There Once Was A Girl... - Part Two

By Deuce Traveler

Chapter Four

"Well, what does it say," Deuce asked Pent as he paced their living room. A letter from Caitlyn had come and he had given it to Pent to read. The rogue still hadn't taken time to learn how to read and write, requiring the dwarf to both read letters from Caitlyn and write the letters that Deuce orated to him.

"You're a lucky one, lad," Pent replied. "Looks like she's coming to visit you instead of that half-elf chap in Miramor. She'll be here in a few days."

The rogue's pacing stopped as he glared at the dwarf, "That's not funny. What does it say?"

Pent looked at Deuce angrily, "I've never lied to ye about a letter from the lass."

The thief's face smoothed in surprise. "She's coming here? To see me?" His legs began to feel weak.

"Awww. Someone's in love," Trad teased from across the room. It was refreshing to see Deuce look nervous over a woman. The rogue had slept with almost every woman in the Carrion Inn and seemed to lack a sense of compassion. Trad had begun to worry that there was nothing the rogue cared for besides himself.

"I'm not in love and neither is she," Deuce snapped back. "I only met her once and she's a good friend. I plan to show her the town, be a good host, and that's it."

"Relax, mate," Pent cautioned. "Trad is only having fun with you, but I have to admit, you do talk about this Caitlyn quite a lot. And I get tired of having to write letters for you every few days. Keeping in touch with her like you have for the last year and a half has been quite a feat."

The rogue sighed. "I'm not going to look too deeply into this. I hear the elves are thinking about leaving the human realms, so she probably just wants to say her goodbye to me. It's a lot easier to deal with people when you don't expect too much. Hell, she's probably ugly or heavyset. It's been a long time since I laid eyes on her and I was a bit drunk at the time."

"That's a pretty depressing view," Trad said, holding back the urge to smack the rogue.

Deuce simply nodded. "Never expect too much and never be disappointed. I'm tired of disappointments."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Caitlyn would be coming into Riversy by carriage, so Deuce arrived early to the Riversy station on the required day. The carriage pulled up, its six sweating horses breathing heavily. The rogue wanted to scream as the carriage driver took his time getting off his roost and opened the passenger door. Five passengers were helped out, and took their time getting their bags while a sixth and final passenger waited for them to clear the way so she could step out. The waiting made Deuce's heart race. "Damn it," he told himself angrily, "she's just visiting a friend. Calm down." He had gotten little sleep, tossing and turning as he thought of her the last night. It helped to imagine her fat, ugly, and undesirable. He had borrowed quite a bit of money from Pent to rent a room for the two of them at the Griffin Lounge for a week, and planned to sleep on the couch as she used the bed.

The sixth passenger finally stepped out, revealing a small elf with lovely eyes. She wore a dark blue tunic with black pants and sandals. In the culture of the elves, she wore body paint on her arms and face that matched her mood, although a human would not understand the patterns unless he knew elves better than the rogue did. Deuce felt his heart racing again. "Oh by the gods, she's more beautiful than I remember." He forced himself to relax again as she gathered her bags and turned towards him. Caitlyn smiled at the rogue, a nervous look of recognition in her eyes. "Hi," he said. "Thanks for coming. Do you need any help with those bags?"

"Thanks," she said with a shy smile as she handed him a bag. The human and elf had small talk about how the trip went and their day as Deuce led her to the Griffin Lounge Inn. It was getting late and the two were tired by the time they got to the room. The rogue began to help her get settled in the room as they talked about all the important things people who have just met, but are attracted to one another talk about. Their day. Their families or friends. The annoying thing that happened to them that week. What their favorite type of candy is. The conversation wasn't important to them as much as the watching was. The two just liked to look at each other, finding what they were looking at pleasing, and enjoying the happiness in each others smile.

The night grew later still, and Deuce began to prepare Caitlyn's bed when she said, "When you sleep, you best be wearing a lot of clothes, and no funny stuff. I'm here as your friend because it's been a long time since I've seen you."

The rogue almost said that he planned to sleep on the couch, then thought better of it. Instead he just smiled and went under the covers with her, staying on the edge of the bed and giving up most of the surface to the elf. He found her incredibly attractive but would be damned if he would risk their friendship just to try to get something from her she may not be interested in.

