The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Come Together - The Beatles, 1969

Chapter 14 (v.1) - Come Together

Submitted: May 16, 2018

Reads: 62

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Submitted: May 16, 2018

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Veon-Zih quickly rounded up a large table for the now bigger gathering. He took a seat next to Yua with Lily sitting on his other side. Before Shon could take the other seat by Lily the young mage had slid into place, and beside him, Velona, leaving Shon to take the seat between the female monk and the ranger, and putting Lily directly across from him.

“So! Introductions,” Lily beamed at everyone around the table, “This is Master Veon-Zih, I’m Lily, This is Tuth, Master Velona, Shon,” she winked at him, and Shon sighed shaking his head but smiling ever so slightly, “and I’m sorry but I don’t know your name…” She had fixed her blue eyes on Yua and was leaning on the table tilting her head in that feline way she always did.

Yua seemed distracted by the exotic and bubbly Lily and didn’t speak right away. Lucky for her Veon-Zih came to her rescue, “This is Yua. She’s a ranger of the southern woods and has agreed to accompany Shon and I on our next adventure.”

The ranger in question found her words and seemed to have come to the conclusion that if Master Veon-Zih trusted this strangely striped woman, then she must be trustworthy, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lily,” she nodded at her then to each of the others, “Tuth, Master Velona.”

It was then that the bartender came to the table with Shon’s drink, Veon-Zih and Yua had carried theirs to the table with them. Silently the man stared inquisitively at the newcomers who quickly gave their orders, tea for Velona and two meads for Tuth and Lily. As the man walked away, Lily stretched in her seat. Extending her arms straight up then out across the table and stretching her legs underneath. As she ended the motion, she crossed her ankles brushing a foot against Shon’s leg. He only sputtered a little into his drink.

It had been a long time, but with one move she had transported him back to the mess hall at Hamerfoss. Lily rested her elbow on the table and her cheek on her hand, but it was the mage Tuth who spoke next.

“So, how do you know each other?” Lily looked over at the young man tilting her head and furrowing her brow at him. Shon arched an eyebrow at the lad, he was leaning back with his arms crossed over his chest and was speaking with a sour tone to his voice. Tuth took some time to look at all three of the members of the other party but pointedly kept his glare on Shon when he was done.

“Shon saved me,” Lily said quickly still tilting her head at Tuth who blinked surprised at her, “it was, what? Seven years ago?” she looked at Shon, who had not been expecting to participate much in the conversation. He took a moment before nodding, it sounded about right. Lily seemed content to take his word for it because she smiled at him again, reaching out one leg under the table to touch him again. This time he didn’t flinch.

Lily continued the story, “He was training with the paladin squires in Hamerfoss. Clearhelm province,” she clarified, “and I was still in my tower. There was a fire,” beside her Tuth’s eyebrows shot into his sandy hair before he rolled his eyes theatricality and grinned at her. “I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my fault!” she hurried, to which the two monks snickered, and Shon covered his face with his hand to hide the smile. Yua was looking from Lily to Shon in quick succession like her head had been placed on a swivel rather than a neck. “Anyway!” Lily said loudly over the snickers, “that's how I met the Paladins of the Order of the Sword and why I agreed to take this next job.” she let her hands fall loosely on the table grinning at everyone as though she had just answered any question they could ever have thought of. Except, “Oh and Master Velona and Veon-Zih are old friends and Veon-Zih is Shon’s teacher.”

Beside him, Yua shook her head a bit and blinked, Lily had spoken very quickly but not so fast that it couldn’t be followed, “so you guys go way back.” Yua said, turning an evil grin on Shon, “do you often attack old friends?” Shon suspected she was going to be one of those people who had an almost academic interest in him. Veon-Zih had told him that his silence just made people more curious and if he opened up more they actually might leave him alone. He didn’t believe it.

Shon just glared out of the corner of his eye at the ranger while Veon-Zih laughed on her other side. Choosing to ignore the question he focused on Lily across from him, “you have a job with the Temple?”

