Lorenzel, Part 2

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Graybeard
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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"What should I do? I've never - I mean, I've heard stories but this has never - I don't want to die."

Hamming it up a bit, aren't you? Sister Rose thought sourly, then checked herself. No, this woman might well have a good reason for overacting. As before, there were three possibilities. Possibility number one was that this Drusia really was another half elf, and her fear was legitimate (in which case it certainly should be). Possibility number two, the one she favored, was that Drusia was the elven protectress of Snamish. If so, then she'd want to throw this ominous second elf off the trail ... and she'd probably be behaving just the way she seemed to be. And Rose would want to give her all the help possible, for all the same reasons.

Of course, there was always that third possibility.

In some ways it really didn't matter: their next step was clear. "There's only one thing we can do," Rose answered. "We have to get out of here before this elf knows what we're up to. Once we're on the road, we go to a high-security posture, to make sure we see the elf before he or she sees us." And while we're at it, we make sure that you are never alone with Lillith ... at least until possibility number three is eliminated, and maybe even after that. "We need to pick up Miguel and get him over to the navy base so he can get his transportation home. With some luck we can cover our tracks and leave from there. Let's finish up the business here and get on the road."

---------

Meanwhile, Brother Miguel was finishing up his interview with Brother Redmond -- soon to be Father Redmond, he reminded himself.

He'd liked the man on sight, and nothing they'd discussed had changed Miguel's opinion of him, quite the contrary. Redmond, or "Red" as he preferred, was comfortably approachable, easy to get along with, just right to deal with both the free-wheeling priests and nuns of the Kiyokan mission (might the man have a special-ops background himself, as so many Reformed clergy did? the topic didn't come up, but Miguel wondered) and the not so -- spiritual -- novices and initiates that the mission was trying to recruit. At the same time, he knew his theology, and what was more, believed in what he was doing. That was going to be important too; a little belief went a long way in dealing with unbelievers -- and there were plenty of them in Kiyoka to deal with.

About the only concern he had was that the man lacked gravitas. Would an assistant abbot who called himself "Red," radiated bonhomie, smiled easily and naturally, and was generally comfortable to be around, be able to hold his own with the likes of Captain Kitaura or his replacement, or the Cardinal Inquisitor's people if they took an interest in the mission again? Well, they'd be finding out soon enough.

Shaking Red's hand one last time, Miguel took his leave for now, and strolled out to the front of the temple to wait for the wagon, thinking that life was pretty good.
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Drannin
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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Argus shifted uncomfortably, not really sure how to address Lillith either. Putting that aside, he gestured for Lillith to follow him deeper into the shop, where they could get some privacy. Lillith, looking confused, followed him.

Once they were alone, Argus glanced around. No-one within earshot... even so, he pitched his voice low. "Lillith... I know you don't like him, but Harker has a good eye for details, and he insists that he saw an elf in town." Lillith's eyes widened at that. "I'm inclined to take him at his word on that. I... we need you to remain calm, and wary, at least for a little while. And... try to stay close to the rest of us, okay?" Argus hesitated, not sure what else to say.
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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The last of Maduin's cheer fluttered away in the wake of the sudden change of mood. Their little shopping trip had definitely come to its end. Everyone was grim, and apparently Drusia and Lillith were in fear of their lives over the appearance of this elf, who had seemingly been masquerading as the tall woman Drusia had been talking to.

Maduin couldn't for the life of him understand why. Sure, he'd heard stories about the elves and how they were ancient and magical and lived in some mysterious land, and to be perfectly honest, it all would have sounded like a rather silly story to him if he didn't know for a fact that Tsuiraku received an Elven ambassador every so often.

The only thing that he could think of was that maybe the elves, or one elf in particular, had some sort of beef with Lillith, though he couldn't understand how the incredibly quiet girl could offend anybody, much less somebody who was immortal and powerful and probably knew better than to take things too seriously. After all, if he'd been around for two thousand years, he would think he'd have become pretty wise by then.

Add to that the fact that they'd just met Drusia by chance (assuming of course that the whole thing hadn't been planned beforehand, which was frankly ludicrous) and that they had no way of knowing if or how she might have offended the elves as well, and the theory flew out the window like a bad crystal ball flung by a cranky old woman who was tired of trying to watch "Bedazzled" reruns with bad reception.

He would, he decided, have to get to the bottom of this. Fayna would want to know.

He yawned. After a long nap of course.
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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Sister Rose watched ruefully as the group gathered up their purchases and headed for the wagon. Even as a girl, she'd never had the same obsession with clothing that many of her friends had had -- a consequence, she thought, of having read, and taken to heart, the Commentaries of Bishop Nuria at an early age. It never occurred to her that her shape-shifting skill might have had something to do with it too; who needed to buy fancy clothes when you could just imagine them, spend a little personal energy, and they'd be on you, although they'd be made of conventional fabric rather than silk and they wouldn't have designer labels? But there was something to be said, she realized, for the simple pleasures of a shopping trip ... or at least there had been, before the dark cloud that was the elven threat began to spread over the group.

