Author Topic: Preparations  (Read 1268 times)

Shaye OConnor

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« on: May 30, 2015, 10:45:07 AM »
Over the months since the True Queen's army had begun to march south, it had become increasingly obvious that Clan Tarven - the first of the Wild clans to join them - enjoyed a position of prominence over the other clans. There was deference given to those of Clan Tarven from the other clans, especially to the Domus and his daughter, for their close blood tie with one very special, if hideously ugly, woman. Kari was the Goddess-born of the Wild Ones, the only one of her kind, and though to the Arctrans she seemed to embody every caricature of the witch, the hag, and the crone, they had learned very quickly not to offer her any kind of insult. She kept mostly to herself among her own kind, but there were days when she moved into the camp proper.

On the afternoon that followed the assassin's attempt to kill their young queen, Kari made her way to the tent set aside for the Commander of the Armies and the First Blade, letting herself in without so much as a cough to announce herself. And there she stood, leaning comfortably on her staff, waiting patiently for the inhabitants of the bed to realize she was there.

A few short hours of sleep was hardly enough to make up for all the sleep they'd lost over the weeks and months of travel and battle - years even. Years spent struggling and fighting both separately and together, and their life-long goal was finally in sight. Just a few more weeks, and they'd have victory. Liam refused to consider any other alternative. These few short hours of solitude he had with Shaye were precious, and he'd given orders not to be disturbed, unless it was absolutely necessary. Apparently, the old woman either hadn't gotten that order or didn't feel she needed to abide by it. Either way, Liam was snoring like a bear hibernating for the winter.

Shaye, on the other hand, was something of a lighter sleeper than her husband, though she'd adapted to be able to sleep through Liam's truly epic snoring. It was worse when he was drunk, admittedly, but even sober, he could be heard from a distance. Under Kari's grinning gaze, Shaye stirred against her husband, blinking her eyes open briefly only to have them snap open at the realization that they were not alone. She sat bolt upright, thumping Liam soundly in the chest to wake him up as the Wild woman cackled happily, thumping her staff against the rug in amusement.

"Happy man sleep sound!"

Startled by the thump to his chest, Liam jerked awake, eyes popping open and instinctively reaching for the dagger he kept close at hand before realizing there was no danger. He fell back against the bed when he saw it was only the old crone - er, Wise Woman - come to pay them a visit and very likely offer a lecture of some sort. He groaned, every muscle in his body stiff and sore. The Commander was not what one would call a morning person. "If you haven't brought breakfast, why are you here?"

Kari eyed him through her grin, ambling over to the bed and making herself comfortable on the edge as she looked at the pair still waking up. "Strong man," she nodded approvingly to Liam. "Strong woman. Two moons, strong baby." She reached over and patted the Commander's crotch, at which point Shaye dissolved into snorts of laughter. The First Blade had never met anyone like Kari, but in close proximity, she could definitely see where Liayna got some of her mischief from.

That startled him even more than the rude awakening, enough that he rolled off the bed to get away from her and ended up sprawled on the ground. "I've got two balls, too, but I'm not letting you count them!" he shot back, stumbling to his feet. "Did you just come here to give us the weather report?" he asked, moving over to the brazier to add some wood to the fire and put a kettle on to boil.

Kari merely grinned, watching him stumble and sprawl his way out of bed. Her wise eyes found Shaye who, despite her amusement, had sobered as she absorbed what had actually been said. "Two months?"

Kari nodded, reaching over to pat the First Blade's midriff affectionately. "Two moons," she confirmed, twisting to look at Liam expectantly. "We stay two nights more," she told him firmly, in a tone that didn't exactly brook much discussion. "Goddess moon, we stay."

"What?" he asked, as he turned to face them both, still feeling a little groggy but starting to waken. What was all this talk about two moons and ... babies? He arched a brow, scowling with curiosity. "Are we talking about us or the Queen and her Consort because as of last night, those two were still trying to figure it out."

