The Land of Teuhyo
(Inspired by Dungeons and Dragons)
Chapter 9: The Best Situations
Nedjem helped her reach the small of her back, when her arms couldn’t twist that far. Her white hair was clinging to her face and chest.
“Thank you.” Her eyes were bright as she smiled at him, taking into the robe he held out for her. “Can you hand me my bag?”
“Of course.” He brought over her small messenger bag and she began rooting around in it, pulling out a loosely fitting undershirt and slipping it over her head. She put her arms back into the arms of the robe and tied the whole thing tight.
“You won’t be too warm in that?” Nedjem asked.
Iah shook her head. “I like the extra support.”
“As long as you’re comfortable.”
Iah hugged herself and giggled. Her arms were toned, and it was a good look on her.
Eramil was pretending not to notice as he performed the religious rites on her that Misha should have. He sprinkled sage and lavender and uttered a prayer to their lady goddess (always calling her that: “the goddess” or “the lady”, never Adele) all with a noticeable scowl on his face. Nedjem tried to meet his gaze and failed nearly every time. When it was done, Iah stood and met Nedjem’s gaze.
“I should find Misha.” She sighed. “She thinks I went to the barracks.”
“And…you’ll be okay in there?” Nedjem’s voice held a hint of worry.
“I’ve been doing this for a while.” She nodded. “I know how to get along.”
He nodded, took her hand, and gave it a squeeze. “May I escort you there?”
Iah blushed. “If you want…” She hid her face behind her hair but her smile was clear as day.
Aeron met them in the hallway, waving at them with a look of relief. “I was looking for y’all…” He said. “I uh…” He looked down at his ritual robe that barely closed properly and only came down to his knees.
Nedjem chuckled. “Couldn’t find a fit?”
“This is their largest one.”
Iah spoke up. “I-I…can fix it.”
They both looked at her.
“I can cut up another one…sew it together or something. It’ll make it longer at least.”
“If ya can. I won’t make you, though.” Aeron scratched his neck. “Y’all are gonna be…busy enough.”
Iah looked around at the two men. “Busy?”
“I think we’re gonna be…doing chores.” He said as Eramil returned to them with several cleaning supplies.
“Your friend is right.” He shoved a mop towards Nedjem. “Your first job is to clean the sanctuary. And go get your pink friend, he has a debt to pay off.”
“This is bullshit!” Vulcan whined, dragging the dirty mop behind him across the floor.
“We all know it’s bullshit, just shut up and do it.” Bedivere smirked at him. “We’ll be rewarded for our efforts in time~”
“I didn’t apply to be a maid.” Vulcan plopped down on one of the pews.
“Sometimes the best situations go awry. That does mean you shouldn’t try.”
“And if you keep talking, you will die.”
Bedivere rolled her eyes. “Brat.”
“At least I’m an animal that makes sense.”
“Hey!” Vulcan jumped up and puffed out his chest. “I’m part dragon!”
“You’re part Quetzalcoatl. The Dragons have been dead for over a thousand years. The Quetzalcoatls are all that’s left and even they are a shallow representation of-”
THWAP. Bedivere felt a rush of air past her face. Vulcan’s knife vibrated as it stuck in the wall behind her head.
The young Axolotl was scowling under his bandana, and for the first time since she met him, Bedivere was sincerely afraid of him.
Vulcan stood up and threw his mop to the ground. “I’m done. I’m gonna go snoop.”
“Oh are you?”
They both turned and saw a familiar, wrinkly face, scowling at the two of them.
“Abramo?” Bedivere asked tentatively.
The old man nodded slowly. “You have much pride, child.”
“I’m proud to be me.” Vulcan crossed his arms.
“Talking back I see. That is insubordination.”
Vulcan drew another knife and chucked it towards the wall behind Abramo. The old man didn’t even flinch, he simply raised his hand, catching it by the blade before it could come near him. Despite the sharp edge cutting deep into his palm, not a drop of blood was seen.
Vulcan stepped back slightly but squared his shoulders, trying to look intimidating. “Ha…! Gotcha!”
Abramo smiled slowly and Bedivere stepped up. “Vulcan! What are you doing?!”
“Don’t scold the boy, my child.” Abramo approached the two slowly, his steps falling with a menacing clunk on the stone. “I like your…enthusiasm. What is your name?”
Vulcan swallowed. “…Nathan!”
“Is it?” Abramo raised a brow. “Come with me…Nathan. No need to snoop around. I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
Bedivere watched Abramo lead Vulcan into the dark hall. “Oh you dumb kid.”
He led Vulcan down grey halls and blank stairwells, Vulcan trailing behind leisurely. He stepped heavily, not trying to be sneaky but he totally could if he wanted to. With his posture deliberately upright, he acted like he was inspecting the building for flaws to report on.
Abramo finally stopped when it became so dark that Vulcan, even with his Elven eyes, had to take a moment to adjust to the near pitch blackness. In the darkness, he heard Abramo unlatching a heavy steel lock.
“Come inside.” Vulcan could barely see the smile on Abramo’s face.