"We need to collect Miguel and drop him off at the base," she announced, "then let's hit the road for this Gervasiel. If our information is correct, we should make it there tonight, although it might be a late night." She looked to Drusia for confirmation as she boarded the wagon, but the tall woman's attention wasn't on the conversation, or on the purchases. Instead, she was staring across the street at a nondescript tavern, already open for business and with traffic going in and out. A look of concern was on Drusia's handsome face.

Well, I think I know where that elf is, Rose thought, as they rounded the corner and spied the smiling Brother Miguel standing in front of the temple. "She's in there, isn't she?"
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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Maduin was just settling down for that nap he'd been anticipating when he felt it.

You learned to notice when people were looking at you at social occasions, but Maduin's skin would have had to have been made of steel for him to ignore the gaze burning the back of his neck. He opened his eyes, glancing casually over his right shoulder . . . and froze.

John Wolf was sitting astride a stallion the color of blood, the animal dancing under him, clearly in the mood for a run but too well-disciplined to challenge his master. Those green eyes bored into his own, and Maduin felt the blood leave his face. With an effort he tore his eyes away from those blue . . . no, they'd been green, hadn't they?

Blue, a part of him insisted quietly, a rich, vivid, cobalt blue as deep as the sky.

Maduin closed his eyes, but it was a long time before he was able to sleep.
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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Brother Miguel's cheerful mood flagged as he noticed the nun and the tall singer looking back toward the block they'd just come from, concern on both faces. They'd apparently seen the elf, he thought; she did stand out in a crowd, after all. "You saw her too?" he asked, as soon as the wagon approached. "I was going to tell you when you got here."

That pretty well clinches it, Sister Rose thought. "I didn't see her, but Harker did," she answered, and explained what he'd said. It might have been a little more information than should really be revealed, if Drusia was another of those half-elf hunters, but some things just had to be discussed. "I was hoping that we could lose her at the navy base, when we drop you off." And maybe lose this other possible elf too, if it comes to that. I hope that by then, we'll know whether that's the right thing to do ...

"Well, we'd better get on with it, then," Miguel said, and he boarded the wagon.
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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Drusia:

"She's in there, isn't she?"

I blink and turn to look at Rose. She's giving me the most penetrating look. I start to formulate a reply, but the full implications of her question bother me. Since we met, she's been suspicious of me. We danced briefly in the jewelery store, and I had her convinced, but when she arrived here in the shop... it was like... like something had tipped her off.

Damn it, did Rose see me talking with psycho bitch? So much for playing up my terror. I had everything under control before that idiot made her unfortunate presence known. I don't even know the half-elf girl's name yet, much less if she's a threat to Snamish. If I don't earn their trust, I'll never be able to tell. Just chasing them off would solve the immediate problem, but honestly grafting a fresh branch of elven blood onto the family tree wouldn't be a bad idea.

Trust is out. It seems I've bitched that one right up. Time to try another tactic.

"I - I'm not sure," I stammer. At the same time I meet Rose's gaze.

<"React to what I say out loud, not what you hear in your head,"> I instruct her. Rose's eyes widen, but she doesn't make any other sound. So, either terrified out of her mind or following instructions as requested. I guess we'll find out which in a minute here.

<"The elf in the tavern picked up the girl's trail,"> I tell Rose, <"If we don't get rid of her, she'll follow you all the way to Snamish. And kill the girl, you, your friends, and my entire family.">

"Please, we have to hurry," I beg quietly, glancing around as if nervously.

<"Kenny said he told you about me, but all the same, I should probably introduce myself. Peregin Drusia."> I meet her gaze again long enough to flash her a fleeting smile. <"So tell me, great great grand-daughter in law, how would you suggest we fake your pretty friend's death?">

-- Drusia
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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The mind-speech was like a physical blow.

"I -- yes, we'd better get moving," Sister Rose said, still reeling from what she'd just "heard" without a voice being raised. "Miguel, could you take the reins here? It might be better for a man to be seen driving this thing, and Drusia and I -- have some things to discuss about our route ahead."

That was even true, provided one interpreted "route" sufficiently broadly. But first, I need to clear my head. Rose had only had one previous experience with telepathy, which was one more than the huge majority of Veracians had ... but it had been the second-worst day of her life.
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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[OOC: Anyone have anything to post, or are we all just waiting for the story to move forward? Maduin's out of it, so I have nothing to add./OOC}
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Re: Lorenzel, Part 2

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[OOC:
Porcelain Fish wrote:[OOC: Anyone have anything to post, or are we all just waiting for the story to move forward? Maduin's out of it, so I have nothing to add./OOC}
Lillith, Argus and (particularly) Drusia all may have things to say here. Meanwhile, here's a big long bit of Rose's backstory. It can be skipped with little or no impact on what's happening in Lorenzel. /OOC:]

"It -- will take me a little while to get used to this," Rose said softly, as she and Drusia bent over the rudimentary map. Then she tried to switch to the language of the mind, unsure whether a human without known telepathic skills could send to an elf as well as receive ... but it had to be tried. "<Can you hear me?>" Good; the elf nodded, both physically and mentally. At least she thought that was good; at the very least, it meant that Drusia wasn't ... Brother Bartholomew.

