I was in my room again. In such a short time it had transformed into something that felt like mine. Truthfully, we hadn’t taken Dresen from the demons (the first time) so long ago. But it still felt like mine.
The illusions Avashniel had put on the room were gone. I never thought they’d stay forever, but I missed them. The room had been torn apart when the demons took Dresen again. All my things, my few items and pieces of clothing that hadn’t been useful or important enough to to take with me to the Abyss or Baphomet’s realm, had been tossed or torn apart. My journals weren’t here, as I filled them I had given them to Avashniel for safe-keeping. Avashniel likely read them as soon as I gave them to him, and I was fine with that. He didn’t have anything after we left for the Abyss the first time. I’m not sure I’d ever give him that journal. In truth, there are a lot of things that are fuzzy about the Abyss, as if that place itself didn’t want me to remember it. Perhaps it’s good that I wrote some while I was there, perhaps it’ll help with the memories. Or perhaps things were so bad there that my own mind is trying to erase them.
In any case, there wasn’t anything that wasn’t destroyed in my room, besides the furniture. I sat on the bed and just stared, trying to remember where the Avashniel’s illusions should be. I was exhausted, beyond any normal extension of that word. I was covered in blood, most of it, mine. My body was whole now, not a scar to be found, but I would be feeling the horrible echos of the wounds that had almost brought me beyond death for a long time. It felt right though. My body had been reborn just so I could win this Crusade, and perhaps it would last that long. The demon blood made me feel invincible, but somehow I knew it was killing me, changing me. Aaron told me to keep taking it for now. Something was missing now though, the allure of it is gone. Maybe the reason I was taking it at all. That was certainly something I was missing. Maybe I was just being dramatic because I was just so damn tired.
I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t torn or ruined to change into. I carefully took off my armor and laid it down amongst the remnants of what used to be my personal belongings and then I left the room in search of something to wear. The only place I could think to go was to Melisande’s room.
Melisande. She left me a ring and the enchanted banner…so she wasn’t really betraying us was she? The thought of her actually being a betrayer opened a wound in my heart that I didn’t want to explore. Deep down, I knew she cared about me. As I reached the statue of Iomedae I found that it had been vandalized but the portal to Melisande’s room either hadn’t been found, or from the splatter of blood coating the area, perhaps it had been found and something had reacted badly to its discovery.
She had made it pretty clear that she wasn’t coming back, so I didn’t think she’d mind if I borrowed some of her things. I stripped down out of my bloody and ruined clothes and slowly filled the tub that she kept as part of the wealthy interior of her room. I slipped into the tub of lukewarm water and immediately the water turned a light shade of pink. I borrowed an item that I thought looked like soap and started rubbing my perfectly healed skin of all the blood that had so recently spilled out of my body. The encounter with that…machine… had been the closest to death I’d been since Kenebras. I could feel the only things keeping me together was the heated rage of the demonblood and the green power of the Wardstones. I should have died. Living through something that should have killed you…well, it makes me glad that I have reasons to live. At least until the Worldwound is closed, my body must stay together.
I stepped out of the tub, the water having had turned a garish shade of red, and subsequently being no use for cleaning me any more. I grabbed one of Melisande’s fluffy, over sized towels and walked to her closet. While I looked through her things, I brushed my golden hair with a jewel-encrusted brush that Melisande had tossed on a table. My hair shined like the rays of the sun on water. It reminded me of the days that I used to play Sarenrae in the summer solstice festivals. Goddess, that feels like a long time ago.
I knew there wasn’t likely to be anything inside her closet that I’d wear in public, but I was really only looking for something to sleep in. I knew she had to have used magic to keep some of these garments covering her unmentionables, because there was no way they’d behave on their own. I selected a silky red (everything Melisande owned was red) dress that had to have only reached just the underside of her butt. Luckily I’m a few inches shorter than Melisande, so it was a trifle longer on me. I looked at myself in the mirror (there were quite a lot of full-length mirrors in Melisande’s room) and frowned. I’m not used to wearing red. The golden hair and the short red dress produced a reflection that I didn’t altogether recognize. It had been a long time since I looked at myself closely in a mirror. I had changed. Gone was any softness in my cheeks, or any roundness in my face. My body had suffered a similar shrinking. Lack of appetite combined with nerves and exertion had done that. I looked small and powerless without my armor and weapons. The eyes were the real thing that was wrong. My eyes, once blue, had fully turned a shade of gold. And just as Aaron said, the gold had flecks of black. I believed the gold was just the 20-year disguise finally failing entirely. But the black flecks had to be what he had described as an effect of the demonblood. I sighed. I pulled off the red dress and tossed it to the ground. I hated red, it reminded me of blood.
