• Closed • The Lightning and the Rose

The capital city of the of Rynmere, here is seated the only King in Idalos.
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Tristan Venora
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The Lightning and the Rose

Zi'da 60, Arc 716

“And then we arrived in Ne’haer. The whole city was burning, the air was filled with smoke and there were monsters everywhere, trying to eat us!” Tristan informed his audience and took another swig from the bottle of Venora Rose in his hand before he abruptly jumped off the table that he had been standing on so that people would see him better and grabbed the knife that he had used to cut his steak earlier that evening.

The drunkard that sat next to him drew back, expecting to be stabbed, but Tristan only brandished it in front of him, reenacting a fight that had never really happened. “They were truly frightening. They were huge and had sharp claws and even sharper teeth, and they were made of shadows, but I killed them all. They were no match for me. And when they were dead, I went to the people whose homes had been destroyed and gave them money so that they wouldn’t starve. I’m a feking hero!”

He looked at his audience. Some of them applauded, obviously enjoying the story, while others looked a little doubtful. He smiled at the former, ignored the latter and continued,

“Some time later the Immortals asked us to gather in that huge building that had been left untouched by the monsters for some strange reason, and told us what our task was. It was then that I saw her. Ilaren. And she saw me. I swear, she was looking at me all the time, and she was more beautiful than any woman I’d ever seen.”

“Did you do it with her?”
one of the drunkards called out to him. Tristan thought about it for a moment, but he wasn’t entirely comfortable telling a lie about one of the Immortals (although the thought of claiming that he had seduced Ilaren did occur to him).

So he cleared his throat and decided to just continue talking about his heroic deeds (and wisely keep the fact that he had fallen over a dead body on the battlefield in Oscillus and passed out, thus missing most of the action, to himself), when they suddenly started to laugh.

He glowered at them because they had not risked their lives and was about to tell them just what he thought of them, but then he had a better idea. He glanced at his bottle. If that didn’t distract them and make them admire him again, then he didn’t know what would.

“Free drinks for everybody!” he called out to the drunkards (and the few patrons that were still sober) and raised his bottle. “Be sure to think about Ilaren and thank her when you down them though!”

<><><>

As the night progressed, his companions eventually got so drunk that they stopped caring about his story and weren’t able to follow it anymore either and went home – or rather stumbled home, although he supposed a few of them also fell asleep somewhere in the gutter.

In between recounting his adventures, he’d also tried to sell a few of his sculptures – he still had the one he had made of the two headed hound for example. He’d figured that he would do a lot more business now that he was famous, but apparently drunkards didn’t care about art.

They only cared about alcohol which was why he was sitting at the bar now surrounded by empty bottles and wondering if he should go home as well or just fall asleep right there.

Throughout that night of stories and drunkenness his olive green suit had remained clean which was nothing short of a miracle considering the state of the rest of the Blacksmith Arms.

It looked as if a hurricane had moved right through it!
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The Lightning and the Rose

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Ilaren, sitting with her back against the wall, was uncharacteristically quiet while Tristan was speaking.

She had been caught in her own head far too much that trial. Somehow, today was the day for all the reminders of what had gone wrong. The countless, helpless humans that had been torched in the crossfire of her fight with Faldrun. The struggle had been fierce, and when that man, Vincent something or other had pulled her from the fight, she had nearly lost herself.

The memory of what had actually happened in Ne'haer was still fresh in her mind, but she listened to the highly embellished story without comment. When she heard her name, however, her gaze flew up. Ilaren listened intently, waiting for the man to claim to have slept with her, as many mortals had over the arcs, but he somehow reigned in his tendency for... exaggeration momentarily and avoided the question.

Smart man

When the man proclaimed free drink, she forced herself from her depression and cheered louder than any in the bar. A wide smile crossed her face at the thought of thanking herself for the drink and she made a mental note to talk to that man, but for now, it was time to drink!

<><><>

Ilaren was slightly unsteady on her feet as she roughly hugged her drinking partners goodbye. This right here, this was what made the humans worth saving. It might be unpleasant, dirty and messy, but it was real. They had something all her brothers and sisters lacked, though the Immortal couldn't put the feeling into words.

