Nindh And Nirya -- Part Two

By: pseudomuffin

When Nirya awoke she felt as though she had only gotten a few moments of rest. She had more aches than she had before she went to sleep, but her pains were diminished in strength by a—thankfully—noticeable margin. She clumsily struggled out of the bedroll and looked around for Nindh. He was not in his bedroll.


Half the morning has gone by, she thought groggily, noticing with displeasure how bright it had already gotten. Why didn’t he wake me?


Nindh was sitting by the remnants of the fire, munching on something. He motioned for her to join him.


“Not yet,” she said, stretching to get kinks out of her limbs. “I have to, erm, you know,” she was not alert enough to think of a polite way to say it.


Nindh nodded and continued chewing his breakfast. Nirya concluded Nindh was just as much a morning person as she was—which was to say, not one at all for mornings.


She gladly took the offered bread, cheese, and canteen upon returning from taking care of her body’s morning needs. To her surprise and pleasure, the canteen was filled with a refreshing and sweet mixture of fruit juices.


“Good juice,” she said, her voice cracking. She cleared her throat loudly.


Nindh grunted. He had dark circles under his eyes. Perhaps he did not sleep well either. Nirya refrained from talking while she ate her breakfast. When they had both finished, she helped Nindh pack the bedrolls and repack his saddlebags.


“So are you ready to ride?” Nindh asked, startling her. She had forgotten about that.


“I suppose so,” Nirya gulped. Humans rode all the time, so how hard could it be?


It took her countless tries to merely get placed on top of the beast in the leather seat. Her skirt was large enough she needn’t worry about making any drastic alterations, but it still left her legs exposed a little above her knees. Nirya tried to pay it no heed and just focused on trying to stay atop the horse.


We haven’t even begun moving yet and I’m likely to fall right off! she thought, attempting to keep her level of panic down. Nindh said if she was nervous then the horse would be react similarly.


“Right, if you really feel like you’re going to fall, just keep hold of the pommel,” Nindh explained while soothing the horse.


Stop soothing the beast and soothe me! she thought, wishing she could yell it. She had to keep it to herself for she certainly was trying her hardest not to frighten the horse. Nirya grabbed onto the pommel-thing with both hands as Nindh tried to get her to sit up straight instead of hunching over the beast’s back like she was doing. The pommel did make her feel a little more secure.


“Let’s try a few steps now. You ready?”


Nirya nodded curtly, feeling her face drain of color. She wished she had never gotten into this predicament. If only her knee was not so swollen. Nindh was in control of the horse at least. She hoped.


The horse started moving. She nearly fell off immediately but managed to yank herself upright with the help of the pommel. Such a great thing, the pommel was. Nindh encouraged her all the while as he gave her instructions. Most of all, he tried to get her not to sit to rigidly in the saddle.


After many quickened heartbeats while riding at a pace slower than that of a slug’s, Nirya managed to figure out the pattern to the swaying. It suddenly made sense to be more relaxed—if she remained unyielding to the swaying then she would be tossed from side to side. That made it a little easier, but she was still petrified.


“How are you holding together?” Nindh asked. The horse seemed to be walking a little faster.


“I’m terrified,” she confessed.


“I have faith in you,” Nindh smiled as she glanced at him. He had a dazzling smile. For a human.


Nirya blinked in surprise. When had they reached the road? She had not realized they had gone so far already.


“It’d be easier,” Nindh said casually, “if we could ride double.” He left the front of the horse and came to walk beside Nirya. The horse was definitely picking up speed now. “Twinkle’s too old to carry both of us at once plus all the supplies.”


“Twinkle?” Nirya asked, biting her lip.


“Yes, that’s her name. She’s been my companion for many years,” Nindh gave the horse a couple good pats.


Oh, of course, she thought, feeling incredibly daft. That’s the horse’s name.


To Nirya, Nindh seemed content with the lapse in concentration. Nirya tried stop thinking about how sore she was already getting from riding.


As the morning wore on—or was it afternoon already?—Nirya began to relax and stopped focusing on Twinkle’s neck so much. They were now passing through a lightly wooded area. There were only younger trees, thick underbrush, and many vines.


“Aren’t there any real forests here?” Nirya asked, breaking the silence between the two of them.


“They used them all up until about thirty years ago,” Nindh chuckled. “It’s funny, really. Nobody thought they’d ever have to worry about replacing trees.”


“I’m sorry,” Elanirya sighed, “but how is that funny?”


