The first time that Sage sees Onela, the main character of my book, for the first time.
It was just one of those days where he hadn't much had planned and he was relaxing at the Lion's Claw pub like he did every other day when he was lucky enough to have some time off. A good friend of his was supposed to meet him there and they were going to discuss a few issues that needed to be cleared up.
When Gawyn didn't show up at the scheduled time Sage wasn't surprised and treated himself to a tall mug of mead. This place was known for making some of the best mead in the area, which was one of the reasons he frequented it so often. That and the place usually had a rather decent amount of people in it; some of those people had certain jobs they needed to be done and that was where Sage came in.
He never saw a reason to have limits on the jobs he did, so when someone needed basically anything done they came to him... sometimes things even extreme, but they were things he kept to himself. On a personal level he was not close to many people. Sometimes Gawyn would ask him why he didn't get a real job; like join the Kellorion guard or the army, or even become a bodyguard, but none of those things interested Sage even in the slightest. Lately, nothing seemed to matter to him at all. Just get a job, get it done, head to the pub, and pass out drunk. A couple of his old friends warned him about all the enemies he had but he always just laughed and explained that they just made his job and life all the more exciting.
The tavern had been nearly empty that day and Sage remembered staring out the window and watching sun begin to set over the trees outside, its orange and pink rays making the sky look like it was on fire and the heavens were screaming and crying for help. The other man in the tavern was standing behind the bar, hiccuping and making all sorts of racket. He didn't know where Elissa was and he knew how angry she got when someone else tried to run things in her tavern but it was not Sage's place to involve himself so instead Sage blocked the man out his vision and mostly out of his ears.
He wasn't sure how long he had been sitting there, but the next time he came to his senses the sky outside was dark and the tavern lanterns and torches had been lit. Outside the window, the stars were shining in the heavens. There had never been a time where more stars stood out in the sky or when they had been so bright. The sight had been merely captivating and he had been staring at it, entranced, when the door to the tavern opened.
Thinking that Gawyn had finally shown up, Sage looked away from the stars and to the door, all ready to get down to business. Straightening himself up in the chair, he stretched a little and then, grabbing hold of the cup, gulped a mouthful of mead down, but no one came through the door. The wind... With a groan he slammed back into the chair, tipping it back slightly and massaging hig head.
It wasn't the wind, apparently; timidly, even shyly a cloaked figure popped its head into the tavern, the rest of her body following. Sage's first question was where were the girls' guards? She was obviously a girl and she was obviously wealthy; her cloak was a sky blue material that looked like velvet and it had very detailed designs of roses and vines, sewed into it going up the arms, across the hood, as well as across the bottom. The bottom of her skirt peaked out from beneath the cloak and from what he could see it was a silver, almost pearl color and it shimmered with every breath she took. She had covered her face and hair with the hood, but he could make out the something attached to her hair in the dim tavern light. When she reached out a hand and pushed the door closed behind her, he saw that her gloves were a brilliant white, which he guessed was silk or satin. The only other adornment she had that he could see was a bulky, velvet satchel she had tied to her left wrist.
Women of wealth or fortune knew better than to walk around without protection in these areas. The people here had little respect for the nobles or the mayor. If she had been in the Golden Lion over in Kell then maybe she would go out alone, but even there most women would not be seen alone.
At first he thought she was probably one of those spoiled Dukes' daughters and she was out taking that one moment in life to go out and have fun and this was the low down, dirty place she found herself at. Well, she had chosen the right place. Men around here weren't the ones to take no for an answer; that included the kind of man behind the bar, who had finally stopped making noise and Sage could feel him looking in the girl's direction.
Then it occurred to Sage that this girl didn't look like she was having any fun at all. By her stiff movements it almost appeared as if she were afraid and most girls that did come here that were wealthy were more open then most whores he had seen. He watched her from within the shadows his own hood shadowing his face, not moving any part of his body, except for when he took another deep drink of his mead and quietly placed it back on the table. She moved over to the closest table she could reach and placed the bag on the table, her hands crossed over it, protecting it. He watched as she moved back and forth, as she was obviously seeing the place for the first time - either that or she was looking for someone.
Sage concluded that she was a very, very fortunate girl, and a girl she had to be. Even from beneath the cloak he took notice of her surprisingly soft curves for one so small, and she was indeed very petite, although not exceedingly short, or so it seemed from his angle. For some reason he found himself looking at her hands, which were extremely small and for some reason or another, he had the strange notion that he could hold her tiny hands very easily within his own.
