For those of you also reading "Waiting for First Light" I do intend to finish that. I hope. But Aine suddenly went silent, muses are like that, you know? And so I was expecting to work on a Surana bit, but she too has been completely quiet. And instead, the strange little Dalish elf with the odd shaped nose and orange hair (that looks strangely like myself) who I've just started a play through with, has been shouting in my ear. Damned characters are going to be the death of me.

So anyhow, I usually don't start at the "beginning" but, Kaei says I have to tell the whole story. And she's a damned stubborn elf. What can I do? :)

"Wait," Tamlen said, casually plucking his arrow out of the shemlen's chest and wiping the blood off the arrowhead before sliding it back into his quiver. "Weren't you supposed to be helping Master Varathorn today?"

Kaei blushed right to the tips of her pointed ears. She was mortified at herself. Wasn't she supposed to be a brave Dalish hunter, not some fragile elf maiden from one of the old tales? She ran a nervous hand through her short orange hair. Tamlen threw her a wicked grin.

"I . . . well, I wanted to be with you," Kaei stammered.

Tamlen smiled earnestly and tilted his chin down, his blue eyes glimmering up at her from under a thick fringe of blonde lashes. "I thought so," he said merrily. "Or I hoped so anyway. But we can talk more about that later."

"Why always later?" Kaei asked, watching him move on to the next downed shem to recover his second arrow. He looked at her over his shoulder and took a deep breath. Forgetting the arrow, he stood up, facing away from her for a moment. Suddenly his ears were as red as Kaei was sure hers were. Slowly, he turned around and took the few steps to her. He put his hands on her shoulders and stared pointedly at the hollow between her collarbones. He swallowed hard and looked up to meet her eyes.

"Because if we talk about it now," he said finally, "I'm not going to be able to . . stop myself. And it's only another month before I'm old enough to . . . old enough to ask."

"You mean?" Kaei said hopefully.

"Of course, " Tamlen said earnestly. "You didn't actually think I was going to bond with someone else, did you?"

"I didn't know," Kaei said softly, her eyes caressing the angled contours of his face and the delicate tracery of his tattoos. "You never said anything, and I wasn't sure if I was . . . well if I was beautiful enough."

Tamlen looked confused. "Not beautiful enough?"

"Well," Kaei said, breaking eye contact and looking out at the trees, "All the other eligible females, they talk you know. You are one of their favorite subjects. 'Handsome Tamlen' and other things I won't repeat. It's always been . . . well, they tease me about you."

"Why would they do that?" Tamlen asked, cocking his head.

"I'm not very good at hiding my feelings Tamlen, " Kaei continued. "And I've been your friend since we before either of us took up a bow. And once, I told the others that . . . . well, that I . . . ." Her voice trailed off.

"That you what?" Tamlen said, putting one hand against the side of her face. "Kaei?"

Mustering her courage, she met his eyes. His deep, blue-violet eyes. And they were blazing with . . something she couldn't identify. Something she'd only seen tiny glimpses of before, but it was a look that made her feel so strange.

"That I . . . love you," she said softly. When Tamlen didn't reply, she continued. "And they laughed at me. They said I was too ugly for you; that you'd never choose someone so pale, so . . . plain . . . and I was a fool."

Tamlen made a choking sound. "Well, they are the fools." He paused, that same feral look still in his eyes. Before Kaei could react, he moved in and pressed his lips against hers. And this was no sweet stolen kiss like she'd gotten from him before. This kiss; it burned. After too long a time, and also too short, he pulled away.

"You are beautiful Kaei," he said breathlessly. "And I love you."

Kaei's eyes glittered with sudden tears. "You do?"

"I always have," Tamlen said. "And I always will. How could you doubt it?"

"I won't doubt it again," Kaei replied. She smiled.

"I love your smile," Tamlen said, idly tracing the ochre knotwork tattoo on her forehead with his finger. "I would never want to live without it. And you know something else?"

"What's that?"

"I was right about one thing," he said. "Once I said it, I can't stop myself." His eyes blazed and he kissed her again. "One more month be damned," he muttered against her lips as they tumbled together to the ground.

Kaei was nestled up against Tamlen's chest, his chin resting on the top of her head. She listened to the steady rhythm of his heart. For the first time in her life she felt content; complete. She knew what they had just done was . . wrong, at least in the eyes of the clan. They weren't bonded, not yet anyway. But the clan be damned, she thought. Besides, they'd be bonded soon enough and no one had to know.

Besides, her heart told her that this was right. More right than anything. And certainly more right than killing those meddlesome shems. They were far more likely to be in serious trouble over that act, than this second one.


