ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

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ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » January 6th, 2014, 10:08 am

[The fifth and final part of the story of how Lorrin Elle fell in love with an elf. This will probably take about 25 more installments. So to get started:]

Chapter 79: Recuperation

Lorrin would not see Sarine again for more than two weeks. Actually, for the first of those weeks, he wouldn’t see anyone at all on a regular basis except Lifemage Lituziel and Sergeant Smidric. The lifemage fussed over him as though over a patient at death’s door, and Lorrin came to understand that the analogy was not altogether mistaken. “We have no precedent in dealing with this poison,” Lituziel had told him. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s persisting in your body despite all the healing magic I can cast. You’re going to have headaches from it for a while.” (This was true.) “You’re just going to have to rest up and let your body do the work of clearing it out of your system.”

“And if my body doesn’t do that?” Lorrin had asked, and he hadn’t liked the look on Lituziel’s face when he answered. “It will, you’ll just have to be patient. You’ll get better, believe me…” But the look suggested that he wasn’t sure he believed his words himself.

The old sergeant, at least, was cheerfully positive, and he was a constant source of news (and rumors) from the world beyond the compound of House Salaeia. “I stood in for you at the memorial for Jozefina Ramorciel,” he’d said. “Her parents and sister are devastated, of course.” (Sister? Lorrin wondered; he assumed Luisa was intended, and he’d understood the relationship to be more distant and more complex, although he’d eventually get that straightened out.) “They were very appreciative of what you did, though, and they are anxious that you don’t die from whatever got Josie. They’ll be sending you a care package.”

“Via Luisa?” Lorrin had asked, not sure what answer he wanted; there had been times when he’d fantasized about their one-night stand turning into something more permanent, but he’d started to find her replaced in his dreams by … well … Sarine. In any event, Smidric had turned away before answering. “No,” he said. “She – got called out of town on some urgent piece of family business, I don’t know exactly what. Shimon said they’ll send the package by courier.” He’d changed the subject.

Other little tidbits reached Lorrin by way of Smidric. “You should have seen Sarine when you went after that cat. They say she looked about ready to kill you at first, but then, when you collapsed, she was about ready to kill Gloric instead.” And: “They say when that all went down, old Nizami’s eyes got all magical and full of rage. He’d have crashed the city into the sea if they hadn’t got him calmed down.” (How does Sarge know about Malacia? Lorrin had wondered. Before the mission, he was acting as if he’d only heard rumors. It didn’t occur to him either that someone that long in the service of the elves would be used to not saying everything he knew… or that Smidric might have done some poking around on behalf of an underling he was particularly attached to. Both were correct.) And: “Word from one of the cooks is that they saw that cat getting visited by a ‘spirit of death’ before the crap went down. Me, I think what was visiting it was a Cimmerii. Goddess knows, they look like death, and worse.” (I think so too, thought Lorrin, but he didn’t press the point.)

Finally, after a week of recovery, Lituziel pronounced Lorrin ready to resume “light” duties, much to his relief; convalescence, they’d both realized, was a long, boring process. Problem was, “light” duties were pretty boring for an Ensigerum too. He mainly spent the next week doing sentry duty at the temple of Anilis, which was about as “light” a duty as there was. He’d come to recognize that elves weren’t the most religious of beings, but if there was one place in all of Altissimis where absolutely nothing untoward was going to happen, the temple was probably that place … well, nothing except elves copulating in public in front of the statue, anyway. He still hadn’t got used to that.

He was on his tenth day of sentry duty when someone came through the door who definitely was not interested in having public sex with another elf.

Lorrin gaped. Sarine wasn’t wearing her usual Viradior armor, far from it. Instead, she’d put on a robe that flattered her most un-elven figure and matched both her red-orange hair and her startling eyes. Lorrin thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, all thoughts of the Ramorciel sisters forgotten for the moment.

And she was smiling.

“Hey,” she said softly. “You’re looking good…”

Lorrin gulped. “By the Mother Goddess, so are you…”

The kiss that followed had a little more, well, something in it than the last time he’d felt Sarine’s lips.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » January 11th, 2014, 2:40 pm

Chapter 80: Other relationships
Three weeks later:

“I can’t believe this,” Lorrin confided nervously to Sergeant Smidric over (very private) coffee in the mess hall. “I think I’m falling in love with an elf.”

