Friday, March 26, 2010

Forty Two

          When I woke I found myself curled on my side, Elethor warm at my back his arms wrapped tight around me. It was a good way to wake up and even better when he brushed his lips against the back of my bare shoulder and murmured against my skin.

           “Good morning keairrah, how did you sleep?”

          It was hard to concentrate to form a coherent reply when he was trailing kisses like liquid fire across my skin, and so I did not try. I turned in his embrace and pressed my lips to his and relished the feel of his arms tightening around me, locking against my back and crushing me to him. My body came alive under his touch and my breath escaped me in a startled gasp as he lifted me bodily and laid me on my back so reverently, his hips matching mine and his hands finding my wrists. His grip was firm but not tight or frightening as he stared me in the eyes and raised my arms above my head, pinning them to the mattress. I was not afraid and it showed in my eyes, this must have reassured him because he kept me at his mercy and bent slowly and gently as if waiting for me to stop him, but I didn’t and he continued his descent to lay a kiss over the beating pulse in my neck. He trailed kisses down the line of my collar bone and continued even further down my body, his hands sliding softly down my arms when he could no longer reach to hold my wrists.

          I left my hands above my head my eyes closing as I relished the feel of him moving his lips across my breasts and along my ribs, trailing down my stomach until finally with a final press of lips on the jut of my hip bone the feel of him stopped. I opened my eyes and let out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding, finding he had retreated to kneel on the mattress beside me. His hands rested on the tops of his thighs and an odd little smile graced his lips. I tipped my head to the side and let the query into my expression and his smile grew wider.

            “I’ve longed for this moment before the tower fell, and I have longed secretly for it ever since… I wish to never forget this. A moment to drink you in, allow me that?”

          I nodded, slowly and remained as I lay relaxing and did the same, watching him watching me and I felt the mirror to his smile on my own lips, until with a joyous laugh he leaned forward as I did, his arms circling high on my middle as my own went about his well muscled shoulders and we held each other and laughed for no other reason than we were happy until the laughter dissolved into kissing and the kissing grew heated, our hands lightly caressing one another until neither could stand it any longer and we made love, slowly savoring one another for as long as we could.

          We finished and I lay breathing heavily, Elethor’s ear pressed above my heart his eyes closed in pure bliss as he listened to its frantic beating as it fluttered in my chest. I combed gentle fingers through his hair allowing them to trail down the mane at the back of his neck before trailing them across his shoulder only to repeat the motion over again. His back rose and fell above me as he caught his own breath and I smiled so contentedly and tried very hard not to think about my return to Elysea.

            After long moments he rested his chin on my chest between my breasts, gazing up my body into my eyes. I smiled at him and quirked an eyebrow.

          “I do believe we need a bath.” He said finally and I laughed loud and clear and full throated and he smiled broader and raised himself off me, for which I was heartily sorry for. He pulled on a pair of soft worn in cloth breeches and I stood up. He gathered the top sheet from the bed and wrapped me in it, laughing as I spun in an obedient circle to twist myself into the cloth, tucking the end in close beneath my arm so I was sheathed in it from armpit to floor. He drew me close, his hands light on my hips as he bent to kiss me and I kissed him back reverently.

           I let out a whoop and laughed again as without warning he stooped, placed an arm beneath my knees and the other at my back and lifted me easily spinning me in a full circle. I wrapped my arms about his shoulder and kissed him, drawing back one hand cupping the side of his face, and smoothed my thumb along the strong line of his jaw.

           “I can walk now my love.” I whispered, leaning my forehead against his, closing my eyes and absorbing the feel of him so near to me.

          “Yes, but perhaps I feel the need to carry you.” He said. “Besides, the sheet is too long, you may trip.” He murmured. I drew back so that he may see where he was going.

           “We wouldn’t want that.” I said with a mock severity to my tone, letting him have his way.

           “Indeed we would not.” He smiled and strode for the door stooping a bit so I may open the latch. We followed the same route we had taken so many months ago only this time we did encounter people in the halls and with varied and mixed reactions. At first it was the Shugos of the Legion House, retained to care for the building. Some bustled from room to room changing linens much like at an inn, others filled the oil lamps at head height to keep them burning through the never ending dark of Asmodae. Some stopped and stared a tail or an ear twitching in curiosity, some went about their business as if nothing were amiss. Some whispered as we passed, but most remained silent.

          The Legionaries of Pantheon we encountered were very few though I stiffened in Elethor’s arms at their appearance. Two of his men stopped cold in their conversation in one hall and put their backs to the wall, both struck dumb at the appearance of their Brigade general carrying an Elyos woman down their hall. Another carrying a stack of books and scrolls tripped over his own feet, the papers and tomes crashing to the wood floor. The man knelt dumbfounded and tried to gather them though his eyes remained locked to Elethor’s back as we passed by. I looked into my beloved’s face as he continued on his path, so unconcerned and I let myself worry for the both of us. After we passed yet a third set of his legionaries a man and a woman who both jumped back in surprise the woman exclaiming something in the Asmodian tongue I raised my concerns.

           “Elethor, should we be doing this?” I asked, the worry tingeing my voice.

          “These are my people, I trust them and they trust me to lead them. We have nothing to fear this time. When you were injured so badly before, I feared I may lose you forever and so I secreted you away until I could get you the help that you desperately needed.” He bowed his head and continued on. “I’ll not lie to them again.” He finally said, bending to allow me to open the catch on the door to the subterranean bathing chambers. Laughter filtered up from below, the laughter of comrades at arms after a hard victorious fight. The sound was familiar no matter what the language spoken between the spates of laughing was.

