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Disjecta Membra

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  1. Disjecta Membra

    The Escape

    No changes to the story, most of that was just corrections to typos I noticed while rereading through everything! Nothing that would have made an impact to what you’ve read so far, though.
  2. Disjecta Membra

    Solace

    They both definitely got hurt, but in very different ways. It certainly could have been avoided if Danny had been honest from the get-go, but there is still the question of how Jason would have reacted in that situation. He may not have taken it as hard as he did in the story, but at the same time, it's possible that he would still drift away from Danny as a result.
  3. Disjecta Membra

    The Escape

    Broadswords Chapter Thirty-Four The Escape Breaking out of his restraints wasn't as hard as he'd expected it to be. Thanks to Deke's consistent desire to show Birten all of the artifacts he'd gathered on his travels, it was just a matter of sneaking the right item off the stone slab and into the waistband of his pants. On that given occasion, Deke had a countless number of items displayed before them. He went over each one with pride, explaining where he'd gotten it, what he had to do to take possession of it, and what it did. Birten's ears perked up when Deke explained that the slender, metallic object was like a skeleton key of lockpicks. He'd acquired it when he was on Elau Island in the continent of Lodessia. He'd bartered with an old thief who wasn't initially willing to give it up. However, Deke used his sweet talk to convince the thief that a bag of mermaid scales was far more valuable. In reality, Deke admitted to Birten, the scales were almost useless based on the amount of time it had been since they'd been removed from their host. What mermaid scales could be used for, Birten didn't know. And he didn't care. He'd begun to tune Deke out once he'd learned that the lockpick was almost guaranteed to open any lock, regardless of how complicated it was or how novice the user. As Deke droned on about the rest of his treasures, Birten waited for the right moment to snag the lockpick. And when Deke bent over to pick up an item he'd accidentally knocked over, Birten had his chance. He swiftly stuck the item into his trousers and Deke was none the wiser. Thankfully, due to the number of things on the slab, Deke didn't seem to realize that anything was missing. Birten was nervous, considering how attached Deke was to everything he possessed. But as luck would have it, he got away with it. Eventually Deke left, as he always did. He strapped Birten back into his cuffs before he exited the room. Now Birten just had to wait for Rea's arrival. She usually spent a few hours with him. He wasn't sure, but he felt like she remained there for a while after he drifted to sleep. His mind had been foggy for most of his time in Oestra, and he couldn't help but feel that she might have something to do with it. On this visit, Rea spoke to him in Tarragonian. He surprised himself by responding in the tongue. He didn't realize he'd known how to speak it. Wait, no. Of course he did. He was bilingual. He had lived on Tarragonia his entire life. She spoke to him about a kingdom on a different continent in which an enemy prince was plotting an upheaval of the reigning king. The words flowed from his lips effortlessly as he asked why it was any concern to them, being from Tarragonia. She explained that Jhirdyr, as the kingdom was called, was one of the strongest across all the continents. It would just be a matter of time before the evil prince begun attacking the other kingdoms, she had said. And considering that Tarragonia had three kingdoms, second only to Centralis where Jhirdyr lie, the continent might easily be one of the prince's first targets. They discussed the matter for a little longer, and Birten felt like it was his duty to try to assist in ensuring his native land was protected against the plot in place from Jhirdyr's prince. He was glad he'd gotten hold of the lockpick. Initially he had planned on using it simply to escape, but it was evident that his escape was more important as a means of finding his way to Jhirdyr. He kept that fact from Rea, of course. And as always, their discussion ended with Rea talking him into falling asleep. It had become easier over the past few days to fall asleep while restrained. It was mere seconds before he blinked himself out of awareness. He didn't know how long he'd been asleep, but he was awoken by the sharp click that emitted from the latch of the door closing. He remained silent in the darkness, giving it time to ensure that nobody was nearby. He waited for a few hours, for good measure. Finally, he felt that enough time had passed to begin launching his escape. It was very complicated, but he managed to shift his body enough to feel the end of the lockpick with his fingers. He fidgeted until he was able to firmly grip it in his hand and slide it out of his pants. More complicated still was maneuvering his wrist to get the pick to a point of finding the keyhole. That's when it became easy. Deke hadn't been exaggerating; the cuff fell open with not much effort at all. Once the first one was off, the rest was simpler yet. When he was free from the table, he stuck the lockpick into his pocket. It would undoubtedly come in handy later. He tiptoed to the door and placed his ear against it for several moments to make sure there was no sounds coming from the other side. Once satisfied, he removed the lockpick once more and placed it into the hole beneath the door handle. The mechanism inside clicked almost immediately. He pulled the door open slowly, careful not to cause any unwelcomed creaking. He stopped again to listen now that he had a clearer exposure to whatever sounds could be coming from outside. Satisfied, he slunk out the door and closed it quietly behind him. If anyone did happen to come by, he didn't want the open door to alert them to his escape any earlier than need be. Now was the complicated part. He had no idea where he was. From the hallway, it appeared to be a cellar or other underground structure. It could be underneath anything: a home, a castle, or even just underneath the ground in general. He had to be careful. He navigated the corridor with hesitation and as much deftness as he could. Before long, he located a staircase with a door at the top. He climbed up carefully, and as he had done with the door in his cell, listened intently before feeling confident enough to pick the lock. The staircase emerged into an ornate dining room. Based on his surroundings, he surmised that it was indeed a home. No candles were lit, so he felt safe entering the room. Thankfully, the adjacent room was a foyer with a large door that clearly was the exit. He was able to get through and out of the house without issue. And finally, he was free. It wasn't hard for Birten to locate the main road out of Oestra. Most of the roads were gravel, but there was one that had actually been paved. Not only did it point Birten in the right direction, but it also granted him a more inconspicuous departure. The last thing he needed was the crunch of the rocks beneath his feet to alert someone to his whereabouts. Once he was about an hour outside of the city, he began to let his guard down. He was still cautious, but he allowed himself to move with more speed. After another hour or so, he came to a fork in the road. A rundown sign advised of his options. To the left, the kingdom of Jaffe. To the right, the kingdom of Amullym. And directly forward was Winter's Desert. The pavement continued on either side of him, the directions toward each of the nearby kingdoms. The way forward had no path whatsoever; the road simply ceased. He weighed each option. It would be easier travel to go toward either kingdom, though he wasn't sure which one was closer. He vaguely remembered Deke referencing Oestra's proximity to Jaffe, but he couldn't be sure how accurate that information was. There would be food and water at either, and depending on the size of the kingdom, a chance to blend into the crowd if someone did decide to come after him. As for the desert, there was no telling what could be in store for him there. At the same time, the choice of the desert route would be just as illogical in the minds of any pursuers. Thus, he made the potentially problematic choice to trek across the unknown. Indeed, it was a strenuous journey. The sand, which was stark white and surely the origin of the desert's titling, was soft. It took much effort to walk through it, and several times Birten found the muscles in his calves and thighs begging for reprieve. The nighttime temperature also dropped quite rapidly, which could have had another part in the naming of the place. Regardless, he pushed himself through. He had someplace to be. The plantlife was sparse. When he did stumble across it, however, he felt as he was being spared. The cool nights created enough moisture in the air to allow small traces of water to accumulate in the thick, fibrous flowers that randomly peppered the twiggy trees. It wasn't much, but it was somehow enough to keep him relatively hydrated. He attempted to eat one of the flowers as well, but it didn't prove as fruitful. Upon first bite, he immediately felt a stinging sensation upon his tongue which soon turned into numbness. He surmised that the flowers were poisonous, or at the very least an irritant. He scrubbed his tongue the best he could against the linen of his tunic, hoping it wouldn't prove fatal. And as time wore on, it was evident that the flower simply caused an unfortunate amount of discomfort. It wasn't until a few days in that he finally stumbled upon a valid source of nourishment. A slow-moving lizard, about the size of his foot. He couldn't be sure why, but he knew what it was. It was called a dracolizard. It was so named because though not actually a dragon, it bore several resemblances. Predominantly the fact that it breathed fire. The amount of flame a dracolizard produced wouldn't have been enough to even catch anything ablaze. However, it was enough to scorch the tongue and throat of the creature. While the rest of the lizard could induce sickness if eaten raw, the tongue and throat were edible without cooking. It was another miracle in Birten's eyes. A way to keep him going strong for a little longer. As a result of its sluggish movements, Birten was able to spear it with the lockpick after only a few tries. It writhed around the pick for a few moments, much to Birten's chagrin. But eventually it stopped moving. And with much effort, he managed to decapitate the creature. The edible parts were far from completely sating him, but it was enough to keep him moving. Over the next fifteen days, he was lucky enough to come across the floral cups of water and dracolizards a reasonable amount of times. The further he got, the more numerous the spoils became. Often the water was only enough to remove the dryness in his mouth, but it was something. The trees were at least becoming close enough to one another that he was able to down a few flowers' worth of water. He wondered if the increased plantlife and the more populous lizards meant he was nearing the edge of the desert. Before long, he saw something in the distance. Initially, he thought it was his eyes playing tricks on him. He assumed being in a desert for an excess of two weeks could to that to a person. His already slender frame had become gaunt, and the solitude was affecting his mental state. Between those factors and whatever other physical conditions he had going against him, he wouldn't have been surprised if it was indeed a mirage. However, as he got closer, he realized that he wasn't losing it after all. There was a small, white-brick structure amidst the sea of sand. When he finally reached it, he located the solitary door that it housed. He considered using the lockpick, if it were even locked, but thought better of it. In the off chance that it was occupied, his unauthorized entry could put an end to him faster than the effects of the desert. With an immense amount of uncertainty, he knocked. Upon hearing shuffling around from within, he realized that he'd made the right decision. Soon, the door opened. Before him stood a short figure, clad in layers of rust-colored fabric from head to toe. He was humanesque, but Birten could clearly see that the man was of a different race. The stubbiness of the ears that protruded from the fabric around his head, the smallness of his eyes, and the overall stature of the figure were all evident to Birten. It was a Tetrad. Tetrads were notorious for being standoffish and it was a rarity that they interacted with humans as a general rule. Birten hoped such would not be the case with the stranger before him. Considering that the Tetrad was not located within the depths of the Tetrad Desert, Birten felt a glimmer of a chance. Most Tetrads did not stray from their native land, and the ones that did typically had a slightly different demeanor than their brethren. With hesitancy, the Tetrad stood back and allowed Birten entrance. The inside of the structure, like the man's own height, was stunted. Birten didn't have to duck, but he did feel cramped. Regardless, he would not complain. The Tetrad offered him a glass of water, which Birten drank thirstily. He breathed heavily afterward, the sufficient amount of water almost shocking his body. He placed the empty glass onto a nearby surface, the Tetrad watching him throughout. Birten knew better than to ask the Tetrad about why he lived on a different continent from his homeland, what had brought him here. As part of their distant character, the race did not discuss things of a personal nature with outsiders. But from what he'd learned from Deke's stories of his travels, Tetrads could be persuaded to bargain for trade. It might be a longshot, but if this Tetrad happened to have a piece of Tetradite, it could be exactly what Birten needed to get to Jhirdyr and to the prince. "Trade?" Birten asked in Tarragonian. The Tetrad's eyes narrowed, somehow, given their already minute appearance. He didn't understand Tarragonian. "Trade?" Birten repeated, this time in the common language. The Tetrad seemed to understand that time. "For?" he asked with a heavy accent. "Do you have… Tetradite?" Birten asked tentatively. The Tetrad laughed suddenly, a low, unsettling sound emerging from his narrow lips. "Rare, Tetradite. Hard trade. Few options will grant trade for Tetradite." Though he hated to part with the lockpick, it was literally his only option. Besides the clothes he was wearing, he had nothing else on his person. With hesitancy, he removed it from his pocket and held it out to the Tetrad. With another unpleasant laugh, the Tetrad motioned to a nearby jar that contained several lockpicks. But Birten could tell that they were standard, run-of-the-mill tools. "This one is more than a regular lockpick. It's got the ability to open even the most complicated lock with ease." "Tetradite can transport anywhere, no need for magic lockpick," the man said, holding his hand up in passiveness. He shook his head slowly. "Any lock!" Birten said desperately. "Tetradite can transport you, but it can't get you out of chains. It can't get you inside of treasure chests." Though he wasn't sure if Tetradite could actually work if the wielder was chained, he saw a noticeable difference in the man at the reference to treasure. The Tetrad moved some things around on a shelf behind him until he emerged with a small, uninteresting box. He plucked one of the lockpicks from his jar and as soon as he stuck it into the lock, it broke. "Had box for many years, no key or lockpick can open. Prove yours works." He handed the box to Birten. "Do you have Tetradite to trade, or not?" Birten asked. He wasn't about to help him if he wasn't going to get anything in return. With an air of annoyance, the Tetrad went back to the shelf and rifled around again. It took longer to find than the box had, but he eventually located a small glass vial which he showed to Birten. "Small sliver. Once broken from gemstone, powers fade. Limited use, maybe only one." Although in the grand scheme of things the lockpick would be much more useful, at that point in time even a one-way trip using the Tetradite was exactly what Birten needed. He sighed, but stuck the pick into the lock. The lid opened easily. The Tetrad's eyes lit up quite noticeably, and he dove forward to see what the contents of the box were. It was clear he'd been waiting a long time for this. Before he managed to snatch it away, though, Birten slammed the lid shut again. "Not until I get the Tetradite. Give me the vial, and I'll give you the pick." The Tetrad was obviously not thrilled about it, but shoved the sliver toward Birten. Adhering to his end of the agreement, Birten handed the box and lockpick to the Tetrad. As the man greedily repeated Birten's action of opening the box, hungry to see what it held, Birten didn't pay any attention. He couldn't have cared less. He had what he needed. He pulled the stopper out of the bottle and slid the dull orange stone bit into his hand. He wondered how exactly it worked, if all he needed to do was think about where he wanted to go. And before he even had time to think about it, he realized his surroundings had vastly changed. He was in a large bedroom. An oversized bed took up the middle of one wall, predominately red bedding covering its surface. Two more of the walls were adorned with various paintings and a smattering of furniture. The final wall was inlaid with a large window and an ornate desk. And in the chair was a handsome man, with blond hair and exquisite blue eyes that were full of surprise. "Birten?" Birten smirked. He'd found the prince.
  4. Disjecta Membra

