Whoever the mage was, he sure talked a lot for someone who’d lost a lot of blood. He was also… terribly handsome, even pale and high on elfroot oil and the elfroot-nug soup. Dark hair, and his eyes had been blue like the sky on a clear day. Even passed out, mouth slightly open as he snored, Fenlin couldn’t get over how people could just look like that. Naturally.
Feeling her cheeks warm, Fen rolled her eyes at herself. It wasn’t like she was some shy elf who was hiding away from the clans and- okay that was exactly what she was. Exactly why she’d volunteered to take on the patrol out here in the middle of nowhere. No elves to worry about, no shems to worry about, just keeping an eye on the movements of the Qun.
Fenlin had been riding a thermal over the water when she’d spotted the frigate flying Ferelden colours. Watching the dreadnought lie in wait with her hawk’s eyes, helpless to stop the attack. Still, she’d dove into the water, shifting again to a more robust shape to help drag the survivors to safety. She’d managed the one. One out of a whole ship of sailors.
That’s why she was so invested in making sure he survived the wound on his leg, Fenlin told herself. He was the last one, the only one she’d pulled from the water. Even if she had been able to go back for others, even if he hadn’t panicked and slashed at her, the Dreadnought had torn the ship to pieces. Even if- but those had all happened, and she hadn’t realised how badly he was hurt until she’d seen the chunk of wood sticking out of his leg.
If she had gone back, he very well might have bled out, lying there on the shore. Fenlin had made the decision on instinct, but she didn’t regret it. She just wished there’d been some way to save the others… somehow.
With a sigh, Fenlin crept over to where the man lay sleeping, and gently rolled her blankets back from his hurt leg. The bandage wrapped around his thigh was neat, but already showing red through the linen dressing. Fenlin frowned, gently resting the back of her hand against the skin next to the bandage to feel if it was hotter than the skin a few inches away. Nervous, she glanced up at the man’s face to make sure she didn’t wake him up.
At the gentle touch, he groaned, brow knitting together, but he stayed asleep. Letting out a shallow breath of relief, Fen turned back to her work. As gently as possible, she unwound the strip of linen from his leg, wincing every time he groaned or shifted.
The wound itself was still angry and severe, but as Fen leaned in to get a close look at it, she could see that the worst of the bleeding had stopped. That was good, and so was the edges of the wound. They were swollen but no sign of infection.
The handsome man was going to have one hell of a scar, despite Fenlin’s clumsy attempts at healing spells. If they were closer to a town, she could bring him in to the local healer, but they weren’t close to anything but rocks and caves and spiders. She was also running low on linen, so sooner or later, Fenlin was going to have to pay a visit to some of the more spidery caves and steal some of the silk. Not one of her favourite places, but between his leg and her side, they’d used up her stores of bandages.
Fen hovered her hands over the wound and closed her eyes, pulling the healing spirits close to help her as she worked.
Time passed, but how much, Fenlin wasn’t sure. It was maybe close to dawn, and healing the mess of torn flesh had exhausted her. Fen was many things, but talented or skilled healer was not one of them. She’d gone slowly, careful to get each step right so the man wasn’t accidentally crippled. Now, rocking back, she rubbed the heel of her left hand into her throbbing forehead and looked down at the scab she’d left behind. It would still take another few nights of healing before the wound was gone completely, replaced by shiny pink scar tissue.
At least now the man wouldn’t be in severe pain whenever he woke next.
She redressed the scab so it wouldn’t catch on the blankets, then pulled them back over him. What was left? something… Fenlin squinted, eyelids heavy. She’d rest once the sun was up, there were just a few more things left to do.
Rahlen woke slowly, with the heavy feel of cottonmouth and steady ache on his thigh. At first he was sure he was about to fall forward, into the green tarpaulin, and he started, grabbing onto the sides of the mossy bed he lay on.
Eventually the world readjusted to normal, and he looked over to see the elf was still there, curled up around what looked like his shirt. On the ground. Next to her, his trousers were folded neatly by the coals of the fire.
It was day, but the skies were grey, and Rahlen could hear a lazy patter of rain on tarp over their little camp.
Gingerly, Rahlen eased himself up to sit. The world tilted a little, but he breathed through it until the stars around his vision faded. Pulling the Blankets with him, Rahlen eased himself over on his hand and good leg to sit next to the elf. The effort moving even that much was enough to bring back the prickling of stars in his eyes.
He’d sit for a while, Rahlen reasoned. Then he’d pull on his trousers and shirt. If she’d let it go, that was. Rahlen pulled gently at the shirt that the elf was clutching. She groaned, and curled around it even more tightly.
Odd… but he wasn’t in a position to fight over it right now. Instead, he pulled one of the blankets off him and tucked it over her so she wouldn’t be cold. she’d been sleeping on the rocky ground, there was no way she could have been comfortable like that.
