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2nd of Uktar- First watch-Dagadar

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2nd of Uktar- First watch-Dagadar

Post  TRU on Sat Sep 19, 2009 10:14 am

It was about a half hour into first watch, when Ashara sat upright on the makeshift bed of wheat after some tossing and turning. Eyebrows scrunched together in perceptible aggravation, she pressed her fingers to her temples briefly before giving her braids a frustrated tug. Ashara glanced quickly at the sleeping Elric, then stood to go sit next to Eddick who was keeping watch. Therogeon paid no heed to any of it, so absorbed as he was in the Crown of Silver Flame.

"Eddick, I need to apologize for my outburst in Thenden's tomb..." She looked at the ground as she spoke, playing sheepishly with a small pebble. "I'm sorry I called you nosey...old and nosey at that! I didn't mean any of it. Not even the part about minding your own business." With obvious effort, Ashara, raised her gaze to meet his. "It's just that...I mean...I was caught off guard a bit, you see...I just wasn't expecting that."

"I thought I was being more discreet about my feelings than I guess I have been. It just took me aback when you so casually alluded to them. I'm not angry with you, please don't think that. I just...I feel like a silly little girl. I hate feeling like this."

She bit her lip hard, and stared down the tunnel into the blackness, wanting to say more but wondering if it would be silly or embarrassing to do so.

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Eddick sat up and was pondering the current events. Up until that point, he had been along for the ride, just helping out a friend through a dangerous time. But his mind wandered to King Thenden. He understood well the burden of unearned, inadvertent authority. Whether by birth or accident, he felt like they could understand each other. He was busy imagining the newly raised king standing in his glowing waters with that sad, faraway look in his eyes when someone softly sat next to him.

A small smile curled his lips at the edge of his mouth, perhaps not even seen through his beard as the young cleric confessed her fault. As she spoke, different memories flashed through his mind of a time that seemed a lifetime ago. When it became clear that she wished him to respond, Eddick did so with a shining eye and a clearing of his throat.

"My dear, don't let this matter trouble your s-- keep you awake. I forgave you that very instant." Eddick shifted in his cross-legged position to allow circulation to his legs.

"I learned long ago not to hold a person's emotional outbursts against them. I was married for nineteen years and have two daughters full of fire and passion. If I were to hold grudges about such things, I would not be able to hold anything else, and there is still yet much to do." Eddick paused and looked down the tunnel in the same direction as Ashara.

"Also, it is a sign of maturity that a person apologizes unbidden. Most children must be forced to admit their faults. Though you feel like a little girl, you are far from it; certainly much farther than many childish nobles I have known. Not only do I think this way, but Lathander himself chose you for this mission, a noble quest to restore light to this dark place. This is no place for children, and Lathander knows this. He sent you because he knew you could handle it." The weathered old man leaned in to give his next statement more weight. "I have faith in you as well."

He sat back up straight and streched out his legs, bones cracking throughout the process. "Besides, I am old." He smiled brightly. "And although my nose is no Gnome's envy, It has gotten bigger as I've a- gotten older.

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"I cannot express how much it means that you have faith in me, Eddick."
Ashara lowered her eyes, unable to hold his knowing gaze with hers for long.

"It's been a long while since I had a father-figure to talk with, I hope that doesn't offend you... Ebbard, my adoptive father loved me after a fashion, yes, but I never felt like his daughter. Josiah, I think, was the only man that cared for me in that way. I miss him terribly...I would give anything to have him here with me now."

The priestess pulled at the heavy chain chafing her shoulders.

"I feel like these tunnels are closing in on me. I imagine you may feel the same, having been so long away from your plains. I'm not ashamed to tell you how mentally, emotionally and physically draining this place has been on me. The amount of magic I've played the conduit for over these past days would have crippled me only a few months ago. Lathander has blessed me with the strength to accomplish this task, however unworthy I might be..."

She stole a quick glance over at Elric again, making sure he was soundly asleep before speaking in a voice strained with emotion.

"Eddick... You have done so much in your life so far. Seen so much! Never in my life have I had these feelings before, not for a mortal anyway... I don't know what to do with them! Is it heretical to feel this strongly, when I belong firstly to Lathander?"

As if realizing the things she was finally saying aloud, Ashara clutched her knees close to her. Heavy tears welled up in her eyes and she brushed them away angrily.

"Look at me, I'm a mess! I feel like I'm losing my mind! I can barely keep it together during our watches. Lathander help me if I start talking in my sleep! I've even been having a hard time focusing as we're traveling through these tunnels... It's madness!"

