat and lazy from his meal last night." He chuckled, giving himself an excuse to disappear for a time while she consoled her worried family. She said nothing to him in return, only nodding her head as she tried to calm the blush in her cheeks with her cool fingers. She slipped from the door of the cabin, sprinting down the hill to the glade in which her parents awaited her, hair flying wildly in the wind.
The rogue disappeared into the dark of the night in search of his drake.
The sound of her Mother's insistent demands could be heard from outside the town's walls, and Aria did not envy the poor druid who was tasked with keeping her put.
"I want to see my daughter!" she cried, hysteria evident in her tone, anger building by the minute. As soon as Aria rounded the corner, her Mother's eyes shot to her.
The older woman stopped mid sentence, completely dismissing the druid who tried desperately to calm her, to sprint to her youngest child. She crashed in to Letharia, nearly bowling her over with the weight of her body, as she wrapped her arms around her little girl's wide shoulders. She sobbed shamelessly in to Aria's hair, petting the back of her skull between her tears. Her Father approached then, in a much more reserved fashion but with relief plain on his face, and wrapped his long arms around the two women. He placed a kiss atop Aria's head, and rested his cheek upon it as he gently stroked his wife's back.
"She has been distraught since the raid began." he murmured to her, pity in his gaze as he watched his wife fall to pieces in his daughter's arms.
"It's okay, Min'da. I'm okay…" she whispered to her weeping mother, tightening her hold around her waist to hug her closer.
"I thought.. I thought you'd been killed!" she wailed, pulling away from her youngest child to place tear stained kisses on her cheeks, her eyelids, her forehead.
Though Aria felt as if she would drown in the attention she was receiving, she waited until her Mother was done with her worried ministrations, the kisses to her face, the stroking of her hair, and the lung crushing hugs.
Ethirion took a step away, wrapping his arm over the shoulders of his life partner as she wiped the tears and opalescent hair away from her pinkened face. He seemed to hold her not only for support, but to allow Aria a moment to breath and collect herself as she bit back tears of her own. It caused an ache in her chest to see her Mother so distraught, and she hoped to never see her like this again.
Orlaith stepped forward then, placing an arm over his sisters shoulder, in mirror of what his Father did for his Mother. It did well to comfort Aria's frazzled nerves, and she leaned into him appreciatively. He placed a kiss on her head as well, leaning down so that he could whisper in to her ear.
"I am relieved to see you looking so well. You frightened me yesterday." He said, a heart wrenching tone in his deep voice. She nodded her head, laying her cheek on his shoulder. He continued; "I told our parents of the man who saved us all. They know he is also the one who kidnapped you. I was not sure how to tell them of his race, or his faction. That is up to you, if you wish them to know." he finished. Aria closed her eyes in dread. Though she appreciated Orlaith telling her parents of Thraze's deeds, she was terrified to admit who, or what he really was.
She released a sigh, stepping away from her brother. She grasped her Mother's hand, who squeezed her's appreciatively, and started to lead her away from the center of town. She could feel her father, Ethirion, and her brother, Orlaith, following a short distance behind.
"Is that man, the one who warned Moonglade, the one who terrorized you, is he still here?" her Mother asked hesitantly, catching Aria's gaze from the side. The young druidess flinched at her Mother's harsh words, but she nodded nonetheless. Aria's heart beat madly in her chest, anxiety engulfing her body.
She lead them down the road she had seen Dur'ock saunter off to the night before. As they passed a sentinel, Aria called out; "Where is the dragon?"
The druid stopped for only a moment; "He is down by the well, at the bottom of the hill near the lake." She nodded her thanks before continuing down the cobbled path.
She took a steadying breath; "Min'da. I have to warn you. You may not like what you are looking for." she said cautiously. She knew of the opinions her parents had of trolls, and she did not see this going well at all.
Her mother squeezed her hand, whether to console her daughter, or herself, she did not know.
"I am livid with this stranger. Honestly, I am. But Laith has put in a good word for him. Not only that, but his quick action saved many of our people last night, and most importantly, my daughter. I am prepared to forgive, if you do not still despise him." she stated, looking to her daughters distressed face.
