It’s a hard decision to make when on part of your morals clash with another part. Loyalty, and proving loyalty, is not always an easy thing and Zij had his own ways to test for it.

Draeka arrived early to Zul’Aman, though Zij, Barath and Nazru were earlier still. She stood tall, clad in tight, black leather, a black cowl covering her head and most of her face, two long, steel swords on her hips. They waited for Heavi, and upon his arrival, the five (three orcs, two trolls) walked silently to a small troll building. She had very little idea of what to expect, aside from the knowledge that they would soon sacrifice and consume another.

And so they gathered, the four Tusks facing their Chieftain as he spoke. Normally enraptured in Zij’s speeches, Draeka instead worked on drowning out his voice – she didn’t want to hear it. She watched the shadows shift, the everlasting twilight of the Ghostlands causing the approaching night to seem even dimmer.

She hated the idea. Draeka was battle worn, with a hard look to her eyes, and a confidence that could only be won through winning many battles. However, shaken was the only word to describe her reaction to Zij’s proposal. It took weeks of inner battle for her loyalty to Zij and the Tribe to beat out her contempt for what she saw as a dishonourable killing.

Draeka stood back from the crowd. She knew she wasn’t well liked by any present, save for Zij, and as the men whispered and urged each other on, she mentally prepared herself, shutting down any emotions or feelings – preparing for battle.

She could see the faint glow of a summoning circle from the corner of her eye and took a deep breath, holding it. It was time.

The troll was male, bright blue, with brighter orange hair. There was, however, very little remarkable about him. Draeka mused that Zij had chosen him because of this face, quickly wiping all thoughts from her mind. As a warrior, it was vital to be able to have control over your thoughts and emotions during battle – to do what needed to be done. It’s easy to thin of killing as something always passionate and heated and deserved by two of equal skill, but life didn’t work in such neat terms, least of all for Draeka.

And so her mind stopped whirring as they escourted the troll to a large, stone building. She could feel the floor, hard and cold beneath her leather boots, and the moon, now a bright, full orb in the sky, shone down on them. She stood nearest the back, Zij and the sacrificial troll, Khabu, at the front.

Zij held out a vial of disgusting, black ooze, and Draeka winced as Khabu innocently downed the drink. He made a disgusted face as he felt the thick liquid slime slide down his throat. Unknown to all present but Zij and Khabu, the effects of the potion snaked through his body, his limbs quickly growing numb.

Zij laid him down horizontally to the crowd and removed his special sacrificial dagger from his robe, plunging it into the Troll’s chest. The liquid worked fast, however, and though Khabu’s body was unfeeling, his eyes still drank in everything. His eyes widened in terror as Zij cracked open his chest cavity, his hands diving expertly into the open would. Strings and fetishes were brought in, being tied around the heart, before Zij yanked it out, blood spurting over his robe and face as he held it high.

“Da Troll will live as long as d’is heart remains in tact!” Zij shouted to the onlookers, and Draeka’s mind went completely bank. A black void of self imposed repression now sits where the memory of the rest of the dark ceremony should exist. All she knew, once it was done, was that her mouth tasted of fresh blood not her own, there was a charred body of a troll male in the Amani encampment, and Zij was smiling proudly at her.

Draeka walked over to the river where Zij sat nude, splashing water onto himself. She watched him for a few moments, her eyes transfixed on his movements as he scrubbed his arms and hands. Looking up at her, he smiled, “Ju okay?”

“I’ll be alright. Feel sick, but it’ll pass.”

Zij nodded slowly and smiled, “Ju might wanna wash up in de watah… it ‘elps.”

Draeka nodded slowly in return, removing her armour, tossing it into the stream, and wading over to Zij, dunking her entire body under water. Popping her head above the water, she looked Zij in the eyes seriously, “didn’t like that.”

Zij held out his hand to Draeka, “don’t like what? De ceremony?”

“I feel bad for the Troll. I’m used to killin’… not like that,” her voice was low and a little feminine, void of emotions for the time being. She placed her hands in Zij’s, and he stroked her tenderly, smiling, “It’s ovah now. Ju did great. An’ de Troll served ‘is purpose, ordained by de spirits.”