    The Turmoil

    Broadswords Chapter Thirty-Three The Turmoil "How far could he have gotten?" Elsior asked angrily, pacing the room which had until recently been Birten's holding cell. Both Deke and Rea stood against the wall, arms crossed, watching him. He assumed neither wanted to be the first to speak. Unsurprisingly, it was Rea who finally spoke up. "It's hard to say, Elsior. We don't know exactly when he got out. He was here when I finished my session with him. I left sometime just after midnight. Deke arrived about an hour ago, and he was gone." He slammed his hand down on the stone slab in the middle of the room. "Unacceptable! Why was nobody standing guard?!" He was livid. Such a simple thing, yet neither of his cohorts could manage to handle it without him. He had just about put an end to Daegon, too. Now, that would have to wait. Birten was too important in his plot. "He was chained, the door was locked," Deke said. "Well clearly that wasn't enough to keep him here, was it? I don't even have the patience right now to try to figure out how he escaped. We have to get him back. If Rea's sessions with him haven't taken yet, it will all be for naught." At those words, Rea stepped away from the wall, neared the center of the room, and rested her hands flat on the stone. She stared Elsior in the eye. "I built up enough doubt in his mind during his awoken state that the Oneiromancy wasn't as complicated as we'd initially expected. I got seven good sessions in. In that time I was able to get him to believe that he's from Tarragonia. I even had him speaking Tarragonian as of two nights ago. It's to the point, too, where he believes that Jhirdyr is an enemy kingdom. Specifically with an emphasis toward the prince and the dragonslayer." That wasn't good enough. "There are too many possibilities of things going wrong. One week; that's the same amount of time you had when you altered my memories. And I was fully accepting, and you used much simpler alterations on me." "Obviously it's not ideal. But it's better than nothing. Hopefully we find him so I can finish. I'm not thrilled about this either, Elsior. But I can say, I think this is going to work in our favor," she said. Elsior knew Rea was not easily intimidated, and this was no exception. It frustrated him more to see how calm she was in all of this. And they needed to get Birten back. He couldn't put enough faith in the feelings Rea had in the matter to feel quelled. Even if Birten was convinced enough that Harmon and Daegon were the enemy, Elsior had no idea how acquainted Birten was with the prince. If their relationship was strong, Harmon might be able to break through and ruin the work Rea had done. And if that were to happen, it would not only have been a waste of time, but Birten could also warn the king of the events that were transpiring in Oestra. "It's far from ideal," he said. "Deke. Get out there, search for him. Scour the area. I need him brought back here before I can get back to dealing with the slayer." And just like that, with use of his Tetradite pendant, Deke vanished. Elsior couldn't go back to the cave without the Tetradite anyway, and Deke would need it to search for Birten. Daegon would have to wait. While he was longing to see the Elsior's Dragon burn the slayer to a crisp, a little longer without food and water might just do the trick. It wasn't as epic, but at this point corners might have to be cut. Days had passed, and they hadn't found Birten. It was now a lost cause. He could be anywhere. He could have made it to one of the nearby kingdoms somehow, if he was able to get hold of a horse. He could even be further than that if he'd managed to charter a boat off the continent. There was no point thinking of the possibilities, because it was just making him angrier. To top things off, when they finally went back to the cave, Daegon was also nowhere to be found. The dragon remained where he'd left her, but Daegon's chains were empty. How they'd lost both prisoners, both who'd been shackled, was lost to Elsior. It was almost surreal. His plan was spiraling out of control in the worst possible way. It was likely that Daegon was on his way back to Jhirdyr. That would mean that the king would absolutely be informed of what Elsior was up to. It wouldn't matter if Birten revealed anything, because the slayer would certainly arrive back in Jhirdyr before the squire would. His only hope was that the babies in the cave to the north of Jhirdyr would do the trick. It was the only part left to his plan that hadn't been screwed up. If all went as it should, they would soon be ready to emerge. They wouldn't be quite as easy to manage as their mother; while she would not attack unless given instruction to do so by Elsior, the babies were born rather than created directly by him. That being said, they would be more likely to act of their own free will. And for their purpose, that was fine by Elsior. He hadn't visited them at all. He could only rely on Deke's updates, as he went on a weekly basis to ensure they were getting fed. And lately, he wasn't too fond of Deke. Though he didn't have a whole lot of reason to visit Oestra now that Birten had vanished, Elsior did find himself back about a week later. He needed to discuss the plan with Rea. He was still bitter with her as well, but he didn't have anybody besides her and Deke. Even though her home was where they had been holding Birten, the rest of the space looked nothing like the cell. While the walls, floors, and ceiling were made of the same materials as the cell, there was an abundance of décor throughout that warmed the place up. Although Rea had somewhat of a cold exterior, you wouldn't know it based on the way she lived. It made Elsior a little bitter whenever he would visit her, considering he lived in a run-down shack in Dorre. But soon enough, once Jhirdyr was destroyed, he'd have plenty of riches to buy himself a new place. Wherever he wanted. And Harmon and his father would be as dead to everyone as they already were to him. He waited in a tall-backed plush armchair facing the fireplace. He hadn't announced his arrival, or even let her know he was coming. That wasn't his style, anyway. He didn't know where she was, but he could wait. "Hello, Elsior," he heard from behind him. Turning, he saw that she had entered the room. She didn't seem surprised that he was there. Then again, that annoying stoniness to her face was almost always there. She was clad in a long, airy gown and carried a glass of wine. It appeared that she might have been preparing to get herself to bed, but he didn't care. "We need to figure out our next moves," he said. He heard her bare feet softly clap against the tiled floor as she made her way to the twin chair beside him. She settled in easily, and made no offer to prepare him a drink. He didn't expect it. She drank slowly, as if she was intentionally letting silence fill the room before she responded. She finished the glass before she finally said anything. "What other moves do you expect to have? Unless you've got a new way to get a few more of those slayers out of Jhirdyr, I don't see exactly what else you're able to do." "That's why I'm here, to brainstorm," he said through gritted teeth. She was getting on his nerves. He respected her for her craft, and he wouldn't be where he was had it not been for her bringing him into the Collective. Regardless, his admiration for the woman didn't prevent her mannerisms from irritating him. She rose as effortlessly as she had sat. She padded over to the other side of the room where she refilled her glass. Once again she was adding delayed responses to his statements. He wondered if she was getting a sick enjoyment out of it. When she reclaimed her chair, she turned to face him. "This is your plan. You need to tell me what you need me to do. I can't figure this one out for you." His neck was getting warm, and he knew he was reddening with anger. It would probably only egg her on more, but there was nothing he could do about it. It was his tell. "The three of us are all in this. It's not just my plan." "It is," she said pointedly. As least she responded right away this time. "For you, it's a vendetta. For Deke, it's about money. For me, well, I don't know the prince or the king. And I don't need the money." She gestured at their surroundings, which was unnecessary. He knew she was wealthy. It didn't need to be rubbed in his face. "You still have something at stake, here," he said coldly. "I haven't forgotten about our little bargain. I don't know who these two men are that you're worried about in Jhirdyr. But if you don't keep up your end of the bargain, I might just not keep up mine." "I did keep up my end of the bargain!" she said, a hint of emotion reflected in her slightly raised voice. It wasn't extreme, but it was noticeable on Rea. She swallowed her second glass down rapidly. Pointing a finger at Elsior, she continued. "I did exactly what we agreed on. It wasn't my fault the kid escaped and it wasn't part of our deal for me to figure out how to ensure that everything goes exactly according to plan. I brought my expertise in here, which is my Oneiromancy. I'm not a master at schemes of this sort. I agreed to help you to prevent you killing Sal and Kep with the destruction of the city. Do not attempt to blackmail me, because I will ensure that you are ruined." The words didn't scare him. Even if he felt that there was truth to her threat, it didn't matter. Once Jhirdyr was gone, so was he. He would be long gone before Rea had any idea what had happened. Regardless of everything, he no longer needed to know who Sal and Kep were. He could tell by the fire in her eyes and the tone of her voice who they were. He hadn't been aware that Rea had children.
  5. Disjecta Membra

