The next time Asha visited Darrah, she had managed to convince him to join her in finding herbs in the Great Forest. This was the most common chore she did for her mother, as Sirona trusted that her daughter wouldn't bring back the wrong herbs or something poisonous. Those she went out and picked herself, since Asha wasn't that far along in her apprenticeship yet. So, while Asha kept an eye out for patches of the herbs she knew by heart, she and Darrah walked along a fairly worn path.
Darrah was certainly a contrast to the sunlight and the mid-summer colors of the forest, whereas Asha fit right in despite being human. With a glance at him, Asha decided that he likely fit better in the winter season with its darker shades. Since they had left his tower they had not spoken to each other, both content not to as the silence was not unwelcome. But at that moment a question entered Asha's thoughts, and she simply had to ask it.
"What's it like being a Forest God?"
He glanced down at her. "Long."
"What do you mean by 'long'?"
"I feel immortality more keenly than Corvus does," Darrah told her quietly, "For him, time means very little if at all to him. For myself, time feels stretched. Not painfully so, but enough to always be aware of it."
Asha stopped walking, which caused the Crow Lord to do the same. He more fully looked at her and was surprised to see such a concerned expression on her face. She then asked, "Do the other Forest Gods feel that way?"
"The other lords, perhaps," Darrah said with some uncertainty, "But the born gods do not notice the passage of time all that much."
"Why do you feel it more?"
"I believe it is because, like the other lords, I was mortal once. You place far more value on time than Corvus does, and in comparison, I find myself between the two."
Asha only added more to his surprise when she then hugged him. After a few moments, Darrah decided not to question it and lightly embraced her back.
"Is that why you're lonely?"
He shook his head. "I do not regret accepting Corvus' offer and I never will. I enjoy helping him in his work and caring for his birds."
Asha pulled back from the hug, wiping the corners of her eyes quickly before asking, "Then where does the loneliness come from?"
"I am not sure," he admitted, "Only that it is less when you are around."
This got Asha to smile as she replied, "Good." and she was sure he was smiling back. Then he looked behind her for a moment before he said, "Are those some of the herbs you were looking for?"
She glanced over her shoulder, and her expression lit up and her smile became more bright as she made her way over to the small clearing. Asha got on her knees next to the herbs and set her satchel next to her. As she opened it and pulled out a large pouch, Darrah leaned back against one of the massive oaks to take advantage of its shade. He watched as she carefully picked up the mature herbs to put in the pouch. When Asha moved on to the next herb to pick, he then asked, "What is your village like?"
She paused in her picking, a shocked look crossing her face before she answered him with a question of her own. "Have you never been outside of the Great Forest?"
"I never had the need to," he replied, and he thought that to be good enough reason.
"I do not interact with mortals much, as my duties rarely require me to."
"Well," Asha started as she carefully picked the herbs, "My village is small, at least compared to the other ones several days away. My mother is one of the more important people there, along with the baker, the blacksmith, and our village head. Not too many new people come around, and if they do they never stay for long."
Asha shrugged lightly, "Probably because there's not much to keep people here. I've heard some of the boys say it's because of the 'creepy forest' and that my mother is a 'bad witch'."
Darrah tilted his head to the side a little as he asked, "Do they truly believe that?"
Asha flashed him a smile. "Even if they did, they shouldn't anymore. Their parents gave them an earful cause one of their mothers overheard them one time. My mother's a good witch and has helped the village through several bad times. Even helped most of those boys through childhood sicknesses, so they were just being stupid."
Another question came to mind, but the Crow Lord was unsure if he should ask it as it was personal. After an inner debate, however, he asked it. "Is it just you and your mother?"
Asha nodded, mostly focused on the herbs. "It's always been just us."
She went still at the question, worriedly silent until she replied, "No, just mother and me, and she never talks about him in detail."
Asha went straight back to herb picking but took much longer to decide which ones to pick. Darrah found the silence uncomfortable and knew he was at fault for it.
"I need to apologize," He then told her softly, "It was not my place to pry."
"It's alright," Asha stopped picking herbs entirely and sat up straighter as she looked at him. Her eyes met his strange ones and proved that she wasn't upset about his question. She then finished with, "He's not here and I don't need him to be. I have my mother who I love dearly and now you as my friend."
"So you are not lonely?" He sounded almost like he was teasing, but Asha wasn't sure of it. However, she responded in case he was.
"Never. There's too much adventure to be had to be lonely, and now I have you to join me in this one we'll make together."
Asha saw Darrah's smile then, the sunlight breaking through the shadows of his feathered hood long enough for her to see it. It was handsome, though the parts of his face she could see could somewhat be called gaunt if its definition was stretched. At that moment, not only was Asha determined to be his friend, but also decided to make sure he smiled more often.