After they had set up camp, Tearza approached Ridgar and spoke softly in his ear. "Ridgar, could I speak to you in private please?"
He nodded. "Sure. Do you want to go somewhere, or..." He pointed to his temple.
She gently grabbed his arm, leading him off to an area away from the others. "I don't want to do anything that might wake her." She explained in a hushed tone.
Ridgar nodded. "Understood. What's on your mind, Tearza?"
"Ishtar and I talked earlier. She told me quite a bit of things I did not know and did not expect. Some stuff I think that you should know...just in case something should happen..." Her voice trailed off and she glanced down to hide the fear in her eyes.
"Hey..." He tilted her head back up with a finger under her chin. "I won't let anything happen to you. I promise that."
She frowned a bit. "I...it is not myself that I am worried about. It's all of you. Look, you are taking a huge risk by keeping me with you. Everyone is in danger as long as I am around. Ishtar has to have a human host or else she will be returned to the Abyss and I do not think she will be imprisoned again without a fight."
"If it comes to it, we'll figure out some way to deal with her."
"Ridgar...my father was an angel. My mother was a siren. I'm the only one of us who can contain her without burning up in the process. She's a very powerful demon. Even I had to be built up so I could contain her. And if I die...she'll move from person to person until she finds someone that can hold her. I don't want any of you to suffer because of me."
"There's always the sword," he said grimly.
"I guess you're right, but...she could have taken over me before...when I was so weak from the battle. But she didn't....and...I think I should leave the group. I want to help you. I mean, Shaee is gone because of me, but I am afraid that I will do more damage then good..."
Ridgar shook his head. "You've done a lot of good. You saved my life, remember?"
"She loved my father...the same way I loved Immozel. I could be just like her if the cards had fallen the way for me they did for her. Even after all she has done to me I cannot help but feel sorry for her. If you were to use the sword...what exactly would happen to her?"
"The stories and legends are unclear on details, but the gist is...her soul would be trapped in one of the gems. She would exist in her own little universe, only one where everything is against her. Whatever she would consider to be the worst possible fate for her would seem like a picnic to what the sword would do to her."
Tearza sighed and looked down at the ground. "Do what you must do if something were to happen. I'll try my best to stay alive but...if for some reason...watch out for Kalim. She'll go after him first thing." She glanced over at Kalim then back at Ridgar.
Ridgar nodded. "All right. It might be better to warn her to watch for him, though."
"Ridgar..." She placed her hand lightly on his arm. "Thank you for everything. I know what happened before...when Ishtar was controlling me. I sort of came in and out of the conversation. I know that you offered to host her and...thank you. I don't really understand why you would do something like that but...thank you for offering at least. You are very kind."
He smiled a bit and looked down. "I'll not let anyone else be harmed, if I can do anything to stop it."
Tearza smiled. "So much has happened in such a short amount of time that I barely even know who I am anymore. You're the only person, besides Immozel, that I've ever felt comfortable talking to. It makes me wonder what things would have been like had I met you under different circumstances." She laughs a bit. "We'd probably detest one another knowing how things tend to work in my life. Most people either detest me or do not notice me at all."
"I don't see how that could be...there's nothing to detest about you, and you're too beautiful to not notice."
Tearza looked shocked, and she blushed crimson. Then she grinned. "Well..I suppose the mindless acts of slaughter have a little something to do with that." She laughed, a thin and somewhat uncomfortable laugh.
"That wasn't you," he said quietly.
"I know that...and you know that...but not everyone I've run across has taken the time to find that out."
"I know...it must be hard on you."
She shrugged. "I don't ever remember things being easy. My life as I know it started with Ishtar...and it will end with Ishtar as well. It's almost as if we are one and the same sometimes."
Ridgar smiled. "It sounds as if you have a twin. Shaee and I are the same way."
Tearza laughed. "Which one of you's the bad one?"
He grinned and chuckled. "Mostly me. She's smart enough to never get caught."
"She sounds like a very nice person. I hope I have the opportunity to get to know her better. I'm sure she has plenty of stories she could embarrass you with." Tearza's smile turned into a bit of a frown, the light leaving her eyes. "It must be nice to have family."
"It is." He looked at her. "You know, it's the custom to consider very close friends to be part of one's family."
Tearza fidgeted a bit, looking down at her hands. "I guess I worry too much to get too close. Everytime I do fate intervenes. That's the main reason why I haven't really spoken to anyone else. My social skills are not what they should be I'm afraid." She looked back up and smiled.
He returned the smile. "Perhaps practice?"
Tearza laughed and looked around the party. "I wouldn't even know where to begin. And...well...Ishtar seems to have an...affinity for you, so with you I don't have to worry about her trying to kill you...or at least I hope not." She curled her mouth up in a faked look of confusion then laughed again.
"Don't worry, she'd have a hard time killing me," he grinned.
Tearza stretched a bit, a few dark blue feathers fluttering from her wings. She laughed when one of them floated in front of Ridgar's face and he blew it away to keep it from landing on his nose. "These things can be a bit of a pain sometimes," she said, seemingly grateful for the chance to change the subject. Ridgar could sense embarrassment rolling from her, for some reason.