Kari waved a hand, dismissing his concern there. "Goddess moon, they know, they make," she assured Liam with a warm nod, rising to her feet with an almost audible creak of her old bones. "We stay, army, two nights more. Two, not one." She prodded Liam in the chest to make sure he understood her. "You go, no vipsana child."

He glanced to Shaye as the old woman prodded his chest, a quizzical look on his face. Did she mean them? But they couldn't have a child yet, could they? Shaye was still the First Blade, and her fate was tied to Arlan's Sword and the True Queen. "Speak plainly. Are you talking about us or them?" he asked. Or perhaps both?

Kari rolled her eyes. If her grasp on the common tongue were a little more complete, these misunderstandings wouldn't happen, and for once, she hadn't dragged her granddaughter along with her to translate. The old woman sighed, moving to take Shaye's hand and pull her out of bed. "Two moons," she said firmly, and patted the First Blade's womb once again. "You, two moons." Releasing Shaye, who sank down onto the bed again as she caught Liam's eye, Kari then planted her staff firmly. "Army stay here two more nights, not one," she informed him. "Goddess moon this night. Vipsana make baby on Goddess moon. Yes?"

There went that brow of his again, arching upwards curiously, but despite his annoyance at being rudely awoken, he knew better than to question the old woman's wisdom. If she said they were staying two nights, they were staying two nights. "Very well," he replied, without argument. He was smart enough to know that there were those around him who knew things he did not, and he was not so stubborn or egotistical as not to listen when they advised him. He looked over at Shaye again, watching as Kari touched her mid-section. He didn't really need a translation to know what it was she was trying to tell them.

Pleased she'd finally got her point across, Kari patted his chest, paused, and then quite deliberately squeezed one of his impressive biceps with an almost girlish giggle. Her grin turned to Shaye. "You lucky woman," she informed the First Blade cheerfully, and took her leave, squeezing Liam's backside for good measure on her way past. "Come night, vipsana be with us. No look."

The old woman's squeezing of his bicep and backside didn't do much to improve Liam's demeanor, scowling at her as she made her way past. He didn't understand everything she was telling them, but he understood enough to know what she wanted from them. "You lucky woman," Liam echoed with a smirk now that they were alone. "It looks like we're supposed to make a baby."

Shaye laughed, shaking her head at the old woman's exit. "It looks as though I'll be passing on the Blade sooner than we thought," she admitted, glancing down at her flat stomach. "How does she know?" Of course, she wasn't going to argue with the announcement. They'd both heard by now how Conall and Liayna's meeting had been predicted by the old woman, and how they had discovered they were expecting a child.
[size=9:3f8154f752][color=indigo:3f8154f752][b:3f8154f752][i:3f8154f752]A glorious death is to be envied.[/i:3f8154f752][/b:3f8154f752][/color:3f8154f752][/size:3f8154f752]

Shaye OConnor

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Re: Preparations
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2015, 10:46:17 AM »
"I don't understand," he muttered, sinking back down on the bed, while the kettle heated on the brazier. It wasn't that he didn't understand or trust in Kari's prediction, but Shaye had been the First Blade for so long, he had almost expected she would always be the First Blade. She'd been a soldier in training right from the first moment he'd met her, and now she was talking about passing the Blade on, but was she to do that now or not until after they defeated Velasca?

"Two months," Shaye mused thoughtfully. "And we're expecting the battle within a couple of weeks." Her quiet confusion eased into a smile. "You realize what this means, don't you?" she asked him, her eyes meeting his with a bubble of excitement. "We're going to win."

"Well, of course, we're going to win," he replied without hesitation, not quite catching her meaning just yet. He had no doubt they would win. They had all of Arctra behind them, and all Velasca had left was Skarran scum. "What this means is I'm not going to get my promised apology," he said, moving back toward the kettle to make two cups of tea in hopes of taking the chill off. "Where the bloody hell is breakfast?"

Staring at her husband as, for the second time since waking up, he failed to grasp the thrust of what had been said, Shaye felt her grin widening, waiting for the penny to drop. "I'll tell the guard we're up," she told him with a chuckle, rising to her feet. "Just you make sure you don't boil your balls."

