Closed Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Zhol joins Khara on her search for new hunting grounds. (Seasonal Open Event)

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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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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 11th, 2015, 9:15 pm

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Zhol wished he could have followed precisely in Khara's footsteps, but very quickly he discovered the problems with that. For starters, Khara's dainty feet were far smaller than his; rocks that she had balanced on with ease forced him to stand precariously on his toes, or let them wedge uncomfortably into the arch of his foot. Adding to the complication was the length of Khara's strides. Where she had leapt confidently from rock to rock in places, Zhol found himself standing with his foot on the next rock before it had even had the opportunity to leave the previous. There were a few moments where he found himself unpleasantly close to the prospect of tumbling sideways into the river; and others where he wondered just how problematic it would be if he just stepped off the rocks entirely and tried to wade through. It wasn't that deep, and his boots were a good few inches taller than Khara's.

Making matters worse were the thoughts rattling around in his mind as he tried to progress across the water. What Khara had said lingered in his ears. It wasn't that he didn't want to answer, that was the problem. It wasn't that he didn't want her to know. It was the emotions, clawing at the edge of his words; the confessions came as if they were wading through water, each truth dredged up from the corners of his mind launched from his tongue with a disgruntled shrug. He wanted it, and yet didn't. It was a conundrum, a quagmire of confusion, trying to fathom whether his heart, his head, or the back of his mind should be in charge of deciding what was said, and wasn't.

His gaze shifted towards Khara, despite how unwise it probably was to be paying attention to anything other than his unsteady balance. He saw her look back towards him, and he felt it: the tug on his heart, the pull in his chest like reins on a horse, dragging him across whatever distance separated them. Petch the river. Petch the rocks. Petch reluctance. Petch the past. He bounded across the last few in reckless strides, propelling himself up the bank not at a run, but certainly with determined momentum. He didn't slow until he reached her; he knew he shouldn't, but that didn't stop his arm from wrapping around her waist, from pulling her close to him, from bringing his lips to meet hers in a long, deep, passionate kiss that felt as if it was centuries overdue.

A subtle gasp of breath snuck into his lungs; his lips refused to part more than slightly from hers as he spoke. "There are some questions that are hard for me to answer," he admitted, barely more than a whisper, "But please do not stop asking them. I want to tell you. I want you to know. I have no desire to hide anything about myself from you; promise that you will not let me."
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 11th, 2015, 10:33 pm

They had told each other they wouldn't do this sort of thing, that they would try and act professional until the job was done, but each and every time they lapsed that agreement, Khara couldn't have been more thankful for it. The brief moments of closeness were somehow all the more intense when they happened this way. The kiss had left her just as breathless as her near tumble had and she nodded slightly in response to what Zhol had said, the motion subtle and just barely caused her forehead to touch his.

"I promise," She softly answered before she raised her head enough so that she could return the kiss. It wasn't nearly as passionate as the one that Zhol had initiated, but Khara hoped it would echo her quiet pledge.

It felt unnaturally cruel that she had to part from Zhol, had to gently slip away from where he held her against him. She made another promise, albeit a silent one and only to herself; when the day was over and camp was set, she was going to find a way back into his arms and not leave until Syna rose the next day. Not that she didn't do that each evening anyway, but it felt important to make an active note of it out here in the Unforgiving.

As she slowly pulled away from him she had to avoid the urge to ensnare his hand with hers. Yes, they could walk that way, but it didn't exactly lend for her to keep her bow at the ready against any potential predators and sadly Khara had to relinquish wants to more practical needs. That didn't suddenly turn everything into a strictly professional manner between them, though. It would have been a lie to act that way and even as she removed her bow from her shoulder and let her free hand trail away from where they had tried to linger against his arm to resume their ready place by her quiver, Khara looked back to Zhol with the smile that was somewhere torn between nervousness, devotion, and a secretive energy that only seemed to form on her lips for him.

"I love you," She said, even if it felt like it wasn't nearly enough. Her empty hand left it's ready spot to motion, perhaps needlessly since they were alone, the single grassland sign that he had taught her.

