Dawn of a new chance
Disclaimer: I do not own the Noble Dead Saga and only write fanfictions because I really like the books by Barb and J.C. Hendee.
One early, quiet evening Magiere sat face to face with her half-elven partner Leesil at one of the few new tables standing on the first floor of their tavern, the 'Sea Lion'.
Leesil had crossed his arms upon the table and with an exhausted grunt, he let his head sink atop of them. Putting her elbows on the rough table's surface, Magiere let her face rest in her hands and watched her companion quietly through her dark-brown eyes.
It had been a long, hard working day for all of them including Caleb, the old caretaker of their home. He had already lived in the old building together with his wife Beth-rae and their granddaughter Rose as Leesil and Magiere had arrived in Miiska about two and a half moons ago.
At this moment, Caleb and the five-year-old Rose were upstairs and Magiere assumed they were already sleeping. She hoped so. They deserved the rest as well as all of their helpers.
Magiere was still a bit overwhelmed by the unconditional helpfulness of so many of the town's folk, who put all their energy in rebuilding the tavern. Especially Karlin, her friend and the town's bakery owner, Loni, the elf who ran the Velvet Rose Inn, and Darien, the new constable of Miiska, had helped daily until dusk with carrying planks and stones and doing all other things that needed to be done to make the tavern and along with it Magiere's personal dream look as good as new.
But also people who Magiere did not even know in particular and had been very thankful to Leesil and her had been there every day offering their help. It had taken around two moons, but now they were almost done.
The old Sea Lion had been burned down by one of a trio of Noble Deads who had resided unnoticed in the small town. After several hard fights, she and Leesil had finally been able to destroy two of them with the help of Miiska's inhabitants. One of the vampires had managed to flee.
But that did not matter to Magiere at the moment. All she wanted was to run the almost completely re-built Sea Lion along with Leesil and to have a peaceful life in her self-chosen home.
Her partner had not been able to help right from the start with the construction because of the grave injuries he had taken during the battles. Walking had been an impossible obstacle for him and even standing caused him pain. Some ribs had been broken and several other wounds had marred his body.
Now, about two moons later, Leesil was almost back in his old, healthy condition thanks to Magiere's, admittedly, exaggerated care and attention.
She had done everything that had to be done to make him heal such as feeding him since he had not been able to sit upright, undressing and washing him and tending his wounds as good as possible. She had actually tried to cook for him what unfortunately had ended up in a burnt and inedible mess he had never caught sight of for the reason that she hadn't wanted him laying in his bed with a food poisoning. On top of that, Magiere had been a bit embarrassed about her disability to cook a plain lentil stew.
Her companion had reluctantly endured her care, nagging exasperatingly, most notably in the beginning but little by little he had seemed to get used to and even enjoy her looking after him. His protest had ceased entirely except for muted and half-heartedly utterances as, "I feel like a baby one always has to look after" or "You treat me as if I was an invalid".
As soon as Leesil had been able to, he had started working with the others on their new home, not listening to Magiere's worried and at the same time annoyed objections. In the end, all her nagging had been in vain. It had not stopped this bullhead from doing what he had wanted to do.
So many people had been badly injured if not killed during the fights against the Noble Deads and Magiere felt guilty – rightly. Among others their friend Brenden and Rose's grandmother Beth-rae had lost their lives. Maybe that was the reason why Caleb occupied himself so eagerly with the rebuilt – for distraction, for not to think about his wife's sudden death. She felt earnestly sorry for him and his granddaughter and suspected that Beth-rae's loss understandably still got to him, though he never showed any sign of grief.
Now that the building of the tavern was almost completed, Magiere found time to ponder about such things. She was not a great help in the reconstruction of their home since she could not lift most of the heavy material that was used but she has always assisted Aria and Lila with helping the workers by bringing them food and water or by watching over the drafts.
The mood at the building lot and in the 'Sea Lion' itself was light-hearted and relaxed. There weren't any stern arguments and the helpers made a great team. All in all, Magiere was relieved and tried to block out any distressing thoughts.
Leesil slowly got up to trudge towards the kitchen. Then he stopped short and turned to her.
"I'm feeling as if I would starve in a moment!" he said while laying a hand on his stomach. "Are you hungry, too? Shall I bring you along a portion of chowder?"
Magiere had already eaten at noon when he was still sweating in the sun with the other helpers, so she refused in thanks. Leesil shrugged and vanished through the kitchen's doorway curtain.
