Stand Against the Moon
Taken from the journal of Par Salain:
The Foundling entree forty five
Nuitari draws closer with each passing day. Oh but that I could see the confusion and silent panic this might be causing within the Tower, I would revel in it. I wonder if any of them know what it means, how close they may be to seeing the black moon god's fondest wish fulfilled. Solinari lingers close to her dark cousin, watching closely for his next move. She has a plan up her sleeve I am sure of it. Either way this unfolds it is of little concern to me but that is not to say that I will not be watching closely just as Solinari is doing. I am curious to see how Rosemarta might manage to get herself out of this while still protecting those she loves. Though it may sound impossible if there is one thing I have learned it is not to underestimate that child, Nuitari would be wise to do the same but wisdom was never one of his strong points.
It is a dangerous game these two have entered into, one side has nothing to lose and the other has everything to lose. It might have been better Rosemarta if you had done what the dark moon god wishes of you. If only you were not so stubborn. If only you did not love so much. But I am to blame for that. I should have known that a creature that thinks itself unsuited for love would ultimately crave it and if found would hold on with a grip stronger then death
Rosemarta woke to find Kalas still asleep with his back facing her. She smiled and moved close to place an arm around him, pressing her cheek against his back. She had not slept well, her dreams tormented by blackened bodies and burning trees. She listened to his heart and found that she did not regret what she was about to do. If she could save him that was all that mattered. If he hated her for the actions she would take today then so be it, she would bare that pain and accept it. What she had planed she would do because she loved him. She kissed his back and hugged him close to her. He stirred then and his turned to face her. He smiled.
"Good morning my Rose" she returned his smile.
"Good morning Kalas. I was wondering if you might like a cup of tea before breakfast this morning. To help you wake up"
"Tea sounds nice my Rose thank you"
"Okay then" she smiled at him again and kissed him softly before rising from the bed and dressing swiftly in her black robes before walking out into the main room and from there to the kitchen. While she fixed the tea she listened to the sound of Kalas getting up and moving about, the sound of water as he washed his face and the sound of rustling fabric as he changed. He walked out of the bedroom and took a seat at the table just as she finished filling the tea pot. Rosemarta reached into a sleeve of her robes and pulled out a small blue glass bottle. I hope this is fast acting; I had better put some in both cups so if he takes the wrong one I won't have to worry about it. She nodded to herself and added some of the sleeping potion to each cup before pouring in the tea. She picked up both cups and walked to the table where Kalas was waiting.
"Thank you Rose" Kalas smiled as Rosemarta set his cup before him.
"You`re welcome my love" she sat in the chair opposite him and watched as he took the first sip of his tea. Rosemarta drank her tea also but did not swallow. Forgive me Kalas. Kalas drank the last of his tea and was about to ask for another cup when suddenly he found himself growing dizzy, light headed, his vision clouded and his eyes refused to remain open.
"Rose...something is" he slumped forward onto the table, his cup falling from his hand to shatter upon the floor. Rosemarta stood and spat the scalding tea in her mouth into the fireplace. She turned and walked back to Kalas, reaching out a hand to stroke his cheek and brush some hair away from his face before going into her study to write the note that she would leave for him.
What you said last night was the truth. When a man and a woman enter into a relationship there is no more "you" or "me" there is only "us". You share in one another's pain and joy because that is what it means to love. What I do now I do because I love you. Had I stayed in Solace and called upon Nuitari his wrath would have spread to you and to all of Solace. This way when I confront him he will have only me to hurt. Nuitari has set all of his pieces on the board; he waits for me to make my move so that he might make his. I need to place him in check so that he must take time to consider his next move, he cannot attack Solace himself because then the other gods will move against him. By the time you read this one of two things will have happened. One I will be a red robe and under the protection of Lunitari so that the dark moon god may no longer touch nor control me for his own ends and he will have to sit back and consider carefully his next move. Or two I will be dead and Nuitari will still have to wait. There are some demons that we must face alone. If you had gone to Taladas you would have left me behind, wouldn't you? If you wish to find me ask Grail or Gremelkin, they will know where to find me.
Once finished writing the note she placed it upon the table next to his head and turned to leave the house, summoning Dragons Breath into her hands as she did so. Once outside she turned her steps toward the Inn, knowing that Grail would be there now preparing for the early morning breakfast crowd. She took a breath before knocking upon the door.
"Grail? It's me Rosemarta. I know that you are not open yet but please let me in, I need to talk to you" a few moments passed, there was the sound of a heavy bolt being moved aside and a key being placed in a lock. The door opened and Grail stood there smiling up at her.
"Good morning lass you are here early. Come in, what can I do for you?" Rosemarta walked inside then turned to face Grail as he closed the door behind her.
"Reorx told me to come here and to talk to you once I had made my decision"
"Yes I have" the look in her eyes told the old dwarf what it was she had decided. He nodded and walked over to the bar, disappearing behind it. He returned carrying a large parcel and a letter addressed to her.
"He left these two things here for you last night; I think he knew what you would decide"
"I don't doubt it" Rosemarta smiled and took the two items from Grail, placing them upon a nearby table. She knew what the parcel contained before she opened it, red velvet robes stitched with black runes upon the sleeves and around the collar.
"You may change in the bathroom and take the letter with you. It's the sort of thing that's meant only for you" she nodded and did as Grail said. Once she finished changing she opened the letter and it read:
Welcome home Rosemarta Dasrenvair, it is about time that you changed your robe color to match your heart. I was very impressed with you when you refused to use the magic you had been born to in favour of that which you had learned. I will never ask anything more from you then that you live your life well and honor the magic that you have been given. If you ever do seek to go after the Conclave that will be your own decision and I shall not force you one way or another. Welcome home.
Rosemarta smiled to herself and refolded the letter placing it under her robes and walking back out into the common room where Grail was waiting for her.
"I must go now Grail, I cannot ask for you to come with me because I have a favour to ask of you"
"Before you ask me you had better tell me what it is you plan to do then I will tell you if I can help or not. You always come up with these grand plans that often involve placing yourself in danger for no reason" Rosemarta suppressed a sigh,
"Nuitari has become impatient with me because I am not the kind of black robe that he would wish for me to be. I am going to ride away from Solace and call him out. This way when I revile my desertion he will have no one to hurt but me. I am banking on having a little protection" she touched one sleeve of her new red robe. Grail nodded firmly.
"Yep that certainly sounds like one of those foolhardy plans that you are famous for" he smiled "And we love you for them lass. You care about all of us so much, but we care about you too. There is no way you will let me come with you is there?" Rosemarta shook her head.
"No Grail, I`m sorry" the old dwarf moved forward to embrace her.
"Just promise me you won't do anything stupid, what am I saying this whole plan is stupid but I cannot talk you out of it and so I won't even try. Probably for the best that I can't go with you. I would probably be in the way" Rosemarta smiled down at him and returned his embrace.
"You could never be in the way Grail. Even if you could come with me I couldn't let you because I need you here. I need you to do something very important for me" he stepped away to look up at her.
"What would you have me do lass?"
"I gave Kalas a sleeping potion so that he would not follow me or try to stop me. He is at my house. I have left a note for him explaining my reasons. When he wakes I want you to tell him that I will be on the road half way to Haven. I will wait for one night for him then I will ride on to Heaven and he will never see me again, for I will know his feelings then. Will you do that for me?" Grail sighed and placed a hand to his forehead.
"Oh this is going to be fun"
"I`m sorry I wish that there had been another way. I think that he will need you. Will you do this for me?" the old dwarf lowered his hand and nodded.
"Yes lass I will do it"
"Thank you Grail" she smiled and placed a hand upon his shoulder. "I must go now wish me luck, I`ll need it"
"Good luck and my Reorx protect you with his hammer" Rosemarta smiled again before turning and departing from the Inn. Grail raised his eyes to the rafters of the Inn. "You hear me you drunken, gambling, fool? If you let any harm come to her you and I will have it out again and it will be the last time!" laughter filled the Inn even though it was empty and a voice that Grail new well answered back,
Rosemarta rented a horse from the stables and rode out of Solace heading in the direction of Haven. The winds had picked up, there was a storm on the way, by the time she reached a point in the road that she guessed was half way between Haven and Solace it was at full force, causing snow to swirl about her in great sheets. As she dismounted she noticed that her face and the back of her neck felt oddly warm, and that is was beginning to spread. A fever? Nonsense, Rosemarta shook her head and took a few steps away from her horse, who stirred restlessly in the face of the storm.
"Nuitari! I am here! Leave Solace alone and face me" for a while her only answer was the howl of the wind. The snow before her swirled together and took on the form of the dark moon god.
"You have spirit Dasrenvair to call me out this way. Does this mean that you have reconsidered?"
"No I have not. When I was young and I called upon you for power, which was all I wanted. If you had offered the Tower or the Conclave to me then I would have taken it, but not now. I have changed over the years. I have the power that I wanted and I do not have a need for more. I have a man of my own, a home, and friends that love me. They are all I want and all I will ever need. Find someone else to be your right hand Nuitari for it will not be me" the ground beneath her feet shook.
"You bitch!" a column of fire fell from the heavens and enveloped Rosemarta. "I don't give a damn what you want as long as you wear my color you will obey my orders to the letter or die. Do I make myself clear?" the magic flames died to show Rosemarta still standing perfectly upright and un harmed with a smug smile upon her face. "What?" Rosemarta unfastened her cloak and tossed it a side, the wind catching it and pulling it a few feet way.
"I am yours no longer Nuitari. Your authority over me has ended. You have lost your key"
"You turn coat bitch. I haven't lost anything. True now that you follow my cousin I can do nothing to you and my orders are yours to ignore but that won't stop me from fulfilling my promise to you. I will take everything you love from you. I don't know how yet, things like this need planning to be any fun, but I will make no mistake" Rosemarta`s smile faded and Nuitari grinned. "When all of Solace is in flames and your friends and your lover lie dead will you still be so defiant? Or will grief and anger twist your heart until it breaks? Who will you turn to? My cousin who will console you but not help you or to me who will give you power enough to fill the hole left by your heart? You have made a powerful enemy Dasrenvair and you will live to regret it" the wind snarled and the image of the dark moon god scattered. Rosemarta`s sigh was carried off by the wind as she turned to walk back to her horse to fetch the things she would need to make camp for the night. But something was wrong, the heat she had felt earlier was stronger now and it was beginning to burn away her strength. Her eye sight blurred, adding a second haze to that created by the whipping snow. The world suddenly pitched sideways and she fell into a growing snow drift. Though the snow and wind were freezing cold she could not feel them. She was burning up; at this rate...At least I was able to save him. I can die well knowing that. Though this is not how I pictured my death at all. She allowed her thoughts to grow quiet, she lay still and waited while the snow continued to fall, covering her like a heavy white blanket.
By this time Grail had reached Rosemarta`s house, he had brought Lucius with him knowing that he would need some help restraining Kalas if the worst came to worst, even though he was quite sure Kalas would make quick work of the both of them. The thought made him laugh quietly as he opened the door of the shop and walked inside, then up the stairs to the main house. Gremelkin was awake and standing near Kalas, who now lay upon the floor. The warrior cat smiled at them as they entered.
"Good morning Grail, Lucius, well I can relax a little bit now that the two of you are here. Now when this brute wakes up I will be off the menu" Gremelkin chuckled.
"What are you talking about feline? We`re going to put you in the vanguard" said Grail, Lucius nodded.
"Yes I think that would be a wise idea. You could handle him Gremelkin. I`ve seen you spar with Marz before"
"Yes but I never spared with Marz when he was angry unless I wanted to get my head lobbed off by "accident"" Kalas began to stir awake.
"Any last words you two?" muttered Lucius as they all watched Kalas closely, inching away as his eyes fluttered open. The mahogany Minotaur rolled onto his back and rubbed at his eyes, moving his mouth and swallowing as if he had dry mouth from drinking too much. He moved the hand from his eyes and looked around him. Spotting the three as they looked down upon him he raised an eyebrow.