Beside her Tuth cleared his throat, and they all focused on him again, “I have a job with the Temple, they want me to investigate some new shaman in one of the plains tribes.” he was still being curt and Shon had to wonder if the mage was always that way, which he could understand, or if it had something to do with the way Lily kept smiling at him.

“They gave you the job as a member, but only because they knew Lily would go with you.” Velona corrected him. She had not sounded unkind, but he glowered nonetheless. The monk ignored him, focusing on Veon-Zih across from her, “most of the tribes view Lily as a traveling shaman of fire, and because she is respectful as well as powerful they often let her into places they won’t any other ‘kingdom man.’”

Veon-Zih was stroking his chin and nodding at her explanation before sending a teasing smile towards Shon. Why were they all sending him teasing evil looks? Leaning forward the monk said, “you know you could probably try that too…” but Shon was already shaking his head and taking another drink of mead. He still carried his sword because he didn’t want to register as a practicing sorcerer and the Temple was continuing to vouch for his safety. To his surprise Lily frowned across the table at him, furrowing her brow and tilting her head again.

Shon did not want to get into his powers with her or anyone else, so he said quickly, “we have a mission with the mages guild in the eastern plains.”

He didn’t think the follow-up Lily gave of, “ooh! I wonder if it's the same one!” was necessary, it having been implied heavily by his statement, but he was glad for the change of topic, and her returned smile.

The bartender came with the new drinks, and Shon tapped his glass pointedly. Nodding the man moved back to grab a second glass. The tavern wasn’t crowded yet, it still being early in the day, but as the conversation continued and more people began to fill the room, a tavern wench started bringing their drinks instead. Shon had stopped at three, Yua was on her fourth, and Lily was on her fifth. Tuth had foolishly agreed to a drinking game with the two ladies and was staring mournfully at his seventh mead looking like he was about to refill all his empty glasses by returning the drinks from his stomach.

The two monks had moved off to a smaller table against the wall to speak in private while Shon stayed at the larger table with the ladies and drunken wizard. “‘m fine, ‘m fine.” the boy was slurring smacking the table with one hand and waving the giggling Lily away with the other. He had started to loosen up after the second drink or so, though he hadn't wilfully spoken to Shon until after the fourth. Shon’s only apparent symptom of too much drink was that he became more talkative, which Yua quickly took advantage of, grilling him on his time with the paladins and the different missions he had been on with Master Veon-Zih.

Come to find out Lily was a bit of a lightweight drinker, though it was hard for most people to tell. The signs were small, she spoke faster and touched more, frequently leaning over to rest her head on Yua's shoulder which surprised the ranger the first time but just caused her to laugh every time after that. Lily also became physically hotter. At first, Shon thought it was the increased number of patrons, and some of it may have been, but by her third mead, it was evident that the warmth was radiating from her direction.

Lily waved away the tavern wench when she came with more refills, patting the young mage on the shoulder with a playful, “I think that will be enough for tonight.” she leaned over and whispered loudly in the boys ear, “we have an early day tomorrow remember?” which made the lad turn bright red under the light green he had been from the nausea.

“How,” he closed his mouth on the word, swallowing before continuing, “how are you fine?” he swayed slightly glaring at Lily who laughed and took his cheeks in both of her hands. Shon couldn’t tell if he was still red from the earlier blush, a new blush from having her so close, or from the heat he must be feeling from her fingers.

“I,” she said monogamously, “burn off alcohol quickly.” she shot a sideways look at Shon, who was leaning back in his chair just observing, and winked. He had never seen Lily drink before. Tuth looked like he was trying to decipher her words from another language, and failing, which made her giggle again, kissing him on the forehead and letting him go.

The boy smacked his hand against his head with a little, “ow, too hot, too hot.” and then, as though the motion of rocking back with the smack had been what his body had been waiting for all along, he rushed to the door and the side ally as fast as his stumbling legs could take him.

Yua and Lily both laughed into their hands. Getting to her feet, the ranger shook her head in the direction of the door and said, “I’ll go check on him…” before walking off, leaving Shon and Lily alone.

