Gheris resisted the urge to jolt up. The movement almost seemed like a trick of the mind at first, but then the thin bedroll, and thus her side, began to scrape against the dirt, small pebbles and sticks scratching at the fabric. And there was a blanket on top of her that had most definitely not been there before. She remained still, opening her eyes slowly. Whatever – whoever – was moving her was to her other side, however. What was she being moved for? And closer to the fire?
She knew it! Again she kept herself still. They were trying to kill her…but by burning her? Really? And so roughly? She was a light sleeper! Surely they knew that by now.
Lothaire stopped pulling for an instant, searching for a good spot to place Gheris along side the fire. He gave one last gentle tug before moving to her feet and carefully sliding her in a perpendicular position to the fire.
A large, bulky man came into view, most certainly not an elven shape. Lothaire! Of all people! That made no sense. If they wanted to toss her into a fire, Lothaire could easily have just picked her up and thrown her in. He was much larger and much stronger than her…enough that she was sure she never wanted to fight him head-on. And he was a watchful, wary man, so she was not certain she could easily sneak up on him. Naessa was well-protected, indeed…if the human would truly protect her.
And…and… and… and he left her by the fire. There was no more movement. She was just close enough to have warmth fill her, wild curly hair to toes, but not close enough to burn. And that was all. She could stand it no more and sprung up, lightly slipping out of the man’s reach, hand or sword.
“What are you doing?” she hissed quietly.
The large chevalier had taken a step back, ready to leave, when she acted and he was surprised by her swiftness. Never one to be startled easily, Lothaire kept a passive expression as he replied in hushed tones. “You were going to freeze out there.” He offered as if this statement explained everything.
She remained tensed, ready to dart away quickly if he moved. Her eyes searched him and the area behind him, as if seeking traps. “Your oath was to Naessa, not me. Mind your own business.”
“Making sure each one of us is at their best is my business.”
She sneered and raised the pitch of her voice mockingly, “And we’re all just darling!” She glared, her voice normal again. “Don’t touch me. I know Naessa may be easy to fool, but I am not.”
Lothaire made a slow motion indicating to keep her tone down. “I apologize then. I would like to understand though, if such a small thing disturbs you so, then why are you here? As I recall, you wanted to leave.”
A snort. “I still do want to leave. Just because I’m here does not mean I revel in your company.” Tentatively, she reached over and snatched her sleeping bag, clutching it to herself. The blanket was left on the ground, though she eyed it covetously. “I still must find Grandmother…and ensure something is done about Geoffrey.” Her eyes flicked back to Lothaire. “Don’t you have something better to do than to interrogate the one sane elf?”
“Considering that was my blanket, I was obviously not planning on going back to sleep. So no.” There was a pause as he moved a log closer to her and sat on it. With a crooked smile, as if sharing some private joke with himself, he continued. “If you are the one sane elf as you put it, how about you enlighten an old man?”
She eyed his back before clawing the blanket to her and wrapping it around herself, eyes always on the human. “Don’t mock me.”
“Well you certainly have no qualms at belittling everyone else, so why shouldn’t I? Unless you are ready to drop the snide comments and move on to the next step?”
Gheris stuck out her chin. “I do not belittle anyone. Just the opposite, in fact!”
Lothaire raised a questioning eyebrow. “It seems our notion of praise differs greatly then.”
She growled. “I do not praise them, I am honest with them. You all, you belittle me!”
“How so? If I may ask” He asked with a thoughtful expression.
“Are you blind?” she demanded, incredulous. “Or perhaps deaf!” She tapped her foot. “You all see me as a nuisance! You think I don’t see you making faces and jokes?” She shook her head. “I’m not stupid.”
“Is that so? If you were such a nuisance, I would not have gone through the trouble of moving you. Especially since I knew you would disapprove.”
“You ‘knew’, did you?” she snarled. “I won’t pretend to know your motives, but there’s no reason for you to care! Stay out of my way!” Even in lowered tones, she still managed to add the intensity of yelling behind her words. Tearing off the blanket from her own shoulders, she threw it at Lothaire. “And take back your stupid blanket, I don’t need it, or you, or your help!”
The bulky man refused to be goaded and gave the smaller elf a hard stare as he caught the blanket with one hand. “I know you don’t need any help!” He said sharply before returning to his more placid tone. “But that does not mean you should reject any help offered to you. Perhaps in your anger you feel you don’t deserve it or perhaps there is something else to it. I will not pretend to fully understand you, nor will I judge you, that is not my place. Yet, I cannot help but think that your current attitude is self-destructive and that is a shame.”
“Well, thank you, father!” she snapped. “If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it, and your ‘I don’t judge’ attitude is getting on my nerves! That wasn’t your response when I tried to leave before!”
“You were right then, I should not have said what I did.” He conceded with a nod. “My own shame drove me to say those words and I wish instead someone had been there to say them to me when I fled; but Oriane was always too kind and here we are instead.”
She blinked at him, seemingly surprised by his concession. But as always, she was not to be deterred. She stomped her foot. “I’m not fooled! We’ll see how shameful the words seem when you find an excuse to betray Naessa and the Valwe!”
Lothaire’s brow furrowed in anger at the words and for an instant he seemed ready to pounce on the surly elf, but he contained himself with a deep breath. “Maker knows I have been patient and understanding, but you insist on keeping to your insults.” He rose, towering over her, as he glared down on her. “If you wonder why the world seems bent on slighting you, perhaps you should take a short pause from your contemptuous little quips and take a good look at why they are doing it!” By the end of the diatribe, Lothaire’s voice was harsh with anger and as if not caring what Gheris would think or say, he simply threw the blanket on to his bedroll before leaving the camp.
Gheris glared after him, anger shaking her arms. She kicked at the dirt. Too much energy now. No sleep! No sleep could come. And she didn’t want to wake up the others. It would lead to more talking and another inquisition or mockery. She stomped away in the opposite direction.