"Can...you fly, with them?"
"A little.." She gestured with her hands to emphasize little. "I haven't had them all that long and...well...I'm not really used to them just yet."
"You weren't born with them?"
"I was born with wings.. not these but with wings. They were removed though. These...well...I drank the blood of a very powerful dragon hybrid creature thing. I am not sure what he was really. Anyways, they grew afterwards."
He looked thoughtful. "Interesting. Dragons have been gone for a long time."
"This was in the world I came from before I was here."
"I see. How did you come to be here?"
"We, Tyriel and I, found a book that contained a stone in the cover. I tried to get it out but I couldn't. Later on though, when I tried again, it came right out and the next thing I knew I was here. I still don't
know what happened."
"The dragon guy I mentioned before. He came across me in this village. Ishtar had slain all the people there..."
Ridgar nodded. "Okay."
"He was looking for some sort of gauntlet. It was supposed to make him into a god. I don't know if he ever found it or not. I mean...he was okay I guess. Things just seemed to always go wrong around him. It was like he was cursed."
He grinned wryly. "I know the feeling."
Tearza grinned back. "Oh no this was even worse. First we started being chased by a storm of phoenix fire, then some secret sect of warriors came looking for the book, and if that wasn't enough there were two demi-gods after him trying to keep him from finding the gauntlet as well as a few other people who were out to either find it for themselves or destroy it. It was hell. I was kind of glad to get away from him." She laughs.
He gaped at her. "I'd say so!"
She laughed even louder still. "I'd never imagine my stories causing such a...shocked reaction from a seasoned warrior such as yourself."
"Warrior, yes. Artifact hunter and personal enemy of gods? No."
She giggled then smiled, remaining silent for a moment, then shifting her gaze down, her cheeks a bit flushed. She cleared her throat then looked back up, having regained her composure. "What really made it an adventure was the fact that Tyriel was allergic to feathers."
He slapped his forehead. "Oh, that must have been interesting."
"Yeah...he was always cursing his blood for bringing on such a plague...in between sneezes that is."
He laughed. "I had a ferret once. Shaee was allergic, apparently. Once, I went off to fight in a war, and when I got back, he was gone. She said he'd run away. Yeah, right. Heh."
Tearza smiled and chuckled a bit. "Shaee's really lucky to have you for a brother. I mean...not many people would go to so much trouble. And, I dunno, it just amazes me that all these people who do not know her are willing to risk their lives to help her.. to help you."
Ridgar looked slightly uncomfortable. "Good causes attract good people, I guess."
She frowned a bit. "Did I say something wrong?"
He shook his head. "No, why?"
"I don't know...you just looked as if...well...you were...suddenly uncomfortable talking to me."
"No, never! I truly enjoy our little talks."
"So do I." Tearza smiled but it faltered rather quickly, her brow drawing up in concern.
He looked concerned at her concern. "What's wrong?"
She frowned a bit, biting her lower lip in a contemplative manner. "I'm not sure how to put this but..." She looked at him a moment, a soft but serious expression upon her face. "I really like you. I think you are a wonderful man and one of the few truly beautiful and kind people I have met in my life. I'd like nothing more than to know you better and to become good friends, but...I am always going to be cursed. Things are never going to be..." She blinked back a few tears. "...normal for me. I have accepted that. It's just the hand I was dealt. And the people that I have become close to in my life have suffered the consequences of doing so. And I don't want that for you. I hate to be so...blunt about it, but I'm a lost cause. So I think it would be best if we were to just...think of one another as...business partners...members of the same side and nothing more..."
"That would be a shame," he said quietly. "I've come to value you as a friend, at the least."
"I'm sorry..." she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She blinked back the hot tears forming beneath her eyelids. "I wish things could be different."
"They can be, if you choose."
She looked away quickly, fighting the urge to cry. She cleared her throat before looking back. "Ishtar is waking up again." She says, not very convincingly. "I think I should..." She gestures away. "...go."
"If you feel you must..." he said in a voice nearly a whisper.
She turned to go, then turned back, fidgeting a bit indecisively. She leaned in and kissed him softly on the cheeks, pulling away quickly and placing a finger upon her lips. She glanced up at him then turned and walked away, slowly at first, then sprinting away to be by herself for a while.
Ridgar sighed and watched her run off, then went to Kalim and arranged to take the second half of the watch. He was about to turn in when he saw Sara playing with some familiar pink ribbons and putting out a definitely smug feeling. He walked over and sat next to her.
After conversing with her, he got up and turned in for the night. Kalim woke him for his turn at watch, and the rest of the night passed uneventfully.
It was midmorning the next day before something happened. Suddenly, Amy doubled in seeming pain, and nearly collapsed. Kalim was there in a heartbeat, helping her back to her feet. "Amy? What is it?"
Ridgar felt it before she said it. "Oh, no."
Amy nodded. "Yes. Slayer. He's in that small village ahead, no more than an hour's walk away."