Cless sighed to himself as he stared blankly toward the counter of the Alvanista pub. He brooded over everything he had lost to get here, and he considered the likelihood of his situation getting any better. He was now under a vow to protect Mint, his gentle traveling companion, and he wondered if he could actually stand by it. Would he be able to keep her safe, or would she wind up dead just like everyone else he had cared for? He doubted himself, and that doubt made him vulnerable.
To his side sat a young woman of equal age. She had long, raven black hair and carried somewhat of a seductive aura. She reminded him vaguely of Mint, as she had a similar complexion and wore what could only be a healer's robe, albeit in a dark gray color. Out of the corner of his eye, she may have winked at him. Little did he know she had been patiently waiting for him.
She smiled warmly as she pushed an untouched mug in his direction.
"You look like something's bothering you. Have this."
Cless reached for the glass after slight hesitation. As he continued stumbling through gloomy thoughts, he barely nodded acknowledgment toward the young woman.
After taking a drink, he abruptly shock his head and tried to gather his emotions. He was being rude, and he didn't want to leave a bad first impression.
"I'm sorry, I didn't get your name."
The girl simply tilted her head with the same smile as before.
Cless returned her friendly glance as he replied.
Morgana became notably more humored, reacting as if Cless were pointing out common sense.
"I know. You're the one who's been bodyguarding the cleric, right?"
The same cleric who happened to be the only obstacle stopping Morgana from meeting the unicorn of White Birch Forest and taking its unparalleled healing magic for herself. With the proper arcane knowledge, she could use its horn to make herself nearly invincible, but simple eternal beauty was all she desired. She had the benefit of being a maiden, but she certainly wasn't the fairest in the land, and she knew that stubborn horse wouldn't settle for anything less.
She was also quite the impatient type herself. Even though a new unicorn would appear the moment the previous one had gifted its power to a suitable virgin, she held a certain sense of entitlement and felt she had already waited long enough. That left her with only one option: Eliminate the competition. She was never one for murder, however, so she had to rely on a relatively less violent way to get want she wanted. She was a healer just as Mint, so it was all just a matter of using her divine power to change the balance of certain hormones in the human body and certain enzymes in the human mind. She could sense Cless held budding feelings for his traveling partner, giving her something to work with.
Cless nodded unsuspectingly to her question, figuring the woman must have been referring to Mint. Morgana's voice became much more playful when she reached over and lightly touched his armored shoulder.
"You know, you make a really cute couple together. Have you ever thought about taking the relationship further?"
Cless peered back toward the counter and shook his head.
"Yeah, right. We travel together strictly for business purposes."
He then looked back toward her, eyebrow slightly raised.
"What are you, a matchmaker or something?"
Morgana laughed lightly to herself before coyly lowering her voice. While she wasn't making direct progress in convincing him to thoroughly deflower her rival that night, she was at least helping him gradually consider the prospect.
"You could say that. It's not a healer's primary job, but it's one of our more useful talents when we're not needed on the battlefield. I think your friend was doing the same thing for that couple in Euclid."
Cless simply shook his head again and mumbled. It was hopeless to him.
"It would never work. We're practically exact opposites."
Morgana's hand slowly shifted from his shoulder to the side of his head. Her eyes narrowed into deceitful slits as her fingertips traced his bandanna, and her voice took on a soothing quality.
"They say opposites attract. Maybe you just need a little... motivation."
And then something strange happened.
Cless saw Mint. She was sitting on Morgana's stool, copying Morgana's every sultry mannerism, but it was her. That was when he realized just how helpless and fragile really she was. Her light blue eyes were beginning to fill with frightful tears. She was begging him to protect her, hold her in his arms, take her as his own. Every beautiful contour of her face and every perfect curve in her long white dress burned into his eyes, and he couldn't stand it anymore. He had to have to her before he lost her.
And then he was looking at Morgana again. He tried to shake some residual fogginess from his head as he stood up and mumbled.
"I... have to go."
Morgana smirked to herself. She truly hoped her efforts wouldn't result in rape, but the matter didn't bother her too terribly. The spell she had cast was quite potent and, if all went well, her lucky peer would wind up with a husband who was madly in love with her, would never waver from her, and could never get enough of her. Morgana simply felt the rewards outweighed the risks for both parties. If nothing else, at least she would have ownership of a unicorn horn.
Cless briefly looked toward his mug as he valiantly struggled to think of something other than Mint.