"Why the hell would I do that?" he asked, turning a puzzled look at her while he juggled the tea. "I have two of them, remember?" he called over as she started toward the tent flap to let the guard know they were up and ready for breakfast. Or at least, one grumpy Commander was. "Maybe they'd get more attention that way," he mused aloud, bemoaning the fact that he didn't get his promised apology in the form of sexual favors, but then he started thinking about what the old woman had said about two moons and it all came together.

Out of sight for a moment as Shaye caught up with what had happened while they'd been sleeping and made a polite request for food, his expression was lost to his wife. When she ducked back inside, however, she caught the look on his face with a smile. "Beginning to make sense now?" she teased him affectionately, moving to duck beneath one of his arms to wrap her own about his waist.

Thankfully, he'd set the cups of tea down on a small table they shared for taking meals in their tent while she was out of sight. The fire in the brazier was doing a good job of heating the tent, and the wheels in his head seemed to finally be turning properly again. "I don't understand how she can know such things," he told her, as he circled her in his embrace.

"Neither do I," Shaye admitted softly. "But she's never wrong. If you and I are going to conceive a child together in two months' time, then that means we are going to win this war. And our queen will have an heir, conceived tonight." She laughed a little, surprised and astounded by that thought. "I think we can safely say that Rory is going to work out where to put it before dawn tomorrow, at any rate."

"I don't think it's Rory that's the problem," Liam murmured. He'd told her some of what had transpired the previous night, which had, in truth, only been a few hours earlier. "Do you remember when we were that age?" he asked, turning to slid his arms around her waist. They'd been nearly as innocent, but hadn't had much opportunity to sort things out before they were separated.

Of course, it had taken them almost seventeen years to put theory into practice, but that was another story entirely. Shaye smiled as his arms wound about her. "I remember when we were just a little younger," she said quietly, refusing to dwell on those first years they had been separated, when they had been of the same age the queen and her consort were now. "I remember stolen kisses, and our secret place. Our tree. I remember being intensely embarrassed every time your hand slipped, or mine went somewhere it hadn't been before." A faint frown touched her brows as she remembered something else, too, but did not say it aloud. He didn't need to know some of what had happened when they were young and separated.

He was tempted to ask what she thought might have happened if they hadn't been forced to go their separate ways, but there wasn't much point in revisiting a past that couldn't be changed. He couldn't help but notice her frown and wished he hadn't mentioned it, touching a kiss to her forehead to chase the frown away. "It makes no difference, lea. We're together now, and no one is going to tear us apart." He might have followed that up with a kiss or three if it wasn't for breakfast arriving at last.

Thankfully, the young woman who brought their food was wise enough to cough loudly outside the tent flap before asking for admittance, giving Shaye enough time to brush a kiss to her husband's chin before untangling herself from him. As the First Blade sought out her boots, the young woman came inside, bearing with her two stewing bowls of beef broth, and hard tack bread to go with it. She set the bowls and trencher down, and stood to attention, her right fist thumping over her heart in the old soldier's salute as she looked to Liam. "Captain Riordan said to tell you that the nomads are breaking camp to set themselves further away from the army tonight, sir," she reported. "He said to tell you that the Queen and the Consort will be joining them after the night falls."

Liam scowled a little at what passed for breakfast yet again that morning, though, as a seasoned soldier, he was accustomed to such things. It was better than going hungry, he thought, but just barely. "Hmm, sometimes I wonder just who's in charge of this army," he mumbled, poking a finger at the hard tack to see if it was edible. "Very well. Tell the Captain I'll be about to check on them myself before long," he said, returning the salute to dismiss her.

"Yes, sir." A second salute, and the young soldier slipped from the tent, leaving Shaye smirking a little as she moved to sit.

She was no more enthusiastic about what passed for breakfast than he was, but in the middle of winter, in the middle of war, no one dared complain. "At least they told you," she offered to Liam with a faint shrug. "Conall has to do what Kari says. They're only traveling with us because of Ariana. Once the queen is on the throne, they'll go back into the wilds again."

