The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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Wind of Change - Scorpions, 1990

Chapter 16 (v.1) - Wind of Change

Submitted: May 17, 2018

Reads: 74

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Submitted: May 17, 2018

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Ulhar 08, 1109

Shon carried Lily back to their yurt where they were asked to stay until the chief could talk to them. Veon-Zih carried Tuth who was luckily just asleep, the pseudodragon venom being non-lethal. Yua walked back with Velona, the monk had received minor burns from Lily’s attack but was mostly unharmed, showing more concern for her student and the young mage then herself.

Veon-Zih insisted Shon lay Lily down on her bedroll so he could tend to the burns on his back and feet and the cut on his neck. This time he didn’t criticize Shon for taking the hit and for that Shon was grateful. Tuth woke up after a few hours, rubbing his neck where the little dragon had punctured the skin with one hand and his head with the other. Yua filled him in as to what he had missed and why they were waiting in the yurt for their chance to, presumably, defend themselves.

Lily didn’t wake up. Her breathing remained steady though her skin was a little cooler than usual.

Gardurth, son of Jahka, came in around dawn to tell them that the fire had been put out with no damage to the surrounding yurts and only minimal wounds to the tribesmen and women who had helped Pia fight the blaze. He informed them that Chief Jahka would be waiting until Pia woke from her own exhaustion induced sleep to speak with them. Her being the only witness to the events prior to the fire meant that her testimony would be the crux of his determination as to their fate.

It took Pia until the following morning to wake up enough to meet with them. They had been brought food and escorted to the privy for the entire day. Shon was surprised that most of the tribespeople seemed to be reserving their judgment on whether or not to continue trusting them to their chief and continued to be polite and even friendly during their brief encounters. Lily still hadn’t woken up.

Chief Jahka came to their yurt with his son Gardurth and a still tired looking Pia after the sun had fully risen and they had already eaten the morning meal that had been brought to them. Pia had dark rings under her bright green eyes, and she took her seat on the ground heavily and with a little flinch. Shon had taken a position between the Laughing Poney leaders and Lily, who was still sleeping deeply in her roll. Pia’s eyes kept flashing between Lily and Shon, her expression fluctuating between concern and contempt with each pass.

“She still isn’t awake?” Jahka managed to keep his voice even, not sounding angry or concerned.

Veon-Zih took his seat to the left of Shon, Velona next to him, on the other side sat Tuth and Yua. “She hasn’t stirred at all.” Velona had a much harder time concealing the concern in her tone, the chief chose not to comment further.

“First I would hear from shaman Pia.” he shifted slightly sliding on the ground to turn and look at the girl, making her the center of everyone’s focus.

Pia’s eyes slid one more time from Shon to Lily before she closed them, taking a deep breath, “Shaman Arver…”

“Warlock,” corrected Tuth as though he couldn’t help himself. Yua smacked him lightly on the chest with the back of her hand.

“He asked me to bring Lily to him. He knew who… what,” she corrected herself looking at the ground, “she was.” she took another breath and brought her chin up proudly, “he said she was a dragon and was going to take her back to his tower. He said he was going to ‘take care’ of her companions and blame it on the tribe.” Gardurth growled under his breath but the chief showed no outward signs of emotion, Pia continued, “that was when Lily…” she hesitated again, letting her gaze drift towards the sleeping woman, “she was like a demon, it got so hot all of a sudden and her eyes started to glow, the yurt caught fire in a snap,” Pia snapped her fingers, “it was all I could do to bring up enough water to cover myself. Arver was already by the entrance so he ran out right away.”

She stopped speaking and Shon narrowed his eyes at her. “Is that all?” Chief Jahka asked.

“Yes,” she answered shortly her eyes darting around a little nervously. Shon resisted the urge to question her further, whatever she was hiding he wasn’t sure it would be any help to their current predicament anyway.

Jahka nodded shifting on the ground again to face the city folk, “has shaman Lily ever lost control like this before?” he asked, and Shon’s companions exchanged looks.

Shon shot a sideways glance at the monks to his left, they had stiffened a little when Pia had said Lily was a dragon but didn't seem surprised, at least not as much as the two on his right who’s eyes had gone wide before they looked over their shoulders at the sleeping woman. “Only once that we know of.” Shon said quietly and all eyes locked on him, “over six years ago in Clearhelm province.”

