It was mid-morning on day three of our journey back towards civilization, towards Korvosa, towards home. Things had been quiet since leaving Scarwall Keep – even for our group. We all had a common goal in this – to save the city we called home – but outside of that the bonds of true friendship had never really taken hold and now that we were on the road home without the constant threat of danger it was becoming ever more obvious. We were allies it seemed, but not much more, and as such the days passed slowly as we quietly made our way back across the Cinderlands.
The others were just finishing packing up camp to start today’s march and I was doing much the same – taking a few moments respite to rub Oberon behind the ears and promise him heap loads of sausage upon our return to civilization. He’d more than earned it on our journey – a fact he constantly reminded me of, Sarenrae love him. As I turned back to finishing rolling up my bedroll and securing my pack I saw Triniaapproaching. “We about ready to head out?” I asked as I stood up, hefting my pack over my shoulder with a grunt.
“Yeah,” she responded. “I told them to go on ahead, we’d be right behind them. There’s…there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.” Trinia slid her hand into mine, it felt clammy. She was nervous about something.
“Of course,” I gave her hand a gentle squeeze as I kissed her on the cheek. “What’s on your mind?” Glancing up to see the others a hundred yards or so ahead of us I continued. “We can walk and talk. We’ll keep back of the rest of the group.” Turning towards Oberon I added, “Come on boy, we’re heading out” and gave a quick whistle. I communicated the words empathy and Trinia via our telepathic bond and as Oberon lumbered to his feet he trotted over besides the bard and nuzzled her other hand with his nose, showing her some added affection.
Letting out a soft sigh Trinia turned to me. _ She looks confused, maybe even a little hurt._ “Back there on the ice bridge, you….you changed. What was that? I didn’t even know you could DO something like that!”
“Honestly,” I responded. “I didn’t know I could do that either. Call it instinct, a defense mechanism, whatever you want. I took a vicious hit and somehow tapped into some primal power I didn’t know I had.” I hadn’t really given it thought, but it had obviously been weighing on her. Come to think of it, how had I managed that? Could I do it again? Control it at will? I made a mental note to try again on our journey back. Was there anything else I could do?
Trinia paused for a half-step, forcing me to slow for just a moment as well. “Let’s say that is true…” she started, “and I believe that it genuinely is” she hastily added, gently giving my hand another squeeze for reassurance. “Don’t you think you should try to get a handle on what exactly happened?”
We walked in silence for a moment or two as I contemplated her words. She had a point. The last few weeks had been a whirlwind of activity and Saranrae only knew the other ways I’d grown…changed. “Yeah” I said, “that’s probably a good idea. If nothing else, knowing full well what I’m capable of can only help in the fight to come. Things were bad when we left the city, I can only imagine what they look like now.” I paused, then with an exasperated sigh added “Hopefully we’re not too late to save Korvosa.”
A bittersweet smile spread on Trinia’s face and – finally deviod of the next imminent threat – I remembered how beautiful she really was. “That sounds more like the man I fell in love with” she answered. I raised an eyebrow quizzically as she continued, “The one who was all about saving lives and second chances. Not the enraged brawler, the lost soul out here in the wilderness whose first instinct was to draw blood.”
At that my shoulders sagged a bit and she knew she had cut me with her words. But she was right, since we left the city I’d been quick to anger and to violence. Still, most of that was against monsters and those vile Red Mantis. Creatures unworthy of a second chance.
I took a deep breath ready to speak but Trinia piped in before I had the chance, seeing the hurt in my eyes. “That’s not to say much of who and what we’ve faced has been worthy of redemption. Monsters, undead, and a league of ruthless assassins don’t exactly make for good allies or second chances. I just want to make sure this journey hasn’t blackened your soul…that you’re still the good-hearted hero who stole my heart.”
With that my disposition brightened. “Hero may be too strong a word, I’m just trying to save the city that I love. This journey hasn’t been an easy one, I know, but I swear I’m still that same man. I admit I was starting to lose my way but you’ve been…you are…my light in the dark. Always guiding me back home.” I stopped, tugging her hand to turn her towards me and kissed her deeply. “Thank you.”
We turned and started walking again, trying to keep pace with the rest of the group a hundred yards or so ahead of us. A minute or two passed before Trinia spoke again. “That’s not all I wanted to talk to you about…”
“Okay” I retorted with a bit of a concerned looked. “What else is up?” She didn’t seem nervous anymore. At least not like before. I really wasn’t sure what to expect here but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. It couldn’t be that bad, she did just reaffirm her feelings towards me.
“So we’re heading back to Korvasa.”
“Yup” I countered.
“Umm…I’m not exactly ‘welcome’ there. I mean, I am probably still wanted for the King’s murder. How am I going to be able to just walk around with you guys. For that matter, are you guys even going to be able to walk around normally? I don’t know what happened but I’m guessing it may not be the wisest choice of action.”
“You make an interesting point, love.” I responded. She was right. Again. She couldn’t just traipse through the city streets, and for that matter neither could we. A series of questions ran through my head. Not many answers followed. How bad was the city? Were any of our allies still within the city walls? Who could we trust? How could I keep Trinia safe? Was my mother still alive and well?
“Well,” she squealed in almost child-like excitement, “I think I have the answer!”
Any sense of fear had disappeared, it was more like nervous anticipation in her voice now. She was looking for approval. “Continue…” I said with a wry smile.
“As I said, it’s probably not safe for me to walk around the city what with the accusations of murder floating about. However, we do still have all of Blackjack’s gear AND Vencarlo wants to pass the Mantle AND I’m sure the city would be bolstered by Blackjack’s return!” she practically screamed.
I gave it a second or two of thought while giving her hand a squeeze. “I think that’s a great idea. It’ll let you move around with us more easily and should certainly give the citizens of Korvosa hope – something they’re sure to need if things kept progressing after we left.” I gave her another quick kiss on the cheek. “We’ll let the others know when we catch up to them. I’m glad you brought this up, this was just what I needed.”
And with that we sped up our pace a bit to rejoin the rest of the group, optimistic that the city we both loved was still able to be saved…