After sleeping off his all-nighter in his brand new man-sized bed, Rakhanar woke up with his head strapped to his own anvil and his stomach cursing his stupidity in sickening waves. His first hangover.
If I try to fight today, I will definitely die. With a moan and a slow stretch, he decided to go in to the Elements guild hall and do some work at the forge, instead. After all, he might run into some guild mates there who would know more about the interior of Crushbone Keep. He could plan his next mission with some back-up.
Throwing off the covers, he found that he did, at least, manage to get out of his battered armor before crashing into bed. Stumbling naked over to an old battered trunk he’d found in an orc’s tent, he scrounged around inside until he found a pair of threadbare pants, boots, and his craftsman’s vest. As he stepped into the pants, balancing on one leg, his head started spinning. He threw himself backward on the new bed, sending the boots skittering under it. Spread eagle after the crash, he let loose with a dramatic groan, and after a moment to recover, finished pulling his pants up. Then he shoved himself upright, pulled the vest over his head and leaned over to fish the boots out from under the bed, nearly losing the contents of his grumpy stomach. Boots on and he was ready.
A call spell later and he was standing in the wide circular entranceway to the hall, staring at the fluttering tapestries. He headed into the crafting hall, but there was no one but the staff around. The table of food had been cleared. For that he was thankful; the smell of ham at the moment might have been too much to take.
“Morning,” he muttered, as he tossed a few coins to the feline female who kept up the supplies for the hall.
She slung a bag of coal over the counter with an odd flick of a whiskered brow. “Somewhere, I suppose,” she smirked. “Sun’s setting outside, last time I looked.”
He rolled his eyes at his own error and her snide reminder, but kept his mouth shut. A memory flickered in his muzzy brain — Rhygar, the frogman armorer, had come in to do a stint of bartending the night before, taken one look at the mess Rakhanar had made of his armor and shook his head in disgust. “Ruint,” he’d muttered, clicking his fly-catching tongue. “Long overdue for mumble mumble…”
So, as fast as Rhygar was, at least his late start meant his new armor should be ready.
After stoking the forge, he picked up the tongs and hammer, grabbed a hunk of iron and set to work. At first, the heat made his head and belly roar right along with the forge, but after he worked up a good sweat, he began to feel better, as if the toxins he had consumed were pouring out through his pores.
Lost in his craft, he didn’t know he was being observed until a soft hand alighted on his shoulder, even as he brought his hammer down to strike. He snapped his head around to peer into large, dark blue eyes framed by blue-black skin. It was not Lady Lhasa, but an unfamiliar female. Her hair was a sultry drape across one eye, and flowed, stark white, around her face.
“Hello there,” she purred.
Rakhanar slammed his hammer down at the wrong angle, sending sparks careening dangerously and a shiver of pain up his arm. He grimaced, grunted, and dropped the hammer and tongs, steadying himself as red sparked across his eyes and then straightening to look at her.
“Ah… uh, hello.” Brilliant opening line. “You need help? I haven’t seen you here before.”
“I just joined the guild today. I’ve hardly met anyone, yet.” She pouted. “I’m lonely.” Her gaze dropped slowly, and though her eyes were hidden under long white lashes and partially concealed by the hair that fell to her shoulders, he could see her appraising him. A coy smile tugged at a corner of her full, bow-shaped lips.
Rakhanar raised a brow. That’s rather straightforward. He gave a soft snort of surprise. I’ve been lonely myself. Somehow I don’t think that approach would work with me.
“I am Rakhanar.” With a polite bow, watching her eyes, he added, “Now you know one more person here, at least.”
Her smile widened. “Not nearly well enough. I am Anyah. Where are you from, Rakhanar?”
“I have a place in Kelethin.”
“Kelethin? Really?” She smirked, a brow up. “I can’t say I’ve ever been there. I’m from Neriak.”
“Hmm. Never been to Neriak, either.” In fact, he didn’t really have a clear idea where it was. He’d only heard the name of the city once, as a child. It had stuck in his head because he overheard his father say that he thought Rakhanar belonged there. If he’d ever hurt one of the fae in a rage, he would have sent him there.
“Can you show me around Kelethin? A big, strong man like you could protect me there, don’t you think?”
He tilted his head. Protect her there? Why would she need to be protected in Kelethin? The thought barely crossed his mind before he dismissed it, grateful to find a female who was kind to him and apparently willing to be his friend. Maybe, in time, more than a friend? He shrugged.
“Of course. It’s not exactly dangerous. Except for the orcs, but we manage to keep them at bay. They’re constantly trying to burn down Tunare’s Sapling, though.”
“Ooooh, orcs! Nasty creatures!” She shivered and hugged herself, pushing her breasts up, drawing his gaze down. Suddenly the cleft between them became fascinating. He stared a second too long, pulled his gaze back to her face, but not before she noticed. He felt heat rise to his face, but she didn’t seem perturbed. She just turned her head and offered a sidelong glance, mysterious under her white veil of hair and long, shadowed lashes.
He narrowed his eyes for an instant, studying her. Something about her made him feel on edge. She wore silver bracers that ran the length of her forearms, but her dress was a satiny, form-hugging short shift that was definitely made to show off her curves. He shook off the nagging uneasiness, assuming he was just having a bout of shyness with this assertive and friendly female.
“No need to fear, they’ll never get up on the platforms,” he assured her. He studied her for a moment, thinking. Touring Kelethin. I need to change, to conceal my face… armor or robe? Considering her desire for protection, unwarranted as it might be, he glanced over the counter to find the new armor crate waiting for him. Vaulting over, he snagged a crowbar from the shelves underneath, cracked open the crate and pulled out the armor, setting each piece out on the counter. This armor was black, shining dully, larger and heavier. He liked the look of it.
Rakhanar bit his lip, pondering. There was no separate dressing room in the hall. So does that mean…? He had never been allowed to go skyclad with the fae, though he knew they had no taboo against it among themselves, and he also knew why that had not applied to him, now. But now he was among humans and elves, so that should mean he was no longer under any such restriction. Making a quick decision rather than display ignorance by asking what would undoubtedly be considered a stupid question, he pulled his vest over his head, kicked off his soft leather boots, tugged at the lacing on his pants, and stripped them down. When he looked up, Anyah was staring at him, but she did not seem offended in the least. She actually seemed … slyly appreciative?
So, that answers that question. If I’d been wrong, she’d be looking away and blushing, right? He shot a slanted smile toward her and stepped into the soft sweatpants he wore under his armor. In minutes, he was geared up. The new weight of the black armor was noticeable but comfortable, making his old, wrecked armor seem light. He vaulted back over the counter easily.
He hesitated, then offered Anyah his arm, smiling down at her. She slid a hand around his elbow and gazed up at him with her eyes half-closed, a smile on her lips that had a trace of satisfaction in it. He headed back to the entrance hall to the magic globe across it, tapped the gem on the helm to make it visible, hiding everything but his eyes, and willed them into Kelethin.
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Wizard of Wildfire & Shadow Walker Wordsmith ((a/k/a The Real Me ))