The Adventures Of Bill & Kris: The Trouble With Doubles

“Hey, Bill?”

“Yes, Kris?”

“I had that nightmare again last night.”

Bill stopped what he was doing, the bedroll slipping through his fingers. It took him a moment to accept that his hands were shaking. He steadied himself as best he could, glancing to where Kris sat. She still had her back to him and didn’t seem to have noticed.

“Which one are you talking about?”

She was quiet for a long moment, staring up at the passing clouds. “You know the one.”

Bill resumed breaking their camp, swallowing down the fear he felt building in his heart. “Remind me.”

“The one with the fire,” she said softly, voice almost as distant as the clouds. “Everything is on fire. The air is choking, and I can’t breath. There are people screaming, lots of them. Horrible screams, because I think, maybe, they are burning alive.”

Bill closed his eyes, heart aching. “I remember it now. It’s been a while since you had that dream.”

“I know,” she said slowly. “Isn’t it odd that it keeps coming back, though?”

“It’s just a dream,” he told her. “I wouldn’t put too much stock in it.”

She tilted her head, following a flock of birds as they crossed the morning sun. “Maybe you’re right. It just always feels like more than a dream.”

“Nightmares always do,” Bill said quietly.

Kris pulled her knees to her chest, staring off into the distant sky. “Maybe.”

“Why didn’t you wake me up?”

She gave a slight shrug. “You were snoring, so I didn’t want to stop you. I always sleep better when you snore.”

“Oh,” he murmured.

“Hey, Bill?”

“Yes, Kris?”

“Tell me about it again.”

Bill stood, looking at her closely now. Something was different today. He didn’t know just what it was, but she was different. He could feel it. From the roll of his stomach to the knife twist in his heart, he could feel it.

“Been a while since you wanted to hear about that,” he managed to say.

“I know,” she replied gently. “I think I forgot about it for a long time. Or, maybe I didn’t need to hear it. I’m not really sure.”

Bill bowed his head. He had known this was coming. It had been since the start. It was inevitable, and inescapable. Regardless, he dreaded it. He wanted nothing more than to hold her close for the rest of his life.

“When we get enough money saved up, we can quit this whole mercenary thing, and buy a farm,’ he told her, keeping his voice steady despite the painful sting of tears in his eyes. “We’ll settle down, and just live. Just the two of us.”

“What will we grow?”

“Wheat, I figure. Maybe corn, too.”

“Will we have farm animals?”

“Of course. Cows, and chickens, and sheep. Even pigs, that I promise not to eat.”

“We’ll be happy?”

“Very.”

She rested her chin on her knees with a sigh as gentle as the breeze. “I can’t tell anymore.”

“Can’t tell what, babe?”

“If that’s the dream, or this is.”

Bill felt like he was made of stone. Nothing wanted to move. His arms felt heavy, but his legs shook like a stack of pebbles. Was it time already? Had the day come without his realizing it?

“This is real. Right now.”

“I can’t tell,” she said again, voice heavy with sadness. “Sometimes, I think I’m dreaming this, and the fire and screams are what is real. Other times, the farm is real, and everything else is a dream. I just can’t tell.”

Bill swallowed again, mouth painfully dry. “I’m real, so this must be real. Right?”

“But if it isn’t, and you’re a dream I’m having, how could I know? How could I make sure I never wake up? Because, Bill, I don’t want to. Not ever.” She hugged herself tighter. “But, I’m afraid I’m going to. I’m going to wake up, and this, all of it, will be gone. I don’t want that.”

“Don’t worry,” he blurted. “I won’t let that happen. Not ever.”

He couldn’t see it, but he felt her faint smile. “For all of your strength, my beloved, you cannot stop a dream from ending. I wish you could.”

Bill lowered his eyes, staring at the ground, twisted into a painful knot he knew there was no hope of untying. “I can try.”

“Yes. That I believe,” she replied. “Try for us both, Bill. I’m counting on it.”

