Friday, September 03, 2010

Farwell for Brodie

"I love him."

"I know! He's delicious." JenJen purred.

"I need him. I couldn't breath if I lost him." I groaned.

"You're silly." She smiled. "Marry him. You know you will."

"Why am I making this a big deal?" I was crying as JenJen flicked her mithra tail anxiously and petted my head.

"You'll be fine. You just need to let yourself be happy without punishing yourself with this girl stuff. It doesn't do anyone any good." Zerokb added as he nibbled some grapes near me. "I don't know why woman have to make such a big deal out of everything."

"Marriage is forever. This is a big deal." I insisted. "I'm talking about the rest of my life and with a Galka and my first husband was a hume. Why can't I fall in love with my own species like a normal Elvaan woman?"

"My brother Kjarbo would have you. We would be sisters!" Jenjen grinned. "l'll be happy to take Gurok off your paws. I can't believe he makes you breakfast every day. It's super cute."

Kjarbo was her brother by adoption and a good honest man. He would make a perfect husband for some lucky girl someday.

"I'm delicious too you know!" Zerokb complained and tugged Jenjen's tail.

She jumped up, pushing me over and launched herself at Zerokb. They rolled across the floor in a storm of laughter and tickling. I couldn't help but smile and relax my mood. He was so crazy about her. I wondered if they might be the next annoyingly cute couple in my linkshell.

"Crazy crying girl over here needing consoling." I announced with a wet flushed faced smile.

"You need medication." Zerokb teased.

They both ran at me and I stood to get away. Tackling me before I could get very far, we all bounced against my bed laughing. I hugged them both. "You two are the best. I'd share my cookies with you any day."

"You have boobs." Zerokb informed me while we all hugged.

I smacked him playfully and sat up. "I cannot believe you some days Zerokb. You are definitely strange enough to be a dancer."

"Yes, but why are you really going crazy over marrying Gurok?" He asked, distracting me from his strange attempt to lighten my mood before bringing me back down. "Do you have another man on the side? Need to keep the options open? Don't want to upset the other boyfriends? Secretly in love with me? You can tell me."

"Stop that!" I complained and paused. "The only other isn't alive anymore and yes, I want him back and yes, he's on my mind and in my dreams and haunting me. I see his form in the corner of my eye when I wake up in the morning and sleepily forget he's not there. I see a man from behind in heavy white armor and it makes my heart hurt wishing he would turn around and be my Brodie. I still have another man in my life. What if Gurok doesn't want to share me with him?"

"He already has for a long time." Zerokb said somberly. "He knows. He loves you anyways. He tries to understand. I can see it. For all his faults, he's not going to hold that against you."

"Mood killer." Jenjen said with big wet eyes.

"You know, we never had a proper funeral for Brodie. You weren't ready to accept that he might not have somehow survived. Maybe it's time." Zerobk suggested.

I hadn't even considered it, part of my reluctance to let go I suppose. No one would push me into it so I didn't. Now it felt right. To move on to the next chapter in my life, I needed to finally close the one past. Not to forget or abandon, but to open myself up to the life I still had to live.

I nodded. "Yes. Tomorrow as the sun is setting on the beach. Will you spread the word for anyone who might want to come so I can focus on the eulogy?"

They both agreed and excused themselves for rushed preparations. Some people would have to travel a long way, so they needed to start right away.

Running the entire way, I was winded when I found Gurok and threw myself on him.

"What's wrong?" he asked looking concerned.

"I need your help. I want to have a funeral for Brodie tomorrow. I want you to get a lot of cookies and drinks for me. Can you?" I looked up at him while I clung.

He kissed my head. "Ofcourse. It's been so long, I didn't think you wanted to ever have one. This is a good idea." He nodded and looked thoughtful for a moment before continuing. "Anything else you want me to do? I can bring you dinner tonight."

"Dinner would be perfect." I smiled. I adored him.

Belly down on my bed, I wrote while I kicked my bare feet behind me. I hadn't been to many funerals, so I didn't feel confident that I knew how to write a eulogy, but I knew whatever I did would help bring peace and that was what was important.

Knocking on my door startled me awake from a dream of sitting silently on the beach with Brodie on one side of me and Gurok on the other peacefully watching the sunset together. "Come in." I called, trying not to sound like I had fallen asleep.

Gurok lumbered in with a bag full of groceries and a smile. "I'm guessing you haven't eaten anything but cookies all day so I brought hardy muscle building food." He didn't wait to go straight for the table to start preparing food and I wondered if he felt at all uncomfortable with this all.

I came at him and he lifted his arm to pull me in close to him. "I glad you're here." I smiled.

He kissed me and stroked my face with his thumb. "I can't ask you to marry me when I said I would."