She looked up at Eddick doe-eyed. "I let him know that night before we entered Dagadar, that I had feelings for him, but I fled back to you all before I could see his reaction. Most of me doesn't want to know right now...not down here, not when so much is on the line!" The priestess gritted her teeth and gave her braids another good yank. "I wish that I had said something back in Waterdeep...why did I wait so long?! I am such a coward, and such an idiot for telling him just before we came here!"
She took a deep breath, to try and stem the flood of words. Pausing a moment before continuing, she collected herself, then looked the druid in the eyes once again.

"What am I supposed to do? The only thing worse than feeling this way would be knowing how Elric really feels."

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Eddick reaches over to place a withered hand on her quivering shoulder. "I w- let me tell you a story." He hesitated a moment before he spoke, paying the emotional price of bringing up such a dear memory. His eyes darkened.

"When I was a young boy of 14, Silverthorne Keep was besieged by a massive kobald army. The best way to break a siege of cowardly humanoids is to sally forth and slay their leader. So we set out to do exactly that. My father and mother and twelve knights and a young, headstrong, smallish noble went to seek him out. Overwhelmed by numbers we began to drop, one by one. The knights were valiant and sold their lives with the enthusiasm of a Waukeenite at the bazaar, leaving hundreds of dead in their wake. My parents lingered longer, as we neared the cowardly Kobald king. My mother took a spear for me...My father..." His voice trailed off, tears staining his cheeks down to his beard.

Eddick cleared his throat and continued. "When the kobald army fled, I was injured, but alive, along with three of the knights. Not only had I to live with my grief, but I had now the responsibility to be the lord of the Keep. It was nothing I ever expected. I was the third son, I had two older brothers who were capable of great deeds, but they were gone adventuring, and I was home and a hero.

"When I was attending the ceremony, M- a girl I had played with as a child came to me and confessed her love." Eddick leaned Ashara's way and raised his eyebrows. "It was the worst possible time." He leaned back on his hands in a reclining position. "I don't know what it is
with women, but I can assure you, you are not alone in this." He looked up at the ceiling with his shoulders pushed up to his ears. "She always did have the worst timing" The old druid's eyes began shining again.

"Shock." He whispered. "That's the only thing that went through my mind. I was already stressed and grieving and worried and feeling quite inadequate. And then she did it, she laid all of that on top of what I had. I could not answer her for a month. I just did not have
any words to say. Eventually I came up with the right ones: marry me. She did, but only after punching me in the eye for waiting so long. But that whole month, she had cried. I think you know why."

Eddick sat back up straight and grabbed his bare toes with his hands, pulling them back into a cross-legged position. "A wise man once told me, 'Better is open rebuke than hidden love.' You have done the right thing, Ashara. You have done your part. Now you must wait until he is ready. You must trust him. If you do not trust him now, you will not be able to trust him later when even greater stresses than this will threaten to tear you apart. If he is not worthy of your trust, breaking it now will be a kindness to you, but I don't think that will
happen.

"Elric is a good hearted, kind, gentle and powerful man... way better than that ranger character who couldn't even pronounce my name. Repeat to yourself how well you know his character, and you will be rest assured."

"As far as Lathander goes, I'm sure he won't get jealous. If it were not for his blessing on the love of those who follow him, I wouldn't even be here today. Besides, they hold two very different places in your love. Just like you are not betraying Josiah either with the
fact that you are in love with that one." He motions with his head toward Elric and winks. "All women grow until they must be given away. But even though they are gone, they hold a special place in their hearts for us, and we in theirs."

Eddick reaches over and places his hand on Ashara's hand that is tugging on her braid nearest him and stretches it out and sets it on her knee. "So if you must cry, go ahead and cry to cleanse your eyes. Then you will see and feel better. If you want, I can cry too. Then maybe you won't feel so alone."

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Tears continued to trickle silently down Ashara's flushed cheeks, as she listened intently to Eddick's tale. As he finished, she leaned her head on his shoulder and hugged him tightly.

"I'm so sorry for all of the losses you've suffered, my friend, and I'm immeasurably grateful to have you here with us. I can see by how you talk about her, that you loved your wife deeply...I wish I could have known her, she must have been a remarkable woman."

She pulled away from the druid and wiped his now tear-stained shoulder dry with the end of a braid.

"It is not that I don't trust, Elric," Ashara stated, smiling brightly at her friend, "but rather that I don't trust myself. When I woke up in Waterdeep from my fish-induced sleep, it was as if I was seeing through different eyes. Perhaps living within the darkness for so long allowed me to better see those with truly bright spirits. I'd known him all of my life, but I had never really seen him until that day. I was blinded."

The priestess shifted uncomfortably as she continued.