          Elethor descended the stairs and the laughter died. I held tightly to him as he traversed the room to a smaller pool that steamed gently in the low lantern light. The pool where the laughter had come from held six individuals, two women and four men. All with either astonished or stricken faces. One of the men gathered his wits and spoke sharply, the sentence he spoke ending in a very clear question. Elethor, his back to them stiffened with me in his arms. His expression clouded over and became very dark, his voice low and threatening he made his reply. The man who had spoken to him blinked and his shoulders dropped. Elethor set me on my feet and smiled at me though it was tight around the edges and I could see he was being very controlled in his actions.

           He untucked the corner of the sheet where it was secured at the top and unwound it from my body, enough to hold it out and use the sheet to block the view of the others behind us, preserving my modesty so that I may slip into the dark pool, unseen. When I was chest deep in the water, and hidden by the rock edge of the pool its self Elethor slipped out of his pants and into the water. Modesty did not seem to be a high priority among the Asmodians; though I was ever grateful he preserved mine.

          Slowly a low conversation among his legionaries picked up again, though I could tell they watched us curiously and with no small amount of hostility. The place between my shoulders positively itched with how their eyes burned a hole through me. Elethor took a seat on the bench set below the waterline, his back to the wall where he could see the rest of the room and keep watch. He trusted his people, yet he was still not without caution. He held out a hand to me and I took it, gliding through the water noiselessly to him. He had me sit in his lap, straddling his waist so that I could look only at him and it helped ease my nervousness.

          “No harm will come to you under my roof keairrah, I promise you.” he said, and I believed him.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Forty One

          I was cold, and shivered lightly which is what woke me. I could feel the thick comforters and furs that I lay beneath trying their best to reflect my body’s heat back onto me but it just wasn’t enough. The bed was soft and comfortable and I opened my eyes sitting up swiftly. Elethor had to know, they had to be warned. As my eyes focused I was startled to see I was indeed in my beloved’s chambers as I had been before but I was also frightened to see he was not there. Instead the Gladiator from my arrival stood beside the bed and I shrieked and tried my best to back away from him dragging the sheet with me to cover me. He advanced a step, hands out and I shouted at him, backing myself off the other side of the bed and landing on the floor in a tangle of sheets and blankets. The door to the chamber burst open and Elethor stepped in, setting a tray on a side table and came round the bed to kneel beside me, pulling me into his arms.

          “It’s all right keairrah, I’m here. Shhh, Dark is a friend, he won’t hurt you.” He tucked my head beneath his chin and cradled me against his chest sitting on the floor with me. I closed my eyes and listened to his heart and relaxed into his gentle embrace as he rocked me. He looked at the big Gladiator and said something to him in Asmodian. The big man crossed his arms over his chest and nodded, turning his back on us. Elethor picked me up and settled me back into the soft mattress and returned my dignity to me by tucking me in. Curling up beside me on top of the covers and holding me to him. He said something again and the Gladiator, Dark, turned and seemed much more relaxed now that I was calm. A short exchange between him and Elethor and he brought the tray to the bedside table handing my lover a steaming bowl of soup.

          “Sorry,” he said as he turned a spoon over to Elethor. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Ele asked me to watch you sleep while he went down to get you something to eat. We didn’t expect you to wake up with him gone.” I stared eyes wide with shock.

          “You speak Elysean.” I said and could not hide my surprise. “How did you…?” Elethor smiled at us both and held a spoon full of soup up which I ate obediently, suddenly ravenous. It was salty and tasted so good, the golden broth and fine noodles soothing the small pieces of fowl cooked to perfection.

          The gladiator sat carefully on the edge of the bed by my feet. He was so tall, and his shoulders broad beneath the black lacquered breastplate. His skin was so pale and reminded me of fine bone china, framed in long black hair a full two shades darker than his armor. A black mark of some kind surrounded his left eye and I was startled to see it matched the one my lover bore over his. The black ink stood out from his skin in an amazing and startling contrast, over all making the man frightening and bold in his appearance.

          “Spent some time in your sun-drenched lands.” He said. “I learned a few things of the language while I was there.” He smiled but it was not a happy one, in fact it was very bitter and made him look harsh and unforgiving. I swallowed another bite of soup and smiled at Elethor. I was grateful for his help, I doubted I could hold the bowl and spoon steady my hands trembled so badly, blood loss was a tricky thing, and besides that I had all ready been graceless and an embarrassment to myself enough. I needed to be heard and they needed as much time as they could so without further pleasantries I told them why I was there, patiently telling them twice, once in Elysian for Dark and again in Olde Daevic for Elethor.

          I looked at my beloved as I finished and said “… I do not wish to be a traitor to my people, but this isn’t a military movement. This is murder they are planning and they must be stopped. Not only for the souls they wish to destroy but also for their own.” Elethor handed the bowl of nearly finished soup back to Dark and drew me to him wrapping me in his arms and though I wished not to I cried. I hated that I bore them horrible news, I hated even more that my people were capable of such ruthless behavior. This was to be expected from the Balaur, not from the Daeva sworn to protect the humans of Atreia, whether it was sundered in two or not.

         The three of us sat quietly for a moment absorbed in our own thoughts and the gravity of the situation. Finally Dark rose to his feet and collected his great sword where it leaned against the wall. Elethor gently moved me, slipping out from beneath me where he had been cradling me against his chest and made to get up. Dark asked him a question and Elethor stilled mid motion finally nodding a slight smile gracing his lips and settled back beside me.