Lily was still trying to contain her giggles behind her hand while Shon shook his head grinning at the floor. Sighing Lily got to her feet. Shon watched her, expecting her to follow the ranger to check on her companion. Instead, she moved around the table and took the Yua's old seat next to him. She sat sideways in the chair, leaning one elbow on the table and resting her chin on her hand again, watching him. “How are you?” she asked softly, her smile was soft but intense and her eyes sparkled as she watched him.

Shon leaned forward to mirror her position, leaning against the table and resting his knuckles against his cheek. The movement had brought their faces to within only a few feet of each other. So he wouldn’t have to shout, Shon tried to convince himself. He thought for a moment before answering, “better now.” which earned him another beaming smile that lit up the dark tavern.

Lily slid a little closer on the chair, bringing her knees into contact with his. He could feel her warmth through the fabric. “I like your hair,” she said, reaching up and running her fingers through the long strands in front. As she had said, he had let it grow, it was a good four inches long now, the front framing his face and the back nearly long enough to tie back.

Shon looked up and to the side, looking at the back side of one of the strands near his face. Reaching up he also ran his hand through it saying, “it needs to be cut.”

“No,” Lily whined and snatched his hand out of his hair, holding it in hers, “I like it long.” she grinned wickedly and moved slightly closer to say in a loud whisper, “I want to play with it.” Lily let go of his hand and reached up again to run her fingers through it. Rather than protest, Shon tilted his head down giving her better access to the back of his head. Her fingers felt good, and he felt his stomach flutter at her touch.

She leaned even closer so she could reach back and finish the motion, then dipped her own head towards his ear and whispered, quietly this time, “I want to kiss you again.”

Shon’s heart could have stopped, and he wouldn't have noticed. Five years. It had been five years since he had heard her say that before, and it had taken all of his control to stop then. For a moment he was outside in Hamerfoss again, walking in loose sleeping clothes on a winter night. Still leaning forward Shon tilted his face up to look at her, her eyes were shining with her smile, and her pupils were nearly round in the shade created by their proximity and the dim tavern. “Lily…”

“Uh, Lily!” Yua called from the tavern entrance, and Shon and Lily sat up again, turning to look at her. And all the sound in the crowded tavern came crashing back. Shon’s heart resumed beating and seemed to be trying to make up for lost time by slamming into his sternum at full force.

The ranger was still half looking out the door, and it didn’t seem like she had noticed the position they had been in before she called. “I think Tuth needs to go back to the guild for the night.” She laughed, and the boy's hand could be seen coming from the side of the door feebly trying to wave her away.

Lily laughed loudly, shaking her head and getting to her feet. “Alright!” to Shon she whispered, “lightweight.” and winked. He blinked at her for a moment before also standing with a sigh, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Lily said reaching out for a hug that he gave her gratefully.

When she pulled away, Shon let his arms fall. He had just looked over to see the two monks also climbing to their feet and sharing a hug when Lily leaned forward and kissed his cheek. It felt like a brand against his skin. A brief sting followed by a soothing balm as his cold compensated at the spot. Shon’s hand went up to cover his cheek automatically, and he turned wide eyes on her. Lily had her eyes closed and was licking her lips with the tip of her tongue. “Mmm, refreshing.” she winked at him one more time then glided past, out the door and to the side of her sick companion.

Shon watched her go, and Veon-Zih sidled up next to him, resting a hand on his shoulder and making him jump. “It’s a small kingdom isn’t it?” he asked slyly as he watched Lily and Velona helping Tuth past the open doorway and presumably down the road back to the mages guild.

***

Lily clenched her teeth around her yawn as she stretched causing it to come out as a bit of a strained shout. She let her arms swing down loosely, causing Tuth behind her to hop to the side with a tired, “hey, watch the stick…” he at least tried to cover his yawn, but it quickly turned into a groan as he gripped the side of his head.

“I would have thought,” Lily teased him as they walked, “that after throwing up all of the alcohol, you wouldn’t have a hangover.” to which the young mage groaned again.

