Man to Man

            The following story is based on a scene that I considered including in The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner, but ultimately cut both for length and because it would just have felt tacked-on in the actual novel. Because this story takes place after the big climax of Rebirth and Awakening, there will be a bunch of spoilers. However, if you have already read the book or don’t mind spoilers, please read on.

 

~

Julium 20, 1043 P.W.D

Valin paused, took a deep breath, and ran a hand through his shoulder length blonde hair as he reached the door to his future father-in-law’s study. It had been a few days since his fiancée’s brothers and uncle had headed back out on the road and—while things had been going extremely well with his future mother-in-law—things had been very awkward between him and Hawk Bendis since the incident five nights before. Aside from a few pleasantries they had barely spoken at all, and Valin’s attempts at striking up a casual conversation had all fallen as flat as a disturbed soufflé.

Though, he honestly could not blame him. The man had spent his entire career—his entire life—indiscriminately killing werewolves under the assumption that every single one was a creature of pure evil. For such a man to learn, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that not only were his long-held beliefs totally wrong but that his own daughter was madly in love with and betrothed to a werewolf…Naturally, it was a lot to take in.

After he had judged himself to be sufficiently calm, Valin reached one still-shaking hand out to knock at the door. He really was a bundle of nerves right then. This little meeting with River’s father was nearly as frightening to him as the day that he first left home to make his own way in the world. Back then, at least he’d had his mother and father to give him words of advice and encouragement as he boarded that boat to the mainland. Here? He was completely on his own.

“Who is it?” Hawk called though the door not long after Valin’s knuckles had met the wood.

“It’s me, Valin. You…wanted to see me, Sir?” he replied.

“Ah, yes, Valin. Come in,” Hawk said.

Valin swallowed hard, then tentatively turned the doorknob and walked into the room. It was a cozy but formal space, Mr. Bendis’ study, with walls covered half with dark wood paneling and half with deep red wallpaper and lined with elegant antique bookshelves, a large triple-arched window behind his desk, and a lot of very expensive-looking furnishings and décor. Hawk himself was seated at that imposing mahogany desk, the backrest of his brown leather chair rising just above the top of his head. That, along with the way he was leaning backward, arms folded before him, with an inscrutable look on his face and the strong scent of displeasure emanating from him made him seem like a corporate executive about to inform someone that their services were no longer required.

“Have a seat, young man,” Hawk said as he gestured toward a finely crafted chair opposite his own, his brown eyes seeming to bore through Valin’s very soul as he entered. “We have much to discuss, you and I.”

Valin nodded and made his way to the designated chair. When he was seated, Hawk continued, “Now, I know that things have not gone well between us thus far—and for good reason. Firstly, you are a mercenary. Secondly, you are a werewolf. And thirdly, you are about to marry my daughter.

“Personally, I haven’t the faintest idea how River could possibly have fallen in love with the likes of you, and I honestly believe that she is far too good for you. However, in light of recent events, it seems that some form of…truce is in order.”

Valin breathed a sigh of relief, then straightened up and cleared his throat at the sight of one of Hawk’s raven eyebrows rising at his reaction. “Y-yes, Sir. I couldn’t agree more,” Valin said. “It is in River’s best interest that we at least attempt to get along. The fact that we have not been speaking…it worries her terribly.”

Hawk subtly cocked his head to the side. “Oh? You really do care for my daughter a great deal, don’t you Valin?” he asked. “After all, you risked your life just coming here…and all for her.”

“River is the most important person to me in the entire world,” Valin said. “I love her with every fiber of my being—all that is human and all that is wolf. She just has a way…a way of making me feel at ease, at home. With her, I smile more often, I laugh more whole-heartedly, I feel more alive than I’ve felt since leaving home. She’s a very special woman.”

Hawk nodded. “Yes, she gets that from her mother,” he said. “But then, you understand why I would be reluctant to trust any young man with her life…not just you?”

“Yes, of course. If I were in your position, I probably would not like me either.”

“Valin, I am going to ask you a series of questions,” Hawk said. “Answer truthfully…no more secrets, no more half-truths, no more lies. I want to know who my daughter is really about to marry—the knight in shining armor that she fancies you to be, or a filthy mongrel who does a very good impression of one.”

Valin took a deep breath and nodded. “I swear on my honor and the honor of my family, that I will tell you the whole truth,” he said. “No lies, no secrets, no half-truths.”

“Good,” Hawk said sternly. “First question: Have you ever had or attempted to have carnal relations with my daughter?”

Valin jumped back, startled that he would open up with such a personal question. “N-no, Sir,” he replied. “There have been times where our kisses have become very passionate, yes, but she always puts a stop to things before they go too far. River wants to wait until we are officially married before we make love, you see. Out of respect for her wishes, I have never attempted to cross the boundaries that she has laid down. She doesn’t even allow me to see her in her underthings…Not that I’ve tried to peek at her in her underthings, but, well…A gentleman only looks when invited.”

“Good answer,” said Hawk. “So, when you share a bed with her, all you do is simply…sleep?”

“For now, yes,” Valin said with a nod. “All we do is sleep and snuggle, Sir…and I keep my hands only in wholesome places, I swear!”

“Snuggle?”

“Yes, Sir. I hold her in my arms, she holds me in hers…It’s all very nice and calming. River likes it very much.”

“It does little to calm me…” Hawk said, his gaze becoming steelier as those words exited his mouth. “And what of your family? Ranva is a Demonic surname…Fire Tribe, if I am not mistaken.”

Valin nodded. “Yes, Sir. My adoptive father is a nobleman of the Fire Tribe; Lord Nogstan Dalrinis Ranva,” he said. “He and my adoptive mother, Dolamaan, have been happily married for over two hundred years, but because demons and tentacle monsters can’t have children together…Well, they’ve been adopting and raising orphaned and abandoned children for centuries.”

