|Series||Crossfire by Pixichi|
|Previous||Crossfire, Chapter 22|
|Next||Crossfire, Chapter 24|
|← Crossfire, Chapter 22||Chapter Chronology||Crossfire, Chapter 24 →|
"The woods around Bower Lake are magical and beautiful at night!" Connie said as she gazed up at the large moon shining off the surface of the trees, casting silver reflections along the waxy leaves. "I spent ten years of my life in these woods, playing with my friends and Lance, training, and helping protect the village from bandits when I was old enough. I truly was the Hero of Bower Lake, back then." She continued sadly. Reaver looked over at her, catching the sorrow in her tone.
"What's the matter?" He asked. Connie heaved a heavy sigh.
"So much has changed. I've fallen in love with the one man that I swore that I would never give the time of day, and if that wasn't life changing enough for me, now, those people in Bowerstone expect me to become queen. I don't even come from royal blood lines at all!" She ranted.
"And?" Reaver urged her to finish.
"I guess its just that before I met up with you again, I had actually retired from being a hero. I was supposed to be enjoying the simplicities of just being a normal Albion citizen, but it seems that lately I've been doing everything but." Reaver's inquizzical look melted into a warm smile. He looked at Connie, how his sad little heroine was illuminated by the light of the moon. She was so lovely, and yet, Reaver was almost sure that she did not know it.
"Connie. May I share something with you dear?" He asked. She nodded, although her melancholy face did not leave the forest floor. "Do you know just what makes you a great hero? I'll tell you. You retired, and yet, when you found someone in need, you picked up your little sword and came to his aid. When someone is in trouble, you act before putting your own welfare first. That is why your a great hero, the greatest hero. And that is why you will make a glorious queen." Connie heard his words and jolted up as they sank in. Reaver stood before her, still smiling his wiley grin, confidant that she now understood why she had been chosen.
"Reaver, thank you, for helping me to understand." She hugged him.
"Even so, its still your choice whether you follow through with it or not. As you said back in Bowerstone, you are still your own person. I just wanted to help clarify why those people wanted you to be regent so badly."
"Hey Reaver. I wanted to visit my old friends anyway. Why don't we go and see if the gypsy camp is all right?" Connie smiled, changing the subject.
"I would be delighted to meet your friends Connie, although, mind that they don't get their dirt on me." He snorted. Connie nudged him playfully, before heading up the path to the camp. She was greeted by the soft glow of party lights. Connie gasped in excitement.
"The annual moon festival! I completely forgot!" The moon festival celebrated the rising of the full moon, that would mark the end of spring and the start of summer. It was late may, and everyone was getting ready, Connie had arrived just in time.
"Well, well, well! Some sort of gypsy party in session?" Reaver commented, catching up to Connie and Lance.
"Its the annual moon festival, to mark the start of summer." Connie replied, her eyes filled with excitement. The small paper lanterns and the smell of good food brought back memories of when she was a child, running and playing amidst the decorations, and helping to make the paper lanterns with her friends. It was always a fun time, and everyone, young and old looked forward to it. "Well, at least it looks as though the wolves didn't make their way this far." Reaver added, looking around at the festivities. How he longed for a good old-fashioned party! It had been at least a week, had it not? The journey from Bloodstone to Bowerstone had been longer than he had expected, but nevertheless, it had been an enjoyable one.
"Connie dear, I'll be right back. Just go on ahead and make nice with your friends alright?" Reaver stroked her cheek.
"Sure." She answered him, and headed through the gates.
"Connie?" A voice called. Connie whirled around to the girl wearing a long skirt and sun vest.
"Sandy!" Connie exclaimed. The old friends hugged and then the gypsy girl bent down to pet Lance. "And hello to you too Lance!" Sandy cooed to him . Lance licked her face.
"So, how have you been, Hero?" Sandy asked Connie. "How long had it been anyhow?"
"Almost two years. I sure missed the old place though." Connie remarked, still transfixed on the colorful decorations.
"Well, come on down to the fire, have a drink, and take a break. Why don't you just be Connie for a few days? We've all missed you terribly" She offered.