As if he couldn’t help himself Tuth said, “it's not the alcohol Lily, it’s the dehydration from…” but she wasn’t listening.

The figures standing by the east gate had finally gotten close enough to be distinguished. Veon-Zih looked like he was talking to one of the gate guards, while the ranger woman was leaning against the wall, looking down the road towards them, and Shon was facing away, looking towards the vast flat plains they would be walking into.

Lily resisted the urge to sprint the rest of the way and jump onto Shon’s back, barely. She was sure he wouldn’t appreciate it, so instead, she sped up her walk until she was standing silently next to him. He had turned and given her one of his small smiles as she got closer, then resumed his look out to the empty expanse with a heavy sigh. Lily shifted her weight to lean slightly towards him and was happy to feel him brush against her before she had expected it. Apparently, he had moved too. On one sharp laughing sigh, like a horse snort, Shon’s smile widened just a little before he cleared his expression and turned around to face the others.

“So,” Yua was the first to speak, she seemed all business and Lily had to wonder if she always acted differently on missions than she did in taverns, “what are the details of this mission anyway?”

Off to the side, Veon-Zih was rubbing Tuths hands while the mage groaned. Lily tilted her head and looked questioningly at the monk then Shon who whispered, “pressure points. Helps with a hangover.” to which she made a silent ‘oh,’ then covered her giggle.

Master Velona, stepped forward to answer the question as the mage was otherwise engaged. “There have been readings and reports that there is powerful arcane magic being practiced by one of the plains tribes.”

“Laughing Pony tribe” Tuth groaned from the side while his head lulled loosely back. Veon-Zih just shook his head grinning at the poor boy and continuing to rub his hands.

Velona sighed but continued, “Most of the time magic practitioners in the tribes practice divine magic though occasionally a sorcerer is born and trained as a Shaman. If it's a new sorcerer, then all we need to do is get some very basic information and enter them in the registry as a Shamanic sorcerer of their tribe. However,” and this was where Yua tilted her head in a very Lily-esk fashion while Shon sighed, “if it ends up that the magic is coming from a former city sorcerer or mage then they will need to come with us to register in person with the guild to prove their good intentions for the tribe. but if they are unwilling or if it turns out to be something else…” she let the idea trail off.

Lily sighed then. She didn’t like these missions, not when they went bad anyway, but at the same time, she trusted herself more than anyone else to give the magic user and barbarians fair judgment. Whereas other mages had been known to make harsh decisions before even seeing the practitioner.

Yua, nodded then looked out at the plains, “do you know how we are going to find this,” she glanced at Tuth who said again,

“Laughing pony tribe,”

“When the eastern plains are miles and miles of flat grass, and the local tribes are nomads?” she finished by looking to each of the members of the mage's party.

Tuth had finally looked over properly and shook his hands loose while Veon-Zih wiped his palms off on his trousers. Reaching into an inner pocket of his robe the young man pulled out what looked like a compass. “This has been calibrated to the detected arcane magic. We should be able to follow it as long as we don’t cast too much of our own magic and throw off the calibration.” he glared pointedly at Lily who brought her hands up defensively.

“Don’t look at me!” she crossed her arms and looked away from all of them, “I don’t always want to chase people for miles when I can easily get them to come back by putting fire in their way.” Shon snorted beside her, and everyone’s wide eyes shot to him instead, “you people are strangely jumpy when it comes to fire…” Lily ended glancing sideways at Tuth who was the only one still looking at her.

“It hurts! My feet were blistered for days until we got to the church!” to which Lily just shrugged and stuck her tongue out at him.

“Alright.” Shon spoke, cold again, and the others exchanged looks, briefly wondering if they had imaged the laugh, “so we follow the compass to find the tribe then attempt diplomacy. And hopefully,” he looked over at Lily, and she suspected that he had correctly interpreted her sigh from before, “it stops there.” he finished.

“Last question.” Yua said, holding up a finger and looking at each of them again, “why don’t we have horses?” to which they all looked at Lily as one, who again threw up her hands.

