The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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


Friends and Lovers - Carl Anderson ft. Gloria Loring, 1986

Chapter 17 (v.1) - Friends and Lovers

Submitted: May 17, 2018

Reads: 57

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Submitted: May 17, 2018

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Shon was surprised at how long they managed to keep the conversation casual and pleasant before it was eventually turned back towards more serious matters. It was Lily who brought it around when she asked, “So, what do you think the Temple will do to me?” she started out trying to sound happily curious but by the end of the sentence her nerves showed in her eyes and she clutched at her partially finished drink a little harder than necessary.

Beneath the table Shon moved his leg to brush against hers before placing his own empty tankard down and leaning back, crossing his arms. “It depends on what the mages guild has to say.”

Tuth chimed in trying to sound reassuring, “the worst they would do is revoke your sorcerer's clearance.” Shon didn’t think Tuth realized how not reassuring that would be, though he learned soon enough when Lily’s lip started to tremble and she looked from Master Velona to Shon and around the table.

“You mean they might try and take my magic?” she asked, her voice shaking ever so slightly.

“Not necessarily,” Shon jumped in, and she locked eyes with him, her pupils wide with her worry.

“The law states that a sorcerer can argue their case and bring forth witnesses. If they find that the loss of control was at least partially justified and they can be assured that it won’t happen again, they will only ask that you retake the clearance exam.” Shon explained.

Tuth it seemed wanted to make up for his not so comforting bit earlier, “and they might not even do that, sometimes, depending on witnesses the old clearance stays valid.” she had turned her intense gaze on him when he had started talking, and he stopped to swallow for a moment before saying, much quieter, “we will all witness for you, Lily.”

Lily looked like she might cry but she was smiling. Shon waited a moment while everyone nodded before leaning forward, resting his arms on the table and lacing his fingers together, “What happened Lily?” he asked, looking over at her.

Her smile faded, and she looked at the floor, “He spoke draconic, I haven’t heard it so much since the time at my tower… he said I was a dragon, and that the polymorph was poorly done, I have no idea what that means.” she looked at Tuth before he could interrupt. His mouth was already open to do so, but he closed it again at her look, and he cleared his throat.

“Polymorph is a type of magic in which someone is turned into something else. Usually an animal or some such, but it's highly illegal to perform the spell on someone or something unwilling. If he was talking about you being polymorphed, then he probably meant you had been changed from something else to the form you have now. To a human.”

Lily turned her hands over in her lap, running her right thumb over the scales on her left hand, she took a steadying breath before continuing her story, “he said I was ‘one of the dragons,’ like there were more, and that I was the reason Pia’s goddess choose her.” Lily shrugged shaking her head, “Pia said something about seeing a woman in her dreams, that the warlock said it was Tiamat, and that it was her destiny to help bring back the dragons.” To Shon's surprise, Lily outright rolled her eyes at that, “I don’t believe in destiny, but they both seemed really convinced, he kept talking to himself, at one point he mentioned Io,”

“Who?” Yua and Tuth asked in unison.

Lily blinked at both of them, furrowing her brow, “the father of all dragons… he’s the one who created Bahamut and Tiamat…” she looked at them then tried to look at the monks only to find that they looked just as stunned by this information.

“Lily, Tuth was just telling us that most of the information on the dragon gods been lost. He didn’t even know their names,” Velona told her, resting her hand on Lily’s shoulder.

“But,” Lily looked at each of them again, “it's just history. It's the first thing I read when I was learning how to read. In both draconic and common.”

“You learned to read in a tower ran by warlocks obsessed with bringing back dragons, it's not surprising that they would have some knowledge on the subject. Though I’m not sure of its accuracy,” Veon-Zih added, to which Velona nodded her agreement.

“But,” Lily repeated, but Shon shook his head, and she huffed a frustrated sigh before continuing, “Anyway... that was when he started for the door, he had a wand, and I asked where he was going…” her voice trailed off for a moment and she looked at the floor again, “he said he was going to ‘take care’ of the guild mage and paladin,” her eyes came up to look at Shon for a moment, who resumed the pressure his leg had on hers, “my ears started ringing… and I can’t remember much… though I remember he said something about the tribe and Pia got really mad.”

“Pia claimed that he was going to kill us and leave the tribe to take the fall,” Shon said, causing Lily’s head to snap up and her eyes to flash. Slowly he reached over and rested his hand on hers, his voice as calm and cold as ever, “obviously that didn't happen.”

