9. A Gamble

Chapter 9

A Gamble

            When the festivities started to wind down, Satel decided to escort me back to the inn. It was a quiet trip until we reached the entrance. He stopped me from going in and gave me a formal kiss- the ‘proper’, chaste kind that the upper class used on dates. I let him get away with the quick peck on the lips since I went with him knowing that it was a date. Some part of me was a little disappointed that he didn’t do more, but I didn’t want to dwell on that. I shouldn’t enjoy kissing him at all… but I did anyway.

“You know, this is actually a gift giving holiday,” he explained before he stunned me by placing the box he purchased in my arms.

“Huh? This is for me?”

“You need it,” he replied as he reached over to unlatch the top and expose the sword within. “That female eneavra you fought took your old one.”

I hadn’t really reflected on what became of my old sword. I knew it was gone, but I didn’t think someone claimed it as a victory spoil like I did with that knife and gun I stole. I didn’t miss it that much considering it was a cheap scrap of metal I pilfered from some idiot at a bar.

But what was in the box was clearly nothing ‘cheap’. Lying on a velvet cushion was a beautiful silver blade with a decorative leather covered wood sheath next to it. It was a thin blade, almost like a rapier, but too wide to be classified as one. The metal handle was in a similar design to its rapier cousin with a spiral twist that surrounded the handle to protect the hand that wields it.

I was highly tempted to put down the box and hold the sword, but this was going too far. I shifted so one arm supported it before I gently closed the lid with my now freed hand. “I can’t accept this- it’s too much.”

Satel smirked a little. “Nonsense. You should be showered with gifts. Besides, it isn’t like I’m giving you jewelry- it’s a practical gift that you can use.”

“But aren’t you saving this for something special? I highly doubt you’ve been waiting to give it to me,” I pointed out as I tried to give the box back to him, but he wouldn’t take it.

“I’d rather give it to you than to use it as a decoration to celebrate a dreadful ceremony,” he replied with a serious expression. I froze for a moment as I figured out that he was saving the sword for that. But why give it to me unless he wanted something out of it?

“Why not give this to Cegil or someone more responsible? I could lose this in another battle, you know- and it looks too valuable to use in real combat.”

“What use is a sword that can’t be used to defend? Besides, if you lose it, I’ll just get it back for you. I want you to have it,” he insisted. “Why do you have something against accepting simple gifts?”

Because a ‘simple’ gift shouldn’t cost over twenty crijok, I thought darkly. But never mind the cost of it- he had already given me a ‘gift’ and I had nothing for him. There was no way I could give him anything as nice. “I don’t have anything for you.”

“That’s okay. I don’t want anything.”

“Oh please!” I shouted as I sneered at him. “I have yet to see a time when you didn’t want something. Well? At least tell me what you want!”

I didn’t mean to get angry, but I felt it was the only emotion I could express at the time where I was in complete control of myself. I didn’t do well with being grateful or bashful (unless I was dealing with Cegil). His ‘kind’ gesture was making me nervous and I felt like I was being set up for something. Satel closed his eyes and smirked before he opened them again and took the box out of my arms. He then leaned it against the nearby wall so he could grab my left hand.

“If you insist, then I want your hand,” he replied as he held it in both his hands.

That caught me off guard- of all things, I wasn’t expecting such a strange request. Were it not for the fact that he was falucite, I would’ve thought he was asking me to marry him. Cegil told me that ‘asking for the hand’ was more of a human tradition. “Huh?”

“Don’t you know? A hand from a lovely human is a valuable item to dragons. They say it’s the tastiest part and it can be used to make a very rich and flavorful stew. Your hand is easily worth more than the sword to most dragons and some greater demons,” he explained while massaging my hand. Somehow I was feeling warm inside as his thumbs gently applied pressure to all the right spots on my palm. Surely I wasn’t enjoying this, too? How in five hells was he slipping past my defenses and finding my weak points?

“But what’s it to you? Do falucite eat humans, too?” I inquired as I tried hard to ignore that strange knotting in my lower belly.

“No, not anymore. We gather our nutrients from anything that comes from the earth. Meat to us is like what sweets are to you humans. But we rarely crave your kind anymore- it sickens us to eat something that can talk back,” he responded, completely focused on my hand.

