Casavir sat watch at the edge of the dying flickers of the fire, turned away from its warm glow. In the distance, clouds rolled across the face of Selûne, blocking the brilliant white moonlight. His Warhammer sat on the ground between his feet with the handle resting against his palm. It was quiet here on the outskirts of Ember. It was as if the carnage had frightened away the even the crickets. There was only the fading crackles of wood on the fire and the rattle of Khelgar's snoring.
He heard the rustle of leaves behind him. Instinctually, he grabbed the handle of his hammer and spun around, brandishing the weapon, ready to strike.
He dropped the hammer to his side and his eyes to the ground when he saw who it was. It was the leader of their motley band looking paler than usual.
"I'm sorry I startled you," she said softly.
"The fault is mine," he said, still staring at his feet. "I am . . . unsettled."
"That's probably a good trait to have when standing watch," she said quietly, " although not so conducive to sleep."
"Are you having trouble sleeping milady?" he asked as he looked up. The lines around his mouth were tense.
"Not surprising." she said, "Considering."
"It is not," he replied. He opened his mouth as if to speak more, but closed it again and looked back at the ground.
"I can stand watch now, if you'd like," she said after an awkward silence. "I won't be sleeping anymore tonight."
"I . . . thank you, for your offer, but I have given my word that I would watch until dawn." His voice was tense. "Despite my past . . . decisions, I do try to hold to my word."
"Do you mind if I join you then?" she asked.
"Not at all," he said a little too quickly. He paused for a moment and looked up at her, forcing a rigid smile. "I would appreciate the company." He gestured to the fallen log he'd been sitting on. She smiled at him and sat down on the log, crossing her ankles. Casavir stood behind the log and stared out into the darkness.
Patting the log next to her, she said, "Come. Sit. I promise I don't bite." He hesitated for a moment and looked as if he would say something chivalrous, but in a graceful move he sat down beside her. The plates of his armor clinked.
"That's better," she said.
"I apologize," he said, " I am often hesitant."
"I've noticed," she replied. "But I think we'll need to trust each other." She was quiet for a moment and he didn't speak. "I suppose however, that would require a bit more time to know each other."
He nodded. "You are right lady," he said. "But I do admit, I often find it hard to share. It is hard to find the words."
"I'll go first then," she said, "perhaps that will make it easier for you."
"I would like to know more about you, if you would like to share," Casavir said.
"Well," she began, "Until only a few months ago, I had never left the village of West Harbor." She spoke quietly, recounting the dry facts of the attack on the village, her recovery of the shard in the Illefarn ruins and the journey to Neverwinter.
"I suppose however," she said after her light-hearted description of Khelgar hanging over the rails of the Double Eagle. "None of this really gives you an idea of who I am."
"It does," Casavir said. "How you chose to react to these difficult situations shows much of your character."
"I guess it does," she replied. "I never really thought about it that way. If I was to describe myself, I'd be more likely to talk about the distance of my foster-father and my fantasies about who my real father might be. Maybe even fumbling with Bevil in the barn when we were twelve." She glanced over at Casavir who was predictably blushing at her words. She continued, swallowing a grin. "Most of all, I think I'd say I was just an average swamp farmer's child, trying to make sense what Shandra said the best -the most bizarre series of events I've ever heard."
Casavir chuckled softly. It was an strange, but wonderful sound. He looked up at her, with the closest expression to a smile she'd ever seen on his face.
"You are anything but average milady," he said. "And thank you for sharing your story with me. It does make it easier to speak with you." He smiled earnestly now. "Shandra does have a way with words."
She smiled back at him, tucking a fallen lock of hair behind her ear. She looked back over her shoulder at the fire and the shadows of their sleeping companions. Then she looked back dumbly at her hands.
"Is there . . . anything you wish me to share with you?" Casavir asked unexpectedly.
"Many things," she replied, meeting his eyes. "But I suppose I wonder most about why you went to Old Owl Well."
" I went there because I felt my sword could make a difference, no other reason," he said.
"But it seems like you could have marshaled the Neverwinter forces, gotten Callum to ally with you, and have been more effective," she replied.
"There was a need for action, the need to set an example. To move Neverwinter to act is something beyond my strength," he explained. More quietly he continued, "But a greater good has been accomplished, and you have shown that to me."
"But you went alone," she said.
"I went alone, because I had to," he said, his voice barely a whisper. "Battling the tribes of the Old Owl Well is something that must be done. It is a simple necessary act. There is no doubt as to what must be done, no . . . conflicts."
"Conflicts?" she asked, matching her voice to his.
"There are battles that can be fought." He voice caught in his throat. "And others that cannot. It is a difficult thing to speak of." He paused and closed his eyes, swallowing hard. "I appreciate your words, and your intentions," he said, meeting her eyes, " But this is something that is difficult to share. Perhaps another time, when the words are easier to find."