“Thanks to you,” Yua said, leaning back in her chair. Her voice didn’t sound judgmental, but Shon shot a glance at her that wiped the grin from her face. Coming forward again she said defensively, “I’m not saying it was the best way to handle the situation but it was handled, and no one else was hurt but him.”

“I was poisoned,” Tuth added, rubbing his neck where the pseudodragon had hit him. They ignored him.

Lily focused her eyes on the scratch healing on Shon’s neck, the paladins had tended to it so it was nothing but a pink scar that would quickly fade to white, but it was still there, and she had caused it. “We are going to work specifically on that overprotective temper,” Shon said, speaking to Lily but facing Yua who just shrugged leaning back again.

Veon-Zih moved forward to rest his elbows on the table and bring the attention onto him, “Lily’s story collaborates with Pia’s, I don’t think we will have a problem convincing the guild and the paladins that it would be best that she keep her clearance.”

Shon wasn’t so sure. Justified or not she had still lost her control. It would be one thing if it were an intentional rage, but this definitely wasn’t. He chose to stay quiet, preferring not to worry Lily more than she already was.

“And,” Velona moved as well to add, “if she is going to be traveling with Shon who is still enlisted with them, they may be even more accommodating.”

“Well yeah, she basically has a built-in guard,” Yua smiled softly at Lily and Shon was glad to see Lily return it, “though he's mostly to protect others from her rather than the other way around.” the ranger was obviously teasing and Lily made a show of throwing her free hand into the air and rolling her eyes.

“So it will be exactly like it was before my clearance!” she looked sideways at Shon and added, “though you will be much better company than the mages were, even Han, and I liked him.”

“And she has Master Velona who is really high up in the mages guild,” Tuth said before the monk in question shook her head and exchanged looks with Veon-Zih.

Shon’s hand was still on Lily’s, and he squeezed it slightly, not sure how she was going to take the news that the monks would be leaving together.

“After this Master Veon-Zih and I will be leaving.” she smiled at Tuth who gaped at her and then over at Lily, “we are going to try a quiet life for a while and see how that goes.”

Shon couldn’t see Lily’s face as she was turned away from him to fully face Velona on her other side. Suddenly she pulled away from him throwing her arms around the older woman's neck, “oh I’m so happy for you!” Lily said, squeezing Velona tight for a moment before letting her go and griping both her hands in her own, “This is so amazing! You get to travel with the one you want, and I’ll get to travel with the one I want.” she looked to Shon her face alight with a childlike happiness that froze the words in his throat, “I can write you letters can’t I?” she asked quickly, turning back to the monk who laughed, freeing one of her hands to pat Lily on the cheek.

“Of course,” Velona said,

“And Shon can draw on them for you!” Lily bounced in her chair, and Shon blinked.

Velona looked over Lily’s shoulder to grin at Shon saying, “that would be wonderful.” to which he could only shrug and nod.

“Wait, wait,” Tuth waved his arm as far over the table as he could get them to try and catch Lily’s eye and get her attention, “where does that leave us?” he said motioning to Yua and himself.

Shon looked at each of them in turn, but Lily quickly said, “well you can stay with us if you want to.” Shon shot another sideways glance at Lily before looking at the ceiling saying a short prayer before he closed his eyes and nodded his consent. Not that it would have mattered.

Yua laughed slapping the table, “alright then. But,” and she held up one finger monogamously, “we are buying tents. There's no way I’m sleeping out in the open with those two.” she pointed at Shon and Lily before looking over at Tuth, “what about you book boy?” she asked him.

“Uh,” Tuth took a long moment to look at everyone, obviously not expecting to be put on the spot so suddenly, “well ok, but…” he seemed to be struggling with his own condition before he said, “I get to pick Lily’s brain on dragon god lore!”

Shon huffed, shaking his head, but those who knew him would see the smile, and those who didn’t would learn eventually.

***

Yua was grateful that they managed to keep things light-hearted after hearing Lily’s story. There was still much more to talk about, but that could wait. Tuth and Lily had been invited to play a drinking game that involved throwing darts and knives at a target painted on one of the far walls. The monks started out watching good-naturedly before joining for a round or two to show off and force Tuth to drink.

It seemed the mage had a good eye for throwing darts and was proudly beating Lily, who definitely didn’t until Velona joined and schooled them both. A good-sized crowd had begun to form as more and more people joined the game. Tuth didn’t get much worse despite his being forced to drink, so the other patrons were trying to come up with more and more difficult throws for him to try while the monks backed out with gracious waves and laughs.

