She really is extraordinarily beautiful. Not the fantastic, foreign beauty of Nera, who is extraordinary in her strangeness. Hers is a more – cultured, more refined beauty.
I must be getting soft in my old age. Not that I’m really old – when members of your race regularly live to be 700 years, you measure time differently, maturity differently. They see me as ancient, but I am little more than a child. Still, there is something kind in his eyes.
I wonder what changed her mind about me? I wonder if she realises that she is so easy to read? It was clear to me at our first meeting she was uncomfortable around me. Initially I assumed it was my status as the leader of the Lightbringers – or perhaps my attitude. Later I realised she has a hatred, bordering on a fear, of men.
He admits it when he’s wrong. I’ll not absolve Rifus of all blame for taking pot shots in that cavern, but he freely admitted it was his note that got us into this situation. I can’t help but respect a person – even a man, who admits when they got it wrong.
She is our glue. She holds us together. Controlling Rifus. Supporting Tanc. Encouraging Nera. Welcoming Anselm. And me? To me she is grace itself.
He has – a certain refinement I haven’t found often. The court of Dandanagan had it, when I was there briefly. He reminds me – very slightly, of Davan. The young prince had a similar – nobility.
I value her loyalty. She does not trust easily, which makes her ease around us all the more incredible. I wonder if the others realise the gift she gives us every time she steps forward to defend us with her quick words and quicker wit.
He is – a defender. It’s a rare gift and even rarer to find one so willing to share it. I wonder he has stayed with us for so long – we have not treated him well. He is an honest soul amongst a group of rogues.
It bothers me how well she hides her feelings from the others if she doesn’t want them to see. Oh if Nera makes a joke, she’ll laugh. If Rifus needs reining in, she’ll snap. If Tanc offers advice, she’ll agree. And yet every morning she borrows Rifus’ rod and sometimes Tanc’s vest and collar as well. They don’t seem to notice that while the damage is being restored, she is slowly getting worse.
He genuinely cares. I think that’s what surprises me the most. Even towards Nera – who abuses him awfully at times, when she needs his assistance, he is all care and concern. And there is nothing false about it. Or him.
I am worried about her. Only the Lord of Light can hear me within the confines of my mind and I can be completely honest. She is getting worse. Her complexion has gone from pale to pallid in a shorter time than I would have thought possible. I have asked her how she is feeling and though she tells me that she feels fine once she has repaired the damage I can see she is lying. This wound is taking its toll on her. I fear that one day she will find the damage is too great or that she simply loses the strength to fight. I will bend all my efforts, all the grace accorded to me by my God, but I fear that it will not be enough. I am unsure how long she can continue on like this. I do not want to see her die, she has – become a friend.
He worries about me. I can see it in his eyes every morning – he watches me collect the rod and vest and collar from Rifus and Tanc, ready for when I need them. The others haven’t seen it – which sometimes surprises me. I know none of them are particularly perceptive, but still, we have been travelling together for much longer than he has been part of our group. He doesn’t say much, beyond the occasional question as to how I’m feeling. But I can see he’s worried. And to tell the truth, so am I. The immediate damage is repaired instantly by way of magic, but the lingering headaches and nausea are taking longer and longer to go away. Still, they need me – and – I don’t like my friends to worry. He is a friend.
I have been watching her most of the night – unable to sleep for thinking about her. So I watch as she moves away to wake Rifus for his turn at watch. I marvel that she is strong enough to continue to take turns with him to keep watch. She approaches the fire where the rest of us huddle against the cold. As she lowers herself to her bedroll I notice her pause and lay one hand against her forehead briefly. I can’t help myself - “Silver.”
At the sound of my name I am instantly alert. Rifus has come awake and is behind me, taking his turn on watch. Besides, it is not his voice. It is Lester’s voice. I should be more surprised than I am I think. I have been watching him most of the night so far, thinking about how – strange he is. Wondering how he can put up with us. Wondering how much he sees. In the dark I know he can barely see me, but I can see him well enough to know that he won’t accept my silence. “What is it Lester? You should be asleep.”