He had stopped there, but Jahka motioned with his hand for him to continue, “and what caused it then?”

Shon closed his eyes and sighed, “at the time we didn’t know it was her that had caused it.” he looked over his shoulder to her sleeping form, but in his mind he saw her again, surrounded in flame, her hair dancing and eyes glowing like coals, “she said she didn’t remember what had happened just that the warlocks at the time had killed her ‘treasures’, her friends and companions in their care.”

“That makes sense,” Yua whispered, and to her surprise, everyone looked at her. Blinking at them all she waved her hands in front of her face, “I just mean she said that Shon was her favorite ‘treasure’ and if the warlock was going to kill her friends…” she dropped her hands and lifted her chin, choosing to be proud rather then embarrassed, “most would get angry if someone threatened to kill their companions.”

“Most,” Gardurth interjected, “don’t burst into flame and attack those same friends.” but his father waved him down.

“That isn’t necessarily true,” he rubbed his chin and stared at the ceiling pensively, “berserkers are known to lose control of their rage on occasion.” sighing he shook his head bringing his eyes down to meet Shon's cold stare, “you say Arver was a Warlock. What proof do you offer?”

Beside him Tuth cleared his throat, “we first became suspicious when we saw the pseudodragon familiar, and all of my follow up spells pointed solidly in that direction.”

“We intended to speak with you yesterday morning in private,” Veon-Zih added, and Jahka grunted in an appreciative way and went back to staring at Shon.

“Little survived the fire, and the body is hardly able to maintain its shape, there is no way to prove your claims. Or ours that we did not know,” he said, and Pia shifted uncomfortably again. Shon glanced at her, but she hid the movement behind a yawn, “can you assure me that your armies will not attempt to bring their wrath down upon my people?”

Shon met the chief's eyes without blinking, “The Temple of Heironeous is not one to impose unjust punishment on innocent bystanders. I have no reason to believe that any of your people,” he glanced again at Pia who didn’t meet his eyes, “knew that this Arver was anything other then the Shaman he claimed to be. With the warlock dead and young Pia registered there is no reason why the Temple should have any further dealings with your tribe.” the two tribesmen let out slow breaths and visibly relaxed, it seemed that they had been significantly more afraid of the consequences of harming the city representatives then said representatives were of the wrath of the tribe.

“And what of Lily? Will you seek reparations against her?” Velona asked, leaning forward a little and narrowing her eyes.

Tuth jumped a little in his seat looking from Velona to the chief and adding hastily, and perhaps a little louder than necessary, “the guild will gladly pay any reparations for the damages done…” but he trailed off as Jahka shook his head.

“I believe our Shaman Pia when she says that Arver was not only going to void our hospitality by attacking a fellow guest but also that he would have attempted to blame us.” he looked down at the girl who nodded quickly. He sighed heavily and looked at Lily behind them for only the second time since entering the yurt, “we knew that she was both powerful and dangerous. All those tied to fire are. But no one was badly hurt, and we only lost one yurt. We will not be seeking reparations, and instead apologize for the actions of our guest.” he bowed his head to them making Shon blink and glance towards Veon-Zih.

Reading his look, Veon-Zih said hastily, “That is unnecessary Chief Jahka, son of Jow. We only wish we could leave on better terms. We greatly enjoyed the company and hospitality of your people before…” he trailed off, and Jahka smiled softly.

“I too wish this could have ended better. Though in time I feel we would gladly see you again,” Jahka assured them, climbing to his feet. Everyone hurried to follow his lead, Tuth reaching over to help Pia to shaking feet, “though I would ask that you leave sooner rather than later.” he finished.

Shon brought his hands up for a bow before the larger man could reach out for a handshake. Both the monks mimicked him as he bowed low to the chief. “We can leave now.”

Jahka looked momentarily taken aback, though due to the bow or the haste in their departure Shon couldn’t be sure. Looking from the monks to the tribespeople Tuth hastily gave a little courtly bow before turning to dig through his bags. The chief shook his head at the wizard, having given up attempting to understand the strange magic of the cities. Instead, he inclined his head to Shon again, “please let the fire speaker know that we hold no ill will and would play host to her again should she wish to seek us out.”

