“Oh. Oh CRAP!”
Haley yanked her knife out of the creature, backing up into a corner as it curled up, whimpering, and slowly got to its knees. “I killed you! No fair getting up without a resurrection!”
The thing stood, eyes wide, and whimpered from behind its gag, hands at the bloody wound in its stomach. Roy and Elan simply stared vacantly into space, not even wincing at the proximity of the fight.
“Stay away from me!”
Haley brandished her knife, glaring at the thing and grabbing the rope that tied her friends together. “I’m not afraid of you!”
It staggered forward, whimpering softly.
The rogue jerked forward, slashing, and the creature recoiled. “Stay away from me!”
The doppelganger crept towards the wall, whimpering softly, running its hands nervously along the walls and shoulders rocking with fearful sobs. Haley slowly dragged Roy and Elan towards the door, having to strain to move the two grown men. She kept an eye on the thing warily, staying tense. “Where are V, Durkon, and Belkar?”
The thing howled in pain and cried, curling up and rocking itself, tears running down its face.
Haley sighed, slowly dragging her friends out and keeping her eyes on the thing.
It jumped up and sprinted towards them.
Haley held out her knife, readying to stab it again.
Redcloak coaxed Vaarsuvius along gently, getting increasingly agitated over the elf’s refusal to say what was wrong. Now general aching was starting to bother the mage (not that the elf would ever admit to it—Redcloak had deduced it from the small grimaces and rubbing of muscles) and Vaarsuvius was still having small dizzy spells. The goblin could feel himself getting obsessive over his mate’s (there it was again—he wasn’t supposed to think of her as a mate unless he had kids with her! Why was he doing this?!) Vaarsuvius’s health. The scientist chided him and told him to let it go—if Vaarsuvius wanted to withhold information, fine. It was better for the Plan if the elf was ill anyway.
The person stood up against the scientist, loudly saying that the Plan could still go on if his lover was alive and well. Vaarsuvius couldn’t stand against Xykon. It was safe for her to be alive.
The instinct promptly ground the scientist and the person into the ground, roaring that his mate was the priority beyond anything else.
Redcloak wrapped an arm around the elf’s shoulders.
The scientist and the person both grumbled softly, crawling away from the much stronger instinct and curling up in the corner to avoid being crushed again. To pass the time, they played Parcheesi.
Vaarsuvius, for her part, kept on glancing at him guiltily. Redcloak couldn’t imagine why. Maybe the elf was still upset over what had happened the night before? He knew how much crying shamed Vaarsuvius.
He got a vague feeling that his lover was hiding something, but the mage always was. It was amazing that the elf had opened up so much to Redcloak as it stood, especially since the goblin still hadn’t told her about…
He stifled a flinch and specifically veered out of that train of thought.
“So, I don’t think that you ever told me much about yourself, Vaarsuvius,” he said softly. The elf paused for a moment, taken by another dizzy spell, and Redcloak made sure to keep their fingers intertwined as he guided his lover down the snow-covered streets. Maybe conversation would help distract the elf from whatever was wrong.
“I have imparted more information to you than I have to anyone else, Redcloak,” Vaarsuvius said, struggling to keep trudging through the ice and snow without falling. “What is there to say?”
“You know. The things people share when they don’t have to worry about a war or an epic-level lich or a deicidal abomination. Talk about your parents or if you had siblings or something.” Redcloak casually ran a hand through purple strands of hair, one ear straining for any sign that there was someone unwelcome they should be worried about.
Vaarsuvius blinked up at him, head cocked, then slowly shrugged. “There is little to say. My parents were only able to produce one child between each other. I likely have siblings from my parents’ past marriages, but I do not know of them.”
Redcloak frowned in confusion.
“Oh, I forgot. That is not common in other species.” Vaarsuvius tucked a strand of hair behind a pointed ear. “Elves have a long life, Redcloak. Longer than I believe you can possibly imagine, at least as you are now. It is very rare to see an elven couple to stay together for longer than a hundred years or so. People lose interest in each other, or even grow apart, and once the children are adults, then there is little reason to stay together.”
The elf delicately stepped over a patch of ice. “I would venture to guess that my parents had up to five marriages before they eventually produced me. Of those marriages, I would not be surprised if there were several children—elven families are traditionally large—but I have never made an attempt to find them, nor they me.”
Redcloak frowned, helping the elf through the snow and squinting ahead, trying to see where they were going. “Why not? They’re your brothers and sisters, right?”
“It is an unusual thing for half-siblings to not be in touch with one another, yes, but I was never particularly connected with my parents and, once I was an adult, I wanted as little to do with my family as possible. I am unsure why I have not been sought out, but I would just as soon keep the past in the past.” Vaarsuvius discreetly massaged an aching abdomen. “What of you, Redcloak? I do not know very much about you beyond what you are now.”
The goblin had to admit that he was a little confused about his lover’s reluctance to connect with family, though he could easily believe it of her, and he was more than a little unnerved by the length of typical elven marriages relative to their lifespan. The scientist briefly looked up from the Parcheesi game, pointing out that he wouldn’t be marrying his lover anyway, and the likelihood of them both actually living through this whole thing was slim to none, and even if they did both live through it and both were still free, Vaarsuvius would probably be unwilling to grant him her hand. He was still a goblin and a war criminal. Vaarsuvius was still an elf fighting for ‘good’. What they had… he was the only one who had put so much into what they had.