The old soldier’s eyes twinkled, and he smiled broadly. “I noticed,” he said. “And why not? After all, looks like an elf is falling in love with you, too.” He winked, but the smile never left his face, and never had even a trace of sarcasm in it.

Smidric’s apparent approval set Lorrin much at ease. Of course he would have noticed; Smidric’s whole job was to be equal parts mother hen, father confessor and gray eminence to the young men of the Ensigerum, and he saw and heard everything. Besides, it wasn’t particularly difficult for anyone to see that something was happening between human and elf, something that went far beyond the scratching of a carnal itch that was common enough. Lorrin and Sarine both had duties that kept them busy around the House Salaeia compound, but they’d started to spend more and more of their off-duty time together, and they couldn’t help but be seen, by elves and humans alike. “So am I to understand the elves don’t have any problems with fraternization?” he asked. If any humans had problems with fraternization, he could deal with it … although he hadn’t yet thought through the implications of fraternization with the half elves, an omission he would soon come to recognize.

“Nope, no problems at all,” Smidric smiled. “In fact, time was, not all that long ago, when it was the height of elven fashion to have a human mate – not just someone to sleep with to get your rocks off, but an actual husband or wife, and maybe even kids, to have a real family.” The smile was turning into something else. “The elves have some weird psychological thing where they think it’s good to look back over their shoulder at a relationship with someone who died before the relationship could go sour, which affairs between the elves tend to do after a few decades. See, we humans just live those few decades, so we die at a convenient time for them to feel this ‘Aetern Desiderium,’ they call it, and move on to the next one.” Something else was definitely on his face now. “Least that’s supposed to be how it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.”

“It doesn’t?” Lorrin echoed, not sure what was coming next … and now what was in the older man’s face was remembered pain.

“Sometimes the elf dies first,” Smidric said softly. Then softer yet, as his eyes focused on a memory far away in space-time: “Her name was Tahnee…”

”Damn big dragon,” young Ensigerum Sergey Smidric told his new wife as they peered out of the cave in the mountains. “Biggest I’ve ever seen.”

“And I,” Viradior Tahnee Smidric said, shaking her purple hair. “Which includes a few thousand more years of dragon watching than you have.” She batted her eyes and smiled at her husband.

Sergey rolled his eyes, grinning. “Why did I have to fall in love with this
old lady who upstages me all the time?”

“Just lucky, I guess,” Tahnee smiled back, and a kiss interrupted the surveillance of the huge turtle-like beast below them. Soon enough, however, it was back to business; they might have been on what a normal human couple would call a “honeymoon,” but the elves still wanted them to bring back a trophy of the hunt, to hang in the entrance hall at House Salaeia. The dragon was snuffling around down in the valley floor, unaware of their presence as far as they could tell. That should make things easier, which was to say, possible. Even magically-enhanced weaponry wouldn’t make much of a dent in this thing’s carapace, and its (relatively) soft underbelly wouldn’t be exposed until a dangerous amount of combat had gone on. Being able to take it unaware, however, meant that the hunters would get one, and only one, shot at the vulnerable neck, where it protruded from the back armor.

Their timing would have to be careful. They’d worked through it before: a Damping to keep preparations quiet (which Tahnee now cast), then a running Slow Fall down to the valley floor, taking it off at just the right moment to give their pounce enough power to penetrate the neck with sword and spear, yet not enough that the impact would stun the hunters. Two quick blows should do it, even on a dragon this huge, and then the tiresome but simple work of cutting off the head as a trophy of the hunt would begin.

Two faces turned to each other, and Tahnee started the countdown. “Ready? Three … two … one …
now.” Magic flared as the Slow Falls were cast, and the attack began.

The fight, such as it was, was over in seconds. The pair had timed their leaps perfectly, and they landed squarely on their quarry’s back. The beast barely had time to emit a strangled roar before Sergey’s spear and Tahnee’s sword bit into the soft, unarmored flesh of its neck. The
Durus Flamma blades did the rest. The dragon slumped and lay still. The Smidrics paused for a moment to wipe their blades, and of course, have a congratulatory kiss or two, before setting to work cutting off the head.