"What are you three doing here? And what in the name of the Abyss am I doing on the floor?" he shook his head to clear it and pushed himself up before moving shakily to his feet. He stumbled and placed a hand upon the table to steady him. "Where is Rose?" he asked as he fell heavily into the chair that he had previously occupied. Grail moved forward, in his hand was the note that Rosemarta had written to Kalas, he had taken it from the table upon entering.
"Well there is a story to that...which you don't want to hear. Read this it will explain everything" the old dwarf handed the note to Kalas, who unfolded it and attempted to read it but his eyes refused to focus. He sighed and handed the note back to Grail, placing a hand over his eyes.
"Read it for me please my friend. I can't...my eyes" Grail nodded and read the note aloud. Once finished he sighed.
"She was only trying to protect you lad, to protect all of us. Will you go after her? She said she would wait for you half way between here and Haven. She will wait one night then ride on to Haven and you will never see her again. What will you do?"
"Her heart was in the right place Kalas. She didn't want you to be hurt. She knew that you would not let her go alone, she did not see any other way. If you had gone to Taladas you would have left her behind wouldn't you?" Kalas was silent, he barely heard them. My tea, she drugged me so that I would not follow her. He stared down at the table in disbelief, not knowing what to think for long moments. The sentence that he had spoken to her the day before suddenly came to him and repeated many times over. "The difference between bravery and foolhardy when it comes to those you love"
"She is half way between here and Haven you said?" Grail nodded.
"Yes" a few more moments and Kalas rose to his feet.
"I will go to her. I will need a horse"
"You can take mine Kalas my friend. Adeena is downstairs waiting. She already knows where you wish to go, she will bare you swiftly"
"Thank you Lucius"
"Do you wish for us to come along Kalas? In case Nuitari has hurt her?"
"I do not think Nuitari could afford to hurt her and now that she has Luitari`s protection I find it unlikely" this from Gremelkin from where he now sat upon the table.
"Whether he has or not I must go now" Kalas smiled, "Thank you my friends, for everything but rest assured we will be having a long talk about this when I return" Kalas turned and departed down the stairs to the shop.
"Grail I do believe that Rosemarta has managed to "Tame the Beast"" Lucius chuckled and Grail joined him.
"So it seems"
"Well are we going after him?"
"I think we should just in case. If Nuitari did hurt her there won't be much that he can do for her"
"There are some horses tethered and waiting outside"
"I`ll race you!" Grail turned and ran from the room with Lucius following. Gremelkin smiled after them then lay down upon the table, none of them had asked him about Rosemarta`s condition, though they should have known by now that they could feel one another.
"Help is coming Rosemarta, hold on"
Kalas rode as fast as Adeena could carry him, the wind snatching at his cloak and the snow stinging his face. The humming of the axe, which had begun faintly, had grown steadily stronger and stronger and what at its loudest now. Kalas dismounted and looked around. There was no evidence that another horse had been here, the wind had erased it. Rosemarta was close; the axe confirmed it, but where? There, beneath a snow bank, a flash of red. Kalas`s heart leaped into his throat as he fell to his knees, digging franticly. He pulled Rosemarta out and held her close, kissing her cheeks, they were so cold. He stood and remounted, turning and heading back toward Solace at a steady pace, it would not do to have Adeena collapsing in the middle of a snow storm. He held Rosemarta close to keep her from freezing.
"Rose, you beautiful, stubborn woman, what am I going to do with you?" he saw two riders approaching him, Grail and Lucius.
"Gods your fast lad. Let me have a look at her" the old dwarf rode closer and leaned over to examine Rosemarta. "She seems alright but that`s one hell of a fever she has, you had better get her home as fast as you can. Lucius and I will catch up" Kalas nodded and urged Andeena to move as fast as he dared.
"Kalas...forgive me" mumbled Rosemarta, her voice weak and barely audible above the wind.
"Rest assured my Rose we will talk of this once you are well again. For now just save your strength. You will be home soon" when they arrived in Solace Moon was waiting for them, a troubled look upon her face.
"Is she alright Kalas? She feels...faint"
"She will be fine we just need to get her home"
"Lady Ariel is already there waiting for you"
"Lady Ariel? But how?" Lucius, Kalas smiled and silently thanked his old friend. Arriving at the house Kalas dismounted and hurried up the stairs with Rosemarta held tight in his arms. As Moon had said Ariel was waiting for them in the main room of the house.
"Take her to her room Kalas then leave her with us, Moon and I will take care of her" Kalas nodded wordlessly and walked into Rosemarta's room, placing her gently upon the bed before departing. Ariel and Moon entered after him closing the door behind them. Kalas sighed and collapsed into the nearest chair to wait.
"How is she Kalas?" this from Gremelkin as he sat up from where he had been lying upon the table.
"She has a fever Gremelkin but other than that she is unharmed. Lady Ariel and Moon are seeing to her now"
"I see" the warrior cat lied back down and said nothing more. Grail and Lucius arrived and were equally as silent as they waited for news of Rosemarta's condition. Minuets passed and they felt like hours, the silence filled with a restless tension. Moon was the first to exit the room followed by Ariel who walked up to face Kalas and smiled.
"The fever is down she should be fine. She has asked to see you Kalas so you may go in. Please do not be too hard on her I would have done the same thing myself" Lucius smiled at this and nodded, placing a hand upon his friends shoulder.
"If there is nothing you need my friend we will be going now" Kalas nodded.
"Alright Lucius but we will be having a serious talk about this of that you can be certain"
"That goes for me as well I suppose" this from Grail as he stroked his beard thoughtfully. Kalas nodded and Grail grunted his understanding. "Lets go you two" Lucius and Ariel nodded and followed the old dwarf down the stairs and out into the street, Moon was already gone. Kalas sat quietly for a few moments before heaving another sigh and walking to Rosemarta's bedroom door. He knocked softly.
"Come in Kalas" Kalas opened the door and poked his head in. Rosemarta lay upon the bed with her head supported by two pillows. Her clothes were flung upon the floor; Mayvel would take care of them later. She smiled at him and he returned it, entering the room fully and closing the door behind him.
"How are you feeling?"
"A little better all things considered" she looked away from him and sighed. "Kalas I am sorry. I was only trying to protect you that is all" Kalas nodded and took a seat in the chair that had been placed next to her bed.
"I know my Rose"
"I honestly did not expect for you to come looking for me till the next morning. I thought you would hate me"
"What did you think? That I would destroy your house and your shop in a fit of rage?" Rosemarta smiled sheepishly.
"Something along those lines yes"
"Truth be told the thought did cross my mind to make an ungodly mess but the sentence I spoke to you last night kept repeating in my head. There is a fine line between bravery and foolhardy when it comes to protecting the ones you love. It kept me in check my lady love" Rosemarta's smile became a grin.
"Thank the gods for that" Kalas smiled and took one of her hands in both of his. A silence passed between them for a while, calm and thoughtful. "Though I am not quite sure what side of that line what I did falls upon"
"It was done for love my Rose hence the thin line" he smiled again and leaned forward to kiss her forehead. "Ah my Rose, you are a most stubborn woman. Beautiful but stubborn...and I love you for it"
"You are mighty stubborn yourself my love. There is yet another thing we have in common, we are both "Bull headed" when it comes to our decisions" Kalas raised an eye brow at the Bull headed remark.
"Ah so we are not above making cow or bull jokes now are we? I think you have been spending too much time around Grail" the chuckled and patted her hand. "But we do make quite the pair do we not my little red robe?" Rosemarta chuckled.
"Yes indeed we do" Another silence passed between them, longer then the first. "Would you like to hear what happened Kalas? Or would you rather not know?"
"I am all ears my Rose, whenever you are ready" Rosemarta nodded and turned her eyes to the ceiling.
"When I rode out of Solace the storm had already begun to gather strength, when I reached the place where you found me it was at full force. I had thought I felt a fever growing but I chose to ignore it. When I called upon Nuitari he appeared before me and asked me if I had reconsidered. I told him that I had not. That I had all the power I needed and that I did not wish for any more as I once had when I was younger. He was furious, he brought down a column of fire upon me but it never touched me. He warned that he would find a way to take away everything that I love. He asked me if when Solace is burned and everyone I love is dead if I will still be so defiant. He asked me who I would turn to. To Lunitari who will comfort me but not help me or to him, as he will give me power enough to fill the hole left by my heart. Then he vanished. When I tried to walk back to my horse I fell and you know the rest"
"You sound as if you expect for him to return Rose"
"He will be Kalas, don't doubt it. He is not finished with me or with Solace. Nuitari does not make idle threats and he now has much to think about. He cannot attack Solace out right himself because he knows that Reorx and Kiri Jolith will act against him so he needs to find someone to do his dirty work for him. He needs an army and he will do anything he can to get one"
"My Rose do you think that he might seek out those who attacked the headquarters of the Order in Taladas?"
"That is possible. It is equally possible that the army that was after Lord Zane might join up with Him. Zane said that they might be back at some point. With the dark moon god behind them they would believe themselves invincible especially if they combined forces with those who attacked the Order"
"I should see Lucius tomorrow and tell him of this. The council should be called and this information shared. There is something more at work here Rose. Just think within the past day we have had three gods of the Pantheon at our home. Does that not scream that something else is going on behind what we see?" Rosemarta nodded.
"Indeed it does" Rosemarta yawned then smiled apologetically at Kalas, "Forgive me my love I am not bored with our conversation I just find myself growing tired" Kalas patted her hand and smiled.
"It's alright my Rose. I understand, you need your rest now" he leaned forward to kiss her cheek. She returned his smile.
"I if I did not know better I would be worried about you taking advantage of me in this state, my resistance would be low" she chuckled. Kalas smiled slyly and shook his head.
"How could I possibly take advantage of you that way my lady love?" He leaned forward again and kissed her softly before standing up and pulling the covers up around her. "Get some sleep Rose. I`m going to make myself a cup of tea then head off to bed myself" he gently brushed his fingers over her cheek before turning and walking out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him. Gremelkin was still awake upon the table and looked up when Kalas walked past him to get to the kitchen.
"How is she?"
"She is sleeping now"
"Lucky for you that your lady is here my little friend otherwise you and I would be having a go around right now" Gremelkin pricked his ears and returned Kalas`s even stare, unsure as to whether he had been joking or not. After a few moments a grin passed across Kalas`s lips and he began to laugh. Gremelkin joined him and shook his head.
"Well I suppose I would deserve it"
Rosemarta woke in the morning to find that Kalas was not with her. He had probably slept in one of the other rooms to ensure that she got her rest. Judging by the sounds coming from the kitchen Mayvel was here and making preparations for breakfast. Rosemarta pushed herself up and moved slowly from her bed to the bathroom, where she promptly emptied the contents of what she thought was an empty stomach. Mostly bile it left a horrible taste behind that water would not remove. She groaned and shuffled slowly back to her bed, laying down upon it and covering up again. She would not be leaving bed again this day unless something changed by this afternoon and the way she felt now that did not seem likely. A knock came to her bedroom door.
"Mistress Rosemarta? Are you awake?"
"Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast?"
"I don't think I could keep it down"
"Would you like a cup of camomile tea then?"
"Yes please Mayvel and thank you" she closed her eyes and listened to the sound of Mayvel`s footsteps heading back to the kitchen. Another knock, this time she knew that it was Kalas.
"Come in" Kalas opened the door and walked in slowly to take a seat in the same chair he had sat in the night before.
"How are you my Rose?"
"No better I am afraid, unless being sick to your stomach is a sign of getting well" Kalas was silent for long moments, an odd look in his eyes as he leaned over her to brush the hair from her face and look into her eyes.
"My Rose...do you have...morning sickness?" morning sickness? A baby? No it couldn't be.
"I don't know if you would call it that. It could just be related to my illness I can't tell. We would have to ask Mayvel or a cleric to know for sure"
"Would you like for me to go to the Temple to ask if Ariel or one of their clerics might come to take a look at you?"
