The Realms: A World Apart


Red’s Part, Part Three

It takes Red until dark to arrange for Lil to be raised from the dead. She once again has Gruff cart the body through town for her.

Red watches intently, as Lil’s body is prepared and the spell is cast, knowing one day she may be able to draw upon similar power. The Raise Dead does not bring Lil back fully healthy, however it takes just a little more gold for the Priest to cast additional healing spells.

Disoriented, Lil glances at her surroundings.

“What happened? What am I doing here?” she asks. 

“Ye had been murdered,” Red answers, “an’ tomorrow we go out an’ find out who killed ye!”

Lil slides off the dias and walks away, completely nude. The Priest rushes to her with a thin white robe and wraps her in it.

“Thank you, thank you for everything,” Lil tells him, then rises onto her toes to plant a small kiss on his cheek. 

The Priest pulls away from the Druidess, making a face like he bit a lemon. “Sorry, miss, but kisses from women who were corpses just moments before are . . . unnerving.”

Taking two steps backwards and away from him, she stares, then smiles and nods, before continuing out the door.

Outside, Lil tells Red, “First stop: the Hot Spring Inn. I need a bath. I feel dirtier than last time I died.”

“Well, ye ain’t goin’ outta me sight, lass,” Red says, “So, I guess, we’ll both go! Gruff, ye can go on home now.”

As Gruff stalks off, Red tells Lil, “That’s me boyfriend Gruff. He does what he’s told.”

Lil laughs, which makes Red smile. She’s glad to have her friend back.

Even at night and looking horrible from her recent death, Lil still attracts wanton glimpses from men on the street. Just the confidence and femininity of her stride draws attention. Also, when she speaks, she tosses her auburn hair, accentuating her face and when she looks at passersby she does so very demurely, as if attempting to seduce everyone around her. Her large, green eyes entice each man they fix upon. Yet, her seductiveness is natural. She has no intention of meeting any men right now. She feels awful and wants nothing more than a hot bath, a big meal, and eight hours of sleep. Sex can wait until tomorrow. Sex and revenge, that is. 

Red pays for a room for them at the inn, mostly so they can use the bathhouse, but also so they can retire safely. On the way to the room with the hot springs, she fills Lil in on what she has discovered. 

“Not a lotta leads, Lil. Evenliir and Lickmer – who both be enemies of our group – is both ‘ere inna city, but they donnae even know ye. Coulda just been someone that heard about the treasure ye was carryin’, though.”

Lil stops in the middle of the hallway. Her proud posture sinks and her head faces the floor.

“I forgot. Somehow, I forgot. I was using that treasure to bring my friends back to life. There won’t be enough left to raise even one of them, now. They will be dead forever!” 

She sobs uncontrollably and Red gently pulls her down to the floor and holds her head to her chest, comforting her as she would a child. 

It takes minutes, but the crying gradually ends and a teary-eyed Lil looks up at Red. “How did you bring me back from death?” she asks. 

Red never lies, however she does occasionally hide the truth or redirect a question. “Nothin’ that can be repeated, love.”

“No, really, how did you raise the money for my Raise Dead?” Lil persists. 

Red doesn’t want to reveal just how dear an item she surrendered, but she won’t lie, so she mentions what eventually led her to sell her battleaxe, “Prostitution.”

Eyes bulging, Lil stares at Red. After a ten second silence, she bursts into uproarious laughter.

Red smiles. 

Then, as Lil continues to laugh, Red’s smile falls.

The laughter continues and slowly a frown appears on her face.

Her face turns red and she stands, then crosses her arms. She stares down at Lil. Down, because Lil is now crawling around on her hands and knees, as the fit of laughter makes it difficult for her to stand.

“What’s so goddamn funny about Red whorin’!” Red shouts, her voice like fire.

Lil rolls onto her back and stifles her laughter. “Well,” she answers, “for one thing, I know you’re tough and all, but I know I was only dead for a few days and if you humped that many times in that amount of time you shouldn’t even be able to walk properly.” She can’t hold it in any longer and the laughter blows out of her like a popped bubble.