“Ah, well,” Nindh was struggling for words. “People here, especially those in charge, are very short-sighted and generally quite arrogant. Trees were a big source of income and they never gave a single thought to doing anything but making profit.”


“I see,” Nirya lied.


“Humans aren’t quite as long-lived as your kind, Elanirya,” he explained, as if it had something to do with it.


“You’re confusing us with elves again,” Nirya laughed. It felt great to laugh. “We live a little bit longer than humans, but it’s really pretty close.”


“Oh,” Nindh seemed surprised. “I’ve always heard differently.”


“So, you were going to tell me your story,” she said, prompting along the conversation as it began to lag again.


“Oh, yes,” he smiled. “I’ll tell, but I confess it is not half as interesting as yours.”


“Well, I’ll be the judge of—”


There was a sudden thrashing sound. Twinkle reared and Nirya fell to the ground, and hitting it hard. She was dazed, but struggled to her feet when she heard men shouting.


Four armed and armored men surrounded Nindh. Nirya watched in horror as they attacked, but he managed to avoid all four blades and kick a blade out of one assailant’s hands.


I need to help, Nirya thought, forcing herself into action. She limped forward to get in range for her own attack.


Nindh somehow managed to avoid getting killed numerous times while delivering powerful punches and kicks at the same time. Nirya tried to move faster—she had to help!—but her leg failed to support her and she fell to the dirt road again.


She looked up, blinking back tears, just in time to see Nindh snatch a blade straight out of a burly man’s grasp, moving almost too fast for her to see. Blood sprayed and men screamed. And then there was silence.


Nindh jogged over to where Nirya lay and helped her to her feet. He was doing an awful lot of that lately.


“Are you hurt?” Nindh asked, panting.


“My leg cramped,” she replied. “I fell off of Twinkle. Are you?”


“Just a scratch on the arm,” he said, pointing to a gash in his shirtsleeve. “Those were no ordinary bandits. They were too well-trained.” Nindh guided her towards a nearby tree. “Here, lean against this. I need to calm Twinkle and see if there is anything on those men that will help me learn exactly who they were. Just slide down the trunk if you need to sit.”


It was not long before Nindh returned. He was carrying a burlap sack and a sheathed sword. Over his shoulder Nirya could see the hilt of another sword.


“Here, take these,” he said as he practically shoved the sword into her arms. “I know you probably don’t know how to use it, but it’ll make you look more fierce.


“Er,” she said thoughtfully.


“There are some clean clothes in this bag—a couple pairs of pants and some shirts. They probably will be a little too big, but will be no trouble for you to cinch them close with your belt.”


She positively beamed at Nindh. Clean clothes sounded so delightful.


“Although,” Nindh paused, humming to himself.


“What?” she prompted.


“Well, I was thinking. There’s a stream nearby,” he said slowly. “If you wanted, you could, uh, wash up before you change.” Nindh looked at her as though he feared her reaction.


“Oh, that’s even more delightful!” she exclaimed gleefully.


“Right then,” Nindh said with relief. “Let’s get on the move again,” Nindh smiled and gave Nirya a shoulder to lean against. “So how do you want to wear your sword, at the waist or on your back?”


“Um, I guess like what you’ve done,” she said. What her mother would say to this!


“Good choice,” he approved. Even though she could not see his face, she could tell that he was grinning. “There’s less of a chance you’ll get it all tangled up between your legs if we’re surprised again. That sword in particular is also slightly curved, which will make it easier to unsheathe.”


“I do hope I don’t need to do that,” she bantered. Her knee ached horribly. “I’m likely to slice off my own head.”


“Well,” Nindh chuckled. “Best we keep it in the scabbard then.”


They finally reached Twinkle. Somehow, Nindh managed secure the sack of clothes to the saddlebags, adjust the strap on Nirya’s scabbard, fit it around her, and keep her steadied all the while. He made everything look so simple. She had trouble keeping her balance, much less trying to mount Twinkle—even with Nindh’s help.


Nirya jumped at every sound after they got underway again, but did not see anything more dangerous than the occasional bird, rabbit, or squirrel.


“So, do you want to still hear my story?” Nindh asked, his voice sounded odd contrasting with the sounds of the wood.


“I’m afraid I would not be such a great audience right now,” Nirya sighed. It was true. Her attention was firmly on blocking the pain that shot through her left leg with each of Twinkle’s steps, yet was still glad she was riding rather than walking. “I’m sorry.”


