Closed Quiet Celebrations

Zhol surprises Khara on her birthday.

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The westernmost tip of Kalea, Wind Reach is home to an amazing group of people and their giant eagle mounts. [Lore]

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Quiet Celebrations

Postby Khara on March 15th, 2015, 5:52 pm

.
Her eyes blinked against the warm light she had seen the hinting of. It took a few moment to adjust but when she did the scene before her took her breath away. Everything was just as the sleigh had been, carefully arranged and set as if with the greatest amount of attention possible. It took a bit longer for her to count the sources of light, to fully take in everything that awaited near the campfire and she quickly looked back over at Zhol, surprise, shock, and wonder fully encompassing her.

"Th-this is for me?" She asked, a note of uncertainty marring the joy that came with it. "B-but I didn't... I don't...."

Her mind scrambled for things to say. She had never really celebrated her birthday before, not even when she had been very young. The day had always had a quiet somber quality to it, more in respect to life and death and the inevitable balance that was struck between the two. It was Drusilla who had first stated that Khara should actually commemorate the day with happiness, with the realization that her twin had given her the gift of life. That thought was still something Khara struggled with and even now the echo of discomfort at having been the cause of another's demise even before she was capable of making such a decision threatened to wipe away the ghost of a smile that was playing against her lips.

Khara looked back to the campfire again before the hand that held onto Zhol's released him, tugging gently from his grasp only so that it could join the other as her arms wound around him in a tight embrace that pulled her against his side.

"Thank you." Though there was no lack of sincerity in those two simple words, Khara knew it didn't quite reflect just how she felt. "This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me."

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Quiet Celebrations

Postby Zhol on March 15th, 2015, 6:23 pm

.
A conflicted bundle of emotions washed through him at that admission, relief and joy that his efforts had been good enough, that they had had the effect he hoped for, clashing with sadness and anger that for Khara's entire life, no one had ever done anything like this for her. How was that possible? In nineteen years, how could no one have been grateful enough about knowing Khara to make even this mediocre effort to show her? Not for the first time, he cursed internally at the idiocy of Wind Reach and it's people; and yet secretly, part of him was glad that he was the first person to notice how perfect and wonderful Khara was. It was like uncovering some priceless hidden treasure, and knowing that no one in all the world was aware enough of her worth to try and prevent him from being with her.

His cheeks, finally relaxing after the onslaught of the cold, turned pink again though at her gratitude. "You are welcome," he countered quietly, his arm gently pulling her closer to him still, unsure of what else to say; how did you respond to unnecessary thanks? Why was she grateful at all that he had done something he was glad, eager, and irresistibly compelled to do? He could no more have neglected to celebrate her birthday than he could have neglected to breathe, or blink, or melt when she smiled at him.

For a moment he hesitated, then fidgeted, reluctant to loiter and delay and yet equally reluctant to spend even a moment without Khara in his arms. "We should -" he started, one of a sequence of sentences that began but never finished. "I have... I mean, if you want... We don't have to -"

He stopped himself; forced himself to breathe; forced himself to start over.

"We should sit. If you want." That second part stumbled out a little nervously and urgently, a hint of worry about seeming as if he was trying to give her instructions. "I have gifts, and food, and... things."

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Quiet Celebrations

Postby Khara on March 15th, 2015, 7:43 pm

.
Khara nodded in reply, not entirely trusting her voice to clearly speak an agreement without flying off on some tangent that had only begun to form somewhere in the back of her mind. There were still bitter accusations that this shouldn't have been for her, that she had done nothing worthy of such praise or celebrating. Another thought crossed her mind as to what should happen if anyone stumbled upon them; this place seemed private enough, apparently Zhol had felt secure leaving such things overnight without fear of theft, even; but she couldn't stop envisioning an Endal arriving and seeing what they had and dashing everything that Zhol had put such efforts to.

She kept such fears bottled up, shoved them down and mentally sealed a stopper in place to keep them from getting loose the rest of the day. If such a thing were to occur, she was certain Zhol would handle it, that even if the worst were to happen he would find some way to make her feel as if everything was okay.

Together they walked to the campfire and Khara shrugged off her katinu once close enough to appreciate the warmth the fire and the enclosed space provided. She couldn't help but blush a little, knowing she was wearing what Zhol had bought her but realizing it was the first time he was actually getting to see her in the attire. A clear space among all the blankets was chosen to finally sit at, her legs taking their usual course of tucking under her before she pulled one of the blankets over her lap.

