Diabolical Blood and a Loving Heart
"Oh, dear... There's nothing left here! What am I to live off?"
The woman scavenged through the wreckages of the Karlloon shrine, looking for any object of value. Her quest for loot was soon stopped when she realised that the explosion DID wipe it all away. The whole top floor had crumbled and the ground level was totally wiped off the charts. But her hopes got high again when she uncovered a staircase that led to the intact basement.
"Bingo! This could mean jackpot for me!", she mumbled as she lit a lantern and made her way down there.
It was damp and cold. Mice ran over the debris-covered floor, vainly looking for food... just like the woman searched for treasure in vain. Not a single treasure chest, not even a little golden bead! Her sighs of deep disappointment echoed through the empty halls. She found, at last, a large room, where once many richesses must have been installed: judging by the thick and luxurious-looking carpet, spoiled feet must once have walked over it. The woman quickly drew her conclusions and walked over the blood- and smoke-stained path to a small stage. There, she made the most remarkable discovery...
The man was lying on the floor, his body barely covered by the remains of his armor, which had been blown clear off his body by several explosions. His hair was blackened by all the smoke, his hands were covered with blood. He was unconscious and barely breathing.
"What do I have to do with him? What can I do?"
Mindlessly, the woman started to think of ways to get him out of there in one piece. The best solution, she figured, was to use her last Escape potion on both herself and the stranger. Surely, there would be enough for two... First, she made the wounded warrior drink a tiny gulp of it, then she grabbed hold of his hand and drank the bottle empty. They both were enveloped in a greenish haze as they magically flew outside. Her house was only a mile from the temple, so it would be easy to get him there. A few branches and her mantle would do the trick excellently... that way, it wouldn't be too much of a heavy task to transport him.
She arrived in her house: a small but cosy place, far away from Karlloon. She herself had built it, a long time ago, when she felt the evil presence come over the world. It still hadn't left since. She could almost certainly feel it now... just as she felt it a few days ago, when the temple blew up sky-high and three heroes fled from there. Yes, she could still see them now: the first one, clearly the leader, a red-headed man with a serious look on his face as he held his arms around the second hero, obviously his wife or girlfriend. She had green hair, and was very scantilly-dressed, even for a mage. But despite the daggers dangling by her side and the staff she carried on her back, she still managed to look very feminine. And then, the third hero: a tall, strong-looking man in his late twenties, with blonde hair at shoulder length and blue eyes... yes, she could have sworn to see those eyes look directly at her as he ran after the two others, his friends... Had he noticed her, standing on the edge of the forest? Or was he just frantically looking around, panicking? She didn't know. Not for sure, anyway. There were just the three heroes that day, although she did see others... She had seen a tall, evil-looking man with gleaming eyes enter the temple that day, with a woman with purple hair in blue armor by his side. And after the shrine had blown, a different lady emerged: green-haired and wearing a long, red dress. Come to think of it, she had also overheard a conversation between the heroes as they entered the forest and passed her house when going to the temple.
"...but Iris wouldn't go there without a good reason, you guys!" That was the red-headed hero speaking. His girlfriend answered.
"You keep talking about Iris... I'm beginning to get jealous, you know, Maxim?" So, their leader was called Maxim.
"Selan, don't be. You know I care more for you than I do for my entire life!"
"Oh, Maxim... I know that..."
"Sorry to break up your romantic little conversation," that was the third warrior speaking, in a deep and clear voice, "but we should focus on WHY we are going here! It is not Iris nor coincidence that brings us walking here..."
"Yeah, Guy has a point there, fellas! It's that freakin' Idura! He's been getting on my nerves ever since we met! I just wanna teach that goofball a lesson and get it over with..." Until now, that fourth voice had been a mystery to her. But now, perhaps, she had found the solution to that mystery. The man she had found in the temple could be that fourth hero.
Slowly, she put him onto her bed, very careful not to hurt him. There he was, lying silent: now she only had to make sure he'd come to and get better.
"Lalalaaaaa... The gardens of hope are showered by rain, dum-deedeeeee..."
Dekar heard the woman singing. He had heard her voice ever since he was conscious again: for a few days now. He could move now, although with great pain and a feeling of numbness afterwards, but he could. Speaking was out of the question: his throat was dry and filled with soot. His eyes were covered by a thick crust of blood, metal, soot and sweat. He could only lie there and listen to her voice.
"Hey! You want me to clean your eyes and give you a drink?!"
The woman had come into the room. Dekar slowly moved his hand: in a wiping motion over his hands and in a drinking motion over his mouth. He could only hope she understood what he meant: judging by her reaction, she did. A few minutes later, he could feel a damp piece of cloth on his eyes. He wiped all the dirt off his face and sat up straight while she gave him some water. Slowly, he opened an eye. His vision was still very blurry, but he could clearly see his savior. She was a tall woman, standing there. By the look of her arms and legs, she was a warrior like him: her muscles were clearly visible, but nevertheless she was very beautiful. Red hair was neatly cut around her face. She had a scar running over her right eye, all the way over the cheek until it touched her nose. Her radiant green eyes made her face look even paler, and so did the deep purple dress she wore.
"Hey! Don't wear yourself out! If you can barely see, what's the point in it then?" She moved closer, and Dekar could now see the scar better: its edges were worn, but clearly made by a very strange blade. It had been healed, that was for sure... but, what was more disturbing...
...the force with which the blow was dealt, had been well-guided and intended to kill her. That meant that she was a fighter, and even a good one, very good to escape such a blow; but it also meant that someone wanted her dead. She stood over him, giving him some more water. Her dress revealed one of her long legs. Dekar sat there, amazed that she was that beautiful as a warrior. And the first thing he said to his savior, was:
"...Wow..." It still sounded a little hoarse, but that would eventually go away as well.
"What? Is there something wrong? ...Oh." His savior noticed that he was captivated by the sight of her. "I haven't been able to change dresses since I brought you here. Guess I was just afraid that you'd wake up and see me..." She grinned. "But now you're awake and able to move... I suggest you park it over there. You can get out of my bed now!"
"This 's your bed? Where have you slept then?" Dekar wasn't too impressed by her words.
"Oh, just on the floor, that's all. It's a warrior's life... sleeping out, where there are no soft pillows or warm blankets..."
"You know, of all the warrior ladies I know, you're the only one that settles with sleeping out without a pillow OR a blanket! And believe me, I know a lot of 'em! Spoiled li'l warrior mages, that's what they are..." His rough tone was meant to hide his amazement, but she saw through it and retorted.
"Well, I've never known a warrior who would let himself be pampered like this. C'mon, out you go!" She pulled him out of her bed and pushed him into the living room, onto a chair. Then, she turned around and went back into the room. Dekar couldn't speak, amazed as he was. She had looked like a warrior with a soft interior, but her firm actions were nothing like Selan's... they were much more like, like... like Guy's, acting and never thinking. Or like him: stumbling blindly into everything and then fighting his way out. Yeah, she was more like the guys he knew: tough, rough and ready for everything.
In the meanwhile, the girl had put on her usual "work-in-the-forest" clothing: a light armor top, a short skirt which gave her freedom of movement and light boots which were suited for work in even the most muddy of environments. She went back to the man she had saved.
"Here we go! Fresh as can be! Now... What was it that you were about to say?"
"Well, I was going to ask where I could take a bath..." He brushed through his hair, which was a little stiff from all the dirt in it. She grinned as he scratched his head and small stones fell out of his hair.
"You could use it... I always wash myself under the waterfall near here. It's very clean water there and it's free! But maybe you'd like a nice hot bath... just tell me, and I'll go get some water."
"Oh, in that case, I'll take the warm water over the "natural shower"." He sighed as she took a few heavy-looking buckets with her. "Isn't that a little heavy for a girl like you?"
"No, I'm a warrior after all. But if I don't get going now, I'll never be able to make you a decent meal!" She turned around and went outside.
Dekar sat there alone for a while, thinking about what he had seen so far. On the walls were several swords, a few halberds, three axes and some bows and quivers: all weapons were sharpened and shined. Also, in the corner was her armor: a magnificently crafted chain mail, probably especially made for her body, which seemed to shine softly. It glowed in the dim morning light of the vast forest.
"Where am I?", Dekar said to himself. He knew he couldn't be too far away from the temple. After all, he wasn't able to escape in time when it collapsed...
Dekar stood tall when the others quickly disappeared. The monsters of Idura had caught him in one brief moment of carelessness, but it wouldn't happen again! Not with him, it wouldn't! Idura's grin soon turned into amazement as Dekar quickly and efficiently disposed of all the monsters and slashed Idura in the process.
"I'LL FOLLOW YOU INTO HELL TO SAVE MY FRIENDS, YOU FIEND!!!" Dekar's hits were so quick, Idura didn't have the time to regenerate - or to call any monsters to aid him.
"It's too late anyway... in a few moments, this temple will crumble and you'll go down with it! That'll be my goodbye present for you..." Idura died quickly, with the same evil grin on his face. And as the temple fell, Dekar slowly kneeled down on the stage where the Magic Dispeller had stood, ready to face death once more...
... this time never to return...
When the girl returned, she found Dekar crying, his hands covering his face while he sobbed.
"What's the matter, sport? I-is something wrong?"
"N-nothing... It's nothing..." Dekar quickly straightened himself, pretending nothing had happened.
"Okay, let me just warm up this water for you..." He couldn't help but stare at her: the ease with which she lifted that big bucket of water was amazing. Even he couldn't have done it that easily!
"Wow, that's pretty cool! You must have trained for dozens of years to become that strong!"
