RP:The Missing Piece

From HollowWiki

Part of the Agitation Arc

Part of the Rise of Larket Arc

Summary: Kelovath endures some patience-trying magical shenanigans, but, with the help of Josleen, finds the final artifact, the whip of the shade, in the attic above Hildegarde's war camp.

Hildegarde's War Mansion in the Mountains

Josleen‘s back has quickly been improving. She’s up on her feet for most of the day, and can now bend over patients to apply salves and whisper words of encouragement. Few of the injuries now are new. Most of those still bedridden suffer wounds from that horrific battle. Their cases are critical, hope low. A few days ago Josleen started rationing pain killers due to low supply, but Kovl and Sabrina pulled through with a few more days’ worth of medicine and anesthetics. Still, it won’t be enough. The pain will out supply the potions. Morale teeters on the edge of collapse. The bard’s most important important trait now is her charisma, her most important skill her ability to soothsay. She visits the most dire cases, talks through their fears, leads them to laughter and light; she laughs with them. She touches patients a lot, too, her belief in the power of touch and connection absolute. And any who witness her affect on patients, male and female alike, make begin to believe she is right about touch, that primal connection. When she moves on to a new patient she leaves the last smiling faintly, seeing a little goodness in the bleak. Between patients she always looks for Kelovath, stealing glances but not disturbing him.

Kelovath typically stayed rather close to Josleen during her rounds. Along with the treatments the bard used, the paladin did what he could with his magic to ease the pain and close minor wounds. It was clear that the injured were losing hope, but that would not deter the paladin from helping any that needed it. He needed to stay strong and for the most part, he was able to. Even while sustaining the holy aura for Josleen, Kelo kept a strong face. But, in the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but to feel unease. There was something within his building that shouldn’t be here and he wanted to find it out. Remove it, if possible. In his current state, lack of sleep and feeling exhausted, it was hard to tell if he could actually handle himself in a fight. On a usual day, Kelovath would visit many patients and make recommendations to Josleen about those who needed a boost. That’s how this day started, but after a few visits, the paladin made a decision. He just finished talking to a young girl, trying to get her to smile or even show some emotion. The girl was in shock still, from what he gathered. Saying goodbye, he turned and spotted Josleen. She had just looked his way, so this would be his best chance. He offered a smile, then attempted to make his way out of the room. He was going to the attic.

Josleen smiles back at Kelovath and assumes he is going to the bathroom or something equally mundane. Bathroom range is within aura-protection range. Thus, when he leaves the radius of effect, darkness clouds Josleen’s vision and she knows he has gone further than the restroom. Where to? It isn’t her place to ask or follow so she stays put and committed to the people in the room with her. She ignores the way the sheets appear to decay and spiders walk over the floorboards and her feet. But as Kelovath leaves the main hallway into the service passages, the visions grow distractingly bad. The patient she treats appears with an open chest, heart pumping, ribs broken, guts crushed, legs missing. In her periphery a small boy’s head spins 360-degrees slowly, repeatedly, his eyes bleeding. She finishes with the patient quickly, fails to leave a smile on his face, and disappears into her corner behind the partition. On the cot and with her back to the wall, she closes her eyes and takes to regain her composure. She needs to practice existing and working with these visions anyway, if her plan with Kovl is to succeed. Hopefully Kelovath can catch the undead creature and rid her of the curse before then, but she can’t rely on that. In the shoe-shining room in the servants’ quarters Kelovath will find the attic door. It’s locked, but not by any mechanical means. Some unholy has enchanted the door to never open.

Kelovath quickly made his way to the attic door, knowing that being this far from Josleen probably caused the visions to come back. This needed to be fast. There was no way of knowing what would be happening should that door be opened. Feeling that it was something unholy though, the paladin knew it would be opened soon. He’d make sure of it. Now that the holy aura couldn’t reach the bard, Kelovath had much more useable magic. That holy magic was directed toward the locked door now, which quite easily would remove any unholy magic that may be lingering. The evil feeling could still be felt, so Kelo knew there was something else in the room above. Grasping the hilt of his sword, the paladin stepped toward the door above him and pulled it down. Attached to the door was a small ladder, which the man unfolded, allowing his access to the attic. The paladin closed his eyes, prayed, and climbed the ladder.