“Dwarves be durable folk,” Red snorts indignantly, then turns on her heel and marches toward the bathhouse.

“Ungrateful little . . . “ Red mumbles as she enters the bathing area. No one is using it, so they will have complete privacy. She sticks a finger in the hot water. It is just as she remembered. Smiling, she looks over her shoulder to see if Lil has arrived. No. She circles the pool, looking for the spot with the lovely bubbles where she spent so much time the last time she bathed. Locating it, she looks toward the door to tell Lil, but the Druidess has still not entered the room.

“That’s odd,” Red remarks and creeps toward the door. Her mind flips through the possible reasons Lil could be taking so long. It could be Lil is still laughing or that she is talking to some passing man or she is angry with her or . . . it could be what it is: Lil is in trouble.

Now, now, dear, ye don’t wanna be hurtin’ no one just now, do ye?” Red says softly, as she cautiously approaches Lil and her attacker.

“Oh, you should know me better than that, my Dwarven friend,” Evenliir answers, as her blade draws a trickle of blood from Lil’s neck, proving her assertion. The two women are roughly the same size, but Evenliir had obviously surprised Lil and was able to get behind her and place a wicked-looking dagger to her neck.

Red slowly reaches for her magical battleaxe. It is gone. She is struck with a startling and ironic realization, which is that she sold the only weapon she owns to get Lil brought back to life, only to watch the Druidess be murdered again because she has no weapon with which to protect her. The poor woman will have her throat slit open for the second time in three days and die for the third time in a week. 

In Dwarven culture, if violence doesn’t work there is a last resort with which to turn: diplomacy. Red steps toward them and whispers, “Just tell us what ye want, Evenliir?”

“My brother, you simpleton! I want Melias! Where is the little rat hiding?”

“Melias left ASU two nights ago. No one knows where he went, but he took all his companions with him,” Red calmly answers. “Lil had nothin’ ta do with this. Why doncha just let ‘er go?”

Considering Red’s words, Evenliir pauses, then says, “You know, Dwarf, the great thing about goody-goodies like you is you always tell the truth. I believe you. I’m still going to kill this whore, though.”

Red charges Evenliir, knowing she will not reach her in time. But, she doesn’t have to. With a scream, Lil pulls her arm free and with her thumb stabs Evenliir in the eye. Evenliir screeches and pushes Lil away from her. Lil falls into Red and they both land on the floor, scrambling to stand. 

“You bitch!” Evenliir screams, as she races around the nearest corner in the hallway. 

By the time Red and Lil can get there, Evenliir is gone.

“Good work, Lil.”

“I may be girly, but I’m still an adventurer,” she responds.

“Let’s take a bath, she won’t be comin’ back,” Red suggests. 

Lil wipes blood from her neck and looks at it, then shrugs, “Sure, I’m still game.”

When they reenter the bathhouse, Lil turns to face Red. “You sold your ax to get me raised, didn’t you?” she asks. 

Red answers, “Yeah, all them men is just goin’ ta hafta go on livin’ without knowin’ how good a real woman can be.”

Lil stands smiling at Red, as the Dwarf strips and lowers herself into the hot, bubbly pool. 

“Thank you,” is all Lil can manage to say.

Returning her smile, Red maneuvers toward her favorite spot. 

Lil can tell when she finds it, for Red’s face glows and her mouth forms into a content ‘O’.

The newly alive Druidess pulls the tie for her robe and it falls in a circle around her feet. 

Red opens her eyes in time to see the young woman slide into the pool. She quickly inspects Lil’s body and wonders what men find so irresistible about her. She isn’t overly tall, which makes her seem more attractive to Red, but she is nearly bereft of body hair, having only a small tuft of wispy auburn hair on her pubic area. What man would want that? It would be like hugging a new-born rat! She has ample breasts and hips, but her waist is thin, leaving nothing for a man to grip. True, Lil’s breasts and other fleshy parts are firm and jiggle very little, but she really doesn’t have the bulging upper body and leg musculature to wrestle around in bed with a strong man. She wouldn’t last a minute with Gruff. He’d throw her around like a rag doll! Still, they are friends and it isn’t for Red to judge what others find attractive. Perhaps it is simply Lil’s personality and they just overlook her physical flaws.