Looking after Leesil had brought these two closer together. Of course in part because of the bodily closeness it had implicated necessarily, but that could not be all. Magiere reluctantly got more and more interested in Leesil as a person. She was not sure about the half-elf's feelings but he did not seem to be repelled to her either though he kept bantering her frequently.
Although she wanted to take the next step in approaching him, she did not dare to do so. There were two main reasons for this.
One was simply the fact that she was afraid of being rejected, a fear that probably all women had who were … in love? Was she in love with this stubborn, reckless, playful and sometimes immature half-elf, who did not shrink from using his charm to get whatever he wanted? This was only one side of him. He could also be serious if he wanted to and he was quite clever and calculating at times.
She had to get to know all of his sides and she wanted this. She was at least highly interested in him even if she did not really want to admit it to herself.
The other reason was more fatal and made Magiere's stomach lurch. After Leesil had saved her with Brenden's help out of the vampires' hiding place, perilous wounded and loosing a lot of blood, he had followed this strange man's, Welstiel's, advice to feed her with his blood. As she had heard afterwards, he has slashed his wrist open barely hesitating and has done as he was told. She for herself could not remember what had happened before she woke up with him straddling over her lying on a bed in Brenden's house, his slashed wrist pressed between her teeth and his unusual pale, weary face right in from of her own.
She was evocative of his fingers' gentle touch on the back of her head, lifting her head up only a bit to feed her more easily and his warm, but weak breath on her face as his forehead touched hers. Magiere shuddered in disgust of herself as she recalled the warmth of his skin between her teeth and the taste of his blood in her mouth.
His blood. The blood of the only person in her life she really cared for and she unconditionally trusted. The blood of the person she would call her best friend and partner.
She had nearly killed him and he had let her. That was the worst part of it. He still could not see the danger in her, pretending he would not have died in her arms. But she knew better.
Magiere sighed barely audible. She had to keep herself from him, for his sake, as he did not seem to understand that she was able to kill him any time she was out of control and her dhampir nature rose. He just seemed to did not want to get it and simply ignored this fact.
Yet she was not strong enough to stay away from him and the hope to get to know him better. She could be a close friend, couldn't she? That would not kill him - or at least she hoped so. Asking him questions without obvious or distinct purpose were allowed. They did not hurt anybody but herself in case she got through them so close to him that it hurt to keep herself back from taking a further step.
Magiere hoped that in case it would ever get this far it would be just another question of self-control. She had a lot of practice in hiding her feelings since she had to be strong in her childhood she spent in Droevinka with her home town hating her for what she was.
She just had to keep that in mind and everything would be alright. She had a lot of questions, profound ones as well as trivial ones. Maybe it would be advisable to start with the latter.
Leesil returned from the kitchen, a bowl in one and a spoon in the other hand. With a satisfied sigh, he took in his seat across from Magiere again. In no time, he started eating as if she would not even be present. Magiere made use of the instant and gazed at him, tucking a strand of her long and loose black hair out of her pale face.
In contrast to his white blond hair that hung over his shoulders, his skin was of a golden brown tan. The unusual appearance with his oblong, not quite pointed ears and almond-shaped, slightly slanted amber eyes larger than a human's, under high, feathery eyebrows came from his half-elven heritage. His narrow face with the wedged, at all times beardless chin, and the slowly but surely fading scars on the right side of his neck and jaw was familiar and handsome to her. Her gaze wandered over his face while his half-elven eyes were turned towards his bowl of fish soup. His skin was so smooth ... She wondered how old he was. Leesil's whole appearance was lithe and somehow graceful at times. His age would be a good question to start with.
"May I ask you something?" Magiere asked hesitatingly.
"Sure," Leesil said with his mouth still full off small pieces of fish as he looked up. "What is it?"
Magiere raised one eyebrow and scowled at Leesil. Did she actually think of him as a graceful being?
"You have no manners."
"That's not a question", Leesil simply returned and continued slurping his soup. Then he stopped and looked up to her again, swallowing. Suddenly he coughed with widened eyes as he choked. Beating with one fist on his chest still a bit delicate from the broken ribs his eyes widened even more as pain seemed to twitch through his body.
"Valhachkasej'â!" he uttered angrily once he stopped coughing. "This damn injury!"
First Magiere was worried and wanted to pity him but it did not seem to be so bad. Instead, she continued scowling at him and then grinned a little.
"Serves you right."
Leesil cast a glance at her.
"I nearly suffocated in front of your eyes but all right." He sighed. "What's your question?" he asked as he proceeded eating his soup, more cautiously and well-mannered this time.
