Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 7.8.
Imoen and Viconia rejoin us soon afterwards, I notice the warmth and appreciation in Viconia’s eyes as she looks upon my sister and I fully understand why… I don’t think Immy has ever looked as beautiful as now, standing in front of us – her silky, black hair that she has allowed to grow long, encircle her face and the contrast with her green eyes and equally green chainmail, is positively enchanting.
“Well? How do I look?” she grins at us, knowing full well what the answer will be, but obviously wanting to hear it just in case.
“Umm… you look like one of those beautiful princesses from the slobbery romance novels that you seemed to be so fond of,” I chuckle.
“Aw, thanks brother dear,” she sticks out her tongue, “you can be such a charmer at times, no wonder Jaheira loves you so…”
“Ah, stop that, Imoen,” Jaheira cuts in, “we decided to make stop here for awhile and have a brief rest. Looking through the trees I noticed a small meadow nearby, so I suggest we head over there… well, after Edwin has stopped this gazing and drooling, that is…”
“Eh? You said something? Yes, I agree, a fireball in the face would do the job adequately, followed by a pair of horrid wiltings on top of that… for good measure,” Edwin mutters, still quite oblivious of what is going on, but Viconia pushes him roughly on the backside, getting quite annoyed with his staring at Imoen.
“Resting now, means that we will have to continue on through the darkness of the night,” Jaheira says to me as we step into the small meadow and choose the most comfortable spots underneath the large trees, protected by the shadows.
“Well, nothing much we can do about it,” I reply, “resting is necessary, I doubt that we will find a more suitable place than this, once back in the city.”
Our mages make an effort to get at least some sleep in order to regain their spells, Jaheira and Viconia are busy as well, praying to their gods, which leaves Keldorn and me with nothing better to do than just doze sleepily – even though Jaheira tried to assure me that the place is absolutely safe and there is no need to stay up in guard duty, I am not convinced.
“Get some sleep, Keldorn, I will stay up,” I tell the paladin, “If safety is your concern, that is…”
“I am unsure if I could sleep even if I tried,” Keldorn sighs, “this full plate is really not suited for that… best I can hope is that my body recovers from simple idleness. And there is much for me to think of, as well.”
“Having second thoughts?” I ask.
“It is a common mistake to believe that a paladin never has any doubts,” he smiles, “of course I am, I am always doubting myself… perhaps, that is why I still live, while many of my fellows lay dead.”
“Let me guess… of course you’re thinking of your wife and daughters,” I say, “at times I thought about trying to talk you out of coming with us, but it was your decision.”
“And I do not regret it,” Keldorn replies proudly, “now that I have seen the terrible havoc the madman has wrought in this place, I feel that standing aside would have been cowardice. Why don’t you get some sleep, lad, I’ll be up in any case…”
I do not reply, but only send a quick glance to where Jaheira sits cross-legged, deep in meditation and Keldorn laughs quietly and winks to me.
“I would suggest that you concentrate on getting some rest, rather than more exhaustion,” he says, making me blush.
“Really, Sir Paladin… I did not expect something like that coming from your mouth,” I laugh, but Keldorn does not reply and just grins before leaning back against the tree and closing his eyes. I follow his example and close my eyes as well…
I am unsure whether I have actually managed to fall asleep or have been just snoozing, but I am awoken when something tender touches my arm… something warm, it feels just like a bare… foot. I open my eyes to see Jaheira, standing over me, wearing nothing more than her plain, green tunic and in a position that reveals quite a lot of what is… under her tunic…
“Come,” she says simply, stepping away from me and slipping off through the trees, “and take off your boots and leggings… you will not need those.”
I take off my clothes very quickly, remaining only in my tunic and as I do so, I look at where Keldorn is sitting… he pretends to be asleep, but the very silly grin that is plastered on his face, gives him away. I rise and run off into the forest to catch up with Jaheira, who is waiting for me, leaning against the tree. She takes my hand and leads me further away from the camp.
“Worry not; we will be safe here,” she says gently, “I want to show you something… I heard water purling nearby. There must be a brook here.”
