Chapter 3 - Time Always Reveals

Sage speaks:

The town on the outskirts of Órënár had been destroyed - the houses burned, the livestock slaughtered, the inhabitants tortured. Some had survived. Most had not.

She walked through the scene in disgust. The moans of those still alive fused with the buzzing of flies...the smell of spilled blood and rotting flesh stuck to her nostrils. She had known this would happen, it had been predicted. Attacks of this nature would continue to occur, at first only infrequently in the outer reaches of the country, but they would slowly work their way inward until they reached the very heart of Rámaurúva.

And the queen would do nothing, despite the warnings. It was her duty to protect her people, yet she chose to ignore the signs...that her husband was ailing and she had young ones to care for was no excuse. She was a queen first, a wife second, and a mother third.

Raven, Lady of Mystique, eyed the carnage that surrounded her. According to Irina, this was just the beginning. The dark forces would multiply and conquer deliberately, unhurriedly, reaching their pinnacle of power when the queen's eldest daughter was full grown. If an effort was made now to prevent such arbitrary violence, perhaps further tragedy could be avoided.

Yet Raven could not deny the twinge of satisfaction that she felt deep down, far beneath the otherwise natural response of repulsion...for she had never cared for so-called "normal" humans. Her family, her entire village, turned against her the day she was born...skin of an unusual hue was difficult to hide, and people were always quick to fear anything that was different from what they were used to....Raven forced these thoughts out of her head. This was neither the time nor the place to settle old scores. Besides, when her gifts finally revealed themselves, she was able to blend in with those who had once shunned her, something that she learned could be used to her advantage. She would have her revenge. They would never know what hit them...

Still, times like this made her pause...was this amount of carnage worth it? The people of this town had done nothing to her, should they pay for the mistakes of others? Not that she had anything to feel guilty about - this had not been her doing - but if she had listened to Irina, if she had left a little earlier, ridden a little faster, perhaps she could have helped these people defend themselves against whatever enemy it was that attacked them so viciously. Because their opponent did not distinguish between men and women, adults and children, men and beasts - it killed anything that breathed. She was sure it would not distinguish between normal and gifted either...and so their foe was also her own.

Just then, a muffled cry jolted her back into the present.

"Fool," Raven scolded herself as she searched for its source, "letting yourself be caught off guard...you should know better."

The closer she got to the sound's origin, the quicker her steps became. She began to realize why she was responding to this particular noise, while ignoring the death throes of the others. It was a child's cry, a baby's cry. She began to panic when she reached the pile of debris from which the wail emanated. Frantically, Raven tore boards, straw, and the limp body of a woman off the mound until a squalling infant covered in blood was revealed. She picked up the child and returned to her horse, where she poured water from a canteen onto an extra shirt and washed the babe the best she could before wrapping her in another cloth.

Once the little girl was clean and warm, she settled down in Raven's arms. Looking up at the strange woman, she laughed, reaching up to touch her blue face. Raven leaned forward and allowed the child to pat her cheek, poke her nose, and pull her hair. When the examination of her savior was complete, she nuzzled against the Ranger's breast and fell asleep. Raven fell in love with her daughter immediately.

Or so the story goes....

~

Pastel colors were already spreading across the dawn sky when Remy walked into the stables. Located a distance from Naira, they were surrounded by the small, well-kept homes of the common folk. Keeping that in mind, he readied his horse as quietly as possible, so as not to awaken anyone nearby. He had just finished adjusting the reins when Katherine entered building, wearing a thick violet cloak.

"Good morning, my lord," she greeted him softly as she walked past him into the depths of the stable.

"And a good morning to you, Lady Katherine. How do you fair on this fine day?"

"I am tired and cold, since you asked, but I am otherwise well."

After reaching her desired horse, Katherine lead the mare back towards the entrance. She was a fine animal, deep chocolate with a white spot on her nose. He noticed that she had already been prepared for the day's journey, and began to wonder if his traveling companion had beat him to the punch.