Turning away from her back, he resumed packing their belongings. “We should get moving. If we hurry, we can make the next town by late afternoon.”

“There’s a storm coming. I can feel it, whispered by the trees. It’s a ways off yet, though. We should be fine for a while.”

Bill knew this, better than he ever dared say.

Soon, Kris would awaken from her long dream.

When she did, his dream would end as well.

B&K

Burdek’s Bridge wasn’t really a town, so much as it was a small cluster of buildings around, surprisingly enough, a bridge over the Ghasthaunt River. This was odd mostly because it wasn’t a very well made bridge, which went nowhere anyone wanted to go, and to be perfectly honest, the Ghasthaunt didn’t get its name by accident. Why anyone would want to live there was anyone’s guess.

Had Bill not had business on the other side of the bridge, he sincerely doubted he would ever have known the little hamlet even existed. As he and Kris came down the narrow, rutted road that lead into Burdek’s Bridge, he wasn’t even sure he knew it existed now.

Half a dozen buildings spread out in a semi circle facing the bridge. Most of them where nick knack shops, sporting various items proclaiming that someone had visited the Ghasthaunt and come back alive. Bill was fairly certain that cheese found that cheesy.

“Are we gonna see any ghosts?” Kris asked.

“Doubt it,” Bill told her. “Ghasts maybe, but not many ghosts.”

“Damn,” she muttered. “I really wanted to bust something.”

“What?”

“What?”

Bill decided not to chase that rabbit today.

Kris waved Bunny at him, just to be sure.

As has been noted in the past, Bill Wick was a very patient man.

With Kris getting no reaction, the two passed by the outside edge of the buildings, to find the entire population of Burdek’s Bridge, some three dozen people, gathered before a stage set off to the left of the road. Bill slowed a bit at that, taking in the well armored human who stood up there, and the scantily clad Elf woman at his side.

Something seemed oddly familiar about them.

Something…

“Bill?” Kris asked, slapping him with Bunny. “You okay?”

“Shh…” he urged, waving her down as he stared at the duo on the stage, trying to put his finger on where he had seen them before.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the human was declaring. “Gather round, and listen well, for today is your lucky day!”

“I gots dimples” the Elf squealed, jabbing her fingers into her cheeks.

“For today,” the human continued, throwing the crowd a dazzling smile. “All of your problems will be solved. No matter how big or how small, whatever plagues you, vexes you, confounds you, or haunts you, for a pittance of a fee, it will be dealt with, in an order most short.”

“This is my butt!” the Elf howled, sticking her ass out towards the crowd.

“Today,” the human continued, paying the Elf no mind, even as the townsfolk stared at her in confusion. “You have been paid a visit by the most famous, successful, and affordable mercenary in three kingdoms. The one, the only, me, myself, and I, Bill Wick.”

“I’m Kris, a Druid and I’m crazy!” the Elf shrieked.

Bill went red. Kris gaped. Bunny was nonplussed by the entire thing.

“Step right up, and tell me your woes,” the human called out, waving to the steps of the stage. “A simple price of ten gold, and I vow, on my honor, and my reputation, that whatever it is, it shall be dealt with forthwith.”

“I gots the gas!” the Elf giggled. “It makes me fart!”

“Kris,” Bill said in a long, slow growl.

“Uh… yeah?” she replied, stepping back a little.

“We’re going to be in a fight in a moment. Kindly don’t get in front of me until it’s over.”

Kris hugged Bunny to her chin. “Are you gonna kill that other us?”

Bill blinked. Then he counted to ten. Then he did it again. It didn’t work either time.

“That is clearly not us!”

“Your shouting,” Kris wailed.

Bill pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m sorry, but come on, Kris. Really?”

“How do you know there’s not more of us out there,” she pouted. “We could all be nothing but an illusion cast by a dreaming God. We could be the central characters of short, epic, yet pointless tales written by a half assed writer for the enjoyment of a small number of people. You don’t know!”

Bill gaped.

Kris gaped back.

Bill took a moment to find his happy place.

