ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 6th, 2013, 11:48 pm

Thanks for the kind words, JR, but the clash with the canon time line is so severe that I'm not sure how to credibly resolve it. I'm working on an idea, though.

Meanwhile, let's get Errant Road back on the, uh, road. The thread complex with Rose and Tamina is winding down, but there are still a couple of adventures to be had before everyone lives Happily Ever After. And Eve and Khoo ... hoo boy.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 7th, 2013, 4:01 pm

[Okay, by popular demand -- read, JR asked for it -- I think I've found a way to reconcile what I've been writing here with canon. So a minor digression from the narrative tracking Lorrin, to a subplot...]

Chapter 72: A difficult subject

“You’re sure?” an utterly dumbfounded Shimon Ramorciel asked his daughter.

Luisa smiled mysteriously, an expression that would not leave her face for the duration of the conversation until its very end. “As sure as I can be until a year from now. Or more accurately, as sure as you will be then. I’m already that sure.”

The old Cain took a slow, thoughtful sip at the brandy-like beverage in his glass. “But how? It’s only been four nights. I didn’t think you could tell so --”

Luisa cut him off. “Daddy, most women can’t, but you know full well that Josie and I aren’t most women. She’s learned one hell of a lot of things from the elves, one hell of a lot of things. Among other things, she’s learned how to become completely, utterly attuned to her own body. Part of it is just knowing herself well, but of course there’s a magical part too. And like a good sister, she taught all that to me.” The mysterious smile developed an impish component for a few seconds.

Another sip of brandy, more or less, as Shimon digested this information, and then he frowned. “Lu, you’re not trying to tell me that Jozefina is pregnant too, are you? That would be – I just can’t imagine how terrible that would be for our cause. Particularly if it is …” His voice tailed off; the word “Errant” was not used in the Ramorciel household except under even greater duress than its chief was now feeling.

The impishness remained in Luisa’s face for a few seconds more. “I didn’t say that.”

Shimon didn’t like the way this conversation was going. “But … but then, are you saying she was pregnant some time in the past? And … she never birthed the child? Because …” There could only be one possible conclusion to the “because” part, and the word wouldn’t come out this time either.

The impishness was gone now. “I didn’t say that either, Daddy. And you’re right, Josie giving birth to an Errant would be a catastrophe for us, under the circumstances.” The younger generation, apparently, had fewer reservations about using uncomfortable language in the Ramorciel compound; or, as Luisa would have said, about calling a spade a spade. “So she won’t.”

The old clan chief winced at his daughter’s – blunt speech, but one thing he had learned through the years of leading a half-elf clan was that there were times when you simply had to accept the way things were and develop a plan for dealing with them. At least, he reflected, what had to be dealt with now was exactly what he’d been hoping for from the moment he and his daughters had learned about Lorrin Elle. “Very well,” he finally said. “Does Jozefina know yet? We’ll need her good offices to find a suitable human habitation for you when the baby comes, one that won’t ask too many questions.”

Luisa’s smile went from mysterious to momentarily triumphant. “Oh, we’ve already had that conversation in general terms,” she reassured her father. “She doesn’t know yet, but it won’t change anything when I tell her. She already has a human settlement in mind, one where they don’t ask too many questions about the elves. She says we’ll fit in fine there.” The change to the plural pronoun was confident enough.

Shimon held up a hand. “All well and good,” he said, “but there’s a further requirement. They can’t know anything about a family surname like Elle, either. If Lorrin has a chance encounter there, and learns that he has a daughter among the townspeople that he never knew about, it’ll all be for nothing. Our uses for him will disappear – what’s wrong?”

Luisa’s smile finally left her face, as she had to confront the one part of this conversation that she’d dreaded. “A son, you mean,” she corrected her father … and just as she’d expected, watched his shoulders sag.

“You’re sure?” Shimon repeated his inquiry from earlier, looking like he’d aged five years in the mean time.

Luisa nodded sadly. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m attuned to what my body is telling me, but there are some things I can’t influence. I know how much you want a grandson you can acknowledge as your heir to Clan Ramorciel. Have faith. When all this is done, and the elves are leaving us alone again, Josie and I will give you such grandsons. I promise you that.”

The old Cain sat in silence for a long moment, then reached to embrace his daughter. “I love you, baby,” he said softly as he released the hug and stood to leave.

“I love you too, Daddy,” Luisa murmured, a bit of mist in her eyes as she stood. The two went their separate ways.