"Is the Lady Rogue awake yet?"

"She has been up for near an hour now."

He followed her out into the open air, stopping as she did in front of the building. To his left, walking down the stairs that lead to the great hall of Naira, was a group of people. As Rogue was part of this party, he had little to do but wait for her arrival. Rogue and the queen were in front, and though they set a quick pace, they did not appear hurried. They spoke in low voices, apparently deep in conversation that no other was meant to hear. Logan, Xavier, and the king followed behind, giving the women enough room to ensure their privacy. The men were all half-dressed in hastily thrown on tunics and the worn, comfortable pants they slept in, and the queen obviously still wore her nightgown under the elaborate robe she bore. Rogue, meanwhile, wore a curiously fashioned green cloak over what appeared to be a white man's shirt, tight brown pants, and knee-high brown heeled boots. The cloak was actually half-cloak, half-coat - it had fitted sleeves and a fitted torso that buttoned down to her waist. The bottom of the cloak nearly brushed the ground, but was cut in half in the back, so as to allow her to easily ride a horse in it, Remy assumed. He also noticed that the cloak also had a hood that now hung down her back. Her hands were covered by brown leather gloves.

Rogue and the queen had not quite finished their discussion by the time they reached Remy and Katherine, so they stood apart from them while the others joined the pair and their horses. As the king began talking to Katherine about the day's chores, Xavier and Logan pulled Remy aside.

"You better look after her, bub," Logan growled, giving him a threatening look. "Or else."

"The Lady Rogue needs no looking after," Xavier stated aloud while he mentally scolded Logan, "but it eases my heart that you will be with her, just in case something should happen."

Logan grumbled under his breath and walked away, and Xavier leaned in towards Remy. "I chose you to accompany her for a reason, my friend. Do not let me down."

"We shall arrive at our destination safely," he promised, embracing the older man, "and we will be back in the morrow."

Remy mounted his horse and waited for Rogue to say her good-byes before they headed out. She once again grasped her lady's hands, leaning forward to kiss each cheek before grasping Logan's hand and giving it a hearty shake. She then repeated the formal royal good-bye with Katherine, mounted her horse, and bade the others farewell with a wave of her arm.

She spoke not to Remy, but motioned for him to follow as she galloped out of the city's gates.

~

They made the entire journey in silence, stopping only once at a stream to allow the horses a drink and a short rest before continuing on. The sun had sunk below the horizon, setting the dusk sky afire as they neared the line of trees that marked the beginning of the forest.

Rogue gently pulled back on her reins, stopping her horse a good distance from the towering wooden columns, and Remy brought his horse next to her. "Why are we stopping?"

"We are unexpected in this sacred place, and I do not wish to alarm its inhabitants."

Almost on cue, a voice echoed menacingly from the trees. "Who dares approach the Forest of Fánacuruni?"

Before either could speak, other voices began shouting one at a time from all directions. "You are not welcome here!" "Turn back before we make you pay for your trespass!" "Begone, intruders, or beware!"

Remy slowly reached across his body, preparing for a confrontation, but Rogue placed her hand on his arm before his fingers could find the object they sought. "Do not be so hasty, my lord."

Something in her tone made him remove his eyes from the danger ahead to look upon her face. She was smiling, ever so slightly, but it was a smile that touched the hardness of her eyes and the chill of her heart. He watched as she pursed her lips and whistled a short tune.

A moment later, her tune was repeated back to them, and a lone figure emerged from the shadows. Excitement sparkled in Rogue's eyes as her smile grew - the sun melting a frost that had lasted far too long. She finally removed her hand from his arm, a motion that startled them both as her touch had lingered longer than necessary and had become surprisingly comfortable, then dismounted and walked towards the figure.

