Chapter 30Where A Word Matters

The horses were well rested and kept up a nice canter when we went back to the road. If things continued like this we'd make really good time. Deirdre and I both tried to talk about plans and conspiracies going on, both of us well aware that we had not enough info for any serious ideas on the matter. We also ate some bread and drank a little while on the horse. As long as you ate slow, it was very doable and it saved a lot of time. We also paid good attention to the forest around us, it was kind of nice to see how much there was too see even though one might expect the forest to just be one boring line of trees.

Though we didn't have time to linger at beautiful places, the forest was quite beautiful. After the dead heart, ironically, there was a beautiful glade of flowers just on the edge of it. The scents were quite lovely as well, a mixture of sweet and fresh that caressed the sinuses and filled the mind. We saw more creatures again as well, deer and rabbits that fled for the horses. I think we even saw a swine a little further in the woods, but it was hard to tell.

Now that it was light, Deirdre taught me more shadow again and helped me to focus. In fact, this kind of practicing gave me much more understanding about Light as well. In a way, they were very similar, requiring almost the same kind of focus but just a minor change in intention. Making something stronger or weaker was just the way you looked at it, but you still looked at the same thing. We also did small contests together, using twigs from trees and weakening them in their middle until they snagged and see who was able to do it first. Deirdre won, though I wasn't as far behind as I expected.

We also noticed some very interesting effects in the gems. It was possible, with a bit of practice, to make them glow and keep quite a bit of their charge. It wasn't easy to retrieve it back from the gem, as they were still chaotic in their release. But I managed twice to steer the returning charge back to where I wanted it. And in both cases it was Deirdre's Dark originally. So the gems really did 'clean' all focus from the magic energy before releasing it. But regaining focus on radical magic was very difficult. Much more than doing it yourself.

It could prove useful though.

Deirdre and I both wanted to do more tests with it, but it was very hard to concentrate after a while. So in the afternoon, after a full morning of practice, we just talked.

"She was very beautiful, wasn't she?" Deirdre kept teasing me with the vision of Maeve.

I nodded. "Yes, she was. I wonder how much of it was charm or glamour."

Deirdre pondered for a moment. "Do all nymphs look like that?"

I shrugged. "Probably, they're said to be very beautiful, in all forms. I've heard of desert nymphs with an almost black skin."

She surprised me by looking ahead wistfully. "I'd love to see that."

I decided to tease her back. "Wouldn't you prefer male spirits?"

While I expected anger or teasing back, well I wasn't sure what I expected as a reaction, she instead blushed quite strongly. It took a few moments before she replied.

"No, I'd rather see female nymphs."

I cocked my head sideways. "Why?"

She apparently blushed some more. "Well, it's just that I've always found the female form so much more beautiful..."

A thought occurred to me. "Is that why you didn't mind to be naked in front of me, or mind me being naked in front of you?"

She stuttered a little bit. "N-no... it's not that. I did like watching you." She blushed again, but smiled. "I just mostly find the male form... eh.. somewhat boring compared to the softness of women."

While my own experience in nudity wasn't that big, I agreed with her on the form thing. But I wondered why she was so ashamed of it. "It's fine, I'm just surprised by your reaction."

Deirdre mumbled something.

"What?"

"Mother didn't approve."

I blinked. "Why?"

She sounded sad for a moment. "Well, I quited liked to walk around naked when I was young, before the Castle. But mother found it wrong and", Deirdre changed her voice to mocking aristocratic, "not proper or polite for such a young little lady."

Despite myself I had to laugh. "Okay, I think I can understand that."

Deirdre laughed as well again. "Yeah, well I was mostly happy with my parents but sometimes they were so... stupid. The Castle was a place I felt quite free for a while."

"Until it all went wrong."

Deirdre nodded. "At least now I'm part of no one and can talk with whom I want. Even abominations." She winked playfully.

I blinked. "Thanks. I really don't like that word though..." I tried to say it levelly, it wasn't Deirdre's fault.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. We really must think for a better word for it."

I smiled. "I've always liked the word ambassador."

Deirdre pondered this. "I suppose it makes sense, a sort of middle man between two worlds. A communicator. Three worlds if you continue the talks with the queen, actually." She winked at me.

I smiled. "So are you then."

And again she responded not entirely to my expectations. But this time it was more a matter of flattery, as if she hadn't considered the possibility. Her face changed from surprise to amusement to a hint of personal pride. It was quite a lovely sight. She smiled back at me.

"I guess I am."