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· lunar moon ·
by Jekka


Previous Chapter

Kyle made sure the slaphappy grin had been completely wiped off his face before he pushed open the door to the room that he and Jess had been sharing. It was quaint, to be sure, but suited their needs with a bathroom, ample windows, and (most importantly, to her) two separate beds. He could tell by the light on inside and the faint fragrance of something similar to ginger that the priestess had already returned, and he also had a fair idea of what she thought he must have been up to during the day.

Which was more or less false. Kyle really had been serious about his part in this investigation, and thusly had only been sidetracked by women and beer about three times. All in all, he was fairly proud of himself.

Serious Face securely positioned, he pushed the door open and stepped inside.

The windows were cracked open, forming a breeze through the room that made the room seem a bit chilly to him, but probably seemed comfortable for anyone raised on a seaport. The beds, he noticed, had subtly been pushed a bit farther apart, and a chair was moved toward the main window, whereupon he spotted Jessica leaning forward and gazing out into the town.

"Hey, Jess!" Kyle unlatched his sword and propped it by his bed, sitting down on the moderately soft cushion. "This is a pretty small town, luckily everyone lines up for the chance to tell my handsome self everything they know." He raised an eyebrow at her back, waiting for the snort of derision. And met with nothing. He raised the other eyebrow to join its twin in an expression of surprise, and tried again. "A lot of the women here have loose tongues, if you know what I mean."


He blinked. No way could she miss that innuendo. "Hey, Jessica, Iím the most intelligent person this side of the Frontier."


"Whoa, whoa... thatís it." He stood up, walking over to her chair and leaning to the side, interposing himself into her field of vision. Jessica blinked once, and focused her otherwise distant gaze on the arm directly in front of her face. Jolting the chair backward, she looked up.

"Oh. Kyle. Hi." She looked to either side, cheeks starting to pinken with slight embarrassment. "Howíd it go?" "Oh, not too bad at all," he answered, casually leaning against the wall. "Just like I told you, two minutes ago."

She colored further. "I wasnít paying attention."

"I noticed. Whatís on your mind?" He watched her face carefully. It wasnít good at all, that she was so inattentive. They were strangers in a town with trouble, and she should know better. Maybe it was a good thing heíd come along, after all.

"Just.. you know. Disappearances. Thinking about what could have happened." She risked a glance up at him.

Nope. Not believing a word of it. Jessica gritted her teeth in slight frustration, and blurted at him, "Priestess stuff, alright?!"

Kyle threw his head back and laughed, loudly. Priestess stuff was her old excuse, when she got caught lost in thought and didnít want to admit anything to him. He found it hilarious that she still used it, all these years later.

Unfortunately, laughing at her might not have been the best reaction. She pushed the chair backward further and got to her feet, hands planting themselves on her hips, and glared upward at him.

"What are you laughing at, you pigheaded ape?"

"Oh, nothing," he snickered, covering his mouth with a large hand. "Just.. you know.. priestess stuff!" Louder laughter ensued.

Jessica was a pleasant shade of vermilion by now, a stark contrast to the pale hair tucked loosely behind her ears. "You laugh at me and then you MOCK me?!" she demanded. "What the hell do you care, anyway? You wouldnít know a deep thought if it reared up and bit you in the ass! Anything without big breasts and a low alcohol content is too complex for you, right? Why donít you just go back to your stupid seedy taverns and brothels and let ME figure this stupid case out! You canít even multiply!"

"I can too!" Kyle insisted. "I just donít need to! Iím a goddamn bandit!"

"Youíre a goddamn MORON!"

"Who the hell asked you?!"

"Who the hell needs you?!"

"Apparently your father thinks YOU do," Kyle yelled. Jessica bared her teeth, lifted her robes slightly, and kicked him in the shins. Kyle yowled, grabbing his leg (which would surely have a bruise later) and hopping up and down on the other. "Whatíd I say?!"

