Kelsandra, Chapter 11

“Why are you such a coxcomb?” Kelsandra asked as she and Sterjin followed Valgar. The sounds of the victory faded behind them, and she realized that they had not stopped for a reward, if there was one.

“Coxcomb? My grandmother is the only one I know of who used that word,” Valgar said casually.

“Do you know what it means?” She ran and kept up with him, forcing herself to assume a pace between a fast walk and a jog. Usually, Kelly let her and Sterj fall back, only occasionally running to catch up when he was almost out of sight. She didn’t want that now.

“A vain jerk,” he said more quietly, now that she was right beside him.

“Did your grandmother call you that often?” Kelly asked. She didn’t want to antagonize him, but this was her story, and she resented him taking hold of it and molding it to his own will.

A pause. “That’s what she called my father,” he grumbled.

She nodded. “I understand now.”

“Has your faith in me faltered at all since we’ve met?”

“No,” she said, “but I’ve only just met you. Why?”

“I just hear you building up to a complaint about our friendship and I wanted to remind you of that.”

Kelly looked at his maskless face, realized he was serious, and sighed. “Alright then. What is the plan?”

“I have a charr friend that works in Lion’s Arch and I’ll see if she can accompany us. She also has a good eye for clothing.”

“For a mask, you mean?” Kelly asked.

“That, and armor.” Valgar quickly glanced down at her leg. It had completely healed, but the pants were still ripped, and a fist-sized flap of fabric batted against her thigh as with every step.

“So, what if she can’t come with us?”

“We’re on our own. I’m not a traveler; I don’t have friends everywhere.”

Out of breath, Kelly slowed to a walk behind him. Sterjin caught up to her and nipped at her bag. “Are you hungry?” she breathed, and reached for his head, but he backed off.

He couldn’t understand her. She concluded he probably thought she was angry because of her breathless voice, far from gentle.

Over the past few weeks, Kelly had been trying to ignore the fact that she and her drake would never be on the same page, despite being each other’s only companions for so long. But as it became more apparent that she wasn’t connecting with Valgar, another person with whom she’d shared her most terrifying and perhaps relevant experiences, the fog would eventually clear and Kelly and Sterj would be the only ones left, standing side by side. She might as well focus on him, not on trying to buddy up to the Norn, who hadn’t slowed his pace at all.

Kelsandra sighed. She’d caught her breath now and so she ran forward, checking back for Sterj.

 

 

They couldn’t find a secluded enough place by nightfall, and so decided to set up camp beside a large tree and take shifts for keeping watch. Kelly took first shift, though she was absolutely exhausted from a full day of intermittent running and hating Valgar. After she woke him up, before she fell asleep, she softly patted the ridge of Sterjin’s nose and promised him that they would get food for him first thing the next morning. She panicked when he looked ashamed, as if she’d told him off, but then wondered how she could read his expressions—for if he couldn’t understand her, what made her think that she could much more easily understand him?

 

“Sterj needs to be near water soon,” Kelly remarked the next morning once they’d all packed their things. “And we all need proper food.”

“There’s a very small lake an hour away, and we’ve got enough stops.” Valgar slung his bag over his shoulder and quickly checked the ground for anything he’d missed before walking confidently toward the rising sun.

Kelly caught up, Sterj reluctantly following behind. “But is it safe there? I’ve heard it’s only a wreckage, a place where criminals converge.”

“Belszarus works for the Market, and forges weapons for the Lionsguard. We’ll be safe with her.”

“She’s a smith?” Kelly asked.

“Primarily an engineer.” He absentmindedly patted the hilt of his sword, as if making sure it was still there.

“Don’t you think we need a thief or someone like that? You know, to peer into places, find things out?”

“I don’t like thieves,” he said. “I have almost as little regard for rangers.”

That was hardly necessary to mention,” Kelly said.

“Thieves, rangers, asura. Not handling any of them.”

“Is there a thieving asura ranger I’ll hear about soon? Would she be eager to join us?”

Kelly had been joking, but Valgar grumbled. “Fine. But we’re tricking her out of the reward money.”

Now who’s a thief?”

2 comments

  1. Great story.
    Poor Sterj. He must be working so hard to keep up with everyone for so long. Funny ending

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