Janice's idea had been to strap herself to Ren's back and ride on Princess behind him. Ren had considered it a crazy idea at first, then he laughed and asked Princess about it.
I won't have the extra weight or off-center balance of the cart to haul. Princess thought to him. I will try it.
They got situated and sat on Princess' back, and Ren took out the wand and cast Haste on her. Princess, invigorated by the spell and the loss of the cart's drag, took off at her best speed without any warm-up whatsoever. Ren had expected Janice to scream in his ear, and when she didn't, he glanced over his shoulder at her.
“This isn't so bad.” Janice said through squinted eyes. “I'm not being shaken nearly as much as I was on the cart.”
Ren smiled and handed her a gold helm. She looked at it and then at him.
“Helm of the Eagle.” Ren said. “It'll block the wind from your eyes and give you the Spot ability.”
“You're giving this to me?” Janice asked, surprised. She could see the golden eagle head on the top, with the wings wrapped down and around the eye holes. The back of the eagle was the top of the helm and the tail stuck out the back and flared out wide.
“I'm loaning it to you.” Ren said.
“But... when I equip it, it resizes for me.”
“I'll just remake it when you give it back.”
“Why waste the time doing that?” Janice asked. “I can take a little wind.”
“Just put it on.” Ren said, and Janice equipped it.
“Wow.” Janice said when she got the popup for it.
|Helm of the Eagle|
| This helm has been imbued with the essence of an eagle. The wearer gains the Spot (Intermediate), Perception (Intermediate), and Track (Intermediate) skills.
If the wearer already has these skills, they bump to the next available stage instead. Blocks all things that could impede the eyes or stop the wearer from seeing within it's scope of view of 90 degrees (45 degrees from center and to the right, 45 degrees from the center to the left). Wind, dirt, dust, fog, rain, etc. cannot enter the helm.
Please note: It cannot be used to max out a skill and is limited to boosting up to Expert only.
Of course, Janice had to test it and looked over Ren's shoulder at the road. No wind hit her face and she laughed.
“It works!” Janice said, and then a few moments later spoke again. “Ow!”
Ren looked over his shoulder at her, and she held a hand over one of the eye holes. He laughed and she smacked him.
“It's not funny!”
“Yes it is!” Ren said and laughed harder. “You didn't have to test it with your finger!”
“How did you know I did that?!?”
“Because that's what I did the first time I wore it.” Ren said, and Janice had to admit that it would be funny... if it was someone else.
“I'm going to try something funky.” Ren said and pat Princess, then took out a Level 5 wand and replaced the Web charges with the Giant Strength spell.
“Wait!” Janice said. “This isn't going to hurt her, is it?”
“No, but thank you for your concern.” Ren said. “She's just going to get the same boost as she did during the fight.”
Princess let Ren feel how much she would enjoy that, and he cast it on her. Princess glowed and her speed increased by another 50%.
“OH MY GOD!” Janice yelled and wrapped her arms around Ren to hold on for dear life, even though she was securely strapped to him. Ren and Teepo laughed as Princess tore up the road with her hooves.
They made it back to Aurora in less than 20 minutes, even with having to avoid traffic on the road. Ren had Princess slow down before they came to the North Gate, and he felt her disappointment.
“Don't worry, Princess. You'll get a week of rest, then we're going back out to Clint's Ranch for a quest.”
Princess let the thought she might get to fight again fill her up with pride and strutted in through the North Gate with her head held high.
“Hi, Ren!” Some one said, and Ren looked at them. He waved and they waved back enthusiastically. Several more people waved to him and he nodded to them. A group of women stood on the side of the street, and one of them blew him a kiss. He pretended to catch it, and pressed it to his cheek, then her and her friends laughed.
“Yo, Ren! Want to buy a keg of ale?” A man asked from a small stall that looked like it was hastily constructed.
“That depends.” Ren said as his Haggle skill activated and Princess stopped. “What's in it?”
“I can't reveal my secrets!” The man said and laughed. “All I can say is that it'll grow hair on your chest!”
Ren chuckled, because he knew that wasn't possible; but, the man laughed because that was the response he had expected.
“How much?” Ren asked.
“Only 6 gold!”
“SIX GOLD?!?” Janice yelled, then put a hand over her mouth.
That will definitely help in this negotiation. Ren pat her hand to thank her. “My lady friend thinks that's a little too much.”
The man laughed, and nodded. “It's just the opening gambit, my lady.” He said, then he and Ren exchanged both insults and compliments, then settled on 3 gold and 20 silver, and Ren gave him 4 gold instead.