"Whatíd you... what did you SAY?!" Jess threw her hands into the air. "BOTH of you! Aargh! You think I canít handle things by myself just because Iím a woman, right? I can handle myself just fine! I donít NEED you!"

"The hell you donít," Kyle muttered, sitting down on the chair sheíd jumped off of. "Just a few minutes ago anyone could have sneaked in here and dragged you off."

"Nonsense," she sniffed. "I was thinking, not in a coma."

"Youíre always Ďthinkingí, and youíre never watching."

"Youíre never thinking at all, so shut up."

"Fine," Kyle growled, jerking the chair so that his back was to her. "This conversation is over."

"Fine!" Jessica agreed, shoving her bed almost into the corner. "Itís over!"

"Fine with me!" he snapped. He could hear her grumbling, and then a drawer pushed shut, followed by footsteps to the bathroom and a door slamming. He glanced out the window and realized how late it really was.

Bedtime, huh? Damn. He knew what a mistake it could be to let her go to sleep angry. Standing up in a fluid motion, he turned the chair around quietly and sat back down, looking over the room while waiting for her to come out of the bathroom.

She couldnít have been home all that long. Her overcloak was tossed onto the floor, and she usually hung it up after a few minutes, after she got settled in a new room. Her shoes were by the window, not lined up near her bed. He could see her flail peeking out from under one of her pillows, and had to smile. At least she was somewhat prepared.

Folded on the desk was a slightly soiled green scarf. He thought he recognized it, somewhat, but then again, Jessica had a lot of scarves.

Damn, he realized with a grin, I know her habits like the back of my hand.

Now if only he could figure out her moodswings...

"That stupid, chauvinistic, thickheaded, loosetongued sorry excuse for a hero," Jessica growled under her breath, yanking the uppermost robes off and stripping down to her simple shift, kicking the bundle of clothing around the room for a bit to satisfy her temper. Bad enough she hadnít even seen or heard him come in, then she let him maneuver her into another argument. As fun as they were, and as much as he infuriated her, each time this happened Jessica could feel a happy future together get further and further away.

She sighed softly, picking up the robes and gently folding them into neat piles. She and Kyle, maybe they werenít really meant for the domestic and peaceful sort of life. It took disaster and danger to bring them back together.. (not to mention a dragonmaster and a goddess), and the small amount of relieved vacation seemed to have brought them back to each othersí throats.

"He makes it so damn hard to love him," Jess told the slightly dirty mirror. Her reflection didnít offer much response. Her memory, however...

Theyíd all gotten together again, one year after it was all over. They being, of course, that sorry lot of heroes risen to strike back against the Magic Emperor. A sort of celebration, catching up on each other, a merry little party amidst the rising city of New Vane. Mia and Jessica and Luna had talked and danced while Nash ran around, still fixing up details under the eye of Lemia, Nall begged some fish off of the cooks, and Alex and Kyle mainly sat in a corner with a bottle of sake and discussed manly things.

Manly things. Like priestess stuff, Jess imagined. Only more manly.

She had asked Luna what she thought about marriage in general.. if she and Alex had set a date yet, what sort of wedding they wanted. The bluehaired woman had laughed and blushed, stating the date of Midsummer and her choice of a traditional ceremony. Jessica offered her services as a priestess of Althena. Mia had giggled, and asked if there was a higher authority than Althena herself to do marriages. Luna blushed more and said sheíd be thrilled to have Jessica take part in it, and Mia as well, and how were they faring with their gentlemen?

Mia smiled nervously, looking over to where the slight, poofy-haired mage was directing a herd of new students to the guildhall. "Eventually," she admitted in a soft, shy voice, "eventually I want to marry him. I want children. His children." A pink blush spread over her cheeks. Luna smiled brightly and hugged her.

"Thatís beautiful, Mia. I hope it works out, and soon!" Those blue eyes turned to Jess, who had quieted down at the subject. "Jessica?" Luna prompted.