"It's nothing, really. But yeah, you're right. I've been fighting ever since I was a kid. My mom used to call me "Fighter Maiden". She couldn't fight as good as I could. Got killed by the man that gave me this scar. I'll never forget his face, the bastard!" Her voice echoed through Dekar's head, or so it seemed. The silence that followed, was only interrupted by the bubbling sound of the boiling water.
"Ah, now just pour it in the bath tub in there, sport. I'll bring the other two buckets of cool water."
Dekar enjoyed the bath, the feeling of the soft towels on his skin, the fresh scent of the soap (to his surprise, it didn't smell like a girl's soap at all - just a natural soap, like the one he always had used in the castle) and especially the good care of the warrior. A soft knock on the door startled him.
"Can I come in?" At least she asked...
"I've already put on my clothing, yes. Come in..." She rushed in, took a small package from the shelf of one of the wardrobes and went back into the living room.
"Care for some food? I hope you like deer... it's the only thing I have left of all my meat." She blushed. "I've seen you have quite a few dents in that armor of yours. I think you'd be better off with this armor. It was once my brother's, but I don't think he needs it anymore." She gave him a full-body armor, made of very fine material. "It's a Zircon Armor."
"Are you sure your bro doesn't need it anymore? Where is he anyway?"
"Killed by Idura. This armor was his pride, his most precious possession. He'd have liked it if you accepted to wear it." The familiar smirk on her face gave Dekar a feeling of comfort. He felt at home in that little house, in the middle of the forest, alone with the girl - no, the woman - who had saved him from a certain death in the ruins of the Karlloon temple.
"Put it on, so I can see if it suits you... Yeah! I knew it would look good on you!" Her smile lighted up the whole house, and Dekar smiled as well.
"Well, just let me finish putting this on, and I'll be with you for that lunch you promised." Her footsteps resounded through the house as she went to the cupboard in her "kitchen" and prepared some meat for the both of them.
"Here you go! A lunch fit for a king! Too bad it gets eaten by two mere warriors like you and me..." They chuckled, and Dekar took the opportunity to thank her.
"Well, I can't thank you enough for doing this for me. You have earned my eternal gratitude, miss... eh..."
"Call me Alyse. My full name is Alysandra, but I prefer to be called Alyse. But what is your name? I didn't catch it earlier on..."
"Before you, Lady Alyse, stands the most mighty of all warriors: Dekar of Bound Kingdom!" He grinned: "But you may call me Dekar..."
"Get that grin off your face or I'll wipe it off in a duel. Warrior-to-warrior." Her tone was playful, but her expression seemed serious enough for Dekar to take it as a challenge.
"Allright, girlie, I'll take you on!" He reached for his sword, but before he had it in his hands...
... she held a halberd with a blade the size of an overgrown sheep to his throat. Dekar froze in his movements.
"What did you say? Drop it, warrior. You are in my power, big heap of metal!" She marvelled his amazement.
"Wha- How do lift that thing?!"
"Severe training, Dekar. I can fight with even the most heavy of weapons. But not for too long: I'd probably have had to drop this after an hour of intense fighting. Now, what were you saying?"
"Oh... Nothing." Dekar was petrified by the events that had just happened. She had the looks of a warrior-mage like Selan, but the strength of the whole band of fighters together! Suddenly, he realised that the others must have travelled onwards already. "Say, when did the shrine explode?"
"Oh, about a week ago... Why d'you ask?"
"The other fighters I had with me, did they escape in time?" His throat became drier, so he took a big gulp of water.
"Yeah, I've seen them run away. That one hero, the one you called Guy earlier, he stared at me for a moment while they ran away. He seemed like a strong fighter. At first sight, that is..."
"Well, he's nothing but a big gas bag! I'm twice the warrior he is..." Dekar was a little touchy when it came to Guy.
"Ah, but are you twice the MAN he is? Maybe his better character makes up for his lack of strength..." Alyse had drawn conclusions before she knew everything... but, judging by Dekar's face, they were right. He looked hurt by her words: she felt sorry for him. After all, what had he done wrong to deserve that? "Don't be too upset by it, though. I don't know him and neither does he know me. But, if you'll excuse me, right now, I'm going to take a shower in the woods. I feel kind of weird now, plus you smell so fresh... I must have an aura of stench around me!"
"I won't stop you... Go ahead. Oh, and by the way, Alyse...", he said as she stood there, ready to go outside.
"It's not that bad, you don't stink..." He smiled softly, and for the first time since she had seen him lying there in the temple, she was amazed by him.
"Why, thanks..." Her face took on a gentler expression. Dekar, too, was amazed: not by himself, but by the sudden change in her attitude. No longer was there an equal, a fighter, in front of him; now she had turned into a gentle woman with a heart of gold and a smile that could outlast the light of the stars. He scratched his head as she walked away into the forest. What was he thinking?! She had saved him, true... but judging by her words and deeds, she couldn't be older than Tia: about 19 years old. He shook his head like he always had done to forget his problems, but to no avail: it kept haunting him. What was it about her that made him shiver and be fascinated at the same time?
He looked at the walls again: a photograph of her family caught his eye. Her mother stood in the center, surrounded by her five children: a tall woman with tiny wrinkles all over her face. Deep brown hair fell loosely in big curly waves around her face. Alyse stood next to her mother, with her overgrown halberd stable in her hands (which proved to Dekar that she really had trained intensively since childhood with it): next to her, a tall young man with equally red hair who held the same kind of halberd, wearing a beautifully crafted armor Dekar immediately recognised as the one he was wearing. A young boy stood in front of the two warriors, holding a book in his hands with a proud possessive look on his face. The other two sisters stood on the right hand side of their mother, both wearing the same dress and apron, but one of them held a flower basket while the other... showed to the camera a drawing: a circle with a triangle in it, cut by another circle. The design wasn't common, but Dekar had seen it before... but where?
"Hey. It's a nice picture, isn't it? The only thing that's left of my family... Leefa and Kayle, my two sisters, were driven away. Dave, my warrior brother, was killed by Idura later on. Henny, the boy with the book, was sent to Ferim, to my aunt. My mother was killed in the first attack... the same attack that gave me this scar." She bowed her head, as to hide the inaesthetic mark on her left cheek.
"What first attack?"
"A tall man came one day, a few years ago. He didn't say a word, just entered the house and killed my mother. He would've killed me and Dave as well if we hadn't fought. Dave had given me my first halberd that day - this one, namely - and I was training with it thoroughly. Then the stranger came and slashed my mother's throat with a halberd about the same size. Dave wounded him badly, and so did I. But... I wasn't through training and couldn't parry his first attack. I had dodged it, but it still hit me... right here. My mother laid there, her eyes still opened from the sudden attack. I could've sworn she cried when it happened, though..."
"What could have been so special about you that someone would want you out of his way?"
"Dave and I, we were twins. Gifted from birth on with tremendous strength and stamina, and both with this..." She showed him a birthmark on her left hand in the same shape as the drawing one of her sisters held. "I have it here, and my brother had it on his right hand. It's a very mysterious drawing. And the most peculiar thing about us is our colour of hair: bright red hair, as if it's on fire or something. That's why me and my brother were nicknamed the "Raspberry Twins"."
"That mark is familiar... I've seen it somewhere before, but where?" While he pondered, Alyse went outside with a huge axe to chop down a few trees. Dekar stood in the doorway and watched in amazement as she cut down the trees with one good blow. Her strength was indeed formidable, he couldn't deny that. But it seemed to be a danger to someone... and that was bad, real bad. Who knew when that man might show up again and try to kill her?
He hadn't thought of it properly when suddenly, out of the forest, leaped a gigantic beast with claws the size of a short sword. Alyse sighed as she took her halberd up again, with the speed and grace only mustered by a female warrior, and hit it with all her might, splitting it's skull nearly in half. Dekar approached her carefully, seeing the animal twitch: it's last spasms. She let the blade touch the ground.
"Wow! That was amazing! You must've trained very, very hard to be able to do that!"
"Dave trained me. I've only been training for fifteen years, while he had been training for about twenty years..."
"Wait a minute!" Deka was confused: he had thought all that time that she was younger than him, and now she said she had been training for fifteen years already! "How old are you anyway?!"
"I'm twenty-three years old now... Have trained since I was eight years old. Dave was a boy with a wild heart and a steel will, learnt his skills from the forest warriors. I spent more time there than he was at home. And then, five years after he started his lessons, he learned that I too had that wondrous ability..." She sighed. "I had an arguement with one of Dave's friends. He said he'd toss me out of the house... but before I knew what exactly I was doing, I took his hand and squeezed with such strength that I broke his wrist. Then I broke his arm by simply twisting it all the way round... it was horrible. I've cried my eyes out afterwards. And when I was through crying, I felt Dave's hand on my shoulder. He gave me a wooden practice sword, heavied with lead. That night, I exercised until I fell asleep in Dave's arms..."
"Well, I've only trained for ten years, probably eleven... I'm twenty-five now. Say, I think my friends can use my help. They're facing a really tough battle with a gas bag even bigger than Guy."
"Huh?!" This time Alyse was confused. "What battle is that tough for three good warriors like them?"
Dekar explained. He carefully told her of the battle he, Maxim and Guy had fought against Gades. He spoke of Maxim's wedding with Selan, of the kidnapping of their baby Jeros, of his numerous encounters with Idura and, at last, of Idura's explanation of the Sinistrals. Alyse listened with amazement that increased as she heard more and more of the story.
"So, Gades was one of the Sinistrals. And the others are stronger even than him..." She stood up, took her armor in the other room and locked the door. After a while, she came back out. Dekar gasped, for she looked taller in the armor. It was like Selan's armor and looked even less protective.