It might have occurred to even a young Ensigerum that hominids weren’t the only ones who hunted in pairs.

The first indication Sergey had that anything was wrong was also the last moment of his marriage. The Damping spell remained in effect, and he could barely hear what Tahnee shouted at the top of her lungs: “SERGEY! RUN! THERE’S ANOTHER—“ And her sentence was cut off in a horrible, gurgling scream.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » January 16th, 2014, 1:42 pm

Chapter 81: Fatherly advice



“So that’s where this thing came from,” Sergeant Smidric ended his story, holding up his maimed arm with the prosthesis. “Soon’s I saw that second dragon with Tahnee in its mouth, I jammed my spear right up its goozle, alongside her. Too late to save her, she’d been bit clear in half, and it took my hand with it, but at least I killed the bastard.” He shook his head, hemmed and hawed, and changed his mind about something. “No, I said that wrong. That dragon wasn’t a bastard. He was just protectin’ his mate, that was all … same as I was tryin’ to do when it bit down on me…”

Lorrin was alarmed; the old man looked like he was about to start to cry. Surprising himself, he enveloped Smidric in a wordless hug that lasted a minute or two before he spoke. “I’m so sorry, Sarge. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been, how awful.”

To Lorrin’s further surprise, Smidric wasn’t crying when he released the hug. In fact, he’d composed himself to the point that he was almost smiling. “Thankee, and it’s all right,” the old man said. “Hurt like a bugger for a long time, but I got over it, I moved on. See, that’s what we humans do: we get over it and move on, even though we don’t forget what it is we cared about, don’t really stop caring. We’re better at it than the elves. Most of the time, when something ends that they care about, they just act like they’d never cared to begin with. They get the move-on part just fine. What they don’t get is that they can move on and still care. That’s why they’ve got this thing they call ‘Aetern Desiderium,’ and why it’s s’posed to be a good thing.”

Aetern Desiderium. Lorrin had heard the phrase before this conversation with Smidric, in a couple of plays where he’d escorted members of House Salaeia to the theater, but it had never made any sense to him. It was starting to make sense now, but not completely. “I still don’t get why it’s a good thing,” he said.

“I don’t either,” Smidric said. “Best guess, though, is there’s something inside of ‘em that knows they’re supposed to have these feelings about people they love – but they just don’t get the idea of love, so they make this Aetern Desiderium into the next best thing. Part of it, see, is they don’t have much in the way of families. Morchis and Seppala are real unusual for elves, not one in a thousand has a brother or sister, at least a full-blooded elf brother or sister. So as soon’s a baby elf grows up, the family’s all done, and they don’t have anybody they’re s’posed to love any more.”

Lorrin shuddered. “That sounds even worse than Aetern Desiderium.”

“I think it is,” Smidric agreed. “That’s why some of ‘em want to have families with us humans. Tahnee and I, we wanted that … Hell, if she’d lived, we’d have had about a dozen half-elf kids by now…” The remembered pain was back in Smidric’s face, and this time it didn’t look like it was going away on its own. Lorrin reached across the table for another long, wordless hug.

“Thankee again,” the old man said, recovering his poise as best he could. His face changed, and Lorrin could see him making a conscious attempt to smile “bravely.” (He doesn’t need to, Lorrin thought. I… he can give me all the pain he wants to. I owe him that.) “I moved on from that too,” Smidric lied. Well, it wasn’t a complete lie, as the next thing he said made clear. “I’m a lucky man, though, ‘cause I got to stay on working for Salaeia, helpin’ you young bucks settle in. See, you’re the kids my wife and I never had…”

Now Lorrin himself was near tears, but other people were coming into the mess hall, and Smidric straightened up suddenly. “Looks like we better get back on duty,” he said, all the reminiscing now out of him – or so Lorrin thought. He was wrong; Smidric still had one thing to say.

