Tales of the Kirgeur

Part 15

By: Bluedragon

My dreaming was broken by the sounds of a servant wishing entrance to my chambers. I watched through heavy lids as Iolaine bid the servant enter. I was required to attend the Jilhsaed. It was not a pleasant thought. I wondered if we had been caught, informed upon, or were under suspicion. I dressed in haste and followed the servant to the Jilhsaed's chambers.

The Jilhsaed was breaking his nightly fast when the guards allowed me entrance. Protocol demanded I not observe his chambers. It would not do well to be caught gazing in awe. The little I was able to see impressed me much. I had not believed it possible for such opulence to exist. I saw hangings of silk as well as decorations of tile on the walls. They depicted scenes from nature. In his chambers, I felt as if I were a barbarian.

I waited in silence as the Jilhsaed consumed his meal. He then met with advisors, counselors, and Siveruian. I waited as he bathed. Only then did Siveruian pity me and explain. My rank had increased.

"Torienne, I wish a word." Siveruian bid me approach after the others had departed.

"Aight." I waited for enlightenment.

"I wish to apologize for the manner you were bid join us this morn. The Jilhsaed wishes you to be a personal guard. No longer will you only guard during court, but you shall be made to accompany him from rising to resting."

"He has no wish to mute me?" It seemed an important question. I had no wish to lose my tongue.

"Nothen." The chamberlain laughed. "Though you must not speak unless he bids you so."

"If I may inquire, misayla, why expand my duties?" I had no wish to sound ungrateful. I merely wished to know the reasoning.

"The Jilhsaed was impressed by your dispatching the interlopers in the harem. He was much pleased by your performance on the hunt. He has been watching you during court. He believes you will serve him well."

"I am honored he holds me in so high esteem." In truth, I was. I had won the respect of a man who commanded a realm larger than my homeland and that of the surrounding peoples.

"We shall bid Johianei release your partner from her duties. Salenia is to instruct young Soliumant in the art of short steel as well as guard him." He grinned. "Her duty to Soliumant shall require a repositioning of chambers. Perhaps you wish now to consolidate your households?"

"Aight. We shall." I did not wish inform him we had already done so. "Salenia shall be honored to serve Soliumant." I wondered then how Sal and Kierian would react to one another. I was grateful I would not be required to attend their first meeting though I wished I could know of what they would speak.

"I shall inform her of the change in duties during the midday meal. You shall still attend it in your chambers. You shall be required to attend the evening meal with the court, though you should take nourishment in your chambers before. You are forbidden to consume food in the presence of the Jilhsaed. Only Soliumant and the princess of the harem are allowed. The two exceptions are feasts and the evening meal with the members of the court. It is a high rank you have attained."

"I am honored. I shall perform my new duties as well as I am able." It was precarious ground. I had been rewarded for performing my duty by protecting Soliumant. Had I failed, I would have lost my life. In the realm of the Jilhsaed, there was not room for mistakes.

"We have faith in your skills. I know you shall attend your duties with commendable skill. I am required to see to Johianei. See you to the Jilhsaed. He shall depart soon for court."

"Aight. I shall."

Though his very life depended on others, the Jilhsaed practiced his weaponry. He did so alone, moving through regional sword dances with little grace and less skill. He had been too long without need of practice. He had been too long without need of a sword for food or survival. I believed he only played at sword work to clear his head. It gave him peace to face the day. I understood the solace it provided.

I watched closely as his servants dressed him for court. I knew the ease such intimate access would provide assassins. The Jilhsaed was dependent on my sword for his continued good health. In turn, I was dependent on his continued good health for my very life. I had no wish to fail at my duty and lose my head. There was no honor in such a death.

Morning court was long. The business of the realm had waited patiently during the festivities. Though the celebration was not complete, the people would wait no longer before requesting the counsel of the Jilhsaed. Three arguments were mediated and two endowments for irrigation were granted. Several more proposals were heard. The Jilhsaed did not respond immediately. He wished for time to contemplate the matters. It was a wise move. If he delayed enough, the matters would not require his attention. They would solve themselves.