“Thank you, my lord!” The man said and handed Ren a keg to store into inventory.
“If this is any good, I might be back for more.” Ren said, and the man grinned.
“I'll see you tomorrow, then!” The man said confidently.
Ren waved goodbye and Princess took them down the street. Everyone that they passed acknowledged Ren in some way. Some waved, some nodded, others did the same as the other woman and blew kisses, and one woman hollered his name and flashed him her chest. She wore one of the skimpiest bras he sold in the store, and he thanked her for letting him see such a wonderful sight. He gave her as regal of a bow as he could while sitting in a saddle, and she put both of her hands on the cheeks of her face and gasped. Her face flushed a deep red, and she didn't know what to say in response.
I never expected him to thank me! She thought, quite embarrassed. And so gallantly!
“I must go.” Ren said and waved to her, and she waved back several times in quick succession. He smiled as Princess moved off down the street. Ren felt his Aura merge with his personal maid's shared Aura, and he felt how surprised and delighted they were that he was back. Princess stopped in front of the business, and he knew the maids were coming out to see him.
“Well, that was entertaining.” Janice said. “Is it like that every time you come here?”
“Not really.” Ren said. “I usually leave before morning, and come back late at night.” He said, and undid the straps that held Janice to him. “This is the first time I've gone through and people have been in the street.” He climbed off of Princess's back. “Now that I'm back for good, that is.”
Janice climbed down with Ren's help, and gave him back the Helm of the Eagle he had let her borrow. They heard a loud clambering sound as the door to the shop flew open and his personal maids surrounded him instantly.
“Hi, Ren!” Andrela said, and he felt her expectation. He looked at all the maids, and he felt they all expected something. Ren smiled at them, and kissed Andrela on the lips. She sighed into his mouth, and he broke the kiss. She still had her eyes closed, so Ren stroked her face gently, then turned and kissed Frikara next. He kissed Verwynn, Lusinia, and Navruth; then looked around.
“In the tub.” Frikara said. “She's been in it all day.”
“She's curled up on her side so she could get her head under the water, too.” Lusinia said. “It doesn't look comfortable at all.”
Ren nodded slightly. “I'll be right back.” He said and ran away from them and down the street.
“I wonder where he's going?” Janice asked.
“I don't know.” Frikara said. She crossed her arms and looked at Janice from head to foot. The other maids crossed their arms as well. “Who are you?”
“Just a friend.” Janice said. She had just ridden over strapped to Ren back, and figured they wouldn't believe her. To her surprise, the maids uncrossed their arms and smiled warmly at her.
“I'm Frikara.” Frikara said. “That's Andrela, Verwynn, Navruth, and Lusinia.” She held a hand out for Janice to shake. “It's nice to meet you.”
Ren arrived at the house he'd bought, and saw someone as they stood in front of it.
“Hi, Ren.” Jen said. “I was just admiring another good job just completed.”
Ren looked at it with her, and got the plans for an over-sized 2 storey modified house. “It's definitely something to be proud of.” He said, and she looked at him and held out a hand. He shook it, and a key appeared around his neck to join the others.
“Thank you.” Ren said, and she waved his thanks away. “Can you wait here for a few minutes?” He asked her, and she nodded.
Ren went inside to check the pool, and saw that it was already filled. He took off the Ring of Water Walking and jumped in, and set steel squares enchanted with Water and Air into chosen spots to create currents and whirlpools, undertows and waves, and put the Ring of Water Walking back on and popped back out of the water. He added steel squares on the sides to stop any spilling, and added more to the floor and walls. Satisfied it was the best it could be, he went back outside.
“Before you ask me about it; yes, it was fun doing something like this.” Jen said and grinned at him, and he laughed.
“Do you want to have more fun?” Ren asked, and she nodded.
“I've had 2 extra crews prepping for when you finally decided you wanted to start on your 'town from the ground up' project.”
“That's great!” Ren said. “How many prefab houses do you have ready?”
“Only 50.” Jen said.
“Hahaha!” Ren laughed, picked her up, and flung her around in a circle. “Thank you so much!”
“R-Ren!” Jen exclaimed, and he stopped.
“Sorry!” Ren said and put her down. “Get the crews together and we'll take a caravan out to my county!” He said excitedly and took out several handfuls of platinum coins. “Let me know tomorrow how much more you need!”
“R-Ren!” Jen said as she caught the money he practically threw at her, and looked at him with wide eyes.
