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May 7th, 2004, 11:03 AM

Guys (and Gals), just a 'heads up' to apologize for my absence and let you all know that I am off to New Zealand tomorrow to play some music and see some glow worms in a cave from the comfort of my own rubber ring!!!

I am away for two weeks and whilst it is unlikely that I will add to the story, I will try and check-in to see what you have been up to.

All the best and take care of yourselves until I get back.




May 7th, 2004, 09:34 PM
Reed was sleeping on the couch, the one truly comfortable piece of furniture in the living room. Gina sat at the foot end of the couch, watching him. He was wearing one of Suz's dressing gowns, which was too samll for him. But, after the bath, he'd refused to put on his own clothes, before they had been washed. They stank, he said, and were rough, and itching. His body, in contrast, felt clean and fresh, a feeling he didn't want to put to waste. His backpack did not contain any clothes to change. He'd needed to keep the weight to a minimum; he was not an experienced walker.

"You had a bath together?"

Gina jerked upright. Gilli had caught her unaware again. She always appeared, whenever she felt like it. Without a warning. Just like that. How did Reed put up with that?

"Yes," Gina said, "but you really shouldn't poke around in my head."

"I know. And I didn't." Gilli grinned. "Arleena told me."

"Oh..." Gina smiled apologetically.

"I'm jealous," Gilli said. "If I still had a body that would have been me down there."

"Calm down," Gina said. "Nothing happened."

"What a disappointment." Gilli pouted. "But no surprise, really. Reed doesn't exactly storm a woman's bastion with a battering ram..."

"For which I'm grateful," Gina replied. "All I wanted was a bath."

"Pity. I kind of hoped..." But Gilli didn't finish the sentence.

A smile formed on Gina's lips, as she saw the little spirit hover in front of her with wide open eyes and a tentative smile.

Gilli lowered her eyes. "If I still had blood, it would all rush up to my head, now," she said.

Gina laughed. "Oh come on, tell me. I'm sure I've heard worse."

"Well, I hoped, you and Reed and I... I mean, you and Reed... and I would... sort of borrow your sensations and... I don't have a body of my own, you see..."

Gina tilted her head. "There's no way I'd consent to that." But she smiled. "Still, it's the most interesting threesome I've ever heard about."

"A girl needs her dreams." Gilli giggled nervously. "You're not cross, are you?"

"Fate's been hard on you." Gina turned her head to look at the sleeping Reed. "You'd have made a cute couple."

May 10th, 2004, 12:09 AM
Boldar and Mya made their way across the cavern, skirting the earily glowing buildings of the main part of town. They walked among the lightly glowing fields of giant mushroom like fungi that lived near the city, and provided food and raw materials for its inhabitants.

"You sure you know where you are going?" Mya asked Boldar.

"Shhh..." Boldar whispered fiercely.

Mya looked crossly at Boldar. "What?" She whispered.

He moved in close. "We've been followed for that last ten minutes. Just keep moving forward, and try to be a bit noisy about it." That being said, he stepped sideways and dissapeared behind a massive fungi stalk.

Mya moved on, kicking at fungi husks and whistling a tuneless song. After about a minute she heard a muffled cry and then a bit of rustling. She stopped moving, turned around, and after a heartbeats pause, drew her dagger and ran back towards where she had left Boldar. After fifty paces she, to her relief, found Boldar.

"Nothing to run all the way back for, lass!" He opened his arm and let the drow fall lifelessly to the ground that he had chocked to death. There was another on the ground, it's head twisted near completely around. "Just a couple of rat's following."

Mya was impressed. "Nicely done big man. Next time my turn?"

"Of course, lass, or course." He stepped over the body and came up next to her and put his arm around her shoulders.

"Do you think they know we are here?" Mya asked.

"No, those were just a couple of slavers looking for an easy catch. About time to cut into the city, I think we are just about where we need to be."

"How long will it take... are there many taverns?"

"I've drunk at many of them, though not all... I'd guess that there are a good thirty taverns in the caravaneers quarters. Of course, she could be somewhere else in the city... though topsiders don't generally go into the main city."

"And if she is somewhere else?"

"Well, how many places could there be to search in a city with tens of thousands of drow?"

"Crap Boldar... this could be impossible."

"Never said it would be easy now, did I? Just that I'd come here with you and get the job done."

"Aye, true enough big man, true enough."