A soft sigh was forced in an attempt to allow herself to fully relax and take everything in once more. Her eyes roamed from the basket, to the other objects nearby, back to the candles Zhol had arranged around them before finally rising to the ceiling of the cave.

A curious thought tugged at her and she was unable to fully hold it in. "Where are we? I have never been this place."

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Postby Zhol on March 16th, 2015, 12:38 am

.
"It's called -"

He frowned, not entirely sure that he quite knew how to say it in Common. It was Val, the gatekeeper, who had told him where to find it the first time; and while he'd been colourful in his descriptions of what the place was like - a seething pustule, oozing with Ivak's blood sprung to mind - he wasn't sure he could recall Val ever speaking it's actual name in that language.

"- the Hideaway," he continued, deciding he would ask Khara what it translated to some other time.

Carefully, he settled himself down beside Khara, an easy and enthusiastic smile spread across his features, wriggling across the blankets to be as close to her as he could possibly get without encroaching too far upon her personal space; Khara would, he hoped, close the distance between them and snuggle up against him of her own accord.

"Outside is a lava geyser," he explained, "One of the wounds left behind from when Ivak -" He gestured into the air, a vague wave of his hand to simulate and brush off the eruptive escape of the trapped god, and the devastating Djed Storm that had followed. "It might even be the biggest one, I think."

He turned his gaze to her, eyes finding hers, his smile growing as a contented sigh slipped from his lungs. "This cave though? It's a place where people from Wind Reach come to hide sometimes. Val told me about it; thought I might need somewhere quiet and away from the city sometimes. I come here to meditate, and to practice my reimancy so that I don't -" His voice faltered, his smile slipped slightly. His eyes glanced away. "So that no one can get hurt by it anymore."

He wrestled for composure, his hand gently seeking out hers, drawing enough strength from it to look into her eyes again. "I know that you worry, about what people think of you, about what people might say... I brought you here so that you wouldn't have to, just for today. There is no Wind Reach. No castes. No judgement. Just you, and me, and how much I love you. That's all that matters today."

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Quiet Celebrations

Postby Khara on April 11th, 2015, 1:10 am

.
She wasn't sure what to say. Even if Khara knew the words in Common, she wasn't sure what those words should be at a time like this. The only ones that came to mind were a constant repeat of what she had already said. It was true, though. Khara honestly didn't feel like she was worth this much effort. It wasn't some sort of self deprecating belief brought on by disappointment in herself; not entirely, at least. As much as she wanted to go with what he had said, forget about the rest of Wind Reach and their castes, and expectations and judgements, she knew without a doubt that this sort of attention was simply beyond her. It was how an Endal might expect their day of birth to be celebrated with their companion, not meant for a Chiet. But that was the thing of it, wasn't it? Zhol thought she was worth it, must have beyond what he always tried to assure her of with his words. This was his every spoken adoration put into something more tangible and he had done it here, in a secretive place, in hopes that she could hide from her usual worries and finally come to accept that.

The realization that came upon her still did little to help her come up with a response, though. Her hand gently squeezed his as she shuffled across the blankets to close the small gap between them so she sat at his side. Her head rested against his shoulder as she tugged his hand into her lap and brought her other hand to hold onto it as well.

"Thank you," Khara repeated as she lifted her head away from him just enough to glance upwards to meet his eyes. "For bringing me here, then. For showing what matters."

A small content sigh left her as she placed her head back against him and let her eyes wander the cavern again. It did seem peaceful here, despite knowing that a rather active geyser was just outside. That explained the sudden rush of heat she had felt as they had approached and some small part of her wanted to run back outside to see it with her own eyes, but the urge was quieted by the comfort of where she currently was; the geyser could wait for her notice, it had for a few years now after all.

Khara let a small hum leave her as her mind continued along those thoughts. There were a lot of new places that had been effected or formed entirely by the Djed Storm and truthfully she had avoided most of them. Not out of a lack of curiosity, that was for certain, but more from a safety concern; traveling alone to such places could be nothing short of a self imposed death sentence. Now that she had someone who was willing, though… More thoughts for other times, perhaps.

"You know, I think it is strange that even after two years there is still so much unknown to me about what happened that day. I didn't even know Ivak existed until he was freed, I grew up thinking of fire as a source of light and warmth and hope. It can be dangerous if you are not careful, but no more so than if someone does something reckless because they have too much hope and cannot see the danger. I guess I never had any sort of negative association with it that maybe other people have always had." A small flicker of a smile formed through the thoughtful expression that had taken over her and she rolled Zhol's hand over so his palm faced upwards as she spoke, one hand joining his fingers to spread his palm open while the other trailed small imaginary shapes down from his wrist and across the inside of his arm. "I guess that is why I was not scared of you so much when we first met. You saved me and you could make fire happen. Once I realized you were not like the other Avora, I thought that maybe Priskil had sent you to watch after me."

