Al Bruno III
One day to go and they both looked a little sleepless a little haggard. The parries and defenses had been ingrained into Dianorra's body but Shardovan could tell her mind was elsewhere. Truth be told so was his. Last night's confrontation with the Duke haunted him. Shardovan made a half-hearted lunge for her abdomen, she blocked it and dodged to the left, trying to guard against another attack. He swung the blade in a wide horizontal arc, catching her practice sword near the base sending her sprawling to the floor.
Dazed, she swung her faux weapon at him until Shardovan pinned it beneath the toe of his boot.
"Enough." He said, "Rest now."
Dianora struggled into a sitting position and dabbed the sweat from her face with the edge of her sleeve "They should be coming to get us soon shouldn't they?"
"Yes." Shardovan said, "I've been thinking about tomorrow."
"So have I."
"The Duke has doubled the guard on us but if you're willing to take the chance we might be able to fight our way out."
"You don't think I can win do you?"
"It's not that. I don't think you should have to go through this and I don't trust your husband to let us go even if you do win."
"All this." She sighed, "All this over a boyish prank."
"Anluan tried to humiliate me." Shardovan said evenly, "He tried to make me into a laughing stock."
"And that's why you told the Duke about us?"
"I couldn't stand it anymore. I wanted to hurt them all."
"You tried so hard and they never accepted you."
"I don't need their acceptance!
"Then why did you care what they thought of you?"
"And they say I'm too clever for my own good." Shardovan said with a half smile.
"Clever enough. Now tell me your plan."
They spent the next hour plotting an escape, Shardovan made plans for Dianorra's newly honed skills with a sword to be brought to use. He knew they could use the dark cramped hallways of the lower levels to their advantage. The other Sentinels had to be exhausted, their numbers were depleted and without their beloved Anluan their morale would be sinking fast. That also would work in their favor.
And the Duke is scared, that will very much be in our favor.
One hour became two, two slowly crawled to three and as it did Shardovan began to grow uncomfortable. He glanced to Dianora and she said what he had been thinking, "Where are they?"
"I don't know." He said quietly but his mind kept returning again and again to his visit from the Duke. What was going to keep him from walling them up here and saying they had escaped or died?
He said he would make a public example of us.
Even before the roar set the cellar trembling Shardovan felt the hair on the back of his neck begin to stand. He closed his eyes and listened carefully.
Dianora said, "The Chimera is back."
"Two Chimeras." Shardovan spoke with a kind of resignation "When a Chimera retreats it always returns with more of its kind. Why didn't he send riders out to finish the beast?"
"Who does he have left?"
"I don't know."
The din of battle was just faint enough to be vague but too noisy to be ignored. They sat together against the opposite wall, his arm around Dianora as she clung to him. The wooden dueling swords were by his side within easy reach.
Somehow in spite of the danger, in spite of the roaring battle going on above them he began to nod off his awareness slipping away bit by bit. Snatches of a dream flashed before him, a dream of a great beast roaring at him from a ball of orange flame. In the dream he felt old and beaten down with regret and mistakes. The part of Shardovan's mind that was still conscious puzzled at the scene. There was significance to be found here, if only he could see it.
The dream dissipated like smoke the moment Dianora kissed him. Shardovan jolted awake,
"What… what are you doing?"
"Hush." She slithered into his lap, pressing herself against him, "Don’t say a word."
"I can't." He gasped between kisses, "I can't."
Her touch was soft but her fingers moved like lightning, slipping under his shirt and caressing him. She kissed the underside of his chin, "You don't have to do anything, just love me."
"Please." There was a tremble in his voice, "Don’t do this."
"I don't want to hurt your feelings, especially not now-"
"Then tell me what's wrong? What haven’t we told each other by this point?"
"When the Chimera attacked I lost more than an ally, I lost more than a friend. Ramion and I were… we were… he was..." He frowned, searching for the words, "… I swore I would love no one else."
Dianora nodded with understanding, "Just hold me then."