Ilaren walked up to the counter and reached over to grab one of the few full bottles left. She grimaced at the label, but opened it and settled down beside Tristan. The man was obviously a noble- high cheekbones, longer hair without being unruly, and the fair skin that came primarily from a life of privilege. His clothes, however, were green in a room of mainly browns and maroons, making him stick out a like sore thumb.

"So... you were in Ne'haer too? Funny, I don't particularly remember seeing you." Even as she spoke she realized there was a slight familiarity about his face, as if she had seen it before. She smiled at him, wondering if the man would recognize her. She was wearing the same thing she wore for pretty much the whole battle at Ne'haer, and given how much he had professed his devotion, she would be surprised if he hadn't.

"Appreciate all the drinks you bought and I'm sure everyone else did too. What's your name?"

She stuck out a slightly wavering hand, suddenly realizing the man had no alcohol in front of him. She grabbed a glass from beside her, and rubbed it down quickly with the corner of a grimy cloth before dumping half her bottle into it. "Drink up! Can't have the hero of Ne'haer going thirsty, now can we?" She couldn't keep the grin off her face. She always did like being in on a good joke and she elbowed him gently in the side as she said it.The bad mood of the trial had vanished and the more drinks she had, the more Ilaren found this man's story hilarious.
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The Lightning and the Rose

“Yes, I was”, Tristan insisted as the woman that had sat down next to him asked him if he had been in Ne’haer as well and turned around to take a look at her. He expected to be facing one of the many wannabe adventurers that had been on the ship with him or maybe some sort of drunkard that only claimed to have taken part in the mission, for whatever reason.

So when he realized just who he was dealing with, his eyes widened until they appeared to be the size of saucers, and he was actually speechless for a moment and wondered if he was dreaming or if he had drunk more alcohol than he remembered and was hallucinating now. It was her! It was Ilaren, his secret immortal crush! What were the chances?

He hadn’t exactly talked to a lot of Immortals in his life yet apart from Ziell who had given him a ring (which had briefly caused him to panic and wonder if he had been proposed to and would have to marry the Immortal of Winter), so he wasn’t sure what exactly he was supposed to do now.

Should he start to pray? No, praying when the one you worshipped was right in front of you would be kind of weird and make him look like some sort of slimy lickspittle on top of it, he decided. So he did what he usually did when he was talking to a beautiful woman. He gave her his most brilliant smile. Following that, he sat up a little straighter and reminded her, “You did look at me when we were all in the Judgement Halls. You seemed to be kind of bored because your friends were talking and talking and not doing much besides that. What can I do to help you refresh your memory?”

“I have more stories like that in case you are interested”, he informed her because she had seemed to like hearing about his heroic deeds before he shook her hand and introduced himself. “I’m Tristan, Tristan Venora. And you are Ilaren, the Immortal of Alcohol. Unless a Becomer stole your face and this is all part of some sort of ploy to abduct me and extort money from my family?” He raised an eyebrow and then he laughed out loud because the notion was just too ludicrous. But on the other hand …

“You’re welcome”, he added because she had thanked him for the drinks, and then he grabbed the glass she had poured him and raised it in a toast before he took a large gulp. His throat had been getting a little dry, so the drink was most appreciated.

“So”, he said and put the glass down again. It contained noticeably more air and less alcohol than before. “What brings you to Andaris? I’m sorry if this isn’t a particularly original question, but I’m genuinely interested. I always thought you lived in Rharne. You didn’t come here just to visit me, did you?”

“Rufus, bring the lady and me another bottle of wine please!” he called out to the ex-pirate who ran the Blacksmith Arms, in case the old man was still present and awake and not sleeping it off somewhere like the rest of the drunkards. “Venora Rose, if you have any left!”

Ilaren had so generously shared her bottle with him, so he felt like returning the favour. Besides, it would be a prime opportunity to introduce her to the best wine that existed in Idalos – his family’s wine!
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Tristan’s eyes as he looked at her were priceless. They swelled in his face, becoming impossibly large. She snorted ungracefully at his expression, shaking her head.

A hint of a memory whispered in her mind, but the more she tried to grab on, the further out of reach it slipped.

“Were- Wait. You were next to that woman, weren’t you? The dark haired one? The one who decided to speak out?” Ilaren remembered now.

