Holy Light had always held a special meaning for the priestess. There were far more powerful spells than this simple miracle. Fighters scoffed at the need for a full-fledged spell when a sturdy lantern would do its job just as well. Indeed, most holy adventurers left it by the wayside as soon as they had a replacement. Any replacement.
For the priestess though, it was a part of a memory; a fundamental part of who she now was. That day in the hellish goblin nest. Her naivety and weakness. And in turn, the first time she truly fought. Though her voice had shaken and her legs trembled, she had stood next to the goblin slayer and thrown her faith; her very soul into the miracle.
It had been almost three years since her first day as an adventurer. Three years of long nights spent staking out goblin encampments; robes stained by the dirt and blood of scouts killed to keep the silence. Of learning the ways in which goblin bones could snap under the pressure of plated boots. Of new miracles granted by the Earth-Mother, rapidly put to use in the endless skirmishes she faced. Three years and she still kept the Light.
Three years by his side. Never wavering. In time others had come too. Friendships forged in fire and steel. Traditions cast in battle and hewn on the stone of camaraderie. Perhaps it was no surprise then that the people closest to her couldn’t see the ways in which she had changed. For sure, they celebrated every rank the priestess gained with the requisite fanfare and spectacle. Boisterous evenings spent in the guild hall, where drinking contests and bawdy tales captivated novices just as they spurred on the veterans to push for even greater feats. Through each promotion she sat a little straighter, laughed more openly, meeting the gazes of her companions with barely a hint of the old blush playing across her cheeks. And through the change in herself, still she kept the Light.
He teased her about it sometimes, in his own way. Once, after she had used it to blind a goblin shaman deep in a goblin nest, his voice rumbled from between the bars of his visor.
“Might be time to pick a more powerful blessing instead.”
The goblin slayer’s point was punctuated by the slick squelch of sword being withdrawn from a cleaved skull. A sound the priestess had become all too familiar with. Still, she smiled at his ever-pragmatic mind.
“It’s a quick spell to cast. That shaman didn’t even get halfway through his hex before I was done.” She paused for a moment. “And besides; I like it!”
Though his helmed face was as inscrutable as ever, the priestess could tell from the shift in his gaze that he’d approved of her comment. Despite everything, the slayer was the only one who could still hook the rose-pink blush from the very bottom of her heart. At least nowadays she no longer quivered whenever the weight of his gaze fell on her.
She loved him. That much she knew. Maybe she always had, ever since that fated day in the goblin nest. Maybe it had come in time, with the days spent caring for each other’s wounds; unbreakable trust growing between them. It had been hard to understand at first. Why her heart fluttered whenever his rare praise was lain upon her. Why her throat tightened and her stomach twisted when she waited for him in the guildhall. Why her hand gripped the Earth-Mother’s holy staff until her knuckles turned white when the guild girl flashed her easy smile while presenting the day’s quests to the goblin slayer. Why she never truly felt home without the sound of his steady footsteps next to hers.
After weeks of turmoil, the priestess had resorted to the one constant in her life. A quiet morning, before the guildhall opened, the priestess returned to the temple of the Earth-Mother. She walked quietly through the hall of prayer until she reached the point she searched for; the place where the sunrays illuminated the statue of the Earth-Mother in the holiest of ways. The priestess knelt before the visage of her God, her questions tumbling from her lips.
“Oh Earth-Mother, why have I become so disturbed by my companion? What must I do to make amends for this sin?”
Of course the priestess knew that the Earth-Mother rarely spoke directly to her followers. That there were far more important miracles which needed attention than her own troubles. The priestess shook her head with a sigh and began to rise, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. Yet when the priestess began her slow walk back from the shrine, she stumbled over the worn steps when a familiar peal of laughter echoed through her mind.
“It is no sin to care deeply for another, so long as you abide by your tenets and devotion while doing so.”
The voice was kind and gentle; a silken embrace over the priestess’s unsettled soul. The tears ran down her cheeks, though her smile shone bright in the morning light.
“Thank you, holy Earth-Mother.”
It was through all this change and growth that the priestess found herself once more in the space of celebration. The harvest festival had returned to the town, bringing with it goods from all over the region. Ale flowed freely as adventurers mingled with farmers; dances were shared as trinkets and treats were offered by countless stalls along the town square.
Though the priestess enjoyed the celebrations of her promotions, it was these kinds of events which truly let her explore- the way an adventurer should. There wouldn’t be any fighting here. Not with this many adventurers gathered in one place. Plus, it was a perfect excuse to show off her re-cut black-and-silver casual robes.