"I do not despise him any longer. He is the only reason I did not find death in Sholazar, and he single handedly saved my life back at the World Tree. My resentment and fear of him is gone, but it's taken a lot for me to reach this point. I do not think it will be easy for you. But I guess I will let you decide for yourself…" she mumbled the last bit, discouraged at this turn of events. Her Mother sounded hopeful, but Aria was not.
Serena simply nodded, accepting her daughters statement and squaring her shoulders. Anger still bubbled in the woman's stomach. The face her daughter had had when she walked in through those doors for the first time in years was etched in to her mind. She had never, ever, seen such distress in the lines of her young child's face. But now, only a little over two days, and she appeared to be back in her high spirits, the smoothness and color of her face speaking volumes for what she refused to tell her dear Mother. Something had changed in the last 48 hours. She had conquered demons, and seemingly found solace where she had once known fear.
Serena could feel the anxiety in her daughter's hand, the way her palm began to sweat when the moonwell near the lake came in to view. The way her fingers would clench and release every few seconds, as if she wanted to run away. She was nervous of her Mother's judgement, and Serena gave an encouraging pat to the back of her hand to try and ease her tensions.
Two behemoth figures came in to view as they crested the hill and began the stroll down the mossy, cobbled path. One was a drake, and the other, a large riding saber. Aria recognized Shiva immediately, her moonlit fur refracting the little bits of light illuminated by the street lamps and wisps. She seemed to be circling the drake, and the drake circling her. Her large tail swung back and forth in a seemingly agitated way, her front shoulders low to the ground in preparation for a pounce, her lips pulled back to bare her fangs.
Before Aria could call to her, the saber threw herself at the dragon with a deep throated growl. Dur'ock took the brunt of her weight with a breathy grunt, rolling over onto his side from the impact.
"Shiva!" Aria screamed in a panic, sprinting a few paces ahead of her family to try and discourage her from her fight.
At her voice, the Saber looked casually up from where she stood atop the belly of the dragon. A cat-like smile seemed to light up her white whiskered face, her fangs baring in glee at the sight of her rider. She stepped calmly, almost playfully from the downed drake, sauntering quickly over to her druidess to rub her goliath head appreciatively across her leather clad thighs.
Aria used both of her hands to lift Shiva's face to the lamp-light, looking for any signs of blood or gore from her fight. She was utterly clean, not a mark on her.
A hot breath hit her chest and face like a volcanic spout, the heat of it nearly uncomfortable. She looked up to see the big, russet scaled face of Dur'ock. His tongue lolled happily from the side of his big-toothed maw, and he clicked at her in a way that she could only assume was a 'hello'.
He nudged Shiva's hind leg playfully with his nose, eliciting a big-pawed smack from the white saber.
Aria understood then. They had become friends.
"I forgot to mention. She would not let us leave without her, otherwise we would have been here last night shortly after you arrived." Orlaith laughed, stepping up to ruffle Shiva's fur. He looked hesitantly at Dur'ock, unsure of the friendliness of the dragon.
Aria greeted the big drake with good rub to his forehead, for which he grumbled appreciatively before turning to nip at Shiva again. He seemed to enjoy agitating her, and she equally enjoyed wrestling with him. His flesh was difficult to pierce, and she appeared to enjoy using her claws without fear of injuring him.
Thraze was nowhere to be seen. Aria knew he was nearby, however, because the hairs on the back of her neck tingled with suspicion. He was watching from somewhere very near.
"He is not here." Her mother surmised, looking a bit more disappointed than Aria was pleased with. She had hoped that maybe Serena would lose her nerve and give up on meeting her daughters captor turned savior.
With a large sigh and a roll of her eyes, Aria said; "Yes he is." She looked expectantly to the dark of the treeline, where he could most likely hear their exchange.
Sure enough, a large figure stepped slowly into the light of the street lamps. From this distance, he could have almost passed as a very tall kaldorei man. Her mother, noticing the approaching figure, took three confidant steps forward, as if to greet him. As Thraze neared, Aria could hear the sharp inhale of breath, first from her Mother, and then her Father, though Ethirion hid his surprise much better than Min'da.