“I’m sorry!”

***

Most of the time wagon horses got used to Lily so long as she didn’t move too quickly around them and generally stayed either in the wagon or behind it. And some warhorses even let her pet and feed them if she was introduced slowly and properly. But she had yet to find a beast that was willing to take her as a rider.

So the party set out on foot, following the young mage and his compass. They would walk for a few hours, talking amongst each other, then check the compass and make any necessary adjustments. Shon was starting to worry that they didn’t bring enough rations for what could be an impossibly long mission when Lily assured them all that if any tribes saw their campfires, they would be the ones to make first contact. This being their territory.

It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been something to look at, or some landmarks to base their progress on. As it was all they saw were some large rocks and the occasional lonely tree. The only thing in the area that had really changed by the time the sun began to set was the direction of the light and the fact that they couldn’t see the city anymore.

They decided to stop near one of the random trees, and Veon-Zih was just mentioning to Shon about gathering enough twigs and grass for a fire when Master Velona rested a hand on his arm and nodded towards Lily who had already had an overly large fire burning on the plains. Tuth had walked far enough away that the magic fire wouldn’t interfere with his compass, and was starting to make his way back to the group when Lily let out a slow breath, reducing the size of the fire to that of a normal campfire. She had cleared the surrounding area with the controlled burn of her first larger fire, so the adventurers merely had to shift the charred grass aside to sit on the warm sand around the smaller sustained fire.

Shon was shaking his head, silently amused as he watched Yua talking animatedly to Lily. It was the first actual demonstration of her fire-power that everyone had mentioned time and again in passing. Shon wondered if the ranger had thought it would be rude to ask for more details and that was why she had resisted until now. Lily seemed more than happy to not only talk about her abilities but to demonstrate more. Until Tuth insisted she stop for the sake of his compass.

The companions drew straws on who would stand watch and when. Shon would be first, Velona second, Yua third and Lily would stand last watch. The deal was that the next night Veon-Zih and Tuth would be guaranteed a watch while the others had a chance of having a night off.

Shon joined the others around the fire for supper, listening quietly while they all spoke, exchanging more stories of past adventures. When the meal was over Yua and Tuth retreated to their beds, and the monks moved out of the firelight to speak in private again. Digging through his bags, Shon found his journal and moved to sit by the lonely tree and write his entry for the night while Lily combed her hair watching the fire.

He was just finishing his last drawing, this one of Yua and Lily speaking animatedly to each other after the display of fire magic when he felt someone move behind him. Shon didn't have to look to know who it was, the warmth radiating from her skin as she knelt beside the tree behind him and looked over his shoulder would be enough for anyone to know it was Lily.

Lily rested her chin on his shoulder and blinked down at the journal, “I’m so jealous of your drawings, they’re always so beautiful.” sighing she shifted her head, so her cheek was resting against him, “nothing I make lasts longer than a few moments.” Shon breathed slow and deep, taking in her sent while keeping his hand steady so he could finish the drawing.

“Lily,” he finished the last line and turned his head just a little to bring his face closer to hers, “everything about you is beautiful.” she pulled her head away, twisting to the side and around, so she was sitting on the ground next to and facing him.

She tilted her head to the side, the loose strands of her golden hair falling over her shoulder as she blinked at him, “you really think so?” Lily sounded confused rather than complemented.

Shon sighed and reached forward to brush the strands of her hair behind her ear. The gesture made her smile, and his heart skipped a beat. “I wouldn’t lie to you about something like that Lily,” he said, leaving his hand on her face and just enjoying the feel of her warmth on his hand. She didn’t pull away, not like everyone else.

Closing her eyes, Lily leaned into his hand for a moment before turning her face and kissing his palm with burning lips. “I always tell you what I want. What do you want?” She opened her eyes to look at him, a wicked half-smile gracing her lips.

