The Heroes Go In The Heroes Go In
Sky H Ainsworth
Bacca readied his troops and assembled the heroes.
"Scotts, you have command," said Bacca. "Make sure my army is here when we get back." Bacca grinned.
Scotts returned a slight grin from his wizened face.
"Of course I will, sir," answered the old man. Lower, under his breath, "You just return yourself so I have someone to give this army to."
Bacca looked at his companions. The heroes; Ku-Sam, Siran, Jaana, Kaitlin, Lady Paladin, and Lorinan; were ready. So were the two thousand commandos.
Bacca led the way into the tunnel. Crossing a wooden drawbridge
that had been laid across the trench facing the tunnel, the High Lord of All That Kicks Ass passed between the mounds of earth that would eventually make a palisade to face the tunnel entrance.
Crossing the open ground where the undead had been defeated the day before, Bacca and his company continued on, stoically.
Entering the darkness of tunnel, Bacca continued for a it, then stopped. He let his eyes grow accustomed to the gloom. The wind, luckily, did not blow any dust or dirt, but it was cool, almost cold.
Bacca stood in the semi-gloom for a minute, allowing his dwarven heritage to take over. At first, he just saw outlines from images he had seen outside of the cave. Soon, however, he saw just darkness. No images, no light.
But after more time passed, the darkness began "recede." At first, Bacca could see the ground he walked on. Then, Bacca could see the area in five foot radius around him. Soon, Bacca was able to make out the sides of the tunnel.
Bacca began walking into the cave. Lanterns had been lit behind him and some magic users had created light orbs, that floated about the company. However, the lead element of the three heroes and one squad of men, had no light.
Lady was distressed with this situation. She could not see Bacca at all at the head of the company. Here she was trying to protect him and serve him, but he was out of sight. She could not leave her position because had given her specific orders to stay in the center of the main body.
"Your powers of healing will be most needed if a situation arises," Bacca had said. "And if that happens, you will need to be with the men being injured, not with the heroes commanding."
She had assented, though with much debate and many unspoken words and demands.
Lady to remind herself that Bacca was general of the army first, her special, private love second. She hoped for the day when this would change. She desperately now wanted something to call a home, now that Aldernaan was destroyed.
Bacca and his companions spoke little to each other. Siran would relate bits of information on side caves and passages, but there was not much mentioned.
The atmosphere was cold, tense, and dangerous. Bacca was on alert for the slightest indication of trouble. He hoped he was not making a big mistake.
The journey had been quiet thus far. Everyone remained alert, knowing that attack could come at any second. But the healer withdrew into the confines of thoughts, and studied quietly.
Frustration seemed to gnaw at Lady Paladin's mind. The only true fantasy she made entertained her entire life could no longer come true. She was alone, isolated, even though two thousand commandos pressed against her personal space in the confines of the tunnel. More than anything, she wanted to teleport home, huddle into a little ball, and cry. But that was a coward's way, and pride forbade Lady Paladin to behave in such a matter.
As a former princess, Lady Paladin always wanted to be center of attention in one way or another. It was obvious that she was not a high priority in the war; healers were dime a dozen, and as soon as a wound was closed, the healer was forgotten. After Spiked Dwarf Pass, she had felt so needed by the troops -- they called her by name, chatted with her, and vowed to protect her in return for saving them. Now, the troops nodded at her and had to be reminded what her name was. That wounded the healer's pride, and made her remind herself over and over that Bacca, Jaana, Kaitlin, Ku-Sam, Lorinan, the Northern Paladin, and the others were the important players. It was her duty to serve and die for them if necessary; she was a dispensable healer hiding in a paladin's armor.
Her hands tightly clenched her fighting pike. What of her dreams now? It seemed the first step had been taken to follow the nightmarish path she had prophesied. There were a thousand options, and Lady Paladin knew that time was critical. She had to make the time to analyze her nightmares and discover the fatal pattern. She wished desperately that someone could help her, someone who she could trust, someone who had the same curse of a dreamseer's sight. The healer had considered questioning Jaana, but with the recent events regarding Sephiroth, there was never the chance. Kaitlin had some abilities, perhaps, but she could not be sure. And then there was the mysterious Schala, whom she had only met once...perhaps she was the key?
Lady Paladin sighed. Her thoughts seemed to run in circles. The healer knew she had to focus on something, or she would drive herself into such a horrible depression that....that... would make her even more insignificant in the course of the war. "If Bacca knew my thoughts, what would he do? Scold me for not being open? Tell me I was acting childish? Oh Lord, O pray that he never asks me how I sleep at night, because I fear I couldn't lie to him..." she cried to herself.