Shon nodded gratefully and stepped back walking around Lily to get her ready to leave and so he wouldn’t have to exchange the handshakes the others were currently giving Jahka, Gardurth, and Pia. He watched the young girl through his hair, after exchanging pleasantries with the others she had settled her green eyes on him and wasn’t looking away. The others had moved towards the door flap, but she stood staring at him until he finally looked up and arched an eyebrow at her.

“I would like a word,” her voice was stiff and annoyed, and Shon debated for a moment denying her request.

But only for a moment. Shon stood to follow her out the yurt and far enough away that they couldn’t be heard through the fabric walls. She turned to face him while he stood silent, arms crossed over his chest waiting for her to speak.

Pia sneered for a moment, but then said, “Do you believe she's a dragon?”

Shon hadn't known what to expect, but that wasn’t it, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.” that had her rocking back on her heels a little, she narrowed her eyes at him, and he asked, “why?”

“I don’t know why I don’t like you.” she said, and Shon arched a black eyebrow at her intending to show the feeling was mutual, “but I do like her,” Pia's voice took a threatening note, and she continued, “I won’t forgive you or your dumb god if anyone hurts her for this.”

Shon uncrossed his arms and glared at Pia, she managed to resist looking away for a while but eventually his cold gaze was too much for the younger girl, “Listen very carefully.” Shon’s voice was quiet, nearly a whisper, “I will not allow anyone to hurt Lily. That includes those warlocks,” he narrowed his eyes at her, and she glared up at him, “and people like you.”

Pia huffed and crossed her own arms, but he still wouldn’t look away. Finally, she said, “he believed that the gods of dragons were coming back, that they had shown their power by picking ‘chosen’ that would help the return of the dragons.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Shon recrossed his arms and arched an eyebrow at her again.

“It involves Lily doesn’t it?” Pia sneered, “if she really is a dragon, or even if she isn’t, but they think she is, they will try and get her back.”

Shon had thought that as well, but it still didn’t answer why she would tell him. An idea came to him, and he narrowed his eyes again, dropping his voice further, “he said you were one of these, chosen, didn’t he?”

Pia's face turned red under her olive skin, and she didn’t have to say anything to confirm his suspension. Shon found himself torn, he wanted to take Pia back to the temple, she had known Arver was a warlock, or at least a member of some illicit group, but he had also already assured the chief that the temple would have no further interactions with the Laughing Ponies. And… Lily liked her, and, she was obviously honest in her concern for the other woman.

“I recommend,” he said slowly, turning partway to leave, “that you stay with your tribe, serve them as a good shaman, and forget about dragons and warlocks.” she looked like she wanted to retort but Shon didn’t give her the time, “that way we will never have to see each other again, and I won’t have to look deeper into your dealings with city mages who sell their souls for magic.”

Shon could feel her glare between his shoulder blades as he walked away, returning to the yurt and his ready companions.

“What was that about?” Veon-Zih whispered as Shon paused to put on his pack and pick up the still sleeping Lily.

Shon grunted as he lifted her into his arms, shifting her slightly so her head rested on his shoulder. Veon-Zih moved closer, lifting Lily’s limp arm and resting it on her lap. Shon nodded his thanks but shook his head when Veon-Zih gave his own arched eyebrow, silently repeating his question from before.

By the door, Tuth was waiting with a small glass ball that held a single diamond. It was a precast teleport spell, since the young mage wasn’t able to cast his own. Once everyone was together and standing in a loose circle Tuth threw the ball onto the ground between them, breaking the glass and releasing the spell. With a blinding flash of light and a small pop, they were blinking disoriented and dizzy in the teleport circle of the Mages guild in Lenare.

***

Shon insisted on taking Lily to the inn rather than having her stay at the mages guild. He didn’t know why but he didn’t want to leave her with the wizards while Tuth was still giving his report that included her going mad with fire magic. To his surprise, Velona agreed and she, Veon-Zih and Yua all retreated to the inn where they had met to wait for Shon and Tuth who both needed to give their reports to their respective organizations.

It wasn’t the most complex report Shon had ever had to give, but it still took enough time that it was well past noon by the time he made it back to the inn. The paladins expressed concern over Lily’s loss of control, but as that was an issue to settle between the mages guild and themselves, they let Shon go with instructions to bring her in after she woke up. Tuth took another two hours before he came in and plopped into the empty chair at their acquired table, resting his head on the hard wood and sighing.

