An End to This Charade

Rook.

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While Sylira is by far the most civilized region of Mizahar, countless surprises and encounters await the traveler in its rural wilderness. Called the Wildlands, Syliran's wilderness is comprised of gradual rolling hills in the south that become deep wilderness in the north. Ruins abound throughout the wildlands, and only the well-marked roads are safe.

An End to This Charade

Postby Elias Caldera on January 11th, 2019, 4:42 am

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5th Day of Winter, 518 AV

It began with a great shattering of glass.

A thunderous, booming clatter that all at once enveloped the entirety of the outpost, turning every startled gaze to the courtyard from whence it had erupted. It was a sound that heralded the beginning of a much needed change, the swordsman thought to himself as he leapt from balcony. Like all change, it would be painful, yet now was not the time for doubt or squeamishness at the price to be paid. To adapt was to survive, he mused grimly, landing on the hard packed earth with a crunch of broken glass beneath his blackened boots. To evolve and grow stronger, faster, smarter, to emerge from the desiccated cocoon of yesterday a better being -that is what his path promised. Not everyone would follow, not everyone could, but for those who spurned this righteous ambition, for those who would dare to stand in the way of progress clinging to the old and the infirm, there was only one recourse… only one answer.

The crackle of glass underfoot grew louder and louder as Elias drew near his squirming quarry. With one hand he seized hold of the coughing, wheezing woman laying at his feet, the ruptured remnants of a window lying about her bloodied form. As if she weighed naught but air, Elias took her by the armored collar and lifted her from the ground to the sky high above his head so that her downcast and delirious gaze could meet his one last time. Jessica Lazarin struggled to lift her head, stray strands of raven black hair clouded her vision, and the many shards of splintered wood and specs of blood served only to make it worse, but at last her eyes finally fell upon the pale, scarred face of her accuser once more. A face that held no pity or satisfaction in its countenance, merely the look of a soldier going doing his duty, for what hard felt and dire emotions did a man feel when stepping on an insect?



10 Chimes Earlier



“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean, Mistress Alenta.” The pale mage replied, grimacing slightly at the crumpled up piece of parchment that had just unceremoniously bounced off his chest. He knew of course what was written upon it, just as he also knew the far reaching ramifications those simple written words would have.

“I know you don’t know any other way Caldera, but don’t stupid play stupid with us.” Jessica countered condescendingly. The Lazarin Commander’s ebony armor creaked and groaned ever so slightly as she turned away from the window she’d been casually considering while this interrogation went on. They were on the second story of the main ‘administrative’ building that dominated the main block of the outpost. While it’s unassuming wooden structure may have looked plain and lackluster, the fact of the matter was this place was the veritable heart of the Northern Outpost. It was only two stories tall, yet that made the building the tallest thing in the entire encampment save for the walls, a perfect vantage point for one to survey their domain with a relative sense of control. A fact Elias was certain Samara Alenta relished as much as she despised.

The Paladin shifted wordlessly in her seat across from the Caldera’s, her posture -even in something so mundane and casual- never lacked in that seemingly effortless grace and sensuality the woman constantly radiated. It made the young man grateful for the large oaken desk that divided them, but it did little to obscure him from her unexpectantly scrutinizing gaze. Matching her sultry appraisal with his own of apathy and indifference, Elias realized she looked… tired. The mage couldn’t blame her. This place was a leech, one that did not befit a woman of her peculiar appetites and skills… He assumed, of course.

“You think you can just stride in her and pretend like you’ve no idea what your master is planning?” Jessica’s demanding tone brought the stryfer attention back to his fellow officer. She was standing at his side now, arms crossed and towering over him in a blatant attempt to make him feel small in his chair. “Half of our number restricted to the Lakeshore garrison, including my own men!” She was getting angry. “How convenient then it is that they are to be replaced with Malachai’s units!” Then again, she was always getting angry. It seemed to be her unfortunate disposition at all times of day. “How did he manage to convince Marshal Corinthia to approve a redeployment. Why now? To what end!” A gauntleted fist slammed into the table, toppling a stack of neatly folded papers on Samara’s side along with a rather sizable jingling pouch on Elias’s.