“Okay, so why do you want my hand? Planning to chop it off and sell it to a dragon?”

“Heh, not quite. It depreciates in value the more it decays so it would be best to leave it attached to you so it would remain fresh,” he told me with a chuckle before he finally explained himself, “I suppose I merely want the bragging rights. Your hand would make a fine trophy in my possession.”

Maybe it was because that I was a human that I thought it was such a strange request. Basically, what Satel was telling me was that he wanted ownership of my hand, but I would still get to keep it. I failed to see how that would give him any ‘bragging rights’ or equal the value of the sword. Perhaps he was just trying to trick me and make me believe his story so I wouldn’t feel bad about taking the gift.

“And if I agree, would things still pretty much stay the same?” I inquired to test that theory. I caught his lips quirking ever so slightly before he raised my hand and pressed his lips against my knuckles.

“The only difference would be that I would take care of your hand from time to time. How could someone as beautiful as you have all these calluses?” he mused after pulling away. His thumbs continued to rub the tough skin on my fingers and palms. The flattery went over my head as I faced away from him and acted like his massage wasn’t having an effect on me.

“I suppose if you really want it that badly, then fine,” I muttered. It was a nice sword and I did need one. If he wanted to pretend my hand was worth something, then so be it. He was probably just going to use it as an excuse to hold my hand and I could see him getting bored and forgetting about it eventually. In time things would go back to normal- of that I was certain.

“Really? You would be willing to give me your hand?” he confirmed, sounding genuinely happy and surprised. That almost made me pause and reconsider, but I ended up dismissing it as an act.

“Sure, but be careful- it has a mind of its own. I can’t promise it won’t slap you around a bit if you go overboard,” I warned teasingly, though some part of me meant it. Just because I was allowing this silly arrangement didn’t mean I was going to let him do as he pleased.

He let out a chuckle over that before he promised that he would remember my advice. The next thing I knew, I was yanked by the arm so that I ended up pressed against his chest. For a moment, all I could do was look up in his cinnamon colored eyes. They appeared a little browner in the light of the nearby lamp.

“Thank you, ‘Tia,” he said before he captured my lips again. I wasn’t sure if he intended it to be another chaste kiss, but I ended up opening my mouth at the last second. He seemed to take the hint fairly quickly and before I knew it, my arms were sliding past his shoulders and around the back of his neck so I could lift myself up and be close to even with him. His arms tightened around my lower back and helped supported me up as his tongue started meeting with mine.

I shouldn’t be enjoying it, but I was. The thought of kissing others sickened me, but there was just something about him that made me feel good. That warmth that built up in my belly started to feel like it was growing more intense and started to radiate out to other parts of my body. I was starting to feel like I couldn’t stand for much longer and ended up pressing myself even closer against him for support.

I couldn’t even begin to understand why I wanted his kisses- perhaps I was only taking advantage of the fact that I liked something and he was offering. Just because I was letting him get away with it didn’t mean I would let some drunken bum or human noble have the opportunity. I knew deep down if anyone else tried, I would surely beat them up. But Satel was different from others somehow- so I was willing to give him a try.

Suddenly he pulled away from me and began to press his lips against my cheek and jaw line. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but I didn’t feel like protesting either. I suppose there was some rebellious side of me that wanted to prove that I could handle the touch of a man and not desire to stay with him afterwards. At least then I could prove to Cegil that I didn’t need to settle down after gaining the experience.

Plus- Satel wasn’t serious. He had a woman he intended to mate with, even though he didn’t love her. He was being just as rebellious as I was and in a way, we were just helping each other out. And to further justify my actions, I had to remember that a pirate could woo dozens of lasses and not be tied down. What I was doing wasn’t really wrong and I wasn’t throwing myself down the path that the Fates chose for me. Satel could be a ‘monster’ sometimes, but I didn’t think he was my monster.

“To what do I owe this compliance? I thought you didn’t want me to kiss you,” he inquired bemusedly near my ear. I could feel my heart flutter and the heat within spike at the feel of his breath against the shell.

“Consider it another gift,” I responded as one of my hands toyed with his braid. “But don’t get used to it- I might not be in the mood a second time.”

