A light mist was rolling over the Great Lake while the sky lightened on the distant horizon.
Karken, the young archer I had encountered dueling in Silver Pool, was a few paces ahead of me as we strolled towards the docks east of the blacksmith.
"So, my Queen…" he began, (I shuddered) "You never did mention why you are out strolling alone in the middle of night."
I thought for a moment, and then replied, "I was hungry, and couldn't sleep."
He immediately drew his bow, in a graceful arc around his body and took aim at the nearby lakefront. "I could catch you a fish or two to snack on," he offered with a hint of laughter in his voice.
I stared at the back of his neck. "I don't think fish is what I had in mind for breakfast, but thank you anyway."
He still took his shot and I watched as the arrow flew mere inches above the surface, finally puncturing the water near the middle of the deepest section. A few seconds later, it came floating to the top attached to the side of an unfortunate bass.
"Good eye," I commended.
"Oh, I couldn't see it," he answered modestly. "I anticipated it."
"Excuse me?" I asked puzzled.
"It's an uncanny gift, I suppose. I just get a hunch about things, like, right before they occur."
I began to wonder whether or not he could predict my moves, soon to be forthcoming.
"Oh really?" I questioned. "That must come in very handy."
"It usually does," he answered. His back was still turned towards me as he loped ahead, convincing me that his range of precognition didn't extend more than a few seconds out into the future. I moved more quickly to close our gap.
I was nearly upon him, when abruptly, he turned and halted. "Well here we…" THUD!
We slammed into each other so hard we went tumbling in opposite directions to our backsides!
"Oh my! Sincere apologies my Queen!" He leapt to his feet and rushed over to lend me a hand of assistance.
"I… wasn't expecting… that," I chuckled, brushing the dirt off my skirt and laughing at our clumsiness. "I guess you should return that 'gift' of yours," I jabbed. He took the subtle dig with a smile, and guided me up the steps to the dock.
A few fishermen were baiting their hooks at the far end of the pier.
"Damn, witnesses," I thought to myself.
"I do love this place," Karken spoke, ignoring the outsiders company, "Especially during the quiet of early morning. It's a great thinking spot."
I sat down on the eastern edge of the dock and let my feet dangle loosely above the water. Peering into the gray-blue swirls below I could see sparkling rocks, a swaying plant or two, and occasional groupings of multi-sized fish. We passed a few moments in silence, drinking in the cool morning air.
"So… would it be too forward of me to ask your name, now that I've known you for at least 15 minutes?" he asked.
I nodded slightly. "My name is Kismet."
"Kismet," he mused. "Do you mean like destiny?"
"Yes… something like that."
"Kismet," he muttered again. Then, cupping his hand to his mouth like a trumpet, he broke the stillness with a sudden burst of sound. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you… Queen Kismet – Mistress of the Night!"
I chuckled and hushed him. "Do you always have to converse with such flair?"
"Flair?" he asked innocently.
"Yes. You are really eccentric."
He wasn't looking directly at me, but I could see another smile warming his face.
"Theatrical, maybe… but not eccentric." He rolled his right hand dramatically before him, and then twisted into a sideways bow. He stayed bent in that position an awkwardly long time before finally coughing and prompting, "Applause, applause…"
"Oh," I laughed, and obliged with a polite round of clapping.
He swept himself back into an upright position with the fluid movements of a professionally trained dancer. It was so hard not to look at him, and not just because I was wanting more blood, but because he truly was poetry in motion.
While he held my gaze, words began spilling out of my mouth – quite unexpectedly.
"I have to report to Archosaur in a few days; I received my Call of Duty from the General. I'm not sure what to expect."
"What a coincidence then that we should meet," he eagerly responded, "As I too have received the Call." He reached inside his coat pocket and retrieved an identical envelope to the one which I had received, as if to show proof of his honesty.
Well that would certainly throw up a red flag if one of the draftees didn't show up for his enlistment. Especially since I had last been spotted with him on Silver Pool's path by the group of drunken brawlers he had bested.
"Drat!" I muttered in frustration under my breath.
"Pardon highness?" Karken delicately interrupted my thoughts.
"Oh… um… it's nothing." I lied. Scrambling for further explanation, I stated, "I just meant to send my father word of my safe travels prior to reaching Archosaur."
"I see." He seemed convinced. "It's so very hard to leave our loved ones behind in these circumstances," he empathized. Taking a deep breath, he continued on. "I am quite recently married, and my beautiful, lovely bride – most bravely and selflessly – encouraged me to follow these orders, despite neither of us wishing to part."
I could hear the genuine sting of anguish in his voice; something which rose to the surface that he had disguised up until now.
"I am very sorry," I replied. And surprisingly, I meant it.
We both stared into the encroaching dawn, in silence, for a long while after that. Only the vibration of the fishermen's footsteps coming closer finally shook us out of our stupor.
"I guess it must be close to opening time," I uttered.
More travelers would be making their way here soon, so my opportunity to continue feeding was slipping away. Though honestly, I wasn't feeling those urges anymore. Perhaps getting to know your dinner was a vampire's key to staving off hunger. I grinned and stood up, once more brushing wind dust off of my skirt. I really wanted to bathe and change, as I had worn the same attire for nearly two days.
Karken looked up at me, as if reading my thoughts, and then spritely leapt to his feet. "So, my Queen," this time laughing aloud as he said it, "Would you like to freshen up and then join me en route to Archosaur?"
I hadn't anticipated company, but it certainly would be nice to venture into the city with a companion. "Um, sure," I answered hesitantly. "But first I have to deliver a few remedies to a patron in Hidden Orchid. It's the final stop before…" I paused, my thoughts wandering off.
"Before… the rest of your life." he finished on my behalf. Again, there was that brilliant flash of teeth which made his face appear so oddly angelic.
"Yes," I smiled in return, "Before that." Smiling was something I did so infrequently that I felt the muscles in my cheeks straining from their lack of use. But it felt good. Really good.
"Well then, let's be off my friend." He extended his arm once more while I let his words sink into my brain. Friend? Friend. Was it even possible someone could extend that courtesy towards… me?! I was stunned by the thought.
"Kismet?" he probed, "Are you ready to go?"
I couldn't find my voice, but nodded in agreement. Still beaming, he folded my arm carefully about his and I felt my cheeks flush with warmth. Heading back towards the blacksmith, we strode off. Kismet and her new, friend.