    Solace

    It absolutely could have been avoided, had both of them taken the time to really talk things out. Danny let Jason drive most of the conversation and took the backseat. Although it was Jason's story to tell, if they had perhaps taken more of a back-and-forth approach to the conversation they might have prevented the end they had.
  6. Disjecta Membra

    Solace

    I think you're absolutely correct; they both hold some of the blame. Between Jason's gung-ho jump into the situation without allowing himself to ease into it, and Danny's passiveness to avoid causing bigger problems, they both acted on more of an emotional level than a logical one. Indeed, Danny did try to patch things up whereas Jason wouldn't even try. There is a lot that can be said about the way each of them adapted (or didn't adapt) to the situation.
  7. Disjecta Membra

    Solace

    When Danny's best friend Jason opens up to him about the secret feelings he's been harboring, Danny doesn't know what else to do but to lend his support. But he soon realizes that sometimes being honest is more important than being supportive.
  8. Disjecta Membra

    Solace

    Solace “Danny?” “Yeah?” I responded, not taking my eyes off the TV. It had been a long day and all I wanted to do was relax on the couch and put in a few hours of nonsensical reality show time. “You busy?” I shrugged, even though I didn’t know if he was actually looking at me. “Not especially. Just unwinding from work,” I said without much effort. “Why, what’s up?” “Can we maybe talk for a little bit?” Finally, I looked away from the TV. It wasn’t the kind of thing I was used to Jason saying. He wasn’t a very emotional guy, but the way he worded the question sounded like he had something serious to talk about. I eyed him from across the room, where he was standing in the doorway with a beer in each hand. “Sure, man, what’s up?” He walked into the room, seeming tense. He handed me one of the bottles and sat on the opposite end of the couch. “I just have a lot on my mind lately, and I feel like I need to get it off my chest.” He stared down at his beer, turning it in his hands. I realized he hadn’t looked at me once since entering the room. “Is everything okay?” I asked, clicking the power button on the remote. If it was as serious as it seemed, I wanted to give him my full attention. We’d been roommates for three years, and by that point we were best friends. We met in senior year of college and had been basically inseparable since. If he needed to have a deep conversation, I wanted to be there for him. He nodded. “Yeah, it’s nothing like that. Everything is okay, I’m just… I don’t know, man. I’m just really confused, I guess. I’ve had some stuff going on in my head for a while and I just think I need to talk to somebody about it before it gets the best of me.” I didn’t really know what to say. I wasn’t sure how to respond to it. He didn’t speak up again though, and I knew I needed to be supportive, so I said, “so… what’s going on?” It felt a little brash, but it was the only thing I could think of to keep him talking. “I just realize I’ve been unhappy for a while. I feel lost,” he said, the slightest hint of a quiver playing at his voice. It made me a little nervous. I had no clue what he was talking about. “Um, in what way? Like with work? Is there something going on with your family?” I took a drink of my beer. The cool rush of the alcohol down my throat helped ease me a little. Shaking his head, he slowly looked up and looked me in the eye. Never before had I ever seen him look so sheepish. “How did you know you were gay?” Fuck me. Was he coming out to me? Was this really happening? Or was he just confused? Maybe living with a gay guy for three years had thrown some cogs out of whack in his brain. “I, uh… I don’t know, man. I just knew. How does someone know they’re straight? It’s just something you feel within yourself, I guess.” I finished my beer. He cleared his throat. “I mean, I guess it’s something we’ve never really talked about in depth, but like… did you struggle with the thoughts, ever?” His beer was still full, and I assumed he was using it more as a distraction technique than actually wanting the drink. “Yeah, a little. It’s weird knowing that you’re different from most people. I was worried for a while that there was something wrong with me, but once I finally realized that there wasn’t, I came to grips with it and I’ve always been happy.” I studied him, the downtrodden look on his face. “Are you… do you think you might be… Jace, what’s going on in your head right now?” “Yeah,” he said simply, and I took it to be an affirmative response to my unasked question. “Are you sure?” He let out a small, slightly sarcastic chuckle. “Of course I’m not sure, that’s why I’ve got so much stuff going on in my head. I wanted to talk to you about it so maybe you could help me figure it all out.” “You don’t think it’s just from spending so much time with me, do you?” That sounded lame. But Jason had never struck me as gay, in any sense. And as soon as I thought it, I realized how ignorant that thought was. As a gay man, I should know better than to pigeonhole someone’s sexuality. I hated being stereotyped. So Jason was a jock, manly by the cliché sense of the word. He didn’t groom himself all that well, and he certainly had no fashion sense. But that didn’t mean that I should be so doubtful of what he was telling me. I had come into this conversation trying to be supportive, and instead I was starting to act like a jerk. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to take it that way. He was probably still so in his head about it that he didn’t notice. “I don’t think that at all. To be honest, I’ve had these feelings and thoughts for a long time. Before I knew you, even. I think that’s why a part of me bonded so well with you when we first met; you were this openly gay man that was so sure of himself, and confident. I think I saw it as a way to finally start figuring myself out.” Between our meeting senior year and living together since, we’d known each other for a total of four years. And I had never had any idea that he was going through this. “So, uh… why haven’t you brought this up sooner?” His shoulders fell. I could tell he was still not completely comfortable having the conversation. But it was also clear that he needed to get it out. “I don’t know. There have been times I’ve almost said something. I always just doubted myself. I think it finally just got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore.” In truth, I had noticed that he had become more sullen over the past couple months. I truly had just assumed he had been having a rough time at work, and since we weren’t ones for overly-deep talks, I never said anything. “So, have you… experimented at all?” I asked. It felt weird talking about this with him. We of course had talked about our personal hookups to one another, but I never thought I’d be asking him about fooling around with other guys. “No,” he said. I couldn’t fathom, at 25, and feeling like you might be gay, not having ever even kissed another man before. “Obviously I’ve thought about it. A lot. But I’ve never found myself in a situation in which I’ve been comfortable enough to do so. I wouldn’t want it to be with a random guy, you know? It’s a big deal for me, so I would want there to be some kind of meaning behind it.” I nodded. That made sense, of course. My first few sexual encounters hadn’t been meaningful at all. I didn’t necessarily regret it, but there was a part of me that wished the firsts had been more special. It felt like a romance novel, having thoughts like that, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t true. We sat there in silence for a little while, me unsure of what else to say. I was sure he felt the same way too. Eventually, I stood up. “I’m gonna grab another beer,” I said. Jason, at that point, seemed to realize his drink was still full. He chugged it swiftly, and it was clear that he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders just by laying everything on the table. I grabbed his empty and tossed both in the trash on the way to the fridge. As I fetched two more, I hesitated. With him opening up to me and revealing that he wanted his first experience with a guy to be meaningful… was he hinting something? Was he into me? The thought panicked me, because I certainly wasn’t into Jason. I loved the guy, sure. And he was very attractive. But I had never thought of him in that way. Regardless of if I had thought he was straight or not, I’d never looked at him as someone I wanted to sleep with. I steeled myself as I reentered the living room. He hadn’t moved. He was fidgeting with his hands and eagerly took the fresh beer, likely glad to have that distraction again. As I settled back down, he spoke up again. “So… what do you think?” I glanced at him. “What do I think? I mean… it caught me by surprise, that’s for sure. I wasn’t expecting it. But I think if it’s something you’re feeling, you should absolutely try to sort out your feelings. I’m glad you came to talk to me. I want you to be happy, Jace. Whatever I can do to help, you know I’m here for you.” He smiled, finally, but just barely. He looked me in the eye. “Thanks, Danny.” Before I knew what was happening, he took his free hand and placed it over mine. Shit. “You mean a lot to me, you know. I’m glad I have you.” I let out a fake cough and muttered, “me too.” Maybe I was being presumptuous. Maybe the touch was just out of friendship and not because he wanted something more. But he didn’t pull it away. He was still looking at me. He put his bottle on the floor and scooted closer to me. No, no, no. Don’t do this, Jason. But it was happening. He began to lean in, slowly, and before I knew it my best friend was kissing me. I wanted to stop him, to tell him that I didn’t feel that way about him. But he had just unloaded a deep-rooted secret on me and I was afraid rejecting the advance would cause a downward spiral. The last thing I wanted to do was to throw him back into that depression. So I let him kiss me. Everything was happening so fast. Less than an hour ago, I had arrived home from work and settled down on the couch to watch TV like any other evening. And now, my formerly closeted best friend and roommate had his lips pressed to mine. At first I didn’t kiss back, but I didn’t want him to realize that anything was wrong. So I opened my mouth to his, and we found a rhythm. I had to admit that he was good at it. It felt good, physically, but mentally I was still not there. Thankfully it wasn’t an extended kiss, and he pulled back before long. His smile broadened. “That was… yeah. That felt right.” I smiled back, though inside I was far from happy. I didn’t want to be doing this, but again, I didn’t know how to prevent it from happening without making him feel like an absolute fool. I knew what it was like to make advances on someone who didn’t return the feeling, and it wasn’t pleasant. I could only imagine it would be intensified in someone who had just revealed a secret that they hadn’t shared with anyone before. The kiss seemed to open up the floodgates, however, in a positive way. He began talking with more ease, revealing all of the thoughts he’d had over the years. He seemed much more comfortable as he talked about everything he had