He wasn’t surprised to hear that. “Is that so? I guess I’ll just have to try very hard to convince you to let me do this again.”

I almost scoffed, but he quickly distracted me with another kiss. I felt him gently guide me back until I was pressed against the wall. He kept his lips against mine as he slowly grabbed my arms and carefully detached from me. I stared up at him curiously as I wondered why he wanted to stop.

“I really do want to stay and partake in what could be a rare opportunity, but I really must be going,” he said in an apologetic tone as he took a few steps back.

I felt a little disappointed and even a bit frustrated, but I shoved those feelings back and showed indifference instead. If he had to go, then he had to go- I had no right to stop him. This time I accepted the sword when he picked up the box and gave it to me. He then let his hand linger on the hand he now ‘owned’ before he gave me a playful grin.

“I’ll trust you’ll take care of this in my absence, but do try to use some hand creams to get rid of those calluses. There is more value in an unblemished hand and a lady of your caliber shouldn’t have them,” he told me almost mockingly. I faked a scowl and rolled my eyes.

“Go rot in one of the five hells,” I muttered in a lighthearted tone.

“You can only burn in hell, silly,” he joked before he vanished.

************************************

When I got back to the room, I found Cegil looking out on the balcony. Maetira was nice enough to give us the best room for free. …At least I hoped it was free. I wouldn’t put it past someone like her to make us pay for it later. I set my new sword down on my bed before I decided to go out and join him.

There wasn’t much light out- only the moon and stars shone down on him. The moonlight made his long lavender hair seem like it was glowing. I was suddenly grateful to find that the balcony overlooked the back of the inn, rather than the town. Despite how stoic Cegil liked to act, even he had a smug ‘I told you so’ look. I didn’t want to hear him gloat over catching me in the act of kissing his brother.

“You kissed him again, didn’t you?” It was a statement more than a question.

Son of a bitch! I winced a little as I tried to figure out how he knew. He didn’t even look at me yet. “N-No I didn’t!”

“Liar,” he muttered with a smug undertone. “I was young and in love once, too.”

That was the first I ever heard of it. I had a feeling he had a woman before, but I never knew what became of her or why he didn’t want to talk about her. But I couldn’t ask him to tell me more as the insinuation caught up to my brain.

“I’m not in love with him,” I insisted with a scowl. How could I be in love? It’s not like it’s something that could happen overnight. I still felt like I’ve just met him. If I was feeling anything for him, then it had to be just an attraction.

“You never had kissed another before- in fact, with your lack of experience, he could very well be your first love.”

“Gah!” I growled and tried to block out his voice by pressing my palms over my ears. I could feel my cheeks heat up as I realized that he must’ve somehow seen me with Satel before I came into the inn. “Why were you watching us?”

“I wasn’t,” he defended with a glint to his eyes, “but thank you for proving my point that you were lying earlier.”

“D’oh!” I really fell into that one…

“Heh.” I was stunned to hear a laugh from him before he walked back inside. I never witnessed him in such a playful mood before. I wonder what he had been thinking about while I was away?

“Jeez! Is tormenting your falcie a Maetira’s Day tradition or something?” I inquired crossly as I followed him in.

“Actually, yes, but not just to falcie. Everyone should get teased,” he replied as he wandered over to my bed and ran his fingers over the box that housed the sword. “Did Satel give you this?”

“Yeah… he said it was a gift and that he would rather give it to me than have it for his ceremony. …By the way, he told me what it’s about,” I told him in a quieter tone as I wondered how he would react to it. I still wasn’t sure if he wanted me to stay out of it or if it was okay to help.

Cegil glanced at me from over his shoulder with an unreadable expression before he sat down on the edge of his bed. “How much did he tell you?”

I blinked. He didn’t sound upset- he actually seemed a little worried about what I knew. I explained to him what his brother told me and that I knew about Satel’s ‘chosen mate’. My guardian seemed to relax after hearing that, leaving me to wonder if there was something else that I didn’t know.

“Cegil? If he’s going through with a ceremony anyway, why go through all the trouble to stop him? If that’s what he wants, then why deny him?” I inquired curiously as I went over to my bed to sit.