“I was a real lucky man, Lorrin, because Tahnee was the rare elf who really did get this human thing we call ‘love’. And you know what?” He moved his face closer to Lorrin’s, and his voice dropped almost to a conspiratorial whisper. “Unless I miss my guess, Sarine’s another elf that understands love. They say all kinds o’ things about her that ain’t true, and I think it’s because she does get it – the elves sure don’t, and hell, there’s too many of us Ensigerum that don’t get it either. But she does, Lorrin. That means you’re ‘bout as lucky a man as I was back then … So you go and love her, and she’ll love you right back, and you’ll make about a dozen half-elf kids of your own.” He smiled as the two men stood up, and winked. “Just try not to get chomped by a dragon while you’re doin’ it.”
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » January 22nd, 2014, 12:29 am

Chapter 82: Investigations

Another week of “light” duty passed as Lorrin regained his strength and finished clearing the poison from his system -- and, of course, continued the process of falling in love with Sarine; by now that went without saying. By the end of the week, it was an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder situation, as Sarine found herself called to the Keiren capital as part of an “investigation” of the death of Jozefina Ramorciel.

Her view of this assignment was not charitable. “Investigation, my ass,” she growled to Lorrin as he saw her off at the travel platform. “They’re just looking to dig up dirt, half of it on Nizami if they get their way, half of it on the Cimmerii. Then they’ll squirrel it away, the way they always do, and it’ll never see light of day again, unless they can get a hold on somebody with it. Be glad you’re not joining me on this trip.” A kiss, a whssh, and Lorrin was alone with his decidedly mixed feelings.

It wasn’t two days later, however, that he was getting a summons to an investigation as well – two summonses, in fact, from entirely different sources.

The first was not unexpected; in fact, he wondered why it had taken so long for the Great Houses to decide that the person who first saw the murder plot for what it was should be asked to testify about what he saw. It was mildly unexpected, however, for the summons to call him to another of the lesser Sanguen cities, one called Nubecula on the rainy side of the continent, rather than Praenubilus Astu or Malacia or one of the other elven capitals. Was that some kind of indication that the whole thing was being marginalized? he wondered. It didn’t occur to him immediately that it was only through Sarine’s intervention with her own people that he was even being called at all, although that realization would come soon enough.

The second investigation, on the other hand, was closer to home – much closer to home.

“I’m not sure I’m supposed to do this,” he said to Shimon Ramorciel when he answered the half-elven summons. “The elves don’t like it when someone else talks about what is going on in the chambers of the Great Houses.” He did not add “particularly to half elves”; that went without saying.

Ramorciel looked as though he’d aged ten years since the death of his daughter, and who could blame him? He still had a certain charisma, a command presence, though, and he nodded gravely at Lorrin’s words. “We understand, and we cleared it with a representative of the Sanguen who will give you top cover.”

It didn’t take three seconds for Lorrin to see through that little euphemism. “Sarine.”

Ramoricel remained silent, both in speech and in body language, and that was answer enough.

Well, I love her, thought Lorrin, and so I have to trust her. “What exactly do you want to know?”

“Bluntly, only whether they’re going to use this as grounds to start what we have been fearing for years: a military campaign against our people.”

Lorrin leaped to a conclusion, although by now it was clear enough. “Wouldn’t Sarine be a better trip wire for something like that than I would?”

Ramorciel raised an eyebrow, appraising the young man, and after a long moment of thought, decided to lay it on the line. “Very well,” he said, “I will have to trust you not to repeat any of what I’m about to say. You’re right, of course, Viradior Sarine has been a friend of Clan Ramorciel for a very long time – about as long as there has been a Clan Ramorciel, in fact. But that’s exactly why we can’t turn to her at this particular moment. Lorrin, as exposed as you’re going to feel in Nubecula, Sarine’s position is even worse. She’s made a lot of enemies sticking up for us half elves, not just in my clan but our whole race. On top of that, being Viradior, she has access to the chambers of the Great Houses themselves. That means she hears their inner deliberations, knows their secrets. If anything gets out of their conferences and makes its way to us, and it’s detected, her ass is grass, whether she was the source of the leak or not.” His face softened slightly as Lorrin suppressed a shudder. “We don’t want that any more than you do. So she set it all up so that you’ll be there while she’s half a continent away.”

Lorrin wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that. “Making me the obvious source of the leak if one happens.”

