Jude slept deeply, the pain from his (now healed) infected wound no longer hindering a good night's sleep. He was accustomed to camping out under the whim of the weather. The thunder and beating rain was like a lullaby to him.
For likely the first time ever in her lifetime, Pen had slept through a thunderstorm and outside, no less. However, her rest was cut short in the morning by the abrupt movement of the giant she'd been resting with: a groggy groan escaped him as he rolled onto his back and tossed off the heavy quilt. It had become unbearably stuffy under the blanket; trapped humidity from the dampness the rain had imparted.
The cleric's eyes shot open and she masked her surprise as he moved- nearly crushing her in the process! She'd been lucky... And honestly, Penelope thought it best not to inform Jude of that last predicament.
Instead, she bolted from the bedding and headed for the tall tree the giant had used as back support the previous night nearby to start up a small fire. Her empty stomach demanded some breakfast. Pen figured the dried meat she had cooked with a few spices would work, along with the odd bit and bob of whatever she could find in the immediate area.
Scrounging around the forest found her a small, rather clean pond that was swollen with rainwater. She returned to start a fire- which, for Penelope, required the laborious process of drawing an intricate magic circle and chanting a fire spell. It was basic magic taught in school- hardly the sort that came naturally to her. After slicing up some wild onions she'd found and dumping them into the pot, she added the dried meat, some herbs and spices; she chopped up mushrooms and stirred in a few other additions.
Pen only wished she'd been able to make something for her new friend. For now, she'd let him sleep. She wasn't certain if he had awakened or not as she'd been so quick to run off.
The fire was a pile of damp ashes and the sun was just beginning to peek through the trees when he came to.
Was Penelope just a vivid dream?
Jude heard a small noise, roused by the combination of sunlight and crunching twigs. Against his better instincts, his hopes shot up. He silently removed the rest of the cover Most likely just a skittish deer.
He was wrong.
It was her alright, hard at work over a little fire. When she looked over in his direction, he gave a small wave.
"Smells good." Jude called over. He stood to hang the mat and quilt across two canopy branches each to dry out. "Surprised you stuck around."
"Hate to just up an' leave a new friend." Pen called back over to him, keeping her voice audible for his ears. Though she was perfectly capable of speaking to him whilst cooking, there was some measure of concentration involved. She stirred the contents of the pot set up over the fire, then dipped the wooden spoon into the soup and took a small taste. It warmed her immediately but also made her feel somewhat guilty.
"Sorry there's not enough for you. You must be pretty damned chilly after last night." She stared up at Jude with a frown. His back was to her when a great snapping sounded.
"Don't worry about it." He started up a quick fire of his own with branches he broke off the nearest tree. "I came prepared." He pulled out a piece of multi-grain bread and homemade beef jerky.
The food in Jude's grasp could easily have fed her for a year and all it would have taken a single slice of bread and jerky. She stared at it in awe and immediately envied his colossal stomach. God, what she wouldn't give for the ability to eat more. Her body was decidedly smaller, though, and prevented her from eating as much food as she'd liked to.
"You've got a decent appetite. Make sure you clean them teeths. Nothing grosser than bacteria all up in there, givin' you cavities and stuff."
Pen wore a peevish, impish little grin
"Nothin' more unattractive than gum disease, buddy."
He rolled his eyes and swallowed his bite. "Thanks for the advice, toothpick. I'll be sure to floss twice."
"Oi, I might not be super muscular but I ain't not toothpick!"
She responded, clearly faking her irritation. After rummaging around her travel bag, she withdrew a bowl and decided to shed her poncho. Beneath, was a modest article of clothing that left her neck exposed. It was entirely a soft green and ended at the wrists, falling over her hips.
Jude chewed thoughtfully, watching from afar as she slipped off her poncho. It was evident from her clothes if nothing else that she opted for practicality over plain and pretty. It was rational and he admired her for that.
Grabbing her bowl full of fragrant stew along with a clean spoon, Pen stood to her feet and walked over to join the giant once more. God, even his gulps were audible. She plunked down on the ground and took a spoonful of soup, swallowing it before her next cheeky remark was made: "You got jerky in them pearly whites, Jude."
He almost laughed. He chased the chomp of jerky with the last swig from his flask and swished it around for minute. Jude ran his tongue over his teeth. Not feeling any imperfections of food stuck in between, he leaned over Pen. His arm rested in front of her to support himself as he smiled broadly for her. "Better?"
The cleric's blue eyes poured over the large set of teeth before her, seeking any last straggling bits of food. Finding none, Pen's face came alive with a heart-warming, good natured grin that spanned her lifted lips.
"Perfection." she exclaimed before pausing to take a bite of soup.
"You've got a great smile, I have to say."