It was while I was standing there that I heard his voice in my mind, “Um. I don’t think there will ever be a better time to do this. So will you please meet me in my tower?” I had closed my eyes while his voice had come through. Upon opening them I saw a completely different woman in the mirror. I was wrong – the eyes weren’t the most wrong thing from my reflection before. It was the smile, I had been missing my smile. I looked at myself smiling after Avashniel’s message and I let the warm feeling of love fill my chest. It was dangerous to do – more dangerous than demonblood. But just this once I let myself feel it freely.
I grabbed the nearest coat I could find, threw it over my naked body, bound it around my waist, and ran barefoot to Avashniel’s tower. Upon reflection, perhaps I should have thought a little more about the contents of the message and not just the identity of the sender. I had thought Avashniel had left for Iz already though, so knowing that he was still around and also wanting to see me, filled me with a reserved joy. I knew that likely he didn’t have anything joyful to say. He likely wanted to talk about preparations.
So, saying that I was surprised when I arrived at his room in the tower is clearly…well, a continental understatement. The room, which normally held JUST Avashniel, and if anyone else was inside Avashniel was quietly trying to get them to leave, now held all of my friends. Everyone that I had met since my arrival in Kenebras was in this room, and they were all smiling at me.
It was at about that moment that I realized that Melisande doesn’t own any coats, and the garment that I had mistaken for one was at best a robe, and at worst…perhaps a teaser for a nightie. I quickly crossed my arms over my chest and turned the darkest shade of red that my golden skin was capable of turning.
Avashniel approached me, coughed a little nervous cough, and whispered a few words. The words quickly drew a beautiful, simple white dress around my body. It had a simple pattern of doves and Sarenrae symbols on its hem. I could only feel the “robe” still gracing my body, but I saw the dress and knew he had cast a beautiful illusion on me. He whispered again, but this time to me, “We can get it made later, if you want.”
With my dignity covered, I finally looked past the people to the room itself. The whole room was full of illusions. It looked like the interior of a farmhouse, there were windows that had views of farm fields. There was a sun beaming down from the window that was probably the only thing in the room that wasn’t an illusion. It looked mechanical and put off heat as well as sunlight. I looked at Aaron and knew from his grin that it was his handiwork.
I still didn’t understand why I was here. The farmhouse illusion – it looked like Avashniel had tried to show me my parent’s home just from descriptions in my journal. But why would he do that? And why was everyone collected here? It didn’t look like a council meeting.
Avashniel guided me to where Sociel was standing, in the front of the group. He talked softly to me, and I could barely hear him over the beating of my own heart. Something about this situation had triggered my nerves but I still had no idea what was going on.
He spoke, so so softly, “You don’t have to do this. I tried to…I know it’s not a Sarenrae ceremony, but I just thought Sociel would be…” And then Calder’s voice interrupted my ability to listen, he sounded serious and concerned and spoke in my mind and asked, “Are you getting married right now?”
I know my eyes went wide in surprise over this revelation and Avashniel reacted as if I had slapped him. He spoke again, softly, “Like I said, you don’t have to, but since…you said what you said…” I started to smile again, a smile that would remain permanently in my heart.
He held my hands in front of Sociel and everyone else. His gestures and words had robbed me of my ability to speak. All of a sudden I was allowed to love him. My heart was allowed to feel the bloom of heat whenever I heard him speak. Goddess, praise… I was allowed to touch him! He had taken MY hands! Prior to this he would have flinched or pulled away like I were made of molten lava or some delicate ceramic too fragile to touch. The thought of having permission to express how I felt to him made me tremble with joy.
Of course he only felt my hands shake and my lack of words so he looked at me again with concern. I just squeezed his hands and continued to smile.
