The pair rested for some time; Varlaine only remembered closing his eyes for a long while and listening to Eryn’s breathing while they sat together on the hard tavern floor. It was the most peace and security the pair had been granted since their escape. When they reopened, it was to look at Naz as she squeezed his shoulder in a gauntleted hand and gingerly shook.
“Oh… I…” He tried to form words through a yawn, but the older woman shook her head and pressed one finger to her own lips in a silent ‘shh’. With a nod towards Eryn, she directed his attention to the trainee, who was still out cold; one of the blue-haired girl’s arms was looped around Varlaine’s waist, and her cheek rest on his shoulder.
When he nodded, Naz did, too. She released his shoulder to take up a wooden plate on the floor next to herself, then set it neatly on his lap. Steel-gray eyes matched his, then tracked slowly to the sleeping rider at his side. The plate was stuffed full, with bread, a small heap of what looked like seasoned chicken, and one large husked and boiled cob of corn, more than he could eat in one sitting. His head bobbed again in acknowledgement, and Naz offered a very slight turn up of her lips, before standing up and turning away.
‘Laine watched her go, taking a seat at one of the notched wooden tables in the dimly lit tavern, pushed to a wall to make room for the many recovering wounded. A lantern sitting on it illuminated Nico in its glow; the archer was sitting across from where she had, chin resting on one palm and watching her as she settled with her own plate. The shadows cast across his cheeks, under his eyes, along his brow gave his usually youthful face an older, worn weight.
“You said that an Alra attacked him?” Naz asked quietly. Varlaine stiffened; clearly he was the subject of discussion, and by the way she hushed her voice, he could tell that she was trying to keep the conversation out of his earshot.
“Yeah. Big, white wolf bastard,” The archer responded. On his back was a quiver full of arrows, and he reached back to fiddle with one, still leaning on his hand and watching her. “You oughta eat, Naz, then get some sleep. You’ve been making trips back and forth all day. We can talk more in the morning.”
She was silent for a moment, sliding off one of her gloves to set it on the table. Taking up a bite of meat, she popped it into her mouth and chewed, before swallowing. Then she massaged her throat with her bare fingers. “No, we can’t,” She said, voice scratchy as ever, “Because the three of us are departing at dawn. You and the rest of the townsfolk should mobilize quickly, too.”
Nicomenda frowned at her proposal, then, and crossed his arms over his chest. “You can’t be serious. These kids are exhausted. You’re exhausted. You should spend a few days preparing and resting up before you go, at least.”
“We don’t have a few days.” Her tone sounded resolute, firm, voice raising just a hair but still hushed. “Think. Whoever is looking for him knows where he is, now. They’ll be back, with numbers. If soldiers march to Dalren’s gates now, they will… gck.” She stopped to cough into her hand. Hurriedly, Nico pushed a ceramic jug that he had at his side towards her; she took it up and drank, gulped, before setting it down. “Thank you.”
“You’re getting yourself into trouble, y’know.” Nico frowned when she pushed the water jug back, placing a hand on hers and refusing the offer. She pulled her hand away, and then he returned it to her side of the table. “You don’t have to save these kids. You can point them towards Skyvlan and send them on their way, you’ve done more than enough.”
Naz bristled at his comment, and picked up the water to drink once more. “I didn’t have to save your skin, either. But I did,” She shot back, and Nico flinched before nodding. “I’ll get them to safety. Then I’ll make my way towards Kelvrir to rejoin the people of Dalren, or go back north to Lor’tsun. Where a mercenary wanders is none of a guard’s concern.” She marked that she was finished by taking another bite of food, then another. Nicomenda appeared to lack a good response for her.
There was quiet for a little while, broken only by the moans of pain from the many wounded, still tended to by the same woman who had been kind to Varlaine when he’d come. Naz finished her meal, then, and Varlaine picked at his own, fighting with a rising upset in his stomach. Nico watched her for a good, long while, before the barmaid approached him and wrapped her arms around one of his in a loose hug. Naz snorted and averted her eyes, and Nico shared a few whispers with the curly-haired blonde before rising from his seat.
Varlaine saw the archer exchange a look with Naz, who shrugged her armored shoulders. Then he left with the blonde, taking up a water jug and stooping by one of the injured, and the girl did the same for one nearby. Naz sat, and finished her meal, alone.