I pressed into the tiny room I had just rented. The Inn was just down the street from The Sea Witch. I immediately tossed my scabbard containing Silah on the bed. I had been dreading this moment since we escorted Rana and the refugees back to Hlofreden through the unceasing drizzle. Standing there alone allowed me to recall every inch of anger and pain that I had experienced over the last miserable day.
I gritted my teeth and ran my hand over forehead and through my hair. If I wasn't able to keep calm, I was liable to break something. I clenched my fists and looked at them. I was still weak, I could feel it.
When we had gotten back into town, I had begged myself off from the rest. I couldn't rest on Bromm's kindness anymore. We had split what we had found among the Orcs, which didn't amount to much, but it was enough for me to partially pay Danin back, rent my own room, and maybe get the riding cloak I had been promising myself.
There wasn't much conversation on the return trip. It was mainly work; something I could get lost in, thankfully. I hadn't touched Silah the entire trip back, waiting for a time when we could be alone. She had been a pathetic creature at the end of the battle. I couldn't bear having anyone see her like that so I put her away and kept her away.
Now I was here. The grand plan of confronting her withered away with each passing minute. I stared down at the undersized bed almost filled by Silah's greatsword form. I stood there for a very long time. My heart ached on so many levels.
I removed the sheath and tossed it to the floor. I laid a finger on the flat of the blade and thought of her in human form and quickly withdrew. She began to take shape. My throat ached, unprepared for whatever I was going to say.
Silah lay there, in her new purple dress, filth from the battlefield saturating the front, sleeves, and hem. She didn't move, staring at the ceiling, unblinking.
"I'm going out. Don't follow me and stay in this room." I growled, louder and louder with each command.
My rage was just below the surface, easily called on. It was readily available even if mixed with so many other emotions. Anger was the easiest for me to express, especially when I was unprepared to express anything else.
She turned her face toward me, still laying on the bed.
"Yes, master." She said, a mocking edge lined her voice.
The way she said it was like a punch to the gut, threatening to choke the words in my mouth before I had a chance to speak my mind. I turned and strode quickly to the door, not giving her the chance to break my fury with her will. I heard her sit up and swing her legs to the floor and there was a creak as she stood, but I didn't look back. I slammed the door behind me and made my way through the Inn.
As I stepped through the front door of the Inn, I had to steady myself as a bout of nausea came and went. I looked down and felt the ache in my side, realizing that I had pressed the range of my bond with Silah. My body was still weak from the poison, so it hit doubly hard. Anger seethed through the pain and I pressed forward, pressing past the bond.
I was feeling dangerous, casting glares and bared tusks at the passer-bys. I ducked into an alley quickly and found a nice solid timber beam supporting a neighboring structure and slammed my fist into it repeatedly, gritting my teeth. I let out a deep breath, feeling the rage subside. I waited until I felt calm enough to mingle with the outside world again. I glanced at my knuckles, calluses kept them from too much damage, but blood still ran from them. I brushed them off and moved back out into the street feeling a little more capable of containing myself.
I perused the city for hours. At first, I spent time looking for a travel cloak. The provisioner had a black oiled canvas longcoat. He had called it a duster, which I thought was ironic—since there seemed to be nothing other than wet in Hlofreden. It fit well enough, though it left my forearms partially exposed to the elements. I spent a little more time finding some decent underclothes. Now I wouldn't have to wash my own while naked. It was time to have possessions again.
I could see Silah in my head, "You're not on the front line anymore. Soldier."
I bowed my head, swallowing the heartache of the memory.
While looking at clothes, I had found that the wound in my side from bonding with her didn't exactly bleed when I was away from Silah, but it would turn pulpy and become wet and painful to the touch. It also, from recollection, seemed to be the first place that began to burn when she…
I don't want to think about it.
I dropped a few coins on the table for the clothes and moved back out into the rain wearing my new duster. It worked like a charm, water beaded up and rolled off without soaking in. It was exactly what I was looking for.