The rogue woke an hour later as he felt the closeness of her body by his side. Deuce thought he must have rolled towards her in his sleep, and moved to the very edge of the bed again and fell back asleep. He woke an hour later to her body again pressed against his. There was no mistaking that she was seeking him in her own slumber. With a shaking, nervous hand, Deuce allowed his arm to slip around her waist. She seemed to stiffen, then relax, pressing closer to him until they were wrapped gently together, as if they were familiar lovers. "Oh please," he thought to himself as he drifted to sleep. "Don't let me mess this up."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I'm not sure," Deuce answered Caitlyn's question. The two were drinking beers in the Griffin Lounge. "I know I want to travel to more of the world, and I don't think I want to live my life doing what I am now, but there doesn't seem to be any other way for me to make a living now. What do you want to do in life?"

"I was thinking I could be an ambassador," the elf answered with a smile. The two had spent a week together, each day bringing the two closer than the last.

"An ambassador?" Deuce asked with surprise. Most women he knew wanted to live off some successful man, never actually achieve something on their own. This elf was thrilling him in every way. "It doesn't sound easy. What does one have to do to become an ambassador?"

"I have to go to school, first. Either a magic school or a cultural school. Right now I'm an amateur sorceress and trying to get admitted to the Riversy College of Magic. On the other hand, I'm interested in other people and places, and studying higher magic can get a bit intense." Caitlyn was wearing body paint again, and Deuce began to recognize the pattern as some mood of happiness.

"So if you do become an ambassador where will the elves assign you," Deuce asked, hoping the answer would be Riversy.

"That's not what I want to do. There are elven tribes in Austin that no longer feel part of the elven kingdom. I'd like to be assigned to search them out and try to help them become better aware of the world around them."

Deuce hesitated at that. This lady in front of him wanted to do things in this world not for herself, but to leave the land a better place. "I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have something to care about other than myself," he admitted.

Tara was in the bar, having a drink on her off day from the Carrion Inn. She spotted Deuce with his companion, walked up to the rogue, and slipped an arm around him. "Hey baby, this your friend you said was visiting?"

Deuce smiled widely as he hugged Tara. "It's good to see you! How have you been? Tara, this is Caitlyn. Caitlyn, Tara."

Tara smiled at Caitlyn, "Hey dear, are you having a good time in Riversy?"

"Yes," Caitlyn said with a playful chuckle as she stroked Deuce's arm and smiled at him.

Tara smiled wider, but winced inside. It was obvious that within the last week the two had become somewhat intimate. What Deuce and her had was friendship with a few extra perks, but Tara still felt an uncontrollable amount of jealousy. "You know what I love about our friend, Deuce, honey?" Tara asked as she held his waist tighter.

"What's that," Caitlyn asked curiously. Deuce also raised his eyebrow in question.

Tara's smile grew slightly wider and a bit cruel, "Whenever I want him, I know he's mine."

"Oh," Caitlyn said, looking lost for words. She fell silent and began to drink her beer again.

Deuce's own smile dropped slightly, but he made himself look like he was still enjoying himself. Inside he was boiling. The rogue couldn't fathom why a woman would try to anger someone as gentle as Caitlyn. "I swear I will never give you the satisfaction of touching you again," he thought of Tara, as he stepped slightly away from both women.

Deuce, Tara, and Caitlyn talked some more as the three finished their drinks. Deuce drank his quickly and encouraged Caitlyn to do the same, saying he was tired. The man really wanted to get Caitlyn out of the bar and away from Tara. Caitlyn and Deuce finished their drinks and said goodbye to their fellow patrons and headed up the stairs to their room. Caitlyn had said little the rest of the night, the last event being mulled over in her mind. She began to change the pattern of her body paint to one Deuce didn't recognize.

As they entered their room, the elf finally spoke. "I want to be your bondsmate."

"What," Deuce asked in surprise. When a woman and a man wanted to marry they would become engaged. When they wanted to get to know each other better in the hopes to one day become engaged they became bondsmated. Deuce took the idea seriously, and therefore never got into the arrangement. "No. You don't even live in Riversy. When would I see you? Every few months? No."

"Alright," Caitlyn said, understanding how crazy it would be.

"But let me think about it," Deuce said softly as he laid down on the hardwood floor of their room and stared at the ceiling. "Why would I want to do this to myself," he thought. It would hurt to be involved with this woman, only to have it fail. Then he wondered why he was so scared of being her bondsmate. "Because I think I fell for her the moment I saw her," he told himself. And she was simply amazing. To meeting her twice in the twenty-four hours of a day, to spending an incredible night with her laughing through the streets of Riversy, to the last year and a half of constantly sending letters, and now one incredible week that made the rogue shiver thinking about. He realized it was meant to be. "Yes, I would love to be your bondsmate. Why the hell not."