"It's not Conall. It's that woman," he replied, emphasizing the word woman so that Shaye knew exactly who he was talking about. "You would think she's the Queen the way she barges in here and tells us we're going to make a baby in two months ..." He broke off, as if that was just now starting to sink into his head. "You say she's never wrong?" he asked, pulling out a chair and dropping into it rather unceremoniously.

"So they say," Shaye nodded, carefully not passing comment on that woman, as she snapped a piece of the hard tack in half, dropping both pieces into her broth to soften before it could be eaten. "They have great faith in her. I don't pretend to understand quite what it is that makes her so powerful, but ... they seem to believe she's their direct link to the Goddess. When Kari speaks, she's sharing what the Goddess has told her. And she told Liayna when she and Conall would meet almost to the hour."

"Mmm," Liam remarked thoughtfully as he, too, dumped his hard tack into his stew to soften it. "I would kill for some fried eggs and fresh baked bread," he remarked, though it had nothing to do with the subject at hand. Instead of the stew, he took a swallow of tea before it got cold. At least, there was that, though they were lacking milk and honey. "Presuming she's right, how will we choose who becomes First Blade? Doesn't someone have to defeat the First Blade in battle before they can claim that title?" He smirked a little as a thought came to mind, but he had his own plans for his future. "I could defeat you, but I've no desire to inherit that title."
[size=9:3f8154f752][color=indigo:3f8154f752][b:3f8154f752][i:3f8154f752]A glorious death is to be envied.[/i:3f8154f752][/b:3f8154f752][/color:3f8154f752][/size:3f8154f752]

Shaye OConnor

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Re: Preparations
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2015, 10:47:01 AM »
"I wouldn't let you try," she told him with a low chuckle, poking at the softening tack in her bowl. It wasn't a bad diet, given that everyone in the camp ate the same and it was the middle of winter. "I know I said we might try a tournament, but time is a little against us for that. So ... maybe get each lord and lady to field their best fighter, have them fight it out between them. Once they've decided on who is the best among them, I can fight that one and hopefully they'll beat me."

He snorted derisively as he took up a spoonful of stew. "You're the First Blade. No one will beat you, unless you let them. I'm not even sure I can beat you." He slurped up that spoonful of stew, not really enjoying it, but knowing he couldn't afford not to eat it. "Who do you think deserves it most?"

Shaye hesitated around a mouthful of the broth/tack mixture, taking a moment to swallow. "If I'm honest? One of the queen's own guards from Phalion or, if they would offer, one of the nomads. As intimately as I know the Sword and the way the binding works, I would rather the title go to someone already loyal to her, someone who has already sworn to die to protect her line." She sighed, looking up to meet Liam's gaze. "The binding of the First Blade can be manipulated, as you will find out when we get closer to Loscar. There's a militia within the walls that I built to resist Velasca, while she was holding the Sword. I'm loath to risk an enemy taking that binding, knowing what I myself have done while sworn to the Sword."

"No one will take that binding from you until after Velasca is defeated. I promise you that. And if Kari truly has the Sight, then we already know that won't happen, but we still need to be careful. We cannot afford to make any mistakes. We will decide what to do about the binding later. For now, it's our secret. No one need know what Kari has told us." He held her gaze while he spoke, a serious expression on his face. Despite his uncertainty about the old woman's gift, he could not deny that she had been right so far, and he'd be a fool to ignore her. "You don't suppose we'll have to listen to the Queen and her Consort grunting all night, do you?" he teased, trying to lighten the subject, though it seemed his Second had already given the order to move the Royal tent, most likely in order to give the couple some semblance of privacy.

The change of subject was enough to make her laugh, shaking her head as she smiled at him. "It's only fair," she countered in a teasing tone. "No doubt they've been listening to us grunting, as you put it, for the last several months." She couldn't help chuckling at that thought. Each full moon that had passed them by had seen the Wild Ones perform their ritual to the Goddess, and there had been several Arctrans who had chosen to be involved in those rites. It was nothing short of a miracle that the queen still did not quite know what to do.