"I have done great evil in my short life, Eddick. Though I was not myself, I remember it vividly. I remember plotting, carrying out, and..., " Ashara shuddered visibly, "and enjoying acts of horror befitting a follower of the Mad God. I will live with those memories all of my life, and live with the guilt of them. He deserves to love someone who has never committed such evil. If he chooses to reject my overture, I assure you, I will shed no tears on my own behalf."

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The hug and the physical affection she showed Eddick deeply moved the old druid. Having left his family behind, he had left all hope of being treated this way. Even though he was sitting, it looked as he grew about three inches.

"When I left my home, I felt like they were complete, and they did not need me around anymore. Now, th- I know you feel like this place is closing in on you, but I feel very different. Being down here with my friends, beating the odds, setting things right, moments like these, This makes me feel better than I have in many years. I wouldn't trade it for anything." He stopped to consider things a moment "Although, it would be awful nice to be able to run as fast as I can through endless fields in the sun right now."

Eddick turned to address the young woman with the softness of ripe wheat in late summer. "My dear girl, you can measure love by the distance one is willing to go for another. When we discovered your malady, Elric is the one who would not rest until you were first restored to us, and then restored to your proper self. He flew with Cadderly to retrieve you. He guarded you while you slept. We traveled halfway across Faerun because we had hope in who you were, not what you were doing at the time.

"I can say this with certainty. We all love you, and we will support you no matter the cost. The only reason Elric is hesitant is that he felt he never had a chance with you in the first place. He holds strong to his heritage as a Half-elf and views himself as undesirable because of his outward appearance. You hold strong to your past and view yourself as undesirable because of your deeds and your weakness."

The old druid stretched out his legs again. "You are both idiots. I love you, but you are both idiots." He smiled a smile with such brightness it betrayed his noble background. "Love is not about you, it is about the other person. When you seek their best and can forget yourself for the sake of another person's happiness, that is when you can truly feel something entirely different.
"You do not trust Elric, because you do not believe his view of who you are. You also do not trust Lathander, because you do not accept yourself when he has accepted you. That is the source of your pain, not the past, not the fear of rejection. If you have something wrong with your eye, you can do nothing but rub it and make it red. Another person with a clear eye can help, but only if you trust. Emotion is a powerful thing, but it clouds the eyes, and you feel the opressive humidity before the storm. Let it rain, accept the cleansing waters and be free. You are surrounded by friends, there is no safer place."

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Ashara reeled back and inhaled sharply, as if physically struck, stung by the undeniable wisdom of his words. She wondered now if she had ever truly trusted Lathander...had ever truly trusted her family and friends. Trust is a frightening thing. Feeling inadequate was a safety net for her. Failing a task could be explained by inadequacy. Losing control of one's mind could be explained by inadequacy. Being rejected by her family and the one she loves could be explained by inadequacy....

"I've been setting myself up for failure my entire life," the priestess managed to choke out in a strangled whisper.

Reaching up with a shaky hand, she pulled her glowing holy symbol from beneath her chain shirt. "Lathander forgive me...and thank you for trusting in me when I hadn't the trust in you.

Ashara took Eddick's hands in hers, gently kissing each of his palms. "Thank you for this gift you have given me. To speak plainly and truthfully is the mark of a true friend."

She glanced once again at the sleeping form of the man who had championed her salvation, and her heart caught firmly in her throat. "I never knew that he..."

Tears rolled down her cheeks again, but this time, instead of brushing them away, she simply let it rain.

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When the young cleric began to cry, Eddick knew the time for speaking was at an end. He sat with her and placed his hand on her head and shoulder as she wept. It was a sacred moment, one that all those awake knew not to interrupt.

As Ashara went back to bed and thanked him, All Eddick could do is nod and smile. Plucking a thorn from the hoof of a spirited mare was a nervous situation. You must do it or she would become lame over time. But then again, she could inadvertently kick. It took a whole lot of trust for the mare to calm herself and accept the momentary pain for the sake of healing, but once it was done it was not long until she was as good as new.

When he heard her breathing become regular again, he settled back into his cross legged position and viewed the edge of darkness in a stoic manner. "Thank you all for not butting in, able or no."

Feeling exhilarated and drained at the same time, the druid resumed his commiseration with the king, and made a secret vow in his heart to end his suffering as well, as best he could.

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Her tears were brief, but cleansing, mending some of the ancient cracks in her heart, and washing away some of the guilt that had settled within. It would take time, but Ashara believed that with the love of Lathander and the love of her friends, she could feel whole once again.

The roiling emotions in her mind had calmed, and she was left with a growing sense of confidence, belonging and purpose. Suddenly the tunnels didn't seem so dark, and the walls didn't feel as close. The priestess turned a bright smile to the druid.

