Silah was propped up on the bed on one elbow, watching me go through my morning preparations, with a subtle smile on her face. She had been mostly silent, albeit looking content even with whatever pangs she was feeling.
It was relatively late and the sun was peering over the hillside to the East. I figured I'd catch some hell from it. I didn't care. I had slept more soundly than I had in weeks and was in a dazed bliss, feeling more content than I could scarcely recall. The ever present Silah, which seemed initially a burden to my solitary leanings, had given me a feeling of well-being that I had never had before.
I caught her look in the mirror and smiled at her.
"It looks worse." She said with a matter of fact tone.
"Bruises always look worse before they look better." I shrugged, my smile turning to a grimace.
"Well, it looks bad. Maybe we should just stay here." She said with a smile, rolling on her back and stretching, pulling her clothes tight against her shapely form.
Seeing her and hearing the nuanced invitation sent my heart into a flurry. I suddenly felt uneasy and started to fidget.
"Oh relax." She cooed, "We've got business, right? Maybe Danin can help with all that, too."
She wagged her fingers at me.
"It hurts me just looking at it." She gave me a sour look.
I closed my eyes and breathed deep, feeling the anxiety subside. It was terrifying how well she could read me and she didn't even have to lay a hand on me for insight.
She stood and moved to the window and looked out toward the boats.
"We might want to get out there." She said pensively.
"And here I was thinking of taking you up on the offer."
She stifled a laugh.
"You? I doubt there's a more prudish brute out there," She said through a giggle.
"Now you're just being hurtful." I turned toward her and gave her a scathing look.
"Ah, come here."
She deliberately walked toward me while I didn't move from where I stood. She moved in and entwined her arms around me.
"But, you're my prude." She said silkily, tracing her fingers lazily up my back.
I blushed and my shoulders tensed. She patted my back at my reaction.
"Yes. There he is." She giggled again, this time, into my chest.
She stepped back, still with a grin looking almost drunk.
"I'm not sure what's gotten into me," she said, looking at me hungrily.
I was pretty sure I knew, as it was becoming clearer to me that her appetites were increasing. My body ached for her, and, at that moment there was little more I wanted. I was afraid, though. And not in this state.
Silah was reading my face with a mixture of amusement and desire. She began to move in close reaching her arms out again. I put my hand on her shoulder and held her back. She pressed, but then stopped, dropping her arms, looking defeated.
"I want to. By the gods, I do. But not like this. Not right now." I spoke softly to her.
A pit in my stomach opened and I ached as I watched the moment slip away. I took my hand from her shoulder and put it gently on her face and tilted her chin up to me.
"It's for the best. You'd likely do more damage to me anyway."
I grinned at her and gave her a peck on the cheek. She looked stunned, and touched her cheek where I had kissed her. I turned back to the mirror.
"Back to business, right? I said, matter of factly, while putting my last clean undershirt on and buckling my breastplate into place.
"Right." She said seeming very very far away.
I turned back and she was still standing there with her hand to her cheek.
"Thank you." She said with a small voice.
Silah seemed to come back to her old self, looking at me with a sly smile. Then, unexpectedly, she leapt up and put her arms around my neck, giving me a firm kiss full on the mouth. The shock of it, sent me reeling. I felt whatever condition those ribs were in pop loose then realign, which made me shudder with pain. She released and dropped to the floor, suddenly giddy.
"Yes, business! Let's get to that." She stood with purpose and strode smoothly to the door opening it and disappearing into the hallway, leaving me in a daze. I took a deep, trembling breath, then winced again. Then, still dazed, I looked around the room making sure I hadn't left anything—besides my sanity—behind.
We met down at the boat. Silah stood again on the side of the boat and Beidrick graciously helped her aboard.
After last night, there was a mutual respect between the lot of us. Money was spent on both sides, his and mine. And, as the crowds died down, Silah invited herself to the table and faced off with both Beidrick and myself. She soundly beat both of us just by locking her arm and waiting us out until we got tired. Beidrick's eyes widened much like they did when she effortlessly placed the mast.
As he parted from The Sea Witch, he leaned over to me with wide eyes, as Silah was distracted.
"She's yours, mate. I'd not dare get entangled with a woman who could tear me in half that easily."
It definitely wasn't as true for me. A tender flower would wither in the world I lived in, and she matched me, step for step. Exceeding me in many ways. But, where her seeming immortality made it easy for her to also be graceful and lady-like. Unfortunately for her, I knew no other way to live, but she was doing her best to fix that.
The ship hands were up and about. The younger one, Finn, was doing lighter work. They were moving more efficiently over the ship than their bumbling selves just from the previous day. There were six barrels of Shatterhammer Ale strapped to the inside of the hull.
Floki was already in place, the wolf he had been befriending was on the boat with him. I eyed the beast.
"It's safe, right?" I asked, looking between the two of them.
"Sure. He'll be fine. Just relax, the more anxious you are the more anxious he'll be." He said sternly.
"Oh, I saw Rana picking up some supplies. She said hello." Floki continued.