My mouth sprung open to protest and he moved his finger over my lips. "Let me finish." He smiled. "I still think we are made for each other and I will ask you to marry me, but I see now that you need to be the one to let me know when you're ready to be asked. I didn't mean to upset you and I only gave you the two days because I thought it was the surprise that made your head spin. I thought that if you knew when to expect it wouldn't make you feel panicked." He lifted his finger and kissed my lips.

"I love you." I said.

"I know." He said with a grin. Gurok squeezed me playfully until I thought my ribs might crack then we got back to making dinner together. It was right.

A fiery pink sky with streaks of gilded clouds painted the sky. Cool ocean breezes gently caressed my cheek in contrast to the warm summer air. Warmth filled my heart as I looked out over the retreating tide even though tears still fell silently down from my eyes. Over two years had passed since that day and it was past time for this farewell. I picked up my candle and turned to face the gathering.

Tonight is a night for healing. Not only for me, but for everyone who loved this humble kind paladin.

True to his calling, he was a protector and a hero. He was neither famous, nor flashy in his work, but when there was a wrong to be righted, he was there. When a friend needed help, he came, no matter the hour.

I remember when I met him so long ago. Always the hero, he literally swept me out of the mud and carried me away on his steed like a fairy tale hero. He won my heart months later with a shy laugh and the corniest pick up lines you ever heard as he helped me hunt the Carby ruby on a beach like this one. He made me laugh and I couldn't help but fall in love with his warmth and naked sincerity.

His death was tragic and too soon, though I doubt he regrets losing his life to save another if in the end we all must move on. It was just his way to protect. I hope he looks over us now with a pride and continues to watch over those he loves.

I looked back in the distance to the men I had seen earlier. I knew they were here because they still suspected my child Hope not only lived but was the child of a hume and a threat to their government. Because of them, I couldn't mention our child. It made my heart sad but I knew he would understand. I opened the paper I had written a poem on and read.

Death by Khalil Gibran

Then Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."

And he said: You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

I knelt down at the end of the long pier and kissed the little wax boat in my hands. "Love, I will hold you in my heart until we meet again and I can hold you in my arms once more."

Setting the floating candle into the retreating tide I watched it drift away for a moment before standing and walking back to the beach. Everyone had a chance to say a last goodbye and let their candle go until the darkening sea was filled with beautiful bobbing white lights. I didn't stay on the pier to listen to the private farewells.

I went to Gurok instead, to dry my tears on his good white shirt. I noticed that even to a funeral, his weapons where strapped across his back and I was glad that he was ever ready.

He just smiled his encouragement and held me firmly. "This is a healing moment for everyone. I'm proud of you my brave little Elvaan."

I couldn't fathom what it must be like for him to be here for this turning point in my life. I couldn't wrap my mind around how he must feel to be here and reminded that I had loved someone before him so fully, yet my adoration for Gurok still filled my heart so abundantly that it felt like it might burst. I was just grateful that my giant wall of a galka could be here with me with such grace and understanding. I needed Gurok. Even if I never touched another shinny for the rest of my life, I would feel wealthier than a queen for being loved by him.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just an Idea

"I love them." I whispered to myself as I admired my reflection. The emerald and diamond headband looked amazing crowning my fiery red hair. Every delicate detail in the metal work was absolutely stunning.

"Planning on keeping that?"

I had heard Gurok come into my house, but I had a hard time breaking the trance of beautiful shinny things. "It loves me back." I grinned.

"I think those gems are corrupting your brain." He jested. He presented a plate of cookies and I picked one up for immediate gobbling.

Chewing while I hugged him, I was on a trio of perfection high. I was wearing pretty shinnies, eating cookies and holding the man I adored all at once. I knew at that moment, life couldn't get any better than that and I didn't want to let him go. "I like you."

He smiled. "I like you too. I'm curious about this pretty emerald thing you're wearing. Business or pleasure?"

"I was commissioned to borrow it from someone who has been dead for one hundred and fifty years and doesn't seem to be able to show it the appreciation it deserves. I'm really torn though. I love it. I'm wondering how angry that crazy old trader will be if I wear it instead. He wants it for his young new fiancé, but it looks so much better on me. What kind of young bride wants to wear a dead woman's jewels? I bet I can talk him into something new and custom made right?"

"I think you're too lovely for your own good without any help at all."

I laughed and kissed him quickly. "That's not what I asked. I'll give it to him though. He does fund a lot of my business and he's much more pleasant to deal with than most. I guess it would be a shame to make him an enemy. I always could steal it back without him knowing if I just couldn't get it out of my mind." It was hard work trying to convince myself.

I took the lovely from my head and admired it once more before putting it back in my bag for delivery. I knew I would play with it again before I gave it to him and I still wasn't completely sure I would be able to hand it over. I was so weak for beautiful jewelry, but I also loved money and he was going to pay me a lot of it for finding the headband.

He scooped me up into his arms and I giggled in delight. "Want to hear what I've been thinking about?" He asked.

