The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. Fifiteen, An Isle of Mist Short

 

The days drug on as I wandered around North Georgia. I decided to go spend time in the mountains there. I really did love the place. I stuffed myself with good food, spent my days hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail, and my nights drinking hot chocolate by the fire in the back of my cabin. I was lonely. I missed the clan. While I rarely included myself in clan activities, I was always able to watch and enjoy the closeness. Most of all, I missed Keyne. It was odd that after only two days together, I would miss him so much. We had had fun together those days. We had laughed and talked about life. We had similar taste in music, we laughed at the same type jokes, and while we would never agree on what movie to watch, we liked the same books. The books had been surprising. I had never thought he would be a reader but apparently, he read often while away from the clan. I felt bad for him knowing he had to stay away from his home to be himself. I wondered if that would change if he settled down and had a wife. The thought of him having a wife upset me greatly. I almost broke my self-imposed “no spying on the Weather God” rule just to make sure he wasn’t with some wench this very moment.

I was so upset by this thought I didn’t even hear the great clap of thunder. I didn’t notice my chair shake or the wave in the flames of my fire. I was so angry Keyne was all but on top of me before I realized I was not alone in the yard any longer. When I did notice him, I was so startled my heart stopped.

“What do you mean sneaking up on me like that? You almost scared me to death! And for that matter why are you here? Erwin said I would have time to be alone!”

“Woman, would you stop yelling for just a minute, please. One- Erwin does not know I am here, or he does now, probably, but I was not on our Isle when I came here so he did not know of my plan. Two- As for startling you, I am sorry, but I hardly can be accused of sneaking. I saw your chair shake as I landed and I am certain the entire mountain community heard the thunder, even if they have no idea why it happened. And three- as for why I am here, I missed you and needed to see for myself if you hate me or not.”

I was confused. Part of me was angry he did not give me the space I had asked for, but mostly I was glad he did not.
“I missed you as well. I do not hate you. I was hurt and confused. I still am, but I do not hate you. I don’t think I could. I like the Keyne I traveled with. I do not know what to do now though.”

Wrapping his arms around me, he held me close for a long while. After a few moments, I looked up into his eyes, and he lowered his head, brushing his lips against mine. It was a sweet kiss, full of promise. “Let’s go home, love. We will figure it out, I promise.”
Smiling, I pressed my head to his chest once more and gathering my powers around us I took us home.

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. Fourteen, An Isle of Mist Short

I felt mildly bad for leaving him in Savannah but I knew he had the ax and could get home. It would just take him longer to get here than for me to flash us back. It would undoubtedly give me plenty of time to stew over the meddling with my powers. I could forgive everything else but not that. They made me question who I was and my abilities to serve my purpose. That took things much too far.
As I stalked into my rooms I threw myself on my pallet and cried. I have no idea how long I was like that before there was a knock on my door.

“GO AWAY!” I yelled, not knowing who I was yelling at.
“I will not do that Oracle, I feel I must speak with you at once.”

Ugh, it was Erwin. There was nothing for it, I had to speak with him, he was our king, the Khan, and when he wanted to talk, you talked, want to or not. “Forgive me, Erwin, I am upset and not fit for company today.”

“I know La’el, and as your distress is in no small part my fault, I have come to offer my apology. I should have realized how you would take the dampening of your powers. I only dampened your ability to transport and shielded you from conversations with Keyne about his plan. I had not realized how connected you are to all of your powers. I should have.”

“I thought I was losing my powers. They are who I am, what makes me The Oracle. The burden of being so is heavy but it is mine and I do not wish to lose it. I do not wish for anyone else to have to bear it either. When one of my powers is lessened, they all are to some degree. When you hampered my ability to transport us home, I was then unable to call up clothes for myself, I was unable to protect us from the insects and dangers of the swamp, I could not keep myself comfortable on our miles of walking. It weakened me. It also hindered me from knowing what was to come and what was happening here. Had there been trouble here I would be unable to send Keyne to help you. The discomfort of the swamp faded, Keyne handled the clothing, and I suppose nothing happened here. None of that is the point though. You lessoned who I am and made me question myself. I do not like feeling less than who I always have been.”

“I had no idea your powers worked like that. For that, I am truly sorry. I was only trying to help my fool of a son. For some reason, he thought the best way to win you was to go through all of this. Talking to you was out of the question for him. He said you would not have listened.”

