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Thread: March 2020 Writing Prompt

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    Default March 2020 Writing Prompt

    March 2020 Writing Prompt: (Since this was posted late, it will be given a once time extension until 22th of April!)

    It is the time of changes, and a little bit of worry.
    Let's try and write something about a good and postive way to deal with the unexpected.

    conquer your fear!

    This is a free style prompt, which can be as short or as long as you want, and even in few parts! Can be even a poem!

    Good luck everyone

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    "Verena, get back here!"

    A string of giggles escaped the small tiefling whose tail was nearly as long as they were tall. The tiefling dashed this way and that through the caravan, gigging every time the woman called out for them.

    "Verena!"

    The small body collided with another, causing the other to stumble as the tiefling fell backwards to land on their butt. A shout went up as the person the child had ran into yanked the tiefling back up and out of the way of the cart.

    "Watch where yer playin', ya damn brat!" the driver barked.

    The small body cowered in the protective embrace of a body not much bigger.

    "Soren? What'chya got there?"

    "Don' know, da'," the body holding the tiefling offered. "Ne just ran into me."

    "Verena! There you are!"

    The little tiefling flinched as rough hands pulled nem away from the other and a started cry escaped the little form. "Shush, Verena," came from the parent, chastising. "I'm so sorry Stoick. Is Soren alright?"

    "I'm fine." The little tiefling looked over, meeting the curious gaze of a human child that was barely older than the tiefling child. A small voice in the little tiefling's mind spoke of how the human's eye color was wrong somehow. The human child didn't seem to notice or didn't care as it offered a hand like all the grownups do to strangers. "I'm Soren."

    "Go on, Verena. Shake neir hand like a good boy."

    The tiefling's lavender tail came around, a splotch of pale coloring like a paint splatter discoloring the tip. Said tip pressed into the offered palm and despite the chastising from the adults, Verena thought it was worth it to see the laughter that broke out across Soren's too grown up face.

    "We'll be heading east at Alnrich."

    Verena's tail slowly fell from its perked posture even as he felt Soren's body go tense under him. They were trying to sneak through the caravan as young children do playing whatever game they had made but they had heard Soren's dad and Verena's parents' voices drifting towards them in the night and had gotten curious. Soren had crouched at the back wheel of one of the wagons while Verena clung to his back still smaller than the other.

    Verena buried his face into Soren's hair. It smelled of smoke and earth and held a comfort that made his heart ache at losing. His tail followed his emotions and wrapped securely around Soren's waist. The other rubbed comforting circles into the tail against neir stomach but didn't move.

    "So soon?" Verena's mother asked.

    There was a scoff from his father. "Let them leave if they want, Ilma. It is not our place to convince them to stay."

    A rumble of a chuckle came from Soren's dad. "Soren will most likely fight me. We've stayed too long and ne's grown attached to Verena and the others."

    "Is that such a bad thing?" Verena's mother asked.

    "Whether it is or isn't doesn't change the fact that we have stayed too long. We will part ways at Alnrich."

    "May the tides bring us back together."

    Verena's mother added at the end of his father's words, "And may the winds bring you peace."

    "Thank you, both of you."

    "Hang on tight, Ren."

    Verena jolted as Soren's sudden voice but did as coaxed. Soren dashed away from their parentals and deeper into the trees. They didn't go very far - they were still within the light of the main campfire - but it was far enough that if they didn't talk overly loud, they'd have privacy. Soren pulled at Verena's tail and hand, a silent sign to get down and in front of nem.

    "I don't want you to go," Verena choked out, doing his best to keep his voice down. He pressed his face into Soren's chest and felt himself relaxing at the warmth he always found there.

    Soren's arms, just as warm, wrapped around him. "I don't want to go either but Dad says its important to keep moving until home finds us."

    Verena pulled his face away enough to look up at Soren, making his yellow eyes as big and watery as possible. "But isn't this home?"

    Soren smiled. It was soft and left Verena thinking it was too grown up to be on Soren's face. "I think Dad wants a house that doesn't move, with fields and animals to tend. I don't think he ever wanted to be part of a traveling caravan."

    Verena's arms tightened around Soren; his tail had hooked around Soren's left ankle. "What about you? Where do you wanna be?"

    Soren shrugged. "With Dad. He's all I got left."

