“She accused you of improper behaviour? Of performing something inappropriate and indecent?” Rin’s eyes went wide. She and Lian were sitting at his favourite table in the corner of the Salted Wings Tavern.
“Yes. Why . . . why are you looking at me like that?”
“No offence, but I have a hard time imagining you doing something inappropriate,” the Bosmer chuckled.
“My mother has a better imagination, then.” His voice was devoid of any humor. “Not that I really care what–”
“Wait! I know what you should do! Write her back–”
“Not in a million years.”
“I said wait! You should write her that you’re dating me!”
“What?” His face went from pale white to crimson red in a couple of heartbeats.
“Okay, okay . . . that was a little bit too rough.”
“A little bit?” Lian looked as if he had trouble breathing.
“Shoosh! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
The mage studied his companion, spotting the apologetic notes in her tone and secretly wondering what exactly she was apologizing for.
“Okay, how about you write your mother that you have a Bosmer friend who is teaching you to hunt in the wilderness? And is prompting you to follow the Green Pact.”
The Altmer looked at her for a long time, taking in her cheeky smile, shining green eyes and the mischievous look on her face, then he weakly smiled back.
“Altmer mages are very good at inflicting curses, you know?”
“And Bosmer hunters are very good at deflecting them.” Rin answered without batting an eyelash.
Lian slowly shook his head. It was difficult not to fall under Rin’s sly mood or at least just stop smiling and take things serious. “I’m not sure if I’ll do something like that right now. But maybe I’ll take you at your word someday.”
“Sounds good enough for me.”
“There you are!” Bagir-Ra materialized almost out of nowhere. “Just look at the two of you, sitting so cosy, having breakfast together!”
“Hey there, Ragi!” Rin smiled at her friend, chuckling slightly at the annoyed look that appeared on Lian’s face.
“As much as this one hates spoiling your breakfast, she is afraid we have some work to do. Oh, and Raz sent you his regards.”
“Give me a couple of minutes, will you?”
“Ah, well, might as well grab something to have a bite on the run. Ragi will meet you outside; don’t dally!”
Rin turned to the mage. “I’m sorry, it seems I’ll have to leave earlier than I thought.” She noticed a grim expression on his face. “What?”
“Guessed that much when the furry friend of yours dropped on our heads out of the blue.”
“Oh, no need to be snarky!”
“I’m not,” he snapped. “Have I heard it right? Raz was sending his regards? Is it ‘Raz’ like in “Razum-Dar”?”
“It is, why?”
“He works for the queen, or so the rumors go. Who are you then, to get his regards?”
Rin arched her eyebrow – a trick she had learned from her twin and the one both of them successfully used to demonstrate their perfect innocence. “Me? I’m just a simple hunter who sometimes does fetching contracts for the Fighters Guild, nothing more.”
The look he gave her could have frozen a stream on a hot summer day. “If you say so.”
She sighed. “Listen, I really am. I just sometimes do some weird jobs. But thanks to those, you get some nice books added to your collection,” added the Bosmer with a mischievous grin. “I’ll come visit you next time I am in the town.”
She paused at the doors, lightly waving him a goodbye. With just a hint of a smile, he subtly waved back.
* * *
“So, it’s you and Mister-Broody-Magic-Pants?” Ragi was grinning from ear to ear. “This one hasn’t seen you a mere couple of days and there you are, having a family-looking breakfast together!”
“It’s not what you think it is!” Gwilwering felt a sudden urge to defend that something was going on between her and the Altmer mage. “And since when, by the way, has an independent Khajiit I’ve known all these years started playing errand girl for Razum-Dar?”
“Since the moment this one laid her eyes on that gorgeous, sand-colored fur, his proud posture, and heard him speaking! Since that very moment, this one was enthralled and ready to do anything this exquisite example of the male Khajiit would want from a humble stray cat this one is.”
“Oh, shut up, you!” Rin giggled. “I can’t be mad when you are speaking like that!”
“But you must admit, he’s a pure sex, isn’t he?”
“Not my type. I prefer less fur–”
“And more broodiness!” Ragi was giggling now too. “Let’s go, we really have work to do!”
“Where to this time?”
* * *
“Stop pacing, kitten. This one has all his confidence in our Bosmer friend. And besides, Raz’s wages aren’t that huge as you might imagine, knowing what a brilliant operative he is. This one can’t afford to pay for those grooves you’ve most likely trod in the floor.”
“How can you be so calm? Raz, Rin is all alone out there, in the middle of a den full of fanatics! This one should have gone with her. If anything happens to her . . . this one knew her since being almost a cub! How would Ragi look in Rin’s parents’ eyes if anything happens to her? And don’t call me that, I’m no kitten!”
“Of course you are not, beautiful!” The Khajiit’s voice dropped lower, becoming a purr. “You’re a fearsome lioness whose enemies tremble at a mere mention of her name!”
Ragi’s ears fluttered slightly while she tried to hide her nervousness. “Flatterer.”