You. It was the only thing Shon could think as she leaned a little closer trying to arch an eyebrow at him and waiting silently for his answer. Shon leaned forward, bringing his back off of the tree and his mouth to her ear. He kept his hand on her cheek to keep her from moving away and whispered, “I want to kiss you again…” Lily pulled away, her eyes darting back and forth searching his face. She shifted her legs, so she was kneeling again, still facing him. “I understand if you don’t want to,” he said, catching her eyes with his own.

Lily didn’t say anything. She took his face in her hands and kissed him. At first, it was slow, gentle, her lips hot and smooth. Shon’s hands shook, and he reached out to grip her waist lightly. She was twisted awkwardly as she knelt on the ground, but as he touched her, she groaned quietly, sitting up on her knees before throwing one leg over his, straddling his hips and allowing her to kiss him comfortably from the front.

Every muscle in Shon's body snapped taught. Lily pushed him back with her lips until he was leaning against the tree again, her chest pressed against his. She was closer then she had ever been and yet it didn’t feel close enough. Shon’s hands ran down from her waist to her legs then back up to her hips. He opened his mouth against hers, and he could taste her. The feel of her lips and then her tongue had him squeezing his fingers on her hips making her moan and rock ever so slightly against him.

She had to be able to feel him beneath her, Shon had never been so hard, and every tiny motion of her body was only making it worse. She had slid her hands back from his face to grip his hair as she breathed him in through her nose. Lily pulled her lips from his, tilting her head up and breathing hard. She was still holding him and pressing her chest against his. Shon wasn’t ready for it to be over. He kissed her neck and her fingers curled in his hair. The sharp pull only made it worse, and he bit down, nibbling her neck and feeling the transition between her skin and her scales with his tongue. 

Shon wanted more, needed more. His hands moved slowly up until he could feel the hot skin under her tunic, occasionally stopping to squeeze as she moved against him and his teeth scraped down to the junction of her neck and shoulder. “Shon…” she breathed, a whine in her voice. She tried to keep her volume down even as her hips continued to move. They were only slight movements, but each tiny motion made it harder and harder for him to stop.

“Ah hem,” someone cleared their throat nearby, and Shon’s eyes shot open, “do you think we could finish this mission before you finish each other?” Shon and Lily turned their faces in unison to see the monks Velona and Veon-Zih standing only a few feet away. Backlit by the fire their faces were obscured. But Shon didn’t want to see their faces, he wanted to drop into the ground.

“Not that I mind,” Velona’s voice said, “but we kind of have a job to finish, and you can’t very well stand watch with your eyes closed.” Lily let her hands fall from his hair and leaned away from him while Shon brought one hand up to cover his face. “Lily,” the monk continued, “we have watch later, we should get some sleep now.” silently Shon saw Lily nod out of the corner of one partially covered eye.

Getting to her feet, Lily leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the forehead. Dropping his hand, he watched her finish the standing motion, but couldn’t say anything. Even as she started walking back towards the fire and her bedroll.

Master Velona went with her, but Veon-Zih stayed behind, still standing where he was when they had been interrupted. He at least had the decency to watch the ladies walk away, and thus not look at Shon who had brought his journal over to rest on his lap while he leaned against the tree covering his eyes again with a free hand. “I’m sorry Shon,” the monk said. Shon glared at him from between fingers, “there is a time and place… and this is neither.” Shon longed to snap at the man. But he didn't trust his voice not to break and so chose to say nothing while Veon-Zih followed the girls to his own bedroll by the fire.

***

Lily spent her watch walking around the outside of the small camp waiting for the sun to rise and checking the horizon for the dust plumes that would signal tribal riders coming to investigate them. Or at least that's what she told herself she was doing. In actuality, she was walking around the camp reexamining the previous night’s events in a spiral of ever-tightening loops.

She had been told she was naive before, and this time she had to agree that it must be true. She had kissed Shon before, had even been the one to ask for it. At the time it was because she was truly curious what it would feel like with only mild undercurrents of butterflies that fluttered around in her stomach at the thought. Then, after she had done it and it ended up considerably more intense than she was expecting, she wanted it again, and the butterflies were significantly more prominent. She had liked the feel of him and wanted to see how much further it could go and if it felt better or stayed the same. She would have been happy with it staying the same but had now felt how much better it could be. And she wanted more.

