Mercenary. Heike had once held a less than stellar opinion of them. But, funnily enough, it was her time as a vampire, working with some, that changed her general view on sellswords. Not all of them fit perfectly into the oft-told reputation, that of men and women whose true allegiance was to coin and coin alone. And Dal seemed very much to be of the more distinguished variety.
Never come across your kind though. She knew that he likely didn't mean it this particular way, but she felt the sting of loss for her compatriots of the Golden Blade regardless. Yet the sting was another stirring to action, a reaffirmation of what she must do. With a Reikhurst restored from destruction and rising to a newfound prominence in the world stage, mayhap it would be that warriors like Dal could again have the chance to encounter Knights of the Golden Blade. She had nine fleeting years left to live, but this was a legacy that would bring honor to the Eisen name and that she could, in her final moments, hold with pride as she joined her fallen brethren in what lay beyond.
Then Dal removed his helmet. And Heike stopped her circling around the Portal Stone and scrutinizing of its runes and regarded him.
Was she surprised? It would be a lie to say no. Hers was a chord lightly plucked, vibrating softly and for a sole moment, and then gone--the mild surprise of a reveal adjacent to one's expectation. There was a time that seemed ages ago when Heike, less traveled and hardly having left the boundaries of the Kingdom before, thought that orcs did not exist. A silly notion, but one she had had nonetheless. Through some prolonged fluke of chance, she simply had never seen one until her years as a vampire. Dwarves were a substantial population in Reikhurst, elves, Komodi, other fantastic races traveled through on journeys eastward into the Spine or came seasonally for trading. There were orcs, certainly, but she'd simply not seen one in her more insular years. The notion had since been discarded.
Presently, she could relate quite well with Dal's account. Of being judged by what you were instead of who you were. A touch grave, she said, "I am well acquainted with the manner of prejudice you have endured, Dal."
She thought to say how this was so. To confess to once having been a vampire. It seemed right. Something of a fair trade, where on one side of the scale was Dal's taking off of his helm and on the other her admission of former vampirism. But...she stayed her tongue. She may have looked like she wanted to say something, and very likely did, but stay her tongue she did. And she did not feel so good about doing so. Yet, this did mark the first time for this sort of situation, of telling someone she had once been afflicted, someone who did not already know. What would they think? Heike knew that she herself would be aghast. Appalled perhaps. She worried (perhaps ironically, given the subject, and this was not lost on her) that she would be judged. And rightfully so, even in her own opinion. Her loathing of vampires was immense indeed, and it eclipsed the creature she herself had been. This was part of the reason for her quest to restore Reikhurst, a part deep and dark and like a faint and distant drumbeat rumbling in a cavern. She did want to be judged, and judged by her peers and her people in the Reikhurstan way. She had to be held to account for her failure, in the defense of Reikhurst, and for her ignoble deeds, in the parasitic taking of innocent blood to slake that abhorrent thirst. Her own Oaths of Justice and Honor demanded it.
Still. She did not want to risk turning Dal away with such an awful admission. She would be Oathbound to answer if asked directly, but she did not need to volunteer the dreadful information. Not yet.
"You will not face the same from me," she said. A brief glance to the Stone and back. "I do not know what lies ahead, but your character and your merit will endear you to me. As well it should be."
And the same of her character, her merit, to him. An earned respect.
Others about the ad hoc camp had coalesced into their own small groups, their own circles. Heike felt as they surely felt: that it was good to have company when venturing into the unknown.
And facing whatever may be lurking there.