Chapter Five

"I just don't get it," Deuce complained out loud in frustration, causing Pent to cringe visibly.

Pent had asked Deuce to join him in this latest job to help pay for the money the rogue had loaned. Now instead of keeping his mind on the work at hand, Deuce couldn't stop talking about his blasted love life. And he still refused to take the time to read, causing Pent to have to read Caitlyn's letters to the rogue and write back to her. Some of the contents in those letters was enough to make even a seasoned dwarven enforcer blush. "Well, what exactly was she complaining about, lad?"

"She says I don't listen to her and she's begun to question whether or not we belong together," Deuce said as he fiddled with the pommel of his dwarven dagger. "I see her maybe a weekend a month and she's passing judgement on our entire future. I feel like I'm on trial everytime she visits and it frustrates the hell out of me."

Pent sighed and thought maybe if he entertained the rogue he would put his mind into work, "So talk to her about it, lad, and settle things."

"I did. For an entire day we talked about why I thought we got along and she thought we didn't. We finally seemed to work it all out and settled down for the night. The next morning as we were getting ready to go and take a walk through the Riversy graveyard and admire the architecture of the crypts, she brings it up again and we ended up talking about it into the afternoon until I told her I had had enough. Lately she's been wearing her body paint in what I think might be a scolding pattern."

"I think ye have it wrong. Elves wear their patterns to reflect emotion, and last I checked scolding wasn't an emotion."

"It certainly feels scolding," Deuce snapped.

"Heh. Well, lad, ye just have to deal with it. My own lass, Trad, does the same thing. In fact I think every woman does that to her man. All ye can do is try to make her feel better and listen to her when she wants to talk. Suck it up, mate," Pent said with a knowing grin. "Now pay attention to the job at hand," Pent advised, meaning the building across the way. It was thought to be a safe house for the new thieves guild the Mockingbird House had found itself at war with. Two raw recruits of the Pent's House were found dead in the sewers below Riversy. Their necks had been wrung and crushed as if by large hands. Pent brought Deuce with him to help observe who went into and out of the possible safe house.

"Yes, the job," Deuce spoke as he looked towards the building, then quickly back to Pent. "This relationship is beginning to feel like a job. We have fun when we go out, we kiss all the time, and I adore her. When I ask if she's not happy and wants to break up, she says no. When I ask her if I'm doing something wrong or not doing something she says everything is fine. I'm ready to scream."

Pent was also beginning to feel ready to scream, but instead took a deep breath. "Why is this so important to you? You only see the lass only every so often and then only for a weekend."

"I don't know why, but I just can't get enough of her, even when she drives me crazy. But you're right, I'm looking too much into this. I told her the other day that this relationship wasn't going to work. She's too far away and I think that we get bitter when we see each other. It's like we spend a few awkward days trying to get used to each other again, and when we do, she's beginning to leave and we have to start all over again. Maybe I'm looking too much into things. She's probably just wanting to have some fun before she leaves with the rest of the elves."

"That's most likely it, lad. Why would ye think any different?"

Deuce paused and thought for a moment. His next words came slowly, "Because everything up to now has been magic. It's been three months since we started seeing each other, but every time I hear her voice I shiver inside."

Pent chuckled at that as he kept observing the building. "Ye got it bad. No problem, we'll take ye to Dominica's later and have a pretty gal bring the rogue I know back to us."

"She told me I couldn't go to Dominica's anymore," Deuce replied. Dominica's Palace was a brothel that Deuce frequented.

Pent swiveled his head and stared at the young thief, "And you gave in, I'll wager."

"No, not entirely. I told her I didn't like being commanded not to do anything, but if she told me that she didn't like me going, I'd only go a handful of times out of the year, and then only because a friend wanted to celebrate, and only for drinks."

"Laddie, laddie, laddie listen to me," Pent was shaking his head sadly. "Lie. Promise and lie like ye never lied before to things like that."

"I don't want to go down that road," Deuce responded indignant.

"Right. Try to be a thief with morals and see how long that lasts ye. In fact, let's cut this argument right now and go back to what ye are good at. Not relationships, but the job." With an angry grunt, Pent went back to observing the possible safehouse.

