The Orc's Mate

The flames consuming Nymhriel's house licked high, the smoke obscuring the feebly rising sun. Outside, a group of men stood stone-faced, arms crossed, pitiless and unsatisfied. Saervodh railed back and forth, cursing like a madman. The storm of the previous night still raged, reducing the figures to dark smudges from a distance.

"Like I thought," Gundshau said quietly. He glanced at Nymhriel's tear-streaked face. "They found him. No words would hide me."

"No, none," she said shakily, hugging herself.

"Do you... regret?"

She shook her head. "I regret nothing."

Gathering their packs, the pair slipped into the deeper growth of the forest behind the healer's cottage. She could barely hear the roaring fire destroying all that she had, all that she was, as they ascended the hills skirting the mountains. If she regretted anything, it was taking Gundshau to the village, showing them her ease with the orc, confessing to his presence in her home. Daring to imply trust in a creature deemed so untrustworthy.

"Gundshau," she said quietly, and halted. He paused as well, and looked at her. "I have been... I... did things... I am not proud of."

He bowed his head. Taking a shuddering breath, he opened his mouth to apologize for touching her, for coaxing her to such a commitment, but she stilled him with a hand on his arm.

"You did nothing," she insisted. "When you were... bound, I... I took... liberties. It was wrong. I should not have... touched you so."

Furrowing his brow and tilting his head curiously, he said, "You touched me?"

"Regrettably, yes," she said in a small, shamed voice.

"How?"

"In a most... intimate manner," she replied in a whisper.

"Did touching... make you want me?" he asked, a ghost of a smile threatening his mouth.

"It made me crave you," she breathed, looking into his warm red eyes.

"Then it is welcomed," he grinned. "If it softened your heart and blinded your eyes."

"Opened them, more like," she sighed, relieved. "I shall take no such advantage of you again."

Arching his brow, he slipped an arm about her waist and urged her to continue their trek. "That would not be welcome," he chuckled.

Their tracks filled quickly. Lacking a tracking hound or an orc's sensitive nose, Saervodh and his men stood no chance of picking up their trail. Though Nymhriel did not relish a life in hiding, there were worse things to endure. Loneliness had been a terrible burden to bear. Death would have been a small inconvenience by comparison.

But watching them slay Gundshau before her eyes... That was something she could not have borne. Sighing, she leaned against him. Had he not followed his instincts, felt the coming threat, they might have perished in the flames. Together, perhaps, but she did not particularly want to be at his side in that way, not when there were so many other ways laid out before them.


A/N: The story continues in Oaths by Helenamarkos, here on FFN!