Closed Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Returning a bow to it's owner shouldn't be this hard

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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Khara on May 14th, 2015, 1:22 am

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51st of Spring, 515AV
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The bow was a problem. With it's too dark of wood, with it's incorrect weight, with the draw that was too heavy, with it's companion quiver in leather too new and arrows whose fletching was all the wrong color. It sat accusingly, set aside and even partially covered with a blanket to avoid having to be seen, but Khara knew it was there; just like she had known it was there the entire day. Taking it had been an accident, a slip of the mind when she had otherwise been occupied with trying to cope with an undead menace. The aftermath had demanded that she help, that she explain, but at no time had anyone drawn attention to the shortbow at her back. An Inarta having a bow was like a bird having feathers, it was expected and no one thought strangely of it. So Khara hadn't thought strangely of it until she had returned to her and Zhol's room late that evening and had gone to set the weapon down only to find her own already occupying the space.

She had panicked, had started chirping frantically about how she hadn't meant to and how she had to take it back but didn't know who to take it back to. It was almost amusing how it was only later that Khara had finally gotten around to telling the full story of why she had the bow in the first place and how she had managed to speak of setting an undead creature alight with perfect calm until her tale had crossed paths with the immediate problem once more. There had been tears and numbness from not breathing right and a horrific weight of guilt that had formed a lump in her throat until Zhol had managed to calm her. He had assured her that he knew she'd do the right thing, that the very fact she was upset more than proved the act wasn't malicious, how it could be sorted out tomorrow.

But tomorrow had come, and a few hunters had wanted her and another scout to accompany them, and so the bow and the search had to remain behind, even if all her worries refused to. All day long Khara could only think of was how much she was inconveniencing someone else, how they may have needed it for their own day at work, and how much trouble she was going to be in when she finally went to return it for not having done so immediately.

The best thing to do, Khara knew, was to not wait any longer to begin the search for the bow's owner. Too much time had already been lost, but somewhere in her near-hysterics she had managed to have enough wits to notice that the bow wasn't finely crafted enough to be owned by an Endal, but it was certainly not among the poorer quality toted by Chiet who had purchased their own. She had come to the conclusion that it must have been owned by an Avora and that had started a whole avalanche of thought of how she would be thanked for returning the item. Once again it had been Zhol who provided the simple solution, the easy answer to what she saw as an impossible situation; he would accompany her and help find the owner. Khara just hadn't expected him to finish work after her, hadn't expected to be spending more time alone with it and her thoughts.

Her golden gaze was forcefully tugged away from the mocking sight and back to the ink stained pages of her journal. The first few shapes of her best recollection of a rabbit print stared back at her and Khara almost forcefully dipped the quill back into the ink and slowly brought it to the paper to complete another circular shape that she knew represented the smaller pads that made up the print. A sigh left as she looked at the completed drawing, a nagging sensation letting her know that something about it wasn't right. She was too distracted to try and make a good effort, Khara knew that, but she had been stubborn and saw it as a way to pass time until Zhol returned from the stables.

Her finger was gently pressed against the finished drawing of the rabbit's print, testing that the ink had dried enough that she could turn the pages back to review older drawings she'd made. Thankfully animal prints were mostly simple shapes and easy for even someone who wasn't exactly skilled and that suited Khara just fine. Her only regret came from the blobulous mass that was her best approximation of the creature that had attacked the small rescue party she had been part of back in Winter. There was no way she could capture the horrific hulking shape, the way the stitches had held together rotting flesh, the terror its many eyes had caused. She had tried though, but it was a crude looking thing and she knew the image of the creature would be blurred within her mind before she ever gained enough skill to truly capture it on paper. Remembering the monstrosity wasn't pleasant, but the far fresher memory of the shambling one-armed corpse of the day before had dragged it back up. Khara almost wished there was a way to burn the memories of such monsters away like you could their actual forms. No doubt the new one would start lurking in the shadows of her dreams along with it's much larger and menacing counterpart. One of them would probably be using the very bow that plagued her waking thoughts...

The notion threatened to unnerve her and she was just about to snap the small bound book shut when the door to the room opened. Her left hand raised in a new nervous habit that was forming, fingertips sliding to wrap against the curve of her neck as her eyes raised away from the lumpy drawing in anticipation of a far more agreeable sight.