I stepped into another shop with the placard showing a crossed sword and axe. It was a low cut door, which implied it was part of the older Dwarven construction. Inside it opened up enough to stand at my full height, but I still felt the walls closing in on me. Those walls were layered with sharp and pointy instruments that were perilously close skewering me if I wasn't careful.
I asked the shopkeep about scabbards. I explained that I wanted two. I measured the two different scabbards out with my hand, knowing the length, width, and breadth by the size my hands. A warrior knew his weapon completely, after all.
Well, apparently, this warrior didn't.
The purchase ended up being a bit more gold than I anticipated. I walked out of there with two scabbards and two silvers to rub together.
I hope Bromm's hospitality extends another night. I'm going to need to eat.
The sun had crested and began to fall. I was tired of avoiding Silah. My exploration, while interesting, was interrupted often by thoughts of what I was going to say to her. These interruptions made the exploration experience generally unpleasant. I approached the Inn and stared at the front door. She'd know I'd be coming because of our bond, but it didn't matter. Prepared or not, I had to figure this out.
I moved into the Inn and nodded to the Innkeep. He seemed a little dismayed that at my presence. When I first walked in, I paid, started shouting in my room, and stormed. It was out hours ago, but I somehow doubted her had another tenant. A small, scared smile bent his lips and he nodded and I strode through. A couple beads of sweat emerged from his forehead. I thought about taking the time to attempt to put him at ease, but it seemed like a very bad idea at the time. I afforded him a curt nod and continued. Our bond had asserted itself as I moved across the threshold. It was invigorating but also deepened the pit in my stomach.
I moved up the narrow stairs deliberately and pushed my way into the room. The room was small containing the bare necessities: bed, chair, wash basin, pitcher, and a free standing wooden closet. She stood woodenly, absolutely still. I suspected that she hadn't moved during the hours I had been gone.
I bustled around the room, tossing my gear into the wooden closet loudly. Attempting to keep my thoughts clear so I could engage properly.
"Have you moved since I left?" I spoke it loudly, with forced bravado.
"Why would I? You didn't really give me much of a choice." she said, an uncharacteristic furrowed brow marred her perfect face.
I stood, looking at her sternly, feeling appropriately intimidating. But I was also completely aware that not a whit of it worked on Silah. I felt a variety of emotions brewing below the surface that attempted to betray me. I dared not reveal too much.
Her eyes were unblinking. They flicked to mine, meeting my gaze. The light that was usually there was replaced by the chasm that divided us.
"I can't trust you." I spoke low and evenly, meeting her fathomless gaze with fire.
She waited, raising an eyebrow, seeming expectant.
"And?" She said, with a perfect delivery of reproach.
It wasn't that I had lost the words, I didn't have much more to begin with. I ached, knowing I was immediately outclassed. She had ages perfecting her social prowess, that is, if she wasn't simply created with it. I braced for the onslaught, I'd at least take it standing.
"I'm glad you took the time to think about what you were going to say. Fantastic delivery, if I'd say so myself." Her voice was thick with sarcasm, "You even got your tantrum worked out, I see."
She glanced at scuffed knuckles. I absently put my hand behind me as she said acknowledged it.
"So, you can't trust me?" She sat down on the edge of the bed, crossing her legs elegantly, looking deadly and refined in her blood-crusted purple dress.
"That was rhetorical." She bowed her head slightly, and looked up under her brow, "You do know what that means, right?"
Silah gave the room an extended silence then smirked.
"Enough with the shaming!" I shouted, feeling jumbled, rage blurring my vision.
"All right, all right." She put out a calming hand and then, when finished with the demeaning gesture, balled it up into a fist and tucked it under her chin looking calm and demur.
"So, you're ready to talk? I can see you have something to say." Then she tilted her head, "Or do you want to boss me around a bit more before we start? You look like you could use it."
I lost control. I felt myself move forward quickly, unconsciously. I sent a fist flying toward that precious face, suddenly feeling panic as I extended, unable to pull back. My hand crumpled with the impact and the shock raced up my arm and shook my body. She was unflinching during the impact and turned her head slightly taking some of the blow.
