Chapter Thirteen – Bridging Compassion and Mindfulness
Along the River Ceyr, Mossreign Dale, Southern Dagger Fells Cord
dawn, 1st Set of Compassion, Month of Foundations 8178
Weariness had overtaken him and although he sent to Sahaan, Atirian allowed himself to drift in and out of sleep. The ache in his chest was subsiding but far slower than would be his preference. As a figure appeared at the edge of the wood, the man rest a hand on Khes’ hip, a protective gesture. His senses were heightened more than they had ever been. The scent of the man was familiar, but he knew it was not Sahaan. The bow and clothing indicated a guard, perhaps one he had been near in the Grand Hall. Yet, familiarity tingled in his mind far too intimately for this.
The Calhallan scout held out a pacifying hand then slipped his bow from his shoulder. Atirian studied his forest green and brass-toned skin, the deep orange tattoos. Once he could see glassy, tear-filled cerulean eyes, they were a key that unlocked a deep wound in his soul.
Easing to a knee beside him, the scout set his bow aside. Atirian studied him, each examined every facet of the other’s face. Pelleas look down at his bare chest. His hand raised, fingers trembling as he traced over familiar scars and new ones. Soft shudders escaped as he slowly allowed himself to accept Atirian was real. The Jasuuk was patient, letting him take the time he needed.
~You’re alive.~ A tear finally escaped from the Calhallan’s eyes.
~I dreamed many nights of the life you would choose. Soldier was not one.~
Pelleas expelled a soft laugh. ~A scout, a tracker. Once free of the city, the poisoned Shae wells, I learned my gifts as a thief, it would seem, were more than intuition.~
Emotion overwhelmed Atirian, emotions that felt foreign to him, not his own. ~I thought never to see you again. I have don– ~
~I don’t care. It doesn’t matter.~ Pelleas bowed his head forward, touched his brow to Atirian’s. ~If you are happy… if she makes you happy that is all that– ~
Tears in his eyes, Atirian laughed. Sitting back, Pelleas smeared his face dry with a sleeve then shook his head. ~I’m mistaken? Is she a daughter? I can feel your connection. It’s as if you are intertwined.~
Swiping at his face with exhaustion, confusion, he gazed down at Khes. ~That will require some time to explain.~
~I haven’t called the others. As far as they know, I’m still searching.~
Atirian met his eyes, his own spirit still too raw to risk sharing or bonding via Elhia. ~Just sit with me, please.~
~My spirit knows it is you. The Elhia feels you as true as ever it did but… you are so changed. It is more than just age. Sorrow. Guilt. You don’t carry these for me?~
Taking Pelleas’ face with one hand, Atirian kissed him. The tenderness was a delicacy he had never truely bestowed on anyone, not even Pelleas. It was a vulnerability he never expressed, like exposing himself. In a way, he felt as if the part of him that was now Khes peeled away his armor. Left truely naked, as he should be, he was presenting himself to Pelleas as he never fully had. Tears blurred his eyes and pain clenched at his throat.
Cradling his head, the two sat in an embrace. Brows together, they exchanged simply an essence of comfort and peace, a love lost a century ago. There would be time to share the memories of those years, although this was a pain Atirian hoped to spare his reunited lover.
– – – –
~Sahaan… it is done.~
The simple words came with impressions of a place, a path. Though he touched minds with the man before, Atirian felt foreign to him. The man supposed he was always a stranger. Turning to the Captain, he announced, “Atirian has shown me where to go. Where is Scout het’Satin? He may rest now.”
“My brother went ahead. He has not answered my call.” The woman’s grip tightened on her bow.
Zakeriel stepped forward, “how can we trust Atirian hasn’t killed the scout?”
“I would know,” the Captain snarled.
Sahaan nodded to Zakeriel to confirm this. “Shall we split up? Half the guards come with Zakeriel and I, the others with you to seek out–”
Her eyes narrowed, “so you can protect your new friends?”
~Do you worry for your brother less than you worry I will betray my mother’s command, Greil? Do you deny our friendship now as well?~
Lifting her chin, she looked away. ~Fine. Take Sina and Truei.~
With a bow of gratitude, he gestured for the two women to follow him and Zakeriel as they went the way shown to him by Atirian. It stunned him how far the man led Khes from the holt during their battle. Then, considering the manner and speed with which they fought, nothing should surprise him. Zakeriel half-skipped down the hill to meet him. Before he spoke, Sahaan knew his query.
“He said nothing of her, but, I had an impression she is alive.”
“I don’t know. Perhaps she will have answers.”
“In as much as an animal can speak.” Sina’s terse voice was low, her fear stifled but present.
Sahaan merely touched Zakeriel’s arm, shook his head. He would have no arguments or fighting. Their journey was brief. Although the scout had led them in an odd, winding path through the forest with no manner of logic, Atirian’s path led them straight to the river then South. Not long on their path, Zakeriel brightened as he bolted into a jog. “I see them!”
“And Scout het’Satin…” Truei muttered. “Why does he sit with them, ignore the Captain?”
“He looks unharmed,” Sina noted. “Bewitched perhaps?”
“Enough.” Sahan pursed his lips in agitation. “Stay here if you fear such nonsense. I will simply ask him.”
The two guards followed him, but hung back at a distance, bows leveled. As they drew nearer, he extended a hand for Zakeriel to keep calm and at a pace as well. “Scout het’Satin? You have ignored the Captain… could we not have been here sooner?” The man did not turn around, only hanging his head, still crouched beside Atirian. Sahaan inclined his head toward the Jasuuk. “Atirian?”
“Sahaan. There is much to explain… and apologize for.”
“You are injured?”
“Is she…?” Zakeriel interrupted before Atirian could answer Sahaan’s question. He gestured to Khes, still unconscious, now slumped on Atirian’s lap.
“Asleep only. As she may be for some time. Otherwise, she is wholly uninjured.”
“But she’s covered in blood.”
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