          “I’m off to spread the word and make the preparations for their coming. You two have been apart enough and this is something I can do without him.” He jutted his chin at Elethor and his jaw tightened. “Enjoy each other; time spent with the one you love isn’t to be taken for granted.” And he sounded like he knew. He slipped through the door and shut it firmly but noiselessly behind him and I thought it was odd that a man of his size could be so graceful in his movements. I laid my head against Elethor’s shoulder and closed my eyes.

          “What did he say to you?” he asked, and I told him. He kissed my forehead and tucked the blankets around me more firmly holding me against his chest with such a docile strength and I admit it, I melted into the embrace and wished I could stay like this forever.

          “You have to stop coming to me like this keairrah, I cannot bear seeing you broken and bleeding.” He tipped my chin to look me in the eyes and I saw such pain in his own that my heart seized in my chest for a moment. I kissed him softly then, a light and chaste brush of lips that made me close my eyes so that I may enjoy the feeling all the more. He deepened the kiss slowly, and languorously taking his time with it and I let him, allowing us the illusion that I would not have to go soon that we had all the time we could ever want with each other.

          “How did you come to me?” he finally mused. I cuddled close to him shivering lightly with the cold of the room and relished in the heat he put off. He was so warm to the touch, almost feverish had he been human or Elysian but I suspected that a rise in body temperature was yet another adaptation to the Asmodian environ.

          “I think I am soul bound to you.” I said finally. “I could feel my bind so far away in Sanctum, and when it was up, I could feel my kisk but as I lay there dying I felt something closer than Elysea and I took a chance and followed that thread of my soul and I found you.”

          His look became thoughtful and he rocked me gently as he considered the implications. Finally he bent and kissed me softly once more before speaking. “You must promise me Sirona, that if this is true to use it to your advantage should one of our lands finally fall to the other. If Asmodae is victorious I need you by my side so that I may protect you, if it falls, then I would see your face one last time before your people end me.” I wanted to protest the last, but he put a finger to my lips and closed his eyes to hide the pain that such a thought would bring him and in a tone that bordered on pleading said “Please keairrah, please promise me.”

          I did the only thing I could I looked my lover in the eyes and said “I promise you Elethor. My lips to Aion’s ear I swear to you, I will do as you ask.” He nodded and kissed my forehead and I tucked my ear to his chest and listened to his heart and basked in his warmth and affection. I felt safe, and loved and so calm with him and it was like nothing I had ever felt before.

          “What is that word you keep calling me?” I asked to keep myself from falling asleep again.

         Elethor chuckled, “Keairrah?” he asked me, and I nodded against his chest. “It is an Asmodian term of endearment. It means ‘little dark one’, do you not like it?” he asked.

          “I love that you have a name for me.” I said. “Keairrah," I said, tasting the word. "it’s pretty.” I tried valiantly to stay awake but I could feel sleep sucking at the edges of my consciousness.

          “Sleep my keairrah,” he said as if he’d read my mind, “I promise to stay right here. I won’t go anywhere.” He wrapped me more securely in his arms and made sure the blankets and furs were close and snug and settled back into the pillows himself, arranging me so that I lay comfortably on his shoulder and chest. I lay my free arm that wasn’t trapped between us across his hips and hugged closer to him and though I’d like to say I listened to his breathing, and enjoyed the feel of him near me, I can remember no more than that last movement because I was fast asleep.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


         I fought furiously to express that I meant no harm, that I was not there for nefarious purposes but the assassin would not relent. I fought only to defend myself countering his blades with the shaft of my mace blocking what I could with my shield but it was a losing battle. I downed mana serum and potions and healed myself at every chance but I could feel my reserves of the mystical energy waning and I knew that I would not be able to keep myself up forever, that it was only a matter of time. I cried out and screamed over and again my purpose for being there in every language I could think of, but I knew that it fell on deaf ears and that I was not understood.

           I was growing weak; I could feel the life draining out of me as my wounds bled profusely. Billy was doing everything he could to hold the woman back; she spit and howled furiously at him as she tried to lend the assassin aide. I struggled to stem the flow of blood with my shield hand and my prayers but it was too much. I slipped to the ground my legs caving from beneath me and stared into the sky too weak to look elsewhere. Billy hit the dirt, suddenly on his knees beside me and tried to lift my head off the cold hard ground. He screamed at the woman but all she did was cross her arms and look away. I coughed and felt the hot splash of my own blood coat my cheek. My lungs barely worked and would not continue to for much longer. I gripped the front of Billy’s robes and choked…

          “Elethor.” In the Asmodian pronunciation and Billy nodded.

         “Elethor,” he said and then spoke in broken Elysean, “Go, go Elethor before.” He smoothed the hair from my eyes and nodded emphatically, encouraging but I did not know what he meant.

         “They’re coming. You have to warn your people.” I closed my eyes and struggled to hold on to life and felt for my kisk, but it was gone… and the tears welled. I was so close to accomplishing my goal I had to be sure they had to be warned I felt desperately for my kisk and found something else, a bind nearer than Elysea. I mean I could feel the thread of my soul bound so far away in Sanctum but I also felt a second thread, one that was bound much closer, though in a direction opposite where I had come from, where my kisk should have been. The woman began shouting at Billy again but he waved her off and I tried one last time to make him understand, pulling the thick bloodstained envelopes from inside my armor and thrusting them at Billy.

          “Take these to Elethor, you have to. He has to be warned.” Billy crushed the papers in his hand around mine and nodded excitedly.