“What? Oh, right!” Ren took out the step stool, walked up it, then gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for all your hard work. I'll see you tomorrow after breakfast.” He said, climbed down and stored the step stool, then ran down the street. Jen stood there in shock, with the feeling of Ren's lips on her cheek, and two handfuls of platinum coins that she was too surprised to count.
Ren ran back to the business and met the maids and Janice in front of the shop. “Janice, this is-”
“We've been introduced already.” Janice said and interrupted him. “I assume we're going inside?”
“Only for a minute.” Ren said, and opened the business front door for the women. They walked by and Ren looked at Princess. “I'll be right back, and I'll take you to your new place.”
My new place? Princess asked, perplexed.
“You'll see.” Ren said and went into the shop.
“Good god!” Janice said as she looked around at everything that Ren had in the store. “It has everything!”
Ren chuckled. “Everything that the general store doesn't carry.” He said. “Some items are the same, but those are mostly for display. No one orders them.”
“It's true.” Anabelle said. “Customers usually only buy specialty items here.” She smiled. “Everything is custom-made.”
Janice looked at Ren. “You made everything in here?”
“Yeah.” Ren said. “Tee-one does the orders now, though.”
“He's your Dedicated Servant Crafter.” Anabelle said. “Of course he's going to help!”
“He's been almost as much of a godsend as you.” Ren said to her. Anabelle blushed, and took a deep breath.
“She's another one of your waiting women?” Janice asked, and glanced at the maids.
“I am Ren's.” Anabelle said and looked longingly at him. “As much as he'll allow me to be.”
“Oh, my.” Janice said under her breath.
“I have to go upstairs to get Railyse.” Ren said and walked over to the back door. “Then I'll take the maids, her, and Janice over to the house.”
“The house?” The maids asked.
“You'll see.” Ren said, then went through the back door and ran up the stairs. He went into the apartment and into the bathroom, and looked in the tub. Railyse was curled up on the bottom of it, and looked to be asleep. Ren knew she wasn't really asleep, only in a state of semi-awareness. It was the same as when deep sea creatures lie in wait for prey to come along. He very slowly put his hand into the water, and he felt her twitch.
Ren gently touched her shoulder, and her eyes flew open. She whipped her head around, opened her mouth to reveal several sets of piranha-like teeth, and clamped it onto his skin. A moment later, her eyes flew open and she stared at him through the rippling water. The water started to recede, and in only a few moments, her body had absorbed it all and left her at the bottom of an empty tub.
Railyse sucked on his hand for another few moments, then opened her mouth to let Ren go. Blood seeped out of the wound and out the side of her mouth. She licked it off her lips, then licked the wound on his hand.
“I can't believe you let me do that.” Railyse said as the wound in his hand closed over. “You're an amazing man.”
Ren smiled at her, and used the hand to help her stand up. “It's a small price to pay to spend time with you.”
Railyse sighed and stepped out of the tub. “You don't have to use the formal greeting between intimate partners.”
“I said I'd play the part.” Ren said. “If I'd been in your bed like a real partner, you'd have fed already.”
Railyse nodded. “I don't like using you like this, though.”
“That's why I'm doing it.” Ren said. “If you were all high and mighty about it, and thought you were entitled, I wouldn't let you touch me at all... after the first few times.”
Railyse laughed and hugged him. “You're too good.” She said and let him go. “Is it ready?”
“Is what ready?” Ren asked her, and she shook her head.
“Do you really think I wouldn't feel tons of water being moved close by?”
Ren chuckled. “Yes, it's ready.”
“Then take me to my new abode.” Railyse said and held a hand out for him to take. Ren took it and led her over to the apartment door.
“Riley? Stacy? Let's go.” Ren took them down the stairs to the landing.
“Ruck? Slight change of plans.” Ren said and Ruck crawled over to him, pat the top of his head, and went out the back door. Ren chuckled as the door shut, and went down the next flight of stairs and out into the shop to the waiting maids.
“AAAHHHH!” Janice hollered and pointed at Railyse, and completely ignored the two large black metal dogs. “WHAT the HELL is THAT?!?”
Ren sighed at her reaction. “This is Railyse, not a 'that'. She's the Sea Dweller's Ambassador to the Land Dwellers.”
“Hello.” Railyse said.
“IT CAN TALK?!?” Janice yelled.
Ren sighed again. “Look, if you're going to keep yelling, can you wait until we're out of earshot?” He asked her. “My ears can only take so much.”
Janice clamped her mouth shut and glared at him.
“Thank you.” Ren said. “Now, if you'll all follow me? The house is ready.”
“We know.” The maids said and pointed to the keys around their necks. “Anabelle told us what these meant.”
