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Aleksei

Between [Temple City]

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MfOSqcO.png'Something happened in the mountains,' he said, voice echoing across the halls of dreams. 

Across from him, he watched the elf nod, her eyes dulled with sorrow and worry. Instinctively he reached forth, his eager hand crossing the space between them like a falling star streaking the heavens. Here he can't feel the lush curve of her cheek or the warmth of her soft skin, but his mind conjured the sensations, and it was the next best thing.

'I don't know what yet. They shouldn't be so ... active."

She leaned into the welcoming palm, finding home within the callouses freckling his palm. Within these halls, they work the magic to help bring life to memories, like the warmth of his touch and curve of her cheek. They are real, yet they are not - it's a difficult thing to paint. For them, it did not matter, not when there is so much to be said in just a matter of hours. It is too easy to get caught up within the winding maze of their dreams and memories; the temptation to stay can be an alluring song most can't fight. 

'They will figure it out, Harshal,' she said with conviction that made him think she was telling the truth. 'We have our mission; we can't abandon our post.'

And when she turned her face, she placed a familiar kiss on the palm of his hand. It made his skin crawl, causing the song of dreams to beat louder and louder in his ears. The day they parted ways she had done the very same, and now it was replaying before him, causing him to suck in a deep breath that did nothing to quell his nerves. Elves of his homeland kissed their closest friends palm as a farewell to one another; a representation of companionship that would stretch for years to come as they are now bound together. And she had linked him to her, their friendship forever safely harbored in the palm of their united hands.

He missed the smell of spices and smoke wafting through his room; he yearned for the voice of his mother's singing while she baked. The sweet familiarities of a mundane life made him eager to return to the tall mountains of his home, abandoning this mission. 

'No, you don't.'

'No, I don't,' he replied, forgetting that it's easy to hear someone's thoughts if you're not too careful. 'Don't wait so long to speak with me, okay? I worry.'

'I promise.'

That promise pushed him back into the world of the living, his brief moment of hesitance making the reunion of soul and body a rough one. Startled awake, the large knight rolled roughly to his hands and knees, the biting morning air causing him to shiver. He has visited the halls every night since he and Shanti departed, hoping that he would meet her there but time stretched into months, and he began to give up hope. They both are connected to the heart of their homeland, so it wasn't much of a surprise to see her there in the halls with the same feeling of dread as himself. The mountains of the Flame Court are alive for reasons unknown, creating a danger that is just as mysterious. 

Blinking away his dream, red eyes focused up to the sky, noting the mix of colors of early morning spread above them. The journey hadn't been a terrible one, almost pleasant if he's to be entirely honest. He turned his attention to Jal who slept close by (their bedrolls next to one another) and heaved a sigh of relief - he was the pleasantness. The knight had almost fallen to the temptation of staying inside his dream, and it was worrisome; seeing Jal made it clear that he had truly returned to the real world with only a slight touch of the halls tainting his mind. 

"Creator give me strength," he growled, hauling himself to his feet. 

Harshal began the morning routine quickly, wanting to feel the chill of the morning, smell the sweetness of the world around him. This has become a habit during their journey: Harshal began breakfast of eggs and bread, wait for Jal to wake up, eat, and talk around the fire before setting out. They've had their fair share of interruptions with beasts and bandits, escaping each moment with only minor blunders. The decision to go to Temple City was made after one particular little struggle that left them with only half of their supplies intact, and he knows he can handle a few more weeks with just the minimum, but he was not willing to push such struggles on his friend.

After breakfast, he would don his armor, for now, he wears simple travelers wear that made it much more comfortable with sifting about their small camp. While separating the rest of their food in equal measure, he kept his eyes on their surroundings, noting the sandy hills and minor vegetation. It was quiet, and it raked his already raw nerves. 

 

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Jal does not dream.

He never has, since the day the anchor of his life—personified in the flesh with a silver-stream smirk and sharp amber eyes—had pulled him from the river he had been drowning in, as a younger man. It is nothing to lose sleep over, in both the literal and figurative sense; it is not something to mourn about, another mark of his peculiarity apparent in that very notion. It simply is, and Jal finds that reality is far often more entertaining than whatever shadowed claws await to snatch him up in that unconscious darkness.

He wakes with the heralding of the dawn, the first of the sunrays peeking over the horizon to kiss the earth. Awakening has always been a quiet affair for him, and so Jal does not stir, does not move a muscle even as he wordlessly recounts where he is and who he is with.

The sturdy body he feels slumbering next to his is both a curse and a comfort: it tells him he is not with Liir, not yet, but it also tells him that he is with someone he is coming very close to trusting wholeheartedly. Harshal has been nothing but helpful, nothing but gentle with him this whole journey they’re taking together, and gratitude bubbles brightly in Jal’s chest every time he so much as looks at the other man. It’s a good feeling, even as the loneliness wrapped around his heart continues to cling with quiet ferocity.

Beside him, the air shifts with the knight’s own awakening to the world around them, and Jal is thankful for the fact that he has not taken the chance to open his eyes just yet. With the violent rustle of blankets and the sudden movement that speaks of startlement, he rather thinks the man would appreciate having no one around to witness that vulnerable shift from dreams to reality.

"Creator give me strength."

Jal does not stir, continues the pretense of sleep with the steady push and pull of air through his lungs, the artless sprawl of his limbs. He waits a few moments in silence, counting in the space between the breaths, before he stretches his body, all sleek and catlike had it not been for his—too much of everything.

“Good morn,” he greets Harshal, waves a rather awkward hand in the air as he approaches him. The knight’s focus seems to be trained more towards the environment than in his work, and so Jal wordlessly reaches for the food and hovers near, a silent offer to help out in this task.

“Remind again,” he says, the morning cold scraping his torn throat dry, “where we go?”

 

@Aleksei


 

Edited by vielle

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