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dungeons and dragons groups modül savaş serenity the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

We Are Not Your Dogs.
We Are Not Your Servants.
We Are Your Masters!

We Are Not Your Dogs.
We Are Not Your Servants.
We Are Your Masters!

Timeline:

War comes as we speak.

The folk of Serenity Home, along with the refugees of the deceased Arashkan city and burned Bari Na-ammen work day and night, and desperately, through winter to prepare for what’s coming.

Where the enemy is, and what they are doing, however, remains a mystery..

 

..to those who do not know!

 

Rumour has it, a large chunk of it has..

 

..disappeared!

 

This story takes place sometime between
Promise To Be Stupid Together
and
Deep in Silence.

 

 

The man in the deep, dark, hooded robes stared at the smoking ruins around him with mild disinterest. There wasn’t a foot’s length of flat, clear space to be seen anywhere. Mass rubble; broken bricks, shattered tiles, splintered and charred wood, glass shards of thousands of broken windows, bent and deformed metal shafts, and upheaved cobblestones littered the ground —all that once used to be houses and homes or public buildings and temples, inns, schools, restaurants, merchant stalls and artisan workshops, hospitals, and mansions —the things that made a great city, turned it all into something that was now sad and indiscernible, making it impossible for a foot to find any flat and clear landing.

The man in his deep, dark hood, raised the guttering torch in his hand, but not to much effect. Even the torch seems unable to breathe at the ghastly sight that went in every direction.. It would have been, he surmised, quite better had the Orken not done such a mess as they had. The brutes, he thought, did nothing without leaving a bloody carnage behind them. And they were despairingly independent and lacked base discipline.

The hooded man also thought perhaps he should count his blessings that they had all moved in the same general direction and that Arashkan just happened to get in the way of their general direction!..

..And that it was night ..and winter ..where slushy, filthy-gray snow covered everything and the darkness hid what the snow couldn’t, and the air was still filled with choking smoke, hiding the sight of thousands of butchered, mutilated, seared and bloated corpses that lay everywhere, and smothered their scent of rotting meat!

Had this been a regular army, he surmised, the city would have been intact, more or less, and they would have had many, many more live and able prisoners put to work fixing the city walls and made some of the buildings habitable again..

But then, had this been a regular army, in all likeliness, the once-great Arashkan would still be here, standing..

..and defending.

 

The brutality of the Orken was something one just couldn’t dismiss.

When horded together in tens of thousands, it would seem, their brutality was bested only by their savagely..

 

The hooded man held his steps as another platoon of the beasts trampled past him in harsh grunts, holding tall glaring torches of their own in one hand, jagged-edged axes, frightfully curving arakhs or seemingly similar, but hooked khopeshs in the other..

..and without so much as a cursory glance in his direction.. nor anything that resembled any form of a military salute.

 

The man in his deep, dark, hooded robes felt.. casually dismissed..

 

He had no doubt they had recognized him. Those they did not, were all dead, after all..

Not that he cared, but the city, this city had fallen due to his planning, his foresight, his machinations, and his secret, behind-the-scene political maneuvering, hence, being deliberately and so impudently ignored.. not so much bothered, but irritated him.

“Savage brutes..”, he fumed.

“Yes. They are.”, said a cold, imperious feminine voice from somewhere down a dark side-alley. “It would seem your planning has a lot of glaring holes in it.”

The hooded man held his breath for a still second, then breathed.

“High Lady Angrellen Sunsear..”, he said with unveiled disdain..

..and in long, dark blue velvet dress embroidered at its fringes with silver threads of curving and swirling designs, came out the very tall high elf woman, her white-blond hair braided and done up and into an intricate bun, behind and on top of her long, somewhat delicate face. A face that spoke many words varying from hunger that had little to do with nurturing, to lust that had nothing to do with passion.

Perhaps, once, some very, very long time ago, this tall, beautiful, regal woman might have been pretty, in terms of a soul. That soul, however, was long gone. Only said hungers and lusts etched the face of the very beautiful woman now..

 

“..Or should I just call you Angrellen the Betrayer? That is what you are, after all, aren’t you?”

“No more than you are.”, replied High Lady Angrellen as she strode out of the alley. “Or should I call you—?”

“—You are damned as it is, woman. Should you name me, you shall be dead as well!”, cut in the man in the deep hooded robe.

 

High Lady Angrellen paused.

But not for long.

As an evil and infuriating smile stretched across her, otherwise coldly beautiful face.

 

“I do not fear you, mortal.”, she hissed at the man.

“And I care that you do or don’t?”, replied the man with a barely veiled sneer. “Perhaps, by having sold out your own, causing thousands upon thousands of your kin to die and being the architect of the ruination of Bari Na-ammen and High Woods has gained you some small favor in the eyes of my Master, and quite unrestrained airs, apparently.. Should I remind you, however, a betrayer is, and always be just that; a betrayer. Never trusted, never reliable, and always loathed.”

“I have gained my immortality. Hence your petty remarks are just that; petty!”, retorted the high lady viciously.

“No, girl. You have merely gained longevity, not immortality. You can and will still die.. The outcome of your damned soul is sealed.. Do not despair, though. Your long centuries to come will, I am sure, give you much time to contemplate on your long line of betrayals.. I was against the idea of letting you live, and I still believe you should be summarily beheaded and everything about you should be burned with scourging Hell-Fire. I detest harlots!”

“I would have a care to what you say if I were you.”, said High Lady Angrellen ominously. “You are not indispensable.”

“And neither are you. I am ready to face my Master’s wrath. Are you?”, replied the hooded man, and not so diffidently. “Oh wait, you don’t have a master. You, my dear girl, are an ephemeral and glorified tool!

“No, boy, we serve the same master!”, very nearly spat the high lady.

I serve.. and as His High Priest, I might add. You, on the other hand, serve only yourself.”, said the man calmly and in a matter-of-fact voice.

Angrellen tried for a shrug, but it was apparent she was much taken by the man’s disgust.

“I can serve me more, should you test my tolerance any further. The Master has many priests, high or otherwise. He has, but only one of me.”, she fumed.

“With nothing more than the Orken —beasts one could hardly do anything that requires surgical precision, I have managed to orchestrate the downfall of the greatest city in the Kingdom of Isles, and in less than fifty years of effort. It was I, who created the whole Gar Thalot concept, his rebellion, and the civil unrest. It was I, who played the political animals of this city with my machinations to make sure the Arashkan army stayed in their own base instead of defending the city walls even though their ARIS had serious suspicions of the potential of an imminent attack. The destruction of their mangonels, the murdering of the First Lord Kaladin, his son and his daughters, and much more that I care to list here, were all my doing. You, on the other hand, had more than a thousand years to work with and unlimited personal funding at your disposal.. One would think you would have made yourself the Rise of Bari Na-ammen by then. But no.. You couldn’t rid your lands off a human strumpet that your Ri took for a wife. Not only did you fail to rid us of Grandaleren in time to be of any significance, but you also allowed his human whore to escape along with his daughter and her daughter’s companions.. You failed to even take High Spires under your command, resulting in thousands of Arashkan civilians and military assets to take refuge there and consequently escape the city via ships. No, wait, allow me to reiterate that for you; you had High Spires under your command, yet you let it get bested out of your hands by your niece —an eighteen-year-old girl! Dammit, woman, you were given a curse to lay waste this entire city, and you let that get stolen. You were supposed to have come to us with your own daughter, yet rumor has it she was sighted in the city —this city— in the company of a large, brute of a man and a certain Princess of Bari Na-ammen, no less, fighting the Orken! Not to mention, you had the one job here and that was to find the last surviving heir to Arashkan, an eight-year-old boy, Prince Korodin, and you botched that job as well, while he escaped right under your nose. I am trying very hard to come up with a polite way to phrase your consecutive, cumulative, and conclusive incompetence, but it just isn’t coming! So do tell me, high lady, to which unique aspect of yourself are you referring to? Other than being a monumental failure, I mean..”, said the man with his calm voice. Yet the loathe in that calm was so palpable, one could almost reach out and hold it.. Then, under his deep hood, he smiled. “Do not despair, though. Your long centuries to come will, I am sure, give you much time to contemplate on your long line of failures, also..”

 

The face of the once high lady turned dark and ugly. Her slender hands clenched into fists and dark shadows gathered around them.

 

“By all means, girl, try your ‘hands’ on me.. Succeed to slay me, and you shall fail when you face my Master while you try and explain why you slew His High Priest. Fail to slay me and you shall add ‘A Failure’ to your tombstone, right next to ‘The Betrayer Of Her Own Kin’.. And trust me when I say, I shall end up having to explain nothing to my Master should I smite you down and bring your broken corpse to him for display.. or your ashes.. To be honest, I don’t really care, which. Either will do fine. Or perhaps I shall keep you alive and take you to him barely breathing. I know for a fact, He does enjoy mortal wenches screaming bloody in his bed as he rips their legs apart!”, the man said, with barely contained mirth.

 

For a long, wrathful moment, High Lady Angrellen contemplated murder, High Priest or not.

Then, just like that, she calmed down.

 

“Your attempts to rile me shall have its consequences, High Priest. But I shall decide when and where.”, she said with an almost pleasant smile.

The hooded man grunted with open disgust.

“Coward.”, he spat.

“You are confusing planning ahead with cowardice.”, she replied with a shrug.

“No. I am not. You. Are. A. Coward..”, he seethed. “Something I truly wished you weren’t and actually did try your hand on me.. But I guess you are just another stupid elf bitch.”

“You really shouldn’t try so hard. You will strain something.. Now, if you are done, perhaps we can go and talk to the Orken Mother and tell her to stop butchering everything they find in this bloody city. We will need many mortal’s souls to summon some demons should we want to conquer the east coast of the kingdom, come spring, and that tends to work better when they are still alive before being sacrificed for the summoning rituals! It’s fine with me though. I gave the Master what he wished of me; High Woods and Bari Na-ammen, even though it took me a thousand years, as you say. My further contributions here are purely voluntary..”, Angrellen said, not reserving her infuriating smile.