"Come on, hit me on the arm! I can see in your eyes that you think this armor doesn't offer me full protection. C'mon, hit me with your sword!" She stretched out her arm. Hesitantly, Dekar took out his sword and swung at her arm weakly. It didn't connect, so he tried again and again, each time hitting her harder. She laughed as each of his attempts to hit her arms failed. "It isn't a full body armor at first sight, that's true. But it is... you just don't see it. The elves made me this, with seethru armor for arms and legs. Beautiful, isn't it?" She took several weapons from the wall: swords, axe, halberd and a few small daggers. "Let's go, we haven't got time to waste."
"Where are we going to?", Dekar asked her as she locked the door of her house.
"Where do you think we're going? To your friends, of course! I wanna see those Sinistrals myself!"
It was quite the sight: a heavily armored man with only a sword dangling by his side, and a woman, barely armored but packed with weapons only she could handle with perfection. They walked through the forest for hours with a steady pace, until they came across a river. It's sparkly water ran past them at incredible speed.
"Care to cross here or do you prefer to cross by the bridge over there?"
"No thank you..." Dekar gasped as he saw an imp being carried away underwater. "I prefer to cross over this stream by a bridge..." Already, he was walking in that direction. His mouth fell open when he saw her standing on the other bank.
"Hey, hurry up already!" He ran across the bridge and to her. "I know that Treadool isn't far away. My sisters are supposed to live there. But I don't know if either Leefa or Kayle still is alive..."
"Hey, cheer up." Dekar smiled as to demonstrate her how. "I know we'll find them, or at least one of them."
She nodded silently. With a pensative frown on her face, she started walking again, followed by Dekar. And at the end of the day, they finally reached Treadool, city of the famous inventor Lexis Shaia.
"Say, what's that commotion over there?" Alyse was curious about a large group of women gathered around someone.
"I dunno, let's check it out!" Dekar said. He stepped towards the crowd and tried to push through, to no avail: the women kept on pushing him back.
"Wait, let me try..." Alyse took a deep breath and said in a booming voice: "What's going on around here?" To her surprise, the woman at the centre of the group came to her, holding a beautiful flower. "I know that voice...", she said, "Is it you, Alysandra?" She took off her hood. "Is that really you?! I thought you were killed, I saw the explosion in the hills to the west!"
"Leefa?! Leefa!" Alyse ran towards her sister and the two women embraced in front of Dekar. They cried of happiness as their amazement escalated when they laid eyes upon each other.
"Now whaddaya think of that? My big sister has become a flower girl!"
"Well, I have to support two children... But look at you! I knew you were a fighter girl, but never would I have guessed that you looked so much like Dave! You've grown! And those weapons..."
Dekar interrupted their happy conversation with a little cough. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your sister, Alyse?"
Alyse blushed as she realised how rude she had been. "Sure... Dekar, this is my sister Leefa. Leefa, this is Sir Dekar of Bound Kingdom. We're..."
"Wait a minute!" Leefa interrupted her sister: "Dekar? I've seen your friends! They've talked about you a million times! You were the one that sacrificed himself at the Karlloon Shrine, aren't you? My, that was a courageous thing to do. But your friends aren't here anymore. They've left, together with Lexis, to the southern lands..." She smiled: "You must be tired from the long journey here. Why don't you stay for a while? My house is over there. It's small, but comfortable. But perhaps you'd like to stay in the inn... anything you say, Sir Dekar."
"Well..." Dekar saw she was charmed by him. "I'd be delighted to stay at your house. Lead on, miss Leefa!"
The house was indeed very small, but as soon as Leefa stepped through the door, two children ran through the door.
"Leefa, Leefa! Who are those people?", a little girl asked.
"These are my sister, Alysandra, and her friend, Dekar."
"Oh! It's the brave man mr. Maxim spoke of!" The little girl ran towards the fighter. "You're a nice man, saving your friends so they can go on fighting." The young boy soon followed her.
"Are you a fighter, sir?"
"Yes, I am. What's your name, sport?" Dekar smiled as the boy addressed him politely.
"Well then, Thomas is what I'll call you. You can call me Dekar if you like, sport. You want to become a fighter when you're all grown up?"
"Yes, I'd love that, sir - err, Dekar..." He grinned. "Then I can protect Leefa and Paula, my sister."
"You're already tough, little guy. I'm sure you'll make a great fighter someday!"
"Gee, thanks!" The boy was nearly ablaze with pride.
"Hey Leefa, I think these tikes are hungry, and so are we. How 'bout some food?"
"Well, that was a very tasty meal!" Alyse wiped some sauce from the corner of her mouth with a napkin. She had eaten a whole lot, but nothing compared to Dekar. Two plates, filled with what seemed like a mountain of tasty steak, potatoes and sauce. She took another good look at Dekar, who miraculously had finished it all.
" I do say, you eat a lot, Dekar! You nearly eat me out of house and home!" Leefa, too, was amazed by the appetite of the warrior. He smiled at the children as they finished eating their dessert.
"Well, if it's this tasty, then I'm always in for more... it was yummy all the way, wasn't it, kids?"
"Yep!", came their reply. "But, mister Dekar, we're really tired now. We're going to sleep... goodnight, Leefa!"
"Goodnight!" She gave the two children a small package and sent them to their beds. The warriors and Leefa continued to sit at the table in silence until they knew for sure that Thomas and Paula were fast asleep.
"These two kids give me the greatest company one can wish for. They..."
"Are they your kids, Leefa?" Dekar suddenly had a serious expression on his face. "They both look a lot like you..."
"No, they aren't! Thomas is my nephew. He was Kayla's son. And Paula is... She's..."
"Come on, Leefa, you're making me curious! Tell me whose child she is!"
"She is the daughter... of Lexis Shaia. That kid will become a genius someday. Lexis helped me when I first arrived here, driven away by t-that awful man that killed mom... This was his idea of a service in return. Lexis used to be married to his assistant, but she ran away or something like that. Anyway, he figured the kid needed a mother to take care of her. I was the only one up to it, plus..." She blushed and turned her head away. "Paula knows who her father is, and I have heard her say a million times that she hopes Lexis'll marry me, so she'll have a complete family again..." Dekar winced as he heard it and recognised the situation.
"Aw, hell... I know what they're missing. My father left my mother to go to battle fifteen years ago. He never returned and left my mother with me and my sister Sheyla. And then, Sheyla got a terrible disease. To pay for the medicines, I took a job at the soldiers' quarters. It didn't help at all: Sheyla died a year later, after having suffered so much... I became bittered and shut myself off from the outside world. Until I met this knight, Sir Eric. He taught me the art of fighting and became like a second father to me, although he and I both knew he could never take my father's place. His lessons started to pay off one day... and then the king noticed my talent and sent me to the training grounds in the south. That's where I became so good. But it gave some disadvantages. For example, I never felt anything for girls..."
"Not ever?!" Alyse was surprised. It was rather hard to believe that the handsome, tough, strong warrior sitting next to her never had any real feelings for a girl.
"Not ever..." Dekar bowed his head, as in shame. But deep inside, he knew it wasn't true. He had felt love for a girl one day... but not longer than that day. It had faded away as soon as he got closer to her. Sir Eric had taught him that a woman was the only thing that could come between him and his sword one day. His teacher and mentor had been married and had a son and a daughter as well as Dekar's father, Sir Vincent. The only difference was that Sir Eric had brought up his children as an iron-willed warrior who happened to be a father, and Sir Vincent as a compassionate father who happened to be a warrior. Dekar and his sister had loved their father, while Sir Eric's children disliked their father.
"Oh..." Leefa yawned and stretched her tired limbs. "If you guys don't mind, I'm going off to bed. Don't make too much noise! I don't want Thomas of Paula to wake up..."
"We'll be quiet... I've made myself a comfy bed on the floor, and I'm sure Alyse is going to do the same..." He stood up form his chair, with a sigh of relief because he couldn't sit comfortably wearing armor. "But right now, I'm going for a walk, if you guys don't mind..."
Alyse woke up in the middle of the night, realising that Dekar still hadn't returned. She was worried about the sturdy warrior who came into her life and swept her with him on a journey that took her to her sister... and who knew what other surprises they might have expected? She raised herself, took a few swords with her and silently went outside. She could hear his voice, far off... following it, she ended up on the pier.
"Dekar... Dekar, where are you? I was worried about you, y'know?"
"I'm here, at the end of the pier. Come on, you can sit down here. Plenty of room left..." She slowly went towards him. And yes, there he was, sitting on the edge of the pier, shrouded in mist. His blue hair with the one red streak was wet and clung to the sides of his face. "I've been swimming for a while. The water was really fresh and calming. Soothed my wary soul right away..."
"Wow. I haven't even thought of swimming as a relaxing thing. Dave trained me to be able to swim through icy water, walk over fire and be able to withstand everything. But he never learnt me to relax... Could you learn that to me? Please... you might be the only one who could learn me that!"
Dekar should've known better, he realised that later on. He should have said no, or at least say that he couldn't do that because everyone had different ways to relax... but he agreed, thus linking his faith to hers forever.
"Okay, then. Your first lesson starts now. Dive in there and follow me!" He heard the splash as she followed. "Now, level with the water. You're floating, so you don't need to worry about sinking. Close your eyes and let the water be your cradle, rocking you calmly... Feel the water splashing gently against your face. Hear its flowing sound, smell the soothing smell of salt. It will cleanse you." He slowly opened one eye, and saw her floating. It suddenly hit him that she'd be cold afterwards, and he hadn't brought any towels...
