Authors: John H. Carroll
Tags: #romance, #tragedy, #fantasy, #war, #druid, #ryallon
The needle pierced her skin some more. “I’m
not stabbing you to death.” Verna rolled her eyes. “I like giving
tattoos. They’re attractive and the skin is such a perfect palette,
second only to nature.”
“Who did yours?”
“I’ve done most of them. The ones on my back
and in places I can’t see were done by other Druids.”
“Do all Druids have tattoos?” Rain preferred
talking to concentrating on the needle.
“Most.” Verna thought for a moment. “Maybe
all. Tattoos are a way of expressing our love for the world and
nature. A bare body is boring.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Rain saw an
interesting cloud in the sky and stared at it for a little while
because talking wasn’t helping either.
“All done,” Verna said a short while later.
She poured water on the tattoo and wiped it clean, sending a shiver
Rain looked down at the tattoo in amazement.
Brilliant colors stood out against her tanned skin. “It looks like
a real butterfly, and the raindrops almost seem as though they’re
“I did that by using similar colors.” Verna
poured oil into her hand and rubbed it on the tattoo. “I’ll touch
everything up once it’s healed. Use this oil twice a day to keep it
soft. It’ll help with the scabbing and with retaining the colors.”
Verna stood and began cleaning up her supplies.
Rain slipped her dress back on, glancing at
the tattoo one more time. “I like it.” She checked the flowers in
her hair. “Jacob said he’s going to become a hero and get us a
cottage. We’re going to have lots of children to take care of us
and we’ll spend every night in the glade.”
“Did he now?” Verna sealed the numerous jars
of ink. “That sounds like a very wonderful life, Rain.”
“I know it’s not realistic, but I like the
way it sounds.” Rain sniffed the orange flower again. It was her
Verna smiled. “It
sound nice and
I hope that’s what happens. You deserve it.”
“He says he might have to go to war.” Rain
studied her friend’s reaction.
“Oh.” Verna picked up the tray holding her
tools and turned toward the house.
Rain followed. “I don’t want him to go to
“Is the war for the king of your silly
country?” Verna asked over her shoulder.
“No, for Lord Greffen. You’re not supposed to
say things like that. They take people to jail for it.” Rain looked
around, even though she knew no one else was there.
“Are you going to tell anyone that I said
it?” Verna asked as she set the tray upon a table on the porch.
“No! I would never do that.”
“Well then, there’s nothing to worry about.”
She cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled at the top of her
lungs. “The king of Paruth and all of his lords are silly!”
“Verna!” Rain rushed over and tried to cover
the Druid’s mouth.
Verna laughed and hugged her instead. “Let’s
eat something. I’m famished and you haven’t eaten anything all day,
“Ulga fed me porridge this morning.”
An expression of distaste crossed Verna’s
face as she opened the door. “How delightful. Let’s have some real
food.” She turned abruptly. Rain’s nose ran into the Druid’s
finger. “And tea. You must drink tea.”
Five more days passed without a sign of
Jacob. Rain grew worried. She was sitting on the rock by the pool,
staring at the water when he snuck up behind her and tickled her
Rain screamed and turned, only to see him
fall to the ground laughing. “Oh! You . . .” She glared at him, but
only for a moment before jumping on him and licking his nose. Then
she got up and began climbing the rocks.
“Wait for me.” Jacob scrambled to his feet.
He caught up with her at the top and tried to take her hand, but
she pulled it away. “Hey, are you mad at me?” he asked
“You know why.” Rain turned her shoulder as
she walked. She couldn’t help her anger. Or the tears that were
fighting their way to her eyes.
know.” Jacob moved in
front of her and stopped her with hands on her shoulders. “What’s
Rain turned her head so she didn’t have to
see his wonderful pink eyes, and so he wouldn’t see her tears.
He put a hand on her chin and turned her face
to him. “Please don’t be mad at me. It cuts my heart to think you
might not care about me anymore.”