"Yes!" I loudly declared with a smile, still high on my trio perfecta.



"Did you even hear what I said?"

I'm not sure that I had. My head was spinning. Gurok looked a bit cross to put it mildly, but he kept still while I sat on his lap and waited as patiently as he could for me. He had been going on for awhile now and I'm not even sure I blinked yet. Blinking extra to make up for it, I stared at his big hand over mine. "So, you want to marry me?" I summed up.

"Well yes, that's what I've been saying for the last thirty minutes to eternity." He said as his brushed fingers through my hair. "You act like you don't think it's a good idea, but it makes perfect sense. You and I are good together. Don't you feel the same way?"

"You are the first thing I look for when I wake up and the one thing that keeps me awake longer at night for fear of missing you." I said almost mechanically as I studied every detail of his fingers. It was so honestly true.

Gurok chuckled. "You have a very charming way with words. Does that mean you agree with me?"

"That we should get married?" I repeated as if somehow we might have switched subjects without my noticing. I felt dizzier for some reason and my body felt so heavy. I had to lean against his warm chest.

"Yes…" he drew out. "Do you need me to repeat my speech again? You know how I feel about repeating myself but I realize this is a big deal. I admit, I'm a little discouraged that you're not shouting it from the tree tops."

I felt panicked and looked up at him with big pleading eyes, "Give me two days and ask me again? This is not the kind of decision I want to make without thinking it through." I was terrified that he would think that I didn't love him. This wasn't about that.

"The idea had really never crossed your mind?" He asked with raised eyebrows.

"Well, no. I just kissed you last week. I hadn't planned the rest of my life part yet. You're so right; I love you. I just want this to be one of the steps in life I thought through first. This needs to be a rare completely responsible moment."

"We've know each other for a very long time and we've always been close. This is something that has grown for more than one week." He paused a moment. "Hm… well, Ok. I'll give you two days to feel responsible and I won't bring up marriage again until then. Then, if you'll meet me in Ru'Lude Gardens, I'll run the idea by you one more time for an official answer. That sound ok for you?"

Relaxing a little with a smile, I kissed him. "Thank you. I'm sorry I'm full of crazy sometimes."

"I'm used to it." He kissed me back even though I could tell he wasn't as happy as he should have been after bring up marriage and I was full of guilt.

He held me quietly until he had to leave for some auction house obligation. I knew he was disappointed in me and it broke my heart. While he was much less showy about it, he liked having his way just as much as I did.

Why was I panicking? This wouldn't be the first time I had married. I let out a huge sigh and curled up on my bed as I started to put the pieces of my mind back together.

My first marriage had been the best time of my life and yet had ended suddenly in murder and devastation. In the back of my mind, I couldn't help but picture Gurok in that same position, married to me only to be torn gruesomely away much too far from old age.

Ofcourse, that was crazy and the logical part of my mind knew it. All I had to do was calm my heart. I wasn't cursed was I? There was no reason to think that I was some kind of black widow that brought death to the men I loved.

I was going to need my friends.



Sunday, August 01, 2010

Target Practice

I spotted Gurok from across the square. He was sitting against his favorite wall with his thick galka legs folded in front of him and his head resting back. His eyes where closed but he didn’t look asleep. He rested alert like this often when he was waiting for his group of friends to gather for an all night expedition. The familiarity made me smile.

I glided up to him quietly and slipped into his lap. “Hello Alison.” He said as he put one arm around me and pinned me against his armored chest without lifting his head or opening his eyes. “What kind of trouble are you going to try to talk me into today?”

“Nothing.” I replied with mock offense. “How did you know it was me?”

“No tail.” He said with a mischievous grin.

With that I hit him, though I wasn’t sure why. It’s not like I had made any claim on him. If he had other women on his lap with tails, why did I have any right to be upset about it? My body stiffened and I suddenly felt the need to run hard in any direction, but his arm holding me down was enough to stop me.

He opened his eyes and looked at me as if he suspected what was on my mind, though he didn’t say and I was sure I expected too much of him to think he could know about my inner struggles. One callus finger softly pushed my disheveled bangs away from my face. “Anything you wanted to tell me then?” he asked as his eyes studied my face.

“You smell like burnt charcoal, leather and iron.” I said sharply as if I intended it to be an insult.

“I’m glad you like it.” He replied with a knowing grin. “Did you come all the way from San ‘D Oria to tell me that?”

“No, I just…” I hesitated, afraid to tell the guilty truth, “I just missed you.” I relaxed and leaned against him feeling his usual furnace like heat radiating hot on my cheek.

“I just left you this morning.” He chuckled softly and rested his cheek on the top of my head briefly. “It’s nice to see you too. I have awhile before I need to meet up with my group. I can help you practice your marksmanship.”