"He can be such a jerk!" Jess blurted, ears twitching and fists clenching before she glanced around and quickly lowered her voice. "Sorry, itís just.. sometimes we have our good days and other days I want to strangle him and wonder why I even try."

Miaís eyes were sympathetic. Lunaís eyes were encompassing all of the world in their understanding.

"Jessica," she said slowly, placing her hands on the priestessí shaking shoulders. "Listen. You know Kyle better than any of us.. but in some ways, youíre blinded to him. He may do things that you think are horrible, but to him it may be the only right thing to do. Heís a hard man, and he was raised to be a hard man, and itís kept him alive and well this long. I donít think heíll change any time soon.. and if you try to change him, then it wonít ever last."

"Iím not trying to change him," Jess muttered stubbornly, eyes lowering to the patterns of Lunaís skirt. "I just want him to.." she trailed off.

"If you love him for himself, then it will work out. He feels highly for you. You know he does. Be as stubborn as possible for this love, Jessica. It might take time, but I swear to you: You two can make it."

Hard to dispute the word of the being who constructed your planet, even if she was teenage flesh and blood and nervous soul, standing before you with sympathy. Jessica nodded, managing a smile. It wasnít a direct solution, but it was encouragement, and that could last her a while. She was, after all, very stubborn indeed.

Recalling that seemed to have calmed Jess down considerably; it was hard to hold on to a hot flash of anger with the gentle afterimage of her friends glowing in her mind. She slid her nightrobe on quietly, gathering the folded clothes into her arms and stepping back into the room.

Kyle had moved the chair so that it faced the room, and as she stepped out of the bathroom he raised his dark gaze to her. His mouth opened, his features screwed up a bit in thought, and then his mouth closed.

He always resembled a fish when he tried to apologize.

Jessica settled the robes on the floor, tucking the visible part of the flail a bit further under the pillow and running a hand through her hair. Ignoring him, basically.

"Jess, I .. uh.." he started. She lined her shoes up neatly, and scooped up her overcloak from the floor, brushing some dust off and hanging it up.

"That is.. well.. see, I get worried, and.."

"Thereís another person in town investigating," she cut in kindly, turning the blanket down and sitting on the mattress. "A mage. He expressed interest in joining up with us to figure this thing out."

She reached over to blow the lamp out, hence missing the quick expression that ran across his face. "Whereíd you run into him?" Kyle finally grunted, adjusting his eyes to the new dark of the room.

"A bar," drifted her voice from the opposite side of the room.

"A bar," he repeated.

"A bar," she confirmed.

The jealous expression that so recently fled across his features returned and set up camp.

"So you met this mage in a bar, and he told you he was investigating."

"Mmhmn. He didnít sound like he was barging in.. he was very polite about it."

"Iíll just bet he was." Thank the goddess the lights were off..

"I wish more people were that polite," the voice from the bed in the corner muttered.

Kyle snorted, getting to his feet and kicking off his boots, letting them lie where they landed. "He wanna follow us around, or what?"

A snore was his only reply. Kyle rolled his eyes while he took his shirt off and shook it out a little. Obviously, she had decided the conversation was over, but when it came to pretensive slumber, Jess was pathetic. For one, she never snored.

Several nights on their long, arduous quest, he had stared at the sky and simply listened to her breathe.

Those days are over, he thought grimly, tugging his pants off and sliding into his bed, clad only in his boxers now. He was a bandit, a warrior, a thief. He dealt with danger and war and thievery, not mundane issues and social ladies. As soon as the dust settled and calm began to sink over the planet like some warm, comforting yet restrictive blanket, the tremulous relationship that had formed between him and Jessica became strained, forced. He was out of place in her palace, and she was repulsed by his uncouth demeanor. This mission seemed like a gift from above, a chance to test out whether they were only in love when they were in danger, but things were just as bad.

Magician in a bar, huh.

Maybe splitting up wasnít such a good idea, from here on in.