"Dekar, this is wonderful... I'm feeling so refreshed! But we probably should head back to Leefa's house. If she wakes up and notices we're gone..." She blushed, for she knew all too well her sister's reaction. Leefa would think that she and Dekar were spending the night outside... together... Dekar, too, guessed what was on her mind.
"We don't want her to think that, now do we, Alyse?"
"No, we don't, so let's head back to the house before she gets the chance to think that."
Alyse yawned and stretched as she was awakened by Paula.
"Hey, miss Alyse, where have you gone to last night? And how come you and mister Dekar came back all wet?"
"Oh..." She scratched her head, where small pieces of salt crystals fell out. "We went swimming, that's all."
"You can't go swimming in the sea! There's dangerous electric fish out there!" She shook her head. "My dad went away across that sea... I hope he comes back real soon. He hasn't married Leefa yet!" She turned around, as if to look if Leefa was up already: when she saw no one, she continued whispering: "Leefa is a nice lady. She takes good care of Thomas and me. But I need a real mommy and daddy. I can feel it here...", she pointed to her heart, "...and it hurts."
"But, Paula, don't you think Leefa and your dad have to fall in love before they can marry? I don't think..."
"Oh, but they are! ...At least, I think they are..." Suddenly, they heard a loud yawn from behind them. Dekar had woken up as well, and Alyse was glad that he occupied himself with Paula's worries.
"Hey, Paula, I couldn't help but overhear you say that you wanna have a mom and a dad... I know how it feels too, girley. My dad went fighting for the good purpose and never returned. And since my sister was still a little girl at the time, and very ill as well, my mom had no time for me. I was all alone in the world. But you... you have a great lady taking good care of you, and a father who, despite the fact that he doesn't really take care of you, loves you like crazy."
"Wow... are you sure, mister Dekar?"
"Yep, pretty sure. My dad said, before he left, that he would have to look at the stars in the sky every day for hours in a row. When I asked him why, he said: "Well, Dekar, for every second I think of you, there is a star in the sky. And for every time you think of me, there's one as well. So every day, I'm going to count them." That made me laugh. I said to my dad that he didn't have to count them, because I'd think of him every second of the day. And he answered me that he'd count them anyways, knowing that, no matter how far we were apart, the same stars would appear for us."
"That's so kind of your father to say that!"
"It sure was. Well, doesn't your father come and see you sometimes? Doesn't he send you letters, or give you presents?"
"Yes, he does. He comes to visit us every three days, and he always brings us a present, or sometimes some new clothes for me, or some money for Leefa when she's having a hard time. And he always manages to bring Leefa a pretty present: a comb, a mirror. Do you know that he had given her one of his inventions one day? The only one that really works. He called it "fertilizer", it's to make plants grow faster. That'll come in handy now that we have the most beautiful flower of the world, the Priphea." She sighed. "I don't know why dad always does that, bringing Leefa presents, I mean. Leefa always tells me to say "Thank you, mister Lexis.", but when she's not around, I hug him and say "dad" anyway. He always hugs me back... does that mean that he loves me?"
"Yes, it does, Paula. It's a warm feeling in one's heart to love someone. And love from a father or mother for their child is never broken, nor replaced..."
In the meantime, Alyse was in deep thoughts. She had heard Dekar's comforting words, seen his gentle expression, felt the warmth in his soul, literally. He had thrown off the warrior-side and had become someone she never thought she'd see inside a warrior: a compassionate, understanding and intelligent man. His whole expression had changed. From his eyes radiated a calm soothing energy, and his face had become gentler, less serious. Alyse felt something in her heart jump up. This man before her was the same Dekar that had learnt her how to relax yesterday. It wasn't an exception to see him like a warrior, but neither was this. And she liked it... Second thing she worried about was Leefa and Lexis. It seemed to her that her sister hadn't told her the whole story: she never said that he actually gave her presents. It was about time, she figured for herself, that she would have a conversation with her sister and ask her to tell her the whole truth!
As if it was God's will, Leefa turned around, yawned and got up.
"I've slept very good last night... but you two did as well, I think. At least, I hope so..."
"Very well, thank you. I hope you don't mind me saying so, but today, me and Alyse should really get going."
"I understand..." Leefa nodded as she saw the tall warrior get up. "I'll make us some breakfast as soon as Thomas is up." She turned around and went to the kitchen, followed by Paula. It gave Alyse a chance to talk to Dekar.
"Well, do you ever..." Dekar placed his finger over her mouth.
"Shhh... they still hear you, so turn down the volume. I've heard it. And yes, I think there's more to the feelings of your big sis and Lexis for one another. But you go ahead and ask her what's going on... I'll just keep quiet and remain in the background. In the meantime..." He took his hand away from her face. "Just... don't rush it with that question. I don't wanna see you hurt Leefa. She's a calm girl and I know she's a good sister to you."
"Yes, I'll be careful. Oh, and Dekar...", she said as he turned to the kitchen door.
"Yes?" His face had the same gentle expression as it had the night before. Alyse couldn't help but feel her heart tumble inside her chest, but she shook her head and said: "Thanks for yesterday... you know, I kinda liked it!"
"Well, swimming is a very relaxing sport. And if you really like it, we'll go swimming more often during our journey."
"Dekar! You're back just in time. We were about to have breakfast." Leefa pulled up an extra chair for the warrior, who sat next to Paula and Alyse. "I hope you like sandwiches in the morning... it's all I have left."
"Yeah, Dekar, you're eating her out of house and home!", Alyse remarked playfully.
"And you're helping me do that!", he retorted in the same playful way.
The kids chuckled as they both took another bite from the sandwich they had in their hands. Dekar tapped Paula on the shoulder and said: "Hey, tike, me and Alyse are leaving today. D'you think you can take care of Thomas and Leefa?"
"Well, yes, sure!" Her face was radiant as she looked at Dekar with her mouth still filled with the half-chewed sandwich.
"Then you do that, okay? And you," he spoke to Thomas, "You don't get in any trouble, okay? Warriors are usually good little boys..." He grinned as he saw the boy blush. "Don't worry, it's never too late to change. Just be good from now on and there's still hope for ya..." His grin faded away as soon as he saw Leefa take the mail. One letter, which was adressed to her personally, she handily slipped away underneath her apron. He looked at Alyse, who nodded in consent. But as long as the kids were in the same room, she couldn't ask Leefa anything. Dekar understood and asked the kids if they wanted to go outside and play. He didn't need to ask them twice, they rushed outside while pulling the strong fighter with them (who didn't struggle at all since they had enough trouble getting him dragged along). Before he went outside, Dekar gave Alyse a signal to go ahead and ask Leefa the question.
"Leefa..." Alyse sat onto the chair next to her sister. "Who was that letter from, the one you hid underneath your apron?"
"Uhm..." The frail woman blushed as she tried to come up with an excuse.
"It's from Lexis, isn't it?" She put her hand onto her sister's shoulder to comfort her. "You don't have to be ashamed, I just wanna know the truth. Why didn't you tell me he gave you presents and all that stuff?"
"I-I... just didn't want the kids to find out. Lexis, he... well, he came here often after his wife had left him. I helped him get over her, and after a while, it seemed only natural that we fell in love... He sent Paula here, not only for me to look after her, but also as a way to see me oftenly and without the people in the village getting suspicious. And now that he's gone, I miss him so, I write letters to him. He writes back to me, whenever he isn't in a dungeon with Maxim, Selan and Guy, that is..." She sobbed, and automatically Alyse offered her a handkerchief.
"He'll come back as soon as this is finished. Dekar told me of their journey to save the world. And in the meantime... you still have his letters. I swear, he'll come back to you." She smiled. "I've heard of Lexis a few times, but it appears to me that he used to be a coward. He'll probably..." She laughed out loud all of a sudden. "Of course! That's where they're heading! To that other scientist's lab in Portravia! What was that man's name again, wasn't it Kirmo? Yes, that's it!"
"It's right, I see it in this letter." Leefa had opened the envelope in the meantime. "It says: "I have left Maxim's party to help Dr. Kirmo with a slight pollution problem. But that's not bad, because they already have a new member in the party: an elfin warrior called Artey. I just hope they do allright. It's not just their fate that hangs in the balance. It's the fate of the whole world." Oh, he's there..." She looked at her sister. "Did it help you?"
"Yes. Now at least we have an idea of where to go. Should I tell him to return to you as soon as possible?"
"Yes, you do that. And Alyse... may I ask you a question?" Alyse had already turned around to pack her and Dekar's stuff.
"Yeah, go ahead." Her sister's tone of voice was enough to make Leefa hesitate.
"Why are you helping Dekar out? I mean, you are total strangers to each other..."
"Well, err..." She gazed at her feet for a while. "Let's just say that it's a service I prove to a fellow warrior..." She went towards the door with the two backpacks. "Hey, you take care now, big sis."
"You too, Alyse. Be very careful. And that doesn't only extend to fighting monsters!"
Dekar had found a captain who had agreed on taking them to Portravia for free - as long as they didn't mind them passing the night in Ferim. Alyse didn't mind at all: she had the chance to meet her little brother again. When he had left, about five years ago, he was nearly twelve: he'd be seventeen by now, she figured. Her thoughts were a little bit slow, probably because of the noon sun, that stood high in the sky and burned fiercely. She figured a little siësta would do her good, so she went down to the quarters the captain had designated to her and Dekar, and straight to her bed. ...But she couldn't sleep. She lay there, turning around countless times and thinking of Kayle, who had taken the mysterious drawing along with her into the grave. Kayle, the most gentle of her two sisters...
