Being the daughter of a wealthy merchant means you can have almost anything sent to you within days of wanting it. It was two months ago that Kira took full advantage of this benefit of wealth. Soon after her relationship with Luke became public knowledge, Kira wasted no time in requesting a magical item from her father. This common item, known as the pocket cabin, is a small box that easily fits inside a person’s pocket. With a simple incantation, the pocket cabin will open into a log cabin with basic furnishings and a magically stocked kitchen. The device was originally designed for the homeless of Gaia, but the creators soon learned that the cabins could not remain active for more than a week before they reverted to their box form. This would occur whether or not someone was still inside and the device could not be reopened for six hours. Considered a danger to the homeless, the pocket cabin became a favorite item among adventurers and, although never used as a selling point, it became a popular hideaway for lovers. Such was the case with Kira and Luke who disappeared to their cabin several times during the semester. It is no different tonight, as they lay in the moonlight with each other behind the pocket cabin’s wooden door with ‘L.C. heart K.G.’ etched into the front.
“You’re always so warm. I bet you would be at home in the desert lands,” Kira says, pleasantly wrapped Luke’s arms.
“But then I couldn’t see you in tree-filtered moonlight like I do now. I think that’s when you’re most beautiful,” Luke replies. He kisses her bare shoulder and rubs her stomach.
“Flattery can’t get you any further. Not that I think you should stop,” Kira playfully teases him. She tries to turn around and almost rolls out of the embrace. In a near panic, she clings to Luke as hard as she can and keeps her head pressed against his chest. She can imagine hearing Luke’s heart breaking as she cries on his chest and clings to him. “Please, don’t stop holding me! Please!”
“Please, don’t cry. I want to enjoy tonight with you,” Luke whispers, stroking her hair and nuzzling her cheek.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to deal with you leaving,” Kira says in a voice that sounds tiny and weak. “I know you promised to always love me and return to me when your adventures are over. I just really don’t want you to go. There are monsters, warlords, and thieves all over Windemere. It’s too dangerous on the road for me not to ask that you stay here with me.”
“Part of me doesn’t want to leave either, but Kellia and her father are depending on me to keep her safe. Then, there is the other problem,” Luke says, gently lifting her face from his chest. “I still want to become a great hero before I settle down to a family with you. I need to get it out of my system like every other Callindor has done before me. Guess it works like some kind of family curse or tradition.”
“Of course,” Luke replies. He reaches out to catch a tear that Kira missed. “All Callindors wander away from home to have an adventure. It’s why we have such a wide-spread reputation as heroes and warriors.”
The half-elf pushes against the pillows to get more support for his shoulders while Kira pulls herself into a comfortable position against him. She lets her hand mindlessly trace the scar that runs from his right hip to his left shoulder. It was only a few weeks ago that she first saw the scar and tried her best not to reveal her disgust. Now, she thought of the scar as a symbol of Luke’s strength and bravery.
“I meant, were you serious about wanting to marry me some day and have a family,” she whispers delicately as if saying it any louder would drive the thoughts from his mind. “You always avoided talking about those things before tonight.”
“You avoided it too,” Luke contends with a smile. “Neither of us wanted to mention it. Your family could force you into a marriage while I’m on the road or something could happen to me. Our paths feel so chaotic at times. Maybe we shouldn’t discuss this tonight.”
Kira repositions herself to drape a long leg over Luke’s knees and closes her eyes with a smile. She lays in silence as Luke strokes her hair and watches the moonlight play against her exotic features. The natural tan of Kira’s skin is nothing like he had seen before he met her. Even her green eyes with a hint of blue have become more and more intriguing as their relationship grew over the semester.
“Take me with you,” Kira demands, abruptly breaking the silence. “I can sneak out during the morning run and meet up with you in Visindor Forest. Kellia won’t turn me away if I’m already in Gaia and I don’t need any type of reward for going along. So, it won’t cost anybody anything to have me come along.”
“We’ve been over this, Kira. That Lich and his demon are still out there. Not to mention any unexpected beasts, thieves, and bandits that we might stumble across. Kellia told me that the chaos elves might even be involved,” Luke says, desperately hoping that Kira agrees with him and lets the topic die. “It will be far too dangerous and you could get killed. I had enough trouble watching you in our battle with the cyclops and the spadix. So, you’re wrong in thinking that you won’t cost anybody anything if you came along. It could cost me more than I want to risk. I promise that when everything is over, I will be with you again. No matter how many women that try to tempt me on my journey, I will remain faithful. I love you, Kira.” She gently rubs the tips of his ears. “Especially when you do that.”
