• Thunder echoed vehemently in the distance. Overhead, a constant rainfall descended from the indigo clouds and the precipitation began to gradually force the citizens of Kadn to seek shelter beneath nearby market awnings. Amongst the grumbling crowd, a young woman ambled, unaffected by the lousy weather. Though her entire physique was intensely soaked, she continued down the mud stricken walkway whistling an upbeat tune, smiling as she passed disgruntled strangers.
    She enjoyed aggravating the already irritated.
    She finally reached her destination just as the thunder closed in. The dilapidated edifice before her had an eerie, yet welcoming ambience. Well, to the average human, not as inviting, but to Sabrielle Thomas, a building with such an appearance was immensely intriguing.
    She entered nonchalantly, then proceeded to inspecting the contents inside: ancient furniture, a cobweb enveloped staircase, a grand piano lay shrouded in dust, and a lone sword was positioned upon the mantle to Sabrielle's immediate right. The sleek weapon caught her violet eyes.
    "Can I help you?" The voice startled young Sabrielle, successfully forcing a gasp of surprise from her plump lips.
    A man, lightly gray with age, appeared at the top stair above her.
    "Oh, I'm sorry to intrude, but something about this place was... Calling out my name..." she squeaked uneasily.
    His smile reassured her trembling nerves.
    "And your name is?"
    She hesitated. His grin was alluring. With a sigh, she replied softly, "Sabrielle." "I am Osmund Gilliam. Well now that we're properly acquainted, may I ask why you're here?" he inquired with an unusually amiable tone; his hardened features and stiff posture created an unfriendly facade.
    "I'm not sure, I felt compelled to enter this particular store..." she answered with rekindled courage.
    He stared at her, carefully approaching the beautiful woman below him, for his limp caused even a simple task as walking to become challenging.
    He chuckled when he dismounted the final stair with surprising velocity. "Dear, this is not a shop, it is my home..." Her face displayed the realization of her misunderstanding. A smile erupted on his lips as he continued, "I didn't think that the anterior of this house remotely resembled that of a place for business. Sorry to disappoint you." His voice was thick with sincerity, yet rang in a light manner.
    Sabrielle's cheeks instantly flushed a deep rose. "Oh," she muttered, embarrassed. "Forgive me, I-"
    "It's quite alright, I enjoy company, however, very few people visit from time to time... Why don't you stay? Its pouring outside and you look hungry," he interrupted, easing his hand in hers.
    Osmund let her toward the kitchen, his uneven gait seemed to improve on level ground, and began preparation for cooking dinner.
    "You don't have to fix anything special," she insisted, feeling guilty that this strange, yet familiar man was constructing such an elaborate meal.
    "I love to cook, Sabrielle. I don't mind in the least..." he assured her.
    After dinner was prepared, the two sat at the small mahogany table, conversing intently. They each unfolded their lives almost too easily.
    "So, what are your interests?" Osmund probed with an encouraging smile while sipping at his lukewarm tea.
    "I... I like swordplay." Her mind jumped to the image of Osmund's glistening blade she had seen earlier. "And... I-" She faltered, unsure of his reaction. "I like to sing..." she confessed, a hint of low confidence radiated from her statement.
    "That's interesting... I happen to be an adept swordsman and an adorer of the musical arts. In fact, I do play the piano..." He rose, gesturing to the adjacent room. "Shall we?"
    Sabrielle gulped. "'Shall we' what?"
    A laugh escaped Osmund's masculine throat. "You've got to let me hear this voice of yours."
    "I'd rather die," she retorted.
    Osmund shook his head in humorous disbelief; he gazed absently at his nearly depleted beverage. "I've got another suggestion: why don't we have a friendly sparring match? I haven't crossed swords with an opponent in a long while."
    She eyed him curiously. "You're kidding, right? You're what?.. Forty years my senior?"
    He chuckled heartily, combing his fingers through his short, gray-blond hair. "If you're in your twenties, that makes me only fifteen or so years older, give or take... Do I really look that ancient? I'm thirty-seven, not sixty-seven..." he replied, faking a hurt expression.
    "Alright, old man. I'll take you on." Sabrielle placed her dainty hand upon her scabbard that hung across her thin, yet muscular, back.
    "Very well." He winked. "Let us go outside, I'd like to avoid further damage to my elderly home."
    She flashed a brilliant smile. "If you're sure... Don't strain yourself..." She yearned for battle and her entire appearance reflected the intense emotion.