    Something bitter and hot shot through him. "But what about me? I'm your family too."

    That grown up face Soren had gotten so good at wearing fell away as hot tears - they hurt when they touched Verena's cooled skin but it was nothing the tiefling couldn't stand - streaked down the other's face. "But I can't leave my Dad. Verena-"

    Something broke inside the little tiefling as whatever was supposed to follow his name was cut off by a vicious sob. Verena pulled at Soren and wrapped himself as best he could around the bigger kid. Soren held on, heat rolling off the other in a way that terrified Verena without him understanding why.

    Stoick was the one that found them like that. The man's bushy face softened at Verena's pleading gaze and welcomed the gentle touch to his head as Stoick's other hand went to Soren's back. "Come on, kiddo. It's bedtime."

    "Don' wanna go," Soren spat out into the mingling of their bodies.

    "I know. But it won't be forever. Just a for now. Ok? You'll see Verena again."

    Something like ice shot through Verena. He knew that wording. He glared at Soren's dad with all his might even as Soren pulled away enough to look up at neir dad. "Promise?"

    Stoick smiled. Verena's hold on Soren tightened. "Promise. Come on, kiddo."

    Every fiber of Verena's being was calling Stoick a liar as he let Soren slip from his grasp.

    "Ren?"

    Yellow eyes snapped away from those he was sitting with to lock onto a pair of eyes on a human face that weren't quite right.

    "Do I know you?" he found himself asking even as the strings bit into his fingers; he was clenching the neck of his lute like it was a lifeline. His vision blurred only to clear when he blinked.

    Why was he crying?

    "Ah, sorry," the human with the off eyes offered. "You looked like an old friend of mine I haven't seen in years."

    "Someone named Ren?"

    The words were past his lips before he could stop them. There was something deep within him that was begging this human to say no, to say-

    "His full name is Verena, but last I had seen him we were nothing but tots."

    He choked on a sob, curling in on himself as his free hand snapped to his mouth. His tail with its pale tip came up and around, like it could add another layer of protection from whatever was pulling at him, drowning him in grief.

    He heard his companions shout his name, knew this stranger knew his name now, but he couldn't face nem, couldn't even look at nem.

    Someone tried to approach him.

    He stumbled out of his chair, the lute slamming into his gut painfully. It didn't stop him from turning and fleeing the inn.

    He didn't expect to find a temple. It looked lively despite the state the temple itself was in. It looked old, probably more ancient than anything else he had ever seen, but where he would normally be drawn in by the possibility of learning its history, he turned away at the thought of interacting with anyone. Instead, he slowly made his way over to the pond while staying within the trees.

    He shouldn't be surprised he had been followed but neither footfall sounded familiar.

    Turned out one of the footfall belonged to the human with the off eyes. Behind nem was one of the human's companions - the one with the interesting staff - but the companion didn't approach like the human did.

    "Can I join you?"

    He turned away, tail wrapping around him on the ground as he did so.

    For a moment, there was silence. He relished in it for as long as it lasted and nearly drifted off before he felt warmth at his back. There wasn't any pressure of a human hand on his back but he knew there was one there, a few inches above his thin shirt. Why had he taken his gear off again?

    "Your hair's longer than I remember." A breath. "But, then, that's to be expected. It has been almost twenty five years."

    He couldn't help the snort that escaped him. "Then how do you know I'm you're friend. I'm probably too young to even have been alive twenty five years ago."

    "Because I remember the pattern of your tail; the paint splatter of pale that colored the tip and stretched up the length of your tail." His tail tightened around him. "Because I remember your laugh even if its deepened from age, I remember how strikingly pale you looked standing next to your parents with lavender skin so soft it seemed almost incomplete with the pale patches." That hand that had been hovering high between his shoulder blades pressed into the back of his neck. "And I remember how small you had been when you first ran into me from among the wagons."

    The hand was unnaturally warm but it pulled at things he couldn't remember. He leaned into the touch as a different sob pulled at him, bitter and sad and tired. "But I can't even remember if I had parents, let alone my childhood." He offered this strange human - so warm and familiar and strange - a tight smile. "How am I supposed to remember who you even are if I don't know who I am?"

    The human smiled gently at him. "Then we'll start anew." The hand left the back of his neck and he swallowed down the urge to whimper. The human offered a hand to shake. "I'm Soren."