"I would really love too, but I-" Connie started, remembering the wolves, but before she could finish her sentence, another familiar voice rang out.
"Connie! Hey!" Her other friend, a tall fat woman named Regina, came running over.
"Sandy, I was wondering where you went! So this is why you ran off on Devon like that!" Regina teased. Sandy blushed wildly.
"So, I heard from a guard back in Bowerstone that this area had recently been infested with wolves. Is that true?"
"Yes, but thankfully, none of them came into the camp. Lots of travellers and traders got mauled though." Regina replied.
" Hey, Connie, have you seen Cloud yet?" Regina asked. Connie began to blush. Out of her three friends, Cloud was the oldest, and he had once been Connie's boyfriend. They had shared a first kiss, but because of her destiny, the young couple had decided to never get serious.
"No I haven't." Connie replied. Regina looked concerned.
"How long have you been in the Bower Lake area?" She asked.
"Not very long. I just got in today actually."
"Oh, ok, I just was a little worried about Cloud." Regina continued. Connie took a drink of ale.
"Why?" Both of Connie's friends fell silent and she instantly knew that something was wrong.
"Cloud left about a week ago, and he hasn't come back." Connie stopped sipping her drink.
"We think he got, you know, attacked by bandits..." Regina continued. Connie's heart sunk. Even if they weren't meant to be, Cloud was still special to her, and he was a good friend.
"That's terrible..." Connie said solemnly. Suddenly, from behind her a figure approached. It wrapped strong, tanned arms around her waist. Connie jumped, ready to draw her sword.
"Guess who's a bandit?" A familiar voice spoke. It was only then that Connie realized the joke that her friends had played on her.
"Cloud!" Connie exclaimed, then she playfully socked both Regina and Sandy. Cloud laughed.
"You three are such jokers!" Connie said, still laughing.
"So, how have you been Connie?" Cloud's voice was as deep and manly as Connie had remembered. He looked into her blue eyes.
"Good..." Was all she could manage. Cloud smiled as Lance bounded up to meet him.
"Hey Lance! Been on any crazy adventures lately? Your mums too shy to tell me." He winked at Connie again.
"Oh lay off Cloud, she likes you remember?" Regina teased again. Now it was Cloud who was blushing.
"I know." He replied, looking longingly at Connie again. "Now that your destiny has been fulfilled, perhaps we can pick up where we left off?" He asked. Connie's joyous face grew serious.
"Cloud, there's something that I need to talk to you about."
"And just what might that be?" Reaver's voice called from the shadows. Connie and her friends jumped at the sound and then the dashing pirate came into view. Regina felt her heart race.
"I don't care if your a highwayman, you can have me baby!" She cried lustfully. Reaver smiled at her but continued to waltz up to Connie's side.
"Charmed I'm sure miss, but I'm not a highwayman. Plus, I am already taken." He cupped his hands possessivly over Connie's shoulders and glared wickedly at Cloud. Cloud held out his large tanned hand to the newcomer.
"Hello sir. I don't believe we've met yet." Reaver waved off Cloud's outstretched hand.
"Oh delighted to be here...whoever you are...now, which way did the wolves head?" Connie stared up at Reaver, shocked by his rudeness.
"Reaver?! What kind of friendly greeting is that?" Reaver looked down into her face, then back to Cloud's, coldly.
"Well I wasn't aware that I was supposed to be friendly to your exs Connie." Connie jumped back, surprised that he knew about Cloud and her.
"Cloud?! Reaver, Cloud and I haven't been together in years!" She stood and started to grab Reaver's arm, but he motioned her away. Then he locked eyes with Cloud.
"Just tell me one thing. Why was my darling Connie not good enough for you?" Cloud looked back at him and the two mens eyes began to surge with anger and jealousy.
."We made an agreement that her heroic lifestyle would cause conflict if we had a serious relationship. We came to a mutual agreement that it wasn't meant to be." Cloud replied. Reaver just pushed him harder.
"I see. And the fact that I am also a hero, and that we are madly in love doesn't add any rubbish to that heap of lie you've been telling her?" Connie butted in.