Shon had stayed at their table, shifting his seat slightly to watch the unintentional entertainment while he nursed his drink. Yua narrowed her eyes at him for a moment from the gathered crowd before making her decision and returning to the table. Grabbing one of the empty chairs she slid it over to sit next to him also facing the entertainment.

Shon arched an eyebrow at her as Yua sat down, crossing both her arms and her legs but keeping her eyes on the throwers. She waited, but he didn’t say anything, just taking another drink of his mead. Finally, she sighed, “you know,” she said, looking sideways at him, he had turned his face slightly to watch her out of the corner of his eye, so she continued, “if you would really rather we not, I won’t come with you,” he re-arched the brow closest to her, and she clarified, “to give you some alone time with Lily.”

Shon shrugged, and Yua wondered if he was going to say anything at all or if this entire exercise was a test in futility. But then he said, “I don’t mind,” she gave him a sarcastic look, arching her own eyebrow like he had done to her. He rolled his eyes and said, “honestly. If I did mind, I would not hesitate to let you know.” he turned to face her more fully and added, “though I do wonder why you even want to come.”

“Hmmm,” the ranger hummed in apparent thought, looking back to the crowd, “I’m tired of traveling alone. There isn’t much one adventurer can do besides guard caravans or collect some bounty on local lonely criminals.” Shon nodded, presumably to acknowledge the truth of her statement. It seemed Lily was right about just needing to warm up to him, though Yua privately thought it was more like learning how to speak mute.

“And I like Lily,” she added, going back to watching the throwers, “if it wasn’t for the fact that she obviously only has eyes for you I would gladly try my hand.” she couldn’t hide her smirk as she glanced his way and saw Shon’s expression of intrigued surprise. After a moment he just ‘humphed’ and looked back towards the throwers, so she continued, “She said you were her favorite treasure,” Shon rubbed the back of his neck, and Yua wondered if that embarrassed him, “she said I just needed to warm up to you and I would like you too…”

Shon actually chuckled at that and Yua faced him again, “What?” she asked not really sure how to take his reaction.

He let his hand fall and took a drink of mead before answering, “I’m not sure if you should take that as a warning for its physical impossibility or as an encouraging figure of speech.”

Yua was sure Lily had meant the latter of the two, but his comment intrigued her, “what do you mean physical impossibility?”

Shon narrowed his eyes at her for a while, looking her up and down before very slowly bringing his hand up. He moved slow, like he was waiting for her to stop him, but when she didn’t, he lightly touched the back of her neck with his fingers.

Yua jumped out of her chair, clapping her hands over her neck and the icy patch where he had touched her, “Holy Obad-Hai’s veiny shalm the hell was that?”

Shon crossed his arms, watching the throwers again while she rubbed her neck, “I’m always cold. Literally.” he said by way of explanation.

The ranger watched him for a moment, he wasn’t smiling, not even that little bit she had managed to glimpse whenever Lily was around and being adorable. It made her wonder if some of the figurative cold he gave off was because of the reactions people had to his literal cold. She grabbed her seat, pulling it forward and straddling it, this time fully facing Shon rather than the throwers. Finally, she said, “Knowing Lily I would say she meant the latter figure of speech.”

Shon shrugged but nodded. Glancing her way he asked, “If you didn’t want to adventure alone then why the southern woods?”

Yua thought he must have had at least a few drinks if he was asking questions, or he was just trying to be social… “I didn’t start out alone,” she said, laying her arms over the back of the chair and resting her chin on them, “I had a druid companion for a while.” Shon watched her, and she took the hint to continue, “She was…” the ranger struggled to find the words, “wonderful,” she said rather lamely, “with legs that reached to the heavens and a smile that could light up the darkest night.”

Sighing she turned her head looking away and seeing a time long past. Shon’s voice came into her memories when he asked, “and what happened that she isn’t with you anymore?”

The ranger turned her head back to him, searching his face for a moment, she got the feeling that he wouldn’t press the issue if she chose not to answer but something about his cold eyes made her want to continue, “she went back to her grove.” Yua couldn’t hold his eyes and looked away again, “she was summoned back.”

“And you didn’t go with her?” his voice wasn’t accusatory, but her nails dug into her arms nonetheless.

“She didn’t give me a chance to,” Yua was ashamed of the bitterness in her voice and took a slow breath, “she left a note that she knew I didn't want to go back, so she went on her own, it was easier than saying goodbye,” then she whispered, “but I would have… to stay with her.”