A gentle slight laugh left her before she moved her head against him, looking upwards towards Zhol once more. "I am still not so certain that is not the case."

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Quiet Celebrations

Postby Zhol on April 11th, 2015, 2:51 pm

.
Zhol blinked, struggling to force Khara's words to process, his eyes gazing at the patterns she was idly drawing against his skin. He had learned that, until his escape from his subterranean prison, the people of Wind Reach had possessed no knowledge of the deity buried beneath their feet; he'd heard odd whispers from other outsiders that suggested it was almost magical, and who had explained the strange - almost terrifying - reaction of the Inarta to Ivak's release. It had never occurred to him to wonder how that lack of awareness had affected their culture and beliefs, though. It had never occurred to him to wonder which god they deemed responsible for fire if, to their minds, Ivak did not exist. To hear that it was Priskil, to hear that they associated fire with light, and hope, and all things positive instead of the destructive wrath that the people of Endrykas had thought him cursed with? That concept struggled to resolve in his mind. Was it just some mistaken belief, held by a people who were prevented from knowing otherwise, or was there some truth to it? If fire could be Priskil instead of Ivak, did that mean that Zhol could be, as well?

Such thoughts were for other times, though. Today was about Khara, and as willing as he was to spend an eternity feeling her gentle caress against his skin, there was more to be done to help her realise how much she meant to him.

"If Priskil sent me here," Zhol said gently, "Then it was for my benefit more than yours. I was lost, and alone, and hopeless when I came here, and then I met you. No matter how dark the past and present have made me feel inside, you are the light that shines through it all and makes me hope again. Every smile, every laugh, every warm and positive feeling I feel; they are all because you are the one with my heart in her hands."

A soft, contented sigh breathed it's way out of him; every part of his body that was close to her nuzzled closer still. "Saying that I love you does not feel like enough; but I do not know any stronger words to say. I love you. I love you. I always will."

He'd happily have stayed there like that, feeling her leaning against him, his eyes closed to memorise every intricate detail, for hours upon hours. He had never felt so content to just be anywhere, with anyone; and while sheer proximity was not his heart's only desire, it filled him with a warmth and contentment that made him entirely forget what all the others were. That was not why they were here, though. There would be plenty more opportunities to flee to the hideaway and let the bells drift by with her in his arms, but they could wait: he was not even close to being done with his attempts to convey how much she meant to him.

"Speaking of the past and present," he said quietly, reluctantly levering himself away, "I have gifts for you. I do not -" His words faltered. "I am not used to giving gifts, so I did not know what to get, but -"

He trailed off, reaching behind him to retrieve the first, small parcel, placing it gently into Khara's hands. "When we visited the lakes, you told me about the glass beads that look like fire, and how pretty you thought they were. I... I hope these were what you meant. I know you were worried about them getting in the way and being impractical, but I have many sisters, and braids are common in Endrkyas. I could... I could do something, if you would like. I do not think you need beads or braids to look beautiful, you always are to me, but..."

Gently, he brushed the hair away from the side of Khara's face, tucking it behind her ear, enough to let him softly kiss her cheek. "If it will make you feel a tiny fraction as beautiful as you are in my eyes, all you need to do is ask."

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Quiet Celebrations

Postby Khara on April 11th, 2015, 8:11 pm

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Khara continued to look from the small parcel to Zhol as she undid the simple wrapping that hid the contents within. She couldn't help but grin at the sudden giddy feeling as her eyes fell upon the same type of beautiful small glass beads that she always seemed to find and long after whenever she came upon them at the market. They had always been looked over with wonder as she noticed how the glass workers had seemed to capture tiny flames within the tiny glass boundaries and even now she found herself wondering how they did such a thing. For a tick or two she simply marveled over the small pieces of art, enjoying how the shapes made by the swirling oranges and reds and yellows seemed to come alive in the light provided by actual flame within the cavern.

And then realization struck. She'd made mention of them once to Zhol, at the lakes. Khara could remember the day well enough, and certain things they had spoken of, but a comment she must have made in passing regarding such a thing was not something she could recall, nor was it something she had expected that Zhol would. Once more she was overcome with the feeling that she was entirely unworthy of such things and the urge to force the beads back into his hands and state as much had to fought against with every bit of effort that Khara could muster.

