Atal's usually serene face was twisted in a mildly unpleasant fashion. Perhaps it was that few ever saw more than the puttering old man who often petulantly demanded tea. Or, it could be the fact that for some reason it looked as if his face was not entirely attached to his skull, as the wrinkles seemed to bunch under their own volition.
"Eyah! Tea there they might have..." he said, his gnarled hand holding Faith's hand, a gnarled oak twined about a knob of more dainty if no weaker Crete Myrtle. "Warm the bones...yes." He looked away from Faith, remembering her in her youth, when she was spry and flexible as a cutting from a willow tree. It was one of the few pains of the istari, ageless, and seeing the faces of friends and loved ones grey with the passage of time to face the inexorable ending of death.
He knew what lay beyond that door, one of the Istari's many secrets, but those words he would offer as rites of comfort as the flesh failed and the spirit was filled with fear and anxiety. He would speak the comforting words then. He had been foolish, the eyes of the wise shall be blind, and the hands of the strong shall be bound...
Was it the curse of the young to be inexperienced and the curse of the old to be unable to act? The agelessness of his kind was little comfort when the wind blew cold and the joints clouded with dull ache. Astoria, many times his junior had confounded him more than once, filling his companions dreams with uneasiness, and stealing Strath from them with the ease of a thief snatching a confectionary from a small childling.
The temple lay ahead, how long had it been? Years, possibly even more than a century since he had walked through those doors. The trip to reach the temple had taken too long, and had taken a toll on them physically as well as emotionally. The young paladin seemed as raw as a fresh torn scar, and the sivak almost boiled with inner conflict. Would the soux-dragon rankle to know that the old man could see through his stone calm, and ice cold facade...no reason to find out. He would leave the sivak to his own for the time being.
"Comfort we will find, and protection...yes." He said, vaguely remembering the taste of cinnamon honey tea. That could have been the temple tea, or the tea of any other of thirty towns and provinces. One day, he mused, he would write a book. A book in his own cramped handwriting, the letters crushed together to make sure the book would be small enough for a pair of stout dwarves to carry between them.