    "I'm Soren."

    He looked over, meeting the curious gaze of a human child that was barely older than he was. A small voice in his mind spoke of how the human's eye color was wrong somehow. The human child didn't seem to notice or didn't care with a hand offered like all the grownups do to strangers.

    "Go on, Verena," a voice he couldn't remember but ached from hearing coaxed. "Shake neir hand like a good boy."

    He didn't want to. He didn't trust any of the others of the caravan - the other kids skittered away any time he had wandered too close - so he went with the better option. He brought his tail around, a splotch of pale coloring like a paint splatter discoloring the tip. Said tip pressed into the offered palm and despite the chastising he knew was coming, Verena thought it was worth it to see the laughter that broke out across Soren's too grown up face.


    He sucked in a breath, fumbling away from the strange human even as he realized his tail had moved on its own accord. The pale tip of his tail was stark against the strange human's palm and despite the joy he saw flicker across the strange human's face, he yanked his tail free. He wondered if the glimpse of disappointment was his own reflected back at him as Soren pulled on a mask of patience, hand still extended.

    He swallowed thickly and reached out, giving a firm handshake even as he trembled. "Verena."

    "How long have you been playing?"

    Verena looked up as Soren settled beside him. Their two parties had been traveling together for over two weeks now and this was the first time Soren had sought Verena out when he was alone. Verena shrugged. "Long enough to have it ingrained into every fiber of my being," he offered easily enough. "Still don't remember much of my history despite..."

    The last two weeks - the reasons why the two parties were now tangled and how memories weren't always the most pleasant coming back - went unsaid.

    Soren hummed, as if ne understood.

    They sat at the edge of the camp together, backs to the fire, and Verena suddenly had an inkling of why Soren was there. "I thought Soala was joining me for first watch."

    Soren shrugged. "Apparently Aelfwyne needed her for something so I got volunteered."

    He found himself raising an eyebrow at the other. "Why didn't you say no?"

    Another shrug. "Soala was taking third watch for me in turn so I didn't think much of it till after the fact."

    "Ah."

    Silence stretched between them broken only by Verena's unconscious plucking of the lute strings.

    He nearly jumped out of his skin when an unnaturally warm hand wrapped around the top of the base of his tail. He brought the lute up between them like it was a weapon he could use to beat Soren back but all he was met with was a surprised expression on the other's face. Regret quickly overtook the surprise and Soren pulled back, hand leaving Verena's tail. "Sorry."

    Minutes passed before Verena finally relaxed enough to ask, "Why'd you do that?"

    He gained Soren's gaze. Those off colored pupils regarded him for the brief moment before, "You looked like you needed some warmth."

    "But my tail?"

    Soren looked back to the group. "None of my companions have one so I hadn't really thought it would be any different than touching your shoulder, or arm." There was another shrug. "It was also bare skin. The rest of you is covered in fabric." Verena had taken to wearing his long sleeves but it was more out of keeping Soren's eyes off his markings than anything else. He gained a sigh from his silence. "Look," Soren explained, "I just did. There was no thought to it, no purpose other than wanting to give you some warmth. Figured best way was direct contact and I apologize for my lapse in judgment."

    Soren stood up and started to move away.

    It was then that Verena realized he really had been cold because now the chill of the night was touching him where Soren's warmth had been instead.

    "What are you?"

    His eyes snapped wide at the blurted words, a shiver of something coursing down his spin when Soren stops and half turns to look at him. But instead of the hate or rejection he expected to see, curiosity and patience greeted him from Soren's expression. He was growing to hate the latter. "A fire genasi. Why?"

    "A what?"

    "Fire genasi." Soren approached again but didn't sit. "Half human, half genie. Fire just happens to be the element trait I took on from the world."

    "Would explain why you're always unnaturally warm."

    Soren chuckled. He frowned, not liking the sound. It seemed sad. "I try and keep it as normal as I can manage but sometimes emotions or situations make it difficult."

    His tail patted the spot Soren had been sitting at. "You were keeping the chill of the night away," he explained at Soren's raised eyebrow.

    The fire genasi chuckled and sat back down. Conversation was slow to return but it did, making their watch short.

    "Soren!"