“But it won’t,” the old half elf reassured him. “Mainly, the elves won’t be looking for one.” He snickered incongruously. “Mere dumb humans aren’t supposed to be capable of such things, after all, since they don’t play elven power games. Even Josie would have been suspect, but ... No, you’re not just the perfect information source for us; you’re the perfect cover for Sarine. So you get to play the role of protector as well. I think you’re well suited for that.” The snicker had been replaced with a soft, sad smile, not just at the mention of his murdered daughter. “And no, we had nothing to do with the two of you becoming an item – although I would be lying if I denied that we were happy it’s worked out that way. Now go get ready for your trip.”

Twenty-four hours later, Lorrin was on his way to Nubecula, still wondering whether he was doing the right thing.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » January 23rd, 2014, 6:12 pm

Chapter 83: Nubecula

Nubecula, Lorrin reflected as he exited the travel platform, certainly earned its name, which meant “little cloud” in the language of the Sanguen. Altissimis had been under a sunny, almost cloudless sky when he left; transient thunderstorms might grow over the mountains by late afternoon, but they would dissipate by evening, leading to another glorious sunset, a frequent enough occurrence that he had almost stopped noticing their beauty. (Almost, but not quite.) By contrast, Nubecula looked like it hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. It was one of the few Sanguen cities or towns along the seacoast, and vagaries of the local topography trapped a low cloud cap over it that seemed all but permanent. Even the usual gilded towers of the main elven compound seemed dull and lifeless in the gray lighting. I wouldn’t want to live here, he decided as he took in the view. Nothing would happen in the next day or two to change his mind about that.

Two elves and a half elf were waiting for him, the elves in the armor of Viradior, the half elf wearing the liveries of a house Lorrin did not recognize. “Welcome to Nubecula,” the half elf said formally, her accent unfamiliar but pleasant in a lilting, almost melodious way. “I am Sheena, envoy of House Celtis. Please follow me.” She turned without waiting for a response and started walking toward the compound, the Viradior following suit as soon as Lorrin got in motion.

Why the muscle? Lorrin thought as the elves positioned themselves on either side of him. Am I suspect here? I wouldn’t have thought Sarine, if she’s behind all this, would have let them send me alone to a place where I need to be escorted.

As if she had read his thoughts, Sheena fell in beside him and spoke softly. “Security, for both of us,” she said. “Nubecula is more accepting of half elves and humans than many cities, but there is still a faction that wishes it could return to the old days and be an entirely elven place again.” That was delicately put, Lorrin had to concede, and it fit what he saw; the faces of elven bystanders on the streets as the small parade passed bore emotions ranging from indifference to curiosity to outright hostility. This – mixed set of viewpoints would lead to Nubecula being one of the first Sanguen cities to be completely obliterated in the coming Errant War, so that a much later human civilization would see no signs that it had ever existed. Of course, Lorrin had no way of knowing that.

What he did know, however, was that the party was being watched.

At first it was just a nagging suspicion, movement half seen out of the corner of his eye, a faint noise somewhere off to the side that couldn’t be pinned down. Lorrin’s sensitivity to magic was well developed – he’d concluded it had helped save his life in the criminally unequal “duel” back during his final examination to join the Ensigerum – and that too was telling him there was something, or someone, following them. It wasn’t until they entered the Celtis compound that he was sure what it was. He waved Sheena closer to his side and whispered in her ear. “Why is there a Cimmerii following us around? This isn’t a Cimmerii city, is it? And why is he using a Cloaking spell?”

Sheena looked dubious. “The Cimmerii don’t like this place,” she said. “No, Celtis is a purely Sanguen house, and they have had some issues with the Cimmerii in the past.” (There was something about her phrasing and body language that left Lorrin suspecting that those “issues” had to do with the Errant question.) “I don’t think there are any in town.”

“I saw, or at least felt, one,” Lorrin insisted. “Most recently, back behind that temple over there. But he’s been with us for a while now, and cloaked.”

Sheena frowned. “A moment.” Sparks of magic danced in her eyes as she turned toward the temple, but she shook her head after pausing to concentrate. “I’m not detecting anything like that,” she said. “I’m sure you’re nervous about this inquiry, since the Cimmerii party was at the banquet, but you must be mistaken.”