They emerged from the fungi forest. In front of them was a huge coral, with dozens of wagons and herd beast ranging from donkeys to large cow sized six legged lizards.

"What the..." Mya coughed.

"Sergath. Great herdbeasts for the deeps. Tireless and can climb nearly vertical walls."

A shifting of the air in the cavern carried a fetid odor.

"Oh god's what is that smell?"

"They happen to smell about twenty times worse than any beast on the topside too... I think it has to do with what they eat."

"Great, the worlds smelliest beast. I guess I see why you admire them, now, big man."

Boldar looked pained. "Oh, a wound to the heart..."

"Just keep moving..."

They passed the pens and caravan area and entered into the caravaneers quarters. They suddenly found themselves in a busy bustle, peoples of all races jostling along. Dwarves, humans, elves, some orc, sneaking kobold, and even some lumbering ogre were going about their business. Ahead a sign proclaimed the Red Door Tavern.

"Here we go, lass. Keep your dagger to hand, these places are a bit rough."

They approached the door.

"Boldar, I've seen tough..."

The door burst open and a hairy orc stumbled out, holding its side with a large hand. It stagged to the side and fell down. A massive sword cut had nearly cut the creature in half. A handfull of kobold's leapt from the shadows and grabbed the body, quickly dragging it off.

"Ahhh.... I see what you mean." Mya gulped.

May 10th, 2004, 10:05 AM
"Typical, f****** typical", Juzzza swore, punching the air where Albert had stood moments before.

Mystiqe walked back along the passageway and put her hand on his forearm. "We'll be alright, Juz".

The rogue stared into empty space, voice rising carelessly. "Every time i start to think that he's remotely interested in my life, that he may just be slightly concerned... he f****** well goes and disappears...".

"Keep your voice down", Gravin whispered harshly. "Half of Derudin will hear you".

"Forget it. Forget i said anything". Juzzza hit the wall with his clenched fist. A thud resounded along the silent tunnels. "I couldn't care less."

Gravin turned away sharply, staring sightlessly into the pitch blackness. Instinctively, his hand dropped to his sword hilt, finding reassurance in the toughened leather. "Are you trying to get us all killed?", he hissed.

There was only silence, thick and inpenetrable. No sudden footfalls, no clink of steel, no grating door or panel. Mystiqe slid her arms around the rogue's waist, pulling him close. His body was hard and tense, rigid with anger. She looked into his eyes, fingers massaging the knotted muscles in his lower back.

Juzzza sighed deeply, anger giving way to desire. He leant against her, pushing her back against the cold stone wall. One hand rested on the lichen-covered brickwork, whilst the other lay across her stomach, stroking it gently. "Feel like assassinating someone so we can be alone?", he whispered in dark elvish.

"What did you say?", Gravin enquired sharply, turning towards them.

"We could be discovered at any time", Mystiqe murmurred, body burning with heat.

"Exactly", Gravin snapped, moving closer. He stopped short, struggling to make out their entwined shapes in the dark. "Ahem, i think we'd better be moving along now".

"Yeah", Juzzza replied huskily. He unfastened Mystiqe's belt and slowly slid his fingers lower, watching her reaction. "There's a lot more to explore down... here."

"Juz...", Mystiqe gasped, jolting in his arms. She clung onto him, switching to dark elvish, words falling out breathlessly. "You can't... not there... we're not alone".

"He can't see anything", the rogue whispered back, breathing heavily and caressing her gently. Her back arched, responding automatically to his touch. He kissed her slowly and deeply, absorbing her warmth.

She slid her fingers down to his belt, pulling the leather through the buckle. Breaking away from his kiss, she murmurred, "He can hear though".

"Can hear what?", Gravin asked impatiently. "Look, i don't like all this creeping around in dark tunnels. It may be alright for the drow, but... can we just get on with it, please".

"That's what i'm trying to do", Juzzza replied wickedly, staring into Mystiqe's eyes. He switched back to dark elvish, heart beating frantically, "Either you assassinate him right now, or...". He shifted slightly, pressing her hard against the wall. "... I can't wait any longer".

Mystiqe gasped, jolting within his embrace once more. "Juz... you can't...not here".

"Oh... yes... i... can...".

"Uhh....". Hot and trembling, she reached into her jacket and drew out a small dart. With a flick of the wrist, it flew through the air, embedding itself in Lord Gravin's neck. He stumbled, fingers gripping at his neck, then slumped down to the ground.