"Yes, and I intend to do more grunting tonight," he told her with a mischievous grin. Just because the Goddess was favoring Ariana and Rory didn't mean he and Shaye couldn't enjoy a tussle or two in the sheets. "And you still owe me for last night," he reminded her. There was little chance he was going to forget that anytime soon. "What do you think of Kari's prediction?" he asked curiously. "I'm not sure what kind of father I'll make," he said, pushing a piece of bread around in his broth.

"Mark it on my scabbard," she told him absently in answer to his comment about debts owed, scraping the last of her breakfast from the bowl with her spoon. Swallowing, she considered him for a long moment. "Liam, if there is one thing that I am absolutely certain of, it is that you will be a good father," she told him quietly. He had Eoghan, his own father, to remember and guide his steps, after all, and there had been no better man than Eoghan O'Connor.

"I'd rather you marked it on my sword," he teased back, sobering as the conversation turned back to his worries about becoming a father. He grunted, as promised, in reply to her compliment. "I've changed, Shaye. I've become grouchy, ill-tempered, impatient, irritable ..." And the list went on. "Hardly the kind of man that makes a good father."

Shaye raised a brow as she looked at him. "Liam ... think about who you're talking to," she pointed out carefully. "I'm the daughter of a whore and the finest example of drunken bastardy in the Queen's Army. I was raised in a brothel, and then on a training ground. I've known nothing but the sword since I was twelve years old, and yet in just a few months, I will be carrying a child in my belly. You cannot be as terrible a father as I will be a mother. It just isn't possible."

"Too serious. I've always been too serious," he added yet one more thing to the list of reasons he didn't think he'd make a good father. But then, he'd carried more than his fair share of responsibility these last years, first as the Commander of the Rebels, and now of the Queen's Army. "I wish you wouldn't talk like that, Shaye. You are the most honorable person I know." Though it would take more than honor and bravery to have a child.

"And you think I'm happy to hear you talk about yourself in such a way?" she asked him, her voice low. "By the time our child is born, we will have a home, Liam. You will be Captain of the Queen's Guard, just as you've always wanted to be, and I'll be your wife, just as I've always wanted. They'll be better times, and we will be different people. Our child will grow up in peace."

The thought of that brought a soft smile to his face and he reached across the table for her hand. "Just as we dreamed of when we were young," he said quietly, his sword-calloused fingers curling about hers. How many nights had he laid awake in the rebel camp wondering where she was, what she was doing, if she remembered him or ever thought of him, if she wished things were different. None of that seemed to matter now though, and if Kari was right, in a few more weeks, all their struggles would be over.

"Just as we promised," she agreed softly, curling her hand into his, her fingertips touching over the scar at the heel of his thumb. She bore an echo of that scar, the only mark on her skin she would forever be proud to bear; the sign of the blood oath they had sworn to each other when they had been little more than children. "Besides, do you really think Meara would let you get away with being a bad father?" she added in a gentle tease, raising his hand to her lips fondly.

He had to chuckle a little at that, even as she touched a kiss to his calloused hand. He was no more the soft, young boy he'd been when he'd met her - when his father had decided it was time for him to become a man. "No, I think she will be too excited about having a grandchild to dote over to worry much about my own misgivings." He paused a moment, growing serious again. "I wonder what he would think of what I've become."

Shaye didn't need him to say who he was thinking of, her hand tightening about his. "He would be proud of the man you've become," she told him, more confident of this than of much else she had to say. "A man who gained power but doesn't want it for himself; a man who only wants to restore what was taken and bring peace back to our land. Eoghan would be very proud of you, rua."

He swallowed the lump of tears forming in his throat, nodding his head without speaking, still a little of the sensitive boy left beneath the rough shell of the man he'd become. It took a moment to trust himself to speak without that tell-tale tremor in his voice. "I wish you would have left with me. Not a night passed that I didn't think of you, that I didn't miss you. I heard of your exploits, of the name you were making for yourself. There were those who called you a traitor, but I never did, Shaye. I knew you too well. I didn't understand why you had done it at the time, but I knew you were no traitor."