Hawk’s eyebrow quirked upward yet again. “Am I hearing things, or did you just say that you were raised by Lord Nogstan Dalrinis Ranva?” he asked. “As in, the originator of the Rising Lightning Slash and the Blackfire Aria technique, Nogstan Dalrinis Ranva?”

“The very same,” Valin said with a smile. “He taught me everything that I know about both swordsmanship and manhood. He is a very good teacher…but I’m afraid that I was a better student of chivalry than swordplay. If it weren’t for the advantage of my strength and speed, I would never have stood a chance against Silver. You taught him very well, Mr. Bendis.”

“Well…I can only claim most of the credit,” Hawk said, a small smile tickling the corners of his mouth slightly upward as the scent of pride began emanating from his direction. “He also has quite a bit of innate talent. Only when training and talent combine is a prodigy truly born.” Then, he sobered back up and asked, “And what of your mother, Lady Dolamaan? Her people are notoriously…amorous beings, to put it politely. Surely such an influence has had an effect on your romantic views…?”

“Well, Mother did make it a point that we all understood where babies actually come from at a very young age,” Valin said. “Her people don’t believe in shielding children from the existence of sex at all. However, she also made sure to teach us that sex is not something to be jumped into unless both you and your partner are completely ready. In her words, ‘Both people just have a lot more fun that way…and if you’re not both having fun, then why bother?’”

“So, you intend to provide River with a ‘fun’ wedding night, young man?” Hawk asked, once again intimidatingly stern.

Valin swallowed hard. “Well…her wedding day is often the most important time in a woman’s life,” he said. “It is her husband’s duty to make every single minute from the moment the vows are read until the both of them fall asleep in each other’s arms that night to be as pleasurable as possible. Besides, I do enjoy making River happy anyway. Why else would a man like me go to a chic restaurant where they serve you a big old salad and a steak that barely fits your palm? For no other reason than for the sake of seeing her smile.”

Hawk huffed a brief laugh, but his eyes were grinning. “My boy, no man goes to such an abominable place except to see the woman he loves smile. I count myself very lucky that Eliza hates places such as that even more than I do. ‘Too little food for way too much money,’ she says…Gods, I love that woman! As much as she frustrates me, I do not believe that I could survive being married to anyone any less feisty…”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Valin said. “River is very sweet, the absolute definition of a lady…but I have never seen anyone who fights as hard, stands her ground as firmly, or glares as terrifyingly as she does! And how anyone can remain so prim and proper while holding a knife to a man’s throat and promising to kill him if she catches him slave hunting at any orphanage ever again, I will never know! It’s one of the things that I love the most about her, and yet…it is also the thing that makes me worry about her the most.

“When she said that her newly-turned brother was transforming in front of her and Flood without any sort of supervision…All I could think of was all of the ways that something like that could have gone horribly, tragically wrong. The only reason why I had agreed to arrive later was because she was afraid for me, but my being afraid for her was all that it took for me to rush to her side. I know that it angered her that I did not hear her out, but…Well, what would you have done under those circumstances?”

“More than likely the very same thing,” Hawk said with a smile. “River and Flood both take after their mother—strong, confident, highly skilled women who believe that they can take on any challenge or danger that this world has to offer. It is up to us, the men in their lives, to make sure that they do not rush into those challenges and dangers without reliable back-up—no matter how they fuss and scream about us tagging along.”

They both laughed this time…In fact, this was the very first time that Valin had ever heard Hawk Bendis laugh whole-heartedly. And, as crazy as it was, the man was doing it with him! Somehow, somewhere along the line, the wall of ice between them had finally been broken.

“You know, Valin,” Hawk said, “for a mercenary and a werewolf, you are…dare I say it? You are not so bad. Maybe, given some time, I might even come to like you.”

“I would like that very much, Sir,” Valin said, “because I’ve come to like you quite a bit already. You are not as cold and merciless your reputation would suggest.”

“That is the thing about reputations, Valin,” Hawk said. “They are mostly exaggerations…Except for what they say about my aim. That is perfectly true. Remember that.”

Valin swallowed hard and laughed nervously. ‘Well, the ice is broken,’ he thought as he nodded, ‘but there are still a few chunks in the water…’

~

Well, that’s all for this week, folks. I’ll be taking next Sunday off for Father’s Day, but do remember to head on down to Amazon.com between Wednesday, June 17th and Sunday, June 21st to grab your FREE Kindle ebook copy of Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire. (If you don’t own a Kindle, you can download the app for your computer or favorite mobile device totally for free or use Amazon’s free online cloud reader to enjoy the book. You have no excuse to miss out on this except for laziness, blindness, ending up in a coma, or death.) The books are also available in paperback physical copy for all those who still prefer the experience of turning those glorious paper pages, and the digital versions will be hitting Smashwords this August too!

So, until next time, you can find me on Twitter and Pintrest if you’re just so inclined to social media stalk me, check out my Fan Works Spot or Random Thoughts to read more of my writing (or just get that nice, juicy free book I just told you about), and archive binge around here for more great articles (if you liked this entry, you’ll probably enjoy others under the “Short Stories” category as well). Also, if you enjoy my books or blog don’t forget to spread the word to your friends both in real life and online. If you’ve already read the books (or after you read that free one…did I mention it’s free yet?), don’t forget to drop a review at Amazon, Goodreads, or any other site where good books are reviewed. Thanks for reading, and see you in two weeks!

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About starrunnerworld

I'm an independent author who specializes in Fantasy and Sci-Fi.
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