Concentrate. Focus. The spellbooks, yes, the spellbooks. She had brought them so she could study and become a master. Lady Paladin had already read and memorized some of a text, "Lord Gravish's Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies and Magick." Now she had to make sure the text was committed to memory. In the back of her mind, she began repeating in a chant each of the complicated herbal concoctions.
Lady Paladin smiled darkly to herself, and her hands tightened their grasp on the pike again. She was prepared for attack, even if she continued reciting herbs with each thrust and parry of her weapon.
While caught in her musings, Lorinan falls back to walk in step with her.
Lorinan: "I sensed this brooding? What's wrong. I'm here if you need to talk. I may not have the answers, but it always helps to talk about it instead of keeping it bottled up."
Lady Paladin smiled weakly at the chemist. "Are my emotions that obvious?"
"Well, to me they are," he replied. "And look at how you are holding your pike; that alone is a clue to your emotions." The healer looked down at her gloved hands. Her grasp upon the weapon was so tight, her hands shook with tension. "If there is anything you wish to tell me, I am here."
Her spirits were somewhat lifted by Lorinan's support. "Well, I have been worrying too much over too many things," she sighed. "I feel like the world is on my shoulders, and I have to bear the burden alone."
Lorinan pondered this quietly. "Have you told Bacca how you feel?"
She shook her head. "No. It has been a fight to have any time with him ever since we left the Dark Lord's Keep. And I know that he has been under so much stress too, I haven't wanted to distract him."
"You're coming up with excuses for yourself, Lady Paladin. First this abrupt change of appearance, and now all of these secrets you can't even tell Bacca. You matter to him, and he deserves to know what has been bothering you. If you do not tell him, someone will have to tip him off." The master chemist's expression was quite grave.
Lady Paladin paled. "And what would you say?"
He smiled. "The rest of us aren't as ignorant as you think. Jaana and Kaitlin, despite their secretive actions, have recognized that you are acting suspicious, too. Bacca has remained blissfully ignorant for a time, but that won't last much longer, whether or not we drop a few hints of concern."
"I see." Her brown eyes contemplated the stone floor for a few seconds. "If I can get a chance to speak with Bacca privately, I will tell him what is bothering me. Then all of you can know the truth. But I may wait until after Crystal Peak, though...like I said, I don't want to distract Bacca."
Lorinan's eyes turned to look ahead in the tunnel. "You have to make your own decisions. If you need a shoulder to lean on, I am here, and so are the others. Keep that in mind, Lady Paladin."
Sky H Ainsworth
Bacca called a halt to the march through the tunnel.
As the lead squad and flank guards were replaced, Bacca took the time to go back and see Lady Paladin. The darkness, though he was comfortable in it, was not as friendly as his love.
The soldiers, tired from being on alert for the past two hours, enjoyed their moment to the go the center of the formation and sit down.
Bacca made his way through the sitting troops and found his shimmering angel. Lady Paladin was sitting down as well and Bacca joined her.
Without exchanging any words, Bacca sat down, facing the opposite direction of Lady took one of her shoulders in left hand, and her left hand in his right. The two looked into each others' eyes.
"You look tired," said Bacca. He was also tired but would not show or allow it. Besides, the elf blood in him did give Bacca the ability to many days with a few hours each night.
"How have you been sleeping lately?" Bacca asked, concern genuine in his face.
Lady returned the strong look, but looked down at his question. She was unsure of how to answer. She did not want to reveal the truth and trouble Bacca, but she also realized that keeping a secret from him would be bad. She could still remember his outburst at Jaana and Kaitlin for their silence acts.
"I am not sure," said Lady. "Something has been troubling my sleep lately. I can not quite figure out what it is." She looked away.
Bacca released her shoulder and took Lady's chin in his hand. Bringing her soft face to his view, Bacca once again stared directly into her eyes.
"You must tell me the truth now," said Bacca. "The only way I can help you is through the true path. You know this as a healer.
"I want you to know," continued Bacca. "That you are important here. I brought you along with this expedition not because we need a good healer. In fact, I wanted you to stay behind were I knew you would be safe at the fort. But your desire to come and these strange visions I have been receiving lately, tell me that you must come with me to Crystal Peak.
"I hope we will not find a hard battle to fight, I do not want to separated from you. But you must remember, you hold a few obligations. One is to humanity on this world, we must stop these moogles. Another is to yourself, you must be able to live with yourself. Then there are you obligations to me and to this army. You are my love and their healer. Which takes precedence is not easy to figure out. I do not know for sure since my opinion is not only biased in both ways, but confused by my feelings for you.
"Lady, I want you to know, I am always here for you. Regardless of what happens, I will not abandon you. And, I will help you reclaim a new home."
Bacca gave Lady a light kiss on the lips. As he pulled away, he returned his left hand to her shoulder and continued to stare into her eyes. The soldiers sitting around the couple conveniently turned away.
The two continued to sit there for a while.