"I think you had better just so we can know for sure" Kalas was on his feet without another word, he kissed Rosemarta on the cheek before hurrying from the room, down to the shop and out into the street, heading for the Temple as fast as his legs could carry him. Rosemarta rubbed at her belly slowly and shook her head. No it couldn't be. It had to be the illness, please gods let it be the illness, she couldn't have a baby not now, not with all that might be about to happen. She was still lost in her thoughts when Mayvel entered the room and set a tray down upon the bedside table. On the tray was a cup of camomile tea and a bowl of bread porridge. Rosemarta grimaced.
"Now none of that you have to eat something. If you can keep this down now then I will give you something more substantial at lunch time. You need to keep your strength up if you are going to get better" Rosemarta nodded, she knew that the elderly woman was right. She sat up slowly in bed and accepted the bowl from her. As the housekeeper was about to leave Rosemarta called out to her,
"Do you know anything about babies?"
"I should say so I had one of my own and delivered a number of others. Why do you ask? Do you think that you are pregnant?"
"Perhaps, I was sick when I woke up this morning but then again I am still sick from yesterday so it could just be that" Mayvel nodded.
"Yes that`s true but if you are still sick once your illness has passed" Rosemarta nodded, Mayvel did not need to explain. "Any how until you know for sure I would not worry about it. Eat up then get some rest and here" she set a clean bucket near the bed, "So you won't have to get up if you feel sick again" the old woman departed then and no sooner had she done so when another wave of nausea hit Rosemarta, who leaned over the bed and wrenched. She lay back and closed her eyes tight to block out the discomfort. A head cold indeed she shook her head as she recalled Moons words from the night before. One of her hands moved almost of its own accord to rub at her belly again. It couldn't be it just couldn't be, not now. In the passing of ten minuets Kalas returned and with him was Clea, whom Rosemarta remembered meeting once before just before they had all left for Palanthas. Kalas smiled at her before leaving the room and closing the door behind the cleric.
"Hello Mistress Rosemarta do you remember me?"
"Yes I do"
"I am glad" while saying this Clea took a seat in the chair that still stood next to the bed. "Now please just relax this won't take but a few moments" Clea smiled reassuringly then placed both of her hands upon Rosemarta`s belly. Blue light shown softly from beneath and around them, watching Rosemarta held her breath praying silently that the young cleric would find nothing but also...
"I`m finished, you`re not pregnant"
"Oh thank the gods"
"Would you like for me to go tell Kalas before I leave?"
"Yes please do and thank you" Clea smiled and departed from the room without a word. Out in the main room Kalas was waiting for her.
"She is not pregnant sir Kalas just ill. Keep her in bed, make sure she eats well and she should be fine by tomorrow morning"
"Thank you for coming Clea"
"No thanks needed sir Kalas, have a good day" Clea smiled again and made her way down the stairs that led to the shop. Kalas watched her go before making his way into Rosemarta`s room, sitting down next to her and taking one of her hands in his.
"How do you feel now my Rose? Any better?"
"A little yes thank you Kalas"
"Okay" Kalas smiled again and kissed her lips before rising to his feet. "I am going to head to the kitchen and make myself something to eat, would you like anything Rose?"
"No thank you I`m fine" Rosemarta smiled after Kalas as he walked out, sitting quietly for a few moments before reaching for the bowl of bread porridge that she had set upon the bed side table and setting it down in her lap. She ate one spoonful slowly and shook her head at how tasteless it was. Kalas returned with a plate of two eggs, a few slices of ham and some fruit.
"Are you sure there is not something you would like before I start my meal Rose?"
"Yes I`m sure" Kalas eyed the porridge that was Rosemarta`s breakfast and frowned.
"How can you eat that? It's so tasteless"
"I know and you are right but I have to eat something and I don't know if I can keep anything else down"
"How about some sliced fruit my Rose? Do you think you could handle that?"
"Maybe, I can give it a try"
"Alright then I will be right back" Kalas set his breakfast down upon the bed side table and left again. He returned minutes later with a bowl full of straw berries, sliced apple, orange pieces, and some chunks of melon. "Here you are my Rose, try this"
"Thank you my love" Rosemarta smiled and accepted the bowl from Kalas, placing the porridge aside, glad that she may not have to eat it after all. Kalas retook his seat, placing his tray in his lap. He waited for Rosemarta to take the first bite of her breakfast.
"How is it my Rose?"
"Very good Kalas, thank you" Kalas smiled at her before starting on his own breakfast. The two ate quietly, enjoying this peace that had been afforded to them. For how long was any ones guess. Nuitari wouldn't have wasted any time in setting his plans into motion, especially if he had enlisted the aid of either those that had attacked the Order in Taladas or the remains of the army that was still searching for Zane, they would need information and it would have to come soon.
"I hope that the false alarm did not disappoint you too much" Kalas chuckled.
"It's just as well, you would want children that look like this would you?" he pointed to his bulls head. Rosemarta smiled at him warmly.
"Who says?" a knock came to the door then.
"Mistress Rosemarta? I have finished my cleaning so I will take my leave now. I will be back at the lunch hour to fix that broth for you, alright?"
"Alright Mayvel and thank you" they both listened to the sound of the elderly woman`s footsteps as they faded way, returning to and finishing their meals in silence. In the next room Gremelkin had finished their breakfast also and the old warrior cat was wondering whether or not they should disturb Kalas and Rosemarta. Back in the bedroom Rosemarta set her now empty bowl aside upon the bed side table.
"I was thinking Kalas; there really is no reason for the both of us to be cooped up in the house all day. Gremelkin and Mishka are here and Mayvel will be back at the lunch hour so you may go to the Inn if you wish" Kalas smiled at her and shook his head.
"Not for all the ale in the Inn my Rose, you won't get rid of me that easy"
"I was not trying to be rid of you it's just that there is not much for you to do around here. You may well get bored of me" Rosemarta smiled slightly and leaned back against her pillows.
"Bored of you? I don't know of any such" he looked upon her affectionately. "Would you like something else to eat my Rose? Or perhaps something to drink? Or was there something else you wanted to talk about?" talk to Kalas about children and marriage? No now was not the time. Rosemarta shook her head.
"No thank you I am fine, the way my stomach has been acting its best not to chance it. But what I would like is for you to lie down next to me since you have decided to stay" she smiled at him but he did not return it, instead he sat forward in his chair to look into her eyes.
"I know that you are scared by what we thought earlier of your sickness and I know now what is foremost in your mind" Rosemarta`s smile fell and she turned her face from him, Grail was right, she was a terrible lire. Kalas smiled now.
"No need to lose your beautiful smile my Rose. Say what is on your mind. I will answer any question you have for me" Rosemarta was quiet for long moments trying to think of the way to word what she was feeling and thinking properly.
"Kalas I know that neither of us is ready to be parents but when, if, it happens. I mean, do you want... Would you ever..." it was hopeless the words wouldn't come out no matter how hard she tried. She fell quiet again, twisting her fingers together in her lap. Kalas smiled at her and placed his now empty plate upon the table, setting the bowl on top of it.
"Rose if I had had any doubts about our relationship or any worries when it came to that we would never have spent the night together. I believe in life mates. I am yours till you no longer want me or I pass from this world" he rose to his feet and joined her in the bed as she and requested, placing both arms around her and holding her close. Rosemarta smiled and leaned comfortably against him.
"Thank you Kalas, you have quieted any and all of my worries. I love you"
"As I love you my Rose" he kissed her cheek and the two lay together for long quiet moments when a tapping at the window caused them both to look up. Krif sat upon the window sill and was requesting entry. Rosemarta smiled and waved her hand toward the window, which opened, and watched as Krif flew in and landed upon one of Kalas`s horns.
"Hello Krif it has been a little while. Have you come just to visit or do you have something for me?" Krif nodded and turned to show the two letters tied to his back. Rosemarta gently removed them and placed them both in her lap, one was from Jenna, and the other was from Laddona.
"Would you like for me to leave my Rose so that you might read them in privet?"
"No Kalas that won't be necessary" she smiled at him before picking up Jenna`s letter, which read:
I am glad to hear that you have chosen the red robes at last, in my mind it is what you were always meant to be. Things are quiet here at the Tower and all is pretty much back to the way it should be. I cannot wait to see Morgens face when he finds out. Congratulations.
Signed Jenna Head of the Conclave
Rosemarta smiled slightly and moved on to the second letter which was not quite so congragilitory as the first, in fact quite the opposite:
To Rosemarta Dasrenvair,
It disappointed me to hear that you have taken the red robes. I could feel Nuitari`s wrath shake the bones of the Tower. Be mindful that you have made a vengeful enemy Dasrenvair and pray that He does not call upon me to fight on his behalf. However despite this recent development I have decided to allow Krif to remain in your service and care.
Signed Laddona Arch mage of the Black robes.
Rosemarta sighed and set Laddona`s letter down upon her lap.
"Good news in one hand and bad in the other, I thought this would happen"
"Do you regret changing your alignment now my Rose?" Rosemarta shook her head.
"No I don't. It had to be done and really I think that I was meant to be a red robe from the start. When I chose black a small part of me wished to spite Par Salain and Morgen. But then if I had been a red robe from the start chances are I never would have come here, and I never would have met you" she smiled at Kalas and he kissed her cheek.
"And if I had returned to Taladas after the battle with the Seekers I never would have met you either. Staying here was the best decision I ever made" Krif cawed and Rosemarta chuckled, lifting her hand so that the crow could perch upon it, then bringing him down to eye level.
"I also never would have made good friends like you and Aruna" Krif fluffed his feathers and Rosemarta kissed his head. "It seems that you are retired now my old friend" Krif shrugged. "You may go home now if you wish but Gremelkin and Mishka are in the other room, I am sure they would like to see you"
"Ah yes your old chess playing buddy has a girl friend now Krif did you know?" the crow shook his head and Kalas chuckled. "Well then I think you had better go introduce yourself" Krif nodded and hopped off of Rosemarta`s hand onto the bed and from there to the floor. He made his way to the door and opened it with expert and practised skill, closing it behind him before making his way to where Gremelkin and Mishka still sat upon the table. The old crow smiled to himself as he silently got up onto the table. He crept behind Gremelkin and cawed loudly causing the old warrior cat to jump.
"Krif you feather brained ass! Don`t you know it's not polite to scare the wits out of people?" asked Gremelkin as he spun upon his old friend with a look of mock anger upon his face. Krif shrugged then looked to Mishka. "Oh yes you two haven't met yet have you? This is Mishka Krif my...well...we enjoy one another's company. Mishka this is Krif one of my oldest friends and a devil of a chess player. Say now that you are here Krif why don't we all head to the Inn and leave the love birds to their own devises?" Gremelkin winked and Krif nodded his agreement. "Alright then let us go" Krif flew for the open door leading down into the shop followed by the two felines.
Rosemarta and Kalas lay together quietly for a long time, enjoying the peace of just being so close to each other, letting their thoughts wander in a sleepy haze. Kalas chuckled and Rosemarta looked up at him.
"Do you remember the night we first met my Rose?" she smiled.
"Yes I remember. You were all celebrating and I was coming in to take a break from the road. I remember how surprised I was to see all of you there and how you all seemed to be so at ease with one another and happy"
"We were celebrating our victory against the Seekers my Rose. Do you remember what you said about us?"
"Yes I do, my days on the road had made me stone headed and cold hearted so I didn't think before I spoke. I really did not mean it as an insult and I wish that I had not said it"
"Why my Rose? Just think if you hadn't we never would have met that first time"
"Our meeting didn't exactly get off to a promising start but I got back into you`re good books pretty fast didn't I?"
"A free ale always makes me happy" he chuckled again and Rosemarta joined him.
"You sound just like Morgen sometimes, he would be honoured"
"It was not long after you arrived that he showed up was it?"
"No not long at all"
"Do you remember what you said to Khurn and I? That we would be fit for the Knighthood? Could you really imagine me in plate armour?"
"I was trying to pay the two of you a compliment for being so kind to me. I was my way of saying that I thought of the two of you as my friends. If you recall I was still unsure as to whether or not I would stay. I felt out of place, and sometimes I still do"
"What do you mean my Rose?"