As Kelovath climbs the ladder he may feel himself passing through some sort of magical veil, this time arcane. He walks up through the floor of the shoe-shining room, his body passing through the solid floorboards like a hot knife through butter. In the ceiling now above him again, the attic door is gone. It’s moved. Wizards, the worst. Back in the medical ward, Josleen tries to work on her concentration while hallucinating. She grabs her fiddle, the only instrument she brought from home to the camp, and pulls back the partition. The more mobile patients look to Josleen. The bard begins playing a song. It starts slow, but its sound carries through the mansion to Kelovath and all others. As the visions intensify, the fiddling speeds up until it is manic. For the injured, cathartic; perhaps for Josleen too.

Kelovath was not expecting such trickery when climbing upward. He had pictured a dark, dirty attic that you’d find in any old building. Maybe some old paintings covered up and long forgotten, furniture no longer cared about, having been replaced many years ago. Instead, he’s back in the shoe-room. Half in the floor of that room now. His hand did not move from the weapon at his side. Well, sorta at his side. The floor thing made it difficult. Illusion or not, the paladin could still feel the rungs of the ladder below(above?) him. Using that, the man lowered himself slightly, then kind of launched himself up and out of the floorboards. Once landing, the armored paladin used his magic to surround himself in the holy aura previously used for Josleen. Any unholy magic would have a difficult time harming Kelo. Readying himself for whatever may come next, it was at that moment he heard the music coming from…Well, it was coming from Josleen, but the paladin had no true way of knowing it. It was relaxing, but also gave him focus.

Nothing is coming for Kelovath. The enchantment is defensive, to protect whatever lies in the attic, not offensive. It seeks to evade. Find the attic door. It’s somewhere else. Kelovath is now on the other side of a wall that separates the shoe-shining room from a large bedroom used by officers as a dormitory. He can hear a giant gruff, “Huh, I never noticed that door in the ceiling. Wonder where it leads.” Armor and weapons and furniture scrapes. “Whoa.” That same giant’s voice. A second voice, “There’s no door. You’re hallucinating. Go see Josleen.” The music captures the frustrations and fears of the camp and releases them, bloodletting of the spirit.

Kelovath stood still and began looking around the room. There didn’t seem to be anything incredibly interesting here. The random voices did catch his attention. His eyes went to the ceiling, but he couldn’t really see much of anything. “Am I already in the attic?” He said aloud, becoming increasingly confused. Hearing Josleen’s name being spoken made him feel guilty for leaving her behind, but he truly thought this was for the best. No telling what he could have walked into with the bard right behind him. Better him than her. Gathering his senses, the paladin took a breath and worked on processing his thoughts. What lead him up here in the first place? The evil feeling. So, he closed his eyes and mentally reached out, trying to find the source.

The evil entity is still safely guarded in the attic. The door teleports when touched. First Kelo touched it, and it moved, presumably to where the giants were. Then the giant touched it, and it moved again. Where to now? Kelo can follow the source to the hallway just outside the medical ward. From here he can see Josleen playing her fiddle, but without their connection she doesn’t sense he is near. Her eyes remain shut as she lays into her fiddle like a coachmen whipping horses into gallop, the wolves at her heels being the curse, the war, her injury, the wounded. The passengers in her musical chariot are the audience who breathlessly wait to see if she can deliver them to safety. Above Kelovath is the attic door again. Surely, when touched, it will disappear.

Kelovath carefully made his way through the building, following his magic to the source. Or what he thought was the source. Seeing that it was now leading him back toward the medical side of the building, the paladin became all the more careful. Hearing the music though, he couldn’t stop himself from watching Josleen play her instrument. It was an amazing sound, even if a bit chaotic. He felt horrible once again for taking the aura away, but surely this was for the good of the people within the building. Glancing up, he saw the door. As quietly as possible, the paladin grabbed a nearby chair and placed it below the door. He climbed onto it, reached up, and attempted to open the door.