The young woman stopped walking and plopped onto the ground, mentally tired and emotionally exasperated. She had an academic knowledge of sex and mating and always figured she would experience it eventually but never really gave it much thought outside of the ‘someday it would be nice to know’ category of curiosity that she also felt for things like eating bugs, flying, and riding a horse.

Lily leaned back, resting on her elbows and letting her head fall back so she could see her companions upside down behind her. They were beginning to stir. First Veon-Zih, who had had a full night's sleep, followed by Velona who was so used to getting up early that Lily was a little surprised she was so late, then Shon which caused her heart to give a little flutter as he sat up with mussed hair and tired eyes. She had never seen him right out of bed, he had always done some morning exercises and drills before coming to breakfast where she would be waiting for him.

Velona was gently waking up Yua while Veon-Zih nudged a grumbling Tuth with his toe and Lily rolled backward and up onto her feet, smile firmly in place. “Good morning everyone.” she was greeted with a mix of quite ‘mornings' and annoyed grumbles. She tried to take some time and look at all of them in turn but found her eyes continually drawn to Shon as he first rolled up his bed then stripped out of the previous night's shirt to replace it with a fresh one from his pack.

Yua was starting a simple breakfast of leftover dinner, plus some trail biscuits, when Lily completely gave up trying to be ‘fair’ in her giving equal attention to everyone. Walking directly up to Shon as he pulled his new tunic over messy morning hair she giggled at him. He was just as much a morning person as she had always thought he was. Shon’s eyes were alert and his movements just as smooth as always, not like poor Tuth who looked drunkenly around from his bedroll as if he had no idea how or why he was out in the plains at all or who these strange people walking around him were.

Shon’s eyes met hers as he tied the neck of his tunic in a loose knot and she was pleased to see one of his subtle small smiles crease those ice eyes just a bit. “Your hair is ridiculous,” she said with a giggle as way of a morning greeting.

Snorting at her Shon reached up to run both hands through his hair, “that's why it needs to be cut.” he said with a hint of a tease in his voice.

But Lily had stepped closer and reached her own hands up to comb through the black locks with her fingers, “but if you did cut it I wouldn’t be able to do this.” sighing Shon let his hands fall and watched Lily though her arms and his bangs as she combed his hair, parting it down the middle and taking perhaps a little too much time to make sure it lay just right.

“Thanks.” Shon said as she stepped back to admire her work, only a little sarcasm in his voice, “though usually I just do this.” and he shook his head like a dog which made Lily gasp in indignation. It really hadn’t messed it up much, and now it fell more naturally. She punched him lightly in the chest anyway. He took the hit without flinching, and she laughed again before they went to eat breakfast with the others.

The group was back on the trail within the hour, with Tuth pointing the way and the others moving along until it was time for him to recheck the direction and make any necessary adjustments. Lily had decided to take up a position in the rear of the group, partially to talk to Yua about the differences between elemental arcane and elemental divine magic and partially to enjoy the view of Shon walking ahead of her.

The ranger it seemed was only content to play along for a little while because eventually she rolled her eyes and leaned in close to Lily to whisper. “I have to admit, it surprises me that you two are so close.” which caused Lily to lean away and regard the ranger with shocked curiosity. Yua just shrugged and continued, still quiet but not whispering, “I've only traveled with them for a few weeks as a caravan guard before this, so there is probably a lot I don’t know,” her eyes drifted over to stare at Shons back as he walked beside Veon-Zih, “But in all that time Shon never volunteered any information about himself, and rarely spoke at all really.”

Lily tilted her head at Shons back but smiled, “he doesn’t like to waste words. But most of the time if you ask a question he will answer.” she looked to the ranger, who was frowning in thought and added, “I’m sure it just takes a little more time to warm up to him than to other people who are naturally outgoing. You know?”