Dekar was feeling a little sticky, especially with the high noon sun burning down on him and the heavy armor on his shoulders. Maybe a siësta would do him some good. Or at least a little freshening up... He went into his quarters, where the captain had put a few buckets of river water for washing and drinking. He took off his armor and shirt, and admired himself. His years of fighing and endurance had given him a trained and slender body. There wasn't a single man that could say he looked like that with less training than him. He quickly splashed some of the cool water on his chest and arms, and his hair was also moistened to relieve the headache that seemed to be part and parcel of the warm and dry weather. He opened the curtains between the beds and the rest of the room... and suddenly stood in front of Alyse.
Alyse was startled by the warrior, who had come in without her hearing him. And there he stood, his upper body gleaming of all the sweat and the water that dripped from his hair. She shivered: it wasn't the first time she had seen him like that... but it was the first time she noticed how well-trained he looked. Well-trained, smooth, strong and handsome. A warm feeling went up to her cheeks as Dekar neared her...
"Alyse, what are you thinking of?" He wasn't grinning at all that time, but looking rather worried. "What's the matter?"
"I... I... I haven't..." She didn't manage to say what was on her mind.
"Haven't what?" Dekar was, as usually, direct in his question, and didn't have a clue as to what was making her blush until he followed her gaze to his well-toned and bare upper body. "...Oh..."
"Y-You're... really..." Alyse's voice sounded a bit muffled because she had buried her face in the pillow.
"Yeah. Sorry for that. I didn't know you were here. But don't worry, I won't bother you for long. Just came to get me a towel, y'know, to dry off my hair." He realised how difficult it had to be for her. He, too, was ashamed.
"Here you go..." She got up and threw him a big green piece of cloth, which he accepted immediately. He turned around and left her.
"Thanks!" His friendly voice was light with embarrasment, and for the first time it hit Alyse that he had a hard time being around her as well as she had being around him. She still remembered his reaction to her that first day, and her shame afterwards. Now she had placed him in the same situation, and his reaction did not differ from hers...
"Hey, Alyse, you might be a little confused, I think..." Dekar had spoken, shattering her thoughts like a frail glass.
"How come you think that?"
"Well, you threw me a sheet instead of a towel..." She couldn't believe her ears! Her first reaction was laughter, and it was enough to make Dekar chuckle as well. "I know my physique is very handsome, but please don't let that distract you, m'lady... There are more beautiful men out there!" She was thrown back into reality by him saying that. He had been absolutely right, she had been distracted: a very fatal mistake, especially for a warrior such as herself. What WAS she thinking?! She had sworn to her brother never to falter in battle! She had sacrificed her emotions in order to become the very best warrioress in the world! ...She had given up all men because they'd only come in between her and her sword...
The captain's ringing the bell had given them peace of mind... for a moment. The palace of Ferim was a very beautiful building, and it was very obvious that the architect had been a man with much fantasy. The roofs were slightly asymmetric, and the towers looked frail. But the beauty and the wondrous colours on the inside were enough to capture the two warriors' hearts. The captain had pointed out the inn where they would spend the night earlier, so Dekar and Alyse split up: Dekar went to see an old friend of his, while Alyse would search for her brother and aunt.
She didn't have to look long. Her aunt recognised her immediately, and ran towards her with an amazing speed for a woman aged 70.
"Oh, Alysandra! My dear Alysandra! I thought we'd never see you again!"
"Auntie Maya! How glad I am to see you... Still in shape, I see?", she remarked while pointing to the older woman's right leg, that had bandages wrapped around it and a metal casing over the knee. "Wearing armor as well... Never doubted the fact that you'd wear armor some day, just as you told me..."
"This was not the way I meant it to be, mind you. But hey, it's armor and an old girl like me can't expect much more... How's it going nowadays? ...Don't tell me: only Henny, you and Leefa have survived. Yes, just as I had predicted."
"Oh, you know we didn't doubt your predictions. We just didn't want to think about our future." Alyse embraced her aunt, but let go when she heard an unfamiliar deep voice behind her.
"Aunt, who's this?" Both women turned around to him: a young man, clearly very intellectual and highly educated, with pitch black hair at mid-length cut around his face. Deep blue eyes gazed directly into hers. A long nose and an oval face made him look attractive, which was even more accentuated by the slightly visible stubble on his chin. "I don't recognise you, miss, who are you?"
"Oh, Henny, don't you remember me?" Alyse had turned around, answering his question gaze with a warm smile.
"No, I don't. How come you know my name, anyway, miss...?"
"Alyse. I am Alysandra, your sister. I can't blame you for forgetting about me, since you were a small boy at the time you had to leave... but now, I've returned to visit you."
"Alyse?! No... that can't be! I thought you had died in that fight!"
"I nearly did..." She showed him the scar on her cheek, which seemed to be even more serious-looking in the orange evening's light. "I've wounded the stranger badly: no ordinary human could possibly recover from those wounds without some resurrection spell! Which I doubt he'll have..." She neared him, and immediately she recognised her father in him.
"Henny, do you know..."
"Yeah, I know. I've grown up to look just like dad, didn't I?" He scratched his chin. "Could use a shave. I'll come pay a visit to you as soon as I look more or less... presentable..." He took his frail aunt by the hand. "C'mon, aunt. Let's go home to freshen up, then we can go see her."
"Oh, okay, Henny. We'll be around the inn after dinner, say seven o'clock?" She took a good look at Alyse. And suddenly, for a reason unknown to her, Alyse realised that she didn't see her family's traits in her. It confounded her to no end.
"Oh... okay, but remember, only for an hour or two. Dekar promised me to train a little before we go to sleep..."
"And who might this Dekar be?" Her aunt was one and all attention: Alyse quickly guessed what she was thinking... for she could not deny that the idea had crossed her mind several times that day since she saw him in their quarters. A blush made her aunt giggle. "Don't worry, I know he has to be a real man if he wants to get your attention! I'll head to my house now. You go back to the inn and freshen up, too. See you later, dear niece of mine!"
In the meanwhile, Dekar was sitting at his friend's. Miro, a tall warrior with a gentle attitude, had just brought him a drink (his favorite one, from their training together in the labyrinth north of Bound Kingdom). The hot noon sun had dimmed a little and the soft breeze eased their minds.
"My, my, I never would've thought you'd still be walking over the face of the earth... Not that I doubted you. Never!"
"Ah, well... I couldn't have guessed you'd settle down here and become a quiet man. Have you even trained lately?"
"Nope. Ferim is quiet now, even though everything has been in an uproar lately. Those four heroes coming here... but that's not the only thing. We saw a heavily armored man coming from the Northeast Tower, a man brandishing a halberd that no living soul could possibly use..."
"Wait a minute! How long ago is this?" Dekar knew instantly that those had to be Maxim and the group.
"Erm, let's see... They left four to five days ago."
"And the man? Where did he go to?"
"I think he went south, to where Barnan and Durale are."
Dekar did some quick thinking. First of all, they were gaining on Maxim's party. Second matter, the armored man that emerged from the temple could not possibly be Gades for he used a halberd. It had to be one of the four other Sinistrals then! But who? Suddenly, his thoughts were rudely abrupted by Alyse, who had come running to them.
"Dekar! My aunt and Henny will come to visit us. If you'd like to freshen up before then, now is the time..."
"Okay. I'll be right there. Just let me say goodbye to Miro here."
"Oh, dear, I was being a little rude, wasn't I? Why don't you introduce me?" Her sweet smile melted Dekar's heart.
"Allright then... Miro, this is Alyse, the girl who saved me in the Karlloon Shrine after it exploded. Alyse, meet Miro, my lifetime good friend and training partner under Sir Eric. Miro just happens to be my mentor's son."
"I'm charmed. Although I haven't really heard about you, I can guess that you're a kind man, Miro." She turned to Dekar. "If you really want to get freshened up, now is the time!" She ran towards the house where they would be staying: with a sigh, Dekar got up from his chair.
"Well, Miro, I'll come back this evening, when her aunt and brother have left... but only for a while. I've promised her something..."
"Well, well, Dekar..." Miro grinned wickedly. "What do we have there? A woman by your side? Tssk-tssk!"
"Miro, quit it. She saved me, that's all. We do not have anything going on."
"Okay then. Look me straight in the eye and say it out loud. Say that you do not love her and that you never will."
That was the very first time Dekar was ever ashamed. Not because it was his best friend asking him to do that. No, because he knew it was true. He DID have feelings for Alyse. They had slowly grown inside him, silently burning in his heart.
"I... I..." He averted his eyes to avoid his friend's mesmerising gaze. "I can't... I want to say it, but I just can't..."
"Heh... don't worry. After you left, my mother had a little talk with me. She said that, no matter what my father might have said about women and fighters, it was a bunch of nonsense. My father wasn't any less himself when he married my mother. He wasn't insane, just madly in love. And you know what? It isn't even that bad to be in love..."
"I don't think so either. It's more like a warm feeling running through you. But now, I really have to go. I want to look like a real gentleman when Alyse introduces me to her brother and aunt. See you later, Miro!"
"Yeah... and good luck, old fighter!", his friend said as he left.
After a nice shower, Dekar felt much better. He had brushed his hair until it looked at its best, cleaned his teeth and even shaved. The man looking back to him in the mirror was someone Dekar didn't quite recognise. Could that suave, nice-looking, handsome man really be the fierce warrior he was? Was it a disguise or were both the same? He didn't need to search for an answer; Alyse gave him one.