"Hm?" she mumbled.

"Should we go see if those shems were telling the truth about those caves?" Tamlen asked. Kaei turned her head, propping her chin on his chest. He smiled and kissed the tip of her nose.

"I suppose, although don't you think we should talk to the Keeper first?" she asked.

"You mean like we should have talked to the Keeper about being bonded first?" he laughed.

"Good point," she replied. She snuggled closer for a moment. "And I suppose we can't just stay here forever."

"It'd be nice," he chuckled. "But not very practical."

"All right then," she said, sliding back up on to her knees. She looked down at him for a moment. By the creators, he was handsome. Lithe and muscular, tea colored skin and a shock of golden blonde hair. Noticing her stare, he put his hands behind his head and gave her a heated look.

"Like what you see?" he asked. A sly grin slid on to her face.

"Good enough to eat," she smirked.

"Hmmm," he said appreciatively, sitting up and wrapping his arms around her waist. "That can be arranged." She kissed the top of his head and slithered out of his arms.

"Caves?" she said.

"All right," he said with mock disappointment. "Caves it is."

"This place makes me nervous," Tamlen whispered. "I didn't think it'd feel like this."

"Me neither," Kaei replied, her nerves on edge. "Let's get out of here."

"Not yet," Tamlen replied, peering at the big metal door. "Let's at least see what's in here."

"Hang on then," Kaei said, kneeling down on the floor. "See the seam in the floor here? There's a trap. Let me get this first." She grabbed a thin shard of stone and jammed it into the nearly invisible seam in the stone floor. She stood and tapped her foot against the top of the pressure plate. It didn't move. "There we are," she said, stepping her full weight on to it. Tamlen flinched, but nothing happened.

"I still don't know how you do that," he said. "But its handy." Kaei smiled.

"My Kaei," he continued, "Just full of useful skills." He chuckled. "Several of which I can't wait to test."

Kaei swatted at his shoulder playfully. "I've created a monster." Tamlen laughed.

"Okay, so let's see what's in here," he said, notably not stepping on the pressure plate as he worked the latch of the door. The heavy wood swung inwards and a thing came bounding through the door with a hideous growl.

It looked like a bear and a dog and a porcupine had been involved in some monstrous mating. It's foul smell registered in Kaei's nostrils, but she ignored it, her bow flipping into her hands like magic and an arrow suddenly appeared in the middle of the creature's head. Forgoing the bow, Tamlen pulled his sword from its scabbard on his back and he slashed at the thing, a fine mist of arterial blood flying into the air. The red mist splattered him, but he didn't stop, his blade dancing through the air.

Kaei's second arrow found a better spot, penetrating deep into the creature's eye. With a ear splitting roar, it reared up on to it's hind legs, and Tamlen thrust his blade into its belly. The creature stumbled back and collapsed on to the stones with a wet thud. Tamlen stumbled back, his sword clattering to the ground.

"What was that?" he shouted, spinning around to face Kaei. "Are you alright?" he asked.

Kaei nodded. "I'm . . well as okay as I can be after that. We need to get out of here Tamlen. Before we run into something we can't best."

"Ha," he said. "Something we can't beat together? Not likely." He retrieved his blade from the floor. He didn't wait for her, just straightened his shoulders and walked through the door. Kaei shook her head and watched him go. He was mad. Crazy. Reckless. But she loved him for every bit of it.

"Wait for me, Tamlen," she said, scurrying to catch up with him. The room was different than the others. It was so blasted cold. Kaei shivered. The carvings in here were different too, less muted by dust and time it seemed. In the center of the room there was a stone dais with three circular steps. In the center stood a mirror with a delicate silver frame. It was as tall as two elves, and it shimmered somehow. Tamlen stood in front of it, but his reflection in the glass looked strange and almost unreal.

"Look at this," he said. "I can see things in there, a black city . . . ." He gasped. "Look there it is again!" He reached his hand out toward the glass.

Kaei sprinted towards him, "Don't touch it!" But it was too late, his fingers grazed the glass and sunk into it as if the mirror was liquid, not glass.

"Oh creators!" Tamlen shouted. "Help me Kaei! I can't look away!" Kaei fingers just touched his shoulder as a blast of brilliant light burst from the mirror and she felt herself lifted off her feet and flung to the ground. She heard Tamlen scream her name in horror, and then everything went black.

Kaei's eyes half fluttered open for a moment. Above her trees swayed in the breeze, and a shem with a heavy beard and sad eyes was looking down at her.

"I'm so sorry," he muttered as she drifted back down into the blackness.