By the time Remy had dismounted and grabbed the reins of both horses, she was laughing and embracing what appeared to be a blue demon. "Kurt! Always with the jokes," she scolded after they let go of each other. "My companion nearly came after you."

"As if he could catch me," Kurt said, stepping back. "Look at you...you grow more beautiful each time I see you."

"And you grow more accustomed to exaggerating," she replied, motioning for Remy to come over. "Come and meet my brother, my lord. What is strange in his appearance is only doubled by his personality."

"Quite the lady, aren't we?" he joked, extending his hand to Remy. "Kurt, son of Raven, fosterling of the Wagners, Nightcrawler of Fánacuruni."

" 'Tis an introduction, not a life history," Rogue scoffed as Remy took his hand. "This is Remy, son of Jean-Luc. He rode with me to ensure my safety..."

Kurt recognized the name, but kept it to himself. "I thank you for watching over Rogue...she is usually too stubborn to allow an escort."

Before Remy could answer, Rogue had linked arms with Kurt, and his attention was already focused back on her. They began walking towards the forest, and Remy followed them. "Tell me, sister, how fares our mother? Is she well?"

"As well as she can be...you know how Raven is..."

He certainly did. "And Irina, how is she?"

"Irina is also well, but she has had some violent night visions that have compelled me to take counsel with your lady."

"Is it bad?"

"Things do not look good," she said seriously, "but I hope this visit will help to change the future beyond the one she has seen for the better."

"I pray it to be so," he replied. He glanced over his shoulder at Remy, who hung back so the siblings could talk without his overhearing them. "Is that why you have come with a companion, or is this man more than just an attendant?"

"Lower your voice," she hissed. "I would not have him hear you ask such things!"

"Since when is the Steel Magnolia embarrassed so easily? I would not think it possible...unless..."

"Hold your tongue, lest you wish to lose it."

Surprised at her sudden lack of humor, Kurt waited several minute before speaking again. "Do not be angry with me, Rogue. It was nothing but jest."

Rogue had a quick temper, one that could be lost with the smallest of comments; her anger, once provoked, did not fade as quickly as most people's. Kurt knew this, and wondered if he had ruined her visit with hasty words.

"You are forgiven," she said after a sizable pause. "But do not make such a jest again."

"I won't," he promised, kissing her gloved hand. "Come, the lady awaits your arrival."

As Remy followed the brother and sister into the woods, he paused mid-step, suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that he was being watched. A glance over his shoulder would have pacified him, if it was not for something he caught in the corner of his eye. By the time his brain had caught up with his sight and he turned completely around, it was gone. Remy told himself that his eyes were playing tricks on him, that it was all in his head, and continued to lead the horses down the path into the trees...but he could not shake the feeling that his instincts had been right...

The lady on the hill breathed a silent sigh of relief as the Ranger disappeared into the forest. She was a beauty, clothed entirely in white, with platinum hair and eyes as cold and hard as the winter sky. Despite all appearances, her purity was long gone, her soul sold in an unending quest for power. And as she was now among the most influential members of the secret society she belonged to, one might wonder why she had traveled so far to complete such a menial task - watching a couple walk into the woods. But she needed to confirm that what had once been put to paper was now being realized...and she wanted to see this momentous occasion for herself, to behold the beginning of the end, to bear witness to the inception of prophesy.

She turned to her companion, an ordinary looking man by all accounts - average height, average build, dark hair with signs of gray beginning to creep in - and smiled. Her smiles were almost weapons, fraught with cruelty. "You did well."

"Thank you, m'lady."

She took her horse's reins from him and mounted the snow-colored mare before adding, "I almost thought he saw us."

The man also mounted his horse. He hesitated only a moment, then answered honestly, as it would be pointless to attempt to keep the truth from her. "He did, for a split second. I did not think the illusion was necessary any longer, so I ended it. I did not realize his powers of perception were so strong."

