Turukáno was deep into a supply inventory and quite happy with the progress he was making, but as usual someone was at the door waiting to interrupt his work.
“Come in, and make it quick.”
A quick hand tugged at the tent flap, letting in a blast of cold air and a bit of snow before its owner ducked inside and secured it back to the support. The dark figure straightened up and flicked back its hood hesitantly, as if the elf thought that Turukáno would not be happy to see him.
As it happens, that hand was very rightly hesitant, for Turukáno had absolutely no desire to see his cousin Carnistir tonight.
“Oh, it’s you.”
Carnistir scowled and opened his mouth as if he was about to argue, but then –with visible effort – slowly shut it. After a few seconds, he tried to begin again. “Look, Turukáno, it’s Yuletide eve. I’d just like to give you your gift and leave, alright? I don’t want to talk about anything else.”
From the desk, his cousin frowned and rubbed his forehead. “Moryo, all you’ve done every other time we’ve met here is argue with me! What could possess you to give me a gift? I certainly haven’t gotten anything for you. In fact, I’m half sure that you’re the only person who remembered it was Yule in the first place. Everyone else is out preparing for assault!”
Carnistir gave him a look and then moved to sit down on the bench by the wall. “That’s not true. Listen.”
Turukáno hissed and hunched down in his chair, anger and frustration from the past few weeks’ tribulations present and glaring crossly at his cousin. When Carnistir bore no sign of saying anything more, he gave up staring and closed his eyes, head tilted back against the headrest. It was cold – the central fireplace didn’t circulate heat very well – but it helped him to focus. He could hear soft singing coming from neighboring tents, and the occasional happy cry emanated from across the clearings. “They’re celebrating.”
His cousin nodded. “I was there earlier, but I much prefer the quiet, and seeing as you haven’t budged from your desk for a week I thought I might find you here. I thought I might join you, and give you – this.” He held out a small box, like the ones the kitchen maids kept bread in.
Turukáno sighed and reached across to take it from him. “Alright.” He opened the latch, lifted the lid, and frowned as what seemed to be a fuzzy mess protruded from the confines. Poking at it and finally withdrawing the mass, he was surprisingly pleased to discover a pair of fingerless gloves, knitted from a rather pleasing burgundy wool. Despite himself, he smiled and looked up at his cousin. “You’ve been knitting again. All that arguing getting to you?”
Turukáno shook his head. “Right.” Like he believed that.
Sighing and scooting his seat back, he reached for a low drawer on the wooden monstrosity he liked to call a desk. Pulling it open, he retrieved a long, thin package wrapped in paper and handed it in turn to his friend. “For you. I lied when I said I had no gift prepared.”
Carnistir’s eyes widened in surprise and a small smile crept onto his face. “Thank you.”
“Now, now, you haven’t seen what it is yet! Hush and unwrap it.”
“But I already know what it is you’ve gotten me. You’re the only person who knew that my needles have splintered. You’re…the only person who would have bothered to get me a new set at all.” Unwrapping the paper revealed a shining pair of knitting needles, just as he had known. Picking them up and tracing a finger down the filigree, he thanked his cousin again and then set them back down in the wrapping. “I have to apologize.”
“For making my recent life so bothersome with your yells of frustration?” An eyebrow cocked up.
“Mostly. I don’t like this atmosphere – the camp, our family. My brothers. Ever since Father and Ambarto died it’s been a complete mess, and when you all came along it just got worse. I haven’t known what to think about anything or who to trust or what to do- and when I saw that you had made it over I was happy and mad and oh I just had hoped you’d stayed behind…!” He slumped back, features twisted. “We’re all doomed, just like he said. I don’t even want those cursed gems anymore, and it’s barely been a few years! Tyelkormo keeps telling me that I’m not cut out for war and it’s so very true, but I love them too much to just go off and settle somewhere away from everything like- like…”
Turukáno got up from his desk and moved over to sit next to Carnistir. “Like you want to. No. Moryo, you need to. It’s plain to see. You’ve always had a temper, but this is destroying you.” He reached up and gathered a bit of his cousin’s hair, angling it to the light. “Look, even your body knows it. Your hair is dry, your eyes are tired. You look worse than I do, and I’ve been sitting at a desk for days straight without sleep!” Clapping a hand around broad shoulders, he hugged his best friend without remorse. “Come on. Borrow my bed for tonight and I’ll keep an eye on you, alright? It’s Yule, you deserve to be able to sleep well.” Standing up, he took Carnistir’s hand and dragged him to stand straight. The shorter elf nodded and made his way to the other side of the tent where a bed awaited, stripping his cloak and items off and laying them to the side.
Turukáno sat back down at his desk but kept an eye on his cousin as he lay down and curled into the duvet. “Please, Moryo. Sleep.”
Carnistir closed his eyes long enough for the other elf to go back to his papers. Opening them again, he watched the light of the fire play off of the other’s hair and face. He had never expected Turukáno to fully understand his plight, but his friend appeared to care nonetheless.
I can live with that, he thought, and closed his eyes, letting a healing sleep take over.