    His voice cracked on the name as fear threatened to choke him. Something brushed against his mind, something that wasn't physical, something he couldn't see nor touch, and as it brushed by it left him feeling like it took something with it but he couldn't think of what.

    "Verena!"

    It was soft, faint, and echoed off the walls like a whisper.

    "Soren!" he screamed again, but he wasn't sure why he was screaming it. What even was it? Was it just a word or did it have meaning? Was it the customary response to 'verena'? What even was 'verena'?

    He gave out a cry that turned into a sob as part of the ledge broke and tumbled into the darkness below. "Someone! Please!" he shouted, fear choking off anything else he may have shouted as he pressed into the wall as best he could.

    "Verena!" His head snapped up and met a pair of eyes that looked off on a human face. Behind the stranger was a gaggle of people of varying races. "Shit," the human spat, the cuss echoed in different ways by those behind nem. "Verena, look at him." He found himself meeting the human's strange eyes. "Verena, I need you to trust me and step off the ledge."

    "What?!" It was strangled and sharp and ricocheted off the walls oddly.

    The human's face twisted into something painful. "Please, Ren," Ren, Ren, Ren, "you have to do this on your own. We can't come out to you."

    "Why not?!" Another chuck of the ledge fell away and his leg slipped over the edge. "I can't!" it was high, reedy, followed quickly by a sob.

    "We can't do this for you, Verena!" the human shouted back, voice strained as weapons were drawn. "Only you can conquer your fear! You're the only one that can get yourself out of its clutches."

    "Soren!"

    The strange human was thrown back by some force he didn't see. The human slammed into a few behind nem but those in the back were able to keep everyone more or less on their feet. One of the companions was already placing hands on the strange human's chest, magic dancing from those nimble fingers.

    Something curled at the edge of his vision like it was about to strike and he knew with absolute certainty that if he let it spring forward, they would all die.

    Whoever they were, they would all die.

    He leapt at it as some noise ripped itself from his throat, magic turning all of his pale, swirling markings green.

    It didn't matter who he was or who they were. He wasn't going to let them die.


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  3. #3
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    Part 2:

    "Verena, get back here!"

    The shout was from near the back of the caravan, drawing the small child's attention towards it. Eyes that were not quite human in color sought out whoever was calling out, curious but not bothered. After all, the father was barely paying any attention to the shouting.

    "Verena!"

    Exhausted, fed up; those were things the father had explained but the child was still learning, still trying to understand.

    Something small and solid collided with the child's side, but where the child stumbled, the other fell to neir butt in the dirt. Someone shouted and the human child with the not quite right eyes yanked the tiefling child with a tail nearly as long as ne were tall out of the way of the cart.

    "Watch where yer playin', ya damn brat!" the driver barked.

    "Soren? What'chya got there?"

    "Don' know, da'" the human child offered, looking down at the tiefling. "Ne just ran into me."

    "Verena! There you are!"

    A tiefling woman with beautiful, rich purple skin hurried forward and roughly pulled the tiefling child from the human one. The tiefling gave a startled cry. "Shush, Verena." Her yellow eyes sought out the other parent. "I'm so sorry Stoick. Is Soren alright?"

    "I'm fine," the human spoke out, eyes watching the tiefling child. Bright yellow eyes met the eyes that were not quite human in color and for a moment, the human child stared. There were no flickering of expressions on the other child's face, just a curious gaze of a child slightly younger than the other. The human child offered a hand like all the grownups do to strangers. "I'm Soren."

    "Go on, Verena. Shake neir hand like a good boy."

    The tiefling's lavender tail came around, a splotch of pale coloring like a paint splatter discoloring the tip and stretching up the rest of the tail. A glance picked the pale coloring in patches across the other child's face as the tip of the tiefling's tail pressed into the offered palm. Soren's face broke out into joyous laughter.

    "We'll be heading east at Alnrich."

    Soren stiffened under Verena's weight as dread filled neir tiny body. They were trying to sneak through the caravan as young children do playing whatever game they had made but they had heard Verena's parents and Soren's dad's voices drifting towards them in the night and had gotten curious. Soren had crouched at the back wheel of one of the wagons while Verena cling to neir back still smaller than the other.

    Soren felt Verena bury his face into neir hair and it was all ne could do to not cling to the tiefling's tail as it wrapped around neir middle; ne weren't able to stop from rubbing comforting circles into the tail.