         “Yes! Elethor. You go, before. Close eyes go Elethor, before.” I sobbed; I didn’t know what he meant. I prayed and struggled to live to make him understand but my body was quickly denying me. I shook violently and could not draw air and though I fought I could feel my body giving way, returning to the flow of aether and I felt calm and I was ready to let go and I closed my eyes and thought of my beloved Elethor and faded, I took the chance and followed that piece of my soul, not to Sanctum where I had bound but the closer one, though I knew not where I would end up.

          I collected to myself again and collapsed to my hands and knees on thick carpet. My mace dropped from nerveless fingers and my shield clattered against the wood of some great desk. My body was whole, as if I had resurrected at a kisk and I felt no soul sickness but I was so very weak. I struggled to my feet with the last vestiges of strength that remained in me my head swimming from the recent blood loss. I saw the great Asmodian male, at least I thought he was a he, so broad of shoulder, arms massive though I could not see his face, obscured as it was by his helm but his two handed sword I did see and it was rising and very ready to cleave me in two. My eyes widened and I put up my hands in a futile defense when the clear, familiar commanding voice rang out and the gladiator stopped. I turned but everything seemed so slow and when I saw him I collapsed to my knees again, my heart and mind flooded with relief as Elethor rounded his desk and reached for me, his arms caught me up and I sank gratefully into them as he lowered me carefully to the floor.

          Elethor… I had made it, somehow and in some way I had made it. Oh thank you Aion. Thank you Father. His expression was fierce and worried as he began pulling apart buckles and straps to find where the congealing blood coating my armor emanated from. I felt my wounds were sealed and I was whole again and I tried to speak but my voice and mind failed me as the world flashed with gray and white streamers that fell from my vision obscuring everything. I tried valiantly to hold on, to not pass out or faint and to deliver my warning but it wasn’t happening. The best I could manage was to interlace the fingers of my right hand with his hand nearest it and give a faint squeeze that I hoped would reassure him. It was all I could do, all I had left in me before the world blurred and became too hazy to bear and I closed my eyes and fell away into the merciful dark confines of unconsciousness.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thirty Nine

          I forced myself to remain calm and went back to the square every day for three days to listen to the young Daeva named Anschau. I needed as much information about his insidious plan before I tried anything, and I was dismayed to hear he was smart, planning his attack during the dark of the moon in Asmodae, a mere week before mine and Elethor’s next rendezvous in our secret cavern. More and more Daeva were amassing in the square each day to listen to the scout, and I was shocked at how many of them agreed with him, at how many of them thirsted for the blood of our lost brethren and I was afraid.

            I took what kinah I had to the brokerage and spent it on supplies for the journey I knew I had to make. I bought mana and healing potions and serums and stocked my cube well; I also bought five kisk stones, the most expensive of my purchases by far. I made certain to bind myself to Sanctum’s great obelisk carefully, should my kisks be destroyed and should I have to try again, and then I went back to Ailsie’s. I thrust warm underclothing into my cube and strapped on my armor carefully securing my mace to my belt and shield to my back and tucking my staff away beneath them. Ailse watched me from the doorway.

             “You aren’t going with those fools in the square are you?” she demanded. I smiled at her.

             “I may be half cracked mind wise but you have to give me more credit than that.” I said. She made an ugly frown and glared at me.

             “Make sure your warning is heard. I don’t condone murder either. Those pluma brains go too far and it baffles me that the Empyrean Lords are blind to their machinations.” She looked severely dismayed and I felt for her. Ailsie had always put her faith in our system, the fact that the Empyrean Lords turned a blind eye to an atrocity, a genocide in progress in our own capital city, out in the open like this had us frightened almost as much as anything else.

              Military tactics in the Abyss and even on Asmodian soil was one thing but raiding for the sake of wanton blood spill was another. I snapped the top of my cube closed and went to hang it on my belt when Ailsie stopped me with a wave of her hand.

              “Take these, I suspect you’ll need them.” She said and handed me a fat sheaf of scrolls. I began to read one and stopped, hugging her.

              “I suspect you are right.” I tucked the running scrolls away and made for the door.

          “I hope you know what you are doing Sirona, I don’t like what they are doing… but I don’t like what you are doing either. If it is so easy to tell them about something like this, one might think you give other secrets away.” I stopped cold and turned to her.

           “Do you really think I am a traitor to my people?” I asked her, suddenly chilled and feeling hollow.

           “No. I don’t think you would tell them anything else other than about this, still it is a short step from this to our methods in the abyss...” she chewed her lip thoughtfully and really looked at me before finally having the grace to say “Don’t get caught, be careful. I don’t think the rest of Elysea would see it the way I do you are my friend and no traitor. Now go find tall dark and Asmodian and save as many as you can.” She thrust her chin at the door and I slipped out and rushed for the teleporter to Heiron. I worried to myself that Ailsie may tell that it was me that had sent out the alarm to the Asmodian people, but she was my friend and I had faith in her that she would not.

           I had no idea where the rift would be, nor where it would dump me out on the other side but I had to find it, I just had to and so I searched. I unfolded the crude map I had drawn from memory after studying the maps of known rift locations at the Library of the Sages and blessed my lessons in the cloister on memory. Priests were always schooled carefully in memory for prayers, chants and hymns. Most of us were fortunate enough to benefit from these lessons a near perfect recall of anything we saw written or drawn.

            I prayed as I hiked through the jungle to the first rift location, that I would not only find it up but that I would be able to use it and cursed when I reached where it should be and found nothing. I checked the sky and satisfied that there was indeed a rift somewhere in the area pressed on, and luck would be with me. I found one. I sent a silent thank you to Aion and brought my shield off my back, settling it on my arm. I gripped my mace in the opposite hand and braced myself for the cold that lay on the other side as well as the unknown and stepped through.