“How is it,” the sorcerer began calmly with a grunt as he bent down to retrieve the pouch from where it had fallen, “That you came to believe that it was Paladin Quinn’s proposal to move your troops, exactly?” The question had been looming ever since he’d entered the outpost leader’s office under the false pretense of deliberation. Somehow, some way, Alenta had learned the truth, and it wasn’t from the orders she’d received either. That document that had been so inelegantly chucked at him earlier merely stated the basics, that Samara’s men were to be deployed elsewhere on the orders of Lord Marshal Corinthia, not that Quinn’s would be the moving his own troops in to assume their role. True, Quinn did serve under the marshal, but so did many other paladins and commanders. How had the seductress unraveled the truth?

Lazarin tittered arrogantly, straightening herself to full height when she realized her literally heavy handed tactics weren’t working on the blue eyed commander. “You’re out of your debt, Caldera. You and that cyclops. You think these wilds a waste of time, but you do not understand the riches they hide. My Mistress does, and she has grown powerful as a result. Your secrets are not your own and never have been. We can see everything you-”

All it took was a look from Samara to silence her subordinate in an instant. She had barely moved a muscle, hardly even moved a hair out of place, and yet from her position of comfort and observant indifference, the paladin had projected a level of dominance and power that had even an incessant blowhard like the Lazarin clamming up with a flinch of surprise. As the other commander went silent however, Elias felt that malicious attention now fall on him.

Samara smiled, a wonderous and enthralling thing to behold that -if rumors were to be believed- had been downfall of countless dimwitted men and women in the past. He could see why. Lush and lascivious in their beauty, the way they parted -like the blood red petals of some exotic flower. The sight of them alone was a mesmerizing sojourn into all the lust filled depravity his mind could conjure. She was a fine woman indeed, one that did not deserve to be hidden away in all this mud and grime. Ravok is where she belonged, and there was so much Elias could do for her there… could do to her there. If only there was a means to-

Wait.

So lost in his wicked fixation that the mage had barely just realized the paladin was speaking. He felt his jaw begin to click, his tongue swelling to purpose in his mouth. He was saying something back, or rather, was about to. A harrowing realization given the fact that he had no intention to prior. The chill of surprise was enough to snap him back to reality with an unsettling intensity.

“I…” Elias stuttered, blinking profusely as if he’d just gotten up too fast. “Forgive me, madam Alenta. What was it you asked?”

Samara’s grin only deepened, red velvety lips pressing themselves-

“I asked; What is that old hound dog Malachai up to, hmmm?”

Elias cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Even her voice felt like silk against his ears. “Like I said before, I have no idea. The complexities of High Command’s machinations are far above my head I’m afraid. I’m just a soldier doing God’s work, as ordered. Truth is, my business here today, as I informed Commander Lazarin was-”

“Ah, of course.” Jessica snapped derisively before turning to the opposite corner of the room. “How could I forget, your little request.”

Dark eyes fell upon the lithe and modest figure of a young man standing in the corner. Like a shadow… Elias thought to himself as his gaze met Rook’s. The redheaded wolf had all but disappeared from notice during the heated argument between the humans in the room, content to simply blend in with the nothingness of omission. The stryfer had to wonder if that was just a skill he’d taught himself, or was there some kind of magic behind the pup’s ability to be forgotten when he wanted to. Well, the spell had been lifted unfortunately, and now every eye in the room was looking at him intently.

“The Kelvic is not for sale. I care not how much coin you’ve come to bargain with. Rook has proven… invaluable to me. He has a particular skill when it comes to weaving the most interesting tales. In fact, you might be interested in hearing some of the stories my wolf has whispered to me.” Elias’s retort was a sudden shift. His nonchalant and innocent demeanor darkened in a blink. The charade was gone, and its place a glower was cast against Jessica, but the woman remained undaunted. “My favorite so far is the one about the scarred fool and his wayward whore. Perhaps you’ve heard it already? How this fool dared to stand up against a great and powerful family for the sake of a mere slave. Warms the heart to hear it told. Rook, why don’t you regale us with the tale while our guest here contemplates how he’s going to return to his master and explain how he failed in securing his objective, because you will fail, Caldera. You think one marshal is enough to waylay our designs for this place? I’m a Lazarin you fool, we are the Ebonstryfe. I’ll have these orders overturned before the day is done.”

