Here’s a new chapter for Rage of the Cursed. –enjoy!
Rage of the Cursed Part 12 — Ane Garu
Xallion hated waterfalls. Cold water ran through his hair, trickled down his cheeks and rose goosebumps across his flesh. No matter how many times he did the exercise he always saw it as a petty punishment and nothing more.
He did not mind being told to do things; he was a soldier after all, but the Naechee ideals of finding inner peace was lost on him. I’d have more respect for them if they found inner peace through productive means.
The cold water did help him relax, in a forced sort of way. Like any punishment, it reminded him what he had to do if he lost control.
Rhyys stepped by the lakeside, his outline marred by the falling water. “Feeling better?”
“If I say yes, does that mean I can stop sooner?”
“You’d have to mean it.”
“Then no, I don’t feel better.” Xallion raised a hand over his head blocking the falling water over his head. “The only enlightenment I’m going to get from this crap is a cold.”
“I won’t let you get sick.” Rhyys took a seat by the water edge. “Besides you get over them quickly. Come on out, I want to have a chat with you.”
Xallion nodded, stepping out of the cascade. He pushed aside his hair, now matted to his face, stooped over and shook away the loose moisture. Crisp morning air of the Lakarik north bit at his skin.
Rhyys raised a hand, calling forth a ball of flame. It hovered closer to Xallion, pushing away the morning chil. Xallion cupped his hands close, sidling close to it like a campfire. The falling water petered out and froze in a puddle on the ground. Xallion admired Rhyys’ mastery of magic, almost enough to wish he could use the gift himself.
If it comes with a barrage of useless life advice, I’m better off with my sword.
“You need to control your anger,” Rhyys said. “If you do not, it will bring you sorrow.”
Xallion rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. If it’s all well and good can we skip the lectures today?”
“I’m serious. Left unchecked you may become something you hate. When that happens, you’ll be less than a Wolven. I would sooner put you out of your misery than let that happen to you.”
“I’m trying.” Xallion took a seat next to Rhyys, the little flame followed. “Anything I do brings Loki out, and all he’s interested in doing is killing people. I’m starting to think I should just let him do the fighting.”
“You are better with a sword. And you do not eat people when you kill them.”
Xallion sighed. “Don’t remind me. We may be different, but we share the same stomach. The idea of eating people is… unsettling.”
“It’s no different with animals.” Ane Garu approached them from the rear. She settled next to them, holding a basket of wild vegetables. She shooed away the ball of flame, it settled to the other side of Rhyys. “If you want an alternative… you could always eat with me.”
“No, thank you,” Xallion said. “I’d be feral in a week. Besides, this crap tastes terrible.”
“Not so bad when you season it. I have some honey, some salts and–”
“My answer is still no.”
Rhyys chuckled. “Ane, I have to agree with Xallion. The Wolven are carnivores, if he does not sate Loki, he will simply take over to get what he wants.”
Ane clicked her tongue. “Xallion is a man, not a Wolven. He gets to choose what he eats and the the spoken scriptures say a man’s diet dictates his temperance. It’s a good case for giving up meat entirely.”
“If you buy into that stuff,” Xallion said. “As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing that came out of Rusedan is you, Ane. If the scriptures are so great, why’d you run off to join the southern army?”
She fell silent.
Xallion flinched. Sometimes things just slipped out and he couldn’t blame that on Loki. “Sorry, that was out of line.”
“You’re half right. But I’d like to think it’s not the scriptures at fault but those that abuse them. That’s why I’m here Xallion. This is no time to hide behind walls.” She held out a carrot. “Try it. It’s good.”
He took it grudgingly and bit off a piece. The flesh was sweet, more like an apple than a carrot.
Rhyys took one too, he inspected the flesh of the vegetable as he chewed. “A stream mutation most likely, one of the better ones.”