He seemed to be more settled on the boat, perhaps it was because of the wolf keeping him company?
"Is she well?" I asked.
"She seems to be doing well on the ranch. Cranky Dwarf or no, she's managed well. There's a new ranger there with more experience, but they kept her as the one calling the shots." He nodded as he mentioned it, pleased for his sister, "It's good to see her moving up in the world."
I nodded, smiling. Rana was a good person. She had a heart of gold, but could also match skills with any of the scouts I'd worked with during the war. She and Floki had certainly come into their own.
There was a lull in the conversation, and I looked around. Beidrick was looking into the distance with something of a snarl.
"We're supposed to be underway!"
"We weren't last?" I said, surprised.
I glanced around realizing Bromm wasn't there. Then looked toward Silah, who wasn't paying attention, looking out over the water toward the sunrise.
"Bromm disappeared with that woman of his." Beidrick scowled.
I cringed at the words. I knew better than to tell Beidrick he ought not repeat that to Robyn, because he likely would then be obligated to. As, it seemed, he was also taking a page from Bromm's book of unnecessary conflict.
Floki caught sight of him and pointed. He was walking arm-in-arm with Robyn down from far beyond The Sea Witch. I raised an eyebrow at the sight. This was the earliest I'd ever seen Robyn. Earliest, and most sober, even. I remembered looking at her mulling over her last drink. A lot of things were going to change in the coming weeks. She was wearing her usual finery, but it was much more flattering when she wasn't bellied up to a bar.
"Finally!" Beidrick bellowed over the bow, "Get on board before I put you to work! We're lucky to get to Dowry before sundown, if that!"
Bromm looked thoughtful and completely unperturbed by Beidrick's outburst. He turned to Robyn and they spoke low as a parting. She turned heel with a bit of flourish and walked back up the dock.
"Looks like a fine time to set sail right about ... now." Bromm said as he stepped on board with his last word. There was an air of whimsy to Bromm's attitude. Usually, Bromm would bark right back. His coolness toward his friend disarmed Beidrick enough to only make him grumble under his breath and not much more.
Sailing was uneventful. Beidrick fought a bit more with the winds then he had to before. It dampened his mood by degrees. The tousled boys received the brunt of his displeasure, to their chagrin. I had decided early that I was going to take the opportunity to rest on the way there, sleeping where permitted. Silah had moved to the back, again, settling in with Beidrick who, even after what he said about her tearing him apart, continued to outclass me in flattery.
The sun rose and sunk while we sailed. The sea air had been cool, but the sun beat everyone down at the height of midday. The two boys were exhausted. Tad had shouldered most of the work while Finn began to look ill from both the stress of the journey and his own wounds as the day wore on.
Boredom had set in for Silah as dusk deepened. It was starting to get dark on the boat. She was fidgeting on the bench beside where I was laying. I reached over and clasped a hand around Silah's leg, just above the ankle. She looked down, her small brow furrowed.
"What?" Her voice reverberated dramatically in my head, annoyed, anxious, or discontent. It may have been all three at once, I couldn't tell.
I remained silent, smiling up at her.
"What?" She looked down, now speaking aloud, her eyes menacing.
Just seeing what's going on in there.
I grinned at the turn about and closed my eyes. She made a strangled noise and snarled down at me.
"I'm starving! How do you exist like this? In this constant hungry, feeding, and then hungry again cycle. It's deplorable. It's torture." She said it in the echoing voice of her huge dark visage in my mind. I could see her massive armored torso looming over me as if I stood on a stage in front of her at shoulder level. She was stomping back and forth, aggravated and being intimidating. I smiled widely at the hulking form, even while thinking better of it.
This has had to have happened before.
"If memory serves—which, no, it does not—you're the first time I've ever felt this… this consumed feeling." She stopped, glaring down at me, putting her massive hands on the platform on either side of me. I looked up at her in my mind's eye.
Soon. I'll make it right soon enough.
Hey now. I said we'd work it out. I'm on your side.
Her anger subsided. Her form shrunk quickly and she moved up to me as her normal Silah self, but taller so we could see eye to eye. Her eyes glittered and glowed as they did in her larger form, but in her current form, it was more endearing than intimidating. She embraced me, and I could feel her arms wrap around me, even as I lay on the deck of the ship.
She pulled back, looking me in the eyes, her own expression unreadable. Then she leaned forward and kissed me. I stiffened, trembling, and then, after a moment, relaxed and kissed her back. The experience was surreal, feeling my body laying on a boat with the rolling motion of the water, but also standing in the darkness of space in my own mind, being kissed passionately by this lovely, and dangerous, woman. My heart was racing with the experience and I opened my eyes in an effort to deal with the jarring realities.
She was looking down at me. The darkness had all but consumed us on the seas, but I could see her face clearly, framed in her short dark hair, as she looked down at me smiling.
"I know you're on my side," she said it, both as the visage and from her own mouth as she looked down on me, "And I have never felt so loved because of it."
(Get to know Akeron)