The door opens, he climbs the ladder (presumably), and just like last time, climbs up into the floor of the hall he was standing in moments ago. The attic door disappears. The frost giant he had heard through the wall earlier is now power-walking down the hall towards Kelo wearing an expression as if he just saw a ghost. His armor rattles like his terrified bones. Frost giants have little experience with magic and are notoriously superstitious. “That just happened to me!” the giant hisses to the paladin. “I thought I was hallucinating. Was coming here to have myself examined.” He nods towards the medical ward. “What is that thing? What’s going on? Is it a curse?” She leans in and whispers even lower, “Witches. Do you think Balgruuf’s shamans cursed the camp so we’d lose the war?” An underhanded tactic not in the spirit of Aramoth, but then again Balgruuf has already proven himself more than willing to do things like, well, a woman: underhanded and sneaky (this frost giant is a misogynist). If Kelo were to follow the evil again he’d find it now in the laundry room, which is currently idle. No one is in there. The giant would likely follow Kelovath. Just before they leave Josleen finishes her song and looks at the expectant faces before her. They are moved, finally fed a meal of culture and music they did not realize they were starved for, until now. Their eyes beseech another song. She spies Kelovath in the doorway, beyond the mutilated--both real and hallucinated. She looks at him confused for a moment, then goes back to her performance. The next song more woeful, a mourning for the dead.

Kelovath mumbled something under his breath when realizing he once again went nowhere. He felt startled when seeing the giant come barreling toward him, but quickly offered a smile to the large man. “Whoa now. I’m just as confused as you are, friend. Hold on.” Again, eyes closed, senses sent outward. “The laundry room now…” He whispered, remembering his last visit there. Before making his way there, his gaze shifted back to Josleen and another whisper escaped passed his lips. “Sorry…” The beginning of her song brought on the guilt even further, but he needed to shake it off. Looking back to the giant now, “I don’t believe this is Balgruuf. It’s something…Evil. Emanating an unholy aura. The door to the attic, seems to be this way now.” He moved passed the giant and started toward the laundry room. It didn’t matter if the giant followed or not. Kelovath had basically entered his own little world at this point, thanks to the music coming from the medical room. Josleen’s music. It brought so many memories back to the paladin. He needed to find this door. Find this evil. And get back to Josleen. Entering the laundry room now, Kelovath lifted his gaze and spotted the door. Talking to himself, or the giant, should he have followed, “I wonder if I should try something different.” He thought about it, but couldn’t figure out anything. The door wasn’t exactly evil. It was protecting something that was. With a shrug, Kelovath went to the door and this time was able to just reach up and pull the ladder down. Ceiling was –much- lower in the laundry room, so some odd reason. “Here we go.” He ascended.

The giant indeed follows Kelovath, and definitely thinks Kelovath should try something different, but is very confused as to why Kelovath once again tries to climb into the magical attic. “Maybe we need a mage.” Do they even have mages in this army? Good ones, at that? He watches Kelovath come up through the floor again. The attic door is gone. This time, the evil emanation will lead Kelovath (and his new giant friend) back to medical ward. This time the door sits right above Josleen’s head. She hasn’t noticed it yet. Her song has brought several in the audience to tears--the good kind, the cleansing tears. The door’s placement, however, seems a little too convenient. There is a slightly golden aura around the attic door, denoting Arkhen’s intervention. Kelovath’s connection to the god would whisper to the paladin that yes, Arkhen manipulated the magic to make the door land in a place more useful to Kelovath: above Josleen.

Kelovath is rather stumped with this whole situation. He sighed and reached out, finding the door once again with no problem. “C’mon…This way…” Giant and paladin both make their way back to the medical ward, becoming wrapped up in the song Josleen was playing for the injured. He saw the aura around the door, and noticed that the door right now right above the bard. “Interesting…” He made his way toward Josleen, as did the giant, and both waited for the song to finish. Once it was over, Kelovath removed the golden aura from himself and placed it back onto Josleen. From there, he’d wait to see her reaction, hoping for a smile, but not expecting it. His attention though, would shift from the bard to the door, as did the giants. Although, the giant was much more focused on the door, the large man wanting desperately now to open it and see where it leads.