    "So soon?" Verena's mother asked.

    There was a scoff from his father. "Let them leave if they want, Ilma. It is not our place to convince them to stay."

    A rumble of a chuckle came from Soren's dad. "Soren will most likely fight me. We've stayed too long and ne's grown attached to Verena and the others."

    Soren fought to keep neir body temperature from rising in anger.

    "Is that such a bad thing?" Verena's mother asked and ne wanted to shout, to know the answer too.

    "Whether it is or isn't doesn't change the fact that we have stayed too long. We will part ways at Alnrich."

    "May the tides bring us back together."

    Verena's mother added at the end of his father's words, "And may the winds bring you peace."

    "Thank you, both of you."

    "Hang on tight, Ren," Soren urged softly before dashing away from their parentals and deeper into the trees. They didn't go very far - they were still within the light of the main campfire - but it was far enough that if they didn't talk overly loud, they'd have privacy. Soren pulled at Verena's tail and hand, a silent sign for the other to get down and stand in front of nem.

    "I don't want you to go," Verena choked, hands fluttering towards his mouth briefly at the struggle to keep his voice down. He pressed his face into Soren's chest and the only support Soren could offer was a tight, warm embrace.

    "I don't want to go either but Dad says it's important to keep moving until home finds us."

    Verena pulled his face away enough to look up at Soren, those yellow eyes as big and watery as possible. "But isn't this home?"

    Something dug into Soren's heart and it was all ne could do to smile. It was soft and felt a bit off. "I think Dad wants a house that doesn't move, with fields and animals to tend. I don't think he ever wanted to be part of a traveling caravan."

    Verena's arms tightened around Soren; his tail had hooked around neir left ankle. "What about you? Where do you wanna be?"

    Ne shrugged. "With Dad. He's all I got left."

    "But what about me? I'm your family too."

    Hot tears spilled out from Soren's eyes, warm even on neir cheeks, as ne felt neir heart be twisted and broken at the accusation. "But I can't leave my Dad. Verena-"

    A vicious sob cut off the rest of Soren's words, destroying whatever composure ne had left. Verena pulled at Soren and wrapped himself as best he could around the bigger kid. Soren held on, heat rolling off nem. There was only so much control the small child could manage sobbing as the reality of neir world was torn apart in front of nem.

    A familiar hand pressed into neir back and started to rub soothing circles as a familiar voice coaxes, "Come on, kiddo. It's bedtime."

    "Don' wanna go," Soren spat out into the mingling of their bodies.

    "I know. But it won't be forever. Just a for now. Ok? You'll see Verena again."

    Soren pulled away enough to look up at neir dad. There was a small bit of hope buried deep underneath the knowledge that it probably wasn't true. "Promise?"

    Stoick smiled. Verena's hold on Soren tightened. "Promise. Come on, kiddo."

    Soren didn't believe him but slipped from Verena's grasp all the same.

    "Ren?"

    Yellow eyes snapped to eyes not quite the right coloring for human eyes.

    "Do I know you?"

    The question was sharp, directed at nem and it was till those words were shot in neir direction did ne realize ne had said the first word.

    "Ah, sorry," Soren offered, even as ne drank in every last detail of the soft lavender tiefling with pale splotches; how the plum purple hair was far longer than ne ever expected the other to have, of how the right horn was broken off three rings from the skull, of the pale markings on the exposed arms, of the lute being clenched as if ne would steal it away. "You looked like an old friend of mine I haven't seen in years."

    "Someone named Ren?"

    Was it so shameful that a part of nem wanted to lie and say 'yes' when there was so much emotion behind that one question?

    "His full name is Verena," ne found nemself saying, "but last I had seen him we were nothing but tots."

    A sob wrenched itself from the tiefling as said tiefling curled around the lute, his free hand coming up to cover his mouth. A tail that was nearly as long as the tiefling was tall curled up and around, like it could add another layer of protection between them when all it did was display the paint splotch of pale that colored the tip and stretched up the rest of the tail.

    Those at the tiefling's table shouted the name Soren had just shared. They reached out for the sobbing tiefling, tried to coax him back, but the tiefling - Verena - shot up and stumbled out of his chair, lute bouncing against his body. Soren moved forward but whatever ne had thought ne could do was wasted as Verena dashed out past nem and company.

