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Trails

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Her father kept her under lock and key after that. Many nights, the wolves would call for her, and she longed to respond. She wondered if Charon worried for her. It hurt her to think that he might assume she abandoned him, when in reality, she was trapped under the thumb of her father. Tashiya’s mother tried to comfort her daughter, but the poor woman was just as frightened by her husband, who had shown his true colors after their child was not born a son.

“Here, my dove,” her mother cooed and placed the hot tea on Tashiya’s night stand. Still with fever, and seeming to only get worse with her father’s foulness, Tashiya whimpered when her mother pressed a cool hand to her forehead. “Please, drink this for me. I made it from the… the gifts your friend left. Don’t tell your father.” After he had stormed from the room, Tashiya and her mother had salvaged as many herbs and berries as possible.

Tashiya sat up from her bed and coughed. She hadn’t told her mother, but the last round of coughing had left small drops of blood on her sleeve. She didn’t even dare think of the reasons why. Her mother pressed a soft kiss to her forehead and left with quiet footsteps, the door clicked shut behind her.

The coo of owls could be heard outside, where the sun had set nearly two hours before.The dark outside of her window was cold to even look at…

She sipped the tea slowly, and let the herbal liquid flow down her throat with a blissful sigh. Then, she spooked, when she heard a tap at the window she had just looked away from. She nearly dropped her tea in surprise, but managed to set it down before she practically tripped out of bed and to the window. She cracked it open, and thick, clawed fingers wrenched it open the rest of the way. “Charon..!” She whispered with her hoarse voice, “Oh, you have no idea how much I’ve missed you!”

He peered into her room with the best of his ability - his horns made it near impossible to actually stick his head in, but he still used one of his hands to cup the side of her fevered face. “Tashiya… the wolves told me of your sickness. They could smell it, and knew you needed me. Did the herbs soothe your pain?”

“Oh yes,” she could nearly cry in relief at seeing her dear friend, who she had grown so emotionally attached to so quickly, “I can’t thank you enough.” A small cough. “But Charon, what are you doing in the village? It will be dangerous if someone sees you!”

“The wolves watch for me,” he supplied easily and rubbed one of those dangerous clawed thumbs on her cheek. “Tashiya.. I am lonely without you.”

She smiled and leaned into his palm with half lidded eyes. “I feel the same. I hate this separation.”

His eyes glimmered in the moonbeams that barely illuminated him to start with. “Then… come with me. I can take care of you in my home.”

Wistful images of her in his arms, warm and safe, asleep with her fever being slept off, flittered across her mind before images of her father’s clenched fist on her nightgown rose to the surface. “I can’t,” she whimpered, “my father would be furious…”

“Why? You are with me often and always return safe.”

She closed her eyes and her hands drifted up to cradle his one with hers. “He… does not know where I go when I am with you. He thinks I have a suitor. I am not allowed to have one, you see.”

“I don’t see,” Charon mumbled. “Why should he? It is you who is being courted, not him.” She blushed at the way he worded it. It made her, for an impossibly warm second, think he meant to imply he himself was courting her, but she knew that was silly of her to assume.

She looked back into his green eyes. “He intends to give me away to a rich family, as to gain social status for himself. I don’t have a say…”

Charon growled then, much like so long ago, when winter was heavy and she had been cornered by the same wolves that now watched over her. But now, it was not just a warning to back away. Now, it sounded like actual anger.

“Foolish, the way humans think. Come, my Tashiya. I will protect you from these nonsense ways and care for your health.”