Downhill Play

Winter: 16 years at the Monastery, a month after Coronation

Sunar flew at an even pace toward the top of the ski lift while Gorshun – who sat in a loop at the other end of the rope he carried – laughed, hooted, and generally carried on with an undignified display. Sunar smiled slightly at his friend’s antics, but made no comment. When the Halfling had suggested he might be able to carry him in flight, he’d been dubious about the proposal, but their first test had been an easy success. Gorshun had, of course, suggested they spend their next day off skiing. I should have guessed his motives. His eye had that gleam, but I didn’t figure out why until we got to the lifts and he held up that silly rope. At least there is an updraft today making it easier.

They landed near the lifts and Gorshun spoke, “The other two Titans still had a bit of a line to get on the lift, then it will take them a while to get up here. It will be a long wait unless,” he dug a pole into the snow, jumped just enough to get his skis in the air for a dramatic pivot which set him up to go down the mountain, and looked back, “we race to the bottom! Last one down takes the other’s next apprentice katas!”

Sunar shook his head, jumped, took three powerful wing-beats, and let himself glide just above the slope. He flew a few feet past Gorshun, folded his wings, and hit the slopes at speed. The bite of snow on ski sent a small thrill through him, even now. I had expected my love of the slopes to wane after I learned to fly, but it hasn’t. This is a different kind of fun, particularly when I have a friend to share it with.

Gorshun got ahead of him, and he pulled his mind back to the present. They raced all the way down the hill, but Sunar finished a few body lengths ahead. Gorshun sprayed him with snow and pointed, laughing. “You cheated! No flying in a ski race!”

Sunar grinned broadly, “Oh, I didn’t fly to race you, only to catch up to you and start the race. So, I do believe that means you have katas with the apprentices in the morning.”

Gorsuhn slapped his thigh to acknowledge the point, they both laughed, and got back in line. An amused female voice sounded behind them, “Oh, we are racing for apprentice kata duties, huh boys? I’m in.” They turned to find Meesha standing behind them, leaning on her ski poles, a mischievous glint in her eye.

Sunar felt a blush rise in his cheeks and brutally forced it down. She had been making him feel strangely uncomfortable of late, despite that they’d known each other most of their lives. She had always kept a certain distance from him and the other Titans, but lately… .

She smiled brightly at him, and turned her head just… so, as if to highlight her half-elven ears. His breath nearly caught as he found his eyes following their elongated, gentle curve. A strange look passed between her and Gorshun, to which Gorshun responded with a solemn nod followed by a mischievous look of his own.

The Halfling moved over so that Meesha could sit between them on the chair lift. They had reached the front of the line by this point, and the chair scooped them up. Sunar noticed a slight rosy color to Meesha’s cheeks, which she made no effort to hide, and found he had trouble keeping his own heart rate down.

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The lift deposited them at the top of the slope. They grinned at each other, then took off. Meesha took an early lead and stayed there; her graceful movements wasted no energy and kept her speed up. Why do I suddenly find her movements so fascinating? Wait, I am falling behind her. He shook his head and bent forward on his skis.

Gorshun pulled ahead as they neared the bottom of the slope, glanced behind himself, then fell. On purpose.

Sunar frowned. A strange look had crossed his friend’s face: it looked like the conspirator’s smile he and the other Titans often shared before getting into trouble, but it was directed at Meesha. He made it look good, like his skis had caught on a loose drift, but I’ve seen him recover from worse. He also started to brace before he even went into the turn. He and Mesha raced past a tumbling Gorshun to the finish.

Meesha laughed as she passed their marker first, a sound which hit Sunar’s ears like the tinkling of tiny, silver bells. She then turned to go back and help Gorshun out of the snow.

The two skied back to him, and Gorshun spoke, “I think that is enough racing for me for one day! If I keep this up, I’ll still be doing apprentice classes when old age takes me!” They shared a laugh before he continued, “I know you two are on the schedule for tomorrow, and the next day, so I’ll take those classes and get them over with, if you don’t mind. That will leave both of you with free time the next two mornings, if I remember the schedule right. Hope you make the best of it! Now, if you don’t mind, I am going to go in and get some hot chocolate.”

Meesha gave Sunar a look that made him force down a blush again, lest his cheeks turn so red that it showed even against his black skin. He noticed that she blushed as well, but made no attempt to hide it before she spoke, “The next two days will be fine Gorshun, though I don’t envy you two days in a row with the apprentices! Enjoy your cup now, and I’ll buy another later. Come on, Sunar, let’s go up again, I want to try that new run on the other side of the mountain!”

Sunar nodded and moved into the line for the chairs. They stood in companionable silence, and boarded the chair just as quietly.

As soon as the bar locked down, she leaned against him. He found himself putting his arm around her, and a thrill went through his entire body. She gave a small contented sigh.

Realization exploded into his mind; her actions, his feelings, her reactions, the looks between her and Gorshun. He couldn’t decide if he wanted to thank Gorshun or kick him. Probably both. Then came another sensation, floating over the top of these emotions he felt for this girl who had always been in the background of his life: confusion. For this first time that he could remember, he had no idea what to do.

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