"How old are you?" Magiere asked bluntly.
Leesil stopped eating once more and stared at her. Then a mischievous smile spread on his thin-lipped mouth.
"Why do you suddenly want to know my age? It didn't matter in all the years, did it?"
Magiere's faint grin vanished, making way for her well-known killing glance.
"Maybe this didn't come to your mind but I didn't want to ask you this since only yesterday! I already wanted to know it while we were still traveling through Stravina but I never found an opportunity to ask you. Besides since I'm your partner I have a right to know as you know my age as well!"
"'I never begged you to tell me your age."
"I told you nevertheless because I think you should know. Just as a basic information. So I want to know your age as a basic information, too. And over and above, I'm not begging either."
"All right, calm down, dragon," Leesil said still with a mischievous smile on his face. "Guess."
"I shall guess your age?"
"I believe that's what 'guess' means, yes."
Magiere glanced over him once again. The half-elf restarted spooning the chowder again.
"Okay … maybe ..."
Leesil did not look up.
"I guess ... 20?" she asked uncertainly.
Leesil spit out the mouthful of soup he just wanted to swallow as he turned his face towards her, staring at her in disbelief.
"You disgusting, yucky half-blood!"
Magiere's shirt got hit by a huge stain of fish soup. It also clang to her pale hands and arms and she twisted her face in an angry grimace.
"Look what you've done!" she snapped, wiping her arms and hands off on the spots of her shirt that had remained dry.
"I'm sorry, but … ," Leesil returned, "… it's partly your fault."
Magiere's voice rose. The shirt would dry but it would reek of fish for sure.
"Well, you got to be kidding me. I mean you can't be serious. You can't actually think I'm 20. That's ridiculous!"
"I'm not kidding you!" Magiere nearly shouted then forced herself to lower her voice and try not to think of her shirt. "I was serious"
"Really?" Leesil asked, again staring at her in disbelief.
"Yes!" Magiere replied sharply. "So you're not?"
"Why, no. You're wide of the mark." He seemed to be amused as he began eating again. "Keep on guessing."
"No, you'll tell me now!"
"Certainly not," he smiled.
"I won't guess."
"Oh, so you'll never know". Leesil shrugged. "What a pity."
"Very well then! So you're older than 20?"
Leesil swallowed a spoon of soup before answering. "Definitely."
He smirked. "Not really."
His changing facial expressions, every single one expressing another grade of amusement, annoyed her.
"Are you older or younger than me? Older or younger than 25?" she barked.
Leesil did not seem to notice her aggravation. "Older," he merely replied.
Magiere sighed. She was tired of playing his little game.
"Well, I guess you're ... 28. My last guess. You can impossibly be older. I thought you were my age or younger."
"How flattering," he answered with an innocent smile. "You're still far out."
"Can't be true," Magiere growled.
"Don't be in a snit," he grinned. "It's not my fault if you are not guessing right."
"I'm not in a snit!" Magiere sighed in frustration.
Leesil was finally finishing off his soup. He took the bowl in both slender hands and moved its edge to his lips, swallowing. Then he put the bowl down on the table again and looked at her.
"You have something in the corner of your mouth," Magiere pointed out. A piece of fish or something like this clang there. She lifted her right hand to the right corner of her own mouth to show him where.
Absentmindedly, he rubbed with his left forefinger on the left side of his mouth, glanced at his finger and then in her face. "Is it off?"
Magiere only raised her eyebrows, rolled her eyes and reached closemouthed over the table to grab his right tan hand with her pale one. She lifted it up to the bounded chunk of fish and rubbed until it was removed.
"Now it's off," she said and released his hand, sitting back in her chair.
"Thanks," he murmured. The half-elf looked a bit bewildered or so it seemed to Magiere and she wondered why.
"So, please ...," Magiere began, stressing the word, "… just tell my how old you are. I don't feel like playing your little game anymore."
Leesil looked her in the eyes and blinked once.
"Very well then," he said. "I'm 31 years old." He grinned, most likely in anticipation to her reaction. "Six years older than you."
Magiere's eyes widened slightly. Then she looked at him more closely, her eyes narrowing. "I never assumed that. You look young for your age."
Still with a broad grin on his face, he stood up and picked up his empty bowl and the spoon, approaching the kitchen's doorway curtain. Magiere turned, watching him leave the room. When he was already halfway through the curtain, she called out.
Leesil's white blond hair glowed in the dim room of the Sea Lion as he stuck his head out of the doorway. Only now Magiere was aware that they had been sitting there quite a while. The sun had already set. She had to light up the candles later.
