"Jenner?" gasps Val.
He sighs deeply. "Valeria, I have just killed quite a few men tonight."
Val goes to him, concern on her face. "Mother Goddess, why?"
"I had no choice," says Jenner, as he pulls out a small, bloodied pouch.
She looks confused, and not a little frightened. "You're starting to scare me."
Jenner empties the bag onto the table. Out of it fall four Chimerical daggers, each with a red ruby in the hilt. "Four children of Balor attacked me tonight."
Eyes growing wide, Val stares at him.
"I spoke with Morwen," Jenner continues somberly. "She's a pawn in this whole mess just like me."
"Bright Lady," Val mutters, "I think I'm getting in over my head..."
"They reconstructed my memories, Val," says Jenner in a low voice, as an ashen pallor overtakes him.
Val slides an arm about Jenner's shoulders, trying to steady him.
Jenner calms down at her touch, though he is still quite shaky. He slowly reveals the sigil of Ailil on his forearm. "This brand on my arm is only a few weeks old. I think all of this is a setup..." He takes a deep breath, and continues, "I spoke with Morwen this evening. Her mind had been altered as well. Val, I could hear her thoughts last night, and it scared the shit out of me."
Val swallows hard, knowing that what would scare a Troll must be frightening indeed.
"Morwen had the same memories of the past as I did," Jenner continues quietly. "Only, I was the one of us who had died. Whoever is behind this wanted us both to believe that the other was dead... but I can't see why."
As the two contemplate this, a male Sidhe in a black leather bodysuit festooned with innumerable knives enters and stares at the tableau. "Well, ainít this cozy!"
Seeing the man in the suit of black leather, Val's eyes grow wide. "YOU!!!"
Jenner looks over to the stranger and, seeing Val's reaction, draws his blade and holds it at the ready. "What's the matter, Val? Who is this guy? What in King David's name is going on?"
The strange Sidhe gives the two a mocking bow. "Allow me t'introduce myself. Lusiphur of House Balor, assassin of the Shadow Court, at your service."
A furious Val has already yanked a dagger from its wrist sheath. "This is the piece of slime who nearly killed Prince Darian!"
"YOU!" Jenner bellows, as he activates his enchanted armor and levels his giant claymore at the Balorian's head. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you where you stand!"
Lusiphur tries to activate Quicksilver and get away, but Jenner uses his personal Banality to deactivate the Cantrip.
Shrieking a Gaelic war cry, Val hurls herself at the fleeing assassin. "You're not getting away that easily, you bastard!" With that, she engages him with her daggers.
Rushing into the fray, Jenner attempts to lift Lusiphur up from the ground, as the assassin fights for his life against the angry knight.
Something seems to take over Val as she swings her blade. Her eyes are distant, almost as if she isn't quite there. Jenner places the assassin in a full nelson so as to immobilize him.
As the blade comes towards him, Lusiphur goes rigid in terror. "She's crazy! Make her stop!"
"Val..." Jenner says softly. "Kill him, do it for your prince." He looks down at the terrified Sidhe of House Balor. "Blood calls out for blood, assassin."
Val's dagger strikes truly, burying itself in Lusiphur's throat, and Jenner drops the killer to the floor. "It's over, Val. Come back to me."
Val blinks and comes to herself, looking a bit dazed. She seems to shake herself out of another state of being, and looks up at Jenner with wide eyes. "What's happened?"
Jenner checks for a pulse, and finding none, turns to her. "I can't feel a pulse... he's dead, Valeria."
Val stares at the body on the floor, and the blood on her blade. "Scathach!"
"He's dead, but I'm afraid that this whole ordeal is far from over," says Jenner quietly.
"Do they...always look like that?" asks Val in a small voice, swallowing hard, and trying not to shake as she looks into the dead eyes that are still open.
Jenner cleaves the body in half and tosses it in a garbage can, then looks at Val. "Yes. Yes they do. Was he your first...?" She nods, and he becomes somber as he finishes throwing out the body. "You never forget that... the way you feel after your first kill."
Val nods, trying not to get hysterical or throw up. "The first one that I didn't have the Scathach Curse to protect me from..." She shudders involuntarily.
"This is how it had to be, lass," Jenner says quietly. "If you hadn't killed him, I would have. Otherwise, he may have killed us both."