“I do not wish to stop him from having a ceremony, I only wish for him to decide when he wants one. This arrangement is taking that away from him,” he explained as he shook his head. “Perhaps it is naïve of me, but I would like to think he could break away from his predestined life if he was given enough time. However, if in the future he still chooses her, then I would be satisfied with his decision then.”

“I…I don’t want to sound like I’m siding with the Fates, but I think Satel wants to do anything for the clan. If those elders of yours want the ceremony, then he wants one. He might not have a mind of his own,” I warned him even though I didn’t really believe that. Satel most certainly had his own thoughts and opinions- they just happened to coincide with what the clan wanted is all.

There was an almost wistful smile on his face as he responded, “Satel’s only dream is to be useful to the clan- he doesn’t know what else he can do.”

It was then I learned a little more about the blonde falucite’s past. While no one ever outwardly accused him, it was always implied that whatever caused their parents deaths, it was ultimately his fault. Cegil was the only one who disagreed, but since he had left the clan as a rogue, Satel didn’t have anyone to defend him. This left him to do what he could to prove himself in the eyes of the clan. …At least that was what Cegil said- he didn’t know for certain since he was no longer around to watch his brother.

I was told that falucite who mated with other falucite could only have up to three falcie to prevent overpopulation. Satel’s birth wasn’t intended, but as the fourth falcie born, he was a threat to the Order of the Fates. As punishment for his birth, someone had to die and the choices were Satel, the mother, or the father. In the end both parents sacrificed themselves to save the youngest.

“The elders do not really seek to torture Satel over this- they only want him to take responsibility for the deaths and live in their honor, but Maetira and our younger cousins didn’t really understand that. They are the ones who probably push him,” Cegil admitted with a grim tone.

“Hey, wait,” I muttered when something didn’t fit. “Satel told me this ceremony is happening because there’s suddenly not enough young. How did this happen if he was a threat to overpopulation?”

“Because only one was supposed to die. In the end, four ended up falling, even though it didn’t happen all at once. The last death was accidental and it occurred around fifty years ago.” His expression was hollow- like he was trying very hard not to focus on his own words. I knew that look rather well- he was talking about something painful from his past.

I should’ve stopped talking, but I wanted to push just a little further to figure out Cegil’s involvement in all of this. I was ready to back down if it was too much for him, but I couldn’t shy away after promising myself that I would be more useful. “The last one- it was this Oria, wasn’t it?”

“No, someone else,” he replied. “I hear that Satel was very close with her before she died. Perhaps it’s the reason why he refuses to call you by your name.”

My eyes widened as I picked up the implication. We were talking about someone else named Dantia- my namesake, it seemed. It didn’t once occur to me that my name bothered Satel- no wonder he gave me a nickname. There was so much more I wanted to ask, but I decided to stop for now. I could see him start to get tense and I had a feeling that I was treading in personal territory.

“Okay, so we have to find some way for Satel to choose when he wants to throw away his life- he deserves at least some kindness, right?” I continued on, trying to quickly change the subject. I wasn’t good at stepping around issues and I would honestly rather avoid them. I wouldn’t know how to comfort Cegil if something regrettable was said.

“The only way I can see getting him to change his mind is to convince him to wait- or introduce him to a potential match,” he replied, sounding grateful to be discussing something else.

Just… talk to him? Hadn’t he already tried that? I shook my head as I tried to think of the other option. I assumed the ‘potential match’ would be a woman Satel might consider a worthy mate. Having him meet such a person would make him hesitate to go through with a ceremony, but… who and where could we find a possible mate for him? At the moment he was dating me…

“Wait a minute,” I growled as it clicked in my mind, “You’re not suggesting that I should go seduce him, are you?”

It annoyed me to see his lips nearly quirk up at that. I believed he just wanted me to tease me again. “Not at all- I am only pointing out that if he found his mate, then he would not suffer. He should end up with whom he loves.”

“Marrying for love is overrated,” I muttered as I glared at my boots. “The wise man once told me that it’s better to marry for companionship than for love, because love blinds you from seeing the hideous nag your bride will become.”

There was a long pause after that and I had to wonder if Cegil was silently laughing over that. “…I would very much like to meet with this ‘wise man’ you so often quote. He sounds utterly jaded.”