“Its funny you should say ‘warm up’ to him…”  Yua mused, “at first I thought he was just the quiet type who would rather watch and listen then participate,” Lily was already nodding, that was the Shon she knew, “but…” and Lily tilted her head again, “then we saw him in a fight.” Yua gave a little shiver, “it was scary. He was completely cold, like he was cutting down branches rather than a man.”

Yua seemed surprised when Lily just shrugged at the idea that Shon might be considered scary by others. In truth Lily kind of understood where Yua might be coming from, she had seen him spar and had even been on the other side of that blank, cold intensity he had when focused on a fight. But at the same time, it wasn’t like any of the people Shon had fought for real were his people. And Shon wouldn’t take a job to fight someone who didn’t deserve it, that she was sure of.

“You’ll see,” Lily told Yua, nudging her a little, “Shon is my favorite treasure, just give him time.”

Yua didn’t have time to comment when Tuth called out from the front, “we have dust!” which had both of the ladies shielding their eyes and squinting towards the horizon where the young mage was pointing. Sure enough, a cloud of dust had formed, and there seemed to be shapes in it getting steadily closer. Lily just hoped they were Laughing Pony riders rather than one of the other plains tribes, not that the others wouldn’t be of help, but it would be nice to skip a step and get right where they needed to be.

The party continued to walk towards the dust cloud until they could make out the horses and their riders, at which point they stopped to wait for the tribesmen to come to them. Lily took up a position in front, and when Shon rested a cool hand on her shoulder and arched a questioning eyebrow, she just smiled, kissing his cheek and making him blush before he took a step back. Lily had a lot of experience with the barbarian tribes which shared the lands of Daalan with the kingdom. In many ways, she preferred their culture and lifestyle, though not all of it.

The horsemen didn’t slow down as they approached the adventurers, instead, maneuvering around to begin circling them. It was a show of strength and a rather impressive one, the horses could easily ride over the six of them, and they would hardly have even a chance to fight. Lily let them show off for awhile then closed her eyes, breathing in and gathering her energy.

At her feet, she started a small fire that began to move around the party gaining in size as it moved. By the third time around the horsemen had stopped riding and taken up position in a large circle of their own while Lily’s fire formed a horse amongst the flames and continued to run around the adventurers.

Opening her eyes, Lily searched the faces of the riders for the one that looked like the band leader. He was directly in front of her, and with a smile she allowed her horse of fire to jump off the ground and shrink in the air as it dove for her hand. She had condensed the energy of the fire into a single marble-sized ball that glowed white like the sun in the palm of her hand. Lily popped it into her mouth as though it were a candy and swallowing took a step closer to the leader.

“Greetings! I'm Lily, also known as Golden Rage in the north, and Crimson Dancer in the south. I am seeking an audience with the shaman of the Laughing Pony tribe.” the men to either side of the leader exchanged looks while the man being addressed nudged his reluctant but obedient horse a little closer to her.

“We are the Laughing Pony tribe,” Lily’s smiled broadened, and the man couldn’t help a little grin of his own before he cleared his expression to say, “what business have you with our Shaman?”

Lily tilted her head to the side and blinked at the man saying, “we have detected great power coming from your tribe, and we want to know more.” truth, and neither threatening nor overly reassuring.

Apparently, it worked because the man said, “I am Gardurth, son of Jahka and I will take you to our camp.” Lily’s companions exchanged nervous looks while she shook her head.

“Thank you for your kind hospitality. but my fire prevents even the bravest of steeds from taking me as a rider.” she sighed, obviously disappointed for real but then perked up. “We will continue our travel on foot if you would be the bearer of the news of our coming.”

Gardurth, son of Jahka, nodded to Lily and motioned to his riders who began to circle again before riding back the direction they had come from, “we will prepare a welcoming feast for the fire speaker of the north and south.”

Lily returned the man's nod and leaned back to whisper to Shon, “see, I knew they had heard of me.” she winked at him, and Shon shook his head grinning. He hadn’t said anything to hint that he didn’t think she would be notorious amongst the tribes.

Behind them, Tuth snorted, “Well it's a good thing they were the right ones. That display completely ruined my compass.


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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