Kelsandra, Chapter 14

“I’m Belszarus.” The adult charr held out her paw, which was grey-white like the rest of her, but larger in proportion. Or was that standard for charrs? Kelly didn’t know.

Kelsandra clasped her paw and winced, hoping that she wouldn’t crush her hand. Belszy quickly picked up on it and gently shook it, almost limply.

“This is—Kelly,” Valgar said uncertainly.

“Oh! Yes, I’m Kelly.” She let go, and felt the a few of the charr’s long but blunt claws graze her hand as she took it back to her side.

“Human, I assume. They were always more your style,” she said with an amused smile at Valgar.

When she turned her head, Kelly couldn’t help but stare at her horns. Those, too, seemed disproportionately huge. Like thick antlers on a stag, but sharp at the end of each branch. There were also spikes from the back of her neck to halfway down her spine. Over one eye was a small patch with a lens. Her face was gentle-featured, but there was a fierceness in her brown eyes that Kelly supposed was the case with all young charrs.

Belszarus turned back to her. Kel averted her eyes, much too late, to the ground. “Definitely a human.” Belszy chuckled.

“She doesn’t get out much,” Valgar said.

“Well, we better get inside right now anyway.” She pointed to the charr child, who had climbed a large tree by the river at her arrival and was shimmying along a branch to cross the water without getting wet. “His mother is a Covington pirate, and if he alerts her to visitors, they could try something violent.”

“How strange,” Kelly said.

“You get used to a lot in Lion’s Arch.” Belszy led the way down the path she came.

“Yes, there are many things you have to get used to.” Valgar gave Kelly a significant look, but she ignored it. She didn’t want her friend to be embarrassed on her behalf, but she’d get comfortable in her own time.

Valgar walked ahead with the charr, and Kelly internally groaned when she realized that they had the same pace of comfort, being the exact same height. Unconsciously, she lay a flat palm on Sterjin as she followed as close behind as she could. Her pet gave a high, quiet growl, and she smiled.

Belszy briefly glanced back at them.

“His name’s Sterjin,” Valgar said.

“Is he useful?” she asked.

“In a fight, yes,” Kelly said.

“I will—concede that,” the norn said. “He does quite grow on you.”

“Here,” Belszy said, gesturing to a run-down wooden cabin right beside the path. It had moss growing all on one side. “I’ve set out food for the human. I know you haven’t eaten in a long time, especially with Valgar around. Take you and your pet inside.”

“We need to talk,” Valgar said to the charr.

She looked at him, expressionless. “I know.”

Kelly walked up to the door and looked at both of them warily. Valgar nodded benevolently. She pushed on the door, afraid that the door handle would fall off if she touched it, but it didn’t open. She then pulled the handle, and the door soundlessly swung out. Kelly looked back at her two companions. They were already slowly walking further down the path, seeming to have forgotten the human that she assumed was only a girl in their eyes. She stepped into the high-roofed house, and Sterj followed.

 

 

“What took you so long to come see me, friend?” Belszy asked.

“I had to visit home, and then stayed in one place doing the same event over and over again until Kel dragged me out to travel Tyria yet again.”

“Seeing it through fresh eyes?”

Valgar automatically nodded, then stopped himself before she could see it.

Belszy laughed. “You’re so used to having that bizarre mask on. Your face is so easy to read.”

“I think you’re just more skilled than others at detecting emotion. And intent.” He scratched the back of his head. His coarse black hair was very greasy at this point, and he wiped his hand on his robe.

She hesitated. “I would disagree with you, but I have a feeling about why you’re here.”

He threw up his hand, as if telling her to go ahead.

“There’s something very much troubling you. And it concerns me in some way.”

“Not necessarily.”

She smiled. “Well, I guess I’m not right every time, then.”

He looked back at her house. “Should we turn back? I don’t want the pirates you mentioned to give her any bother.”

“Don’t worry. They leave me alone.”

They continued down the path. Valgar’s joints were sore. It was all he could think about. He didn’t want to talk to Belszy about this, but he’d have to if she were to join them. “Do you remember Strajjeck? Last time we saw each other, we stayed with her.”

“That was—quite a long time ago.”

“Yes. Well, I saw her again, after she’d been married. She was pregnant.”

Belszarus furrowed her brow. “Okay.”

“That was just a few years ago.”

“Okay.”

He paused. “She’s dead now. When she fought in the war, they never recovered her—“

“Okay,” she said, her tone this time slightly more aggressive.

Valgar sighed, and looked back at the undisturbed cabin. “Her husband put the children in someone else’s care while he put the family’s affairs in order and they were taken.”

“And so—that doesn’t necessarily concern me, but it does because I’m a charr?”

He looked at her.

“You want me to help.”

“If you want.” He held his palm up. “Your choice.”

“I made a mask for your friend in anticipation of your visit. What colors does she like?”

“I don’t know. She’s the type to like the thoughtfulness no matter what, I think.”

“See, Valgar,” Belszy said with a smile, “you have the capability of reading people too.”

“We’ve been each other’s only company for almost a month.”

“But you still noticed something of consequence.”

“Right.”

Belszy laughed so hard it turned into a cackle. “I’m taking you to the inn, about half a mile through those trees. They know to expect both of you. I can see you need some sleep.”

“Yes.”

She put a paw on his shoulder. “Or at least a lie-down and a think.” The charr turned around and waved an arm as she walked away, then called back, “I’ll tell the girl where you are.”

Valgar followed her and watched from the trees to make sure Kelly and Sterj were well on their way toward him and in one piece. He hadn’t seen his charr friend since they were teenagers, and people changed a lot in that time.

Leave a Reply