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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Zhol on May 14th, 2015, 2:33 am

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Khara would be in the middle of a crisis. Zhol knew that. It was the exact same crisis that she had been in the evening before, and this morning, and the several occasions that her mix of bad dreams and fitful insomnia fidgeting had nudged Zhol awake during the night between. It was the same crisis that had made him offer to fake an illness and excuse himself from work for the day; the same crisis that had made him offer to use his Avora status to somehow get her out of her scouting responsibilities so she could find a way to resolve it before too much time past. It was the same crisis that Khara had assured him would be okay, and that she'd make it through the day just fine without Zhol needing to worry about her. He'd worried anyway; and she'd fretted anxiously all these hours, he was sure of it.

Unfortunately for Zhol, the stables had been determined to dominate as much of his attention as they possibly could. One of the pregnant mares - not Smoke, thank the gods; though he felt twelve kinds of guilty for thinking that, and for having that kind of favouritism - had developed complications; some sort of infection, based on Hansi's experience with such things in advance. A fever that was obvious to the touch, laboured breathing, an unpleasant crusted discharge around her eyes and nostrils; she was dehydrated too, but refused to drink, and hadn't been wiling to eat for two straight days. Zhol and Kami had done what they could, applying salves, damp cloths, all manner of tricks and techniques to sneak medicinal remedies into her; their success had been minimal, and as a result everyone was on edge.

A sigh of surrender was what escaped Zhol as he pushed his way through the door into his room. He managed a smile for Khara, the same as always, but there was more strain and tiredness in it than there usually was. Instead of the course that normally conveyed him instantly to Khara's arms, Zhol's legs took him to the bed, depositing him unceremoniously on the mattress, face first. Aching joints and muscles grumbled, and Zhol wondered if he could just lie here like this and let his body fall apart, let his knees and shoulders enjoy a few hours without the burden of his limbs attached before he had to pull himself together again.

That wasn't the case though, and Zhol knew it. A gentle, feeble nudge was enough to roll him onto one side, his body naturally beginning to curl into a more comfortable position on the bed. His weary eyes sought out Khara. "Hug, please?" he requested, his voice creeping out as a faint and timid murmur.
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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Khara on May 15th, 2015, 12:56 am

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It only took one instant, one step that Zhol had taken towards the bed instead of towards her for all of Khara's concerns to be violently tugged away from the bow and her guilt and everything else associated with it; and retargeted entirely on the keeper of her heart. She was to her feet even before he had started the fall toward the mattress and had stopped mid step when he turned to her, unsure of what was needed of her. No sooner had the request been uttered, however, than she quickly closed the distance between herself and the bed, and even quicker that she joined him and wound her arms around his waist and pulled herself as tightly as she could against him. Khara couldn't even begin to fathom what would have put him in such a state but if this was all that was needed to begin to set things right she would freely embrace him for as long as was necessary.

As much as she was focused entirely on Zhol, she couldn't even begin to deny the soothing effect just being near to him had on her. She waited for the comforting feel of his arms settling around her before she pulled away just slightly, just enough to look up so she could meet his gaze with hers if he chose it. Concern tugged at her, though, and Khara gently slipped up away from him - her lips leaving the softest of kisses at his brow on the way - so she could sit on the bed and gently encouraged his head to rest in her lap as her fingertips softly ran against his forehead.

"Bad day?" She asked with a forced smile that faded almost as quickly as it came. The question didn't really need to be answered, everything about him was answering for her.

It was her treacherous gaze that raised away from him for just an instant, just enough to catch sight of the bow half hidden as it sat near the doorway. Her body wanted to recoil away from it but Zhol anchored her in place and it was the near tangible exhaustion that came from him that pulled her attention back to where it belonged for the moment.

"D-do you want to dinner?" She asked softly, cautious in a way despite the slight flinch that came with the stutter and realization she hadn't quite gotten the phrasing right. "To go to… " Khara added, her voice still quiet and as gentle as the light touch of her fingers. "We do not have to if you do not feel up to it. I maybe can go and bring back things? I think it is known now that I live with you so no one should give me troubles."
She didn't need to add the thought that followed, that she would probably have to say that he had told her to fetch it for him for the kitchen staff to allow her to take an Avora's portion; that they might refuse and she would then gladly give him her share and pretend she had already eaten that day. Zhol would know, no doubt, she wasn't very good at trying to fool him with such things and always felt horrifically guilty even considering it; as good intentioned as it may have been it would have still been a lie.

