Gray and Fayne almost get into an argument... Fayne and Valla almost get into an argument... Valla and Harold almost get into an argument... but somehow, the elves think that an alliance between the Chimeras and Akalai could be possible.
Sleeping and then waking up without the fresh memory of a nightmare was a luxury that I rarely had. But when I woke up after falling asleep on the patio, I woke up very slowly and with many aches in my arms and back, and I had been moved upstairs. I closed my eyes again, curling my body into the fetal position and pulling my tail over my torso and face to shield it from the light filtering through the door.
I could hear someone move behind me. It was one of the elves. All of them were there, a short distance away from me. Well… the ones who had fought alongside me and the other chimeras were. I wondered how they were feeling. I thought about turning over to look at them, but the aches from being sick were still seizing my whole body. I pulled my arms around my tail and tried to rest my head in my fur to drown out everything.
“Gray, are you awake?” I heard a whisper behind me. It was Fayne. I growled a little bit. “I’ll take that as a yes. It’s good to see you’re okay.” I didn’t stop growling. “...Valla was getting really worried about you, you know.”
Only then did I turn around, a sudden fire of anger in my veins. I was fully prepared to remind him that my relationship with Valla was none of his business, especially considering what she had told me about their country. But… as soon as I saw his face… he hadn’t meant any harm. I looked at him for a long moment. The marks on his face from where the dust had scarred him were only fading a little bit. And his eyes were… honest.
“How long have you been awake?” I asked.
“Not long. It’s been almost a full day. I’ve never slept that long before…”
“I see.” I hesitated before saying anything, listening closely to the other elves. Fayne was the one to break the moment of silence.
“You and Valla have been talking a lot, haven’t you?”
“Is there a problem with that?”
Fayne hesitated. “Not right now, no. But I’d be lying if I pretended to not be worried about it.”
I sighed, and closed my eyes. I didn’t like to show my vulnerabilities, but I had a feeling he wasn’t worried about me intentionally hurting her… it was more due to what Valla had talked to me about before. “No chimeras are going to hurt us for it, Fayne. If anything, same-sex relationships help us. There’s no chance of accidental pregnancies and the dangers that come from that.”
“I’m not talking about that, though,” Fayne said, shaking his head. “When Valla came in, she said-”
We both stopped when we heard Valla’s footsteps coming in. I looked over my shoulder towards the stairs. Valla was glaring- at both of us.
“If you two start fighting, I’m telling Shadowforth to give you both sleeping medicine,” she said, her voice almost a hiss. My face went a little red.
“Sorry,” I whispered. Fayne sighed.
“Valla, I’m worried about how your parents would react,” Fayne said. Valla motioned to him to stop talking.
“You think I’m looking forward to seeing them again?” Valla shook her head. “It’s going to suck no matter what. I just want to be around people who care about me for who I am when it happens, Fayne.”
“And you will be,” Fayne said. “I’ll be there, Safiena will be there, and… well, I hope Gray will be there for you, too.”
“Oh, I will be,” I growled. Fayne nodded.
“But… I’m scared of what would happen to you two if your family caught you getting involved with another woman again, Valla.”
Valla knelt in front of me, hanging her head. “I know, I know.”
There was a long moment of silence. It looked like Fayne was about to say something, but there was a footstep outside, and Valla quickly motioned for Fayne to stop. He did so. She looked down at the bucket she had brought up as Harold came in, his daughter right behind him, looking around. She looked down at me, and blinked.
“I still can’t believe even she got sick,” Anna said, shaking her head.
“It’s something we’re all struggling with,” Valla said, looking at her over her shoulder. “Are you guys done talking to Sentinel?”
“Yes. We’re going to do it, but we need you with us, Valla.”
Valla closed her eyes and hung her head again. Fayne was pretending to be asleep, or spacing out. It was too late for me to do the same, and even if I had the option, I would rather let Valla know I was there for her. I looked up at her, but she just seemed to get more irritated. She stood up and turned around to face Harold.
“Will I have to send a message to my family?”
“Yes, princess,” Harold said. I could hear an unusual softness in it. Did he know…?
“We need a clearing, then. Away from the forest.”
“And we’ll need protection,” Valla said, narrowing her eyes. “And I’m not just talking about protection from other people.”
Harold thought for a second. “From the dust…? Are you suggesting that…” Harold looked at me, slightly surprised. Anna peered out from behind him.
Valla looked down at me, with a shaking sigh. “I mean… I… I don’t want… Gray doesn’t… have to be the one but…” She shook her head, and looked down. Then, she looked at Anna. “I don’t have any rags to soak the blackberry leaf tea in, Anna. Could you go get some from Shadowforth?”
“Why me?” Anna whined. Harold put his hand on her shoulder.
“It’s just a favor, Anna,” Harold said. She pouted, but walked out to the stairs. As soon as her footsteps had faded, Harold turned back to Valla. “Valla. I’m not going to judge you, but you know your parents better than anyone else.”
“Harold, I… I’m not… Gray doesn’t have to come with. But the ritual is a secret, for my family and those who have my family’s blessing.”
“Gray isn’t your family and doesn’t have your family’s blessing.”
“I-” Valla stopped, and shook her head. “It could be necessary. And she’s… she’s closer to me than any other chimeras… so… we could…” Valla trailed off, looking to her side.
“...We could propose a political marriage?” Harold asked, his voice low and uncertain. Valla immediately looked back at him.
“The chimeras don’t really have a system of marriage. And I wouldn’t be comfortable with that, and the only way my parents would be comfortable with it is if they hated the chimeras enough to feel it would be better for me to not have a chance of getting pregnant. So if they hated chimeras more than they hate the fact that I’m a lesbian.”
“I hope that isn’t the case…”
“I have no hope for my family, Harold.”
“We don’t have to tell them that she’s there, though, Valla.”
“If it’s my sister who catches the message, she’ll know.”
“Why even are you two arguing about this?” Fayne growled, glaring at them both. I glanced at him. “Gray hasn’t even offered to go with. And why would she need to?”
“The dust,” Valla said. “The chimeras know how to tell when it’s coming better than any of us do.”
“You still haven’t asked her if she is willing to go with.”
Valla knelt next to me and sighed. “Because I don’t know if it would ruin everything,” she said.
“I’d be willing to come with to help with that,” I said. Valla looked down at me and smiled, but averted her eyes as if trying to hide her smile. “I can keep my distance somewhere and only approach if we need to take shelter.”
“Perhaps that would be a good compromise,” Harold said.
Valla nodded, and looked at me. “Fayne, Safiena, Nayila, and Gray still need to recover, though.”
“Of course. We’ll make plans as soon as they’re all able.”
I glanced at Fayne. He was looking at Valla, and then he looked at me. I almost saw him smile, but instead he looked over at the other elves, and seemed to fall back asleep.