I nodded, relieved to have something to do and he stood up letting me fall from his lap to the ground, leaving me to get my feet under me quickly enough to avoid landing on the ground in a very unladylike pile. I resisted the urge to stab him and shoved him playfully instead as I followed him to the outer gate.

Once outside I pointed at an old watch house. “That will do fine. I’ll go scratch a target on the back side.”

“You need practice hitting something that moves.” Gurok frowned. “You’re already experienced enough at hitting walls.”

The idea that he was talking about more than arrows tickled the back of my mind, but I let that thought go. “So what would you suggest? I can only get one or two shots each on living targets before they get to me and I have to finish it close combat.”

“You have me.” He smiled. “I’ll hold their attention on me, while you TRY to hit it. The only thing I ask is that you focus enough that you do NOT hit me or I cannot be held accountable for any loss of temper.”

I shifted uneasily at the thought of his temper. I had seen it lash out on many occasions but he never directed to towards me even if it meant someone else would pay. Only recently had I witnessed what he was capable of when Kallo became the focus of revenge. My heart hurt to think of hitting him with my crossbow bolt. “It sounds too risky. You have to work tonight.”

“You worry too much. That crease in your forehead is going to become permanent if you don’t learn to relax. Try to be a little more focused and your aim might improve.”

I rolled my eyes and nodded my head. “Ok, your thick hide on the line. I’ll just hope the air stays still and you don’t move around too much and I don’t get distracted...”

With that he lumbered out towards a green eyed dragonfly with a six foot wing span resting nearby. With one swat of his great hand the fly was up in the air and looking furious.

I held up my loaded crossbow and took a shot that zipped just over the top of the fly’s back, not even catching its attention. Gurok raised an eyebrow at me and said plenty with his eyes. I reloaded and took at deep breath. Steadying myself and clearing my mind of worries, I took slow careful aim and squeezed the trigger. This time I hit my mark and Gurok quickly slapped the bug with his sword to keep it from flying after me. “Again!” he shouted.

I smiled with pride and reloaded. I hit my mark a dozen or more times only missing three. Not perfect, but an improvement on my previous and embarrassing rate.

Things were going pretty well and I was starting to think Gurok might be a genius for thinking of this new training technique when something hit me hard between the shoulders. My hand was on the trigger, just taking a shot when it happened and a bolt flew wildly through the air striking Gurok’s thigh just at a seam in his armor and biting into his muscle.

My vision blurred with panic. I turned and stabbed the fly that had rammed me until it was down and at least on the way to dying before running to Gurok who was finishing off the fly he had been holding for me.

“Ouch!” he shouted and sat down to pull the bloody bolt out of his leg angrily and threw it against a tree splintering the bolt in half.

I was to him and on the ground beside him as fast as my guilt driven legs could carry me. Unbuckling his leg armor I kissed the bloody wound and searched my bag franticly for a potion to pour into the hole.

He smiled at me with raised eyebrows and wiped his blood off my lips with his gloved finger. “You know this is not a big injury for me. I’ve had much worse. You can calm down.”

“I’m sorry.” I begged as I finally found the healing potion I was looking for and poured it slowly into the bolt wound. He gritted his teeth together quietly, his neck tightening as he waited out the pain of healing that was often worse than the original injury.

I rested my head down on his newly healed thigh and stared at the small silvery scar that I knew was small enough to disappear in a few months. I touched it and thought about how many hits we had both taken and survived together. He was my life boat in a world that haunted me with nightmares of black waters and death and I needed him desperately. I wouldn’t forget that not so long ago I nearly lost him when he nearly slid off a cliff into dark rocky ocean below. It horrified me to think that I could have lost him too.

He watched me trace my fingers over his scars and he took off his glove to pull my hair tie loose. Running his fingers through my red hair he pushed it out of the way to stroke my face. “You don’t have to act like you’ve killed me. In fact your fingers are getting my attention far more than a single arrow shot.”

My head shot up and I blushed and looked away from him. “I’m sorry.” I muttered.

Cupping my jaw in his massive hand he turned my face back to his and studied my face. I struggled to get air into my lungs as I tingled at his touch. It was hard to push aside my feelings for him when he looked into my soul like that and it was impossible to suppress my embarrassing blush.

When I thought I would faint from the effort of breathing, he leaned down and kissed me lightly. So long I had denied wanting this that when he finally broke the dam, there was no going back. My head spun dizzily and I kissed him hungrily letting my feelings flow from heart to lips. My fingers searched his armor for his warm skin and settled on the back of his neck, pulling him closer.

I could hear voices calling distantly but they didn’t register through my ecstatic mind. Gurok shifted his massive body to reach down and pull out his linkpearl, tossing it into the brush.

It then registered in my mind who I was hearing. I pulled back and laughed still drunk with affection. “Your dynamis party is calling you aren’t they?”

“I’m not available.” he grinned as he trapped me in his massive galka arms and kissed me.

