Created On Tuesday, 12 June 2018 04:00By Chris Taylor
Character's Name: Julian Benedict Aemilia
Title of Adventure:The Tide Turns
Antonia had bathed and changed clothes. Soaking in hot clean water helped the sore and aching muscles. The bruises the priestess had put ointment on felt better. She washed her hair and pinned it up on top of her head. Stray strands of strawberry blonde hair fell down around her face and she didn’t care.
The bath took time, she nearly fell asleep in the waters. When she dozed off she got flashes of Leif caked in mud. She heard the slingshot whistling and it Julian out in the open on the edge of the light from Alatar’s spell. Her eyes shot open as she gasped, splashing water in her wake as she sat up. Antonia’s heart was racing, she had been kicking herself over and over again about what had happened in those tunnels. She should have been closer to Leif, she had managed to stop one frogman advance on the Viking Captain but when he needed it most she had not been close enough to protect him.
That thought and the images kept flashing through her mind. That and the odd and confusing worry she had for Julian’s safety. Every time she heard one of those slingshots whistle she worried. Julian had not taken cover more than once and the last time he’d dove out of harm’s way just in time. It had taken everything in her not to call out to him. She’d gotten dressed trying to rationalize her thoughts and gone downstairs to have dinner in the tavern. She took a seat in the corner near the fireplace. Dressed like the buccaneer she was rumored to be Antonia was moody and irritated at no one but herself. As soon as the tavern wench asked she ordered mead and tossed a few copper pieces on her tray. “And whatever hot meat you have back there.” She leaned back in her seat her arms folded across her chest brooding.
Julian was also feeling guilty for an altogether reason. They had killed innocent beings. Yes, it had been unintentional, and they had been under attack, but that didn’t ease his guilt. Of course, he wasn’t going to let anyone know how he felt. He wasn’t a fool and he wasn’t about to admit a weakness.
He too took a bath, but his wasn’t lingering He got in, scrubbed himself with some rough feeling soap, that had, for some strange reason, the scent of honeysuckles. Then he had rinsed off. It took him a mere quarter of an hour to get done.
Afterward, he went out and bought himself a new set of clothing; a silk maroon shirt and a pair of black linen pants. Despite remnants of guilt, he felt ravenous and decided to get something to eat. He entered the tavern, his eyes searching the room. He spotted Antonio and almost turned around and walked away.
Instead, for reasons, he couldn’t understand, he walked up to her table and asked, “Mind if I sit here?”
“I can't promise pleasant company.” She gestured to the seat across from her. “But I am sure you are used to me being that way by now.”
“Yeah, I think I’m pretty much immune to it by now, besides I’m so hungry it really doesn’t matter much.” The serving wench, who was quite buxom and attractive approached their table. He couldn’t help but give her an appraisal, but it was a rather cursory glance. He ordered a cold ale and some mutton stew and didn’t even watch as she walked away, despite the fact she was swinging her hips alluringly.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“No,” She watched him as he sat down. “But you don’t look okay either,” Antonia stated. “So what’s wrong with you?”
He gave her a long look, unsure if he wanted to share his feelings with her. Finally, he said, “To be honest, I’m feeling a little… guilty about what we did. I mean I know I shouldn’t, but I do.”
She leaned back in her seat, her eyes glued to him. Her own feelings a swirling storm inside her. Antonia finally nodded her head, “You mean about the children.” She rubbed her forehead. “Yeah, me too. The only thing I can say is that we didn’t know they were there. Alatar would never harm a child intentionally.” Antonia told him. “I know you wouldn’t, you know I wouldn’t.”
“Yes, I know all of those things, that certainly eases the guilt, but it doesn’t change the fact of what we did. It doesn’t change the fact that we killed innocents.”
Antonia sighed, no it didn’t change the fact. She couldn’t say she’d never killed an innocent man. She didn’t know that as a pirate she was sure that there had been good, honest innocent men she’d killed at sea. But not children. Her guilt seemed dwarfed by his. Antonia wasn’t sure what to tell him. “How would you make it right, if you could?”
“Go back in time,” he said after a moment of hesitation.” and make sure it didn’t happen. Try to negotiate before we fought. Negotiating is what I do, it’s what I’m good at. But I didn’t even try that approach. We just attacked.”
Antonia paused, the fighting clear in her mind. She had paused initially, not one to start a fight, she only engaged the frogmen after the first one had shown aggression towards them. “I know as a pirate I'm supposed to attack first and think very little, but, Julian we entered the caverns and saw skeletons. We assumed they were hostile based on what we knew.” She took a sip of her Mead. “we thought they were malicious. Still, guilt is a good thing, it shows you have heart.”
That brought the barest hint of a smile to his face,”I suppose that’s true,” he admitted, and to be honest, I’m not sure if negotiating would have done any good. But we could have tried.”
“You're right, we could have. And there would have been no shame in trying a peaceful solution.” Antonia told him.