"If I hadn't known you until after Josiah had passed, I would have thought he had returned to me in a different form. You are much alike in many ways, my dear Eddick."

Ashara yawned deeply a threw her braids back over her shoulders.

"It seems that time has slipped past me once again. I should probably catch what little sleep is left to me so I can be ready for tomorrow's foray into the darkness. Thank you again for creating the bed of wheat to sleep on, it's a welcome depature from the cold, unforgiving rock!"

She hugged Eddick again briefly, then walked silently back over to her pallet. Did Elric's arm just stiffen a bit as she moved past him?

The priestess smiled to herself as she bunched up the wheat into a makeshift pillow, and covered herself with her cloak. She dreamed that night of running through vast fields with the sun on her face, somehow unable to catch up with the much older druid in front of her.

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From her seat on the sleeping Minotaur's horn, the young pixie heard it all.

Inwardly, Gwilly had gone from sighing longingly and throwing passionate fits throughout the whole conversation between Ashara and Eddick. Outwardly, she had been as quiet as a church mouse (something she can do when she chooses).

Finally, after many tears, the conversation dies off and Gwilly watches Ashara head back to bed. Waiting a few minutes to make sure no one is listening, Gwilly flies off her perch and hovers over the group for a second, unable to decide what it is she really wants to do about this predicament.

She looks over toward Elric, a mortal that she has come to love and trust almost as much as she does Eddick. Its funny that their names start with the same sound, Gwilly muses, yet they are so much different from eachother. "<He should marry that girl,>" she mutters in Pixie, shaking her head.

Her gaze turns to Ashara, who is, by now, fast falling asleep. Gwilly gives a start when she realizes that the young maiden warrior-priest is already in slumber. "I knew I shouldn't have waited so long..." she exclaims in frustration. "Oh well, here goes!" With that she flies down next to Ashara's ear, her wings making the faintest whispering. "Ashara!" she cries softly into her ear. But Ashara doesn't waken. Taking the braid nearest her in both hands, Gwilly tugs on it gently and whispers again-"Ashara!"

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*She ran with wild abandon through the golden fields, chasing a grey unicorn who was galloping swiftly toward the trees, when suddenly she felt herself flying, being lifted by one of her braids into the air!*

"Ashara!"

The priestess awoke with a start, clutching the medallion on her chest. "Gwilly! What is it, what's wrong!?", she whispered as quietly as she could.

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"Ashara?" Gwilly looked questioningly at her for a moment. Then, with a brilliant illusion of delicate pink tea roses Gwilly asks, "Ashara, may I be your flower girl?"

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Fear of attack subsided and confusion set in. "What are you talking about??", she questioned, rubbing the fog of sleep from her eyes to see the beautiful roses Gwilly had created. The flowers were the same color as the petals that Lathander sent to her each dawn. She could almost smell them, so perfect was the illusion.

Flower girl? The dawn of comprehension rose over Ashara's features at set her cheeks ablaze. Gasping and sputtering, she tried to pull herself together.

"Gwilly," the priestess managed to squeak out, "I think that might be a little premature..." She pounded on her chest gently, willing her heart to continue beating. "If anything like that were ever to happen though, I'm sure you will be the first to hear of it."

Ashara smiled sheepishly at where she thought the pixie might be. "If a day like that ever came, I would probably ask you to be my maid of honor, if you would be willing, and you would be free to throw whatever kind of party you wished."

She chuckled softly, and reached out to kiss what she hoped was the appropriate cheek of the pixie.

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Joy thrills through Gwilly's tiny pixie veins. "I would be glad to!" she exclaimed! As Ashara reached out for her cheek, Gwilly's face became visible in the darkness, shining with joy and grinning from ear to ear.

"I'll let you sleep now." Gwilly whispered. "I hope you dream of good things! Good night." And with that, Gwilly flew off, trailing what looked like bright pink glittery sparks behind her. After making some very happy, intricate designs in the air, Gwilly landed on one of Kaber's horn's again. It was time to think and plan just how she would decorate for the party at Ashara and Elric's wedding.

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Ashara breathed deeply as Gwilly sparks winked out just before they touched her face. She wasn't sure how asking Eddick to forgive her, had somehow turned into the pixie making wedding plans...

Gwilly's eternal optimism was a gift to all of them, and Ashara wasn't about to squash her plans now if it made her happy. The priestess however, knew that not only was that Elric's decision to make, but they had to first live through Dagadar, then defeat whatever other forces were threatening the southwest of Faerun, as was the charge Lathander had given her.

At the thought of all the work that had yet to be done, Ashara fell promptly into a deep and dreamless sleep.
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