She ran her hand over her hair and down her ponytail, pulling it over her shoulder to run through her fingers, determinedly not looking at Shon until he said, “perhaps,” his blue eyes didn’t blink, and his voice hadn’t warmed at all, “she knew you would have gone for her, but that you wouldn’t really be happy.”

Shon didn’t sound like he was trying to comfort her, just that he was stating a possible fact, in the same tone one might state that perhaps a zebra was black with white strips rather than white with black. But it had a comforting effect anyway, and Yua laughed, leaning back in the chair holding its back with the tips of her fingers, “perhaps.” was all she could say, shaking her head. In the end, it didn’t physically matter if it was because she hadn’t trusted Yua to choose her or because she didn’t want to be the reason Yua was unhappily trapped in the grove, either way, she was gone, but the motivation did matter, at least a little, at least to Yua.

“Soooo,” she narrowed her eyes at Shon, “cinnamon huh?” to her pleasant surprise his pale cheeks turned slightly pink, and he looked determinedly away from her.

Yua decided to try and give the quiet man a little of his own medicine, so she just continued to stare at him until he ran a hand over his mouth and said, “she has always smelled like cinnamon, and her lips have the faint taste…”

“Those,” Yua said leaning further in and narrowing her eyes at the young man, “are not the lips I was talking about.” Shon ran his hand through his dark hair and just looked at her a little sheepish, it was a very strange expression she hadn’t seen on his face before. Like a cat who had cornered a mouse the ranger decided it was time to have some fun with him, “You didn’t even try did you.” she whispered, sliding the chair closer to him, “didn’t even bother to prime the pump before diving right in.”

Shon watched her, his face turning just a little redder before he locked his eyes on the throwers so as not to focus on her, “it was the heat of the moment…” he said, a weak defense. Yua just smirked at him, and he finally looked at her leaning close and whispering, “Lily didn’t complain.”

She laughed but leaned even closer hissing, “Lily doesn’t know any better.” Shon humphed uncrossing his arms to take a long drink of his mead and hide his face for a while. Yua narrowed her eyes at him but then just leaned back saying casually, “Well there's always next time.” he spluttered slightly into the drink, not as big or fun as Tuth but satisfying nonetheless. “You at least know how right?” she asked.

He wiped his face, looking into his drink then over at her before downing the last of it, “I’m sure I can figure it out.” Shon answered when he put the glass down.

Yua shook her head saying sadly, “you say that and yet so many men the world over can’t seem to get it right.”

Shon looked her up and down again, then past her to the throwers and Lily, “It can’t be that hard… can it?” he looked a little concerned for the first time, and Yua resisted laughing again, she had been mean enough for one day.

“Honestly, it’s not. There is just one thing you have to find and remember…”

***

Tuth retreated to his room with Veon-Zih, smug and satisfied and only a little drunk, once the nightly crowd had started thinning. Yua and Velona went to their own room a short while later, Yua giving Shon a little wink as she took the first few stares making him blush again and look away. His conversation with her had been… informative, but more than a little awkward, for him at least.

Lily had come over and taken the ranger's reversed seat, straddling it as Yua had done and resting her arms on the back to look at Shon with a tilted head and little smile, “Copper for your thoughts?” she asked once he had met her eyes.

Shon sighed but looked at the ceiling before leaning forward to move his face closer to hers. “I was thinking about tomorrow. I need to take you to the temple.” Lily blinked at him and her smile faded.

“Do you really think everything will be ok? That they won’t try and take my magic?” she sounded desperate, and that was exactly what he was afraid of.

“Lily, listen to me, this is very important,” he turned his chair a little pulling it closer to her, speaking quietly but clearly. She nodded, so he continued, “It’s my job, no matter where I go, to uphold the law of the kingdom and justice of Heironeous. I swore an oath, whether a paladin or not, that I would do this, do you understand?” she nodded again her brow furrowed in concern.

Shon reached out to cup her cheek, grateful when she leaned into it, “I need you to have faith in the law. No matter what they say tomorrow we can work within the law to allow you to keep your magic, one way or another.” her eyes darted back and forth between each of his and he leaned forward resting his forehead on hers, “it might not be easy, and it might take some time, but we will find a way, together.” she nodded again, and the movement caused his own head to nod in unison with her, “so I need you to stay calm in your faith. Even if you don’t have faith in the justice of Heironeous, I need you to have faith in me, that I will not let them take your magic.”