Val makes a valiant effort not to cry, and fails. Jenner walks over to her, and wraps her in his embrace. "It's going to be all right," he murmurs comfortingly. "It's all right, cry. Let it all out. Death is never pretty." He holds her tightly. 'Blood for Blood, Bone for Bone...'" He trails off, hoping that she will complete the oath.
Swallowing hard, she gets herself a little more under control. "I never thought they'd look at me..." she whispers, shuddering. Then she looks at Jenner and pulls herself up straight. "'Life for life...'" She finishes the Oath of Clasped Hands, then frowns. "I've completed my quest, but it only leads to more puzzles."
"Killing can make your heart like iron, so go ahead and cry. Life is precious; never forget that." Jenner says quietly. He looks down at her. "And our quest has just only begun."
At that, Val looks up at him with a puzzled expression. "You said once that the Shadow Court fears me. Why? I'm just one green knight, and not even of a true noble house..." She grins a little resignedly. "Or so some of Prince Darian's court said."
"Dame Valeria of the House of Scathach, do you know who I am?" asks Jenner suddenly, looking as though he has finally awakened from a long slumber.
"Jenner Rain-water? Protector of Princess Morwen?" asks a puzzled Val.
"I am your protector and guardian," the Troll knight responds with a soft chuckle. "It's all coming back to me now... You have a destiny..." He looks on Val with utter awe as he continues. "Duke Albright sent his daughter, Morwen, and me to seek you out. Who ever cast enchantments upon Morwen and me wanted us to forget our task."
Val's jaw drops. "Me? Why me?"
"I'm not sure... I can't remember..."muses Jenner,lost in deep thought.
"But I was sent here to stop assassins sent against you," continues Jenner, still pondering. Then, he achieves illumination. "Yes... the attack against your Prince was merely a ruse."
"What?" asks a surprised Val. "Then it was..."
"It was what, Val?" Jenner asks. Then, he knows what she meant to say. "If you were about to say that they were sent for you, you may be right."
Val's knees buckle with the enormity of the information. She seems in shock; it's all too much at once.
"Of course... how could I have been so foolish?" Jenner muses to himself. "The blade you gave me..." He pulls it out. "It is more than it seems, Dame Valeria." He pauses for a moment, then continues. "Valeria, how would you describe your personal connection to the dreaming?" He looks as though he is on the verge of Epiphany.
"I dreamed of leading armies when I was a little girl..." Val says softly. "I thought it was just that---a dream."
"A dream is as real as you make it," replies Jenner with a smile. "You're royalty, and perhaps the pivotal player in re-opening the gates to the Dreaming." He holds up her dagger. "This blade you gave me is a lost key to Arcadia. Lord Lysander told me that only you could use it to open the Arcadia Gateway. Morwen and I were sent to seek you out, but we were captured and enchanted by House Ailil. They wanted me to kill you...but it didnít work out that way. Instead, we became friends and oathmates---just as it was meant to be from the beginning."
"My head's spinning. I don't know what to think..." Val whispers. "My aunt said she sensed something about me...I don't think she knew how right she was."
Suddenly, realization comes to Jenner, and he kneels before a stunned Val. "Princess Valeria...I was send by Lord Albright and Lord Lysander to seek you. I am your humble protector." He offers her the dagger. "Here is your key, Your Highness. My steel is yours, as is my life." He bows his head.
Blushing, Val accepts the dagger. "Please...I've been 'Val' to you since we met. Can you still call me that? I don't think I'm used to this."
"Of course," Jenner replies, blushing a little as well. "I'm just used to the formalities of the Court." Then he becomes more serious. "Val, you may be the one who saves our people from the Endless Winter. Do you know of the war that rages in Arcadia?"
"My aunt told me a little about it..." she replies, frowning.
"King Ironheart has gone mad, and now he seeks to kill the Dreaming from within," Jenner informs her soberly. "If anything is to survive, Ironheart must be defeated."
A look of horror appears on Val's face, then is replaced by a resigned expression. "And I'm supposed to do that?" She ponders it for a moment. "I've been brought up to believe that titles must be earned. I think that that may be the means for me to do so." She gives him a shy smile.
Jenner suddenly notices the time. "The hour grows late, Val. I must leave now. I'll see you soon. Tonight, I venture into the Dreaming."
Val clasps Jenner's arm in farewell. "Until later, then, my friend."
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