Her face was raw and sore with salted tears, though she was grateful that he wasn’t awake to see her expression of weakness.
She rubbed his hand tenderly in hers, the light sensation of his rough hands on hers causing another tear to drip from her cheek, striking her knee. He wore a light, brown robe, open in the chest, covered by the silken sheets. She wore her white tank top and shorts, looking ragged and tired.
For almost a week, Zij had spent most of his time unconscious, a thick poison running through his veins. Jumwa, however, assured her that the trance that Zij was currently in would stall the poison, preserving him from further harm.
It had been an incredibly hard week for Draeka, dealing with her own sadness as well as the Tribe’s confusion, and their collective inability to do anything for him. It was all left in Jumwa’s hands, a shaman that proclaimed himself Inquisitor of the Tribe. Every time he spoke, he left the same sour taste in her mouth that she was used to only around warlocks. Try as she might, she couldn’t trust him.
She frowned, looking down at Zij’s peaceful face, her lower lip quivering. She’d never understand her lover’s penchant for trusting the untrustworthy, ignoring all the signs that his friends weren’t as good as he seemed to think, but she loved him for it. He had the trust in others that she lacked, and helped her to see the world in a new colour that she hadn’t ever seen before.
The door downstairs creaked, and she rubbed her eyes furiously, rising to her feet and reaching for her mace, raising it and moving swiftly to the door, rushing down the stairs with a growl. Stopping as she saw the familiar grey hair, she dropped her mace to the side, staring up at Jumwa and crossing her arms across her chest. “Don’t you knock?” she growled, turning her back on him and walking up the steps, her mace still clasped in her hand.
He frowned, his face looking serious, as usual, as he followed her, watching her carefully as the walked up the curving wood staircase, “I didn’t know ju would be here for certain.”
She scoffed silently, dragging the mace as though it were taking all her energy just to keep it from knocking into the stairs, her eyes baggy and dark from lack of sleep. She pulled her tank top down, covering what skin she could, muttering softly, “didn’t know you were comin’ right now. Sorry fer the mess,” she spoke glumly and insincerely.
Stepping into the room, he looked around, eying the disarray and nodding, “Not at all. It mattahs little, I suppose, in light of circumstances.”
Looking back at her, he studied her face, “Ju do not look well.”
She shrugged, returning to her spot on the bed, grabbing Zij’s hand again, looking down at him, “I’ll be fine. Just tired,” she sighed softly, stroking the back of his hand. After a few minutes of silence, she tore her eyes from him to Jumwa, swallowing a little, “you’ll wake him?” she questioned, her voice hopeful but laced with dread. Jumwa looked down at Zij, and knelt onto the floor before looking to Draeka, “Not yet. Aftah I commune wit’ him, he will wake himself from his slumbah to confirm what he said t’rough me,” he paused, “as we discussed.”
She nodded slightly, turning back to look at Zij, rubbing her tired and itchy eyes with her free hand, taking in a deep breath, speaking quietly, “okay…” she paused, wanting to say more but stopping herself, shifting on the bed, bringing her legs over the side, her hand behind her, still touching Zij’s, reluctantly turning her head to Jumwa, “do I need ta do anythin’?”
He shut his eyes and shook his head slightly, “just be quiet.” Crossing his legs, he rested his arms atop them, going completely silent for a while, the moment dragging on. Finally, after an extended period, a voice cut through the silence; a voice eerily similar to that of the Troll lying unconscious on the bed. “Drae?”
Draeka shivered, her voice caught in her throat for a moment, straining to keep the tears from flowing out of her eyes. Her attempts proved fruitless as her raw cheeks were soon covered in salty liquid. She sniffled loudly, looking between the two trolls, squeezing Zij’s hand tightly, whimpering out his name. Slowly Jumwa’s eyes open, and he peered over at Draeka, his voice that of Zij’s still, “Drae… it’s okay. Don’t ju cry. I’ll be alright, at least ’til dey find a solution to de problem.”
She sobbed again, then took a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds, forcing a tiny smile, looking away from Jumwa and looking down at Zij, squeezing his hand, “Of course yer gonna be okay. Can’t leave us all now, ya know.”
Through Jumwa, Zij frowned and looked down slightly, before smiling a bit and nodding, “Ja. I couldn’t bare to leave my Tribe.
“Especially not ju, Drae.”
“Jindal an’ Barath really miss ya, they wanna see ya, but I figured it’d be best ta let ya get yer rest an’ all that. You missed the New Years party,” she smiled softly, lying, “I had a good time fer the both of us, though.”
Smirking a little, he rubbed his palms on his knees, “Liah,” he chuckled softly, “Ju can bring ’em in… maybe Jindal can ‘elp too. I don’t wanna be stuck in bed forevah… well, not unless ju are dere too.”