Josleen feels the relief of the golden aura and takes a deep breath, accompanied by a soft, grateful moan, like when being massaged and relieved of tension. When she opens her eyes she finds Kelovath shares with him a soft, private smile despite the fact they’re surrounded by people. No one else knows about the curse, not even Hildegarde. Only him. She looks at the giant now and says, “Hello Lungor. ..What is it?” She follows their gazes up to the door and gasps. “Was that always there?” Impossible. How many hours was she bedridden and staring at that ceiling. Lungor responds, “It keeps moving. Every time someone tries to go through, it moves.” Josleen looks from Lungor to Kelovath and asks, “Why go in at all?”

Kelovath returned the smile, happy to see it. Quickly, he moved closer to the bard and kneeled down, speaking in a hushed tone. “Something evil is up there, Jos. I felt it before when we were exploring the building. The door…” He looked up and motioned toward it, “It leads to the attic. Every time we attempt to walk through it, we end up in the same room, but coming up from the floor. Strange magic.” The paladin looked to the giant, who was nodding along in agreement the entire time. Shifting his attention back to Josleen, “Whatever is up there, is a danger to us.” He looked around the room. “All of us.” His words continued their softness.

As Kelovath speaks of evil, her hand itches to take his for comfort, but she doesn’t. They aren’t familiar enough yet with each other for her to touch him at will. Lungor knows to slide the partition to give the trio a little privacy as they troubleshoot this door. The giant looks up, looking stumped, a little too embarrassed to look at Kelovath and Josleen because of the obvious romantic tension there. Josleen looks at the attic door, then at Kelo, then back down as she tries to brainstorm a solution. Beneath her dress (but above her bosom, aaaay) is the imprint of a couple pendants. She pulls them out. The first one is the Xalious tree in the blue iron and fluorite of Frostmaw. The second is a purple gem stone key. “I wonder if…” She glances up at the door and says. “I need to reach the door.” Lungor lifts her up like a doll and sits her on one shoulder daintily. She tries to fit the key in the keyhole and of course it doesn’t fit. “Hmm. There has to be a way…” She explains to Kelovath and Lungor, “My father gave me this key when I was very young shortly after my mother read to me the story of the forest hag.” Like Hollow’s version of Hansel and Gretel, two children locked in cages until eaten by a witch. “I was very scared, and my father gave me this pendant, this key, saying it could unlock any evil sorcerer’s lock. As a child, I believed it was fiction, a kindness on his part. But now, knowing my father better, I know fiction is not his forte. He is a literal man. He doesn’t speak metaphorically. I suspect this is really a key. I just need to… Maybe it needs to be charged with magic?” She looks to Kelovath here. Would her own tiny reserve of bardic magic work? Or his holy magic be better? Both?

Kelovath tries to look at the pendants, but suddenly becomes too embarrassed to do so. Not looking there. Inappropriate. Don’t do it. He looked. Then pulled his attention to the pendants. He watched as the giant easily lifted the woman. Listening quietly, the paladin stood, his eyes staying on the door as the bard tried to open it. Nothing. He adjusted his stance slightly and crossed his arms over his armored chest. Taking the hint, Kelo smiled to the woman and gave her a nod. Without needing to get closer, the man spoke. “Let’s try it.” He said, obviously meaning for the both of them to charge the pendant. Lowering his arms, the paladin reached out and up with a single armored hand, which began to glow. After a few seconds, the man unleashed his magic toward the pendant.

Josleen can only channel her limited magic through sound. By humming she taps into her arcana and directs it toward the key. The key glows both gold and pale, spring green. The purple stone’s hardness softens to puddy and it shifts shape until it fits in the hole and turns. The door opens. The ladder is there. It looks the same as always. Hard to know if anything different happened without once against attempting to climb the ladder. Lungor sets Josleen down. He climbs up into the attic and…disappears into the attic. If Kelovath follows suit, Josleen stops him quickly. “Borrow this.” She gives him the key. “Just in case.” The paladin will find the attic as he expected: dusty covered paintings, stacked furniture, chests upon chests of personal effects. A small black case fit for a flute gives off the evil vibe he was detecting. It’s locked, but Josleen’s key would work again.

