Miles Langley, traveling bard, has researched the history of the dead king, Dominik. Miles is tired and ready for sleep, but that must wait…
After another long day of research in the library, I decide to retire to my room. A few days ago, I fell asleep in the stacks, which would have been alright, except for the fact that my neck and back ached for the next two days.
Exhausted, I deposit my workload of papers and such on the writing desk. Another long day spent in the large chamber with only minimal interruptions by anyone else. It’s difficult to imagine that I called a similar place like this home for most of my life. The books seem to drain the very essence of a man’s personality – that is if you read them like I have been doing. At least it has good acoustics which lends itself to my composing Dominik’s Requiem.
Almost immediately, I feel the cool evening breeze come through the balcony doors. Didn’t I leave those shut?
The last two weeks has seen a surprising rise in the temperature. The entire lowlands of Soravia are now thawed, though certainly the high hills and mountains still have their impressive snow drifts. For a moment, I consider closing the doors but decide to leave them open. One of the best parts of staying in the palace is those wonderful heated beds; nothing like a cold room and a warm bed for a good night’s sleep!
As I start to undress, I realize that I’m standing in front of the full length mirror near the wardrobe. It’s another one of the luxuries to be found in the palace that even the best Soravian inns can’t hope to match. Standing six feet tall with an ornate brass frame, it would be worth a small fortune in the eyes of a commoner. Strange how a few months can change a person’s perspective. Just last fall this mirror was worth more than everything I owned. Well, worth more coin at least. Being confined in the stacks for days and now to be shaken by the cool breeze and the beauty of the palace’s surroundings, I find myself drawn to the mirror. Wow, look at those intricate carvings… and those jewels. Was this here all along?
A familiar voice snaps me back to reality, “I love a good show. Do you take tips? And if you do, where should I put them?”
I spin around to see Rashel standing in the balcony doorway, leaning against the frame. She’s dressed in a loose, white blouse, tied loosely in the front. Her dark hair, now somewhat long, flows over her shoulders. Normally straight, it now waves like a dark banner. Her tight fitting leather pants and soft, high boots are both predictably black. There is no sign of her familiar short swords. Instead, she comes armed with a large bottle.
“Join me for a drink?”
It’s strange how quickly things can change. I’ve heard many stories of how lives are changed in the blink of an eye, but this story is different – this is my story, my life.
Here I am, standing half naked in front of this exquisite mirror and then in walks a drop-dead gorgeous woman that I’ve secretly lusted for over the past few months. It is all that I could do not to get aroused.
Rashel seems to have an empty smile and her eyes are half shut. It appears that she’s using the door frame for support.
“Well, I suppose, but, what about you and Nyreece? I thought you two…”
“Ah, never mind that. I can see that you’re not here for her.” With my cutest, most sly face on, I continue. “In fact, if I’m not mistaken, it looks like you trying to seduce me. Are you are okay – I mean emotionally? I… I don’t want to take advantage of anyone vulnerable.” Rashel vulnerable? What the hell are you saying Miles, she’s the least vulnerable person you know.
“Miles, anyone ever told you that you think too much?” says Rashel.
I make my way toward her, taking the bottle away from her when I get close enough. “Here, let me pour us a drink.” Damn, she’s already had about a third of this.
I take up two glasses and fill each almost full. I offer Rashel one and hold my glass close to my nose in a vain attempt to determine what type of liquor (or poison) it could be.
“Let’s make a toast.”
She gives me a grin, “For someone who sneaks around in the shadows, you sure do like to be the center of attention. Alright, let’s hear what you got to say.”
“To all that is good,
To all that fate decrees,
To friends and lost family,
We drink tonight to celebrate life!”
“What you said,” she says right before downing the glass.
“Rashel – if that IS who you are – whatever your plans are tonight, I hope that killing me isn’t one of them. I know that your endeavor could be your last triumph in this world and I want to help ease any pain you may feel.”
I take a drink, watching her as I pull the glass to my lips. It’s a very strong liquor with a rather foul taste. I can’t help but wince as I swallow it. It must be either dwarven or orcish. I really hope its dwarven, though. When the glasses are empty, I take hers and place both down next to the bottle.