“Next time, we should try that first,” he said,”I guess the only other thing I could do is to write a song about it, a lament, maybe. I just feel like I need to do something.”
“Educate the people so that it doesn't happen again?” She suggested. “ You will never know the lives you'll save.” Antonia took down a swallow of her drink. “Better than hesitating and putting people at risk.”
“You mean, use my song to educated people?” he asked.
“Why not?” She retorted with a shrug.
“Well, that would be nice, I suppose, “but I think you’re giving me more credit than I deserve, as amazing as that sounds, my audience base isn’t exactly large, I don’t know how many people I’d wind up educating
Antonia’s brows dropped slightly. “If you can ruin the reputation of an evil man just by singing about his deeds I think you can educate people about the frogmen and how to stay clear.”
“I suppose you’re right,” he said, “I’ll have to come up with something. But, I was thinking of something a little, I don’t know, more general. Not just a warning about the frog people. I think people around here get that. But, more about not just attacking people or jumping into a war when you don’t have to.”
Antonia nodded her head. “You’re the bard. And this one gets you in the heart, I know you’re going to do your best.”
“I will. If we’re being honest here, you don’t look so good yourself. Don’t take that the wrong way.”
She shook her head, and some more of those red hairs fell around her face. “A different kind of guilt,” Antonia admitted. She explained how she had been the one closest to Lief when the frogmen got him. How she should have been able to stop them from threatening his life. She hesitated to tell him about the fact that she’d been worried about him. Divided almost, about why she felt that way and what she should have done.
He studied her carefully and after a pause replied, “Maybe we’re able to see each other’s problems more clearly than our own. You did the best you could do. You were occupied yourself as I recall. What more could you have done?”
“I should improve my skills.” She admitted. “But I was slightly distracted, I admit.” Antonia frowned slightly she couldn’t believe she was going to say it. She wasn’t going to say it, she told herself. Don’t you dare tell him you were worried for his safety! You’re beginning ridiculous! “I’ve noticed myself worrying more about some people’s safety in our group. Foolish as that is, I know. Everyone can take care of themselves, I know.”
“Really?” he asked, looking carefully at her face. “I don’t understand. You said you were concerned about Leif, who else in the group would distract you like that?”
“Swear you won't mock me.” She stated.
“You have my word,” he said.
Antonia took a drink of her Mead again before she spoke. “You remember those tunnels just before Lief was caked in all that mud? They were slinging those stones at us. I knew how badly they hurt, I could see you out of my peripheral vision.” She paused. “You dove for cover and for a moment I wasn't sure if you'd been hit or not. And it… it scared me.”
He looked up in surprise at her revelation. “You, you were concerned about me? Uh, does that mean you have feelings for me?”
“No!” She sat back disgusted at his question. Antonia didn't know what she felt, or how she felt about him. She knew she didn't hate him, that much she knew. “Well, maybe…” she rolled her eyes. “I don't hate you.”
“But,” he replied, taken aback by her reaction and not sure why. “But, if you, uh only don’t hate me, then why would your thinking about my safety distract you?”
Antonia groaned as she took down the last of her Mead. “Well, it’s irrelevant really. Isn’t it? I’m being ridiculous. Distracted by your safety. I don’t know why I was, I just know you safety concerned me.” She said. “You know you’re good at what you do and you’ve a pretty good guy.”
He had to smile at her comment. “You really think I’m a good guy? That is… well, it’s a change.” He leaned forward and looked like he was about to say something more when the waitress came with his drink and their food, She set everything down and walked away.
“I think your reputation as a rake is undeserving,” Antonia said. “It’s an educated change.” She tried to justify her mentality.
“Thanks,” he said smiling genuinely for the first time since they learned what had happened, “and yes my reputation is more than a little misleading.”
“Intentionally?” She asked cutting into whatever it was the server had put in front of her.
“No, not intentionally, “ she replied quickly making an effort to keep the edge from his voice, “at least not exactly. I mean no one wants to have that kind of reputation, right? But, if we’re being honest, I do pretend to ‘have a girl in every port’ with my family and the people that I work with because I don’t want them to know the truth.”
“What is the truth?” Antonia asked. Asking him about himself seemed to take away of little of the guilt. It was either that or the Mead, which she was out of.
“That I really want a relationship, a true love if you will, but I’m afraid to try, I’m afraid I might break someone’s heart again, or have mine broken.”
Antonia stared at him, she wasn’t even sure how long she stared at him. A few seconds a few minutes, maybe. She tried to judge his words, even though she knew he was telling the truth, she didn’t want to believe him. She didn’t want to like him. She had a different relationship with each member of the team. Leif was a friend because they’d worked together before, he didn’t treat her like a “girl”. Alatar, he kept his distance, which was ok. They interacted when necessary but there really wasn’t a blooming friendship there. It was more like mutual appreciation of each other's abilities. Antonia was still trying to figure Drest out, but he was new and she liked that his way of thinking kept them on their toes and his horse was pretty damn smart. But Julian, Julian bothered her. She’s started out not giving a damn about him, and then it was hatred when she realized who he was and what he’d done. Now, now there was something else going on and she was fighting it with all she had.