             Traveling by rift was nothing like traveling by a sorcerer’s gate. With a gate it was a slight moment of disorientation, a lurch if you will and then the world steadied and evened out. With a rift, it was entirely different. A primal bone grinding experience that left many a solid Daeva bent double on the other side retching. Some trips through were worse than others and as I felt my body pulled through the aether at an incredible rate I knew this was not going to be a good ride.

             I was pitched violently out the other side of the rift, into the snow and landed hard on my knees. My fingers pinched between the handle of my mace and the ground painfully as I emptied the contents of my stomach into the snow. I retched helplessly for agonizing minutes knowing that at any moment an enterprising Daeva protecting Asmodian soil could come along and send me back to my bind point. Luck or Aion or both was with me as no such thing happened. I scrambled to my feet as quickly as I could and searched for cover, planting my kisk as near as I could tell out of sight and reciting the chant to bind that thread of my soul to it. My teeth chattered and my fingers tingled painfully with the icy cold and I worried about hypothermia for a fraction of a moment before I set out.

          I had no notion of how I would find him, or even if I would get my warning through in time but I patted my ribs where the thick envelopes lay under my armor the same message repeated in each, and each bearing his name in the rough Asmodian language on the outside. It had cost me dearly to have the Shugo write them, even more than it had cost me to find the little scholar versed in both Elysean and Asmodian in the first place. Miriamonyerk had done well for me in that regard, though I had felt terribly guilty that she would take no coin for the information that led me to the Shugo that could put me in contact with the scholar for the exorbitant fee.

             My plan was rough and imperfect but it was all I had. I would search the snowfields of Beluslan for any sign of my lover’s legion crest and I would engage the Asmodians I saw wearing that crest, not in combat but in conversation to the best of my ability. I would try to give them one of the envelopes before they sent me back to my bind point or Elysea and I would do this until I had none of the fifty or so envelopes left. I stayed off the roads but close enough to watch them for any occupants and frustratingly saw no one in the desolate landscape. I kept going, ranging out farther and farther from my kisk listening for footfall or breath, the rustle of cloth or the rub of leather. I fell into the training that Toxemia had given me, moving as quietly as I could stepping the ways he had shown me to lessen the chiming of my chain, when finally I heard it – a laugh. Sharp and clear and oh so familiar, though I could not remember for the life of me where I had heard it before. So much for memory lessons eh?

             I crept to the edge of the brush and peeked out at the road and sent a silent prayer of thanks to Aion for his mercy and the shine of good fortune he had placed upon me because the Asmodian man that walked along the road I knew though the female at his side I did not. I slipped out one of the envelopes and stood up so they could see me, hands out and away from my body and kept my weapons sheathed and at bay. The woman leapt back and brought out her staff and shouted at the man who took a defensive staff, the glow of magic coalescing between his hands even as his water spirit made to attack. Recognition flashed across his face and he barked at his pet, an order which I could only guess was to stand down for he and it relaxed. The woman, however, did not. Though lovely to look at, with log white hair and gracefully curving horns over a delicate face, she spat something rough and harsh into the frosty air and Billy the spirit master and friend to my lover turned calmly to her and made for an explanation.

             It was then that everything devolved into blood and pain. I had not seen or heard the assassin, in fact I had no clue at all he was there until his daggers tore into my side, the pain was sharp, searing and immediate and for a moment all I could do was scream before my wits collected and the prayers began to fall from my lips in a bid to heal myself. Billy was yelling the woman was yelling and the assassin pressed on, determined to end me, I healed myself and begged for him to stop all the while thrusting the letter at Billy finally he took it and I brought out my shield and tried my hardest to fend off my assailant’s blades, though by now I did not know if it would be enough…

Thirty Eight

       Sin considered me for long unhappy moments, her gaze steady and unsettling, but I remained firm in my position. I held very still in my seat, refusing to fidget, despite an extreme desire to do so when finally she spoke, causing me to jump slightly. I cursed myself silently.

       “We’re sorry to see you go, but if it is really what you want or what you think would be best given the circumstances then I can hardly say no.” she was saying. I inclined my head carefully to hide the tears that welled in my eyes.

       “I’ve done enough damage to him, he needs something steady and I would not take his Legion away from him in addition to what I all ready have. So yes, it is my wish to leave Destiny, I will find something else Sin I just don’t want to hurt him anymore.” The tears won out and slipped free and Sin’s shoulders sank.

       “Sirona, I don’t know what happened with you two. Neither one of you are talking, but Elysea needs a Cleric of your ability out there so I am granting your discharge from Destiny but I urge you to find a Legion that can put you to use.” She signed the papers I brought before her and handed them to me with a murmured “For Elysea, and good luck to you.”

       I took my papers and fled the Legion office for Ailsie’s home; my head lowered thinking furiously on the last few days. Ailsie had taken me in with no further word on the subject, showing me to her guest room and closing the door softly on my sobs. The next morning I sat at her dining table as she set breakfast before me and stared in dejected silence at the glossy wood of her table. She had retreated to a knock on her door and escorted Toxemia into the room silently where she took a seat across from me and he took the one beside me.

       “Oh hi.” He said and bumped his shoulder against mine. I looked at him and the tears started immediately, hot and shameful on my skin.

         “How is he?” I asked.

