Story:Holy Opposites Chapter 38
Chapter Thirty Nine:
Triera sobbed into her grandfather’s shoulder. “Grampa, I was so scared,” she sobbed. Being back in familiar surroundings had helped her surmount her shock, and now she was blubbering into the old cleric’s arms. “They put… I felt…” she broke down into incoherent sobs again.
Solen gently stroked her back. “I know, little one, I know,” he said. He had spent every one of his healing spells for the day, and there were still so many children to help… but this moment, he saved for his granddaughter. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
Axio and I stepped aside to give the two of them some privacy. We had both bathed and donned clean robes while our armor was under repairs. We had sent all of our gear off for proper maintenance as soon as we had returned the last of the children to the Watch post. Suivi had been waiting there and told us what had happened with Toller’s abortive escape attempt.
Axio had clapped the other man’s shoulder and thanked him for his hard work. Suivi had fallen silent and stared at the paving stones at the Paladin’s words, and then quietly asked if there was anything else he could do to help. My partner had smiled and told the spy that if he meant it, he should stick around, and I suspected he would.
Luanea, Doshellas, and Kyria had returned to the incomplete Temple of the Dark Dancer with a promise to return tonight. For now, Axio and I walked down the hall of the crowded temple and into his room. Axio stretched out on the bed and shut his eyes. “I feel like I could sleep for a week,” he mumbled, running his hands over his eyes.
“I feel like I should never sleep again,” I said miserably. “He’ll be there, behind my lids.”
Axio nodded sympathetically. “Did you get somebody to cast protection from evil on you?”
“Yes, but…” I sighed. “Oh, Axio, I’m so scared,” I admitted. I rested my head in my hands and sank down on the bed beside him, staring at the floor. “Axio, when you put the badge on me, it didn’t stop the illusion! He was powerful enough to break through!”
“When you were near death,” he reminded me. “You’re better now. That potion healed you.”
“Yeah.” I felt pure exhaustion tugging at my eyes. “I… I shouldn’t put this off.”
Axio budged over on his bed and patted it. I settled down beside him and rested my head on the pillow. “Are you comfortable with this?” I asked uncertainly.
Axio rested one hand on my forehead and one on my robed stomach. “I am. Now, lie still.” I did so, and he closed his eyes. I saw his lips move in prayer, and I swear the curtains on the closed window moved as he invoked his great-grandmother. “Sleep,” he said softly. “I’ll be here.”
Suddenly, I did feel even more exhausted. I yawned despite myself, and snuggled up against his flank. I was tired, so… very tired…
My eyes drifted open again, after what felt like a second at most. Axio was leaning back against the wall, reading a book. Doshellas was sitting in the corner now, with a deck of cards spread out on the table before him. Suivi and Kyria were there, too, playing whatever game Doshellas was dealing, while Luanea napped on the other side of the bed, curled up in a ball.
I sat up. “Oh! Uh, hello, guys,” I said. “How… how long was I out?”
“’Bout four hours,” Doshellas said. He looked over from his game and gave me a little smile. “Feel better?”
“I slept like a baby,” I admitted. “My nightmares didn’t come back at all!” I felt stupid for a moment. “I was worried over nothing.”
Axio set his book down and moved to sit beside me on the bed. Luanea stirred. “No, you weren’t,” he said kindly. “Now. Do you feel hale enough to eat? Doshellas was kind enough to bring us something.”
“I could eat,” I said. Doshellas stood from the game and led us out into the rectory, where a repast lay arranged on a table. The six of us sat and ate, just enjoying some silence that wasn’t filled with menace for once.
As we sat and chowed down, I watched Suivi’s movement. He was restrained, quiet, clearly contemplative. I cleared my throat to get his attention. “Are you alright, Suivi?”
He blinked and looked up. “I suppose,” he said. “I’ve… I don’t know. I’ve never taken a cause before. Not like this. I mean, it’s a good cause, and all that, but… I don’t usually like risking my life.”
Kyria nodded. “I get it. It’ll grow on you, though, I promise. I certainly didn’t think I’d pick the life of an adventurer.” She grinned cheekily. “I grew up in a circus.”
“Huh.” Suivi poked his roast haunch. “Well. I suppose I shouldn’t worry about it.”
