A/N: Shortly into their relationship, obviously.
“Where does the dinner come from?” Cedrin ventured one evening.
“I don’t know,” Daere answered without looking up from her plate.
“It has to come from somewhere,” he pressed, too curious to sense that she didn’t want to be spoken with—though often that was the case anyway.
“Will you be quiet?” she snapped, shooting him an angry glare; half her face was masked by her long, wet hair. “If you persist in needless conversation I won’t let you join me.”
To himself he wondered what else she wanted him for, if not to make some sort of fellowship or conversation. “Fine,” was all he said.
The clink of utensils was loud in the large room, Daere’s in particular, as her hands were clumsy with them.
After several everlasting minutes, Cedrin tried again, “How long have you been here?”
Before he had time to react, she grabbed up her plate and threw it at him. The metal slab collided with his head painfully, sending him off the chair and half-eaten food across his shirt. Dazedly he touched his forehead, feeling the mark left by the assault.
“I told you to be quiet,” Daere yelled, standing.
“What was that for?” Cedrin shouted at her, looking down at the mess she’d made.
“I am mistress of this castle and I may do whatever I wish,” she said sourly. “Learn the rules, coward, or find somewhere else to hide.”
Angrily he jumped to his feet. “I am higher ranked than you ever will be. I demand you take that insult back.”
She laughed, long and bitterly; the sound was chilling. “Higher ranked? You know not who you speak to!” For a second he thought she would boast her tale, but instead she stopped to glare at him darkly. “Cedrin. That name means courage, correct? I have not seen you make one act to live to your name.”
He clenched his fists, too offended to say anything a moment. “I do not have a choice but to hide.”
“There is always a choice,” she said evenly. “Have a pleasant night, runner.” She turned as if to leave.
Furious, he marched to her and grabbed her arm. “Don’t you—”
Her claws scraped across his cheek and jaw, and crying out he let her go. “Don’t you dare lay a hand on me,” she hissed. Turning, she left before he had recovered, and, fuming, he refrained from going after her.
Mabli’s velvet-red new dress fit her in a way becoming, the deep red reminding Cedrin of a rose at evening. Her hair looked cleaner than he had seen it before—though over the months it had improved from its first dripping-oil stage—and her dark grey eyes seemed shy, almost, almost begging for some sort of approval.
He smiled at her, and absentmindedly said, “You look pretty.”
For a blink of a second Mabli looked like a deer caught in a trap, then she became almost alarmingly red and shouted, “I do not look pretty. Don’t you ever say that!”
Cedrin was too startled to say anything and involuntarily took a step back. Mabli seemed to change back into the beast—the Daere—before him, and he was afraid he’d made a terrible mistake.
“You have no right to say that in my home—as my guest!” she continued screaming. “I will not suffer the insult!”
“It wasn’t an insult, Mabli,” he stuttered. The name tasted sour, used on the furious creature before him.
“Don’t call me that!” Her pitch was nearly a shriek. He was struck silent by her temper and just looked at her. Gulping air like a fish, she clenched and unclenched her hands. Finally she said, in a forced manner, “I—am not pretty and we both know it—and I am not lovable so do not name me that. Just leave—leave me to my own.”
Cedrin nodded, anxious not to give her cause to fly into another furry. Abruptly she turned and swished down the hall, her skirts trailing behind her. He noticed her hair was moist with oil again.
When Cedrin followed Mabli into the dinning hall, he was surprised to see a two slices of cake laid out with their normal dinner meal. Mabli gave a happy sound, her face brightening with delight. “Chocolate cake!” she cried blissfully, sitting in her normal chair.
“Chocolate?” Cedrin had heard of the rare treat before, but he had never seen or tasted it. Only royalty had the pleasure of chocolate treats.
Greedily Mabli grabbed her slice of cake, ignoring the other food. “Oh, you must try it. You’ll love it, I’m sure.” She took a bite reverently and closed her eyes in pure, savoring enjoyment. Cedrin watched her curiously, feeling an amused smile tugging on his lips. When she noticed he hadn’t touched his yet, she pointed at him with her fork and commanded, “Try it, Cedrin. It’s delicious.”
Obediently he copied her, slightly exaggerative, cutting a bite from the brown cake and sticking it in his mouth. But what he tasted was anything but delicious. It was far too sweet, and left his mouth feeling sour and dry. His expression must have shown his dislike, for Mabli frowned at him as if he were ill.
“Well?” she prompted.
“It’s—uh—it’s interesting,” he fumbled, reaching for the mug of water.
“Interesting?” She shook her head. “Take another bite. Trust me, it will be better once you’re used to it.”
His impression didn’t get any better, but at her insistence he ate half the cake before finally saying, “This isn’t getting any better, Mabli.”
Looking at him as if there was something seriously wrong in his head, she said huffily, “Well, then give it to me.” He did and she began eating it, proceeding to largely ignore him the rest of the evening.
Cedrin hurts his arm:
Muttering under his breath about the uselessness of horses, Cedrin cradled his arm as he walked into the kitchen looking for something to make a sling out of. Mabli was reading by the open fire, and looked up when he entered.
“What happened?” she asked, quickly putting down her book.
“My horse felt like dumping me in the snow. It would have been fine if there hadn’t been a rock underneath the snow. Do you have something I could bandage this up with?”
Face as white as linens, Mabli rose and rushed to him so fast he did not have time even to step back. Taking his arm—with gentle but urgent hands—she looked it over as if to make sure he was not in mortal danger. He noticed she was trembling, and thought it might be from the cold.
“I’m fine, Mabli,” he tried to assure her. “All I need is some cloth—”
Abruptly she dropped his arm and turned around, putting a hand to her head. “No. No, no, no, no!” she muttered. “This cannot—no!”
Cedrin paused. “Are you alright?”
She turned back to him and grasped his other arm. “Sit down—please—now.” He didn’t have much of a choice, and allowed himself to be dragged and pushed into the largish comfortable chair she had previously been reading on. Anxiously she hovered around him, offering him almost everything besides something to prop his arm with.
Half annoyed and half amused, he reminded her, “Really, Mabli, all I need is some cloth.”
“Oh! Cloth! Of course!” She was gone into another room and back before he could ask where it was. She shoved it into his hands as if it burned.
Giving her a curious look, he began to set his arm. Still she watched nervously, though she never tried to help. After a few minutes she started muttering again and pacing.
Finally he finished and followed her fluttery movements with his eyes. Presently she collapsed on her knees by his chair, moaning.
“Thanks,” he said, once a long silence had passed and he thought she might have recovered. She only sighed. Rising, he leaned down to squeeze her hand gently. Frightened, almost bird-like eyes jumped to his, and the terror mixed with some other emotion made her impossible to read. He fumbled for something comforting to say, but finally ended up with, “I’ll see you tonight.”
She nodded mutely.
And there's more, but that's enough (and all that's written into scenes).