Kris made Bunny dance in case it was a field of flowers.

“Baby, listen, that is not us. We are us. Now please, when I go kick their ass, stay behind me. Okay?”

Kris chewed her lip. “Okay, but you have to make me one promise.”

“What?”

“Don’t kick other me in the ass too hard, in case I feel it by way of some kind of psychic transference made possible by a bald man in a wheelchair played by a space captain.”

Bill blinked a whole lot of times.

“I don’t… even… what?”

“What?”

“Nope, not doing it,” he stated. “Let’s go.”

“Okay!” she declared with great cheer as she trailed after him, waving Bunny in the air.

Some days, Bill thought, were stranger than others.

As he stormed towards the stage, intent on making the two charlatans pay for misappropriating his hard earned reputation, he quickly found his path blocked by, to his surprise, the villagers. A line had formed as they took turns explaining their problems to the fake Bill, and forking over the ten gold he asked. Somehow, Bill realized, he was at the back of the line.

“Excuse me,” he said to the little old lady in front of him. “I really need to have a talk with those two. Would you mind if I went ahead?”

“Damn right I would,” she snorted. “I got me a son in law that’s laid about for his last day. No cutting!”

Bill couldn’t really think of anything to say back to that. For no reason he could readily name, he ended up waiting his turn. It felt weird.

“This is a really slow ass kicking,” Kris commented half an hour later.

“I can’t just shove an old lady aside, you know,” he grumbled.

“What if I gave you ten gold?” Kris inquired.

Bill bit his tongue not to answer the way he wanted, then said, “Not even then.”

“Blah,” Kris blahed, lolling her tongue as far out as she could.

“I’m surprised you’re handling the wait as well as you are,” he told her, trying to change the subject to one where she noticed she had been given a compliment.

“I’m Elven,” Kris shrugged. “We’re experts at queuing.”

Bill couldn’t find anything to say to that, but for some reason, felt his day had just gotten stranger than it had been a moment ago. Finally, he nodded, and turned back to wait in line to kick his own ass.

“Hmm…” he sighed.

B&K

It took another thirty minutes, and Bill helping the old lady planning to have her son in law murdered up the steps, but he finally found himself standing before the man who claimed to be Bill Wick, and the Elf who claimed to be Kris. The Elf had run out of absurd things to say some time ago, and had spent the last twenty minutes just shimmying about the stage, leaving Bill to wonder just who the hell these people actually were.

They knew just enough to know both his reputation, and Kris’, but not enough to really pull off a convincing impersonation. Odds are, he realized as the old lady detailed just how she wanted her son in law to die, they were actors. What the scam was, however, eluded Bill.

“Then, boil his head in lard and feed it to some pigs!” the old lady finally finished.

“Er… I promise it shall be done, I guess,” fake Bill said, looking somewhat pale and disgusted by her rather vivid descriptives.

Bill had found them rather tame.

Kris was shimmying about the stage with Kris. Bill decided to ignore that.

“Ah, our last patron of the day,” fake Bill declared, reaching out to pump real Bill’s hand warmly. “And what can I do for you, my fine friend, that you cannot do for yourself.”

“Might help if I introduced myself,” Bill told him.

His anger had faded a lot during the wait, allowing him to form a much more reasonable approach to dealing with this. One he felt was less likely to end in bloodshed. He hoped.

“I don’t see how that will help, but by all means, feel free,” the man replied with an offhand laugh.

Kris was doing a weird dance with Kris. Both Bill’s stared in a way that wasn’t so much confusion as it was resigned acceptance.

“I’m Bill fucking Wick.”

The man before him laughed a bit, then slowly digested what Bill had just said. His smile, cocky and charming, faded into an expression of horror as he realized that the man before him was, indeed, the genuine Bill fucking Wick.

One Kris stopped dancing as the same thing hit her. The other kept going. The Elf woman turned her head, very slowly, to take in the dancing Elf woman at her side, her expression one of dawning horror at the terrible, powerful, and notoriously merciless, insane Druid at her side.