She’d ambled through the crowd, poking her head through the gatherings around the stalls, wide-eyed at the wealth of different bits and pieces offered. She’d found the lizard priest resolutely tasting every single cheese offered by the travelling dairy stall, though she had politely declined his invitation to try them all once more for her “expert opinion.” Further on, the high-elf archer and dwarf shaman were engaging in one of their endless contests; it took the priestess promising one drink with them to pull them away from their determined race by the tavern bartop. Of course, dwarven wine wasn’t for the faint of heart. With the expectant faces of her adventuring companions staring at her, the priestess took a long drink from the precariously filled mug before her. Though she coughed violently as the fiery liquid pooled in her stomach, she set the mug down with steady hands. A cheer sprang up from her companions as the high-elf archer clumsily wrapped her arms around the priestess. The priestess returned the hug, feeling the archer’s hot breath on her face.
“I’m so proud of you, priestess!” The high-elf archer slurred through her drunken haze. “You’ve come so far… you’re… a real adventurer.”
Whether it was the alcohol thrumming in her blood or the praise from the high-elf archer the priestess couldn’t say, but the blush across her cheeks felt just as strong as it ever had. Still, the priestess gently extricated herself from the half-elf archer’s embrace, beaming through the bright pink on her cheeks at her two companions.
“Now now elf- the girl shared the drink she promised with us. Let her go on to enjoy the rest of the festival.” The dwarf shaman’s words were far clearer than those of his companion.
With a tiny nod and wave goodbye the priestess hopped down from the bar stool, once more setting out into the balmy summer evening. By now wine had cracked through her self-doubt; dragging to the surface the one person she wanted to see most of all. Her steps grew more confident as her goal fixed in her mind. Any other time she might have noticed the stares from the vendors around her; the quick whispers as she strode past. But for now, her determination trumped all else.
She found him at the ice-cream stand, standing beside cow-girl as she served the last customers of the evening. The priestess couldn’t help the smile that sprang to her lips as she half-walked, half-ran the last few steps to the stand. Not content with breaking down her self-doubts, the wine had also stolen her coordination, and with a surprised yelp she crashed into the goblin slayer. His strong arms caught her; his own body barely moved by the weight of the priestess.
“Goblin slayer! I’m so sorry I don’t know what happened I just lost my balance-“ the priestess’ words smashed in to each other in her haste to apologise. Her face felt like it was on fire as her previous confidence evaporated at the stupidity of her fall in to the ever-implacable man.
“Priestess! Are you ok?” the cow-girl’s concerned voice cut through her torrent of thoughts.
“… yeah I’m ok. Goblin slayer caught me.” The priestess kept her face buried against the steel of his chest, praying her embarrassed blush was hidden by the cool metal. When the priestess finally dared peek up she saw the sympathetic smile on the cow-girl’s face, and felt her embarrassment slowly fade as she carefully found her balance.
“I hope I didn’t startle anyone…” said the priestess.
The cow-girl laughed and shrugged, gesturing at the mostly-empty space in front of the stand.
“It’s alright, we’re just finishing up here for the night. People loved the ice cream so there’s almost none left.”
“Oh- ok then.” The priestess stepped away from the goblin slayer (did she feel a tiny shift from him towards her as she pulled away?) “I was going to see if goblin slayer wanted to go look at the stars from the hill just outside of town, but I should let you two pack up in peace.”
Now that she was slightly more settled, the priestess finally noticed that the cow-girl was staring at her face just a moment too long before responding.
“I can pack up here! You should go with her, goblin slayer. You worked very hard today helping me prepare this.”
The priestess turned back to the goblin slayer, eagerly awaiting a response from the armoured man.
The priestess barely suppressed the yelp of joy at the words, choosing instead to grab the gauntleted hand of the goblin slayer.
“Thank you we won’t be away for long I promise!”
The cow-girl just smiled and waved as the priestess and goblin slayer made their way through the thinning crowd. Once more the priestess felt the eyes of the people around on the two of them. Not that it was unusual for goblin slayer to draw stares. Even here where his exploits were well-known, people stared. Still, the priestess mused over the mystery of what brought on the reaction tonight especially. In the years past she would have tried to make idle conversation with the goblin slayer while they walked. She had hated the silence. Nowadays though it was a comfort. There was a stability in their shared footsteps up the grassy hill. With a final effort, the priestess found the little clearing she had scoped out a few days ago, and with a little hop sat herself down on the grass, still warm from the day’s heat.
