Pix's Tavern. Val has been waiting for the arrival of her friend and oath-mate, Jenner Rainwater. Now, the door opens and Jenner staggers in...

Val says, "You came in time, Jenner. A moment more, and I might have gone looking for that bastard of House Balor myself." She smiles ruefully. "Although I haven't had much luck thus far."

Jenner says, "Val..." He looks somber, and slightly weakened.

Val looks more closely at him, concern etched on her face. "What's happened? Are you well?"

Jenner is woozy; a growing red stain is apparent on his brown duster. "Ambush...iron. I..."He shakes.

Val pulls him to a chair. "What happened?"

Jenner sets his blood-stained hands on the table. "Found a trod..."He is supressing seizures, and his breathing is labored. "Don't worry about me, Val; it's just a scratch." His labored breathing is coming in raspy heaves.

Val tears her shirt into strips and binds Jenner's wound. "Can you hang on while I get a doctor?"

Jenner gasps as urgency takes over. "No! Please, don't leave me."

Val slides an arm around him. "Don't worry...you have my word as a knight. I'll stay with you."

Jenner says, "They attacked me with these." He places three iron arrowheads on the table.

Val's eyes grow wide. "Who?"

Jenner gasps out, glassy-eyed, "Lover... Morwen. A trod. I found it! don't you see?"

"Your princess?" gasps Val. "But I thought..."

"Ailil..."murmurs Jenner. "My bro... Old friend." He bites his lower lip against the pain and sighs, "If I only had some dross... I've got a treasure. But it eats dross."He is looking worse than before.

Tears start in Val's eyes; she slaps him. "Don't you dare leave me, you big ox! 'Blood for blood, bone for bone, life for life...' remember?"

Jenner reaches into his deep pocket and reveals a tin tea-cup. Tears pour despite his best efforts. "I can't fail. Val..." Hearing the oath, he stirs a little. "Yes. I need Glamour. Say the oath with me, please." Desperation mixed with fear ebbs forth from him.

Val blinks back her tears and begins, "'Blood for blood, bone for bone, life for life, until only we stride the earth...'" She continues intoning the Oath of Clasped Hands.

"'My word is my bond, my bond is my strength...' Please repeat my words..." gasps Jenner as pain racks his battered body.

"'My word is my bond, my bond is my strength...'" repeats Val. She is crying now.

"The phrase... please, my oath-mate." begs Jenner. "'Strength is love, and love conquers all. And what love can do that dare love attempt...'"

"'Strength is love, and love conquers all. And what love can do that dare love attempt...'"Val says, trying not to start sobbing.

Jenner collapses with a groan. His blood is flowing faster now.

Tears stream down Val's cheeks. "No! Don't leave me... Finish it...please...I don't know what to say...please, help me..." She is weeping fiercely now, unable to continue.

A slight blue glow envelops the troll; he stirs, and slowly rises. "You did it, Val." He checks his chest wound. It has closed and the bleeding has stopped.

Val blinks back tears. "I? Did what?"

"You needed me." Jenner says simply

Val looks confused. "Of course I needed you; you're my friend. I still need you."

"I cannot be unless I am needed. Thank you, friend. You saved me. I shall never forget this," says Jenner. He leans forward to give her a fierce embrace.

Standing on tiptoe, Val places a gentle kiss on his cheek.

"I found Morwen." says Jenner. "She did not die. I was betrayed by her as well. My life was a lie. She lives, and the oath I made to her was rendered meaningless. She loved me once. I don't know what's going on. Nothing makes sense anymore." His face becomes ashen. "Those arrows pierced my heart. In fact, it was only my oath to you that brought me here."

Val's eyes grow wide as the full impact dawns on her. "I wish I could do as much for you, my friend. Your loyalty is incredible."

"Those words we said..." says Jenner. "I have only spoken them to three people in my life. My teacher, Morwen, and now you. That oath is...personal."

Val looks at him, puzzled.

"The oath of duty and love." explains Jenner. "If you ever recite those words with someone who you... well love, they will grant you great strength. You and I are spirit kin. Your need is what made the glamour work. You saved me; the words merely invoked your need with enough Glamour to impose your will. It's a promise; the oath differs with each troll." He pauses, and continues, "The oath is a symbol. It is the crux of my belief. It's almost like knowing my true name. Those who know the oath possess a piece of my soul."

Val reaches into one of her wrist sheaths and pulls out one of her daggers. "If we are now Kin, let this mark it." She hands the knife to Jenner, hilt first. "These was given to me by my aunt when I went through my Chrysalis. They are forged by the greatest smiths of the house, and are said to hold a piece of the wielder's soul. Will you take it, as a token of my kinship? If you have need of me, ever, I will know, so long as you hold that dagger."

Jenner accepts the gift, and says, "Though you, too, are a knight, I swear that I'll always be at your side. I'll always catch you. I won't ever let you fall. Should you ever need a miracle, say the oath of duty and love with me. That oath works in strange ways."

Val hugs him. "Thank you. You don't know how much this means to me. I was scared I wouldn't be able to prove myself. But now, with you at my side, I think I will do well. Even if I haven't been a knight very long." She blushes.

Jenner smiles. "You need not fear ever again. Your honesty shines through."

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