If it was up to her, she would have killed him on the spot. Such carelessness was not acceptable under normal circumstances, and certainly could not be afforded now. This is one of the reasons she had insisted on going on a mission that the others thought was beneath them - she could trust no one. She would believe her own eyes, no one else's. But as much as she longed to strike him down, he still had a part to play in the events as they unfolded. He could be punished when his role was complete. "I would not dwell upon it. We were not detected, and that is all that matters."

She gave her horse a swift kick, and it began to gallop down the hill with the man close behind. She wanted to get back and make her report as soon as possible.

~

"Rogue..." The weather witch of the Forest of Fánacuruni stood at her friend's approach, opening her arms to embrace her. "It has been such a long time..."

"Indeed," Rogue replied, holding on to her for a few seconds before taking Ororo's hands in her own and stepping back. Ororo always looked perfect in Rogue's eyes - her white hair lay long and straight down her back, and her dress, though simple, was elegant. She wore a silk lavender gown with thin straps and a matching shrug that hung off her forearms and draped delicately behind her. "You look well, my lady."

"As do you."

Rogue released Ororo's hands, suddenly self conscious. She was still in her riding gear, minus the cloak Kurt had taken with him. "I'm sorry...I am not in appropriate attire."

Ororo burst into laughter. "It has been a long time, hasn't it? My dear Rogue, you know that the formalities of court are not upheld here...not unless they are deemed necessary. And a visit from you need never be hindered by such nonsense." She lead Rogue to the pond next to which she had been sitting and they both sat. "Now, tell me what is of such importance that the Lady of the Phoenix has sent you to me."

"How did you...?"

"I was speaking to her before you arrived," she said, motioning to the pond.

Rogue was confused. "I did not think the lady was capable of communicating over such long distances."

"Nor did I. It was a brief conversation, to be sure - Xavier disapproved of her attempting such a feat at all - but she confessed that her powers have been waxing as of late, and had no difficulty contacting me. She told me that my services were needed, but could give me little more information as Xavier compelled her to break the connection."

"I do not like the sound of this."

"Why?" Ororo searched the uneasy face of her friend. "What has happened?"

This time Rogue made a conscious decision to keep the queen's confidence - telling Remy about her dreams had been a mistake, though she trusted him not to repeat what she said - but she told her the rest, starting with Xavier's arrival in Rámaurúva and ending with her own arrival here at the forest.

"Will you not tell me the details of Irina's vision?" the Lady of Fánacuruni asked when Rogue was done with her tale, "Or is it something you would rather not share?"

"I have no problem telling you all I know, my friend, but I'm not sure how to describe what she saw...it was all rather confusing. Irina and Raven were talking at the same time, arguing almost, so I only got bits and pieces of it..."

"Arguing about what?"

"Raven did not want me to know the particulars of the vision...it would not be the first time...but I do not understand why she wanted to keep it from me. If it can help us plan a course of action, the more I know, the better. I suppose she could be trying to protect me...but, if anything, she's just making things worse..."

Ororo had never cared for Raven. There was something not quite right about the woman...something not genuine. She had some kind of hidden agenda that the weather witch was still unable to discern. "You step-mother has always been protective of you."

"Yes...but there was something different about this time...I don't know..." Rogue contemplated the small liquid mirror thoughtfully. "There will be a battle...a battle to end all battles. Good versus evil. Heaven versus hell. Light versus darkness. Except..." Her voice drifted off as she tried to put Irina's fears into words. "Except light will be on the side of darkness. All of the powers of the universe will be against...well, whatever's left. I do not understand it. It doesn't make any sense..."

"I'm sure Irina will tell the Lady of the Phoenix what she can...after all, it is her duty to report everything she sees to the queen. Perhaps the Lady will be able to explain the situation further."

"Perhaps..."

"Rogue, you have had a long day, and will endure another one tomorrow when you ride back home, pray leave these troubles behind you and relax. There's not much we can do about this at present."