“Can I stay here with you guys for the night?” he asked the table before anyone could say anything. Shon and Veon-Zih exchanged looks.

Shon shrugged, and Veon-Zih said, “sure, we’ve got two rooms, you can stay with Shon and I.”

“Thank you.” Tuth mumbled to the table then laid his cheek on it looking at them laying on his side, “I don’t know what they plan on doing. The paladins came in towards the end to talk.”

Sighing Shon said, “they want to talk to her when she wakes up. But they didn’t insist that we bring her now so I doubt she's in any real trouble.” Tuth looked relieved at that at least.

“I’m going to drop my stuff off in the room if that's ok,” he muttered, and Veon-Zih snickered.

“Second door on your right. Lily is in the third…” Velona told him with a smile. Tuth groaned as he got to his feet and dragged his bag for a while before finally picking it up to take it up the stairs to the rooms. “Do you really think the Temple will be ok with letting Lily go?” Velona said in almost a whisper to Shon.

He had no idea, and that was the problem. Shon shrugged, and Velona looked instead to Veon-Zih, seeking comfort more than a confirmation. “The fact that they didn’t insist we bring her to them, and that they didn’t send a paladin to stand guard is a good sign.” Veon-Zih reached over, squeezing the woman's hand with a small smile.

Velona sighed and placed her free hand over Veon-Zih’s patting it and looking at the floor in thought, “I suppose the guild will have to tell the temples now though…”

“Tell them what?” Yua asked, which Shon was grateful for because he didn’t want to be the one to do it, he nodded his agreement then looked to the monks for the answer.

Veon-Zih sighed again, “the mages guild in Clearhelm suspected that Lily may be a dragon.” Yua’s eyes went wide, and Shon narrowed his, “or at least that some experiment or other gave her dragon blood.” Veon-Zih shook his head and shrugged, “they wanted us to bring her back when she left them, but in the end, they decided it was better not to force the issue and to let her travel with Velona who is a high ranking ally of the guild.”

Silence fell over the table for a while before Yua opened her mouth again, “Do you think when she says ‘treasures’ she means hoard?” Shon snorted a small laugh. It was as though the ranger had tried to pick the least offensive question that had popped into her mind with the pronunciation.

She shot a small glare at Shon but didn’t have the chance to say anything more as Tuth returned to the table at that time, “I think Lily is awake.” he said falling into his chair again and waving the bartender over, “I heard movement in the room but she didn’t answer when I knocked.”

Shon got to his feet, but only Veon-Zih asked, “where are you going?” It was a stupid question, Shon just arched a black eyebrow at him before the monk groaned in frustration and waved him off.

***

Shon entered the room quietly to find Lily sitting in front of a little desk sighing mournfully at the wall. She turned in her seat to look at him when the door clicked closed, but she didn’t hold his eyes for long, instead, looking at the floor between them.

The silence stretched until “I’m sorry,” Lily whispered to the floor.

So this time she remembered at least some of it. Shon didn’t bother to ask her what she was sorry for. She had surrendered to blind rage and had attacked not only her enemies but her allies as well. At the time he was reminded of when he had first seen Lily, surrounded by fire in a melting stone tower. Now he was reminded again, this time of her on top of the roof in Hamerfoss.

He didn’t really know what to say, and eventually Lily brought her knees up to her chest, her feet on the chair, “I guess I really might be a monster.” she muttered.

That at least, he could comment on, “You aren't a monster.”

She finally looked at him, her dark slitted eyes holding his ice blue ones with a desperate intensity that his words might be enough to make it true, “what if I am a dragon? An evil dragon…” she dropped her eyes again, and Shon stepped forward to lift her chin back to his face.

“You are not evil.” Lily's eyes took on a strange glint, and she brought her feet back down, standing in front of him and holding her chin up at a defiant angle.

“But I may be a dragon. And I’m definitely a danger to my companions,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him.

Shon sighed, “I’m not going to argue with you Lily.” which caused her to blink, obviously taken aback. “I don’t care what you may or may not be. I do care about you losing your control again, but that’s why we work on it.”

“We?” she tried to sneer, but it had too much of a pleading tone behind it.

Reaching out Shon pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear, “we,” he repeated, then cupped her cheek and whispered, “I will only leave if you ask me to.”