She blushed slightly at how easily her mood had been seen. She had thought she was being subtle, but that never had been her strong suit. Ah well, what’s done is done, she thought.

“Really? What kind of stories per say? Let’s hear of the Shadow Beasts, Sir Knight,” Ilaren proclaimed emphatically. She didn’t mind being overly exaggerated, especially with a bit of alcohol in her system.

“Correct, though the full title is a bit of a mouthful. Ilaren works just fine,” and she paused. “I feel like I should be offended that you assume someone could cut me up to steal part of me and live to tell the tale.” Her smile was glittery, and even she wasn’t sure how much of her light banter was serious.

She mirrored his toast, wondering what was going through his head at that moment.

“No, not particularly. It’s only the first line used by every guys in these places when they hear I’m not from around here,” she laughed, a true belly laugh that filled the room. “You’ve got balls, I’ll give you that much. You didn’t seem too surprised to realize you were drinking with an Immortal, yet your first assumption is that she traveled all that way to drink with you” She set her empty glass down, looking around for more to drink. Sadly, all that greeted her eyes were empty bottles and dirty glasses. She loudly sighed and looked down at her glass longingly.

“Most of the time I do stay in Rharne, but a girl would go crazy just sitting there,” she continued, “and I figured ‘Why not visit Ryn? Haven’t been there in a while’.” Ilaren shrugged, as if it were no big deal.

In truth, she was doing some research. She had heard tale of an Aukari defector in Rynmere, one who might have more information to help her with taking Faldrun down. After she had been forcibly pulled away by that Knight...

Ilaren let the thought trial off, returning her attention to the man at the bar with her. “Venora? You’re a noble then?”

When there was no reaction from behind the bar, Ilaren easily got to her feet and leaped over the table. She rummaged around for a moment, bending and twisting in a way she hoped would catch the notice of the young lord.

She emerged after a few trills with a very dusty bottle of Venora Rose, which she proudly tossed to Tristan. The bar was empty of those still conscious, and she smirked down at the barkeep at her feet, dropping a handful of nel on his body. Hopefully he wouldn’t wake up with too painful a headache.

She slid back across, staggering on the landing and ending up pressed against Tristan. She met his eyes, raising her eyebrows at him before disentangling herself.

Ilaren settled down again, the silence stretching between them as she poured out the bottle. She toasted again, mimicing Tristan’s earlier and downed the glass, pouring them each a second, then a third, all without saying a word. She, for one, was comfortable with the silence for some reason. It wasn’t often that happened, and more often than not it made her uncomfortable.

“So, my lord, what plans do you have for the rest of the night?” She said the words with a little twist, a half smirk as she poured out the last of the bottle. Looking at the label, she finally put two and two together. “Your family doesn’t make half bad wine, I must say. Certainly hits the spot for me. Imagine that- you could use that as your advertising line. “Approved by Ilaren”,” she snorted again, her energetic mood returning.
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The Lightning and the Rose

“Exactly!” Tristan replied and smiled brightly at Ilaren, although it irked him slightly that she remembered Faith so well. Faith was of course a very beautiful woman and a part of him would always love her, but he was more beautiful and more worthy of being remembered! It didn’t seem like a good idea to point that out to the Immortal though (she might think he was an arrogant, spoilt brat!), so he leaned back in his chair instead as if he were completely relaxed and began to tell Ilaren about another one of his exciting adventures.

“Ne’haer was of course not the first time that I encountered the shadow beasts”, he proclaimed. “I first fought them in Andaris shortly after the civil war that cost so many lives. I was sitting in this very tavern, drinking with my friends, when a guard burst into the room and informed us that we were under attack and should all go home and hide. My slave and I were just about to barricade the door and the windows when I heard a terrible scream. My dear old neighbour who always made cake for me was about to get eaten by a creature that looked like it had stepped right out of a nightmare! It resembled a gigantic dog, and it had somebody’s entrails hanging out of its maw! Apparently it had just eaten, but its appetite was far from satisfied!”

He stopped here and drank from his glass because his throat had been getting dry again which would give Ilaren the opportunity to wonder what had happened after that cliffhanger. He had chosen this particular story on purpose. Everybody loved hearing about a man helping a sweet old lady!