When we finished our food, we left by common and unspoken decision. After cleaning, Axio led us out to his office, where we had cached the plunder from the base. Kyria set down the money she had made by selling the scrolls.
I stared at the pile of treasure. There had to be over two hundred thousand gold pieces’ worth of wealth there, including the psy-reactive items. Doshellas and Suivi divvied it up as best they could into six roughly equal piles. When they were done, each of us took our shares. “Well, that’s it, then,” Axio said. “I expect your temple will be finishing much sooner,” he said, grinning at Luanea.
The beautiful priestess beamed. “Oh, yes, my friend. Verashon will be delighted when he sees our progress.”
“Verashon?” I asked. I had heard that name before.
“My husband.” Luanea flexed her hand, and her ring shone in the light. “He’ll be home soon, with the rest of our team.”
“As for me, I think I need to vanish for a while,” Suivi said. “Maybe I won’t take you up on your promised trip to Cormyr right away, but I do need to be subtle for a time. The Baneites know me.”
“We’ll keep in touch,” Axio promised, and the spy nodded.
“Yeah. I know.”
Doshellas took his share in silence. I cocked my eyebrow at the pile of money. “Time for some riotous living, Doshellas?”
He nodded. “Thinking about going on an all-expenses tour of every brothel in the Northlands.” He saw us all stare and sighed. “Nobody can tell when I’m joking.”
Kyria giggled. She took her money and hid it away in a bag. “Me, I’m gonna spend some quality time right here in town. Look me up if anybody here wants to spend a few weeks living like a queen.”
Axio thanked each other fighter in turn, accepting a kiss from the women and a handshake from each of the men. When they were gone, he turned to me. “So… I think I’ll keep enough to pay for my armor and weapon repairs,” he said, “then bank the rest. Honestly, I’ve never had this much money.”
“Me neither.” I let some coins run through my hands and thought. “I… I don’t know. I guess I’ll tithe some to the church, pay for my armor repairs, but… I guess I can spend the rest when I want.”
“Indeed.” Axio swept his money into his own bag and put it in his desk. “Well. I know you just woke back up, but I need to sleep.”
I fidgeted. “Axio, can I… I mean, do you mind if I stay with you again? I’m really scared of sleeping alone.”
He nodded. “Sure.”
I managed a feeble smile and joke. “I am sorry I’m making you share a bed without some pleasure to show for it.”
He sighed and affected a long-suffering look. “Yes, well, my harem gets the vast majority of my attention. They can wait one more night, and control their envy.”
“You have a harem? Are they hiring?” I teased.
“They are. The benefits are great,” he deadpanned.
I laughed. It was the first time since my torment that morning. He grinned, white teeth in pale skin. “That sounds like music,” he said warmly. “I think you’ll be alright.”
“For now.” I hesitated. “Actually, wait.” I ran out and down the corridor.
I caught up with Luanea in the hall, right before the main temple. “Luanea, can I ask you something?” I called after her.
She turned and nodded. “Of course, sister, what is it?”
I waited until the others were out of earshot before continuing. “Luanea, when I was unconscious on the floor of that cleric’s office… I was having a vision,” I said. “It was Asmodeus, controlling me.”
Luanea clasped her hands at her waist and listened. I forced myself to continue. “I was being raped, and I was raping other people… it was horrific. You said before you’ve counseled people who needed your help with getting over sexual trauma, so…”
“Say no more,” she said. “I would be happy to help. Meet me at the Temple of the Dark Dancer whenever you feel the need to talk.”
“Thank you.” I turned my gaze to the floor and sighed. “I know it sounds silly, comparing a vision of rape with the actual thing, but…”
“But you were under mind control, which amplifies the feeling of violation and suffering,” Luanea supplied. “Don’t sell yourself short. Come talk to me.”
I hugged her, and she returned it without a moment’s hesitation. “Thank you, my friend,” I said sadly. When she was gone, I retired to the garden, where Solen was hard at work.
“Ah, Sister Cavria,” he said. “How may I help the heroine of the hour?”
“I was about to ask you much the same question,” I remarked. He was shifting a mass of clay in his hands, preparing to cast stone shape. “Rebuilding the garden, I take it?”
“I am. We must be vigilant. I fear no slaves of the Hate Prince,” he said coldly, “but we should not leave ourselves open to reprisal.”