        “Sleeping it off I suppose, he got pretty drunk, found me at the tavern last night in a rage talking some nonsense about you… well yeah.” He tipped my face into the light from the galley window and inspected the deep purple bruise and cut where Aalairius had struck me. “You should heal that.” He said.

        “You’re not angry?” I asked.

        “I didn't say that. In fact I'm not gonna lie, I’m pretty pissed. You hurt my friend, a lot… and that isn’t cool.” He sighed as I bowed my head and the sobs started again. Ailsie set down her glass and gave him a harsh look.

       “If you’re going to come in here just to give her…” she started but Tox cut her off.

        “Silence woman! I’m not done.” He tugged on his jerkin and turned back to me. “As I was saying, you hurt my friend and I’m not cool with that, but you’re my friend too and it’s pretty obvious he hurt you too… so yeah, I don’t know what to think or do or whatever.”

        I wiped at my eyes with a handkerchief and sighed before saying “Just promise me you’ll take care of him.” Toxemia hugged me in an awkward sideways motion and shook his head his eyes far away in thought.

       “I’ll try, but honestly who is gonna take care of you?” he searched my face and I smiled weakly at him.

       “I’ll take care of me somehow.” I said and he nodded.

       “Then for fucks sakes heal your face.” He said with mock sternness and I laughed a little and shook my head.

       “I deserved it. It’ll heal on its own.” I had told him, and that had been the end of the discussion on that. Now, several days later the bruise was fading to that garish yellow green sickly color that all healing bruises have and I was walking, shoulders hunched and stiff back to Ailsie’s, newly Legion less and feeling sorry for myself. I was comfortable again, in my chain and the metal links chimed softly with my movements, a reassuring sound. I would take some odd jobs and do the simple task here and there for a while, I had decided. It would give me time to supplement my kinah and with any luck an opportunity would present its self. As I neared Elyos Square I noticed it was becoming harder to get through and my reverie snapped and I was thrust back out of my thoughts and into the thickening crowd around me…

       What the bloody blue blazes… I thought to myself, and then I saw what the gathering humans and Daeva were watching. It was a young Daeva on an over turned crate. He stood tall, a bow on his back and his hair sweeping into his eyes, that blazed with such intensity and as I neared I could hear what it was he was shouting. He was angry, and said he was the leader of the Legion, Seven Stars over Sanctum. He was very charismatic and beguiling and mostly went on about the evil lurking above or some such. At first I thought he meant the Abyss but as I stopped to listen I realized he spoke of Asmodae. His deep blue eyes blazed with a fierce hatred and anger and I soon realized his cries were a rallying call to arms, but not to battle… He spoke of a place in Asmodae where the Legion houses were, and how through untold hardships and trials his scouting had unearthed the habits of these Legions, when they slept, when they ate…

       More and more Daeva’s gathered in the square and my chest filled with a cold dread as I heard their shouts of agreement. He intended to lead them in an assault against these houses, but not in a militaristic fashion… he intended to do murder. To slip in stealthy with as many as could be found, to ‘wipe out the creatures’ in the surrounding villages… he not only intended to end Daeva’s he intended to kill the humans of Asmodae, the very humans Aion created us to protect…

      I had to warn them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thirty Seven

          Elethor kissed my forehead lightly as I lay in his arms, relishing the feel of his fingers lazily trailing up and down my spine. My eyes were closed and his heartbeat echoed in my ear louder somehow with my lack of sight. I loved it, I loved this moment and most importantly I loved him. We lay nestled in each other’s arms among our discarded clothing, still and silent a slight breeze from the abyss playing along our skin. He broke the silence first…

          “Do you want to talk about him?” he asked, and I knew only one man that he could or would speak of at a time like this.

          “He is a good man.” I said simply then after a pause went on to say, “He was there, when I woke in the infirmary with a shattered memory. He was patient and kind and took me for who I was and I grew to love him after a time. He took care of me.” Elethor held me tighter and tipped my chin with gentle fingers so that I would look at him.

          “Do not think me upset with you Sirona, I could never be that. I understand, you thought me dead, you mourned and you grieved and you moved on…” I stopped him cold, my fingers against his lips.

          “No. Never that, I never moved on Elethor, I tried but I couldn’t.” And I told him what Fenin had told me. He held me tighter than even before and kissed me deeply when I was through, before settling me against his shoulder in silence again. When he spoke, his voice trembled with emotion which he had never been good at expressing aloud, even a thousand years ago.

          “I never took a lover; I couldn’t do that to anyone, knowing that even if I made love to them it would always be you I would be seeing, wanting… needing.” He cuddled me closer and we lay still for a long time.

          “I am not looking forward to telling him… but I will, before anything else goes further.” I held to him for long moments when the flutter of feather and the light tread of landing reached us. We stiffened, his arms locking me to his body his hands gone icy against my back as he called upon his magic. I could not see pressed against his chest as I was but I let out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding when he relaxed and his hands grew warm against my skin once more. I turned cautiously to see his friend Billy at the entrance to the cavern. He cast his eyes to the floor and quickly turned away to allow us the illusion of privacy. Elethor reluctantly let me go and we dressed.

         Most of the buttons to my blouse were missing and so I made do by overlapping the front as tight as I could and tucking the ends into the waistband of my skirt. I tried very hard not to be sad, knowing that our time was short and all ready to an end with one another, and it was as if Elethor read my mind, gathering me to his chest and holding me gently speaking softly into my ear for his words were meant only for me.

          “The fifth day of every month at the dark of Elysea my keairrah, I will be waiting for you. If my duty calls me away you will find a letter beneath the boulder to your right. I will look for word from you if you are not able to come.” He kissed my temple then and took a step back, sorrow and regret etched into the lines of his face.