Her other hand joined the first, gripping his between them as she looked into his eyes. "I hope you never feel the touch of the Nine on your soul the way I have," she told him fervently. "I never want you to be able to tell me that you understand why I have done the things I've done. It is not an honor to serve a usurper, and it is not brave to bend to the will of another. Ariana will never force her will on me, nor do I think she will for any other Blade that serves her, but Velasca has. The blood on my hands can never be washed clean, rua. I never want you to feel the same."
[size=9:3f8154f752][color=indigo:3f8154f752][b:3f8154f752][i:3f8154f752]A glorious death is to be envied.[/i:3f8154f752][/b:3f8154f752][/color:3f8154f752][/size:3f8154f752]

Shaye OConnor

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Re: Preparations
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2015, 10:47:51 AM »
"You did what you had to do, lea," he assured her, leaning closer and wrapping both his hands around hers as he met her gaze with a fierce look in his eyes - fierce in his belief in her. "There is blood on my hands, too. We have both done what we've had to do to survive. But you should know that I never gave up on you, even when you seemed to have given up on yourself.  And if it wasn't for you, I'm not sure Adare would have survived, so perhaps Kari is right. Perhaps it was the Goddess who guided you - who guided us both."

Leaning into him, she sighed, closing her eyes as her forehead came to rest against his, her hands tight around his own. Those haunted days were over now, but they would always be present; an everlasting reminder of what could happen when greed and ambition reached out to take what it could not expect as gift. "The Goddess, the Nine, I don't care who," she admitted quietly. "I will never be parted from you again."

"No, you will not," he agreed vehemently, giving a gentle squeeze to her hands as his forehead came to rest against hers. Whether it was the Nine or the Goddess or some other force or power that decided their fates, they had been reunited at long last, and he had no intention of ever losing her again, no matter what happened. His thumb traced the half-moon shaped scar on her hand that matched him, remnant of a promise made long ago. "We promised each other long ago. We deserve this, Shaye. Prophecy or no, we will have this. We will defeat Velasca and we will have our dream. I swear it."

"By Thalan and the moon," she murmured, echoing those words from what seemed a lifetime ago. But though they might have wished those days to belong to them now, there was work still to be done, and the goings on of the camp outside were slowly but surely filtering into their tent. Shaye sighed softly, nuzzling close for a long moment. "We have work that needs doing," she reminded him gently.

"By Thalan and the moon," he echoed the promise they'd made when they were little more than children with no idea what the future might bring. He frowned a little as he heard the sounds of the army they'd brought with them stirring to life. "Tonight, you are mine. No excuses," he told her, not taking no for an answer. Whatever duties they had to take care of could be done during the day. Even the Commander of the Queen's Army and the First Blade needed their rest.

"Yours," she nodded to him, leaning in close to press a searing kiss to his lips. "And you are mine. Grunts and all." Her familiar smile flickered into life on her face as she nipped the end of his nose, hands untangling from his to tweak teasingly at his beard. "But first ... I have Skarrans to interrogate, and you have a queen to prepare for tonight." She winked at him as she rose to her feet. "Just remember ... no perfume, and underwear she won't mind having ripped off."

He was happy for her kiss and even the familiar tug of his beard, but the reminder that the Queen was his responsibility for the day made him roll his eyes in anticipation. "I think she would be better served by Liayna. I'll tend to the boy," he said. How hard could it be to explain what needed to be done to a boy on the brink of manhood? He had to have some idea already what went where and why. And with any luck, Kari had already beaten him to it. He thought his time would have been better spent with his men, but it seemed until this little matter of conceiving a child was dealt with, they weren't going anywhere.

Shaye snorted with laughter, rolling her eyes at him. "You don't seriously think I meant that, do you?" she teased him, moving to locate her hardened leather breastplate and bracers. She hardly ever left their tent unarmored or unarmed - last night had been a special case. "You have a lot more to do than teach a boy how to be a man. He'll work it out, and if he doesn't, you can bet Kari will take steps to make sure it happens."

