A rainy night and a warm innInn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Kazimier laid out his chain shirt on the spare bed in his room. The change out of his wet clothes and into dry ones helped his already improving mood. He stretched, working out stiff muscles now that the weight of the armour was gone. The bed was inviting; a nap would recharge him, but the elf had far too much to do before he could rest.
Instead, Kazimier knelt in the middle of the floor. He took his sunbeam amulet from around his neck, holding it out so it caught the light of the candles spread through the room. Kazimier preferred to use the sun's natural light, but with the rain still coming down, he had to settle for the candles. He closed his eyes and sang a prayer to the Lightbringer. A wisp appeared, glowing soft yellow and warming Kazimier's face. "Go to Matriarch Matylla Starpetal in Wildwood. Tell her that Kazimier is safe, as are the others, and we've arrived outside the dwarven realm. Go now, with the blessing of the Lightbringer."
Kazimier opened his eyes. The wisp flashed twice, then left, floating through through the wall and out into the rainy gloom. Through the window, he saw the ball of light leave Silver Trailings. Kazimier got to his feet. With one task done, he set himself for the next. He returned the amulet around his neck, then left his room.
The young girl had helpfully pointed out which rooms his companions were in and where Jyslyn should be. Kazimier walked over to the dark elf's room and knocked on the door. Hearing her call back, "Enter," he opened the door and stepped inside.
"Jyslyn, I think we need to talk." He closed the door. "I'm concerned about Wren and your--" Kazimier's voice trailed off when he saw Jyslyn standing nude in the room. He felt his cheeks growing hot. "Um."
"About Wren and my what?" Jyslyn said.
"You're not wearing anything."
Jyslyn gave Kazimier a puzzled look. "And?" She put a hand on her hip.
"Can you please put something on?"
"Haven't you seen a nude woman before?"
Kazimier turned away, trying not to stare at the dark elf. "I have. It's just . . .." He fumbled for words. "Distracting."
"Distracting?" Jyslyn padded over to the priest, her bare feet slapping against the floor. "How am I distracting?"
Kazimier ran his fingers through his dark hair. "Can you at least wrap a blanket around you, please?"
Jyslyn sat down on one of the room's two beds. "Kazimier, I have been wearing clothes that constrict me for a week. I couldn't even take off my cloak downstairs. It is a wonderful feeling to shed all those wet clothes and just let my skin breathe again."
"I know, Jyslyn."
"Do you, Kazimier? You're used to wearing all those layers. You even have armour. But I am not."
"Is it because I'm not a surface elf?"
"Kazimier, it is difficult to talk to you if you're not even looking at me."
"You're nude!" Kazimier sighed. "We save nudity for two people who are intimate.
Jyslyn patted the bed. "Then we should become intimate."
Kazimier turned back to face Jyslyn. "What?"
"If that's the problem you're having, we should be intimate."
Jyslyn shrugged. "You're here. I'm here. If you need to have sex before you're comfortable seeing me naked, then we should have sex."
"That's not what I meant!"
"You're not making any sense, Kazimier!" Jyslyn got to her feet. Her copper red hair cascaded over her shoulders. "Why don't you want to have sex with me? Am I ugly?"
"Is it because I'm Accursed?"
"No!" Kazimier dropped into a chair.
"I'm not looking for just sex." Kazimier took a deep breath before continuing. "I want intimacy. I need intimacy. I want to know the person I'm with, care for them more than I care for myself. I'm not looking for a five minute romp."
Jyslyn sat back down. "Back in the Sundered Chasm, what you want is impossible. We can't trust each other enough. So we go for the immediate pleasure. Even being nude with another Accursed takes a lot of trust. We're vulnerable." She got up enough to pull the top blanket off the bed. "Is it that different up here?"
"It is. Jyslyn, most people up here on the surface don't have to worry about being betrayed and stabbed in the back, not literally. We get to know each other." Kazimier let out a breath. "Maybe when I was younger, I would have happily gone to bed with you. You are attractive, even exotic."
"Exotic." Jyslyn wrapped herself in the blanket. "That's one way to describe me."