“It’s nothing to apologize for,” Nindh remarked offhandedly, but Nirya felt as if she had hurt his feelings. “We’re close to the stream if I remember correctly. Are you still up for that?”


“I can’t wait,” she replied. She would gladly bear the strain on her knee to feel clean again. Honestly, she wished she knew how Nindh could tolerate her. She probably smelled worse than a frightened skunk.


Nindh led Twinkle down a small path that ended in a round clearing, obviously used as a campsite many upon many times. Nirya took a deep breath of the air—the smell of fresh water was blissful, permeating the air like a sweet perfume.


After dismounting with Nindh’s assistance, Nirya soon found herself limping towards the stream. According to Nindh, it was just beyond the camp. He seemed reluctant to let her go off on her own, and they came close to an argument, but she disliked the idea of having him looking over her shoulder as she bathed—even if his intentions were honorable. She promised to yell if she needed him.


The stream was not very wide. After removing her belt and shoes, both of which were made of leather, she waded into the stream. Her clothes could use a washing too. The water was almost waist deep, and cold. She stripped down and tried to rinse the layers and layers of dirt from her clothes. They were fairly far-gone. She doubted they would ever look anything more than ratty, giving up and tossing dress and smallclothes ashore.


The shirt she kept to use as a makeshift washcloth. She scrubbed and scrubbed and finally began to wear away at the layers and layers of dirt covering her body. After her skin felt clean again, she rinsed her hair. It took awhile and lots of washing before her hair lost the greasy coating that had built up over the weeks.


Elanirya felt like a completely different person as she emerged from the water. With a minor expenditure of energy she dried her old clothes, putting on her underclothes. She really need more than the one pair. Unfortunately, the burlap sack contained none.


She rummaged around in the bag and managed to find a pair of breeches and a shirt, which looked to be smaller than the others. Another, larger, pair of breeches served as a towel with which she dried herself off, for she did not wish to risk burning her skin with a spell. The clothes did fit loosely, but she tucked the shirt into the breeches and cinched her belt around her waist tightly.


Another little spell and her hair became a little drier. It was easier to run her hands through it while it was damp and drying it more thoroughly risked damaging it. If only she knew something to do about her injuries. She lacked the necessary knowledge and skill to attempt a healing.


When she returned to the campsite, she collapsed happily next to the fire, using the bag of clothes as a pillow to lean against. Nindh was staring at her, mouth agape.


“What’s the matter?” she asked, trying to discern the reason behind his quirky expression. He looked quite comical.


“Nothing!” he yelped. “I mean, uh,” he averted his eyes, his cheeks turning pink. “You’re, ah, more beautiful than I thought you were.”


Nirya blushed and giggled happily. She knew Nindh had no idea how good that made her feel.


“So, anyway, I can tell you why I’m being chased by bounty hunters now,” Nindh said rapidly, launching into the tale before Nirya could respond.


Nirya listened carefully. Nindh had been involved in training a sort of elite group of soldiers at the king’s behest. He apparently disagreed with the king’s political stance on something—of which she was unable to make sense—and refused to carry out some of the king’s orders. The king was not pleased. Nindh, through cleverness and skill, had managed to escape the king’s wrath. He had been on the run every since—which had been nearly six days.


They ate dinner in silence. Nindh kept glancing up at her, but Nirya pretended not to notice. She was running Nindh’s tale through her head, attempting to understand the politics involved. Before she was even half-finished with her meal she gave up. A conversation would have been most pleasant, but she had a strong feeling that any attempt to strike up a discussion would fail miserably.


Nirya curled into her bedroll after eating, trying to think of what she was supposed to be doing with herself. The gods have a plan for everybody, right? Eventually her thoughts faded out and she succumbed to sleep.


Nirya dreamed many things, but when she awoke the next morning, she could only remember bits and pieces fleetingly and was unable to fit them together to make any sense out of it.


The new day progressed much like the previous had, aside from the ambush. Nirya grew more confident riding Twinkle and as a result was in high spirits. She chattered endlessly—another habit of which her mother despised—to Nindh who voiced a grunt every so often. The young forest of sorts thinned away gradually and they emerged into farmland again. They saw a free farmhouses and even a village.


Elanirya wanted to stop in the village. Surely it was time to purchase some more provisions. She desperately wanted a few more underthings as well. Nirya was positive Nindh had money enough from looting the pockets of the dead the preceding day.