Every moment she made seemed to be blessed with an unearthly perfect grace; she almost seemed to flow with every gesture she made, like she was a mermaid in water, her movements slow and paced. Sage couldn't help but find her fluid movements hypnotizing. He took another sip, shrugging to himself and looking away towards the window once more, knowing better than to concern himself with any wealthy young woman that came through any door, but hearing a loud 'whoosh' Sage turned his attention back to the door again.
In strode Gawyn, his golden curls shining in the torch light and he grinned his great, broad smile to Sage, and accompanied by a wave. "Sage! I'm so sorry-" and that was all Sage heard and he was pretty sure that was all he said because at that moment the girl had been standing at the table, jumped and cried out as Gawyn called out to Sage and when she did, her hood fell back from her head and revealed her face.
Her face was in obvious shock, her eyes widened in surprise and Sage nearly fell off his chair when he looked into those eyes for the first time for he had never seen a pair of eyes so green in his entire life - and he had seen a lot of woman in his time. He had traveled many of the forest paths in world more times than he could remember and that's all he could think of when he looked into her eyes. To him it was like riding through a beautifully silent forest, when it was wet with rain and the air was sweet and the atmosphere serene and calming, where there was nothing that could hurt you and every step you took was filled with a feeling of warmth and safety. Not only that but Sage could have sworn that his eyes were playing tricks on him as he stared longer for it seemed that the actual stars from outside in the sky were twinkling in her eyes.
If the color wasn't enough to leave a man breathless, there was the rest of her face. Those brilliant eyes were framed by long - amazingly long - coal, black lashes and beneath her eyes was the cutest, button nose he had ever seen. To top it off she had a perfectly shaped mouth with pouty lips that seemed to shimmer like wine as she stood there shaking. Her hair was like a waterfall of dark chestnut and was woven into an intricately woven, nearly wrist thick braid, that fell down back into her cloak, so he had no real inkling of how long it was and like her eyes, a number of the dark strands that tumbled freely into her face were streaked with silver. Adorning her head was a delicate silver chain, which was fastened into hair with a glittering, bluish-silver stone centered on her forehead. Her skin was pale, and seemed to have a faint shimmer like snow lit by moonlight. Her face was accented by high, delicate cheekbones and her ears seemed almost pointed at the ends, almost like the Zalaths and Noledrans, but not quite so drastic.
She was simply the most perfect thing he had ever seen.
It took her only a few seconds to recover and then her face turned stone serious; a look it seemed she had down pact. She bobbed her head in Gawyn's direction - even this done with the utmost grace - and then turned away from him, but Gawyn would have none of that.
"Oh, miss!" Gawyn oozed at her, stepping around in front of her and grinning openly. "I'm really quite sorry. I didn't see you there."
The girl stared up at him and the more Sage stared at her face the more she thought she wasn't exactly a normal girl and he couldn't quite figure out where exactly she hailed from, but for some reason he wanted to know. There was a small tilt about her huge eyes and her ears and the way her skin shimmered was something he had never seen.
"It is okay, Sir." Her voice was the sweetest sound he had ever heard and it almost sounded like music to him, so soft that it was barely above a whisper, but Sage had no doubt that such a girl rarely had to raise her voice loudly to gain the attention of those around her.
"Are you here... alone?" Gawyn was obviously as puzzled about this as Sage had been, but Sage had figured it out now, for sure - she was running away. This was probably her first time both here and out of her secluded home with its high walls, long hallways and guards; just another silly rich, spoiled brat probably. Her daddy would send his people after her any time now and then Gawyn would be arrested for harassment to a noble's daughter. Groaning, he turned away from them and took yet another swig of his mead.
"Yes, I am. Is that bad? Is this a bad place?" The girl sounded genuinely curious.
Sage heard Gawyn laugh and he could picture him running his hand through his hair. It always worked on girls like her; the royal, or spoiled little princesses that they were, the idea of a 'bad boy' always got them. Not that Gawyn was even a bad boy, but they always avoided the real bad boys, because they were seriously dangerous. Gawyn was just the guy to break their hearts so they could go running home to their friends crying about the beautiful blonde rogue who had stolen their hearts and possibly even more. "No, not really miss, but there are some dangerous people that do come in here. You really shouldn't be walking around like that."