"You're out of practise", Juzzza teased, "You used to be much faster".

May 10th, 2004, 02:38 PM
"How long till he wakes up?", Juzzza whispered, kissing the back of Mystiqe's neck.

"Umm, i forget... a few more minutes maybe."

"It's strange... when he's asleep like that... he looks more like his sister".

"You slept with her?", Mystiqe asked quietly, then rested her head in her hands. "Sorry, i shouldn't have asked. It doesn't matter."

"It's ok", Juzzza replied, hugging her tightly. "I meant it when i said you can ask me anything. I'd rather you talk to me than go all silent. I can't reach you when you're like that."

Mystiqe stiffened slightly, white hair tumbling forwards across her knees. "I know. I don't mean to shut you out. Sometimes... it just happens...".

"Self-defence", Juzzza suggested. He slid his fingers under her chin, and gently raised her head until their eyes met. "Nothing happened between Dani and me... nothing physical. We just... became too close. I don't know how it happened, she was a stranger who became a friend, the only person i saw and talked to for days, weeks, months. People were dying all around us, from the plague and the war. If we'd met another time, if i hadn't already met you... maybe something would have happened, i don't know. I cared about her, Myst... but not like this."

Mystiqe looked into his eyes, silent for a while. Water dripped down from the tunnel roof, splashing on the ground and running off into a shallow puddle.

"When you left Derudin, after Tularis... died", she halted, the word sounded hollow, lingering in the dank air. She struggled to ask the next question, afraid of the answer. "You didn't return to Danika?".

"No, i waited for you, but you never came and didn't reply to my letters", Juzzza's voice was intense, a trace of hurt swept through his blue eyes.

"I...", Mystiqe started to speak, but the rogue hurried on, without giving her time to comment.

"Then i set up Loveable Rogue Inc, and the work became my life, taking up different mercenary contracts, travelling around the world. We accepted the riskiest contracts out there. But survived them all", he grinned ruefully. The grin evaporated as swiftly as it had arrived. His eyes clouded and his speech became forced. "When the dragon arrived on the plains, it was the first time i'd seen Dani in ten years. The first and the last."

They were both quiet, lost in thought.

"I'm surprised you didn't kill her", Juzzza whispered teasingly, trying to break the silence and make her smile. "At the very least, drag her out of my arms." His expression darkened, caught in images from the past. "She collapsed, Myst, it wasn't anything else. And then...", he stumbled over the words, voice cracking, "f****** hell, no-one deserves to die that way".

She held him close, listening to the cool breeze whistling through the underground passageways. Juzzza shook in her arms, tears rolling down her leather jacket.

"My dearest brother...", Mystiqe said quietly, expression hardening.

Juzzza looked up, puzzled. The dark elf reached to brush away the tears on his cheeks, fingers smooth and delicate.

"It's better if Xhao explains...", she added vaguely. "We need to meet with him before heading to the Emperor. I have a message from Tularis."

May 10th, 2004, 03:27 PM
The tavern was a perfect blend of offensive odors, racous noise, and tightly packed bodies. In other words, it was Boldar's kind of place. Mya, on the other hand, looked a bit out of sorts.

Boldar wandered up to the bar. "Barkeep!" He yelled.

A grissled dwarf with only one eye hustled over. "What yer need?"

"Looking for a girl by the name of Gina, big lass, topsider..."

"Yer already got a girl... why yer need another?"

Boldar grabbed the stout dwarf by the apron and pulled him close. "Just get the word out that Boldar is looking for Gina." And then he slammed his fist into the dwarf's ugly face, knocking him backwards.

Two other bartenders grabbed cudgels and jumped the bar heading towards Boldar. Boldar grabbed an orc next to him and whispered. "That fellow," he pointed to a one legged drow, "told me that you lost your manhood in a fight with a blind kobold..."

"He lie... No one lie on Kharg!"

Boldar doged into the crowd, evading the barkeeps and dragging Mya behind him. Within moments the bar had broken out into a general melee. They pushed their way out the door and ran across the street towards another tavern.

"What are you doing, you big idiot!" Mya was almost bursting with incredulity.

"A half dozen more like that and I can guarentee that every rumor in this part of the city will include a topsider named Boldar is looking for another named Gina. Can you think of a better way to get Gina's attention in such a big city?"