“He is right, I would not have listened to the drunkard he is when he is home. I find I like the Keyne who I trekked through a swamp and wondered the streets of Savannah with much better.”

“Keyne has always felt he must maintain that drunkard reputation. I have a few ideas as to why but you must know La’el, the Keyne you traveled with is the Keyne who is my son, the real Keyne, God of Weather and War. And he has always been in love with you, he’s just not sure what to do about it.”

“I have not always been in love with him, I hardly liked him before two days ago. However, I have come to like him very much and were I not so hurt by what was done to my magic, I could love him one day as well. I need time Erwin, time to sort through all of this and decide how I feel about it. I know you meant no harm. You could not have known how my magic works, Oracle magic works like no other. In fact, you won’t remember that part of the conversation once you leave this room.-”
“No that is the way of it Erwin, only an Oracle is meant to understand our ways. Not even the God of Wisdom is to understand this. I wish to be alone for a few days. I will leave for a time but I will be watching and I will return soon. Please do not allow Keyne to follow me if he tries. He may not wish to after being left in the U.S. like he was.”

“As you wish La’el. I am sorry, truly.” With that The Khan left the room, chuckling under his breath.

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. Thirteen, An Isle of Mist Short

 

I was only half right, Keyne loved the pub but instead of being in the middle of everything he took us to a table in the back corner, out of the way of everything. After settling in beside me he leaned over, “I know you wanted to talk last night but you fell asleep as soon as your head hit the pillow. Here we can talk and no one will pay any attention.” I was puzzled but touched. “It’s OK, if you want to go and have fun with the crowd I will understand. I came here because I thought you would like it.”
“I do love, the ale is plenty and the booth is comfortable. It is just my kind of place. However, I wish to spend my time here with you, not these mortals I will never see again.”

Overwhelmed by feelings I wasn’t sure I could name, I lowered my head and began fiddling with the bowl of bread that had been placed on the table with our ale. I was so lost in thought I missed Keyne ordering dinner until a giant plate of shrimp, potatoes, corn, and sausage was set down in front of us. “I hope you don’t mind La’el, I ordered a Low Country Boil for us to share. If you would like something else we can get it.”
“This is perfect Keyne, I love shrimp. What will you eat?” Snorting at this he took a sausage from the plate. “What is it you wished to talk about love? You can’t keep avoiding it forever.”

I debated what all to tell him as I pushed the food around on my plate, suddenly the shrimp looked less appetizing. I decided to go for full honesty. He had been kind to me and made sure I not only had fun but didn’t feel bad about not being able to bring us home.
“You will not like this but I feel I must tell you the truth. I took Dragon-Breath, I felt bad even as I did it, but I needed time to undo all of the havoc you have caused with your power to grant divinity. I thought that if I hid the ax you would go on a quest and give me a day or two to fix things. I also hoped it would give me time to make Erwin realize how much of a problem it was causing for you to be creating new Gods and Goddesses at random. I devised a plan to get you drunk enough to transport it here while you slept. I did not expect to enjoy your company so much that night. That someone might look for the ax as well never entered my mind. They should not have even known about it. Once I saw that there were others involved I knew I had to come with you though I never expected Erwin to know what I did. I certainly never thought I would have so much fun on the trip, that horrid swamp notwithstanding. I hope that you can forgive me and we can at least be friends. I have found I want that very much.” It all came out in a rush. When my mouth finally stopped moving, I slumped back into the booth relieved that it was all out in the open.

Keyne was silent for a long time. So long I thought he would never speak to me again. Just before I decided to leave he threw his head back and gave a loud laugh. He laughed as though he had never heard a more funny joke which sat my teeth on edge. I pushed up from the table and turned to go but he grabbed my arm and holding his stomach

“sit La’el, I am sorry if I offend you, it was not my intention. I had despaired you would never interfere with the new Gods and Goddesses I was creating and had gone to The Khan that very night to tell him I wanted a new plan. He was going to undo their divinity the next morning with or without you. When I told him to fix things he agreed as long as I gave you one more day to react. He said he knew you were up to something and wanted to see what you would do. I agreed and I had never been gladder than I was when you walked into the great hall that night. I wasn’t sure if you dressed up for me or not but I had to speak to you regardless. I was shocked you sat with me and I could tell you were up to something but I went along with you just to see where it would lead. When I woke up to find my ax gone, I’ll admit it threw me and I was angry at first but I realized quickly that was part of your plan. I knew if Malachi did not have the ax then you took it and if you did it was safe where ever you put it. Erwin sent you with me because he knew that you would either realize my feelings for you and return them or you would make it clear to me once and for all I was never going to win you. He is the one who created the men in your vision. They are nothing more than the magic of The Khan, illusions used to have a reason to send you. So yes, we can continue to be friends. I hope we can be more than friends at some point soon.”

