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Stone Scars and Comforting Hands

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Everything hurts. Her jaw, her leg, her entire body aches for rest and healing.

She doesn’t know why a clan of vampires have set up their base in the same mountains as a horde of burrowing centipede-like hunters, but right now such thoughts are at the back of her mind. Everyone looks ready to rest, non-so much as her wife. Yaslin seems to be more exhausted than any of them, and a lot more affected by the cold. Hera wants to just pick her up and carry her so she can maybe get a chance at resting and healing before they continue up the mountain, but she knows what effect that would have on her wife (and result in so much resistance that it would be more awkward than helpful).

She’d already given her the scarf she used as a belt, but it seemed to do little to shield the cold from her. Hera knew it wouldn’t take longer than 2 hours before the cold became too much for her. She hoped they found somewhere to rest soon, where they could build a fire and maybe-

Just then, they rounded a corner to find a small cottage. It looked quite peaceful, with a small patch of grass surrounding it and a fence holding in a small collection of goats. There were flowers hanging from the front door, and a small stream of smoke coming from the chimney.

Despite this, something to the left side of the cottage caught Hera’s eye. A headless statue. She kept looking at the statue, it’s pose locked in a fearful stance, as if it had tried to shield itself from something. Without the head it looked even more unsettling, what expression was this person meant to have, why do they look so-

Hey Hera!” Dae suddenly spoke, bringing Hera out of her train of thought and her eyes to him. “I think a gorgon lives here!”

Her leg ached as her muscles clenched around the stone permanently imbedded in the skin. Her eyes were drawn back to the headless statue, a corpse forever encased in marble. She could feel her face lose its colour as she took a few slow steps backwards.

She’d been in fights against worst things before – hydras, harpies, heck even Xune managed to knock her down – but the gorgon in the woods was one of the few things to leave her with a scar. Three large chunks of rock imbedded in her skin. She didn’t show how much it hurt, only Naerva was aware of the pain being the doctor of the crew. She felt bad about it, not telling them the truth, but she couldn’t be seen as weak, damaged, she wouldn’t been seen like that.

She continued to walk backwards, her arms wrapping around herself in an effort to stop her arms from shaking. She didn’t notice some of the party turn to look at her, namely Yaslin.

“Hera, are you okay?” Her voice was soft, tone cautious and questioning. Hera couldn’t tear her eyes away from the statue, but she let her arms slacken a little around herself, which only revealed how they were shaking.

Yaslin came over to her, gently placing a hand on her arm and her back. Hera could feel her fingers press gently into her, bringing her back slowly from her impenetrable fearful state. Still, her eyes wouldn’t leave the statue.

While Hera was frozen in place, Dae had knocked on the cottage door and an elven woman had answered. She was clearly quite old, though she didn’t look it she carried the air of an elf who’d lived a long time. She was a little shorter than most of them, likely not much shorter than 6ft , and wore dungarees and a shirt folded at the sleeves to show off her biceps. Her hair was tied under a bandanna, which was further concealed by a large hat with flowers tucked into the band. Her boots were heavy and covered in a thick layer of mud on the soles. Her manner was kind and caring as she invited them inside for rest and food.

“Hera!” Dae turned and called to their captain, finally bringing Hera’s gaze away from the statue, though the fear still lingered in her eyes. “She’s not a gorgon, we’re alright!”

A soft sigh came from beside her, making her turn to see Yaslin shaking her head with a gentle smile on her face. That damn smile. She couldn’t help but smile herself, partially at Dae’s bubbly exclamation but mostly at seeing that smile again. It hadn’t even been a whole day since she’d seen it, maybe a few hours at most, but it already felt like too much time had passed since she’d been granted the privilege of seeing it.

“Oh! Oh dear, are you alright, dear?” The sudden question clearly directed at her made Hera’s gaze snap up to the elven women, who’d introduced herself as Ambrosia. It was at that moment that Hera remembered she had a broken jaw. Instead of nodding, which only caused her pain, she held up her hand, palm facing the ground, and shook it to indicate that the pain was there but that she could cope with it. Her mouth simultaneously tightened into a strained straight line, an obvious give away as to how much pain she was in because Ambrosia insisted on healing her.

They were ushered inside, and Hera was quickly sat at a large dining table while Ambrosia gathered supplies to heal her jaw. The other’s settled themselves around the table too. Dae, Naerva and Lantana were on one side while Crisi, Yaslin and Hera were on the other. Dae lead the conversation as he always did, with Naerva following close behind in explaining what was going on, Crisi and even Yaslin occasionally pitching in too.

Ambrosia smiled and asked plenty of questions, even as she finished gathering the supplies to heal Hera and made her way over to the table, setting herself in front of Hera and beginning the healing process. It hurt like a bitch.

Throughout the process, Hera gripped Yaslin’s hand. Not so tight as to cause her pain, that was the last thing she wanted to do, but hard enough to convey that the simple comfort was helping her get through it. Yaslin’s hand was still biting cold, her fingertips almost burning her hand with it. But she held it. It centred her away from the pain and to the simple thought of holding her wife’s hand and hoping to keep it warm.

