Lovers, part five

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Only two of them, and Harbend didn't even know where they were. He didn't mind his company, but separating like this could be nothing but stupid. Harbend didn't like it, but Neritan was adamant, and eventually he had agreed. Trai and Escha would accompany her so at least she wouldn't be defenseless. When Escha had jumped the three of them away Harbend shrugged and gave Nakora an uncomfortable look.

"So, what happens now?" he asked.

"We wait a while and then I guess we start walking."

"Where to?"

"Lord Garak, you are in the lead. I think you should make that decision."

"In the lead. A leader should inspire trust in his followers," he added moodily.

"And you do not?"

"How could I know any longer? Who would care?"

"I would."

Harbend looked at Nakora in surprise. "Why?"

"For the same reason you care about me," she answered, her voice suddenly very small.

Harbend felt a punch in his stomach, a very pleasant punch. "Truly?"

"I hope so."

You have beautiful eyes. Did you know that? She really was a fine woman. Fine woman! What kind of expression is that? She is wonderful! He dared himself to pull her into an embrace. They stood there for a long time hugging each other with a fierceness born out of desperation, but he felt only relief, and joy. He caressed the back of her neck, allowing his hands to explore the wonderful softness of her hair. It smelled so good. He laughed at himself knowing she probably smelled of sweat and long days without washing to anyone but him. He didn't care. There were only the two of them, and he wanted the feeling to last a bit longer. They remained in each other's arms until the stinging wind reminded them it was too cold to stay unmoving outdoors.

Harbend didn't want to let her go, but they were here for a reason. He suspected he wouldn't be able to bring them along for another dangerous search in unknown territory so they needed to act in a timely way. Slowly they walked towards the darkness ahead of them. That had to be the place. There was nothing else emitting such a feeling of despair, and once more Harbend wondered what kind of trouble Arthur had gotten himself into.

Harbend was happy to have Nakora at his side. She seemed to be able to dispel the constructed darkness ahead of them, or at least lessen his fears of it. Peculiar to rely on someone else, even if he didn't say it aloud, but admitting something that unfamiliar to anyone else would take time, a lot of time.

He broke snow beneath his feet as he struggled ahead. One good sign if nothing else. They had to be the first to take this route, at least since the last snowfall, whenever that had been. Behind him Nakora followed in his steps, and her presence was more than just reassuring. Whatever befell them they would face it together. Harbend knew the giddying elation to be foolish, but he didn't care.

They hadn't walked for long before the darkness surrounded them and soon after Harbend noted that it wasn't as absolute as he'd first believed. There were shadowy shapes visible in the distance, and as he turned around he could see a white curtain of light from where they had come. It was like walking around in a cloudy night, and but for the border to daylight he could have thought himself having overslept an entire day.

The oppression, though, was nothing he'd experienced earlier. Whatever magic caused the night here also carried a sinister addition, and Harbend doubted he'd be able to carry on alone. The wind was gone as well, and so they trudged on in an eerie silence bringing a different kind of fear to him as he could imagine what kind of sounds he ought to have heard.

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