The edge of her vision caught sight of the bow again, as if the inanimate object somehow possessed the ability to demand that it not be ignored. Her head tilted downward further, letting more of the man she loved to fill her view. Petching thing, leave me be for a few chimes, okay?

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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Zhol on May 20th, 2015, 12:42 am

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"Dinner would be nice," Zhol replied. His voice lacked all it's usual confidence and clarity, but even the sullen tone that it had adopted couldn't obscure just how relieved, and content, and happy he was to finally have Khara in his arms. He had long since given up on trying to understand or describe the effect she had on him; he had simply accepted that no matter what the situation, it would always be better if Khara was there, always be better if they were together. Sometimes all it took was a glance and a smile; sometimes just a wave and a gesture of grassland sign; sometimes he just needed to know that it she was thinking of him and cared for him. Usually, that was all he needed to make it through the day; a parting wave or a parting kiss could help him soldier through all but the worst of things at the stables. Sometimes it took more; the way her fingers sought out his for comfort, the way she clung to his arm to be closer to him. At the worst of times, it took this: it took knowing that Khara would do anything and everything to try and fix whatever was wrong; it took her clinging to him so tight that it felt as if she was trying to squeeze the bad things out of him.

Without fail though, it always worked. No matter how bad the day, or the memory, or the nightmare was, Khara always made things better. All she had to do was make sure he knew she was there.

He turned his head to the side, sneaking a gentle kiss against her stomach, a hand reaching out to snare hold of hers. "I would like to stay here like this a little first though, if that is okay?" he asked quietly, nuzzling himself against her a little more. He knew that they had important things to do this evening; no amount of stress and frustration could make him forget something that he had promised to do for Khara. That said, he wasn't ready to go just yet; wasn't himself enough to be the rock of reassurance that Khara needed him to be; wasn't ready to move, and surrender this feeling. "My day was bad, but it is better now that I am with you."
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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Khara on May 20th, 2015, 2:26 am

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There were times - horrible, guilty, awful times - when the bad things that lurked about within her head escaped their cages and perched at the forefront of her mind and squawked out questions of if the horse boy and the timid little sparrow girl were actually good for each other. It was times like this that even the cruelest of those thoughts were stunned into silence. It wasn't that Zhol's problems made her forget entirely about her own - though she willingly would suffer if it meant he didn't have to - but rather in that the strength she needed to muster to help shoulder his burdens remained for quite some time and made her own far easier to manage as well. It was the only times in her life where Khara didn't feel like someone meek and meaningless; at times it almost felt like she had enough confidence that she could stride right into the Valintar's office and petition her right to become a proper hunter; almost. It certainly made having to deal with an accidental loaning of a bow far easier to handle; maybe.

"Okay," she softly assured him. "You let me know when you are ready to go, okay? I do not want to go a tick before that."
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They hadn't stayed in their room for very long. Short by some concepts and far too long for others, but just the perfect amount for them. Just the right amount of time for the overwhelming pressing duty to refuse to be ignored any further. It had been tempting to try and call for one of the Dek, to come take the bow to the Valintar's office and simply say it had been found and that it was no doubt lost to it's owner and leave it at that. While Khara unfortunately would admit she was not among the bravest of people, the though was cowardly enough for even her to find it distasteful.

She had even considered simply leaving the bow behind while they did their initial investigation, but the thought of running across the owner without the object in hand was mortifying. So, reluctantly Khara had picked up the bow and quiver and the unfamiliar weapon set had accompanied them to dinner. Khara kept glancing at them, no matter how much she tried to pull her attention back to their meal, or to Zhol in general.

It was a shame that it all weighed on her mind so heavily, otherwise Khara might have appreciated how much Davoid and her chefs had outdone themselves. One of the fresh catches of fish had been prepared and it wasn't in some random soup format - though Khara was sure that existed somewhere too and was thankful to have the option to not have it for a change. The filet in front of her was picked at idly, it's subtle flavors and perfect preparation entirely lost to her. Each bite only registering as food of some sort - good food, mind you - but far from the appreciation it deserved.

As another piece was chewed and swallowed, Khara gestured towards the bow with her dull eating knife. "I was thinking maybe Vincent might be a good place to start. He seems to remember almost everything he's sold to someone. Unless it wasn't one of his..."

Khara's voice trailed off and she lifted another bite of the fish to her mouth. It seemed unlikely but the possibility tugged at her. In truth it was the only real solution she had come up with the entire day. If it didn't pan out... Don't think like that. You'll think of something - together.