    "Shit." Ne looked to the table of Verena's apparent companions and urged, "I'll get him back." Neir gaze flickered to the same person ne always turned to for backup. "Hilde, with me, please." Neir gaze flickered to the others. "Stay here. We'll be back."

    It took half a second outside of Mimm's to find which direction Verena had gone and Soren wasted no time running after him. Ne trusted Hilde to keep pace, if not finding nem if they separated.

    Relief was heady as ne saw Hilde's temple come into view. The occupants were bustling about inside or out of sight because there was no one in the front area or near the pond Verena was settling at.

    Soren slowed to a calm walk before ne finished approaching. Hilde stopped a few feet back. "Can I join you?" ne asked when ne came to a stop an arm length away.

    Verena simply turned away and tucked his tail around him. Soren took it as invite enough and sat down.

    Silence settled between them and Soren let his gaze drift over the others. The pale markings were strange swirls up and down the tiefling's bare arms. A part of nem wanted to ask about them but somehow knew better. Instead, ne lifted neir hand and rested it over the beautiful braid that was so long, it left Soren wondering just how long it truly was. "Your hair's longer than I remember." A breath. "But, then, that's to be expected. It has been almost twenty five years."

    A snort escaped Verena. "Then how do you know I'm you're friend. I'm probably too young to even have been alive twenty five years ago."

    "Because I remember the pattern of your tail; the paint splatter of pale that colored the tip and stretched up the length of your tail." Soren swallowed thickly, trying to keep whatever emotions that were trying to drown him at bay. "Because I remember your laugh even if its deepened from age, I remember how strikingly pale you looked standing next to your parents with lavender skin so soft it seemed almost incomplete with the pale patches." Ne pressed the hand that had been hovering high between Verena's shoulder blades into the back of his neck. "And I remember how small you had been when you first ran into me from among the wagons."

    Ne felt the other lean into the touch as a different sob pulled at him, bitter and sad and tired. "But I can't even remember if I had parents, let alone my childhood." Verena offered a tight smile. "How am I supposed to remember who you even are if I don't know who I am?"

    A gentle smile pulled at Soren's lips. "Then we'll start anew." Ne pulled the hand from the back of Verena's neck so that ne could turn and offer a hand to shake. "I'm Soren."

    It was strange watching the tiefling ne half remember uncurl with a start. The pale tale tip came up hesitantly and pressed into neir palm and despite the strange look on Verena's face, Soren had a hard time suppressing the joy at knowing this was the Verena from his childhood.

    It was short lived anyways. Verena sucked in a breath and yanked his tail from neir had. Soren did his best to keep the hurt that caused hidden behind a mask of patience, hand still extended.

    Verena took neir hand in a firm hand shake. "Verena."

    Soren couldn't help but wonder at the other's trembling.

    "How long have you been playing?"

    Verena looked up as Soren settled beside him. Their two parties had been traveling together for over two weeks now and Soren had done neir best to give Verena space, to never be alone with him. Unfortunately for nem, that wasn't possible tonight.

    Verena shrugged. "Long enough to have it ingrained into every fiber of my being. Still don't remember much of my history despite..."

    The last two weeks - the reasons why the two parties were now tangled and how memories weren't always the most pleasant coming back - went unsaid.

    Soren hummed, understanding enough not to press.

    They sat at the edge of the camp together, backs to the fire, in blissful silence for a while. Soren was surprised, though, by Verena's next words.

    "I thought Soala was joining me for first watch."

    Ne shrugged. "Apparently Aelfwyne needed her for something so I got volunteered."

    Soren didn't miss the raised eyebrow. "Why didn't you say no?"

    Another shrug. "Soala was taking third watch for me in turn so I didn't think much of it till after the fact."

    "Ah."

    Silence stretched between them broken only by Verena plucking at the lute strings. The song was heavy in a way that Soren wasn't sure Verena was aware of. It made something cold and unpleasant twist in neir chest.

    A cold breeze wrapped around them both and Verena shuddered from it. Something close to instinct had Soren placing his hand on top of the base of Verena's tail. Ne blinked in surprise when the loot was suddenly between them. Regret quickly overtook the surprise as it dawned on Soren what ne had done and ne pulled back, hand leaving Verena's tail. "Sorry."