"Just what I said Kalas. Do you remember the way I reacted to first meeting Lucius and the Paladins? Well it was not because I was shy it was because I did not completely trust them even though they are your friends. I have never been run out of anywhere in my life but I have seen others that have been. Being the only black robe in a place where the name Mishkal practically lives and breathes made me uneasy and being the only red robe will be no different" she was quiet for a while and when she spoke again her voice had a hard edge. "I almost envy white robes, not that I would ever become one. They can go where ever they please and not have to worry for anything because they are accepted by all, almost the same as clerics. It's very different for black robes. We are trusted by no one and accepted only where the dark powers hold sway, having to constantly look over our shoulders watching for the daggers that will find us if we are not careful. The fear that most have for us keeps us safe most of the time. Red robes have it a little easier but not much. There are times when I feel that I do not belong here"
"Who has made you feel this way my Rose? Tell me and I will give them a thrashing they won't soon forget"
"No one in particular it's just a feeling. It was strongest at the wedding"
"But they all applauded your playing my Rose and they were all happy to have you there"
"Yes I know you are right. It was more so when I was at the temple that I felt that way"
"Are you sure that you are not being just a little insecure my Rose? That it may be all in your head?"
"Yes that is possible" Kalas sighed and removed his arms from around her before moving from the bed.
"Well I can see that talking about this anymore isn't going to do any good. I am going to go get myself something to drink do you want anything?"
"No thank you" Kalas turned and walked out. Rosemarta listened to his footsteps before rolling over in the bed so that she was facing the wall. He was upset with her and she knew why because of how cold she had been, un willing to talk to him. She had not meant to be. She could feel tears running down her cheeks and she made no move to brush them away. Kalas walked back in a few moments later, he was empty handed, his drink forgotten and still unmade in the kitchen. He walked to Rosemarta`s side of the bed and sat upon the edge there. She turned her face to hide her tears. He smiled slightly and gently turned her to face him. He lifted a hand to wipe away her tears.
"I am sorry my Rose, forgive me I did not mean to upset you. It is just that when you get like this it seems that there is nothing I can do. Nothing I say seems to help you"
"I know and I am sorry. I`m so used to keeping things to myself, I know I can't do that anymore or rather that I shouldn't it is only that I do not wish to worry you or the others with my troubles. You do help me Kalas more then you know just by listening. And you are right my fears and my worries about being unwanted here are entirely unfounded and I will try to put them away" Kalas smiled some more and placed his arms around her, hugging her close to him.
"It must have been very hard for you my Rose, becoming a black robe and taking on all that entails. I should have been more understanding"
"It's alright Kalas. I do not belong to Nuitari anymore, I am yours and my home is here, right here in your arms. And if I ever forget that again you have my permission to use whatever means necessary to remind me of that"
"Well I know one means that I would like to try first" he lifted his head to kiss her; she smiled against his lips and returned his kiss lovingly. When their lips parted she smiled at him.
"Do you know what you do to me when you kiss me like that?"
"You did say any means my Rose"
"Yes I know and I don't ever want you to stop" he returned her smile and kissed her again holding her as though he would never let her go again. A knock came to the door of her bed room.
"Mistress Rosemarta are you and sir Kalas awake?" Rosemarta sighed.
"Yes Mayvel we are"
"Then shall I go ahead and make your lunch then?"
"Please do and thank you" once sure that Mayvel was out of an earshot Rosemarta smiled at Kalas and lifted a hand to touch his now bovine face. "No matter how many times the axe changes you it will still be this you that I fell in love with" she moved her hand to his heart. "And this also"
"You don't know how happy hearing you say that makes me my Rose"
"Oh I think I can guess" Kalas returned her smile and kissed her again before moving to sit upon the bed next to her. In the passing of about an hour Mayvel entered the room carrying a tray with two bowls of vegetable soup, bread with butter, and two cups of tea. She set the tray upon the bed side table before turning to Rosemarta.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better Mayvel, thank you"
"Very good, you should be well by tomorrow I think. Now I will clean up the kitchen then"
"Don`t worry about that Mayvel take the rest of the day off you have earned it" Rosemarta smiled at her and Mayvel shrugged.
"Very well but I am still going to clean up the kitchen. There is no chance of me sleeping through the night knowing that I left behind a dirty kitchen" Rosemarta chuckled.
"Alright Mayvel you do that then and enjoy the rest of your day"
"I shall thank you. Good day Mistress Rosemarta, Sir Kalas" the elderly woman bowed to the both of them before departing. Kalas handed Rosemarta her bowl and a piece of bread before taking his own and settling more comfortably next to her.
"Thank you Kalas" Rosemarta smiled at him before she set upon her meal. They ate quietly and listened to Mayvel as she worked in the kitchen. Once finished Rosemarta handed her bowl to Kalas, who set it down upon the bed side table for her. Mayvel had by this time departed and Kalas had taken on his human form. Rosemarta lay down upon the bed and smiled at him. Kalas smiled back and finished his soup, placing his bowl with Rosemarta`s.
"I don't know what Mayvel put in that soup but I suddenly feel quite invigorated. How about you my Rose?"
"The same, I think that I will be able to open the shop up tomorrow and start making a living for myself. And a good thing too I have relied upon charity up till now it's about time that I stood on my own two feet"
"Oh so I am a charity giver now am I my Rose?" Kalas crossed his arms, a slight smile playing upon his lips. Rosemarta gave him a playful shove.
"Now you know I didn't mean it like that and besides" she smiled slyly, "You know that I would happily take anything that you might offer to give me" a look of mock surprise took hold of Kalas`s features.
"How you do talk my little red robe" Rosemarta laughed.
"Yes I know, I think that Gremelkin is beginning to rub off on me" Kalas chuckled.
"Indeed" he smiled then and waved his eye brows at her before lying down and taking her in his arms. "And what is it exactly that you would like for me to give you my Rose?" she looked into his eyes and placed her arms around his neck.
"I want you Kalas, all of you. Give yourself to me" he kissed her then fiercely and she returned it.
"Take as much of me as you wish my Rose. I am yours body and soul" she moaned against his lips and pulled away his tunic and his shirt, placing her hands upon his strong back and pulling him close as he removed her night dress. He surrendered himself to her, everything he had, holding nothing back till they were both spent. She moved to rest her head upon his chest and he placed his arms around her, holding her gently.
"I think that I will take a short nap, is it alright if I stay here?"
"Of course my Rose, I don't mind" she smiled and kissed his chest before closing her eyes. He smiled also and placed one hand upon her head stroking her hair till she fell asleep. In a few moments he too drifted into a peaceful sleep, surely this must be heaven.
But if that was heaven then here was hell. Nuitari sat at the head of a round table within the bowels of his home, carefully hidden from the eyes of the other gods, or so he hoped. What did it matter any how if they could see him now? He had no plans to launch a direct attack himself and go against the pantheon; he was not so foolish as his mother. There was nothing to stop him from forming an army and attacking indirectly. And there was nothing that spoke against him holding a meeting with two of his own ilk in his own home. Sitting at the table with him were Chemosh Lord of the Dead and Morgion the goddess of disease and decay. Both were dressed in their finest for this meeting with the dark moon god. Both owed him favours Nuitari had seen to that in preparation for a day such as this.
"Who is it that you have chosen for this army of yours?" asked Morgion, her voice quiet and hollow as if it sounded from the inside of a skull, which it well might have for there was no way for even the dark moon god to see through the blackness of the goddess shroud. Only her eyes could be seen, both blood red and in possession of an eerie glow that would have sent mortals running in vain.
"Two whom I know shall not fail me because their hatred of the Order and anyone or anything associated with them is so great"
"You refer to the ones that destroyed the Orders headquarters upon Taladas?"
"I do, and then there are the few straggling troops that are after that wayward prince even after the loss of their possessed leader and their rouge mages"
"And how are you certain that they will fight for you?"
"Desperate men are weak men my dear Morgion you of all people should know that. Once I dangle an opportunity for victory in front of their noses they will seize hold of it like ravenous animals"
"You sound awfully sure of yourself for one who has failed so many times" the Lord of the Dead was calm as he said what no one else would have dared for fear of evoking the dark moon god's wrath. The mussel s in Nuitari`s jaw tensed.
"Whatever do you mean my friend?"
"Exactly what I said. You tried to convince this Rosemarta to take the Tower and the Conclave for you once and you were thwarted by Reorx. You tried a second time and your cousin gave you a beating through her new convert. And most recently you used the feelings of love and jealousy possessed by the cleric Morana to try and take the child of the Paladin Lucius and the High Cleric of Mishkal Lady Ariel. That too failed and now your little puppet well may be put to death for her crimes. Before I lend my forces to you I want assurances that you will not fail again" a deadly silence entered the chamber and Chemosh was aware that if he had been anyone else he would be dead, the Pantheon be damned.
"Assurances?" Nuitari spoke slowly, "With what you know of mans evil, desperation, and drive to destroy I should think that is all the assurance you need. A wave of hate will wash over Solace and there will be no stopping it. We shall win and you will be rewarded handsomely. I will have my key and the both of you will have anything that you wish" the silence became contemplative as both gods weighed their options. Morgion was the first to speak.
"You may count upon my troops to join you when the time comes, I will make my demands when Solace is ash"
"As will I"
"Till that day then my friends" the Lord of Death and the Goddess vanished leaving Nuitari alone to toast his own genius. Solace would not survive this and Rosemarta would be his.
Rosemarta sat at her desk the next morning looking through the list of all the items in her shop as she had written them in the log book. She had felt well enough that morning to get out of bed and eat breakfast so she had decided to open up the shop, for the first time really since they had returned from Palanthas. With all that had happened that seemed like ages ago now. Yesterday, the second half of it, had been absolutely horrible, something from a nightmare, and there would be more to come. Morana a cleric and old friend of Lucius, who apparently also had very deep feelings of love for him, had attempted to kidnap Lucius and Ariel`s son Luca not but a few minutes after he was born. She had almost escaped across the lake when Kalas and Lucius had caught up to her. She was currently being held under guard at the Temple awaiting trial and judgement, neither of which Lucius was prepared to give. Many who knew Morana had a hard time believing that she could be capable of something like this and Rosemarta was inclined to agree. She was highly suspicious of Nuitari having had his hand in there somewhere and she had told Lucius as much. He had thanked her and said he would take that into consideration when the time came. Not but a few hours after that event had passed they had learned the name of their enemy by way of a letter sent to them by Khurn. Livillia, an elf female and former High Priestess of Mishkal, and Magintus, once friend and leader to Lucius and the other Paladins of the Order. Both had been charged with crimes against the code of the Order, striped of their ranks and banished. They hated the Order now and all that it stood for. The perfect pawns for Nuitari to move against them. They had learned also that they were building ships, they would attack by sea as well as by land, and who knew what other ungodly forces they would bring with them courtesy of Nuitari. Rosemarta sighed, set her quill down and leaned forward in her chair, resting her head in her hands. Gods where would it end?
"Still wondering how to defeat a god such as Nuitari?" Rosemarta looked up to see Gremelkin sitting upon her desk. She smiled slightly and sat up to pet him.
"I don't think that there is a way"
"Oh there is a way but I will tell you one thing you will never be able to best him if you fight him upon our plain" the old cat settled upon the table and closed his eyes, as he had nothing else to say. Rosemarta continued petting him for long moments before finally returning to her work. The day passed by marked by the coming and going of customers, most of whom just browsed. Mishka joined Gremelkin upon the table and Mayvel walked in at around the lunch hour and headed up stairs. Rosemarta rose from her desk and walked to stand in the doorway of the store room, where Kalas had been working since morning.
"About ready for a break my love?"
"Yes almost my Rose" while saying this Kalas pushed a stack of crates off to the side and turned to look upon another, opening the lid of the first to look at its contents.
"Is there any particular payment that you would like to receive in return for your hard work my love?" Kalas side glanced at her, a sly smile upon his face.