Sal was present at morning court. She stood near to Johianei. Her faelida seemed displeased. I knew not why. I resolved to inquire at the meal. Sal was required to perform only her morning duties. The mediacio had impressed that restriction upon her. I knew she chaffed under it. She would not perform her new duties for Soliumant until the mediacio pronounced her healed.

My morning duties ended after I escorted the Jilhsaed to his chambers. I had two hours before I was required to resume them. I knew not what the Jilhsaed attended to during those hours. In truth, I cared not. Grateful for the temporary relinquishment of duties, I returned to my chambers.

"Tell me. How did two barbaric kirgeurs become personal guards to the Jilhsaed and his heir?" Salenia was waiting for me in the hall in front of our chambers.

"Perhaps it was duty. Perhaps it was fortune. Perhaps they were greatly impressed." In truth, I knew not. It was a fortune I wished not to question. "Perhaps they believe us greatly skilled."

"Perhaps it was all." She laughed. "You were summoned before the meal this morn. You must be hungered."

"I am. Did Siveruian speak of your duties to Johianei?"

"Aight. I am to be Soliumant's instructor and guard. It is a great honor."

"It is. It changes the plan." I confided as I opened the door. Our companions awaited us at the table. "We should inform them of our fortune and the difficulty it shall cause our quest."

"I heard fortune and difficulty. Is something amiss?" Lyliane inquired.

"Nothen. Nothing is amiss." Salenia answered. "We have been given new duties. I am to guard Soliumant. Tor is to guard the Jilhsaed. Our rank has increased."

"It is a great honor." Iolaine raised his mug in toast.

"Aight. It bears a great responsibility as well. I shall not have much time off duty." Reinea and Sevianth were at the table. I had no wish to say more in their presence.

"You shall not be required to guard after evening court." Sal reminded us. "I think we shall venture forth and see more of the festivities beyond the palace. Soliumant's betrothal has extended the celebrations."

"Aight. Though for one moon we shall continue as if there were no festivities. The moon of his joining will be more glorious than the moon of his coming of age." Lyliane informed us. "Already the servants are preparing for it. It is all they speak of."

"Though they are frightened as always during festivities. Five servants have gone missing." Reinea claimed our attention.

"Five servants?" I wished for clarification. It seemed obvious that we were not the only ones stealing the stolen. For good or for ill, we had competition.

"Aight. I was told as much this morning. Johianei's servants spoke of nothing more than the disappearances. They now travel in groups of two or three." Iolaine imparted his news to our small council.

"Fetch you the chamberlain. He wished speech with Sal. I wish to speak of these tidings with him." The information they had garnered of the disappearances did not quench my curiosity. We were responsible for the taking of two servants. I knew not whom to credit for the other three.

Iolaine hastened his departure. Though we consumed our meal, our thoughts were not on it. Tre and Reinea escorted Sevianth to his lessoning. He had been gradually added to lessons as his knowledge of the language grew. It was his first beyond the morning. Tre and Reinea were not allowed even to walk the hallways without another. I paired them well. Iolaine would function as Lyliane's escort. Tre and Reinea would guard one another. We believed the safety was in the pairing not the skill. Sal and I held unique positions. We were not servants. We were guards. Guards held rank, earned coinage, and could end their service to their faelidas at will. We believed we would not be targeted.

"You wished speech with me?" Siveruian inquired as he preceded Iolaine into the chamber.

"Aight. Sit." I waved Lyliane to serve him a mug of viniare. "Iolaine and Reinea have told us bad tidings. Five servants are counted missing? How were they taken?"

"One was taken after her duty was completed. She had cleansed the plates from the feasting. She was last seen departing from the kitchens. Julaniant was taken in the city during day hours. Iolaine imparted that to you. One was missing from his bed this morn. Those who shared space with him saw or heard nothing of note during the night. He merely was not in chambers nor did he perform his duties. One was taken in sight of the guards two nights on. The guards saw only the servant standing near to the wall then they saw no more. No trace was discovered. The other was also missing from his bed. He had been said to have ran away. We are no longer certain."