I didn’t mean to. Perhaps it was because I was extremely tired. I blurted out what I had been thinking. “You are unwell. I can see it.” She looked unhappy for a split second before her iron controls slammed back into place. Too late. I had already seen. “Why do you hide it from the others?” The answer to that question was more important than I knew.
I sighed. Bloody interfering paladin. I turned my face to stone as soon as he asked the question, but I knew he’d seen. He always saw. Of everyone I’d ever travelled with, I’d never met anyone who noticed as much about people as Lester did. Except perhaps Norrin, but he was a spy, so it was to be expected I suppose. I hadn’t expected that last question though, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer it. “Because we have enough problems without worrying about my health.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. That was her reason? That wasn’t a good enough reason. “You don’t think your health is important?”
I glared at him. This wasn’t helping. I only wanted to rest while I had the time. Tomorrow wasn’t going to be a fun day and I was tired. “No Lester, that’s not what I mean,” I said not bothering to hide my exasperation. “But if we are going to stop the Eldenites from finding the staff of the Shadow King, then we cannot be weighed down by fears about my life.” I grimaced, I had never thought I would hear myself say what I was about to say. I rather liked my life. “This is more important than my life. I know all the stories Lester, I’m a bard. More importantly, I was alive during the last years of the Shadow King’s reign. I lived through the seven months of darkness after he was defeated. I know exactly what this world will receive if the College succeeds and if I have to give my life to prevent it then so be it.” I glared at him, daring him to mock me.
I had never heard such passion from her before. Her green eyes glowed and glared at me, as if she expected me to make fun of her. Such a thing had never crossed my mind. I could only wish more of my fellows displayed such passion as was contained in this small, fragile vessel. Still... “You should be more careful my lady. You are precious to us.”
I started and stared at him. What on earth had brought that on? I wasn’t even sure how to respond. I wasn’t used to being considered precious. Valuable yes, for my skills, my magic. Accepted, useful – all of those. But precious? It was foreign to me. And yet I liked it. “Rifus’ rod and Tanc’s items are doing their work well,” I told him, trying to make him feel better. I felt as if I owed it to him. “Each morning they heal the damage.”
“And each morning it takes you longer to recover from it,” I said bluntly. I would not let her think I hadn’t noticed. Every morning she looked worse and worse. Every day it took longer for the pain in her eyes to fade. “The headaches and nausea are increasing aren’t they?”
I was astonished. I am not going to deny it. This paladin, this man showed more compassion and more wisdom on a daily basis than I was used to seeing out of every man I’d ever known – for the course of their lives. Perhaps that was the problem with men. All their goodness had been concentrated into only one of them. I couldn’t argue with the knowing look he was giving me. “They are,” I acknowledged. I held up a hand to forestall the argument I saw on his lips. “Please Lester, let it go. If you wish to keep watch, I will not stop you. I promise – I will tell you if I feel the symptoms beginning to worsen. But – we simply cannot afford the time.”
I didn’t like it of course, but I couldn’t fault her logic. She was, as always, extremely persuasive. Finally I bowed my head to her. “Very well, my lady. If you will keep me informed as to how you are feeling, I will not alert the others.”
I frowned at him, that wasn’t what I’d said. His eyes were firm, steel, immovable. He knew exactly what he’d done and he wasn’t about to change. Very well. I could let him have that much. “As you wish my lord Lester. I will.” I couldn’t help but smile then, “Now go to sleep!”
I chuckled. She was impossible. Beautiful, courageous, intelligent – and impossible. I bowed to her again, from the waist this time, and laid myself back among my bedroll and blankets. I said nothing, but I heard her moving to her own bedroll, listened to her quiet sigh as she settled herself into them. Heard a quiet exhalation as she relaxed.
That man is impossible. Compassionate, dependable, strong – and impossible. I drew my most regal air about myself as I moved past him to my bedroll and nestled down into it. I couldn’t resist a swift glance at him and had to laugh at myself when I saw him, buried beneath blankets, eyes closed. I suppose old bones feel the cold more. I sighed softly as I tucked my pack under my head for a pillow. I had fooled him on one thing and one thing only. The headache never left me.