Her eyes lingered on him for just a few moments longer before she nodded upstream again. "We should keep moving, we'll have the entire evening to spend together to do and say as we wish, I can promise that too."

The first few steps she actually managed to take away from him felt like the most reluctant thing she ever could have done in that moment but once the momentum began, and Zhol appeared at her side, it became far easier. Khara looked ahead to where the bend in the river could now be seen far more clearly and she hopefully scanned the surrounding foliage for movement. It was probably silly to think that there would be a deer or similar there at this very moment, but the scout tended towards optimism in times like this. Sometimes it paid off, after all.

No today, though. Or, at least not in the way that Khara was really hoping for. While there was no animals aside from a few birds that were picking at things in the mud and took flight at their approach, Khara was delightfully not disappointed in what the mud where the river turned held. There were all sorts of animal prints to be found. Tiny little stick like bird prints littered the area but there were plenty of hooved markings as well. Even a mostly faded padded print was there that Khara couldn't quite tell if it was feline or canine, but it looked to be far older and dried out compared to everything else.

There was an almost boundless energy to the light steps she took as she tried to not leave too many of her own impressions in the mud as she looked at each different set of markings in turn. The prints the birds alone had left were fascinating, there seemed to be so many different sizes that Khara wished she knew more so she could start telling about all the various types that must live within the area. It was the hooved prints that she was forced to drag her attention back to, though. Nothing so large as a moose might make, but they did seem to vary in range that might have been either deer or elk. A particularly fresh looking batch were where she finally came to a stop and crouched down near and pointed towards.

"Remember my bad drawing last season? See, here! This is what I was trying to make. There's two bigger pieces on top and then the smaller circles at the bottoms. These aren't so perfectly parallel as an elk's usually is though, it's more... " Her voice drifted off as her fingers gestured in a circular shape around the print. "Not round, but you can see how it doesn't quite form straight lines. The gap between the two top shapes is more open too. Moose and elk they're more close together."

Khara frowned as she pointed towards another set of prints, smaller ones but they seemed strange to her and she spoke to Zhol as much to herself. "There's a lot of these around too and I don't think I've seen them before. They look like the other deer prints except the two imprints behind are more spread out." Her thumb and pinky finger of her free hand splayed out a bit as she hovered her hand over the print. "The smaller impressions are usually made by the uhh.... back part of the deer's foot... above the hoof a bit. They generally only show in softer ground, I think it's because they are up a bit higher. But I've never seen anything that would leave them this far apart."

She looked over her shoulder at Zhol and let a small laugh leave her. "Sorry, this is probably very dull for you."

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 11th, 2015, 11:43 pm

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"Dull?" Zhol countered, his eyebrow arching.

True, he had been struggling to wrap his head around all of what Khara was saying, but that was more about the challenges of language and his own absent understanding of Kalea's wildlife than whether or not he found the information interesting. On the contrary, he was fascinated, hanging off every word that Khara explained, trying to remember which variations were supposed to be an elk, or a deer, or a moose; and struggling to remember what any of those words translated to, or at least what any of them looked like.

He could have listened to Khara explain such things for days upon days; her voice sounded so different when she spoke about this part of her life, so sure and confident, completely lacking in all the hesitation and nervousness that her words often held. More importantly though, if there was the vaguest chance that any of this information could prove useful, that he might at some point be able to make an observation or notice something that would show Khara just how much attention he had been paying, just how seriously he had taken all this learning; that would be worth spending two of his days off working unpaid in the wilderness. It was one more way of showing Khara how much she meant to him that he hadn't yet managed to achieve.

He shrugged as he set about countering Khara's nervous deprecation. "Me am listen careful. You am speak important words, me am remember so me am can watch careful and helpful. Also -"

A slight nervous smile tugged at his lips; it didn't matter how many times he complimented Khara, he still always managed to feel a little shy doing it. "You am have pretty speak. Me am happy listen."