Her usual nervous habit of tucking her lower lip between her teeth couldn't be avoided as she looked back up to him, but it slowly came undone as a small smiled formed and took over. "It is okay if you are not so used to giving gifts, I'm not so used to having them given. And these... These are perfect."

She delicately set aside the wrapping and let the beads rest in her lap as her hands went to her hair and began to tug the messy braid she had done herself loose. Khara idly ran her fingertips through her hair once it was undone, the sudden nervousness that had been washing over her and retreating like waves came back once more and threatened to drag her under. Secrets weren't something she particularly liked keeping from Zhol, and every effort had been made to see that there weren't any lingering between them, except for a few that Khara truly felt he was better off not knowing. She liked every single sensation that came when Zhol touched her, save for those sudden inexcusable and unwanted flinches that sometimes occurred. He knew of some of them, no doubt and she was entirely grateful he acted as if they never happened except maybe to offer a quick concerned glance to make sure it wasn't actually due to something that he did but rather something she couldn't control.

Most of them had stopped entirely, but there was still the occasional twinge, the sudden tightening of the muscles in her neck and shoulders as his hand would run through her hair when they kissed and Khara had hoped beyond everything that they had gone without his notice. It wasn't just him, though, the same sensation came if she was brushing through the strands of copper and came against a particularly stubborn snag and felt the sudden tug against her scalp that would happen. There were very few things in Khara's life that she could say for certain that she hated, but that particular and rather new uncontrollable discomfort was easily placed into that category.

She forced herself to take a deep breath as she noticed her fingertips had begun trembling as the various thoughts ran through her mind. There was really only one solution and that was to let a far more pleasant memory take precedence and become associated with those gentle tugs and feelings of fingers weaving into her hair.

Khara held out the small package of beads towards Zhol and begged the pure contentment she had been experiencing only moments before to return. "Please?" She asked timidly in reply to his offer. "I would... I would very much like it if you did."

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Postby Zhol on April 11th, 2015, 10:04 pm

.
You would have needed to be blind to notice Khara's discomfort, now and always. You could not be the kind of person who hung on every word, memorising everything that was said, every preference expressed, every hope uttered, and not notice the lingering impact of what the blacksmith had done. Khara had always been nervous, always been twitchy, and fidgety, but ever since those fidgets had turned into flinches. Zhol did his utmost, every action he could think of taken to ease Khara's suffering. He did not happen upon her hand by surprise; his fingertips always trailed down her arm, always gave her the opportunity to stop him or pull away if she chose to. Whenever possible, he made sure that she could see his eyes, see for definite that there was nothing but love and adoration behind his motives. He never came upon her from behind unannounced; never touched her without warning unless he was plainly in view. He'd asked permission to kiss her each and every time, until she had told him that he did not need to; he still did, from time to time, hoping that she felt the same eager anticipation that he did.

He offered a smile of his own, filled with as much adoring joy as he could muster, and then kissed her, hoping some of it could be transferred between their lips. only then did he move, reaching for the brush he had left conveniently at hand for exactly this reason, gently helping Khara to sit up before he knelt behind her. "I''m going to start by brushing out some of these tangles," he explained, making sure to announce his intent before he acted. "Don't worry, I'll be gentle. Dinah always used to hit me when I wasn't."

Carefully, he let the bristles ease their way into Khara's hair, and began to draw the brush back at a slow, constant pace. As soon as it had strayed more than a few inches from her forehead, his fingers pressed gently against the roots, following the path of the brush, carefully making sure that no snag or tangle would cause even the slightest tug against her hair. "I remember the first time I did this," Zhol began to explain, hoping that the added distraction of a story from his past would help to ease Khara's discomfort. "My youngest sister, Yahalla, did not have the same mother as Dinah and I. Her mother was Emaryn, and she -" He stopped himself from admitting the brutal truth, that Emaryn had died tragically in the same kind of fire that Zhol had subjected Yahalla to years later, not wanting to distract from the story with unexpected sympathies towards people that Khara had never met. "- died when Yahalla was very young. My mother treated Yahalla like she was her own, but my mother travelled, and was away frequently, and Yahalla, she..."

He trailed off, his words dissolving into a soft chuckle as he recalled parts of the family that he usually tried so hard to keep from his thoughts. "She could be a precocious little brat at times," he admitted, "Especially when it came to brushing her hair. It was long, and copper like yours, and she made such a fuss whenever anyone else tried to brush it. She'd moan and fuss whenever our father tried, whenever her sisters tried; even when Dinah tried. We all knew it was just her fussing; just her infant mind trying to make such a fuss so that Etha would have to stop leaving."