“You never do anything that isn’t self-serving, Angrellen. So you can skip with the ‘voluntary’ nonsense.”, growled the man with the deep hood.

The high lady shrugged.

“Perhaps. But I guess you will never know, seeing as you will die of old age, if not in some stinking ditch, slain by your enemies.”, she sneered at him.

“I disliked elves before. I loath them just by knowing you, wench! But I know what you are truly after.. You want Gullem’s spot..”

“That information, I am afraid, is quite above your pay grade, priest. Now, you will either come with me and explain to the Orken Mother why she had better stop the butchery, or you can explain to your Master why we still haven’t started summoning his Infernal Troops into this world yet.”, she replied disdainfully.

“Why don’t you talk to her?”, asked the high priest, and not without spite. “I am sure that conversation will go perfectly well. I can just about imagine the Greater Orken Mother being extremely cordial with the former high lady of Bari Na-ammen.”

“Don’t be senile. I doubt she knows who I am, and I hardly think she will listen to me. You, on the other hand, she knows, and very much dislikes.”, said Angrellen viscously.

“And I need you why, then?”

“I am here merely as your.. how do you humans say? Wingman? Or was it back up?”, she said with an evil smile.

“You? You are going to back me?”, scoffed the hooded man.

“But, of course.. Not! I am here to watch you humiliate yourself!”, she said with lazy laughter.

✱ ✱ ✱

The human with the long talks, the demands, and the machinations is here, again, Mother.”, growled the huge Orken warrior with the many scars on his hands, arms, shoulders, and face. His one eye glared with an unholy light while his other eye, a milky, slashed, and dried mess, stared ahead, quite unmoving and petrified.

“Has he brought us any gifts?”, came the grating voice of the Greater Orken Mother, from the dim canopy of her tribal pavilion, set amongst the ruins of what was once an inn, and behind the shattered Alls Temple, in the slums of the decimated Arashkan city. The pavilion itself was quite large and wide, with many brazers burning fitfully here and there and thick, rich carpets that probably belonged to some fateless noble once, were rolled out on the cleared debris of the inn, and several divans and many colorful cushions gave the ‘tent’ a somewhat ‘deliberately’ over-done appearance.

“It is possible, Mother..”, replied the scared Orken. “..He does have a skinny elf loshka with him.”

“Huh.. Perhaps he thinks my appetites go that way.”, rumbled the voice of the Orken Mother. “Let him in. I tire of his demands and his machinations. But he has proven his mettle and has helped us conquer this great city.”

“You are hoping he will have outlived his ‘mettle’, Mother..”, grinned the milky-eyed Orken.

“Yes. Yes, I do..”, growled the Orken Mother from the dimness of her pavilion.

The scared Orken grinned again and left.

“Humans..”, snorted the Greater Orken Mother in disgust. “..And their endless demands like we owe them something.”

 

A few moments later, the scared Orken returned, pushing the pavilion’s heavy flaps aside with his large, powerful hands but did not hold them open for the ‘guests’.

The heavy leather flaps swung back and closed..

..right into the the hooded man’s ‘face’ and the former high lady of Bari Na-ammen just stared at the whole thing.

 

“The lack of base courtesy in your beasts is astounding.”, murmured Angrellen with the slightest sign of irritation.

 

The hooded man shrugged and pulled the flaps open..

..and let them drop right into the high lady’s face!

 

“Really? You will go that low?”, fumed Angrellen and pushed the flaps herself and entered the pavilion, seething at the clear disrespect. “This is intolerable.”

“And who gave this runt of an elf loshka, the leave to speak, I wonder?”, said the deep, rumbling voice from the depts of the tent. “I did not. Did you, Kadar’ka?”

“I did not either, Mother. Perhaps, a bit like the human, it too believes we owe it something.”, replied the scared Orken, staring at Angrellen with one glaring and one, milky-white, eye.

“Shall we ask it, then?”, said the Greater Orken Mother..

..and rose from her divan, pushing the lush cushions aside.

 

What came out of the dim end of the pavilion was..

..HUGE!

 

A hugeness not merely in size, nor in the depth and breadth of her massive arms, shoulders, torso, and legs.

Her hugeness was in her eyes and what they telegraphed;

Unrefined brutality and primeval savagery untouched by anything remotely soft, nor civilized.

This was not a creature that took by the strength of her arms and will.

This was a creature that took.

 

Period.

 

And when she looked upon those around her with the uncanny intensity of her eyes, she told them, clearly as if by words, should they stand in her way, they would only contribute to ‘collateral damage’ and nothing bloody less.

Seeing as what she had done to Arashkan, a city that had stood for over a thousand years, and in under a week or two, she was probably right.

 

Angrellen Sunsear arched her brows and cooly gazed at the massive creature..

..and shut up!

 

The man in the deep, hooded robes coughed.

“Orken Mother. I have come to ask you to seize the butchering of civilians. We need them—”, he began.

“—Your needs are not mine, human.”, cut in the Orken Mother, showing little to no emotion on her brutish face. “We killed and we died to conquer this land. The lives of everything in it are now ours to do as we please. Thus we were promised. And thus shall we reap. Until then, you may either watch the slaughter or be part of it.”

“My Master has His orders given, Orken. Do not get above yourself. You conquered these lands because I willed it so. You won this city because I planed it so. Had you not been given the device to hide you and yours, and the city’s defenses downed, I doubt your victory would have been thus great. Must I remind you just who is in charge, here?”, gritted the man from inside his deep hood.

And do you feel in charge? Perhaps you are under the misguided impression that because you did what you did, you own us?“, stared the Orken Mother balefully at him.

Then she rose to her full height and gave him, and the skinny elf loshka, her uncanny gaze.

A gaze that said, your lives shall depend on how well you listen..

“You must understand, human, for these are the words of I, Guntha’Shar, the Orken Mother;

We are not your dogs.

We are not your servants.

We are your Masters, now!

Should you want to test us, by all means, do.

Tell your master, the Orken are here to stay. Not here to be pawns. If he wants sacrifices for his rituals, perhaps he should overrun the Demon Wall and conquer his own lands. The humans here, however, are ours. We shall have them for pleasure, we shall work them for labor, or we shall slay them for food and for entertainment. They are all ours to do as we please. And come spring, we shall have more.. They shall see us coming and they shall not, and they shall despair, for we shall stretch from one horizon to the other, and we shall be around them, above them, behind them and among them, for we are!

I shall go forth and make my own and I shall leave a kingdom to rule for my son, Guntha’Gar..”

 

And a tall, well-built man and orc also stepped out of the dimness of the pavilion.

A man and orc made of harsh, tight, cord muscle, keen, cunning eyes, and a cruel, sinister face..

A man and orc, no other than Gar Thalot himself!

With his cunning gaze, he stared at the hooded man and the high elf noblewoman.

“Indeed.”, he said with his low, gravelly voice. “I believe we should add them to the pile of corpses we have prepared next to the First Lords shattered palace to match in height. I am sure the wench would make excellent tallow!”

“Have a care, Thalot.”, sneered Angrellen. “Should you raise your hand against me, you will find, I am not one of your usual easy marks.”

“It speaks. And it makes threats.”, Gar Thalot observed with mild amusement. And slowly drew a long, ugly-looking dagger from his belt.

“No, son..”, growled his mother quietly. “Its time will come, for it is shunned by all, disdained by all, and loathed by all.. and no matter where it runs, no matter where it hides, death will find it in due time.. It shall never have a tent to its own, it shall never have mates nor cubs, for its heart is dead and its womb is cold and the only thing that can come out of it are squirming, poisonous bastards. Little pity have I felt for any beast as I have felt for it, for it shall not even have a stone to mark its death. Such is the destiny of betrayers!”

Then she turned to the hooded man.

“I have said my piece, human. Should I want your counsel, I shall summon you.. Its counsel, I doubt even your master shall ever seek. Otherwise, should you and your loshka be here come dawn, you and it shall be tallow.”

 

For a long moment, the deep, hooded man in his robes stood silent.

When he finally spoke, it was in hushed tones.

“Very well.. I shall convey your words to my Master, Orken Mother.”

Then, without further due, he turned around and left, followed closely by the skinny elf loshka..

✱ ✱ ✱

You know, I disliked humans before. I loathed them after Nadina came to High Woods. Knowing you, I actually pity them now. Your lives are worth nothing, yet you walk this earth as if you own it. You stare at the horizon like it owes you something. And then you look at the heavens and make demands.. Your idiocy is bested only by your base arrogance.. And of all the humans I have thus met, I pity you the most..”

“..You punned me for my failures, but at least Nadina Graciousward was a power in her own right and had strong ties to many known and unknown, yet equally powerful allies all around the kingdom..”

“..And yes, I might have been bested by her eighteen-year-old daughter, back then, considering she comes from a human mother and an incompetent fool of a father, and hence, against all expectations, is in truth a girl of heightened grace, honest elegance, devote sincerely, an iron will, and, young as she may be, a woman of innate insight and wisdom for people.. When that girl speaks, people listen.. When she beckons, they follow.. She could have been the Rise of her people had she so much as sniffed in her father’s direction. But she chose to leave, rather than to confront, overthrow and disgrace him, and both the people and the nobles loved her for it, and so did my own daughter; tossed one hundred and seventy years of indoctrination aside and joined her.. I lost to that!”, the once high lady of Bari Na-Ammen, Angrellen Sunsear, said, openly admitting her failures.

Then she looked at the man in the deep, hooded robes with genuine pity.

“You? You got owned by an animal!”

 


Loshka: Orcish word for someone that has no home or clan, and hence, is subject to all forms of ridicule and use. It is also a word commonly used among Orcs and the Greater Orken for a whore.

 

 

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a witness or two..

a witness or two..

Timeline:

A long stream of refugees disembark from the damaged Arashkan ships to the shores of Serenity Home town, adding to the already unmercifully overcrowded town and the lands surrounding it. From the last ship, a pair; one handsome but tired-looking blond half-elf, the other, a boldly beautiful young woman walk down the ship’s plank and follow the last remains of what was once The Great and Glorious Arashkan, towards the town that’s offering more than it has.