She leaned in close, her voice, calm before, now almost serene in its certainty as she positioned herself squarely in his face. One hand on the desk and another on the back of his chair, making it very clear who here was in really in charge. “So crawl back to that traitor you call a master, that broken slave you call a lover, and remind yourself of your place, or…” She muttered grimly, sliding a serrated knife from her hip and slamming it into the desk. The crack of wood followed, as did the sliding serenade of coins slipping from a now torn open pouch of gold. “I will gladly do it for you.”

To place a dagger before a son of the Stryfe only meant one thing among those of the black order; The threat of a duel, a challenge being issued.

Finally.

She believed herself more than prepared for this, perhaps because she believed she knew everything there was to know about Elias and reckoned herself more than his match, but in this she was wrong. It seemed as if Rook hadn’t told her every tale he knew, for Jessica Lazarin had just started a fight that would be her last.

Elias didn’t bother with words, for his response could not be more clarion. His hands fell upon Jessica without another word. The time for ‘words’ was over.

…And so it began with a great shattering of glass.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on January 12th, 2019, 12:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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An End to This Charade

Postby Rook on January 11th, 2019, 8:41 pm

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Elias’ arrival had been a surprise. Rook was still weary from the events of several weeks prior, and he had been confused that Jessica had insisted that Rook come with her when her seasonal assignment brought her to the Northern Ravok Outpost. The kelvic had felt that by now it was clear that he was the most valuable within the confines of the city, whether or not Jessica happened to be present. Given freedom and a goal, Rook could be trusted to work towards that goal. He had proven himself to be at his most valuable when he had freedom of movement. But, oddly, Jessica had brought him along. Rook supposed that he could do some intelligence work here among the Outpost, but so far Jessica had not made as if to have him do so. In fact, he had barely worked at all since his arrival here. Jessica had been hoarding Rook, like a jealous noblewoman with her treasured jewels. The action was baffling to the pup. What could she possibly be thinking?

Perhaps Jessica had caught some whiff of Elias’ intentions that Rook had been unaware of, or perhaps her knowledge of Rook's value had spurred her strange actions. Regardless, Elias’ appearance had sent the woman into a spiteful rage that Rook had the benefit of not being the subject of. It was an odd situation for the kelvic, so he did the smart thing and kept his damned mouth shut, and watched. Pulled into a corner, Rook relaxed in the darkness of the surrounding walls and listened. He tried to maintain an appearance of a silent dullard, but Jessica knew by now that was an act. Jessica's master no doubt knew it as well, though Rook's interactions with the woman had fortunately been few and far in between up to this point. She struck the pup as a person who would chew the slave up and spit him out, so evasion had only been natural.

All the talk of whom was in control of whom, and who was deployed where and why was barely worth notice for Rook. The only thing that Rook had the faintest interest in was Elias’ true intention here. Him.

How strange Rook found it, that Elias would think to try to buy him. He had proven himself a competent spy certainly, but Elias had no shortage of spies. Had it been Shiress’ request that brought him here? Had he been beholden to his lover's request? That seemed to Took to be more likely. That paired with the fact that Rook could be confirmed to be loyal to Shiress and, as a result to him. You could hire as many spies as you wanted, but there was no guarantee that they would be loyal. Rook had that guarantee, or at least the closest guarantee that Elias could get unless he were bonded to the kelvic himself. Whatever the reason, Elias was here. And if he succeeded in his negotiations, Rook would be free of the brutal Lazarins. So as the trio of Ebonstryfe chatted, Rook held his breath and hoped.

The arguments and debates persisted. When Jessica asked Rook a question, he opened his mouth to answer before realizing it was a rhetorical question and rapidly chose to remain silent. Rook saw the threat that Jessica offered Elias, but he didn't know the full magnitude of it. When Elias smashed Jessica through the glass window and dove out after her, Rook's jaw dropped. He raced to the edge of the window and looked out over the scene, and heard the cries of dismay from the people below. Rook flashed a look at Samara and the woman gave Rook an amused look. But there was no fury there. Rook swallowed and raced down the stairs, heart hammering in his chest. Whatever happened here, he had to see it. He halted at the bottom of the window to see Jessica in Elias’ grasp, and he felt his heart both sink and rise, first with the prospect of the fight, then secondarily with hope.
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An End to This Charade

Postby Elias Caldera on January 14th, 2019, 4:00 am

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It was a relief unprecedented to be free of this farce at last. To end all the pretending and the pantomiming of respect. To truly throw aside the kowtowing, bootlicking, and fake flattery, and all in the service of a notion that spat in the face of the most primal rules of nature; The weak could not shepherd the strong, nor could they be tolerated to stand in their way. It sickened Caldera to be play the lesser, to be the subject of another’s authority when they themselves were so far beneath him that the greatest threat they posed was the crick in his neck whenever forced to look down upon their feebleness.