I giggled in delight as my kisses turned playful. “Yes you are. I know how important you are to them on this mission.” I nuzzled his face affectionately and tried to let our heart beats calm as I let what was happening sink in. I already knew I loved him, but wise or not, it was no longer my secret.

“This is how we are meant to be.” He said passionately as he stared into my eyes as if he were afraid I wouldn’t hear him. “You and I just make good sense.”

I glowed happily at his effort to say he loved me and kissed his neck tenderly as I clung to him. “I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done with dynamis.” I whispered. What I really meant was I would watch the whole thing from a safe spying distance and then rush back to meet him before he knew how crazy about him I really was and how little tolerance I had for being apart from him. It would be hard for me to fight my tendency to protect myself including my heart.

Grinning, he lifted me into his arms and carried me a few steps toward the city before letting me down to my feet. I giggled softly in delight and wrapped my fingers around his hand letting myself sponge in all this happiness hoping this was the start of a lifelong love story and not my silly heart getting me into more trouble.

I sat with him near the residential area in San D’ Oria while Gurok’s group gathered and organized into teams to go into dynamis. I smiled and chatted politely with the group while trying to stay out of the way, though I was completely distracted by my fluttering chest and tingling lips after the kiss I had just recieved. I loved dynamis, but I was loyal to Digital Back Spin, my own mission team and wouldn’t be fighting with Gurok tonight.

I let them all enter and wished them luck and then with the skills that earned me the title of thief, I snuck in after them. I loved to watch him in action. All the shield bashing and grunting as he welded that enormous sword made me giggle like a silly teen. Protecting his allies was his main job tonight, and he was doing it beautifully. I was so proud of him.

He would have been furious if he knew I followed him in there. It was dangerous enough in a group, let alone sneaking in alone when no one knew I was there. I wondered if he suspected that I shadowed him as much as I did after I caught him tossing Kallo over a cliff with bags of gold coins tied to his ankles. Such a waste of gold and a skilled even if misguided fellow thief. Could he have been saved? I wondered.

I had already spent a good enough time justifying Kallo’s death, but it still troubled me that my beloved paladin had ended him in such a dark though poetic manner. Kallo had turned me over to evil men just for the meager reward after I thought we had become friends. Even though he knew it was an innocent unborn baby they really wanted he didn’t seem to care. But, I wondered if the greater casualty was the dark spot burned on my white knight’s heart. I hurt for the bad things my best friend felt had to do keep me safe. Maybe my heart was more that of a white mage than a thief ever since I became a mother. Maybe I was just going dangerously soft.

I lay flat and still on a roof as I watched them work their way around to the last attack of the night. It was dark and the tiles where cool on my skin. The sky was clear letting the stars the countless stars light the sky with the big blue moon. I breathed in the crisp evening air and felt pretty darn good. They had already cleared every threat from the area but the last one and it was safe for me to come down whenever I wanted. If it was any other area, I would have been tempted to sleep there under the stairs all night, but I needed to get out of there and meet Gurok like I promised before he knew where I had spent the evening.

Dancing through the shadows, I made my way back home, washed the day off and dressed for night. I was just tying my red hair up when I heard heavy paladin boots coming up to my door. Before he could touch the door I had opened it and leapt on him throwing my arms around his neck. Catching me with a chuckle he held me up. “Did you eat ALL the cookies? You’re full of spring.”

“I did save one for you.” I smiled and kissed his white cheek, watching for any sign that he regretted kissing me earlier.

“Really?” he looked surprised and it made me smile that he realized how rare it was for me to have the self control to save a cookie.

“Yes, and if you would like to wash the spatters off first, Moogle helped me make a dinner fit for a famished white knight after a long night of battling.” It had been all Moogle’s cooking, but I didn’t want him to wonder what I had really been up to all night while I waited for him. I loved how natural all of this felt.

“Yes Mam.” He said with a grin that told me he was up to something and he bowed and disappeared to wash up for dinner.

I breathed in the smell of hot bread, a galka proportioned roast and my favorite sautéed carrots and felt like I had died and gone to heaven as I listened to my best friend humming as he splashed around in the next room.

As soon as the thought of heaven crossed my mind, I stiffened as my heart jumped with painful guilt. How could I love him when I had already loved and lost the love of my life? It felt like I was betraying Brodie even though he had been murdered and was gone to me in this life. It seemed like it had happened an eternity ago and yesterday all at the same time.

My mind was wiped clean with a new focus when I smelled the steam and soap as he opened the door and came out for dinner still slightly damp and barefooted wearing only his in town slacks. I thought he looked like a great furry white angel with a thick galka tail. How could I worry when he was here with me sharing a hot meal with bare toes and happy hearts? I was so impossibly twiterpaited.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Where One Road Ends

This post was written by Gurok the Paladin. He told me that these characters are not ready for a retirement killing flies, so he has written this chapter to inspire more. Thank you Guork for writing some more fun for them and for being patient through my editing process of mailing this back and forth for tweaks for over a week. I hope you enjoy it.