"Why, how incredibly nice you look, Dekar! I nearly didn't recognise you... You look so... gentle now..." And handsome too, she thought. It had been quite a shock to see him. His hair, that had been a dense mass on top of his head, was neatly combed. The stubble that usually gave him the roughened warrior looks, was gone and revealed a good-looking face with pronounced cheekbones and cute dimples in his cheeks when he smiled. But best of all was the smile itself. His teeth were slightly assymetric, a small flaw of nature, a tiny imperfection that made her adore him even more. Dekar noticed the hard time it gave her and quickly turned away from the mirror.
"Should I wear something nicer than this armor as well?"
"Yeah, you'd better do that. My aunt does like men in armor, but my brother may be a little uncomfortable seeing you in your battle attire." She smiled: at least he hadn't noticed her feelings for him.
"But then, shouldn't you wear something nicer too? I mean, the armor suits you nicely, but that IS a little too, errm, revealing, isn't it?" He didn't look at her when he said so: afraid to hint even the slightest bit of affection.
"Oh, I guess you're right... I'll wear a nice summer's dress then. The climate is sure hot here, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. A very beautiful evening anyway... Would you like to go swimming tonight?"
"Oh, okay. You know, I really enjoyed the soothing feeling of the cool water yesterday. I can't wait to swim again!"
"Oh, but the water isn't cool around here. With the warmer climate and all..." He bowed his head, averting his gaze from her searching eyes. "I don't think it'll be really cold, but anyway it'll be refreshing. Come on, now you get ready. You have a long evening ahead of you... and so do I..."
Dekar went downstairs to eat dinner: a nice stew with steamed vegetables on the side, good and healthy food Dekar enjoyed eating more than anything. The tender meat simply seemed to melt in his mouth. For dessert, there was fruit: exotic things like cantaloupe, oranges,... In the meantime, Alyse had come to sit down next to him. They finished eating and turned towards each other. In the dim light of the late evening, Alyse looked stunning. The dress she wore, a yellow-and-red thing that had embroideries all over it, made her look eerie and enchanting: Dekar tried desperately to contain his emotions, but for one short moment, he was sure she could see the way he was attracted to her.
"Well, they should be here any minute now. We'd better sit down there, hadn't we?" She pointed towards the "salon", a secluded corner of the room where a few comfy chairs stood around a low table.
"Yeah, I think so too. I mean, we should make a good impression, now shouldn't we?"
"Uh-huh..." She walked - graceful as ever - towards one of the chairs. Dekar, admiring her sudden feminine behavior, followed. After another ten minutes, Alyse's aunt and brother came in, looked across the room and quickly found them.
"Oh, hello, auntie! Hi, Henny. How nice you could come so quickly!"
"It's nothing." Henny had changed the dull gray librarian's uniform for a more informal oufit: dark blue trousers, black shirt and dark brown boots. The keys to the library were clipped onto his belt. "I mean, what's a minute or two less in eating when you get to talk to your sister, who you haven't seen in years?"
"Oh, Henny... You shouldn't rush your meal... not for me, anyways..." Alyse grew a little concerned.
"Don't worry, dear niece. I take good care of him. Besides, he ate a lunch fit for a giant!" Her aunt's funny remark loosened the tensed atmosphere a little, as the company seemed to relax.
"Now, I didn't quite have the honor of meeting your friend. Why don't you introduce us?"
"Oh, okay..." She blushed, her aunt had emphasized the word "friend" a little TOO much. The last thing she could use right now was Dekar knowing of her feelings of him. "Auntie Maya, Henny, this is Sir Dekar of the Bound Kingdom. I've saved him from certain death after the shrine near my house exploded. He has become a good companion and a close friend ever since. Dekar, meet my aunt Maya and my brother Henny. Henny was put up here, with my aunt, after the stranger attacked our family and killed my mother. She has taken good care of him, as you can see." Dekar shook Henny's hand.
"Why don't you tell us more about yourself, Dekar? I'm very interested in finding out who you are."
"Oh, okay..." The rest of the evening was spent with happy stories of Dekar's life, Alyse's childhood and Henny's tales of what happened after he was sent to his aunt.
"She kept me on a candy diet for a week, I had lost enough weight to look totally sagged!"
"Oh... nine o'clock already, Henny! You have an early day tomorrow... and I'm sure the captain of that ship you're sailing on would appreciate punctuality as well, Alyse."
"Yeah..." Henny stretched himself before he got up from his chair. "We'd better get going... I hope you'll return to this city soon."
"I will. Dekar, will you see them off? I've got some unfinished business to attend to. Bye, auntie! See you again soon, Henny!"
"Bye!" They walked towards the door, lead there by Dekar. Henny helped his aunt over the doorstep, and took the opportunity to talk to Dekar in private.
"Dekar... My sister is fond of you. Really fond of you. She couldn't keep her eyes off you the whole evening. Now don't you go and hurt my sister... treat her gently, even if you don't feel the same way about her..." He shook Dekar's hand again, and then disappeared into the cold night air. Dekar was amazed by his words. Alyse liked him... she liked him the way he liked her... It didn't shock him, but in a way it awoke a part of him he had never even thought of. An urge for unknown feelings, described by even less known words, entered his heart and made him tremble. He scribbled a note for Alyse and slid it under the door of their room: "Have gone to Miro. Be back in half an hour, Dekar" Quietly, he walked through the nightly sky, unaware that two eyes followed him from a window...
"I'm telling you, she was breathtaking! ...For a girl that has trained since childhood, that is." Dekar re-filled their glasses, as he found his friend in a cheery mood. He had known that his friend enjoyed drinking an occasional glass, but also that he had a bad resistance for alcohol. The occasional glass was enough to make him a little tipsy.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right... Wish I had the luck to meet a special lady. I'm stuck here, where there's barely any girl more than "okay". It's dull here. Let's face it, you have luck and I don't."
"And you know what's more? Her brother came to visit us today, an' apparently he thinks that his sis is in love with me." Dekar grinned. It wasn't the first time the two friends had talked about love issues, but most of the time Miro had the problems and Dekar did the listening. Not that it pleased him to see the tables being turned...
"Y'know what? Just try to do little sweet things, like reaching out for her hand and looking into her eyes for just that one second too long. She'll defrost and make her move on you when she's really into you. Just don't do anything rash and you'll be fine." Miro looked up as Alyse's footsteps could be heard nearby. "There she is now. Remember what I said. And have a great time!"
"Dekar? Are you ready?" Alyse's voice sounded different to him: was it because of what he now knew? Was it because her longing echoed inside every word, or was it because his desire blurred out her usual tone? Dekar had no idea. But what he knew for sure was that the feeling of her hand reaching for his was the most comforting thing he had ever experienced.
"What's the matter? Never seen a swim suit?" Dekar blushed. Of course he had seen one, his mother and sister went swimming often before Sheyla became sick. But he had never seen Alyse in such clothes. Her perfect figure seemed to be accentuated by it. He shook his head.
"It's not that... It's just... well, umm..."
"Is it me?" Now Dekar blushed even more: his cheeks turned bright red.
"N-no! You're beautiful, it's not you!" What did he have to say? She had bought the swim suit only for him. He knew it, he felt it. She seemed to anticipate it, dove into the water and splased some onto him.
"Come on, Dekar. The water is wonderful! Oh, but you can't swim in your regular clothes... that's why I've got you something. I just hope it's the right size..." She pointed to a small leather bag she had brought along: swimming trunks in a deep shade of purple. Dekar was perplexed. "Go ahead, put it on. I'll turn around, I won't look." She turned around ostentively, giving Dekar the opportunity to try it on: to his surprise, it fit him perfectly. He dove into the water after her and they swam along the coast for a while.
"It's a beautiful night. I don't think I've ever seen so many stars!" Alyse kept on gazing upwards. Dekar followed her gaze. They both didn't dare to look at each other: afraid they'd give away what they felt. Afraid of disappointment.
"I've seen the stars in many cities. But they're absolutely more beautiful here!" He looked at his companion, her body gleaming softly in the pale light of a crescent moon. He silently swam closer to her, but taking care not to startle her. Miro had spoken very meaningful words. If he acted too soon, it could have the wrong effect. Alyse dove underwater, at which point he heard a distant rumbling. He paid no attention to it then: all his senses sought for Alyse. There she was, swimming in front of him, swift as a dolphin. He caught up with her and they swam back and forth between the place where they had dived into the water and a big tree. They were so caught up in their activity that they didn't notice the thunderstorm until a mighty rumbling was heard, as if it came forth from the earth itself. Alyse froze, then she swam towards the coast with amazing speed.
"D-dekar, let's get out of the water and some place safe!" Her voice was filled with panic, Dekar followed her and they ran to a nearby cave with their clothes as it started raining.
"I-I'm so scared! I... I..." Alyse shivered in fright... until she felt two strong arms around her: Dekar held her in a tight embrace. She blushed. "W-what are you doing?!"
"I can't help it. I must confess that I am a little afraid myself."
"Oh..." Dekar looked away. He had seen his chance and took it, but now... She didn't seem to be too pleased with him holding her so tight. Just as he was about to loosen his grip on her, he felt her arms slip around him.
"Now what are YOU doing?!" He was truly amazed that time.
"What does it look like? I'm holding you..." She brought her lips towards his, and while the rain poured down from the sky outside the cave, they were drowned in a deep sea of love, amazed and taken over by their growing feelings for each other.
"Dekar, I think the storm is over... We should be getting back now..." They had dressed themselves. Dekar took a quick peek outside, and indeed the storm had passed. The moon was visible again, shedding its soft light on the coast.
"Yep. Let's head back. I know I'll be having pleasant dreams tonight... especially after seeing your..."
