Chapter 10 - Rhea
The man in black stepped into a small stone closet with a large raised pad of stone at its center, motioning for Orlai to follow,
"Come," He said, pointing at the pad, "Avoid." She raised an eyebrow, stepping carefully around the pad and into the closet next to him. He reached down and, to her shock, wrapped his arms around her and drew her up against him. Realization dawned upon Orlai. A small closet, alone together, in his arms, it could only mean one thing. She blushed, hands on his chest,
"Um," She mumbled, hiding her face in his chest, "Are you sure?" He shifted,
"Yes." Her heart fluttered from the determination in his voice,
"Oh." Voice but a whisper, "It's um," her courage trembled, "It's my first time though."
"I know." He seemed so matter-of-fact about it,
"O-oh, I-um-I guess it was," She coughed, "U-um obvious, you know." Her cheeks were aflame, "I didn't really," She trailed off,
"W-well," Orlai stammered, "It's just I," She looked up at him through her bangs, shyly pressing a gauntlet against her lips, "I didn't think you were so bold." She couldn't stop fidgeting, scarcely able to believe he was finally making a move, "It's, um, it's nice." He raised an eyebrow, looking down at her with his deep brown eyes that dragged her into their infinite depth,
"It's nice, you know, for you to suddenly," She paused, cuddling up against him, "I'm just so happy." They huddled together a moment, "Um," Orlai chirped, "Aren't you going to get me out of this armor?" He didn't respond, "I did get pretty sweaty, and now I'm all hot and heavy so it's kind of a problem." His gauntlet closed around her chin, pulling her head closer to those two beautiful brown stones,
"What?" He said clearly, "Do you mean?" She blanked,
"Wait what do you mean?" He shook his head,
"Elevator." She blinked,
"What?" He blinked back, pointing at the floor,
"Elevator," He frowned thoughtfully for a moment, "Lift." What was an elevator, and what did a lift have anything to do with the closet? Was he talking dirty? She had trouble believing he knew more slang than her, unless they had different terms in Lordran, and who had he done the deed with before? A spark of jealousy made her growl,
"Who took you first?" She snapped, "Was there a woman before me?"
"Wh-" His eyes narrowed, "What? I do not understand." He pointed at the floor again, "Elevator." He said slowly,
"Was that her name, Elevator? It sounds stupid. Was she prettier than me?" He stared at her, "Come on, spit it out," She pushed him against the wall roughly, "I'm ten times the woman she was." She declared, awkwardly stepping forward and onto the pressure pad,
"Stop!" He yelped, pushing off the wall and hugging her tightly, "Don't." Her jealously and anger vanished instantly as he held her,
"Oh, um," She was interrupted by a loud clang, "What was that?" She asked, looking around. He straightened,
"Elevator." Suddenly her stomach punched into her throat and gravity vanished as a swarm of butterflies let loose inside her. She screamed, seizing him,
"What happened?!" She yelled, watching the wall fly by,
"El! E! Va! Tor!" He explained loudly over the din of roaring wind and cranking gears,
"What is that?!" He massaged his forehead,
"Nothing!" One of the walls vanished and her breath caught as it revealed a grand vista of clouds and mountains, a massive tree a kilometer or two in height rising above them and out of sight. The rain had stopped, a bright sun shining down through the window. Their descent slowed, stopping at an exit. He released her, stepping out. Orlai fell to her knees shaking violently,
"What?" She crawled to the exit, "What?" His head shook at her shamefully, hand on his forehead, setting off a flare of anger in Orlai, "DON'T YOU EVEN! YOU TOOK ME INTO THAT DARK CLOSET AND ACTED ALL SUAVE AND SEXY, HERE I AM THINKING YOU FINALLY GREW A PAIR, WHEN INSTEAD THE FUCKING FLOOR FALLS OUT, WE DROP THROUGH THE AIR ON A MAGIC STONE SLAB, AND BAM NOW I'M HERE!" He raised his hands defensively as she shouted while struggling to her feet, falling on the stone wall to support herself, "You," She jabbed a finger at him, "are an asshole!" His shoulders slouched, head shaking,
"I-" He began, instead sighing and walking through the exit down a set of stairs. She stumbled after him, sliding along the stone wall,
"Hey! Hey get back here!" She shouted after him, "I said-" She rounded the corner, words dying in her throat. The man in black stood with woman wearing the hood and robes of a priestess, both of them looking over at her,
"Greetings," The woman bowed her head, "I am Rhea of Thorolund. It is a pleasure. I heard you on your way down," She giggled, "Are you alright?" Orlai looked between the two of them,
"You know him?" Orlai asked blankly, "You know him well?"
"Yes," She said smiling fondly at the man in black, "He rescued me in the Tomb of Giants and took me here insisting it was much safer here in the shrine rather than the church." Orlai's eyes narrowed,
"He spoke to you?" Orlai asked darkly,
"Yes." Rhea turned to the man in black with a quizzical expression. He shrugged, "It was only a few words here and there over a very long and personal journey, but yes." Orlai glared at him,
"So what's she to you Mr. Hero, the girl for other your arm?" Rhea gasped as the man in black cocked his head in confusion,
"Other arm?" He asked,
"Goodness!" Rhea raised a hand to her mouth, cheeks red, "He and I?" Her eyes slid past Orlai, "No! Heavens no! He would never!" Orlai didn't buy a word of it,
"Listen sweetheart," Orlai snarled, stomping up to her and seizing the front of her robe, "I may not have seen him first but-" A black gauntlet grabbed her wrist,
"Stop." The word felt like a whip cracking across her back. Orlai's head jerked up at the man in black, his brown eyes smoldering down at her in quiet anger. Her jaw tightened, fists clenching,
"Fine." She spat, releasing Rhea and storming out. Spotting a Bonfire she threw herself down before it, growling viciously.