“Well, I had two brothers and one little sister. I was the second oldest.” Redcloak had to fight the urge to hold his lover close and kiss her. His thoughts were running into places he didn’t want them to go, but if he sought comfort, Vaarsuvius would ask what was wrong. He couldn’t share that.
It took him a moment to realize how hypocritical he was.
“My dad died when an elven war party attacked our town to cull some of the healthy goblins off. My mother was pregnant and my brothers and I were only children, so we were spared.”
Vaarsuvius stayed carefully expressionless.
“I don’t remember it very well—a bit of a blur of being scared. I was worried they’d take my big brother too—he was starting to get to an age where he could be considered a threat—but then the rest…” Redcloak shook his head. “It was a long time ago.”
Vaarsuvius stroked his hand, going on tiptoes and kissing his cheek gently.
“It was a long time ago, Vaarsuvius.” Redcloak glanced at his lover, a slight smile playing over his lips. “It’s normal for goblins to lose family. Not fun, but expected. My father’s brother was in the mountains looking for better land with a few other goblins at the time, so when he came back down, he helped my mom out and became the general father of the family. Goblin families are usually really tightly-knit, so it wasn’t a surprise that he stepped in.”
The elf hesitated. “How much of your family is alive today?”
“…” Redcloak parted their hands and wrapped his arm securely around the elf’s waist. “Last time I got any news, my little brother’s daughter was alive. I don’t know if she still is.”
Vaarsuvius nodded grimly, snuggling up close to him. “…I may not believe in your methods, Redcloak, but I am beginning to hope that your cause gains traction.”
Redcloak blinked, then smiled, kissing the elf’s temple, but then there was a soft murmur from around the corner. A soft murmur that Redcloak had been dreading for days.
“How long does it take to cast a friggin’ tracking spell?”
“I’m sorry! I botched my first two rolls, okay?”
Both the scientist and the person jerked in surprise, tossing their Parcheesi game everywhere.
Redcloak paled, immediately holding Vaarsuvius close and the instinct in his mind rearing its angry head. It was Xykon and Tsukiko. He had to go to them. The Plan had to continue.
Xykon would murder Vaarsuvius on sight.
“Damn it.” Redcloak glanced around the street. The scientist quickly stood up, telling him that he had to send Vaarsuvius away if she had hope of surviving. The person scrambled up, telling him to pretend that he hadn’t heard Xykon and Tsukiko and run off with her. The scientist hit the person over the head and called him an idealistic idiot. The person shouted indignantly and called the scientist a hypocritical bastard. They promptly started to squabble.
The instinct just growled at him that his mate was his priority.
“You need to leave here. Now.”
Vaarsuvius obviously understood why, but the elf was still hesitating, indecision, pain, and a hint of guilt flowing in big violet eyes.
“We will not meet each other again save for in battle, will we?”
Redcloak grit his teeth, a flare of pain running through his heart. Vaarsuvius. This was the elf, the woman he had fallen in love with. The only woman, in fact. He was surprised to note that, even if she was an elf and even if she was his enemy, he would have been happy to spend his life with her. He would have been glad to have a family with her. Hell, just being with her, even if she had been with some other man and didn’t look at him twice once the adrenaline died down, would have been enough to make him happy.
But he had to carry out the Plan. For the sake of his god, his people, his family, and his baby brother, he had to succeed. He had given up his right to a normal life the day he had put on his cloak.
Vaarsuvius was the epitome of what he could never have. He had been allowed a taste—that alone had been enough to get him addicted—but he had been stupid to imagine that he could ever have her.
For her sake, he had to let go.
“Vaarsuvius, I…” I love you.
The elf looked down at the ground, lips pursed. “Redcloak, this… this is not fair to you. A grave injustice, in fact. I… I should tell you… I am…”
Redcloak slipped his arms around a slender waist and kissed the elf deeply, closing his eyes and savoring what would probably be the last moment he would have with the one he loved. Vaarsuvius jerked in surprise, then wrapped delicate arms around the goblin’s neck, kissing back desperately. Whatever she had to say, it was too late now. It had always been too late.
The goblin pulled away. “Run. Take care of yourself. When we see each other again, we’ll be enemies.”
The elf looked undecided about something, then with the sound of more talking from around the corner, Vaarsuvius nodded. “We will be. Goodbye, Redcloak. Try to remain safe.”
“I will if you will.” Redcloak pointed towards the alleys between the houses, taking only a moment to touch the elf’s face. “Goodbye.”
Vaarsuvius swallowed hard, setting a delicate jaw, and nodded, turning away and disappearing into the maze.
It was only then that Redcloak allowed himself to wonder if he or Vaarsuvius would survive in this hell without each other. If Vaarsuvius, in her fragile state of mind, would be consumed because he had left her.
He prayed quietly to the Dark One for his lover’s safety.
He ignored the hitching in his chest.
Redcloak started trotting towards the sound of voices. “Xykon? Tsukiko?”
It was time to forget what could have been.
The observer tightened its grip on the little bundle in its arms and let out a roar.
The Haley doppelganger looked up to the ceiling and shrieked, giving Haley just enough time to drag her friends out of the house.
Aarindarius looked up sharply at the sky, eyes wide.
Xykon and Tsukiko both dropped what they were doing and stared up, gaping.
Redcloak jumped in surprise and looked around frantically for the source of the sound, a sinking feeling in his stomach telling him that he had just made a grave mistake.
Vaarsuvius only ran faster.
The creature let out another roar and jumped down from its great branch, ripples running through the land from where it hit the ground.
The world slammed and changed.