Sage shook his head, laughing aloud, but only Gawyn would truly understand.
"So, then I am in danger here, yes?" She spoke so softly. "And walking around looking like what? What is the matter with the way I look?" The girl sounded a little annoyed with Gawyn, her voice taking on a disapproving tone.
"Relax, miss, please," he heard Gawyn stammer at her and he turned around in his chair to see Gawyn holding his hands out defensively, but she hadn't even moved. She was standing in the same spot, facing him, the right side of her face visible to him, her hands held together in front of her. "I just meant you're obviously a very fortunate girl, with the clothing and jewelry you are wearing and since you are alone, it makes you more of a target."
The girl seemed to be listening very intently to what he said, standing there in silence for a few seconds after he spoke. Her gaze wandered away from his face and for a moment she stared pass him, but she nodded slowly, "You are right. I should not look like this, but this is all I have, so without it.. I would have nothing." She shrugged her tiny, slender shoulders before looking in his direction and in the direction of the bar. She seemed to look right pass him both times, not even noticing he was there.
"What do they have to drink here?" The question seemed out of place coming from one so young, but Gawyn did not hesitate to answer, gesturing at the bottles behind the counter with a wide grin. "All sorts of alcohol and ales, miss... Miss?"
"Ales? What about wine? Do they have any wine?" She seemed to avoid the question of her name and for the first time ever, Gawyn didn't push it. Sage saw his brows furrow in frustration, but she seemed to be completely ignoring the question and doing a very good job, at that.
"No, miss. The wine here isn't really any good. Probably nothing you'd want to taste."
"Okay, then I shall try some of this ale." She nodded once more, before taking a step in the direction of the bar, but she stopped, turning back to Gawyn. "Do I just walk back there and get it myself?" Sage was really starting to think she had never been in any kind of tavern before. Her stunning gaze moved around the room once again and back to the bar, before her footsteps followed. Even before she was in arms length, he could smell something so intoxicating and enveloping that he nearly fell over. The fragrance was like a kind of flower, but one so exotic, that he could barely keep his head straight. She stopped before his table, appearing to still not notice he was sitting right there. Of course she couldn't see his face from within the darkness the hood veiled his face in, but she could at least look in his direction.
"Here ya go, pretty lady!" The drunk man behind the bar had finally come back down to earth and Sage heard the clattering of glasses, and the only other warning he had was the look on the girl's face. The second her eyes began to widen, Sage jumped up and reached out his right hand, catching the bottle the man had aimed for her head. Slamming the bottle down on the table, he threw back his hood and pointed to the man.
"You! Get out of here now!" He pointed to the man with one gloved hand and then moved his hand to his waist revealing a hunting knife; one of the few weapons he carried with him.
The man may have been rude, but he apparently wasn't stupid because he only muttered a few things to himself, before exiting the tavern. Sage never bothered with their kind and in the end the man had been no real threat.
The man gone, Sage took a deep, deep breath and turned around to face the girl. She still had her hands held up in front of her face and she was breathing heavily, panting. "Are you okay, M'lady?" He spoke gently to her; he didn't want to frighten her anymore than she already was. He almost reached a hand out to touch her, but she looked so fragile he was afraid he might break her. She came up to his shoulder, but she was still very petite and tender looking.
"Miss, that guy was just some drunk, but he's gone now," Gawyn said softly as well, still standing back by the table she had stopped at. Sage met his eyes for a moment, before he looked back at the girl, who was now lowering her hands from her face, her eyes still as wide as they had been since she came in. She spun around without even looking at Sage, and he watched as her eyes darted back and forth.
"He is gone? Good." She seemed to nod just once a lot, because she did so again and then turned back to Sage and that was the first time they looked into each others eyes. He wasn't sure what he had been expecting to see when and if she looked upon him the first time, but it wasn't what he saw.
Being this close to her was unnerving for him and he took a small step back, giving him and her both space, but he stilled stared upon her heavenly face, unable to look away and it seemed she was staring very hard back at him, but he had no idea what she was thinking. Her eyes were still wide, but it wasn't in fear anymore; it seemed to be a look that not even Sage could read and he was a trained professional in reading the body language of people from every realm. It wasn't a look of shock, surprise, lust or anything else. It was something far deeper and much more mysterious than any of those.
