Author's Note: This story was inspired by and is based on the Xan NPC Mod (one of the romance paths) from the wonderfully talented Kulyok and companions, and written with her kind permission. Updates may be sporadic ;)


It had been weeks, if not months, since he'd felt anything even remotely bordering hope. The darkness was suffocating, the air seemed to stale a little bit more each day. His arms and legs had ceased cramping, probably because they'd been permanently damaged by the rope that bound them. The gag in his mouth was removed infrequently, when he was forced to drink and consume some rations; he didn't dare to think what was in them, and he was unable to make himself sick afterwards for fear of choking on his vomit while his mouth was obstructed -- though dying might not be a bad thing…

His mind drifted back to thoughts of trees and gardens, sunlight with the breezy air drifting past carrying the scents of a hundred different types of flower. The faint sound of someone singing softly, their lilting accent easily wandering amongst a variety of notes. The mountains rising above the verdant green valley, providing safety and security… the wooded terraces where one could sit and waste an entire day just drinking in the sights that surrounded you, the constant bubbling of brooks and ponds soothing your mind until you achieved a sense of inner peace. The magnificent buildings, with their spires and balconies, the clean roads that ran through the city. Home

He shook himself from the conscious reverie, unwilling to put himself through any more pain than he was already facing. It was lost to him, hopeless… memories would not save him from the fate that lay in store. All he could pray for was a swift death to end the lingering decay of his mind and soul as he wasted away, a prisoner of the half-orc fiend he'd been sent to investigate. But even that seemed unlikely; his captor delighted in torturing him, then using the powers granted to him by his dark god to heal over the worst of the wounds, leaving him to rest fitfully until it began again the next day. For years he'd feared death, if only because he knew what would happen to his soul when his time came -- but now, even being trapped within his moonblade seemed like a lesser fate.

It had, of course, been taken from him, leading to his immediate weakening. Had the priest not been casting healing and curative spells on him daily anyway, he would likely have died from the separation -- he was unsure why it hadn't claimed him anyway, and could only conclude that the weapon was being stored close enough to provide enough energy to sustain his further living. It figured, after all -- when did anything ever go right?

He would have closed his eyes were they not shut tight already -- a desperate attempt to ignore the world and his situation, but futile in the extreme. He would have sighed, but the gag in his mouth was wedged in tightly, and had begun to chafe at the corners, leaving sores that wept whenever it was removed. He would have given up hope, had he had any in the first place.

When he heard the noise of voices, he ignored them. When the discussion rose into shouting, he stirred slightly, but told himself to ignore it. When he heard the sound of steel upon steel, the cries of battle and the shrieks from injury, he opened his eyes. He was unsure what to think -- to have hope would only lead to disappointment when the newcomers were helplessly slaughtered by the kobolds and undead at the half-orc's command, but in all the time he'd been trussed up here, no one else had came.

Silence fell abruptly and he strained to listen for any noise, any sign of survival. He snorted slightly; it would be just his luck that they'd all managed to kill each other, leaving him as the sole survivor. Death would take him through either starvation or disease, whichever hit him first, and the pain would be excruciatingly slow. It was hopeless; he closed his eyes once more.

He ignored the noise of movement -- it was so quiet and restrained that it had to be the priest, no doubt rifling through the corpses of his attackers. His torture would prevail -- he'd even been cheated out of the awful death he'd dreamt about only seconds before. He frowned slightly when he heard some low voices; surely not… it couldn't possibly be. His eyes instinctively closed tighter, he shook everything from his head. He was going insane -- he was developing a fantasy that rescuers had arrived, friendly faces who would help him escape the hellish prison he was held captive in. People who had slain the priest that bound him and tormented him… but it could not be. It was impossible.

He flinched when he felt the soft touch of a warm hand on his face; his delusions were becoming wild, and he was too frightened to open his eyes, too terrified to see what was really standing before him -- nothing but the unending darkness of the cavern. Then a voice -- light but quiet, concerned but commanding. Female. His captor had not been female.

One eye opened slowly, protesting at the torchlight surrounding him. He squinted, trying to focus on the kneeling figure -- robed and cloaked, various shades of blue and green. A silver chain hung round the neck, and the face was turned away from him, over her shoulder as she conversed with someone else. Someone behind her. He was unable to listen to what was being said, his mind swirling with the inability to believe any of this was real.

Yellow hair… long yellow hair, falling haphazardly from the head. Her hand wasn't far from his face, resting lightly on his chest while she spoke. The skin was tanned; a light brown colour that seemed to shine with health and spoke of too many hours spent playing around in the sun. The nails were short and neat, slender fingers were bound together by a strip of bronze. Her voice stopped, and he looked up in time to see her turn back to face him. She smiled as she noticed his awareness of her, deep green eyes creasing as the happy expression covered her entire face.

"You are awake," she said softly. "Come -- let us see to your bonds and injuries."