“Was the Suntouched ever in love?” Karessa asked one day as Donovan limped onto the store floor from his living quarters. Everyone had noticed the limp, but Donovan didn’t acknowledge it, so neither did they. It was looking better, anyhow. “Any special women in his life?”
“No,” Donovan replied, perhaps too quickly.
“Wha? No! Er, not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Of course there isn’t.”
“Shouldn’t even need to say it.”
“But you did.”
“Well, anyways, the Suntouched had neither.”
“Really? He galivanted all over the world for what – thirty years? Fifty? – and he never had a girlfriend? A lover? A fling?”
Donovan flushed slightly, but Karessa didn’t seem to notice. “That might be a question for Linda,” Donovan said. The minotaur was sweeping at the front of the store, keeping to herself as she often did, but she looked up when she heard her name. She was grinning.
“You’re the historian,” she said. “What does the history say?”
“Well, he only ever traveled with women, so there were always rumors. ‘Have you seen the way he looks at Emelthea?’ they might say. ‘Who would travel with someone like Asylum? Must be something going on there.’ ‘He’s so chummy with the minotaur, what’s that about?’”
“Completely platonic,” Linda confirmed. “Honestly I often wondered if he fancied anyone at all. Sometimes it seemed like he lived the saddest, loneliest life there ever was. Being a hero isn’t a social calling, it’s true, but most of us at least bed the barmaid when we’re done. He never showed any interest in that.”
“Perhaps it was that,” Donovan offered, “or perhaps he just never had the chance to settle down. Fighting armies of wights, seeking treasure, slaying Belvont the Living Castle, those aren’t the kind of things you can do with a wife waiting at home.”
“But you can still bed the barmaid,” Linda said. Donovan shrugged.
“When we were working on the play, Gwendolyn said the Suntouched hasn’t been active in a while,” Karessa said. “Hopefully that’s why. The wife, I mean, not the barmaid.”
“Maybe,” Donovan supposed.
“So where’s this coming from?” he asked. “You’re not typically the romantic type, Karessa.”
“Is this about that boy that’s been walking you here?” Linda asked.
Now it was Karessa’s turn to blush. She’d been dating Lawrence for two weeks now. They never talked about Assembly outside of Assembly, but there was no denying what had happened there – Lawrence was chosen by Orso to guide Karessa to her purpose. If that guidance involved holding hands and kissing, who was she to question it?
“That’s a personal matter,” Karessa said shyly.
“Well whatever it is, this mood suits you,” Linda said. “Now where are you going?” Donovan hobbled his way across Odd & Ends, and continued for the open door. “You’re always disappearing these days.”
“That’s a personal matter,” Donovan said matter-of-factly. “Make sure the shop’s standing when I return.”
“Aye-aye, captain,” Karessa muttered, and she and Linda shared a look as he left. The rest of the shift was mostly quiet.