Everyone continued the conversation, even Ambrosia pitched in to ask and answer questions thrown her way. When the healing was finished, Hera lifted her free hand to her chin, pushing it gently with her thumb and first finger from left to right to see if there was any pain. She smiled when she felt nothing.

“Thank you,” She nodded to Ambrosia, her voice barely more than a whisper and laden with gratitude. “Thank you so much.”

Ambrosia smiled. “It was my pleasure, darling.”

Hera felt the grip on her hand tighten slightly, making her turn to look at her wife, who was staring intently at their host. Her eyebrows were set in a slight downward angle and her mouth was held tight in a straight line, making her face adorably tense.

Hera couldn’t stop the shameless smirk that gripped her face, or the raise of her eyebrows as she watched Yaslin virtually stare down Ambrosia as she walked back into the kitchen to prepare food for them all. Before she could think, Hera leaned forward and planted a tender kiss on her cheek.

When she pulled back, keeping herself close to Yaslin’s face, which had turned to look at her and had a slight darker tint to it. She maintained her smirk, looking Yaslin in the eye as she whispered, “Hey.”

Her cheeks went even darker and were slowly accompanied by a gentle smile. Hera had a feeling it was because she could finally talk with her own voice again, instead of the box which only let her speak with her wife’s voice.

Her voice was barely a whisper too, but the warmth in it made it hammer into Hera’s head like a drum. “Hi.”

 

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

 

They continued to talk as the food was brought out. It was nothing grand, just a few bowls of soup, some homemade bread and some tea made of many fruits.

When it appeared, Yaslin’s body subtly stiffened as it did when she was given food, that fear of it being poisoned had been drilled into her by her vile siblings. Hera hated them for it. She hated how they’d made her fear something as simple and kind as being given food.

Yaslin stared at the bowl of steaming soup for a few seconds, before picking up the spoon. Hera lifted her hand and stopped her before she could dip the spoon into the broth, smiling when Yaslin turned to her with a confused look.

“Hang on a sec,” Hera half whispered, trying to be subtle with her actions despite knowing it would be seen by everyone.

Leaning her elbow on the table, Hera lifted her arm up slightly to reveal small glowing ripple-like lights moving out from the sleeve of her coat and out of her hand to shimmer and float down around Yaslin’s food.

Hera quickly peaked to see if Ambrosia saw what she was doing, not wanting to cause offense by suggesting that she’d poison their food, only to find her engrossed in a conversation with Naerva and Dae. When she turned back, the shimmering ripples had floated into the soup and drink and was laying on the bread. Yaslin’s eyes were wide as she watched them slowly fade into the food as it was purified.

She turned to Hera after, her eyes still wide and, as Hera noted, teary. She gave a gentle smile and let the hand holding Yaslin’s knee squeeze gently. Yaslin sighed heavily through her nose as she smiled, her eyes still watering with unfallen tears. She leaned her head on Hera’s shoulder, nuzzling into her neck a little.

“Thank you.” She whispered, moving to place a gentle kiss on her cheek, then away to begin eating, leaving Hera with a faint red blush.

 

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

 

The rest of the evening passed by rather quickly, with the only notable incident being Dae casting a spell so her could speak ferret to Lantana then disappearing for 10 minutes to talk to Ambrosia’s goats.

By the time they decided to retire for the night, Yaslin was practically sleeping at the table. Her head would droop down only to jerk herself away when it slipped out of her hand. When she went to stand, her legs wobbled a little and her hand grabbed the table to steady herself.

Hera rolled her eyes, smiling still, opening her arms for her wife. “Come on you, it’s time for bed.”

Yaslin gave her a slight glare, which was more adorable since she was so clearly on the brink of sleep. She knew what Hera wanted to do. “Please don’t, I’m fi-” As she went to take a step, her whole body moved forward, hitting Hera’s chest. Her hands grabbed her shoulders to try and steady herself.

“Are you sure? You can barely stand.” Hera chuckled, already moving her hands, and bending down to wrap around Yaslin.

“Shut up.” Yaslin’s murmured.

She only groaned when Hera lifted her into her arms, one under her knees and the other on her back to carry her bridal style through the house to where they’d be sleeping. As they walked, Yaslin gave an adorably small yawn, tucking her head into Hera’s neck and letting her hands drop from her shoulders to rest against her own chest.

Once in the room, Hera sat on one of the longest chairs (likely suited for three people). She began gentle moving Yaslin so that she could be in a more comfortable position. But a small groan came from the half sleeping drow, who snuggled more into Hera’s form.

Hera smiled, leaned down, and placed a gentle kiss on Yaslin’s forehead, who hummed in response before falling into her trance.

When she looked up, Dae was standing next to his sleeping area, his hands seeming to fidget and his entire body on edge. The smile went from Hera’s face immediately.

“Guys,” His voice was quiet, likely to keep from waking the sleeping drow and alerting their host to their discussion. “You know how I went to talk to the goats earlier?”

“…Yes.” Naerva said, keeping their voice low.

