When Rakhanar first came into the crafting hall again, the first thing he saw was a big box on the counter by the forge. There was one of the cat people like Carroway behind the counter, only this one was obviously female. She waved him over with a tight smile.
“Yours. Standard gear. We don’t let our members run around in rags, making us look bad.”
He opened the box to find a full set of armor and a large sword. His eyes lit up as he pulled the huge sword out and hefted it, examining it with awe.
“You weren’t expecting a Claymore?” The Kerran female looked surprised. “You’re certainly big enough to handle a two-handed blade.”
Rakhanar just smiled slightly. He could barely restrain himself from whooping like a kid enjoying Frostfell and gearing up immediately, but he managed to remember that he was supposed to be an adult, used to fighting, maybe even with better gear than this at one time.
“It’ll do,” he said. He put the sword back in the box and closed it firmly again, then turned to the forge and picked up the tongs and hammer on the anvil, determined to work out his excitement.
After a couple of hours of pounding away at hot metal, having little to no idea what he was doing, Rakhanar had released enough of his inner fire to feel a little more in control of himself, not so likely to pounce on some barbarian twice his size for no cause. There was still that driving heat inside, never quite quenched. He thought about what Carroway had said about his rage. Maybe it was time to make it work for him instead of always working against it.
He set aside the hammer and tongs, stretched, twisted and cracked his neck, looking around the hall. The staff was still on duty but no one else was around. Not wanting them to see how unfamiliar he was with gearing up in armor, he turned to the box of gear and hauled it off the counter, heading into the lounge with it for privacy.
Setting the box by the fireplace, he opened it and peered in, then pulled out one piece at at time, wondering just how to wear it. He decided, right or wrong, to put it on over his light leathers so he would have a little padding to keep it from chafing. The last piece, the helm, surprised him: when he settled it over his head, the half-gem in the front lip of the helm clicked into its match on the top of the cuirass and the helm rippled into invisibility. It took him about a half an hour to get to that point, but finally he was ready.
Carroway was right. It was time for a change of plan. Time to jump in with both feet – no turning back. Glancing down at the blue gem in the center of the amulet that hung around his neck, he sighed and put his hand over it. It began to sparkle inside, the blue glow shining purple through his fingers, activated.
Now or never…
“Anybody need anything killed?” he said, with a wry smile that no one saw.
It wasn’t long before a sultry female voice answered. “Hmmm. Who is asking?”
“This is Rakhanar. And who might this be, m’lady?”
“Lady Lilithna. I am sure we can find something to keep you busy.”
“I’ll be ready. Shall I meet you in the entrance hall?”
“That will suffice.”
No sooner had he walked across the crafting hall into the entranceway than a white-haired female appeared before the doors, her skin sallow and bloodless, her eyes faintly glowing crimson. Her clothing was black, draped like shadows. She only took a few steps away from the door but she managed to make this movement a regal stride. This, he assumed, was Lady Lilithna. He had never seen anyone remotely like her before.
Lady Lilithna was followed soon after by the same blond-haired elven female he had seen at the Frosted Brew and again here in the Tattered Scroll. The blond moved forward, her eyes searching about the hall in a trained pattern as if she were watching out for snipers, then she immediately dropped to her knee beside the Lady.
The Lady barely acknowledged her as she stood regally before the entranceway, peering about with those eerie eyes. Then her gaze alighted on Rakhanar.
Rakhanar stared into those red-glowing eyes, amazed. Before he could think, he was blurting out what was in his head and should have stayed there.
“Your… eyes…” he stammered, blinking. He felt the blood drop from his face as she lifted a brow. He snapped his mouth shut, then bowed, tearing his gaze from hers. “My Lady,” he said, hoping she would overlook his gaffe.
She didn’t comment but when he finished the bow and raised his eyes again, hers were blazing.
“Rakhanar,” she said with a cold nod, as if she had just lit a torch in a dark room and found, no surprise, roaches scampering to escape. “This is my pet, Shialli.”
Proving her point, she put her hand down and the elven female pushed her head into it to be stroked.
“My Queen,” Shialli whispered, then looked up at her with eyes glazed with adoration.