"Do you still want to..."
Morgana carefully pulled the glass back in front of her. She dispelled his concerns with an encouraging grin and a tone of utmost certainty.
"Just worry about whatever you need to do. I'll pick up the tab."
After all, it was a small price to pay for having her vulgar plan succeed.
Mint followed Cless into a dark passageway just off of the city street. She looked about her surroundings and became slightly nervous as she was led further and further away from the busy nightlife. What could possibly be this important this far out of the way?
"I'm still not sure what you wanted to show me, Cl-..."
Suddenly, Cless turned around, took her by the shoulders, and guided her back against a wall. Her eyes went wide with surprise. She could tell almost immediately that he seemed to be fighting with himself.
"Cless? What are you doing?"
He leaned forward, his lips almost pressing against hers. He couldn't contain himself any more.
"Mint, I've never realized it before now, but I... want you."
He stepped forward and leaned against her long skirt, attempting to wedge her legs apart with his knee. Mint only shook her head in horror.
"St-stop it! This is wrong!"
Cless stopped to blink. He seemed honestly surprised by Mint's protest.
"What's wrong about two people growing closer together?"
When he resumed his actions, he pushed some of the golden tassel away from Mint's shoulders and began gingerly pulling apart some of the buttons on the front of her gown. She began to blush, then quickly raised another objection in an embarrassed whisper.
"You can't be serious! You know I won't be able to talk to the unicorn if I'm not pure! We'll never be able to return to our own time if we do this!"
Cless paused again and offered her a caring smile.
"That's okay. I don't mind staying here forever if it's with you."
Mint didn't know what to say. She didn't know if she should interpret Cless's statement as a lustful pretense, or a heartfelt confession. Somewhere, in some place deep in her heart, she appreciated it as the latter. She would have been lying if she said she didn't feel something for him in return.
Cless tried to offer more comforting advice as he painfully kept his urges at bay.
"Besides, once we have a daughter, we can always raise her to follow in your footsteps. We won't be completely hopeless."
It all came so quickly. First some flirtatious advances, then an emotional confession, and now a promise to settle down and start a family. All in a matter of seconds. As Mint became increasingly overwhelmed by Cless's mysterious gestures, she began closely studying his body language. It wasn't long before everything became clear to her. The look in his eyes and the rapidness of his breath told Mint exactly why he was acting this way. He was a victim of a healer's forbidden arte. He had been charmed.
Cless's mind was close to the brink of insanity, and denying him the release he craved would only worsen his condition, if not make it irrevocable. Mint wasn't just acting out of sympathy, however. She was smart enough to know that, in a bizarre way, his actions were only an amplification of how he truly felt about her. She soon realized she was happy to be the target of his affection, circumstances aside. Whoever had put him in this cursed state knew exactly what they were doing, and the effect was too powerful for Mint to easily cure. To both help him find his way and and follow what her own heart wanted, she had no option but to surrender. With a little intimate therapy, she may even been able to tame his impulses back to their natural levels.
Once she had carefully thought the matter through, Mint's resistance subsided. She returned his romantic gaze and shyly spoke.
She lifted her head so she could meet him in a kiss. They closed their eyes and held their embrace for what felt like an eternity, cherishing the moment for their separate reasons. She was his.
When the kiss ended, Cless appeared slightly relieved. He lowered his voice to a whisper as he looked into her sparkling eyes.
"I'll take good care of you from now on, Mint."
Mint peered toward the way they came, then turned back to Cless in concern.
"If we're really going to go through with this, shouldn't we get a room in the inn?"
Cless seemed baffled by this suggestion, seeing no problem with letting the festivities proceed right there in the damp alleyway. Recognizing his somewhat brutish mindset, Mint took on a soft, cheerful character before explaining further.
"I mean, we could get in trouble out here, even if we rush through this. If it's in private, you can take your time and do anything you like to me."
This seemed to bring a small epiphany to Cless's mind, as he quickly nodded in agreement.
The new couple left the passageway and began looking for a comfortable place to spend the night.
Chester sat up against a bit of mausoleum rubble. Blood trickled from his temple and his eyesight was gradually failing him, but he could still see Dhaos levitating several feet off the ground in front of him. Trinicus was on the ground beside him, face-down and either unconscious or dead.
Dhaos cast an ominous scowl before speaking toward his fallen opponent.
