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Davalon went out and shut the door. Immediately outside they could hear him talking in his clear, commanding yet patient voice to the ghouls. Ryel couldn’t tell what they were saying, but the ghouls seemed inclined to do whatever he told them.

The room was not large and seemed to have no other exit. It has a sort of desk, with a sort of magic candle burning on it and several books open including an accounts book; there were two cots, of which Ryel lay in one and Arkmar’s stuff sat on the other. Arkmar stood by the door half smiling, then came over and sat on Ryel’s bed. “You don’t like him? He seems hunky to me, but I’m no judge, I’m just guessing.”

Ryel rose to lean on her elbow. “He’s more than hunky,” she said. Grrr. But she lay back again and put her wounded arm over her forehead. “But he’s a dark elf. And he’s keeping me here, and it’s not all because of his supposed solicitousness toward my delicate condition.”

“You think he knows something.”

“I think he more than knows something. I think he wants something from me.” She raised her blue eyes to Arkmar’s dark eyes. “More than the usual.”

“You think he knows our quest. Not that I or you really know our quest.”

“No. Well-put.” Ryel sat up again. She looked at her bandaged left arm. “It still hurts quite a bit,” she said, “but it hurts in that medicine kind of way, you know what I mean?”

“He put something on it,” Arkmar guessed.

“I can probably guess what he put on it, Arkmar. Except for that drow secret ingredient.”

“Which would be—?”

“Well, it wouldn’t be secret then, would it,” said Ryel, lying back down.

“So,” said Arkmar in a low voice, “are you or are you not going to—?”

“That would be yes,” said Ryel, rolling away. “Now let me rest.”

Some time later, Ryel woke up in her cot. The blanket had been removed, and her shirt was being removed as well. She looked up into the pale eyes in Davalon’s dark face. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“I should have thought that was obvious,” he replied, peeling her left sleeve off. “I need to change your bandage and you need a new poultice. And you need to be washed. You are carrying your own infections around with you.”

“Your concern is entirely therapeutic.”

“No,” he said, continuing to remove her shirt, “my concern is much more than therapeutic. If all I cared about was getting you well, I wouldn’t have bothered. The grey kindreds can go to hell as far as I’m concerned.” He looked her in the eye. “But that’s where you are now, so I needn’t be even that concerned. I could just send you on your way, infection or no infection, or I could tell my friends out there that you’re as good as dead anyway. Usually they wait.”

“I am not that bad off,” said Ryel, as she rose off the bed enough for him to take her shirt back out from behind her.

“Not anymore,” said Davalon, cutting off her bandage. “You picked up all sorts of lovely germs on the way down through the black airs. You forest folk, you assume exposure to germs is all to the good, but it’s not, not here in the Great Abyss.”

She lay back on the cot and gazed at him as he cleaned her wound. She was inclined to think he was lying, but she didn’t want to take the chance. And besides, here she was, naked to the waist.

“So what made you more concerned?” she asked.

“You’re doing something,” he said. “No one just climbs Ngranek for a lark. And elf and dwarf—do not try to tell me you’re just best buds. You are on a job.”

“And?”

“And I need someone with some skills,” he said.

“I’m on a job, and you have another job.”

“That’s the size of it,” said Davalon. “Now quiet, I have delicate work to do. Your stitches need to be replaced.”

“Stitches??”

He gave her an exasperated glance, then took an obvious look at her breasts, then went back to work. “Yes. Stitches. Now may I?”

Davalon finished up the stitches with a little help from Arkmar, who gave Ryel several pulls on his little pipe; Davalon threw something of his own in it, and showed Ryel it was okay by taking a hit himself. Whatever it was, it relaxed her wonderfully, though it didn’t stop the parliamentary question time that was going in her mind. It reminded her of a full meeting of the Wood Elves she had been forced to attend. But that time, she had been flirting with Glosvar the entire meeting; this time something similar was happening.

After the stitching was done, Arkmar excused himself to go play cards with the ghouls. Davalon washed her thoroughly from the waist up, and then Ryel indicated that she felt he too needed to be washed: he had a good bit of blood on him. Davalon took this under advisement, and suggested that they retreat through a door hidden behind a mirror in the back wall and down a few steps to the bathroom. It wasn’t the Royal Baharna Hotel, but it served, although they wound up washing each other below the waist as well.

Ryel wasn’t doing much to resist. At some point, kissing seemed a reasonable outlet, but as they were naked and wet and warmed by the warm water already, it progressed swiftly from there. She was as tall as he was, and as strong, and she pushed him up against the wall and got a first taste of him there. Of course the mechanics were less than perfect. There was a short stair behind the bath that led up to his tiny bedroom, with a sort of mattress on the floor and not much else, but he let her go first up the steps and she didn’t get to the top before he stopped her and gave her much more than a taste.

Then they made it to the mattress and it was some time before they were done there.

Note to readers: The title of this chapter is now “He was good deep down”

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