A terrified shriek woke the both of them only a few hours later. Jess bolted up in her bed, a hand darting under the pillow and grabbing hold of the flail. Kyle was only a fraction faster, already on his feet with sword in hands.

"It came from down the hall," he said quietly, listening for any alien noise from their room. "Itís just us, in here."

"Gotcha," Jessica answered softly, slipping her feet into her shoes and moving toward the door. Kyle abandoned his, going barefoot, and they exchanged a look in the dark before pushing the door open.

Several follow-up screams rang down the hallway, and a male shout. Jess murmured a quiet expletive and darted toward the source.

"Jess!" Kyle hissed. "Wait!" She skidded slightly and rounded a corner, and he swore roughly and took off after her.

He didnít have to run far. Directly after the corner, the door to a room was hanging askew, torn off of the top hinge and kicked in slightly. A redhaired female (well endowed.. he couldnít help but notice) was squealing herself silly, pale and shaking with fright. Kyle blinked as she threw herself at him, quivering.

"Oh god! Oh god! Oh god!"

"Swell," he grumbled, trying to wrestle the maniac off. A ball of light suddenly appeared, adding visibility to the hallway and the room inside.

Jessica didnít know light spells..

He pushed the redhead away carefully, thundering into the room, ready to deal with the danger. Ready to save the maidens. Ready to prove to Jessica that he still had The Right Stuff.

"Thank the Goddess you were across the hall, Len," she was saying to some thin, sickly mamaís boy.

THAT was the magician?! Kyle nearly laughed himself faint with relief. He didnít have worry about that pale apparition stealing his priestess away. Sheíd have to be feverminded to ever even think about hanging around with this Len fellow.. tiny, unmuscled, white as a ghost, bowing politely to her as he wiped sweat off his brow with slim, delicate fingers.


She loved polite people.


"What happened in here?" he demanded gruffly, stepping over to Jessica with his biggest Ďbossí voice. The magician seemed to take forever before he pulled that watery gaze off of the lady and peered at Kyle.

"Well. You must be the partner I keep hearing about," the thin man finally said. "The brawn of the group, I see."

Kyle took a moment to poke around that statement, searching for insults. Nothing solid.. he was obviously the brawn, standing next to Jessica in his boxers and sword at the ready. In his boxers.. not the fierce first impression he would have liked to give.

Jess blinked, looking up at Kyle, and then out in the hallway where the whimpering of the attacked still filtered through the conversation. "Iíd better tend to her," she muttered, pushing past the swordsman and out the damaged door.

"Len, huh?" Kyle grunted, shifting the weight of his sword in his hands, deciding he could always excuse the threatening gesture as his caution in the moment. "Care to explain?" "Certainly," Len replied smoothly, gesturing toward a dark, huddled shape in the corner. Kyleís gaze flicked toward it. It vaguely resembled an overgrown Albino Baboon.. only black.

Maybe just a baboon, then.

"Iím rooming across the hall," the magician said. "And was writing in my journal when I heard a loud thud, closely followed by a feminine shriek of obvious terror. I was just walking into the hall when that thing crashed through the door, trying to run off with the woman in its arms."

"It didnít just go back out the window?" Kyle wondered aloud, glancing at the wideopen window. The woman was a damned fool.. he wondered who she was and made a mental note to talk to Jess.

"Who can guess the intelligence of a beast?" Len noted dryly, walking toward the heap of baboon and nudging it with a slippered foot.

Slippers. The man wore slippers. Kyle bit his tongue to refrain from blurting that slippers were for girls, and men wore boots.

"You slapped a spell on it, right?" he said instead.

"Yes, of course." His unnervingly pale gaze slid to the side, resting on the swordsman. "I think this might perchance be our lady-abductor."

"Itís a baboon," Kyle said dubiously, trying his hardest not to be unnerved. "Who canít fight off a baboon?"

"This is a town of peaceful newlyweds," Len reminded him, "not trained fighters, and every one taken by surprise."