"Reaver? Are you jealous of Cloud and I?" Reaver scoffed.
"What?! Me? Jealous of him? Why the very notion..." And he chuckled mockingly in his throat. Cloud didn't like this at all. He drew his cutlass and pointed it at Reaver. But Reaver mearly looked him up and down.
"Are you really serious my dear boy? I don't think that would be advisable given that your in the presence of the Hero of Skill." Cloud stepped closer.
"Hero of Skill or not, if this is a battle for Connie's heart, I'd be more than happy to take you on!"
"A day late and a gold short I'm afraid. You see, I've already won that lovely prize."
"Then I'll just have to steal it from you!" Cloud roared. Reaver grinned evilly and drew his pistol.
"I do hate wasting bullets on commoners, but if you wish to throw your life away that badly, than I should be more than happy to oblige."
"Reaver, lets go, please. We need to find those wolves." Connie pleaded. Reaver lowered his weapon and looked at her, her eyes ablaze with fear, and reluctantly stepped away from the confrontation.
"Alright fine. Lets go. The sooner I come back, the sooner that we'll settle this matter." He glared at Cloud.
"The wolves ran down towards the lake, but we lost sight of them after that." Sandy was the one to finally answer Reaver's question. "Please you two, please be careful."
"Connie, we must go dear. We want to get them before they get us." Connie ran to catch up with him and Lance. When they were far enough away, Connie confronted Reaver about what has just transpired back at the camp.
"What the hell is wrong with you?! Cloud and I haven't been a couple in over 14 years. If anything, he was my boyfriend when I was a teenager, but that was it. And you just tried to kill him, why?" Reaver looked at her.
"I just don't like the fact that he abandoned the relationship on you like that. He made my blood boil."
"How did you know about me and him anyway?" Reaver smiled wryly.
"Remember, I told you about the spies that I sent out when I first met you and heard of your little cause? I investigated every square inch of your life love. Including your old ex." Connie glared at him.
"Ok, yes I remember you saying that. But are you sure you weren't acting just a wee bit jealous? I mean, honestly." Reaver shrugged.
"Lets just forget about it ok?" Reaver sighed and then surveyed the area.
"I don't see any wolves here. Perhaps those hippie friends of yours gave us the wrong directions Connie." Reaver huffed. Connie looked around, and then finally noticed a small indent in the rock face. A cave was leading into the mountain.
"Reaver! This may be where they went, come on, lets go check it out!" Reaver's long arm stopped her from dashing off into the cave.
"Connie. Be careful. If the wolves attacked and killed humans, then they where most likely rabid, and unable to care or think about what they where eating or attacking. That being said, keep on your guard. If one of those things even nips you, you'll end up dying." He cautioned. Connie looked up at Reaver, astonished.
"I thought that you didn't care for animals. How do you know so much about wolves then?" Reaver just laughed.
"I never said that I didn't like animals. I merely said that I didn't care for or understand why anyone would keep one as a pet. I actually find nature quite interesting. I mean, one who knows nothing about the world around them is more likely to die in it, correct?"
"Yes, your right. So you think that the wolves that attacked the traders and travellers where rabid? How can you say that without actually seeing them?" She inquired further.
"Because wolves eat rabbits, or deer, or the occasional small hobbe, they do not tend to devour people. Too much work is required to bring a human down, and on top of that, they are gristly and full of bones." Reaver explained as he gazed out across the vast blue lake. "I like wolves. They remind me of myself. Strong, beautiful, and witty." Connie scoffed at that.
"Well then why didn't you like Lance?" Lance cocked his head, asking the same question. Reaver sneered down at him.
"Because, that things proud lineage has been tainted by that of a common dog. If he where a pure wolf, then I would have thought him a noble breed." Lance growled.
"What? I can't help your fathers choice in women now can I?" Reaver talked to him.
"But Lance is a good boy." Connie spoke in baby-talk, kissing the wolfdog, and receiving licks in return.
"Please Connie. That's disgusting." Connie smiled once at the posh scoundrel before heading deep into the resesses of the cave.