Zhol let silence fall, cocking his head to the side as he tried to decipher the awkward tangle of footprints. Many animals had stood here, he presumed - either that, or some monstrous creature with many different feet - and to his untrained eyes, the prints that were rounder than an elk weren't all that different from the ones that Khara didn't recognise; the almost deer ones with the spread out parts. He tried his best to pick through the tangle, trying to work out if any of the other prints matched up, belonging to the same animal perhaps. He squinted, squatted a little, peered through one eye; all manner of strange actions that he thought might help, but ultimately didn't.

"You am know where from it came?" he asked, trying to hide the disappointment in his eyes that he hadn't been able to suss that out for itself, "Or where to it go?"
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 12th, 2015, 1:17 am

Khara felt herself blush a little when Zhol complimented her, thankfully her focus on the tracks kept her from fully dissolving into a hyper state of self consciousness. A soft hum left her as she followed a few sets of tracks, watching as they seemed to follow the same pattern of moving out from the underbrush to the water's edge and back more or less the way the same way the animal had come from originally.

"Not yet," she admitted before straightening up and followed one of the fresher looking sets away from the river's edge. There seemed to be a game trail of some sort that lead through the plants growing alongside the river but it wasn't as clear cut as Khara had hoped for. Her gaze returned to the clearer swath of land along the river and watched as it gradually the ground seemed to give way to more and more rock the farther up it went. It would mean less likelihood of finding clear prints to follow but her instincts were telling her that the game trail wasn't defined enough to be frequently used.

"Let's head up some more, maybe once we get some more altitude we can see better." A few steps were taken in the direction she had gestured while her eyes sought out extra tracks in the mud along the river's edge to make sure her assumption wasn't entirely incorrect. "If you want, you can see if there is a higher place we can climb up to? Herds tend to gather in cleared out places, like the one we were dropped of at, actually. I think it might be because they can see predators approaching better," she shrugged at the uncertainty of her statement. "So, if we can start finding those places, we'll probably have better luck. Though it does seem like things come from upstream rather than the way we came from."

As she lead the way once more, Khara couldn't help but notice the sound of the water at their side was gradually becoming louder, though it didn't seem to vastly more turbulent than it had earlier. It confused her some until she stepped around a particularly thick bunch of small trees and bushes and felt her breath catch at the sight. It wasn't overly dramatic, nothing even like where the twin lakes dropped off back near Wind Reach, but the unexpected sight of the small waterfall still caught her off guard. At least the reason why she couldn't see much beyond the bend in the river was now obvious.

Khara waited until Zhol was next to her before frowning a little at the obstacle that stood before them. Just as the water dropped off suddenly, so too did the terrain. If they wanted to keep going up there would be a bit of climbing they would have to do. Nothing too strenuous or dangerous, but the ground certainly couldn't just be strolled up either.

She felt a rueful chuckle leave her and shrugged a shoulder. "Always be careful what you ask for, right?"

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 12th, 2015, 3:33 pm

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"Does that mean I shouldn't ask for another kiss?" Zhol countered, a tiny tug of a mischievous smile finding it's way to the corner of his mouth.

He tugged out his sighting lens and peered up towards the top of the steep slope that confronted them, hoping that he might glimpse one of the creatures they were supposedly pursuing, more for reassurance than anything else. He studied the terrain off to either side as well, futilely hoping that Semele might have carved an easier path for them to follow if they had the wisdom to search for it. It wasn't a sheer surface by any means, nor was it particularly tall; hardly the Edge of the World or any equivalent cliffs of insanity. It was an odd jumble of dirt and rocks, and even Zhol's untrained eyes could see steep but navigable pathways weaving up amongst narrow ridges, tangled tree roots, subsided overhangs, and treacherous patches of scree.

He'd overcome worse during his trip across the Unforgiving; the only difference here was that back then, the people he'd travelled with had been smart enough to bring climbing gear, and a rope.

His instant impulse was to let Khara go first: not just for her skills at navigating the Unforgiving, but also the faint reassurance that if she stumbled he might be there to catch her; and if he fell, there was no risk of dragging her into a perilous tumble with him. Like the river crossing though, Zhol could already see that there would be complications. He thought back to the change of the seasons from summer to autumn; the way that Khara had scrambled her way to her secret vantage point overlooking the Wind Tower, and how much trouble he'd had following in her wake just because his body and limbs were longer than hers; a handhold or foothold comfortably within Khara's reach or stride was uncomfortably close for Zhol, and there weren't always alternatives in more appropriate positions for his stature. It was almost as if the Unforgiving had been deliberately carved by the gods to accommodate the Inarta, and anyone taller simply did not belong there.