"You informed us of such occurrences. You bid us keep close watch upon our servants and forbid them wander the city. We were not warned thieves came into the very palace." Sal colored her tone with indignation and puzzlement. It was a fine line and she marked it well.

"It is not the first they have done so. However, it is the first they have done so for so many. Of the five, only one was taken in the city. Previous festivities have seen all but perhaps two taken within the city. These are strange occurrences." Siveruian seemed as puzzled as we.

"What shall be done to cease this stealing?" I asked.

"The Jilhsaed counsels vigilance. We must watch for the perpetrators and keep close eyes upon our servants. Until they leave a sign, we have no way to track them." He sighed greatly. "Now, I must speak with Salenia."

"Aight. I shall formulate a plan with Iolaine to guard our servants. I have no wish to replace them. Perhaps we shall formulate a plan to trap these thieves."

"I wish you great fortune." The chamberlain did not sound confident of our abilities. Regardless, I had a plan.

Iolaine and I retreated to a far corner of the chamber. I knew not if the note from Siveruian indicated our duties to our lost ones or to the Jilhsaed. I had no wish for him to suspect our quest. We could trust only in those who comprised our household.

"What have you planned, Torienne?"

"My plan is this. We shall continue our quest while keeping watch for those others taking servants. If we find them, we shall steal from them unless they too set the servants free. Theirs is a plan of much courage, greed or ignorance."

"What then is ours?" He seemed puzzled.

"It is but duty. Those we are stealing were stolen from their homes, from my tribe. I have duty to them to return them home." The exuberance of my youth was still present in me.

"You have Sal's sister and your own. Need you rescue any others?"

"Aight. I could not return to my village knowing the others remained in servitude. If they wish to remain, they may do so. If they wish for freedom, I shall grant it." The reply seemed to form itself. In truth, I had not given thought to the reasoning behind the quest once it was started in earnest. I wished to return my cousins and the companions of my childhood to their families. My duty as a kirgeur had not changed. My duty to the Jilhsaed had. The role of the Jilhsaed's guard fell too easily on my shoulders. It felt natural. It was not my calling. It was not my destiny.

"Made you plans?" Sal's voice invaded my thoughts. Iolaine was staring at me in a strange manner. I had been silent too long.

"Aight. We shall attempt to discover the other thieves."

"We shall steal from them?" Sal laughed. "I had similar thoughts. How shall we perform our duties as guards and our duties as kirgeurs?"

"I think Iolaine should enlist Julaniant's assistance. They shall handle the day hours. We shall take during the night hours." It seemed a good plan. Salenia and I would keep close watch for the other thieves. We had greater chances of surviving an encounter.

"Shall it not appear strange for him to venture into the city alone and often?"

"Nothen. He shall accompany Lyliane and Tre to market or else find some other errand in the city. We shall ensure he has a valid illusion." It occurred to me then we should request his assistance. "Iolaine, how think you?"

"I think it shall be wondrous. It is a good plan, Torienne."

"Stay unharmed. Lyliane would be angered if I let harm befall you."

"Aight. My sister would be greatly angered." Sal laughed. "Go see you to her. I think she wishes reassurance."

"My gratitude." He bowed slightly before returning to Lyliane.

"I think it would be easier if he were to disappear."

"It would. Lyliane would not be pleased." Sal commented. "Perhaps we shall see how it plays before moving the players to other stations."

"Aight. Perhaps you are correct. What counsel did Siveruian give?"

"He thought it amusing we consolidated chambers in such haste. I am to guard Soliumant and translate his words for Kierian. I assumed your duties to him. I look forward to translating." She bore a wicked smile as she imparted her words. "There is much I wish to inquire of Kierian."

"What need you ask?"

"I wish to hear little Tor stories."

"You wish what?" It seemed a strange desire. "My rearing was calm. I have no tales of misspent youth." It was not truth. I knew Kierian had stories to tell. I knew also they would shame or embarrass me.

"Tor, I think you wish to mislead me." She raised a brow.