Stunned, all I could do was stare at him. Part of me wanted to be angry that he and Erwin had done all this but a perverse part of me was touched that he would go through all the trouble to make me notice him. I just didn’t understand why he felt the need to. Finally, when I could speak again, I asked a ridiculous question,
“OK, but why Carl, the God of Wet Willies?”

“Oh, because I knew that would be the one to get you. After all the other stupid powers I had handed out I was running out of ideas and so they kept getting increasingly more silly. Carl was the last by the way, he thought it was a riot to have the power even for a day or two. They all knew it was only for a time even if they didn’t know the reason.”

I was at a loss and too confused by this change of events I didn’t begin to know where to start. I had to admit, the plan was pretty amusing now that I knew the entire to story. “Erwin was in on this?” I finally asked. For some reason, I was stuck on that. Then a light bulb went off.

“You two are the reason my powers have been so off lately! I had no idea he would give you the ability to create gods and there is no reason I shouldn’t have been able to get us home after we got the ax. You and Erwin combined your powers to block mine! How could you? My powers are everything to me!”
Now I was mad and ready to go home. I no longer wanted to spend time in the city or with Keyne, I needed to think. With no warning, I jumped up and fled to the restroom where I quickly gathered my powers and disappeared just as Keyne burst into the ladies room.

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 12 An Isle of Mist Short

The next morning, I woke refreshed and ready to hit the road. I was excited to visit Savannah. On my last trip to the south, I spent days there just wondering the city streets. I inhaled my breakfast, a bowl of fruit and coffee. I tapped my foot impatiently as Keyne ate his third plate of bacon and eggs. When he started talking about a waffle, I had enough.
“Let us go now. We can eat more when we get there. I will take us. I feel much better today.”
He didn’t argue with me as I thought he would. He just rose and threw away his plate.
“Let us go then.”
Once we were checked out and in a secluded area, I gathered my magic around us and with a flash we were standing at the entrance to Bonaventure Cemetery. Grabbing his hand I led him down the path, entranced by the majestic trees and moss. Even Keyne was impressed. Trust a Northman to understand honoring the dead. We spent hours wandering around the paths, stopping to rest on a bench overlooking the marsh and the curve of the river. It was a wonderful morning. Just enough chill in the air to make the day comfortable.
Soon my stomach rumbled and I realized I was hungry. Laughing, Keyne pulled me toward the entrance
“we should find lunch La’el, even you cannot deny your hunger now.” As luck would have it, a taxi was dropping off a family when we arrived at the gate. Before he could drive off, I was in the back seat holding the door for Keyne. “Could you take us to City Market please.” As much as I wanted some decent southern food, I knew Keyne would be less likely to enjoy it. I was hoping that while walking around downtown, something would catch our attention without us having to go to River Street. It was always so crowded there I hoped to avoid the place if I could. And at City Market, we could always grab a pizza if all else failed. After walking around for awhile we settled on Sweet Potatoes, a little place on Waters Ave. Thoroughly stuffed with gumbo, we resumed our ramblings.
“What do you say to another night love, I think there is more of this city to see.”
“I would love to Keyne, that’s a wonderful idea!” Grabbing his hand I drug him off to explore more of the city. Around dark, I took him to River Street, I knew he would enjoy a pub crawl and I wanted to do something for him as well. As we climbed down those treacherous steps I noticed those men again. Keyne once again brushed off my concerns saying they could not possibly know who we were.
“Be that as it may, they knew where your ax was when they should not have, they were in the first place we stopped at, and now they are here. That is cause for concern to me.”
“You are right La’el, I will be more alert as we wonder. Gods woman, are you leading me to my death on these stairs?” He caught himself as he stumbled on the last two steps. They are incredibly steep. Giggling I took his hand “I’ve got you big guy” and with what I hoped was a saucy wink, led him to one of the crowded pubs.

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 11, An Isle of Mist Short

“A bath! I would like a bath first.” I could not help the pleading in my voice. He had taken me completely off guard. I will admit I was finding him much more appealing than I thought I would but I was still unsure if I found him that appealing. “I must be clean, as must you. Also, we should talk first. If we are to do this, there are things we must discuss.”