“I did of course not hesitate”, he continued. “I took my sword and ran outside. I taunted it so that it would cease to threaten the old lady and attack me instead. And then I stabbed it – repeatedly! Another time I was in the garden and one of those creatures was chasing a poor little cat and jumped right over the wall! Did you know that those shadow beasts can look any way they want? The first one I ever saw was a huge dog, but some of them look like humans! I wonder how they did it!”

“Ilaren then”,
he said as she spoke about her full title being a mouthful. “And I’m sorry if I offended you. It wasn’t my intention. And I’ll stop about talking about people cutting up Immortals and getting away with it. It’s unlikely to ever happen anyway. You guys are much too powerful and clever!” he informed her, referring to the Immortals of course. Little did he know that exactly that had happened in Treidhart while he had been unconscious. “As for my assumption that you came to Rynmere just to drink with me, what can I say, I’m a very self-confident man!”

“Of course!”
he replied as she asked him if he was a noble. As he waited for the bartender to serve them and nothing happened, he stopped smiling for a moment and furrowed his brow instead. That was really strange. Where was Rufus? As far as he knew he had not left the tavern. He would never leave as long as there was still a patron there – especially if the patron in question was Tristan Venora who would take advantage of being all alone in the Blacksmith Arms and treat himself to some free alcohol.

Fortunately Ilaren knew exactly what to do. As the beautiful Immortal leaped over the table and twisted and bent in a most attractive way in the process, he stopped thinking about ugly, old Rufus and did what any heterosexual male would do. He enjoyed the view. As she returned, he just smirked at her and raised his glass. For a while they sat next to each other, enjoying their drinks. He was surprised how comfortable he was in her presence. That moment, he decided, was close to perfect, and he didn’t want to ruin it by saying something potentially stupid. He just wanted it to never end.

“I don’t have any plans”, he informed her as she poured out the last of the bottle and turned to face her again. “So how about we spend the rest of the night together? I’d make sure that you won’t regret it! What do you say? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! And if that isn’t tempting enough, there’ll be more wine and more crazy stories! And then we could go for a nice, long walk, and I’d show you a side of Andaris that you’ve never seen before!”
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Ilaren narrowed her eyes, catching some hint of a reaction when she mentioned the woman. Filing the information away for later, she smiled and continued listening to Tristan. She leaned back with a smirk, enjoying the story. She always had had a soft spot for the men who enjoyed elaborating their stories, and this one seemed to be very adept at doing so.

Despite that, the man never seemed to lie. He didn't claim that he won the fight with the Shadow Beasts and based on his frame, he wasn't a swordmaster by any stretch of the imagination.

She couldn't contain her laugh when he spoke of the 'All Powerful Immortals', as if Xiur hadn't been stabbed and nearly killed the previous season.She furrowed her brow as she realized that the man wasn't speaking out fo sarcasm or glibness; he had obviously somehow missed the events of that trial despite being there.

When at last Ilaren was ready to leave the bar, Tristan did exactly what she hoped he did. She didn't feel like wandering around Andaris trying to entertain herself and now she had a 'guardian'.

"That would be perfect, Lord Venora," she said, rising to her feet and brushing and hand along his thigh as she did so. "I would love to see the sites with you. I must admit, it's been a while since I saw the sights of Andaris, and a guide would be wonderful. And by all means, if you're offering more stories of your daring and dashing self... A woman can't resist."

From behind a chair, she extracted a large, thick coat which she draped over her shoulders.

Ilaren walked out the bar with Tristan, sliding her arm through his and curling her body around him as they walked. Despite being drunk, she walked a straight line better than most could sober, but she used an occasional stumble to hold onto Tristan tighter.

"So Tristan, what do you do in this City? "

After a few more bits, Ilaren coulnd't hold her peace any more. "So, that woman. The one you were with. What's your deal with her? I saw how you reacted to her...almost wistful. What happened?" She had been feeling very flirtatious, but the cold air and brisk walk was helping calm her down.

A tryst with Tristan woulnd't be a good idea. She just had to remind herself of that.
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As Ilaren rose to her feet, Tristan did so as well and stood next to her. As her hand brushed against his thigh, he abruptly looked at her, into her eyes. For a moment he felt the almost overwhelming desire to pull her close and kiss her. If she hadn’t turned around and retrieved her coat in that very moment he would have, but as it was he put on his own jacket before he faced her again, smiling. “I will give you a tour of Andaris that you will not get from any other guide”, he promised her. “I’ll show you places that you won’t find on any list or in any book and make sure you’ll always remember this night.”