Part of him wanted to voice scepticism; surely, the animals they were pursuing would not have scrambled up such an obstacle. Zhol knew better, though. The local animals were as suited to Kalea as the Inarta were. He'd seen the goats up on the cliffs, clinging to impossible surfaces as if they were held there by magic. What they were after was up there. Khara's job was up there. If he didn't make it to the top, if Khara had to abandon her efforts because he was holding her back - or worse, if she went up alone and something happened to her - Zhol would never be able to live with himself.

He buried his uncertainty behind a mask of false confidence, shooting Khara a playful glance. "I am will race you?" he challenged, trying his best to seem entirely sure of himself. "Unless you am not think you am fastly than horse boy outsider."
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 12th, 2015, 7:51 pm

As much as Zhol's playful challenge surprised her, it also entirely amused Khara. If it had come from anyone but him, she would have backed down and shied away from such a thing, even if it had been brought forward by a fellow Chiet. With Zhol though, their small contests had become almost typical and while some part of her certainly still wasn't entirely comfortable with them, the rest of her knew it was a way for them to act like equals and Khara knew how important that was to him. All sentiment aside, however, Khara did have to admit that there was a bit of thrill in a challenge, even if it wasn't an entirely serious one.

"A race?" Khara echoed before it was her turn for her voice to turn impish in nature. "This is my home. I am not so scared of a horse boy's challenge."

She practically beamed despite the nervous twist in her stomach that said that maybe she'd gone a bit too far on her teasing comment. A playful nudge of her arm against his hopefully would remove any sort of negative connotations that Zhol might have perceived, or at least helped Khara to not let her thoughts spiral towards how inappropriate her attitude may have been in that moment. The tug of guilt continued to pull at her, though, and Khara could feel the smile she wore begin to be tested. It was forced to remain as she looked back to Zhol from where she had been studying the incline before them. Her bow was returned to it's more secure place, the string across her body and under one arm as the weapon rested atop her pack. Not the most secure place but at least it would leave her hands free for the task ahead.

A mischievous smirk quickly took it's place and was her only warning before Khara suddenly sprang forward on light feet, trying to move as fast as possible across the muddy and rocky ground until the terrain veered suddenly upwards. The effort left her breathless but more, she realized, from laughter than exertion. Still, she forced herself to quiet as she found a sturdy looking root to grasp hold of and let her foot dig into the softer ground as a means of pulling herself upward.

The urge to look behind her to see how close Zhol was had to be avoided as she didn't dare remove her eyes from trying to find the next stable looking place where she could put either hand or foot. She couldn't tell from sound alone where he was, either, the sound of her own breath and heartbeat drowning out all else. It didn't really matter, she realized as Khara reached out and grasped hold of a nearby tree branch and used it to pull herself to her feet, she certainly didn't care which of them won so long as both of them made it to the top.

Her eyes searched across an area of loose rock that was before her and as she kept a tight grip on the tree as she stepped out to test the stability of the ground and quickly pulled back as the rocks began to tumble down the hill. She watched a larger one in particular bounce it's way down to the forest floor below, ricocheting off several other rocks until it vanished into the river with a plunk.

The pause she was forced to take brought Zhol into her view and she took a moment to catch her breath and look for another way up. "Are there places like this at Endrykas? Mountains and waterfalls among the seas of grass?"

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 12th, 2015, 8:15 pm

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"There are rivers," Zhol began to answer, his own efforts at clambering up the slope getting in the way of a fluid response, a few words at a time squeezed out between his breaths.

His path had taken him to the left of Khara's; he had seen a few rocks and a convenient tree root that seemed sturdy enough to grab hold of, that would probably have been too far up for Khara to comfortably grasp them. To reach them though, Zhol had been forced to hurtle up the bottom part of the slope as quick as he could manage, relying on momentum to keep him moving forward when his feet began to struggle for purchase. Thank the gods for his work boots; the perfect mix of sturdy soles, firm support for his ankles, but light and flexible enough that it didn't feel like his feet were encased in stone.

