Rhiallis: It Is The Blood

      Today’s snippet, titled “It Is The Blood”, is a piece I wrote about my PC in Mark’s Pathfinder Campaign.
      Be forewarned, there may be mature themes and naughty language below.
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      “…and we defeated him.”
      Irabeth’s face was dark. “But?”
      Rhiallis wet her lips, casting a glance at her allies. Celeste nodded stoically and Mira met her gaze, her tiny mouth pursed.
      “His corpse… we lost it.”
      “But he is dead.” It was not exactly a question.
      “Last we saw,” Rhiallis conceded. “But there was a vi-”
      She raised her hands, interrupting. “Staunton Vane is dead and we have won a great victory here. Your deeds-”
      “My lady,” Celeste began, but was bowled over as Irabeth continued.
      “-your deeds, I say, will bolster the troops and bring much relief to those waiting for word from us in Kenabres and Nerosyan.”
      The objection died on her lips – as much from Irabeth’s pointed look as Aimsley’s elbow in her ribs. Rhiallis nodded.
      “Now, about those maps you mentioned…”
      It was all business after that. Irabeth advanced them each a pouch of gold for bringing the information on the Abyssal forces and strategem out of the citadel and began immediately composing a rousing speech to announce Staunton Vane’s death to the Knights of Kenabres and the Silver Dragons.
      “James, will you bring the officers in on the quarter? We’ve got some good news to disseminate.”
      He looked up from his work at the table and nodded. His gaze caught Rhiallis’ and a smile quirked his lips. Boldly, she held his attention for a long moment before breaking it off with the hint of a promise in her eyes.
      Leaving the command tent behind, Rhiallis strode with feigned purpose. There was really nowhere she had to be, nowhere to go until morning. She no longer felt the need for sleep, though sometimes she yearned for a down-filled mattress and a pile of handmade quilts — and a warm body to hold between them. It had been many weeks now, since Idril’s death, and though she mourned him, his touch had never reached her heart. That lack, that void – it had grown deeper and more profound lately.
      Rhiallis knew why.
      She tried to tell herself that it was just because she missed Viggo. That somehow, all the loss she had experienced since the Grey Garrison just weighed on her heart. But that was disingenuous.
      It was James.
      It was those piercing green eyes and the lopsided dimple that framed his smile.
      It was the kind heart and the strong chest that contained it.
      She chewed her lower lip.
      Turning, she found herself face-to-face with Korael. “Evening.”
      “I was just going to go to the Mess Hall for some supper. Would you want to come with me? I think Mira and Aimsley headed that way, too.”
      She shook her head. “Not tonight. Thank you, though.”
      “Suit yourself,” Korael said, shrugging her creamy, bare shoulders. “Even though you don’t need it – get some rest. You could use it.”
      “I will.”
      “You’re a terrible liar.” Korael made a face as she departed.
      “Well, that’s true enough.”
      Rhiallis’ heart dropped into her belly at the sound of his voice. It was of a higher timbre than Viggo’s, with a lilting, noble accent rather than the molasses slow drawl of southern Mendev. Somehow, it made her pulse quicken just the same.
      “I have not had much practice, that’s true.”
      James fell into step with her as easily as if it were the habit of a lifetime. “No, I would not think so. You took vows that require honesty, did you not?”
      She shrugged.
      “Mine do – clarity of purpose and transparency of motive. We are to refrain of lies whenever the truth is not mortally dangerous.” James glanced sidelong at her. “We are to abstain from a good many things.”
      It was bait.
      She could hear the rise in his voice, the request for flirtatious parlay. Part of her wanted to resist, but she tucked that noisy piece away in the deepest, darkest corner with all of her memories of Viggo and smiled.
      “Yet, not all the good things.”
      “No,” he agreed. “Not all the good things.”
      They circled the encampment, relishing the bite of chilly air as much as the witty banter, tinged as it was with risque humor. Eventually, as the armies settled in for the night and the watches began to patrol, the pair found themselves back near the advance party’s tents.
      Rhiallis paused, the apples of her cheeks sore from smiling so much. Her gaze flickered around, checking to see who might be around to eavesdrop on the conversation. She reached out, laying her fingers upon his forearm.
      “Would you like to come in? I have some wine and I imagine we could liberate a light supper from the mess hall.”
      James took her hand into his own. “I’m not hungry. But a strong drink might just hit the spot.”
      They ducked into her tent, pulling the flaps closed behind them. She had done little to make her personal space more comfortable; there was a standard cot, the same furs she had used for her bedroll for years, an ewer and basin atop an apple crate, a poured silver icon of Iomedae and twin white candles to create a small shrine, and her kit piled near the door. The only nod to luxury was a pair of crystal lanterns she had purchased in Kenabres as her reward for enrolling at the academy. She had asked the crystaller to engrave a “V” in one and an “R” in the other – a tribute to Viggo who would thus, always light her way.
      Pushing thought of him from her mind, Rhiallis sought out two tin cups and a bottle of the good, dark wine Kumiko had favored. As she poured, James made himself comfortable, sitting at the foot of the cot.
      “You have a very spartan tent, Rhiallis. Surely you could requisition a rug, some chairs, a table?”
      “I could,” she agreed, handing him a cup as she sat, facing him. “But I have been on the move for so long, I am rather accustomed to travelling light. What need have I of benches and fine china and plush rugs? I am a Paladin, a soldier not a general. Let Irabeth and the Queen keep their comforts – I have to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. When the enemy attacks…”
      “Prudent. But perhaps too modest. You are a Commander, you know. You’ve an officer’s rank, whether you care to acknowledge it or not.”