“I… I didn’t think it was over, yet.” “Ja, it aint. But de rest is just ju an’ I…” he nodded, the happiness on his face apparent, though he tried to look a little more reserved for her sake.

“Can we do it now? I’ll get changed? Or…”

“Go on, clean up… vomit up de Troll flesh in jour stomach, whatevah it takes. I’ll be waitin’ ‘ere when jour ready. Kay?” Zij smiled warmly at her, reassuringly. “We can start den.”

Draeka nodded, walking into one of the small huts near the water, nude and dripping with water as she rummaged through her backpack, pulling out a full length robe. It was green and orange, adorned with golden thread and carefully tailored to fit her body. It was soft, the material light, and clung to her curves, leaving her arms and midsection exposed. She wiggled into it, carefully inspecting herself before returning out to the river side, bowing before Zij.

He took her in, smiling happily and walking over to her. He, too, had changed into his robe, and the stood facing one another. They were to swear a pact to one another, a pact of love and caring. Draeka blushed nervously at him, grateful when he began to speak.

Zij kissed her lips, “my oath ta ju is from my ‘eart, an’ jours. Dat I will forevah serve ju as my true love. Dat I shall love and care for ju, nevah betray or use ju.”

Draeka sighed, wrapping her arms around Zij’s neck, pulling him to her closer, her head resting on his shoulder. Zij kissed Draeka’s shoulder and neck tenderly, “I shall ‘old ju as my lovah until ju no longah wish me o’ jour own free will.”

Draeka whimpered happily, hugging him to her nearly painfully close as he speaks, her eyes watering up. Zij slid his hand from Draeka’s arm, and slides it around her back, his fingers stroking her hip, “ju may look upon me for de rest o’ our days, as jour lovah, partnah, an’ ‘usband, regardless o’ what de outside world may t’ink or see.”

Draeka kept her whimpering up, tears slowly trailing her cheek, as she kissed Zij’s shoulder and neck, muttering “I love you,” every few seconds. Zij licked Draeka’s neck up to her earlobe, biting it momentarily, “An’ dis… I admit before de spirits an’ ju, is de most important oath I swear tanight. For in all my days on dis world, an’ de odah… I ‘ave finally found de love o’ my life…”

Draeka fully started sobbing, crushing Zij with her hug, her knees not exactly working right any more. Zij wrapped his other arm around Draeka’s waist, holding her up as her knees buckle, whispering into her ear as he kissed her repeatedly, “I love ju. I give my oath willin’ly… ‘appily.”

She blubbered out an “I love you too,” leaning on Zij’s body. He closed his eyes and hugged Draeka tightly, holding her up in his arms firmly.

“Zij… yer” she sniffed, trying to gain control of herself, her voice quivering, “Zij, I love you. Yer my love… I’ll be by yer side as long as I live, provided you don’t try to take away the me from me. So always.”

Zij smiled and nuzzled into her neck, “Always… I only ask dat ju nevah let a misundahstandin’ come between us… nevah allow our love ta be broken needlessly. For our passion burns ‘ot, we must not let it turn against us.”

She nodded eagerly, whimpering still, trying to force herself to stand. “Zij I love you so much.” He lifted her up off the ground a couple inches, holding her body easily in his muscular arms, “My love… ju an’ I were meant ta be. We could not force dis kind o’ ‘appiness or love. It ‘ad ta only come ta us naturally,” he kissed her lips deeply, delving his tongue into her mouth.

“I’m yers, Zij. Always.”

Zij smiled warmly at Draeka, “I knew dat already… but now…” he smiled wider and squeezed her tight, “Nevah a greatah pair was brought togeddah.”

Draeka nodded, still shaking with quiet sobs of happiness. “It’s official then? Fer the spirits and all that?”

Zij nodded slowly, then paused, smirking a little, “Well… dere is but one t’ing left, ta consummate dis bond.”

Draeka paused her sobs for a second, pulling back to look at Zij. “Consummate how?”

Zij chuckled softly, kissing Draeka’s lips softly, “De regular kind, don’t worry.”

She sighed happily, relaxing against him, kissing at the top of his head.

“You’ll be careful of my dress?” she paused, “it… was real expensive.”

Zij grinned, “Ju know I can’t do dat wit’chu… ‘specially not tanight. But… I am a tailah aftahall.”

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