As it was her intention to let her friends rest, Jakki quietly slipped out from the tented enclosure the tribe had set up for them. Although she was light on her feet, she was not totally stealthy and if anyone had heard her they made no protest. She had ditched her more sturdy traveling gear and armour for the one pretty, lighter dress she owned. It reached a few inches above her knees, enough to conceal the dagger she wore strapped to her leg, and showed a slight bit of cleavage, enough to distract those she hoped too.
Gorm had said she should wear more dresses, so she was doing just that while there was no reason to hide behind armour. She liked her little Oni-bake, he had a hidden heart and was the first one to show her kindness in a long time. Somehow she felt safe with him around, and his presence always seemed to bring the best out of her.
Akorian seemed similar to her, quiet and mysterious but she did appreciate that he made sure he could always attend to her wounds. The alternative to her was frightening, she feared she would become like the one she was descended from, a creature that sucked the souls from the innocent. That was why she had begun her nighttime excursions, hoping to find the guilty to replenish her body, but she still feared even that would blacken her soul. Since meeting the magician and his unique ability to heal her, the temptation had begun to lessen.
Kitso and her strange snake companion was another one she could relate to. Although Jakki did not know the truth of it, she felt as if the summoner like her was an outsider from her community. However what she saw most in Kitso was her inner beauty, and as Shelyn taught, one must always look for the beauty inside. The Orc had more beauty inside her than some elves showed on the outside. But contrary to Shelyn’s teachings, Jakki would far more likely take the unkind elf into her arms than a kind hearted Orc.
It was one of her many weaknesses, she was easily seduced by beauty and craved to be loved. She recalled that day when she first arrived in these new lands. She had helped a tavern maiden stave off some unwanted attention, only to have the now awed woman invite what she thought was a beautiful mysterious Tian man back to her room. The Dhampir knew she should have refused, it was the curse of the beauty of her blood, and her own vanity that lead to agreement. She also wondered if the touch of blood of an innocent would not darken her soul, perhaps the monster was only there if you drained the victim of life or their corrupted soul tarnished yours. She recalled that once the truth of her gender was revealed she had paid the woman to hold her in her arms and tell her she loved her. The next day she realized that if she paid the women that much money to beat her she would have obliged just as willingly.
Jakki appreciated the kindness of Ileos in letting all these strangers into her home. The swords-woman had not been shy with her hospitality and so Jakki was glad to help her hunt down the halfling that had harmed her father.
She did not know Mera that well yet, but accepted the woman was a capable fighter, although her flaming sword did make the vampire child uneasy. She may not fully understand her heritage but Jakki knew enough to to know fire could destroy her.
Jakki slipped the piece of mirror she had found out of her backpack, she had straightened the edges and bound them in leather. Although it did not look perfect it served the purpose she required. There was slight trepidation as she raised the mirror to her face. To her relief she saw her reflection staring back at her. She quickly applied some touches of makeup to brighten her features, give life to her pale skin and accentuate her eyes. It was strange, she had used deception so long to hide that she was a woman, now she used it to show she was a beautiful woman. Asami it had been so long since she had heard her real name spoken by another, she thought as she glided over the meadow towards the centre of the Centaur encampment.
The first guard she came upon, greeted her pleasantly (perhaps his child was one of those they had rescued) and although she was not able to proceed further into the encampment he escorted her towards an area where Windsheer would be able to meet her. She was left alone with a reminder not to roam too far into the camp. His stern warning had not been necessary as she had no intention to wonder amongst the centaurs. While she was not mounted she found their sheer size and majesty intimidating.
Jakki didn’t have to wait too long before she could see the female centaur approach, her perception was in tune enough that she could sense one beat of hooves and not the same heavy ones that had left her alone earlier. She breathed a sigh of relief that Windsheer had agreed to meet her. Her eyes adjusted to the nights light and looked out at the approaching centaur. Windsheer’s hair drifted behind her like a mane and Jakki was reminded of her long flowing hair she had cropped to hide her gender. She subconsciously neatened her appearance, brushing her fringe from her eyes and standing straight in a vain attempt to match the centaur’s height.
“I hear you were looking for me,” Windsheer announced as she came to a halt an arms length away from the dhampir.