Even from where she stood, a pace or so behind her Mother, she could very clearly see the ivory curve of his signature tusks. He wore no hood, and no mask. His hair was very nearly back to it's normal look, the blood red of his hair standing on end to create a striking mohawk, the sides of his head shaved with a dagger. His amber eyes seemed to glow in the dark of the night, reflecting whatever light there was from the wisps and lamps. She tried to see him from her Mother's eyes, the way she saw him when they had first met, and he looked wild. He looked unreal. He looked savage.
And yet he smiled. He met her Mother's gaze with confidence and gave her an award winning half-smile, fangs and all, laying down the base for what would hopefully be a friendly exchange.
Before anyone could react, her Mother took five purposeful strides forward to stand toe to toe with the much taller rogue. She lifted her hand like lightning and struck him across the cheek. The smack reverberated off the trees, and everyone took a collective breath of shock. And just as Ethirion stepped forward to intervene, Serena threw her arms around the trolls waist in a hug, laying her head on his chest as if her were a dear friend.
The surprise was evident on Thraze's face, his left cheek turning a darker shade where her hand had connected. Still, he returned the elf woman's hug, if but a bit uncomfortable.
Of all the ways he had expected this to go, this had not been it. He had expected screaming, perhaps even a fight if he could not keep tensions from rising. But this, this short woman from whom Aria got her small stature, striking him and then embracing him, was the last thing he could have expected.
He let out a hearty chuckle of mixed discomfort and surprise, the baritone of his laugh seeming to startle the woman who hugged his waist. She took a step away, simply nodding her head at him before returning to a man who appeared to be her husband. She tucked herself comfortably under the kaldorei's arm. Aria's Father met his eyes, offering a neutral nod. A gesture Thraze was familiar with. He returned the recognition respectfully, glad that he should not expect any more slaps from the family. He rubbed absent mindedly at the stinging mark on his cheek, Orlaith letting out a hearty belly laugh at the whole situation.
That seemed to break Aria from her appalled state, and she too broke out in to a fit of giggles, bending at the waist to place a hand on her knee to steady herself as she cried with her laughter. When she was finished, she wiped the tears from her cheeks, placing a hand on her Mother's shoulder.
"I told you you would not like it." She said to her, having difficulty holding back her chuckles.
The older woman glared at her, sticking her tongue out in a way that Aria had not seen since she was a little girl.
"You could have at least warned me!" Serena sighed heavily, flipping her opalescent hair over her small shoulder and tucking it behind a long ear.
"I tried!" Aria exclaimed, dismissing her Mother to walk the rest of the way to Thraze, who still stood awkwardly by the moonwell.
She slipped her small hand in to his three-fingered one, pulling him forward so that she could properly introduce him. Her heart still pounded an uncomfortable rhythm in her chest at the strangeness of the situation, but she knew the worst of it was over.
Min'da had let off her steam, and things would hopefully go smoothly from here.
"Sul'thraze. Serena." She said to him, gesturing towards the woman who had just been bold enough to strike him across the face.
He bowed respectfully to her, offering a disarming smile. He seemed to hold no grudges at the disrespect of her slap. Her Mother nodded in return.
"This is my Father, Ethirion." She said, gesturing to the large kaldorei man, who stood nearly as tall as the troll. They nodded silently to each other once more.
"And you already know this annoyance." She said playfully, pointing to her steel-clad brother.
Both young men laughed at her prodding, waving casually at each other. They all stood in a circle for some time, silence their only company. It nearly became unbearable, before her blessed Mother spoke up.
"Thank you, for what you've done. I understand now, that in helping us, you've committed treason among your faction. I am still upset at what you've done to my daughter, but you have redeemed yourself in my eyes, as long as Aria is safe." She said nervously, her discomfort palpable now that her temper had been reigned in.
"I wish to truly earn your forgiveness, if you'll allow it. As I plan to earn hers as well." He said, speaking for the first time. His Common was flawless, the only hint of his race in the very slight inflections of his tone. His eyes looked down to Aria, who still stood, holding his hand. She smiled encouragingly up at him before releasing a breath she'd been holding.
"Do right by her, and that is all we need. You've saved our daughter twice, even if you have also tormented her in the process. But you seem truly repentant for the things that have passed between you. I have no doubt you will do what is necessary." Ethirion spoke up, the boom of his voice nearly matching that of the rogue. His hawk-like gaze did not miss the way Aria held firmly to the trolls hand, and he quirked an eyebrow at his daughter from over her Mother's head.
