Rae was exhausted. Her limbs ablaze, her body feeling like a gel, and her back hunched ever so slightly, her feet dragged as she led her small band back to Crossroad Keep. They'd been successful in their mission of burning certain bridges, and had killed more undead than they could shake a stick at while they were at it, but their primary enemy, the wizard Black Garius, had eluded them. Damn.
She stopped her weighted trudge long enough to turn and face her men before the great doors of the Keep, her hands formally folded behind her back.
"Well done, men. Take the evening off to relax, for tomorrow we fight – but this time…to reclaim the land that is rightfully ours. This land!" Her battle cry echoed against the walls of the giant stone fortress. The Greycloaks cheered and began shouting her name, stinging her sensitive ears. She turned to her second-in-command officer, catching the other woman's attention.
"I think I'm a little overdue for some relaxation of my own. I am leaving you in charge of all affairs until morning. I am only to be disturbed for emergencies. Am I clear?"
The younger woman nodded. "Of course, Knight Captain. I understand."
Sure you do.
Rae acknowledged the officer with a curt nod and Kana bowed stiffly, turning back to the still-celebrating mob of soldiers. The Commander turned and vanished into the Keep, her soldiers oblivious to her disappearance.
With quick, wide steps she made her way deeper into the fortress towards her personal quarters, her intention to change her clothing into something suited for lazing about. She breezed into her room and closed the heavy wooden door in one swift movement. A relieved sigh escaped her lips, but as she reached for the first strap to her armor, she heard the door creak.
She whirled around to confront the intruder, but didn't see anything at all. Shrugging, she dropped her fingers back down to the buckles of her leathers. A nearly imperceptible sound emitted from the other side of the room, making her pause. She drew the dagger from her hip and pivoted towards the sound, arm poised to strike. Her eyes widened and the dagger fell from her grasp.
"Karnwyr! How in the hells did you get in here?" She held her arms open wide to show the oversized wolf that she meant no harm and approached him.
Come 'ere, Fluffball!
The wolf wagged his tail happily at the sight of the relaxed drow, sitting on a rug positioned in front of the fireplace, waiting expectantly for a pet. Gonna make me come to you, huh? Rae was more than willing to oblige; she knelt down and scratched behind the giant puppy's left ear.
"It's strange how he seems to like you more than he likes me," a sneering voice said behind her.
Oh, for the love of…
She didn't bother turning, a frown creasing her forehead.
"Maybe because I'm not an ass to everyone I come into contact with. What do you want, Bishop?"
Her intruder didn't respond immediately, so she turned to face the scruffy man. He seemed pensive, an odd thing to see in the ever-smug ranger. She stood and approached him, much to the chagrin of Karnwyr, who huffed and lay down, quite comfortable in the warmth of the fire.
Oh, get over it, you big mutt.
Rae crossed her arms, "Well? What do you want?" Bishop suddenly looked very uncomfortable. His gaze wandered around the room, touching everything except for her face. She tilted her head to the side.
"Bishop?" I'm waiting.
"I've…got something to say. Something important that I think you should hear."
"Say it then!" She paused. "Wait… If this is about you and your vendetta against the paladin…" I swear I'll start chopping!
"Afraid not this time. It's…about you and…well…me."
She arched a silver brow. He's kidding. "You're kidding right? Tell me you're kidding." Gotta be kidding.
The ranger solemnly shook his head. His dirty face was clearly etched with worry. "Never been more serious in my life. I…you know how I seem to – you know…"
"Hate everything and everyone and anything that even so much as looks to get in your way? Mm-hm."
A scowl replaced the worry, but vanished quickly. "Well," he started again. "I just wanted to tell you – before we die and all – that I…don't really hate you. At all. In fact I...I think I…love you…?" The hells…?
For the first time since meeting the ranger, Rae was struck speechless. Her one arched eyebrow remained frozen in place, despite her mental pleas to bring it back down. Bishop waited expectantly for a reply from his leader. Crap.
"Bishop," she began tentatively, mustering as much niceness as she possibly could with some difficulty. "Although I think it's admirable of you to come and tell me this…I don't think we would work out as well as you think we would." In other words, hells no!