Lily leaned into his touch, and he stroked her cheek with his thumb. Her skin was hot on his palm but not uncomfortable. He moved his thumb over to run across her lips. They were much hotter but the feel just made him remember the sensation of kissing her, and he had to slow his breathing at the memory. “I don’t want you to leave,” she said softly, her lip trembling under his thumb.

She kissed the digit, and Shon took another half step closer, bringing up his other hand to brush the other side of her hair back and run gentle fingers across her face. He leaned forward, bringing his mouth only an inch or two from her trembling lips, “May I kiss you?” he breathed.

[cencered for 18+ content. full version can be found here: https://www.booksiesilk.com/content/shawn-cameron/the-gods-of-dragons-vol-1-27684/chapter/16/version/1 ]

 

It was an explosion of pleasure that bordered on pain, made all the sweeter by the smiling gasping face of the woman beneath him. Shon’s arms were shaking as they strained to hold him up. He hadn’t expected the physical exertion to be enough to fatigue him. But he lowered himself slowly to his elbows to kiss her gently while they both tried to slow their breathing between lightheaded laughs. Shon wanted to stay close to her, to never stop touching her, but he needed air so he allowed himself to roll to the side to stare at the ceiling and catch his breath.

Lily rolled part way with him. Laying on her side and fitting herself to him, she used the hollow of his arm and shoulder as a pillow while she took slow, measured breaths that caused her breasts to press against his sides while he brought his free hand up to push sweaty hair out of his face.

“Well,” Lily said, looking up at him from her position on his arm, “I don't know about you,” she spoke between deep breaths, “but I think I’ve found my new favorite exercise.” which caused Shon to laugh out loud.

***

Veon-Zih watched Shon disappear up the stairs before getting to his own feet. “Where are YOU going?” Tuth asked, scooting his own chair in.

“Getting another room,” he said walking to the bar.

Behind him he heard Tuth’s voice, “but why?” to which Yua snickered loudly.

The tavern keeper grunted in the positive at the monk's request, sliding him another key as well as a plate of drinks. Tuth was repeating his question with increased desperation and annoyance while Velona tried to hide her smile behind her hand and Yua wiped tears of laughter off of her cheeks. Letting out a slow breath to calm her giggles the ranger asked, “So… how long do you think it’s gonna be?” before snickering again.

“Well I don’t know about Lily, but this is Shon’s first time, so not too long most likely,” Veon-Zih answered, sliding the drinks onto the table and resuming his seat. Tuth looked at each of them in turn before his mouth formed a little silent ‘o’ of comprehension. Better late than never. “I must apologize Yua, when I invited you on this next mission I didn’t realize it would end quite like this,” Veon-Zih said as they each grabbed their drinks.

The ranger, however, waved his apology away, “it’s alright. I like Lily, I wouldn’t mind continuing with you guys for a little while longer if you would have me.” Velona glanced at Veon-Zih who cleared his throat.

The group tried small talk for a while, having talked about the event extensively the day before there was nothing much new to say on that front until Lily came down and gave her own account of the incident. But with the little bit of new information about her in general still floating around the table, the small talk didn’t last long.

“Ok, so,” Yua was the first to break, “you say the mages suspected Lily was a dragon.” to which the two monks sighed and nodded while Tuth, who had missed that little bit looked shocked into silence, “you also said that she had been kept by some warlocks up north who were doing some crazy experiments trying to bring back the dragons.” They nodded again, “And, Shon said that Pia said that the Warlock said that the gods of the dragons were back, or coming back, and that they had selected some ‘chosen’ or some such.” again they nodded, “so… what are these dragon gods?”

“I think you mean who,” Tuth found his words to correct her and Yua rolled her eyes. “There isn’t much known about them outside of a few mentions in ancient books and some evidence found in kobold dens.” The ranger made impatient motions with her hands for him to continue to which he said, “well I don’t know! There are supposed to be two, one good and one evil. One created the metallic dragons, the good ones, and the other the chromatic evil ones. I don’t know their names. Like I said,” he was obviously annoyed but if it was at her or at his own lack of knowledge Veon-Zih couldn’t tell, “there isn’t much left that talks about them. The last thing I remember seeing was that killing them was supposedly how Boccob, Cuthbert, Olidammara, and Kord became gods.”

“And Vecna,” Velona said. Tuth looked like he wanted to spit but glancing at the tavern keeper he thought better of it.