been too afraid to in the past. Throughout his monologue, I only had to interject here or there with a “wow” or “right” to show that I was paying attention. He went on for hours, and between the two of us we finished a case of beer. It’s amazing how much you can drink when you’re just listening to someone talk. And honestly, I was glad he was able to unload it all. Clearly it was several years’ worth of repression that had just been waiting to see the light. But of course, eventually the conversation began to dwindle. As the beers sank in and the night wore on, we both began to feel a little sluggish. “We should probably head to bed,” I mumbled, checking the time on my phone. He nodded, and we both stood up. He grabbed my hand again. “Can I sleep in your room tonight?” he asked, a hint of coyness returning to his tone. Though more confident than he had been at the beginning of our conversation, his shyness was still evident in the question. And once again I was at a loss. I didn’t want him to sleep in my room. But I didn’t know how to say that to such a forward question. Plus we were drunk, so my decision-making skills were worse now than they had been a few hours ago. “Sure,” was all I could muster. Damn it, Danny. As he turned off all the lights and made a trip to the bathroom, I slunk into my bedroom. Normally I slept in my underwear, but I felt a little odd about it tonight. I shed my jeans and pulled on a pair of basketball shorts, and left my t-shirt on. I crawled into bed and waited for Jason to join me. A sentence I never thought would cross my mind. And he did, soon thereafter. Once he neared the edge of the bed, he took his shirt and pants off and dropped them on the floor. Wearing nothing but boxer briefs, he settled into my bed next to me. We were silent for a while, as had happened several times that night. I stared at the ceiling, hoping this meant we would just go to sleep. I was sure I could reason things out a bit better in the morning when the booze had worn off. However, I eventually felt Jason turn onto his side, facing me, and his hand found its way under my shirt and up to my chest. His fingers softly grazed the skin there, running my sparse chest hair through his fingers. For being new to this, some of the things he was doing were done with ease. “Thanks for listening to me tonight,” he said quietly. “It means a lot to me.” “Of course,” I said, my tone equally as hushed. He removed his hand from under my shirt and up to my chin, at which point he gently pulled my face toward his. We kissed again, though it was a little sloppier considering the amount of alcohol we had consumed. It also intensified faster, and I felt him moving his hand once again. This time he slid it down to my waistband. I swallowed. And sure enough, he hesitantly slid his fingers underneath both layers and to my crotch. I immediately began to get hard. I am still a man after all, and another man’s hand on my dick is going to cause a reaction regardless. He moaned into my mouth. He caressed me for a while, which resulted in a full-fledged erection. At that point, he slid my shorts and underwear down my legs. Where the meek Jason had gone, I didn’t know, but he was lowering himself under the covers and his mouth soon found my shaft. It wasn’t long at all before I felt that long-forgotten pain of teeth grazing the skin. Fuck. It had been a while since I’d had an inexperienced blowjob. “Jace, Jace, I think this is something you want to try for the first time when you’re sober,” I said. I didn’t know how else to word it, and it for sure could have been more blunt. So I was happy with the way it came out. It didn’t seem to upset him; if it did, it didn’t quell his appetite. He sidled back up next to me and whispered, “Are you a top or bottom?” Of all the things that had occurred that night, for some reason that question caught me by the most surprise. “What?” “Top or bottom?” he repeated awkwardly. I didn’t know what else to do but answer honestly. “Vers,” I said. And upon realizing that he didn’t seem sure what that term meant, I added: “Both.” I knew exactly what he was getting at. “Are you sure you want to do this? Don’t you think this is all happening a little fast? You just really came to grips with all of this today.” “I’m sure,” he said, and once again it didn’t seem like he had taken any offense to what I’d said. “I’m not a virgin, the sex part isn’t intimidating. It’s exciting. Yeah, I just opened up about everything today. But I’ve felt this way for a long time. And I want my first time with a guy to be with someone who means a lot to me.” Well, shit. “Okay,” was all I could think to say. He kissed me again, a brief yet lingering contact that I felt his passion in. He really felt something for me. “Do you have condoms?” he asked as he discarded his own underwear. “Drawer,” I said simply, and he rifled around in my nightstand until he found one. He tore open the package and applied it with ease. He slid his legs between mine and steadied himself. “Whoa,” I said, putting my hand to his chest to stop him. “Gay sex requires lube. There’s some in the drawer.” He fished that out as well, but hesitated. “Do I just put it on me, or you? Or both?” Had he not watched any gay porn in his years of closetedness? I took the tube from him and applied some to myself before moving to him. Damn, he was big. I added a little more for good measure. I clicked the tube closed and dropped it back in the drawer. “Ready?” he asked. “Are you?” I asked back. I could just make out a smirk on his face in the darkness as he centered himself. I couldn’t help but groan as he pushed into me. Though he was well-equipped, it wasn’t so big that it hurt. It felt good. Really good. Although he had never been with another guy before, it was still obvious that he knew what he was doing. He found a just-off-rhythm pace in his thrusts that kept the pleasure racing through me. There were a couple times that he did go a little too deep, in which cases I winced, but otherwise I had to admit that it was probably some of the best sex I’d ever had. It was clear that it was a good experience for him too, as it wasn’t long before he came. “Fuck, Danny,” he said through gritted teeth as I felt his body tense. After he regained his composure, he pulled out of me and rolled over onto his back. “That was… amazing. Next time, I want to try it the other way.” I didn’t respond, and he didn’t add any more. I heard soft snores from his side of the bed before long, and I once again found myself staring at the ceiling. It was good sex, there was no doubt about that. And I cared for Jason. More than almost anybody. But my feelings hadn’t changed. As I finally drifted off to sleep myself, I hoped the morning would bring more clarity. A sliver of light broke through the blinds on my bedroom window and across my face, which prompted me to wake up. I had the slightest of headaches, which could have been worse considering the amount of beer I drank and skipped dinner. Part of me was surprised that Jason wasn’t still in my bed. I had half-expected him to be laying there watching me as I woke. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and realized I was still naked from the waist down. I located my shorts from somewhere within the tangle of sheets and pulled them on. As I made my way into the living room, I saw Jason pouring two cups of coffee in the kitchen. “Perfect timing!” he said as he brought them to our small table and sat down. I joined him and immediately sipped at the mug. As I replaced it on the table, he leaned over and gave me a quick peck. “Last night was so important to me. Thank you.” Even after a night’s rest to think on the events that had transpired, I still felt the same way. It was going to be hard to tell him how I really felt, but I knew I had to. “About that…” I said softly. He sat back in his chair and frowned. “Did I do something wrong?” “It’s not that. Not at all. The sex was… well, it felt great. You’re good at it. And you’ve got a great dick,” I said, and it was all true. “So what’s up?” he asked. He stared at me, his coffee untouched. I didn’t really know how to tell him how I felt. After everything we’d been through over the past several hours, especially. I was sure at the very least I’d hurt his feelings. “So last night was… it was good. And you mean so much to me, Jace. You really are my best friend. But I just don’t think I feel the same way as you. I love you, but I don’t have romantic feelings toward you.” I was nervous to make eye contact with him, but I forced myself to look him in the face. He didn’t look sad, he didn’t look angry… he didn’t really look anything, in fact. His face was stony. “So why would you let me kiss you? Why would you sleep with me?” I was really sticking my foot in my mouth. I didn’t exactly know how to tell him why I’d allowed everything to happen the night before considering I didn’t share his feelings. But I had to. “It’s not that it wasn’t meaningful. It meant something, it really did. I know how much you wanted your first experience to be with someone important to you and I could tell how much you wanted it to be me. And I am so glad I could give that to you.” It was then that the anger did start to bubble up within him. “Give that to me? You didn’t give me anything if you don’t share those feelings. If you don’t feel that way about me, I could have slept with just about anyone and it wouldn’t have made a difference. I opened up to you, I shared all of these things that I’ve struggled with for so long. You shouldn’t have even let me kiss you, you should have stopped it before it went that far if that’s really how you feel. It wasn’t supposed to be a favor, Danny, it was supposed to be something that meant something to both of us. I feel like a damn idiot!” He stood, and without looking at me again made his way to his own bedroom and slammed the door. That felt about right. I really fucked this one up. I barely saw Jason over the next week. He wouldn’t respond to me when I tried to talk to him, wouldn’t respond to my texts or answer my calls. He locked himself in his room whenever he was home, which was rare. And then one day, when I came home, I went to knock on his door as I had every day since our fight. I didn’t really expect a response, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. But when I knocked, I realized the door was ajar. So hesitantly, I pushed it open. The room was empty. His bed, his clothes, everything was gone. He’d moved out. There was no note, no sign that he planned on coming back whatsoever. He blocked me on all of his social media platforms and continued to decline my calls and ignore my texts. I don’t know where he moved to, if he was still in town or if he decided to go somewhere else. I never heard from him again, in fact. It still haunts me to this day that I lost my best friend because I wasn’t just honest with him from the start. He unloaded so much on me and revealed so much of his own truth that I was too scared to be honest with him for fear of hurting his feelings. And in doing so, I accomplished exactly what I didn’t want to. I had blurred the line between support and humiliation. One poor choice destroyed my relationship with Jason. I guess telling someone what they want to hear isn’t always the best decision to make, and I’ll never forget that. End
  9. Disjecta Membra