"You know, it's hard for me to believe this is just something she wanted to do for fun. The way she holds me and kisses me and feels in my arms..."

"LAD!" Pent was furious. "By the gods, laddie! Are ye listening to me?! We have a job to do and I'm tired of listening to you pine all day about Caitlyn. It's impossible to have a conversation with you. You switch everything I want to talk about back to yourself."

The rogue looked surprised, "That's exactly what she said. Am I really that bad?"

"Yes, and it can be damn irritating, mate. Ye are conceited, arrogant, and ambitious, which is great when I need your skills, but lousy in a conversation. Ye ever notice how I sometimes make an excuse to leave during one of our conversations?"

Deuce looked shocked, "How am I conceited?"

"Ha! Remember that time that you insisted to me in front of my guildmaster that Ryall was cheating him?"

The rogue puffed up his chest, "And I was right."

"Yes, but if ye weren't I would have been embarrassed in front of the House. What about a few months ago when ye insisted ye could take that half-orc on the roof fight? I called ye off, saying Trad and I would take him and ye take the smaller human, but ye attacked him anyway and almost had your guts spilled for it," Pent reminded him as he poked his chest with his stubby finger.

"I'm taller than you and didn't want you to get hurt. I was protecting you," Deuce huffed.

"And ye also have an excuse for everything. You get defensive on anything I say, which is why I don't want to talk to ye about anything," Pent retorted.

Deuce was silent, realization hitting him. "I wish you would have told me earlier. I'd rather my friends get annoyed with me and have to tell me about it than I upset the woman I care about."

Pent put a hand on the rogue's shoulder. "Deuce, ye are a good lad, which is saying leaps and bounds for someone in our profession. Don't be too hard on yeself. Now we gots a job to do."

The rogue nodded to the dwarf, promising himself he would try harder to listen to others, especially Caitlyn. Deuce and Pent spent the next five hours in their dark, rented flat continuing to observe the safehouse until night cast out the final rays of the sun. No one had been seen moving in or out of the building, and it was now almost impossible to see into the streets below. Magic was common in Amaranth. Deuce, like most adventurers, knew how to cast a spark spell to light a torch or lantern. In the streets of Riversy there were failed mages hired by the city to cast spells creating globes of light on the top of street posts. These mages, called 'Lighters', never went into the worst sections of Riversy. Deuce thought it for the best. There were some things in those streets that were bad enough to see during the day. He wondered if the people of those streets found the darkness welcoming, giving them the ability to imagine a sweeter reality in which they were well fed, clean, and happy.

"OK, lad," Pent murmured as he touched Deuce's shoulder, shaking him from his thoughts. "It's way too dark and we've seen nothing. Let's get home."

The pair began to leave when a crystal necklace around Pent's neck began to glow. Trad's voice could be heard coming from it. "Pent, my love," she said in a sweet but stern voice that brooked no argument. "It's late and I'll expect ye to be coming home soon and not be sticking yeself anywhere ye nay should be."

Pent sighed and grasped his crystal necklace saying into it, "Yes, dear." His guildmaster had given the two dwarves magical necklaces to keep in touch with one another. He hated the blasted thing, his time carousing with his pals usually cut short unless Trad was drinking with them. She always thought she knew what was good for him, hounding him about the proper foods to eat and about his not taking care of himself. She said things that made his dwarven blood boil, made him fume and get defensive. He could not live a day without having to listen to her and question the way he lived. Every moment of every day Pent was forced to wonder if his wife would approve of his actions, be satisfied with who he was. And he loved her for it. She made him feel passion. Pent wouldn't trade Trad for all the gold in the world.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I didn't ask about your relationship with Pent or his with his wife. Tell me about Caitlyn," Precilla ordered Deuce. She was now sitting across from the rogue, on the soft carpeting of his prison.

The rogue sighed from his own sitting position and looked at her crossly. "You should listen to every part of my stories. I try to tell you things that may be important later. And I also try not to repeat myself and ramble."

"I still don't understand why you liked this woman so much. It should have been obvious to you that you weren't a high priority in her life when she lived so far away," Precilla pressed.

"That's how I felt about her, too. And I knew the relationship would probably end badly if we didn't spend real time together. Then Pent read me a letter from her. She was moving to Riversy to live with me the last few months before she had to go with the elves, "Deuce said with a pleasant smile. "It changed my whole way of thinking. This was not a temporary fling and she was serious about wanting to be with me. I never thought anyone would want me for anything past something physical and short lived. I realized I wanted to be a better man."