* * *

None of this conversation was known to Lorrin Elle, now returning to the hotel with Sarine, half a world away.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Jack Rothwell » December 8th, 2013, 6:16 pm

Yay! :D
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 10th, 2013, 11:31 am

Chapter 73: Countermeasures

“Just a minute, there’s something I want to pick up,” Sarine told Lorrin as they headed for the hotel. She dodged into a small shop, emerging a few minutes later with a well-wrapped package.

“Amulet against poisons,” she explained to Lorrin’s quizzical look. “I just have a feeling that that damned hit man of theirs isn’t done causing trouble yet.”

Lorrin was horrified. “Sarine, surely you don’t mean he’s going to try to kill us all with our food? What a horrible thing to do! I –“

She cut him off with a snort. “Oh, relax. There’ll be poison sniffers everywhere. Our food and drink will be safer than it is at home. Food and drink isn’t what I’m worried about.”

“Then what is?” Lorrin asked.

“I don’t know. If I knew, I’d do something about it, obviously. Now excuse me.” Sarine disappeared into her room, leaving Lorrin alone with his thoughts.

Imagination, man, he exhorted himself. How would a ten-thousand-year-old assassin skilled in the ways of poisons introduce something deadly into the banquet, if the food-and-drink route was out? He tried to put himself into the mindset of an elf, failing utterly; by now he knew full well that they didn’t think the way he did, and vice versa. Next, he mentally reviewed what he knew of the hall where the banquet would be held, the other guests, the personality of Kiyan Nizami and how an assassin might exploit it.

Mainly, of course, he thought about Sarine.

He was still meditating on both subjects, when one of those subjects knocked on his door, a business-like rapping of the knuckles that struck Lorrin as curiously masculine. However, the voice that followed wasn’t. “We’d better get moving,” Sarine called. “I want to get there early enough to give the place a good casing before the dinner starts.”

A memory of something from one of his “protocol” sessions moved Lorrin to try a small joke. “You’re sure we shouldn’t be fashionably late?”

Metaphorical ice formed on the door frame. “Screw fashion. Let’s go.” The voice brooked no argument. Lorrin sighed and did as he was told.

No less a personage than Kiyan Nizami himself was waiting at the banquet hall when Lorrin and Sarine arrived. Lorrin’s fears about a social gaffe appeared unfounded; the great man was shaking hands with plump Lifemage Lituziel, and others of both the Salaeia and Noctuus parties were visible beyond the door. Nizami’s left hand and arm, improbably, held a cat. On second thought, Lorrin realized, the cat wasn’t that incongruous. Although the concept of familiars lay a thousand years in the future, originating in a sky city with no room for nature, other human, and presumably half-elven, mages had adopted cats and toads and ravens and other animals as companions that were more than mere pets. It was not lost on Lorrin that such relationships made it less necessary for those mages to seek companionship among their own kind.

After he had released Lituziel’s hand, Nizami paused before greeting the next guest, a robed human woman whom Lorrin did not recognize, and smiled at the cat as he stroked its fur. “I’m sorry, dear, but I’m going to have to tend to business now,” he murmured to the animal. “Go and catch some mice.” The cat hopped out of his arms and sauntered out the door as Nizami turned his smile on Sarine. “Yes, we do have mice here,” he said apologetically. “There’s Warding magic all over, but you know how it is, you just can’t keep mice completely out of places where they don’t belong.” He turned back to the robed woman and resumed his role as gracious host.

“Nor rats,” Sarine muttered to Lorrin under her voice, as she looked over Nizami’s shoulder to where Gloric stood in the hall, watching proceedings with quiet, malignant interest.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 13th, 2013, 9:58 am

Chapter 74: Appetizers

Lorrin did not see Sarine for a short while after they entered the banquet hall. He had turned to have a polite word with Lifemage Lituziel, and when he turned away again, Sarine had vanished as if by magic, as it were. Her absence did not go unnoticed as the guests found their seats; her own seat remained unoccupied. Lorrin caught a muttered comment from Morchis to the Cimmerii who had joined the Salaeia team back in Altissimis. “Probably off boinking one of the cooks.” The two elves shared a snicker as he fought down an urge to launch at them to defend Sarine’s honor, not that it particularly needed defending.

