Khralver Irlingstar walked into the tavern nervously. He had been told the knight-captain was in here and he needed to talk to her on behalf of his mistress. He gulped once he spotted her. She was with her lover Bishop. He had heard about him; a man who didn't seem to care about anyone but himself and the captain and had no problem telling them so, usually in a violent or threatening manner, sometimes both, as if he wasn't nervous enough already about meeting the captain. He then straightened up and walked over.
"Excuse me, Knight-Captain Selene?"
She turned to him and after staring at him for a moment said
"Hey, I know you. You're one guy that was with Torio's replacement. Naveler, gravler…" she put a hand to her chin for a moment then snapped her fingers. "Khralver. That's it isn't it?"
"It is indeed, my lady. Khralver Irlingstar at your service."
He gave a little bow. She laughed and tried to give a little half bow back from upon Bishop's lap. She lost her balance and Bishop had to pull her back up; the captain had apparently had a bit too much wine. Glaring at the man Bishop asked
"What do you want?"
"I… well… that is…"
"Spit it out." Bishop growled.
Selene giggled and patted his cheek
"Calm down now."
Bishop grumbled something inarticulate.
Khralver cleared his throat and said "I have come on behalf of my mistress to request an audience. She has information regarding the King of Shadows."
"Is that it?" Bishop looked murderous "Get out of here before you find my dagger in between your ribs and tell Kana this nonsense."
Khralver's pale skin lost what little color it had and he turned and made a break for the door.
Bishop scowled after the man as he left. I smiled and tilted his face back towards me. I ran my hand up and down across his jawline line letting his stubble prickle my palm and my fingers. I rested my head upon his shoulder smiling.
"I love you."
He blushed, slightly, and placed his hand over my own muttering something inarticulate but sweet. I laughed and said
"I'll take that as an 'I love you too."
He rolled his eyes and I couldn't help but chuckle again as I snuggled closer.
"We can't seem to find a moment alone can we?" Bishop asked after taking a drink from his mug of ale.
I gave a small sigh still running my fingers over his not quite a beard.
"Tis true, tis true. I'm hoping that changes in the near future."
He laughed derisively.
"Selene, the day you aren't sought out by every blasted wretch in a 1000 league radius so you can solve their damn problems is the day I stop drinking."
He drained his mug to further emphasize his point. I let my hand fall and I just sat there for a moment. He grabbed my hand not saying a word. I gave a weak smile and getting up just a tad wobbly I pulled him with me.
"Dance with me."
He raised an eyebrow.
"You can hardly stand." He replied with a smirk.
I glared saying "I can stand just fine. Now come on."
I tugged again. Still smirking he chuckled
"Alright, alright if you insist."
"I do." I said simply pulling him along until I found a suitable place. We danced about for some time but I got the feeling neither of us was really into it, our minds still set on the suffocating presence of "destiny". I glared, my grip upon Bishop tightening.
"I'm going to kill that stupid little Host Tower bastard. He ruined our night!"
I stomped my foot in a very tantrum-esque fashion and pouted something fierce. A smile twitched at Bishop's lips and then he burst out laughing. A true jovial laugh which made everyone turn his direction in surprise. I couldn't help but smile myself, I loved his laugh. He kissed me and still smiling brighter than I had ever seen before he whispered into my ear.
I flushed a deep crimson and looked down at my feet saying the only that came to mind.
He laughed again and led me away taking the rest of the wine with us.
As we lay on the wall that overlooked the keep and the lands around it, I looked up at the stars and the full moon. I smiled; it was times like this that had almost made me become a follower of Selûne rather than Shaundakul. The moon was so beautiful and mysterious. It filled me with a sense of peace and happiness like nothing else. I couldn't really explain it otherwise. I turned my head to the side to see Bishop looking up with a similar look of contentment on his face and it warmed my heart. I both loved and loathed the fact that I was the only one he allowed see him like this. It made me feel rather special I will admit but if only others could just see how wonderful he was they wouldn't be so hard on him. I sat up grabbing the bottle of wine and took a long drink. He smiled at me saying "Thirsty?"