"You give me room and board plus other benefits my Rose, what more could I ask for?" he licked his lips and winked at her. Rosemarta giggled and returned his smile before turning to look out the window. Kalas stopped his work, walking up from behind to place his arms around her. "Alright my little red robe what have you got up your sleeves?"
"Oh nothing really I was just thinking of how lucky we have been up till now. We have faced pain and danger many times and still managed to come out of it alright but luck runs out sooner or later and this time I think that it may have run out for us"
"Luck huh?" he tightened his embrace, "Well I would say that we have deserved it"
"Do you want to hear something I have always found interesting? Why do they call rabbits feet lucky? They certainly weren't very lucky for the rabbit" Gremelkin chuckled from where he still sat upon the table.
"A good point"
"I think I will put together some chicken pies for you and sir Kalas"
"Alright Mayvel and thank you. I believe we will be going to the Inn later so you may take the night off"
"As you wish" a comfortable silence settled upon the shop and Rosemarta allowed herself to relax against Kalas`s strong chest, his arms around her felt so safe amid all this chaos.
"Treasure him while you can Dasrenvair, it will not be long now before I come and take him from you along with everything else that you love" Rosemarta tensed as her peace was shattered and bowed her head. Kalas felt her tense and could imagine what had just happened. He held her tighter.
"He isn't going to leave us alone is he? That damn mood god"
"Nope not unless you do something about it" Gremelkin stood up then and walked to stand before them. "It is as I said Rosemarta. You can fight him all you wish but you will never best him if you continue to fight him here upon our plain of existence. I will leave it to the two of you to figure out my meaning and remember you do not have to do it but it may be your only choice" Gremelkin turned then and headed for the door Mishka followed him. Kalas sighed.
"Why do I get the feeling I am not going to like this plan very much?" Gremelkin stopped and turned to face them again.
"Let me tell you something about war Kalas, something you should know already. In war it does not matter what you want or what you think, you fight or you die. I can guarantee you that Nuitari and Mishkal will not be out there on the field fighting hand to hand alongside us, because there would be no point to it. In the mortal world they would be no victor because they cannot die and they cannot fight amongst them self's in the heavens so they gather armies here to fight in their place. In the end Kalas it does not matter if you like this plan or not because it might be the only choice you have" the old cats one good eye shifted to Rosemarta, "What it comes down to is what you are willing to sacrifice to save this place and the lives of those you love" the warrior cat turned from them again and continued down the stairs that led into the shop, Mishka following close behind him.
"Damn that cat for always speaking in riddles" sighed Rosemarta exasperatedly.
"Did he not say something about facing the moon god on his plain of existence?"
"Yes but I don't know what he means the only way for me to" Rosemarta stopped talking as suddenly Gremelkin`s plan became clear to her all the pieces falling into place. He was right in the end it might be their only choice.
"Living things cannot enter the world of the Gods Kalas. In order to face Nuitari upon his own ground..." Rosemarta paused knowing that this would be hard for Kalas to hear, he would not agree to it, but he must. "I would have to die" Kalas was stunned to silence and a shudder passed through him as he tightened his arms around her, burying his face in her hair, he prayed that he had not just heard what she had said correctly.
"It could be done Kalas but you would have to do it and it would have to be your mother's dagger that you gave to me. The strong connection that you have to the dagger and your love for me would act as a beacon to bring me back to you"
"No" Kalas shook his head.
"You must or else the connection will not be strong enough I won't be able to find my way back"
"I could never find it in myself to put a knife in you Rose. It goes against all I believe, no women, no children, that was my oath"
"And if you don't do it other women and children will die at the hands of others" a sob passed Kalas`s lips and his body shook with it. Rosemarta turned to face him.
"It is as Gremelkin said we do not have to do it but in the end it may be our only option"
"Our love will bring you back"
"Yes, the gods owe me a few favours Kalas they might help me and even if they don't I should be able to find you so long as you don't let go of me" Kalas looked deep into her eyes then drew her close to him again.
"No, I can't do it, I just cannot. I love you Rose please do not ask me to do this"
"You can Kalas and you must, promise me that when the time comes you will do it" and there it was, he could not refuse her now, he had hoped she would not ask him to promise, whenever she did so he could not deny her.
"I promise" his voice was soft and filled with pain and she instantly regretted having made him promise but it had been seemingly the only way. It was a terrible thing that she asked of him but if it would save lives then it must be done, hopefully he would see that when the time came. Mayvel came down the stairs with two hot chicken pies and two cups of tea. She set the tray upon Rosemarta`s desk and departed without a word, knowing better then to ask questions. Rosemarta and Kalas held one another for long moments neither speaking.
"Those chicken pies do smell good my Rose but I find myself without an appetite"
"As do I. Why don't I go put them upstairs in the oven again so they don't get cold then I`ll close early and we can take a walk down to the lake. How does that sound?"
"Sounds like a good idea my Rose"
"Alright then I`ll be right back" she smiled and stepped gently out of his arms to pick up the tray and head up stairs. She returned wearing a blue suede dress lined with black fur. She pulled her wolf skin cloak around her shoulders before taking hold of Kalas`s hand. "Let us go" Kalas nodded and walked with her out into the mid evening sun. Rosemarta turned to lock the door of the shop before continuing on. They walked in undisturbed silence for long moments till Kalas sighed and let go of Rosemarta`s hand only to place his arm around her shoulders.
"Forgive my silence my Rose. I wish that I could enjoy this walk with you more but I just do not know how to handle any of this, my emotions are at war with themselves"
"I understand Kalas. It is not every day that someone you love asks you to kill them" Rosemarta moved close to Kalas and placed one of her arms around him. Upon reaching the lake Rosemarta cleared the snow from a felled tree and sat down upon it, pulling Kalas gently down next to her. They sat quietly together for a long time each absorbed in their own thoughts.
"You know Gremelkin is one hundred and forty now. He was already middle aged when I was thirteen. It amazes me how fast animals age. Morgen is getting on in years too. He was in his forties when he found me now he is an old man in his late sixties. In a few years perhaps most of my family will be gone"
"I would like very much to be a part of your family if it pleases you my Rose" Rosemarta shook her head.
"You already are Kalas, I am sorry if I made it sound as if you were not" she moved close to him and lifted his arm to place both arms around him and rest her head upon his chest. Kalas smiled slightly and placed his cloak around the both of them.
"I know my Rose, I suppose I just needed to hear it" Rosemarta nodded her understanding and stared out over the icy lake.
"You know Kalas I used to dream, as most young girls do I suppose, of my wedding day and my husband. I have found what most of them never will, the perfect man" Kalas chuckled.
"I never thought of myself as being perfect my Rose. I am just me"
"And don't you ever change you hear?" Kalas chuckled and hugged her. Rosemarta smiled and moved to sit in his lap. Kalas returned her smile and kissed her. Rosemarta put all of her love for him into that kiss hoping to ease some of his pain. He loved this woman so much and the thought that he must be the one to end her life pained his heart almost beyond bearing.
"Fear not friend Kalas, when the time comes we shall be watching. She shall return to you" Kiri Joliths voice rang clear in his mind and he felt as if a calming breeze had just passed through him. When their lips parted Rosemarta rested her head in the hollow of his neck.
"Are you anymore at ease now my love?"
"Believe it or not Rose I am, thank you" he hugged her tight and decided not to tell her what his god had told him, there was no need. Long moments passed by unnoticed as they sat together enjoying one another's company.
"Are you ready to go now my love?"
"Yes I think ale sounds good right about now"
"Alright then" a sly smile crossed Kalas`s lips as he rose to his feet with Rosemarta still in his arms. Rosemarta smiled then chuckled and placed her arms around Kalas`s neck as he turned his steps toward the Inn of the Last Home. Arriving at the first step Kalas smiled at her.
"Is this a prelude and a practice for the day I get to carry you over the threshold my Rose?"
"Oh you don't need any practise my love" Rosemarta laughed softly and Kalas kissed her lovingly before continuing up the stairs. Arriving at the door Kalas did not stop to set Rosemarta down nor did he even bother to open the door, he passed right through it. At Rosemarta`s look of surprise Kalas smiled.
"You may thank the axe for that little trick my Rose. Ever since Mesai`s passing it as acquired some strange new properties, one of which you already knew about"
"Miraculous" was all she could think to say. Kalas chuckled and set her down and watched as she walked to one of the tables and sat before going to the bar to order their drinks.
"Mind if we join you Rosemarta?" Rosemarta looked down and smiled at Gremelkin and Mishka.
"Not at all" Gremelkin smiled back and the two felines leaped up onto the table.
"Have the two of you thought on what I said earlier?"
"Yes we have and we will do it as it may be our only choice"
"And neither of you is angry with me?" Rosemarta shook her head.
"No" she reached out a hand to pet the old ginger cat, who warmed to her touch and began to purr. When Kalas reached the table he handed Rosemarta a glass of red Qualinesti wine before taking a seat next to her.
"Hello my little friend, have you and Mishka been here for this entire time?"
"No not the entire time, we ran into Kalowen and Ty-ran and went to their house for a little while. They had a guest, a young woman named Dea I don't know if she is one of their kind or not but if not she is something close enough to it. She is very interesting I think that the two of you will like her"
"If you like her there is a good chance that we will as well, you always were a good judge of character" Gremelkin puffed out his chest proudly and Rosemarta chuckled. Moon entered the Inn then with Piper in her wake, spotting Rosemarta and the others they walked over to the table.
"Hello Rosemarta, Kalas, and furry friends are any of you hungry? My treat and you must be hungry Kalas you always are" Kalas chuckled.
"Hello to you as well Moon, Piper, but are you sure you have not mistaken me for my brother?"
"Maybe but does it matter?" Piper laughed and Rosemarta shook her head.
"I am not very hungry myself but if the offer stands I will have a salad"
"Alright, how about you Kalas?"
"I`ll have pork chops and potatoes"
"Be back in a jiffy" Moon spun on her heel and walked toward the bar while Piper took a seat at the table.
"She certainly seems in a good mood" this from Rosemarta as she took a sip of her wine.
"Yeah I know it's kind of beginning to creep me out a little" Piper shivered and Kalas chuckled. Moon returned not a long time later with more food than any of them had ordered and set it all down upon the table.
"Here we are everyone help your selves" Rosemarta suppressed a sigh and took her salad from amongst the other plates of food.
"Are you and Mishka hungry too Gremelkin?"
"I am famished I haven't eaten anything all day. I don't need much though" the old ginger cat scanned through all of the food and settled upon a bowl of fried salmon. "This will be just fine for the both of us and thank you Moon"
"You`re welcome" Moon sat and took a plate of roast beef and veggies for herself. The group ate in silence, enjoying one another's company the coming battle forgotten for now, and thankfully so. Once finished her salad Rosemarta sat back in her chair and sipped at her wine. She was the first to spot Lucius and Ariel as they entered the inn and made their way toward the table their friends were seated at,
"Mind if the two of us join you?" asked Ariel.
"Not at all Ariel please have a seat"
"My lovely wife and I would like to take this opportunity to formally introduce you all to our son, Luca" Lucius uncovered the little bundle in his arms and proudly displayed his baby boy to all seated at the table.
"He certainly is a treasure Lucius. I am very happy for the both of you"
"And even happier that he isn't yours right Rosemarta?" Gremelkin laughed.
"Oh you hush"
"Yes that`s a fine man child you have there Lucius my friend but anyone can see that he gets all his good looks from lady Ariel" Kalas chuckled and poked Lucius in the ribs with his elbow.
"Now Kalas be nice"
"Oh Lucius knows I was only kidding him my Rose" Kalas grinned as he retook his seat and took a drink of his ale. As Lucius and Ariel took their seats and lapsed into an easy conversation with Kalas, Rosemarta took another sip of her wine and allowed her mind to wonder over the relationship that she shared with Kalas and the future it might have if she were to survive what would be coming soon.
"You will Rosemarta trust me" Gremelkin`s words were only for her to hear this time. She smiled at the old ginger cat and scratched him behind the ears.
"I do" Kalas placed an arm around her then and leaned close to her.