She couldn't stop the blush from creeping across her cheeks, but held fast to Thraze's fingers regardless. Holding his hand was the only thing keeping her from running from the strangeness of the entire encounter. He was what kept her brave enough to remain.
Orlaith cleared his throat, standing next to his parents as they blatantly stared at the leathered troll.
"Perhaps we should eat. A meal has been prepared for our arrival and I, for one, am famished." He said, tapping conspicuously on Ethirion's arm, who then began to steer Serena away.
"I am quiet hungry…" Serena mumbled as she broke eye contact with the tall rogue. She craned her neck to look once more at Aria.
"Are you hungry, dear? Bring your… friend.. And we can all share a meal." She said, pausing to try and find a suitable word for the man that lingered so close to her daughters shoulder.
Aria waved her hand dismissively at her worried mother; "I am fine for now. We will share a meal before dawn, if that is what you wish." Serena seemed to understand, allowing her husband to lead her and her Son back to the township of Moonglade, leaving her daughter and her saber with the troll and his scaley companion.
As soon as they were out of sight, Aria released a goliath sigh, allowing herself to fall back on the plush grass.
Thraze sat, one leg bent and the other extended, with his back against the mossy stone of the luminescent well. He too heaved a heavy sigh, and released a loud laugh.
"That was the single most uncomfortable situation I have ever been in, and I've been tortured by gnomes!" he exclaimed, throwing his head back to release the tension with a few good belly laughs.
Aria rolled on to her side, smacking the ground with her small fist as she cried of laughter. Her shoulders released all the tension she had been holding during the exchange, and she finally felt herself relax.
"That was torture." She agreed, her eyes finding the dark handprint on his cheek. "More for you than for me, I suppose." She finished, pointing to the mark.
"I can't say I didn't deserve it, but it definitely was unexpected. For such a small woman, she has a mean arm." He grumbled, rubbing absently at the mark. Aria chuckled at his statement, nodding her head from where she lay on the ground.
"I have never known fear, quiet like when Min'da is angry. She took meeting you better than I assumed, though. My parents have not had kind opinions of trolls in the past, and I don't think they quiet know how to look at you." She admitted. She shot him an apologetic gaze.
He shrugged; "They have every right to despise us. Our races, though cousins, may as well live on different planets for how different we are. Frankly, we tend to think you elves are pompous and vapid." He joked.
Aria gasped in mock horror at his slight on her race, pulling herself up onto an elbow to glare at him.
"You think I'm pompous, then? Well, I think your tusks are small and so is your brain!" She jabbed, sticking her tongue out at him, even as he laughed at her ridiculous statement.
"Me have big brain!" He roared, beating his barrel chest with a closed fist.
She curled into herself, tears once again leaking from her eyes as she laughed so hard no noise would escape, only desperate little gasps for air.
He watched her, rolling on the floor laughing, and his heart sang in his chest. She was right, he did have a small brain. And if it had been even a slight bit bigger, he would have had the state of mind to talk to her like this when they had met, rather than tormenting her like he did. He much prefered the sounds of her joy over her glares of resentment. He loved the way her face darkened when she blushed, and the way she bared her fangs when she laughed. His heart clenched at the thought of her, days prior, when she descended the stairs of the Inn in Moonglade. She had looked utterly worn, defeated, on the brink of ruin from the way her eyes seemed to flicker rather than shine.
He never wanted to see it again.
He reached forward, hooking his hands under her arms from where she lay. He dragged her, haphazardly, into his lap and wrapped her in his arms so that he could bury his head in her long malachite hair. She instinctively curled into his chest, allowing him to hold her hostage in his lap.
"Forgive me." He whispered mournfully. Regret apparent in his voice.
"In time, I will." She said. "But until then, be my friend. Let us learn from each other." She assented, enjoying the warmth of his body against hers, and the smell of his leathers, and the smell of him.
"I would love to be your friend." he agreed, placing a kiss upon her head, his tusks resting on either side of her skull.
They remained like that for some hours, enjoying each others company and watching with mild amusement as Dur'ock and Shiva rolled around the grass in mock battle.