As it turned out, teleporting into Kelethin in black full plate armor with a dark elf by his side was a mistake. It wasn’t immediately apparent to Rakhanar, who was used to getting odd looks from the fae as he moved through the city with his hood up or his helm down.
His first clue was the dead silence. The next was when the Fae scurried away quietly, while the Chrono Masters who were posted near the globe glared.
Anyah looked around and bit her lip. “Do you think you could show me where the palace is real quick?”
Rakhanar looked down at her. “I don’t see why not. To be honest, I’ve never been there myself.” He headed off in that direction, moving a little more carefully since his helm, in visible mode, made it slightly harder to navigate across the high hanging walkways; even if the fall from the walkway didn’t kill him, it would certainly kill his chances with Anyah. Strangely, the friendly Fae guard on the lower levels seemed to have disappeared. As they approached the palace platform, Rakhanar heard shouts and clashing metal, as if the palace guard were readying for battle.
“This may not be a good time for a visit,” Anyah said quietly. “Well, at least I know where it is.” She looked up at him and gave him a sly smile. “We can always come by later. How about you show me your home?”
Rakhanar peered down at her and, nearly forgetting his need for concealment, started to open his helm. He caught himself, glanced around warily, and then leaned over to see her better. “Uh… Wait, what… My home? Oh, sure, yeah…”
Whoa, Rakh, that was smooth. Now Rakhanar was glad for the helm which hid his darkening skin. He tried to remember if he had left anything embarrassing out in full view in his drunken state, and he found to his dismay that his heart was beginning to race.
She slipped her hands around his elbow, as dangerously plated as it was, and he turned to head back to his little acorn house. Suddenly his armor felt like an oven, stifling hot within the helm. He desperately wanted a friend, especially a female friend, but something about this didn’t feel right.
Anyah glanced over her shoulder and then back up at him. Although there was no heavy march of plated boots as with human soldiers, there was a definite sense of approaching chaos as the Fae guard floated closer. It was a silence broken by the slice of shifting armor and drawn swords.
“Maybe we should hurry. I don’t want to get caught in their way.” Anyah looked up at him, dark blue eyes widened slightly. He sensed her fear, along with a strange scent – excitement. Stepping up the pace, he rounded the top of the walkway connecting to the platform where the crafting Hall and the Silverleaf Inn were. The innkeeper, Twiggy, cowered back as he marched by nearly dragging Anyah as she clung to his arm. It was amazing how differently the Fae responded to him simply because his armor was no longer the shining silver of their protector, but the foreboding black of the unknown.
Is that all it is? It occurred to him that it might appear to Twiggy that he was forcing Anyah into his house until she giggled just as he snatched open the door.
He had the distinct feeling that he was doing something wrong, but he didn’t know what. Guilt, confusion, the world spun too fast, and dammit, his helm was suffocating. Snatching it off, he slung it to the wall, yanking the door shut behind them. He shook his head, swinging beads of sweat from his wild hair.
“Tainted Tunare! What was that all about?”
Anyah clapped her hands together, clasping them between her breasts in a fetching pose. She beamed, her smile wide with mischief. “That was about fun!”
“Fun? Something’s not –” Rakhanar growled, but she interrupted him with a dainty skip forward, to catch his arm again. Her scent struck him like a wave she was riding, wafting over him, strong, murder in thistle, myrrh in smoke. Enticing, but somehow deadly.
“Oh, come on, lighten up! Let’s play a game. I’ll even let you go first. This game is called, ‘Secrets,’ and it’s wildly popular where I’m from.”
“Neriak, eh?” Rakhanar narrowed his eyes, but he allowed himself to be mollified, even while his instincts screamed that it was against his better judgment. She’s a guild mate, surely Lord Toran checked her out. Relax, Rakhanar. He tried to convince himself, taking a deep breath to reinforce it, but it barely stuck.
“Yes, Neriak… Delightful place! You’ll love it there. Er, I mean, you would love it there, if you ever came to visit.”
Rakhanar scoffed, flicking up a brow. Well, let’s see where she takes this. “Okay, so, this game? ‘Secrets,’ you call it?”
“Yes. You tell me one of yours and I’ll tell you one of mine.” She smirked, shimmying a little closer to him. “All right?”
He studied her. My secret. Not much of one, now, but one she should definitely know, if she wants to be my friend. “All right.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I have a problem… Controlling myself. I have these rages. I have to be careful not to kill people close to me. My friends, allies… I can’t tell, sometimes. I just go blind with it.”
Her eyes widened slightly, and she shivered, but she was smiling. “Ooooo… Dangerous! How thrilling! You’re a berserker!”
He looked at her askance. “Aye. So I’ve been told.”
“We have quite a few of them in Neriak. We… well, we don’t see them around much, though. Only in battle. Surprising to see you here, in Kelethin, unchained.”
“Unchained?” He gaped at her in shock. “You chain them up?”
She tightened her lips, clearly realizing she’d said too much. “Hmm… Well, I’m sure they’re not nearly as strong-willed and self-disciplined as you are.” She leaned into him and pressed her palm against his armored chest. “Anyway, my turn.”
“So…” She lifted up onto tippy toes, reaching up to cling to the back lip of his armor at the neck with one hand, while cupping her other hand close to his ear. Her scent was overwhelming now, and if not for his armor, her soft flesh would’ve been pressed against his hot skin, smothering. And his skin was hot, ratcheting up with every passing second and every oh-so- casual, accidental brush of her fingers against his chest and arm. But her next words, meant to be whispered seductively no doubt, hit him like a bucket of ice water in the face.
* * *
Wizard of Wildfire & Shadow Walker Wordsmith ((a/k/a The Real Me ))