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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Zhol on May 20th, 2015, 3:10 am

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Khara seemed to be eating her fish with disinterest, but Zhol was having considerably more trouble doing so. It was good food, he was sure of it - everything that he'd been served in Wind Reach's kitchen was perfectly edible, and perfectly enjoyable - but he still eyeballed it with suspicion, staring down at the seared white meat with distrust. It wasn't that he didn't like fish, not quite; he just didn't like it. There were people who were eager fans. There were people who were genuinely excited that a fresh catch had been brought up from Wind Reach, or that the hunters had gone salmon fishing in the Unforgiving's rivers. Zhol wasn't one of those people. Perhaps he just wasn't used to it; fish seemed far more common as part of the Inarta diet than it had been back in Endrykas. Perhaps it was the memories it conjured up, of disappointing morsels crudely over-cooked in camp fires during his trek to Wind Reach two years ago. Or, perhaps it was just the disconcerting way the meat seemed to separate itself into flakes; meat wasn't supposed to do that, nor was it meant to feel so smooth and strangely textured in your mouth. Most meat went in Zhol's mouth, got chewed, got swallowed, and that was the end of it. Fish insisted on making it's presence known, either by sheer resiliency, or the occasional disconcerting discovery of a teeny tiny bone in amongst the flakes.

He glanced up as Khara spoke, not having been giving her as much of his undivided focus as he usually strove to. She'd mentioned Vincent, the merchant who sat sentry at the archery stall on market days. He certainly seemed like a smart port of call, not just for his uncanny memory of the items he sold, but also his often disconcerting perceptiveness. He always seemed to know, whether by perception or through other means, far more than you expected him to. If anyone would be able to help them find where Khara's errant bow belonged, Vincent seemed as good a place to start as any.

That said, Zhol had no idea where they might find the man, on a day like today. Zhol had only ever seen him at the markets, and couldn't recall ever having heard of him being found elsewhere. He couldn't recall spotting him in the kitchens, couldn't recall seeing him at the archery ranges - not that Zhol frequented those, mind you - and had no idea where in the maze of warrens and common rooms the old archer might be found.

"Do you know where to find him?" he asked, hoping his question sounded more like curiosity than an attempt to undermine Khara's suggestion.
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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Khara on May 20th, 2015, 4:22 am

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"The Crafts Gallery, I think," Khara replied simply with a shrug of her shoulder as she made a concerned effort to stare at her plate rather than the bow again. It was only as she had nothing but bones to look at that it dawned on her exactly what - and where - she had spoken of.

The fork she had lightly been holding in her left hand hit the plate with a loud clang that drew a few annoyed glances as it slipped from Khara's grasp. Her eyes widened, her pulse suddenly quickened, and for an instant she could almost swear the edges of her vision were going dark. A struggled breath left her as her eyes slowly raised to meet Zhol's.

The panic that had started to twist around her was forced back as she met his green gaze and her slightly trembling hand reached out to gently touch his arm as Khara forced a small smile. Wherever her mind had tried to drift off to, all it took was one look towards Zhol and she was tethered back in place, and at that exact moment she was all the more glad for it. While his earlier unease had abated, Khara wasn't quite ready to start letting her own cracks start showing entirely.

"A-at least, I think so. He is not exactly a crafter I do not think, but I also do not believe he spends so much time at the ranges anymore. Not this late, at least. I-if not then at least maybe one of the bowyers can maybe tell us where we can find him." The more she spoke the less confidence coloured her words and Khara found her eyes wandering back to the bow on the table.

Vincent himself wasn't a crafter, she had more or less known that. From what rumors said the aged Inarta had once been an archer, an instructor maybe or even a hunter, but not someone who actually created all the bows he seemed to know so much about. Of course, Vincent had been alive for quite a while, longer than most other Inarta...

A deep breath was taken and Khara found her head subtly nodding as a means of assuring herself that her initial instinct was correct. It was just as she said, even if Vincent wasn't at the Gallery himself, there had to be someone who made all those bows who would know where to find their merchant on a non-Market day.

"It is a good place to start at least, yes?" It was clear that she was looking for some sort of reassurance as her own had fallen a bit short of fully putting her mind at ease.