The forest path leads us down into a shallow glen and we discover the brook flowing through it, its waters crystal clear and runway cowered with small, smooth pebbles. There is an absolute and peaceful silence, except for the quiet rippling of the water and rustling of the leaves high above our heads. I realize how cool it is down in the glen, the rays of sun not reaching us here. Jaheira releases my arm and walks towards the brook and jumps into it in one fluid motion, without even checking the water before that. The water barely reaches up to her knees as I see her eyeing me invitingly.
“Join me,” she says in a voice that once again denies me of any chance to disobey. I follow her example and step into the water, only to let out a quiet scream of surprise.
“Ouch! It is so… cold!” I groan, “you and your blasted druid tricks, I should have known better that you can endure it much better than I,” I try to get out of the water as soon as possible, but Jaheira wraps her hands around me and prevents me from escaping.
“You will get used to it,” she laughs, “you need a practice… what kind of a woodsman are you, if you are afraid by a bit of a cold water? And it will refresh you as good as many hours of sleep…”
“Jaheira… please, I can’t feel my legs, they are cramping,” I plead her, but she does not give in.
“No, you are not getting anywhere,” she grins, “but I can warm you… if you wish…” with these words, she draws me even closer to kiss me fiercely and I must confess that it helps greatly to forget the cold, stinging my feet… She releases me only a few, very pleasant moments afterwards and drags me out of the brook, as I am unable to walk myself… she helps me to get seated in the deep grass and cuddles at my side as I continue to rub my legs, trying to get the blood to start circulate faster.
“Is that your way of telling me who is the boss in our relationship?” I wink at her playfully, but she does not respond, looking unusually dreamy and unfocused for someone like her.
“It will be over in a matter of hours…” she speaks suddenly, her tone now deadly serious, “one way or another.”
“Yesterday you did not even consider the possibility that there could be any other way than killing Irenicus and reclaiming my soul,” I reply, continuing to massage my feet.
“I said it, trying to strengthen your resolve and giving you the courage,” she says, “but now that we are so close, I think there is no need to pretend. The danger is grave, Theodur… we both know it. With the power of your tainted soul… if he has mastered the power, then… I shudder to think what awaits us…”
“And yet there is no way to avoid facing it, is there? I mean… I must face it,” I speak, but she interrupts me.
“Do not even dare to suggest something like that. I would never leave your side, even if you told me to go away or would push me away with force,” she says, her eyes growing pensive, “I do not fear death as such. But that does not mean that I would… I don’t want to die, Theodur. I do not want to.”
“You will not die, Jaheira… we will both live through this, I’ll see to that,” I hold her close and she clings to my chest, succumbing to the momentarily weakness.
“Do not make promises, that you cannot be sure to keep, beloved,” she says quietly, “so close to our goal, we can allow ourselves to be honest with each other… I fear for my life, but I fear more for yours. I know not if I could go on, if you were to be taken from me.”
“Jaheira… I would not want to live on without you either,” I cannot stop the odd tear escaping my eyes, as the horrible thought materializes in my mind.
“It is strange… in moments like these, I cannot help but to think of all those things I wanted to have in my life…” she sighs, “home, family… children. We are both so young…”
“I want you to have it all, Jaheira… and I hope I can make your wishes come true,” I whisper in her ear, “I can offer you only one thing as encouragement…”
“And what would that be?” she asks.
“All those things you mentioned… despite the dangers, we have never been so close to gaining them…” I say, squeezing her tightly.
“You are right. You know… you are absolutely right. I… I must thank you… that helps a great deal…” she kisses me softly, “I am… I am pleasantly surprised that you managed to find the words and set my mind more at ease… I thought it was my job to do.”
“You have been doing it since I knew you, Jaheira,” I laugh, before kissing her again, “it’s about time for me to start paying that credit back to you…”
“Well, I am thankful, regardless…” she smiles mischievously, “and since I am in a much better mood now…”
“Do you think we should?” I ask her, my sense of reason trying to fight the excitement, “I would not wish to make you more… um, tired, before the fight…”
“A sweet concern… but has that ever stopped you before?” she grins, before removing her tunic… and then… well, after that, there is no way to decline…
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 7.8.
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