That wasn’t what she expected. “I
care about you! I
you.” She draped her arms around his
Jacob lifted her. “I just don’t understand
why you’re mad at me.”
She wrapped her legs around his waist.
“Because you didn’t come for so long I thought you were dead and
“I’m sorry,” he whispered in her ear.
They didn’t say or do anything for a while,
just held each other. Finally, Rain released him and let her feet
fall to the ground. “I don’t know why I got so mad. Every day that
passed worried me more. I keep wanting to talk to you.”
“What do you want to talk about?”
Rain took his hand and began walking.
“Everything! I want to listen to
talk. Your voice makes
me feel safe and warm, like a blanket.”
“Your voice is like the creek tumbling over
the rocks. It’s soft and fluid, a joy to listen to.” Jacob kissed
Rain smiled so hard her cheeks hurt. “I don’t
believe you, but I adore hearing it.” She shoved him in the chest,
moving herself more than him. “That’s why I’m so mad. You weren’t
around to say things like that.”
He turned his head, but Rain caught a glimpse
of gloom on his face. “Jacob? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his
It was Rain’s turn to stop him. She put hands
on his cheeks. “What aren’t you telling me? Do you not care about
His voice deepened in sincerity. “I will love
you for my entire life and beyond, beautiful Rain.”
“And I you, but something is bothering you.
Tell me, please.”
Jacob took her hand and they resumed walking.
“Lord Greffen has demanded a meeting with Lord Bullot. He’s going
to take all of us, and we’re meeting in the village of Zethbern,
which is in Lord Bullot’s province.”
“Oh.” Rain didn’t like the sound of it. They
walked in silence to the tunnel and through to the glade.
“You’re not saying anything.” Jacob ran his
hand along her back, a gesture she enjoyed.
“It sounds bad. Do you have to go?” Rain put
her hands on his chest and looked up at him.
“I have no choice. It’s my job and I have to
do five years of service.” He kissed her forehead. “That’s the best
way to become a hero so we can have our cottage and spend all our
nights in your glade.”
“What if we become adventurers?” Rain asked
hopefully. “I’ve thought about exploring the world and doing brave
things. We could become heroes that way.”
Jacob brightened at the thought. “Hey, that’s
an idea! When I was a kid, my friends and I would always pretend to
explore ruins and fight ghosts. The ruins of an old fort were not
far away from my house.”
Rain kissed him. “Let’s do it! Let’s become
The excitement faded from Jacob’s face. “If I
leave Lord Greffen’s service, my father will have to serve it.”
Rain’s heart sank. “Oh.”
“He’s got a bad cough from the mines lately.
I don’t think he can do it.” Jacob took her shoulders. “I want to
go adventuring with you, but my father’s a good man. I don’t want
him or my mother to suffer, Rain.” His voice was almost
“No! I don’t want that either,” Rain said in
earnest. “You have great parents and you should honor them.”
Jacob wrapped her up in his arms.
Rain clung to him, afraid to let him go. They
stayed like that for a long time. “I don’t feel like dancing right
now, Jacob. Is that alright?”
He kissed her. “Of course it is. I’m just
happy to be with you. Would you like to sit with me?” She nodded,
so he picked her up and carried her to their spot between the
roots. He leaned back against the tree trunk and they cuddled
together. Jacob ran fingers through her hair. “Who did your father
serve with, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“He spent five years in the Aveen City
Guard.” Rain didn’t feel like talking about her father.
“He served in the capital? Wow.” Jacob was
Rain shrugged. “He hated working for the
Guard. Before that, when he learned my mother was pregnant with me,
he took off and went adventuring.
“Why didn’t he keep adventuring?”
“He took an arrow to the knee.”
Jacob winced in empathy. “Ouch. Bad news
“He still had to serve his time in the City
Guard. When he was done, he came back to my mother. The first time
I ever saw him, he was drunk. He’s been drunk ever since.”
“I’m sorry, Rain. You deserve better.” Jacob
“Why?” Rain sat up and looked into his
“What do you mean, why?”
