Saturday, 1 May 2010

Once we were strangers.

Last night I returned to the City - due to the distance I had to travel I did not get there until early evening, as dusk was beginning to creep over the horizon. Fortunately the traders had not yet ceased business so I was able to both purchase my essentials and sell the leaves and roots I had gathered. As I paused on a bench, trying to decide what next to do, a tall, blond man approached me and I knew who he was with complete and utter certainty. Although I did not recognise him, some inner sense pricked me - it was Afaon. He seemed hesitant and unsure as he walked towards me, and when he reached me he did not speak straight away, but bowed deeply before me, then introduced himself. I responded in kind, by curtsying before him.

I was mortified, I can think of no other way to describe it - as I had been travelling for some time, all my robes were dusty and unkempt so I had left them with a washerwoman in a local village, with the arrangement that I would collect them in the morning. I had planned on retiring early so I was dressed completely inappropriately, in a vest and leggings - so I should have known, with the sense of humour that the Fates often display, that I would meet Afaon. I have no idea why I had even purchased the upper garment - it leaves my shoulders and arms uncovered in a most immodest fashion and is far too tight. The only thing it has in its favour is that at least the colours, regal purple and turquoise blue, are very fetching - however I must have purchased it on impulse without trying it on - the general cut and style could charitably be described as being appropriate wear for a serving behind the bar of a tavern, but at least now I can understand why it was the only clean garment in my wardrobe!

As Afaon made uncomfortable small talk I could feel a blush travelling the length of my body - after a few minutes even my ears were burning with the heat - how appalling to meet someone when I looked like a common serving girl. Gentleman that he obviously is, he stood at a respectful distance, appearing to look at some far point over my shoulder and only occasionally making eye contact. He gave me news of my cousin Naofa, and eventually I remembered my manners enough to thank him for my gift. I was so conscious that not only was I in the City dressed inappropriately, but also that I was talking with a man in the open, for anyone to see and gossip about, that I blurted out a comment about the Woods looking pretty in the dusk; thinking only to remove myself from the prying eyes of the City. Somehow, shamingly, this came out of my mouth in such a way as it appeared to be a hint, an invitation, that he might like to accompany me while I took a walk through them - oh how I cringe at the memory. However he was charming and offered me his arm and we made our way out of the City and into the Woods. There was still light in the sky, though the darkening purple tinge made it apparent that in a few hours it would be dark.

Afaon suggested that we walk to the coast - he said that the view as the sun set was delightful and I agreed - anything to get away from public thoroughfares. We walked slowly, and whilst we spoke little I did not feel too uncomfortable. I feel that Afaon is a little similar to me, he seems to not see the point in idle chatter and appears wary of giving too much of himself away quickly. Somehow this was reassuring, I did not feel that he was going to question me or expect pretty, fancy talk, the sort that I have never been able to make; unlike most Sin'dorei of my age I do not excel at flirtatious banter. He was also, most unusually for a paladin, dressed in richly embroidered heavy robes - this I also found reassuring, Naofa wears his armour with pride, but I find it slightly offputting to be expected to hold a conversation with someone dressed in heavy plate - as if at any moment they expect to be attacked! I did not feel it was appropriate to ask the reasoning behind this though, as by doing so he would then have to comment on my attire and, however gentlemanly he may be, there would be little appropriate comment he could make about my current clothes!

We neared the coast and I could hear the gentle sounds of the waves lapping the shore, smell the scent of the sea carried on the light breeze and I relaxed a little. I find it impossible to be tense when on a beach. We stood for sometime, looking out to sea. I assume I became lost in thought as I always do when I'm here, the memories of my father and my childhood crowd around me, but Afaon did not inquire why I was smiling sadly. Eventually I commented on the beauty of the sunset and that he had been right about the view, he responded with charming words about my beauty. The blush that had finally disappeared started again, and I sat down on the sand to cover my confusion. I had no idea what to say or do, or how to proceed. My experience with the opposite sex is limited, and has only ever consisted of unsatisfactory youthful fumbles with friends when intoxicated, I have never been encouraged to form relationships by my family, and as a priestess, physical, as well as spiritual, purity is encouraged; although my talents appear to be with wielding shadow magic more so than light, I still hold the values I was taught dearly. Nor do I have close girl friends with whom I could have such discussions either, and as a result I felt woefully out of my depth and inadequate.

Afaon seemed to sense my confusion and sat down next to me; we spoke of mainly trivial matters but he told me a smattering about his family, his brother Shisato the hunter, and his other brother, the warlock, who they have not seen since he became fascinated by the Nether. I spoke little of my family, save to explain that Naofa's family are my wider kin and that they have been very good to me. He was very complimentary of Naofa, which made me smile - I am glad that his bravery and honour are being recognised by his superiors. I think we both relaxed a little, conversation seemed to become a little less stilted, but I remained correct throughout. Even though Afaon appears honourable and I have no reason to doubt his integrity, I have been warned on numerous occasions that men are the baser sex, and so to be aware all the time of my behaviour, as the most simple gesture can be open to misinterpretation, which can then only lead to difficult and unpleasant situations.

As the light lessened, I realised that I had to return to the City before the darkness was complete, I had no idea that it was as late as it was. I intimated this to Afaon who offered to escort me back to the gates to ensure I arrived safely. I agreed, but said we needed to hurry so we decided to summon our respective mounts and ride back. I was forward enough to suggest that we race, realising that his charger could easily outpace my hawkstrider, but at the same time feeling like this would be an acceptable way to turn my need to get back soonest into something a bit playful. Afaon agreed, and then, a gentleman to the last, he let me win! We walked back into the City together and things again became awkward. What to say? We had had a pleasant evening together, certainly, but both his life and my life necessitate travel and I could hardly ask him if he wanted to meet again. I was more relieved than possibly was appropriate, when he asked if he I would permit him to walk with me again at some point, though I hope I hid this well, I merely agreed demurely and curtsyed before him. He bowed before me and asked me for my blessing as he would doubtless be called into battle again soon. As I did so, I took his hand in mine briefly and told him that I would think of him often and that I would pray for his safe return soon.

I do not know where and when our paths will cross again. I know that I must, for the time, keep my counsel, and not give anyone any indication that I have met with someone and plan to meet with them again. It feels odd, I do feel at ease with him and towards the end of the evening had relaxed enough to enjoy his company, but our situations and societal constraints make it difficult. I know that I am untalented in the feminine ways of playing with pretty words and gestures and very inexperienced with the male sex as a whole. Afaon is battle wise and older than me, he will have seen and experienced much more than I and whilst I am not so inexperienced as to not understand that being naive can have a certain charm in itself, eventually men want more than this. I remain then, in a continued quandry and hope that Afaon has a better understanding than me of this evening, and will have more idea than I how we will proceed from here.

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