Bishop's face fell.
"Besides, why are you telling me this now? You look like you've been trying to grow enough nerve to talk to me about this for awhile."
He gave a halfhearted shrug. "Dunno. Just thought maybe I'd break the ice before it all goes to the hells."
She rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips. "First off, we may not all die and it's not all going to go to the hells. Second, I'm glad you decided to finally tell the truth for once, but this is really bad timing (Really bad timing!). Third, why on earth would Kana let you in here after I specifically told her to keep people out?"
When Bishop refused to give an answer, she strode past him, slamming the door behind her. I'm gonna kill her. Yep, she's gonna die.
She made her way once again through the corridors of the Keep, briskly weaving her way past soldiers and servants to the nearest exit. When she stepped outside, a cool breeze met her, pushing her hair behind her shoulders. Eventually. The night was cloudless, the stars glimmering overhead. A full moon shone majestically, seeming a bit closer to the face of the earth than it usually did. She decided to get a better look from the top of the wall surrounding Crossroad Keep.
Her gaze locked onto the stars and moon, she mindlessly made her way up the stairs to the very top of the outer wall. It seemed even more magnificent once she was up there. She stared out into the sky as she walked forward, her thoughts far away, and bumped into something hard.
"My lady – please forgive me! I did not hear you approaching."
Rae wiggled her sore nose, thankful that Casavir would not be able to tell if it was bruised. She leaned back on her arms, getting a better look of the paladin from her new vantage point on the ground. "It's fine. I wasn't paying attention." Clumsy-assed, unobservant, disregarding…
The large man towered over her, the moon making him seem more like a silhouette than a person, his hand extended to help her up. She accepted the offered grasp and allowed him to pull her to her feet.
Well this is awkward.
He shuffled his feet uncomfortably, breaking the stiff silence. She turned her head towards him, catching him staring at her before he averted his gaze back to the distant fields. "Yes?"
He shook his head, his eyes not wavering. "Nothing." Liar.
She sighed. "Oh, come on, Casavir. We both know I saw you staring. What is it?" His eyes dropped to his feet. "I was thinking," he said quietly.
Uh-oh. That's loaded.
She arched an eyebrow, her pause being his cue to continue. He didn't speak right away, his eyes lost in thought. He turned to face her. "My lady, by your permission, may I be frank?"
She shrugged, "I guess. Speak, then."
He swallowed hard and began, "We have travelled together for some time now, and I am sure we are both aware that my affection for you is no secret. It is only now that I realize how little time I may have left to tell you." He paused for a dramatic effect, disguised as collecting his thoughts. "My lady…I love you. I wish to protect you – to give you my all: my sword, my hand, and my heart."
He waited for an answer, when really she had none. Crap.
Under her breath she muttered, "Wow. Twice in one night. Guess I'm popular, huh?" Aloud she replied as patiently as she could, "Casavir, although I think it's admirable of you to come out and tell me this…I don't think we would work out as well as you think we would. I'm sorry."
She didn't wait to see his face fall. Seeing the same disappointment twice in a single night would be too much for her to handle. She flew down the stairs in the tower as quickly as she could while still walking, and she opened the door she knocked over Grobnar, who seemed to be waiting quite patiently for something.
Or someone, in Rae's case. "Lady Rae! It is so good to see you…sort of. Hard to tell from this position, really. Do you suppose you could help me up – it would certainly be very much appreciated. Of course, you could just leave me down here – it is a rather nice point of view, I must say. Everything seems so much bigger from down here! Bigger than everything usually is, I mean. Lady Rae? Are you very sure you can't help me up? Wait, where are you going? You really should come join me – this is a very interesting way of looking at things! My lady? Come back, please!"
Rae stormed her way back up the hill to go into the Keep, her face crinkled in an angry frown. I'm not going to kill him. I'm not going to kill him. Keep moving, Rae. Keep going forward. Holding her temper in check was the one thing she was proud to be able to control, but now her patience had run out. She extended her arms out to shove the doors of the Keep open, but a dry voice stopped her.
