"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.