 

This story takes place a week or so after
The Stab In The Back
and sometime after
Grulganesti Grimtooth Bolgrig;
“A Debt Father to Daughter Passed..”

 

 

Agent Largo: This is a bad idea. My guestimation is one of three outcomes..

Lilly Venom: That so?

Agent Largo: Yes. (a) He will suffer a traumatic shock and runoff, shouting how much he hates me. (b) He will undergo some form of angst, followed by an episode of a not so unexpected breakdown, accuse me of letting his mother get killed, and very likely result in him punching me. (c) He will outright defy me, saying I wasn’t there when he was growing up and when he needed me, and that he’s all grown up now, doesn’t need me at all, and will refuse to see or talk to me..

Lilly Venom: Angst, huh? Never thought you a man for high drama, Agent Largo. But here you are, proving me wrong.

Agent Largo: You pun me.

Lilly Venom: (shrug) I pun a lot of people, Agent Largo, and you still owe me a dinner. I hope this town has a decent inn.

Agent Largo: You came here before, Lady Lilly. You should know.

Lilly Venom: The key to being a good assassin, Agent Largo, isn’t the kill, no matter how effective or efficient you are at it.. It is knowing your target.. and their habits.. And of course, never being noticed. The Temple Guardian, Demos, never visited the inn, hence neither did I. Thinking back, good thing I never did visit the inn.

Agent Largo: Ow?

Lilly Venom: Inns are a good source for local gossip, news, and information.. and finding out who is who. Had I visited the inn, I definitely would have left this town with at least one corpse.

Agent Largo: You know someone in this town, then? On a personal level?

Lilly Venom: (slight frown) That’s none of your business, Agent Largo.

Agent Largo: You really enjoy calling me ‘Agent’, all the time, don’t you, Lady Lilly?

Lilly Venom: More than you like ‘Lady’ing me.

Agent Largo: (side glance) You are in a mood, today.

Lilly Venom: I am in a mood, every day, Agent Largo. Have you decided on what to do? About your Dexter, and about your job? At the moment, you have neither.

Agent Largo: That was a tad harsh, Lady Lilly..

Lilly Venom: I have never fallen head-over-heels for any man, Agent Largo. But I am willing to give you a shot—

Agent Largo: Coming from you, that sounds ominous. I am not sure if I should feel elated, or I should start wearing full body armor.

Lilly Venom: —And I don’t like distractions.

Agent Largo: You are quite a target-oriented person, Lady Lilly.

Lilly Venom: I am a Drashan girl, Agent Largo. Everyone is someone’s target there. And if you are a girl, that number rises exponentially. But I have always believed in celibacy. It removes the option of unwanted distractions and complications.

Agent Largo: That’s a bit.. lonesome..

Lilly Venom: Any self-respecting Drashan marries only once, Agent Largo. That being said, there is no such thing as a ‘self-respecting Drashan’, and the only thing we truly marry is ‘death!’

Agent Largo: You make it sound like it’s a proverb.

Lilly Venom: (shrug) It is.. Have you decided what to do?

Agent Largo: I was hoping to get killed in the upcoming battle and save everyone the hassle.

Lilly Venom: No.

Agent Largo: No?

Lilly Venom: No, Agent Largo. You owe me dinner and I refuse to dine with a coward.

Agent Largo: Now, that really was harsh, Lady Lilly. And totally uncalled for.

Lilly Venom: Then go to the boy, knock on his door, or knock it down and say ‘Hi..’, sit down, and explain all your reasons for having done what you did. He might get angry, he might pout, or he might be happy. I would be happy if my mother rose from her grave and came to visit me.. though I doubt she has a grave.. Unclaimed bodies are usually just dumped into the sea with the rest of the derelict, in Drashan..

Agent Largo: That’s.. sad..

Lilly Venom: You don’t really have to act the ‘understanding type’, Agent Largo.

Agent Largo: I am not the ‘acting’ type of spy, Lady Lilly. I am the ‘orchestrating’ kind of agent. Though I see nothing to orchestrate, here. Well, actually there is.. with a lot of potential.. but I just don’t want to..

Lilly Venom: By all means, Agent Largo, do!

Agent Largo: No.

Lilly Venom: Why?

Agent Largo: You are a girl with a very special and specific set of skills, Lady Lilly. But you have honor and, diverse as it may seem, you also have integrity. I am afraid, I just don’t feel like playing with and consequently destroying either. Whatever sins I may have done, I have done for my Arashkan. I never wanted you to be part of that even before we met for the same reasons I mentioned above. The only reason I called upon you was because High Lady Angrellen left me little to no choice and I needed help.. desperately..

Lilly Venom: Do I sense ‘tender care’ in all of that?

Agent Largo: (replies with silence)

Lilly Venom: (after an extended, counter-silence, and a sigh) Neither my honor nor my integrity will save me should I ever be subjected to the law, Agent Largo.

Agent Largo: Arashkan is destroyed, Lady Lilly, therefore I am no longer the law.. And hence, I feel no obligation whatsoever to turn you in. Funny how that turned out.

Lilly Venom: (more silence) You will likely end up an outlaw too..

Agent Largo: I have been in and out of said law for longer than I can remember but never for personal gain. If for once, I end up doing that, I don’t mind doing it for you.. At all! I will do whatever job I can find, once this war is over and provided I am still alive. As for my son.. He will accept me, perhaps in time, or he will not. I did what I did, to preserve his life. He will either understand this too or not. But if you are willing to be with a fool like me, I am willing to do what it takes, Lady Lilly..

Lilly Venom: My contract with you was—

Agent Largo: —Your contract with me got voided at least twice.. back in Arashkan.. when you saved my life in the tunnel and then again after High Lady Angrellen trampled over us.. And possibly any number of other times I am not even aware of, when you watched my back on our deadly plight to get the civilians and the remaining guards out to the docks, and aboard the ships, Lady Lilly.. So when I say, you have my gratitude, I mean it at its maximum capacity. Many people who are alive now owe their lives to me. Funny how they fail to see, they actually owe it to you..

Lilly Venom: (stares ahead and does not say anything)

Agent Largo: ..We will have to take Prince Korodin in with us, though. Quite unavoidable, really. I did, after all, give my word of honor to Lady Ferrara, and the boy needs training from the best..

Lilly Venom: (snort) A wanted assassin and a former ARIS Agent..

Agent Largo: Like I said; The best..

Lilly Venom: (back to serious) Someone’s bound to notice me eventually, you know.

Agent Largo: I thought all you assassins were good with disguises.

Lilly Venom: We usually are. It’s part of our basic training program.

Agent Largo: There you have it then.. A good handlebar mustache or a chevron, along with a brett, and no one will ever recognize you.

Lilly Venom: (snort) Yes. I am sure no one will recognize me, but everyone will notice you, constantly arm in arm with a guy!

Agent Largo: So you want it to be ‘arm in arm’ and constantly, then?

Lilly Venom: (slight frown) Depends on the dinner, Agent Largo.

Agent Largo: You really have your mindset on that dinner, Lady Lilly.

Lilly Venom: Yes. I do.

Agent Largo: Why? I don’t mind a dinner.. many dinners with you, Lady Lilly, but why indeed?

Lilly Venom: Because it will be a first, for me.

Agent Largo: (blink) You mean you have never had dinner with anyone in your life?

Lilly Venom: Agent Largo.. Just who would dine with a wanted fugitive such as myself, let alone an unaffiliated, freelancing assassin?

Agent Largo: Apparently, me..

Lilly Venom: That is yet to be seen.. and I think we are here..

Agent Largo: I suppose we are.

Lilly Venom: There are guards at the town gates and they seem to be questioning everyone before they let them in.

Agent Largo: Let me handle the guards, if you will, Lady Lilly.

Lilly Venom: Handle away, Agent Largo. I have no issues with a capable man. I have nothing to prove, and neither do you.

Agent Largo: I must disagree. Every man has something to prove, where a pretty girl is involved. If you can accept that, we can move forward.

Lilly Venom: I suppose I must. Since you think me ‘pretty’.. So, yes, I am willing to take that risk.

Agent Largo: (smile) Forward it is, then..

✱ ✱ ✱

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Good afternoon, sir.

Agent Largo: Good afternoon.

Serenity Home Gate Guard: What can I do for you, sir?

Agent Largo: We are Arashkan refugees, to see Dexter Summersong.

Serenity Home Gate Guard: And what business do you have with the town bard? He has a full schedule, training the platoon assigned to him.

Agent Largo: He.. he has?

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Yes, sir. Anyone with any skill sets is expected to train others for the upcoming battle. Any kind of training is of use. You can fill in this form over here, take a number and you will be assigned somewhere, or be assigned to someone..

Agent Largo: I see. I will fill in the forms, but after I see Sir Dexter..

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Very well, sir?

Agent Largo: Largo.. Largo Summersong.. And this is Lady Ferra and the young boy is my distant relative, Rodin.

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Alright, sir Largo. I shall send a runner and see if our bard, Dexter, is available. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I can not let you in until there is some sort of vouch —security protocols, you understand..

Agent Largo: Of course..

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Perhaps you can take the time to fill in your forms in the meantime, sir? It may take a while for Sir Dexter to get here..

Agent Largo: (sigh) Very well..

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom: ARIS Agent? Really? You are actually going to write that?!

Agent Largo: Well, why not? For once in my life, I actually don’t have to lie about my job!

Lilly Venom: Then I guess I will just have to write ‘Assassin For Hire’, in my form, then.

Agent Largo: You.. might not want to do that, Lady Lilly.. For my sake, if not yours..

Lilly Venom: I don’t do lies, Agent Largo. Perhaps you might have noticed that.

Agent Largo: I have.. And it’s made me wonder..

Lilly Venom: A good assassin does not do lies, Agent Largo. Lies constantly require attention to keep track and that clusters the mind. And because I study my contacts very well and plan my exit strategies accordingly so I never have to lie. O.P.G.G.. Observe. Plan. Get in. Get out..