I sighed, shaking my head,
"What a demon." Rhea whispered in a hurt tone, "You travel with her?" I nodded,
"Well," I coughed, watching Orlai practically fall in front of the bonfire, "I love her." Rhea's head shot up,
"You what?" She asked quickly. I looked down at a dark smolder in her eyes,
"I love her." Her eyes narrowed, the shadow of her hood almost made her look sinister,
"You… love her?" She repeated slowly. She turned away from me, hood hiding her face as she watched Orlai, "Why?"
"Why not?" Rhea shifted, hood twitching slightly, still studying Orlai at the Bonfire. Rhea stepped closer to me,
"What if I happened to join you two?" She turned to me face bright and smiling again,
"Why?" Her expression hardened,
"To pay you back for rescuing me from those terrible pits." She seemed honest, fists clenched in determination and eyes fixed on mine, but it felt wrong. A strange chord struck in my chest as she gazed up at me, one that filled me with unease and discomfort. Why hadn't she asked to tag along before I left her here? Why had none of the people I ever met in this land asked to join me, instead leaving me to my own devices to later encounter them upon my travels, chat, then go our separate ways, yet suddenly she had asked? There seemed no reason to decline her offer, the miracles she could conjure would be useful but I still couldn't shake the unease,
"I will ask Orlai." I walked down the steps to Orlai, pondering the idea of two women following me around,
"No," I turned on the steps looking back at Rhea, face hidden by her hood, "You won't." I frowned, leaning down to look at her beneath the hood. An invisible wall slammed into me and I flew through the air, crashing against a stone wall, the impact knocked the wind out of me. Coughing I looked up at her, "If I cannot have you." She hissed, slowly descending the stairs and raising a cruel dagger, "No one will." I reached for my great sword and she threw a sphere of white that hammered me against the wall again. I collapsed to the ground, vision flickering and body numb. She pulled the cloth over my face down, pressing the knife to my throat, "You are mine," She sneered, "Forever and always." I couldn't move as she pressed her cold lips to my own, knife piercing my skin. Her other hand clutched the same ivory talisman I carried and held my head in place,
"BITCH!" A gauntlet flew down, seizing Rhea by the neck and lifting her into the air, knife falling from her hands as she clawed at the gauntlet's crushing grip. Orlai hurled Rena across the grass cracking her head loudly against the stone stairs as she landed. Drawing her broadsword Orlai loomed over Rhea, who held her bleeding head whimpering pitifully. Orlai reached down, grabbing Rhea by the hair and dragging her, screaming in pain, to her knees. I watched Orlai draw the broadsword back, her eyes fixed on Rhea's neck. I tried to yell, lungs empty, the sword fell, Rhea screaming and eyes wide with terror.
A headless body fell to the grass, "Bitch." Orlai spat, throwing Rhea's head to the side as she walked over to me. I picked myself up but she shoved me back down, "So what was that?" Orlai was still holding her sword, eyes glaring down at me, "Sounded like you just turned that crazy bitch down at she couldn't take it? You two have a history?" Anger rumbled in my chest,
"Get off." I ordered,
"Not until you answer me." She grunted, nodding down at me expectantly, "Start explaining."
"I said," Rage building, "Get. Off."
"No." I grabbed her one leg planted to the ground and ripped it out from under her. She hit the ground hard, grunting in surprise as I jumped on top of her knocking her sword from her hand, and pinning her to the ground,
"Why?" I hissed angrily while holding her down, "Why kill her?"
"WHY NOT?!" Orlai roared in disbelief, "She tried to kill you, unless you hadn't noticed, and she almost did!" She struggled against me, "Let me go you bastard, don't make me regret I didn't let her kill you!"
"Why kill her?" I hissed again. She growled and grunted as she strained to escape out from under me, "Orlai," I snarled, "Why?" Orlai stopped struggling suddenly, tears dribbling down her cheeks, "Why? Why did you kill her?" They flowed like waterfalls, but her expression was calm,
"Stop," She grumbled, looking away from me, "A man doesn't cry." I blinked. Cold water dipped down my cheeks, vision watery, pouring down onto her in a flood. What? Why was I crying and why was I so angry at her? She was right, Rhea had tried to kill me and would've succeeded if not for Orlai, so why was I so angry at her? What cause did I have to hate the woman I loved for saving my life? I released Orlai's hands, removing the cloth over my face to wipe her face of my tears. Before I could react she seized my head pulling me down to kiss me deeply. I melted into her arms, letting go of my anger and sorrow I pressed myself against her, returning the kiss and wrapping my arms around her. We lay there together for a time, she pushed at me,
"You're heavy." She grunted and I rolled off of her, lying on my back in the grass watching the white clouds drift overhead. A sigh tore from my throat,
"It's fine." We looked up at the clouds.
"I love you."
"I love you too." I sat up with a grunt looking back at Rhea's headless corpse, Orlai hadn't shown any mercy. That was good, mercy could get you killed. My own thoughts echoed in my head, mercy could get you killed, ironic.
Standing I looked down at Orlai, who looked up at me, and I smiled. I smiled as brightly as I could, I smiled to show her I loved her, cared for her deeply, and would never give up on her even if she gave up on me. She was all I needed and I could live as long as she lived with me. Clearing my throat I walked over to the headless corpse and slung it over my shoulder, carrying it over to the well I dropped it into the darkness. I listened as it bounced off the walls and crashed to the dry bottom. Reaching a hand into my pack I pulled out the lump of rubbish, staring at it, and dropped it after the body. The wind blew my hood down, black cloth still clutched in my gauntlet, and I closed my eyes feeling the wind on my face.
Turning away from the well I found Orlai standing just behind me, eyes locked with my own, and I smiled again,
"I have something to show you."