His vows were beautiful. I didn’t know such feeling existed within him. The depth of his soul was far greater than I could have guessed and I had a long lifetime ahead of me with him to explore it. In front of Sociel and all the people who were important to me he vowed to encourage compassion, and nurture dreams, help shoulder challenges and be a partner in all things. He vowed to have patience, and to speak, and to share in silence. And overall, he vowed to trust and love me.
Tears of elation flowed freely down my cheeks. I wanted to say something to him but I was so overwhelmed with his beautiful words that I couldn’t think of anything but how much I loved him. I’m sure he could see the distress in my eyes, and he quickly apologized for not allowing me the time to write anything.
Sociel spoke about the beauty of finding something so pure in such a difficult time. I thought about all the things that Avashniel didn’t know about me. He didn’t know I was addicted to demonblood. He didn’t know that the Storm King was my father. He didn’t know how closely I had served Sarenrae in my previous life. I briefly thought about stopping the ceremony so I could tell him everything before he made his decision. Perhaps I should have, but I also thought if there are three things that he didn’t know about me, there was likely to be a hundred times that that I didn’t know about him. And what could he possibly say that would change the decision of my heart? There was nothing he could say. If he had decided to marry me, I didn’t think anything would change his immutable mind either.
The ceremony was quick, but I’m not sure I could have handled more. I knew for certain that saying all those things in front of everyone was difficult for him too. Everyone said their congratulations and left, smiling and teary-eyed.
When were were finally, and truly alone together for the first time, I still felt it very difficult to speak. I wanted to ask him, why? Why now? He had said that no better time could be had, and what did he mean by that? I didn’t speak my question because the answer I had already found in my own mind was too difficult to accept now. He thought one of us, or both of us, was likely to die in the coming days. If he didn’t, why would he rush to do the ceremony now? Perhaps he didn’t want the wedding to be tainted by loss, even if we both lived it was unlikely that everyone who attended the ceremony would. Perhaps he was right, perhaps there was no better time. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want him to think about it either, and I didn’t want our first moments alone, as partners and equals, to be discussing the inevitable.
I looked at him, and he at me, and there was silence. The silence was sweet and refreshing in the illusion of the farmhouse. I could almost hear the wind rustling the corn stalks through the window. I wish I knew what he was thinking in those first moments.
I knew the first night of a normal couple would be filled with passion. I wasn’t expecting that from him nor would I push it. Perhaps the silence wasn’t so refreshing for him, because he looked at me with uncertainty. Finally, it was he who broke the quiet by saying gently, “Preparations have to be made still, there’s still much to do.”
I didn’t expect anything more from him but I wanted it. After our first wedding, I learned not to expect anything from him at all. But, I wanted just to be with him, by his side. The thought of him leaving was disappointing, but predictable. I whispered hopefully, “You need to sleep sometimes, don’t you? Just stay the night.” Even just laying next to him, just for one night, would be enough to fill me with enough joy to carry me through the coming days.
He shook his head no, “I find it difficult to sleep, the voices come worse when I sleep.”
I frowned softly, but was glad he told me the truth, I spoke again, “Perhaps just stay a little while then, just stay with me?”
He was quiet for long moments. If I had to guess, I would think he was fighting against his own nature, his natural reaction to stay away from emotion. When Avashniel makes a decision, he doesn’t quickly or easily change his mind though. And today, he made the decision that he was going to allow himself to love me. Again, it is only a guess, but I saw the argument with himself in his eyes. After those long moments he spoke with surety, “Yes, I think I shall.”
The truth is, I never expected him to say yes.
I decided to push my luck and a nervous warmth started forming in my belly, I spoke with considerably less confidence than he did, “Kiss me?”
He stepped the small step that had separated us until that moment, and said again, “Yes, I think I shall.” He tipped my chin up with a sure movement of his right hand, and laid his left on my cheek. He brought his lips, which until this moment had been given to me only twice, and placed them gently upon mine. But this time, to my infinite surprise, after the first moment passed he was still kissing me.
My mind panicked but my body didn’t. I brought my hands to his neck and then moved them slowly to his jawline. He stiffened and paused for a brief second but then allowed my exploring hands. His skin felt soft and young, much younger than I knew he was. My fingertips could feel the growing heat in his neck and cheeks. His body was betraying him now; there would be no lying about how he felt.