Kelovath waited for Lungor to climb up, and then waited a bit longer, wondering if the giant would suddenly appear somewhere else. He didn’t, it seemed. So, the paladin would follow. He accepted the key from Josleen and once again gave her a smile. “I’ll be back.” In other words, ‘Wait here, Jos.’ With ease, he climbed up and was now in fact in the attic. It was dark, but enough light was coming from below that he could see the numerous pieces of art and furniture that looked randomly placed. He spotted Lungor, who was opening a chest of junk. The giant groaned and went for the next one. Kelo smiled, but then felt the evil presence nearby. Using his senses lead him to the case. With the key still in hand, Kelovath placed it in the lock and turned. An audible click was heard and the key removed soon after. Tucking it away, the paladin used both hands to open the case.

Josleen waits below for the paladin. Her hands wring each other as she stares at the hole in the ceiling. She strains to hear everything that happens. An ear piercing scream, coming from the open case in the paladin’s hands. It briefly burns his holy gauntlets, suggesting that whatever created this enchantment was quite powerful.“Kelovath,” Josleen gasps, the name catching in her throat. She climbs onto the cot then fumbles for the ladder, climbing it as quickly as she can, her fashionable boots failing to find a grip on the rungs twice. The scream stops just as Josleen emerges in the attic floor. “Kelovath,” she says again. She finds Lungor first. He’s rushing towards Kelovath too, fists clenched, ready to fight whatever Kelovath found. But there is nothing to fight. There is silence, and the case inert--it no longer burns. Inside it is something like a short whip, a riding crop of small scale as if intended for one of the shorter races. Josleen steps behind Kelo and gently places a hand on his arm. “Are you alright? What is it?”

Kelovath should have known it wouldn’t have been easy. I mean, needing some impossible key to open it, a magical attic door that disappears. Why would finding the evil thing be the easy part? The scream was enough for the paladin to almost throw the case away from him, but instead, the lid to the case was left open and only one gauntlet happened to get seriously caught by the magic. Unable to think further ahead, the man removed his gauntlet as fast as possible and dropped it off to the side. He looked down at his bare hand, but there didn’t appear to be anything new. Same hand he’s always had, just a bit tender. And almost feeling like it’s burning. Hearing Josleen behind him, Kelovath tucked his hand under his other arm before speaking to the woman. “I’m fine. Slight burn is all.” With his armored hand, he motioned toward the case. “It was enchanted to scream. A trap, if someone happened to find…Whatever that is.” As much as he wanted to reach out and grab the small whip, he was simply unwilling to do so. His heart was pounding in his chest from the screaming case and his hand was seriously starting to hurt now. The shock of the situation starting to drift away. “Have you seen it before, Jos?” He asked, turning somewhat and looking at her.

Josleen is too worried about Kelovath’s hand to give the whip a good look. She assumes he’s hiding his hand because it’s badly injured, no other reason. “Can I see your hand?” She coaxes the hand to her by gently pulling at the armored elbow of the un-gauntleted arm. “Let me see.” She coos the words in the soft, sweet voice of a patient healer, one who feels as though she has seen it all. Lungor shifts his weight impatiently. He approaches the case but doesn’t touch it. He watches Josleen and Kelovath for only a moment, then looks away embarrassed again. Third wheel syndrome.

Kelovath widened his eyes as she asked to see his hand. The current pain made it feel like there was something seriously wrong with his hand. Carefully, he was able to look at his hand before Josleen could, but he was unable to see anything different. It was difficult to see in the first place, because of the lack of light. He allowed Josleen to take his bare hand, which caused the man to wince softly. When looking at his hand, it was clear some major abuse had been afflicted. Small, barely quarter of an inch scars completely covered his hand, fingers, and palm. Like someone had taken a knife and cut every exposed piece of flesh along his hand. Or even, like the nearby whip in the case, someone used the paladin’s hand as target practice using a whip of some kind. The scars looked like they would continue up his arm, but his armor blocked any evidence of that. Whatever caused the scars appeared to be extremely painful and it was. The burning from the case could not be seen on the horribly scarred hand, but something was going on there. “It’s still burning…” He wanted to pull his hand away, but he couldn’t heal himself. That’s not how his magic worked. There was nothing he could do to ease the pain.

