I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with studying. Of course I did enjoy reading, however I would always lose track of time and in such I would realise it too late. Mara’s loud yawn snapped my out of my “reading trance”, and caused me to look towards her. The aged charr looked at me with narrowed eyes, mildly frustrated yet somewhat entertained.
“Still up, are you?” she said as she drew close to the table I had invaded and decided to use as my work space. I glanced out the window of my mentor’s hut, realizing that the sun had long set several hours ago.
“Blast it,” I said gathering my books and notes. “Sorry, Mara. Lost track of time again.”
“It’s fine,” said Mara as she slid into the table while holding her mug of coffee. “Reminds me of when you were a cub. Staying up late and falling asleep while using the book as a pillow. Then you would complain about waking up sore in the morning.” She released a chuckle at that. I smiled at the thought of those times.
“Simpler times back then,” I said as I stored my books into my pack. “Didn’t have to deal with warband duties as much.”
“The quandaries of being a citadel charr,” said Mara as she raised her mug in a mock toast. “Congratulations.”
There was something relaxing about the solitude of the streets during the night. The quietness helped me focus, then again focusing on certain things wasn’t something I always wanted to do. The wind blew through me, I could tell it was freezing, but it didn’t bother me. A bit of a trait for being a necromancer. Garfas still thought I would get cold, he would comment on how cold my body was at times, and frankly I never told him of my resistance to it. My way of finding any excuse to be close to him. I puffed out a breath of out and found the warm air chilling in the air becoming visible. Winter was here already, it would only get colder as the days went by.
I continued walking through the streets, making my way towards my house. I wasn’t too worried about what Thoc was thinking about me not arriving home yet. He knew my habit of studying into the late hours of the night. I continued my pace, leisurely striding not giving much thought into anything. One two, one two, left right, left right. I was making an actual effort to not think about what I wanted to ask Garfas. I was in a position where the prospect of talking to him was terrifying now. Would he say yes, or no? If he said no would we still be together?
People are complicated, unpredictable at times yet the complete opposite in others. Was it that Garfas was unpredictable or did I just simply now know him well enough? If that was true what right did I have to ask such things from him? I retreated back into thinking about my footsteps. One two, one two, left right, left right. I froze. I felt a chill crawl its way up my spine, which was strange since I rarely ever felt cold. It wasn’t the temperature, something was watching me.
I shot my gaze in all directions, but the shadows cast in the midnight black of the citadel made it difficult to spot anything. Suddenly the quiet solitude did not feel so welcoming. I held my staff in my hands, twisting at it nervously. I briefly wondered if I was in danger, I was confident in being able to fend off whatever it could be.
“Anyone there?!” I called out. “Show yourself!” I began to channel my magic into the staff, getting ready for any unwanted surprises. Calm yourself, Anavari, I thought to myself. You’ve been in worse situations. I looked into my pool of lifeforce. twenty percent, it was good enough to down a single enemy, which was what I suspected this invisible stalker was. I began to slowly make my way towards home.
No, Garfas’ house is closer. I changed my route and began to make my way towards my new destination. I was slow, yet cautious. Looking at every alley, every rooftop, every corner. I still couldn’t see my stalker but I could sense them. It was difficult to control my breathing at this point, especially since my adrenaline was making me shake.
I was starting to realize how the lonely streets felt so ominous all of a sudden. My stalker was robbing this from me. What I had found comfort in was now looming over me with a thirst for my blood. I stopped.
I felt myself shrouded in darkness, I felt cold, was it my nerves or was it the actual temperature? It mattered little at this point, I was at the edge of my decision. Fight or run… I began to gather tendrils of shadow into my hands, and the magic erupted into a cloud of blinding darkness.
The sudden explosion of blinding magic was enough to reach my stalker, as it resulted he was merely a few steps away. I saw his figure stagger backwards as he released a grunt. I acted quickly and took my staff. The crack of wood echoed through the streets as I struck him over the head, he stumbled off his feet…and I ran.
The streets of the citadel raced through me as I ran on all fours, I kept running, forcing my body to continue despite the exhaustion. I spotted the house, there was no one behind me and I closed in the rest of the distance. I started pounding my hand against the door and waited an eternity for Garfas to answer.
The door opened to reveal a very tired and barely dressed charr. Garfas rubbed the sleep off his eyes as he said, “The hell do you…” He realized it was me. “Cub? What are you doing here this late at night?” I slipped in before answering and closed the door behind me. Garfas looked at me with concern and exhaustion.
“Um… Sorry for dropping in so suddenly,” I said after locking the door and leaning on it.
“Are you okay?” He asked. “You look shaken up.” It was then when I realized how heavy my breathing was. I was panting from having sprinted halfway across the citadel with mostly only my drive for survival pushing me. Garfas held me as he placed a kiss on my lips. “What happened?”
“I, was being followed,” I said between breaths. “I was walking back from Mara’s hut, and someone was following me.” Garfas looked at me with widened eyes, then they narrowed. He was getting angry. He released me and looked out his window, eyes scanning the area like how he would a battlefield.
“What else happened?” He asked as he closed the curtain of the window. He was fully awake now, behaving stern, and from what I could tell, ready to charge out and find my stalker if needed.
“I-I caught them off guard and threw a blinding spell,” I said regaining my senses. “I stunned him and ran.” Garfas nodded and bit his knuckle as he processed the information.
“Were you able to get a good look at them?” Asked Garfas. I shook my head in response.