Alison meant the world to me and to be honest, I was never completely sure why. Her thieving nature constantly put us in danger, she tested my patience on a daily basis and she was dodgier in her relationships then her career. Yet when this… thing betrayed her and her unborn child it made me realize how much I cared for her, how much excitement she brought to my life and how much I appreciated it.

I swore that I would make sure both she and Hope were safe first, which I did. Then I started going about finding the miserable wretch. To his credit, he is a damn good thief and can stay invisible with the best of them. Unfortunately for him, to MY credit I have built a network of incredibly loyal and interesting friends with plenty of shadowy qualities of their own.

Konamy, a Mithra thief, was the one who gave me the idea one day while discussing my dilemma. “Gurok you made Alison a promise you wouldn’t go looking for him and you always keep your word!” she said to me with a sly look on her feline face I didn’t notice at first.

“I know Konamy, but the fact remains I gave my word to myself that I would go find him and make him pay for what he did.” I looked up at her to see a huge grin and almost lost my temper, but she cut me off.
“I never gave my word… Dkrchris said nothing of the sort. Matter of fact none of our Linkshell did, as I am sure most of your other friends didn’t. So, it seems to me that if we were to… stumble… across him and tell you then you could keep both your promises.”

I jumped up quickly, fast enough to make her flinch reflexively, and I gave her a big Galkan hug. “You are the best, get the ball of yarn rolling and keep me informed.”

It took all my will not to seem too hopeful around Alison and give it all away. I worried that the few times I did actually smile, she would see right through it and know I was up to something. The mental weight of her problems kept the chances down to a minimum. Even though she seemed very comfortable around me of late, there were times she drifted off into her own private hell.

It was Zerokb that caught wind of him first. “Hey G, Kallo just walked into San D’ Oria’s auction house, then he got on the airship headed for Jeuno. By the way, you know Ali will kill you and anyone that helped you if she finds out about this, right?”

“Then keep quiet.” I grumbled. Great guy, but he worried too much about upsetting women. Then again, they had peculiar habits of hurting him because of it. I chuckled to myself as I pondered blaming all this on him if we got caught, just to watch the fireworks.

Konamy and Dkrchris were already fishing at the docks when the thief arrived. She was complaining to Dkr that his Dark Knight armor was scaring all the fish away. Kallo glanced at them for a second and quickly made his way into Port Jeuno. Konamy kissed Dkr and followed Kallo stealthily as she could.

Alison and I were riding across Konschtat Highlands heading to my home in Bastok when I got the call from Konamy. “Hey Gurok, I have some good news. This guy is in Upper Jueno is doing business with an Elvaan that works at the bar. He is going to be here until tomorrow then their deal is complete and he is leaving to, I don’t know where. They are meeting at 3pm.”

“Keep an eye on him. Tell me if anything changes. I will be there tomorrow. I need a sometime to pick up a few things and arrange a good excuse for me to leave Alison for a few hours.”

I immediately got off with her and connected with Bob, another Galka Paladin. “Hey Bob are you still interested in that beautiful set of dark blue armor I have?”
“Why yes I am sir. Perfect timing, now I can actually use it.” “Good. Meet me in Lower Jeuno by the auction house tomorrow at noon. How much do you want for the full set?”

“It’s free, I just need a favor, tell you more tomorrow.”

Alison was watching me carefully when I disconnected. “Who was that?” she said with a suspicious smile.

“Well, if you must know, it was another woman. She is a sexy remarkable thief and she wants to have a clandestine meeting with me as soon as I can lose you.”
Alison gave a small chuckle “Ok, tell Kona I said hello when you see her next.”
I sighed and pretended to sulk a bit. “Is it so hard to believe someone else would want to spend time with me?”

This seemed to make her smile more. “No, silly, it’s hard to believe you’d want to spend time with anyone else besides me.”

That made me laugh and I let it go at that. In my moghouse we had a nice dinner and sat down by the fire listening to music and watching my fish swim around in their new tank for a bit before she spoke.

“You have something on your mind Sweetie. Feel free to tell me anytime.”

I grinned. “It was the call I got before. Dkr and Kona want me to come tank a behemoth tomorrow out in Quifim Island. Apparently their Ninja friend suddenly feels… ill. They know I need an item from its corpse to complete my Black Belt training as a Monk.”

I had been training as a Monk on the side for quite some time now. I liked the freedom of movement and focus it gave me when I wasn’t tanking. “Bob also called me and offered to buy my old set of tanking gear in Jeuno tomorrow, so maybe this was meant to be.” I frowned.

“Do you want me to come cheer you on?”