"You're right," Rogue said, forcing a smile, "there's nothing to do but wait. If you'll excuse me, my lady, I will seek out my brother and spend some time with him."

"Of course," Ororo replied, standing. "He will certainly be a member of the party I bring to Naira, but I bid you spend some leisure time with him now..."

Rogue stood as well, curtsied, and walked away. Ororo watched as she disappeared into the dark woods and finished her sentence. "...for this may be the last time we have a chance to indulge in such frivolities..."

~

He sat leaning against a tree, smoking his pipe. He had considered going to sleep, but even as the moon rose high above the blanket of trees that hid the horizon, his bedroll remained tightly packed at his side.

Remy couldn't hear her approach...her steps were as silent as if she was walking on air. Maybe she was. But her scent - the sweet smell that always proceeds a heavy rain - betrayed her. She had borne that scent since she was a child, when they first met.

"Good evening, Stormy," he said without turning around.

"I should smack you for calling me that."

Remy smiled. Same ol' Storm. Taking up the mantle of the White Witch had not changed her, and he was glad. "It's good to see you too."

"Rogue told me that you accompanied her...that you were traveling with Xavier and the Wolverine, but I could scarce believe it." She sat down next to him, following his gaze to the waterfall that fed the lake before them.

"And why is that? You introduced me to Xavier yourself, and encouraged me to join him."

"Yes...but you were such a loner when we met, not to mention stubborn. To listen to a child's suggestion..."

"A woman's suggestion," he corrected. "Even then I could see that you were more mature than your outward appearance suggested...besides, I was ready to try something new. I am still on my own, but keep in touch with him. He is a good friend and ally."

Ororo moved to speak, but stopped when she heard the echo of laughter tiptoe through the trees. She smiled to herself, enjoying the sound that had been absent from her domain for so long. Remy continued to smoke his pipe, and the two sat without speaking further, bearing silent witness to what was now a rare sight.

A figure appeared at the top of the cliff overlooking the waterfall, giggling as she glanced over her shoulder, searching for some unseen pursuer. Although the pair of friends couldn't see anyone themselves, the woman apparently did, as she dove off the cliff a minute later. There was no hesitation as she gracefully leapt into the air and purposely aimed for what would surely be a collection of jagged rocks hidden beneath the foam at the bottom of the falls.

Moments before her fingers grazed the water, a puff of smoke surrounded her, then seemingly instantaneously appeared several feet above the middle of the lake, where Rogue would be able to enter the water without harm. Then another cloud of dark smoke materialized at the edge of the lake near Remy and Ororo so quickly that it preceded her splash by several seconds.

"She's giving you quite a workout, isn't she?" Ororo asked.

"Doesn't she always?" Kurt grinned, watching his sister surface to push her hair out of her face before disappearing once again.

"The hour grows late..." Ororo began, but didn't have to finish. He himself had already had that thought.

"I know...but Rogue insisted. I'll fetch her a robe." Two puffs of smoke later, Kurt had reappeared with a large, soft, moss-green robe hanging from his arm. "Come, sister," he called across the water, "I grow weary in this late hour. Let us retire for the night, so we may be refreshed in the morn."

Rogue heard her brother's words despite the fact that she was still underwater. She'd rather have more time to enjoy the freedom swimming always brought her - since learning at a young age, she thought that it was as close to flying as she'd ever get - but knew there was truth in what Kurt had said. She needed rest, as did her hosts. She peeked over the silver surface of the lake to determine where her brother was, then dove back down into the depths and made her way towards the shore. Once the bottom had risen high enough for her to stand, she placed her bare feet in the loose sand and emerged from the lake. As soon as she reached Kurt, he held the robe open, turned his head, and closed his eyes.

"Thank you for the hospitality," Rogue said to Ororo over the top of the robe, peeling her soaked clothes off one at a time and dropping them on the ground. "This respite has been much needed; I feel rejuvenated and am ready to resume my duties."