His eyes begin to close before he snatches her hand away. “Please stop. I want to talk a little more before we wear each other out. Trust me. I would love to simply indulge in you tonight and wake up knowing I will be staying with you tomorrow, but we don’t have that luxury.”
“Sorry,” Kira says in a dreamy voice. “I guess this is what happens when you’re lying next to your true love, his slender, toned arms holding you tight, feeling his heart beating through his chest and into your own. His . . .” She moves to try and blow in Luke’s ear, but he quickly catches her lips between his fingers.
“I’m trying to talk here,” Luke playfully growls.
Kira kisses him as she rolls and pins him below her. “What did you mean by being tempted by other women on your journey?”
Luke looks up at her in fear and confusion. “Well, I guess there will be beautiful women that I will meet who are attracted to me. I assume running into people like that is unavoidable. It isn’t like I can do anything about it. So, I promise to stay loyal to you and I will. You don’t have to worry about me indulging in any woman while I’m away from you.”
“Take them,” Kira says in a surprisingly calm voice.
“What?” Luke coughs. He attempts to sit up, but Kira pushes him back down while staring into his green eyes.
“I said you should take them in the way that they offer themselves to you. My culture has an old tradition, Luke. When two people consider themselves to be true lovers, they give each other permission to be with other people until they are married,” Kira slowly explains, placing her cool forehead against his. “You might think it is strange to have an open relationship like this, but my people feel that it helps strengthen the bond between two people. It can also show that the two people are not meant to be together by testing the trust and love of the couple in a way that jealousy and faithfulness cannot. Of course, there are rules of conduct to make sure that this tradition is not abused. The true lovers must introduce each other to all temporary lovers who are more than one-time arrangements. This gives each lover a chance to bow out of the relationship in the face of a better match. This tradition allows my people to see if they are making the right choice or if they are going to have any second thoughts.”
“I don’t like these rules. I can’t introduce you to the people I meet and I won’t be around to see the guys that you test yourself with,” Luke argues, obviously flustered by Kira’s proposal and how calm she is. “This tradition can’t help us if we’re cheating on each other without meeting these people. Even with permission, the distance makes introductions impossible and it becomes no different than us trying to lose our pain in the arms of strangers. I don’t think I can do that.”
“It helps me to know that you can find someone to comfort you when I’m not there. Also, I want to have your permission to find someone who can temporarily comfort me when I miss you so much that I can’t eat,” Kira says, her body beginning to shake with worry. “Nobody can replace you, Luke. It’s just that . . . this is the way I was raised. I know it sounds wrong and strange to you, but please promise me that you will try to uphold this tradition.”
“Why would anybody make a tradition like this?” Luke asks in frustration. He attempts to wriggle out from under her before he notices that she has her legs wrapped around his. Luke begrudgingly stops moving as Kira gives him a kiss on the cheek.
“The reason for this tradition is that the concept of divorce was dissolved after a time where people would leave each other for any reason,” Kira explains, speaking slowly and choosing her words carefully. “Most divorces during this time were caused simply because one person became bored with the other. It was damaging cultural unity and children were being forced to live in shattered families. These children would grow up to either repeat the mistakes of their parents or avoid love altogether. It endangered the long-term unity and survival of Bor’daruk culture. So, the tradition of open relationships was made at the same time the elders designed a punishment for unnecessary divorce. Of course, separations caused by abuse were allowed with the abuser going to jail.”
She shifts in the bed to get a better look at Luke before continuing, “Since then, everyone has had to make a careful choice in a companion and they must live with that choice. Going through with an unnecessary divorce results in permanent exile and the city raises any children that the couple might have. Future children of these exiles are allowed to rejoin society if they pass some tests, but the parents are only returned after they have died and need to be buried. By the look on your face, I can tell you think that this is very drastic. Just understand that we are a culture that holds family above all else and it is the foundation of our society. So, do you promise to do accept the rules of this tradition for me?”
Luke takes a few seconds to let everything sink in. “It is not a part of my culture and I barely understand it, but I promise to consider giving it a try. I also promise to return to you when I can settle down.”
Kira kisses him hard and lets her body relax against his. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s getting late. Should we go to bed?”
Luke grins up at her before he kisses her lips. The two share a final night together in their pocket cabin. The vision of each other in the moonlight is burned into their minds and hearts. Luke would later say that it was a magical night, but right now he is simply happy to hold and caress Kira. Tomorrow will bring a morning that Luke prayed would never come.