    Minutes passed before Verena asked, "Why'd you do that?"

    Soren looked over, regarding him for the brief moment before, "You looked like you needed some warmth."

    "But my tail?"

    Soren looked back to the group. "None of my companions have one so I hadn't really thought it would be any different than touching your shoulder, or arm." There was another shrug. "It was also bare skin. The rest of you is covered in fabric."Ne sighed when neir words were met with silence. "Look," Soren explained, "I just did. There was no thought to it, no purpose other than wanting to give you some warmth. Figured best way was direct contact and I apologize for my lapse in judgment."

    Soren stood up and started to move away.

    "What are you?"

    Soren stopped and half turned back to Verena, mostly curious but doing neir best to remain patient as well. That particular question wasn't always directed at nem in hate and ne knew it. "A fire genasi. Why?"

    "A what?"

    "Fire genasi." Soren approached again but didn't sit. "Half human, half genie. Fire just happens to be the element trait I took on from the world."

    "Would explain why you're always unnaturally warm."

    Ne chuckled as ne found the whole thing bittersweet. Verena frowned up at nem. "I try and keep it as normal as I can manage but sometimes emotions or situations make it difficult."

    Verena's tail patted the spot ne had been sitting at. Neir eyebrows rose at the implication. "You were keeping the chill of the night away," he explained.

    Ne chuckled and sat back down. Conversation was slow to return but it did, making their watch short.

    "Soren!"

    His voice was soft, faint, and echoed off the walls like a whisper. It still carried the crack that had formed partway through and it tore at neir soul. Ne grunted as ne blocked another attack.

    "Verena!" ne shouted back, frustrated that ne had to deal with insignificant enemies before ne could even fathom getting close enough to help, let alone save Verena.

    Another clash of metal against metal. A well placed hand and the creature ignited.

    "Soren!" came echoing back.

    Soren dived under another creature, set that one ablaze as well, and dashed into the hallway that was suddenly clear.

    "Someone! Please!" ricocheted through the hall but it was still Verena's voice and it was louder.

    Ne rounded a corner with most of the combined company not far behind only to see something that made neir stomach drop. "Verena!"

    Verena's head snapped up and relief was faint as those frantic yellow eyes locked onto neirs. Unfortunately, Soren was forced to stop as a massive tentacle slammed into the ground at the entrance. "Shit," ne spat, the cuss echoed in different ways behind nem. "Verena, look at me," ne half ordered, half begged. Those too bright yellow eyes found neirs again. Ne could see the panic there, the uncertainty and unfamiliarity. It made nem want to cuss some more. "Verena, I need you to trust me and step off the ledge."

    "What?!" It was strangled and sharp and ricocheted off the walls oddly.

    Soren's expression twisted with the doubt settling there as the sea of tentacles continued to slowly eroding Verena's perk. Somewhere in that sea was the creature's body. "Please, Ren," ne urged - pleaded, begged - taking a step forward, "you have to do this on your own. We can't come out to you."

    "Why not?!" A chuck of the ledge fell away and Verena's leg slipped over the edge. It dangled inches above the closest tentacle. "I can't!" It was high, reedy, followed quickly by a sob and Soren found nemself stepping into the space without thinking.

    "We can't do this for you, Verena!" Soren shouted, voice strained as weapons were drawn. "Only you can conquer your fear! You're the only one that can get yourself out of its clutches."

    Ne didn't see the tenticle in time.

    "Soren!"

    Soren caught the curled tentacle in the chest and heard a few sickening cracks upon impact. Ne were slammed into Hilde and Alok and Aelfwyne but Unzokk and Kin were able to keep them all more or less on their feet. Hilde was already pressing hands onto neir chest, magic coursing through neir chest knitting back together the broken ribs and healing any other internal injuries.

    It still took a few moments for the darkness creeping into neir vision to subside.

    Soren's gaze snapped back to Verena as a battle cry like scream filled the halls with a brilliant green glow.

    Soren scrambed to get to his feet, Verena's name ripping itself from neir throat as ne watched Verena leap at the creature's body, coiled and ready to strike at the company.

    Soren tried to shake off the others even as ne knew there wasn't anything ne could do.

    "Verena!"


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