"They'll never come back for you, you know."
Chester grabbed his wounded side and smirked in return. He was too weak to fire any more rounds from his bow, so all he could do was make the best of a verbal debate.
"What makes you think that? Cless promised he'd bring someone here who can beat you, and I trust him more than some asshole like you."
Dhaos chuckled softly, humored by his pointless optimism. His voice remained in its usual stoic tone.
"They're doomed to become selfish and forget about you, just like all other humans. If there is evil in this world, it truly belongs in the hearts of men."
Just after Dhaos finished speaking, and in prompt contradiction to what he had said, a blinding flash of light engulfed the subterranean chamber. When it faded, two new figures stood triumphantly between Chester and Dhaos. They were a young man and woman. Both were around Chester's age, but one was slightly younger than the other.
The girl had long blonde hair and was dressed as a lightly-armored paladin. Her armor was pearl white, with a large cross adorning the center of her breastplate. Her shield was clock-shaped and emblazoned with the image of a unicorn's head. The hilt of her sword was decorated with a matching engraving.
The boy had short brown hair. He was dressed in brown and black mage's robes, with an iron cuirass worn on top to protect his torso. A large silver and gold staff served as his weapon.
The male member of the odd duo first went to Trinicus's side. He muttered some incantation, restoring enough of the older man's vitality so he could as least sit up and become aware of his surroundings. The mage then went to Chester and began treating his injuries with similar magic. He spoke to his patient with an assuring smile.
"Relax, Chester. We're on your side."
Chester remained wide-eyed and speechless the entire time. He finally forced himself to speak once he regained most of his arm mobility.
"Who are you? Where did Cless and that healer girl go?"
The swordswoman had turned to face him by now. Despite speaking with a relaxing and distinctly feminine voice, she sounded more firey than her male colleague.
"You mean mom and dad. They knew you would need help, so they trained us to take their place."
This revelation only added to Chester's confusion.
"Mom and... dad? He has a family now? How long have they been back there?"
The sorcerer stopped to think before he supplied an answer.
"I think they said it's been about 18 years."
The paladin chimed in with a compassionate gaze, followed by an odd blush.
"They really wanted to see you again, but they're a little... preoccupied."
The mage snickered before he elaborated on his companion's vague words.
"What sis means to say is they're too busy having wild passionate sex together and occasionally taking care of our younger siblings to be of any help."
The female snapped her head toward her colleague as her expression warped into a stubborn frown.
"Don't talk like that! They did a great job raising us, and a man and woman should be free to do whatever they want when they're in love!"
The male simply shot back with another wisecrack.
"I guess you'd be the expert on that. You almost let that boyfriend of yours make it so we couldn't get here."
The paladin's entire face turned deep red. If it hadn't been concealed behind her shield, one would have also been able to see her left fist was squeezing an invisible lump of coal into a diamond.
"That's none of your business!"
With the two arriving heroes in a heated argument and Trinicus barely crawling off of the floor, Chester was the only one left to act as the voice of reason.
The young man and young woman both instantly turned their attention to him with curious looks on their faces. He then motioned his head toward the common threat looming just a few feet in front of them.
"As soon as you two are done, we kind of need to stop an ancient Demon God from destroying the planet. I hope Cless told you about that."
The swordswoman quickly focused back on Dhaos, narrowing her eyes in contempt.
"Oh, right. Him."
She then repositioned herself in an elegant leap. She landed with her arms in a combat pose and a gleefully expression on her face, as she considered the upcoming battle to be a fun challenge. Her next words rallied her teammate.
"Standard formation, Hablanthus!"
The warlock moved to a spot a few feet behind her. He took his staff firmly into both hands as he answered her command.
"Right behind you, Anemone!"
The swordswoman looked over her shoulder before addressing her final reservations.
"You didn't forget that Indignation thing, did you?"
Her support unit rolled his eyes and mumbled in response.
"How can I? That's practically the entire reason I came along."
She then nodded in acknowledgment and turned her full attention back toward her enemy. While she placed her shield in front of herself and readied her sword, she closed her eyes and concentrated, causing the blade to begin to glow in holy white light. She dashed forward just as her companion began conjuring his most powerful offensive spell.
After they defeated Dhaos that day, the two strange travelers shared many more adventures with Chester and helped him save the world on several more occasions. They then bid their farewells and returned to their own time, where they were welcomed home and congratulated by their loving family.