He held the door open for Ilaren – even in his slightly drunken state he had not forgotten his good manners entirely – before he allowed her to slide her arm through his. As they walked, he leaned close to her. It was cool outside, and there was a light breeze, but he barely felt it. He was almost warm due to the alcohol he had drunk and the beautiful woman by his side. She made him forget everything else. She smelled of wine, he noticed, and a number of other things. She was different from the women that he had grown up with, those stuck up noble ladies that almost drowned themselves in perfume.

“I’m a sculptor and a playwright, mostly”, he replied and laughed as she stumbled and held onto him tighter. “Careful”, he warned her although he was in truth quite happy about it. He used her stumbling as an excuse to hold her for a moment before he put an arm around her shoulders so that they would hopefully keep each other from stumbling and falling. “Did you know that the king came to the premiere of my last play? He almost died, but I assure you that it wasn’t because my play was so bad. There was an assassin in the theatre!”

“And you, Ilaren?”
he asked her. “What do you do? I mean, everybody knows that you are the Immortal of Alcohol and Brawling and a couple of other things, but what does Ilaren the woman do?” He’d always wondered about that, about whether the Immortals had jobs as well, besides taking care of Idalos and their followers, if they had any hobbies or if they were always on duty in which case their life was probably pretty depressing sometimes. He wanted to get to know her, he realized, really get to know her.

As Ilaren asked him about the woman he had been with, he realized that he hadn’t thought about Faith for a few breaks now, for the first time in what seemed like forever. He hesitated for a moment before he replied, “I loved her, but she didn’t love me and left. She’s probably not even in Rynmere anymore. I’d rather not talk about her now though. It’s all in the past. I just want to enjoy the night with you, Ilaren. I’ve wanted to see you again for a long time.” While Ilaren was feeling a little less flirtatious now that they were outside, in the cold, Tristan’s attitude in that regard hadn’t changed at all. A tryst with Tristan Venora would be a very good idea in his opinion. Ilaren was the only woman besides Faith that had ever held his interest for longer than a few trials.

“Come on now”, he said, grinned and led her further away from the tavern. “Let’s have some fun and forget the rest of the world for a while. You need a break from all those things as much as I do.” He was speaking about the war of course, all those dead people and all the heartbreak. He’d never actually fought in Treidhart, but he had seen more bad things than he’d expected, enough bad things to last him for an entire lifetime.

He’d show her all of his favourite places, he decided, the fighting pits, the taverns, the hidden gardens, all those surprising little places that even most citizens of Andaris didn’t know about - and then, finally, his home. He’d finally managed to clean out Faith’s old room. Maybe he’d put a piano into it - or a few wine racks because there wasn’t nearly enough room for his wine collection in the kitchen anymore.
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Ilaren felt the moment too, and her gazed bored into Tristan's eyes, evaluating him. His pull was powerful, entoxicating, and it was with great difficulty that Ilaren forced herself to turn. Now wasn't the time or place.

His vivacity was what drew her in, she decided. He was full of energy, of life, of vigor, whatever you wanted to call it. That... thing that made humans so compelling and unique.

She smiled at his story, laughing a bit when he quickly explained that there was an assassin. If his play had been bad enough to cause a king to die, that almost would've been as impressive as having a king show up to view it. Though perhaps he would've been less inclined to share the story with her, she supposed.

"Me?"

Ilaren was faintly surprised- many men had tried to ask about her in order to get her to sleep with them, and the rare few had actually been successful. For the life of her, however, Ilaren couldn't remember anyone actually asking about what she did. It was always "Oh, what's your favorite alcohol?" or "How good are you in a fight?".

"I- I suppose not all that much. I travel a lot- one benefit of never dying is that you get to see a lot, but that's a double-edged sword. I try to help out where I can, like in Ne'haer. I've spent some time working as a bar owner in the past. Those were some fun times," she said, trailing off with a far-off look in her eyes. She sniffed and rubbed at her nose vigorously.