The goblin slayer remained standing.
“You have to come sit down too!” the priestess knew somewhere inside her that she was being needy, but her want for the goblin slayer to share this moment overpowered her will to care.
With a barely-perceptible nod, the goblin slayer joined the priestess, the leather in his armour creaking as he moved. Immediately the priestess lay her head on his shoulder, the familiar feeling of steel against her cheek. Together they stared at the starfield before them, watching as the moons hung ponderous amongst a twinkling night. Still, the priestess couldn’t shake the musing from before.
“People were staring at me today. I know I’m not from the town but I hoped people had gotten used to seeing me around…”
“It’s probably because you’re glowing.”
The priestess poked her tongue out in response to his sarcasm.
“I had one drink!”
“No- you’re actually glowing. It looks like when you cast your Holy Light. Like a less-bright version.”
The priestess blinked as the goblin slayer’s response took a second to sink in. She stretched out her hand in the pale moonlight and it was as he said: small pinpricks of light lit up her skin, casting tiny shadows from the blades of grass around her.
“I… I don’t think this is supposed to happen.” The priestess worry began to creep in through her words. “What if something’s wrong? What if the Earth-Mother is trying to tell me something?”
She felt the goblin slayer shift under her, and before she knew it his arm wrapped around her shoulder, easily enveloping the priestess’ frame.
“I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening before. Sorcerers who exhibit traits of their ancestors when they drink. I don’t think it’s harmful.” The goblin slayer said, straightforward as ever.
The priestess relaxed into his embrace, feeling her heart flutter as his grip tightened in response. The goblin slayer paused, staring off into the stars before them as if looking for words amongst the constellations. She was about to speak when his voice rumbled from the helm once more.
“It… suits you. I know you like Holy Light. Maybe it’s another blessing- for the people around you to see.”
The priestess' heart soared, feeling the heat spreading through the very tips of her body as the goblin slayer’s simple words. Too focused on the helm of the goblin slayer was she to notice that her own face glowed brighter yet. A million thoughts raced through her mind; things to say or do but all of them were discarded as waves against a shore. Instead she simply leaned against the goblin slayer; wanting nothing from the realms of demons below to gods above to disturb this perfect moment. From now and forever on, she knew she would keep the Light.
The goblin slayer kept a careful cadence as he walked back down the grassy hill; the sleeping form of the priestess cradled in his arms. At some point during his stargazing with the priestess he had noticed her breathing slow, falling into the regular rhythm of someone who had been claimed by sleep after drink. She was still faintly glowing in the dark of the evening as she curled up against him. It had taken him longer to realise than he would have liked to admit how much she meant to him. It had been a gradual thing. Digging out space for two when setting up camp. Checking so that her gear was well-maintained whenever they went to town. Buying enough provisions for two.
Hearing the soft breathing of the priestess as she moved closer to him in her sleep.
Feelings were not the goblin slayer’s strong suit. He had been so blinded by the cold fury of the slaughter of his village that there was never space for anything, or anyone else. And yet, day by day, week by week she made her mark. Eventually he found himself unable to remember how it had been before that fateful meeting with the priestess in the goblin nest. She had shown him a side he had never expected to see. At least not in this lifetime. He had no qualms about dying. So long as he took as many goblins down with him as he could, death was as welcome an outcome as any. But now he found himself thinking of what would be left of his companions if he were to die. The tears of the priestess over his grave.
So lost was he in his thoughts that it took the appearance of the tavern door before him to realise that he had made it back to her accommodation for the night. With a gentle push on the door, and quiet nod to the innkeeper, he made his way up to the priestess’ room on the second floor. He did his best to not disturb her as he laid her down on to the waiting bed. Still, she shifted and pulled the covers over herself, mumbling as she curled into her usual side-sleeping position. How much he had learned about her over the last three years!
“…blin slayer… I… ove you.”
He froze, unsure if he’d heard her half-lucid words correctly. Time itself seemed to slow to a crawl as the storm inside him raged. Feelings long-suppressed by the suit of armour and overwhelmed by his constant fury pushed their way to the surface, overcoming the walls he’d built with the force of a storm wind. So long had they been gone that he could barely identify them for what they were.
He breathed. In. Out.
Eventually, achingly his turmoil relented, and once more he saw the now fully sleeping priestess before him. There was much to mull over. But for now, he knew it was best to leave the priestess in peace.
Where the goblins had given him something to die for, the priestess had given him a reason to live. That was her Light.