“Shon,” Lily whispered, perhaps because they were so close he wasn’t sure, “I trust you.” she said ‘trust,’ but her eyes spoke another word to him and Shon closed his eyes exhaling slowly and smiling one of his small smiles. If he had to choose between the two, he would take ‘trust’ any day.

“Thank you, Lily,” he started to pull back, but she lifted her head quickly and kissed the tip of his nose, leaving him blinking and cross-eyed as she sat back in her chair.

She grinned at him, standing and holding out her hand, palm up. For a moment he saw her as he had years ago on the night of the winter solstice, “come to bed with me?” she asked, her grin changing to a full glowing smile when he took her hand.

***

Lily woke up before Shon for once. Perhaps it was because she wasn't used to sleeping with someone, or perhaps it was because she had willed herself to do so before falling asleep. Either way, she propped herself up slowly on an elbow and watched him sleep for a moment.

He looked so peaceful, breathing slow and even, one hand still wrapped around her to rest on her hip and the other up by his face. Gently she brushed a lock of hair away from his eyes. She wanted to kiss him, she always wanted to kiss him though so she ignored that particular urge and instead let her eyes run down the rest of his body.

She had stolen most of the blankets in the night, leaving his left side completely exposed to the chilly air of the room. Not that he would have minded she was sure, but she felt a little guilty nonetheless. Even fully relaxed she could see the lines of his muscles clearly and wondered if he had an ounce of fat on him. She doubted it, but he also wouldn't need the insulating layer, and she wasn't about to complain. Lily marveled for a moment how much bigger he was than her. They were near the same height, he was only two or so inches taller, but his chest was so wide and arms so strong.

Her eyes trailed lower and paused. She shot a glance towards his face again. Still sleeping. Slowly she brought her hand down and ran her fingers over the large hard bulge at the junction of his legs.

Shon hummed, and she froze looking back to his face, his eyes were still closed, and his breathing remained slow and steady. Gently Lily traced a line back up to the tip stopping for a moment on the spongy head. She wondered if she could move the blanket without waking him to get a closer look but just as she reached for the edge Shon's deep voice said, “Good morning to you too Lily.” He ran the hand he had on her hip up her side and back down again, stroking her softly and sending a shiver down her spine and making her wiggle at the feeling it caused to her own softer regions.

“Were you having a good dream?” she asked, meaning to tease.

Shon's eyes were still closed, but he gave a little half smile and stroked her again, “it wasn't bad. But it's usually like that in the morning regardless.”

“oh...” she had to admit a little disappointment in that, “so I suppose I shouldn't take advantage...”

His eyes opened, and Shon's cold gaze froze her in place as she began running the back of her fingers along his length again, “I didn't say that.” he arched an eyebrow and moved as if he wanted to roll towards her.

Quickly Lily brought her hand up, pushing his shoulder back down and sliding her leg over to pin him in place. Shon looked momentarily surprised as she straddled him, his strong hands running up her thighs to her hips and causing more shivers to run up her legs and down through her belly and lower.

She leaned over him, bringing her lips close to his but not touching, “my turn?” she said with an evil grin...

[18+ content censored. complete version can be found here:https://www.booksiesilk.com/content/shawn-cameron/the-gods-of-dragons-vol-1-27684/chapter/17/version/1?]

It took her longer to relax and regain control of her body, and when she did, she allowed herself to fall forward, her hands barely holding her up on either side of his head. Her hair fell in a thick curtain around both their faces and she watched Shon breath, trying to catch his breath after the exertion like she was. She couldn't help but giggle between gasps, and Shon brought his hands up to lace into her hair on either side of her face, pulling her down to kiss her first hard, then softer.

“Was it as good as last time?” she asked, to which he chuckled quietly.

“you're going to be the death of me,” he said, pulling her down to kiss her again. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the taste of him, somehow sweeter after their lovemaking. When she pulled back he locked his eyes on hers again, stroking the scales on her cheek and making her lean into the touch with a purr, “and I will die happy every day if it’s with you.”

Lily could feel her face turn somehow hotter and she hid her blush in his neck as he laughed, brushing her hair back and out of his face.

***

Lily took slow deep breaths while she waited outside the large double doors that led to the private meeting room of the heads of the temple of Heironeous. Shon stood beside her, his steady hand reaching up to knock and reminding her for all the world of the last time she had met with officials after an out of control fire.

Just like that time, they were called in, and Shon gave a sharp salute to those already gathered. There were three paladins, dressed in their official armor and uniform, and three mages in long robes of varying deep colors. Taking one more breath, Lily shifted a little brushing her shoulder against Shons as he brought down his salute and stood at attention, stiff as ever in the formal setting.