Precilla tried not to laugh. "Words are just words."

"That's been my belief, too. I began to apprentice under a wood carver in the neighboring woodland town of Logby, a few hours walk from Riversy. I began to rent a home there. I still did jobs for Pent, since apprenticeship doesn't pay rent by itself, but I stopped going to the Carrion Inn and I made an excuse everytime someone I knew wanted to go to Dominica's Pleasure Palace. That's not to say I never went, but I really didn't feel like going anymore," Deuce explained.

"You shouldn't go to such places, anyway," Precilla said indignantly. "They breed the corruption of the soul."

"Spoken like a true priestess," Deuce retorted. "Let me tell you why men spend money in such places. Men love attention just as much as a woman does. An attractive woman gets attention just walking down the street, to the point it either makes her bitter or arrogant. It has become common courtesy for a man to compliment a woman on how she looks, how she dresses, and her performance in bed. Men have to fish for those comments. That's why pleasure houses exist. There he can find a woman who acts as if he's the only important thing in the world, even if it's only for as long as the cash lasts. Anyway, since I felt like I was the most important thing in her world I stopped going."

Precilla raised an eyebrow in question, "How did it go when she moved in?"

Deuce sighed and hesitated before answering. "She never did." Another pause. "I told her how hard it was to find work in Riversy. At first she didn't seem to mind, which made me care for her that much more. In a way her determination was a sacrifice of herself for me. As we were planning her move she changed her mind, saying she wouldn't have enough money to reach the elven lands."

"At least you got a real job out of it."

"Yeah, but it still hurt like hell," Deuce responded. "And I couldn't turn off that thought that she wanted to be with me. That she wanted this to be serious. From then on I couldn't imagine my life without her somehow. Happiness is knowing someone gives a shit."

Chapter Six

Deuce had picked Caitlyn up from the carriage stop as the sun was coming up, but they had a long walk to his new home in Logby. Caitlyn was wearing body paint in a pattern reflecting irritation, showing her physical fatigue from the long trip. The rogue wasn't feeling much better, having to wake up early in the morning after a long night of wood carving sessions with his new boss and then walk to Riversy to pick his bondsmate up. The two of them stopped at a small restaurant before continuing, saying little to one another. Deuce ordered something for the two of them to eat, then sat across from Caitlyn and stroked her arm absentmindedly.

Caitlyn frowned suddenly then asked, "Why do you always say things that put me down?"

The rogue was surprised by the question, not knowing how to answer. "I joke around with all the guys I know. I put them down for every little mess up they do, and they do the same to me. Mental note: Caitlyn is not one of the guys," he thought to himself. He was learning all sorts of lessons about women. He just wished that Caitlyn wasn't his test subject. He asked of her, "Can this wait until we get home and rest? I'm exhausted, you're exhausted, and we are just being short-tempered." The man did have the sense to not get into an argument when cranky. He had the bad habit of saying things he didn't mean.

"And I want to talk about it now," Caitlyn demanded, her voice getting louder.

Deuce sighed and sat back in his seat, looking for the right words to explain how he felt. There was an elven woman staring at him to his right, her two children playing near. Humans in Riversy heard rumors that the elves had been preparing to leave the lands of Amaranth. The humans felt insulted, wondering why the elves were abandoning them. Wicked rumors began to flow through the kingdom, sparking racial tensions between the two peoples. "Great," thought Deuce to himself. "Now I'm a racist oppressing my elven lover." He felt his cheeks grow red. Deuce's eyes spoke of a mixed heritage, and he had suffered from it on rare occasions. To have some stranger even think he might judge someone by their race struck a nerve. Also, the rogue imagined what this elven woman was thinking this early in the morning. She probably wanted to treat her children to a quiet breakfast and spend time basking in the glow of her family. Now here was a quarreling couple disturbing the gentle peace of the restaurant. "I said we should talk about this later," Deuce hissed.

"Why," Caitlyn demanded, her voice louder still. Now even the once smiling waitresses were pretending not to notice the two, their eyes averted nervously and frowns on their faces. The wonderful peace of the restaurant that Deuce had been enjoying was shattered.

"Because you're making me sound like a bastard," Deuce was just as loud.