Kris did a sexy dance with Bunny.

“I… uh… you… um… that is… shit…” the man quivered, looking for a way to escape the monstrous mercenary before him.

“There’s only two things I really want to know,” Bill told him. “Be honest, and you can leave here alive.”

“Don’t run,” Kris told the Elf. “You’ll get two steps before I turn you to ash.”

“I… I… I…” she stammered.

“Dance with me,” Kris invited, grinning wildly.

“Kris, stop it,” Bill called over. “Time for serious talk.”

“Phooey,” she pouted as she stopped dancing. “What should I do with her?”

“Keep her there, but don’t hurt her.”

Kris casually reached up and grabbed the woman by the breast. “Got it.”

Bill buried his face in his hand.

“I’m firm, but soft,” Kris observed. “Nice.”

“Stop that,” Bill barked.

Kris dropped her hand instantly. “It’s not my fault! She’s got an apple on her head!”

Bill frowned at that. “You sure?”

Kris nodded vigorously. “It’s a Golden Delicious. Very shiny. No worms.”

Bill sighed heavily. “Well, hell.”

“I’m very confused and afraid right now,” the man interjected.

Bill pulled back from him a bit, running a hand over his face. “No, don’t be afraid. Confused I can’t help you with, but there’s no need to be afraid. Kris says you’re not bad people, so I guess I should hear you out as to just what the hell it is you think you’re trying to pull here.”

“Can I put bunny in your cleavage?” Kris asked the Elf.

“What?”

“What?”

“Wait.. what?”

“What?”

“I don’t… what?”

“What what?”

“Kris, stop that!”

“It’s our gag, I have to do it!”

“Hmm…” Bill groaned.

B&K

“My name is Halsey Wright, and this Thristria Verathan’Morilin,” the man said a short time later as the four gathered near his wagon. “We’re traveling actors. Normally, we just put on the plays of Gondal Hennerkic. Honest work for honest pay.”

“Hennerkic was a hack,” Kris pouted. “I prefer the works of Valinday.”

“Who doesn’t,” Thristria chuckled. “But Hennerkic had no heirs, so his work is public domain.”

Kris nodded at that. “Makes sense. Still, his dialogue was always so stilted. I’m surprised you can get it out without laughing.”

“That’s what makes me a professional,” the other Elf said with a shy smile. “Halsey has a harder time with it.”

“The Merchant’s Dilemma,” Kris told him with a sly wink. “Am I right? The lines for Quntiero are so bad they’re hysterical.”

“What are you doing?” Bill asked.

“Bonding,” Kris said with a bright smile.

“Over plays?”

“Well, duh.”

“Since when do you know anything about plays?”

“I dunno,” Kris shrugged, swinging her feet off the stack of trunks she was perched on. “Just sorta came to me.”

“Right,” Bill said slowly. “Anyway, back to the topic at hand.”

“Yeah,” Halsey nodded, giving Thristria a mildly annoyed look, and getting a chagrined smile in return. “As I was saying, normally we wouldn’t ever dream of conning people out of their money, but things have been tough for the last few months.”

Bill scowled. “Doesn’t make lying the right thing to do.”

Halsey wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I know. I didn’t feel we had any other choice. Not after what happened in the capitol a couple weeks ago.”

Bill felt a strange knot in his gut form. “What happened in the capitol?”

“You haven’t heard?” Thristria asked.

“No, we’ve been out in the badlands for the past couple of weeks, hunting down the remnants of a cult.” Bill shrugged. “Not that I usually hear much of what’s going on in the capitol anyway.”

Halsey glanced at Kris. “You’ll want to hear this, then.”

“So, spit it out.”

“The Elven ambassador walked out of the peace talks with the Verithorn chancellor. They say war is imminent.”

Bill kept his face as neutral as possible.

“Every since the attack on Shana’Thar, when the royal family was killed by human soldiers, and the sacred trees were burned, this has been coming,” Thristria said. “It won’t be safe in Verithorn for Elves soon. Halsey and I are trying to get enough money together to buy supplies to get us over the border into the Kondameir Kingdom. We can be safe there, for a while anyway.”