Probably should start doing my job, he thought, and he began to scan the room. The Salaeia party was all accounted for, except for Sarine. Jozefina Ramorciel was a vision, seated next to Kiyan Nizami and wearing yet a different gown than Lorrin had seen before, one that radiated serenity and grace with its subdued, almost pastel colors. All but one of the seats allocated to the Noctuus group were also occupied, although Lorrin couldn’t remember the names of several of their party. One name he did remember, however, was that of the alleged assassin Gloric … and his was the unoccupied seat.

Sarine had been right about the poison sniffers. They were all over the room, Lorrin saw, disguised as table decorations, emitting a faint magical aura that fit in with the shifting colors and patterns of the other table centerpieces. None too subtle, he thought; might Nizami’s own security people be giving the Noctuus party a rather broad hint that their house’s reputation was well known and that they better not try anything? For a moment he thought he saw the Cimmerii ambassador Clea eyeing one of the sniffers with an uncomfortable look on her face, but then he dismissed the idea; she was a Cimmerii, after all, and they looked uncomfortable pretty much all the time.

As the appetizers were brought in, he made polite small talk with his tablemates, a rather nervous-looking Lifemage Lituziel and a pair of security people from Nizami’s party, one a half-elf man with a body builder’s physique and the other one of the few human women in the room. Neither appeared to share his, and apparently Lituziel’s, wariness; they were entirely at ease, regaling their guests with tales of their misadventures on security details in the Rinkai homelands. Well, that was encouraging, Lorrin thought; if the local security people were comfortable with arrangements, when their own boss was the most likely target of any attack, it should count for something. (Or did it simply mean that they were getting complacent? Lorrin didn’t press the point.)

He was just about to counter with a tale of his own, a particularly silly faux pas from his first attempt at learning Evocation magic, when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Nizami’s cat had crept back into the hall, and it appeared to have had some hunting success; a mouse or some other little rodent dangled from its jaws. Its contribution to the appetizers? Lorrin thought whimsically … but then he was surprised as Sarine’s telepathic voice rang in his head, from where she now had moved to her own seat one table over.

<”I see it too,”> she “said.” <”Give me a minute.”> There was the briefest pulse of magic as she activated the gadget she’d bought in the shop, barely visible above the magical glow of the centerpieces (and sniffers). A look of concentration crossed her face for another brief second or two, to be replaced by something else. Relief? Puzzlement? Even as open, human-like an elven face as Sarine’s could be hard to read sometimes.

The mind-speech continued. <”No poison, Anilis be praised, on either cat or mouse. But Lorrin, something’s going on there. I followed Gloric for a while as all the blabbing was going on, and as Senilis is my judge, I thought I saw that man catching a mouse or two. He made some kind of magical, non-material net flow from his fingers, like he was going to use it in the arena, but he just scooped up mice with it. Could he have given one to that damned cat? And why, if it’s harmless?”>

Telepathic speech still took considerable effort for Lorrin, so he merely nodded slightly, knowing that Sarine would see the gesture, and sent one brief thought back. <”Good question. I’ll keep an eye on it.”> He gave the room another scan as the appetizer plates were cleared and an aromatic soup was brought to the diners, but his interest was on the cat and mouse … and the cat-and-mouse game that was being played among the humans, half-elves and elves, with a pretty clear suspect in the role of the cat, and a persistent mystery as to the identity of the mouse.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 24th, 2013, 11:07 am

Chapter 75: Nizami family history

The cat’s incursion into the banquet hall didn’t last long. Only a few seconds later, a cook emerged from the kitchen, wearing a look of outrage and swinging a broom. The cat didn’t wait for this worthy to make contact, but retreated with a loud “MEOOWWR!”, somehow managing to hold onto the mouse.

Quiet laughter rippled around the room, most of it directed at the cook’s red-faced chagrin rather than at the cat. Lorrin himself chuckled and turned to the young woman in Nizami’s entourage, who had given her name as Asuka. “Looks like that contribution to the dinner isn’t as welcome as some,” he observed.

Asuka laughed softly. “Happens all the time,” she said. “That cat has the run of the place. We leave her saucers of milk sometimes.” Another chuckle. “Honestly, sometimes I wonder if it’s Archmage Nizami who’s in charge here or Lucky – that’s her name.” That in turn got a chuckle from the muscular man at the table, but he chose to apply himself to the arriving soup rather than expand on Asuka’s observation.

Well, the cat had been an ice breaker, Lorrin had to give her that. “Does the archmage have a wife?” he asked, pretty sure that the answer would be in the negative; he seemed like the kind of man who would be married to his work.