My body was similarly betraying me. His hands had left my face, and only his soft lips were touching me now. My heart was throbbing, more quickly than I had ever felt. I thought he would push me away at any second. But he didn’t. We kissed until we were both out of breath.
When the kiss ended I looked at him, again robbed of my ability to speak. I wanted to kiss him again, put my arms around him, and press my body against him. Images of what I wanted flooded my mind; things that I never thoughts were going to happen, suddenly were possible.
He was similarly quiet, but his eyes looks searchingly into mine, as if he desperately wanted to know what I was thinking. He brought his hand back to my cheek and then ran his fingers through the shine of my golden hair. I could tell that he was controlling his breath, making sure that it was measured and hiding whatever he was feeling. He was the first to speak, “I never understood how I caught the eye of one so beautiful. I never wanted to….I haven’t felt this way in a hundred years.” He touched my cheek again with a rare smile.
It was then I think we both first realized that sometime during the kissing, our bodies had become pressed together. I flushed fully red, knowing that the only thing separating my naked skin from his body was an illusion and a very thin, almost translucent robe. I looked down and saw that the illusion of a wedding dress was still maintaining my modesty, though I wasn’t altogether sure that he couldn’t just see through it since he was the one who created the illusion in the first place.
We both took a step back from each other, having both just realized the closeness. Then we both had a look of confusion on our faces, and we laughed together. Talking wasn’t necessary between us. I had spent so long trying to figure out how he was feeling, and he had spent so long watching me, that we both could predict what the other was thinking.
I smiled, “You can touch me.” I paused, and then softly added, “I want you to.” My heart kept up its furious throbbing, but I knew he wouldn’t do anything without my provocation. “Take away the dress.”
It was his turn to flush red and mumble. The beautiful white dress that he had conjured slowly peeled itself away from my body. He was undressing me, in his own arcane way. I was left in the opaque silken robe that I had taken from Melisande’s room. It was still belted around the middle, but the folds of fabric covering my chest was deeply cut, and left very little barrier to my breasts.
His voice took on a deep huskiness that I hadn’t heard before, “This is what you want?”
I smiled and closed one step of the gap between us. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t touch him first, I wouldn’t make this decision be wholly mine. If I had made vows, I would have vowed to give him time to make his choices, whenever possible. I wanted him to touch me, and I wanted to touch him, but I wouldn’t be happy with pressing him further than he wanted.
I responded to his question with a little tremble in my voice, “No, what I want is to spend my life loving you. I want you to keep your secrets until you’re ready to tell me. I want to be your partner in all things. I want to discover all the secrets of the world with you. But this…this seems to be what we have time for now.”
I looked at him as I finished my little speech. He still looked so full of trepidation. But I stood my ground, I wouldn’t come to him, I would let him make the decision.
I didn’t feel embarrassed, nearly nude in front of him. Sarenrae taught that nothing good should fear the Light. Well, that was a lie, I was a little embarrassed, but only in that I wished he was touching me and not just staring.
I couldn’t possibly begin to imagine what he was thinking in those long moments before he closed the distance between my body and his. His lips reached for mine again but this time his arms closed around my body as well. I was very aware of his closeness, and what this decision meant for this night. Heat started to collect in my belly and a flush of fire started to burn around my neck.
I didn’t wait for a lack of air to break the kiss this time. I reluctantly removed my lips from his to place small, gentle kisses along his neck. For my effort I was rewarded with the softest moan from Avashniel’s lips, it was so quiet I was sure he had not meant for me to hear it. His hands travelled from my neck and into my hair before lowering to my shoulders and back. The heat grew between my legs as he touched me, in anticipation of his continued exploration.
He guided me toward the kitchen table in this illusion of a farmhouse, it must have actually been his desk, or maybe his bed. My back was toward to the table and he had pinned me there. His hands explored no more than my shoulders, neck, and lower back, all other areas seemingly off-limits for his comfort.
I didn’t make reigning in his passion easy for him. I continued kissing him, switching from his lips to his sensitive neck and collarbone. As for my hands, I didn’t really know what to do with them. I knew what I wanted to do with them, but I was afraid to startle and interrupt him.