“I see,” Bill intoned.

Kris stared into space. Bill watched her closely. After a moment, she gave him a smile, and he saw that none of it had registered. Quietly, he let out the breath he had been holding.

“I’m sorry,” Halsey was saying to him. “I didn’t mean any disrespect to you, Mr. Wick. It’s just, people everywhere know your name, and I figured it’s be a quick way to get the cash we needed. A little lie, and we skip town, without anyone getting hurt.”

“Except me,” Bill said. “My reputation is all I’ve got, you know.”

Halsey averted his gaze again. “Honestly, I didn’t expect you to be the kind of man who would care about that.”

Bill frowned, the let out a heavy sigh. “Yeah, I get it. Turns out I am, though, so I’ve got to make right on what you promised. Give me the list of requests, and I’ll deal with them. Once I have, Kris and I will escort you through the Lichwood on the other side of the Ghasthaunt River. Kondameir is right on the other side. The money, we’ll split.”

Halsey stared at him in shock for a long moment, before his face softened into gratitude. “Thank you, Mr. Wick. You’ve no idea what this means to me.”

“Yeah,” Bill said, giving Kris a look. “I really kind of do.”

“You should come with us,” Thristria said suddenly. “It won’t be safe for you guys here much longer, either.”

Bill grinned at that. “You really think anyone in this country is gonna tell me Kris can’t stay with me?”

The actors exchanged a brief glance, then found themselves joining Bill in his grin.

“No, I don’t guess they would,” Halsey chuckled. “Well said, Mr. Wick.”

“His Dwarf name is William,” Kris whispered to Thristria, very loudly.

Bill facepalmed.

B&K

Bill spent the rest of the day repairing a fence, shearing sheep, chasing down chickens that had escaped their coop, repairing several broken windows around the tiny community, and hanging a new door at one shopfront. Satisfied that the tasks of the villagers would be far simpler than he had figured, going only on what the elderly woman in front of him had requested, he had gone to sleep that night feeling pretty good about things.

The next morning began page two of his tasks. Things got complicated right about there.

He instantly regretted having bacon for breakfast.

“They want me to what?”

“Repair the bridge,” Halsey repeated, waving at the decrepit old suspension bridge before them.

Bill shook his head. “I’m a mercenary, not a carpenter, much less an engineer. How the hell am I suppose to fix that?”

“Don’t ask me, I was going to skip out with the money,” Halsey shrugged.

“You might want to stop reminding me of that,” Bill snarled. “It makes me want to punch you in the face.”

Halsey backed up several feet. “Sorry.”

“What are we doing?” Kris asked as she and Thristria joined them.

Bill waved a hand at the bridge. “Fixing that. Somehow.”

“Clyde!” Kris squealed.

Bill flinched. “Where?”

“I dunno,” Kris shrugged. “Seeing a bridge made me think of him.”

“Troll poet,” Bill told Halsey with an exaggerated eye roll.

Halsey stared at him in awe. “You met Clyde? The Clyde?”

“Dammit all,” Bill muttered.

Kris started chanting. Five minutes later the suspension bridge had been replaced by an elaborately designed wooden one decorated with scrolled railings, open spots for fishing, and little flowers growing out of the handrail.

Bill slumped, as Halsey and Thristria applauded.

“What’s next?” Kris asked.

B&K

“Wither before me mortal, and perish!” the lich howled.

“Yeah, about that,” Bill cut in. “We’re here to make you a deal.”

The specter like figure cocked its hooded head to one side as it floated upon a plume of black smoke, the red ember eyes narrowing in confusion. “A… what?”

“A deal,” Bill said again. “With the folks over in Burdek’s Bridge on the other side of the river.”

“The fodder that sates my hunger can beg for…” the lich began.

“Oh, shut up,” Bill cut in. “I’m Bill Wick and I killed Grimfang the Black Death. You really think I give two shits about your morbid posturing. Now, you wanna hear this deal, or not?”