“Sooner or later, someone is going to come this way looking for us,” Nindh explained patiently. “The villagers will remember us down to the last hair on our heads and will have no trouble describing us to anybody asking questions.”


“But aren’t we running low on food?” she asked, trying to be persuasive.


“We have enough food,” Nindh growled. “We’ll be staying in Meadowlark tonight anyhow.”


“Meadowlark?” She had never heard of it.


“It’s a sizeable town,” he explained. “Although not as big as Torran.”


“Torran?”


“That’s where I met you,” he chuckled.


“Oh,” she responded, failing to feel amused.


“You know,” Nindh said seriously. “If you’re going to pass as human, then you need to learn a little more about some things. Things that are common knowledge to many people we could come across.”


Nindh began spouting of a barrage of information: names of kings, lords, cities, kingdoms, lakes, rivers, mountains—anything and everything for which humans had a name. He drilled her relentlessly as they continued their journey. By the time they stepped foot into Meadowlark, her mind was reeling from the massive amount of new information. They arrived in Meadowlark sooner than Nirya had imagined they would. There was a good amount of sunlight left to the day.


Nindh led them to an inn straightaway. After giving her a good rubdown and gathering the saddlebags, split between Nindh and Nirya, they went into the inn itself. There were only a few patrons, as it was still early. Nindh expertly bargained for a room and soon they were safely tucked into the small, albeit cozy, room. There was hardly enough room for all of their things—well, Nindh’s things—but the two cots looked comfortable enough.


“Nindh?” Nirya hesitantly asked.


“What is it?” he replied while examining the room’s lock.


“Do you think that I could,” she stuttered, feeling awkward about what she wanted to ask. “I mean, do you mind if we could, er—”


Nindh raised his brows expectantly.


“Can we go shopping?” she finally managed to blurt. “I need some, well, you know—girl things,” she continued, blushing deeply.


“Well,” Nindh stroked his chin. “I suppose we could, as long as you don’t get carried away. We’ve limited funds and Twinkle’s carrying enough as it is.”


“So we can?”


“Sure, let’s go.”


Nirya nearly jumped for joy, but her knee gave her a twinge before she did, as if it was warning her to do no such thing. Nindh smiled and locked up the door as they left. He had to help her down the stairs. For some reason, going up them had been easier.


A hairbrush, some ribbon, a pair of leather boots, a cloak, and some undergarments later, Nirya was still giddy. Somehow, in just a few days, she had gone from near-absolute poverty, starvations, and being alone, to being provided food, shelter, security, and clothing by a newfound—and first ever—traveling companion.


Nirya was browsing through a seamstress’s wares when Nindh grabbed her by the arm suddenly.


“Stay here,” he whispered firmly.


“What is it?” she hissed.


“I thought I saw someone I recognized. If it’s really him—well, just stay here.” He released her arm and disappeared into the crowd.


Nirya waited, chatting inanely with the seamstress. It grew dark and the seamstress close shop, begging off any further conversation. Nirya decided it would be best for her to wait back at the inn for Nindh. Her stomach was in knots. I hope he’s not hurt, she prayed. Or worse.


Nirya thought she knew hot to get back to the inn. She grew frustrated—everything looked so different in the moonlight. She berated herself for not bothering to learn the inn’s name either. So wandered around, hoping to recognize something, taking turns that looked vaguely familiar, but end up at the dead end of an alley. She thought it was the shortcut Nindh had taken to get them to the marketplace.


“So the beautiful swan has trapped herself,” a deep, gravelly voice said, laughing.


Nirya whirled around towards the voice. A large man, with clothing much in the same style as what Nindh always wore but a light grayish color, stood with arms crossed obviously with ill intentions.


“Get away from me,” Nirya warned him, heart pounding quick and hard.


The man stepped forward. Nirya gather her energy—there were no witnesses this time—and unleashed her spell. She gasped as the rope sped towards him and vanished—completely dissipating into the air.


“You can try another one, if you’d like,” the man said conceitedly, taking a step closer. “But you have better luck with that,” he indicated the sword protruding above her shoulders.


Nirya had grown so used to the weight of the blade that she had forgotten it was there. If her magic failed then the sword might be what she needed. She tried to think of another option, but she was running out of time. She carefully unsheathed the blade—wincing as she remembered her joke about cutting off her own head—and held it front of her.


“You’re unarmed,” she said coldly, wondering how fierce she actually looked. “And I’m not.”