Agent Largo: You really never cease to amaze me, Lady Lilly.

Lilly Venom: Also, it is immoral to lie!

Agent Largo: (stares at Lilly)

Lilly Venom: What? Just because I am an assassin, doesn’t mean I lack moral codes, Agent Largo. I kill because it’s my job, not because I enjoy doing it. That is what was available for me to learn to stay afloat at Drashan, so I learned it well. Had I enjoyed it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because you would have been dead and I would have been elsewhere, busy cutting throats.

Agent Largo: Touché.

Lilly Venom: (shrug) It’s the truth.

Agent Largo: Write, ‘Security Advisor’, then. I am guessing you can do that very well.

Lilly Venom: I suppose..

Agent Largo: It won’t be a lie..

Lilly Venom: (sigh) It had better be a very good dinner, Agent Largo..

✱ ✱ ✱

Agent Largo: Here you go, sir. Two forms.. One for me, and one for the lady..

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Thank you, sir Largo. Sir Dexter should be here soon.. Ow.. and here he is.. Sir Dexter. These are the two who wished to see you; Sir Largo and his lady, Ferra..

D.D. Dexter: (stunned) Dad?

Agent Largo: (flustered) Uhhmm.. Hello, son..

D.D. Dexter: (still stunned) You.. You are not dead!

Agent Largo: (still flustered) I.. can explain..

Lilly Venom: (snort)

D.D. Dexter: Who are you?

Lilly Venom: I am the girl your father owes a dinner to!

D.D. Dexter: (stunned and shocked) You have a girlfriend? She is younger than I am, dad!

Agent Largo: (flustered and blushing now) I.. can explain that too..

Lilly Venom: (snort) Your father is alive and well, and you are worried about my age?

D.D. Dexter: (splutter) What the heck, dad?!

Agent Largo: (going down in flames) I…

Lilly Venom: (briskly) Your priorities are mind staggering, boy.

Agent Largo: (dead because of fighting in two fronts now) Uhmm.. Lilly..

Lilly Venom: (mildly agitated) What? After some twenty-odd years, he sees his father, ALIVE, and he is making an issue of my age? Really, now.. I thought bards were a polite bunch, if not smart!

 

(many footsteps approach)

 

Sheriff Standorin: (Udoorin’s father) (stern officious voice) Lilly Venom. You are under arrest and wanted for the murder of Lord Trimdel Kandara of Endless Watch. Please do not resist. Master Aager, please arrest this felon, if you will..

D.D. Dexter: What the..

Agent Largo: Ow crap!

Aager Fogstep: (approaches Lilly with cuffed and hisses at her with an extremely angry, tight voice ) You idiot!

Lilly Venom: (sigh)

Agent Largo: (more than flustered) Sheriff Standorin—

Sheriff Standorin: (with a heavy club in one hand) And you, former Agent Largo.. You are also under arrest for aiding and abetting a known fugitive. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. I suggest you keep to your silence!

Agent Largo: Sheriff Standorin. You know who I am. You know what I do—

*wham*

Sheriff Standorin: —There.. I appreciate it when criminals heed to good advice when it’s given and stay silent. How about you, Venom, how would you like your reception? The same, perhaps, would you rather exercise your right to silence?

Lilly Venom: (shrug) No, I’m good..

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom: How are you?

Agent Largo: I hurt. The good sheriff has a heavy hand with that club of his..

Lilly Venom: (heartlessly) I wouldn’t know, Agent Largo. I did not resist.

Agent Largo: (sigh) Well.. That certainly went well!

Lilly Venom: This is sort of embarrassing for me, to be honest. The first time I come to a town with no ill intent, and I am detained and put to jail. Remind me again why we are here?

Agent Largo: The boy.. Where’s he?

Lilly Venom: Which one?

Agent Largo: Both, I guess?

Lilly Venom: Your Dexter was with the Sheriff the time I saw him, though he did come in to check in on you once. You were still out so he just stared at you.. and me as well, I guess, since your head was on my lap.. He was furious and was looking somewhere to lash out. I told him if he tried that in my direction, he would lose everything he thought was dear to him. I might have threatened him with evisceration and death by choking on poisonous darts as well.. We had a small chat after that, though only I spoke. Told him everything you did for him and why.. He didn’t say anything, but he listened, then he left..

Agent Largo: I should have been the one to tell him those.. Not the evisceration and death by poison darts, part.. The other things..

Lilly Venom: Probably. But you were making such a lousy job out of it.. And the boy needed to know.. Hearing it from a third person is sometimes better. Gave him something to think about besides pouting, at least.. He might come around, or he might not. It’s on him now.

Agent Largo: (sighs) Thank you.. Lilly.. What about the prince?

Lilly Venom: They took him elsewhere. I suppose they will question him first for some kind of leverage.

Agent Largo: Korodin won’t tell them anything except that his name is ‘Rodin’ and that I am his distant uncle. And he will keep repeating that.. unless they hurt the boy.. And if they do that, I will get out of here and really murder someone!

Lilly Venom: (a bit surprised) You care for the boy!

Agent Largo: Well, sure.. He is my prince.

Lilly Venom: True. But you personally care for him..

Agent Largo: (sigh) Yes, Lilly.. I personally care for him. He’s young but I suspect he understands what’s going on around him a lot more than he lets on. And we read The Amazing Adventures of Blom Bundlebim Hobim. Anyone who reads that book together, are bro’s for life!

Lilly Venom: (snort) Boys!

Agent Largo: Don’t pun the ‘bros bond’, Lilly. It’s a real thing!

Lilly Venom: (slight frown) I am no longer a Lady, then, Agent Largo? Why am I suddenly not a lady anymore?

Agent Largo: (sigh) We share a cell and that’s as close to any woman I have been since my wife was murdered, and that was more than two decades ago. I believe that calls for a bit of honest sincerity. I don’t think this was the dinner you had in mind but here we are, in a quiet and dim setting.. just like you wanted. We even have candlelight. I am in your hands.. and your lap, quite literally, I might add.

Lilly Venom: (stares down at the face in her lap, studying it, perhaps to finalize a decision)

We have no dinner, Agent Largo..

Agent Largo: Jail food is never really all that good, but it’s always on time. Should arrive soon enough..

Lilly Venom: Very well, Agent Largo.. Will you propose now?

Agent Largo: I was really hoping for better conditions, Lilly.. You deserve better conditions..

Lilly Venom: I think I will be receiving ‘what I deserve’ on the morrow, Agent Largo. I wouldn’t fret about it too much if I were you.

Agent Largo: You could get away, you know.. I am sure these bars can’t keep you..

Lilly Venom: Could say the same thing for you, Agent Largo, but you won’t.. Because of your son and because of the damage it might do to his reputation.. For similar reasons, I won’t either. Just.. not for a son or daughter.. (pauses for a moment, then sighs) And I gave the good sheriff my word that I wouldn’t try to escape, provided he let me stay in the same cell with you.

Agent Largo: Huh! A wasted bargain, if you ask me, though I can’t complain about my current disposition; your lap is surprisingly.. intriguing. Enough to want to know what’s on either end.

Lilly Venom: (amused) A foot on one end, and a hip on the other, Agent Largo, among other things, and you don’t have rights to any of them.. At the moment.. Not unless you want to embarrass yourself more than you already have.

Agent Largo: (snort) Fair enough. I am guessing the other reason you stayed has to do with the person you know in this town?

Lilly Venom: (silence)

Agent Largo: Very well, then.. If I will have more of your breath.. and perhaps get clubbed every once in a while knowing I shall wake up to your lap, then I would very much like to propose. Would you like to spend the rest of your life with me, Ferra Ferrea? To be my wife, my companion, my partner, possibly in crime, and my friend?

Lilly Venom: Yes. I would, Largo Summersong. The rest of my life, short as that maybe, I would like to spend it with you.. Same conditions!

Agent Largo: The name is Lauca, actually.

Lilly Venom: Lauca?

Agent Largo: Means, ‘warm‘, in Elvish, though I have no idea what my mother was thinking when she gave me that name. It is supposed to relate to ‘A Warm Summer Song’.. But I have been using Largo since a bit before I joined ARIS because they sound similar and Largo was easier to pronounce. This, however, is a definitive occasion, so I thought at least you should know.

Lilly Venom: Lauca.. Sounds intriguing.. Means, warm?

Agent Largo: Please don’t make too much pun of it. Half-elves tend to get touchy when it comes to certain things.

Lilly Venom: Lauca.. Am I pronouncing it right?

Agent Largo: Do you want to pronounce it right?

Lilly Venom: I would, yes.

Agent Largo: Why bother?

Lilly Venom: Why bother with Ferra Ferrea?

Agent Largo: Touché.. and point taken, I suppose.

Lilly Venom: I shall call you by this name, from time to time, so we remember a warm summer song!

Agent Largo: That.. actually sounded poetic. Much better than I ever thought it would.

Lilly Venom: I think, I like it..

Agent Largo: Alright. Now we’ll need a witness or two..

Lilly Venom: I believe we have.. a witness or two..

Agent Largo: We do?

Lilly Venom: Yes, we do.. Don’t we, Aager?

Aager Fogstep: (sighs and comes out of the shadows) You really are an idiot, Lilly.. What possessed you to come here? This place is going to burn, and very soon.. and you came here?

Lilly Venom: Hello, Fogstep. Good to see you too.. Less than I wanted to, but here I am..

Aager Fogstep: This isn’t a game, Lilly. I have no authority over the sheriff, and certainly not over the mayor. I thought you were a survivor.

Lilly Venom: I am tired of just surviving, Aager. I have done it all my life. Took a page from your book and I have decided I want to ‘live’ now..

Aager Fogstep: And you came here.. For that.. Just how stupid are you?

Inshala Frostmane: (comes out from behind Aager) That is not nice, my Aager. I do not think Lilly is stupid. I think her to be extremely smart. Certainly smart enough to make all the correct choices, when we were back at Arashkan.

Lilly Venom: And, here is our inseparable second witness..

