There was a bow that hung above the hearth in the main common room of the Barkhide manor. In those winding, spacious halls of polished marble, artfully pocked with hand carved oak, this bow was a centerpiece, placed and centered on the wall where it was a focal point of the first grand room upon one’s entrance.
The weapon itself was a well-loved work of art. The thick limbs stretched toward each other in a perfectly calculated arch, sculpted from the strong wood of one of the towering trees that guarded the floors of Ashenvale, and all the life below. Sigils and intricate swirling designs were carved and burned into their surface. They were joined by a wide, wound leather grip. It was blackened in places, and grooves worn into the dense hide where the fingers of a large hand would hold it steady. The twist of gut that strung the weapon was lightly frayed where the arrow would knock, and the feather would slice upon release. It was a bow that took great power to draw. Whomever it belonged to was lined with it. The shot it fired was one to be wary. It could prove fatal, even it wasn’t aimed at anything particularly crucial.
Beneath it hung a quiver. It was crafted from a fine, embossed leather. The craftsman who made it was surely skilled. The stitching and detail were a marvel. It too showed wear. The strap was cracked and weathered. Where it connected to the wearers back was discolored, and resembled the grip of the bow it partnered. The arrows that remained in its grasp were finely fletched with dark, iridescent feathers that seemed to thrum with a yearning to sail through the wind, and a hidden point that longed to pierce. It was an aura that was almost tangible, and rippled along the air around it.
Chrissinne could feel it from where she sat, at the foot of the mantle, staring up at the bow and quiver with a contemplative intensity. While her face was drawn in that characteristic neutral expression, there was something that lined her serious eyes that made her seem somewhat pensive despite the restlessness that surrounded her, emanating from the wall before her. She breathed in evenly as silver hues traced the carved vines that tangled around the bow’s curve. In that moment, the world was lost to her. Nothing existed but her and that bow, not even the sound of hooves against marble that slowly faded to the padding of bare feet to carpet. It wasn’t until she felt the weight of the druid’s presence drop to her side that she made herself aware that he was there.
It was such a rare an vulnerable moment to catch her in. D’Arsano didn’t want to break it so suddenly. So he was careful when he sat beside her and folded his legs in front of him. Forearms draped on his knees, and the druid cast his gaze to follow the Warden’s. Together, they sat in silence for a long moment, awing at the bow displayed above them.
The quiet was barely cracked as Chrissinne inhaled deeply. That was his cue.
“Well?” the old elf quirked a forked brow. Golden eyes cut to their corners to search the warden’s face.
She didn’t answer him. Not verbally. Instead, she met him with a stare that mimicked his own, without so much as turning her head.
D’Arsano sighed and shifted. The motion was a mere rock side to side, as if to settle against the rug, before he rested his sights on the chosen mantle piece once more. “That was my subtle way of asking about your meeting. And why you’re still here.”
The Warden’s gaze didn’t falter. “I gave them my answer. This is not our concern.”
“Funny,” the druid mused, and brought a hand to idly rub his chin. “I thought you would leap at this opportunity to claim your superiority.” It was as much a jest as it was the truth.
“You speak as if you know too much for a senile old man.” There was a bite to Chrissinne’s tone. It was slight, but sharp; thin but effective like a razor’s edge.
A sound left D’Arsano that one might claim to be a chuckle. “The forest tells me things, remember?”
“Then it should remind you that I’ve had my fill of demons.” The bite was clearer now, more than the warning of bared teeth. It tore through figurative skin, and silence settled once more.
The feathers in the quiver rustled of their own accord.
Calm composure replaced the faint smile on the druid’s aged mouth. As he let the silence drag, it was joined with a sort of solemn nostalgia. Chrissinne watched as these changes played across his face, and how the corners of his lips slowly began to angle down. Her breathing quickened, knowing his thoughts were joining the path hers had taken. It came to her in shallow bursts that fluttered her chest. It was the only indicator of her unease.
“Did you think that was the reason Naevis called on you?” D’Arsano’s voice was calm and even, despite how he was trying to force that faded smile to return, even if only slightly, “Because you’ve had your fill of demons? There’s perhaps only one other Warden who knows them as you-“
“Don’t you dare compare me to her.” Venom laced those words as they were spat. The shield the Warden kept in place was lowered in a fit of animosity and gnash of teeth.
“I’m saying you’re better.” D’Arsano missed no beat of his even tempo, nor did his voice rise. “You uphold your duty and your honor to your people. Or you wouldn’t have gone in the first place. Naevis knows that. She called on you because ridiculous as you are, you’re trustworthy, and dependable. When does she ever interfere with your own whims, Chrissinne? When does she ever order you? Don’t be stupid.”
An ease relaxed Chrissinne’s shoulders. The tension unwound, and they dropped slightly. A cascade of violet hair tumbled into her lap, as if that slight motion had released a dam. She refused to look at the druid, and she refused to look at the bow. Its aura still pricked at her skin. The hint of a scowl still twitched her lips, and she fought to still them.
“You know why he chose that life to begin with, right?” D’Arsano continued, following the Warden’s hesitation. “Good souls don’t taint easily. It’s how he fought so long. But you don’t need me to tell you that.”
Chrissinne’s fingers began to twine in her hair. The conversation was taking a turn that made her uncomfortable. This whole ordeal was making her uncomfortable. It was treading down halls of her memory she wanted to forget, but couldn’t release. A fine trembling began to seize her fingers as they threaded through purple strands. But the druid’s hand stilled them. He grasped her gently, gathering her shaking hand into his palm. His touch alone was enough to make it stop.
“You know this is what he’d want. An archer has to read the wind before he fires. Read and adjust, or he’ll miss his target.” His thumb stroked the top of her hand, a delicate and quieting motion. “It’s a strong wind coming in. Teach them to read it as well as you. And let go of the arrow.”
She could breathe again. Air pushed in and out of her lungs with deep, regulated pulses. Slowly, and albeit reluctantly, her eyes climbed their way back to the bow.
The arrows were quiet in their quiver.
The bow had tilted ever so slightly into a crooked grin.