    The Stakeout

    Broadswords Chapter Thirty-Two The Stakeout Daegon eyed the stranger warily, but otherwise paid him no attention. After all, his main concern was Elan and what had happened to him. And of course, to fill him in on the events that had transpired over the past several weeks. While he wasn't keen on the royal family discovering where he'd been, he knew he needed to share the information regarding a brand new, magically-created breed of dragon with another slayer. The Elsior's Dragon was still alive, after all. It would only be a matter of time before Elsior tracked him down. "Can I speak with you privately for a moment?" he asked, but with an inflection to make it clear it wasn't an option. Both of the other men seemed to pick up on it, as neither of them argued, and the one Daegon didn't know stood up from his chair. "I should go check on the inn, anyway." Daegon couldn't be sure, but it seemed as if the fellow was avoiding eye contact. He did, however, look at Elan. "I'll come back tomorrow morning to sort out the final details." With that, he quickly exited the room. Daegon waited until the door fully latched behind the man, and turned to face Elan. "Who was that?" "Don't you know Kep?" Elan asked, adjusting himself in his bed. "Oh, no, that's right. He said he knew Birten but hadn't met you. He's a local inn and barkeep and a friend of Birten's, and he's been pretty integral in the things that have been going on in Jhirdyr while you've apparently been traipsing along on some unofficial mission." Elan raised an accusatory eyebrow. Though he couldn't recall Birten mentioning any such friend, nor did he know what could possibly be going on in Jhirdyr since he had been away, one thing was clear: Elan already knew about the mission. How had he found out? Had Harmon come clean about it? "How did you know about that?" Daegon asked. He knew there were far bigger issues to deal with, but he couldn't help but ask the question. "Not important. What is important is where you were, what you were doing there, and why it took you so long to return," Elan listed. And being a dragonslayer himself and knowing how a slayer's mind worked, Elan seemed to know what Daegon was about to ask next and added more. "I can fill you in on what happened to me and what's going on in Jhirdyr afterward. It's a long story." Sighing, Daegon admitted defeat and explained everything. Harmon visiting his home, meeting Elsior and the village's clear disdain for him, the discovery of why, Birten's disappearance, Elsior's Dragon, and finally his imprisonment and eventual rescue from the cave. Even though Elan was generally very stoic, Daegon could tell that the recounting of the past few weeks disturbed him. Especially the bit about Elsior and his creation. "Are you saying you've encountered an actual Dracomancer?" There was the slightest hint of fascination in his voice, but it was majorly masked by his ability to avoid displaying emotion. Daegon shrugged. He had never been studious in magical abilities whatsoever. He doubted he had ever met a mancer until his encounter with Phërion and Roark. And apparently Elsior. That was something that was more up Birten's alley. Regardless of his unfamiliarity with the subject, however, it appeared that Elan was a little more knowledgeable. "If this fellow is indeed a Dracomancer, which it absolutely sounds like, he may be the first to have developed it past a divination stage. This could spell big trouble for the slayers of the world. If new breeds are being created…. We don't know anything about what they might or might not be susceptible to. Or if they can even be slayed at all." While he always enjoyed a challenge, the thought that the Elsior's Dragon might be undefeatable hadn't really crossed his mind. It was a chilling concept. A thought seemed to strike Elan out of nowhere. "I wonder…" he trailed, the volume of his voice dropping. He appeared to be having a conversation with himself internally, his eyes darting back and forth. "Wonder what?" Daegon asked. "Well," Elan began, "I guess it's a good lead-in to what's been going on while you've been away. Kep, the man that just left, discovered a very unusual dragon's nest in a cave just north of the kingdom. Unusual in the fact that there are twelve infants within." "Twelve? How is that possible?" Elan continued. "That's what we've been trying to determine. I've had several theories, each as unlikely as the last. However, based on the information you provided, I'm beginning to wonder if the dragon you encountered is connected to the ones in the cave. Being a breed we know nothing about, it could be very plausible that it has the ability to lay multiple eggs at once." There was no way that was possible. It was unheard of. "That doesn't make any sense." "But the creation of a new breed of dragon does?" Elan lifted an eyebrow. "If this guy is what you're making him out to be, he seems to be rather powerful and very dangerous." "This dragon is huge, gargantuan. It couldn't have been this close to Jhirdyr without having been spotted. Unless you've left that part out," Daegon said. "Unless someone transported the eggs to the cave directly," Elan countered. That didn't make much sense, either. Dragon eggs had a tendency to be quite sizeable, and if they were indeed of this new breed, they'd probably be larger than any other eggs they'd ever encountered. It would take several trips to do so, and if they'd been brought from Dorre to Jhirdyr, it would take months. Daegon knew Elan must be aware of that. Then again, if Elan was indeed onto something, there was always the possibility that the eggs had been transported magically. It was becoming a lot to process. "So what's the plan?" "That's something Kep and I have been trying to figure out. Since, until now, we didn't even have a clue what breed they might be, we haven't had much to go off. And even if we are correct now, we still are pretty much at a loss. I realized that someone must be feeding them, though, and Kep was going to go scope out the cave to see if he can't catch whoever it is in the act. It's not much, but it's all we have for now." Elan locked eyes with Daegon. "I think you should accompany him." "Why?" "He's got a lot of heart and I can tell that he's in this with us, but he has no experience with this kind of thing. He runs a bar. Maybe he's broken up a few fights or something, but I can't imagine he is an expert in reconnaissance. And if he were to come in direct contact with whoever is involved in the happenings in the cave, I'm sure he would need protection." Daegon hated the thought of it. He'd already had experiences twice in the past with developing inexperienced people to become capable. He'd had his share of dealing with novices. But he knew he didn't have much choice. Especially if this man was a friend of Birten's. He needed to ensure his safety. "Fine," he said simply. He agreed to meet Elan and Kep at the castle the next morning to begin the process, hopeful that they would make some kind of progress. As he bid Elan his farewell and headed home, he tried to avoid thinking about Birten. But he was unsuccessful. He didn't know where he was or how he was doing. All he could do was try to stay positive. But given his normal demeanor, that wasn't always the easiest thing for Daegon. The next morning, after a night of restless sleep, Daegon arrived in Elan's room in the castle prepared to set out to the cave. He'd brought a pack with basic supplies, considering he didn't know how long they'd have to be out there. Having lost his horse in Dorre, he hoped that Kep had a reliable source of transportation or else they'd have to hope the stables had a few decent steeds they could rent. Kep was already there, and apparently Elan had already informed him that Daegon would be going along. He was just as awkward as the previous day, again not making eye contact. He did, however, direct a question to Daegon. "Is… is Birten coming, too?" Not wanting to have to verbalize the information again, Daegon cleared his throat. Elan took the hint, and piped in. "Oh, right. So… Birten was separated from Daegon when they were on their journey and had been held captive somewhere. He apparently escaped, but his current whereabouts aren't known." Hearing that, Kep finally looked Daegon in the face. He blanched, an unspoken question obvious in his eyes. Daegon nodded to confirm what Elan had said, and Kep's face fell immeasurably. He didn't say anything. It seemed that this man had quite a bond with Birten, and why Daegon had never heard of him was curious. He was sure he'd find out during their trip. As they finalized their plans, he quickly learned that Kep didn't have a horse of his own. Elan offered the use of his; however, Kep made a valid point that while they would be able to stay out of sight as men, they wouldn't have as much luck with a horse. Even if they stationed it a decent distance away from the cave, there was always the possibility that it would get spotted or draw attention to itself. Daegon had to admit that even though it might be an excessive precaution, it might be safer to go on foot. And so they did. The journey wasn't an excruciatingly long one, but Daegon was still pretty wiped out from his time in Dorre. He would much rather have the luxury of taking a horse, or not going at all for that matter, but he did not complain. He knew it was something they must do. Kep was rather tight-lipped as they walked, and Daegon wasn't able to get much out of him. He did learn that Kep and Birten met at Kep's bar. Daegon wondered if it was that time Birten came home reeking of ale – if so, they hadn't known each other long. Why Kep seemed to be so attached to Birten was odd, if that were the case. Other than that, most of Kep's responses were one-word answers. He wasn't being rude by any means. He acknowledged everything Daegon said or asked. It was quite clear he was sullen, however, which was likely the reasoning for his lack of conversation. Upon arrival at the cave, Daegon asked Kep to show him the chasm that housed the dragons. He did so, hesitantly, and lingered back as Daegon approached the pit. There didn't seem to be much activity from down below. No bursts of flames erupted from the depths but he could hear the echoes of movement within the darkness. There was something down there, alright. They left the cave soon thereafter, and Daegon found a spot that was far away from the entrance where they wouldn't be spotted but that they had a clear line of sight to witness anyone entering. The foliage provided enough coverage to where they could crouch comfortably yet remain hidden. And the waiting began. They remained in the bushes for three days before any activity occurred. Kep had thrown out the suggestion of checking back every so often, and maybe head back to Jhirdyr, both to check in on Elan as well as find out of Birten had come back. Though it was hard to deny the proposal, Daegon knew that it would significantly reduce their chances of catching anybody at the caves. After years of being a slayer, he knew that emotional ties must be put on the backburner and that the task at hand was more important overall than allowing themselves to fall into that trap. They remained relatively silent and unmoving over the course of those three days, taking shifts keeping watch at nightfall while the other rested. But finally, midday three days in, they both heard the sounds of twigs snapping at someone's feet. Daegon had kept a rather sharp eye out yet hadn't seen the man approach the area. It was as if he'd appeared from nowhere. With bated breath, they both watched as he disappeared into the cave. When he felt enough time had passed to break the silence, Daegon was the first to do so. "Shit…." "What is it?" Kep asked. "Do you know who it is?" "I do. His name is Deke." Elan's theory was right.
  10. Disjecta Membra