"Dekar!" Alyse blushed as she kissed him to silence him. "Don't you ever go round telling I did that!" Her kiss grew more tender. Reluctantly, they let go of each other. "I know it's hard, but when we're fighting an enemy... this is a weakness, you do realise that? But it's the best, most pleasant weakness I've ever had", she added teasingly.
"C'mon, let's get back to the inn before I lose my self control." They went back to town, arms around each other. The darkness of the night had been their cover, and only the moon had been their witness... but far off, on a lone island, someone chuckled.
"She has no idea that I know the truth. Not even the slightest clue!" And the man speaking those words took up his halberd again and went off to Barnan. "Little do they know of their terrible fate, and when they find out it'll be too late!"
The next day, when the ship took off towards Portravia, Dekar stood uneasily on the deck. The seabreeze made his hair itch, and he was constantly scratching in the dense blueish mass. Alyse noticed something was on his mind.
"What is it, Dekar?", she asked worriedly, "What are you pondering about? ...You aren't feeling guilty about last night, are you?" She put her hand on his, making him smile.
"Oh, no, I'd never ever feel sorry for loving you! But, it's just that we've been underway for such a long time already, and I haven't even seen a sign of the Sinistrals... I'd begin to think they've given up."
"Hmmm... Maybe they aren't after you, but after Maxim. The party thinks you're dead, so why wouldn't the Sinistrals think the same?" She cuddled up against him. "But I'm happy you're still around. Think of all the things I would've missed out on!"
"Yeah, I'd be sad to have missed those things, too. ...Oh, wait, I wouldn't be sad then. I'd be dead." He grinned. "Fate has some weird ways in mind for me. Nearly dying in an explosion; being saved by the most beautiful, strong and intelligent girl I can think of; loving her and her loving me back... But it all seems too good to be true. I'm afraid that the Sinistrals will come and take my happiness away from me."
"Don't be. If they'll come after you, you'll have a powerful ally in battle. I won't let them wreck whatever you have left... Just let them come to you!" She pulled him away from the deck's rim, shivering. "It's cold out here in the mornings. C'mon, let's go to our quarters."
"But I don't know what to do...", he said with a blank look on his face.
"We can think of something, I'm sure."
"Oh, yeah?... Oh, yeah..." The innocent look on his face changed to a mischievous grin as he let himself be dragged to their quarters by her. Willingly.
It was already night when the ship sailed into Portravia, and Alyse wasn't looking forward to their visit there. It wasn't a city with the splendor of Ferim, but it sure was big. The sea wasn't clear blue, but a deep shade of purple that clearly indicated pollution. Big purifier machines stood on the spots where the water was clear. By the time Dekar had joined her, the cables were already fastened and the gangway was in place. The captain said goodbye to them before heading into the pub, while they went to the lab of Dr. Kirmo. Once inside, one of the workers in lab coat came to them.
"Hello, what is the reason of your visit please?"
"Hi there, I am Sir Dekar of Bound Kingdom, and this is Alysandra. We're looking for one doctor Lexis Shaia, is he here by any chance?"
"Yes, he is. Shall I get him?"
"Yep, do that. And be sure to tell him I'm a friend of Maxim."
The skinny girl, probably one of doctor Kirmo's assistants, ran downstairs and came back with a man that was a lot older than even Dekar, probably around forty years old. He smiled and nodded friendly towards the assistant, who went back to work.
"Hello, you must be Dekar. I've heard a lot about you from Maxim and the others... you must be one tough warrior to have survived that explosion. The others just couldn't cope with the idea of you being dead... but they've accepted the idea, I guess, when they didn't hear from you again."
"Well, I've heard a lot about you too, but my good source is Leefa."
"Leefa!" The older man seemed to lighten up when he thought of her. "How is she? I hope she's recovered from her illness after Maxim gave her the Priphea."
"Oh, yes she is. But this charming woman standing here beside me is Alysandra..."
"Alyse", she quickly corrected. "I hate my full name, the shorter version suits me better."
"...the younger sister of Leefa. She saved me when the Karlloon shrine exploded, and has been a very close friend to me ever since. But, to cut to the chase, I - err, we - would like to help Maxim out again. We were wondering where they headed... perhaps you know?"
"Well, Chaed seems to have a lot of monster problems lately. I think they went that way... But, before you go, you should know that we met another Sinistral much stronger than even Gades. His name is Amon, he is the Sinistral of Chaos. And... we have strong reasons to believe that Gades has been revived. Rumors have it that a man has been roaming around with "flaming sword"..." He sighed. "I would really like to get to know you better... but I guess there's still enough time when this is all over. And you too, Alyse, you must keep going. We'll all meet up again when this is over. We all have someone waiting for us. Maxim and Selan have Jeros, their child; Guy has his girlfriend, Jessy; I have Leefa; Tia has a sister; Artea has a whole village of friends and family; and you..."
"We both haven't got too much family left... but we have each other to fight for and to fight with!", they said together. Lexis smiled, he knew that the strongest friendships were made by warriors fighting together.
"Oh yeah, Lexis, you care to go back? Leefa said she was hoping she'd see you back soon..."
"Oh... I'll write her that I'm going to stay here until it's all over."
"You do that, she really misses you. And so does Paula. You've got a family waiting for you to make it complete." They waved Lexis good-bye and went to the inn.
The next day, Dekar got up very early to search for a ship going to Chaed. He found one that was going to make the journey in two days, as he quickly calculated that the heroes would be there when they'd arrive. He didn't think they'd have any trouble since the heroes appeared to be the target of the Sinistrals... and after all, if anything were to happen to them, they'd always have each other to defend? Before the sun had risen above the sea, Dekar and Alyse were already on their way to Maxim's party of friends that had bravely fought their way around the world.
Alyse stretched her weary limbs, she had barely slept that night. A feeling of dread had kept her from closing her eyes, and if she did manage to doze off, a nasty nightmare woke her up again. Dekar had felt compassionate for her and had tried his best to keep her warm. Now he, too, felt a sort of premonition to the danger that was yet to come, and he was tensed. Alyse scratched him behind the ear, causing him to smile and relax a little.
"Oh, you've come just in time... I really needed that."
"Yeah, I know you've always got the itch to feel my hands. Good enough or want me to continue? I can go on scratching in your hair for hours."
"I don't think I can..." He abruptly stopped in mid-sentence when she started scratching behind the other ear as well, cuddling up against his back.
"I know. I'll stop in just another minute."
"Oh no you won't." Dekar swept her off her feet and carried her to their cabin on the big ship. "I just cannot stand you scratching me behind my ears so good without doing something back for you... and I think I got just what it takes..."
They were still in their quarters when the storm began. They didn't notice the tearing sound when the ship was hit by waves. But they did hear the rumbling of the thunder, and so they went back on deck to see what was going on. A wave struck the ship, carrying them overboard... They desperately clung to each other while they tried to keep afloat on a piece of wood that was drifting on the waves, and the last thing they saw before they lost consciousness was a small dot far away, an island...
Alyse came to first. Dekar lay quietly beside her, eyes shut and his hand holding onto hers in a tight grip. She felt weakened by hunger and the loss of strength while floating around on the ocean. After a few hours of searching, she had gathered enough food and clear water for both her and Dekar, whom she had dragged under the shadow of a big tree. He came to a little while after she had returned, and immediately started to eat the food she had brought him. After they had regained their strenght, they started to scout the island to find a way to escape.
"Damn! No way to get off this freakin' island... Not that it's bad being here on a deserted island with you..." Dekar sat down on a rock, his hopes of helping Maxim reduced to zero. "But I could've helped them!"
"Ah, me too. I'm not feeling to happy as well... but hey, at least I've got you. Those Sinistrals won't bug us..."
"Well, if that is what you think... I am so sorry to ruin that illusion for you, child!" A deep and dark voice resounded from behind them. Dekar stood up immediately, taking his sword from its scabbard. A chuckle came from somewhere ahead of them: and from the bushes emerged a warrior, in full armor, carrying a big halberd about the size of Alyse's. But his grin faded as soon as Alyse took her halberd up with a grace and a force only she could ever show.
"You fiend, leave this island and do not disturb our peace again! My strength remains unmatched and I don't plan to lose to you. Go now and you might get away..."
"Alas, but I have come to kill you, the only evidence of my pleasurable job as Sinistral of Chaos... As you might know, I am known as Amon."
"How can I be some kind of evidence of your "job"?"
"Well, you see, mortal woman, it is my job to keep a little chaos in life... that is why I tend to disguise myself as a soldier during wars, or a thief or so. It is my task to fight, to plunder, to do the acts of chaos. But when I see the helpless women, victims of war, I cannot help but grant myself a little fun. That was also the case with your mother. Normally, I kill those women after I had my way, but she got away before I had the chance. I had no idea that things would go the way they have gone... and now you are here, before me, the living proof of what I did. When Daos finds out, he is going to punish me for this. I cannot let you live. I will kill you... just as I meant to do back then... And this time, your brother is not around anymore to help you."
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong, Amon." Dekar, who had said nothing before, stepped forward now and took his sword in his hands. "She has me, and I will not let anything harm her. I, Amon, am Sir Dekar of Bound Kingdom, the strongest knight ever to walk the face of the earth. Before us, you will fall... just like you will before Maxim and his party!"
"Dekar... no. I don't want you to die for me. Go now, and find your friends. They can use your help... Go, quickly!"
