An Unholy Alliance

Desire at Tanninhold InnDesire Night would not have noticed the man at all were it not for the slight limp and the sling. He had his back to her, was slightly stooped over, and wore the rags of a peasant, one that smelled of dung. She turned up her nose and almost walked away when something caught her attention, a glint of a gold chain around his neck, barely showing from under his thick cape. Odd, for a peasant to be wearing anything gold. She looked at him more closely.

Barnard turned and met her gaze. Her eyes widened as she recognized him. She turned to run, but he quickly seized her arm and dragged her into the shadows of a small shed where they could not be seen.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded to know, glancing nervously about the village center of Tanninhold.

Desire struggled but could not free herself. “I am out for a walk,” she protested. “The better question is what are YOU doing here and where is Karissa?”

“Don’t worry about her. Worry about yourself!” he spat. “Who sent you? Who will you tell?”

When Desire kicked him in the shin to try and escape, he spun her around, her back to his front, his hand snug around her as he drew his dagger and rested it against her throat.

“No one sent me,” she whispered, thinking he was just crazy enough to use it. “They needed a baker here. I took the position.”

Barnard pulled her back tighter and whispered in her ear, “If you are a spy for the Scotsman Bryantt Sands, I promise that you will not live long enough to tell him where we are.”

Desire responded by spitting on the ground. “I would not spy for that man!” she snapped. She pulled a rumbled piece of parchment from her skirts and handed it to him.

As he gripped her, Barnard took the note and shook it open with one hand, then read it carefully, as the letters were somewhat smudged. It read: “You must leave North March now, before you are found out.”

“What does this mean, ‘before you are found out’?” he asked.

“I suppose they mean the black magic,” Desire lied.

Barnard in TanninholdBarnard thought about it a bit and concluded that her answer was reasonable. He turned her around to face him, then shoved her backwards hard. Her heel caught in the stones and she fell down on her ass. He stepped forward and placed his boot on her chest and his dagger at her throat. “If this is true, and IF you mean us no harm, and IF you do not speak to Sands or his men about where we are, THEN I might let you live,” he said. “But if you return to him or disclose our hideout or bring him or his men here, I will personally slit your throat.”
He backed up and removed his boot, allowing her to get up but not offering her a hand.

“If I meant to harm you, you would not be standing here right now,” she stated as she stood and brushed the dirt off her clothing.

“If you betray me, I will know it. I have spies on both sides of the border,” he warned her.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, Desire stepped back and called upon the elements. Barnard found himself surrounded by an eerie green light and unable to move. It was a trick of the mind, he was sure, but trick or no trick, she had him trapped. “What the hell!” he yelled at her, struggling. “What did you do, witch?”

“Now, look here, priest,” Desire snapped, “we do not have to be on the opposite side of things. But you need to stay out of my affairs!”

“You can’t keep this up,” he warned her. “You’ll be found out and burned at the stake.”

Her voice went from angry to quiet and conspiring. ‘I can help you. You can help me.”

“How, witch?” he asked.

“I will leave Karissa alone, in exchange for you not trying to kill me at every turn.”

Barnard stared at the woman, trying to calm his rage, which seemed to be working against him to keep him trapped, for the harder he struggled, the tighter the grip of “the elements.”

“Karissa blames herself for the demon you conjured up,” he told her. “Do you realize that what has happened between Bryantt and Karissa and me is due to you calling that creature? She is torn with guilt. She is throwing herself at Bryantt to save my life, to save me from your demon.”

“You can’t blame that on me!” Desire yelled back. “You were insane over her before I called the demon. I was trying to send a protection spell for you.”

“If Bryantt gets his hands on her and realizes she left with me willingly, God only knows what he will do to her. I can’t let that happen,” Barnard said. “I want Bryantt Sands defeated and the North freed of him and his kind. We cannot return to the North until that happens.”

“Then why don’t we work together?” Desire asked.

Barnard thought a minute, studying this woman, wondering what her endgame was. At last he nodded. “I can work with you, on two conditions,” he said. “First, you cannot disclose our whereabouts to Bryantt or any of his cronies. Second, if I am captured, you must swear on your life before Bryantt that I held Karissa as captive against her will.”

“And I will add a third condition, for you,” Desire said. “I will not touch Karissa again, no matter how much I long for her.”

Barnard looked startled. “You?” he asked.

“It was only a kiss. Relax,” she said with a sigh. “Just tell me this, and I will agree. Are you just crazy? Or do you love her – Karissa.”

Barnard flushed red and stammered. “I love her.”

“Then, for that, I will not betray you,” she said.

The two then moved to the small apartment over the bakery where they conspired late into the night.

Barnard and Karissa in Tanninhold

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