Inshala Frostmane: Hello, Ferra.

Lilly Venom: Hello, girl.. You have grown some. And you glow more..

Inshala Frostmane: (blush) I.. I do?

Lilly Venom: Yes. You were scared all the time, the last time I saw you. Now you look.. free!

Agent Largo: Don’t mind me. I’ll just lie down here and nurse the bump on my head.

Lilly Venom: (to Aager) Do you want to introduce yourself, or should I?

Aager Fogstep: (shrug)

Agent Largo: I know who he is. He is SIS —Serenity Intelligence Service; pseudo-named, Aager Fogstep. Single. Real name; unknown. Mother; unknown. Father; unknown. Siblings; rumored to have one, though his or her gender is unknown and presumed dead. He is also a former Drashan convict.. His ‘apparent’ job is being the right hand of Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart. He was one among others to have brought down Themalsar. There are any number of murders attributed to him, though none of them have been proven, nor verified.. The girl, I do not know. None of the spies I sent could get any information about her, back when she, sir Aager here, and their diverse other companions first came to Arashkan and started asking questions about Gar Thalot.. We found out who all her friends were.. Just not her and the one other girl who slept on the roof of the inn they were staying. It’s like neither of them ever existed before. We couldn’t even put a name to them. Heck, we couldn’t even scry them! It was like.. they both were off limits!

Lilly Venom: I am inclined to be impressed, Agent Largo, though I don’t think Aager here qualifies as single and his sibling’s name is ‘me’.

Agent Largo: (confused) Me?

Lilly Venom: (silent smile)

Agent Largo: (somewhat horrified expression) YOU?

Lilly Venom: (smile) ‘ME’..

Agent Largo: (stunned silence)

Lilly Venom: Yes, Agent Largo, he is my elder brother.. I am not at liberty to divulge who or what the other one is, but this cute little girl, here, is Inshala Frostmane. Aager’s girl, woman, mate.. I have thus failed to put a name to what they are, to one another. Nothing seems to sufficiently cover their relation.. In all candor, though, it is likely she is the best thing that’s happened to me in my life and I am happy to call her my sister.. Other than that, I am not aware if she has any other title.

Inshala Frostmane: (beam) I am here in my ‘Ritual Guardian’ capacity, dear Ferra..

Lilly Venom: I do not know what that means.

Agent Largo: I do, and it is an immense ‘capacity’.. I thought the good Master Cathber was killed in his sleep. I wasn’t aware he had any students in training.

Inshala Frostmane: (quietly) He had me. And I had him. He was my Father and my Master since I was a month old.

Agent Largo: I am sorry, young lady. I revered Master Cathber. Now.. Master Aager, Ritual Guardian, if you would be kind enough to put in a good word for Lady Lilly here, I would be grateful. I shall suffer my punishment, whatever it may be.

Lilly Venom: How very noble of you, Sir Agent Largo! I wasn’t aware I was getting a knight in shining armor when I asked for that dinner.

Agent Largo: I apologize, Lilly. But it comes as part of the package!

Inshala Frostmane: (beaming) I have no idea what you just said, but it sounded so sweet. And I didn’t know you were a knight, Sir Largo. I will ask them to release both you and my elder sister Ferra and also to kindly return your shiny armor.

Agent Largo: !

Lilly Venom: (snort)

Aager Fogstep: (snort)

✱ ✱ ✱

Sheriff Standorin: You seem to have left out quite a bit of your personal life, Master Aager. I thought you said your sister was dead.

Aager Fogstep: I thought she was dead, too. Her unexpected appearance in Arashkan did take me off guard.

Sheriff Standorin: I see no mention of this in your reports. Are we making private exemptions, then?

Aager Fogstep: (cooly) Yes and no, Sheriff. Some of the things that happened at Arashkan never got mentioned for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. Suffice to say, putting them in writing would have been too damning for the people involved, which includes our esteemed Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane, and by proxy, Ranger Master Davien Hart. Master Nimbletyne Tinkerdome’s niece, Master Gnine, and by his proxy, back to his uncle. Princess Alor’Nadien ne Feymist and High Lady Anglenna Sunsear of High Woods and Bari Na-ammen, damning Ri Grandeleren Feymist and Rise Nadine Graciousward, again, by proxy.. Our Senior Temple Guardian Lady Magella, and by her proxy, Master Argail Smitefast, and the deceased Demos Lightshand. Then we have Udoorin Shieldheart, your son, who also happens to be the betrothal of Princess Alor’Nadien ne Feymist, hence damning her again. And since he’s your son, that would be damning you, Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart of Serenity Home town, by a similar proxy. Last but not least, myself, and by my proxy, damning you again! I shall not mention The Ritual Guardian, Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane, nor ‘The Celestial’ Merisoul Xyrotwu here as neither of them are within our kingdoms’ jurisdictions.. The title of ‘Ritual Guardian’ is not bestowed by the king nor his vassals, but by the Ritual Forest itself and I shudder to even contemplate just who has any jurisdiction over Merisoul Xyrotwu, other than ‘The Great Heavens’.. What was put into writing, however, was done so from a distinctly ‘relevance’ point of view.

Sheriff Standorin: (amused) Nicely done, Master Aager. You have threatened damning everyone of note in this town and people of the highest status among our neighbors. Not to mention damning my own son, my future daughter in law and myself —twice, I might add..

Aager Fogstep: (coldly) You didn’t bring me here from Drashan to play ball, Sheriff. You brought me here to be the solution!

Agent Largo: (snicker) I did offer to take him off your hands years ago, Sheriff..

Sheriff Standorin: (ignores Agent Largo and glares at Aager) Just how damning are we talking about, here?

Aager Fogstep: (total silence)

Sheriff Standorin: (sigh and turns to Lilly Venom) Says here, you are a ‘Security Advisor’, Miss Ferra?

Lilly Venom: Ferra is my given name, Sheriff Standorin. And that would be ‘Mrs.’ Not, ‘Miss’..

Sheriff Standorin: (cocked eyebrow) I wasn’t aware the infamous Lilly Venom was married.

Lilly Venom: I would have been surprised if you were. It happened just last night!

Agent Largo: (cough)

Sheriff Standorin: You can’t be serious!

Agent Largo: I have been. For quite some time, now.

Lilly Venom: (smile)

Sheriff Standorin: What the hell do they put into the prison food?!

Agent Largo: I resent that.

Sheriff Standorin: (irritated) What am I expected to do now?

Agent Largo: (shrug) That’s up to you, Sheriff Standorin. This is my home, but it’s your town.

Sheriff Standorin: I suppose you will spill everything should I try to send you to the gallows, Mrs. Lilly?

Lilly Venom: (shrug) I am an Assassin —or a ‘Security Advisor’, if you will, Sheriff. I kill people for a living and I am very good at it. Whether I shall keep doing that is up to consideration at the moment, but I don’t do two things; lies and blackmail.

Agent Largo: I do.. And yes, the irony in that is sort of disturbing, but in this case, I shall uphold Lady Ferra’s wishes.. and honor..

Sheriff Standorin: (scowl) This is a mess, Master Aager. Please tell me the ‘solution’ in all this.

Aager Fogstep: (shrug) Hire Agent Largo as part of the Covert Ops team and let him do what he’s good at doing. Hire Lady Ferra, here, as a Security Advisor, as written in her form, and let her do what she’s good at doing. This town can’t stay a town any longer, Sheriff, even should we win the war. You know this to be true. We have tens of thousands of refugees of all races and The Ritual Guardian is doing everything she can to keep the weather ‘mild’ and the ground warm so they don’t freeze to death and so there’s is still some crops growing and hence, food available for the all those hungry mouths. It is also because of her and the druidic elves that survived High Woods we assigned to her that there haven’t been any breakouts.. All those refugees will, however, and eventually, require a roof over their heads, and said homes will require a much, much larger security team.. I am guessing Yuleman already knows this also. Everyone is working hard now and for a common cause because there are a hundred and fifty thousand Orken coming this way. But that’s all going to change, should we win the day and the threat of imminent death is gone. Especially should we win the day and the threat of imminent death is gone..

 

(silence for a long, smoldering moment)

 

Sheriff Standorin: (sigh) Very well, Master Aager. I shall take this up to Mayor Yuleman. In the meantime, Master Largo and Lady Lilly will stay in your residence, Master Aager. They may get out into your garden, but they shall not leave the premises. Agreed?

Agent Largo: Agreed.

Lilly Venom: I suppose so..

Agent Largo: I need some rest, anyway. Been running back and forth for weeks now.

Lilly Venom: (cooly) Not tonight, you aren’t!

Agent Largo: (stammer)

Sheriff Standorin: (sigh) Go get the Temple Guardian Thomas here to officialize and formalize their wedding, if you will Master Aager.

Aager Fogstep: (quietly) Yes, sir.. And.. Thank you, sir..

 

(after Agent Largo and Lilly Venom are escorted out)

 

Sheriff Standorin: Is she as good as they say she is?

Aager Fogstep: (slight frown) She killed me, once!

Sheriff Standorin:

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom: That was one hell of a speech you gave back there. I am impressed. This place has done you good.

Aager Fogstep: The good sheriff might be a harsh man, but he isn’t unreasonable.

Lilly Venom: (after a moment of pause) Will you give me away, Brother? When your Temple Guardian comes to officiate our marriage?

Aager Fogstep: Bit late to be asking me that question, don’t you think?

Lilly Venom: (quietly) I am.. I am trying, Aager.. This is me, taking those steps..

Aager Fogstep: (silent stare)

Lilly Venom: (returning the silent stare)

Aager Fogstep: Where’s your.. Largo?

Lilly Venom: Outside. Behind the house, talking to his son.

Aager Fogstep: You are okay with him having a son? Not that it should matter and Dexter is a decent man. But the fact remains; both are quite older than you. Agent Largo in particular.

