Early Spring, In Solis 454
Mose wiped the sweat from his brow as stepped away from his forge. Content with the color of the flames he turned to hear his first customers of the day entering the shop. Walking into the front room, he was greeted by a young couple standing with linked arms as they stared longingly at each other. They certainly didn't fit the description of his normal clientele and seemed far too giddy to be standing in a dirty smithy.
Mose sighed. He really didn't have time to be making inexpensive rings from scraps. He'd been asked to do that many times before and despite his reservations, he had always given in. He supposed he would do it—just this once—again.
"Can I help you folks?"
The ginger haired man smiled nervously, his arm sliding down to his companion's waist. "Yes, I'd like you to work on my sword."
Pleasantly surprised, the blacksmith smiled. "Well, let's see it then, son."
The young man released the woman and drew the sword, holding it down so Mose could safely take it by the hilt.
"A fine piece of weaponry," Mose said as he examined the craftsmanship. "Rather light, too. I haven't seen a blade like this since I visited Moose's shop in the Warrior's Village. Are you from there, by chance?"
The man draped his arm around the woman's shoulders. "Yes, and it was Moose who made it for me a few years ago."
"I knew I recognized his work. You want it tempered, then?"
He nodded. "And stamped."
"Stamped?" Mose asked, looking from the fellow to the pretty redhead who still remained silent but looked familiar to the blacksmith.
"On the blade. With a name," the young man stammered as a bit of sweat slipped from under his blue headband.
"I can do that but it will cost extra," Mose said, noticing that the temperature in the forge hadn't changed enough to cause such discomfort in his customers a room away from the heat.
The blacksmith took a piece of paper from the dilapidated old desk where he kept his ledger. He dipped the limp quill into the dusty inkwell and then held the pen out to the young man. "Please write it."
The fellow looked nervously at the woman but when she touched his cheek, he released her and took the quill. The letters came slowly and when he was finished he glanced back at her.
She stepped up and looked at the word and then kissed his cheek. "Well done."
Mose took the paper and read the letters O D E S S A. He pulled at his moustache as his eyes leveled on the young man. "Odessa? As in Lady Odessa Silverberg of the Liberation Army?"
"Why?" the swordsman countered harshly as he nudged the redhead protectively behind him. "Why does it matter?"
The woman didn't seem too pleased with being forcibly moved and returned to the young man's side.
"It doesn't. Although I admire her for the work she does." His eyes walked over the woman again as he realized that he had indeed seen her before—or at least her likeness—on the Emperor's reward posters.
"Thank you," the woman said with a smile. "I'm Odessa. Pleased to meet you, sir…?"
"Mose," he supplied. "No 'sir,' just Mose."
"All right, Mose. You've heard about us then?"
"Of course, milady."
Her voice was tender, yet commanding. "Would you consider joining us? We could certainly use the skills of such a talented blacksmith."
"I don't see how I could help, but I would be honored to do so."
The young man tapped his foot impatiently until Odessa took his hand and squeezed it. "Wonderful, Mose." She turned to her anxious companion and added, "This is Flik."
Mose nodded in greeting. "Let me work on your sword for you. You can wait here if you want or I can bring it to where you are staying."
"We'll wait," Flik said curtly.
Flik paced around the front room of the smithy. He watched Odessa sit on the window bench and watch the people of the town go about their business. He didn't want to be mad at her but the emotion swelled within him. This was supposed to be their day. This was supposed to be about the two of them. And Odessa just ruined it by turning it into a recruiting session.
He glanced over his shoulder at her and found that as angry as he was he couldn't focus it on her. It wasn't really her fault anyway. It was his fault. He knew better than to put himself before The Cause.
Her boots clicked on the rough wooden floor as she approached him from behind. "This is a lively little town."
Turning to face her, he seized her by the waist and pulled her close to him. "Let's go back to the inn. Mose can bring the blade when he's done."
"You don't like him," she accurately assessed.
He hated it when she did that. "I don't trust him. He could be a spy."
"He's not a spy. He's a blacksmith."
He cocked a brow at her but said nothing.
"You need to learn to trust people, Flik."
"I trust you," he whispered into her ear.
"I know that. I mean other people."
"Odessa," he sighed as he drew her head to rest against his chest. "You're too easily taken by people."
She frowned. "Now you sound like Mathiu."
"Who?" he asked with a wrinkled brow.
"Someone I used to know," she mumbled into his shirt. After a moment she lifted her head and looked into his eyes. "This is supposed to be a happy day."
He smiled down at her and gently brushed his lips against her cheek as he whispered, "It's the happiest day of my life."
She kissed him then, fully and passionately on the lips as he tried to hide the delighted surprise in his expression. His hands wandered along her sides, venturing along the curve of her hip until she abruptly drew back.
He really hated it when she did that. "What's wrong?"
"The noise stopped," she whispered, brushing her lips over the tender lobe of his ear as if in promise of continuing this later. "I think he's done with the sword."
Flik's toes curled inside his boots and he reluctantly released her from his grasp.
"I am." Mose approached from behind, his heavy footfalls stomping over Flik's impure thoughts. The blacksmith held the sword out to the young warrior. "I watched Moose do this a few times for people in your village, so I offer my congratulations."
"Thank you," Flik replied. His cheeks flushed as he sheathed the weapon. "How much?"
"No charge today," the blacksmith said with a hearty laugh. "Go on, get out of here, son."
A contended sigh slipped from Odessa's lips as she nestled herself in Flik's arms. Her heart was still racing as she closed her eyes and savored his perfect closeness. She felt him trace a finger down her back, gently touching each bump in her spine as if he were counting them. She twitched as he found a particularly ticklish spot and kissed him on the cheek. Her eyes fluttered open to see the sheathed sword as it hung from the rustic bedpost. "Will you ever take me to your village, Flik?"
"Someday," he murmured, nuzzling her neck.
Drawing back, she propped her head on her hand and looked at him. "You're not ashamed of it, are you?"
"It's not Gregminister."
"I never liked Gregminister," she admitted between nips to his shoulder.
His breath sounded like it was caught in his throat. "You're lying."
She grinned, tugged his bandana off and kissed him on the forehead. "No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are," he teased, smirking as she pulled herself on top of him.
She playfully looped an end of the bandana around his wrist. "All right, I am, but I couldn't be happier than I am right now."
"Me too." He locked his fingers behind her back and held her tight against him. His eyes brimmed with sincerity as they followed hers. "I swear on my blade that I will always protect you and love you, Odessa."
"I love you, too," she whispered before kissing him again. When it broke, she touched a finger to his lips. "You know, I prefer your traditions to those of Gregminister."
"Yes." She closed her eyes and trailed tiny kisses from his ear to his neck, her warm breath teasing his skin. She smiled as he gave a small, pleased moan and tilted his head to encourage her to continue. "Yours require much less paperwork."