His expression tried to falter into sadder emotions; he refused to let it. "Not with me, though. There was always a special understanding between she and I. Perhaps it was because I looked after the horses, and she was fascinated by them. Perhaps it was because we were the closest in age, and Dinah could be... well... Dinah, at times. I always told myself that it was because of how the others treated me, though; that it was because she took it upon herself to be nice to me on her entire family's behalf. That's the kind of person she was; the kind she still is, hopefully."

Extra caution was taken as Zhol manoeuvred the brush around Khara's ear, straightening out the last of the strands on that side of her head before returning to the peak of her forehead to brush his way down the other side. "Whatever the reason, she only ever let me do it. Told everyone else I was the only person who didn't make it hurt."

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Postby Khara on April 11th, 2015, 11:37 pm

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It had started much like Khara feared it would, her muscles bunching up uncomfortably and her hands even balling into fists as she forced them into her lap to hopefully hide the way they reflected the overall tenseness that was forming in her. But as Zhol began gently undoing the tangles in her hair and spoke of his sister, the sensation that her body was insistent on causing slowly began to fade. Even the somewhat staggered breaths that she had been trying to regulate to be as normal as possible came easier as time went on and the gentle feeling of the brush running through her hair became less and less uneasy as she realized it didn't hurt, quite the opposite really. It was nothing like the pulling sensation her darker thoughts had tried to anticipate and slowly she managed to ease herself into a more comfortable posture.

Khara leaned back as much as she dared so as not to make Zhol think she was trying to stop him from his attentions. It was strange to hear him speak of his siblings, though the names were familiar to her now. She understood why he didn't talk about them often, Zhol must have missed them terribly at times, especially the ones he spoke of with an obvious sense of affection. It saddened her a bit to know that she would never meet the women that had once been such an important part of his life, but not so much as knowing that Zhol might never see them again unless he left Wind Reach; something she selfishly couldn't deny was the last thing she ever wanted to happen.

As the last bit of tension melted out of her like molten glass or candle wax, Khara let one of her hands leave her lap and ran softly against the blankets underneath them, making small motions that would have left tiny designs in their wake if she had access to the dirt below. She wished a bit that Zhol had sat behind her with his legs on either side of her so she could have gently touched him instead.

Khara let out a slow breath that was timed with the feeling of the brush running down through her hair. "I don't think I have let anyone else do this. I know my mother must have when I was little, but I don't remember it ever actually happening." With utmost slowness she turned her head to glance back at him over her shoulder a small smile playing across her lips that she hopes would let him know he wasn't causing her any distress. "Your sister was right though, it doesn't hurt when you do it."

She shifted where she sat, twisting her body to follow where her shoulders were already turned so she could face him just a bit more. The earnest look in her eyes pleaded for him to understand before she even managed to say what was already tumbling about in her head. "Nothing hurts when you do it."

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Postby Zhol on April 12th, 2015, 12:08 am

.
Zhol's face instantly turned a deep shade of red. He wasn't sure if she had intended her words the way that his mind had interpreted them, but there was a very specific something that sprang to mind, and stubbornly fought against his attempts to force it to leave.

"Hopefully nothing ever will," he offered back, the intended sentiment innocent enough, but in his frame of mind it took on a whole different meaning. He felt his mind fumble and flail, trying to backtrack, trying to think of how to phrase some retraction or redirection that would unthink the thoughts he was thinking; the thoughts he felt he shouldn't be thinking. Suddenly, everything took on a new meaning. Here they were, in absolute privacy, a bed of blankets for comfort, surrounded by candles, illuminated by firelight, warm enough that they wouldn't have to wear a stitch. Is that how this looked to her? Is that why she had phrased it that way? Was this their first meeting all over again, his intentions mistaken for untoward desires? If they had been, if that was what Khara thought, if all this effort and all these gifts felt to her as if he was earning something from her -

"I don't know much about your mother."

Whichever part of his mind had conjured that particular tactic, he could not have been more grateful to it if he had tried. What better way to diffuse tension, and set aside the illusion of amorous intent than to bring mothers and such things into the equation? It would take a particularly disturbed individual to not have such urges summarily dismissed.

As the statement lingered in the air however, and as Zhol searched his mind for what words would follow it, a sombre realisation settled in his stomach. It took the form of a question, one that he hadn't asked; one he had never even thought to ask; one covered in thorns, that tore painfully through his mind at every attempt to dislodge it. His eyes fell, a timid quiet creeping into his words.

"Would she have liked me?"

Zhol's stomach twisted as the question made itself worse.

"Would she have approved of us?"

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