I smirked at him and took another small drink. He chuckled and took the bottle away from me.
"Here." He said handing me a small dagger.
I looked at it and then at him with a raised eyebrow.
"What is this for?"
"It's for killing. What do you think it's for?" he replied with a roll of his eyes.
I frowned "That's not what I meant and you know it."
He shrugged "I just thought you could use a new one. I noticed yours was getting kind of worn."
I grinned and kissed him. "And people say you're not nice."
He glared. "I'm not nice."
I chuckled, still a little intoxicated. "Come on." I said getting up. "Despite how lovely it is out here we should probably get to bed if we are to head out to Highcliff tomorrow."
He nodded and got up as well, supporting me back to the Keep.
Bishop looked down at Selene as he led her back to their room and almost sighed. He then rolled his eyes; she was rubbing off on him. He looked at the knife now tucked in her belt. He had not been entirely truthful with her on the reasoning behind giving it to her. After what had happened with the dragon he fully realized how dangerous this all was as foolish as that might sound. So as soon as they had gotten back he had gone straight to that Sigilian mage Startear and had him craft the blade. It had as many protective enchantments as he could afford to put on it. It increased the wielders speed and perception of those around them, which was probably why despite the leisurely pace she seemed to be setting they were actually moving quite quickly and he had to quicken his stride to keep pace with her. It was also enchanted to be 'lucky' as the wizards called it. It would actually make it much more likely blows would miss her and her own more likely to succeed. He had also paid for it to make it more resistant to the elements; that had been one of the first things he had asked for. He still remembered the burns both of them had suffered due to that dragon. He shook his head trying to forget about it. He was becoming too soft and while part of him was disgusted with himself another part couldn't help but smile at what he had gained.
"Go Gera! Leave me behind!"
"I'm not leaving without you Zachan!"
I looked up the road to see a familiar couple in the road being followed by about half a dozen lizardmen. I was curious as to why they were being chased but that was a question for another time, for the lizardmen that were after them didn't seem too friendly. I took out my bow and fired a warning shot. It landed right in front of the lizardman at the head of the pack. It stopped and looked up at me and then looked after its prey. I knocked another arrow threateningly and Bishop followed suit. The lizardman's eye then traveled to our other companions not far behind similarly preparing themselves for battle and decided it was not worth it, making their way back to town. I walked up to them and asked
"I think so." Gera said slightly panting as she looked after them "Thank you for your help, stranger…" She then gasped as she turned to face me. "Wait it's you! Selene, the woman who helped us before."
I smiled at her. "It's nice to see you again too, Gera."
"You just know everyone don't you?" Bishop said with a roll of his eyes.
I smirked at him "Jealous?"
He gave a derisive laugh. "Hardly. People always bothering you for help. Who would want that?"
I gave a small chuckle. "True enough. Tis a curse."
I then looked back to the married couple. "You want to tell me what's going on here?"
"The lizardmen, they… they attacked us out of nowhere a tenday or so ago." Gera said almost bursting into tears.
"You have any idea why?"
She shook her head. "None at all."
"Of course not." I grumbled, rolling my eyes. I then looked back to the two of them and said "Well you guys go and get on to Crossroad Keep and we'll see what's going on."
"Thank you, my lady!" Gera cried as they ran off.
"We come here to recruit a blacksmith and of course, of course the lizardmen have turned on the townspeople and we have to do something about it. Why can nothing ever be easy?" I asked covering my face with my hand.
"The gods are testing you, my lady. You must persevere. Do so and your soul will be at peace." Casavir said solemnly.
"Sure it will. It's more likely they get some perverse enjoyment in watching us struggle. I mean what else to they have to do." Bishop replied acidly.
I smiled, the glare I had been ready to send Casavir's way sliding off my face.
"Come, we have work to do." I said before Casavir could reply, making my way for the village.
"Please, we know not what has angered them but they invaded are village about a ten-day ago and refuse to let us leave. Any who try are either killed or brought back. I guess it just depends on whether or not they are feeling merciful that particular day." Elder Mayne ended sadly.