His eyes narrowed. For a moment, he felt the sharp claws of a trap around him. Such a room was eerily similar to the one in which he lost his tail.
Then Abramo waved his hand, and a gleam of gold cut through the darkness. Behind the semi-closed iron door, Vulcan saw the faint shimmer of thousands of gold coins strewn across the floor. A golden idol statue stood at the back, her bare body draped in glittering copper folds. Shimmering goblets lined the edges of the room, dotted with colored stones.
He couldn’t contain himself. He rushed forward, shoving past Abramo and reaching for one of the golden cups as the great door closed behind them. As Abramo sealed the latch, and the room was plunged into darkness, Vulcan’s fingers grazed over empty air.
“I honestly can’t believe you fell for that,” Abramo chuckled, and Vulcan could hear his voice drawing closer. “But a dragon is a dragon, after all. The greed that killed your parents will be how you meet your end.”
Vulcan pulled his daggers out of his belt and turned on Abramo, swiping at the old man. Despite his aged body, he was quick on his feet and slipped by Vulcan’s flailing blades without a drop of sweat.
“You better not have…” His voice cracked. “You better not touch my mom.”
“Your mother is fine.” Abramo said. “I cannot say the same for her son.” He rushed forward and pinned Vulcan against the wall, his hand around the boy’s neck. Vulcan felt his airways beginning to close, a feeling he hadn’t experienced since he ate a pistachio nut once when he was six.
Abramo smiled at the panic in his eyes. “You’re going to be a lot of fun.”
Iah settled into the bunk beside Misha, who climbed out of her own bed and over to her. “Are you feeling better, sweet?”
The silver girl smiled, running her hands through long white hair that covered her body. “I’m fine.”
“You found Abramo then?”
“Well, I did find someone very helpful.” Iah said with a giggle and a blush.
“I’m glad. I was so worried for you.” She took Iah’s hands, so much larger than her own. “I’m saddened that we did not get to bathe together, sweet. You have such lovely hair and I was excited to brush it.”
Her lovely hair: so many had mentioned it before, especially since she grew it out. “Would you like to now?”
“Well It’s not part of the ritual, and I assume it’s already been cleansed, and I wouldn’t want to pull it and break those pretty strands.” Misha said, but as she did she was already reaching for a nearby bristle-brush.
Iah turned her back to her and pulled her hair back over her shoulders, simultaneously closing her robe tighter around her. Misha took a handful of Iah’s hair and ran her brush through her ends, pulling gently on the remaining knots that Nedjem and Eramil had failed to remove. The slacked hair formed a tent around her shoulders, like a barrier between the two women. She could not see her, but Iah could feel Misha’s delicate hands across her locks, and she closed her eyes and allowed herself to relax.
“You’ve been making eyes at that Nedjem boy.” Misha giggled.
“Oh…” Iah nodded and blushed. “He’s always been kind to me.”
“You might not be his type.” Misha giggled. “Although I would love a man who looks that good in a dress~”
“It was my dress, actually.” Iah giggled.
“Was it? It was lovely.”
“I’d say you should wear it some time but you might give poor old Abramo a stroke,” Misha giggled. “I hope dear Nedjem didn’t stretch it out!”
Iah opened her mouth and searched for the words. “…Was that a euphemism?”
“Whatever gave you that impression sweet?” Misha giggled.
“You know, I always thought churches were stuffy but…” Iah looked back at Misha. “You seem really fun.”
Misha’s eyes sparkled in the dim light. “We’re not your average church, Iah.”
“I can tell.” Iah looked forward again, relaxing her shoulders.
“We have slightly different views than the others who worship Adele.” Misha continued. “The people who used to live here kept everything so stiff and silent. Unfortunately, we have to follow their rules for now.”
“You’re a smart girl, Iah, and a charm.” Misha reached up and grabbed her shoulder suddenly, causing Iah to flinch. “I want to show you-”
“Iah!” The door flew open with a loud bang and the two women turned around. Bedivere stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of Misha, her eyes narrowing. “Um…”
“Everything okay, Beddy?” Misha stood up.
Bedivere cringed at the nickname. “I…dropped…my satchel. Down one of the cellar doors and I can’t find it.” She shrugged. “I came to get Iah because she can see in the dark.”
“And…you don’t?” Misha raised a brow.
“What can I say? ‘Thanks Dad, for the shitty eyes~’” Bedivere chuckled. “Mind if I borrow her?”
“Oh, let me come with you two.” Misha said excitedly, pulling Iah to her feet.
“No, you REALLY don’t have to.” Bedivere grimaced.
“Oh but sweetie, it’s the perfect opportunity to show you something special!”
Aeron was not asleep, though he could hear Nedjem snoring beside him. The men’s quarters was uncomfortably cramped, especially for someone of his stature, and the others there seemed more than happy to use him as a heat source in this cold desert night.
The stone seemed to move around him. If the dwarf girl was here maybe she could have told it to stop, but she wasn’t, so Aeron just laid in the darkness, listening to heavy breathing.
The snoring stopped, only followed by the snikt of a knife.
Aeron looked over, meeting eyes with Eramil as the monk raised a knife to Nedjem’s throat.