Caitlyn shook her head sadly. "What do you care what other people think?" The argument was over. The two eventually made it back to the house in Logby and slept.

When they woke, Deuce showed Caitlyn a picture he had purchased and put above the small bed. In the painting was a woman from Quilinnin wearing a silk dress in fashion in that region. A happy smile was on her face and in her hands a small black bird fluttered away from her. The rogue felt a certain bond to the painting, and in his mind the bird and woman were friends. Deuce felt the bird would come back to her, it just needed to stretch its wings and soar for awhile. Caitlyn liked it fine, but didn't feel the connection to it that the rogue did. Still, it gave them something to talk about, and with that, and the sleep they just had, they began to enjoy being with one another again.

Deuce would work hard at carving wood, his skills in it growing with each passing week. When he was done, however, Caitlyn and him would play. He loved wrestling with her, and when she wouldn't give up he would kiss down her neck until she surrendered to him in a different way. He loved how sometimes in their wrestling she would accuse him of hurting her, and as he released her in alarm she would put a fist into his ribs and wrestle him back down, somehow her one hundred pound frame defeating him.

He loved how she would try to put make up on him, or sing for him, or put dye in his hair. He would have to fend her off as she tried to do something to make him look 'pretty'. He would act angry and put up a fight, but secretly he loved how hard she tried and he loved giving into her after making her struggle for it.

He loved how she could waste a day, so unlike him. Deuce always needed to do so many things in a day, feeling he wasted time unless he was busy. Caitlyn would just smile as he tried to get her out of bed. She would groan loudly at his efforts, then grab his hand and drag him down onto the bed with her, making him cuddle her. She would make him cuddle her forever if his nervous energy didn't make him pull himself away. He was surprised to find he was beginning to enjoy wasting time.

He loved how she said his name in her soft voice and elven accent, sending warm chills into his heart. Or she would call him her puppy and he would call her his kitten and he would bark and paw her jokingly as she scratched behind his ears.

He loved watching her walk or sip her tea, sometimes making her uncomfortable as he just stared happily. At night he would spend long hours stroking her body softly and watching her sleep, even when he was himself exhausted. He would kiss her cheek while she slept, hold her tight, and drift off. Or sometimes he would kiss her and wake her to love her some more that night.

Deuce just loved her. And then he finally told Caitlyn so.

The elf looked at him in alarm. "I can't tell you the same thing. I'm not very good at telling people how I feel about them."

The rogue smiled. "Words are just words, love. I don't want you to feel like you should say anything. It's in your actions. The way you touch me, the way you kiss me, the way you hold me at night, and the way you seem to want to be with me. I don't want useless words."

Deuce had planned for a long time to take Caitlyn to the nearby lake, south of Logby. He had always preferred nature to the cities. The rogue had never been there before, and it had been a trick to find, night having fallen when they finally arrived. The two spread out a blanket, took out food Caitlyn prepared for their picnic, and enjoyed feeling like the only two people in all of Austin.

"Deuce," Caitlyn asked softly as she lay next to him and stared at the stars, "do you believe in the gods?"

"I don't know. I've never met one, but sometimes there are moments when I feel there's more than just this physical life. I rarely feel that way in Riversy, but moments like these where I'm by myself or with you and out here in the middle on no where . . . Yes, I suppose moments like these I do." Deuce then asked, "What about you?"

"I've been an initiate of the Dark Army for some time now. Its leader, Desmer, has asked me to take a ceremony of binding to her goddess, Tigress Silverclaw. I'm not sure if I want to take that step, but at the same time I'll have the opportunity to travel to the far city of Mansbridge and possibly delay my move to the new elven lands," Caitlyn responded. Travel was a dream both the elf and rogue shared, his passion for the mountains and lakes and hers for the foreign cities.

Deuce was silent for some time before he spoke. "Love, I'll miss you if you go, but this is something I think you need. I think I make you happy, but you settle into depression easily, and I feel I know why. For me, my dreams have begun to come true. I have a woman I'm incredibly in love with, I'm finding a new job in wood carving that I enjoy, and I'm living on my own for once in my life. I plan to travel the world one day and live that dream, too. You have yet to satisfy any of the things you want to do. You haven't been accepted yet to the Riversy Mages School, you haven't traveled, and you haven't found what you want to do with your life. I think you need to do this. Go with Desmer, go to Mansbridge."