Lilly Venom: It isn’t like the age disparity is all that much, you know. Well, it is, but he’s a half-elf. By the time I am old and crooked, should I see those days, he will still be of mild age.. And to be honest, his age never bothered me, considering how much I dislike fools and loath men in general. I think, being forced to work in Madam’s brothel when I came to age, back in Drashan did that to me.. Do you even know, or have any idea what it feels like to be groped or fondled by a total, filthy stranger who is leering at you with unwanted desire when you are barely twelve?

Aager Fogstep: (in pure, silent wrath) No.

Lilly Venom: You are naked. In all kinds of ways. You are shivering. Not because it’s cold, but because you are so scared. You have no idea what you are expected to do and everyone and everything is looming over you and they are all so much bigger than you.. All you know is you are about to be used and it’s going to hurt and you are going to cry because you are just a small, skinny, powerless girl.. You are going to cry and it will not matter because it won’t change the fact that it’s still going to keep on hurting in places that you shouldn’t be hurting.. Not at that age.. All you have is a tiny knife that you are allowed to use if the man likes beating his girls.. I was so scared that I couldn’t even move.. He became angry.. I don’t know at which point I sliced him open! But when I woke up, I had a cracked head and a bloody face, and he was dead. That was my first kill.. Then I decided to do the same for the next half dozen or so men as well. I just stood there, unmoving, and I was scared all the time.. Eventually, though, it would anger the men and they would slam me around and I would slice them open! That is when they sold me off to the Cutters Guild.. (sigh) I don’t think I could have found someone my age that fit my tastes since I really, truly, and quite mindlessly loathed men.. All men.. Still do, really. Largo.. He has.. seen things.. Bad things.. And over the course of years longer than either of us seen put together.. It has made him mature.. And serious.. Yet he still clings to that lame sense of humor of his. It is pathetic, really.. But I find it.. endearing.. if you could believe that. Yes, I freely admit I like those qualities in him. I.. I don’t think he will grope me like those animals. I think he will treat me.. right.. and alright..

Aager Fogstep: So you love—

Lilly Venom: Aaaaaaa! La, La, La, La, La, La, La !!!

Aager Fogstep: (confused) What?

Lilly Venom: I don’t want to talk THAT with you! I don’t like you that much yet! Or rather, I don’t know you that much yet.. Brother..

Aager Fogstep: Fair enough.

Lilly Venom: (sigh) I don’t think we will ever be like you and Inshala are. And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to.. Too much effort, too much work, too much pain.. and too many emotions for my taste. I just want honesty, care, and reliance —both ways.. But I also want a certain amount of privacy reserved for ourselves too..

Aager Fogstep: Also, fair enough. I am happy for you.

Lilly Venom: You.. you are?

Aager Fogstep: (shrug) Yes.

Lilly Venom: This conversation went.. better than I expected!

Aager Fogstep: Just what kind of a beast do you think I am, Lilly, to mess up your happiest day?

Lilly Venom: (carefully suspicious) I am sorry. Hard to change everything, all at once.

Aager Fogstep: (straight face) Besides. You are TOTALLY his problem now!

Lilly Venom: (scowl) I knew it!

Aager Fosgstep: But I would rather you took your man and left. Gone.. Far away..

Lilly Venom: Why don’t you?

Aager Fogstep: I can’t.

Lilly Venom: Why?

Aager Fogstep: (silent moment) This.. is my home now. And my Inshala’s forest.. I won’t give up my home, she won’t give up her forest..

Lilly Venom: Largo will not go. They destroyed his home. He does not show it, probably for my sake, but it’s tearing him apart. I strongly suspect he wants to die in as bloody a way as possible in the coming war.

Aager Fogstep: Why marry him then?

Lilly Venom: Because I.. want him.. per se.. And to give him another reason not to do what he foolishly wants to do.. Besides, we will likely go into the battle together. I’ll just have to watch his back..

Aager Fogstep: You are going into a battle.. because of an idiot?

Lilly Venom: No, brother. I am going to war because I want to preserve what’s mine.. And to earn my own ‘home’..

Aager Fogstep: You are an idiot too, then!

Lilly Venom: Perhaps.. Wonder what that makes you?

Aager Fogstep: The elder brother of an idiot!

Lilly Venom: (scowl)

Aager Fogstep: (snort)

Lilly Venom: Where’s your pretty girl? Where’s Inshala?

Aager Fogstep: She’s up the tree in the garden, trying to convince it to bloom.

Lilly Venom: Do I even want to know why?

Aager Fogstep: The tree is supposed to have very pretty pink flowers. She wants you to share them with your Largo.

Lilly Venom: (stunned) What? I am..

Aager Fogstep: Speechless?

Lilly Venom: Well, yes!

Aager Fogstep: She loves you.

Lilly Venom: I am flattered but how can she love me? Considering how little she knows me, and how horribly I treated her back in Arashkan.

Aager Fogstep: She has a great heart. And it seems she has a distinct affinity to seeing the depths of the souls in people. I can’t imagine what, but it appears she has found something she finds lovable in you.

Lilly Venom: You are not as funny as you think you are.

Aager Fogstep: I am funny?

Lilly Venom: What will you do? We.. seem to have barged into your home.

Aager Fogstep: (shrug) Sisters’ prerogative, I suppose.

Lilly Venom: (scowl)

Aager Fogstep: It’s alright, really. We will take our rest in the temple dormitories or next to some campfire. Too much work until then, though. We still have a lot of things to do before the day ends.. Inshala has to coordinate and make sure there are no frictions between us and the ogres and I have two teams I need to continue training. One in the afternoon, which I should be heading soon, and the other at night and will take all night. ‘Infiltration, Blind Fighting, and Ambush!’

Lilly Venom: Oww.. Ambush! I could help you with that.

Aager Fogstep: No.

Lilly Venom: Why not?

Aager Fogstep: This one is an advanced group of former Bari Na-ammen vets and rangers, hence we will be using live weapons and I don’t want you bleeding back to your.. husband.. Besides, you should make good use of your nights—

Lilly Venom: La, La, La, La, La, La, La —I am not listening to you..

Aager Fogstep: (snort) See you tomorrow morning, then.

Lilly Venom: (quietly) Aager?

Aager Fogstep: Hmm?

Lilly Venom: Thank you.

Aager Fogstep: Thank me when this is over and the ones we love are still alive.

Lilly Venom: (hug)

Aager Fogstep: (strained voice) You.. are not going to try and stab me are you?

Lilly Venom: I just might..

Aager Fogstep: Care for a slice of advice?

Lilly Venom: From you? No.. But say it anyway. I might listen.

Aager Fogstep: Lose some, to win some.

Lilly Venom: What the hell kind of an advice is that?

Aager Fogstep: The kind I gave to myself, though mine was, lose all, to win all! You are a smart girl. I know because my Inshala said so! I am sure it’ll come to you in time. Now, go on to your hubby, baby sister!

Lilly Venom:

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom: Are you done?

Agent Largo: Almost.

D.D. Dexter: I still can’t believe this.

Agent Largo: I am sorry Dex. After what happened to your mother, I wasn’t going to trust anyone from ARIS where you were concerned. This town was the safest place I could think of and still give you a happy life. You know what is coming. You know the score.. I was ARIS and I had to do something for Arashkan without a constant threat on your life..

D.D. Dexter: I know the reasons, father. It’s just..

Lilly Venom: (briskly) Give it time. You’ll get used to it.

D.D. Dexter: You are.. intense.. If you don’t mind me saying so, Lady Lilly.

Lilly Venom: Just ‘Lilly’ will do.. Considering all the effort I gave to make your father quit calling me that. As for intense.. Guess Agent Largo here will find out soon enough.

Agent Largo: (fluster, flush and blush) Lilly.. Please.. This is my son, for Heaven’s sake!

Lilly Venom: (heartless laugh) And he isn’t nine, Agent Largo. He’s older than I am!

D.D. Dexter: (cough)

Agent Largo: (blush some more)

Lilly Venom: Are you ashamed of me, Largo, that you keep blushing?

Agent Largo: No. Never that. It’s just.. a bit of an uncomfortable topic, that’s all..

Lilly Venom: There you have it, Dexter. He loves you enough to be embarrassed in front of you. Which is the only time I have seen him actually blush like this. You, Dexter, must understand; he did what he did to you, knowingly and deliberately because he had to. And now he has decided to share a life with me, knowingly and deliberately. Your father is a smart man, Dexter. I don’t think he would have been fooled by my approaches, because I am not really a ‘girly’ girl.. He accepted me because he wanted me. Considering just how loyal he has been to your mother’s memory for the past twenty years, I would say he deserves a break, wouldn’t you? Take that into account before you dish out judgments. We just came from Hell itself. There is no name for the blood and carnage we saw in Arashkan. We didn’t watch it from a distance, Dexter.. We were there.. On the ground, fighting, bleeding, and saving lives.. At least your father was.. All I did was to try and stay alive, and watched his back.. Your father needs respite and I hope he finds it with me. Will you not allow him to have that much before we go back into that Hell? Because whether we want it or not, Hell is coming our way as we speak!

D.D. Dexter: (stare with open mouth)

Lilly Venom: Now. If you would please, I would like to have a few, private moments with Agent Largo..

D.D. Dexter: Of course. I will see you later today, or perhaps in the evening when my duties are over.. (pause) On the other hand, tomorrow will be a better time.

Lilly Venom: Tomorrow will be fine. Thank you for being considerate.

D.D. Dexter: (mumble) Not like I was given much of a choice.

Lilly Venom: Best kind of choice offered. Which makes sense, since this really isn’t anything you should be making a choice over, should you think about it with an open mind. The only thing that concerns you is whether you will honor the choices your father had to make to keep you safe and alive and wish him some happiness and that he finds it with me.. or sulk about it.

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom: I am sorry if I was a bit abrupt with your boy.

Agent Largo: I won’t complain. Had you not said the things you said, when I was still out, I don’t think we would have made any headway today.

Lilly Venom: I just didn’t give him the time to do or say things you both would have regretted, by making myself the target of his possible ire.

Agent Largo: You didn’t have to do that, Lilly.