With his saviour asleep, and his leg too achey to move just yet, Rahlen took a moment to look at her without the fuzz of the pain killing whatever of earlier. Tan skin speckled with freckles and small branching designs tattooed over her cheekbones.
Dalish, he supposed. Though the elves had slowly been disappearing from Thedas, so where had this one come from? Her hair was white, or had been before she’d gotten moss and bits of twig and gravel in the braids. Reaching out, Rahlen started pulling the worst bits of detritus free, tossing them into the fire’s coals.
Something tugged at her hair.
Fenlin frowned, opening her eyes to see if the local nugs had returned. She didn’t mind the little critters, but they had a habit of plopping their hands on her face and Mythal only knew where //those/ things had been.
But no. It was not a nug.
Sitting by her was the handsome man and he was gently tugging at her hair.
Letting out a surprised gasp, Fenlin sat upright and clutched at her hair. Equally surprised, the man pulled back, hands coming up to show her his palms.
“Sorry! You had a twig in your hair,” he said. “I was just trying to get it out.”
Narrowing her eyes at him, Fenlin probed the bun of braids for this supposed stick. When she found it, half tugged free but still stuck in her hair, Fenlin felt her entire face grow hot.
The man lifted his eyebrows, and his lips pulled into a smirky sort of smile that was both annoying and devestating to her composure.
“Let me get it out for you, it’s the least I could do after you’ve been taking care of me,” he said. “I’m Rahlen, and you are…?” he waited, watching her. Fen watched him back before lowering her hands with a sigh and tilting her head his way.
“The strong silent type I guess,” Rahlen said.
Fen shrugged a shoulder, shifting so the slash along her side wasn’t tugging her skin more than it had to. To her surprise, she felt Rahlen undoing her braids. When she tried to look at him, he turned her head back so he could keep working.
“Some of these aren’t coming out unless you take the braids out,” he said. “My sister used to make me play with her hair, I won’t yank chunks out, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Well… Fen hadn’t been worried until he mentioned that was even a possibility.
“So, why won’t you tell me your name? Is it a Dalish tradition?” He asked. True to his word, he was being careful, and Fen slowly let herself relax. She shook her head ever so slightly, at the question.
How was she supposed to explain that she’d traded a spirit her voice for help in healing him? She couldn’t exactly write it out on a scrap of parchment. Fen chewed on her lip, thinking.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to. I just don’t want to be rude and think of you as ‘elf’,” Rahlen was saying. her hair was down now and she could feel him plucking out bits of things. How many twigs had gotten in there? Her ears were still hot and getting hotter as she imagined a whole tree stuck in the white strands.
“All done, do you want me to braid it again?” Rahlen asked, combing his fingers through her hair. The touch felt nice, but shyness got the best of her. Fenlin shook her head, shifting to half-face him. Combing her own fingers through her hair, she started to braid the sections of hair like she usually did each morning. Well… most mornings. Every few mornings. Living as a hermit had not really made hair tidiness a priority.
When she was done, she chewed at the corner of her lip, then reached out and tapped the back of Rahlen’s hand.
“Yes?” he said, lifting his eyebrows. This time his smile was less smirky and twice as devastating and Fenlin’s ears were sure to burn up to ashes at the express. “Is it that you don’t speak common?” he asked, looking at her.
Fen sighed, rolling her eyes with frustration. Not at him, just the situation. Reaching out, she caught his hand and gently placed his fingers against her neck. Then she tried to speak, to say a simple hello. The vocal chords buzzed against his fingertips, but not a sound came out.
“Oh,” he said, the spark of realization catching in his eyes. “You can’t speak.”
Fen nodded, letting go of his hand. She shrugged, a way of apologizing. Then she realised the tips of his fingers were still resting against her throat. Turning red, she slapped his hand down.
At least she had the small satisfaction of seeing his ears turn pink, as he stumbled through an apology.
Waving it away, Fen picked up the shirt she’d almost finished mending, and tied off the last few of her stitches. It was stained but the holes from her bear’s mouth were sewn closed. So too were the tears on his trousers. They weren’t the smallest or most delicate of stitches, but they’d hold, and it was better than wearing tatters in this weather.
Thrusting both garments at him, Fen pushed herself up to her feet with a wince.
“Wait, I am sorry,” he said, catching the clothes. “Please don’t leave.”
Annoyed now, Fen gestured at the clothes, then pointed at herself and then pointed at the empty pot of soup from the night before. They needed food, and they needed spider silk. The rest could wait, and she wasn’t about to sit and watch him change.
“You’ll be back?” he asked, and Fen nodded. She carefully pulled on her oilcloth poncho to keep off the worst of the rain and ducked under the edge of the tarpaulin.
Once out of view, she rested her fingertips against her throat, sure she could still feel Rahlen’s gentle touch there.
As soon as he was able to walk, she decided, she was marching him to the nearest town and getting rid of him. Those smiles were dangerous.