“Miles, you’re thinking again. If you’re going to keep that up then I’ll just have to take my bottle elsewhere. Drinking and thinking don’t mix!”
She takes a swig directly from the bottle. She tries to suppress a strong, involuntary reaction to the liquor’s flavor. “Ye gods! Dwarves must have a cast iron stomach! That’s the LAST time I ask a dwarf for a liquor recommendation!”
“Well, if you want to play it that way…” I grab the bottle from her and take a swig myself. I put the bottle back on the table and take her by the hips, pulling her toward me. With one hand on her back, the other starts to untie her shirt.
Morning comes quickly and I wake with only a slight hangover. That must be the secret to how dwarves drink so much.
For a few moments I just lie there looking at Rashel, thinking. What the hell just happened? I hope that Nyreece doesn’t find out about this. It’ll be a tough one to explain.
I whisper, “Rashel, sweetie, are you awake? I had a great time last night. You are everything that I had imagined.”
She’s still asleep. Of course, she was very drunk when she got here and we didn’t stop until the bottle was empty. She’s going to feel like shit when she wakes up, dwarven ale or not, she’s going to be feeling it.
I place my arm around her to hold her gently. She’s warm and breathing softly.
After a few hours she wakes up, slowly sitting up in bed. Her beautiful back heaves softly as her head slowly turns this way and that. What is she looking for? After a moment she speaks, “Miles…”
“How do you feel about mercy killings? Cause right about now I’m looking for one.”
I go to put my hands on her shoulders, “What do you mean? What’s got you so upset? I hope it’s not about last night…”
Rashel replies, each sentence getting faster, “No, it’s my head. A nice decapitation would feel good right about now. As for last night, don’t worry about me. Yes, I was drunk, but I didn’t stumble in here blindly. I had a pretty damn good idea what would happen if I came here, so don’t worry that you’ve taken advantage of me.”
She stands up and starts to get dressed, jerking her clothes off the floor, one article at a time.
“You want to know why I came here last night? I was lonely, and don’t take this wrong, but I couldn’t go where I really wanted to go. I’m not looking for a relationship – wait, make that another relationship. The one I already have is complicated enough. We’re both adults and we don’t owe anyone an explanation. Nyreece and I have an arrangement. I haven’t done anything that I said I wouldn’t. Crap, now I’m thinking too much. Have you seen that bottle?”
“You mean the one we finished? It’s over there.” I point to a corner of the room, where the bottle lies shattered. “How you feel about last night is good with me. I mean, it’s in my nature to love at a distance. I’m not the kind that even wants to settle down to a home life. In fact, I find the very idea stifling.”
Rashel laughs a bit and continues dressing, but a bit slower with her breasts bear to the sunlit world.
“I’ll do what you ask, except this mercy killing. How can I help?”
“You have already helped, Miles. Last night I was depressed, now I’m just miserable, but at least it’s all physical. I’m not depressed anymore, just aching from the hangover.”
“Look, last night was great – well, what little I remember anyway. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that it’ll never happen again, ‘cause it might. But, at the same time, I don’t want you to assume that it will either.” She stops for a second, and then gives a wry smile, “Damn, that’s the most feminine thing I think I’ve ever said.”
She starts snickering though it quickly becomes cries of pain as she grasps her head. “Ouch! Laughter is NOT the best medicine when your head is ready to split open.”
I go over to her and gently kiss her forehead, “I wish I could make that head pain go away – but not by decapitation.” I sigh, “You know, it looks like we will be leaving soon for the Evercaps east of Ostrala. Are you going to be alright? I mean what’s your next step – with Her and your task?”
“You mean Idalla? I have no idea. That was part of the reason why I was so depressed. I have no idea what to do about her. Since the conspiracy seems to be over I’m now left with too much time on my hands and nothing to do. When I’m busy, I can put off thinking about Nyreece, but now…”
Rashel sighs and says, “And, to make matters worse, now I think she’s starting to resent that I’m avoiding her. I mean, I can’t face her, not after what happened. I don’t think I could stand it if I looked at her and saw fear or hatred. Even if it’s not really directed at me, it’s because of me. I can’t handle that right now, and I don’t think she could handle facing me either, even if she thinks she can.”
