The Needed Escape - Selarenia and Conner

   
"I'm here, my love. Rest now," Conner murmured, already there when she reached for him. Crouching down, he let her lean against him, stroking away her errant hair from her face. His eyes, though, raised to regard the Avatar, but he let Selarenia ask the question.

Journey worked on restoring the rest of his wounds, teeth gritted as he forced them closed. "Dravin. Heard he was looking for a party, so I went to go tango with him. Apparently, I'm a bad dancer and he expressed his displeasure."

Conner grimaced. "Who was he going to kill?" The answer came, swift and ugly. "Us."

"And I have few enough humans that I enjoy that it seemed a shame to let the demons eat you two. Her, at least - you it might improve."
Journey tried for a grin, settled for a grimace as the last of his wounds closed.

Selarenia's face turned gray once more and she tightened her grip on her husband's arm. So this was the reason he had missed the celebration. She had imagined something whimsical to cover the stab his absence had provoked. The truth was as sinister as it was distressing.

"I..." Her eyes became wet. "Thank you," she said sincerely, though obviously very upset. She wiped her tears with her dirty sleeve and left a smear of blood on her cheek. The thought of Journey laying somewhere, dying, while they danced and amused themselves, was revolting enough to turn her stomach. It was a chance she was already slumped on the deck, because her knees would have failed her just then.

"If you're here now," she said meekly, "and we didn't have his visit last night, then... Can we hope he won't trouble any of us again?" she asked, though she knew the answer would be negative.

Journey scowled. "Hey now. I didn't bleed all this way to ruin your day, or your memories. I sent Dravin limping, which means he won't be troubling anyone for a good while. Bastard spent the better part of a year preparing for this strike, and I kicked him hard enough to shatter that plan. It's a victory. You exchange temporary pain to buy other people's joys and futures every day. Don't sulk because I'm doing it for you now."

Selarenia nodded and sighed, working hard to keep her tears at bay. "Of course," she said with a sheepish smile. "I'm just not used to having it the other way around. And we missed you... and seeing you like this..." She waved her hand as if it explained it all.

Being chided by an avatar was, it seemed, a sure way to bring her back to her senses.

"In any case, it's good to see you now safe and sound."

"Much better," Journey said in approval, and he glanced down at the gently rocking deck beneath him. "It's good to see you as well, though I'm afraid I've given you more work to do. Yesterday was pleasant, I trust?"

Conner, who hadn't taken his eyes from Journey yet, cleared his throat. "It was wonderful. What else, Journey. You came for more than healing. Give us the rest."

"I wanted to,"
Journey sighed. "Truly I did. You both deserve rest, more than you've had. And now..."

"We had nearly a year, more than some. We're together, and we'll face whatever it is you've brought together."

"Fine. I have reason to believe that your friends are in danger, from demons and more. They'll need you, I think, for your healing and your wisdom. And, unless I err, your companionship."

Selarenia's heart sank. She had allowed herself, in the last few weeks, to think they would all find peace after all. It seemed she was never going to learn. None of them would have it until they walked in Afallon's gardens.

Her eyes found Journey. She steeled herself.

"What did you learn? Why are their lives threatened?"

"It's not good," Journey admitted. "Especially since I can't tell you much."

"Why not?"
Conner asked, frowning.

"My divine responsibilities are complicated. I'm bending things as it is. The important thing is that there's something funny going on in Heaven. Katar getting exposed like that hasn't been very good, but things held on for a while. I tell you, it was like all of Tulmayas has been holding its breath for the last five or six months. It can't last and, at the center, is Katar and Arrion. There are forces in motion that won't let Helm's Chosen rest, nor will they ignore the danger Derek presents. I think they need you, Selarenia."

There was more; the Avatar had said as much. Conner took a guess. "And, you believe Sel will be safer with them, then alone with me."

Journey hung his head, but nodded. "I do. Forgive me, but I do. Dravin is still out there, and he's more furious than ever. Until he's killed, Tulmayas isn't large enough to hide you from his wrath."

"And then there's the masked Avatar," Selarenia added with a sigh. As Journey's words sunk in, she realized their little trip was jeopardized, if not already over. One look at the Avatar told her he wouldn't leave them here for more than was necessary. She nodded in understanding, then wriggled in Conner's arms until she faced him. "Well, I guess we had the chance of celebrating our wedding wholly yesterday," she said with a sad little smile.

She kissed her husband lightly, then untangled herself from his embrace. "Just let me put on something that won't make Sam and Cady scream," she said, referring to her bloodied gown. "You men decide what to do with the sailboat."

Before she disappeared in the cabin, she turned toward Journey with a frown. "Dravin must be furious at you too. You will find us again if you need us, won't you?"

"I'm many things, Selarenia, but suicidal isn't one of them," Journey said with a grin. "I'll come running to you as soon as I have need, never you worry."

When she'd left, Conner sighed and stood, not able to safely look at the Avatar. "Wasn't there another healer you could've run to? Not that I'm not grateful, but-"

"She's not a normal woman,"
Journey said, standing as well, the cheer gone from his voice. "Selarenia is wrapped up in all of this so tightly that if she runs, Fate might snap her in half. Turning a blind eye to that fact will just get her killed."

"She deserves happiness, damnit - true happiness, as much as this world can give."

"And is she the type to be happy while others suffer and burn for her inactivity?"
Journey grabbed Conner's arm, yanked him around. "Is she?"

Conner met his gaze, his own anger just as sharp and hot. "No," he said, finally. "My soul be damned, she'd rather be there."

"Then stop your bitching. You choose this when you choose her, and you choose well. Now, I can likely get this boat to the harbor safely with a few jumps, then we'll take a short rest. You can join the others by the time the sun rises in Arrion."

"Good enough,"
Conner said, stalking over to where he kept the buckets and brushes. "I'm getting your divine blood off my deck before it stains."

Below deck, Selarenia took a moment and sat on their bunk bed. She stared at the ruins of her gown with a sad look on her face. The last few months had indulged her selfish side; she had lived a sheltered existence in the trade islands. She had felt the love of those around her, she had had great times with Conner; she had lived with less doubt and worry on her mind. She had lived the simple life she had yearned for most of her life. She had even led herself to believe it was owed to her. How profoundly stupid.

Now that part of her life was done, and it was back into the nightmare, back into doubt, back into fear, back into meddling with forces she didn't understand.

She sighed heavily and pushed herself up. She went to her bag, took out the clothing Conner and she had specially selected for her, to be comfortable maneuvering the sailboat. She considered them for a moment, then pulled her gown over her head and donned the linen pants and shirt, the leather belt and the woolen coat. She pulled on woolen stockings and a new pair of leather boots. Lastly, she arranged her hair into two braids, which she shoved behind her shoulders.

Her gown was rolled into a bundle - another piece of clothing ruined - and stuffed at the bottom of a pack she had no intention of using too often.

She sighed another time, so that the ghosts present would duly note her unhappiness, then plastered a friendly smile on her face and went back above.




 

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