Asuka shook her head. “He did, but she died several years ago, before I started working for him, but I think I saw her once when I was a girl. She looked much like Ambassador Ramorciel.” (That might explain some things, Lorrin thought.) “Her personality was supposed to be different, though. She was said to be – difficult.”

Lorrin wondered what that was a euphemism for, decided he didn’t really need to know. “Any children?”

“No. Just the archmage, his city, and his cat.”

“Just like us of the Ensigerum, just ourselves and the ones we serve,” Lorrin said wistfully, unaware that in his case, there would be a bit more to it than that in a few months. “Dare I ask what happened to his wife?” He noticed that Lifemage Lituziel, who had been busying himself with the soup, was taking an interest in the conversation now.

The muscular half elf looked up from his soup, something unreadable but clearly negative in his face. “I would thank you not to ask,” he said curtly. “Some subjects are uncomfortable for those of my race.”

Asuka patted the man’s arm. “He’s just doing his job, Josip,” she said. “If he’s to protect his party, not to mention the archmage, he needs to know what kinds of things can happen to people here.” She turned back to Lorrin. “As I say, she was before my time, but some of the old timers say that one day, she just started raving, screaming about unseen creatures attacking her. Something in her mind had snapped, it seems. And then she just … died.”

An Errant, Lorrin guessed, remembering the story Pontus had told him. He’d learned that psychosis among the Errants could have a sudden onset well into adulthood; it wasn’t just something they were born with. Half elves could seem entirely normal until the moment they snapped, there would be no way of telling that trouble was coming. There was another thing, too. Had Nizami’s wife “just died,” as Asuka told the story, or had she had help in the dying, from someone who didn’t want as powerful a mage as Kiyan Nizami under the influence of such a person? Or, for that matter, from Nizami himself? Asuka had said the woman was “difficult.”

I’m getting paranoid, he reproved himself, and he changed the subject to more innocuous things as the table was cleared for the next course.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 26th, 2013, 7:16 pm

Chapter 76: A dinner interrupted

For a while, nothing mattered except the dinner. The chefs had done well, Lorrin thought. Most of the diners were having a venison dish reminiscent of the one he’d enjoyed at Clan Ramorciel a few nights earlier. As some of the guests apparently declined meat – an incomprehensible position to someone who had grown up in a culture where any meat beyond that found on a scrawny chicken was a sought-after luxury and treat, but Lorrin had learned that there were ways other than the ways of his village – a second offering based on cheeses and herbs was at hand. Intrigued, Lorrin decided to try the cheese dish, and was at once glad he did; it was delicious. He noticed that Kiyan Nizami was also having the vegetarian plate. Well, if that was the way the attack on the half elf would proceed, via poison, he himself would feel the symptoms first, the canary in the coal mine. By now this thought didn’t particularly distress him; that was what Ensigerum were for.

Lifemage Lituziel didn’t seem to be enjoying the dinner as much as the other three at the table, Lorrin noted. He was restlessly pushing the cut of meat around on his plate, only occasionally pausing to nibble at it. Lorrin had already seen enough of the man to know that this behavior was unusual for him; he did like his food and drink. A raised eyebrow in Lituziel’s direction sufficed to elicit a response. “There’s something wrong here,” he muttered. “I can feel it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Something is going to happen.”

Lorrin smiled reassuringly. “Relax, we’ve got this covered, at least for now. If something’s going to happen, it’ll be later, and we’re on top of it.” He turned around to look at the table behind him, to get Sarine’s agreement with this view …

… But Sarine wasn’t there.

That’s odd, he thought, no longer quite so sanguine about his companion’s unease. Magic users who specialized in body and healing magic were – different, he thought. Maybe there was some kind of disturbance of the mana or aether or whatever it was (never mind that Kalin and his other magic instructors had been vague about whether such a thing existed) that someone with a lifemage’s sensitivities might pick up. Just to be sure, he glanced over at the table where the sinister Gloric had been sitting, his nose in the air the last time Lorrin saw him, as if disdainful of the feast in front of him…

… And Gloric wasn’t there either. Things definitely didn’t feel right now.

Lorrin frowned and mumbled to himself, then did a quick scan of the room, looking for the Cimmerii. He was nowhere in sight, but his scan did pick up motion of an unexpected kind. The small cat Asuka had called “Lucky” was trotting into the room, her back up and her ears back; just the kind of posture that Lorrin knew denoted a decidedly unhappy cat. And there was something about her fur that seemed wrong, although he was too far away to tell what it was.