She was wrong about that.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » January 31st, 2014, 10:53 pm

Just in case anybody is still reading this: it hasn't ground to a halt and disappeared, but I'm having a bit of writer's block at the moment as I try to deal with the next thing Lorrin has happen to him. It's something fairly important, and hard to tell in a coherent way. If I can get un-blocked, it'll be up by the end of weekend.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » February 2nd, 2014, 1:26 pm

Chapter 84: Interrogation

The next few hours struck Lorrin as rather a waste of time, right up to the last two or three minutes, anyway.

The presiding officer at the interrogation was a Rinkai named Tozen, a kindly-looking elf (to the extent that that wasn’t a contradiction in terms) who went to considerable lengths to try to make Lorrin comfortable. Representatives from the Sanguen, a pair unfamiliar to Lorrin, and the Keiren, a nervous-acting woman, were also in the room along with Sheena. No Cimmerii were in sight, or for that matter, concealed from sight, as Lorrin took a quick, surreptitious moment to confirm.

The questions were routine to the point of being predictable, not very probing, and seemingly calculated to avoid tweaking elven sensibilities – right up to the last one, when Sheena, who had been quiet through most of proceedings, cleared her throat. “If you don’t mind,” she said, “I would value your opinion on one last matter. Councilors, this is off the record.” This last elicited startled, and Lorrin thought, unhappy glances from several of the elves, but Tozen nodded. “You have that right. Please continue.”

“Very well, then,” the half elf continued. “Ensigerum Lorrin, you understand that the official position of the Great Houses is that this was a regrettable accident, that Archmage Nizami’s cat somehow got into rat poison in the halls and cellars – never mind that none of our inquiries have ever found anyone who admits to putting such a toxic material out there. For completeness, however, and for the sake of a possible minority report” – despite what follows being off the record, Lorrin thought, which pretty well summarized for him the chances of that “minority” report ever seeing light of day – “I have one question about a hypothetical intentional poisoning.” The elves didn’t like that, with the possible exception of Tozen, but he waved at Sheena to proceed, and she did. “Based on what you saw, are you confident that the intended target of this hypothetical attack was Kiyan Nizami? Or could it have been Jozefina Ramorciel instead?”

The elves definitely didn’t like that one.

Lorrin, however, had asked himself that same question many times in the past few weeks, and he had an answer ready. “Possibly both,” he said, drawing a raised eyebrow from Sheena. “There was enough of the toxic gunk on the cat’s fur to poison both of them at once. After all, it did poison both Josie—Ambassador Ramorciel and myself, and there was stuff left over when I let go of the cat. It would have been possible for—“

“The target was Archmage Nizami,” the Sanguen woman interrupted stiffly. “We have already established this.”

“No, we haven’t, Palas,” Sheena fired swiftly back. “Others may have drawn conclusions already, damn the facts, but we’re here to gather information, not to draw conclusions. We will do so.” She nodded back to Lorrin. “Please continue.” The Sanguen looked daggers at her but said nothing more.

That was interesting, wasn’t it? thought Lorrin, and he tried to get back on track. “As I was saying, according to Lifemage Lituziel, it would have been possible for as many as half a dozen people to be poisoned fatally by what was on that cat. I was damned lucky that I missed the worst of it. Lituziel says there was something about the poison that didn’t work as effectively or as quickly on humans as on half elves.”

That piqued the Keiren’s interest. “More effective on half elves than on humans. Ensigerum Lorrin, that leads to an obvious question: did Lifemage Lituziel have anything to say about how effective it would have been against those of us with full elven blood?” Suddenly this line of questioning had the elves’ full attention, but all Lorrin could do was shake his head. “No, he did not.”

The room went quiet for nearly a minute following this unexpected swerve, and Lorrin would not have been surprised to learn that silent, telepathic messages were passing among the elves. After that minute passed, Tozen sighed. “Very well. Ensigerum Lorrin Elle, thank you for your cooperation with this investigation. You will be our guest here in Nubecula overnight before returning home. Needless to say, you are to discuss what happened here with no one until you get back to Altissimis, and then, only with the master of House Salaeia and those he designates. You are dismissed. Councillors, we have some things to discuss in private." The elves stood and left abruptly, leaving Lorrin and Sheena alone with their thoughts.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » February 9th, 2014, 11:56 pm

[A little short, but need to move this and undo a bit of writer's block...]