The lich hovered about nervously. “Bill Wick? Really? The Bill Wick?”

“Yeah.”

“Whoa!” it howled in horrid delight. “I am such a big fan! Ah, man, the work you did in the battle of the Blood Hills was just… just… freaking epic, dude! Oh, my dark lord, I am totally fangirling right now!’

“Uuuuuuhhhhhhh….” Bill managed.

“Can I get your autograph?”

“I mean, yeah, sure, I guess,” Bill struggled. “But only if you hear me out on this deal with the villagers.”

“Yeah, sure, anything they want!” the lich exclaimed as its boney hands went to its phantasmal face in vile glee. “Can you sign my rod of life draining?”

Bill tried really hard to understand what was happening. He failed, but that he tried really should count for something.

Ten minutes later, the lich had sworn off draining life energy from souls, and agreed to appear before tourists, as it clutched its now autographed evil rod in unholy happiness.

“He seemed nice,” Kris said as they walked away.

“The world makes no sense to me anymore,” Bill whined.

B&K

The Minotaur’s axe collided with Bill’s sword, ringing out in the dank underground labyrinth that, for some reason, was the basement of a shop selling tea cozies, already emblazoned with a grinning likeness of the lich. For his part, Bill had decided to simply not ask any questions.

“What’s up after this?” he asked Kris as he shoved the massive beast back, looking for an opening that would finish it quickly.

“I dunno,” she shrugged. “Halsey has the list.”

“Dammit,” he groaned. “I think I’m gonna take a break for a bit and get some lunch, then.”

“You might want to hurry up,” the Druid yawned in boredom. “It’s already well past noon.”

Bill scowled at her as he darted under a massive swing of the axe. “You could help, you know.”

“I didn’t want to horn in,” she giggled.

The Minotaur stopped dead, looking at her in shock. “Wow. Not cool. That is way racist.”

Bill started looking for something he could bang his head against.

“No, it was a pun,” Kris sniffed.

“It was a stereotype,” the Minotaur told her in a smug voice, closing its eyes as it spoke, arms crossing over its massive chest. “And stereotypes are harmful to everyone, because they are racially motivated.”

Kris cocked her head to the side a bit. “You have a nose ring.”

“It’s a fashion choice!’ the Minotaur bellowed.

“Hey, can we finish fighting, maybe today,” Bill interrupted. “I’m hungry and tired, and already had to autograph a lich’s rod.”

The Minotaur looked over at him in surprise. “You know Phil?”

“Oh, for fucks sake,” Bill groaned. “Yes, I know the lich. He’s a fan of mine, or something. I don’t know. Whatever. Let’s get back to trying to kill each other.”

“Forget it,” the Minotaur snorted. “That Elf hurt my feelings with her words. I need to go to my safe space while I recover from the trauma.”

Bill watched it walk away. “Seriously?”

“Yea for you, Bill!” Kris whooped. “You defeated the vile Minotaur!”

“My name is Hubert, and calling me vile is racial profiling!”

“Screw this,” Bill muttered as he stormed away.

B&K

“Hey, Bill?”

“Yeah, Kris?”

“Why are those otters on fire?”

“Apparently, they are fiendish otters.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yup.”

“They are so cute!”

“Whatever.”

B&K

Bill collapsed onto a bench in front of a shop, letting out a long, slow breath, before looking at Halsey. “Okay, so the three headed dog that speaks only in dirty limericks is dealt with. What else we got?”

Halsey glanced at the list, then back at Bill in surprise. “Okay, I gotta ask. How did you beat that dog?”

Bill pointed at Kris.

“I know a lot of dirty limericks,” she beamed.

“Forget I asked,” Halsey said quickly. “Looks like that was the last one. All done, Mr. Wick.”

“Thank the Fates,” he groaned. “I need a bath, a hot meal, a lot of sleep, and then, Phil the lich has promised to help us pass through his forest tomorrow.”