After washing her hair and nonchalantly swimming, Lil locates a place in the springs with a nice flow of bubbles flowing to the surface and positions herself over them. Soon, both women are Oohing and Ahhing in unison, with their eyes rolling around in their sockets. 

“Baths are nice,” Red softly coos.

“Yes, they are,” Lil whispers, between quickening breaths.

When they are finished Red talks as she dresses. She tells Lil she will purchase a new ax the following day.

Lil, who is doing nude stretches at the edge of the pool, giggles and says, “You know, I really dislike prostitutes.”

Red is very surprised by this comment. Lil? Against anything sexual? All Red can manage to say is, “What?”

Lil pulls her sheer white robe on and answers, “They charge money for something that should be freely granted. That is just wrong.”

That makes sense to Red, so she nods and continues dressing. 

Lil hasn’t dried off, so the robe clings to her body like it was painted on and her breasts are clearly visible through the fabric. Having no modesty whatsoever, she wanders barefoot into the hall and heads for their room.

This is so similar to the last time they stayed together, that to Red it is as if they had gone back in time a few days. Only this time, Melias, Orjulun, Percy and all her friends are not around to add comfort. She misses them all, even Rastorn, but she is still incredibly grateful for this moment with her special friend. She has no way of knowing that in a short time she will learn just how misplaced her loyalties are. 

As usual, Lil turns heads in the hallway, but no one tries to make conversation with her. Mostly this is because they believe the Dwarven Warrior next to her (who they assume is male) might be her bodyguard or lover. Reaching their room, Red listens at the door before opening it and checks under the bed, as well. 

“Safety first, lass. One never knows when that wicked sister of Melias will show again,” she tells Lil. “And here we are with no weapons.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay with Gruff?” Lil asks, as she tests the bed with her hand.

“Nay, Gruff’s a strong enough Dwarf, but Red could take ’em easy inna brawl. Ye likely could, as well. He’s better off without us bringin’ baddies ta his door.”

Sitting on the one chair in the room, Red starts to undress.

Lil stretches and yawns, pulling her robe open, then quickly pulls it tight to guard against the chill. She stands still, considering what the chill means in relation to the phase of the moon. 

“I hope you know the full moon is tomorrow night, Red,” Lil says. “I will need to go into the forest for a Druidical ceremony at midnight. I know you want to keep me safe, but this is a private act and I can’t let anyone follow me.” 

Red scratches the bottom of her left foot as she answers, “By then, ye may have other Druids ta go with ye.”

“Really?” Lil asks, pulling the blankets back on the bed. “You are full of gifts, my friend,” she slips off her robe and uses it to dry her hair.

Red is not bashful about nudity. She once bathed in front of her entire party, all of whom were male, but she pauses to consider just how often she’d seen Lil naked since they met. It seems as if the woman is always nude. 

“Ye mind a personal question?” Red spits out, before she self-censors.

Lil turns, rubbing the remaining bath moisture from beneath her breasts with the back of her hands. “I have no secrets, other than those Altma wishes me to keep,” she answers.

“Well,” Red starts, a little uneasy, “how come ye always seem ta be naked?”

Lil chuckles, then looks down, seemingly noticing for the first time how she is standing completely nude before the Dwarf. 

“It is just the natural way, isn’t it? Altma grants us materials for clothing, food, and shelter, but we don’t eat all the time do we? We don’t stay in our homes all the time? Why should we stay clothed constantly? Actually, I would never even dream of living permanently in a constructed home, give me a natural cave or temporary hut that I built myself any day. To me, eating and foraging and praying and having sex and laughing are all gifts to be accepted freely from Altma. These things should be enjoyed, for none is any more important a part of life than the other. They are all granted parts of the great balance of the cosmos.”