"I am honoured that you felt safe enough to let me in when you weren't dressed." Kazimier reached out to rub Jyslyn's arm. "I do consider you a friend. We haven't known each other long, but I do trust you and care about you."
Jyslyn ducked her head. She gave a polite cough. "You said you were concerned about me and Wren?"
"Yes, right." Kazimier cleared his throat. "Wren's starting to follow your lead. She's still young and impressionable. Wren wouldn't have tried the dwarven spirits if you hadn't said anything."
"I see." Jyslyn chuckled. "And you'd prefer if I wasn't nude around her, I imagine."
"Among other things, yes." Kazimier leaned back. "Wren has changed since you arrived in Wildwood. She's talking. She hadn't said a word since we found her after her village was, well, you know."
"I wish she hadn't suffered."
"Jyslyn, if it weren't for you, she wouldn't be alive. And now, with you here? I haven't seen her this lively."
"If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be here." Jyslyn stretched her legs, pointing her feet. "I'll watch myself around her. She isn't me. She shouldn't try to be me."
"Thanks." Kazimier stood. He held out his hand to Jyslyn.
The dark elf stared at the proffered hand. "What's this?"
"Take my hand."
Jyslyn placed her hand in Kazimier's. "Is this another surface elf surprise?"
Kazimier pulled Jyslyn into an embrace. "A hug. Friends do that with each other."
Jyslyn stepped in closer, enjoying the closeness. She rested her chin on Kazimier's shoulder. "I think I like hugs."
A thud came from the door. Before Kazimier and Jyslyn could react, the door flew open. Wren staggered inside, boucing off the jamb. Kazimier let go of the dark elf to run to the young elf's side. He placed an arm around Wren's waist to help her remain on her feet and to guide her to a bed. Jyslyn closed the door, trying to remain out of sight from the hallway.
"The room's spinning," Wren said. She closed her eyes for a moment. "Or I'm spinning."
Jyslyn covered her mouth to stifle her laughter. "Wren, how are you feeling?"
"All tingling." The young elf opened her eyes again. "And woozy."
Kazimier knelt in front of Wren, examining her eyes. "Did you have more of the spirits?"
Wren nodded. "Leomund offered me another, and I wanted to try to like it." She leaned forward to peer at the blanket wrapped around Jyslyn. "Did I interrupt something?"
"Nothing you need to worry about." Jyslyn sat down beside Wren. "Kazimier and I were having a cultural discussion. I'm more concerned about you right now."
"How many of the small mugs did you have?" Kazimier asked.
"Four." Wren shrugged. "Maybe five? I lost count. They didn't taste so bad before I came up here." She turned to Jyslyn. "I don't see how you like those."
The dark elf reeled back away from Wren, the alcohol on the young elf's breath overwhelming. "It's an acquired taste."
"The room's spinning again. Why is the room spinning?"
Kazimier held Wren's hands, getting her attention. "You've had too much to drink, young lady. Dwarven spirits aren't something you want to overindulge in." He smiled. "Jyslyn will keep an eye on you." Kazimier gave a hard look at the dark elf. "Won't you?"
"Of course," Jyslyn answered. She snaked her arm around Wren's shoulder and pulled her close. "Nothing is going to happen to her."
Wren switched her attention back to Jyslyn. "You were talking to him wearing that?" She fingered the fringe of the blanket. "What sort of cultural talk was it?"
"One that still isn't done." Jyslyn adjusted her blanket to keep it from falling. "I have much to learn about life in the surface world and many things to unlearn from my old life."
Kazimier stood. "Jyslyn, make sure our Little Wren gets some water into her." We walked to the door.
"No, wait." Wren jumpd up to follow. After the first step, she veered to her right, stumbling into a chair. She caught herself before she fell. "What sort of culture needs someone in a blanket."
Jyslyn helped Wren back to the bed. "One I can tell you about tomorrow." She poured a cup of water for the young elf. "Drink this."
"I'll leave you two to behave. Jyslyn, remember what we talked about." Kazimier gave a sharp nod at Wren.
"She's safe," Jyslyn said.
End of the evening.