“At ease corporal,” one of the paladins said, returning Shon's salute. Shon took a stance that didn’t look very ‘at ease’ to Lily, but she was still too on edge to roll her eyes. The man who had spoken was older than the others, with steel gray hair and a straight back despite the lines around his eyes and mouth. He looked her over with gray eyes to match his hair, and Lily focused on meeting his gaze, trying to find a balance between confident and humble.

“Ahem,” one of the mages cleared his throat and drew her eyes to him instead. He wore a dark red robe, not far off in color from her own scales, and covered his mouth as he cleared his throat again. He was also older though not as gray as the paladin, with brown hair streaked with white at the temples and brown eyes dark enough that they nearly merged with the black of his pupils. When he brought the hand down he was smiling, however. “Ms. Lily, please don’t look so stiff we are not here to punish you.”

She looked quickly from the three paladins to the three mages then over to Shon who had exhaled slowly, giving away his facade of comfortable confidence, then over her shoulder to her four other companions standing against the wall by the door. They each smiled and gave their own silent sign of happy encouragement.

“Then… why are we here?” she asked. Shon closed his eyes beside her and whispered a quiet prayer, but Lily ignored him.

One of the other paladins, a woman, took a step forward and spoke in a clear formal voice, “we have gone over the reports and testimony of your companions and have found that your reaction, though upsetting in its intensity, was not uncalled for considering the circumstance.” her hair was pulled back in a bun so tight it was hard for Lily to tell what color it was without her turning her head, but if she had to guess Lily would have said a dirty blond. The woman continued, “taking your history into account and the assurances offered by the guild we have decided to make a note in your records but not alter your clearance in any way.”

Lily tilted her head at the woman, “that doesn’t answer my question.” she said, looking from her to the mages.

One of the other mages stepped forward, a young man in dark blue robes, “we wanted to talk to you about the warlock, and about the warlocks from your childhood…” he glanced at his wizard compatriots who nodded their reassurance, “and about the claims they have made concerning… your nature.”

Lily tilted her head in the other direction, “you want to know if I'm a dragon.” the paladins and mages exchanged looks, “I don’t know,” she continued with a shrug, “the men and women at my tower used to say that I was a ‘success,’ and it was their goal to bring back dragons. They said Io had given them that job but that's all I know. I don’t remember ever being a dragon.”

The third mage whispered something to the youngest one behind his hand who cleared his throat before asking, “Io, is he the one the warlocks made their pact with?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?” Lily shrugged again, “he's supposed to be the father of all dragons.”

The oldest mage spoke again, “we would like you to stay here for a while so we can question you further on the subject of dragon lore, it seems the warlocks have, or rather had, more texts on the subject than we do.”

Lily whined, and Shon shot her a glance that could freeze, “permission to speak.” he said but waited until one of the paladins answered “granted,” before continuing, “one of your own mages has agreed to be one of Lily’s traveling companions. Perhaps he can question her and organize the information into a formal report.”

Six sets of eyes looked past Lily and Shon to Tuth who sheepishly pointed to himself questioningly before stepping forward, “yes,” his voice cracked, and he cleared it before continuing, “Lily has already agreed to allow me to question her on the subject if… if that’s ok…” he trailed off, and Lily smiled reassuringly at him before looking back to the other mages and tilting her head to wait for their answer.

The six came together, whispering words Lily couldn’t decipher. She leaned forward to try and hear, but Shon put out a hand and pushed her back shaking his head before resuming his not so easy ‘at ease’ position. She rolled her eyes at him but stood still until the leaders separated facing them again.

The oldest paladin spoke, “that is acceptable if the report is made to both the guild and the temple.” he looked at Shon instead of Tuth who returned to attention and saluted his consent to the terms.

Lily clapped her hands lightly in her happiness and barely resisted turning around to hug Tuth and the others. Not only would she be able to keep her clearance and her freedom but she was going to travel with Shon with the paladins blessing. “Oh! We need to buy tents!” she exclaimed loudly, just remembering Yua’s condition and anxious to get started.

The oldest paladin chuckled, “you are dismissed Ms. Lily, and guests,” he nodded to the small group by the door but then looked to Shon, “Corporal, a word please.”

Lily looked from Shon who met her eyes and nodded, then to the others who motioned for her to come with them. For a moment she didn’t want to leave Shon alone with these people, but when she looked at him again her worries melted away, she trusted him and in his strength. With a nod and smile, she skipped to the others who lead the way out the door.