Reflecting on what Lil said, Red leans back in the chair and fans herself with her hand. It makes some sense, though it was not the teachings of Corma. She had been sent to the land of men to learn their ways, though, and their gods and their philosophies were a big part of that. She would respect Lil’s beliefs without questioning them. If Altma says it is alright for Lil to see sex as being the same as eating and praying, then great for her, but Red didn’t plan on changing all her traits any time soon. She had already loosened her beliefs about chastity because of the young woman; that was enough. No need for her to become a nudist. The world wasn’t ready for that yet, anyhow. Lil, who was getting quite chilled standing there, jumps into the bed and covers herself up. Red soon follows and the two women attempt to fall asleep, but all night long they keep waking up, thinking about who could have killed Lil and why. Lil, who is very hungry, also keeps waking up asking when they’ll eat. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until morning.

Before Lil wakes, Red has already arranged to have food and a clothier brought to their room. After eating, Lil tries on all the dresses, armor, and other items the man and his assistants brought with them. She decides on a taupe and olive dirndl and dark brown leather armor, with a built-in corset and lots of extra straps and large sections which are uncovered. She has Red, who is using her newfound wealth, purchase thigh-high boots for her and a decorative cape. 

“That leather armor doesn’t seem very protective, Lil,” Red says, as she pays the designer. 

“As long as I’m not struck in the chest or upper thigh or upper arm, I’ll be fine,” Lil answers.

Red shrugs, lets the people out of her room, and answers, “Fine, now let’s get discussin’ who may ‘ave done ye in.”

Red rattles through her short list of leads and Lil quickly dismisses each. Lickmer would not have gained anything by killing her, there is no way the Wizard she’d help slay recently would have reached her by then, Evenliir obviously knew nothing about Lil, and no one at the church knew why she was meeting with the High Priest. The only place anyone could have learned about her having so much treasure with her was at the bank and she is nearly positive that only one person at the bank knew how much she had taken out and he was very taken with her.

“You can check and see if he ever left the bank or met with anyone who could have followed me to the church, but I know men and this man wouldn’t dream of hurting anyone,” Lil tells the Dwarf.  

“We’ll be checkin’ that out anyhow,” Red answers. “None but that fella knew then, right?” she asks, to finalize that string of questions. 

Lil thinks for a while, then answers, “Well, except for your party.”  

Red is a little confused by this comment. “What ye meanin’ by that?” she asks. 

Lil answers matter-of-factly, “You know, I told your whole party that I was getting my adventuring mates raised. Before we went flying to ASU.”

Red recalls Lil’s comment, after some thought, but she had never before made the connection. Sure, Lil had said she planned on getting all her friends raised, but it never dawned on her that meant Lil would have such a great amount of gold waiting for her in ASU. Then again, Red had never heard of a ‘bank’ before yesterday. This new revelation changes everything. Red starts going through the list of her comrades in her mind and (true to her step-by-step nature) and begins categorizing each. 

Melias: A likely suspect, since, as a Thief, he would have noticed Lil’s mentioning of raising her friends and saw the possibilities for easy gain. He also uses a dagger and could enter a building unnoticed. The only thing working for him being innocent is his generally good character.

Arturus: A possible suspect, since he is very emotional and prone to violence. He seemed very jealous of Lil’s affair with Fino and may have slain and robbed her in response.

Orjulun: Not a likely suspect, since it is not in his nature. The only thing that would make him a suspect is his magical abilities, which would enable him to sneak into the church unseen.

Rastorn: A likely suspect because he seems to be rather greedy and immoral. He also has magical abilities which could have aided him. He seems to lack the guts to do anything so physically violent, though.

SeLiem: Very unlikely. He was still in jail at the time she was slain.

Percy: Very unlikely. The man strives to be a Paladin and certainly can’t sneak around anywhere.

Damn, she thought, none of them stand out as a possible suspect. There has to be something she is missing. Someone else must have known something. They will have to check with Fino and find out how his investigation is going. That should give her a chance to ask about the Druids, too.

Day two and still no leads . . .

To be continued . . .

To be continued . . .

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