    Igneous

    I’m intrigued! Hagan’s kind of a dick, but it fits the character. I am curious to see how Gil will interact with this new world, so I hope you decide to pursue additional stories!
  11. Disjecta Membra

    The Plan

    Broadswords Chapter Thirty-One The Plan "Kep?" Jeno stopped in his tracks as Kep entered the small building. Kep was nervous, having been out of touch with his old friend for so many years. While their relationship didn't end on a horrible note, it wasn't as if it had been the most positive experience either. But he knew that he had changed enough to where he felt ready to see if their friendship could be patched. "Hi, Jeno," he said softly. "I know this is out of the blue, but I was ready to—" Before he could finish his sentence, he found himself enveloped in a hug. Jeno had wrapped his arms tightly around Kep's torso and pulled him close. He let the embrace linger for a moment before finally letting go. "Sorry, I know you've never really been one for personal contact, but it's… it's great to see you." Kep smiled. "It's okay. I've gotten better about that. That's actually one of the reasons I wanted to see you." He felt silly as he spoke. At the same time, he was so glad that Jeno was being open to his visit that he didn't really care. Jeno led them to a small table in the corner and poured them each a glass of wine. "This is incredible. You look great. You look happy." Jeno lifted his glass and Kep did the same, bringing them together in celebration of their reunion. While he was happy, in a way, Kep didn't feel like he looked it. With everything that had been going on, he'd felt more stressed than he ever had in his life. But apparently he had been so closed off in his younger years that the happiness he did possess was evident regardless. "Thanks. I am. I… I wanted to thank you. I've made some changes in my life, and a lot of it is because of what you said to me before we… well… the last time we saw each other. You told me that I couldn't hope to open a treasure chest if I didn't search for the key. That has always sat with me. I've worked on myself ever since then, to become a happier person. I've opened up to people, I've become more satisfied with my life. I've even bonded more with my brother. It's… it's thanks to you." Jeno stared at Kep as he spoke, a smile forming on his face with each passing word. He appeared to be drinking in each word, chasing it with the wine in his glass. "I'm glad you were able to do that. Not for anyone else but yourself. You're a good man, Kep, and you deserve to be happy." They filled each other in on their lives, going over everything that had happened since they'd last seen each other. Jeno was married now, to a woman he'd met in his years studying to become an apothecary. They had a son, Milo, who was just a year old. The building they were in, which had once been Jeno's childhood home, had been renovated into an apothecary shop. They were financially stable, but just enough to live comfortably. It reminded Kep of his own business, though it seemed like Jeno and his wife were doing a little bit better for themselves. After Kep had detailed the newfound success that had struck Street Inn, he segued into the other reason for his visit. "I remember you always had a keen eye for weaponry, and I wanted to run something by you. I've befriended a man who has recently come into contact with an unusual dagger, and I'm afraid there's much more to it than meets the eye. I was hoping that maybe you could shed some light on it for me." Kep was nervous, worried that his old friend would accuse him of rekindling their friendship solely for the purpose of getting information. And while that wasn't really the only reason he sought Jeno out, it definitely was a large factor. He felt a pang of guilt stab at his insides. But if Jeno felt that way at all, he didn't show it on his face. He seemed intrigued. "I must admit, I haven't kept up on the subject as much as I would have liked. With the business and the baby and all, I don't have as much free time as I used to." After he spoke those words, Kep noticed how tired Jeno's eyes looked. The pang bit at his stomach again. Yet Jeno continued speaking. "But if there's any way I can help, I would be delighted." Kep explained the dagger in as much detail as he could, describing its external features as well as what little he knew about the powers it held. He was sure Elan had mentioned the name of it at some point, but he couldn't recall. In any event, it didn't matter. Jeno's eyes widened, clearly well aware of what it was. "That has to be a Sanguistis. Kep, those things are no joke. They're certainly against Jhirdyrian law, and I'm sure most of the other kingdoms, too. And with good reason. Many a man has lost his life using those. They're imbued with a very dark, ancient magic." The feelings of guilt were quickly replaced with those of dread, and Kep swallowed hard. "Is there any coming back from it? If a person has used one, I mean." Jeno placed his empty glass on the table, and fished a flask out of his jacket pocket. He poured the contents into the glass, a dull amber liquid, and drank it down in a single swallow. He made a face. "I mean… that's hard to say. I'm sure a lot of it depends on how long the wielder used it." Not knowing exactly how long Elan had been at the will of the Sanguistis, Kep didn't know how to respond. But the look on Jeno's face spoke volumes. Certainly the outlook was grim. "I don't know, for sure. Perhaps several hours." A grimace played at Jeno's face, intensifying the worried expression he already had. "I'm no expert, Kep, but I don't know that your friend has a very pleasant road ahead of him. If he's lucky, he'll survive, but there's no telling what kind of long term effects this will have on him." The two sat in silence after that, not looking anywhere in particular. Kep knew that Jeno felt uncomfortable for being the bearer of what was likely very bad news. When they finally did break the silence, it was due to Kep announcing that he should go. They shared another hug, and Kep promised Jeno that he would visit again soon. He was determined to keep that promise, but currently his main concern was for Elan's wellbeing. It was almost a week later before Kep saw Elan again. He'd wanted to visit him, but he knew there was no point in trying. Last time he had approached the castle, he'd been laughed off. Further, the guards at the kingdom's gate hadn't seemed too keen on him. He didn't feel that the hassle was worth it. He would just get shut down again and would feel more dejected than if he didn't try it all. Plus, he knew they would find him when they needed him. Which is exactly what happened. A pair of kingsmen entered Street Inn and casually asked him to accompany them to the castle. At least they didn't cause a scene; the last thing he needed was a disruption to the business. Sal, who had seemed out of sorts since the events in the cave, barely seemed to notice that Kep was leaving. Kep hoped that his brother could keep it together enough to run the inn on his own for a while. After being questioned by the king and his two eldest sons for what seemed like an eternity, he was allowed visitation rights to Elan's room. He was thankful for the questioning to be over. It wasn't necessarily accusatory, but the royal family was nothing if not thorough. They asked him every question he could have fathomed, and several he couldn't, and he was just glad to be able to provide them with a smattering of information. Thankfully he had spoken to Jeno, or else he would have barely anything to give. If that had been the case, he imagined they wouldn't be likely to let him visit Elan. But they did, and Kep was glad to see him awake. And alive, for that matter, considering the information he'd learned at Jeno's. After that he visited daily, and watched as Elan slowly recovered and began to recuperate. His energy was increasing, and he was able to speak a little more each day. And the more he was able to speak, the more he threw ideas at Kep regarding the dragons, spitballing apparently whatever came to his mind. It was his fourth day awake before Elan finally seemed to come up with a plan he felt somewhat comfortable with. He was talking faster than it seemed like his brain could manage, and Kep only understood about a third of what he'd said. Though he hadn't outright said anything to him, Kep had a feeling that the king was on him about getting the issue resolved immediately, before the rest of the kingdom caught wind of it. Regardless of the fact that he was ordered to bed rest. "What?" Kep asked, settled into the bedside chair that had basically become his second home over the past few days. "I can't believe I didn't put it together before!" Elan said excitedly. His throat had apparently healed quite significantly, as the sudden exclamation didn't appear to cause him any pain. "What are you referring to?" Kep asked. He was nervous and curious at the same time. He knew they had less than two weeks left, if Elan's calculations were correct, before they reached the point where a plan wouldn't help them at all. If Elan was correct, the dragons would be able to fly out of the chasm by that time. And Kep feared that there could be the possibility Elan's timeframe was off. Elan turned toward Kep, grabbing his wrist. "Feeding! How have they been feeding?" "I… I don't know?" Kep stammered, sounding more like a question than he'd intended. In all honesty, the thought hadn't really crossed his mind. Removing his hand from Kep's arm and moving it to his own head, Elan continued. "I just can't believe it never occurred to me. We know the mother hasn't been feeding them, because there haven't been any dragon sightings in Jhirdyr, right?" Kep shook his head. Of course there hadn't. He didn't know where Elan was going with this, but his thoughts kept rolling. "And we know they don't have the capability to fend for themselves quite yet, since they can't get out of that hole, right?" Kep nodded. It made sense. Elan still wasn't done. "They'd be lucky to be able to get hold of a rat or two down there, but that's not going to sate twelve newborn dragons, right?" Kep shrugged. He was still not quite sure what conclusion the dragonslayer had come to, but he didn't want to interrupt him and potentially break the best train of thought he'd had in days. "Do you really not see where I'm going with this?" Swallowing, feeling a little slow, Kep shook his head again. "I don't, I'm sorry." He knew, of course, that Elan was onto something to do with the dragons obtaining food, but he still wasn't sure exactly why that mattered or how it would help them. "If they aren't feeding by any of those methods, they must be getting fed somehow. Kep, infant dragons have an almost insatiable appetite. They need to feed far more often than adults. It has something to do with their chemical makeup; it's along the same reason their fire breathes hotter. Anyway, there's no way they would have survived this long without food. So they must be getting it. The only logical explanation I can come up with is that someone is bringing them nourishment." It was starting to become a little clearer to Kep. "So you're saying, if we found out who was doing it…" Elan's eyes sparkled. "If we found out who was keeping those suckers alive, we could potentially find out what kind of dragons they are. If I know that, chances are I'll know a surefire way to slay them. Depending on the breed, there might be a way to do it before they emerge." "I can scope out the cave over the next few days, see if anyone comes around?" Kep offered. The slayer nodded, hungry at the idea. Kep could tell Elan was certain they would make significant process with that information. "But you must be careful. You can't be caught. It would be wisest to stake yourself a decent distance away from the mouth of the cave, in the woods somewhere where someone heading to the cave mightn't notice you. Once you've seen them enter, then you can carefully make your way toward the cave. You must be careful not to be heard, either. One snapped twig and you'd be discovered instantly. Then, once at the entrance, you must listen astutely. The cave echoes quite significantly; anything they say should be audible enough for you to make out from outside." "And if they don't say anything?" Kep asked. He didn't think it likely that anyone sneaking to a cave to secretly feed a slew of baby dragons would be very verbal, especially in providing clues as to what they were up to. "Then you must memorize exactly what they look like, down to every blemish on their skin. The more detailed imagery, the easier it will be for the kingsmen to track them down. At that point, we can get any answers we need." Though he wasn't sure it would work out quite the way Elan was hoping, Kep couldn't help but feel slightly calmed by the slayer's confidence. And he was beyond glad to be significantly involved in the plan. If he could help in any way, he would be elated. "I'll head out tomorrow." "You've been such a big help in all of this, Kep. I couldn't have done this without you," Elan said. "It's nothing," Kep said. Despite his words, he felt his cheeks getting warmer. "You're the one that discovered the dragons! That alone set everything into motion. And now you're helping with the stakeout, which could lead us to finding out how and why someone is involved in this. And besides all of that, you're the one that rescued me from the cave." The blush was full on, now, and Kep hadn't felt so recognized in his entire life. He shifted his gaze to the floor, trying to focus on the tips of his shoes. Instead, he found his mind lost in Elan's words. He suddenly felt strong fingers run up his jawline, Elan's large hand cupping his face. His eyes darted back up instantly, connecting with Elan's. The slayer was studying his face intently. "Kep, you saved my life." Before he knew what was happening, Elan was kissing him and he was kissing Elan back. It was a soft embrace, but deep, and Kep felt his heart begin to race. He didn't quite know how to react but he knew he didn't want to stop the kiss, so he didn't. However, it didn't last long, as the sound of the room's door being opened was heard and they broke apart. Kep looked toward the entrance of the room to see an angularly-featured man with a long scar running diagonally down the upper portion of his face. To his right, Elan reacted as if they hadn't almost just been caught in an intimate situation. He seemed happy, even. "Daegon!" So this was Daegon. He'd heard so much yet so little about him. The one that Birten may or may not have been in a relationship with. The one that he wasn't sure if he should be jealous of. Not that he had much room to talk anymore, since he had just been kissing another man. But regardless of the situation, if Daegon was back, Birten must be too. And though he hadn't quite had time to sort out how he felt about Elan, he knew that he couldn't wait to see Birten.
  12. Disjecta Membra

