I allowed Liz to sleep for three more hours. She definitely needed it. I checked on her periodically and healed her in dribs and drabs, but nothing too drastic. She’s been so close to death I hated to think about it. I said a quick thanks to Kithri, of course, since she was dearest to my heart; and to Semaunzilla (may she smite our enemies with righteous fury and a little swamp fever). I had not told Liz that Semaunzilla appeared to me when I told my tale. I know it was cowardly, but I did not want her to believe she was not as worthy as I. Besides, she was the only other being who worshiped both gods. I would tell her later. Probably.
I tended to the dead hobs, taking tokens from their person that we could return to the legion; something personal and small that they could be remembered by. It was a pleasant ritual they had taught me. But I would not take the opal white symbol from Reginald’s hand. That would burn with him. Hopefully it would provide him comfort on his road to the next world.
Each of the hobs had been through so much, and yet they pledged their loyalty to one such as myself. I was not of their clans, I was not even of their species, yet I was their captain and with that knowledge they treated me as kin. I prayed for each of them, casting a blessing on each as I prepared him for the pyre. By the time I felt I had done as much as I could, I went to check on Booty Shake who was sleeping the deep sleep of the near dead, as Liz had been doing. I healed her then swaddled her in a bit of soft linen from my pack and carried her to Liz. I was going to need to chat with Liz about her habit of feeding Cornish pixies to her giant lizard mounts. At least she was shy on mounts at the moment. I just didn’t want a conflict with my aerial support.
While I was waiting for the others, I dug in my pack and pulled out the waxed sealed spools of embroidery floss. I gently cut into each roll, looking for the correct colors and was surprised that Clarisse had packed exactly the right colors for my needs. I would need to thank that young lady the next time we met. She had a keen eye for detail, and an intuition that marveled.
My fingers found the rhythm even though my mind stammered. I wove the thread into a cords, which I then wove together into thicker braids the width of my smallest finger. I made it as long as my forearm for what I intended. The thread, apparently magical in nature, did not bunch or snarl, no matter the state of my fingernails, nor the thickness of my fingers. I wove for an hour, then two. The sun continued its leisurely stroll across the heavens, unencumbered by the second sun that had chased her across the sky when the breach to the plane of ice had been opened. The weaving was calming and my shoulders relaxed a little at a time, as if knots vanished and tears mended. I know it was mostly in my head, but isn’t that where most of us live in any case?
I examined my weaving. There were bundles twisted within each braid; reds intense in tone, blues so rich and deep that they bordered on purple , and a range of greens that flowed from palest to so dark as to appear black in all but the most direct lighting. The art of dying used on these threads involved skills unlike any I had ever experienced. Tying the lot together was a single cord of white, opalescent and pure. This I hoped to represent the truth of my love for the young lizard folk maiden and the shared purity of our combined faiths.
By the time I finished, Booty Shake had awoken. She flew around the clearing for a bit, stretching out her wings and the muscles that had been so brutally mistreated. She declared me a man of honor and skill, who’s visage outshone any of my kind she had ever seen. I think she was lying, but I accepted her thanks with grace and assured her she had not lost one iota of her beauty. She was so pleased that when I approached her to be my one and only witness, she wept.
As the others hadn’t showed up by this point, I took the opportunity to wake Liz. She roused much easier this time, which gave my heart a lift. She rose on unsteady legs and stretched with my assistance.
Booty Shake stood on the top of my pack, where the cord was stashed until the correct moment. She agreed to accompany Liz into the brush to relieve herself and to keep watch. I stood ready to charge in at their first cry, but the trepidation was unwarranted.
When they returned, I sat Liz down on a fallen log and went to my pack. Booty Shake chattered at Liz, explaining how beautiful the frills that ran across the top of her head, from her pate to the base of her neck, were lovely enough to be fairy wings. Liz was bemused, but thanked the fairy. I tried not to laugh as I opened my pack and pulled out the woven braid.
I turned and knelt in front of Liz, taking her hand in mine, and holding up the cord. She turned from Booty Shake and stared at me with shock. The words I had once used flooded into my brain and I recited them once again.
She did not recoil, but I saw pain in her face. I faltered, thinking to stop, but she reached out with her other hand and cupped my cheek and nodded to me.
I regained my courage and began the words over, pledging my soul to hers. This was the most sacred of rituals practiced by her people and I had not taken it seriously the last time I had said these words. I had broken covenant with her then, but this time, I was not under the influence of the planer bubble that engulfed the Stronghold of Kithri’s Fist.
As I spoke I twined the cord around both our arms, finishing with the ends in each of our palms. The final echo of my words in her tongue faded and for a breath the world fell silent but for Booty Shakes weeping.
Then Liz lunged forward and embraced me, her own eyes shining with tears.
Maybe I’m not a total fool. Time will tell.