Mya smiled. "Right you are! Let me start the next one, won't you?"

Boldar looked at her fierce smile and laughed. "Oh lass, you do stir an old man's blood!"

Mya smiled a flirtatious smile. "I do so love being girly for you, Boldar." She fluttered her eyelashes in a ridiculous fashion and stepped into the next tavern, named the Emperor's Tankard.

Boldar followed, but even before he entered the door, he heard Mya yell. "Best fighter in the place get's to buy a girl a drink!"

Before he could even shake his head in disbelief, the first sounds of the fighting could be hear. Mya charged out the door, a small ogre in pursuit. Boldar caught the ogre with a knee to the stomache and an uppercut to the jaw that laid him low.

He looked at Mya, who was out of breath and smiling. "You fogot one minor detail!"


"The whole Boldar and Gina part!"

Mya blushed. "Oops, I'll get it right on the next one!"

May 10th, 2004, 06:08 PM
Quinot stared glumly into the fire. Gravin had left him alone. With strangers. A week ago, this would have scared him. But he was a big boy, now. He had been kidnapped by elves and survived. And something else had happened.

While he was walking with Uncle Reed and Gilli, Gilli's stone had been talking to him. Not with words, but with... with... well, not talking, maybe, but still telling him things. Things like what Uncle Reed was thinking. And then they'd come to that smelly castle. And then the elves had attacked them, and Uncle Reed had left. And Gilli had left, too, and taken her stone away with her, but something still told him what people were thinking.

And he knew what they were thinking now, too. The ogre was thinking about how good the stew was. The big man was annoyed at being degraded to be a baby sitter. He didn't like Quinot much. As for the old man...

"What's up, Quinot? Don't you like your stew?" the old man asked.

"'m not hungry," Quinot mumbled.

"Your brother will be angry with me, if you starve," said the old man and, smiling, pushed a plate closer to Quinot.

"He will also be angry with you if you kill me," Quinot said and pushed away his plate.

"Wha-" the old man exclaimed. "But, Quinot, I won't kill you. Whatever gives you that idea?"

Quinot took his eyes from the fire and looked the old man in the eye. "When she comes, and tells you to start the ritual, because you've got me now, what will you do?"

The old man was shocked and didn't say a thing. He didn't have to. Quinot knew that, in some way, the old man was more scared than he was, and that made him feel good. Quinot knew that he had just confirmed a suspicion, but did not care.

His brother had left him alone. Before that, he hadn't told him that his sister had died, but Quinot had known. Something was terribly wrong. But Gravin thought Quinot was only a little boy, and tried to protect him from whatever it was. Gravin meant well, but he simply didn't understand.

Wasn't it strange, how the old man knew more about him than his own brother. Than even he, himself, had known? But the old man had been right. Somewhere inside of him, where he had not looked before, there was magic. Lots of it. And it was all around him, too. He could feel it talk to him, just like the minds around him talked.

Quinot put a hand into his pocket and clasped the key in there, Uncle Reed's key that Gilli had given him. Finally, he pulled it out and held it up. "This is mine, now," he said, addressing the ogre.

The ogre turned away from his plate and stared at Quinot in surprise. "You like it?" he asked.

Quinot looked at the ogre, pushing onward, past the eyes. He smiled. "It's my good luck key," he said. It had to be. Otherwise it would be useless. In the ogre's mind there was, amidst other rabble, the image of a broken lock on some big, iron door, in some barracks.

Quinot put the key back into his pocket, but he didn't let go of it. Not until he finally lay down on his mat and fell asleep.

May 10th, 2004, 06:47 PM
About five hours later, Mya sat on the edge of a bed in a cheap local inn, holding a damp cloth over her black eye. Boldar sat on a rickety chair, stitching a long cut on his leg.

"Nice stitchwork, big man... you could be a seamstress if you ever retired from this adventuring stuff."

Boldar winced as the needle went deep. "Good skill to have lass, when you pick as many fights as we have today."

"Seven taverns, seven brawls... and then when it spilled into the traders square..."

Boldar tied off the stitch and leaned back in his chair contentedly. "I may not like that Juzzza... but I have had more fun since joining his troupe than I'd had in the last ten years combined!"

Mya smiled. "You are one amazing old man! Now come over hear a minute and rub my shoulders, that chair hurt when it hit."