Josleen‘s fingers caress the scarred flesh, her touch birdlike in its gentleness. She sees no burns, and doesn’t understand why he’s wincing. The scars snag her attention. Time slows down for her as she guesses what could have caused this. Her thumb circles a marble of scarred flesh and she suddenly, in her mind, sees herself kissing his hand. She doesn’t, she resists this strange yet powerful impulse. It’s frightening, that he should have this power. She tells herself it’s because she is stressed, scared, craving tenderness; it doesn’t mean anything. Or maybe it has to do with his aura. Maybe his aura makes her feel closer to him than she should. There. Magical mumbo jumbo, deny the truth, move on. Her hand releases him and she tries to compose herself with a sharp breath. The way she looks at him makes it clear he has some effect, some influence or power. “I have something for the pain downstairs.” Looking to the case, she approaches it and gently prods it. It doesn’t scream or burn her like it did Kelovath. She pulls out the whip and says, “Can I…? This is a test.” She taps the whip itself against Kelovath’s armored arm and nothing happens. It still feels evil, but does not react to him. Josleen inspects all sides of the whip, then finds something on the butt of its hilt. “Oh my Sven.” She drops it onto the ground and it clatters loudly. She takes a large step away from it. “I know what this is.” Lungor picks up the whip, eyeing Josleen like maybe she is the witch (but a good witch, but still), and tries to usher the smaller people downstairs. “We can talk about this downstairs,” he says.

Kelovath remained still as Josleen inspected his hand. The entire time, his eyes never shifted away from her face. Like the bard, Kelo felt a power between them. He knew it wasn’t the aura. It was only there to protect her and dispel any unholy magic. Feeling that his hand was released, his gaze ripped away from Jos and onto his removed gauntlet. There didn’t appear to be any damage done to the armor, but his hand continued to throb with pain. He didn’t have a chance to respond to the bards request regarding the whip. The evil coming from the weapon was clear enough, but it seemed dormant, as far as he could tell. Based on Josleen’s reaction to it, there was something more going on here. An attempt to pick up the whip was made, but instead, he grabbed his discarded gauntlet, then looked to Josleen. “Lungor is right. C’mon.” The paladin started to reach for Josleen with his bare hand, stopped, thought about it for a moment, and then decided against it. He switched hands, his bare one holding the gauntlet, and his armored one reaching for the woman, guiding her toward the stairs leading back into the medical ward.

Josleen is about to take Kelovath’s bare hand when he changes tack and offers her the armored one instead. She frowns without realizing she’s frowning, oblivious to her want of his flesh, but accepts the offered hunk of metal. Downstairs, Lungor slowly hands the whip to Kelovath to inspect while Josleen fetches two hard candies from the medicinal cabinet. “Take these,” she says to the paladin as she hands him the candy. “Two for your size. They numb halo pain, which is the type of pain I believe you have.” Lungor nods at the whip questioningly and asks Josleen, “What do you know about this?” The bard turns the whip in Kelovath’s hand, letting her fingers brush against his bare skin if it’s still bare, and draw attention to the symbol engraved in the butt of the hilt. She whispers, using her bardic magic to prevent her voice from leaking beyond the partition, “That the symbol of the Order of the Shade, an ancient drow sect of necromancy. There is said to be five artifacts of power associated with the order, a crown, a ring, boots, a brooch, and a whip.” She pauses for effective, always a bard. “Powerful villains seek those artifacts.” Her hand sweeps through her hair to cast it over one shoulder, a ruse to hide her face from Lungor. Non-verbally, through a knowing look in the stare, she communicates with Kelovath that there is more to this story, but she can’t tell it in present company. She trusts Lungor, but knows not his judgment in what to do with the information she has yet to reveal. Instinctively, she trusts Kelovath. He can hear the rest, when they’re alone.