The cat made a beeline for Kiyan Nizami, only to be intercepted by Jozefina Ramorciel at the mage’s side. She reached down and scooped up the animal, obviously not for the first time. “Poor baby,” she murmured, stroking its fur. “Have you been hunting in a nasty place where we people can’t go? The things you do to keep us all well! Poor thing, you’re just covered in grease…”

And suddenly, Lorrin knew how the attack on Kiyan Nizami was supposed to unfold.

“Ms. Ramorciel! NO!!” he roared as he vaulted over the table toward the cat.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 29th, 2013, 11:18 am

Chapter 77: Voices

The next few minutes would always be a dim blur in Lorrin’s memory. No, that wasn’t quite right, not the “dim” part. Quite the contrary, they would be vivid, indeed, lurid in a surrealistic way, but rather – blurry, as though waking from a bad, drug- or illness-induced dream. This wasn’t a totally inaccurate description, when much later, he had time to think about it.

The room had gone suddenly quiet, but then a collective gasp rose from the guests as he ripped the cat from Jozefina Ramorciel’s hands. He caught fragments of sentences around him – “Lorrin, what are you –“ “Get a Viradior in here fast!” – “Stupid damn humans, have no idea how to behave at” – in Kiyan Nizami’s dignified, imposing tones, “See here, young man, that’s my cat! She’s no more of a danger than –“

But there were two voices he was listening to more clearly than the others. The first was Sarine’s in his mind, and she was pissed. <“Dammit, Lorrin, what the hell has got into you? If you picked up on something, you should have at least told me about it! Am I going to have to knock you out to get order restored here, or … Oh, shit.”> Sarine’s mind-speech went silent, but now the other voice made itself heard.

Jozefina Ramorciel had been almost eerily silent (or at least so Lorrin remembered it) when he pulled Lucky the cat away from her and rolled away with it in his hands (and spitting and clawing like a wild thing). But now, just split seconds before Sarine’s cursing, she emitted a thin, high-pitched scream … which was bad enough, but what followed was worse.

“Oh! The VOICES! In my head! NO! YOU MUSTN’T! Go away! Exitialis, GET OUT OF MY HEAD! Stop beating me! Stop burning me! NOOOOO!” And then the thump of Jozefina’s body hitting the floor, and she spoke no more words, only inarticulate whimpers.

“That’s what I was trying to stop,” Lorrin said miserably to anyone who would listen, but by now almost the entire room’s attention had switched to the beautiful half-elf ambassador, who was writhing in pain on the floor. He would not know until later that Sarine was one of the exceptions; more obvious exceptions were the two large men – he would never be sure of their race – who’d hauled him to his feet by his shoulders, in the process releasing Lucky from his grip. The cat snarled an angry “MEOWRR” and sped out of the room. “No! Stop it!” Lorrin called in the cat’s wake, but it was too late …

… And in any event, Lorrin now had other things to think about.

Voices.

Where are they coming from? I can’t see anything but a blur. Sarine, that isn’t you trying to use mind-speech, is it? Because it isn’t work-

OH MY GOD!

He is so terrible! In robes of fire! He wields damnation as a sword! And his face! Why can’t any of you see his face?! He’s judging us all, our souls are weighed in the balance and found wanting, our days are numbered! And his wolves and his lions and his bears … they’re all laughing at me! They know my soul will be theirs as soon as he’s done with it! Can’t any of you SEE this? The voices … they’re terrible … and yet so beautiful … they’re calling me to judgment, yet they’re telling me to … to … No, I won’t, I’ve sworn to protect Jozefina and Archmage Nizami, not to kill them … if that means my soul is damned, then it’s damned … but DON’T EAT ME!! Please, voices whatever you are, don’t devour my soul! I’m human, I’ll die soon enough and then my soul will be yours, I –


There was a merciful crack on his head, that Sarine would admit administering only later, and the world turned to red, then to black.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 31st, 2013, 12:28 pm

Chapter 78: Aftermath

After a while, a glimmer of white light invaded the blackness, and Lorrin became aware of a familiar voice speaking to him in quiet, consoling terms.

“Good, you’re coming around. Don’t move suddenly, keep everything calm, open your eyes little by little. Your head is probably going to hurt anyway, we couldn’t do anything about that, but if you take it easy, you won’t hurt as much. Just rest.”

The world grew brighter, and Lorrin asked the only question that made sense, never mind whether it was trite. “W-where am I, Lifemage?”