After what seemed an eternity, she finally averted her gaze to the bar, and Sage watched with a chill of satisfaction as she stood there, not speaking, because he knew she was feeling exactly what he was and he also knew this moment would not last forever. "Your name..?" He swallowed nervously, fighting very hard to regain his composure, but failing miserably. He doubted she could see how he was nervous as he was very skilled at remaining emotionless, but it didn't change the fact that he felt it.
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion and she pursed her lips together, taking a slow step backwards. He did not want to push her, he just wanted to know what her name was but he could see this was troubling her. "Sage, pal, sorry I'm late, as I started before." Gawyn chimed in, making his way quickly over to them and plopping himself at the table across from where Sage had been seated. "Sage, sit, I insist!"
Sage groaned, closing his eyes, but he silently thanked him and slipped back down into his chair, eyeing his mead before looking back up to the girl who just stood there, her eyes still unreadable.
"Would you care to join us miss?" Gawyn questioned, tilting his head so a curl fell across his eyes, something he had seen Gawyn do many times. The girl turned slowly and looked down to him, adjusting her cloak on her shoulders. "I.. do not really know," was her response and he watched her frown just a little, her brilliant eyes dimming a bit, as she hung her head a bit. Watching her pout before them disgusted him more than he expected and he snorted before kicking back his chair again, gripping his mead, happily, "Sure, join us," he said, his voice full of distaste.
"Um.." He heard her begin softly and he was about to yell at her and tell her to leave but Gawyn was quicker, "Please, Miss, ignore him. He's always cranky. Don't take it personally, please join us. You look like you could use the company."
Sage could feel her eyes on him, like a veil across his neck, but he ignored it, finishing his tankard and slamming itd down on the table, "Where is she," he muttered, referring to Elissa.
"See, Sage already forgot about you," Gawyn laughed and kicked the chair beside them out a little, inviting her to sit, which, unsurprisingly, she did. Sage glared over to Gawyn who wrinned back at him, "What about work?" Sage asked him.
"Sage, come on, let's have a good time first. You really need to relax more," as he spoke he pulled a large bottle out from seemingly nowhere and slammed it down on the table. "Now, glasses!" He rang out, jumping from his table and quickly fetching enough glasses for them and some extra people. Sage never moved and just watched him as he moved, purposely avoiding looking at the girl. When Gawyn sat once again across him Sage was the first to fill his glass up and Gawyn grinned even wider, "There you go, old buddy!" Sage just closed his eyes in response and took a deep drink of whatever it was Gawyn had poured, which turned out to be something much stronger than Sage had been drinking.
"And you, Miss?" He heard Gawyn ask, "You gonna have any?"
"I am really not-" She began, but Sage abruptly cut her off, "Oh, shut up, you know you're going to take some anyway, so just take it now." He didn't even bother opening his eyes to look at her.
"Oh.. I see.." She said softly, and Sage assumed she nodded or something because he heard the sound of more liquid being poured. Opening his eyes he purposely looked to the girl, staring her directly in the face, but she stared somewhat worriedly into the mug before her. She must have felt her eyes on him or something else for she turned to suddenly look at him, her breathtaking eyes resting upon his face and instantly he found himself apologizing, "I'm sorry. You don't have to drink that."
She didn't say anything, but she nodded a few times, extremely slowly, her eyes lightening a bit once again. "I suppose a sip would not hurt?" Sage was not sure if she was actually asking him permission or not but to be safe he only said, "I suppose.."
"Wow, this'll be a fun night, huh?" Gawyn began again and Sage saw him looking at the girl out of the corner of his eye as she raised the mug to her lips and slowly took a very cautious sip. Her eyes slammed shut immediately and she coughed, but only a little bit before holding the cup a few inches away from her lips and looking from Sage to Gawyn for a brief moment and then back to Sage, her eyes becoming what seemed strangely gentle for an instant, "Onela." Was all she said at first, so quiet he had to learn forward to hear her, which was not something he really minded. "My name.. is Onela."
"Onela," Sage whispered in his mind, repeating it several times before the ends of his mouth twitched upwards into a very small smile, but he said nothing else and sat back, looking over to Gawyn, who looked back to him and grinned broadly, "There we go." He said smugly before turning his attention back to the extraordinary young woman, Onela.