We had settled next to one of the large oaks in the Gardens. The moon hung low, setting alight the alabaster walls of the castle and sending a shimmering response off of the bay that surrounded the Isle of Cennet.
You could say it was unseasonably warm, even with the cool humid air running over the bluff and across the water out to the sea. There had been a defining characteristic of Dowry, both a perpetual and wrathful storming at odd times of year. In our trip into the Hlofolk Tunnel, we understood the source of it. We had since resolved the eternal dispute, but kept it a close secret. We couldn't be sure if the "god", if that's what it could or should be called, that we set loose would turn on us or end up supporting the formless, but, in all, the creature seemed to be a victim of circumstance.
We were mere mortals, after all, and while potentially foolish, we were decisive.
"Would you stop chattering in your head and just enjoy the night?" Silah voice overrode my thoughts, sending them fleeing. Her timbre was uncharacteristically thin.
She had her arms roped around me, one under the small of my back and the other rested on my chest, her hand spread over my heart. A glance down confirmed that her eyes were half open, staring over the rest of the garden not focusing on anything in particular.
"But I am?" I mumbled aloud, the words coming out like a deep growl that vibrated my chest.
Others had fallen into pillows and blankets provided by the princess's servants when we asked for the favor. They stirred slightly with the rumbling. My eyes opened further and I fell quiet.
"Nice." Silah echoed with a chuckle.
I sheepishly retreated to my mind for our conversation.
What do you want to do tomorrow?
My thoughts brought her into my mind. She wore the black dress, the jewels sparkled more fiercely here in this unreality, creating blinding star-like patterns in my mind's eye. As she strode toward me, an echo of the garden surrounded us, but without the walls of the castle or the others. She stood with me, eye to eye, golden horns curling through her short brown hair. It was just us, alone on the mound of Cenet. I wasn't sure if this was based on a long ago memory or her imagination.
"It is entirely up to you. I can see by the amount of noise fluttering through your mind you have a few plans."
I nodded, both to her visage and silently against the tree.
It's been a long time since I could relax. I thought.
"It's definitely deserved." She said.
I tucked an arm around her stunning visage and gave her a small smile.
You made quite a ruckus. What started out as a meeting that seemed purely business ended up as much more. I thought. I didn't quite expect your singing. As well, if not better, than Sabella.
"Better, I assure you." She said with a grin.
Better keep that to yourself when we get back to the ‘Witch. I thought.
"We'll see. When do you think that will happen?" She said, pursing her lips.
I shook my head with a long, slow motion.
Sig is more than sensitive to the idea. His eyes were full of shame as he talked to his father. It was hard to watch. I thought.
"His father didn't seem to recognize it. Or, if he did, he ignored it. There was nothing he could have done to save his grandfather." She said, dropping her eyes and digging a bared toe into the imaginary soil.
It doesn't change the shame, that sense of loss. I shook my head again.
"It'll be up to him to forgive himself or let it go." She looked out toward the sparkling sea where the moon had risen further. "We can just watch and wait."
After a moment of silence, Silah turned back to me.
"You're committed to this idea to take on the outcasts of the world, whoever they may be, correct?" She said, looking at me pointedly.
I nodded at her words.
"Who do you have in mind? At first, you seemed to be especially keen to have half-orcs join you. What of other humans? Elves or half-elves? Dwarves?"
I'm not that concerned. I shrugged at the thought. If they don't feel they have a home and are willing to do honest work, I'll give them a place they can call home.
"Opening the door that wide might bring some bad eggs in." She said, her eyes narrowing slightly, "Be sure you know who you're inviting. You're sweet, but gullible. Enemies aren't just those who hold visible weapons against you."
I shot Silah a hardened glare. The kind I'd used on men just to see them cower. She chuckled as my attempt.
"You see, that's a good way to keep them in line. Use that more and you'll weed the bad ones out quickly." She said, moving into me and rocking me back slightly.
"You should get more sleep. There's much to do and you're incorrigible when you're grumpy." She said in a soothing tone.
I blinked at her words, unsure, as the imagined world faded to black. She leaned in and kissed me, running her fingers along my chin before fading herself. I blinked blearily against the lights reflecting across the harbor from the shore, then let my lids fall shut. The darkness crept in further and I heard Silah was singing sweetly in a foreign tongue from very far away. The tune pulled me deeper and I drifted back to sleep.
(Get to know Akeron.)