[Story] Winter Veil Gifts 2

“Can I look yet?” Vallindra asked, her hands covering her eyes – mostly.

“Not yet. We’re almost there.” Xanaroth had been fortunate enough to find a mage capable of opening portals to the haunted woods south of Eversong, but of course she recognized it — if not by the sudden drop in temperature, then by the clinging mist in the air. Still, she went along with the pretense, or at least pretended to, as they walked up the gravel pathway. Xanaroth’s father had been more than willing to help fund the purchase, and he hadn’t even had to invent the story about a child being on the way. Perhaps his father simply realized he hadn’t much use for gold anymore. “All right,” said Xanaroth. “You can look now.”

It wasn’t in the best repair, of course, but the foundations and walls were solid, and there was plenty of money left over to hire workers to finish the rest. And it wasn’t a terribly large house, but it stood perched atop a cliff, overlooking the ocean. It was beautiful — and more important, it was remote. There was even a room in the lower floor, built deep into the cliff rock, that would serve as a work room. “Oh!” Vallindra gasped. “It’s ours?” She was not the sort of woman who smiled often, but she did now.

He had one more gift to deliver here, but this one would have to go by mail. It was a mantle clock that he’d found in a shop in Shattrath. It was quite unlike any he’d seen in Silvermoon, yet very accurate. He’d thought Hethurin might like it, especially given his recent interest in chronomancy. He enclosed a note with, expressing his regret that he could not attend the ball in person. He thought that Hethurin would probably understand.

There were only a few days left, but the Harrier still hadn’t made up his mind. Josie’s words kept worming their way back in, no matter how he tried to keep them out. The thing is, she was wrong — wasn’t she? He had no illusions about the way things were, about where he stood — or he hadn’t, until that conversation. It was Rose’s idea for them to go shopping together, and he knew it was to try to get them to talk. They had, a little, but Josie believed that Rose was a lot more attached to him than she let on. She hadn’t ever said that she loved him, but he thought she was about to, once or twice. Maybe that was enough? He turned the small velvet bag over in his pocket, feeling the weight of it. It wasn’t enough, and he was far too much a coward to find out for sure. Maybe in another year.

In the meantime though, he found a pendant that would match the ring perfectly. He thought of it as a trial run, to see how she reacted to it. Jewelry had been Josie’s suggestion. She herself planned to get Rose a pair of boots, a rather unromantic gift, but no doubt she’d love them because they were from Josie. She also wanted to get a knife for Pup, to help him defend himself. For one thing, the Harrier had already given Pup a knife, a long time ago, and Rose had been furious at him. For another, he’d seen what Pup turned into. That kid would have no trouble defending himself against street thugs. He bought Pup a jacket; a nice one of heavy leather that would both protect him from the cold and look handsome. More importantly, it looked like a grown-up’s jacket.

He hadn’t the first clue what to get for Josie. He hadn’t planned to buy her anything at all, but then she said she intended to get him a gift. Maybe she meant a joke gift. Rose had told him once that Josie had grown up poor, without a lot of fancy things. So had Rose, but of course he didn’t point that out. What sort of fancy things did women like? There was a perfumery at the corner near the flower shop, there he asked the shopkeeper what a young lady might like. He smiled knowingly and asked a lot of questions — most of which Harrier invented the answers to, because he didn’t know. He left with a little crystal vial which the perfumer assured him that Josie would love. If she didn’t, hopefully at least Rose would.

 

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