"If you wish it so. I shall inquire of Lyliane how you spent your youth." It seemed fair. "Why need you ask Kierian? Tre would likely know more."

"I was jesting, shehala. I know your nature perhaps better than you believe." Her demeanor became serious. "I know you shall not fully be mine until this quest is finished. You are made for duty first. It is your nature and it makes you as skilled as you are."

"You are able to accept that?" It seemed unbelievable. I had believed kirgeurs made bad lovers. I was proven incorrect. The only true match for a kirgeur was one who understood the responsibility, honor and duty of our calling. It was why my mother chose my father and why Kayla chose Chelstea. We were kirgeurs first and all else second.

"Aight. I am able to accept it. I feel the call of duty as you do, though it is not as strong in me. It is why we wear different colors. I can accept it. It is the only way I can have you. You are worth the price I shall be required to pay for you." She paused to gaze out the window. "Go now. See you to your duty. I shall be here when you return."

"I shall, keytheda. I shall return in haste." I assisted her to her feet. "Keep the mediacio's instructions in mind. You are to rest two more days." I tasted her lips before I departed. Courting Salenia made me feel as if I were an oldster and a youngster. I was unaccustomed to such feelings. They were almost pleasant.

Evening court was not pleasant. One of the petitioners had grown weary with the Jilhsaed's promises to think on the matter. The man broke custom. He was accompanied by several hired guards. None but those in service to the Jilhsaed or to the cordermers were to wear steel. This man paid protocol little heed. He rushed the Jilhsaed urging his guards to do likewise. He numbered twenty and three among those I had parted from this life. His guards lost their will to fight upon their faelida's death.

I learned then that seldom do guards remain long in the Jilhsaed's service. They were required to lay their lives down for him, the ultimate faelida. Siveruian reckoned at the least twelve attempts to take the Jilhsaed's life would occur every season. I could not understand how a leader so powerful and well loved by his people would be attacked with such regularity. The Jilhsaed's realm was reputed to be the largest on the orb. It was peopled by many, some of whom I discovered were termed zealots. They wished power, honor or praise from their gods. They believed assassinating the Jilhsaed was their duty. The merchant I dispatched from his body was mad. His thoughts ran opposite the patterns of acceptance. Such were fools to wager their lives for pride or power.

I returned the Jilhsaed to his chambers. I bid two guards keep watch on the balcony. If thieves could steal servants from their very beds, I knew they could enter the Jilhsaed's chambers at will. It seemed a wise precaution. The Jilhsaed mentioned it not. His mind remained always on his realm, not his person. Soliumant looked to such a future. He would be required to leave his name behind and become known only as the Jilhsaed. I envied him not.

As I walked to my chambers, a servant intercepted me. Salenia had ignored the restrictions placed upon her by the mediacio. She was having speech with Kierian. They wished me to attend them. In truth, it was not an appealing course of action. I wished greatly to avoid the meeting of my childhood companion, the object of misguided lust, and my current partner, my shehala. It was a fear and it made me weak, though I could not find fault in it. I knew many would fear it as well.

With resigned steps, I journeyed to Kierian's chambers. If nothing else, I planned on using my rank and sending a servant for the meal. I knew not how long the speech would be and I was hungered. It was the result of the tangle during court. I felt my deeds reserved a good meal. It kept my mind from the impending conversation with Kierian and Salenia.

The guard bid me enter as I approached. Soliumant was not in his betrothed's chambers. It seemed strange. I knew Salenia would know his whereabouts. She was sitting at the table with Kierian. They seemed to converse with ease. It did not bode well.

"Are you harmed, keytheda?" Salenia inquired as I entered the chambers.

"Nothen. I am well."

"Nothen. Torienne you are not well. You appear ill. Think you we would stand against you?" Kierian asked in jest.

"The day has been long. I am but weary." I claimed a chair at the table. "I am greatly hungered as well."

"Graneima is fetching the meal. We have no wish to starve you."

"My gratitude Kierian." I turned to my partner. "Where is Soliumant?"

"He is seeing to his father and then he is required to have speech with Siveruian. The mute escorts him." Sal explained. "We heard speech of the occurrences during court. You were not harmed?"