“Oh, no, this one is wounded!” Razum-Dar pressed a palm over his heart. “One of the rare moments when Raz is honest to goodness, and he’s immediately accused of common flattery!” His eyes gleamed with amusement, though. He was fascinated with the young Khajiit thief – both shy and bold at the same time.
“Oh, please! This one is not accusing you–”
They both almost jumped when the door slammed. Gwilwering was dripping wet and looked enormously tired, and her jaw was set stubbornly, as if she tried as she might to keep herself upright.
“You’re back!” Ragi leaped to her friend in a one swift movement to steady the elf.
“Raz! Why are you here? Where is the queen?”
“Why, at the Manor House, of course. Why all the fuss? She’s safe there, discussing some most boring stuff with Lady Estre.”
“No, Raz! Quick, we need to hurry! High Kinlady Estre is the Veiled Queen.”
* * *
“Why haven’t we done that before?” Rin was leaning back on her elbows, lying on the warm, white sand of a secluded beach surprisingly close to Vulkhel Guard while Lian packed up the remnants of their picnic lunch.
“We would have if only one Bosmer hunter came back from her hunts at daytime and not at the beginning of the night.” he scoffed.
“Oh, please! As if it would be possible to get you out of the libraries when the sun is still high!”
“You’ll never know until you try.”
Lian finally finished fussing over picnic basket and came to sit near Rin, closing his eyes and slightly tilting his head giving his face to the bright sun rays.
“How did you find this place? It’s too close to the town to be so secluded.”
“A couple of simple wards from the wildlife. And a couple of lightning traps from not-so-wild-one.” He shrugged, turning to look at her.
“Really? You accuse me of plundering the burial grounds and then interfere with the forest’s natural ways yourself? Hmpf!”
“I have not. As I said, it was a simple ward that just intensified animals’ natural instinct of staying away from the strong predator’s territory – the only difference my ward has from those ‘natural ways’ you were talking about was that I didn’t have to mark the territory with . . . bodily fluids,” he finished, slightly embarrassed and defensive. “Two-legged creatures that think themselves a bit more civilized than a troll or an ogre usually lack self-preserving instinct powerful enough to keep away without additional convincement.”
“Hm . . . that’s a good point.”
Rin closed her eyes and wriggled her toes, digging them deeper in the soft sand. “I like it here,” she said softly. “Thank you for sharing this place.”
His throat suddenly went dry. “You’re welcome.” His voice was hoarse. “Would you like some wine?”
The little Bosmer hummed approvingly, not opening her eyes, and he paused to watch her, his gaze moving from the line of her forehead, across her high cheekbones and elegant nose, lingering on the soft, full lips.
He reached for the basket, taking out a bottle of wine and– “Oh, for the Divines sake!”
“One of the glasses broke; we have only one now.”
“Shouldn’t be the problem if you don’t mind sharing it, no?”
“I’m okay with it if you are.” He carefully filled the cup with wine and handled it to the girl.
“It’s yummy! And it smells nice too!” Rin took another sip and then returned the glass to him.
Driven by some unexplainable impulse, he slowly turned it and placed his lips directly over the part of the rim where girl’s lips touched it.
“It will probably feel better if done directly.” Her whisper was barely audible.
Holding her gaze he slowly put the cup aside.
“Will you let me try?”
She nodded and he shifted slightly closer to her. Lian traced his fingers across her cheek, putting a strand of her hair behind her ear, and then lightly planted a kiss on her lips. Rin’s lips were soft – even softer then they looked – and so impossibly sweet. The taste of wine mingled with something spicy, intoxicating, and so very her. Just the moment he started to withdraw, the girl leant closer to him and kissed him back.
All sounds died around them. The wash of the waves, the chirping of the birds in the branches of blossoming wild cherry trees, the whisper of the wind and leaves – all was gone, there was only him and the tiny Bosmer he had wanted to kiss for so long for now. Lian groaned, hugging Rin tightly, gently prompting her to tilt her head so he would deepen the kiss. He felt her fingers winding into his hair, and he ran his hand down her back.
After the several long moments, he reluctantly finished the kiss and rested his forehead against hers.
“So, how was it?” He felt rather then heard her smiling.
Lian opened his eyes instantly drowning in the emerald-green depths of hers.
“The sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted,” he whispered. The Altmer felt dizzy and light-headed, and somehow that was good beyond description.
“Then we’ll definitely need to try it sometime for real.” Rin’s smile was gentle and promising.
“For. . . real? What. . . What do you–”
* * *
His vision blurred, sounds of the outer world rushing in his ears – and he was awake.
Lylianthar blinked in confusion, trying to wrap his mind around what had just happened. It was a dream. Their day at the beach, the broken glass. . . and the kiss. It was nothing more than a dream.
And yet . . . traces of sweet and spicy taste still lingered on his lips.
And when he got out of the bed, he found several tiny grains of white sand stuck to his breeches.