Kelovath accepted the whip, not really sure what he was supposed to do with it. So, for now, he held it, then also took the candy from Josleen. He popped them into his mouth and swallowed. Didn’t taste like candy. His eyes continued their inspection of the whip, but stopped when feeling his bare hand make direct contact with the bard’s. His eyes did not linger on the weapon, but instead lifted to look at the woman. He listened silently, nodding here and there in understanding. Thankfully, he knew a non-verbal communication when he saw it. The rest of the story sounded very interesting, but no real reason came to mind to get Lungor out of hearing range. Kelo lowered his gaze back to the whip, taking a long look at the symbol. He’d never seen it before, but based on the powerful enchantment on the case that held the whip, he knew it’d be best to get familiar with the icon. As he was about to speak, his bare hand throbbed painfully and he shook his head, taking in a deep breath as well. He sighed heavily, then quickly looked to Lungor, “I think I need to rest. Do you think, later on, you could explore the attic a bit more? We may be able to make use of something up there.” He smiled to the giant, then sat down on the same stood he’d used before, next to Josleen’s cot.

Josleen‘s eyes widen as Kelovath pops the candy like pills. “You’re meant to suck…” At least the medicine should still work the same. Kelovath succeeds in getting Lungor to leave and she can’t help her impish little grin, directed at the paladin. His wince wipes that smirk off her face and she asks, doe-eyed, “Is it the hand again?” She takes the hand to better inspect it in the light. It’s hard, strong, and calloused, man’s hands. She likes it, even with the scars. “I’m not sure what is happening. Has this happened before? As a reaction to evil, or?”

Kelovath nodded. “Yes. My hand. I’m not sure what’s going on…Might have been because I was wearing the gauntlet. Abnormal reaction to the magic, maybe?” His eyes flip to Josleen and a smile formed across his lips. The direct contact was…Not strange. Definitely not bad. Different. The armor may as well be a part of his body at this point. His protective shell, for more than one reason. But, now, it didn’t look like he needed to hide himself away. Josleen didn’t seem to mind. He liked that. Which was clear, because he hadn’t looked away from her and his smile looked like much more than a normal smile. It was soft, caring, and probably should be controlled. Maybe it was the candy, or the extreme lack of sleep lately, but a strong mellow feeling washed over the paladin. Peaceful, in a way, excluding the slight pain in his hand. He should have asked about the whip and the symbol, now that Lungor left, but instead, he watched Josleen examine his scarred hand. Something nobody else had done. Or seen.

The din of the ward, the coughing and moaning, the blacksmiths down the hall sharpening blades, all fall away. For a moment, there’s only them in a bubble, far from this war, or the war for the throne burgeoning in Larket, or the war for souls in Xalious, or the war among tribes in Cenril. There is no politics, no strife, just two people falling into one another and holding on to excuses to break their fall: the aura, the candy, the exhaustion, the loneliness. She meets his gaze, arrested in his stare, her sly smile mirroring his then softening to surrender. Her chin dips modestly, stare broken for a moment, and she submits. People feel superior to animals, more noble in their romance, less primal, but before any person drums up the courage to act, the animal in people has already started making room for the other. Josleen just can’t see her animal. She sees only him, and the ever-present impulse to touch and kiss which she denies. Maybe after the war. Maybe next week. Maybe when she’s found a new place to live, maybe then. Arbitrary checkpoints of time that ignore the fact that there is a war, several wars, they may not live to see those checkpoints, there is only now. The animal knows that. The person does not. She resists, denies. “Josleen?” A nurse’s anxious voice at the partition. Josleen perks up like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. “Hurry, it’s Dacsiom. He’s having an episode.” Something crashes, a cot is thrown. A man yells, the animal in him replacing the person entirely. “He ripped out his stitches.” The man’s yelling settles into syllables, her name, he screams it like her would mean to kill her if his demands are not met. Josleen rises quickly, but hesitates, looks at Kelovath--admires him really--then reluctantly lets him go. Without saying a word she slips past the partition to teach he enraged patient to be a person again, like her. Deny, deny, deny. The story of the whip will have to wait.