"A moment of your time, Knight-Captain." 3…2…1…oh, is that the end of my wits I see?
Her arms fell limply to her sides and her head rolled back in exasperation. "I'm a little busy right now, Sand." She turned her head towards the wizard, who was leaning casually against a pillar. "I'm going to go inside this Keep, into my room, shut the door, and no one is going to come in. Am I understood?"
"Perfectly, Commander." His wry grin didn't improve her mood. "However, I insist that you stay for a moment."
His patience with his impatient Commander was rewarded with a very unimpressed stare.
"Why?" Her tone was dark.
The elf inhaled deeply through his nose before replying, "Because I have a proposition to strike with you."
Her brow rose. "Oh?" The wizard walked up beside her, elegantly holding out his elbow to her, and motioned for her to take the offered arm.
"Allow me the pleasure of escorting you to your room, and I will ensure that you hear not a sound from anyone for the remainder of the evening."
She sighed heavily, her shoulders sagging with the exhale. What the heck.
With an almost resigned attitude, she looped her arm through Sand's. The wizard walked much slower than she would have preferred, but the odd absence of people in the Keep prevented her from demanding that he increase his speed. She noticed that he was taking every available route around her quarters rather than go directly there.
Can we please get there any slower? Not tired, or anything. She glanced over at him and frowned, seeing an amused grin on his face. "What?"
"You'll see," was his vague reply. A few more minutes passed before he finally decided it was time to return to her quarters. They arrived shortly thereafter. Took long enough.
He opened the door for her and motioned for her to go in. He also held her back – with a surprisingly strong grip for such a little man – when she tried to make a hasty retreat out.
"No. No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! Not happening. I am not going to deal with this right now! You let me go, Sand, or I swear I'll…"
"You'll do what, Knight-Captain?" Bishop's sarcasm was not lost on her. I hate my life.
"What in the hells is going on here?" she demanded, swiftly turning around to face both Bishop and Casavir, placing her hands on her hips.
Sand answered before either of the bigger men could. "There appears to be a nasty little rumor floating about that the Knight-Captain – you – has been playing these two idiots here for fools. Which, might I add, is not really a horrible thing to do."
Idiots? I like that. Idiots. The two said idiots glared daggers at the wizard. He held his hand up to his chest, mockingly wounded at their hate-filled expressions.
"I will give them credit, however. They did come to the right person to discover the truth behind all the lies." His smug grin was not suppressed under Rae's glower.
Better wipe that stupid grin off your face, Sand, or I'll wipe it off for you. "And now it seems that these imbeciles require me to demand that you, Commander, make your choice."
"My what?" Da hells…?
"Your choice." The wizard tilted his head quizzically. "Surely you know what I mean." Her expression remained less than impressed.
Damned love triangles.
She glanced warily to the ranger and paladin, whose faces both resembled an odd mix between angry and expectant. A pregnant silence filled the air. Countdown to murderous explosion in 3…2…
Casavir broke the quiet first. "Commander."
With huff of exasperation, she threw her arms up. "To the hells with it! Forget it. I'm done with both of you morons! There's my damn choice. Now, both of you get the hells out of my room, or I'll toss your sorry asses out of my Keep to meet Garius first thing tomorrow morning!" She whipped her head away from the shocked men to scowl at the chortling wizard. "You too, Sand."
As the men shuffled out of the room, she ignored the expressions on their faces, instead keeping her arm pointing out the door. She almost felt bad for them: Bishop's face had fallen, and he desperately tried to vainly put up his cold façade, while Casavir looked like a kicked puppy. Oh, poor babies. Couldn't find a way into my pants, huh? Sucks to be you.
Sand, trailing behind the mourning men, was having a difficult time reigning in his chuckles. Rae sighed and closed the door with a resounding thud, rubbing her pounding temples.
"Why couldn't Sand be a romance option?"
Hello! Let me know how I did! Was everyone in character? This story has been rewritten a total of three times, so I certainly hope it's a better improvement than before. Reviews are lovely and reviewers are lovelier!