“Smart. Is there any way I can help?” I asked.
He pointed a finger at a thick pane of glass. “Yes, if you wish, my dear, hold that in place there as I shape the frame around it.”
I did so, and we labored together for a while as the sun sank behind the city. When we were done, I stepped back and surveyed our handiwork. “I think that will do, for now.”
“Indeed, until the masons come to do the detailed work,” Solen agreed. “Now, the day’s been long, and imagine you’re weary.”
“I napped today, and I could still fall over,” I chuckled. “See you the morning, sir.”
When I returned to Axio’s side, he was already dressed for bed and lying above the covers, reading his book. I slid out of my robe and under the covers before he looked up. “So… what are you reading?” I asked.
“A little book of history. ‘Athkatla and the Spellplague,’” Axio said. He read in silence for a while as I lay there, calming my mind and stilling my fears. Eventually, he looked down at me. “Are you alright?”
I closed my eyes. “I will be.”
He set his book down. “You can put your badge on,” he said. “Would you like me to try praying over you again?”
“No, thanks. I need to see if I can sleep without your help.” I looked up and met his eyes. “How can you be so calm? After what we saw in that dungeon this morning…”
He looked sadly out the window at the city beyond. “It was horrible, yes, but… we saved nearly all the children we could, and we punished the guilty.” He looked back down at me, and I could see the grief written on his face. “It’s not perfect, but we won. We did. I’ll let Ryaire be my judge. As for the sacrifice victims who actually fell into the Banehold… well. Ryaire alone can save them now.”
“How do you deal with knowing you can’t save them?” I asked.
“Poorly.” He rubbed his eyes. “But… I know I saved some. Most. I know I may yet save the lost ones, should I find a way to travel the planes, and Ryaire may barter them back… I won’t give up.” He looked depressed at the prospect, though, and changed the subject. He settled down above the covers and looked up at the ceiling. “Cavria, I admire you,” he said.
“You fight harder to overcome your intrinsic nature than anybody I’ve ever met. Everybody struggles with their true nature, of course, some far less than others.” He studied his hands in the dim light of the corner candles. “I have never tried to struggle much. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, as an Aasimar does, and of course… I have my faith to help me with what struggle I do face.” He looked over at me. “You, however… you face your inner self like a beast, and do so without a hint of hesitation or fear. You take a struggle I have never had, and you make it yours. If every mortal displayed your sense of commitment, we’d never miss a recruitment goal. If every immortal had your conscience, we’d be out of work.”
I blushed. “Axio, that’s so sweet.”
He grinned. “It’s true. I think you should reveal your true nature to my parents when they return from their tour to Secomber and Daggerford. A word from Grandfather, Triera, and me would put them at ease. Mother especially will come to respect you.”
I snuggled down under the covers and smiled at the dark window as he snuffed the candle. “Well, Axio, that’s encouraging.”
I frowned. “Aren’t you cold?”
“Not especially. It’s a warm spring. Aren’t you hot?”
“Very, actually,” I admitted. “But I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“How would you?”
“I’m not dressed for the winter,” I hedged.
He scoffed. “Cavria, six of my closest friends are Eilistraeean clergy. Attractive women do not bother me.”
“Fair enough. How did you fall in with them, anyway?” I asked, as I slid out of the bed and lay down on top. Sure enough, my lack of dress beneath the robe I had shed was not greatly bothering him, though I did notice a few sidelong looks.
“Well, Luanea was already a priestess when I was a child,” he said. He stroked his chin, recalling his odd youth. “My parents would often work with the Eilistraeeans to fight the Spellplague-touched monsters that attacked the outskirts of the city. The rest of her team, I met when I was older and began my military training. I’ve worked with the trainers of many of the local Paladins that way.” He yawned. “Well. I’m exhausted.”
“Right.” I closed my eyes, too, and the room went dark without my light to illuminate it. “Good night.”
|The tale of the Holy Opposites ||
|Arc 1: | Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 |
Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10
|Arc 2: | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 |
Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20
Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25
|Arc 3: | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30|
|Arc 4: | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Chapter 33 | Chapter 34 | Chapter 35 |
Chapter 36 | Chapter 37 | Chapter 38 | Chapter 39 | Glossary