    Super Smash Bros.

    Anybody else purchase this and been playing obsessively since yesterday?
  13. Disjecta Membra

    The Rescue

    Broadswords Chapter Thirty The Rescue Elsior and Deke had vanished before Daegon was able to put together what was happening. Birten had escaped? While it was good news, he couldn't help but still be concerned. If Birten was anywhere near as disoriented as he was, there was no telling what he'd go through trying to get out of wherever he was. And while he'd barely managed to avoid being burnt alive, he was still shackled to the wall of the cave. If nothing else, the inevitable was delayed. The dragon stood just as it had before the two men left. However, it remained otherwise unmoving. Daegon had never seen anything like it. A dragon that was completely and utterly at the control of a human being. It appeared that it would only attack on Elsior's command. Fascinating as it was, it would only be a matter of time before Elsior returned and finished the deed. Well, if Elsior returned. Days began to pass, and Daegon was no closer to freedom. The dragon hadn't moved except to lay down when it chose to sleep; other than that, it sat staring at him, which he could barely make out in the darkness. And Elsior had yet to come back. In what could be considered a small piece of luck, heavy rains had begun to fall after Elsior and his counterpart vacated the cave. A small rivulet of rainwater had found its way down the cave wall, and Daegon was able to keep himself partially hydrated. Between the dirty water and the lack of food, though, he was beginning to feel sick. If he made it out of this alive, he was likely to get a stomach bug. But he wasn't ready to give up yet. He knew he could last a while without food, but it didn't mean his body wasn't craving it. He'd almost begun to feel numb to the harsh pains in his stomach. Finally, about four days after their departure, he heard footsteps echoing off the cave walls. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but he could just decipher two voices over the din of the rainfall. This was it. He'd officially meet his end in the most expected way for a dragonslayer: death by dragon. "Can you see anything?" asked one of the voices, and it was not that of either Elsior or Deke. He didn't recognize it at all. Perhaps one of the villagers? He couldn't fathom that they would come out this way, especially if they knew exactly what Elsior was doing. "No, Roark, I can't. There are matches in my bag, find them and light one of the candles. That is, if the rain didn't soak through everything." Daegon heard the shuffling of items for a few moments before a small flame appeared. Apparently the matches had stayed dry through the storm. He watched as the light moved through the darkness, and a second flame emerged. The man, Roark, must have also found the candles. "Holy shit!" Roark said. "The dragon is right there!" "What did you expect? You knew what we were getting into," the other voice said. Daegon could sense the irritation he had with his companion. It made him realize how harsh he probably came across to Birten over the years. Roark scoffed. "Yeah, I know. But I didn't realize it was right there." "It's not going to move, remember? The Pyromancy clearly indicated that. We just have to get in and find him. I'm not sure how deep the cave is, though. We might have a bit more to go…." Were they friend or foe? Daegon wasn't sure if he should call out to them. Then again, it didn't really matter. The cave wasn't as deep as the unnamed voice was expecting. They would stumble upon him in a few dozen paces. "Here!" he said hoarsely. "Dragonslayer, is that you? Sorry, I don't, uh… I don't actually know your name." They didn't know his name? Why had they sought him out – in a storm, in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere – if they didn't even know who he was? Unless Birten had sent them? Maybe once he'd escaped, he'd managed to get word to whoever these men were to come find him. But Birten surely would have at least provided his name, so that Daegon would be more at ease. "Daegon," he said hesitantly. The two newcomers approached Daegon slowly, with only the light of the candle to guide them. As they neared, Daegon could barely make out their faces in the dull glow. "I'm Phërion, and this is Roark. We're here to get you back to Jhirdyr." "How did you—?" Daegon began, but Phërion interrupted. "I'll gladly explain everything on the journey back, but right now there's no time. We have to get you out of here before Elsior returns. Roark, there's some lockpicks in the bag, too. There's something you're useful for, hurry up and get him out of these chains." Roark quickly went to work on the cuffs around Daegon's wrists, and freed him in almost no time at all. The two of them lifted Daegon up, and he was unsurprisingly weak on his feet. He almost crumpled under his own weight, having not stood in quite a while. But the two men caught him, and allowed him to steady himself. They stepped around the dragon cautiously; though it didn't seem that the beast would attack without Elsior's command, there was no need to irritate it. They kept a relatively slow pace so that Daegon could keep stride between them. He was glad he was able to use them as crutches. There was no telling how long it would have taken him to get out of the cave if he had been forced to do so unaccompanied. Two horses stood near the mouth of the cave. They seemed slightly spooked by the sound of the rain, but Phërion and Roark had tied them tightly to prevent them from darting off. Phërion guided Daegon to the closer of the mares. "Here, you get on my horse with me. She's a bit younger and will be able to hold both of our weights for a longer ride. Hold on to me, Daegon. It's coming down out there and the last thing we need is for you to fall off in that mess." He managed to pull himself onto the horse as the other two unhitched the reins. They, too, mounted their rides and departed into the downpour. Somehow, he had made it. He'd survived the dragon's cave. Over the week's journey back to Jhirdyr, Daegon began to recover from his imprisonment. Phërion and Roark kept him fed and watered, and he was grateful for that. However, he quickly learned that their rescue had nothing to do with Birten, nor did they know anything about the missing squire. They were members of an assemblage resisting the efforts of the Dark Collective, a group Daegon had only a brief knowledge of. They shared with him how they'd discovered his whereabouts through the practice of Pyromancy and how his return to Jhirdyr was a necessity in preventing Elsior's plan from unfolding. He'd also learned that they had put a plan in motion regarding Harmon, though they'd kept the prince in the dark about it. "So why bring me into the mix, and explain what's going on, but not to Harmon?" he asked, trying to keep sane from the back of the horse. It was one thing being on a seven-day journey whilst directing a horse oneself, but being a passenger was doing nothing to make it seem bearable. "For one," Phërion said, "you're more directly involved. We needed to get you back to the kingdom and we couldn't have easily done that without filling you in. The prince, Harmon, he's more of a side participant. He's not going to be able to do much to stop a dragon attack on the kingdom, but he can still help. For another, it's hard to explain with Pyromancy. Or any mancies, for that matter. I just knew that it was best not to reach out to him directly or it could foil the plan altogether. The less he knows, especially considering his past with Elsior, the better. If he was fully aware of the happenings, it could throw everything askew." Daegon wasn't sure if the answer sat well with him, but it wasn't the most important piece of everything that was happening. He was far more concerned with getting back to Jhirdyr and preventing the attack. According to Phërion, a slew of dragon eggs had been discovered in a cave near the kingdom. The eggs had already hatched and it was only a matter of time before they'd be matured enough to emerge from the cavern. The Pyromancer had learned of Daegon's confinement soon after arriving in Jhirdyr and he and Roark had immediately embarked on the trek to Dorre. "In my visions, I could see that you're going to be an integral part of this battle," he had said. He had also stated that none of his visions thus far had included Birten. When Daegon asked if he knew anything of Elan, the same response was received. Apparently, divination wasn't as impressive as Daegon would have expected. Hell, Phërion couldn't even confirm if they'd be successful in eradicating the dragons and saving the kingdom. He just claimed that the things he'd seen so far would be steps in the right direction. Daegon inquired almost relentlessly about different possibilities that could occur, but Phërion's answers didn't vary. Even when they took the occasional break from the ride, and Daegon tried to get him to see something in the flames of the bonfire or a candle, there was no new information provided. "It doesn't work that way. I can focus on the flame and try to will things out of it, but it speaks to me when it speaks to me. I'm not always going to get an answer or a vision." Eventually, he stopped pushing. He was sure of one thing, though: he was glad he was not a mancer. If an art couldn't be perfected, he didn't see the point. By the time they'd reached the gates of the kingdom, Daegon felt relatively back to normal. His strength was back up, and he was ready to shut that bastard Elsior down. Though there were plenty of things that agitated Daegon, perhaps his biggest infuriation was being made to look like a fool. Phërion and Roark dropped him off at his home, and advised him of the whereabouts of the inn in which they were staying. They'd be in touch, they said, and headed off to get some rest in proper beds. After a quick bath, which he was desperately in need of, and the downing of an entire bottle of wine, which he felt he was equally necessary, Daegon made his way to the castle. He needed to have a long conversation with the king to find out what was truly going on. When he arrived at the castle gate, he was immediately greeted by one of the more lax guards. "Oy, Daegon. You here to visit Elan?" "Elan?" Daegon said, blindsided by the question. He hadn't realized that Elan was even at the castle, so clearly that wasn't the reason for his visit. The guard looked at him quizzically. "Of course. Where have you been? He's still recovering from the incident, and the apothecary is keeping him here until he's convinced that he no longer needs to be under observation." Thinking quickly, a trait that he was apparently learning from Birten, Daegon nodded. Whatever had happened to Elan, he seemingly should have been aware of it. There was no point in the royal family learning that he had been tricked into an unofficial quest that had gotten the best of him. It could have a negative effect on his ranking, or at the very least cause a distrust with the king. So he played along. "I am. What kind of slayer would I be if I didn't pay my respects to my injured brethren?" He was allowed entrance into the castle and another member of the kingsguard led him to Elan's room. As he entered, he saw Elan sure enough laid out on a bed, looking sheepish. Another man, whom Daegon didn't recognize, was seated next to him. He looked surprised by the sudden visit, and stared at him from his chair. "Daegon!" Elan said heartily. Whatever was happening, if it had caused Elan to be hospitalized, was big. He wanted answers. He wanted Birten to come home safely. And most of all, he wanted Elsior's head on a stake.
  14. Disjecta Membra