My eyes scanned the surrounding area and I asked "Where are the remaining townsfolk?"
"Over here." He said gesturing to the two houses behind him,
"And is there an armorer called Edario among them?"
"Why yes there is. Why do you ask?"
"Curiosity." I replied. "Now do you know of any way we could negotiate with the lizardmen."
"Well, we have taken one of their soldiers hostage. Perhaps if you talk to him you could learn of their intentions. We could learn nothing from him however." He replied; his eyes flicking to a nearby paddock with two of the Highcliff militia standing next to it.
"I see." I said my eyes moving toward the same paddock. "I'll look into it and be back when I can."
"Thank you for your assistance once again, my lady."
I gave a faint smile and replied "You're quite welcome." as I made my way over to the paddock.
I looked down at the lizardman and cocked my head slightly to the side.
"He looks about half dead already." Bishop said as he approached.
"True enough. We're not going to get any answers out of him this way."
I knelt down and began to clean him up. "Zhjaeve, come give me hand over here."
"As you will, Kalach-Cha."
Zhjaeve knelt beside me and began a whispering chant in what I could presume was her native language. I had always found it fascinating to watch her preform her clerical magics. It was unlike that of any priest I had encountered before. Instead of the usual golden-white glow that was given off by other priestly healing spells or the deep green of a druid's spell it was an odd blue-gray and unlike the former to it didn't fill you with a happy sense of love and warmth but more of hope, strength and determination to continue on. I wondered if that was because she was from another plane, because she didn't follow what one would call your "normal" deities or possibly because she wasn't precisely what I would call a "good" priest. She was by no means evil; at least not in my opinion. I would call her more neutral but respectful of the law and the tenets she and others had set for themselves. I smiled at that. How exactly could one be neutral? I understood and adhered to the Balance as well as anyone, perhaps a bit better than your average human having been raised by an elf but does that make you neutral? Are you not simply trying to live your life as best you can while trying not to upset said Balance? Would that not make you good? Trying to live in harmony with the world around you. I didn't know, nor do I believe I ever will.
"Kalach-Cha are you listening?"
"Hmm?" I asked looking up.
"Your will is done Kalach-Cha." She replied in that eerily soothing voice of hers.
I looked to the lizardman and she was right he was sitting up against the fence, eyes clear of pain but full of suspicion.
"Sorry." I replied "I was lost in thought."
"A lot weighs on your mind, Kalach-Cha."
I gave a bit of an ironic smile "That it does, but no time for it now, perhaps later."
I looked back to the lizardman and asked "You alright now?"
Still looking at me suspiciously the lizardman hissed "Why you help me human?"
"Two reasons." I said holding up two fingers to impress my point. "One because I need you to learn what is going on here" I put down a finger. "and two I don't much like to just leave people suffering if they have done me no wrong."
"I's not people I lizardman." He grumbled
I rolled my eyes and waved a hand. "Semantics. Anyway tell me. Why are you all attacking Highcliff?"
"Batha lead us lead us here. Batha our leader, say we take back land that was once ours." The lizardman answered with obvious pride.
As far as I knew this land had never been occupied by the lizardfolk in recorded history but giving him the benefit of the doubt I asked "And when was this land yours?"
"Our ancestors live here long ago when swap cover all land. Batha say spirits tell him so. They come to him in shadows and whispers. They tell him of the past and future."
"Hmm let's go."
"Go where?" asked Sand.
"Talk to this Batha, he's obviously being manipulated by the King of Shadows. Let's see if we can put a stop to it. One way or another."
"You are here shard bearer, good." The large Lizardman said to me, though through telepathy rather than conventional means.
"How did you acquire this ability?" Sand asked before I could obviously brimming with scholarly interest.
I smirked he got pleasure from the weirdest sources.
"I have been granted many gifts by the spirits of our ancestors."
"Really tell me more about these spirits." He asked.