Having grasped hold of his destination, he found himself not entirely sure of where to clamber next; his intended path had seemed so obvious from the ground, but up close everything looked entirely different. "They start up in the hills and mountains, and they fall down just like this," he continued, twisting himself at a slight angle to the incline, one hand propping him up against the slope while the other swung free for balance, a few scampering steps taken. Idly, he wondered if there were ways that magic could make this easier; he'd heard stories of people who could transform themselves into animals, like kelvic but different. If Kalea was to be his home, perhaps he should consider learning such a skill, so that he could traverse it's terrain much easier. Or perhaps something with wings, he mused; that was probably the far easier solution.

"The high ground is closer to the center of Cyphrus though, so I have never really visited myself. When Endrykas moves around the Sea of Grass, it stays towards the edges, where the ground is more open and flatter. More space for a city of tents that way."

He almost swore under his breath as he shifted direction, his chosen path zigzagging it's way up the slope; a rock that he had grasped hold of to aid his balance dislodged far too easily, and barely missed his ankles as it began to tumble down towards lower ground.

"There is Stardown though," he continued with a grunt of effort, bravely launching himself forward a few jogged steps across a section of slope that offered nothing to grasp for balance or reassurance. "It is a huge dent in the ground, where Zintila fell from the sky. It is as deep as this valley, and the sides are as steep as this in places. It's a sacred place; somewhere the Drykas visit in winter."
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 12th, 2015, 9:12 pm

Khara watched Zhol for a tick or two before she turned her attention back to the climb in front of her. The patch of scree was disregarded and instead she turned her attention to another tree just out of her reach. A deep breath was taken and her eyes narrowed on the branch that was low enough that she should be able to grab hold. A step toward the tree was taken, her foot uncomfortably shifting in the loose soil and Khara could feel a moment of panic sweep through her until she made the small jump and her hands found their intended target. She cringed as the bark scraped at her skin, cursing herself for not wearing the leather gloves she had packed.

A small grunt of effort was needed as she pulled herself against the trunk of the tree and took another deep breath as she rested her back against it. "I would like to see that place some day," she commented through panted breaths and glanced over to where Zhol was making his way upward. "I do not know if I could ever leave Wind Reach, though."

Carefully Khara dug the side of her boot into the ground in front of her and with a few slow sideways steps aided by the occasional grasp at another branch or jutting root moved further up the climb. "Dru said she may take me to Kalinor one day, but I do not think that would be so smart with all I have heard of what they do to survive there. I... I don't want..."

Khara felt herself stumble and quickly reached out to take hold of a larger rock that hopefully wouldn't give way. It shook a bit but remained firmly planted in the ground and the girl could feel a sudden rush of heat overcome her as her mind already was taking the thought of what she didn't want to happen in Kalinor and applying it to what she rather occur, with who she rather it occur with. Not now! Khara scolded herself as she pulled herself to her feet once more. Why was she thinking about such a thing now of all times? The climb should have been her focus not... that. Never that, a sudden harsh and determined voice chimed in.

A heavy breath left her and Khara looked upwards to find her next foothold in the dirt and rocks. "M-maybe one day we can go somewhere together. I think I would like that."

Another root gave her enough purchase to move onward, another small flinch came as the scuffs on her hands were aggravated again. When they got to the top she'd see what sort of damage the bark had done to her palms, Zhol will fix it, her mind spoke up again, though in a far more agreeable hopeful tone.

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 12th, 2015, 9:46 pm

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Zhol knew what that sort of hesitation meant; what that falter, what that shift in her tone of voice was a sign of. He knew the bad place that Khara's words suggested her mind had begun to wander to; petching blacksmiths, and memories he wished he could reach in and extract from her mind. He couldn't help sharing her reluctance at the thought of Khara visiting Kalinor: noble as Drusilla's intent might have been, Khara already had enough dark memories, enough fears of repeated suffering. To go to that place? To tempt fate and risk the kind of fatal suffering the Symenestra inflicted on unsuspecting women? Zhol couldn't even begin to imagine how utterly the trauma of that kind of threat might affect an innocent girl from Wind Reach.