Chapter 85: Ambush

“Come with me, I’ll escort you to the travel platform,” Sheena said as she and Lorrin left the compound.

Lorrin was puzzled. “I thought they said I’d be their ‘guest’ in town tonight.”

Sheena scowled. “Let’s just say that I got a hint, during the last minute or two of that, that it might be wise to decline that invitation.” She was part of the telepathic exchange, Lorrin deduced, and she wasn’t about to say more. Well, it wasn’t as if Nubecula was a particularly pleasant place to spend time, he thought. Maybe it was more tolerant of half elves than many elven cities or towns, but there was just something about it that felt wrong. Besides, he’d grown used to the mountain scenery of Altissimis, and the gloom of the coastal fog was already getting oppressive. Was that what was giving him the sense of wrongness? He thought there was more to it. He shrugged agreement and headed for the platform.

The pair had made it about half way to their destination when the ambush happened.

The conversation had turned to small talk; that was welcome enough, given the previous few hours. Lorrin had learned that Sheena was a single mother of twin daughters, which some elves were inclined to view as incipient Errantcy; twinning was essentially unknown among the elves, and it seemed somehow unnatural to them. Her half-elven parents knew better, of course, and their family’s station in Nubecula and the extended House Celtis was prominent enough that she was having no problems raising the children, at least not explicitly. She had just made a dry little joke about the way the world would change if elves had twins when she stiffened. “This doesn’t feel right,” she said, instantly on her guard. “There’s magic in the air.”

Now that she mentioned it, Lorrin could feel it too. It was subtle, as though a static charge was building in preparation for a lightning bolt … and he knew what that meant. “Be ready to cast a—“ he began, but the sensation started to build very rapidly, and he knew the time for words was past.

”BARRIER!”

The magical curtain shimmered into existence just in time; as powerful a Force Bolt as Lorrin had ever seen impacted on it with a roar that left both human and half elf stunned for a few seconds. Later, Lorrin would be puzzled (if grateful) that whoever had cast the Force Bolt hadn’t thought to use those few seconds for a non-magical attack with a Durus Flamma blade that would surely have succeeded. Maybe their assailant simply hadn’t been able to get to them; there were others on the street, humans and elves who were just as stunned by the thunderbolt as he and Sheena were. When the ringing in his ears stopped, he could hear cursing in the tongues of elves and men.

“What in Exitialis’ name was that?” Sheena sputtered, but Lorrin knew. “To the travel platform! Run!” The half elf didn’t wait to be told twice, and they sprinted for the platform.
----
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » February 14th, 2014, 6:46 pm

Chapter 86: Escape

The foot speed that had been Lorrin’s earliest introduction to the Ensigerum training program now came back to save his life.

He and Sheena pounded through the streets of Nubecula, hoping that whoever had cast the Force Bolt wasn’t as fleet of foot as they were, and also that he (or she, or worse, they) lacked either the capability of the presence of mind to use a Teleport spell, because there could be little doubt as to where they were going. There was also a tactical situation to deal with once they reached the travel platform that would be very much a “good news, bad news” kind of thing. The platform stood in a narrow, steep gulch where the mountains behind the city opened onto the plain. The bad news was that terrain like that was all but perfect for setting up an ambush if an enemy reached the top of the cliffs around the platform. The good news was that if their pursuers were Cimmerii, as he suspected, the terrain would be about as hostile to an underground-dwelling race as anywhere could be. That should buy the pair some valuable time.

Lorrin breathed a silent prayer of thanks – to the Mother Goddess or to Senilis, he wasn’t sure which – as he arrived puffing at the platform, followed only a minute or so later by Sheena; they were in time. Still, there was no time to lose. “Hurry!” the half-elf woman gasped breathlessly. “I can hear them behind us! Trigger it and go!” She stopped at the mouth of the gulch and started to climb a rock face that looked impossibly steep.

Lorrin was shocked. “Aren’t you coming with me?”

“I can’t. My daughters are still here. I can’t leave them alone. I’ll be all right. Now just go!” Magic flared around Sheena’s hands and feet for a moment, and her climbing sped up to the point that she almost looked to be dancing up the rock. It only took her a minute or so to be lost from sight around a rock fin.