A grunt served as a grudging response. "Why donít we just kill it?"

A disapproving frown, and long, tapered fingers drumming against a weak, thin arm. "What if we canít find where the previously stolen women are? We would have to track it to itís lair."

A dark scowl. "You mean let it go again.. and thatís if the women are still alive at all."

A strange, wire-thin smile. "I can only hope... what was your name again?" "Kyle," Kyle provided. "THE Kyle.. from Nanza." Ha. Let him fear the greatest bandit ever, let him cower before the hero of the planet and shakingly vow to stay away from the heroís woman.

"Never heard of you." Len shrugged his small shoulders and turned to regard the black mass of fur again. Kyle resisted the urge to break him over his knee.

Luckily, Jessica used that moment to return with a not-quite-as-terrified,-still-simpering redhead in tow. In better lighting, he could tell that the girl (and she was a girl.. well endowed or not) couldnít have been more than 14.

"Serene says her father is in town, too, but hasnít come home yet tonight. By the description," Jess quipped, getting a slight expression of disaste, "I think heís one of the buffoons who was in the barfight I saw earlier tonight, and one of the drunker ones at that. Heís most likely asleep on some hardwood somewhere."

"Why were you two in town?" Kyle asked the girl, resting his swordpoint on the ground and, again, wishing for more than a pair of boxers.

The girl sniffed.

Jessica supplied. "Theyíre visiting relatives in Parin, and stopped overnight to restock supplies."

"Parin..." He trailed off, thoughtful. It was the nearest town, but still just over two days away. He couldnít imagine this trembling (jiggling..) child spending a night under the stars.

"Her dadís apparently fairly well trained," Jess noted.


"I told her she can stay in our room until her father turns up. Iíll take the floor."

"Iíll take the floor," Kyle disagreed in a rather manly show of selflessness. He hoped sheíd notice.

"She can stay in my room," Len interjected.

"No." Kyle shot that idea down immediately.

Jess shot him a dirty look, and hastily added, "No need to trouble yourself further, after saving her all by yourself."

Kyle bristled. That was directed at him, he just knew it... and after his manly show if selflessness, too. Hmph.

"It was nothing," Len said softly, shaking his head a bit. "But should we not search for the lair now, so long as there is chance the women may still be alive?" "Itís only a few hours until sunrise," Kyle pointed out, "and none of us has slept very well tonight. Itíd be ludicrous to walk into the unknown without being in top shape."


"Kyleís right," Jessica said with a tone of finality. "A few hours wonít make a difference either way, and Serene needs it."

The swordsman puffed his chest a bit, grinning triumphantly at no one in particular. He was right, so take that, stupid mamaís boy.

Serene, for her part, whimpered.

Jess smiled at her wanly, letting go of her waist. "Kyle and I wonít let anything happen to you."

"Nor I," the yellow-eyed magician quipped softly, and earned smiles of approval from the females.

Kyle flexed.

And blinked in surprise as Serene stepped away from Jess and pretty much attached herself to him.

"Youíll really protect me?" she whispered, the first words sheíd uttered all night save for Ďoh god oh god oh godí.

"Well.. uh.. yeah," Kyle replied eloquently. The redhead just about swooned and clung to his arm.

He could see Jess twitch slightly.


"Weíll meet at sunrise, here," the priestess announced, sounding tired suddenly. "Len, can you be certain that .. thing.. will keep under for that long?"

"The beast shall sleep deeper than the seas, my lady." He even bowed again.

Kyle lifted his sword again... because he had to bring it back to his room. He wanted to slide it between the magicianís ribs. He did not. He felt proud of his restraint.

"And such a big sword," Serene was murmuring.

They parted ways, partners plus redhead toward their room, and magician across the hall to his. Over the quiet drone of Serene cataloguing his many good features (for once, an admirer that really annoyed him) and the low hum of Jessicaís subsequent disapproval, Kyle barely heard the farewell, just hovering at the edges of his hearing.