She smiled, looking a little relieved, leaning down and kissing his cheek softly, followed by his nose, “ain’t much fer spending every day in bed, ya know.” She frowned a little, looking a little confused as she squeezes his hand, “can ya feel that?”
He looked at her sadly as she gripped the hand of his near lifeless body, “No. I can’t. I… I miss jour touch. But… someday… someday soon I’ll be fine. Aint de first time I’ve been poisoned like dis ju know.” His voice picked up at the end, sounding almost boyish to her in his optimism.
Chuckling, she nodded, squeezing his hand regardless, stroking the back of it with her finger, leaning in and kissing his cheek again, “how often d’you think we can chat like this?” she mumbled softly, nearly too softly for Jumwa to hear.
Pausing, he watched her intensely, his thoughts running on about her. His voice came out a bit low but steady “Dat depends… depends on how often Jumwa wishes ta ‘elp us.”
She nodded, looking at him pathetically, squeezing his hand, speaking in a coarse voice, “Can you feel this?”
He smiled a little, one corner of his lips curling up as he looked down and shook his head, “No. I don’t really feel anyt’in’ like dis. Disconnected from my body… it was necessary undah de circumstances.”
She smiled, nodding again, at an obvious loss of words, lovingly stroking his cheek. She sat like that for a moment, before asking in a quiet voice, “anythin’ you need me to do?”
Looking down, he stares at Jumwa’s feet. After a break he opens his mouth, the beginning of a word, and then starts again, “Don’t worry. No mattah what ‘appens, I’ll live t’rough dis. Jus’… a mattah o’ time. So ju deal wit’ dat… do whatevah ju can dat I woulda done, an’… be ‘appy. ‘opefully we’ll talk like dis often, ‘ey?”
She smiled wider, nodding, sniffling back a sob, “I’ll have ta mace Jumwa if he don’t let us. Permission ta do so?” she chuckled softly at her own joke, relieved at the chance to speak with him again.
Lifting his hands he moves slightly, as if ready to move and hold her, but stops himself, “Dis might be for de long ‘aul, Drae… but if it is, we’ll manage. I won’t be put down so easy. Nevah. Jumwa will ‘elp, I know ‘e will… ‘e’s my friend.” His voice broke a tiny bit at the end, “trust me Drae. We will ‘ave de love an’ ‘appiness we crave.” His eyes watering slightly, not quite tearing as he spoke.
She laughed softly, closing her eyes to resist the tears forming, trying to keep her voice light hearted, “I’ll talk ta him. I’m sure he’ll help us. But next time ya talk ta me, ya better be happier! No more of this pessimistic thing!” she gulped, her smile fading slightly before she forced it back, shifting on her legs again. “I’ll keep everythin’ goin’ alright while yer restin’. That’s all it is. Ain’t permanent… no long haul. Just fer now.”
Smiling weakly he nodded and refrained from looking up at her, “We’ll talk as normal aftah dis as planned, but we’ll try an’ arrange regulah meetin’s. So while I gotta be like dis t’ings can keep runnin’ as normal. An’… ” he looked up, “Ju support Jumwa, ju ‘elp guide ’em an’ de Tribe as I would. Got it?”
She sighed softly, nodding, “I’ll do my best, Chieftain,” she smiled a weak smile, still staring down at the bed-ridden, unmoving troll, avoiding looking to Jumwa. “I’ll keep him in line.”
Sighing and chuckling, he reached up to stroke a tusk, being caught off guard by the different shape, “Dat aint what I meant… ju both got my trust. I know ju will all run de Tribe as I would. An’… lovah?”
“Ju are all I t’ink of… I… I can ‘ardly even give a shit bout de Tribe righ tnow, I just… need ta keep from rushin’ ovah dere to ju.” He breathed out heavily, shutting his eyes and sighing in relief.
She laughed again, louder and fairly abrupt, covering her mouth to stifle the loud, dry sound. She shook her head, still smiling widely, “Let’s get yer body back in workin’ order, lover. We’re borderin’ on creepy right there.”
Chuckling with his eyes closed, he nods, “Ja, ja… jus’… I don’t ‘ave some motionless Drae layin’ dere in front o’ me,” he laughed again, “Alright den… guess we’ll… guess dat’s it for now.”
Draeka laughed as he spoke, cutting her laugh short as he finished his sentence, nodding solemnly, “next time I’ll have somethin’ good ta tell ya. Just keep me in mind, lover. I’m always thinkin’ of you. I’ll find some way ta make you all whole, an’ then, well… I’m up fer whatever yer in the mood for fer celebrations.”
He brimmed a little happier and chuckled, “Oh… I t’ink I could come up wit’ somet’in’, Drae.” He paused, smiling still as he watches her, “I love ju.”
She smiled and nodded, “of course. I know. I love you too. Don’t ever question that,” she smiled, seeming a lot happier than she did earlier in the conversation, her tone reflecting her relief and happiness. Leaning in, she kissed his unresponsive cheek, “I’mma miss you.”