Instead, he leaned over the table and hissed “Vecna is not a god.”

“Philosophical debates aside,” Velona said leaning back in her chair, “I think it would be better to wait for Lily and Shon before we go too far into this. I would really rather not repeat myself if I don’t have to.”

The sky had started to change colors by the time the two made their appearance in the tavern, and a small crowd had already started to form for the nights rush. Veon-Zih smirked, he had never seen Shon look so relaxed in all his life, and Lily was practically glowing. She skipped down the stairs and rushed towards the table.

Velona stood to great her, hugging Lily tightly and squeezing her eyes shut. Veon-Zih had known the two had become close over the years, but he hadn’t realized to the extent until that moment.

“Master Velona!” Lily whispered very loudly, “I had Sex!” which made Tuth splutter into his drink, Yua laugh loudly again, and Shon cover his face while it slowly turned a shade of red to rival Lily’s scales.

“Let me get you a drink,” Veon-Zih said, slapping his student on the shoulder and guiding him towards the bar. Shon hadn’t flinched at the touch though his skin felt colder even than usual under Veon-Zih's palm.

“She's going to be the death of me,” Shon mumbled taking a seat on one of the stools at the bar.

Veon-Zih laughed shaking his head. He leaned against the bar, facing the crowded tavern and their companions who had resumed their seats at the table, “but the real question is, will you die happy?” he asked turning his head to smile at Shon.

Shon took a moment to turn in his seat and glance over his shoulder at the smiling and laughing Lily, “yeah.” was all he gave for an answer but his eyes twinkled, and his small smile looked a little bigger than normal.

The monk turned his eyes back to the group as Shon resumed his position facing forward at the bar, waving down the bartender and tapping in front of him for a drink. Tuth looked like he really wanted to join them, but Veon-Zih shook his head at the boy who flopped back down to the table and rested his forehead on the wood. The monk could only imagine the conversation the ladies were having and couldn’t help but feel sorry for the young man.

“There's something I wanted to talk to you about,” Veon-Zih said finally, turning around to sit properly at the bar beside Shon. The younger man arched an eyebrow at him, taking a drink of mead while he waited for more. Veon-Zih took a slow breath and decided it was best to be blunt, “I’m going to give retirement a try.”

Shon spluttered into his drink looking for all the world like poor Tuth a moment ago, “what? But why?” he leaned in close whispering, “if it’s something to do with this last mission or me and Lily…” But Veon-Zih just waved him down.

“No, no.” he smiled again and clapped Shon on the shoulder giving it a little shake, he did flinch a little this time but not too badly, “I had been thinking about it for a while, and Velona has been too…” he trailed off for a moment and Shon resumed his arched eyebrow expression, “I have been adventuring for a long time, but I haven't tried taking an extended break yet. For me it’s something new,” Shon rolled his eyes at the excuse, “I’m serious. If I don’t like it after a few years, I will be back on the road wiser for it.”

Shon looked into his glass for a moment before taking a rather large drink, “And your timing?” he asked watching the monk out of the corner of his eye.

Veon-Zih shrugged, “honestly you can thank Velona for that.” he swirled his own drink watching the foam stick to the side of the glass, “I had been considering it for a while, but I also didn’t like the idea of leaving you on your own,” Shon snorted but stopped when Veon-Zih glared at him, “I know you can take care of yourself physically.” he said, a little stern, “but I worry about you socially and mentally.” Shon broke eye contact first taking another large drink and looking at the bar, “But,” Veon-Zih continued, his tone lighter, “If you are planning on traveling with Lily she can take over as your social buffer and ambassador.”

Shon rolled his eyes again and grumbled, “I don’t need…”

“Yes, you do.” Veon-Zih interrupted, and Shon ran his hand through his hair, frustrated but no longer denying it.

The silence stretched for a while before Shon asked, “where will you go?”

Veon-Zih took a drink before answering, tapping the edge of the glass absentmindedly while he spoke, “we figured we would spend the summer in Oane. It’s the only truly tolerable season so far north.” Shon scoffed but it didn’t have its normal energy, he apparently wasn’t in the mood to mock the monk for his lack of cold tolerance, “and the winters in Halakon, it being completely uninhabitable in the summer.” Shon nodded to that one, he hated being in the desert in the summer, the younger man always spent far too much energy just trying to keep himself comfortably cool, though Veon-Zih always complained because at least Shon came with built-in cooling.