She is a sly one, I thought to myself “Well I would normally insist on not having you out of my sight, you know that, but unless you are in the group right behind me I won’t be able to focus on that behemoth. With everything that has happened I cannot help but worry and I’d like to be at my best.”

She gave me one of her beautiful smiles that made her seem like she never knew what it was like to even be upset and replied “Well then if I MUST stay here and relax all day then I insist I get a gift. Something shiny would be great!”

I leaned in close as I could and whispered “You are being too nice. I would never make you choose between shinnies and food. I will bring you some wonderful fresh baked cookies from the specialty shop in Jeuno as well as a surprise.”

She squealed and popped into my arms to hug me around my neck. “You spoil me as much as I deserve.” I gave her one of my annoyed that doesn’t make sense looks then busted out laughing.

The next morning I made her muffins with chocolate chips for Moogle to give her when she awoke. I grabbed all my gear and triple checked the rope, chains and bags of gil I was going to need. I was on the airship, eyes closed and concentrating on the wind blowing through my fur when I got the call from Konamy.

“Gurok I am sooo sorry! I don’t know how he knew! I tried my best really I swear!”
I tensed “Calm down! Speak plainly please… what happened?”

I heard her take a deep breath. “I was following him this morning to make sure he didn’t go anywhere else. He went to the tenshodo and I stayed outside to wait for him. I got distracted by… by… this beautiful silver music globe. It was gorgeous with gold accents and stained glass and…"

“Kona focus please, on KALLO.”

“He is gone Gurok. I lost him. I went back to where he was staying and it’s all cleaned out. He must have realized I was following him. Oh wait, the bartender at the bar is coming towards me. I paid him to keep me informed. Hold on.”

I gritted my teeth together and reminded myself that these people were my friends and they were offering their help to me unconditionally. This was all wrong. It was going to be perfect and now it was turning into a mess.

Konamy popped back into my ear. “Gurok, he is headed out into Jugner Forest. I am going out after him. Maybe Dkr and I can pick him back up again. I am sorry.”

Her pain was clear, my silence was causing it, so I spoke. “Its fine Kona, we have all the time in the world to do this. I am sure you’ll find him and thank you for all of this.”

Her voice perked up, “You got it Gurok!”

When I walked into Lower jeuno I caught Bob traveling through on his way to the auction house. “Hello sir. Good afternoon to you.”

“Pffff. Not entirely Bob, not entirely.”

“What’s up?”

We sat down on the steps and I explained almost everything to him while I gave him the armor set. We sat in silence for awhile before he spoke. “If anyone is going to get this guy it’ll be you. For as long as I’ve known you, you never let anything escape you. From mobs, to goals, to Alison herself, mind you she is the most complicated problem of all.”

Bob and Ali didn’t get along very well. They had a hate/hate relationship. His loyalty to me though was the only reason he was bothering to involve himself at all. “Come with me” I said. “I have to get a few things for Alison so she doesn’t suspect anything.”

We had gotten the gourmet cookies, an aquamarine and some gold ore I was fashioning into a pendant while I waited for her bouquet to be arranged. I was sitting outside the florist when I looked up and froze. Across from me was the bar Konamy had spoken of. There was Kallo and he was shaking hands with the bartender who let him in and put out his closed sign. Suddenly it all made sense. My day was looking up, it was time…

I grabbed Bob from buying some new fishing rig. The guy was always fishing. “Put my armor on now! Not the purple set, MY set. You are about to do that favor.”

He eyed me suspiciously. “How?” he said with more than the usual amount of caution in his voice.

“Kallo is here, now, at the bar. The bartender is working with him and misled Kona. I am going to need your help to pull this off.”

We went around back and dragged several heavy barrels against the back door. I took a good look at him in my armor. With my helmet on, he easily passed for me as long as he didn’t speak. As I put on the blue set I spoke quickly. “Don’t say anything to him. He’ll expect me to be enraged. Break anything you want in there, including anyone that helps him, but don’t you DARE kill him or underestimate him… Watch your back, he IS a thief.”

Bob just grinned. He kicked the door so hard the framework shattered and the door took out the first table and chairs.

I quickly darted around back and got into position by the back shuttered window. When I heard the thump of the door against the barrels, I knew it was working. In a graceful arc, Kallo tumbled through the shutters onto the ground like a cat coming to his feet… when my shield caught this particular “cat” in the face.

The force combined with his momentum threw him off his feet and into the wall. The back of his head hit the wall and I hit his face again with my shield twice. As soon as I was sure he was out cold, I searched him to remove his lock picks and his blades. I bound him in rope threw him over my shoulder.

As more crashes came from inside the bar, I tried to get to Bob on my linkpearl. “Got him. Meet me at North Qufim cliffs as soon as you can.”

My heart was pounding, my mind racing. Was I really going to do this? It was working smoother then I had possibly hoped for now that it was all in motion. I expected to feel… haunted, but I did not. Instead, I felt a hunger, a primal drive to see this through.