“He had a sense of humor,” I admitted with a thin smile. I wish Cegil could meet the wise man, but that wasn’t possible- he was no more. “Actually, it would be more accurate to call him a ‘smart ass’ than a ‘wise man’.”

I rubbed at my eyes to hide the fact that they were welling up with tears. I shouldn’t be talking about him- just the memory of his face was enough to make me break down and cry.

“You seem tired- perhaps we should retire for the night,” Cegil suggested politely, knowing full well what I was hiding. Just as I didn’t pry into his more painful memories, he didn’t pry into mine.

“Naw, I can stay up a little longer. Besides, we need to think of a plan before leaving tomorrow,” I said before I stood up and walked to the other side of my bed under the guise of retrieving my nightclothes. I was able to stop the tears, but I needed some distraction to keep me from starting up again.

“I didn’t realize Satel was that important to you.” He commented in a way that told me he was baiting me on purpose- perhaps to help pull me out of my sudden depression.

“I’m doing it for your happiness you know,” I replied, letting my intentions be known. I stopped him from giving me a speech about focusing on my own happiness by adding, “And I’m doing it for Satel because I owe him one for the sword.”

I didn’t really believe in that horseshit about my hand being valuable. I think he only said it to make me feel better about accepting the gift. Actually, I might’ve been volunteering more for Satel than for Cegil at that point because the only thing that was bothering my guardian was the Daedeleth clan. Stopping the ceremony would be enough to mess with them, even though it was hardly enough of a revenge.

“I am sure you are,” he responded lightly. I narrowed my eyes at him for the rather sassy remark. Just what was he trying to imply?

It’s not like I’m in this to sabotage Satel’s chances with another woman. I held back a wince when I realized where my thoughts were leading. Why did that come up? I didn’t particularly care whom he ended up with. Honest. …Damn it, I am not blushing!

“The plan has not changed. We are still going to Cec’re,” he continued, not noticing my reddening features. We were still heading to the heart of the Wastelands? Why? Now that I knew what the ceremony was about, I didn’t see the connection of enlisting ‘dragon wisdom’.

“Exactly how would talking to dragons help us in any way?” I inquired.

“I will admit that this would be a venture with no promise of success, but I hope to find out more about dragon traditions and see if there is anything that would prevent the ceremony from taking place at that time,” he told me before he dropped another surprise in my lap. Turns out that Satel’s chosen mate is a dragon.

I wasn’t even aware that could work out, but I later learned that while falucite could mate with dragons, they couldn’t transform them into one of their own. With dragons being higher in the Natural Order, they could easily outlive a falucite mate and the chances in conceiving young with them are incredibly low. I wasn’t sure why, but Satel struck me as someone who wants falcie, so he really is going to be miserable if he goes through with it.

“But what if there isn’t some technicality? What would we do then?” I asked. Cegil admitted that he wasn’t sure the plan would work, so I couldn’t imagine that being the only idea he had.

But he didn’t appear that sure of himself as he sighed. “After that, all we can do is remain there until it is over. With the Daedeleth unable to touch me in Cec’re, we can stay there as long as needed. As for Satel, I am sure he will visit with us often. I hope to further talk with him and perhaps convince him to change his mind.”

“That’s it?” I was a little dismayed by the lack of a plan we had. Wasn’t there something more we could do? Maybe infiltrate the Daedeleth homestead and destroy their elders? Hell, we could even try to restrain Satel and forcibly prevent him from attending the ceremony.

“Even if we stopped him, someone would have to go and it will not be me. In the end, I cannot force him to change his mind if he truly wishes to attend. All I can do is reason with him,” he replied sadly. I just gripped my nightgown to keep from growling in frustration. Was this really all we could do?

Cegil noticed my disappointed look and tried to cheer me up. “I know it is not much, but one person cannot change the world alone.”

“That’s not true,” I replied sullenly. “It might take a lot of people to make a difference, but it only takes one to bring them together.”

“More advice from the wise man?” my guardian guessed as he tilted his head. I flushed and was about to tell him to stuff it, but a contemplative look came to his face. “It does make sense. Perhaps I am simply not that ‘one’ whom can sway hearts.”