He blinked and smiled more genuinely, not just for effect. He watched her smile grow like a glow spreading through her cheeks; It made him feel warm inside.
"Thanks." He straightened back again. His eyes lingered on her rosy face a moment longer before turning to screw the cap on his water flask and set it aside.
"What's in that, anyway? Smells good." He sat casually, resting his arms across his splayed knees.
The young human woman sat crossed legged, posture slouched as she fiddled at the edge of her tunic, tracing the light ivy design embroidered along the hem.
"It's a bit of dried venison cooked with some curry powder, sage and a few ingredients I managed to scrounge up in the woods."
She replied and smiled up at him again.
"Not bad." He was impressed by her culinary resourcefulness. Maybe this girl had done her share of traveling in the wilderness, as well. He opened his mouth but hesitated , wrestling with himself.
"Can I have a taste?" His tone was strategically relaxed.
She tilted her head to the side, mussed auburn locks falling over her eyes a bit. Pen gave the large man a thumbs up before gesturing to the pot
"Help yourself. Made way too freakin' much for my lonesome anyways."
She paused in her speech to take a bite before a sly, impish smile found her lips.
"You didn't mean tastin' me, did you, Jude?"
All a joke, certainly. She did not see him as the type to go around eating young women like some lumbering fairytale falsehood. Within a single night, all of her misconceptions about giant folk had been dashed, even if she'd believed most of it to be drivel in the first place.
"Of course not." He chuckled. Jude laid down on his stomach facing her. His movements slowed and became more deliberate as he reached forward. He picked up the tiny pot between a finger and thumb and raised it to his lips. He briefly glanced at its contents, gauging about how much he should drink if he was to leave her any.
The metal rim touched his lips and he tilted back a sip, just barely enough to wet his tongue. He lowered it back to the ground in front of her.
"Mmm. That's right tasty." He ran his to the over his bottom lip in afterthought. "I suppose that's your 'magic hands' at work again?" He raised a playful eyebrow.
The act of his tongue running over his lip sparked a tingle of heat in her spine. It was not out of fear but something far more pleasant and confusing.
"Glad you liked it. Only wish I could make you more."
"Don't bother." The reply came off a bit strained as he stretched out his arms. "You gave me the recipe, remember? I'll make it myself sometime."
She chuckled and started work on polishing off her own breakfast. Pen felt comfortable around him but her cheeks felt oddly warm...
He sighed in relief when he relaxed again, his muscles pleasantly less rigid now. He wiped his hands on pants- brushing off leaves, twigs, and a couple small branches before rising into a squatting position.
"Don't freak out, m'kay? I'm going to stand up." He looked her right in the eyes. Jude saw her muscles tense slightly as she braced herself. He unfolded to his full height and immediately turned to take down the dried mat and slightly damp quilt. He walked a little away from her so he could lay them out in the clearing and fold them.
Her body stiffened involuntarily as she watched Jude rise and tower over her. It struck Pen fully how small she must seem to him, barely even noticeable by his sweeping gaze. Pen disliked this naturally inkling to be afraid of the giant; for she knew full well his capacity to be kind and charming. She liked his company, even if she was no more than mouse sized to him. Supressing the annoying urge to whimper, she instead channeled her energy into a more positive pursuit.
Jude caught her doing something odd when he walked back to pack up the folded stack and his rest of his belongings: she was smiling at him.
He could just make it out on her face far below him. He returned it, glancing back at Penelope more than a couple times.
I like this girl.
Pen cleaned out the last bits of soup from her bowl with her tongue as a dog would, managing not getting any of it on herself.
"Where are you headed?" He asked as he rearranged the things in his satchel. "I'm on a diplomatic assignment to Bergen, myself."
As Jude fixed his things and readied himself for travel, Pen set to work doing the same. She began by cleaning up her breakfast dishes before setting everything back in her bag, drawing up a circle on the ground complete with intricate runes and performed a weight relieving charm to make her satchel seem lighter than it truly was. It was her preferred way to travel, even if it only alleviated the stress of carrying so much a little.
"Actually, I was on my way to Bergen myself to look for a book I couldn't find in the college back in Dunhelm. I've been trying to look more into other sorts of protection spells. My barriers are pretty solid but at this point I can only cast them around a single target...namely me."
The giant watched her cast a spell with avid interest. This one didn't seem as draining... Of course it was a much smaller subject this time.
After shrugging her bag over her shoulder, Penelope gathered up his handkerchief and stowed it in her satchel.
Now to attend to her hair: she made quick work of setting it back in her green bandana again, tightening the messy, short ponytail at the base of her head.
"Let's be traveling companions, alright?" She beamed up at him.
Jude's eyes lit up like they'd experienced a surge of electricity.
"You read my mind."