He looked up at the sunless sky and the decision made itself. He wandered purposefully down the shadowed paths, past grottos and bowers, considering phrasings. Lavender roses climbed over a dark trellis highlighting the opening between the deep green hedges. Through the trellis he crossed the courtyard and entered through the black marble arch hung with deep red drapes. His lady was lounging on a black and dark gold chaise on the gallery. He moved to stand to the side of the chaise, but didn’t look down into the arena below. Metal struck metal and he remembered the smell of battle, the sweat of men and horses, of the sea. He pushed them back and away, focusing on his lady. She glanced at him and waved for him to sit, attention going back to her favored entertainment below. He nodded respectfully, but did not sit. He watched her and waited until her hand rose to deliver the pronouncement. A thumbs up. He breathed a little easier, she had been pleased. Her attention turned fully to him, “Fen.”
It felt ridiculous to remain standing, so he accepted the seat on the low chair near her right hand. “Adaya,” he returned, “I’d like to ask for something.”
Her heavy lidded eyes opened a little wider in surprise and pleasure. “But you never ask for things, Fen.” She smiled languidly, “What can I give you?”
His smile back was dangerously careless. “A wager.”
“A wager?” Her smile spread until it showed teeth. “Now whatever has happened?”
Fen shrugged. “Inevitability of time. If I go on like I have been, I will go … lets just say neither you nor I will be pleased by what becomes of me. It may take an age, but…” he shook his head. He looked her in the eye and straightened his spine. “I want a wager for my freedom, Ada. I don’t know what it is or how long it will take, but I want it.”
“That,” she said holding a finger across her lips for a moment, “Will be quite a wager.” She stretched her hand out to touch his cheek. “Your service is very dear to me.”
Fen, eyes engaged for the first time in ages, said, “I know, and I’ll wager anyway. I bet I can find you something of equal worth. I just need the time to travel and do so.” He needed a way out. As long as it was only nearly impossible, it would still be possible.
Adaya leaned back in her chaise. “So you would deprive me of your company?”
“No more than I already do to stay sane,” he replied with a partial bow and a sideways smile. “However, I will be going more places. The mortal realm, the wild lands, maybe farther, I don’t know what I’ll encounter there or if I will hear you when you call. I’ll take your token and do my best.”
She chuckled, looking at him. “Very well Fen”, she said lowly, “see that you do.”
Fen stood, bowed over her hand, and took his leave. Hope brightened his heart and he held it close against the shadows of the perpetual twilight.