Bob must have taken some time to relish in his fight because by the time he found me in Qufim, I had already gagged Kallo and bound him in chains. I was staring out at the cold raging water slamming into the jagged cliffs several hundred feet below when Bob spoke. “It sucks to be him.”

“You did great today. Thank you for your help. Give me back my armor and this set is now yours. Say nothing to anyone about this… ever.”

After we were both back in our gear he turned to me with his fist on his chest. “From our heart to our shield, it’s what makes us good at what we do.” He turned and left.

I don’t know how long I stood there waiting for him to wake up, but my thoughts were on Alison. I felt bad hiding anything from her. All I had ever wanted to do since I met her was be there for her and that meant honesty, but I wondered what she would think of me for how I went about this. I didn’t give this garbage a fighting chance. I set him up and took advantage of his nature… which was exactly what he had done to her. I only hoped she would see that and know I was still trustworthy.

I saw his eyes open and with admirable reflexes he instinctively went to reach for his blades and spring up but they weren’t there. When it soaked in he was bound and bound tightly his eyes filled with rage and locked onto mine. I stared back calmly and knelt down next to him. “I could have killed you at any point, but death wasn’t my true desire here. I want you to know a few things before you go away on your next journey. First, although I may be a Paladin, I warned you never to hurt Alison and that nothing would stop me from killing you if you ever really did. So, I needed you to know it was me that tracked you, tricked you and caught you.”

He subtly tried to find his picks. I stared plainly and held them up for him to see, his eyes showed a flicker of panic. “Second, your own arrogant loner nature is what makes this so simple. No one will be looking for you, they will think you slipped out the back and disappeared like the rat you are.”

Now he started to openly struggle against the rope and chains so I put my hand on his chest to hold him still. “Last thing and we are done. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. It’s a few hundred feet to the water and rocks below, so you’ll have time to think about this. It was gil that you turned her and her unborn child in for, so if you want it that badly, I will send you off with all I have. There is over 5,000 gil in those bags chained to your feet and it’s all yours.”

I stood up and kicked one of the three bags of gil over the edge. The shift of weight brought on fresh screaming through his gag. I was about to kick the second bag over when I heard her voice.

“Gurok!” She was standing about 15 feet away looking confused and uncertain at what she was seeing.

“Alison, why couldn’t you stay back at my home?” I closed my eyes as I spoke; I couldn’t bear to look at her.

“I think I can ask you the same question. Is that Kallo?”

“Yes, I can explain things a bit if you are willing to listen, but I have to do this first.” I kicked the second bag, but he must have gotten his hand loose while I had my eyes closed because it had enough slack to grab my ankle as the bag went over.
He slid, I slid… the third bag went over and I grabbed a large rock, but with hardly any grip.

Alison crossed the distance in a blink. She spoke with anger, but to Kallo not me. “You have taken enough from me!“ She slammed her dagger into his wrist causing him to let go and slip over. A scream quickly lost over the roar of the crashing water so far below.

She hugged me and I put my arm around her. “I am sorry I lied to you but I didn’t intend for you to be part of this Ali. You have seen enough death and loss, but even as I did this to protect you I come out owing you my life.”

She buried her face against my chest, shaking it back and forth. “Shush.” She begged. “I understand… just... shush.”

I waited in silence for her reaction, afraid of what my broken promise would mean to her.

When she finally looked up at my face, it was full of an emotion I couldn’t quite decipher. “Never do that again.” Now here she looked angry and stepped back shoving against my chest and then pounding me with her fists when I didn’t move. She gasped to hold back tears and threw her arms around me. “You know I hate cold water. I would have frizzed my hair jumping in to save your furry hide.”

“The rocks would have done more damage to your hair than the cold water.” A glance into her eyes let me know that humor wasn’t my best route here. “Cookies?” I asked as I held her tightly, hoping to distract her by holding up the bag I had gotten her from the specialty shop. Usually an easy thing to do, but anger could improve her determination.

She nodded without looking up. “Yes, cookies.” Taking the bag she paused and glared up at me. “I will NOT lose you to the sea. Never scare me like that again!”
“Promise.” I said, ignoring the dark thought that flickered in my mind, wondering if I would be able to keep that promise.

I held up the aquamarine necklace I had made her. “Something shiny.” She said as she looked away from the edge of the cliff. “I’m not sure how I feel about that yet…” nodding back towards the drag marks in the dirt and stone “,but this is nice. Thank you Sweetie.” She smiled warmly at me as I put the necklace on her.

I nodded and moved her away from the cliffs. I would have to remember not to underestimate her curiosity again. I was confident I had done enough good things for her to outweigh any negativity she felt about this, especially after what he had done to her, but Alison was slow to change her feelings about things. As always I would wait patiently.