"Our love will bring you back to me my Rose" she smiled at him and nodded, he kissed her cheek. "Now all that's left for me to do is to get up the strength to go through with it"
"When the time comes Kalas you will. I think that we should keep this plan a secret from the others, though I suppose that might go without saying" Kalas nodded and kissed her cheek again before rising to his feet with his mug of ale in hand.
"To Luca! May he have a long and happy life and enjoy all the best things in life"
"Here, here!" all seated in the inn drank to the toast and Lucuis smiled his thanks. Meanwhile Mishka had walked over to the baby Luca to look at him more closely. She peered at him with feline curiosity and sniffed at him, once even touching her nose to his cheek. She looked up at Ariel and seemed to smile, purring loudly. Gremelkin groaned and shook his head. Rosemarta chuckled and began petting him.
"Is all this talk of babies making you nervous old friend?"
"Nervous? No...I don't know" Rosemarta nodded.
"I understand it is a pretty big and daunting step" while saying this she remembered her own pregnancy scare from that morning.
"Indeed, speaking of that though on my way over here earlier I happened to see Krif flying about with what looked to be a female raven"
"Oh? Well I would say that it's about time he found a new mate, he`s been alone for far too long. So have you Gremelkin but, as you have said yourself, you did have girl friends here and there ware as Krif has only ever had one love, not that there is anything wrong with that but he has been far too solitary for his own good" Gremelkin smiled.
"Reminds me of someone else I know before she happened to find herself here"
"I was never as solitary as Krif"
"Were you not? Even at the Tower your closest friend was me and when you went away you left me at the Tower with Morgen and, unless I missed my guess, the road is not a very sociable place"
"You are right about that. You sleep where you can and everyone you meet is an enemy until you find out otherwise" she looked around the table then and smiled at each of her friends in turn, "but then there were good days too Gremelkin, however few" Rosemarta gazed down into her wine glass as if it could show her those past days. Kalas placed a hand upon her shoulder.
"Are you alright my Rose? Would you like another drink?" she lifted her head and smiled at him reassuringly.
"I am fine my love and yes another drink sounds lovely" he returned her smile and took her empty glass with him. When he returned he hugged her and kissed her hair.
"Oh my Rose, I love you so much" Lucius and Ariel both smiled at Rosemarta and Lucius winked. She knew that she was the only one, aside from Khurn, that could evoke such a strong show of emotion from Kalas. She smiled at him and returned his embrace.
"I too love you very much Kalas. I would trade one million lonely nights on the road for one night with you"
"As would I my Rose as would I" he kissed her cheek and sat back to take a drink of his ale, one arm still about her shoulders.
"Do you think that now would be a good time to tell him my dear?" asked Ariel, a smile playing about her lips. Lucius nodded.
"Yes I think that now would be the perfect time"
"Tell me what Lucius?"
"That Darius and Aurora will be returning from the Dragon Isles" Kalas`s eyes widened.
"Returning? But why? Not that I will not be glad to see them but surely we can handle this battle on our own no matter what the dark moon god and his lackeys might have in store for us"
"You forget Kalas that the two of them also have their own scores to settle with Livillia and Magintas. It is for them that they will be coming and in a battle such as this I think that we could use all the help we can get"
"Pardon me; I do not mean to interrupt but what are the Dragon Isles? I do not think that I have ever heard of them before" both Lucius and Kalas looked at her as if she had just changed several different colors and they did not know quite what to make of her question. "You must pardon me for I am sure that my ignorance must seem strange but even as a mage I do not know everything"
"Forgive us Rosemarta. The Dragon Isles are where the good dragons went to reside apart from the world to keep the balance after the War of the Lance. They are hidden by a thick fog known as the shroud and only those seeing peace and a life free of all war and strife my journey there to live out the rest of their lives. I would have thought that you would have been taught about them at the Tower"
"You must understand Lucius that when Rosemarta was studying Par Salain was still Head of the Conclave and as such was in complete control of everything that young mages were told" this from Gremelkin as he stretched out on the table.
"It is very well known information though. I am surprised that he would have kept it from anyone"
"What you or I consider well known or important information is not what Par Salain considered as well known or important. Whatever he thought unessential to our learning of magic was kept from us and I can imagine that he had the same control over most of the other mages who had not lived in the Tower long enough to know otherwise" Kalas fought to suppress a shudder, for though Rosemarta`s tone and her outward appearance had not changed something within her had as it always did whenever Par Salain was mentioned. He had felt it first in Palanthas, like a door being opened, letting in a cold wind, then closing again. Her feelings toward him also changed when her blood ran so cold. He felt it only because he was a part of her and so he knew the others were probably not bothered by it. Was he forever to be a wedge between them and could their love survive it? Rosemarta took note of Kalas`s sudden silence and sensed that something was bothering him but decided not to bring it to mention it. Lucius and Gremelkin entered into a conversation while Mishka distracted herself with the infant Luca. When it came time to part ways Gremelkin and Mishka left with Lucius and Ariel, having been invited to stay the night once Lucius had noted the un easy air between Kalas and Rosemarta.
"Best to leave those two to themselves tonight I think my friend"
"I quite agree Lucius, they are neither of them as good at hiding their emotions as they believe" Lucius nodded his agreement and looked over his shoulder once at Kalas and Rosemarta as they slowly vanished into the half darkness as they walked toward Rosemarta`s house.
Upon arriving Rosemarta turned to Kalas and kissed him.
"I think that I would very much like a bath my love, join me?"
"As you wish my Rose"
"Alright then, I`ll go upstairs and get it ready. Give me just a few minutes" she kissed him again then turned to head up the stairs. He watched her go and sighed before following. Reaching the main room of the house he took a seat in one of the arm chairs to wait. He still could not remove the memory of her sudden coldness from his mind. Whenever it happened it frightened him and broke his heart. He loved her so much and yet... he sighed again and rose to his feet to walk into the bath room. Rosemarta was already in the tub and waiting for him. She smiled at him as he entered and welcomed him in with one hand.
"There is plenty of room my love, please join me" he tried to return her smile and failed as he pulled a stool next to the tub and sat. He tried not to let himself be stirred by her womanly charms and her beauty so that he could more focus upon his emotions but it was so very hard. Rosemarta`s own smile fled from her face and she looked upon her lover with concern.
"Par Salain, is he always to be a wedge between us that pushes us apart? If so...can we truly remain together as we are?"
"Kalas what are you talking about?"
"Whenever his name is mentioned there is a change in you Rose, like the warmth of the sun suddenly vanishing, it gives me chills. Your feelings toward me change and I almost no longer recognise you. I feel it strongly only because I am a part of you and because I love you so"
"Par Salain be damned Kalas, today was the first that I have thought of or spoke of him since Palanthas. He cannot do anything to disrupt out lives anymore. I am sorry if I hurt you Kalas but my feelings toward you will never change. I love you" a genuine smile finally worked its way to Kalas`s face.
"You are a most intriguing and beguiling woman my Rose" she returned his smile and relaxed back against the tub.
"As are you my love"
"I certainly hope that I am not a most "intriguing and beguiling woman" my Rose, otherwise we are in need of an entirely different conversation" he chuckled and Rosemarta joined him. They sat in silence for a while and a sly smile pulled at Rosemarta`s lips as she lifted one leg out of the water and placed it upon the edge of the tub.
"Please join me Kalas. I`ll scrub your back and I will even see what I can do about those "chills"" Kalas mirrored her smile and stood to undress. Rosemarta watched him closely as he did so and entered the tub to sit with her.
"Now my Rose, about those chills" Rosemarta chuckled and reached for the soap and wash cloth.
"First things first my love"
Over the next two days Khurn and Magdar, along with the army of the Imperial League, arrived in Solace, there was great calibration and problems forgotten for a time. Darius and Aurora arrived the next day to a more muted but no less joyous greeting. On the day that Krif reported that the black ships had set sail all knew they had very little time left to them to prepare, even less so if Nuitari gave their enemy speed enough to make even the fastest ship ever made seem like a child`s toy, and Rosemarta was certain that he would. Her sleep was plagued with terrible nightmares meant to try and break her. If not for Kalas she knew that she would have. On the day of the battle, when the ships could be seen from the shore with telescopes and anyone with ears could hear the march of many hundreds of booted feet approaching Rosemarta and Kalas lay in one another's arms in their bedroom, still half asleep and trying to dream of happier days they had known and those that would hopefully come.
"Are you hungry at all my love?" asked Rosemarta, lifting her head to look up at him.
"A little yes my Rose"
"I`ll go make us some breakfast then. What would you like?"
"Oh ham and eggs sounds good my Rose" Rosemarta nodded and pushed herself up from the bed, rubbing her eyes with one hand before standing and pulling on her night dress and house coat, she did not feel like dressing yet, she wished to feel normal for as long as was possible before the coming horror that was to set upon them. She walked out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where she began to gather what she would need. She was soon joined by Kalas, wearing only his night shirt and a pair of britches. As she was greasing the pan for the ham he placed his arms around her from behind and drew her close to him, placing his mouth next to her ear.
"All the finest dishes in the world my Rose, could not possibly compare with the way you taste" he nibbled on her ear lobe and she gasped.
"Would you rather have me for breakfast then my love?"
"You yes, I want to taste every inch of you" he trailed kisses down her neck and nibbled her shoulder. Rosemarta moaned and leaned back against him.
"I am in no position to refuse you my love. If you want me you can have me, breakfast can wait" a soft growl rumbled in Kalas`s chest as he lifted Rosemarta into his harms and carried her back to the bedroom. He set her down upon the bed and slowly removed her house coat. He pushed up her night dress and knelt to take one of her legs in his hands, kissing her ankle and working his way up, savouring the softness of her skin. Rosemarta moaned and closed her eyes to better enjoy Kalas`s attentions. He kissed her inner thigh and worked his way toward the core of her being, stopping to rest his head upon her belly.
"As much as I hate to my Rose, as I am not finished with you yet, I think that I should stop here as we have little time and someone might come along to interrupt us at any moment as often seems to happen" she smiled softly and placed a hand in his hair.
"That is alright my love we can always continue later" he looked up and returned her smile before placing a long lingering kiss upon her inner thigh. He smiled up at her again.
"Just marking my place my Rose" he rose and reset her night dress before helping her to her feet. They kissed before heading back to the kitchen to prepare their breakfast. They ate in silence then dressed and made their way to the Temple to hear Lucius`s battle plan once more and to hear where they would be needed. The Paladins of the Order would repel the assault from the coast of the bay, or at least they would try. If they were unsuccessful they would fall back and join up with the forces of the Imperial League who would be meeting the enemies ground force at Solace`s southern border. Kalas and Rosemarta stood side by side on the front lines as they awaited the arrival of Nuitari`s armies. The female red robe could hear Nuitari`s laughter as it rumbled over head but forced herself to ignore it. She griped Kalas`s hand for strength and he squeezed it gently. When the enemy force at last marched into view a feeling of dread passed through Solace`s defenders. Nuitari`s warriors wore black, almost half of them were mages, the other half cold faced human warriors. The un dead of Chemosh and the diseased followers of Morgion marched with them filling the air with a noxious stench.
"Gods save us" someone behind Rosemarta muttered and she smirked. No gods would be here to help them in the end this was a mortal battle, the gods could not interfere if there were to be a victory today it would be won by the hearts of men, elves, and Minotaur's, not by gods. The enemy lines came to a halt upon wordless command. No generals sat upon horses before the ranks, these troops followed only the words of the gods they served. A deafening silence blanketed the world for a time and an equally silent prayer wished for it to remain, and for this all to be some terrible nightmare, but it was not and it would not go away. Guilt welled up in Rosemarta`s heart. If she had done as the dark moon god had bid none of this would have come to pass. No, this would have come anyway, sooner or later, but instead of standing with the man she loved and with Solace; she would have been upon the other side. Commander of the dark forces they now faced. The image disgusted her and she banished it from her mind as she summoned up her spells and waited for the command to arms. When it came the enemy stood their ground and waited for the defenders of Solace to come to them. Rosemarta stopped half way and watched as her allies continued on around her. She held dragons breath aloft and lifted one hand to the heavens. Flames rained down upon the un dead and the diseased, sweeping through them like a wave, decimating their ranks. The warriors of the dark moon god marched were untouched by the flames, the hand of their god protecting them. The two armies met with a clash and Rosemarta hurried forward to find Kalas.
