May 21, 2010

Storytime: Meeting the parents

(Sorry for the latest silent spell, here's a story to make up for it. Possible PG rating, maybe.)

Arien finished her classes at the Cathedral for the year, and had an unexpected couple weeks before the next ones began. Since the holiday of Winter's Veil was approaching, she asked Kal if she wanted to come along for a visit to Arien's parents. The elf agreed.

They started for Eastvale a few days before Winter's Veil, taking with them the gifts that Arien had bought for her parents. Kal had never celebrated the holiday, so Arien got to tell her friend all about the history and customs as they rode. Arien had remembered to write a couple days in advance, to tell her parents about the extra guest, so they wouldn't make Kal uncomfortable, either. At least, she hoped they wouldn't. They finally arrived at the cottage, to find it empty. "They must be at the tavern," Arien said, thinking out loud. "Let's leave our stuff and meet them there." Kal nodded, looking slightly nervous, and they dropped the packs in a corner and headed for the cluster of buildings that marked the main area of the village.

Arien stopped outside the door of the tiny tavern. "Kal, please don't mind my father, if he seems a little rude. He just doesn't meet new people often, and you being an elf will be even stranger for him." She looked at her friend almost pleadingly, who nodded, reaching to take Arien's hand and giving it a quick squeeze. They entered the tavern, and Arien scanned the few faces in the room, looking for her parents. She spotted her mother quickly, and hurried over, waving. Mother saw her, and quickly set her tray on the bar, smiling as she came to meet them. "Ari, we've missed you so much," she told her daughter, giving Arien a warm hug. She then stepped back to look at Kal, who stood motionless, with her arms crossed over her chest. "And this is your friend. Kal, isn't it?" Kal nodded and held out a hand, which Mother took and gave a gentle squeeze. "Is Father in the kitchen?" Arien asked. Mother nodded. "Give him a minute, he's still working on the stew. He should be out to check on the crowd soon."

Sure enough, after a few more minutes of small talk, a stocky, bearded man came in through the small doorway in the back. Arien waved and called him over. "Father! Hi, this is my friend I wrote about, Kal." She gave him a hug as soon as he reached them. Father returned the hug, then gave Kal a slow, measuring look. Kal simply stood there, then offered a hand after a moment. Father looked at the hand for a second, before taking it and giving a firm but cautious shake. They chatted for a few more minutes, until finally Father looked around the room. "Gettin' busy in 'ere. You care to 'elp out? Or would ya rather 'ead back and rest from yer trip?" he asked Arien. She wrinkled her forehead slightly, in thought. "Well," she replied, "we are a little tired, but I think I can help with handing out dinner, at least." Kal quickly spoke, for the first time, "I'll help, as well." Arien's parents seemed slightly startled for a second, then gratefully accepted Kal's offer.

A little over an hour later, the small crowd were all happily eating, many of them finished and sipping their ales, and Mother insisted that Arien and Kal go back home to rest. Father then surprised them by telling Mother to go with them. "You go get 'em all settled, I can clean up m'self, just for tonight." She finally agreed, and the three of them went back to the cottage. Once home and inside, Arien's mother turned to the friends, forehead wrinkling slightly. "Ari, I'm afraid we don't have an extra bedroom," she said uncertainly. "That's fine, Mother. Kal can sleep in the loft with me, we brought extra blankets," Arien reassured her. Mother's wrinkles deepened slightly at that, and at Kal's confirming nod. Arien looked at her, puzzled. "Is that okay?" she asked. "Oh, yes, it's fine," Mother answered, rather quickly. Before anything else could be said, she was heading to the small closet next to the stairs, getting a few more blankets out.

The beds were made and the girls' things were put away, by the time Father came home. Mother met him at the door, and had a brief whispered conversation with him as he came inside. Arien and Kal were warming some cider by the hearth, and pretended not to notice. They gave each other half-curious, half-frustrated glances. Arien could only give her friend a slight shrug, not certain what her parents' concern was. Her parents finally came inside and settled, and Arien passed out the cider. Kal sat back by the hearth, as if trying to be inconspicuous. She had a couple different possible ideas of what Arien's folks were concerned about, and didn't want to make anything worse for her friend. Finally, though, she needed to get away from the nervous glances the two were giving her, when they thought she wasn't looking. She stood and told them, "I'm going to check on Nyte. He's not used to being out of the city, and I want to make sure he won't spook the horses." They all nodded at her, with Arien giving her a strange look. Kal just gave a tiny shake of her head, and walked outside to the stables.

Once the warrior was out of sight, Arien turned to her parents in time to catch another look between them. "Is something wrong?" she asked. "Nothing is wrong, Arien," her mother began. Her father then cut her off. "We've just 'eard some strange stuff about Elves out 'ere, from passing adventurers," he told her, looking uncomfortable. "We're a bit worried that yer friend might be, uh, well.." He trailed off, uncertain of how to put his concerns. Arien had been around enough adventurers herself, and a bit of understanding began to show on her face. "You think she and I might be..." She looked blankly at the slight, embarrassed nods her parents gave her in response. She blushed slightly, then it faded as indignation took over. "Well, you can stop worrying about it. We are more like sisters than anything else. And besides, even if Kal is like that, I am not, and she would never make advances on me when she knows I wouldn't want her to." Her parents still looked uncomfortable, but now also relieved. Arien shook her head in mingled disbelief and frustration. "I'm going to go check Faithful. We'll be back in a few minutes." She stood and walked out.

Arien went inside the stable, to find Kal perched on the dividing wall between Faithful and Nyte. Soft rumbling sounds from Nyte's stall told anyone in hearing range that the 'saber was sleeping peacefully. The warhorse stuck his head out over the stall door and nickered at her, and she gently rubbed his nose as she looked up at her friend. Kal just sat and watched her soberly, as the paladin told her, as briefly as possible, what her parents concerns were. When she was finished, Kal looked down at the floor, expression unreadable. "And, uh, what do you think about it?" she asked quietly. Arien raised an eyebrow. "What does it matter?" she began, and then paused. Kal glanced quickly at her, then back down at the stable floor again. "Umm, Kal, are you like that?" Arien asked, hesitantly. Her eyes widened at Kal's nod. She opened her mouth, then closed it, as she tried to think of a response. Finally, "Well, umm, that is a bit of a surprise for me. You seem to hide the fact pretty well." Kal just gave a slight shrug. Arien looked at her closely for a second, then stepped closer and put a hand on the elf's knee. "Kal? You don't think that matters to me, do you?" Kal finally looked at her, blinking in surprise. "Shouldn't it? I mean, uh..." The warrior actually flushed slightly, making Arien's eyebrows shoot up in surprise. "Well, I think maybe I should tell you that I think you're very attractive. I just figured that you weren't interested, so I never said anything. Because I would rather be friends than nothing." Arien nodded slowly, making Kal blink in surprise again. "Well, um, thank you, I think. But I'm afraid you're right about me not being interested in, uh, that. But, I definately want to keep our friendship. You're like a sister to me, Kal. I can't imagine not having you around. And well, I love my parents, but living in a tiny village like this, it kind of makes them not very open-minded. About a lot of things." Kal grinned, then hopped down off the wall to wrap Arien in a hug. The paladin hugged her back, smiling. "Well, I think they might not stare at you as much now, if you want to come back in," Arien said. Kal nodded, and followed her back into the house.

(Bit of random info: There are exactly 3 people that can get away with calling Arien 'Ari': her mother, Kal, and, more recently, Alanon. It is a personal form of endearment for her, not to be taken lightly. If anyone else even tried, they would most likely be totally ignored, or possibly asked not to refer to her by that name.)

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