"One does not always have to deal with such conflicts alone," she said. Her eyes were locked on his, despite the painful expression in his eyes.
"No, " he sighed. "But I am unsure of how to explain to you what passes in my heart."
"Your heart is safe with me," she said, color flooding into her cheeks.
"I . . . I know," he said, looking away. "But I am not sure that you are safe from my heart."
She swallowed. "I think," she stuttered. "That it is nothing to be afraid of. Conflicts or no."
"I am glad to know that you think so," he said. He took a deep breath, and closed his eyes for a moment before meeting her eyes again. "I could not do what was necessary to be faithful to both Neverwinter and Tyr. Neverwinter is an idea, more than a place. And I discovered that to protect the idea of Neverwinter, there was often much suffering."
"You mean the ends justifying the means?" she asked.
"Yes," he continued. "I was asked to protect Neverwinter even if it meant the suffering of the innocent. Even if it meant injustice. And my vows to Tyr would not allow me to watch and command others to be unjust."
"Was it one thing? One mission?" she asked.
"No, it was becoming a lifetime of unjust actions. I do understand that sometimes things must be done for the greater good that do not serve everyone. But I also know that evil cannot be allowed, even in the name of law," he explained. "So I left. There was no place in Neverwinter for me any longer."
"Well," she said, "There will always be a place for you here."
Casavir stared at her, the stoic expression of his face crumbling. Tears glistened in the corners of his brilliant blue eyes. He wiped his face suddenly with the back of his hand.
"Thank you, milady," he whispered. "Thank you." He hung his head.
She reached out gently and cupped his chin in her hand. She raised his face so she could see his eyes. The brightness of tears made the moonlight reflect in his eyes and they glimmered like precious stones. She leaned forward and gingerly kissed his flushed cheek.
"You're welcome," she whispered into his ear. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight against his chest. He was trembling.
"You make me feel strong again lady," he said softly. "I did not think I would feel that way again."
"You've always been strong Casavir," she replied. " I can see it when I look at you." Sliding back from his embrace, she met his eyes again. "It took more strength to leave Neverwinter than it would have to stay. Tyr chose his paladin well I think."
He smiled again, the corners of his eyes crinkling. He reached up and cradled her face between his hands.
"You are an incredible woman," he said. "As well as beautiful."
She smiled back at him. "I'm glad you think so."
They stared at each other silently, both feeling as if the rest of the world had disappeared. Slowly and as gentle as a breeze, Casavir brushed his lips across hers. Then his pressed his lips against her forehead and did not protest when she leaned against him. He rested his chin on the top of her head and closed his eyes as the first light of dawn began to creep over the edge of the trees.
But the rest of the world had not disappeared. Bishop appeared at the edge of the clearing, leaning his longbow against the gnarled bark of a tree. He muttered something unintelligible under his breath. His hand slid to the hilt of his skinning knife and he gripped it so tightly his knuckles went white.
Before Bishop could move, Khelgar rolled over in his sleep and snorted loudly before waking himself in a fit of coughing when he inhaled the end of his beard into his mouth.
Casavir stood up quickly, and walked over to Khelgar.
"Are you alright?" he asked the sputtering dwarf.
"And I was having a wonderful dream," Khelgar muttered. "Ah . . . the spirit of dwarven women." He grinned.
Casavir shook his head, but before he could speak, Bishop stepped out into the clearing, silencing Casavir with a dark look.
"Did you . . . see . . . anything last night paladin?" Bishop spat.
"It was quiet," Casavir replied.
"Not quiet enough for someone with good hearing," Bishop said sarcastically. "If you know what to listen for, you can hear almost anything."
Realizing that their conversation had been overheard, Casavir's face drained of color and a muscle in the corner of his jaw twitched.
"If one is willing to be devious, " Casavir said between clenched teeth, "It appears anything is possible. That is, except for decency."
"I have a feeling," Bishop said, sneering, "I was not the only one having indecent thoughts in the darkness last night."
Their leader stalked over and stepped between the two men. Despite the fact that she was no taller than either of their shoulders, they both took a step back.
"If you boys are finished," she said, "We have some clues to find. Unless you were thinking if Luskan cuts me in half there will be enough for both of you."
"Yeah, whatever you say, ladyship," Bishop snorted. "One of you is already more than either of us need." He spun around and stalked away.
She slowly turned to face Casavir, knowing the hurt expression he would have on his face. She rested her hand gently of the cold metal of his breastplate right above his heart.
"I'm sorry," she said, "But it did get rid of Bishop didn't it?"
"It did," Casavir said, his expression softening. "I'm just not used to . . . well, I'm just not used to this yet."
"It'll get easier," she said, grinning. "Trust me."
"Do not worry milady," he said. "I do."