My fist throbbed. I had an inkling that it may be like that. Her soft appearance belied the steel lining just underneath. Silah looked perturbed. But I was more shocked at my violence than she was.
"Does that make you feel any better?" She ran fingers along her flawless jawline, not a mark to be seen. "Though, honestly, I'm impressed. That actually did hurt a little."
I felt even more ashamed. My arms hung by my sides, defeated. I had been completely disarmed. She saw me deflate and a look of empathy fluttered over her face.
"Pull up a chair," she nodded to the fragile chair that probably would fall apart if I even looked at it wrong. I sat heavily, testing its capabilities, sending a creak of protest from the its simple rough-hewn fittings.
"Now," she uncrossed her legs keeping them modestly close together and leaned forward, her face was placid and uncreased.
"I have never been with someone so common before, it's true."
I shot her a hurt look. She's said it before, but with all the other injury it was more poignant.
"That isn't to say that I don't see potential. I absolutely see potential." She extended a hand and patted my leg. It was a genuine gesture even if patronizing.
"I forget, though, that you're not," she paused delicately for emphasis, "exactly there yet."
"Can we be done with this?" I said, achingly rubbing my forehead.
"No, not yet. I do want to hear what you have to say." She leaned back into almost a recline, her arms propping her up on the bed, crossing her legs again. She looked at me expectantly and waited.
"I can wait here all day," Silah said flatly after a moment of silence, "I could wait here your entire lifetime, if you wish."
I ached at the reminder. I wet my lips, preparing to speak.
"I've treated you as an equal. And, out there, you treated me like a tool." I gulped at the admission. "Isn't being a tool the something you resented from your previous...?"
It was a weak challenge, but it was genuine. She remained expectant, her features didn't betray whatever her thoughts were.
"I have fought for my entire life to not be under someone else's control. And you, who I thought of as my friend, someone I trusted, sat on my shoulder demanding blood sacrifices at my expense."
She nodded, showing she was listening.
"First, it was the spiders, then it was the Orcs. You pushed—"
"Wait. Stop there. The Orcs? Did you assume that I made you charge out there?"
I stopped to look at her, Silah's eyes had a smoulder to them.
"You took hold of my mind!" I raised my voice.
"Not when you saw your red haired friend. That was entirely your doing, you had been planning it for, however long it was since you stopped letting me in on things." Her eyes narrowed.
"Not Red, no. But you immediately pushed me further into danger!" I shouted, sitting forward.
"Well, I saw it as opportunity," she said frankly, "Not necessarily death."
"If I didn't resist, I would have been dead!" I yelled.
"You may have been dead." She corrected.
"Stop that! What do you feel inside of me? Do even you know what is going on in here?" I motioned emphatically at my chest.
She is impossible to reason with!
"If I hadn't heard Sig, I would have continued blindly forward and you'd have yet another master to push around." My voice tapered off at the thought and I looked up at her, locking eyes, "Is that what you want?"
"Don't pretend this is all me." She said evenly, her face was a mask, "I followed your lead. You are a war veteran after all?"
My heart hurt with the recollection, and I ignored the question.
"Is this how you are on the battlefield? Should I be worried you're going to attempt to control me every time I touch you?"
She pursed her lips, but remained silent.
"This is entirely my fault, then? You see no wrongdoing on your part?"
"I never said that." She said, shaking her head.
"It's what you seem to be implying!" I put up my hands in exasperation, "I'm the fool charging into battle and you're screaming for blood. This can only end one way for me."
I waited for a moment.
"It's true that it had been a while since I had tasted death. I had forgotten how much need it evoked." She said, sitting forward on the bed, "I may have been… overzealous considering your inexperience."
Inexperienced. I involuntarily sneered at the word. Did she have to keep doing that?
I let go of what was left of my anger and leaned back in the chair, feeling it shudder under my weight. I ran my hands over my face rubbing away my frustration and shame. She looked me in the eye, remaining almost perfectly still.