Bouldar smiled, stood, and joined Mya on the bed. "Happy to rub whatever ails you lass. Now if you'd just return the..."

"Dream on big man."

May 11th, 2004, 11:35 AM
"What happened?", Gravin mumbled, gingerly sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He looked around the large room, taking in the blackened wall panels, red lanterns and mahogany furniture. "Where are we?".

"We ran into an old trap, mate", Juzzza replied, leaning back against a large table. "A dart shot out of the wall. Lucky it wasn't poisonous. We moved you here to recover".

The young man shook his head, running his fingers through his short chestnut hair. "Are we safe here?", he asked edgily.

"As safe as we can be in Derudin", Mystiqe said, offering him a small flask of water. "We're just waiting for Xhao, my father's apprentice".

Gravin accepted the black leather flask, glancing warily around the room. He took a long draught of the cool liquid, then sealed the vessel and passed it back to the dark elf.

"Do you two realise how awkward this is for me?", Gravin muttered. He looked from Juzzza to Mystiqe, uncertainty registering in his hazel eyes.

Juzzza held the lord's gaze, embarrassed. "It was my fault. I'm sorry".

"I know it was your fault", Gravin replied coldly, gripping the carved arms of the chair. "She was sixteen, for god's sake, and you left without a word."

The rogue shot a confused glance at Mystiqe. "I, er, thought you meant...".

Mystiqe caught his eye, bewildered. "Sixteen?", she mouthed silently, eyebrow arched.

Something caught Gravin's attention, glittering on top of the mahogany desk. He rose from his seat, legs still weak, and staggered across the room. Reaching behind the rogue, he lifted a silver chain. The links ran through his fingers, leaving a small pendant in the palm of his hand. It bore the form of a dragon, proud, noble and fearless. The lord stared at it, speechless.

Juzzza froze, eyes locked on the pendant. Mystiqe looked at him, unable to get his attention. Gravin snapped his hand shut around the dragon, spinning to confront the rogue.

"You ran off after this... drow", Gravin spluttered, waving a hand dismissively in Mystiqe's direction, "and couldn't even be bothered to say thankyou for all the time Dani devoted to you. She nursed you, fed you, bathed you... she saved your life, damn it. You knew she loved you and you disappeared in the middle of the night without a single word. What kind of man does that? Talk about selfish and irresponsible!".

"I thought it was the best way...", the rogue started, but was abruptly cutoff.

"The best way? Do you have any idea what you did to Dani? Do you know what she turned into because of you?", Gravin demanded, towering over Juzzza. He glared at Mystiqe with disgust. "How could you leave one of your own kind for one of them? They're alright for a bit of fun if you're after a cheap thrill, a bit of the exotic, but... ".

"You'd better watch what you're saying", Juzzza said heatedly, pushing Gravin hard in the chest. "I won't let anyone talk about Myst that way."

"My sister would still be alive but for you", Gravin stated harshly, pushing the rogue back. "How could you leave a weapon like that with a sixteen year old girl? What the hell were you thinking? If you'd have thought with your brain instead of your **** we wouldn't be in this situation."

Colour drained from the rogue's face. He swayed on his feet, reaching out to lean against the high back of a chair.

Gravin span away, gripping the pendant hard between his fingers. He paced across the room, pushing past Mystiqe, and stood facing the wall.

Mystiqe walked over to Juzzza, looking at him with disbelief, "She was sixteen? And you let her bathe you? You left a sixteen year old girl with the Kul'Tar, sneaking off in the middle of the night?".

Juzzza stared at her helplessly, face ashen. "It wasn't like that... Oh my god, you must think i'm a complete b*****d".

A wooden panel slid aside and Xhao entered the room, dressed in black leather, blackened blades sheathed on his belt and back. Gravin, Juzzza and Mystiqe turned sharply towards him.

"It was about time someone put Juzzza in his place", Xhao remarked with a smile.

May 11th, 2004, 03:54 PM
"Well, how do I look? Can I walk the streets in these clothes?" Reed looked down himself, appraising the elven robes he was wearing. They weren't the fancy stuff he usually wore: monotone black, a straight cut. Suz had told him that this was a design favoured by assassins on duty. Crafted from a spider's silk, the fabric was both light and resistant, not tearing easily. If he, a human, wore those in the streets it would give a message to the average citizen, a message that worked on the subconscious level. Very likely, they would leave him alone. On the other hand, it would rouse the suspicion of any assassin who he might happen across. But this was not much of an issue: the assassins new about Reed. They would leave him alone, too.