          “Elethor!” I stopped him before he could take wing. He looked at me standing forlorn with my staff and waited expectantly. “I love you.” I said and put all the feeling I could behind the words. He smiled and nodded at Billy, who looked decidedly distressed and they both took wing, disappearing into the Abyss.

          I stood in the cavern and prayed for a long time, for strength and for guidance but it seemed Aion was not listening today for I felt neither as I took wing myself and wheeled toward Roah. I flew carefully, and Aion’s grace was with me after all for I encountered no one. I touched down lightly and arms crossed over the ruin of my blouse took a teleport to Teminon, then to Verteron then to Sanctum where I moved swiftly through the night darkened streets toward home.

           I slipped through the front door to our dwelling and shut it quietly and firmly behind me, resting my forehead against the satiny Ulmus wood for a bit. The creaking of one of our galley chairs caused me to turn to face the darkened room and Aalairius who now leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees, large hands clasped together as he considered me with his light gray eyes, brow furrowed.

           “Where were you this time Sirona?” he asked taking in my disheveled appearance. “The truth this time, no lies.” He added.

            “The abyss,” I said with my lips tingling with dread.

            “Who is he?” he asked standing in one fluid motion, eyes narrowing as they shrewdly ticked down the front of my torn blouse, stopping at each missing button. I closed my eyes and felt my heart sink, and I told him the truth, all of it.

             “His name is Elethor, or rather Elethor is alive, and not lost in the Cataclysm as I first thought…” I went on to tell him everything, how it had been Elethor that had saved me from my captors, and cared for me and how he had made certain I was returned to Elysea. I spoke swiftly and kept my eyes closed out of cowardice, afraid to see his face, of what he would think of me… when I opened them he stood so close, bare inches from my front a look of pure incendiary rage veiling his features. I swallowed hard, and for the very first time ever I feared Aalairius, the man who had cared for me for the last two years, who had held me gently when I cried, and kissed me gently when I smiled and made love to me so softly the times in between. It should not have surprised me what he did then, though I admit that it did.

             His hand was a blur as it swung up and out. I tasted copper as the back of it connected with my jaw, the entirety of my face going numb from hairline to chin with the shock of the blow. It was so sudden and so fierce it knocked me to the floor, the tears welling in my eyes and spilling crystalline down my face before my mind caught up to the pain. I looked up at him from my prone position on the floor but he would not look at me, his voice when it came was low and angry and reminded me of the distant sound of thunder of an impending storm.

             “Get out. Get your things, and leave my house and never come back, I don’t have room for a whore under my roof. You have an hour, you had better be gone before I return or I will end you.” He looked at me then and the anger that shone from his face terrified me. “Do you understand me?” he asked “I will end you.” And with that final threat he yanked open the door and stepped through, slamming it behind him. I hugged my knees to my chest and let out a choking scream of a sob and wept my bitter angst onto my skirted knees.

              I had deserved every bit of what he said, every bit. When I had managed control of myself again, shoving all the hurt and tears away in a box that I locked and shoved to the core of my being where it remained barely contained, I rose numbly, and coldly began shoving my things away in my cube and a spare trunk. I took my armor, my weapons, and my clothes and a bag of kinah I had managed to save, and when I looked back at the home I had shared with Aalairius, the man I had loved, the man that I still loved I felt empty.

             I hauled the trunk before me and left, marching purposefully through the late night streets, worrying my swollen lower lip between my teeth as I moved deeper into the city. I had no place to go, but one… and I prayed to Aion that his light be merciful and that I be taken in. I reached my destination as the tears began to flow again and took a deep breath and knocked. The door to Ailsie’s home opened, a rectangle of golden firelight spilling out into the street illuminating me. She looked startled for a moment and then her shoulders sank and I burst into sobs. She reached out and hugged me and spoke her peace.

            “Oh Sirona… Aion told you to love them both, but he never said they had to love you back did he?”

             I cried into my friend’s shoulder my trunk forgotten at my feet and cursed myself. I loved them both, so much, so very much… but I had been so short sighted and taken their love in return for granted… Ailsie was right, neither of them had to love me back and though Elethor did, he was a world away from me and now, I doubted Aalairius ever could or would love me back again. In that moment I wished ardently that he had seen fit to end me, in fact I wished it very much.

            I prayed then. Aion save me from myself...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thirty Six

          I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was always pleasantly warm and a touch humid near Asteria. I had found the cave with no trouble, skirting along the edge of the chasm around the fortress carefully, sticking to shadow where I could lessen the glare of light against my white wings so they could not give me away. I had met with no opposition, seen no shine of red eyes nor had I felt the shadow of dark ebon wing. I had flown the length of the cave and landed lightly at its other side where it opened into the abyss. I stood there, leaning my staff against a nearby rock within reach and felt vulnerable without my chain. I had dressed lightly in a red skirt and blouse. Sin had made it clear to me should I be seen in armor or with mace and shield anywhere outside Sanctums’ practice grounds my suspension would be a permanent one. I could not risk it, and so I wore only cloth and had flown carefully and set myself up for evasive maneuvers should they be necessary.

          I waited nervously, pacing gently watching the cave both where it deepened behind me where I had come in and where it opened out over the vast nothingness. The globe of fire that was a part of the Abyss and that gave Elysea its golden light gave me no indication of the time of day here, though I knew that sunset must be close in the land far below me. My chest felt tight and I wanted to gasp for breath my anxiety was so high but I forced myself to breathe slow, deep and even.