Damn… I didn’t mean to bring him down. I wasn’t insinuating that he couldn’t do anything. I was hoping to encourage him to not give up and keep thinking ideas. Besides, what he said couldn’t be right- everyone loved him, so I couldn’t imagine why they wouldn’t listen to him. …But I suppose that was naïve of me to assume that, since his radical ideals of turning against the Fates apparently got him exiled from his clan.

“Don’t give up! …Just keep trying to think of other possibilities and I’ll help out the best I can, okay?” I entreated pleadingly, earning another sigh from him.

“Do not fear. I will not give in so easily, but I am running out of ideas. I may come up with something else once we get there,” he reassured me and then added, “Until then, why don’t you try to speak with him? He might actually listen to you.”

Me? I wasn’t sure what I could tell Satel that would change his mind. He was more interested in kissing me and talking about random things. I suppose I could give it a try- if nothing else, then I could just annoy him until he cracked. That would be worth my time.

********************************************

I rarely had dreams- or rather, I seldom ever remembered them come morning. The few I remember had something to do with the sea and they were always the same. I would see the moon from underwater and I couldn’t tell if I was drowning or if I was some mermaid servant of a sea goddess. But in those dreams, I felt at peace- like I was safely protected in my own personal sanctuary.

This dream was a little different. It started out the same- I was under water, but instead of staring at the moon, I was swimming around. Before long, I found myself cresting the waters and dragging myself unto some shore. For a moment, I thought I was a mermaid with the way I had to use my arms to pull myself out, but I clearly saw that I had legs.

The next thing I recalled was some shadowy figure on the beach approaching me and picking me up from the surf like I couldn’t get up and walk. Satel’s devilish features were then very clear to me as he carried me off to who knew where and set me down on some rock. What happened next I blamed entirely on the fact that I was in heat.

Satel didn’t say a word throughout the dream- his mouth was rather occupied on other things, like my lips. I just sat there, unable to move away- I was somewhat transfixed on what he was doing to me. I was a little happy when he playfully removed his über hat and placed it on my head, but I ended up getting more distracted by the fact that was kneeling before me and was lowering himself to my feet.

For some reason, I was only wearing my dress and it was buttoned all the way down to the bottom hem. I had no trousers or boots on underneath. I watched on as he freed the last button with a smirk and slowly worked his way up until he reached my knees. He then separated the material to expose my lower legs. I felt like my breath caught in my throat when he lifted one of my feet and pressed his lips against the ankle.

I could almost swear I felt his tongue touch my skin before he started a slow progression up my leg. He took extra care to nip at my calves and caressed the back of my knee with his lips. There was a particular gleam to his eyes when he glanced up at me before he lifted the rest of my dress. I didn’t care if I had any underwear on or if he could see it, I was more interested to see how far he would go.

My knee ended up on his shoulder as he spread my thighs and ducked under the cover of my dress. He then resumed kissing me from where he left off. I felt my mouth open and realized that I was breathing heavily from his seductive advance. He was getting rather close to my center and I happened to jolt awake just before he could reach it.

I noticed that it was just before dawn and Cegil wasn’t awake yet. The dream had me thrashing about to the point where most of my covers were pushed down to my belly. That was fine with me since I felt like I had just raced through the Wastelands without an ice charm. My head felt hot and my heart was racing. I shifted my legs a little and also discovered that I was a bit…wet between my thighs.

Elit, did I just have a dream about Satel? I was inexperienced in the subject, but I knew what he was doing would lead up to a sexual act. Why did I dream of him of all people? …Then again, it was better with him than with others I could name. If it were Cegil, I’d be scarred for life and I would’ve been utterly disgusted if it were Maetira.

I rolled over to my side and tried very hard to ignore my bodily reactions. I needed more sleep and I wasn’t about to get out of bed to clean up. I didn’t want to risk waking Cegil and explain to him why I was up at this hour. Somehow I managed to doze off again and was awakened later by my guardian.

“Come downstairs when you are ready. We shall depart immediately,” he informed me before heading out the room.

Once I was certain he was gone, I shamefully headed for the bathroom to clean up and then go through my daily hygiene. Even if I remembered a dream, I usually forgot about it long before starting my day, but this one burned in my mind and I couldn’t forget the dark, seductive look on Satel’s face. I still couldn’t figure out why I had that dream in the first place.