"Turn around," Arleena said, looking Reed up and down. Reed spun around once, until he faced Arleena again. "Nice," she said. "You should wear these more often. You'd look less like a freak."

Reed laughed. "What deceptive attire!"

"You give elven fashion a twist, I must say." Suz grinned. "These clothes are supposed to be a tight fit. What you're wearing had been designed for a particularly... large elf. You couldn't wear the tighter stuff, though. The difference in bone structure between out two races would show."

Reed smiled at her. "These clothes are very comfortable. Spider silk, you say?"

Suz nodded.

"We're ready to go out then, handsome?" Gilli asked.

Reed winked at her. "Will you join me, then, darling?"

Gilli beamed at this. She turned to Gina, "He's in a great mood, isn't he? He called me darling."

Gina smiled at the spirit, but said nothing.

"You've thought well about this?" Suz asked. "This is the heart of Derudin. Not many humans make it here, and most that do are slaves or prisoners."

Reed gave her an impish grin. "You ought to know me enough, by now. I never think things through. I regret them afterwards."

Suz shook her head. "And yet I keep hoping you'll see reason, one of these days."

"Yeah, right." Arleena laughed.

"Um, sorry if I interrupt..." Gina said, and then waited.

Reed turned to face her. A smile faded from his face, as he saw Gina's serious expression. "Yes?" he said.

"I wonder what you'll do when you meet members of the Loveable Rogue Inc." she stated flatly.

Reed frowned, then shrugged. "I don't know. Depends on what they'll do."

Gina sighed. "That's not what I meant. I..." She stared to the ground, knowing that she was about to spoil the mood. Then her eyes came up again. "I wondered whether you might bear a grudge with the Rogue himself. After all, you might hold him responsible for..." She couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence.

"Dani's death?" Reed smiled sadly at Gina, then flung his head backwards and sighed. "Pushing blame around is such a tedious game. The rogue may have behaved like a stupid, irresponsible bastard. So what. I can't exactly wag a finger at him, can I?"

"You mean it?" Gina squinted at him.

Reed gave her a blank look. "People do what they do. Sometimes it has unfortunate consequences. Look, if Dani goes after him like a fury in love, that's hardly his fault. He's got to answer for the pain he caused her, and, as far as I can tell, that's not a trivial thing to have to answer for. But Dani's response is still her own responsibility. Or rather was."

Gina stared at him. Gilli turned to him in surpise. "You're saying what happened to her is her own fault?"

Reed smiled at Gilli. "You should know me by now. Blame has no meaning in my world. People do what they do, and sometimes it has unfortunate consequences. As I said. There's responsibility, but that's where it ends."

"I know," Gilli said. "I didn't mean to say you blame her. I was just surprised you would speak of her in such a... tone. You used to... I don't know..."

Reed looked at her, then suddenly his face lit up. "Ah, I see. You're still trying to figure out whether I loved her. Is that it?"

Gilli nodded.

"I'm trying to figure that out myself." Reed looked to the ground, thinking. "You see, I never got a chance to know her properly. What I just said about her, forget I said these things. That's the kind of stuff I'd have liked to say to her face. I'd have liked to have a reaction from her. And then I'd have known her a bit better. She's left an impression on me like very few others have. It's so sad, the way she wasted herself on a wild goose chase." The final 's' was cut short, sounding harsher than language demanded. Reed exhaled. "See? That's more of the same... I still wish she'd respond to this... But, of course, she won't. I had better stop talking..." Reed closed his eyes, rubbing them with his fingers.

"Sorry, I brought this up," Gina said, "but I had to know."

Reed slowly raised his head. "It's okay. I'm fine." He smiled at Gina. "I had a bath, I slept well, I'm wearing fresh clothes. That'll last me a while." Then he took a step towards Gina and looked her in the eye. "Down there," he said, pointing at the stares to the cellar, where the hot spring was located, "I know I didn't talk a lot. But I really appreciated you're company. Personally, I find, I'm making more sense when I'm not talking..." Then he straightened up. "I'll be going, then," he said, and, turning to Gilli, he added, "You ready?"

"Sure, let's go," she said.

And together they left the building, leaving Arleena, Gina and Suz behind.