"Yes, I seriously think you did!" he retorted, looking just a little annoyed with her, but then when wasn't he annoyed at one thing or another these days - and he'd never been able to stay angry at her for long, even when he had good cause for it. "Don't work yourself too hard today. I have plans for you tonight, and that's an order!" He smirked a little, proof that he was teasing.

Pulling her bracers tight, she raised a brow at his teasing order, her own lips curving in a smirk that promised he might regret even teasing her with that particular word. "Oh, yes, my lord," she drawled, bending to draw her arms about his chest from behind, her lips close to his ear, and proceeded to whisper in excruciating detail everything he was going to have to wait all day for.

He growled in response to her verbal foreplay, trying and failing to hide the effect it was having on his libido, if she cared to notice, but then she knew him well enough to pick up even the slightest change. His body tensed and his pulse quickened, among other things, but they both had duties to tend to before they could indulge each other's whims. "I should order you to make good on those promises right now," he warned. Though he was the Commander of the Queen's Army, they both knew he held little sway over the First Blade. She was one of a few people who weren't under his command - though he was hoping to get her under his body later that night.

She smiled, pressing a kiss to his cheek tenderly. "You could try, rua," she murmured, straightening once again. She had every intention of following through on those promises - it just wouldn't happen for at least five hours or so. "Should we join the nomads tonight ourselves?"

"Goddess, no!" Liam blurted. "There will be enough moons out tonight. They don't need the two of us prancing around naked shaking our jiggly bits. How could we possibly demand respect after that?" he asked. He hadn't stopped to think the nomads just might respect them more for joining their rituals than not. "I'm sure Conall and Liayna will more than make up for our absence," he added. "Besides," he said, turning to face her, his arms circling her waist. "I want you all to myself tonight."

She chuckled, letting him draw her close, despite the lack of give in her leathers, fingers stroking over his hair, the tangles igniting a wish to bathe tonight and work the knots from the hair he was so proud to have grown long. "I'm always yours, rua," she promised him. "I always have been. But now I have to be the First Blade, and find out exactly who wants our queen dead." As she spoke, the tenderness that belonged to him stepped back from her gaze, the deeply held anger over the night's attack making itself known once again. She had her own suspicions as to who had given the order, but she had every intention of finding it out for certain.

"Is it really that hard to figure out, lea?" he asked, reluctant to let her go, but knowing they both had their duties to tend to, and they were too close to the traitor's camp to get lazy or make any mistakes now. As far as he was concerned, it was either Velasca or her daughter Valeyna who had the most to gain from Ariana's death, though it could have been another in the enemy's camp. The only thing that worried him was whether or not there was a traitor in their midst. If there was, Liam would skewer him or her himself and leave the corpse to be picked at by carrion. The thought of that hardened his heart a little after the tenderness of her touch.

"I want a name," she nodded firmly, stepping away to let him rise and begin arming himself for his duties. "A name I can circulate through the camp, so everyone knows that person must die." For all Kari's predictions, Shaye Dervla was a warrior at heart. If she had to, she would cut out the heart of the instigator herself. Clearing her throat, she threw Liam a smile as she shrugged into the shoulder harness once again, her sword settling comfortably between her shoulder-blades. "I love you, Liam."

Not if Liam got to the instigator first, but time would tell which of them would have the pleasure of that particular task. He took a last swallow of his tea, now gone cold, and started the task of getting dressed for the day, but not before he returned a smile that was reserved for her alone. "I know."

Her smile deepened in answer as she stepped out through the flap of their tent, leaving him to dress in peace. Whatever the guards thought of the grin on her face was their own burden, but most seemed to relax as she moved through the camp. When the First Blade was smiling, the Commander could be counted on to be lenient with those who needed him to be, just for one day. Though many still had reservations about the match, most agreed on one thing, at least - without Shaye Dervla as his wife, this march south would have been even more hellish under the burden of Liam O'Connor's temper.
[size=9:3f8154f752][color=indigo:3f8154f752][b:3f8154f752][i:3f8154f752]A glorious death is to be envied.[/i:3f8154f752][/b:3f8154f752][/color:3f8154f752][/size:3f8154f752]