They'd been holed up in a little house outside Albigenish.

Of course Brother Bartholomew was scared; they were all scared. Sister Rose was Captain Nuria then, and she'd led her unit, plus the one overt Veracian priest attached to them, behind the Albigensian lines on deep reconnaissance. That was what they were for, after all. Unfortunately, they hadn't been able to pass undetected as they'd hoped -- needed -- and now they were cut off. The half elves knew they were out there somewhere, but they didn't know where (yet), and the abandoned farm looked like a good place to hunker down until nightfall, when they could try for an exfiltration. It wouldn't be easy, and it certainly wouldn't be safe ... but it looked like the only way they'd get out alive.

"Captain?" the priest asked, at her elbow. "Are we going to make it back to our lines?"

Now what kind of stupid question is that? Rose thought, then caught herself. This Bartholomew was still a boy, barely out of seminary, and he had only the most rudimentary military training. He hadn't understood that the only thing to do here was to assume the answer was yes, and then figure out how to make it so. "We will," Rose reassured the lad, "but we have hard work to do, and we have to be patient." And hope the Albigensians don't notice us before we can move. "It's sundown, and that means we can start looking around for an exfil route."

The tactical layout didn't look too bad, actually. The farmhouse was on a small rise above a stream. They had a good view of the surrounding area, and the farm hadn't been abandoned long enough (despite what the Albigensians had done to the family that had lived there) to have become overgrown. They could see trouble coming, and the stream itself looked like a good exfiltration route, if they didn't mind getting wet (the least of their problems). The only question was: upstream or downstream? Well, only one way to find out.

"Ken -- Lieutenant Lucas, take a squad up that stream," she said to the handsome half elf who'd been with the outfit since they arrived. (Some of the hardcore Orthodox people didn't like the idea of a half elf being along, but the hell with them, and she'd started to find the exotic young officer more interesting than she'd expected...) "We need to make sure of what we're getting into here. I'll take a squad downstream, and we rendezvous back here in an hour and make the decision. No contact, none, if we can avoid it, and magical silence is good if you can manage it. The rest of you people, set up a fire zone, mechanical and magical. Passwords, and two blinks to say we're coming. If you're not sure what you're shooting at, don't. We don't have the firepower for an open fight." (As if they needed reminding of that last point.)

The two squads moved out as soon as preparations were made. Rose was gratified to see that the going wasn't going to be tough downstream at all. There was plenty of vegetation along the stream to hide movements, but not so much as to hinder those movements too badly. The stream ran in a shallow gully that would hide anyone moving along it from distant onlookers. Of course, it'd also confine them if anyone came along via the banks, so they'd have to have a lookout up there, an exposed and dangerous position, but one they could handle if they were careful. And best of all, the stream looked like it was heading off into their own lines. That was great; the circumstances in which they'd found themselves here were so chaotic that it was hard to be sure which way was into friendly territory. Satisfied that this route would get them out of trouble, Rose gave the order to turn around ...

... And that was when the Albigensians discovered the people left at the farmhouse.

Afterward, Rose asked herself, over and over again, whether she'd had any indications earlier that Brother Bartholomew was capable of telepathy. There might have been; she thought she could remember a couple of times when she thought she'd heard him speak when he was supposed to be observing strict silence, and she'd reprimanded him later, only to get a hurt "but I didn't say anything!" in response. Yes, quite likely, that was telepathic communication, and the boy probably wasn't even aware that he was doing it. Either way, there was certainly no doubt that he was capable of it now.

Every mind in Rose's patrol instantly was flooded with pure, raving terror as Bartholomew mentally screamed out his fear. "Oh my god, they're trying to kill us! They're shooting at us! They're going to kill us! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!"

Rose swore under her breath, screamed a command to her team, which retreated at a sprint, safety and concealment be damned. But they hadn't covered half the ground to the house when the sky filled with a fierce magical flame, red and green at the same time. A second or two later, a FOOSSSHHH swept across the land ... and so, in a mental sense with no aural equivalent, did Brother Bartholomew's unimaginable death agonies.

And that was the moment when helping her people kill Albigensians stopped being a painful thing for Captain Rose Nuria, and became something to be relished ... although she'd remember that last mental scream as long as she lived.


She became aware that Drusia was looking at her with concern. She shook herself and said, "Sorry. Something about that exchange triggered a very bad memory. Now where were we? Can you show me the route to Gervasiel?" There; the out-loud conversation should buy her enough time to get braced for the mental one ... and to get that memory out of her mind, if she ever could.
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