At the coast catapults launched flaming oil barrels at the approaching ships, they burst like ripe fruit dashed against a stone wall, scorching timbers, burning holes in sails, and sending men over the side into the waters of the bay. Two or more ships lost their masts and were left stranded out in the open water. Small boats dropped from their sides to carry the troops the rest of the way to shore. On one of the ships that still remained in motion Livillia and Magintas stood.
"Damn them! They shall pay for this! Archers take point!" the decks of the remaining ships filled with bow men. "Pick your mark" the air filled with the sound of bow strings being drawn, the arrows upon them held steady, "Fire!" the air buzzed as arrows were loosed upon Lucius and his men, who ducked behind shields, three more vollies followed before the ships came to anchor. Livillia and Magintas watched as their troops stormed the shore and were met by the forces of the Order and the Imperial League. Livillia`s eyes flashed as she spotted Ariel in the fray. She leaped from the deck of the ship and used her magic to clear a path to her. Nothing and no one would deny her this moment, or get in her way; there was only one enemy here that mattered to her. The one that had stolen the title that should have been hers, the fact that she was a mere human adding further insult to injury, she would enjoy this. Magintas watched as his Comrade departed but remained upon the deck himself, still searching for his pray. A sneer twisted his lips as his eyes at last found Lucius not but seventy paces away. Magintas descended from the deck of his ship, his eyes never leaving Lucius as he moved to close the gap between them. The blade of a sword sped toward his head and he lifted his own to block it, turning to face the owner of the offending object. He was faced with Darius who wore an odd smile.
"You would not deny me my rights to first battle as ranking officer would you Magintas?" the lips of the dark moon gods general twisted.
"Never" he took his sword in both hands and rushed forward with a powerful stroke. Darius blocked, staggered but held strong, and he fancied that the clang of their two swords meeting had sounded above the chaos around them.
As the shape shifters took to the skies in their true dragon forms Rosemarta called out to Ty ran. She needed to see the whole of the field to focus her spells and there was no way to do that from here. Ty heeded her call and landed amid the chaos, allowing her to climb into position before launching back into the air with one powerful beat of his wings. From this vantage point Rosemarta could now see clearly where her powers were most needed. Though lesser in numbers now the diseased and the un dead were still pushing relentlessly forward, killing with even the slightest touch. The warriors of Nuitari were mortal and could be killed but the forces of the other gods were not so easily dealt with. Rosemarta raised her staff above her head.
"Arlisan! Rijaktan!" flames erupted from the staff and twisted through the enemy ranks like the lashes of a whip. When she could no longer hold the spell Rosemarta fell forward against Ty ran`s powerful neck to catch her breath. She looked down and smiled as the Paladins that had been allocated to them dealt swiftly with those few un dead and diseased warriors that remained.
"Very good Dasrevair but this day is mine" she shook her head to rid herself of Nuitari`s words and took a few long breaths before sitting up.
"Take me down I have strength enough for another spell" Ty nodded and dived, swooping low over the battle. Rosemarta shouted the words of a lightning spell that took the lives of a good number of Nuitari`s warriors. Ty pulled up and away again and Rosemarta felt her strength fading.
"If you cannot recuperate fast enough draw upon my energy. I will be fine"
"Thank you" Rosemarta rested against the dragons neck and felt as some of his strength flowed into her, filling her till she no longer had need of it. When next she looked down upon the field she felt her heart give a painful lurch. Kalas had fallen to one of the undead, Kurn and Magdar stood by him along with some others, protecting him from further harm while Moon knelt by him trying to save him. Ty ran hovered down near as possible to where Kalas lay and allowed for her to jump down before returning to the skies. Rosemarta ran to Kalas`s side and knelt next to him.
"He will be alright Rosemarta but I think you should get him out of here" this from Moon as she rose to her feet.
"Yes go and leave the rest of the battle to us" said Khurn without turning to face her. Rosemarta nodded, placed an arm around Kalas, who was still unconscious, and lifted her staff above her head. The two vanished and Khurn and the others branched out into the fray fighting with renewed vigor.
Appearing in the middle of the main room of her house Rosmarta lowered her staff and placed it on the floor, turning her attention to Kalas who was still unconscious. She brushed his hair from his face with one hand and took some rose petals from one of her pouches with the other. Kalas, please you must wake up she sprinkled the petals over his face and whispered the words of a simple beginners spell. The axe, which had somehow followed them, began to hum softly and Kalas`s eyes slowly opened. They focus upon her face and he smiled.
"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are my Rose?" she returned his smile and held back tears as she embraced him.
"You scared me" he returned her embrace.
"I`m sorry, that un dead was fast, he broke my defence. I`ll carry the mark of his blade for life"
"I`m just glad that you`re ok. Can you stand?"
"With your help" Rosemarta nodded and moved so she could place one of his arms around her shoulders. It took a few moments but eventually Kalas was on his feet.
"I`ll go down stairs and fetch some herbs to help you regain your strength, be right back" she turned and walked down to her shop without waiting for a reply. She ground the selected herbs before bringing them upstairs and mixing them into a cup of tea. Once finished she handed the cup to Kalas and stood way from him. She felt for the dagger in her sleeve, its coolness against her skin made her shudder. Kalas took a sip of the tea then side glanced at her.
"This doesn't have anything in it that will put me to sleep does it?" he managed a chuckle. Rosemarta tried to smile, failed and shook her head.
"No" she removed the dagger, that had once belonged to Kalas`s mother, from her sleeve and stared at it solemnly. Kalas saw this and drank the last of the tea before stepping near to her and removing the blade from her hand.
"Its time isn't it?" Rosemarta nodded and turned to face him.
"Yes, you know where, do it quickly" he took the dagger firmly in his hand, hesitated.
"Kiss me first" she managed a weak smile now and lifted her head higher. Kalas lowered his head and pressed his lips to hers. He did not wish for this kiss to end and he willed it not to but it did. He looked into her eyes and saw the love there for him and that of his own for her reflected back at him.
"Please close your eyes" she complied, her expression calm. Slow y he lifted the blade to position. "I have seen the destruction that the dark moon god and his allies can cause. Good people are dying, friends, it must stop and this is the only way, I see that now. Forgive me My Rose" the blade came down, he put his strength behind it, piercing her breast cleanly and the heart that beat behind it. She didn't scream, couldn't. Kalas removed the blade and crumpled to the ground, Rosemarta held fast in his arms. He resisted the urge to throw the thing as far from him as possible and instead dropped it, letting it clatter dully on the floor. He clutched his beloved to him, her blood seeping through his fingers, and began to sob, the strength of his grief causing him to shake as he rocked back and forth like a helpless child. What had he done? Gods forgive him.
The blade was cold and hard and the pain was terrible but blessedly over in less than a moment. She wished that she had had time to tell him that there was nothing to forgive but somehow she felt that at that moment hearing that would have shattered his resolve. She found herself in a dimly lit grand chamber that looked as if it had been born from darkness itself.
"Welcome to the home of Chemosh. I decided to borrow it from him so we could have some privacy" she turned to find Nuitari standing at the other end of the chamber, leaning up against a large throne like chair. "I do not know whether to call you brave or foolish. Fighting a god upon his own ground, what are you hoping to prove? You plan to destroy me is that it?" Rosemarta shook her head.
"No Nuitari I am not here to destroy you and I do not intend to try for it is impossible but I will defeat you and prove once and for all that I will not be changing my mind any time soon or ever. Afterward I shall return to my body to be with the one I love"
"Not if I rip you to pieces!" black lightning flashed from the dark moon gods hand striking Rosemarta full in the chest and sending her into a wall, she slumped but did not fall. Nutari snarled, summoned a staff and charged. Rosemarta met him with a staff of her own and the two entered a dead lock. A strange smile twisted Nuitari`s thin lips.
"Do you have any idea how much pain you are causing your lover Dasrenvair?" Rosemarta`s expression softened momentarily, she nodded.
"Do you?" he let her wonder at the meaning behind his words before sliding his staff around and hooking it behind hers, pivoting upon one foot and tossing her across the chamber where she tumbled and somehow managed to regain her footing, deflecting the ball of fire that had been aimed at her head and answering with three of her own. This power, magic without limitation, it was close to intoxicating.
"Feels good doesn't it? Not to tire? To know that you can go on forever? Don`t get cocky remember who you are fighting!" another bolt of lightning raced toward her but this time she managed to avoid it and launched herself at Nuitari. Their staffs met with a sharp clap.
A large wolf pack had entered the battle by the shore now, their souls enslaved by demons that had answered Nuitari`s call to battle. Gremelkin focused upon them, joined by Moon and an ally pack that she had befriended. The warrior cat was a near to unstoppable force cutting his way through to find the leader of the pack. Cut off the head and the body dies. Black lightning raced across the sky. Gremelkin used a temporary lull in the fighting to look up; a grim smile crossed his feline features.
"Fight well Rosemarta"
Charged along with a few others to remain behind in Solace to ensure that no looters had their way with any of the shops or residences Grail wandered from the Inn to the market and finally turned his steps toward Rosemarta`s home. The noise of the battle carried upon the air, reaching his ears and making him wish that he was out there too. But this was just as important a duty as any and so he accepted it. Nearing Rosemarta`s he found the door unlocked, unusual but then she might have forgotten. He walked in and the sound weeping met his ears.
"Rosemarta?" he closed the door behind him and walked slowly to the stairs leading up to the main room of the house. The weeping grew louder and it was not a woman's voice. Grail pushed open the door at the head of the stairs, took two steps into the main room then froze, shocked by what he be held. Kalas was crouched upon the floor with Rosemarta in his arms, her blood on his hands and fast staining the floor. A bloodied knife lay next to him. The big Minotaur's sobs were heart wrenching, so lost was he in his grief that he did not notice the dwarf till he was standing next to him.
"What happened? I was sure that no one got past me" Kalas lifted his head and looked upon Grail with red rimmed eyes.
"Grail, I...I did this. I murdered her. Only way to stop...Nuitari" Grail looked at him as if he had grown a second head then growled and punched him hard in the jaw, sending him tumbling.
"You idiot! What in the Abyss where you thinking?" the old dwarf turned and knelt next to Rosemarta, turning her so that she lay upon her back. He examined the wound and felt tears in his eyes. "Damn you Reorx, heal her" Grails hands began to glow as he settled them over the wound, which began to mend almost instantly. Kalas was on his knees again, staring at the dwarfs back.
"Kill me Grail, I deserve to die. I want to be with her again"
"Shut up" Grail doubled his efforts. Come back to us lass, come back.
"One of them is trying to save you. Too late foolish dwarf too late. Once I`m through tearing her soul to pieces she will not be able to return. I will not allow it" three fire balls sped toward her and all missed their mark.
"Pay attention!" a powerful blow from Nuitari`s staff knocked her against the far wall, he was on her in an instant and they dead locked for a third time. Rosemarta shook her head. "I`m sorry Grail"
"Damn it!" Grail swore, her wound had healed but still she would not wake up. "Fine then if you will not heal her then I shall" the dwarf recited and old elvish spell to transfer his life force to her. A green glow covered his body and slowly flowed over Rosemarta. "At least I will not die of heart failure as have so many of my kin" Kalas shook his head to clear it before launching himself at the dwarf, pulling him way from Rosemarta.
"I cannot let you do that my friend. Your life is precious to me also, and it is to Rose also. I believe in her, that she can do this that she will come back to me. But our love is the only way" Kalas had barely finished speaking when Grail was upon him once more, pummelling him relentlessly, the minotaur made no move to defend himself.
"Damn you! Whatever foul spell that dark moon god put you under to make you do this I will beat it out of you! I will save her and you cannot stop me!" suddenly the two were forced apart as if by a massive invisible hand. The two stood staring at each other for a few long moments.