***

The mage and paladin leaders waited for the door to close behind the exiting group before they spoke again. The eldest paladin, stepped forward, closer to Shon and spoke more quietly than before, “Corporal Shon, we have an important assignment for you and your team.” Shon arched an eyebrow at the man who continued. “We need you to go to Swailand province.” Shon was taken aback by that, but held his tongue for the captain to continue, “it seems there are sorcerers going missing from the capital and we want you to investigate.” The man looked Shon over finishing with, “you have questions?”

“Shouldn’t the temple of Hextor be handling this?” he watched each of them until the third paladin, the one who hadn’t spoken yet, snorted quietly.

“They have started their own investigation with the most recent disappearance, a noble's daughter. However we would rather not leave the lives of these citizens in the hands of Hextor paladins,” he said, he had brown hair but gray eyes the same shade as the oldest paladin and Shon wondered if he was the man's son. “The spells cast by the Church of Pelor and the Mages guild point toward the missing magic users still being alive, but that's all we know.”

Shon resisted sighing, looking at the tiled floor between them for a moment, “And you can’t send a paladin investigation because it’s in Swailand.” he was often given jobs like this. The Temples of Hextor and his twin brother Heironeous were always at odds, only the royal family and Temple of St. Cuthbert kept them from constant outright war.

“That is correct,” the female confirmed. She marched forward a thick envelope in hand which she held out to Shon. “your formal orders and all of the information we have.” He took it but didn’t open it, instead, sliding it into one of his belt pouches while the woman stepped back with the rest of the elite group.

To the side the lead mage in the red robes cleared his throat again and said, “about the girl, Lily,” he waited for Shon to meet his eyes before he continued, “we don’t know if what the warlocks think is correct or even possible, but we would like you, as a servant of the kingdom, to keep an eye on her.” Shon narrowed his eyes at the man who was a little taken aback by the expression and finished by saying, “if the warlocks believe she is one of the dragons they are trying to bring back they will surely target her, whether it’s true or not.” Shon nodded to the man, glad for the clarification, not that it would have mattered regardless.

“You are dismissed Corporal,” the paladins returned Shons answering salute before he made an about face and left the room.

The others were waiting outside the door for him, and Shon blinked for a moment, a little surprised to see them. He had expected they would have gone back to the inn, or tent shopping and he would meet them later. But Lily smiled at him, running the few feet to him and grabbing his hand to pull him down the hall, “let's go, it might take a while to find the right ones…”

Shon gripped her hand but planted his feet pulling her back to him. Surprised, Lily reached the end of her arm's length before falling back against his chest and looking up at him, head tilted in feline curiosity. He chuckled at her, letting go of her hand and looking to the others, “go ahead without me, I want to take some time in the chapel…” he looked down at Lily who had tilted her head to the other side, “I’ve been given a mission so you can take the cost of the tents out of my account,” he nodded to Veon-Zih who would know what he meant and how to get the funds from the temple.

“Are you sure?” Lily asked, to which he nodded, and she shrugged. “Ok but I’m not skimping on quality just to save you a few silver…” she warned, and Shon mirrored her shrug. It wasn’t like he was saving the gold from his stipend for anything specific anyway.

He waved them off down the hall, turning the opposite direction towards the Temple chapel. The room was massive, with beautifully painted ceilings and statues lining the cloisters in the walls. Shon breathed in the smell of incense that always permeated holy places, walking silently to the head altar and one of the areas set aside for supplicants to pray. He hesitated for a moment, staring up at the giant statue behind the primary altar. A cleric came up to give him a silent blessing, which he returned with a nod before getting to his knees to pray.

***

Tuth had started following the others out of the temple, but once the light of the sun hit his face he stopped, changing his mind. The others went a few more steps before realizing that he wasn’t following and turned to face him. Before they could question him, he said, “I’m going to stay behind and wait for him, you guys go ahead.” they exchanged curious looks, and Tuth blushed though he didn’t know why “I’ll meet you back at the inn.”

The four shrugged almost in unison, “suit yourself,” Yua said.

“We'll see you later,” Lily added waving.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Velona said, narrowing her eyes at the mage, which caused Veon-Zih to look from the woman to the young man.

The monk took a few steps closer to Tuth while the others turned and walked further down the road towards the shopping district, “I won’t ask what you want to talk to Shon about,” the monk said, and Tuth couldn’t quite meet his brown eyes, “but don’t let his silence bother you, he just doesn't like to waste words. If you ask a question he will answer.” Veon-Zih clapped the young man on the shoulder who nodded silently before moving to the shade of one of the courtyard trees to wait for Shon.

