Nighttime was early, Durkon could tell by glancing out the window. The warm glow of the setting sun was hidden by heavy clouds. It did not bode well for the weather, but being the resident dwarf who could never remember in which direction the port stern was, Durkon had enough wisdom to let the human sailors worry about that. Worst came to worst, he could always try his luck controlling the weather with the aid of Thor.
Content with that for the time being, the dwarf knelt back down and resumed vigourously cleaning his armour, furiously dragging the rag back and forth over the plates. It was another reason he preferred it over chainmail, crucial beard logistics notwithstanding.
Time to settle in for the night. Setting the armour by the bed in his modest cabin, Durkon strode outside and up the stairs for a breath of fresh sea air before sleep. Coming above deck, he muttered a prayer to Thor and casually glanced at where the sun had set minutes ago.
The elf was there, back turned towards him, shoulders tense and hands gripping the railing as he – or she, Durkon had never been quite sure – stared at the sea. The red robes were noticeably worn with lack of care and the hair was one messy purple snarl on the elf's head, the yellow headband not doing much at keeping it orderly.
Durkon frowned, shifting his weight. Considering the way the elf had denounced basic necessities such as sleep, fresh air and breaks once in a while, it was odd to see her above deck doing something that showed a conspicuous lack of anything remotely arcane.
As he edged forward, searching for a greeting that would not send the wizard slinking back into his cabin with a huff, Vaarsuvius flinched, head spinning around to face the dwarf.
“Durkon,” Vaarsuvius nodded tersely and the dwarf could not suppress a wince.
“Thor's earplugs, V, what're ye lettin' yerself come ta?!” he snorted with distress, studying the elf's features disapprovingly. The elf's silly sleepless research marathon was obviously still ongoing. Far more than just the shadows under the eyes and the showing veins, V's face was becoming a pasty grey in colour that was downright unsettling to look at.
“I'll assume that particular inquiry was rhetorical,” the elf said, glaring at the dwarf, and Durkon cursed himself for not being able to tactfully forgo comment for once. “Seeing as otherwise there is no purpose in your question when the answer is clearly before you and has prompted said question, in the first place.” The elf edged away, glaring at nothing in particular. “Durkon, if my resumed presence at this location means that I am to endure another lecture, I-”
“Naw, ne'er mind aboot tha',” Durkon shook his head with a dismissive gesture. “I meant ta say… Good ta see ye above deck fer a change. Enjoyin' tha ev'ning?”
“I was,” the elf replied drily. She shifted, uncertainty showing in her motions, but did not seem about to bolt in the direction of the cabins again, which was a good sign, as far as trying to talk some sense into her was concerned. When Durkon didn't reply, too busy mulling over that problem with a frown showing through his beard, the elf turned to look at the sky again. It then occurred to the Durkon that Vaarsuvius was not, in fact, out for a break of fresh air. The expression was anything but relaxed – on the contrary, it was tense and slightly hostile and exhausted beyond all description and as the elf scanned the skies it even seemed somehow… expectant?
The elf was still waiting for the bloody birds. Even though it had been – what? Two, three weeks since they'd been released? It told nothing good about his research if he was now up on the deck holding out for that bit of hope. Nothing good at all.
Some of those thoughts must have shown, because Vaarsuvius glanced at him and turned away at once, face scrunching up, eyebrows knitted. The silence hung in the air, only the hum of the wind and the steady breaking of the waves disturbing it.
Durkon didn't know what to say. His cleric's training was more about healing physical wounds and the like. Convincing an irrational elf crazed with proving his own merit to go about it in a less self-destructive way was a tentative and subtle business, and way out of his field. They had seemingly been friends or at least good comrades not so long ago, but now, as the tension hung in the air, he didn't know what to say.
“Um… Nice weather, innit?” he tried nervously.
The look he received was one of a poofed-up peackock displaying stupefied disbelief. Durkon sighed. So much for tact.
“V, ye need ta listen ta me!” The uncomfortable silence shattered but the tension increased ten-fold. V shut his eyes, sighing in frustration and annoyance. He turned away, but Durkon strode closer. “This ain't healthy, how ye're buryin' yerself so complet'ly in all o' this!”
“I am open to any suggestion about how we may most efficiently progress in our mission that does not include abandoning our comrades and powerful allies in the clutches of a horrifically evil lich,” Vaarsuvius replied, not looking at him but staring at the ocean, his posture stiff. “As it stands, unless you have something useful to say for once, I would advise you to allow me to maintain my own autonomy as far as magical research is-”
“Tha's na what I'm talkin' aboot an' ye know it!” Durkon exclaimed. “Ye're losin' sight of tha mission, V! Tell me honestly – izzis really aboot savin' Roy an' Haley or izzit now aboot ye proving tha' ye can save 'em?”
Vaarsuvius' eyes flashed with hurt and anger and a flicker of a strangely haunted look somewhere as he spun around to face the dwarf, head held high and spine straightened and looming several inches above him, his twig of a body undermining the otherwise powerful impression. “Barring the unlikely scenario that you care and this is some twisted attempt at helping me achieve a greater clarity and balance, either of those two should be fine for our purposes, don't you think?” Vaarsuvius hissed, glaring down. “I succeed in locating them and can thus satisfy my apparently burning need to defeat each and every spell whose power happens to trump my own and you receive the chance to reunite with your old friend and finally resume progress in the mission. We all win,” he snapped, biting off each syllable. With another pointed glare, he spun around and headed for the stairs.
The elf stopped with a jerk, head turning in surprise in a blur of purple to see a glowering Durkon and his burly hand grasped firmly around the elf's wrist.
“Na ye don't,” Durkon grumbled even as the elf's eyes narrowed in anger at this violation of personal space, “I've been lettin' ye fend fer yerself far too long. Now listen here, ye foolish slip of an elf – I do consider ye a friend an' I do care enuff tha' I'm not gonna let ye rot away in tha' research like ye've been doin'!”
“Unless you are planning to physically restrain me from touching my books again, in which case I will be forced to resist,” Vaarsuvius glowered, glaring at Durkon's fingers still clenched around his bony wrist, “I strongly doubt there is anything you can do to improve the situation.”
“We'll see aboot tha',” Durkon snorted and started dragging the elf away. Force was not his favoured approach, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
“What- Where are you taking me?” the elf protested, indignation in every syllable. He seemed unable to make up his mind on whether or not to actually actively resist the much stronger dwarf or submit to his wishes.
“Tha kitchen,” Durkon replied. Surprise made V cease his struggling for a moment.
“The reason being?” he asked, frowning in confusion.
“Ye're too skinny.”
“…Have you lost your mind?”
Durkon snorted and tightened his grip.