The very real truth was he could kill everyone here, burn this entire outpost to glass, and still not break a sweat in the bloody effort. Was it self-aggrandizing to consider such a thing? Absolutely. But an overabundance of pride didn’t make it any less true. It was a fact he told himself these people needed to understand, but in reality part of him knew -this was as much for his sake as it was theirs. The thought at last brought a glimmer of a smirk to his scarred face as he callously tossed Jessica to the ground. The bloodied commander hit the floor with all the grace of a bag of bricks, letting loose a sickening thud to accompany the desperate gasp for air that followed.

There was a crowd quickly forming now, soldiers mostly, but other camp attendants and civilians just as curious at the commotion. He could see among their number stood some of Lazarin’s troops in particular, a mixture of worry, confusion and fury etched into their hardened features. Like all good soldiers of Ravok though, hey were either compelled to run to their leader’s aid, or already conceiving a means to which they could exploit her downfall. Elias would have welcomed the challenge from either or, but it seemed apparent to all in attendance, this was a duel. There could be no reciprocity of aid, no lifeline cast. She was alone, as we all were in the end.

This was where destinies were decided.

To the girl’s credit, she had pushed through the pain and shock of her fall with some sliver of poise, but it was evident how badly she’d been shaken. The pale mage however was looking back up at the balcony at Rook, even as Jessica struggled to reclaim her footing and draw her sword. The lad was standing next to Samara, both of them all too intrigued at the spectacle the Caldera was putting on, but likely for much different reasons. He wondered if the Kelvic was enjoying this in some small way? Rook was not one to show emotions often, and even now the wolf was difficult to read much to Elias's eternal chagrin, but there was no way he couldn’t be reveling in his master’s misery right now.

The sound of steel shakily leaving leather brought his attention back to the fight at hand and Elias found himself lazily stepping out of the way of a wayward slash meant to disembowel him. Jessika let out a guttural cry as she attacked again, but her movements were sloppy, her balance all but evaporated in her distressed state. The swing went wide as the stryfer avoided it once more, watching the Lazarin stumble and nearly fall with a disinterest grimace. He regarded the woman with a mounting level of contempt now as she tried once more to clumsily cleave him in twain. No magic, no skill with the sword, no will to overcome… she had had the audacity to come at him, yet the ineptitude to not come correct. He was wondering -while shoving aside one more swing- what, if anything he should say in this moment. She deserved derision, naturally. Her arrogance demanded punishment, as did her insult, but… the longer Elias toyed with the faltering woman, the more he realized, she was beneath him.

Why had he allowed her to keep Rook for so long? Why had he stomached her disrespect for as long as he had, even when he was only a soldier? Malachai tried to teach him reasoning, understanding and patience, implying that the constant infighting among the Stryfe was just another symptom of its sickness and needed to be quelled, not enflamed. Elias was not his master however -even if they had endured the same hardships and trials during their long exile, Quinn had remained the ever stoic and thoughtful one, but Elias had merely grown more ill contented and maligned during his time abroad. There had to be a limit. There had to be a point when a man could rightly say ‘no more!’ Cause and comrades be damned.

The mage had killed his brothers before. More stryfers had fallen to his blade than knights of Syliras at this point. To pretend otherwise was a fallacy he didn’t care to indulge anymore. Jessica would be but one more notch on his blade, and with her horrific and public evisceration, her demise would herald an end to this vain charade of subservience.

Elias Caldera was a killer, a predator, it was his nature to cull the herd.

Jessica came at him, fury taking spark in her now clear eyes. She was finding her footing again, regaining some semblance of all that army training and discipline. She razed her blade high, a familiar posture and style, and brought it down hard and fast- only to find her wrist seized mid swing…

The snap of bone and cartilage that followed was nearly as loud as her screams.

The longsword clattered to the floor, discarded and forgotten as bulging eyes strained against reality. Her shattered wrist hung limp from its joint as the shadow of Elias loomed nearer. The flux coursed through the sorcerer’s veins now, and the merciless punch he delivered into the woman’s gut was such that blood and bile erupted from her mouth upon the gruesome impact. Jessica dropped to her knees, bedraggled, broken, and beaten beyond the brink. She was done, and everyone knew, Samara included.