      She sipped, rolling the heady liquid on her tongue. “No, I know that. But this is all still very new. And I never trained with the goal of becoming an officer like you. Serving a general and creating strategies for an entire army. I just joined… to fight.”
      James set the cup aside. “To fight the Abyssal enemy? To save Mendev from the ‘Wound? Isn’t that why most of us joined?”
      “I suppose. But I never considered myself a warrior. I am a healer. I was Healer Corweir long before Commander Corweir.”
      “I forget, sometimes, that you had an entire lifetime before you came to Kenabres.”
      “It is the blood,” she shrugged lightly, trying to shift the subject. “Were you always destined to be a paladin?”
      “It was not in my family’s plans, no. They are barristers and judges; courtiers and the like. Uppercrust. What about you?”
      “Oh no, the opposite. My father was a cobbler, my mother, the village herbalist. They had nothing but each other, before I came along.”
      “And after you came along?”
      “An aasimar child was considered a blessing. Folk came for miles around to touch my little golden curls, leave blessings in silver and platinum, trinkets and such. They had plenty – though they squirreled it away so that one day I may have an education in the city if I wanted. When I had to leave home, I took the remainder of those goods. It kept me for a good long bit – I bought a mule and a dog and I didn’t have to steal for my bread as many would have. Plus, I knew a bit about herbs and medicine, and I learned more on the way.”
      James was watching her lips as she spoke and she felt heat rising to her face. It was different than the light-hearted flirtation she had had with Idril. This was a powerful, deep-seated lust and she knew that her body betrayed her intent to keep him at a distant; pheromones and subtle clues of body language signalling him that the time was right to advance.
      “You studied with another healer, after you left?”
      She nodded, grateful that he had not seized on the obvious question – why had she left home so young? – and pushed a hand through her hair. “A chirurgeon, yes. Amputations, wound closure, retaching limbs. Leeches and maggots and poultices and tinctures.”
      “Fascinating. And you, weren’t squeamish, even at such a tender age?”
      He slid closer, until their knees were touching and the warmth from his nearness was palpable. A hand landed upon her knee, stroking idly as he waited for her answer.
      “Never,” she found herself leaning forward, lowering her voice. “I found it endlessly intriguing – and nothing more gratifying in all the world than watching a patient, who would have died or been permanently disfigured, walking away from your table, whole again. Or at least, living.”
      “Do you remember the first person you saved?” His fingertip brushed her cheek, her earlobe.
      “Yes. His face, and his wife’s. A plowing accident severed his foot. He should have died, but we stopped the bleeding, closed the wounds, sealed the stump and in a few days, with a crutch and some willowbark tea, he walked away from our tent and his wife avoided widowhood. She was with child then.” Rhiallis hesitated, counting the years. “If the child survived, it must be past forty now.”
      His eyes widened and the gentle caressing of her throat stopped.
      “It is the blood,” she said again.
      James’ face was suddenly next to hers, his breath on her cheek warm and moist. “You’ve set fire to my blood, Rhiallis.”
      The wine must have gone to her head, that was the only explanation she could find for the way her vision swam and her heart pounded. Closing her eyes, she felt her arms slip around him and his around her. A thousand thoughts crossed her mind – Viggo! – in the space of a heartbeat, but then his lips met her own and everything outside the tent vanished.
      His touch was a flame, white-hot, blazing along every nerve. His tongue, gently probing, sought and found her own. She buried her hands in his hair and pressed her chest against his.
      “HEEEEELLLP! Holy fuckin’ Hells! HELP!”
      They broke apart as if struck by lightning, the mood shattered as Niro’s screams rent the night.
      Without a thought for her disheveled appearance, Rhiallis snatched Radiance from the hook on her tent pole and darted out into the darkness. James was close behind, Mira and Korael and Aimsley and Isadora and Celeste on their heels.
      Another moment, she thought, bursting into Niro’s tent to find him fighting a demonic creature from his back. Another moment, maybe two… we’d have reached the point of no return.
      When the babau was defeated, vanishing into a cloud of smoke, Rhiallis cast a rueful glance at James. His expression was hard to read – not exactly sheepish or ashamed, but some how subdued. They would not be ducking back into her tent to resume the liaison. The reality of their situation had intruded and could not be denied.
      As Niro was patched up and the origin of the creature discussed, Rhiallis and Celeste roused the officers, putting every paladin in the encampment on guard – detecting evil and watching the perimeter. When the task was done and no trace of the summoner located, James had slipped away to attend his other duties and Rhiallis knew she should not follow him.
      Sometime later, when the camp was once again quiet and her friends had gone back to sleep, Rhiallis returned to her tent. Their emptied cups remained where they had been left and she busied herself, tidying up. Rinsed and dried and packed away, the tin cups vanished along with the remainder of the wine. Her weapons were honed and polished and stowed; her shield cleaned, her canteen refilled. She worked as slowly as methodically as possible, but before long, there were no tasks left – nothing to occupy her hands or her mind. With a sigh, she blew out the tiny blue flames of her crystal lamps and climbed beneath her furs.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Signed, Josie
Note: Image is “King Jagiello Statue Central” by (Mulligand) from SXC.hu; edited by me

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