Loviath freed one hand to place it on Surier's jaw, forcing him to turn and meet her eyes. "Mine to give, and freely given, Surier. I love you. I think I always have." The truth shone from her eyes.
They kissed again, long, deep and promising.
"Hey you two! It's supper-time! You muss eat to your strength keep up, you know." Herrel's voice boomed, accompanied by the sound of a pot being banged. The smirk on the gnome's face was evident in his voice.
Surier and Loviath reluctantly parted. Surier began to chuckle. "For such a small being, that gnome has a very loud voice," he observed. Loviath blushed and giggled.
Someone, Herrel, she guessed, had brought in a bucket of warm water and a rag. Loviath rose, wincing slightly. Shivering, in the cooler air, she washed quickly and dressed in clean clothes from her pack. It lay next to Surier's, brought in, no doubt, by the irrepressible Herrel.
She watched, fascinated, as Surier, too, arose and washed.
Catching her eye, Surier grinned. "Keep that up, and Herrel will be missing breakfast, too," he warned.
Loviath blushed and turned away as he began to dress. She was reluctant to leave the intimacy of the alcove for the knowing grins of Herrel and... Oh, Great Mother... Duthan! In the middle of that thought, Surier came up behind her. With a swift movement, he had turned her around and gathered Loviath to him for another long kiss.
"C'mon, Surier! Enough's enough! I'm hungry!" Duthan's voice intruded petulantly.
Surier chuckled ruefully. "He's not going to leave this one alone for a while."
Loviath coloured. "Probably not."
Surier caught her chin, tipping it so that their eyes met. "No regrets?"
She smiled. "None."
In the main cave, Herrel was filling plates with a savoury smelling stew from a pot over the fire. At his feet, Corwin crouched, alternately blowing on his fingers and pulling roasted tubers from the embers of the fire.
"'Bout time," Duthan muttered as he walked past them. He was carrying two full plates for Morgan and Storm.
Morgan lay where they'd last seen her, but now she was wide awake and alert. Storm was at her side, helping her rise enough to eat.
Loviath hurried to her friend's side, Surier following at a more leisurely pace. "Are you all right?" she asked, a frown of concern wrinkling her brow.
Morgan smiled. "I'm fine. Now." Her voice deepened. "Thanks to you two."
Loviath grinned, partly in relief, partly in remembrance. "No trouble at all, Morgan. You're more than welcome. Seems to me as I owe you a few, anyway." A plate of stew and a spoon were shoved into Loviath's hands. She sat on the floor to eat. Surier crouched down next to her.
"It was more than 'no trouble', saucy miss," Morgan admonished. "It's not the easiest of spells to master. Even for a disciple of the Truth Seeker."
Loviath shrugged. "I didn't do it alone, you know. Surier was there. And Storm," she added as an afterthought. "Between the three of us, we were okay, I guess."
"Be that as it may." Morgan brushed aside the disclaimer. A wicked twinkle sparkled in her eyes. "You did reasonably well. For a rank amateur." The sparkle grew. "I do, however, have one suggestion for you, should you feel the need to use this particular spell again."
Loviath stopped chewing and looked at Morgan. Storm, at Morgan's side, was grinning broadly, an unusual expression for the normally taciturn elf. "Hmmm?" she finally managed.
Morgan's mouth tightened. "Mmmmm. Next time, try to remember that the proper order is 'disconnect yourself from the patient, gather the Energy and then complete the ritual. You missed a step when you did yours."
Surier made the connection before Loviath. It was his furious blush that helped her understand. She choked, groaned, and hung her head to hide the fiery colour of her face, while the others shouted their laughter.
Several days later, the small party walked into the main camp. Surier's face was a thundercloud, and Storm looked grim. Morgan's bootheels hit the ground with angry thumps. Behind them, Corwin, Duthan and Herrel walked beside a downcast Loviath. Duthan looked ready to spit nails and both Corwin and Loviath were red-faced. Herrel was grinning, as if he were going to a bear-baiting. One look at the party, and even the Chosen remained where they were. Whatever had happened, someone was going to pay dearly. It is to their credit that not one hand reached for their amulet. Better wait until things had calmed down a bit.
The group made a beeline for the Council tents. Once inside, the entire camp held their collective breaths. They wanted to hear what was happening.
At first there were low murmurings. Then an outraged squawk from a councillor, followed immediately by a roar from Surier. Then more murmurings. Less than a quarter of an hour after they had entered, Surier stormed out of the tent, followed more sedately by Morgan and the others. Lastly, the Council trailed out, and the Abbot of the Truth Seeker's Temple.
"It shall be done as you insist," the Abbot began softly.
Surier interrupted him. "I never had much of a choice, did I? By morning," he snarled, and strode off, the others sombrely following him. Loviath looked as if she were about to burst into tears.
Ornthalus, standing between Arikian and Kyth, made to go to her, but the two stopped him. He fought them until Kyth caught him in a hold, and whispered something in his ear. The elf slumped, defeated. "If he's hurt her...." The rest of the threat went unspoken.
Arikian's eyes twinkled. "I've seen him lose his temper, Ornthalus. He's putting on a show for some reason. We'll find out later." The dwarf chuckled, one hand on his amulet. "Whatever was said, Duthan thinks that justice was served," he announced, and could be induced to say nothing further on the subject.