"And what about you," Caitlyn asked quietly, looking at the rogue.

"I'll be alright, love. I really think it's something you need to do. And we'll always be together. I can't see why fate would bring us together and make us feel this way unless it was destined to be."

Caitlyn hugged him tighter, smiling at Deuce. "Now you believe in fate?" She knew he was right, she would have to leave. She also knew she was going to miss him.

"I've begun to believe in a lot of things I never did before I met you."

They laid in the darkness some more, enjoying this quiet moment until the silence was interrupted by the sounds of people approaching in the night. The two sat up in alarm, thinking it may be bandits or a party of gnolls. The rogue cursed himself for not bringing a weapon as Caitlyn began to think of her more damaging spells. Both relaxed as they saw a man and a woman come out of the woods with their son. The family saw Deuce and Caitlyn, smiled, and walked at a further portion of the lake to give them privacy. They entered the lake, playing with their son.

Deuce marvelled at the threesome, touched that even a family man had the thought to take his family out to the lake on a whim. He always thought that when people got married and had children, adventure ended and spirits were crushed. The rogue's mind raced as he thought how typical his own life had become before he met Caitlyn, drinking and carousing constantly. As he watched the child play with his father he swore if he ever had children of his own he'd take them to a lake at night to play. He'd teach the child how to read, a skill he had never learned but always wanted to. He'd teach the child to take care of its body, making him run. Caitlyn could teach their child the right food to eat and to get its proper rest. Deuce hoped his child would have the color of his eyes and the pretty shape of Caitlyn's. He caught himself thinking what a wonderful child an elven woman and a human man would make. He wanted to be a husband. He wanted to be a father. Caitlyn didn't want children, saying she didn't much like them. The rogue wondered if he could talk her into adoption if they couldn't have their own. As a street urchin he always wished a rich family would take him in and give him the life he always felt he needed. If she still said no maybe he could become a master wood carver and teach children how to carve. Deuce stared at the beautiful elf next to him knowing that they still had some living to do, but they were young and he looked forward to the next few years. Why else would the universe bring them together?

The family eventually left, and Deuce and Caitlyn made love underneath the sky. They held one another for awhile and talked about everything from what performers at Riversy Theatre they found most attractive to why mortals were put on the Earth. Caitlyn believed that the world was an illusion created by those living in it to enjoy just being alive. Deuce believed the world must have been lonely and unsure of who it was, needing the company of others. Eventually, the two packed their picnic and started home. Deuce was surprised to find Pent at his Logby door.

"Hello mate," Pent exclaimed, then bowed to Caitlyn awkwardly, "And hello, lass. Deuce, I'm going to need that favor ye owe me for that money ye borrowed some weeks ago."

Pent and Deuce had stopped counting the favors Deuce had owed the dwarf. If it wasn't for Pent, Deuce would not have been able to get the personal time from Caitlyn he felt he needed. And he would never have been able to afford his apprenticeship classes and the first payment on his home in Logby. It had become an unspoken agreement that whenever Pent needed the rogue Deuce would be there. The thief just wished he didn't call upon him this late at night. "It's late, I'm tired, but I'm yours with you, Pent. You, and your damn bad timing."

Pent was used to the rogue's constant complaints by now. Deuce might be a bit of a stubborn whiner, but he was one of the most dependable humans the dwarf had known. "I'll tell ye what, lad. Say ye goodbye to the lover lass and meet me by Riversy's south gate. And come armed and properly equipped," the dwarf then added after seeing Caitlyn's eyebrows raise slightly, "ummm. . . just in case."

Deuce smiled at Caitlyn as Pent walked away. He wrapped his arms around her waste and looked in her eyes while a gleam shone in his own. The rogue liked to hold her body close to his own and smile at her, naughty thoughts constantly going through his mind. "Why don't you get some rest and meet me in the Griffin Lounge Inn after you wake up?"

"Won't you be tired," Caitlyn asked, her arms crossed defiantly as she let him hold her hips to his.

"Exhausted, but I think seeing you will wake me up after this job," Deuce responded. "And I would like your company walking home."

Caitlyn gave in to his smile and hugged him, placing a soft kiss on his lips as she touched his face. "Be careful, Deuce," she asked of him. Then she said something else, not being able to keep the words back, "I love you."

The rogue felt like crying in happiness. Life was grand and he couldn't imagine anything in his life going wrong. A few hours later, he found how wrong it could go.


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