"Nothen. The baderema did not close properly. He knew not the ways of the sword." I made light of the occurrence. In truth, he had been close to scoring upon me. I bore a bruise on my ribs from the hilt of his sword. He was fortunate in his attack for that one blow. I resolved then to practice each night. I had no wish to let my skills lessen.

"Perhaps you know this, Salenia. Torienne cannot speak untruths with skill." Kierian saw through my attempt. I was not grateful.

"Aight. She cannot. Tell me, Tor. Were you marked?" Sal seemed to regard it lightly. I bore no blood on my attire. She knew it was not a serious injury.

"I was bruised. Nothing more." I turned the conversation to more comfortable topics. "Graneima is adapting well?"

"Aight. She knows the language better than I." Kierian replied. I had a wish to know of their speech before I entered the chambers. I could not allow myself to inquire of it. "Salenia speaks highly of Sevianth."

"He shows the strength of his parentage." I told her.

"Nothen. He shows the strength of his rearing. He is your son, Torienne." Kierian wore a serious demeanor. "How went guarding the Jilhsaed?"

"It went well. He is a serious man."

"Kierian, you were correct." Sal laughed. "I had wondered if she would be curious. It seems the warrior wishes not to ask."

"I wish not to ask what?"

"Your shehala and I had conversed of you. We wagered on your reaction to our summons. I claimed you would not ask what we had discussed. Salenia believed you would inquire in an indirect manner."

"What you speak of should not concern me. You need not my permission nor my pardon." I struggled to sound unconcerned.

"I think she will inquire later." Sal laughed again.

"I think you are dangerous together." It seemed truth. I knew then why Tre did not wish any of her companions to spend time with Dalin. It was fear, not jealousy. It was fear of embarrassment.

"Nothen. We would not embarrass you, Tor. I would not wish to hamper your shehala's thoughts on you. Though they seem as unshakable as her feelings for you." Kierian smiled. "I think it a good pairing. You could find no better, as she could find none more worthy."

"You flatter me, Kierian." I was grateful for her approval. It would ease the way of us as it would ease the way of our plan. Kierian could still read me as a scholar reads scrolls. I had no doubt she surmised our quest. If she had but objected, we would have been on dangerous ground.

"She flatters us both, Torienne, though I believe it true." Sal broke her silence. "I think I hear Graneima return."

Graneima did return carrying a large tray of food. Kierian was served better fare than Sal and I. It was a mark of the esteem Soliumant showed her. She was well provided for and would want for nothing as his bride. Though she might lack for companionship, her physical needs would be met and surpassed. It was why I had suggested Graneima to Soliumant. Graneima would have been a great kirgeur had her father allowed her to study. She was not fit for motherhood and rejoiced in it.

"Well met Torienne. How fares the Jilhsaed's guard?" Graneima sat the tray on the table and pulled me into an embrace. I think she attempted to shatter my ribs.

"I am well. How does life as Kierian's servant treat you?"

"It treats me well. I enjoy this better than I enjoyed the village, though I must confess I cannot stun those here as easily." She laughed. "Sit and eat. You have much news I wish to hear. Tell me first, have you time to show me that follow through?" Before the raid on our village, I had been instructing Graneima in the ways of the sword. We were forced to meet in secret. Her father did not approve of kirgeurs.

"Perhaps. Though Salenia is an excellent choice for an instructor. I think she should have speech with Soliumant. Perhaps he shall agree to allow us to instruct you if you wish to stay and serve Kierian." It seemed an ideal plan.

"What would I gain as a guard?" Graneima inquired. She wished our views on the matter, though I knew she would reach her own conclusion.

"Rank, coinage, skills, freedom and respect." Salenia answered. "It would be as if you were a kirgeur. You would have duty only to Kierian instead of our tribe."

"I shall think on it." Graneima began dividing the meal onto plates. "If Soliumant allows me to learn weaponry. I shall."

"Find it an easy decision to make?" I asked. In our youth, Graneima had been impetuous. She would often make seemingly rash decisions based on her desires. It had not failed her in my memory.