“Such a nice guy,” Kris nodded. “He does amazing needlepoint.”

Bill could think of a lot of things to say. He chose to give her a look that begged her to not mention that again instead.

“What?” she whined. “He does. Gave me this one.”

She held up a needlepoint scene of horrific hellish dismemberment.

Halsey and Thristria blanched.

Bill sighed heavily.

Kris made the cursed needlepoint into a bonnet for Bunny.

“That aside,” Bill said. “We’ll get you two safely out of the country tomorrow. From there, I expect you’ll stick to acting, and leave the mercenary work to the professionals.”

“Of course,” Halsey agreed. “Though, I would like to thank you again for this. You are a lot different than I had heard, and to be honest, I’m glad I got to meet you. Kris as well, of course.”

“I am beloved by all,” she agreed before licking the needlepoint of evil.

“Please don’t lick lich needlepoint, Kris.” Bill chastised. “Who knows where that’s been.”

She gave him an eye roll. “In lich fingers, duh.”

“Yeah, kinda my point,” he told her with extreme patience.

“You worry too much,” she said, waving him off. “Or have you forgotten just how powerful I am?”

“I think you are the one who keeps forgetting how powerful you are,” he snorted.

“Oh yeah,” she giggled. “But really, a little lich needlepoint is no match for Krysthalanis Shirafilannia Ar’Verum, now is it?”

Bill’s smile faded as Thristria’s eyes went wide. The Elf took a step forward, then caught Bill’s look of warning, and the slow shake of his head. Tears were already forming in her eyes as Kris made Bunny hop around the needlepoint scene of horror, fire, death and blood.

“Why?” Thristria whispered. “Why is she like this?”

“Who?” Kris asked without looking up. “If you mean Bunny, he’s not a she, and according to that Minotaur, he’s very offended by your gendered insults. I think.”

Bill was already up, and had the Elf by the arm, dragging her back. “You didn’t hear that, understand?”

“But, she’s…”

“Not any more,” Bill snarled. “Maybe, one day, she will be again, but for now, she isn’t. Leave it be.”

“What’s going on?” Halsey asked, fear creeping into his voice at the look on Bill’s face.

“How?” Thristria asked again. “Shan’Thar… nobody survived.”

“She did, and I did. For now, nobody can know, or they’ll come after her again. Until she can bear to remember, until she can be herself again, that’s how it has to be. Okay?”

Thristria stared at Kris for a long time, struggling to hold back her tears at the sight of the broken woman in front of her, and all she had once been. “I understand. I didn’t hear anything.”

“Thank you,” Bill said, releasing her arm. “I’m sorry. I know what you must be thinking, and what you must feel, and want right now.”

“I want her to be safe, until she can return home, and take her rightful place again,” Thristria replied. “Keep her safe, Mr. Wick. Promise me that, and I’ll never breath a word of what I know to anyone.”

Bill saw the fire in her eyes, the passion and anger, the hope, and nodded his head. “On my life, and on my honor.”

Thristria nodded in return. “Thank you. For everything.”

Bill stepped back, looking down at Kris with a sad smile. “Let’s go get some lunch, babe.”

“Can we eat with Phil?”

“Yeah, no.”

Halsey moved to join Thristria as the two walked towards a small cafe on the other side of the tiny town. Only once they were away, did she allow herself to cry, turning and burying her face against her lovers shoulder as she did.

“I’m lost,” he finally said. “Who was she?”

“Nobody,” Thristria replied. “Let’s get ready to leave. We have a long trip ahead of us tomorrow.”

“Honey,” he started.

“Don’t,” she cut in, tone pleading. “Forget that happened. Someday, I’ll be able to explain it, but for now, trust me. She’s nobody.”

Halsey nodded, glancing back to the mercenary and his strange Druid companion one more time.

He would have to find time to send Theron Ashscale word.

The Queen of the Elves still lived.

©-2017 Cain S. Latrani

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

No Minotaurs had their feelings hurt in the writing of this short story.

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