“Tell me Charles,” the Battlemage said as he stoked the amber flames of the campfire, as they danced before his eyes, “Have you ever been bested my another… Been so beaten that you were unsure you were going to get back up?” His friend turned from the tree he had anointing with the ale of the hours past, happily unaware of the dozens of endangered pixie ants he had just sent to a, lets say watery, grave. “Ha! There is no man who can best me by sword or arm Battlemage! If he were to break my arm, it would mend, and it would return unto him his favour two-fold” “But what if it is not your bones that are broken?” Barekvar added, his face looking much older now than it had in the days past. “Ah…” Charles Manor sighed, finally catching his friend’s drift, “So you speak of the fairer sex. Of wounds much harder to heal.” “I do…” replied Barekvar.
The silence in the small campsite seemed almost deafening. The two childhood friends sat alone around the amber circle, amidst the many Goblin corpses of a raiding party that made the fatal error of thinking they looked easy prey. Their other two compatriots had travelled North, to chase rumours of their quarry, while these two travelled East, to chase others.
It had been months since he had spoken of Kayla. Since the game with the Lizard King. His wounds had healed, but some scars from that evening remained. “She still lingers on your mind?” Charles prodded as he chucked another log on the hungry fire. “As she does always” Barekvar replied, “Yet…” he added, pausing, as if to search his own self to judge the veracity of his words, “Not as she used to.” And as the words passed his lips, he knew them to be true. “It is just… much harder than I expected, to do this Charles.” “Do what?” “Live…”
“When you found me in that hole in the ground I was another man. My heart had been closed for so long I no longer even felt it. My mind was so perpetually numbed by ale that I no longer remembered. My eyes so clouded by the dark I no longer saw what was ahead, nor what was behind me…” He paused to swig from a flagon that still had the atrophied hand of a Goblin stuck to its handle, “And yet, somehow that was easier. For now that the shroud has lifted and I feel again… How do you do it?” The truth was, even though he told himself that he sometimes pitied Manor, and his ‘womanizing ways’, bouncing from bed to bed, he truly envied him. Not for his prowess, but for his heart. A heart that was so big and so true that it was never full, no matter how many were held within it. A heart that would never shrink, no man how many pieces of it he gave away.
“There are many things I have never understood about you Battlemage” Manor said, putting his arm around Barekvar, “But of all these things, what I understand least is how you still hold onto the Healer.” Barekvar chuckled. Even though there was no love lost between them, Manor still refused to speak her name. Not because he feared the Battlemage’s ire, but because he saw in his eyes how much it pained him to hear it, even now. “Well my friend,” Barekvar replied, “that is a thing I understand no better than you.”
“Well, I know this” said Manor “You will heal. Perhaps not today. Nor tomorrow. But you will… For you are right Battlemage. When we found you in that drinking hall you were another man. Not the man that sits beside me now… But neither the man that I was raised with, shoulder to shoulder. Your pain and your loss have tempered you. Like a good blade. You are heavy, and thus the arm that wields you is yet unsure. But it will strengthen. And it swing stronger and surer than ever before.”
A tear fell from Barekvar’s eye. For a man whose vocabulary normally consisted primarily of words reserved exclusively for bedding bevies, and telling sordid tales of said bedding, Manor had in him a warrior poet whose words could soften the hearts of men as well as women. “I hope you are right, good friend” the Battlemage said, wiping the tear from his cheek. “I know I am you old fool” Manor chuckled.
“Now pass the damn Ale!”