The man smiled and charged straight for her. Nirya swung the sword wildly, but hit only air as he dodged. Before she could swing again, there was a blur of motion and a sharp blow to her wrist. Nirya lost her grip on the weapon.


A sharp pain flashed across her stomach. The man chuckled and stepped away as Nirya fell to her hands and knees.


“And here I thought this was going to be more of a challenge,” the man whined. “How disappointing.” Nirya looked up to see something flashing towards her.


A bright bluish-white light filled her vision as her face exploded in pain. She felt herself falling.


“Enough!” someone roared. Nirya was flat on her back and barely had the strength to force herself to roll onto her side to keep from choking on her own blood.


“Ah, I’m so pleased you decided to join the fun, Nindh,” the man’s voice oozed with loathing.


“I should’ve killed you long ago, Tynodius,” Nindh growled.


Nirya struggled to maintain consciousness. Her vision dimmed, but she could hear Nindh launch himself at Tyke with uncanny accuracy. The two men were a blur and the fast-paced ring of metal on metal seemed to echo the throbbing in Nirya’s own head.


She held on for as long as she could.




* * * * *




Nirya opened her eyes. An unfamiliar face peered down at her. She tried to struggle—fear of the worst urging her limbs to action. The woman restrained her with very little force and cooed at her until she calmed.


“Just lay still,” the woman crooned.


“Mmph,” Nirya struggled to demand where she was, but her mouth was not obeying her and stubbornly remained closed.


“It’s fine, Nirya,” the woman continued, stroking her forehead. “You’re safe.”


Tears flooded her eyes.


“Don’t worry,” the woman said. “We’re safe now. Everything’s fine.”


The woman stroked Nirya’s forehead for a time, reminding her of the time when she was much younger and her mother comforted her in much the same way after nightmares. Nirya felt extremely relaxed and even her aches and pains seemed to subside.


The woman stopped stroking her forehead, brushing her hand against Nirya’s cheek. Nirya heard a rustle of cloth and forced her eyes open when she felt lips pressing lightly against her other cheek.


“Wh-what?” she gasped. Both hand and lips vanished from her face quickly. A loud clunking noise came from her right.


“Ah, um, I thought you were asleep.” It was Nindh’s voice. Her eyes finally focused properly on him. His clothes were full of tears and holes and it seemed his body was in no better condition.


Where was the old woman? Looking around, Nirya could find no trace of her. Maybe I was dreaming. But she was uncertain if she had dreamed the kiss. No, it had been real. Her cheek was slightly damp still.


“You’re hurt,” Nirya blurted, trying to sit up. She almost managed it before falling back. Nindh moved incredibly quick to catch her, and succeeded. He carefully arranged pillows behind her before easing her back.


Nindh cleared his throat. His face was bright red. He turned to go, but Nirya instinctively took hold of his wrist, drawing him nearer to her.


“You’re hurt,” she persisted.


“I’m well,” he said, almost whispering. “You almost did not pull through.”


“That was you, wasn’t it? It was part of the dream, but it was you.” Nirya’s smile made Nindh’s face blush even further.


“I was just worr—what are you doing?” Nindh almost yelled as Nirya tried to struggle up again. Nindh reacted exactly as she expected. With one wrist still held by her—although he could have broken free if he truly wished—he was forced to wrap his other arm around Nirya’s back. At precisely that moment, Nirya collapsed again, but this time ended up against his chest.


“No,” she said, almost forcefully, as he tried to move her away. “Just- just hold me.” In his arms, Nirya felt safe. Safe from everything. The logical half of her wanted to laugh at the situation, but it was squelched easily.


His ran his hand up and down her back, sending delightful shivers throughout her being. She could not help but be amazed by such hands. They were firm, strong, and callused yet he held her with a tenderness she had been unaware someone like him could possess.


Suppressing a giddy giggle, she kissed him. There was a moment of hesitation as he tried to pull away, but it was short. Again he surprised her with his gentleness. It was an innocent kiss. Perhaps humans were not as well versed in the art as her kind was. Just as she wanted to take it a step further, he broke it off. She was so stunned he was able to lay her back down.


“I can’t, I mean,” Nindh stuttered, backing away and tripping over half a dozen things as he did. “I have to go buy provisions!” he blurted and ran through the door.


Nirya had no idea what came over her. He was a human, after all. What would Mother say? I suppose I should be glad he didn’t want to go any further. With that thought, she closed her eyes with the intention of sleeping.


But then, why am I so disappointed? Sleep took her.

NINDHANZ
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