Tuth didn’t know how long he had waited. If he had to guess he would say at least an hour but he knew that time played tricks on people while they waited so he couldn’t be sure as to his accuracy. He had run through many possible conversations and scenarios in his mind, but as Shon exited the temple and saw the mage, they all seemed to drain out through his ears.

Straightening his shoulders, Tuth walked up to the waiting warrior, who stood silent, one black brow arched over ice blue eyes. “I wanted to have a word with you…” he said, looking up at the man. He was a good head taller than Tuth and at least twice as wide, but Shon gestured towards the road indicating that they could walk and talk, or at least that's what the mage thought he meant by it.

Falling into step beside Shon, Tuth looked for the right words from the many he had thought about while waiting, “Thank you.” he finally said, refusing to look up at the man, focusing instead on the road, “for standing up for Lily, and stopping her on that night…” he trailed off, but Shon didn’t say anything. After a while, he signed and continued, “I didn’t expect a paladin to take her side.”

Shon made a sound that stopped Tuths words. The mage finally looked up at him just to see Shon determinedly facing forward rather than at him, “I’m not a paladin.” he said, and Tuth stopped walking altogether. Shon took a few more steps before turning and looking at him, his expression cold as always but not defensive.

“But I thought… didn’t you train with the paladins? Isn’t that how you met Lily?” Lily had said she had been saved by the squires of the temple of Heironeous when she was younger, that that was why she liked working with them, and that Shon was the specific one who had saved her.

Shon ran his hand through his hair and looked away, “That's right. I was a squire, but Heironeous didn’t call me to his service.” he looked back at Tuth, and the mage thought for a moment that he could see a shadow of sadness on the mans face before he continued with the same cold tone, “I enlisted as a soldier instead, and now the temple sends me on jobs they can’t assign to a paladin.”

“So you think he called you to this other service instead?” Tuth asked. His experience with paladins, no matter the temple, was that they all had a near zealous fervor for their god and mission in life.

To his surprise, however, Shon shrugged and started walking again. Tuth rushed to catch up, falling into step again. Before he could ask another question, Shon said, “I don’t know if he meant for me to take this job instead. He has never spoken to me. But I made a vow to serve the kingdom and justice, and that is what I continue to do.”

“But where does that leave Lily?” Tuth asked before he could think about the best way to phrase the question.

This time Shon stopped, waiting for Tuth to look at him before answering, “I don’t know what exactly you mean by that.” he said, narrowing his cold eyes at the mage, “but Lily is her own woman. I would not ask her to choose between my oath and her freedom.” Tuth wasn’t really sure what to say. He wasn’t quite sure what he had wanted with that question, but then Shon asked, “You care for her don’t you?”

Tuth waved his hands frantically in front of his face, “not like that!” Shon arched an eyebrow again, and the mage calmed down to continue, “she’s like a mix between a younger and older sister… In some ways she takes care of me and is definitely my sir, but in others... she can be so naive.” to his surprise Shon smirked and nodded at the description.

“but…” Tuth continued, “you make her happy. She changes, a little, when you're around. At first, I didn’t really understand it, so I was rather rude.” he looked away, somehow embarrassed, “but I see it now, and I’m sorry.”

Shon huffed, walking forward and past the mage who turned to stay beside him, “It’s alright Tuth.” Shon's voice was quiet and Tuth looked up at him, he was facing forward again as they walked, “I should thank you for caring enough to be rude.” Shon looked down at him and Tuth thought for a moment that he might be smiling, but wasn’t quite sure.

***

Shon’s prayer:

Heironeous. I don’t know if you’re listening, or if I have disappointed you with some of my more recent decisions. There has been an emptiness in me, a lack of purpose for some time now. Perhaps that's why I haven't come to your chapel as much as I should. But in the last few days, I’ve felt a lightening in my soul and I can only hope that you approve, or at least don’t condemn me for wanting to continue a little while longer.

I thank you for the justice and mercy shown today and for the blessing that brought Lily to me. I ask that you continue to smile upon her, and should either of us incur your displeasure that you allow me to take the sentence upon myself. I pray that you watch over Master Veon-Zih and Velona, they have served the way of good for so long now, they deserve some of their own happiness.

I don’t know if you can hear me, or if my prayers merely eco in the void, but know that I still believe in what you stand for.

Even if you don’t believe in me.


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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