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Astoreth made a conscious decision to completely ignore Stavier Luminiar as his mood suddenly and inexplicably darkened before he stormed off across the bar with murder in his eyes.  She was having a good time, and she didn’t really want to know what had so abruptly ruined Stavier’s night lest it ruin hers as well.  She deliberately did not turn her head when she heard Stavier’s voice rising, demanding of some unknown party does she know you’re alive.

Westel looked, however, and when he started and swore in shock Astoreth could ignore it no longer.  With a sigh of resigned dread she turned and looked as well.

Thankfully she had put her drink down, else she would have dropped it.  Dead gods, she thought, her blood running cold, not again.

* * * * *

Only one person besides Cearalaith herself had a key to her apartment these days, and strictly for emergencies; Cear knew there was no circumstance under which Stavier would have entered without knocking or at least announcing his presence.  So when the rattling at her door began she did not hesitate to wonder who it might be or why; she immediately leapt into action, vaulting over the back of her couch, bolting down the hall to her room and grabbing her weapons in the dark.  She heard the door open as she grasped her sword, and rather than charging back out decided to lay in wait, pressing her back against the wall by her door and listening.

The stranger walked into her living room and paused, presumably looking around, before moving towards her hallway.  The intruder did not speak, but the weight of each footfall suggested a form just a little larger than the paladin; most likely a male elf or undead, and judging from the soft chink that accompanied each step, well armored.  Cearalaith held her breath and waited, counting the steps as he moved closer.

She timed it perfectly, giving no warning before turning into the door lightning-fast and bashing the intruder in the face and chest with her shield.  He was caught completely off-guard, crashing back with a grunt of surprise , his flailing arm knocking over a side table and vase – and once he was down, Cearalaith wasted no time putting her bare foot on his chest and her sword to his throat as he gasped for the wind she’d knocked out of him.  “Who are you?!” she demanded.  “And what the hell are you doing in my house?!”

“Cear?” he choked.

Cearalaith staggered back.

Oh gods, oh Light, she thought.  It’s impossible, she thought.  Nothing’s impossible. But how could this be? The Light works in mysterious ways.  Where has he been?  Why do I care?  This can’t be real.  Why would he come back?  I’m going to kill him.  I’m going to kiss him.  I’ll kiss him, then kill him.  No, other way around.  No, this is a dream.  I’m dreaming.  He’s dead.  He left me alone. I’ve been so alone.  I want to wake up.  I don’t want to wake up. 

He half-sat up and looked at her, and a shaft of moonlight illuminated his face, removing most doubt, though it left a million questions.

“Bloody hell, you’ve gotten strong,” Corael said.