"Yes, please do." I interjected "We were told by one of your men that it was more a shadow then anything. You do know that it is these shadows that are destroying the Mere."
The enormous lizardman looked into my eyes and I could see an ancient almost primeval wisdom to his black eyes. It was unnerving as if he was trying to see through me to my very soul.
"I sense that you speak the truth. Would you allow me to search your mind for deception to be sure?"
I looked away uncomfortably. I really did not like that idea. My mind was my own and was not something I wanted to be observed like an open book. My eyes flicked about to the surrounding lizardmen. If I refused however things would more than likely dissolve into violence very quickly. I then looked back to Batha and nodded.
"I will allow it, if it will prevent any further violence."
Batha nodded and I felt many different images pass before my eyes. Some recent, some not so much, some I hadn't known were even there.
"I see no trace of deceit in your mind, shard bearer. You walk a path of hardship and honor. Not many would be able to handle it as you do."
Unfazed I replied "Right well now that you know the truth you're going to leave the villagers of Highcliff alone right?"
"That we will shard bearer though I am unsure of what we will do else wise."
"March to the keep with the rest of the town fight against the King of Shadows and reclaim your home."
Batha gave me a scaly smile and replied "As you will, shard bearer."
I smiled back and ran a hand through my hair as I made my way back to Elder Mayne.
"So it's true, we are free to go?" Elder Mayne asked his voice full of tentative hope.
I gave a small smile and replied "Yes it's true."
"Thank you my lady, thank you. We shall be forever grateful to you for this."
I sighed and leant back against the railing of the paddock the lizardman had been being kept in. The lizardman in question was being helped to leave the village by those who had been his guards. It was funny how quickly enemies could turn to allies in the face of a greater threat. The rest of the villagers were gathering up their things to leave as well, some having to be more convinced than others. An old woman was refusing to leave her things behind saying it all had value and she wouldn't give any of it up, even as her granddaughter tried to convince her to go saying they could get new silverware at the keep.
"No!" the old woman shouted. "I will not leave it behind! It was my dowry when I married your grandfather. It's all I have left of him."
The granddaughter sighed looking ready to give in when a young man around the granddaughter's age came over and offered to help carry anything they might need help with. The way his eyes flicked to the young woman and the way she smiled back warmed my heart and brought a smile to my lips. Despite everything I really was a hopeless romantic just like your typical bard, even if I did try to deny and hide it.
I looked to the side seeing Bishop lean up against the fence next to me and I smiled suppressing a chuckle.
"What?" He asked.
"Nothing." I replied, still holding back my laughter.
He rolled his eyes and walked off. As he did I couldn't help but keep smiling and somehow was led to the thought of how different my life had become since I met him. It had only been a short while really, a few of months at the most, but in that time he had become such an integral part of my life I couldn't imagine life without him. He affected me in such a way that no one else before him had. He made me feel things I had never felt before. His touch let loose a thousand butterflies in my stomach, his kiss nearly brought me to my knees, the feel of the scruff of his stubble against my own skin made me lascivious enough to want to take him right there and when we came together as man and woman, I felt truly complete as if this is what people must be talking about when two people become one, mind, heart, body and soul. He had shown me the way to who I truly was and I wasn't afraid to show it anymore. I knew that he loved me and that was enough. I didn't require the approval of anyone else. I had finally come to terms with the overwhelming fear and anxiety I had grown up with. Fear that I wasn't good enough; that I wasn't smart enough or pretty enough. With his help I had laid these fears to rest. I had grown the confidence to say that I was good enough and that I was proud of the person I was, that I had become. I loved him. There was simply no other way to say it. It was funny how such a complex emotion could be explained with so few words.
Bishop's eyes flicked to me and I gave him a loving smile. I walked over and took his hand.
"Come, if this Edario really is among them he will come to the Keep and we will find him then. Let us go."
He raised an eyebrow at me.
"You seem different, somehow."
"Do I now?" I asked teasingly. I shook my head adding "It's nothing. I just love you is all."
He gave a slight blush and mumbled "I love you too."
I just laughed and pulled him along.