"Goodnight, Jessica de Alkirk," the freaky Len was saying to himself. "I shall dream of you."

Kyle clenched a fist, gritted his teeth.. glanced toward Jess. If he had heard it, surely she must have (with ears that big!).

Her eyes were troubled, her lips in a thinset line. Sheíd heard it.

"Jess.." Kyle started, hesitatingly. The priestess kept walking, ignoring him or lost in thought. Neither was a prospect he was fond of.

"And such a tan!"

"Jess.." he tried again. Nothing.

"Is that your real hair color? Wow! Itís so shiny!"

"Canít you be a little more traumatized?" he muttered, pushing their door open.

"God, I could stare at you all night!" Needless to say, it was a very long night.

Sunrise arrived with all the majesty and ceremony of a drowning duck. Somewhere in the few remaining hours of night, the sky decided to cloud over and spill rain over the town, which didnít look like it would be ending any time soon. Jessicaís internal alarm clock had roused her as soon as daylight should have creeping in through their window, and now she sat up to gaze dubiously at the torrential downpour. If it came down to having to track the strange black animal to its lair, this would definitely not be the best day to try.

Serene snored thickly from the bed on the other side of the room, the one furthest from the window. She was curled on her side, hugging a section of the blanket to her like a teddybear, or an especially thin and mangled lover. A thin line of drool glistened from her mouth to her pillow.

Jess smiled faintly, reaching over to relight the lamp. The room, a dim halfvisible grey, flared into a warmer sort of brightness. She yawned and stretched, arms raised above her head, and looked to the floor to see if Kyle was still sleeping.

Except he wasnít on the floor. A further examination of the room proved that the swordsman was asleep sitting up in a chair against the wall, at a position where he could see both the door and the window, his sword unsheathed and across his lap.

How long had he been there, Jessica wondered, her brow furrowing slightly as she slid her feet into the slippers resting by her bedside. And what was he so paranoid about? Hadnít they caught the baboon? They had, and it was securely under Lenís spell down the hall. What was Kyle protecting? The girl?

Or maybe even her?

The idea brought with it a curious mix of stubborn selfsuffiency, and a deep warm feeling from somewhere near her gut. The big dumb oaf, theyíd decided to wait until dawn because they were all tired, and now heíd had almost no sleep at all.

Then again, heíd done more on less. Kyle was amazing in that respect; he had less sense than a goldfish in a bowl of ale (which was a suprisingly good analogy, she mused, as fond of drink as he was) and about as many braincells, too.. but he could push the envelope more than anyone sheíd ever known.. save, maybe, Alex.

Goddess, she missed them...

Any musing flashback she might have had was cut off by a sudden chorus of muttering from Selene and a loud, obnoxious snore from the swordsman. Jessica smirked faintly, gently pushing the chair he was on toward a bed and tilting it until he rolled/flopped onto the mattress. He shifted onto his side, muttering, and then lapsed back into his droning snore. She gazed at him for a few moments, caught up in the way his breathing made the edges of his hair flutter, how his eyelashes were black against tan skin, the relaxed, almost composed expression on his face as he slept.

And suddenly she had trouble remembering why she had such a hard time getting along with him, and started to wonder why in the world she was so determined to win their arguments, to start their arguments... and most of all, wondered why she had so much trouble admitting to herself that she really was in lo-

A knock on the door startled her, breaking the train of thought before it could rush past a point of no return. She looked toward the door, somehow relieved for the distraction and at the same time... at the same time..

Pushed that thought away, before it followed the same path, and running her fingers through her hair to look presentable, she tiptoed to the door and opened it, just a crack.

"Did I wake you?" Len asked with a smooth, almost liquid sort of smile. He looked fully awake and carefully groomed, with the hint of a peppermint scent, slighly reminiscent of a handcream one of the priestesses at the Temple of Althena used to use.