“A gift from nature,” Ane said. “Those magicked rivers cannot take credit for everything. And honestly Rhyys, do not use magic so lightly, if Xallion need warmth we can build a fire.”
“It’s no trouble at all,” Rhyys said. “It’s good practice to maintain simple spells, magic doesn’t come second nature to humans.”
Ane waved a scolding finger at him. “Because it’s not natural. Just let Xallion and I take care of things.”
“I suppose I could, and we have K’rros to help now too. Where is he, by the way?”
“Writing poetry. If you can call it that. It may be more humane to kill people than expose them to his work. It’s certainly no less violent.”
Xallion wasn’t sure what to make of the burly L’kavrikan. He certainly struck him as strange. “You left him with our supplies, alone?”
“My idea,” Rhyys said. “Better to test him this way than risking him to slit our throats in the night.”
“True I guess.” Xallion rubbed his shoulders. The fire didn’t do him much good next to Rhyys.
“I’ll find some firewood.” Ane stood, leaving the basket next to him. “I’ll make dinner in a little bit.”
Xallion watched her leave, admiring her backside a she vanished into the forest. Rhyys grinned at him, with his usual know-it-all look. It was wierd considering how blind he was.
“Have you asked her?”
“Asked her what?”
“If she wants to bear your children?”
Xallion sputtered on his next bite of fruit. “It’s not like that. I just… like her. That’s all.”
“Enough to roll around in the tent with her, but not enough to face the circumstances of it? You, Xallion, are a typical boy.”
“I mean I don’t even know if I want THAT from her,” Xallion said. He flicked pieces of the fruit at Rhyys’ fireball. “I don’t think she’s interested in me anyway.”
“I say she’s very interested in you, just not in the way you would normally like. If you’re up front about it, she may respect your wishes. Who knows, she left the Cerenish to fight for Rhialn, who is to ay she wouldn’t forsake her holy vows. Char Garu was a holy man, and he had children. IF not for that, Ane would not be with us today.”
“Yeah. I guess so,” Xallion said. He stood, giving Rhyys a small nod. “I’m going to go for it.”
Rhyys gave him a thumbs up.
He gathered his armor and his courage, making his way back to the camp. Tiny stones prickled his bare feet. It made a nice deterrence, an excuse to stop and dress. Perhaps this was what Rhyys looked for in his trials, now he thought it best to push on while he had the nerve.
Ane poked at their campfire blowing gently on the tinder. She was a slim woman and he only got a good look at her in times like these. The fabric of her pants strained against the modest curve of her buttocks and he lingered a bit to admire the sight.
I can’t lose my chance. He cleared his throat. “Ane, I want to talk to you about something.”
“Go on then,” she said, undaunted by his words.
“I… I like you.”
“Aww. I like you too.” She sat up and smiled at him. “You’re the most reliable friend I have. No matter what Rhyys says, I think you have a good handle on your condition. You just need to beileve in yourself.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Xallion tossed aside his armor and stepped closer. “I mean I want to be closer to you. If that’s alright.”
She grinned. “I was thinking the same thing.”
Xallion gaped. “R-really?”
“Mmm hmm. The war is bound to end soon. We need to think of the future. I think you and I should be partners.”
“Yes. Think of it, you and me alone in the forest, sleeping under the stars.” She idly poked at the campfire with a stick, fanning the budding flame. “We don’t need to drag Rhyys along, he’d just get in the way.”
“Ane? You really think that?” He sat down next to her, taking her hands in his.
“Of course. He’s not really the ranger type.”
The smile fell off Xallion’s face. “Ranger?”
“I was thinking, you and I could pledge service to Lady Ireleis. It could mend bridges between the Cerenish and the Ki-Leinah. Wouldn’t thay be great?”
“Yeah… great.” Xallion gave her hand a squeeze. “You can count me in.”
Ane leaned against Xalion and gave him a warm little smile. The ones he’d been enduring for months. “You’re the best, Xal. I hope I’m by your side, always.”