"But others can" said Kalas at last before turning to kneel next to Rosemarta again. Grail looked upon her and shook his head. She was dead, there was nothing for him to do here. Lucius would hear of this he would see to it.
"You will answer for this lad mark me, you will" the old dwarf retrieved his hammer and stormed from the room. Kalas stared after him and nodded.
"I know" he hugged Rosemarta close to him. "Please my Rose come back to me. We are running out of time"
Having felled Darius with a blow to the head from the pommel of his sword Magintas had closed upon Lucius and the two were now locked in a test of strength, which the dark general was winning. Lucius had a wounded shoulder and a badly twisted knee, which sent pain shooting up through his body with even the slightest pressure. Magintas bore down upon him like an angered bull sensing victory. A scream tore through the air and Magintas allowed himself to be distracted by it. Lucius saw his chance and lunged forward, crying out as blinding pain shot up his leg and fogged his head, swinging his blade and catching his enemy in the back of the legs as he fell, hitting the ground hard. Magintas howled and fell to his knees, somehow managing to maintain a grip upon his sword.
The scream had been Livillia, only she could have drawn Magintas to distraction, who was now upon one knee with a dagger in her leg. Ariel stood before her, looking tired but otherwise unharmed. How can this be? We were assured victory. The dark warrior's eyes hardened with renewed determination. And we shall have it! Livillia growled the words of a spell and sent a dark ball of lighting speeding toward Ariel. What happened next was hard for even Lucius himself to believe when he thought on it in later days. Somehow, perhaps with the aid of Mishkal, or perhaps just the power of his love, Lucius had regained his feet and rushed to place himself in the path of the lightning ball. It struck him full in the chest and sent him hurtling back into Ariel knocking her to the ground with him. His armour, blessed by the goddess, saved him from the worst of the spell but his unprotected hands and face bore scorch marks and blood ran from his ears. The spell had drained the last of Lavillia`s strength but had not killed her, she lay upon the ground with a smirk upon her face. Magintus crawled over to rest next to her and watched as Ariel fought back her tears and her grief to call upon Mishkal to heal Lucius. Blue light enveloped the elf and slowly his wounds vanished. He opened his eyes and smiled up at her.
"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are my love?" Ariel returned his smile and hugged him close to her.
"Don`t you ever do something like that again do you hear me?"
"I promise, I am sorry my love" she kissed him and helped him to stand. It was only then they chose to concern themselves with their enemies again. Magintus had succumbed to his wounds and Livillia lay still also. Lucius knelt by her and inspected her mouth.
"Arsenic cap in her teeth" he sighed and rose to his feet again. He placed an arm around Ariel`s shoulders and surveyed the field. The fighting was all but over. Without their leaders the remaining enemy forces scattered and were picked off. The day was won.
"A spectacular victory Lucius, well done" the two turned to find Darius walking toward them, he bore a nasty bump on the head but otherwise he looked un harmed. Lucius shook his head.
"I cannot take credit for this my friend this great day belongs to all of us" Darius smiled, nodded and the three joined in clearing the field of the wounded and the dying.
Nuitari sensed the death of his generals and growled in fury, increasing the speed of his attacks, a veritable hail storm of blows. Rosemarta`s staff was knocked from her hands and before she could react the head of the dark moon gods staff slammed into her chest sending her hard into the wall. Three enormous spears of stone pierced her body and pinned her to the wall. She could feel her soul breaking apart, drifting away into nothing.
"Did you honestly think that you could win?" Nuitari`s voice sounded far way, this was the end. "Please my Rose, come back to me" Kalas`s voice, so strong but in so much pain. No she could not die, she refused. Rosemarta vanished from the dark moon god's sight in a blink.
"What? Argh!" a fire ball struck Nuitari in the back, followed by another, the third one sending him sprawling face first on the floor. Rosemarta plated a foot on the dark moon gods back and leveled the end of her staff to the back of his head.
"I don't think Nuitari, I have"
"Damn you! You could have everything but you would throw it all away for something as feeble as love?" Rosemarta made to reply, Nuitari growled, "Fine! A weakling like you isn't fit to wear my color. I am finished with you Dasrenvair. But beware when I find the one who will replace you, you will be the first to die" the dark moon god vanished and Rosemarta sank to her knees.
"I did it Kalas, we did it" a glimmer of golden light caught her attention and she raised her head to look in the direction from which it had come. A female Minotaur dressed in a golden gown was walking toward her. She smiled and offered her a hand.
"Come my daughter, you have done well but there is someone we both love very much waiting for you" daughter? Rosemarta took her hand and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. Now standing face to face with her Rosemarta knew who this Minotaur was.
"You, are you Kalas`s mother?" her smile widened and she nodded.
"Yes I am and I have come to guide you back. When you see him tell him that both his father and I approve of his choice and that we are very proud of him. Tell him also that his Mooma wishes him all the happiness in the world. Remember that name" Rosemarta nodded and watched as a portal of white light opened before her. "Go" she nodded and passed through the light.
Warmth washed over her like a wave and her eyes flew open as air filled her lungs as if she had not breathed in centuries. She took a few moments to get used to the feeling again before turning her eyes to Kalas. His eyes were red and his face wet with tears.
"There is nothing to forgive Kalas. I love you" tears filled his eyes again as he hugged her close to him. His arms were so strong, so warm, and so blessedly alive. Tears filled her own eyes as she clutched at his tunic, she didn't want him to ever let go.
"Don't you ever do something like this to me again. Not unless you take me with you"
"I promise Kalas. I will never leave you again" he lifted his head and kissed her cheeks, her eye lids, the bridge of her nose before taking her lips, kissing her with all the love he felt in his heart. Rosemarta returned his kisses and placed a hand in his hair. When their lips parted something in the back of Kalas`s mind called out to him, Gremelkin.
"My Rose something is wrong. Can you sense Gremelkin?" Rosemarta concentrated and shook her head.
"Oh gods let it not be so. Can you walk?"
"No I don't think so. You will have to carry me"
"Alright" he allowed Rosemarta to take hold of her staff before rising to his feet with her still in his arms. He smiled at her and kissed her. "I prefer this anyway" he walked hurriedly from the house and headed toward the Temple. Please my little friend. Please be alright.
Out on the bloodied field the old warrior cat lay too tired to move. The black lightning vanished and a weak smile crossed his feline features.
"Well done Rosemarta" his one good eye closed and he could feel himself drifting into unconsciousness. Krif was near to him, calling to him and then was gone again, off to find help. It would come too late. There were other wounded to attend to, more important than an old cat. Soft footsteps approached and a pair of strong delicate hands lifted him up.
" Looks like you need some help. I think I have strength enough for both of us" Gremelkin came back to himself, new life and warmth filling him, pulling him back from what would have been his end. He opened his eye and looked up into the face of a young Paladin who was smiling at him. "There now do you feel?"
"Like I could take on a second wave if there was one in mere hours" the paladin chuckled and rose to his feet slowly.
"I am glad to hear that. May I have the honour of carrying you to the Temple Gremelkin?"
"How do you know my name?"
"Are there any other feline warriors in Solace?" Gremelkin chuckled.
"Good point, and yes you may. I have someone waiting for me there as I am sure you do as well" the paladins smile took on a strange sort of wistfulness.
"Yes indeed I do" a loud caw caused them both to raise their heads as Krif flew down upon them and landed upon the paladins shoulder.
"Hello Krif, glad to see that you made it through alright"
"Not half as glad as I am to see you. I thought you were a goner" Gremelkin was surprised. This was one of the few times he had ever heard the old crow speak, or for him to allow someone else to hear him also.
"Well I almost was. My new friend here saved me. But tell me honestly Paladin you didn't just save my life did you? You did something else"
"Yes I did. I gave you some of my life force. You will live far longer than an ordinary cat"
"I`ve already lived far longer than an ordinary cat. Do not think that I am ungrateful but that kind of gift is better saved for the young who can make better use of it"
"Would you rather I had not done so? There are two or more I believe that would have been greatly saddened by your death" Gremelkin nodded.
"Yes I know. I am in no hurry to die but I was prepared to accept it. My spirit is still old despite the body that now carries it"
"Well I dare say that your lady friends will appreciate it" Krif chuckled and Gremelkin looked up at him.
"You hush an old fiddle can still be played"
"All depends upon the bow" the paladin laughed and Krif joined him, and soon so did Gremelkin. Arriving at the Temple the Paladin set Gremelkin down.
"I had best go and get these wounds tended to. You take care of yourself now Gremelkin, and you Krif" the crow nodded and flew from his shoulder.
"I shall you do the same" the paladin smiled and saluted the warrior cat before going in search of a cleric. Gremelkin smiled after him and shook his head before going to look for Mishka. She was waiting for him by the doors that led to the main chamber. Gremelkin smiled at her as she nuzzled against his neck. "Let's go home" she nodded and followed Gremelkin out into the fast fading day light. They stopped when they saw Rosemarta and Kalas coming toward them.
"You gave us quite a scare my little friend"
"I could no longer sense you Gremelkin. We thought we had lost you"
"Well you almost did. Lucky for me that one of the paladins happened by. I would introduce you but right now I would much rather go home and get some much needed rest and besides that searching for one paladin in this place now would be like finding a needle in a hay stack" Kalas laughed.
"I couldn't agree with you more. Lead on my little friend" Gremelkin nodded and stepped out in front with Mishka beside him. As they walked Kalas noticed the ease with which Gremelkin carried himself, more like a feline only half his age.
"My Rose does it seem to you that there is something different with our little friend or am I imagining things?"
"No I see it too"
"You do know that I can hear you"
"Sorry Gremelkin it's just that there is something different about you" the warrior cat sighed.
"That paladin I told you about did more than save my life. He extended it by giving some of his life force to me. My vitality and strength have all been restored. He should not have wasted such a gift upon me"
"Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth" muttered Kalas.
"I heard that! I`m not ungrateful that he saved my life but now I am faced with all this extra time and I don't know what to do with it. I`m one hundred and thirty five already I do not relish the thought of out living either of you because of a gift that would have been appreciated better by a younger soul" Kalas and Rosemarta exchanged looks but thought it best to let the matter rest. Arriving home Gremelkin and Mishka walked into the study to get some sleep leaving Kalas and Rosemarta alone in the main room.
"Would you like to take a bath with me my love?" asked Rosemarta. Kalas smiled and kissed her before setting her down.
"I would like that my Rose and I wonder do you have anything that you could give me to remedy these aches and pains that I`m feeling?"
"Of course I do, why don't you prepare the bath and I will collect some herbs to add to the wine. Alright?"
"Alright" Kalas nodded and kissed her again before walking into the bathroom to fill the tub. Rosemarta set her staff against her arm chair before wandering down stairs to her shop. She gathered some herbs that were good pain killers and ground them in her mortar and pestle before walking back up stairs. She found the wine bottle in the kitchen and poured two glasses, adding the powder into one before joining Kalas in the bathroom.
"Here my love this should help with those pains and it will restore your strength, which you will need tonight" she chuckled before removing her robes and settling into the tub. Kalas chuckled also and took a sip of his wine before drawing Rosemarta close and placing his arms around her.
"I love you my Rose, so very much"
"I love you too Kalas" they held each other for long moments before finishing their wine and washing up. Once finished Rosemarta stepped from the tub and dried herself slowly before smiling over her shoulder at Kalas.
"Shall I meet you in the bedroom? Or would you rather carry me?" Kalas didn't need to be asked twice. He was out of the tub in minuets and snatched Rosemarta up into his arms. She chuckled and rested her head upon his chest as he carried her into the bedroom. He set her down gently upon the bed and smiled at her.
"Now where was it that I left off?" she returned his smile and slowly removed the towel from around her body, using one of her hands to indicate the place his lips had marked earlier that same day. Kalas`s smile widened and he kissed the same spot before continuing up her leg and stopping at the warm, moist, flesh between her legs. They made love till sunrise and fell asleep in one another's arms, outside the world was blessedly silent.