The only way he could think of to assuage the inevitable sink into darkness that so often happened when Khara remembered that was to enfold her in his arms and refuse to let her go. Unfortunately, there were a few obstacles between now and being able to enact that plan; a dozen feet or so of obstacles, in fact. Zhol's determination to reach the top redoubled, not for the sake of victory anymore.

"Don't the Endals fly to other cities sometimes, to bring back goods for trade?" He wished the clambering scramble up the slope wasn't sapping so much of the air from his lungs; it made it far more difficult to put the amount of effort into his attempts at distracting Khara from her inevitable negative thoughts, to make his words as enthusiastic as he wanted them to be.

He made a grab of opportunity towards a tree branch, but slipped, boot dislodging a chunk of earth and suddenly plummeting several inches. A frantic flail from his other arm grabbed hold; he let the momentum from his fall convert into a swing, letting him scamper across the slope enough to grasp a second branch, inching his way across until he could plant his feet against a protruding root. Hopefully the tree, clinging precariously to the side of the slope, would be able to endure a little extra weight for a few moments while he caught his breath.

"Maybe we could volunteer to help them one day? Hiking across Kalea is -"

Difficult. Dangerous. Dull. Depressing. Monotonous. Perilous. Soul-crushing. Deadly. All words that Zhol could easily have appended, and had half a mind to.

"- a lot less fun by the end than it seems at the start."
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 12th, 2015, 10:31 pm

She had never thought of that sort of thing before. Chiet accompanied the Endals on their trade routes sometimes, helping to move cargo and perform basic duties to make the trip as pleasant for the Eagle Rider as possible. They went everywhere in Mizahar, supposedly. Maybe there was something to what Zhol suggested, though finding an Endal who was willing to take the both of them on such a journey would no doubt prove near impossible. Still, it was a tiny bit of hope towards actually visiting other cities than Khara had ever had before.

"What are you saying?" She teased as she took a few more rushed and unsteady steps to the next seemingly sturdy place to rest. Her hands and feet scrambled up the next bit, grasping at rocks and roots. "This is fun."

The top was in sight and Khara began quickly searching for the best way upwards but everything that might have aided her seemed beyond her reach. From the corner of her eye she caught movement and turned to watch Zhol make the final push forward that would get him to the top first. Oh no you don't.

A new feeling of determination came across her and she climbed forward, hands digging into loose soil and feet propelling her forward until her fingertips wrapped around a bit of foliage or the jutting edge of a buried boulder or piece of granite that lurked deeper under the dirt. Almost there. Almost-!

Her heart stopped in her chest as Khara felt herself suddenly sliding downward, soft ground giving way underneath her. Panic set in and she tried to clamber forward but couldn't find anything solid to grasp hold of. Her muscles tensed in anticipation of the fall, her thoughts scrambled to try and figure out how maybe if she twisted she could slide back down the hill and maybe catch a tree on the way down and remain relatively unhurt. She didn't dare glance down the way she had come though, couldn't force herself to do much more than fight against the upwelling of fear that was trying to burst forth.

It was the sudden and firm grab at her hand that brought her attention back from the brink. Even if it put a bit of uncomfortable pressure on her shoulder, Khara was grateful for the feeling of being hauled upward and the relief was instant when her feet touched solid ground. A breathless tick was taken before her arms reached out and wrapped around Zhol's waist and she pulled herself tightly against him before her lungs remembered they needed to function.

"Okay," she conceded between heavy breaths. "Maybe not that fun."

A few more moments were taken to regain composure and her thoughts flitted over things to say, a thanks for helping her, a joke about being glad he had won, a comment about how he had once again saved her. All those and yet what managed to finally come out was a timid, "I think I hurt my hands."

"Nari" | "Common" | "Pavi"
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Khara
Lost Little Sparrow
 
Posts: 739
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Joined roleplay: July 4th, 2014, 6:17 am
Location: Lhavit
Race: Human, Inarta
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