Silver sat in the silence of the cave at Nen Harn. The fire burned merrily, though the area was big enough that it only lit about half of it. Shadows persisted, easily banished by the old iron braziers and sconces she had found left behind by the previous occupants of this place, but she had no wish to light them at this time. She liked the warmth, she liked the light, but she also liked the dark spaces too. They were comforting to her; familiar things, even if not in familiar places exactly.
It brought to mind the years gone by, of traipsing through tunnels and ruins, of caverns both big and small. She wouldn't call it home, but it was homely. Empty of all but what she had brought there - a bed, two chairs, and a table - it was still not exactly devoid of comforts. A heavy, old, concealed door kept the draughts out, a private water source spilled forth from the far corner and into a small, natural basin for bathing or drinking, and a fire pit had been inexpertly carved into the stone goodness knows how long before, allowing for the smoke from the fire itself to rise straight up into a natural chimney.
She liked this place. It would serve her well when winter came and, with it, the dreaded, hateful snow. She had thought to offer the Bard first refusal on her discovery and had not been entirely surprised by his rejection of it. Still, despite her jests at the time to leave it, and the cheap furniture she had bought, for future explorers to find, she had always intended to make use of the place herself. A secret space, swiftly now becoming a haven.
Hadn't it offered her sanctuary these last few days?
The headaches were rare. Exceptionally so. Years often passed between one and another, but when they did come, they were debilitating. Her tent, though cozy and comfortable, didn't offer enough protection when she was unable to think, or even see, straight enough to defend herself should danger arise.
Now, sat upon the bed, she ran her hand across the large, plush wolf pelt that had been gifted to her, and she thought.
The last few days were hazy in her mind. They always were in the aftermath. Was that how she had lost her ear, she wondered? Had that drunken night turned, the next day, into another one of those headaches? Was that why she still couldn't remember? She knew the story she had been given, but aside from receiving her own severed ear in a box at the time, she could never verify the details. It bothered her sometimes.
She shook her head with a sigh. That was unimportant now. What was important was the recent events.
She had first noticed the signs of it in the morning, three days ago. That familiar tingle in her fingertips that spoke to her of an oncoming bout. In past instances, she had a day yet to go before it hit her properly, and so she had ignored it, believing she had time to tuck herself away somewhere safely for the duration. Instead, she had gone to the library for the warmth and quiet often to be found there.
The painted woman had found her there. Impetuous demands for courtesy that she herself had refused to show. Silver had responded in kind; refusing to do as the girl wanted, refusing even to respond for the most part, but she had listened nonetheless. The words spoken by this stranger had annoyed her greatly. So much so that, when she shortly after ran into the Soldier and the Hellion, she had punched the latter in the face without hesitation.
Still, the Solider had asked nicely for her aid on behalf of the Hellion, though the girl herself had refused to do so. Despite her annoyances, Silver had seen no need to refuse. Angry or not, she wished no permanent damage to the girl and, if all it took was some money to get her free of her trouble, that was easy enough to arrange.
After that, she had spent some time speaking with the Bard on abstract concepts and then explaining to him the escalation of the Hellion's predicament and, ultimately, what that could mean in relation to the rest of them. The Bard, thankfully, had always been quick on the uptake so an in-depth analysis of the potential for danger had not been required. He had seen the issue, and the cause of her concern, straight away.
The headache was starting to progress by then; a steady, insistent pain behind her eyes, clawing its way deep inside her skull. Reluctant though she had been to depart his company, she knew that she had to. If she slept now, she stood a chance of fending it off before it could become worse.
Alas, that was not to be. Come the morning, it was that much harsher. That's when things began to get hazy.
She didn't really remember going back to Bree, She knew she had to, to arrange for the funds to be available to give to the Hellion, and she vaguely recalled visiting the vault. It was not a stretch of the imagination to assume that she had to get there from her tent in the Greenway Fort somehow. She just could not recall the journey itself.
She had seen the Healer then, hadn't she? She must have, for who else could have given her the powers to take the edge off the pain? Snippets of conversation came back to her when she concentrated hard enough. The Healer had understood her concern as well, hadn't she? She had said... she had said... something. She had agreed with proceeding cautiously, at least for a while.
Then... there was a blank period of time before she found herself back at Nen Harn, being chased down by the Ranger. Questions, answers, angry face... a threat to find her hideout. Had that happened? Or was she simply so used to him following her around by now that she had imagined his unwelcome prying? It was hard to tell. He seemed to be everywhere these days; watching from rooftops, lurking in shadows, even behind the corners of walls, in order to listen in on business that was not his, conversations that he would take no part in but seemed to believe were his to hear. She was becoming increasingly annoyed with his overbearing, stalker-like behaviour.
She barely remembered lying down upon the bed, curling up beneath the pelt. She had slept then. She must have done. She had awoken at some point, at least she thought she did, to find that there was someone with her. Strong arms wrapped around her slender frame. A comforting presence pressed against her back. Could that be right, though? For she had been upon the bed and he had found the very presence of one to be uncomfortable. He would not have lain down there with her, would he? He was more likely to sit on the floor, leaning his back against the side. And yet...
And yet, she remembered the feeling of gratitude, of warmth. She remembered feeling safe there, instead of vulnerable and alone as she usually did at such times. She remembered feeling cared for, almost protected. It had been only a brief feeling before unconsciousness had taken her again, but it had been a vivid one. Could that really have been a dream? Or had he, yet again, done the unexpected?
He hadn't been there when she had awoken the next day, so she couldn't be certain. Perhaps she should ask.
For now, she lay back again, peering up at the high cave ceiling and the jagged points of the stalactites there. The headache was easing away now. By tomorrow it would be gone entirely. It would be wise to remain where she was, to wait it out, to indulge in the silence of her refuge, but she didn't have that luxury. She had to make sure that the coins were given to the Solider or to the Hellion. She had to follow through on her agreement and on the plan. Her part in this, though largely insignificant, could make the difference between a relatively painless conclusion to the sorry saga of the Hellion's bandits and one in which unnecessary injury occured to those who sought to help the girl.