Lorrin was impressed. I’ll have to learn that one, he thought. Of course, there was a little problem of survival to be dealt with first. He could hear the attackers now, what sounded like three of them, shouting in the Cimmerii language and puffing hard, somewhere down on the plain. Even a cave-dwelling race could cover that distance in no more than another two or three minutes … and then a gathering of magical energy told him that they weren’t going to have to close with him at all.

Lorrin grimaced and triggered the platform.

”EARTH SMA—“ was the last sound he heard as the platform whirred, and as he lost sight of his surroundings in a magical glow, he thought he could see the tops of rock towers starting to peel off and plummet onto the platform. He had just time for a brief mental prayer of thanksgiving; from the looks of it, the pinnacles Sheena was using for a hiding place were far enough up-canyon not to be part of the magical avalanche. She’d make it home to her daughters… and that, at least, would be one half-elf death that he wouldn’t have to worry about.

The next he knew, he was at the platform outside Altissimis.
----
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, Part 5

Postby Graybeard » March 20th, 2014, 10:27 pm

[Sorry it's been quiet for a while; there was a death in my wife's family :( that has been taking up most of my time for the last several weeks. I'll be out of pocket again for a while after this installment, but when things finally stabilize, it'll start moving toward the finale.]

Chapter 87:Comings and goings

It was a tired and shaken Lorrin Elle that checked in at the compound of House Salaeia.

He’d stopped asking himself the survivor’s question – ”why me?” almost the moment he asked it, because the answer was clear. They’re trying to eliminate the witnesses. He still wasn’t completely sure who “they” were, but the shouts and cursing in the CImmerii language left very little doubt as to the general nature of the “they;” the question was merely how deep the conspiracy ran among the dark elves, and who all were the targets. And it wouldn’t take him five minutes after arrival at the compound before the answers to that second part of the question started to appear.

“By Senilis’ Antlers,” Sergeant Smidric cursed, “we thought you were dead. We heard about the collapse of the travel platform. Thank the gods you got away!”

“Collapse, my ass,” Lorrin growled. “That wasn’t a collapse, it was a bombing.” He filled his commander, and friend, in on what had happened, the old man’s face getting harder and angrier as he spoke.

“Damn them,” Smidric said angrily as Lorrin finished. “Just damn them. The zombies have always been the ones who gave the half elves the most trouble.” Lorrin knew that the Cimmerii had earned that derogatory nickname. “Never thought they’d stoop to something like that, though,” Smidric continued, and cursed again. “And you’re not the only one. Lifemage Lennart Lituziel ain’t with us any more.”

That caught Lorrin’s attention, to be sure. “What happened?”

“Ask Morchis,” the older man said disgustedly. “He was there when it happened. Some kind of experiment to try t’ figure out what the poison was that got Josie. Boss wasn’t wild about it, but let Lenny play around with it, probably figured it’d be good to have a counter ‘case the zombies came after himself, for Senilis knows what damn reason. He, Morchis and a couple of others went out to one of th’ test ranges up north. Morchis says there was a big magic blow-up, killed the other three, he got away with bad burns.” He laughed bitterly. “’Course, as fast as elves heal up, he was good as new by this morning. But he ain’t talkin’.”

“I can just guess why,” Lorrin muttered under his breath, rather hoping that Smidric wouldn’t hear it, but the old man’s hearing was just fine. “Me too,” he nodded his gray head.

Something else was bothering Lorrin, bothering him a lot. “If – if they’re trying to eliminate witnesses to what happened at that banquet, are – is Sarine –“

Smidric’s face softened. “That, at least, you don’t have to worry about…”

Just then the back door to the room opened, revealing Sarine, wearing the uniform of the Viradior, and a facial expression like none Lorrin had ever seen on her before.

“Thank the gods,” Sarine breathed. “We—I thought you were dead…”

And for a while, nothing else mattered.

------------------

Events of the next two or three hours need not be described in detail, but the ensuing pillow talk had its moments.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” Sarine purred, after the two had spent a fair time getting very comfortable. “There’s another trip coming in a few days. I thought I was going to have to go by myself, but I’ll be glad to have your company.” Another contented purr. “Very glad.”

“To somewhere far away from the Cimmerii?” Now why was she looking at him like that?

“Well, I hope so … We’re going back to Malacia.”
----
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