“I don’t know if true love exists,” Antonia admitted to him. “At least not for the likes of me.” She added. “Most people want normal lives, a house, a family, security.” She shook her head. “Compliments of my brother I have none of those things, and even if I did. Who’d want a woman that can’t be a “lady”.
~I would~ he thought but didn’t say.”I see what you mean,” he replied aloud, “I want to wander, to use my talents to help others and at the same time make a living to support myself, so I don’t have to depend on my family. Yes, those things you speak of are normal, but, aside from having a family, they sound rather dull to me.”
“As to you’re not being a lady, why should you, or anyone, let society dictate to what is and what is not ladylike?”
Antonia could see him wander with a companion, having a home to come back to and rest from time to time far away from the influence of his family. She could see him writing down his adventures and turning a profit from them. “I was raised to be a lady, I know the expectations. I’m ok with not being a lady. Being me is what caused my brother to accuse me of piracy. I’m not ladylike and I don’t care if I’m not. I mean I can be if the need were to ever call for it. I still own a dress or two. It’s just… so hard to hide a sword in all between corsets and slips and petticoats.” She chuckled. “Some poor fool someday might get cut just trying to get me out of all that.”
If she could have read his thoughts, she’d have been taken back. Not insulted but definitely taken back. She might have hit him, she might have kissed him. It was too early to tell.
“Well,” he said with a coy smile, “I guess the right man, would be okay with getting cut. The reward might be worth it.” As soon as he’d said those words, he wished that he could take them back. Not because they weren’t true, but because he didn’t know how she would react to them.
Antonia leaned forward, her own rarely seen coy smile made her eyes sparkle. “Well worth it.”
“I might be willing to take that risk then, even if you’re not wearing a dress now.”
“What?” She sat back sharply.
“You did say it would be worth it, didn’t you?” he asked without making any movement either away from or towards her.
“Well, yes.” She stammered. “But, but… you like girls that are soft and pretty. Dresses and all the niceties.” Antonia was referring to her sister and that type of women. “And I had just complimenting you on not being a rake.”
“Who said I was being a rake? And, what would you do if I stole a kiss from you, right now?”
Antonia’s lips parted she wasn’t entirely sure what she’d do if he attempted to kiss her. “It’s not really stealing if you warn me.” She finally was able to speak. “As for what I’d do… I don’t know, you have to ask yourself if it was worth the risk. I might punch you, I might kiss you back.” Antonia wasn’t entirely sure what would happen. She knew her heart was suddenly racing.
Julian looked into her eyes searching them gauging what her response might be. Then he decided that the gain or potential gain was worth the risk. So, he leaned forward towards her brushing her chin line with his finger and brushed his lips against hers.
The moment his finger touched her chin, her breath caught in her chest. Her fist balled in her lap. When his lips touched hers it was a completely different feeling, she’d never been kissed by a man other than her father and he’d never kissed her lips. And certainly not the way that Julian was kissing her. She’d warned him if she wasn’t going to hit him she needed to do something. Antonia pressed her lips against his, not entirely sure she was doing it right.
Julian’s left brow rose. He had no idea she hadn’t been kissed before, and he certainly couldn’t have told that from her response. It was hesitant of course, but he attributed that to the fact that he was kissing her. He didn’t deepen it, he wasn’t sure how she would respond to that despite her previous promise, nor was he sure he was ready for that. But, he did lengthen it, drawing out the moment for as long as he could.
Antonia broke the kiss, leaned back in her seat. Her green eyes locked with his, not entirely sure what was going to happen next. Or what to do next for that matter.
“Well, you’re not reaching for your sword or calling for the city guard, so at least you’re not killing me and I’m not going to jail. But that doesn’t tell me how you feel.”
Antonia sat there silently for a moment, she wasn’t sure how she felt. “Well, you kissed me first. So either you just accepted my dare or you have feelings for me. And I kissed you back so either I’m a rake or I have feelings for you.”
“Well, I didn’t kiss you because of a dare, and I don’t think you’re a rake. But maybe I should kiss you again.”
Antonia held up one finger to give him pause. “Maybe you should make sure I’m sober before you do. I’d like to be sober before you do again.” She told him. “Then we’ll both know it’s sincere,” Antonia added. “And I don’t risk hurting you.”
Julian nodded his head. “I saw you were drinking, but I didn’t know you weren’t sober. Perhaps, it would be a good idea.”
She pinched her fingers together, she was just on the edge of being sober. She could feel the effects of the Mead, and she wanted to make sure she was clear-headed before she kissed him again.
Last Updated On Tuesday, 08 January 2019 21:13By David Tannen