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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Zhol on May 21st, 2015, 1:38 am

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Where Khara's touch had been gentle, Zhol forced it to become otherwise, settling his hand atop hers and holding it in place against his arm. His gaze as it met hers was unwavering; he could guess what thought had just occurred to her, and he knew what that meant he needed to be. There were more than bowyers at the craft gallery; it was the prospect of blacksmiths that no doubt left Khara unsettled, and the possibility of encountering one in particular. Zhol didn't know how likely it was that they would cross paths with him: it was meal time after all, and many of the city's crafters had already begun to filter into the kitchens; but he could not recall he and Khara crossing paths with him here, which meant that either the blacksmith never ate at the times they did, or he never arrived for his food in person... or perhaps that they were so consumed in each other's company that they simply did not notice him. The kitchens for the entire city were hardly small, after all; enough of a crowd that you could easily neglect to notice someone, if you weren't actively looking.

If he was honest with himself, Zhol wasn't particularly keen on encountering the blacksmith again, either. A lot had changed since the first time he'd met the man and realised who he was; the arrogant bastard had bragged to Zhol about what he'd done to Khara, and Zhol's temper had shrugged off it's shackles in an instant. The blacksmith hadn't been alone, and the result had been a nasty beating and several injured weeks for the horse boy, not to mention the guilt and shame that came from failing not only to protect Khara, but failing to avenge her as well. Things were different now, though. Khara was far more than just a friend that he cared for; and Zhol had fought against - and won against - far worse things than an unapologetic rapist. If there was a confrontation between them again, Zhol knew that it would go differently, because his head and his heart would not permit any other outcome.

Idly, he wondered if the blacksmith still bore the burn scars that Zhol had inflicted on his arms, or if the city's healers had taken care of them. He hoped they were still there. Granted, no one else in the city would find it surprising to see a blacksmith with burns on his arms; but the blacksmith would know where those marks came from. Zhol wasn't naive enough to think that it would serve as a deterrent from the blacksmith trying to exploit the lower castes in such a way again, but he hoped that it would at least serve as a reminder that not everyone in Wind Reach would look upon such acts and deem them acceptable and appropriate. He captured his resolve at that thought, and used it to reinforce his smile.

"You're the game scout," Zhol replied, careful effort taken to ensure that his tone reflected his meaning correctly. Said wrong, it might seem like Zhol disagreed, but did not have the heart to say; but the truth was vastly different. Zhol trusted her to be right, and trusted her instincts. If Khara felt that the craft gallery was the best place to start, then that was where they would go with all possible haste. Zhol knew no better, he knew his knowledge of Wind Reach and it's inhabitants did not supersede Khara's; and so the decision was hers.

"Wherever you lead," he added, making it clear that his words applied to far more than just this one situation, "I will follow."
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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Khara on May 23rd, 2015, 9:11 pm

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Khara had long since given up trying to figure out exactly how it was that Zhol managed to affect her, how he managed to bring calm to her otherwise noisy mind with nothing more than a reassuring smile and - if absolutely necessary - a few words. She received both then and it helped more than she could ever begin to express. At times Khara couldn't help but wonder if she took him for granted, especially now that they were practically expected to be there for one another, she prayed she didn't and that she never would.

As she waited for Zhol to finish his meal - or, at least as much of it that he was going to; she made a note to ask him if it was because he didn't particularly like fish or if his mind was just too busy with other things - Khara began to let her thoughts wander over who the owner of the shortbow might have been. The draw weight had been quite a bit more than hers, but that didn't necessarily mean it belonged to a man as she knew she wasn't exactly among the strongest Inarta. She'd already decided it must be an Avora due to the fact it was finely crafted, but not overly extravagant. It didn't have any extra beads or any other little decorations hanging from it's ends so the owner was certainly more practical than showy. Maybe. Parts of the wood were carved with designs, after all. No, it was no good. They would just have to wait on Vincent's expert opinion - if they could find him.

A few chimes later and the two were back in the warrens, heading mostly against the flow of other Inarta towards the Galleries. Despite having Zhol at her side Khara still felt herself tense the closer they got to the tunnel that lead off towards the Arms Gallery. Her hand sought out his and with a lump in her throat that refused to leave she huddled against Zhol's side until they had passed. While she didn't let go, her demeanor considerably relaxed once they were well past the forges.

It didn't need to be said, but the thought refused to stay in her mind even after a sigh of relief left her. "Thank you, I know this is not the best of things and you much rather have stayed behind and tried to relax after work." Khara glanced upwards, a small smile tugging at her lips. "You know, just because of what we are now, that does not mean you must do things you do not want to."