Ren chuckled. “Then let's go.”
Ren led them out of the shop, grabbed Princess' reins, and took them all down the street. They went over to the Housing District and to the lot in the middle. Ruck was already standing on the roof. He waved at Ren and went inside through the large door to his own space.
“It's huge!” Janice exclaimed before anyone else could.
“It has to hold a lot of people.” Ren said and opened the front door, then went inside. The people went in first, followed by Princess and the two dogs. “This is Railyse's place.” He said and opened the door to what was once the living room.
“It's perfect!” Railyse said as she let his arm go and jumped into the water. She disappeared for only a moment, then jumped back out of the water. “Thank you!” She exclaimed and kissed him. Ren got another popup saying he was blessed and had bonuses to water-based things, and Railyse jumped back into the water.
“I can't believe you let that thing kiss you.” Janice said and shivered. “I saw her teeth.”
“You'd really be freaking out if you saw what else we do.” Ren said, and Janice stared at him. The maids laughed because they knew the truth, that Ren and Railyse weren't an item like that; but, they didn't enlighten Janice about it.
“Small kitchen and dining room.” Ren pointed and continued the tour. “Princess? Here's your place.” He said when they went into the room behind the kitchen. It was a good size, and had some room to move around, and Ren took out her crate and the soft mattress it had inside.
Thank you, My Lord. Princess thought to him, entered the crate, and plopped down on the mattress. It is suitable.
Riley and Stacy went in and laid down beside the mattress, and Ren nodded to them. He walked back to the front of the house and the stairs there. He led the women upstairs and to the first room. It was as big as the living room below it, and already had a giant-sized bed in it.
“This is the main bedroom.” Ren said, then unloaded the cabinets and dressers for the maids. “This is where both I and my maids will be sleeping.”
Frikara walked over and sat down on the bed. “I think it's big enough for us.”
“We'll find that out later.” Ren smiled as he took off his Dire Wolf Hooded Cloak and folded it up on one of the nightstands and set out the potion for the tarantula to drink. “You should get yourselves settled. I'll show Janice to the guest room, and then I've got a date with Anabelle to get to.”
“Have fun!” Lusinia said and went to her cabinet. “Now, what should I wear to bed tonight?” She asked her fellow maids and held out several pairs of panties.
“Oh, go with the red.” Frikara said. “I'm wearing blue.”
“Green.” Verwynn said.
“Yellow.” Navruth said.
The maids looked an Andrela, and she blushed a little. “Gold.”
“Oho!” Frikara said and stood up to hug her. “You little show-off!”
“I'm... I'm not!” Andrela said, and they all laughed at her slight embarrassment. Ren left them to their gentle teasing, because they could all feel it was in good fun, and took Janice down the hall.
“Here's the guest room.” Ren said and opened the door to a completely empty room.
Janice looked inside and gasped. “It's bigger than my whole house!”
“Let's see if that's true.” Ren said and took it out of inventory and put it in the space. It just barely fit, and he smiled. “Hey, you were right. It is bigger than your place.”
“My house is not a toy to play with!”
Ren chuckled. “Sorry.” He said and reached out to store it, then looked at her. “Actually, since it does fit... just put your bed and things back inside and stay there.”
“You won't feel so out of place if you can sleep in your own bed in your own house.” Ren said.
“How do you know that's how I'm feeling?”
“Anyone would feel out of place going somewhere new and planning to stay. You're trying to make a new life for yourself; but not tonight.” Ren said. “Get some rest, and I'll see you in a couple of game days.”
“But... what about...” Janice started to ask.
“Here's 15 gold coins.” Ren said. “I'll expect my first glassworking lesson the afternoon you come back.”
“That's the temporary job you have for me?” Janice asked, and Ren nodded. “I... kind of expected a job in your store or something.”
“I've got 4 women working for me there already.” Ren said. “I thought I'd put your skills to much better use than that.”
Janice took a deep breath and nodded. He's going to let me use my skills!
“Check your spawn point and see if it's still valid.” Ren said, and Janice went into her house and checked it.
“It is!” Janice said. “I don't know how, though.”
“Probably because I haven't set one for the house yet.” Ren said. “Goodnight.”
Ren left the room, went down the stairs and out the front door, then ran down the street and around the corner to Nathalia's restaurant. He left the shared Aura and the feelings the maids had faded from his perception. It looked like supper was just getting started with the crowd he could see gathered to wait; so he looked at his Sending Ring and thought of her.
“Nathalia?” Ren whispered.
“REN!” Nathalia yelled, and he chuckled. “You're close enough to shore already for the rings to work?”
