Past

After getting Ivan settled in the inn and bringing Haymich’s body to the burial grounds to be prepped for the ceremony, Iver went to wash in the river. Mental and physical exhaustion weighed down his body and made it impossible to focus on any particular thought.

Thankfully, the river was a short walk south from the village. Iver used the solitude to work through his anxiety and create a plan to figure out what truly happened to him a few hours ago. If Ivan’s assessment was correct, then there had to be more people who experienced the same phenomenon. He was too afraid to look for them within the walls of Lessal. While, no doubt, rumors of the event would start circulating, he didn’t want to add on top of that. Kivo held his answer.

He reached the small beach. An eerie silence stood over the still, glassy surface of the water. Even crickets refused to chirp. Iver inhaled deeply. He always thought that the night had a different scent to it than the day. It was sweeter, more alluring. Cool breeze rippled the water as he stripped down and stepped in. With each step, his toes buried into the wet sand. A few steps in, air caught in his lungs while feelings of shame drowned in the tide of adrenaline. He fell. Water rushed to surround him in its embrace.

As he forced his body to sink lower into the depths, his eyes focused on the large crescent moon above. Slowly, he released his breath and bubbles of air rushed to the surface. Gentle undercurrent cradled him, whispered promises of other lands and unlived lives. For a moment the thought seemed enticing, just before the memory of Nadia anchored him. He tossed the temptation aside and propelled himself to the surface. While air was a welcome change, feelings of responsibility not so much.

“Husband,” Nadia’s voice came from the shore. “Come out, I got beer.” She watched him emerge from the river, dripping wet and stark naked. “Sit down,” she said when Iver took one of the mugs.

He sat. Nadia sat just far enough to show him that she was not in a cuddling mood.

“This is not going to work,” she said. “You lived in this village for two years and no one knows anything about you.” When Iver did not answer, she continued. “We are married now. We need to know a few basic things about each other.”

“All right.”

She looked annoyed. “That was your queue.”

“Ah,” he smiled. “Well, I am twenty three, I do not know where I was born, I do not know my parents, I spent a good portion of my life in Port Grand and moved here three years ago in search of a better life.”

“Iver, I do not know what happened to you and why you came to Lessal. I do not expect you to reveal your entire life story to me now and all at once. But I do want to know a few honest things about you so that I could better understand you. So, having said that, last chance.”

After a long pause, Iver sighed. “My mother died giving birth to me. My father left when he realized that raising three children by himself was too much of a pain. So, we raised ourselves. As any kid with nowhere to go and nothing to eat, we turned to stealing. While my siblings did well enough to get by, I was a natural. One day the Guild came looking for me and offered me to take their test. I had nothing better to do that day, so I went in and passed. Spent seven years with them and even made the Master Crafter rank. Then the world politics started getting intense.  Artisans of the guild started rubbing elbows with Katalian nobility. They sent me out on a job which went sour. When I realized I had no home to go back to, I faked my own death and ran for the hills. Stumbled onto this place.”

Nadia took a sip of her beer. “The guild? What guild?”

“You haven’t heard of the Guild?”

“No.”

Iver laughed. “Let’s just say that they are a group of well-trained folks who do things for money.”

“Oh…”

“Still love me?”

“Opinion’s pending.”

“Fair enough. Your turn,” Iver drained his mug and tossed it away.

“I am thirty-one, born and raised here in Lessal, youngest of seven. All siblings, as you know, are alive and well. Parents passed a few years back. Was in a hunting party for a long time until a mission went sour and all of them were killed.”

“Yeah, I remember something happened a year ago. That was you?”

She nodded. “Since then I avoided joining another group. Just stuck to the easier jobs.”

“How’d they die?”

“Badly,” Nadia finished her beer and placed it upside down in the sand.

“Are we good?”

“Let’s just say better than before.”

“Want to have sex?”

It was his boldness that Nadia very much appreciated. She saw many men stammer and cow under a woman’s gaze, but not Iver. He saw what he wanted and like a true marksman he shot right for it. “Yes, I do,” she answered and made a move to go home. His hand grabbed hers and before she realized what happened, she was lying on Iver’s cloak, his naked body pressed against her.

“I want you now,” he whispered into her ear.

“Good,” she said and pulled him in for a kiss.