He gave me a curious look, before sighing and leading me to the shower. “Fine, you have ten minutes. If we must talk I wish to be done with it.”

What happened to the Keyne I was enjoying so much? The brutish one was back and I was not in the mood to deal with him.

“As you wish Keyne.” With a huff I slammed the door in his face and with no small amount of satisfaction, slid the lock in place.

The water was close to boiling, even one more degree and it would be to hot to tolerate. It felt wonderful on my scratched and itching skin. I felt the dirt and sweat wash away, along with it the aches and pains of the day. I was beginning to feel more like myself. If he thought he would bully me into his bed tonight the man was in for a rude awakening soon. But first I must tell him what I had done. I owed him that much for all he had done for me today. Suddenly, the water was no longer making me feel better.

I finished my shower and dried off. Calling my magic, I was able to produce a flimsy night gown. This would not do. I needed to send a message and not the one this night dress would send. It barely covered my bum. Trying again, I managed a pair of shorts. Those two pieces of clothing draining what little reserve I had built up.

Tears were streaming down my face as I walked into the main room. Keyne was at the door, arm raised as though he was about to knock. When he saw my face he wrapped his arms around me and just held me as I cried. Crap, now we are back to the nice, thoughtful Keyne. Had the swampy air addled his whits? I wish he would just be himself, whomever that really was, and quit going back and forth.

“Why the tears love? It can’t have been that bad of a shower now could it?”

I tried to laugh though it sounded more like a snort. Taking a deep breath I began to talk.

“We should be home by now, in our own beds. We should not have to worry about those men, or if I will have enough magic to get us home tomorrow. I don’t understand why it isn’t working now. I feel lost, like the biggest part of me is missing. I do not like this feeling.”

I thought I saw him grimace but it was so quick, I’m not sure.

“It will be fine love, you will rest tonight and have food tomorrow. Then we will see the place in the picture and go home. You will see.” His kindness made me cry again.

Feeling a change in subject was in order I screwed up my courage and asked

“Why is it that here, alone, you call me love but at home it was woman this and woman that?”

“Because, here alone, you let me. At home you refuse to have anything to do with me most of the time and when you do you are looking down your nose. Last night, I know you were up to something but it was nice to have you at least pretend to like me for a while. And here, you seem to like me a little better than before. I am not really the man you see at home. That is just what everyone expects, so that is who I give them. It is also why I travel as often as I can. Why I always try to get you to go with me.”

Well, that was unexpected. Unsure how to respond, I wrapped my arms around his waist, hugging him tight.

“Lets go to bed Keyne.”

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 9 An Isle of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

Keyne held the door and with his hand on the small of my back, led me into the diner and to a booth in the back. He ordered two glasses of water and after pausing over the menu asked me what I would like. “I am unfamiliar with this food. I do not know what to order.”
“Shall I order for us both then?” I questioned. At his nod, I waited for the waitress to return. “We would like a burger and fries for each of us please,” I informed the waitress when she returned with our water.

“Miss, would you be so kind as to tell us where the nearest resting place may be. We are not from this area and find ourselves in need of a good nights sleep.” His manners were impeccable and I wondered, not for the first time who this Keyne was.
“Sure Hun. If you take this road about two more miles you’ll come into town and there are a couple decent hotels there. A couple of not so decent ones too if you need cheap and don’t mind a few bugs. I’ll be back out in a minute with your food. Y’all just cool down and I’ll bring you a glass of tea to wash down the burgers with.”

Looking at her name tag, Keyne thanked her by name. If I had been less interested in watching him drink his water, I would have noticed the men as soon as they came in. They were seated on the other side of the dinner before I realized I had seen them before.
“Keyne, those are the men from my vision. The ones looking for Dragon-Breath. We cannot stay here.”
“Calm down La’el, we look like any other American and I’ve hidden the ax from mortal eyes. We will be fine. You must rest if we are to return home.” He seemed so sure of himself, I, on the other hand, was a nervous mess. I was hot, tired, and itchy. I had been unable to count on my power for the first time in my life and I wanted to go home and consult my books. On top of all that, being alone with Keyne was confusing. He was not the brute I had thought him all these years.

“Ah look, love, our food is here. I trust you have ordered something wonderful.” As soon as the plate hit the table he lifted his burger and took a large bite. “You know, for someone who dislikes meat, you have ordered it to perfection. We must find out how to make these to tell Cook.”