“Why do I deserve better? Perhaps I have
exactly what I deserve in life and nothing more.
think I deserve more.”
Jacob kissed her.
Rain enjoyed the feel of his lips against
hers, but she was expecting an answer. She lifted her head. “Wh . .
.” was all she got out before he kissed her more passionately than
before. Each time she tried to speak, he kissed her again. It
wasn’t long until she gave up and lost herself in his desire.
She watched the sky slowly changing colors
when their cravings were spent.
Jacob nuzzled her neck. “I must be getting
“Stay.” Rain put a hand on the back of his
neck to keep him there. “I like the way you feel on top of me.
You’re not heavy at all.” They remained silent for a moment. “You
can keep nuzzling my neck too.”
He chuckled quietly. “When did you get that
“Verna gave it to me. Are you angry?” Rain
was worried about his reaction.
“No, just surprised. It’s beautiful.”
“Good. Now about that nuzzling . . .” She
gasped in pleasure when he continued. They spent a good long time
making love that night.
The last thing Rain said when they fell
asleep was, “Always come back to me, Jacob. Please, come back to me
Rain woke first and went to the creek to
rinse her face and get a drink. There were flowers woven in their
hair again. She stood and looked around the glade. A blue glow
flitted through the mist into the branches, but that was the only
sign she saw of the fairies.
She went to put on her dress, but stopped
before her hand touched it. Jacob slept peacefully, his muscular
chest rising and falling. Rain went to him and kissed his parted
Jacob woke up, so she kissed him more
thoroughly. Rain pushed her body against his, determined to give
all of herself to him. They made love with abandon, rolling in the
mist across the glade.
Jacob carried her in his arms all the way to
the pool. “I want to carry you forever, my dearest Rain. I love you
and I will come back to you.”
She kissed his neck. “I love you.”
He set her on her feet. “I have to go now. We
were only given one day and night away. When this is done, I’ll be
Rain kissed him again.
Jacob returned the kiss before walking away,
their outstretched fingers the last touch.
Rain watched him walk along the creek. He
looked back numerous times and waved sadly as he disappeared
through the trees.
She watched a while longer.
Then she fell to her knees and cried.
“Rain, what’s wrong?” Verna came out of her
house as Rain slowly walked up the path around noon. When Rain
didn’t answer, Verna led her by the shoulders to the bench on the
porch. Rain laid her head in the Druid’s lap.
Verna ran fingers through her friend’s hair
until Rain fell asleep late in the afternoon. Then she slipped a
pillow under the distraught woman’s head and a blanket over her.
Verna made some food for when Rain woke up and then the Druid
curled up on the chair where she could keep an eye on her
Rain woke up screaming in terror. Verna was
right there, holding her. “There, there. It was just a dream.
Everything is just fine.” She let Rain sob into her shoulder for a
few moments, but finally made her stop. “It’s time for you to gain
control and tell me what’s happening.”
“He’s going to war.” Rain used the cloth
Verna gave her to wipe away tears.
“I assume you mean Jacob?”
“Yes.” Rain nodded. “Lord Greffen is going to
meet Lord Bullot in Zethbern, but I think it’s going to end in
“I’ll ignore the fact that ten soldiers on
one side and fourteen on the other don’t make a war, but how do you
know the lords won’t work it out?”
Rain looked to see if her friend was serious.
realize we live in the Kingdom of Paruth, right?
Lords never work things out here.”
Verna conceded the point. “True, but perhaps
Jacob will be fine, or even become the hero he says he will.”
“Perhaps.” A pit in the bottom of her stomach
said otherwise, but Rain clung to hope. She laid her head on
Verna’s lap. “Can I stay here tonight?”
“Of course. You may stay here as long as you
like.” Verna ran fingers through Rain’s hair again.
Rain stared at the stars and sent thoughts to
the Gods to keep Jacob safe. It was a while before she fell back to
The next day, Rain helped Verna with a
wounded wolf that came to visit. After that, they cleaned and
gathered items from the forest for more wind chimes. Rain spent the