           The snap of feather and the flutter of cloth caused me to whirl and face the ledge; I caught a swirl of black wing and blue cloth and the fierce red glow of combat ready eyes as the thud and scrape of clawed feet caused me to start and he stood there, warm and alive and so very real it near broke my heart that we stood in proximity to one another once again. Elethor’s wings disappeared in a swirl of aether and he strode toward me eyes glowing fiercely his voice a rough growl as he said,

          “What are you doing here!? You should not have come!” but I was not afraid as he swept me into his arms and I wrapped my legs around his hips and he crushed his mouth over mine. He strode deeper back into the cave his momentum from his landing carrying us back until finally I was fetched up against the cavern wall. My head snapped back and our kiss was broken and I saw stars as my skull connected with the rough brown stone, but I didn’t have time to think, not with him so close, clawed hands on my ass holding me to him, braced between his solid body and the hard stone. I tightened my legs around him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders; my head was swimming, white starbursts still going off in my vision. His voice came to me, muffled as his lips played along my neck and collarbone. I shuddered in his embrace and tried to make sense of what he said to me. Finally he drew back, the red gone from his eyes, their color back to the beautiful crystal I loved so much and he asked me again…

          “Do you want this Sirona?” I pressed my lips to his and drew back to look him in the eyes and answered from my heart.

          “Yes. I want this Elethor; I want you more than anything.” He shook and bowed his head and said to me.

           “I cannot promise to be gentle.” I didn’t care and I held to him tighter and told him…

           “Then don’t be.” … and it was enough for him. He set me down, buttons from my blouse flying as he parted the material to kiss down my neck and across my breasts. I worked the buttons and clasps on the front of his tunic while he was occupied, dizzy with desire pushing the cloth back off his shoulders and down his arms, he let me and all too soon the silk fluttered and settled to lay forgotten on the cavern floor. He turned me then, fetching me against the wall once more, pinning me from behind with his body so tender with an edge of violence that left my pulse pounding in excitement. One of his hands he buried in the back of my hair stroking my neck the other working the clasp at my skirt, all the while so careful and mindful of his claws near my skin.

            He stopped his breath hot and lovely against the skin of my shoulder and he just held me there against the stone for several long moments. His lips rested against where the curve of my neck met the curve of my shoulder, playing lightly against the hollow there. My skirt slipped over my hips and down my legs to puddle on the cavern floor beside his tunic and we were still like that just wrapped in one another for a heartbeat. He spun me again and took both my wrists in one hand, claws gently prickling my wrists as he raised them above my head and pinned them against the rock wall his other hand working his belt loose before tearing the silk of my panties with a wet angry sound. He let go of my wrists and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders again as he lifted my hips and pinned me between himself and the wall again. My legs naturally wrapped around him and cradled him to me and we stared each other in the eye and he went very, very still.

           “Tell me again that you want this.” His voice was low and velvet to my ear and I could hear the restraint in it as he trembled, still quite the gentleman even after a thousand years of wanting.

           “I want you.” I said against his lips, my breath warm against my own mouth as I kissed him, flicking my tongue against his lower lip, my body strung tight with need wanting him to kiss me back. He groaned deep in his chest and crushed his mouth over mine once more tongue slipping passed my teeth to conquer my mouth completely and with a rounded movement of his hips he took me, fiercely gentle thrusting inside me… and the tears of joy leaked from the corners of my eyes and I held to him so tightly and we made love for the first and quite possibly the last time.

            He was rough but at the same time oh so careful not to hurt me. His movements deliberate and controlled, despite how he trembled to keep himself in check. He alternately held me helpless, wrists pinned against the wall in one hand while the other roamed freely across my body, and other times he let me touch him while his hands remained locked to my hips, thumbs caressing over my hip bones. He never gave up kissing me, his mouth trailing fire across my jaw, down my neck across my collarbone… My skin was awash in a tingling euphoria that was simply his effect on me, I could feel him trembling as his hold on me began to weaken through the sheer exertion it took to support us both despite the stone at my back. He withdrew from me and let me down, drawing me against his body as soon as my feet touched the ground.

              “Elethor…” I began but he cut me off.

              “No, no. I have not waited a thousand years to be sated so quickly. I am going to take my time with you keairrah.” He began to kneel with me in his arms and I sank to the ground with him, he laid me back carefully on a makeshift bed of our discarded clothes kissing me so softly. I buried my hands in the mane at the back of his neck as he cradled me close and moved me in a better position to take me and began his careful ministrations all over again. He stroked the side of my face and stared me in the eyes his other hand cradling my thigh as he pressed himself against me. He kissed me deeply as he sheathed himself in my body stroking himself so carefully over that place inside me, my body filling with pleasure as if it were water being poured into a cup. My breath came louder and in uneven gasps and I twined around Elethor’s body as if to pull myself through him with the need to be so close.

             He remained so careful with me, yet still with that edge of desperation that bordered on sheer roughness. He brought me several times, yet would not allow himself the same, always stopping or slowing to bring himself back from the brink, denying himself that final bit of release as long as he could until he could deny himself no longer and with a wrenching cry he drew me tightly to his chest and held me with such a crushing force that I never wanted him to let me go. He held me against him, for long moments after while I rested on his chest and listened to his heartbeat steady and slow. Our breathing slowed and evened as well, and the sweat dewing our skins began to cool and evaporate.

           I looked up at him and he kissed me softly and I kissed him back and finally he said what I had longed to hear for a thousand years…

            “I love you, Sirona… my keairrah. I love you.”