"Aight. I have no wish to return and wed. It would be a sacrilege." She was also cylinge. Our tribe was not perfect. We had as many restrictions placed upon us as those who inhabited the realm of the Jilhsaed.

"Soliumant allowed us to meet, did he not?" It reminded me of our duty. I had no wish to fracture protocol.

"Aight. He wished me instruct Kierian in this tongue. My duty is now split between them." Sal assured me. "I shall have speech with Soliumant on the morrow concerning lessoning for Graneima."

"You have my gratitude." Graneima seemed pleased.

"Nothen. There is no need of gratitude. It would lighten my duty." My shehala laughed. "Torienne, I think our companions have been left long enough without our watchful eye. We should return and assure ourselves they did not make trouble."

"Aight. I think you are correct. Sevianth was to begin further lessoning after the midday meal. I think my sister was reaching the end of her supply of scrolls. We should ensure Tre has not begun scribing on the walls."

"Tre was ever the scholar." Kierian laughed. "Tender her my greetings."

"I shall. Peace be your dreaming, friends." I rose and offered my hand to Salenia. She accepted readily.

"May the gods guide your dreams and keep you from danger." Kierian replied.

"Aight. I think as guards, you have need of their guidance." Graneima commented.

"Our gratitude to you both. We shall see you on the morrow." Sal tendered her evening greetings.

The journey to our chambers took place in silence. I could tell Salenia was thinking on her day and her duties. I did not think on much. I was weary of speech though I knew Salenia was not. I knew she would wish discuss the day's events as well as our quest. I had discovered on the journey to Creasinda that Sal was a talkative warrior. It made her a good healer and a good woman, though I was unaccustomed to lengthy conversations. I remembered then a saying Kayla was fond of repeating: There is a time when wisdom can be found in silence. I wondered if it were truth.

"Enjoy your lessoning, Sevianth?" I asked upon entering the chambers.

"Aight. We were taught the ways of fishing with string." He held a plate for us to examine. "I caught many. Taste them. They are quite good."

"Perhaps I shall." Though I was not hungered, I tasted the results of his labors. I had learned to stomach the taste of fish on our journey. I still was not partial to it. These were well cooked, though not to my liking. "You did well. You are a mighty hunter of fish."

"They catch fish here in nets as well. Those older than I carried the net deep into the river and walked it to shore. They caught many fish." He seemed content with his lessoning.

"I have heard of those who fish by nets. I have not seen them do so." Sal commented. "I think you did well with your string. These are well cooked and well caught."

"My gratitude, Salenia." He seemed embarrassed by the compliment. "Are we to see the festivities this night?"

"Nothen. It is late and I am weary." I spoke truth. I had no wish to watch the festivities.

"Perhaps Iolaine, Tre, Reinea and Lyliane would wish escort him, keytheda." Sal suggested.

"Aight, Torienne. I wish to see more of the festivities." Tre looked at me in a hopeful manner.

"If you wish attend them, you may. Stay together. I have no wish to be informed of your disappearance." I gave permission and warning.

"I shall escort them safely." Iolaine pledged. "This night's festivities are for the full court and their households. It should not contain suggestive acts if youth are expected to attend."

"Then you may attend, Sevianth. Stay near to Iolaine. I wish you safe but pleasant viewing."

"My gratitude, Torienne." It seemed strange at that moment that only Sal and Tre referred to me by the shortened version of my name. I knew not if it was a sign of respect or the region's protocol.

"Mine as well, sister." Tre brightened a considerable amount. "We shall stay safe and keep watch over one another."

"My gratitude. Go you and enjoy the festivities. I shall wish to hear of them on your return." I watched as they departed with various expressions of glee.

"We are alone. Let me see your bruise." Sal commanded.

"You were inspired to grant permission to them so you could examine a small bruise?" It seemed a great jest.

"Aight. Though I confess I had other reasons for wishing them gone." Sal stood. "Come, let me see to your wounds."

"You insist?" I knew her to be serious. I felt required to act otherwise.

"I insist. What would a healer be without a warrior to practice her skills upon?" She smiled.