He just stood, staring. Now he was beginning to understand the female’s rabid reaction to him. Ahhh… that never occurred to me… There are females who prefer females as mates.
Rakhanar looked back up at Lady Lilithna’s narrowed eyes. She was watching him carefully. There was something more to the relationship than even that, he sensed, but he had no idea what kind of being he was dealing with. He was torn between his instinctive reaction to the Lady’s piercing red eyes as a threat and his masculine response to both of them as females, in need of his protection. His temperature was starting to rise…
As soon as he got out in the open, he would have a chance to call Wildstreak. He was determined to ask him to fill him in on these new creatures he was encountering. The unicorn stallion had a grounded sense of the nature of things that had helped him immensely when he had been heartbroken over having to leave Siffy. Though he had spent a couple of days in the Enchanted Grotto with the pixies and his new unicorn friend, only an hour or so seemed to have passed in the fae Nursery. In that time, the unicorn stallion had given him the answers he so desperately needed. I wonder how many people have ever gotten the birds and bees talk from a stallion?
Now he needed that down-to-earth wisdom once again.
To Rakhanar’s immense relief, a shimmer hummed by the globe at the docks, a welcome distraction. He turned to see Lord Banedon Toran appear, interrupting the scenario just as it was becoming unbearably tense for him.
Banedon barely broke stride as he crossed to the center of the entrance hall, closer to the tapestries than the doors. A second after him, another shimmer caught Rakhanar’s eye from behind Shialli and the Lady and a female fae dressed in priestess robes appeared. She fluttered around them with a brief but polite nod of acknowledgment, then turned to Rakhanar.
The little fae beamed up at him with a genuine warmth. “Oh. Hello there. You must be new to Elements…?”
Immediately, Rakhanar felt the tension in his body ease, like rain falling on a fire. He didn’t realize until that moment that he had been holding his breath. He drew in a full lungful and released it slowly as he smiled and bowed to her.
“Aye. I am Rakhanar. And you are, lady fae…?”
“I am the Priestess Evaine. It is a pleasure to meet you, Rakhanar.” She curtsied sweetly, her translucent robes flowing around her, as graceful as wind through willows.
One of the huge double doors behind Lady Lilithna creaked open and a man slipped into the hall wearing a hooded robe. Rakhanar got the barest glimpse of his face as he entered and glanced around, his eyes lighting briefly on each of them and moving on, apparently looking for someone in particular. Then his gaze landed on Lord Toran.
The fae priestess appeared to recognize him, however. She turned to address him.
“Ahhh, Traveler… I see you made your way to our hall.” She nodded at him, then beckoned and fluttered over to Lord Toran with him, the hooded man following.
The man who was apparently known only as the Traveler pulled a lightstone from a pocket of his robe as he approached the Lord.
“Lord Toran, I believe you know the Traveler…?” Priestess Evaine said.
Banedon turned and bowed politely and the Traveler returned the courtesy, holding the lightstone close to his chest.
“Ah. What have you there?” Banedon’s purple eyes twinkled with curiosity.
“A lightstone, my Lord,” the Traveler answered. “I have been entrusted with it, with a mission. It is to be imbued with the life force of a particular orc, name of Drull, who resides in the Commonlands. I have been told you might find this mission of interest and perhaps could assist me?”
The Traveler held out the stone for Banedon’s perusal and the Lord peered at it with a trained eye.
“It is quite… interesting.” He looked around the hall at the group now gathered, then back at the Traveler. “Commonlands, you say?”
The Traveler confirmed this with a nod.
Banedon turned and raised his voice for everyone present. “We appear to have a mission for the Commonlands. Any of you up for it?”
Rakhanar didn’t hesitate. He had no idea where the Commonlands were but he was good to go. He stood straighter and saluted Banedon. “Aye, my Lord. Ready here.”
Lord Toran looked him over and nodded. Priestess Evaine turned to him as well, her gaze gentle as she nodded also.
Rakhanar glanced back to see the Lilithna and Shialli smiling with a dark gleam of anticipation in their eyes.
Rakhanar’s heart was already starting to pound…
* * *
Wizard of Wildfire & Shadow Walker Wordsmith ((a/k/a The Real Me ))