The second half of the thought went unsaid. Truth was Khara wasn't quite sure she could have even gone this far without Zhol being there. She knew on some level he was aware of that too but speaking it out loud would only undermine her previous comment.

It had been a long shot, but still she felt the twinge of disappointment when they reached the mostly empty common rooms. Only a few of the craftsmen and their assistants lingered, putting items away from the day's work. The usual sounds in the alcoves of Avora at their jobs wasn't nearly as loud as Khara remembered it to be, most having finished for the day. Expecting to find Vincent in the Gallery had been foolish, expecting to find this late was even more so and Khara instantly regretted the idea. Maybe if it had been earlier...

A few curious glances were cast their way as the other Inarta continued about their tasks. One of the Avora in particular took note of the pair and slowly approached, wiping her hands off on a stray bit of cloth before tucking a loose strand of her red hair behind her ear. She looked from Khara to Zhol, her eyes lingering on the latter.

"Something I can help you with?" The crafter asked, her tone far from annoyed, but still made it clear she wanted to be done with them as soon as possible so she could finish and leave herself.

"I-I...I found... " Khara stammered, trying to shove down the apprehension she felt. The Avora wasn't being cruel, or demanding, so why was this so hard to say? "I found a bow."

"And?" The other replied, her hands going to her hips as she looked down on the Chiet. It wasn't that she was all that much taller than Khara, but the smaller girl's nervous ways made it seem as if she towered above her.

The scout had no reply, or at least none that came to her thoughts. This was supposed to be easy, but suddenly the admissions of taking the thing in the first place weighed upon her and felt like it would press all the air from her lungs. The Avora's lessening patience wasn't helping matters, not at all.

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Ill-Gotten Troubles (Zhol)

Postby Zhol on June 18th, 2015, 10:27 am

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Under the surface, Zhol bristled. Every instance where Khara transformed from the sweet and hesitantly assertive woman she'd become when they were together into the cripplingly timid bundle of shyness and nerves that she was around everyone else, it filled him with the desire to find something or someone responsible, and cover it or them with fire. It didn't matter that the Avora wasn't trying to make Khara feel uncomfortable; what mattered was that the Avora wouldn't care one way or another, because Khara was a Chiet and thus beneath her.

He wished that he could burn down the entirety of Wind Reach and rewrite their comprehension of such things; futile as it would be, he was even willing to try. But Khara wouldn't want him to. It wasn't a matter of nervousness, it wasn't a lack of self worth that insisted she didn't deserve to be appreciated - it was the simple fact that this was her home. This was the life she knew, the society she lived in. For her, much as Zhol hated it, this was normal and correct, and he had no right to proclaim differently. That was his struggle: much as he strove to convince Khara that she was important and mattered to him, that was the limit of it. Until she became a huntress, or an Avora, she would never think of herself as someone who mattered; not outside the context of their marriage.

Their marriage. Four days, and that notion showed no signs of ever failing to make him smile. He hoped that it mattered to Khara as much as it did to him; that it meant as much; that him being hers and her being his mattered far more than anything so trivial as castes and social status. As for the rest, he was sure he would find a way to correct society's judgement of her eventually. Perhaps wind eagles could be encouraged to reconsider their choice of rider if you set fire to them hard enough.

"We're looking for Vincent," Zhol interjected. He could feel the Avora's displeasure at hearing common uttered in her presence as her eyes shifted back to him, but he made no effort to lessen it. Better her condescending stare be aimed at him than at Khara. "It's a fine bow. We're sure it's owner will be relieved to be reunited with it."

There was a look in the Avora's eyes as she contemplated her response; a slight gleeful flicker of almost victory as she decided to continue speaking Nari, a childish attempt to thwart the Outsider who was busily wasting her time. "You should try the Courtyard of the Sky," she suggested, keeping her tone off-hand and casual, emphasising her accent as much as she could, utterly confident that the Outsider wouldn't understand a word. "The old man likes to sit and watch the stars from time to time."

Zhol didn't flinch, didn't blink as she spoke. He almost replied in Nari of his own, to disprove the Avora's automatic assumption, but no doubt his typical clunky attempt at Nari would amuse her just as much. "Thank you," he enthused, allowing himself a small smile that looked like friendly warmth, but hid his dislike of the Avora beneath it like a concealed blade. "You've been quite helpful."

He turned, as if he had decided he was done with the Avora and her presence no longer mattered, focusing his attention squarely on Khara. "The courtyard is this way, right?" he asked, gesturing with his hand.
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