Originally posted on my Ko-fi
Tsarra pushed open the front door quietly, the wood protesting with a faint creak. She couldn’t find it in herself to be annoyed at the sound this time.
She set her unstrung bow down in the corner and placed her travelling sack beside it. The house was quiet—she knew everyone would be asleep. Still, she didn’t feel like going to her room; she didn’t really deserve it. Not only had she run off on her own, but she hadn’t even succeeded in her mission.
So she curled up on the ground in the front room, rested her head on her hands, and fell into a fitful sleep.
Tsarra woke instantly at the call of her name. Before she could take stock of anything around her, she noted that her limbs were stiff and sore, so much so that she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get up.
But before she could even try, she froze at the sight of the face before her.
“Elwin?” she mumbled. Why was he in her parents’ house? Her cheeks suddenly felt like they were on fire. One of her hands flew to her hair; it was in a long braid that trailed halfway down her back, but after the adventure of the past few days, many stray locks had come free. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what the rest of her looked—let alone smelled—like.
And, worst of all, she still didn’t know what she was going to say to him.
Oddly enough, Elwin was grinning, kneeling on the ground before her. “Tsarra, I was so worried, you left the note but none of us knew where you’d gone and—” He gasped in a breath, pushing his long dark hair back behind his pointed ears. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
Tsarra couldn’t even begin to formulate a reply. This wasn’t the reception she’d expected at all.
“But…” She trailed off. Was this a dream? “I left you,” she stated, the guilt finally bursting forth as her eyes pricked with tears. “We’re supposed to get married today and I just…” She didn’t know what else to say as Elwin’s expression remained unchanged. Didn’t he realize what she’d done? How much she’d nearly thrown away?
He chuckled once, settling down into a more comfortable position on the floor beside her. Tsarra took the chance to fully sit up across from him.
“I was a little upset when I found out where you’d gone,” he said with a small shrug, his gaze downcast as he picked at loose threads from the rug. “But then I realised that it was probably my fault, anyway.”
“No.” Tsarra reached out and laid her hand on his knee. “It was my own stupidity. I just had this thought that I wanted…” She steeled her jaw. It wasn’t often that she confessed her feelings, even to Elwin.
“I’m jealous,” she spat out. “Of you.”
Elwin’s eyes widened.
“Everyone knows you because of the histories you write; you’re regarded by everyone here and in the next ten forests over. I had this thought that maybe I could do something great too. Then, it wouldn’t just be, ‘Wow, there’s Elwin!’ but ‘Wow, there’s Elwin and Tsarra!’” She couldn’t meet his eyes and joined his activity of picking at the rug. “It sounds really stupid saying it out loud. I was stupid. I shouldn’t have gone.” She let out a deep sigh. “I know it doesn’t begin to cover it, but I’m sorry.”
Elwin covered her hand with his, Tsarra’s skin looking even paler next to his rich, dark complexion. “That’s not a stupid idea, Tsarra. I wish you would have told me that before, but I forgive you completely, all right?”
Tsarra shook her head as she met his eyes. She could have easily been killed, never showing up for their wedding day, leaving him alone without any knowledge of what had happened to her.
“But next time you go out alone to hunt a bloodthirsty beast, I’m totally coming with you,” Elwin added.
Tsarra rolled her eyes and managed to laugh. “Sure. That would go well.”
“I’d have you to protect me.” He squeezed her hand. “You don’t realize how incredible you are, do you? People might not always acknowledge it, but our village wouldn’t even be here without you. You basically manage our entire meat trade—not to mention everything you’ve protected us from.”
“That’s not all me,” Tsarra said, unable to keep from smiling at his faith in her.
“Well, my histories aren’t all me, either,” Elwin replied quickly. “There are all the people I interview, the other scholars before me who have written things down.” He raised his eyebrows. “I basically just put it all together to make it sound good.”
Tsarra sighed again. “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
Elwin just grinned. Tsarra’s mind turning to practicalities again. “What about the wedding? Can we move it to tomorrow?”
Elwin reached out and let his fingertips graze her jaw with the lightest of touches. His eyes were still alight with mirth. but there was a softness in them as well that made Tsarra’s insides seem to melt. “Well,” Elwin said, “getting married with claw marks across your neck would definitely make people notice you. I think it’s amazing.”
Tsarra gasped, having nearly forgotten her close encounter with death. “How does it look, really?”
Elwin beamed sincerely. “Like I said: amazing. No one can question how strong you are after taking a single look at you.”
Tsarra traced the cuts with her own fingertips. The wound had healed a bit since yesterday, as it wasn’t quite as deep as before, but she knew it would take time to heal and leave scars behind. “Maybe we can wait a couple weeks. And I promise I won’t go running off again.”
“You can run off all you want,” Elwin laughed. “It’s not like you’re a wolf on a chain. But it would help me sleep at night if you didn’t go hunting after murderous monsters alone.”
“Deal,” Tsarra said, and swallowed him in a tight embrace.