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 8 An Isle of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

I woke to find myself held in Keyne’s arms and him frantically yelling at me to wake up. “What happened? Are we home?” My voice much too shaky to be my own.
“No, we are right where we were, your magic began and then you just dropped like a stone. I’ve been trying to wake you for the last quarter of an hour.”
“I what? What do you mean my power began and then I dropped? I did not faint, my powers have never once failed me and they did not start today. I must have been distracted. I will try again.”
“Nay woman, you will not. We will go to the nearest town and you will eat and you will rest. You hardly had enough food to feed a child yesterday and drank enough ale to drown a horse. I will not be swayed in this. Now, which way do we go?”

I wanted to protest but I feared he was right. I felt weak and shaky. I wasn’t sure I could use my magic to swat a fly much less get us back to the Hidden Isle. Choking back my sharp reply, I laughed and called him a twit as I headed off to the north. I wasn’t sure where we were in relation to other people but I knew we needed to go North and West to stay in Georgia. If I was going to be stuck here I was getting some decent food. I quickly found that while I was fine issuing a quest, I was ill suited for undertaking one of my own. My feet ached, the bugs and vegetation of the swamp had caused me to be covered in welts and bites. I was doing better than Keyne though. He was much larger than me and learned quickly to step lightly, it’s called The Land of Trembling Earth for a reason. He was soaked through and had seen one of the large swamp lizards and started. He then fell into a plant growing up a tree. Whatever plant it was has caused him to itch everywhere it touched and he has a bright red rash. Note to self, leaves of three, leave it be. For what I am sure was the millionth time since getting to this accursed swamp, I wished my powers were working. I could heal us both and take us to anywhere but here.

We trekked through the swamp for hours, even I had lost my love for it before we finally came upon a road. Sticking with my original plan of going north and west we headed into the setting sun. Thankfully at some point, Keyne realized walking around in our typical, loose, flowy clothes and carrying a giant ax on his back was not the best way to endear ourselves to the natives. He used his magic to make us both look more American. I felt ridiculous in my blue jeans and tank top. At least he gave me comfortable shoes. When we came to a small diner I nearly wept with relief.

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol. 7, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

As an Oracle, I was able to transport Keyne and me to Georgia with no trouble. Finding the ax was easy. We popped right into the field and Keyne grabbed Dragon-Breath, strapping it to his belt. “Thank you La’el, I am nothing without my ax.”
His words shocked me, didn’t he know the legends. Yes, the ax has a name but the legends call it the Ax of Keyne. Placing my hand on his arm, “How could you say that Keyne? You are the wielder of the ax, the ax does not wield you. Do not forget, you are worthy to wield this ax and only the worthy may do so.”

“It is not the same, everyone knows me as the wielder of Dragon-Breath, as the God of Weather and War, no one knows me as just Keyne. At the very least, I am Keyne, Erwin’s son. Surely you understand, Oracle. Does anyone know La’el?”

“No, they do not know La’el. However, that is because I do not allow them to. As the Oracle, I cannot have friends, I cannot appear to have favorites. What if I had to send someone to their death on a quest doomed to fail. It is hard to do when I do not care for the person, what if they were my friend? Could I truly send them on a quest I knew would be their last? Or, what if there was a quest everyone wanted to go on and I knew my friend was the best for this quest. Should I send them and risk the censure of the clan who believed I sent them only because they were my friend or do I send someone else even though they are less likely to succeed? I understand what you feel Keyne, but our reasons are much different.”

“ I had always thought your aloofness was a because of an aversion to me. I guess I never paid attention to your interaction with the others. Is that why you always refuse me?”

“I refuse you Keyne because you are a drunkard who has no sense of responsibility. At least that is what I have always told myself. I question that now. I have enjoyed our time together of late. When you are not with the others you are different. I find I like this Keyne much better. However, that does not change what is. I am the Oracle and Oracle I shall remain. Now, let us return home.”

With the threat to the with the threat to the ax I had given up my hopes of getting some decent food out of this. Sadly Keyne had noticed none of the beauty I saw around me. He had a single minded focus on retrieving his ax. I wish we had time to explore but I would not put us in danger just to have my way. Placing my hand in his, I called forth my magic to send us home. The world went black.