When I got dressed, I contemplated on wearing my dress with or without trousers. I seldom ever wore a dress like a normal lady- I had more freedom of movement with trousers on under it. Cegil once said that I had to be compensating for something with the style I chose, but I never figured out what he was insinuating with that.

All I could think about was what Satel would think if I buttoned down all the way and left my legs bare underneath. Would he react in the same way as in my dream? Did I want him to? It didn’t occur to me that I should’ve been morally offended that I was dreaming such things. I wasn’t some tart that couldn’t resist a handsome man! …But I didn’t think I ever had a dream like that before. Most carnal desires went over my head because I had other things to think about. Surviving and trying not to fall prey to fellow thieves did take up most of my daily worries, after all.

I shook my head before I pulled on my trousers. What in five hells was I thinking anyway? It had to be a result of being in heat – my body was warning me that I needed to start having children and was trying to push me. I’ve ignored its call for so long that my body was getting desperate.

I headed out as soon as I was ready, but I hesitated before approaching Cegil in the lobby. I wasn’t sure if I could look him in the eye in fear of him finding out what I had been dreaming about. What if he somehow knew about it? I would die of embarrassment! But then another horrid thought came to me- what if I talked in my sleep? Could he have heard anything this morning?

“Dantia? Is something the matter?” Cegil inquired when he noticed me lurking. I felt a blush come to my face as I awkwardly walked over to him.

“No…I’m fine,” I replied. He simply nodded and left it at that. I could’ve let it drop, but my worried mind had to know. “Cegil? Do I talk in my sleep?”

The giant falucite paused at the inn’s entrance before a perplexed and concerned look crossed his features briefly. He soon replied with, “Talk? No- I have never heard you talk before.”

I quickly caught onto his tone and figured out that I apparently did something at night, if not speak. I probably snored or something, but as long as I didn’t say anything to reveal that mortifying dream, then I didn’t care. …Not unless my snoring was so loud that it disturbed him from his sleep. If that were the case, then I should care and try to find a way to suppress it.

“Why do you inquire?” he asked me as we headed out the door. “Did you have an unusual dream?”

“No, no, I was just curious,” I replied quickly to throw him off. There was no way I could tell him about my dreams- he could pry the truth out of me if he wanted to. Though I was a little curious as to why he seemed so concerned all of a sudden. Was it that strange for me to ask a question like that? I suppose it was out of the blue, but it wasn’t like there was something wrong with me… right?

I was a little relieved when he didn’t pursue the subject. The town was barely starting to wake up since the inhabitants had stayed up most of the night for the celebration. There were a few kids out on the dirt paths, playing in the shade of the stone homes and buildings while they had the chance. Even this town was going to experience extreme heat later in the day- as most dwellings did in the Wastelands.

Now that I thought about it, we were getting pretty far in. The creation of the Wastelands was due to the expansive mountain range to the west, where the stone was too high to allow storm clouds to pass through. The further east one was from those mountains, the more likely they would get rain. The ground was going to get even harder and rocky the further we go because of the lack of exposure to water.

In fact, it was near impossible to establish towns in the westernmost part of the Wastelands- unless there was an underground water flow to tap into. We shouldn’t be able to go anywhere past Cec’re because it should be the last surviving town in that direction. I recalled what Cegil said to me nearly a week or so before- that I was to stay in a town while he went off to address the problems of his clan. Was Cec’re it? If it were, then how was he so certain that a dragon there wouldn’t eat me? Did he know someone who would watch me?

But that much didn’t matter anymore- I was now involved and I wasn’t going to let him go off on his own now that I knew how much of a risk he was taking. Not only that- he didn’t have any intention of leaving for a while. Chances were that his initial plans had long since changed since that point.

We managed to pass through the single wide road that passed through the town and reached the rather flimsy gate that represented the one of the entrances to the town. We were then stopped when someone stepped out of the shadows of a short two-story building that seemed to serve its purpose as a bakery.

“I see you are still going,” Maetira stated as she approached and circled around us. “Run to the dragons if you so please- I’m willing to gamble on the immature one to bring you to you senses.”

“What do you mean by that?” Cegil inquired as he eyed her critically. There was something different about his sister’s demeanor. She was acting more mischievous, much like her younger brother.

