A Devil’s Tale, Part 7

I have Corona, so my brain is not exactly up to snuff. I have a whole bunch of symptoms clamouring for my attention and a whole bunch of reluctance towards doing much at all. I want to sleep. I need liquids and rest. Therefore – my go-to minimum-effort post is what’s happening this week. I hope you enjoy the next installment of A Devil’s Tale. The fanficcy version

Cordelia was learning many things. How to properly handle the sword in her hand was just the beginning. She watched Kosh, in as much as she could even see him in the dim light, trying to imitate his walk. He never made a sound and she… was stuck with a pair of shoes seemingly designed by the gods to make noise.

Toes first, but not too quickly and never too hard. When he was in a hurry, the heels of his sandals barely touched the ground before he moved that foot for the next step.

There was breathing, too. He had a way of taking in air that did not disturb it so much as allow it to flow into his lungs. He could even move the map without making the paper crinkle.

“Aha. Aha. Yes! I know where we are,” he whispered. “Not yet the undermountain but close. Three more chambers, perhaps, and there should be a portal that will take us closer to the surface.”

“Not headed to the Harpers?”

“Oh, we’re still headed there,” he said. “Just by a way I know better. A safehouse dead drop or… maybe even the attic of the Trollhead.”

Even in the dark, his real smile was so very different from the false one he wore to cover up his true emotions. “And then I have to make some decisions,” she sighed. “How could I even choose?”

“Choose happiness,” advised Kosh. “It’s your life, you should be happy with it.”

“I have obligations,” she sighed. “A deal made with Whitekeep cemented with my vows to that– Otyugh-spawned family.”

Ping. There it was. In a split second, she saw the smile change from genuine to false. It was very subtle, but it was there. Poor fellow. Tied by oaths to a place and a family she found abhorrent. It could only ever be worse if he were tied to it by blood.

“A death this late in the game can’t be helped. The families will find some other way to bond. Hostages, perhaps. Fostered important children. Something of the like.”

Just because they were close to egress didn’t mean they were entitled to drop their guard. Cordelia maintained a healthy aura of paranoia as they made their way to the portal. Kosh was evidently twice as paranoid, checking every step twice.

“I was caught once, which is how we met,” he said. “I don’t believe my luck would be so good a second time.”

“You flirt,” she teased. “Remember your vows, Mr Shaydden.”

“Flirting causes no harm. Besides, I expect rejection.”

Would that I could fix that part of this world for you… Cordelia didn’t say it out loud. She lacked that kind of power and giving a man like Kosh that faint hope may be a worse torture than his current existence. She would not gift him the cruelty of false hope.

All she was was a pampered maiden of high status with few real world skills. Were it not for Kosh’s tutelage, she may not have survived to escape this place.

She had run into these underground warrens with a vague idea to buy mercenaries or safe passage somewhere far, far away from Whitekeep. More likely than not, they’d have taken her jewels and coins and slit her throat for the fun of it.

Her current circumstances were far better than any other thing that could have happened. For that, she was grateful. And also for Kosh’s company.

He made a most wondrous change to her world view.

Before his eyes found pleasure in her presence, she had believed that an arranged wedding would be her only chance to gain a mate. She had thought herself to be bland, or even too ugly, for anyone to appreciate. She was certainly too unattractive for anyone to make an attempt on her honour.

The archway was where the map said it was. Activated by Kosh’s hand on its surface and a phrase in Infernal.

Going through was a unique experience. Her body took one step, but she felt like she was flying both upwards and forwards.

Kosh caught her on the other side, preventing her from landing flat on her face.

A breathless moment. Chest to chest. Staring into each other’s eyes. All it would take from either of them was one movement of their head. A tilt, a thrust, and lips would meet lips once more.

She resisted the impulse, and found her feet once more. He seemed reluctant to let her go. It took him some effort to return his grip to his blades.

“Nearly there,” he said.

Yes we were, she thought. Pity.

In a few more hours, they would be blinking in the sunlight once more.

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