“I was foolish wasn’t I?” I walked over to Garfas’ couch and sat down. I threw off my coat tossed aside my staff. The clank of wood sounded throughout the room. “I had an opening, I could have finished him and it would have been over. It’s not as if I haven’t killed people before. I hesitated, but why?
“Did I think that he would have backup? Did I think he would be able to kill me? I’m such an Idio-” I felt Garfas sit down besides me and pull me close to him. He rested his head on mine as he gently ran his hand down my neck.
“You know you’re not an idiot, cub,” he said. “So you chose to not fight, nothing wrong with that.”
“What are you talking about?” I said raising my voice. “I was a coward, any other charr would see- whoa!” Garfas held on to me as he rested the remainder of his body on the couch, placing me on top of him.
“Those are charr ideals, cub,” said Garfas as he looked into my eyes.
“And I’m not a charr?” I asked a bit upset, I didn’t exactly know where he was going with this.
“You’re Anavari,” He said running a hand through my hair. “Cut from a different cloth than the lot of us savages.” That answer did catch me off guard. I did not expect Garfas of all people to say something like that.
“You’ve been spending too much time with Mara,” I said smiling.
“And you’ve been spending too much time with us,” Said Garfas thoughtfully. “I know I said that I wanted to fight besides you. But…”
“You don’t want to anymore?” I asked, growing confused. “Then what was all the training for?” There was a pause between us, Garfas still looked at me with a warm smile, stroking my cheek with the rough pads in his hands.
“No, I think it was wrong of me to want that from you. And it took me a long time to realize that. It’s something I can see in your eyes.”
“What do you mean?”
“When we were younger and I bullied you, I did so because I wanted you to fit in. The same reason when I started talking to you many years later. But after that incident with the flame legion, where you almost died… I can see something else now.” I held on to the Garfas, waiting for him to continue. “Your eyes were so bright and clear when I first saw you in the warband, they were grumpy eyes but they were still full of something they couldn’t take away from you. And I guess it was because you didn’t really want to fit in. Then I started to notice something after we became a couple. They were getting darker, more forceful. Something was changing inside you, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad, or if it’s something you want, I don’t even know if you’re aware of it. You’re becoming more like us, a citadel charr.”
I raised myself and straddled over Garfas’ waist, Considering what all of this meant.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” I said.
“Well, I don’t know if it is,” Said Garfas scratching the back of his neck. “For you I mean. I know it will be better for you to fit in completely, but is that something that will make you happy?”
“You think I’m not happy with the warband?” I asked.
“To be honest no,” said Garfas as he sat up. He placed a hand on my cheek and my own moved up to hold it. “I’ve seen how your eyes change when you’re with Mara, when you’re free to be yourself, when there’s no one else around. Your big blue eyes become brighter than a clear sky. And I want you to be like that all the time, because I love you, cub.” My eyes widened.
“What did you say?” I asked, hoping that I did not hear him incorrectly. Garfas looked at me as if he had said something he shouldn’t have.
“I-I said I love you,” He said.
I leaned in and rested my head against his chest, feeling his heartbeat, the gentle thump. I kept track of the subtle cadence, how Garfas moved and breathed according to it, almost as if I could predict his movements when he was this close.
“I love you too,” I said sinking into him.
“I know you do, cub,” he said as he held me closer. “That’s why I don’t want you to change. I want your eyes to stay bright.” I was still trying to make sense of the decision I had before me, maybe I was changing, maybe it wasn’t the path I would be the most happy in. Was that so bad however. Was there much of a choice.
There’s always a choice.
What else can I do?
Suddenly I gasped, suddenly my vision blackened, Garfas vanished, as did everything else. I found myself staring down a river, the reflection of a charr stared back at me, the same one I would have dreams of.
“It’s almost time to wake up, Anavari,” he said as small fragments of crystalline magic flowed around him. Dancing in the air like petals in the wind. “When that time finally comes, don’t come searching for us…for me.” The vision split apart, shredding and bleeding away to reveal reality. I was laying on the couch, Garfas was facing me, panicked, trying to shake me out of the trance I was just in.
“Anavari? Stay with me, Anavari!” I returned with a gasp for air, I was immediately drawn in by Garfas. It took a moment to recover and realize where I was.
“What happened?” I asked.
“You stopped moving and collapsed, then you were mumbling something while your eyes got cloudy,” said Garfas with a brittle voice. “I thought your channels were acting up again.”
“I-I’m fine now,” I said separating myself from him. I held on to his hand. “I’ll be fine Garfas, don’t worry.”
“Are you sure? What was all of that?”
“I think it’s better if I tell you tomorrow,” I said as I breathed heavily to relax my body. “It’s just…visions that I get sometimes, I can elaborate more tomorrow.”
“Okay,” said Garfas uncertain. “You sure you’re alright?” I answered by kissing him. “Don’t scare me like that, cub. Not again.”
“Sorry,” I said with a smile. “I’ll have Mara look at me later. I’ve kept you up long enough already, then there’s the issue with the person stalking me.”
“True,” said Garfas snapping back to the urgency of the matter that had brought me to him in the first place. “Well, I know you might not like this idea, and looking to the ash legion might not look good for us.”
“Fumus,” I said with a sigh. As much as I hated to admit it, it was probably the most logical route. “Well if anyone could help us it would be the ash legion. I’d just have to stay subtle when approaching my father.” I leaned into Garfas releasing a groan.
“It can’t be that bad, cub,” reassured Garfas.
“He’s not your Sire, Garfas,” I said. “And you’re lucky he likes you.”