Elias took hold of the commander’s head between his hands as he glared up at the balcony, one pressing palm atop her raven locks, another beneath her chin. It would have been a simple matter to snap her neck like a twig and-

“I believe you’ve proven your point, Caldera. You may join me in my office and we shall discuss-”

“Silence!” The pale mage roared violently. Samara raised an eyebrow in surprise, but he ignored the presumptuous Paladin. His eyes weren’t studying her. They fell upon Rook instead, tersely waiting for the Kelvics decision. As far as Elias was concerned, the slave had every right to determine his pathetic master’s demise. Jessica may have been an uppity vagik to him, but the stryfer could only imagine how such a woman’s dark demeanor had translated to the slave’s treatment on a daily basis. The Caldera would slaughter her without hesitation if the boy did demand it… but as was often the case with Rook, Elias had underestimated him once again.

A silent shake of his crimson head was the wolf’s ultimate answer, a wordless and lenient denial that had spared his master the swift death earned.

The swordsman studied Shiress’s bondmate for a moment, truthfully perplexed by the pup’s choice, but unwavering in his resolve. If Rook wanted her alive, so be it.

He turned to Samara next. If his pleasure was to be denied, then t the very the least, he was going to get something else out of this. “Is there anyone else?” He demanded, locking his gaze with hers. The Paladin stiffened slightly in response, but little else as she stared down at the pale mage daring to accost her. No answer. An idea however, had sprung to mind in the tense ticks that ensued. “The redeployment will continue unabated.” He bellowed belligerently, uncaring if his words were deemed contemptuous in the least bit. He was in control now! “You will deliver to me these ‘treasures’ spoken of…”

Then his eyes darkened, a shadow cast over them by a furiously furrowed brow as he said what he had to say next clear enough that everyone in this petching hellhole would not mistake him.

“And the wolf is coming with me.”



----------------------------------------------------------



Ten chimes later, at the two of them were riding out the front gates together, unopposed by the swiftly dissipating swarm of Ebonstryfe helpless to stop them.

Once they were clear of the wooden palisade and its uneasy defenders, Elias allowed his grim and murderous demeanor to fall away, the veneer of cruelty unhinged replaced instead with a self-satisfied grin. He glanced sidelong at Rook, the two having not spoken more than a few mundane and passing words to each other since this had all begone. He had hoped to find the boy and inform him of what was to happen when he'd initially arrived, but he’d been ambushed by Samara and her lackey before he’d a chance presented itself. Now, as he and the red maned predator strode away victorious and free, his smile broadened ever so slightly. “I hope that was as good for you as it was for me.”

A moment passed in silence… then a chuckle broke the reticence with a welcome reprieve from the tension.

“It is good to see you again, pup.” Elias muttered merrily, eyes ahead as he steered his faithful mount. “There is much we need to discuss I imagine, but it is a long road ahead back to Ravok and we’ll have no shortage of time together to converse -I know, you can barely contain your excitement.” He finished mockingly. This reminded him of their first sojourn into the wilderness together actually. They had begun on uneven and uncertain terms, yet by the end of that journey they had returned something akin to allies if nothing, or so the soldier liked to believe. The problem had been however, they had returned to the outpost. It should have been then that Elias made his claim on the wolf, freed him of Jessica’s tyranny and given the boy a home within his own. That had been a mistake he’d come to regret as the weeks and months dragged on. Now finally, he had amended what had been allowed to be wrong for too long. Though not yet in the same manner, Rook was at last liberated, free to rejoin his bondmate without the need for a cloak of shadow and deceipt orchestrating their union.

“Shiress sends her regards, by the way.” The Stryfer informed the little hunter, as if it wasn’t clear already. “Speaking of which…” Elias reached down into his saddle bags, rummaging around in his latest loot. Samara had been more than agreeable as the negotiations began. The very real threat of another duel taking place had been enough to subdue any pride that might have revolted against the idea of buying him off, but as he had made clear, if she had not done as he had demanded, he would have broken her as easily as he had her subordinate. That said, from what he could tell about that woman, she always seemed to have some other agenda hidden in the shadows. The way she had continued to smile the entire time he threatened and cajoled had bothered him, and Elias had to wonder why, when he had gone up those stairs fully intent on drawing his dagger and issuing a second duel had he instead walked out with a few trinkets and a sultry ‘farewell’ instead. Regardless, as a result he’d left a richer man than when he’d arrived.