"You need not do so just yet," the weather witch replied, standing. "Rest now. Sleep well. I will ensure your attire is dry by the time of your departure - hang them on a branch and warm winds will take care of them while you slumber."

Now naked, Rogue slipped her arms into the outstretched robe and took the sides from Kurt, wrapping the ankle-length garment around her body before tying the belt around her waist. "Goodnight, dear brother. It has been a pleasure spending time with you."

"As always," he responded, hugging her, "the pleasure was all mine."

He turned then, and offered his arm to the lady of the woods. "We will see you off in the morrow," Ororo promised before the two vanished into the shadows of the trees.

Remy sat, still smoking, and watched Rogue gather her clothes from the forest floor. His back was against the trunk of a thick oak, his left leg straight before him, while his right was bent upward, his foot planted firmly on the ground. Over the lake, the pale glow of the crescent moon had been sufficient, but here under the canopy of leaves, darkness ruled, and Remy did not know if Rogue realized he was there. Until she spoke.

"You did not turn away when I undressed," she said, carefully hanging her clothes on a low branch.

"You did not ask me to."

Rogue wasn't bothered in the least by his watching her change. In fact, she was amused that Kurt still made such a big deal about not looking...either closing his eyes or turning away would be enough, but he insisted on doing both. She trusted him not to peek; although they were not related by blood, the ties that bound them were profound. As far as either was concerned, they were brother and sister, and no brother or sister that she heard of ever wanted to see the other in a state of undress. And while Remy did not avert his eyes voluntarily, she knew he would not have hesitated to do so if she had asked it of him. Truth be told, from his vantage point, there was nothing for him to see...

Once she was satisfied that her clothes were secure enough that they would not fall onto the ground in the night, she walked towards the spark of Remy's pipe. "My brother tells me that you are a Ranger..." she began, kneeling at his feet. "Is that true?"

"Yes."

"My mother...Raven...was the Ranger of Órënár for many years, during the reign of the previous queen...it was in that capacity that she rescued me from certain death, when she came across a town that had been butchered. I was the sole survivor, a babe who escaped extinction by some strange miracle."

"How did Raven come to guard the queen?"

"Once she brought me home, she found it difficult to leave me for long periods of time, so she asked the queen for a change in assignment. A mother herself, the lady readily agreed."

Remy wondered why Raven would so easily give up her flesh and blood child to be fostered somewhere else and take so much interest in one that was connected to her purely by coincidence. He could not be sure, but he had a feeling that Kurt had been raised by the Wagners since he was an infant, with occasional visits from his birth mother. He decided to keep these thoughts to himself. "She seems like the type better suited to be a Ranger..."

"Aye. To give it up must have been difficult for her. I had hoped to follow in her footsteps...but it seems the stars had something else in store for me." Rogue paused, her eyes finally adjusted enough to the lack of light to see his features. She met his gaze, and with more emotion than she intended, asked a question that had taunted her since Kurt revealed that Remy, son of Jean-Luc, was also Gambit the Ranger, "What is it like?"

The yearning in her voice touched him. "For one who truly dedicates himself to the ideals of a Ranger, it is a demanding life. There are fewer of us now than ever before...many have pledged allegiance to a particular town or country, though some have made a vow before whatever gods they believe in to protect justice wherever they roam. Either way, the position requires that Rangers spend most of their lives on the road, traveling from one place to another in an attempt to fight lawlessness and keep the peace."

"And the freedom involved?"

"There is a great deal of freedom, which is what appeals the most to me. The danger, the long roads, the loneliness...they are all small prices to pay for the independence that goes along with the territory."

"That I could give up my obligations and become a Ranger..." Rogue began wistfully, standing up and retrieving her bedroll from beside him. "But I am second to the Lady of the Phoenix, and Katherine is much too young for the burdens of ruling a country...I would not leave her to such a fate at present. Should something happen to Jeanne, I must be there to take my place on the throne."

