The fire crackled and popped. Rain beat on the worn, mossy bricks outside. The sounds mingled together. However, for the time that I spent thinking what I had just heard over, it sounded like nothing more than silence to me. “You think Angel has feelings for Tobih?” I repeated, making sure I was hearing this correctly.
“Talks between her and I always end up with him in them. She’s trying to convince herself that she hates him, but why would someone do that?” Ragnvaldr turned to look at the fire that reached upwards. A piece of firewood inside crackled as it fell into two halves, sending embers into the air around it.
“She always talks fondly of him to me,” I added, not moving my gaze from him.
“Only adds to my suspicions, Claire.” There was worry in his voice and I wasn’t entirely sure why.
“You’re worried?” I questioned him, taking his hand with mine.
“With good reason. Think about it for a moment and you’ll see what I’m getting at.” He tossed a stick into the fire carelessly.
So I did. I thought about it. It didn’t come to me right away, but I eventually realized what he was so worried about. “You don’t want her to be heartbroken when she outlives him…”
He nodded. “Despite all of the hate she spews, I consider Angel to be a friend to me. We may bicker and we may fight but I wouldn’t be able to bear the thought of her falling in love and losing someone like that.” Everyone had already picked up on the clues. There was no secret that Angel and I were in quite a predicament. “I want us all to be happy. I want Tobih and Angel to visit us when we move into our new home together. I want them to be a part of our lives. More importantly, I want us to be a part of theirs – a part that doesn’t end in tragedy.”
His words were strong and yet his voice quivered a bit as he talked. I squeezed his hand a bit and leaned against his arm. His quiet nature had given way and his true feelings spilled out in front of me. I didn’t know what to say to make things better. I knew Angel had no plans to try to become mortal, for her own reasons. I also never imagined that she would fall in love again. Much less with a human.
I sighed and spoke up again, “If she comes out with her love, it can only end in sadness. If she does things her way and ends up hating him, that would be just as upsetting. There doesn’t seem to be a winning situation.” It hurt to say it, “And there’s really nothing we can do for it.”
He hesitantly nodded, “I know it’s no use worrying about it right now. We have bigger fish to fry. I can’t shake it no matter how much I try, though.” His hand nearly formed a fist until he remembered that it also held my hand. Ragnvaldr looked at me apologetically for it and I waved it off.
It didn’t feel quite right, but I decided to change the subject anyway. I looked up at the dingy ceiling filled with dust and cobwebs and listened to the rain fall around us. “A lot of people relate rainy days to depression but, you know, I really like them. Even if the sky is grey, it’s very calm and serene when it’s just rain. The sound of it is relaxing, almost like a lullaby.”
He peered at me and I wasn’t sure what kind of look it was that he was giving me, exactly, but I had to get his mind off of this for now. I nudged him back a bit until we were both laying on the floor. I used his arm as a pillow and we both stared at the ceiling together. “Back home, in Divinity’s Reach, I would lay in bed and listen to the rain in the mornings. The sound of it against the slated roof was music to my ears. Many people don’t go out when it’s raining, or they take the day slowly. I think it’s nice that way. You’re not pressured to move quickly or to do anything eventful on a rainy day, so you can lay in bed if you want. You can sit there and think about what kinds of adventures you’ll go on one day. Adventures in the wild, adventures in writing, adventures in cooking.
“I guess that’s life, for me. It’s all a big adventure. I never know what comes next, and that’s the fun of it. I may have planned to go to Ascalon, but I never expected to meet you along the way. Who could have known that while searching for my past life, I’d find my future instead?”
He turned to look at me, his eyes filled with joy, “I’m glad we both see it that way. Our future…” He trailed off at the end but I imagined that he was thinking about our future together. Ragnvaldr came back to me with more words, “I prefer the snow. It’s beautiful and graceful. While there may be plenty of it for months and years to come, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.” It sounded like a metaphor but I didn’t want to just assume so. “When I saw you step into the lodge that night, barely dressed for the weather, covered in snow, and still looking as graceful and beautiful as the cold blanket that covered you, I knew you had to be the one.”
Sometimes lovers have cheesy conversations such as these. Sometimes they feel more natural and necessary than what another may see them as. Here, I had successfully changed the sour subject to something that brought light back into his eyes. I knew we were both blushing. We would begin stumbling over our words to each other and that spelled it out enough. It reminded me of those days that I knew I was falling for him, the ones that I hesitated so greatly during. I wondered if I had ever experienced love like this before. Had I ever loved someone so greatly before Ragnvaldr? This experience felt so knew to me, unlike picking up a weapon or drawing a map subconsciously.
I concluded that if it was this strong of a feeling or force in my life, I would remember what it felt like. This was all new. This was me living my new life, taking steps away from the me I barely knew.
Ragnvaldr and I fell asleep listening to the rain together. The air around us was damp and the floor was caked with dirt and stones. It still didn’t bother us enough that we couldn’t fall asleep in one another’s arms.
Tobih and Angel came back later that evening. When I awoke, the first thing I noticed was Tobih’s armor, which was scratched and dinged up. His hair we disheveled and there were a few cuts and bruises on his face. I stood up from my slumber and ran to him. “Are you okay? What happened?” Angel, however, looked fine – not a scratch on her or her armor.
He gave a sheepish smile and scratched his head, “Things get a bit more rough out in the wild.” Tobih began removing his armor and placing it in a corner, ignoring it completely after that. It was unusual for him as he would usually get to cleaning it right away. He looked exhausted and just kind of collapsed against the wall, coughing a bit. I knew that he was suppressing it in a way that it wasn’t a suspicious action, namely forcing the coughs to be smaller and less noticeable. I found myself at his side again.
“Are you okay?” I asked again. He smiled again and I remembered the same smile he had given me when he was telling me about his father. A sheepish but pathetic smile. It was then that I knew something terribly wrong had happened.