    The Recovery

    Broadswords Chapter Twenty-Nine The Recovery When Elan came to, he was instantly aware of the pounding in his head and the absolute dryness in his mouth. He couldn't be sure which was worse. He'd never had a headache as excruciating, but he'd also never experienced such a feeling of dehydration. He made to say something, but what came out was indecipherable. His ears were in fine working order, and even he didn't know what he'd attempted to utter. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and he began to panic. He couldn't swallow and he feared he would choke. But before he fell too far into his fright, he felt a steady flow of water pass down his throat. Though his vision was out of sorts, he could see that a figure had appeared before him and was holding a cup to his lips. "We'd started to worry that you weren't going to wake up," the man said, holding Elan's head steady as he poured the entirety of the container into his parched mouth. "We tried to keep you as hydrated as possible, but your body seemed to reject it. Whatever caused that hole in your hand seemed to do quite a number on you." He didn't try to speak again yet, instead indulging in the sudden relief that was overcoming him. Never before had he appreciated a drink of water as he did in that moment. He still felt out of it, but the reactivation of his salivary glands was nearly overwhelming. It almost even made him forget about the pulsing at his temples. And as if reading his mind, the voice continued. "You'll certainly have a monster of a headache. We weren't able to administer the normal medications, since your throat wasn't in proper working order. Now that we've at least lubricated it a little, take this." Not that he would have objected, but a collection of leaves was thrust into his mouth before he knew what was happening. They were dry, too, but not as much as his throat had been moments ago. He forced himself to swallow whatever it was, though it was bitter. "Greens from the Hojus plant. One of man's best remedies for a splitting skull." Elan had never been one for medicinal methods of overcoming any feelings of imperfection. Alcohol and sex had always been just fine at curing things like headaches, hangovers, and even wounds of war. But in the given moment, he would have taken just about anything to relieve him of the pain he felt. And the Hojus plant, whatever it was, seemed to be doing the trick. It wasn't an immediate relief, but it appeared to be easing the tension in his head. Indeed, his eyesight slowly began to clear up and he was able to decipher his surroundings. He didn't know which room he was in, but it was obvious that he was in the castle. The décor and the size of the room spoke to that. Whoever else was in there with him had stepped away after providing the remedy to his pain, but eventually came back into his line of sight. He was an older man, clad in the drab robes worn by apothecaries. The only difference in his linens from a standard apothecary was the band of red that lined the hems, confirming that he was employed by the royal family. Aside from that, there was nothing especially distinctive about him. Elan wouldn't have took notice of him in a crowd. But at that moment, he was his favorite person. "Try to relax," the apothecary said. "You lost an immense amount of blood. I have to say, in my years in this profession, I've never seen anything like it. At least, not from anyone that lived to tell about it. Whatever it was that happened to you, though, it's different from anything I've ever seen. Your blood seems to be replenishing itself at a much rapider pace than normal." Elan tried to take in everything that the apothecary was saying, but between his disorientation and his desire to get out of the bed, he wasn't making sense of it all. He just knew that he couldn't be cooped up here. He needed to get back to the cave. "How long have I been here?" he managed to ask, but he immediately regretted it. A burning sensation shot down his throat, negating the relief he had just begun to feel. "Easy, son," the apothecary said, steadying Elan on the bed. "Don't try to talk just yet. You need to let your body recover. As I said, you are certainly recuperating much faster than we could have ever expected, but you're going to require at least a couple weeks before you're going to be ready to do anything." The very thought of it infuriated Elan. There was no way he could stay cooped up for a day, let alone a few weeks. Besides the likelihood that he would go stir crazy if there wasn't anything particularly exciting going on, the kingdom was at the brink of a major dragon attack. He couldn't sit idly by while that occurred. "To answer your question, the guards brought you in six days ago. They mentioned that a slightly portly fellow delivered you to the gates. I daresay that whoever he is, you have him to thank for the fact that you're still alive. I, also, would like to thank him. And to speak with him in general. I need to know more about what happened to you, and I can't risk having you go into detail explaining this to me or else it might have adverse effects on your health. I need to know who this savior of yours is, so I can bring him in here to help us figure this thing out. What's his name, now? Ah! No, no. Don't speak. Here, write it down. We'll have him brought in." The apothecary handed Elan a scrap of parchment and a quill, and he hesitantly wrote Kep in his untidy scrawl. He didn't particularly want it brought up that he'd been using a clearly dangerous weapon that had caused all of this, and he especially didn't want to be the subject of any scrutiny by the royal family. However, he could also tell that it wasn't going to do him any good to fight it. And maybe if he cooperated, they'd let him out of there so that he could put a stop to the dragons. He added innkeeper to the paper, figuring it would help them locate Kep faster. He handed the parchment to the old man, irritated that it had come to this. He really just wanted to tell him that they didn't have time for this and that they needed to act now. However, bringing Kep in might be the only real way to do so. And in all truthfulness, he had actually begun to grow fond of Kep. He didn't see that kind of heart in many people he knew, and especially not from someone that didn't really have the means to do something about the situation that the kingdom was in. At the very least, he could have Kep connect with his squire to get the ball rolling. If he was truly going to be incapacitated and unable to fight this battle himself, he could make sure that the few people he trusted were going to resolve this. With Daegon and Birten missing in action, there weren't a whole lot of options. There were certainly the other two slayers that had higher rankings than Daegon, but most of that was due to their tenure in the field. Daegon and his squire were another two that really had what it took to succeed in this world and who he actually felt were capable of accomplishing great things. He was glad that nobody could read his thoughts, because his sudden wave of sincerity was even surprising him. The apothecary took the scrap of parchment and left the room. Though the thought crossed his mind, Elan didn't even bother trying to see if he could make an escape because he knew there were likely a plethora of guards outside of the door. He just hoped that they found Kep quickly and that a motion would be put into place soon to resolve the issue at hand. A few hours later, the kingsmen had already located Kep and had brought him to the castle. The apothecary informed Elan that the innkeep was currently being questioned by the king and the eldest two princes. Elan wanted to tell him that Kep shouldn't be interrogated, to treat him with some decency. But he knew that he shouldn't speak, and even if he did advise of such, it would fall on deaf ears. All he could do was wait. Before long, however, Kep was escorted into Elan's room. An immediate look of relief crossed over Kep's face, and he was instantly at Elan's side. "You're okay! I was so worried," Kep said, settling into a chair next to the bed. His beard, which had been tidily groomed the last time Elan had seen him, was now unkempt. But his eyes were the same. Elan smiled weakly, glad to see that Kep didn't seem to have been overly harassed by the royal family. He wanted to ask him how it went, but there was no point causing the burning sensation in his throat again. In any event, Kep leapt right into the details of the exchange. "The king, and princes Caebe and Harmon, they wanted to know what happened. After I dropped you off, I went and saw an old friend who has a great deal of knowledge about weaponry. He was well aware of the Sanguistis, and he gave me a lot of information which I was able to pass along to the king. Elan… you're incredibly lucky. Weapons of that nature have destroyed countless men. Most of those who've been in contact with them never recovered." Kep reached out and placed his hand on Elan's, concern in his eyes. Elan winced; it was his dagger-wielding hand. Though a thick layer of gauze bound it tightly, the sensitivity was still there. "I'm so sorry!" Kep said, pulling his hand back immediately. "I'm such an idiot, I'm sorry." Elan watched as Kep sat there sheepishly. "Thank you," the slayer whispered. The pain seared his throat again, but he didn't care. Kep needed to hear those words. Without him, he could have suffered a very pathetic end as the result of his arrogance. Though he didn't respond, Elan could tell Kep appreciated hearing the words. They sat there quietly for a while. If Elan was right about when the dragons would truly become a threat, they had just over two weeks to finally get a plan together. But he did something that was very unlike him: he allowed himself to relax for a moment and enjoy the silence.
  15. Disjecta Membra

    Chapter 1

    That was super cute, with a nice little positive twist on the end. You did the character justice; it’s always heartwarming to see a prickly character show that they have a heart.
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