"I've never tried sculpting before. Is it very difficult?" Ilaren asked, hoping to get the attention of herself. She didn't mind it when she was drinking or telling a rowdy story, but the intensity that Tristan looked at her made her feel like he could see too much. She was in an odd mood tonight. "Maybe one trial you can teach me some of your tricks?"

Ilaren nodded solemnly as Tristan confided in her. "Happens to the best of us. One way or another, those we love seem to get taken from us." Again that look appeared in her eyes, though whether Tristan would be able to notice it, let alone tell what it meant, remained to be seen. She grinned at him again, her teeth flashing a wide smile as he used the cheesy line. Something about the over the top nature of it appealed to her tonight. Perhaps it was the fact that she saw the cracks in his facade- he was skilled, yes, but it was lacking the sleaze that people who regularly used those lines had. It was almost...endearing.

She looked at Tristan, and for a moment saw a puppy- incredibly eager, happy and smitten with her. The image of a puppy leaping about at her ankles dressed in Tristan's clothes made her chuckle briefly as she smiled again at Tristan with warmth in her eyes. "Sounds like a deal. No thinking about the outside world tonight."

The places he brought Ilaren too were mostly known to her, but his enthusiasm and attention made them seem brand new. A few of the locations she had never heard of, she she kept her attention focused solely on Tristan as he described them to her.

It was a perfect evening, she thought, possibly one of the best in a long time.

She should've known better.

It was a darker street, off the beaten path- most the places Tristan had brought her too were less well traveled, something she appreciated. It was nice to see another side to the city. When a couple of men detached themselves from the wall behind the couple as they walked past, Ilaren didn't even notice. She was busy looking at Tristan and trying not to fall over- she had hidden away some incredibly powerful alcohol in a flask, which the two had shared on their walk. She felt like she was floating as she walked, but when the four men appeared at the end of the street, clubs in hand, the sensation disappeared. A quick glance over her shoulder to verify that yes, there were another four men following them.

In a quiet tone, she leaned up to his ear, pretending she hadn't noticed the men, and whispered, "Tristan? Don't be alarmed, but I think we might be in a spot of trouble."
OOC: Sorry for the delay. I was trying to wrap up some other modded threads, and this one got left by the wayside. Should be faster on it now.
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The Lightning and the Rose

“I’d like to travel sometimes”, Tristan admitted. “But I get seasick quite easily.” He shuddered as he remembered that trip to Ne’haer. He had been so desperate that he had actually climbed all the way to the crow’s nest because he had wanted to get as far away from the water as possible. He had been convinced that it had been the waves that made him sick and not the movement of the ship. It had actually worked, for a while, before he had emptied the contents of his stomach into the ocean and been miserable all over again.

“Why did you stop being a bar owner?” he wanted to know. “You said those were some fun times, so what’s changed?” She looked kind of wistful, he noticed, which was seemed strange to him since she had seemed so happy and carefree before. He had to admit, the way she had worded it sounded a bit depressing though. Travel around, help people, help some more people that probably didn’t even appreciate it and get drunk in between.

He was about to tell her that she needed to think about herself more, that she couldn’t help people all the time – that she’d eventually burn out – when she asked him about sculpting. For a moment wondered if she was genuinely curious about his work or just wanted to get the attention off herself, and then he decided that the former was probably the case.

“It’s not particularly difficult”, he told her and grinned at her. “And there are no tricks, unless you count hitting a stone with a hammer. If you’d like, I could show you sometimes. I’d actually love to!” He suddenly realized that while he could do whatever he wanted, Ilaren couldn’t. She had to do her job for the rest of eternity. What more, it sounded as if she had lost somebody as well. Maybe she was sad because of that and not because she spent her whole life helping people and trying to save the world. He wondered what had happened, but he didn’t dare to ask her about it. He simply remarked,

“It will eventually start to hurt less. When she left, I didn’t think I’d be able to cope, but I eventually began to enjoy life again. You may find it hard to believe right now, but eventually you’ll find somebody again, somebody that you’ll love with all your heart and never want to let go again.” Having said that, he wondered if he had just ruined any chances he might have had with her by reminding her of her lost love and talking about his. Why in the world had he mentioned Faith again? He was an idiot!