“Ummm…” Dae seemed to be struggling to find the words he needed, so he decided to just ask a simple question. “Okay… So, do any of you know what a medusa is?”

The others looked confused by the question, each shaking their heads to show that they didn’t. Only Hera didn’t shake her head. She went ashen and her eyes widened.

With the hand that wasn’t holding Yaslin’s back, Hera covered her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. Her voice, still a whisper, was heavy and rough. “Fuck.”

 

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

 

They ran as fast as they could, through the herd of goats now roaming around and wandering into the house, hopefully that would be distracting enough that Ambrosia didn’t follow them.

Hera knew she’d mess it up. Her armour wasn’t the best thing for sneaking around, and since Dae had told them about Ambrosia being a medusa, her leg had been seizing up again, so when it came time to sneak out of the house with Yaslin by her side her leg gave out and she fell. Landing on her knee and knocking her armour together with a sharp clang noise.

She’d picked herself up, held tighter onto Yaslin’s hand and ran. The others opened the goats pen, to act as a distraction, before running too. Now they were back at the trapdoor which began the path back to the church, all breathing heavily.

As soon as Hera put pressure on her leg, it gave in again. She fell onto her knee, then onto her back, the aching becoming more present as the stone pushed into the muscles seizing around it. She called out in pain as she sat up and grabbed at her leg. Yaslin and Naerva came over to her immediately, the former helping her sit up and the latter beginning to ask about the pain.

“Captain? Hera? How bad is it?” Naerva kept their voice calm, taking the cuff of the trouser leg and beginning to pull it up to inspect the leg itself.

“It just- Agh!” She couldn’t stop the sharp cry as Naerva tugged the fabric over the stones, which in turn tugged at her skin. “It just feels like they’re jabbing into me. It hurts. It really hurts.”

“Here.” Yaslin then dug into her coat pockets and pulled out a small vial, handing it to Naerva. “This should help with the pain.”

Naerva took the vial, it appeared to be similar to a healing potion but upon inspection it seemed thicker, like a salve more than a drink. They looked at Yaslin with a questioning look. Yaslin simply nodded. The silent exchange was enough for Naerva, who looked back at Hera.

“Do you want to do this yourself, or do you want me to do it?” Their calming and warm tone is what kept Hera calm, though still breathing mostly through clenched teeth.

“I think I can- mmnn” As she reached for the vial, her leg seized again. She let herself lean back into Yaslin, who reached around to take her hand and squeeze it.

“Don’t push yourself.” Naerva opened the bottle and she spoke, pouring a decent amount of salve into her hand, putting the bottle down and rubbing into both hands. She looked up at Yaslin again, nodding to their joined hands “Just, hold onto her hand. It might hurt a bit.”

Yaslin nodded, gripping Hera’s hand a little tighter as Naerva began to rub the salve into the skin around the three chunks of rock embedded in Hera’s skin. Hera stiffened and groaned at the pain, tightening her hold on Yaslin’s hand slightly, though not enough to hurt (she hoped). Yaslin didn’t show any signs of pain as she reached her other hand to Hera’s shoulder, rubbing her thumb over the curve of it to try and comfort her wife.

The pain was faded quickly, even before Naerva had finished rubbing the salve into the skin Hera could barely feel the pain anymore. When they were done, Naerva cleaned their hands on a piece of cloth before pulling the trouser leg back down the cover the scars from their first fight against a monster together.

A gorgon. They’d stumbled upon its hunting grounds while on their way to a town. Hera and Crisi found them - Dar, Naerva and Lantana (and scaarf of course) – at the wreckage of a ship they’d used to travel to the island. The gorgon came out of the trees, and Hera made the mistake of looking at it while protecting Dae. Her leg turned to stone. Once the creature was dead, the stone mostly fell away, but three large chunks of it stayed stuck into her leg.

She hadn’t told anyone how bad it had been, the pain at first was unbearable but with constant movement and fights it became bearable. Naerva had found out about the extent of her injuries when they became the ship’s doctor, insisting on doing regular health checks on the entire crew between fights. Naerva had told Hera to take it east where she could, and to try and practice some smaller exercises while travelling on the ship. The pain hadn’t been this bad since the initial fight with the gorgon, but at the mention of it happening again, her leg just froze.

Naerva had walked over to their own sleeping pack as Hera recounted the fear in her mind. She was so lost in her thoughts, she almost didn’t feel Yaslin shift herself and pull Hera down so her head was resting in her lap. She came back to reality at the feeling of Yaslin’s hand cupping her face. She looked up, catching Yaslin’s eyes immediately.

As her thumb began to stroke gently across her cheek, Hera’s eyes closed as she leaned into the palm. “Hhmmmm”

Yaslin smiled, continuing to stoke her wife’s cheek with the one hand and her other began stroking the hair away from Hera’s forehead. “It’s your turn to sleep.”

Hera only hummed in response, already feeling herself slipping away. The gentle stokes turned scratches at her scalp tugged her into sleep within seconds.

Just before she completely fell, Yaslin leaned down and whispered tenderly “Good night, my darling.”