"A healer without any injured to examine would be only a woman."

"Aight. I am that as well. Tell me, where did he mark you?" Sal began undoing my sword belt.

"Here." I indicated the ribs on my left side. Had the sword struck me with the blade, it would have marked me deeply. I knew I was fortunate. The hilt had made contact with my flesh. I was bruised but whole.

"The telling is one matter, the seeing is another. Remove your tunic, Torienne. I shall not bite you."

"Aight. I have trust in you." I did as asked. My insides were quaking. I felt both nervous and exhilarated. Sal wielded that power over me. She could make me feel as if she were my first yet also that we had been shehalas since time began. It was a strange feeling though I took pleasure in it.

"You were fortunate. He did not mark you with the right end of his sword." Sal ran cool hands over the bruise. "It is warm to the touch, though I do not think you injured anything." She let my shirt fall back into place. "You should remember to avoid the sword during your next encounter."

"I do not think the baderema who did this will be facing me again in this life. Perhaps in the next he shall." I made light of it. "If it is to be so, I shall endeavor to avoid him with greater caution."

"I see now what attracted you to Kierian." She redirected the subject and walked away from me. "She possesses all one could wish for in a mate."

"For some, perhaps she does. She does not possess the qualities I wish." I felt it wise to disagree. I wondered what gave birth to Sal's sudden doubts.

"What do you wish?" She faced me. "I need to hear of it. I wish to know what made you think we were destined. I cannot trust in us until then."

"I have told you my heart. I have no more to tell. I wish for a long life with you and Sevianth by my side. I had feared your duties to Soliumant would bring you into contact with Kierian. I had feared you would doubt in me after meeting her."

"Why would you fear such?"

"Kierian was a companion of my youth. In truth, had we time or the knowledge, we may have been more. It was not fated to be more than friendship between us. I knew those thoughts would be in your head upon meeting her. I knew not how she would react to you. Kierian is mercurial. She could have been moved to envy or she could have been moved to lust at meeting you." I paused for breath. I did not feel comfortable telling of my fears. "I feared you would find her as I did once, that you would see the form of beauty and not realize the shallowness of her heart. Kierian thinks most of her self first and then of others. She cannot be faulted for it for there are many who think in the same manner."

"You feared she would capture my interest and my heart?" Sal seemed surprised.

"Aight. I also feared she would speak of things which would cast your thoughts of me into a darkness. I have no wish to lose you to another, especially not to Kierian. I wish you to know I have no desire for Kierian."

"Aight. She told me of her attempts to seduce you. She told me of your rejection. Was it all for duty?"

"Nothen. It was more than duty that prompted me deny her bed. I knew I would lose all I held dear without realizing it." I answered. "Are you concerned still with the truth of my heart?"

"I am not. I think you have answered questions you should not have been asked. You have answered them well."

"You are my shehala, my keytheda. It is your right to ask such questions." I reassured her. I did not wish to admit I did not feel her ease with the conversation. She sought knowledge. I could not fault her for it.

"I think such talk makes you uncomfortable. We have the entire chamber to ourselves. Tell me, wish you a reward for bravely battling with both steel and words this day?" She approached me.

"If you are the reward, I wish it." I lost the use of words. The dryness of my mouth was a hindrance. I had not felt such desire.

"Aight. I am the reward. Come, a good healer knows the importance of bathing wounds before tending them." She took my hand and led me to the bathing chamber.

"I am not wounded." I protested. "I am merely bruised."

"Then I shall attend to your bruise." She grinned. "Come, Tor. I wish a bath and I wish you to join me."

"I think I shall grant that wish. Had I the ability to change parts of this journey, I would but change one."

"What would you wish changed?" She asked as she undressed.

"We would have done this soon after we found the trail. In truth, you are beautiful and I am fortunate." I pulled her close. I learned then the truth of Kayla's words. Wisdom is often found in silence. We let our bodies carry our messages of love, duty and devotion. We languished in the skills of one another, for Sal was well skilled in the art of passion. They were hours well spent.

Continue to part 16

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