Among his prizes were a number of magical items the Paladin had accrued; including a quiver that could alter the arrows placed within it, a medallion that apparently led the way to whatever a man desired most, and a small black orb that not even Alenta knew exactly what it did. Of them all however, the most valued and enticing ‘gift’ was without a doubt the orb of scrying. An amber tinted crystalline sphere that could allow anyone who delved into its shimmering depths a glimpse of another soul, no matter the distance that divided them. This was how they had known he was coming, and how she’d known about his master’s involvement. Well it was Elias’s now, and he intended to put it to much better use. First however, a test.

He held the orb delicately out before them, allowing Rook to peer into its yellowed reflection as well. “Show me… Shiress.” He whispered to the arcane bauble. Almost immediately the orb began swirl and distort, like a thick mist or a rolling storm cloud in the sky. Elias leaned in, transfixed by the shuddering images slowing coming into focus within his hand.

Then he froze.

There she was, Shiress, in all her splendor and radiant beauty… along with another woman, their tongues delving deep and with carnal abandon into each other's mouths. Theirs hand roamed lasciviously across naked flesh, squeezing, pinching, toying, and the stranger let loose a lurid gasp of pleasure, Elias realized that was no stranger at all. It was in fact a face he recognized all too well. A droplet of sweat had begun to trickle its way down his forehead.

As the moaning began in earnest, the image went dead, erased and replaced suddenly by the orb’s solid state as the soldier slowly placed the artifact back in his pouch without another word.

“On second thought…” he muttered to himself, gaze blank and affixed solely to the road ahead, “Perhaps we’ll just travel in silence for a while.”
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An End to This Charade

Postby Rook on February 8th, 2019, 10:19 pm

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There comes a moment in every person's life where a dramatic change shakes them to the root of who they were. When Rook had awakened that morning, he had not known that the twisted and warped path that consisted of the kelvic's pain stricken life would take its first step towards being unwound. Even as Rook stood there beside Elias, watching his former master's head shoved into the ground, the wolf boy had no way to quantify it. Some dim distant part of him realized that things would soon be different. But that was the only thing that his weary mind could seem to place.

Elias looked at him, and Rook could see the expression in his eyes that awaited an answer. Rook looked at Jessica. Even in defeat she was the same as always; stubborn, hateful, and fierce. They found each other's eyes, and Jessica glared at him. She expected nothing from him. She was ready to die, full of hatred for the slave that she had abused. But distantly, Rook couldn't help but wonder… how much was a slave master's life worth? Dead, she was nothing. But alive… well, what possibilities awaited him?

Rook found himself shaking his head. Elias’ eyes took on a note of puzzlements, but still, the Stryfer honored Rook's wish. Elias’ twisted the decision in his favor, but Rook didn't really mind. He watched the shame burn in Jessica's eyes. Saved by a slave. Rook said nothing, but in his gaze volumes were spoken between the two. When Elias departed with wolf at his sids, the Lazarin wouldn't meet the kelvic's eyes. She would have to live with her shame. And there was something terribly sweet in that.

Rook was in a daze as the Stryfer and Kelvic took to the road. The sound of wildlands around them seemed to chirp a thousand times brighter.

“I hope that was as good for you as it was for me.”

Rook had to think on that a moment. “It was certainly something,” he agreed.

Rook glanced down at his hand. Cupped in the center of his palm was a key. With hands that shook, Rook inserted the key and turned it. The click rattled through the wilderness. Hardly giving it a thought, Rook yanked the collar from his neck and tossed it to the side of the road. The key, however… Rook almost tossed it aside but hesitated, finally pocketing it. A memento? A memory? Rook wasn't that sentimental, but having something to remember all this by seemed important.

“I'm looking forward to seeing her soon,” Rook said, and damn it but he was. Finally. Free.

When Elias finally emerged with the scrying orb in hand and revealed the, quite frankly, confusing scene of Shiress and some strange woman, Rook looked to Elias in the hope of explanation. But the man had gone silent, face turned towards the front of the road. Rook didn't allow himself to dwell on it. For now, all he needed was to know he would soon find his bondmate as an unshackled man. Finally. Rook closer his eyes, listened to the sound of birdsong, and hummed.
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