Jakki had to scold herself for almost reaching out to touch the centaur’s flank. She had always had a little affinity to animals, especially rodents and canines, but her various mounts had always remained calm in her presence, another pleasant reminder of her humanity. She also felt a little intimidated by Windsheer’s beauty and wondered with embarrassment if the centaur could sense it.
“Yes…I was just interested to know if …if all the colts are well,” she held out her hand, “and I have a gift for you. Something I made while I had the time.”
The young woman opened her hand revealing the leather bracelet, she had crafted earlier, that she had clutched desperately all the way from their encampment.
“Normally such a gift would be made from the fine silks of my land, but I did not have any on hand and besides the more natural leather suits you better.”
Windsheer reached down and took the bracelet with a smile. She studied it for a while before slipping the band over her hand and tightening it around her wrist.
“The symbols mean beauty and peace in my lands, together they signify tranquility with ones surroundings,” Jakki smiled, “I thought it suited you. You are beautiful and seem the most tranquil of those we have met.”
“Thank you,” the centaur replied, “it is find craftsmanship and will always remind me of the deed you and your friends accomplished for us.” She took a few more moments to study the band, “it will remind me of the strange human who feels sorrow regarding children yet will not speak of the cause.”
Seeing Jakki’s confusion the centaur druid continued, “you seemed very angry that the young had been stolen and swore to rescue them at all costs. Something I believe you saw to at risk to your own life and prayers to a god you do not know.” Windsheer stopped her pacing and looked down at the girl.
Her scrutiny caused Jakki to look away, “my blood is tainted with the undead,” she replied sadly, knowing it would not sit well with the druid. “Whether by conception or the unnatural tainting after I was in the womb I do not know…none know the truth of it.” She looked up again, “I can never fully love, as I do not wish to curse my children with such a burden.”
Their further conversation was disturbed by the thunderous approach of Nightfire, his hooves beating the ground as he neared them, before coming to an abrupt stop just inches away from the Dhampir. He looked down at Jakki, revelling in the girls discomfort at his closeness.
Jakki found the centaur male as intimidating as Windsheer for the same reasons, he was majestic and powerful and the human part of him was as appealing to her eye. However she couldn’t help her hand from reaching towards the concealed knife beneath her dress. She looked up at him, feeling little more than a cornered animal that was being inspected by a predator.
“No need to intimidate the girl, Nightfire she already respects you and has earned our respect.”
“Yes all our guests have earned our gratitude, even the beast called Gorm.”
That angered the dhampir and she felt the need to defend her friend. “He was instrumental in our success,” Jakki said, her hand leaving the dagger concealed, “he may have no social skills but he has a heart that deeply cares.”
The male centaur nodded reluctantly, “so was that your reason for your visit, to tell us of your friends heart,” he smiled, “or was it to issue a challenge on his behalf. It is a fight we are both eager for and hopefully neither of us wish it to be to the death now.”
“She brought me a gift,” Windsheer announced, showing him the bracelet around her wrist.
“I see, do humans not give such gifts to their lovers,” he grinned at both the woman, “is that your intent.” He looked across at Windsheer, “she is dressed differently to when we first met,” he indicated to Jakki, “no hat to hide her face, her features not hidden behind armour.” He grinned down at the girl, “or is it perhaps me you came to see, I hear human females can’t resist my kind.”
“That is satyrs,” Windsheer interjected,
“Ye….No…I….I….that was not my..,” the dhampir stammered as if caught in a lie.
“Relax child,” the druid interrupted her, “he only seeks to tease you. Nightfire has been so angry since the young were taken that now following their return he relaxes with too much brevity.”
“Oh…,” Jakki recovered her composure, “well perhaps he should find other ways to relax instead of embarrassing others. There are many beautiful distractions if he cared only to look for them.” Her gaze wondered to Windsheer as she again considered if the two cared more for each other than they showed.
Nightfire laughed, “our meeting may not have started well but we truly are grateful for your aid. Next time we meet it will be under friendlier terms and perhaps even have a friendly bout.” He nodded at them both before turning and trotting away.
“Again thank you for the gift, it will always remind me of you. May Erastil guide your aim.”
“Goodbye Windsheer, I truly hope we meet again. May Shelyn favor you with love.”