"You're a good man." She nodded almost imperceptibly, "Misguided, but good."
I cracked a weak half-smile at the backhanded compliment then sighed, feeling sullen.
"Will you ever consider us equals?"
She shrugged, "Perhaps someday."
"So, for now, I'm just a plaything to you?"
"Oh, no. Not at all," I was waiting for the sarcasm, but it appeared she meant it, "I said it already, I see great potential."
"Yet, I still don't know if I can trust you." I said softly.
Silah shrugged. It was almost if she let slip that she didn't seem so sure herself. I grimaced, apparently, I wasn't the only one led by passion.
What a pair we make.
I waited for a moment then stood and moved toward the closet and retrieved the two scabbards. She looked up with a quizzical expression. I reached into the closet and pulled out my beaten sword from the war and drove it home into the smaller sheath.
"Oh, come now. What's this?" She looked disgusted. "You're going to wearing that?"
"So, I'll ask again. Can I trust you?" I said with a little more edge, tossing the challenge at her.
She leaned from side to side, "I'll learn your limitations and we'll make do. But, you're seriously going to resort to this?"
She suddenly looked very dangerous.
I held up the beaten sword in its sheath, "Does this blade yell at me while I'm trying to do my job?"
She was angry and folded her arms.
"This is not your decision." I said in response.
"Maybe you should be examining your own mettle, not mine?" She challenged, clipping her words neatly.
I busied myself with strapping everything into place. I tested my mobility, twisting from side to side, getting a feel for it.
She shook her head angrily.
"You're just going to ignore me?" She seethed.
"No. I'm not ignoring you."
"It feels like it."
"Can I not just have some time to think about this?" I gave her a pleading look.
She looked away, angrily.
"I also realized that you're always at hand and, up until now, I've had an empty sheath. What is a warrior without a weapon?" I said, trying to put a positive spin on things, but it didn't seem to make her feel any better.
I looked at my reflection in the window, I had the campaigner over my right shoulder and the sheath for Silah over the left.
"If you want me to reconsider, please be honest with me. What did you mean when you said that you'd forgotten what it was like to taste death?"
She paused, considering what to say.
"I didn't realize how hungry I was—how much I missed it—." She interrupted her own though, thinking better of continuing.
I sat down again, and waited in silence. She was still angry, but it seemed that it had turned inward.
"If it's any consolation, the others don't trust me." I stooped in my chair with the admission of fault, "I charged out there thinking I would demoralize them by offing their leader, but, nope, not a whit. They sent everything at me."
I shook my head at the memory.
"If you—" I stopped, letting the blame die on my lips, and continued with another, "If it wasn't for Danin, I'd have been dead."
She nodded, looking pained.
"I guess we're a pair after all?" I smirked with the self-deprecation.
Silah smiled slightly.
"Can we get past this?" I stood from the impossibly small chair.
"You're going to need to trust me eventually," she was annoyed, "or else, what's the point of us?"
I nodded. I completely understood. I just hoped that next time I wielded her, she wasn't as abrasive. I was apprehensive, but wanted so badly for it to work.
"Oh, and never hit me again." Silah said sternly, looking deadly serious, "I pushed you intentionally to see what you could do. It made me realize you don't see me as a lady, which concerns me. I doubt you'd ever hit a woman.Just remember, regardless of what you believe me to be, I am a lady and never hit me again. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I am very sorry." I looked down at her and walked over to her, "But you have got to stop pulling my strings to see how I dance."
I held out a hand to her and, looking at me curiously, she took it. I lifted her to her feet then pulled her gently into a bearhug. She hesitated for a moment then folded into me. I closed my eyes, feeling her warmth.
"Last time you danced, you danced very well." She looked up at me revealing her beautiful pearlescent smile.
There she is.
"You need to change into something else." I said, looking down at the blood crusted fabric, "Do you think any of that will come out?"
She shrugged with a grin.
"Perhaps our new friend at Monty Brooks could help us with that?"