“I’m going to go scout out the area a bit. I’ll be back.” Ragnvaldr informed those setting up in the building we were staying in as he stepped out.
I waved to him, “Want me to come with you?”
“Actually, I was wondering if you could help me out for the night, Claire.” Kiffi said, tugging on the side of my skirt. I glanced down at her and then back up to Ragnvaldr.
“Looks like I’m staying here after all. Be safe out there.” I smiled and waved at him again. He nodded back to me and went to his own business. To be honest, I had begun to worry about him. I was still learning so much about him and while he was normally more of listener than a speaker, he had become significantly quieter since we had left Lions Arch.
Kiffi and I both walked to the building together. “This will just take a few moments.” She sat down with the group and began conversing about who was going to take watch and when. It was decided that they would work in pairs to be more efficient. Zen and Tullia would take the first shift. Cinder and Kiffi the next. Kau would take the last watch with Cinder, who insisted on getting all of her sleep immediately and just staying up for the rest of the day.
Those of us going into Orr weren’t allowed to help keep watch. Everyone else insisted that we needed our rest and I actually agreed with them. Angel wanted to fight but she didn’t intend on actually helping fanyone else out with it, so she half-heartedly settled into agreement. Tobih seemed a little out of it and pretty much agreed with whatever anyone said.
Angel and I were helping them plot routes on maps based on key locations for both of the groups when I found Kiffi standing behind me. “I could use that help now,” She stated.
I stood up with a smile, picked up my staff, and nodded my head, “lead on.”
I had no clue where she was taking me but we were outside of the confines of the thorny enclosure. Daylight was only an umber memory on the horizon. The ground was becoming firmer the further out we walked.
“They warned me about trolls around in the area, let me know if you see anything.” Her words sounded rather calm for someone who knew danger could be around the corner.
“Is that why I’m here?” I asked her, my hands grasping the fiery staff firmly. I was even more on guard now than I had been before. The two ends of the weapon emitted a fire-like glow, lighting up the area around us as efficiently as a torch could.
“Not quite. I mean, it helps, sure, but I’m not so weak as to need company to fight with me.” She kept her eyes forward.
“I didn’t mean to offend.” I admitted quietly.
“None taken. I like your company, I thought… maybe we could be friends?” This time she looked back at me.
“You’re not asking me just because I’m going into Orr are you?” I joked.
“I’m serious. I want to be friends with you. We have a lot we could learn from each other. I also assure you it’s not because you’re tall enough to reach branches on trees.” She stopped next to a tree with a branch just a little taller than me.
I laughed, “It does help, doesn’t it?”
“Maybe a little,” She gave me a sharp-toothed smile. “I saw us pass this one on the way here. It’s beautiful. I almost feel bad about taking anything from it.”
“Just a leaf, right?” I asked her as I jumped up and grabbed the branch, pulling it down to my level.
She nodded, “A nice green one should do.”
I plucked the nicest looking leaf I could find from the branch and handed it over to her. “Friends?” I asked her as the leaf made its way into her hands.
“Friends.” She confirmed, taking a small piece of paper out. Kiffi wrapped the leaf in the paper and put it into her pocket.
“You can always count on me for your leafy needs.” We began walking back towards the outpost.
“Can I count on you to take care of everyone?” Her tone was suddenly serious as she retorted this.
Caught off guard, I took a moment to realize what she said. Another moment to think about the words. “I’m not sure. I can only promise to do my best. I’m not very good at fighting or defence, but I’ll use my other skills to the best of my ability. I can make sure no one gets into trouble due to lacking common sense anyway.”
“I just want you all back alive.” She confided and stopped in her tracks. Kiffi took my hands in hers; I stood down a bit to get on an appropriate level with her, “And don’t ever doubt yourself, Claire. I know you’ve forgotten it, but I can feel that power- the power you have sealed inside of you. You’ll learn to harness it again and one day it will serve you well.”
She believed in me more than I could. I wasn’t sure how I felt at that moment. It wasn’t happiness, but it wasn’t worry either. It was a combination for me too difficult to explain, but I was a little moved by her words. It was like wanting to cry but being too overwhelmed by all the feelings that rushed into me at that very moment. Then I let out the only words I felt were an appropriate response, “Thank you.”
She let go of my hands and I stood up straight once more. “Shall we go back then?” Kiffi asked and began walking forward, a pleasant grin on her face. I followed and walked alongside her until we reached the outpost and our camp.
Upon entering, I saw Tobih working to give Ragnvaldr a shoulder massage. It was an unusual sight to see, but it wasn’t really odd. Ragnvaldr looked as if was enjoying it regardless. When he saw me, though, he nodded towards Tobih and stood up.
“Did your scouting go-” I began before he placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Can you come with me? I want to talk to you about something.” His voice was serious and I could tell that he was worried about something. My heart sank and I began to worry as well. Had I done something wrong? Did I offend him? Was he going to end… us?
The last thought scared me, for some reason, more than any of the others. We hadn’t been entirely distant from each other, but we were talking less than we had at the beginning of our journey. I only thought that he was, perhaps, a little more quiet when he wasn’t trying to convince me to fall in love with him. It felt normal for him.
I peered over to Tobih, who gave me his usual small sheepish smile and a half-hearted wave. Somehow, it didn’t help me to feel any better. I looked up to the Norn’s face and he crooked his head in the direction of the entrance. I followed him outside.