Chapter 77: Homecoming

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There is a joy in travel, a joy in seeing the world and all its wonders, its horrors, and its mysteries. There is a joy in seeing true beauty of nature, meeting the myriads of cultures and people. But there is even greater joy in returning home.

-Author Unknown

***

Kyra opened her eyes.

The cabin was dark, with only a single shaft of moonlight giving illumination. The ship creaked, but not in a frightening way, but a comfortable one. At first, she had worried that the rocking would make her sick, but now it comforted her.

But not as much as the man that lay next to her.

Laidu was fast asleep, and in the faint moonlight, she watched his chest rise and fall. He lay on his back, one arm laid out, the other one wrapped around Kyra. She liked the feel of it around her stomach, the way his hand gently pressed against her midriff as if he was holding her close. The moonlight made his scales seem silver in its light, and it made his skin shine compared to the threadbare blanket. He had made sure she was tucked in, made sure she was wrapped up in the blanket, but their height difference left most of his chest exposed. But he didn't seem to mind.

She ran her fingertips over his chest, over the bumps of the muscles of his stomach, tracing the dips and valleys of his body, travelling across the ridges of his ribs, or the muscles that laced over his ribs. He was strong; she remembered feeling that strength this very night, when she had laid in his arms, had felt the iron-hard muscle, the kind she knew could break bones and twist necks. Yet to her, he was gentle as a summer breeze.

She had seen the statues in Caeld, the classical paintings, of the men of antiquity. The heroes of old, rendered in classic nude style, chiseled out of marble, carved with such detail that every muscle, every vein, had been captured properly to render forth a realistic masculine ideal. They didn't look like statues, but people, frozen and turned white like glaciers. Even the more modern statues, of heroes dressed in armor, embodied that same ideal.

And lying next to her, she had a living, breathing embodiment of that masculine ideal. Her very own hero of myth. Of course, it had not been his body that she had fallen in love with; it had been the soul of the man who protected her, who was kind and self-sacrificial for her. He was the man who took upon his shoulders the weight of the world, and, without complaint, held it firm.

She rose, slipped out of the bed, and winced at the cold underneath her feet. She shifted the blanket so that Laidu was under it again, and slipped out of the cabin. Her bare feet made no sound in the cold hall, which, coupled with the complete darkness, created a disorienting effect where KYra didn't know precisely where her body was. She kept in contact with one wall, just in case.

She walked down the hallway until coming to a small door. The privy. Stepping inside, she felt around for the chamber pot (taking care to make sweeping motions with her hand, so as not to accidentally stick her hand in said chamber pot), before finding it a pace and a half to her right. 

After relieving herself, she stepped out and slowly, regarding the others still asleep in their respective cabins, crept through the passageway. She wanted to curl up in bed again, in Laidu's warm embrace, and fall asleep in his arms, kept safe in the fortress of his touch. She wanted that every night, not just this one on this ship. She wanted to fall asleep next to him for the rest of her life, and it didn't matter where, whether it was the hard, cold dirt floor of the forests of Alberion or within the warm walls of her manor at Caeld. As long as every night had her awaken to Laidu, she would be happy.

Kyra stepped into her cabin and froze.

Laidu had been sleeping peacefully when she left, but now, he had thrown some sort of fit. He had kicked the blanket off of him, and his head occasionally turned. His placid expression had vanished; he seemed troubled. A nightmare?

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