She turned her back to him and laid out the blankets that had been sewn together to form a kind of cocoon. She was about to wish her companion a good night when he addressed her. "May I ask you a question, milady?"

"I wonder that you would ask."

"I fear you may find it too personal, and I do not wish to offend."

His answer piqued her curiosity. "By all means, my lord, make your inquiry."

"During your games with your brother...why did you not simply borrow his powers...why must he transport you away from the peril of the falls? If I may say so, you are not the type of woman who likes to rescued..."

It was a sensitive question for Rogue, but she was not affronted by it. His attention to detail could come in handy in the days ahead. "How much do you know about my gift?"

"Only that you are able to absorb the gifts of others...and you are unable to control this ability, so you keep yourself covered as much as possible."

"And who told you this?"

"Lord Logan mentioned it to me, but would say no more."

Rogue turned to face him once again, sitting cross-legged on the blankets, keeping a safe wall of darkness between them. "It is a dangerous gift I have, especially since I cannot control it. You are right, I can 'borrow' the powers of those who are like us...but I also absorb their memories, their personalities, and the very thing that keeps us all alive. The longer my skin is in contact with theirs, the more I take, and the stronger the potency..." She paused for a moment to collect herself. "The effect is temporary for both sides. Sometimes the person I touch loses consciousness, other times he or she simply feels tired; either way, those I absorb are able to regain their strength in a fair amount of time. As for me, I am only able to use their gifts for a short time. Depending on the length of contact, I can also exhibit certain aspects of their character for some duration."

"And the memories?"

She almost hoped he had forgotten that detail. "The memories fade with time, but I am never truly free of them. Do not mistake me, I would not hesitate to employ my gift when it is necessary. However, I refuse to use it for fun and games."

"You bear your burden with responsibility, my lady."

Remy's attitude towards her had changed so much since their first meeting...he no longer treated her like a prize to be won, a delicate object to be admired for its beauty and little else. Instead, he seemed to adapt a new view of her as a colleague, a peer. Someone to stand by, not someone he must stand in front of and protect. In her experience, even in a country as open-minded as Órënár, men had difficulty accepting women as their equals...and the few who could were frightened by the rumors that surrounded her "condition." And so, Rogue found herself wanting to confide in this rarest of rare men, to confess how she was tortured by her gift to an extent that she felt it was a curse, to tell him about how she became aware of her powers, and how her mother had trained her...but she still could not bring herself to let someone in. Not yet.

"Will you not share the details of your gift with me?" she asked after a sizable silence had fallen between them.

"It is nothing to yours, to be sure, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve..." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a deck of tarot cards, plucking one from the small wooden box he kept them in, knowing that she was too far away to see what he was doing. "Watch," he commanded, adding a slight charge to the stiff paper.

The reddish glow emitting from the card lit up the area immediately surrounding Remy. It drew Rogue to it like a moth to a flame; she had to approach him to examine it. "What sorcery is this?"

"Sorcery? No...it is a power as natural as your own. When I focus on a solid object touching my skin, I am able to add a sort of 'charge' to it. I can change the type of energy held by the object, and make it explode upon contact with another object."

"Do you always use cards?"

"Not always, though they are my weapons of choice. They are small and easy to carry...and if I get bored, I have something to amuse myself with." He removed the charge from the card once her curiosity had been satisfied, and placed it back with its brothers and sisters.

"It is a peculiar gift...but they all are, I think." Rogue waited for her eyes to readjust to the dark before returning to her blankets. "It gives you an advantage over your enemy, as you can engage them from a distance."

"That it does."

"May your sleep be restful, Lord Remy."

"May your greatest wishes be granted in your dreams," was his response. He finished smoking his pipe, waiting for her breaths to became deep and even. When he was convinced she was asleep, he retired himself. His night was full of images of the Ranger Rogue longed to be...

 

Chapter 4