"No," Jessica replied, shaking her head slightly as one hand gathered her sleeping clothes about her a bit more tightly. "I was already up. Is something wrong?"

"Iíve heard word about an attack on a young woman a few hours ago, while we slept." His lips curved downward as he spoke. "And yet the creature we caught last night is still secure, in my room. I fear there is another."

"Is she alright?" the petite blonde asked, eyebrows knitting upward in concern.

"Since they live on the outskirts of town, her husband keeps a gun. He managed to wound it, driving it off, but I hear she is rather roughed up, and in shock. I was planning to go ask them for details about the creature, but..."

"But didnít want to scare them any more, of course." Jessica slid the door open a bit more, waving him in. "I understand completely, you need a womanís touch. And Iíll be able to heal the physical damage that was done, at least."

"That is what I had hoped you would say, Miss de Alkirk."

"Call me Jess, really. Just let me change my clothes.." She grabbed the neatly folded materials and slipped into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Len folded his hands together, casting a glance over the room, the yellow gaze resting for a moment on the snoring behemoth, sprawled across the bed like a skin rug. A distasteful sneer wormed over his lips, and he turned away.. blinking at the scarf from the other night, still in a rumple on the dresser. Slim fingers lifted it by a corner, taking in the fringed edges, the worn spots, the slight miscolored areas from repeated washings.. the tiny splotted line of blood from the bottle shrapnel skittering across the priestesses hand.

He tucked it into his pocket, features twisting into an almost frightening fascimile of triumph, turning around just as Jessica emerged from the bathroom, fully dressed in her usual robes and smiling warmly.

"Shall we wake them?" he asked, gesturing toward the sleeping Kyle and Serene. Jessica thought for a moment, and shook her head to the negative.

"They both need the sleep, and weíll be back soon. And knowing Kyle, heíd only traumatize the couple who were attacked even more."

"I agree completely," Len murmured, holding the door for her. She flashed him a quick smile and left the room, the pale mage following close behind.. his fingers massaging at the scrap in his pocket, and his lips slowly pronouncing out well-practiced words..

Back in Meribia, "Hell Mel" was grouchily sitting behind his giant mahogany desk, slamming a rubber stamp with the phrase ĎMel de Alkirk gives 2 thumbs up!í on a stack of paperwork that towered over even his impressive height. All of this diplomacy was threatening to give him a monster sized headache, and headaches were among the top three things he hated more than Magic Emperors and all of their wanna-bes. Dragons, he could handle. Bandits, he could crush easily in one of his meaty, mighty fists. Headaches, he could only growl at while lying in bed with a clothe over his eyes.

Fighting was no help... it was definite. He had a headache. Grumbling, he pushed the papers away and set the stamp aside, rubbing at his hairy temples and wishing for the cool, soothing touch of his daughterís healing hands against his poor aching skull. Aye, that would no doubt chase away this migraine.. her mother had the same skill, and she wasnít even temple-trained..

Lifting his gaze to the window, he stared at the rainy outdoors (a poor day for sailing, his gut noted) and wondered how Jessica and that ruffish bandit boyfriend of hers were doing. He harumphed a bit, swelling with pride at the notion that she may have already solved the problem behind the disappearances.. and then glowering at the idea that Kyle might be up to no good with his darling, innocent little girl... !!

"Aargh, Iíll crush his skull with my bare hands if he tries anything funny.." The idea both thrilled and shamed him; if Jessica herself thought the boy good enough then he must have some good qualities. It was just the jealous father in him thinking down on the lad. He did have a pretty big helping hand in the whole Ghaleon affair, after all.

"Iím just being silly," Mel admitted to himself, twining his giant fingers and leaning back in his chair. "Was my idea that he go with her in the first place. Aní heíd know betterín to cross ole Hell Mel, he does! RRAHHAHAHA!!"

Miles away, Kyle shivered violently in his sleep and rolled right off the bed.

Chapter 3 has not been written yet!

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