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol.6, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

“Thank you, Erwin, The tea is exactly what I needed.” As I sipped the tea I sat up my mirror and tossed my herbs on the fire. The tea warmed my body and the headache loosened its grip. Soon the smoke from the herbs filled the air forcing me to breathe it in. I was feeling better already. “I cannot imagine that Malachi is behind this. I would think it was something much less sinister. I shall find the answer.” Slipping into a trance, I looked into my mirror as the image of the great hall slowly faded away. A mist clouded the mirror and slowly cleared. “I see a swamp, with dark, tea colored water. Large lizards swimming silently through the lilies. The earth trembles under the feet of those who live there. The ax sits in heart of the swamp. I do not know how it got there, the answers are behind the mist. It’s as though Dragon-Breath has a plan of his own. I see others, they are trying to cut through the swamp, they know something important hides there. Dragon-Breath is in danger. You must go Keyne, you must recover the ax!”

Shaking my head, I came out of the trance. I looked to Erwin, frightened. At no point during my plan did I expect there to be a problem getting the ax back. This was at best a quick trip to Georgia where Keyne would grab the ax and see some sights. No one should even know the ax was there. “Keyne, the Oracle has given you a quest. The recovery of Dragon-Breath is the most important thing. You must leave at once. La’el, a word please.”

I rose and followed Erwin to the table and began gathering some food to break my fast. “Erwin, I don’t understand how anyone could know about the ax.”

“It doesn’t matter La’el, I understand why you did it. It is past time for me to reign in Keyne’s outlandish behavior. I will deal with Carl and all the others. You must go with Keyne, you must help him find the ax. Dragon-Breath is the greatest priority. It is possible that you will also learn a lesson on this quest as well.”

“As you wish Erwin. This is my mess, I will help to clean it up.”

“Yes, La’el, you will.”

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol.4, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

I was drunk, completely and utterly drunk. I lost count how much ale I had long ago. Keyne had broken glass and empty tankards all around him. I knew he drank way more than I did but I didn’t consider how much he drank each night. Always holding myself a little above the others, I never really interacted with the rest of the pantheon. Maybe I should work on that, when I sober up, that is. I’m having a wonderful time. I haven’t laughed so much in ages. Just one more reason I am starting to feel a little bad about my task. Surprisingly enough, Keyne isn’t so bad when he tries. When he was good and drunk I climbed into his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck and leaning in “let’s go to bed Keyne”. Sober La’el would have rolled her eyes at the spectacle but drunk La’el was highly amused by the way his expression changed. He didn’t speak, he just hooked an arm around my waist and stood, scooping my legs up as he did. I have never been carried anywhere. I don’t remember having a childhood, I just was, so this is new to me. I liked it, a lot. I giggled as we headed through the great hall, hiding my head in his barrel of a chest when the cat calls started. They were all stupid drunk not two minutes ago, how did they notice this? He stumbled as he walked through the yard to his home, “put me down, I can walk better than you at this point”.

“I find I like my arms around you woman, I will not let you fall.”

I wasn’t able to do much about the situation so I decided to just enjoy the feeling of being cared for. Never mind it was just a drunken night with a man I was about to betray. As we entered his chamber he set me down so that he could remove his weapons belt and boots. He was having considerable trouble with this so I decided to help. Walking behind him, I removed Dragon-Breath and placed it on the hook beside his pallet. Wrapping my arms around him I unhooked his belt and put it away. I then gently pushed him down to his pallet and removed his boots myself. Climbing onto the pallet beside him, I snuggled into his arms and lay my head on his chest. Despite what I knew I had to do, being wrapped in his strong arms was a wonderful feeling. He was too drunk to take things further, I had no fear of that. He just held me in his arms, running his hands over my shoulder and arm as I ran my fingers through the hair peppering his chest. Soon he was snoring loud enough to wake the dead. I was nearly asleep myself before I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. When he finally shifted position, his arm loosened enough that I could get off the pallet. Placing my hand on Dragon-Breath, I closed my eyes and pictured a swamp, deep in the southernmost part of Georgia. The “land of trembling earth” I’ve heard it called. Once the image was firmly in my mind, I whispered a short incantation and with a small pop, the ax was gone.

Knowing he would be furious when he woke and more so when he finally realized I had tricked him, I decided to enjoy this one night of companionship. I didn’t realize when I hatched this plan how it would affect me. I only thought about how to fix this latest mess. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I climbed back onto the pallet and cuddled up to Keyne.