“That sounded a bit sappy, didn’t it?” he asked and laughed. The following breaks were some of the best he had had in his entire life. He forgot Faith again, he forgot everything bad that had ever happened to him. He was completely focused on the beautiful woman next to him. He had wondered what would happen if he ever met her, what he’d do and what he’d say to her, but reality was even better than those daydreams. He had never met a woman like her before!

And then it all ended. As Ilaren told him that they might be in a spot of trouble, he froze and looked around. The men that had followed them were hard to miss. Of course it had been too good to be true. They’d rob him and beat him up, not necessarily in that order, and then they’d beat Ilaren up and rape her because even with all her powers she couldn’t possibly handle eight men at once. He realized that he couldn’t let that happen.

Not her!

“Stay behind me”, he warned Ilaren. “I’ll deal with them.” He tried to sound confident, but his heart was beating at a nearly impossible speed, and he was shaking slightly as he stepped forward. “Gentlemen”, he greeted them cheerfully as if they were old friends. His training as an actor was definitely coming in handy now. Without it he would probably have sounded like a scared little boy and eventually run away screaming. “I’ve been looking for people just like you. You want money, right? Everybody wants money. I have two hundred golden nels right here.” He slowly reached for his purse and tossed it towards them. He hoped it would be enough because he had spent the rest of the money that had been in his purse in the Blacksmith Arms.

“There’s more if you are interested”, he informed them, aware that it was entirely possible that they weren’t and that they preferred the criminal lifestyle to what he had in mind for them. “I need a few capable fighters, you see? I’m involved with several influential businesses such as the arena and the House of Roses. I also need men to protect me and my things, and you look like you’d be perfect for the job. Think about it, you’d be able to do everything that you do now, you’d get to beat people up, you’d get money and alcohol and women, and it would all be legal!”

“Of course”,
he added. “The deal’s off if you touch my lady.” He pointed at Ilaren and hurriedly whispered to her, “If they aren’t interested, I want you to run. I’ll hold them up.” He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to do that yet – he didn’t have any weapons, and he wasn’t particularly good at unarmed combat either although he had occasionally punched somebody – but he’d find a way. He had to. He couldn’t let them have her.
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Golem
Prophet of Old
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The Lightning and the Rose

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Ilaren smirked as Tristan told her about the seasickness. He wasn’t alone in that- she had seen her fair share of seasick humans, and it was never pretty.

“I realized that people needed my help, and if I insisted on living a normal life, they would die.” Her voice trailed off, though she cleared her throat and continued several trills later. “It didn’t last long. If all of us were content to sit back and watch, then I’d be fine, but it’s the meddling of some that forces our hands.”

She nodded politely as he spoke about getting over Faith, his lover. She opened her mouth ot tell him that he didn’t understand, but something made her hold her tongue. Maybe he did understand, more than she gave him credit for. Instead, she smiled and squeezed his arm.

Ilaren watched, a smile growing bigger and bigger on her face as Tristan spoke. He whispered to her before facing the front again, and she smothered her smile. The man had a silver tongue, that was for sure, and he must have a pair of massive stones. From everything she had seen, he wasn’t a fighter. So for him to stand up and try to protect her like this…

She felt warm and fuzzy inside, like one would when their puppy snaps and barks at an intruder. She resisted the urge to sweep him into her arms and kiss him, instead turning to watch the men’s reaction.

She saw the eyes of the men in front widen as they heard the clink of coins inside his fat purse, and watched as the top spilled open, spreading gold across the alley. The men behind craned their necks to peer at it, slowly shuffling closer and closer.

Ilaren’s heart sank as she saw two men whisper to eachother. He should’ve known better- 200 nel meant that he’d likely have more, or they’d be able to ransom him. 200 nel meant the robbers could live happily for an arc. 200 nel meant Tristan and Ilaren were as good as dead.

She didn’t wait for them to react. She sprang into motion, her strong legs propelling her forward. Two of the men behind her went down simultaneously. Her fists were moving quickly now, all strength and spirit with no need for form.

A lucky strike caught her chin and split her lip. She turned to the side, spitting blood onto the cobbles as she waded forwards once more. Within half a bit, four of the eight were down. Her bloody teeth were bared in a feral grin as the adrenaline of a fight coursed through her veins. This was what it meant to be alive.

Shit, Tristan.

She turned her body, already throwing herself forward to save him before her eyes had time to process what was going on.
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