Lilly Venom: But I did it anyway. I saw enough sad and stupid in my life, Largo. And I am tired of it. We can either carry that particular baggage into our lives or keep it out. This.. this is something I learned.. or rather, ‘was shown’, really, by my bother, Aager, and his skinny little woman.. But he.. they proved to me it could be done and I want to give it a shot. I will sweat for it, bleed for it, war for it, but want you to be there for it..

Agent Largo: (smile) We are back to ‘shots’? Where is the boy, Prince Korodin, by the way?

Lilly Venom: He is with Inshala.

Agent Largo: I don’t really know Lady Inshala. Can she be trusted?

Lilly Venom: More than either of us. She will ‘care’ for him like no other.. Now, quit dodging. Will you go for it?

Agent Largo: I am here, aren’t I?

 

(pale pink flowers start to fall all around them..)

 

Agent Largo: (surprised) What’s this? Cherry blooms in the middle of winter?

Lilly Venom: (looks up at the thousands of pink, cherry blooms flaking down with a glowing face and shimmering eyes, and whispers)

Inshala, baby girl.. Thank you..

 

✱ ✱ ✱

 

It is the first few days of December and evening has settled over a white Serenity Home. It is quiet and kind tonight and a barely discernable warm wind seems to blow from Gull’s Perch as if Mab and Titania have come to a rare understanding. There is a great, awe-inspiring, beautiful cherry tree in bloom in a garden in this town and there is a small ‘home’ next to this tree.

A home where people ‘belong’..

In this home, there is a young woman with a boldly handsome face and she shivers even though there is a cheery fire crackling in the small grate. Carefully, she takes off her long, brown leather trench coat, revealing an exquisitely made dress; a pale green loose blouse, a very dark royal green tight bodice with many laces complimenting her narrow hips, her slim waist, her slightly gaunt belly, and her pleasant-looking breasts, hiding in her blouse. A long skirt of the same color embroidered with delicate, silver threads and slits on either side flow down her hips to her bare feet, carefully displaying parts of her slender, naked legs..

The young woman shivers again, her hands in tight fists by her hips, and has trouble looking up at the maturely handsome blonde man standing a bare foot in front of her. The man has a slight frown on his face as if trying to discern a last-minute vex, for the small, single-room home is thread-bare to be sure, but it is warm.

The young, boldly handsome woman, however, is as if knot, and her lovely dark eyes seem to be staring only at his hands.

 

Lilly Venom: Will you have me now?

Agent Largo: Lilly? What’s wrong—

Lilly Venom: If you are, I would like you to take my daggers, all my knives, my darts, and my shark teeth away from me.

Agent Largo: Why? If you won’t mind me asking—

Lilly Venom: (looks up at her husband’s face, then at his hands again and whispers in trepidation)

I am scared.

And I do not want to kill you..


 
Epilogue

 

The boldly handsome young woman is as if staring down at her own bare feet as she speaks in a low, hoarse, throaty, and barely audible voice, her face burning with defiant rage and with a kind of a lost shame. She fidgets as she speaks but her eyes are in fact affixed on the blond man’s hands as if expecting them to move for an assault at any time.

 

Lilly Venom: You are the first man I have liked. And been this close to. And that almost includes my brother. I have loathed men all my life and killed many because they couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. If this is an issue for you, I will try to understand, even should you want to leave.

Agent Largo: (stares at the girl, silently)

Lilly Venom: It isn’t like I am the only girl around.

Agent Largo: (continues to stares at the girl silently)

Lilly Venom: I can’t claim I am much of a catch, either.

Agent Largo: (still silent)

Lilly Venom: You are a handsome man, after all. I have seen any number of girls looking in your direction on the ship while we were sailing here..

Agent Largo: (persistently silent)

Lilly Venom: And yes, I am aware I should have said something about this before. But in my defense, it isn’t something I wanted myself to remember, let alone admit to someone else. It is not exactly table conversation; hey, I loath men, and I tend to slice them open when they come too near!

Agent Largo: (absolute silence)

Lilly Venom: I would rather you said something.. or left..

Agent Largo: (in a dry, gravelly voice) I don’t really know what I should say and still stay safely unbleeding..

Lilly Venom: (scowls while still looking down)

Agent Largo: That you think so little of yourself, and by doing so, you think so little of me, since choosing one another was consensual and you are basically accusing me of having bad taste! That you would notice the girls staring at me, but not notice the constant scowl I had for all the young men ogling at you on that same ship, and why I never returned the wonts of any of those girls but stayed as close to you as I could, while trying very hard not to crowd you. That you think I would leave because you have some issues, serious as they may be. And last but not least, that you would want me to strip you of your weapons, yet never asked me to remove mine..

Lilly Venom: (stares at the man)

Agent Largo: No one is ‘just right’, Lilly. We all have our issues. I will not belittle yours. But at least it is a relatively tangible problem that has its own solutions. I carry the guilt of Arashkan, dear Lilly. The blood of thousands are on my hands because of my failures and there is neither a cure and nor any redeeming salvation for that.

Lilly Venom: You can’t blame yourself because of what happened there. Everyone was at fault for that failure. Everyone ‘failed’.

Agent Largo: True. But I am the only one left alive to have to live with it. The dead feel no guilt!.. But that’s another, and certainly not a ‘tonight’ matter, for you have worked hard to give me some respite and I shall not let that go to waste.

Lilly Venom: Very well. I shall do more, if I must, to carry that guilt with you, only if I can’t wash it off you. What.. solution do you offer?

 

Agent Largo slowly takes off his coat, folds it neatly, and puts it aside. Then, very slowly, he reaches for the girl and smoothly strips one of her daggers from her.. and cooly tosses it aside and out of reach.

 

Agent Largo: There. Your turn!

 

The boldly handsome girl ogles at the man for a frightened, breath-held moment, then, and inadvertently, she smiles, for suddenly she knows this is a game. A game she is certain to win.. She does a quick, mental inventory: the other pair of the long, close-quarter combat dagger, sixteen short-range throwing knives, half a dozen shark teeth, any number of garrotes, and two dozen poison darts!

 

Lilly Venom: (smirks) You will run out of ‘steel’ before I do!

Agent Largo: (smirks back) And what are you willing to bet on that?

A red glare appears over the Gull’s Perch to the east, and very slowly, the sun starts to rise and Serenity Home stirs with a lazy and reluctant yawn. The night, though, hasn’t all gone to waste;

Lilly Venom loses some and wins some..

dungeons and dragons modül savaş The Great Arashkan the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

The Stab In The Back

The Stab In The Back

Timeline:

Anglenna Sunsear, Alor’Nadien ne (Lorna) Feymist ve Udoorin Shieldheart, Üç Köpek Lanetini Arashkan şehrine salmak için, elf konsolosluğu, High Spires’dan ayrılırlar. Bu esnada Darly ‘Darlius’ Dor ve Lilly Venom ise, ARIS (Arashkan İstihbarat Servisi) ajanı Largo Summersong ile beraber, Arashkan Birinci Lordu Kaladin’in kalan muhtemel son varisi olan sekiz yaşındaki yeğeni Korodin’in, kuşatma ve saldırı altındaki Arashkan Birinci Lordunun büyük sarayından kurtarmak için yola koyulurlar..

..pek az kişinin bildiği gizli bir geçitten.

 

Bu hikaye,
The Malediction of ‘Rellen..
(Part Three)
“Three Dog Curse..”
‘dan
kısa bir süre sonra yer alır.

 

 

Ne düşünüyorsun?”, diye sorar yakışıklı adam sessizce, ve bir yandan yıkılmış duvarın arkasında kendisi gibi sinmiş, yumuşak çizmelerine kadar dökülen koyu kahve deri pardösülü kıza, bir yandan da duvarın öbür yanında, neredeyse dört yüz yarda ilerde, kara cübbeler içerisindeki bir adamla tartışan, kızı kadar boylu kadına bakar; High Lady Angrellen Sunsear’e..

Darly “Darlius” Dor, kendisini bile şaşırtacak bir sükunete sahiptir nedense. Halbuki yıllardır görmeyi.. Hayır. Öldürmeyi beklediği kadın, iyi bir okçu mesafesindedir.

 

Genç hırsız ister istemez geçirir aklından.

“Laila Wolvesbane’in burada olmasını ne kadar isterdim şimdi..”

 

“Sence mümkün mü? Yoksa bekleyelim mi?”, diye devam eder Philius Silveroak ve Rimel Auburn’un oğlu, yanındaki kızdan herhangi bir cevap alamayınca.

“Sana hiç çok konuştuğunu söyleyen oldu mu, Darlius?”, diye sessiz bir tiksintiyle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Müteaddit defa…”, der Darly Dor sırıtarak.

“Bunu söyleyenlerin seni övmek için söylemediklerinin farkındasın, değil mi?”, diye ekşi bir suratla tıslar Venom.

“Etrafımdakilerin hakkımda söyledikleri yada düşündüklerine göre davranmış olsaydım, sanıyorum bulunduğum yerde olmazdım, sevgili Lilly.”, der Darly çok hafif alınmış bir sesle.

“Bulunduğun yer..”, diye burnundan solur Lilly Venom. “..yıkılmış, harabeye dönmüş ve yanan bir şehir!”

“Doğru. Ama ve en nihayetinde ben, yaşadığım şeylerin sadece bir kümülatif sonucuyum.. Aslına bakılırsa sen de öylesin, sevgili—”

“—Bana ‘sevgili’ diye hitap etmemeni tercih ederim, Darlius. Bu sana tek uyarım olacak.”, der Lilly Venom, yakışıklı half-elf’in lafını keserek.. “Ben senin yada bir başkasının ‘sevgilisi’ değilim.”

“Bugün biraz sinirli gibisin. High Spires’da seni güldürmeyi başarmıştım halbuki. Şehir ilk saldırıya uğradığında ve sizler surlardan kaçarken, benim gelip seni bulmamdan ötürü de için rahatlamış gibi bir halin vardı.. Ne değişti?”