“You could say that.” Ren said. “If by 'close to the shore' you mean 'just outside the restaurant'.”
Nathalia didn't respond and he wondered what had happened, then the front door burst open and several people yelled as Nathalia nearly ran them over. Their collective snapped into place when she was close enough for it to take effect, and she froze stiff.
“Oh... oh, Ren!” Nathalia said as tears came to her eyes.
“It's been a long time since you said goodbye to me, Nathalia.” Ren said, and she felt the depth of his sorrow.
“I... I know.” Nathalia said and wiped the tears away. “I'm so sorry.” She said. “I... I wouldn't have done that if... if I'd known...”
Ren smiled. “I still love you.”
“I know.” Nathalia said as she walked over to him and they hugged each other. “It's not... not the burning passion that... that we had before, though.”
“It's been tempered with both time and absence.” Ren said. “It's much more than it was...”
“...and a lot less.” Nathalia said and looked at him. “You love me, but... you're not in love with me.”
“I don't really like that distinction.” Ren said and sighed. “Unfortunately, I think it's accurate.”
“Oh, Ren.” Nathalia said and sobbed.
“Don't cry, My Old Love.” Ren said and kissed her. He recalled all the times he'd kissed her before, just as he did for the year and a half that he'd been in the Water Realm, and he let her feel how he felt all those times. He broke the kiss and saw Nathalia's face was soaked with tears.
“You've been, and always will be, the best part of my life.” Ren said and cupped the side of her face with a hand.
“But not any more.” Nathalia said.
“I had a lot of time to think about us.” Ren said. “You were right about what you said on the dock the night I left the dwarf lands. What we have between us can't work where the both of us are right now.”
“Ren, I... I can...”
“No, you can't.” Ren said and wiped her tears away. “Your own sense of duty compels you to do the right thing.”
Nathalia nodded slightly. “That's why I left the party. It was the right thing to do.”
Ren smiled. “You cut me off from checking on you; but, you also cut yourself off from checking on me.”
Nathalia caught the sob before it could escape, and she nodded slightly.
“If at some point in the future, when we... we aren't bound by rules, or laws, or duties...”
“I grant your petition to leave House Neram.” Nathalia said, and Ren's eyes widened.
“What? That's not what I-” Ren started to say, then Nathalia kissed him and cut off his words. They stayed that way for several minutes, and then Nathalia broke the kiss.
“You are no longer a part of my House, Ren.” Nathalia said.
|You will no longer be recognized as Lord Neram. You may still use the name, but it will have no significance besides your own regard for it. Any deeds or tasks you perform will not be associated with House Neram, or any of it's members.|
“But... but my name...”
“I expect you to do the right thing.” Nathalia said, turned around and started to walk away. Ren grabbed her arm and stopped her from leaving.
“Nathalia, what do you mean?”
“I want you to take responsibility!” Nathalia said. “For this situation... for us being together... for me!”
“Be a man, Ren!” She spat at him. “Do what you want! Take what you want!”
Ren felt her anger, and it sparked his own.
“Don't do this.” Ren said.
“I'd give up being the Head of House Neram if there was any way that I could do it!” Nathalia said. “I would abandon the House, the people, and even my homeland! I love you that much!”
“I won't have you destroy everything that I've worked so hard to build!” Ren said. “I won't have you destroy who you are, either! Not for me!”
“I'm not worth it!” Ren said, and Nathalia gasped as she finally felt his self-loathing. “Everything I've done to you... everything that's happened!” He shook his head and buried how he felt once more. “I've hurt you so much! Don't make me feel even worse about it by throwing everything away!”
“R-R-Ren, I... I didn't mean...” Nathalia said softly, and silent tears flowed down her face. “You know I... I can't just...”
Ren could feel what she felt, and he nodded slightly. “Thank you.” He said and kissed her for nearly a full minute. “It was going to be slow torture if we dragged this out.”
“I'm sorry, too.” Ren said. “I love you deeply.” He kissed her. “Madly.” He kissed her again. “Truly.”
It's all the truth. Nathalia thought, because she hadn't winced once while they talked. She closed her eyes as Ren pressed his lips to hers once more. He opened the part of his heart that was hers, and poured out all of his feelings for her.
Rather than break her up or tear her apart like she thought it would, Nathalia was consoled instead. She felt full and complete, even more so than what she felt while they were together; then something snapped into place between them.
He doesn't have to be with me physically to give me his love! Nathalia thought, amazed.
“No, I don't.” Ren said, kissed her surprised face, and walked away.
He had a date with Anabelle to get to.