“You should relax and take a few days off. I will do everything that I can to help clear up this Idalla mess. After all, Nyreece wasn’t the only one to get the one scroll that could get rid of the demon. I somehow feel responsible for Nyreece’s involvement and now yours. But we can’t dwell on these issues, not while there’s work to be done. We’re going to track this Wivligg and hope that we can find some defense against her powers.”
I look down as if to find a clue that isn’t there, “I’ve already lost one friend, I don’t want to lose another. While you and I shared something last night, I feel a greater bond between Nyreece and myself. It’s almost as if what we jokingly say is true – that we are brother and sister.”
Rashel shivers, “Oh, don’t even joke about that. My life is weird enough without that bouncing around my mind.” Rashel finishes lacing up her white shirt. “As for the scroll, don’t worry about it. We probably would’ve never found it anyway.”
“Wait a minute, Wivligg? You mean the evil one they tell little kids about? You think there’s some truth to the tales? What exactly do you hope to find?”
“Something – anything that could help us. It will be quite dangerous exploring his lair, what with the stone creatures and dragons around the cave’s entrance. But I think one big, black, pissed off bear could lay waste to … ah hell, who am I kidding. There’s not a bear big enough for this job. I guess that the four of us will have to do.”
I look Rashel in the eyes, “As far as my previous comment, I don’t see a problem with you and Nyreece loving each other, and you and I, well, you know.”
“As it stands now, maybe there is no problem. But if you two are brother and sister, well, that would be very wrong. That’s so wrong they don’t even have a word for it.” Rashel hesitates, almost as if regretting what she just said, “Maybe that’s a little harsh, but I’m just not ready to try to sort that line of thinking out just yet, so can we just drop it?”
“Now, what makes you think you’ve found Wivligg’s legendary hideout? Sure, some stories are certainly true, but what is it about this one that makes you so sure. And beyond that, what do you expect to find there?”
“Well, when I remembered several of the children stories as I was looking through the library, some of the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. The biggest clue that I got was when this elderly woman told me that she saw a caravan chased away by a statue. She also said that a scaled, flying creature that spat lightning bolts guarded the entrance to the very area where Wivligg was supposed to infest.”
I pick up my lute and see Rashel give me a stern glance. “Don’t worry, I will play softly.”
“I expect to find the answer to all the questions about Idalla… and perhaps a little booty for good measure. Truth be known, I don’t know what we will find there. With my luck, our luck, as long as we get close enough, the answer will reveal itself. You have to trust in fate and let it guide you.”
Then somethings registers in Rashel’s mind, “A dragon?! Are you nuts?! Tell me you aren’t planning on facing this beast.”
“Not me, by myself, me. But if you mean me, as in the four of us me, then sure. But it will be very tricky. I think that we need to hope that we find it confined in a cave instead of the great outdoors where it has enough room to roast us.” Keep thinking that, Miles. Almost have convinced yourself.
“I meant ‘you’ as in ‘the four of you’. Never mind, forget I asked. I don’t even want to know any more. I need to get going anyway. The last thing I need is Nyr coming in right about now. Maybe I’ll see you again before you leave.”
“Alright, see you later, maybe. But don’t you get the idea that you can come into my room and order me to have sex with you all the time – ,” I say with a dimpled wink, “ – just until we both get too old for that kind of stuff.”
Rashel moves towards the balcony, “Miles, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you need to get laid. There’s no way I’m letting someone spot me coming out your door this early in the morning. Keep an eye on Nyreece for me.”
“Remember, I’m okay with a physical relationship.” I notice that she had already jumped over the balcony railing. Damn, too late. Maybe she heard me anyway.
I look back to the bed and to the floor with a hazy recollection of last night’s debauchery. My gaze then turns to the writing desk piled with yesterday’s research and the score for Dominik’s Requiem.
Today’s going to be another long day.