"What is it?" Leesil asked, looking puzzled.
"How? What do you mean by 'how'?" He frowned.
"How comes you look so young considering your age?" Magiere demanded.
"Oh, that you mean." He shrugged. "Half-elf, remember? Guess full bloods look even a good amount more younger regarding their age. My mother did."
He looked sadly to the ground, his forehead in wrinkles, as if he had said something wrong. "It's heritage," he finished looking her in the eyes again.
"I see. I just wondered."
Leesil nodded briefly to her and stepped back into the kitchen and out of sight.
Magiere stared at the slightly swinging curtain. She did not mean to remind him of his apparently dark past or at least a past he did not want to think about. Causing him pain was the last thing she wanted but she had been curious and still was in terms of his old life. One day he might tell her about it voluntarily. That was what she desperately hoped since she wanted to understand and if possible help him … somehow. Hopefully he was not depressed now that she accidentally forced him to talk about his family and past.
She closed her eyes briefly and run a hand through her long black tresses. There was not a hint of crimson to see in it in the dim room.
After an instant, Leesil returned from behind the doorway curtain.
"I have had enough," he said burping or yawning. Magiere could not really make out what it was. Most likely both.
"Sometimes you're a real pig." She frowned, secretly relieved that he did not seem to be gloomy.
"Well … yes. But only sometimes," he smiled innocently. Then he yawned again.
"Quite often," Magiere insisted. "You should go to bed. It was a long day."
"Good idea. I'm tired to death. What about you?"
"Oddly enough you didn't seem to be tired while eating." She smiled slightly. "I'm tired indeed but I guess not as much as you since you have done hard work and I … well, I haven't. Not a lot at least."
"That's true. I'm feeling as if I could fall asleep on the spot." Leesil shielded his mouth with his hand while he uttered another yawn.
Magiere too felt a yawn rise in her throat but tried to suppress it. She was not that successful.
"You're contagious," she said, frowning. "Go to bed now before I have to pick you up off the floor what I actually cannot, I believe. So I would have to leave you laying here on the floor."
"You wouldn't, would you?" he said, looking at her with his puppy dog eyes as good as possible with fatigue taking over him.
"Maybe I would," she warned. "I wouldn't risk it. Get up those stairs, you lazy half-elf!"
Leesil tried to look sad but failed and smiled slightly. He went past her towards the stairs on the far side of the room. After he had climbed a few steps and was halfway up, he stopped and looked down at her. Leaning over the stair rail, his well-known mischievous grin showed on his face. Magiere looked up into his amber eyes and his grin changed into a warm smile.
"Well, I would carry you up those stairs and put you to bed anytime," he said gently. "Good night. Sleep well."
With these words, he vanished out of sight. Magiere still sat on her chair with her face turned towards where Leesil had stood just seconds ago. Her heart beat a bit too fast against her chest when she finally answered in a hushed voice.
She did not get up immediately. Instead, she lowered her head a little and gazed into the dark of the tavern's room. What had this been? He had never talked to her like that before, not in that voice. So … serious but tender. And what was wrong with her heart? Sitting alone in the dark, her thoughts slipped briefly to what she promised to herself earlier in the evening concerning controlling her feelings. Now when there was no one there but her she could not longer hide her emotions.
Cautiously she laid a hand on her heart to try to stop it from beating so fast. Of course it did not help and she was glad about it. Slowly the corners of her mouth raised bit by bit. She could not help it. In the end, she sat there in complete darkness and was all smiles.
Magiere did not know how much time had passed until she slowly rose from her wooden chair and literally floated up the stairs. Reaching the first floor, her gaze fell on the first door on the left - Leesil's room. Everything was quiet and Magiere was still smiling to herself. She paced along the hallway to the door leading to the room next to Leesil's, her own room. She opened it and entered, closing the door softly behind her.
Somehow she managed to undress, dropping her filthy shirt, smelling of fish to the ground. She donned an old, over sized off-white shirt which ranged to her knees. Laying in her comfortable bed with the down blanket pulled over her pale body, she still smiled and though it was chill in her room with her window opened, she was not cold at all.
She lay still for a while, unable to sleep. When fatigue finally threatened to overwhelm her, a comforting thought wriggled into her awareness. Only six years. That was not a lot at all. And even if it had been … she had not cared. In the end, everything would work out. She just had to be cautious. That was her last thought, accompanied with the image of Leesil's smiling face on the steps in her mind, before she drifted off into peaceful slumber.