Shon took another moment to sip at his drink and think before he said, “I will miss you.”

Veon-Zih sighed, “and I you. But it just means you will have something to do besides take job after job. You can come see us.”

Shon was quite again, and the monk wondered if maybe he was taking the news even harder than he had anticipated. Finally, Shon said, “I want to say something, but I’m not sure if I have the right words for it.”

“Well try.” the monk gestured for more drinks that the tender gladly provided.

Shon downed the last of his first drink before running his hand through his hair again and leaning back to look at the ceiling, “I don’t know what a father is supposed to be like.” Veon-Zih paused, his drink halfway to his lips. He and Shon had never really talked about family or lack thereof, “I grew up with a bunch of kids who also never knew what a father was supposed to be like, so I couldn’t exactly look at what they had because they didn't have it either. I don’t care about who my parents might be, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything important. I had a good life with the Church, and later with the Temple.” he scoffed a little at that thought and took a deep drink, Veon-Zih just waited for Shon to continue in silence, “but if someone asked me who I considered my father figure to be, it would be you.” Veon-Zih felt a slight burning in his eyes, “and if someone asked me what I thought of you, other than being my teacher and master, I would say you are the best father someone who doesn’t know exactly what that means could possibly ask for.” Finally, Shon turned to look at him, his cold eyes soft but not exactly sad, “I think the reason I never wanted a father growing up is because I already had one and just hadn’t put the words together.”

Veon-Zih blinked rapidly trying to clear his vision then laughed and looked into his glass before taking a long drink, it wasn’t often the monk was lost for words. “Thank you Shon.” he swallowed the lump in his throat before continuing, “I knew I would never have children, kind of hard when you take the specific vows my teacher demanded of me,” he looked over his shoulder at Velona laughing with Lily and wondered for a moment if she felt the same way towards the girl, “I had made my peace with that, or I thought I had. Sometimes I watch you and I see that ten-year-old in the church, and I think ‘wow how you have grown,’” he laughed again shaking his head, “and I wonder if that's the same way a father might feel when he watches his young son become a man.” Shon gave a little snort, blinking and drinking in silence, “Shon,” Veon-Zih rested a hand on the man's shoulder until he met his eyes again, “Taking you on as a student was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Not a day goes by that I regret it or the time we’ve spent since. And I want you to know, more than anything, that you can still count on me.” Veon-Zih laughed a little and shook his student, “though you may need to send a letter or travel a little farther to find me.”

Shon finally chuckled with him and they both downed the last of their drinks while Veon-Zih waved down the tender to ask for a new plate for the table. Shon turned in his stool and sat with his arms crossed watching their companions while the monk took the laden plater in one hand to carry over. “I don’t know if I want to go back over there…” Shon said, his eyes locked on Yua who had the most sinister smirk Veon-Zih had ever seen on her face.

But then Lily turned in her seat and seeing the two men looking their way waved them down excitedly. Shon sighed, pushing off of the chair and following his master back to the group. Veon-Zih slid the fresh plate of drinks onto the table before taking a seat between Velona and Yua, giving Shon the seat next to Lily and Tuth.

Yua didn’t waste any time, “So Shon…” she said watching him closely and grinning. Shon had taken his cup but hadn't lifted it, looking from the glass to the waiting ranger he pushed it a little away to let her know he was not going to fall for her trick to have him splutter perfectly good mead everywhere. She narrowed her eyes at him but then glanced at Tuth who had picked up his mead and was gratefully taking gulping it down, and her grin returned, “what DOES Lily taste like?”

Tuth spat his mead clear across the table, hitting both Velona and Veon-Zih who brought their hands up to shield their faces as they laughed. Shon turned bright red despite knowing it was going to be something like that and Lily looked between him and Yua, who was still smirking, with her brow furrowed in either concern or confusion Veon-Zih couldn’t tell which.

Shon covered his face and took a deep breath for a moment, trying to regain his composure but only partially succeeding. Running his hand up through his hair before letting it fall back to the table he narrowed his eyes at Yua who snickered at him from across the way. “Cinnamon,” he finally said, which made the woman clap her hands and Tuth turn as red as Shon had been a moment ago.


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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