In a moment of pause, he looked at my eyes. His looked concerned but his body language seemed hungry to continue. I must have looked just the opposite, my eyes must have looked hungry for his touch, while I didn’t quite know what to do with my body. Making sure to pick up on any cues he was trying to give me, I slowly ran my fingertips underneath the deeply cut fabric of the neckline on the robe. With very little effort I could move the fabric away and display my bare breasts to him. He watched me, but I had a difficult time telling what he wanted. I moved slowly, torturously slowly, giving him time to stop me if he wanted to. He didn’t stop me.
The fabric dropped from around my shoulders, and pooled around the belt around my waist. I quickly undid the belt and the fabric which had hidden my nakedness from him was suddenly gone.
He didn’t immediately come to me. He whispered, something that sounded like a poem, to himself, “…thy eternal summer shall not fade / Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st / Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade…” and he barely got the words out, and then he kissed me, hard. I didn’t expect the strength of his ardor and was shoved, sitting, onto the table.
I was already learning things about him that I never expected. There was poetry and passion in his heart. He felt these things behind those walls he had put up for himself. I was elated that he finally took them down for me. His hands started to travel, touching my neck and my shoulders. He rubbed my arms and continued to kiss me. My naked body pressed against his clothed one. His hands still didn’t explore the whole of my nudity.
I wanted to touch him, badly. His robes, though more form-fitting and tailored due to the wedding, were frustratingly difficult to feel through. I ran my hands down his chest, feeling the delicate elven embroidery and feeling none of his warm skin. Every time I moved my hands to a new place on his body the kissing paused for the briefest of moments. And every time he paused I thought it was all going to be over, that I had crossed the line, and he was going to stop. But he didn’t. He just kept kissing me, his measured breathing long gone, until finally, he did stop.
He pulled away, and looked around the room. He started changing things fervently. The rafters changed to a beautiful, clear night sky. The walls transformed into the most enchanting trees and plants that I had ever seen. The trees seemed to glow with life. Flowers bigger than my hands bloomed where the farmhouse kitchen was and they were shades of blue and purple that I had never seen before. His final stroke of artistry was the addition of hovering, winking lights that could have been fairies if I didn’t know that such things weren’t real. They threw shadows and light and filled the space with an impossible romance. I could only imagine that this was Kyonin at night.
He came and took my hands and brought me to a soft, green portion of forest. He looked at me in my eyes, a look that made my heart pound and my whole body flush. He guided me to a laying position, and whispered, “My beautiful little dove, are you sure?” I cupped his cheek and brought him in for a kiss that left my answer unquestionable.
He finally gazed at the whole of my body. He leaned over me, kissed my lips and neck softly and then turned to watch as he hovered one hand and ran in over all of my curves. His hand was tantalizing, so close, yet not touching, as if some sort of force prevented him from allowing him contact with my skin. It was excruciatingly difficult to keep the promise I made to myself, to not sway him or force him in any way. I wanted all of his choices to be his. But Goddess, I wanted him to touch me.
I’m not really sure how long he did this. It could have only been a minute or two. His hand quivered as he studied me. I could feel that this was difficult for him, and I wish I knew why, but I also knew that if I did the wrong thing I could potentially lose this forever. He needed this moment, and I gave it to him.
I’m glad I waited. Something happened, some thought was confirmed in his mind after he finished this act, and finally that teasing, hovering hand came down gently on the soft skin of my hip. From that moment on, there wasn’t anything I could do to stop the night’s progression, even if I had wanted to. He quickly undid the buttons holding on his own robes, and suddenly I was looking at his naked chest too. It didn’t take me nearly as long to bring my hands to his warm skin. He kissed my neck and shoulder, and his hands…his hands ran up and down my sides, across my belly, and he even cupped my breasts. It may have been ages since he had been with a woman, but I could tell that he hadn’t forgotten how.
The night was a blur after this point. As soon as I felt his weight on top of me, I felt my body responding of its own accord. I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t need to. He ran his hands down my legs and parted them. I was ready for him, and he knew it. He teased me, he quickly learned a few secret spots on my neck and breasts that he could touch and kiss, and it would make me moan involuntarily. I had never felt so wonderful in my life. I similarly learned that kissing and nibbling his neck made him groan. After so much pain in both of our lives we found peace and pleasure together that night, in each other’s arms.