"B-but... I... No, I can't just leave you." Dekar cried, for the first time he cried and he truly felt a great sadness take hold of his heart: for he knew he couldn't stay with her, even though he knew there was a great chance she'd never come back. He took her hand and gently pressed a kiss on it. "Come back to me, there's a warm home and a man in love waiting for you."
"You fool! Don't you care for the fact that your children will have Sinistral blood running through their veins? Can you live with the thought that she is MY child?!"
"That depends..." Dekar smiled. "Can YOU live on for all eternity, knowing that she has had your blood? That she, a mortal as you call her, has a strength that can even outmatch yours?"
"For that, you will die!" Amon raised his halberd, his hands gleaming of dark magic as he created a forceful spell to hurl them both away. But in his one moment of carelessness, he allowed Alyse to attack him. The spell only hit Dekar and threw him across the ocean while Alyse and Amon fought for their lives on the island...
"Ah. At last you've regained consciousness! I thought you wouldn't survive. Whatever happened to you, Dekar?" Slowly, he opened his eyes to see Iris, the mystery woman, standing over him.
"I... Alyse and I met Amon on that crescent island. I got hurled away... Alyse?! Where is Alyse?!!"
"Who is Alyse? No one was with you when I found you..." Iris's expression didn't change, although he thought he could see something in her eyes, something resembling...remorse...
"Damn, she must still be on that island fighting Amon! Have you seen a ball of light lately?"
"One, it flew to that island there. It's Doom Island, the living place of the Sinistrals."
"Oh, no... Alyse... He must have..." Dekar his his face from the enigmatic Iris's sight.
"I have to go now, Dekar, but I have tried to help you as much as I could. There's someone waiting for you in the bay, he'll take you to Portravia where Maxim'll be when you arrive. Help the heroes and I think I can still help you... Don't be afraid..." She teleported away, leaving Dekar by himself. The bay seemed empty, until a whale suddenly surfaced, splasing big waves about.
"Oh, so you're the one that was waiting for me? So, how 'bout it, partner, wanna give me a ride to Portravia?"
The whale took him to Portravia quickly, giving him little time to ponder about Alyse. He seemed to arrive just on time: he could see the heroes come out of Dr. Kirmo's lab into a chaos of monsters. He was just within hearing distance when he heard one of Lexis say: "...we'll take care of the monsters."
"B-but..." Maxim seemed hesitant, and it was then that Dekar realised the full meaning of Iris's words: the heroes weren't allowed to hesitate. The future of humankind was in the balance! Plus, it would be such a nice sight to see the amazement on their faces when they saw him...
"Hey! Don't worry, they're just babies!" He jumped ashore while the heroes were still stupefied by his arrival. After having disposed of the monsters quickly, he turned to them.
"You guys, there's no time left. You should go up there and beat them all."
"We're all so happy you're still alive!" Maxim was relieved to see him, he was in fact the most calm of them all. "I never could believe you were gone."
"Heh, they need more than an explosion to get the strongest warrior in the world down."
"Yep, that's Dekar allright!" Selan's soft voice reminded him of Alyse's... Dekar could feel a tear run down his cheek.
"You just go ahead and stop those Sinistrals. They've done enough wrong already. And hurry, there's more in the balance than your lives... there's an entire world depending on your success!" He didn't need to say more: the fate of the world was indeed more important than their personal welfare. They all hurried back inside to sail away on their ship. Only Guy stayed a little longer.
"It really is you, isn't it? Although you are a strong warrior, I did doubt the fact you were indeed still alive..."
"Guy, go with the others, they can't make it without you... We'll have this discussion later. You go ahead and smash some Sinistrals..." Especially Amon, he thought.
"B-but..." Guy was stupefied by Dekar's sudden grim look.
"Later, Guy. It can wait, the world cannot."
"... Okay, Dekar. Don't forget to go to Tanbel after this is over, we're having a mundo party, Artea and me." He rushed back inside, leaving Dekar behind to cry. Not too long ago, he sailed into this city with Alyse by his side. Helpless, he started crying now that the memory of Alyse burned in his mind.
"Oh, Alyse, how can I go on? Your face, your hands, your voice, your warmth, your smile... how can I possibly live without those? I... I..."
He cried when he left Portravia on a boat that day. He still cried when he passed Parcelyte, where he saw Doom Island disappear into the sea. He hid his sadness when he arrived back in Bound Kingdom, but at night, he'd wake up and feel cold inside. Dekar's mind had no other solution than to cry.
The party at Tanbel was really big and joyous, but the fact that Maxim and Selan were gone was a shadow that had fallen over the minds of the ones who knew them.
Guy had announced his plans to marry Jessy in a few months, and thus everyone had a reason to have drunk a little more than usual. Everyone was happy... except for Dekar and Artea. Dekar still felt the sorrow for the loss of Alyse burning inside him, and Artea felt bad because she had recognised Erim's aura. Both hadn't drunk and sat in a lone corner, talking to each other.
"Surely, I did catch a glimpse of Erim's aura, and it resembled some aura I know... I swear to God and to Milka's life, the aura that I picked up on Erim was the aura that Iris tried so hard to mask from me. Iris was Erim! ...But now, it doesn't matter anymore, she's gone now..."
Artea didn't even finish that sentence when the image of Erim appeared before them both.
"Do you think so? No, we're still around, but now that the Dual Blade has gone down into the ocean together with Doom Island, we are awaiting... Until the Dual Blade resonates again, when one of Maxim's descendants is capable of taking up the sword again, then we'll arise once more... But I came here for another reason. Dekar, I have spoken with Arek, our Lord, and he thinks it is a sign of good will when I give you back your happiness. It'll just take a while, but your reward for your belief in good will come soon." She smiled. "After all, we Sinistrals aren't all bad. We are merely one side of the balance, and you are the other, Heroes of the Dual Blade. Farewell, and to both of you a long and happy life!"
It took them both a while to recover from the surprise. Dekar shook his head in amazement, and Artea sought desperately for the disappeared Erim.
"A reward? Happiness again? Are we really only one side of the balance?" Artea still couldn't figure it all out, despite his extraordinary good reasoning skills. "But I assume you know what she was talking about, and that's what matters."
"To tell you the truth, Artea, I do know WHAT she's talking about, but not HOW she's going to manage that. Because, Artea, my "happiness" is called Alyse, and she was killed by Amon." The whole story was told, and more and more, Artea started to understand it.
"Dekar, I think you should know that it was Erim who resurrected Gades after you finished him off. So I think she..."
Dekar didn't listen to Artea anymore. At the entrance to the village, he saw a woman in damaged armor, with flaming red hair and a telltale scar on her left cheek...
"Alyse!" He couldn't control it anymore: all the sadness, all the tears, all the loneliness fell away and the only thing he felt was joy.
"Dekar! Oh, I thought I'd never see you again!" They ran to each other, sobbing of happiness.
"Whatever happened out there? Didn't Amon kill you?"
"He did. But then, a nice lady named Iris came to me and brought my soul back into my body. And the next thing I know, I was standing here. Dekar, I... Do you still love me knowing I am a child of Amon? If you don't, it's okay..."
"Alyse, I would love you even if you were a Sinistral yourself. How can I not love you? You're everything to me... You're the woman I want by my side for the rest of my days because of your strength, and I even want to have a family with you someday. Imagine the strong warrior that'll walk the face of this earth someday saying "Sir Dekar was my father and Lady Alysandra was my mother" and be proud of it."
"Oh, no, I won't settle with that... I want at least one little warrioress."
"Well... we can work on that...", he said while he took her with him to the inn. "We can work on that..."
A young girl, her red hair shining in the afternoon sun, played with her two brothers. They were engaged in a fight, and she seemed to have the upper hand. One of the boys went to his father, crying.
"Daddy, Melia hurt my arm. It hurts sooooo much!"
"Okay, Robin, let me see... just a scratch. Go to mom and let her clean that out, it's all covered with dirt. Melia!", he yelled to the girl, who was just in the process of tickling her older brother, "Come here for a second, and bring Daine with you..."
"What's the matter, dad?" Daine, the eldest son, came running to the house.
"Daine, you'll have to take care of your brother and sister for a week or so. Guy sent us a letter, we're invited to the memorial service for Maxim and Selan. We can't miss out on that, now can we?" In the meantime, they had all gathered on the front porch.
"No, dad, you can't miss out on that. I know how much Maxim and Selan meant to you... but the question is: can these two be calm enough around me for a week."
"That's easily solved..." The children's mother stood next to her husband. "Anyone who misbehaves, will not get any desserts for a week!" She smiled when she saw that they all looked at her... even Daine. "And I mean it. Now, you all go inside and prepare the table for dinner. Your father and I have a little something to discuss." She watched the three go inside, laughing again.
"We did get lucky, didn't we, Dekar dear? Three adorable children, a nice outside house for the vacations..." She sat down next to him, holding his hand intently.
"Yep, we sure did. Remind me to thank Iris once again for her good heart. But now... shouldn't we pack? I mean, it's two whole days travel to Parcelyte... and we couldn't possibly be late, could we?"
"We won't be late. And yes, we'll pack tonight and leave tomorrow." She grinned when she held up a small leather bag in front of him. "Look what I got. It's been so long... Well, go ahead, take a peek!" She gave the packege to Dekar, who opened it slightly, looked inside and blushed.
"Well... it does look nice. Did Jessy talk you into buying that?"
"No, I actually got it from Selan's aunt, it used to belong to Selan. Well, what do you think? Can we go swimming?"
"We sure can. I just hope there won't be a thunderstorm, like last time."
"Well, I rather enjoyed that thunderstorm, since it drove you in my arms."
"And you in mine", he said while he gave her a loving hug, happy as a man could ever be.