“You’re in a safe place,” Lifemage Lituziel answered in the same quiet voice. “Don’t worry about where. The main thing is that you’re getting better. We got the poison neutralized. Now just rest.”

“We?” Consciousness was definitely returning to him now.

“Your colleague and I,” another voice answered; Sarine’s, with a gentleness to it that Lorrin hadn’t heard from her before. He found that both encouraging and frightening.

He risked a look around. He was in a small room that he didn’t recognize, lying on what appeared to be a couch, covered by a blanket. The only other occupants were the elf and the lifemage, both of them now gazing at him with concern on their faces. Improbably, he realized that someone was holding his hand. More improbably, he realized that the “someone” was Sarine.

“That was a very brave thing you did,” the elf said softly. “I thought you’d gone crazy for a minute, but as soon as – Josie started to hallucinate, I figured it out.” A quiet, self-deprecating laugh. “But not as quickly as you did. You’re smarter than I am, apparently.”

Well, that felt good. “Is she all right? Jo—the ambassador, I mean.” Oh, damn … they’re not meeting my eyes.

They weren’t; both Sarine and Lituziel turned away from him before Sarine answered with a non-answer. “Right now, the main thing is that you are all right. Now rest.”

Lorrin wouldn’t be dismissed that easily. “Just what happened in there?”

“You saved a life.” The squeeze on his hand became a little stronger. “Archmage Nizami’s life, to be precise. He was the target, not you or Josie. That damned murdering Cimmerii planned it so that he was going to pick up the cat, not Josie. It ran off after you grabbed it.” A Sarine-like, mirthless chuckle. “Just an hour or so ago, its body was found, incinerated by a Force Bolt, and not a hint of poison on it. ‘Security measure,’ they said.” A similarly Sarine-ish snort. “I’d call it getting rid of incriminating evidence, which is what it is.”

Lorrin was gathering his strength now. “You’re dodging me. What happened to Jozefina Ramorciel?”

An uneasy look passed between Sarine and Lituziel, and then the lifemage spoke. “I’m sorry, Lorrin. She didn’t make it. We think the poison was compounded to be more potent against half elves than humans or elves.” Now Sarine was holding both of his hands, and she took up where Lituziel left off. “We tried, Lorrin, Anilis knows we tried, every bit of healing magic we knew. It just wasn’t enough. I’m terribly sorry. I know you – admired her very much.” Was that a tiny note of envy in her voice?

“Murdered,” Lorrin said hollowly; he wasn’t even noticing the pain in his head now. “You were right all along. Are they holding Gloric for trial and – ouch!” Sarine’s tender hold on his hands had momentarily become almost bone-crushing in its intensity before she backed off. Her face had filled with rage in that moment, then she shook her head and looked sheepishly at him as she answered the question.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that, it’s just that you hit a sore spot. No, they’re not holding the bastard, damn him. It has already been decided officially that what happened was ‘a tragic accident’ – somehow the cat had been hunting rats and got into some kind of poison that had been set out for them, all very innocent, terribly unfortunate, but these things happen, you know.” She made a coarse spitting gesture. “Except that they don’t.”

The headache was back. “So this is all being swept under the rug.”

“Exactly.”

Lorrin sat bolt upright. “Sarine, that’s terrible! We know what happened, you and I can’t be the only ones that know. They can’t get away with murder like tha—OW!” His head was raging in pain now to match his emotions, and there were spots before his eyes as he lay back down… but not before he saw a change in Sarine’s face.

“Yes, they can, Lorrin,” she said softly. “Sometimes the bad guys win. They’ve already won this battle; the conference has been canceled and everyone is going home. But Lorrin – the good guys have to keep trying. You’re one of the good guys. We’ve lost the battle, but we’ll keep doing what we can to keep scum like Gloric and Clea from winning the war … the war that they’re trying to start against the half elves. Good guys like us are going to stop that. Now sleep, you still have some recovering to do. And one other thing…”

Later, when he woke up, Lorrin would wonder exactly what it had been that put him to sleep at the conclusion of that sentence. Was it his own body telling him that Sarine was right, that he needed to put his physical strength into completing the recovery from the poison? Was it a Sleep spell that Sarine or Lituziel had cast?

Or was it the soft, unexpected kiss that the elf had placed on his lips just before his consciousness ebbed again?

Some things just weren’t worth worrying about.

End of Part 4. One more part to go; it'll open in a new thread.
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Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
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