“Go to Cec’re and try to reason with he who thinks he is mature. You will confront him and have a conflict over your goals. One will be the victor and the loser will bend to his will,” she paused before her hooded head turned to my general direction. “She whose arrogance rivals our brother’s will be the inevitable trigger.”

I straightened up when I realized she was talking about me, then my eyes narrowed at her little insult. Arrogant? Look who’s calling the kettle black. I’m nowhere near as bad as she is… am I? I had to admit that my initial impression of her was proven wrong after learning what she did to take care of the town. Her arrogant, insulting nature seemed more of an exterior cover to throw off people.

“You say you are willing to gamble. Does that mean you do not see the outcome?” Cegil prodded, sounding rather interested in her reading.

Maetira let out a dry laugh as she began walking back to town. “That’s the funny thing about Fates- they can’t see the future, they merely dictate what they want to see. I know who they want to win, but I know the conflict could go either way. I place my bets on the falcie to win. He better not mess up.”

We both glared at her back as she practically sauntered away from us. I was beginning to get annoyed with her smug, know-it-all attitude, but I curbed it when she sharply turned to face us and pointed in our direction.

“I asked for more guards to protect this area. You should be able to reach the station without any trouble. There will be a special stagecoach coming for you at the fourteenth hour and I have already paid your fare. Good luck.” She then vanished before we could say anything. She really was going out her way to make sure we faced the reading she foresaw.

“What do you think she meant by I’m the ‘trigger’?” I wondered after the stunned silence between us was over. If I didn’t know any better, it sounded like I was going to cause a fight between Cegil and Satel. But how? Why? I would never put Cegil through that kind of grief… not intentionally.

“I am not certain, but it seems my path is set. If Maetira is correct, then this may be my only chance to convince Satel to not go through with the ceremony,” my guardian replied as he faced the town entrance. “But it does concern me that you must be involved. If you want to stay here, I will not blame you.”

“Stay with Maetira? Are you insane?” I said with a scoff. “Don’t worry about me- as long as I can help end this, then I’ll go through all five hells for you.”

I really meant that, too. I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly a charitable person and that I would rather stay out of other people’s business, but I couldn’t abandon him when he needed me. He had done so much for me and I wanted to repay him for the kindness in any way I could.

Cegil walked forward, to the point where I couldn’t see his face anymore. He almost sounded sad as he replied, “You are a good falcie- I only wish you could reconcile your feelings with humanity and realize how much of a good person you could be as a human.”

I had to wonder what brought that on- it seemed like that had been weighing on his mind for some time. I wish I understood what that meant by those cryptic words. He really liked to defend humanity and I could never understand why. Show me one human that was genuinely kind and I could reconsider, but as far as I knew, humans would turn against their own mothers for selfish reasons. This lack of compassion left me no choice but to respond in kind to protect myself. I didn’t hate humanity for no reason- I only gave back the cruelty they had given to me.

I felt that I had a right to demean my kind even though I was no better than they were. I couldn’t escape the disgusting habits that shaped me into the person I am today. But Cegil… he never gave up on me and he tried to make me understand my kind a little better. I would like to think that I was a little different from the ‘me’ of seven years ago and that I had let go of some of the hatred I felt, but I couldn’t just forgive those who had wronged me.

I had to change- I knew I couldn’t escape being a petty human, but I could try to act more falucite. If I could just see the world as Cegil did, then maybe I could overcome that hatred and be able to move on. I wanted to make him proud and have him stop worrying about me so much. Unfortunately, it was harder than it sounded- the fact that I didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me was proof of that. I still wasn’t changing and I hated myself because of it.

I kept silent as I followed him out of town. I didn’t know how to reply to his words- I had nothing but a scathing remark towards my kind on the tip of my tongue and I knew he didn’t want to hear that. It was a little ironic- no, perhaps it actually explained why I was so upset with the lack of ideas we had to save Satel from his sacrifice. I didn’t have the smarts or courage to speak up and make a difference. I was nothing more than a stupid, useless human and I hated that.

Maybe Satel had a point- I couldn’t change unless I tried to do something. That’s why I have to do everything I can for Cegil. I want to change.

To Interlude II

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