“Beni bulduğunda sevinmiştim çünkü müteşekkirdim. Buna hakaret ederek karşılık vermemi beklemiyordun herhalde. Babanın evinde gülmemin sebebi ise, senin komik olman değil, kendini düşürdüğün ahmak durumdan dolayı idi.”, der Lilly Venom asabice.

“Bu iki durum da, neyin değiştiğini anlatmıyor bana.”, der Darly, önündeki kara cübbeli adamla tartışmaya devam eden High Lady Angrellen’i süzerken. “Ben aramızda profesyonelce bir samimiyetin olmasını tercih ederim.”

“Ben ölülerle samimiyet kurmam.”, diye keskin bir sesle cevap verir kiralık katil kız.

“Evet. Bir gün öleceğim. Muhtemelen yakın bir tarihte. Bunu anneme de, babama da söyledim. Yapmayı düşündüğüm şeyle beraber.. Ama şu anda hala hayattayım.”

“Sen ölümünü kendi kafanda tasarlamış bir ahmaksın. Ve buna da kitlemmişsin. Seninle samimiyet kurmakta herhangi akıllıca bir yan görmüyorum. Bu sadece yapacağımız işi zorlaştıracaktır.”, der Lilly Venom.

Darly Dor bir omzunu silker.

“Hmmpph.. O açıdan bakıldığında, haklısın.. sanırım.. Kara cübbeli adamı tanıyorum. Şahsen yada ismen değil ama daha önce gördüm onu.. bi sefer.”

“Yüzü görünmüyor.”, der Lilly Venom hafif kaşlarını çatarak.

“Dediğim gibi. Daha önce bir defa gördüm kendisini. O zaman da yüzünü görmemiştim. Ama cübbesinden tanıdım adamı. Benimle beraber, çaldığımız bir şeyin teslimatı için bekliyorduk ve teslimatı almaya bu cübbeli gelmişti. Bir anda aramızda peyda oldu ve diğer ikisini yıldırımlarla yakıp kömüre çevirdi —ki buna çok da üzülmedim açıkçası. İkisi de aptaldı ve ikisi de birer kesiciydi..”

“Sen neden hala hayattasın, peki?”, diye sorar kız, cübbeli adama kendisi de dikkatlice bakarak.

Darly tekrar bir omzunu silker.

“Ben sıranın bana gelmesinde bir fayda görmedim ve kaçtım.”

Lilly Venom ‘hıh’lar.

“Burası uygun değil. Çok istediğini biliyorum. Ama şimdi şansımızı denersek, bu sadece başarısızlığımız için kötü bir bahane olmuş olur, o kadar. Ve açıkçası, ne seni, nede Lady Angrellen’i, kendimi ahmakça bir şekilde feda edecek kadar sevmiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom, taş gibi bir ifadeyle.

“Alındım.”, der Darly yine sırıtarak. “Ama onun burada ne işi olduğunu merak etmiyor değilim. Şirret kızına, Prensese ve o şapşal Udoorin’in söylediklerine bakılırsa, onu en son Bari Na-ammen sarayında, Ri Grandaleren ile çatışırken görmüşler. O burada olduğuna göre, sanırım çatışmayı kimin kazandığı da belli olmuş oldu. Grandaleren’i pek sevmezdim. Ama Prensesimin babasıydı. Sevgili Alor’Nadien ne bunu duyduğunda yıkılacak.”

“Seni anlamakta zorluk çekiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom. “Sen umarsız, sorumsuz ve yılışık herifin tekisin. Ama iş prensese gelince o çiroz şeye hayranlık üstü bir saygı gösteriyorsun. Hakkını vermeliyim. Kız gerçekten güzel, zarif, alımlı, ağırbaşlı, zevkli, içten ve türünün nadir örneklerinden biri. Ama beni şaşırtan, senin ona gösterdiğin saygı, onun görünür güzelliği dışındaki her şey.”

 

Gerçekte Lilly, neredeyse hiç tanımadığı prensese, küçük Inshala dolayısıyla olmuş olsa da, onun giyinmesi için seçip gönderttiği elbiseden dolayı teşekkür etmesi gerektiğini düşünür. En nihayetinde, hayatında asla yapmadığı bir şeyi yapmış ve pardösüsü gibi koyu kahve deri pantolonu yerine, şu anda bile o elbise vardır üstünde..

Lilly, abisi Aager gibi pratik ve pragmatik biridir. Evet, belki daha huysuz —çok daha huysuz— bir mizaca sahiptir ama elbise, ayakkabı, saç ve tırnak bakımı ve makyaj gibi kızsal lükslere de hayatında yer vermemiştir.

Prense Lorna’nın gönderdiği bu elbiseye kadar.

Elbise rahattır. Fevkalade hafiftir. Etekli olmasına rağmen yan yırtmaçları dolayısıyla hareken kabiliyeti kısıtlamamaktadır, kir göstermediği gibi, gerçekte kir de tutmaması gibi hayret verici bir özelliği de mevcuttur ve korsesi de.. her şeyin yerli yerinde durmasını sağladığı gibi, zariftir işte!

Tıpkı elbisenin tamamı gibi..

 

Darly kendisine sorulan soruya bir süre cevap vermez ve cübbeli adama kızmaya başladığı açıkça görünen High Lady Angrellen’i kesmeye devam eder. Neden sonra kısık bir sesle cevap verir.

“Prenses Alor’Nadien ne Feymist.. Benim kulvarımın çok, ama çok dışında bir hanımefendi. Onun görünüşünün, zarafetinin, inceliğinin, anlayışının ve samimiyetinin hastasıyım. Ama bunlar sadece benim, ve benim gibi kendisini tanıma şerefine nail olmuş herkesin hissettiği şeyler. Bunlar, o salak Udoorin’in ne kadar şanslı olduğunun asla farkında olamayacağı şeyler.. O hödüğü kıskanabileceğimi aklımın ucundan bile geçirmezdim. Ama Prenses aynı zamanda High Woods’un seçilmiş ‘kalbi’..”

“Seçilmiş nesi?”, diye hayretle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Seçilmiş ‘kalbi’.. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış Lilly ama bu mefhum, insanların anlayabileceği bir şey değil. Bu.. kadim bir his.. Sanıyorum bende elf kanı olmuş olmasaydı, bende algılayamazdım.”, diye açıklamaya çalışır Darly.

“Hala hiçbir şey anlamış değilim.”, diye başını sallar kız.

“Dediğim gibi. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış ama sen bunu anlayamazsın. Abin, Aager.. O da anlamamıştı. Sadece kategorik olarak ‘Bilinmeyen, ama var olan bir şey.’, diye kafasında tanımlamış olabileceğini düşünebiliyorum.. Onu biraz olsun tanıdıysam, sanırım öyle yapmıştır. Grupta sadece İzci Onbaşı Laila’nın hissedebilmiş olabileceğini düşünüyorum bunu —tıpkı benim gibi. Ve.. ironik bir şekilde de, Anglenna. Ama o bunun ne olduğunu TAM olarak anladı çünkü kendisi hem bir high elf, hem de High Woods’da doğup büyüme birisi..”

“Bu.. o sırık boylu kız hakkında kötü olmayan söylediğin ilk ve tek şey.”, diye not eder Lilly.

Darly omzunu tekrar silker.

“Beni yanlış anlama, Lilly. O kadından ne kadar nefret ettiğimi sana tarif bile edemem. Ama kendisine saygı gösterebileceğim kadar değişmeyi de başardı. Belki bir gün ondan nefret etmeye dahi bilebilirim.. O güne kadar yaşarsam..”

Lilly’den “Huh!”, diye bir ses çıkar ve bu haliyle abisine ne denli benzerlik gösterdiği hayret vericidir.

“Gidelim. Ajan Largo nereye kaybolduğumuzu merak ederse gelir ve Angrellen’i görür.. ve ahmakça bir kahramanlığa kalkışmaya kalkar.”

“Kalkışsın. Bu bizim lehimize işlemiş olmaz mı?”, diye sorar Darly.

Lilly Venom, bir salağa bakar gibi genç hırsıza bakar.

“Senin gerçekten ne kadar aptal olabileceğine bir türlü karar veremiyorum Darlius.”, der burnundan soluyarak.

“Niye yaa?”, diye alınmış bir sesle sorar Darly.

“Anglenna şu anda o kara cübbeli adamla tartışıyor. Ama ortak bir düşmana karşı birleşmeseler bile, en azından aynı istikamete doğru hiç de hoşumuza gitmeyecek büyüler yapacaklardır. BİZİM İSTİKAMETİMİZE DOĞRU!.. Ama farz edelim ki bir yanlışlık oldu ve Largo o şirret kadını alt etmeyi başardı. Bunun sonucunda ya onu esir alıp sorgulamak, sonrasında da bir savaş suçlusu olarak günü geldiğinde adalet karşısına çıkarmak için bir yerlere tıkacaktır —ki o kadını zapt edebilecek bir hapishanenin olduğunu düşünemiyorum bile— yada onu öldürecektir. İlki olması halinde, senin ona dokunmanı bırak, yanına bile yaklaşmana izin vermeyecektir. Diğer ihtimalde de sen intikamını alamamış olacaksın, ben de ‘paramı’..”

Darly “Darlius” Dor kaşlarını çatar ve nefretle yüzü kararır.

Hayır..

Para onun için önemini kaybedeli çok uzun bir zaman olmuştur. Hayatında önemini kaybetmemiş olan iki şey vardır sadece ve biri çoktan ölmüştür. Diğeri ise ‘intikamdır’..

Genç, yakışıklı hırsız yanan gözlerle yanında sinmiş duran kıza, Lilly Venom’un cesur bir kalemle çizilmişçesine keskin hatlı yüzüne bakar.

Sonra sessizce hırlar.

“Gidelim..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom gönüllü muhafızların ve elf’lerin arasından bir hayalet gibi süzülür ve koca Orken’in arkasında belirir. Yere devirdiği muhafızı elindeki dev, tırtıllı baltasıyla ayırmak üzere olan yaratığın sırtına sıçrar ve hançerlerinden birisini soğancığına, diğerini ise kafatasının tam arkasına saplar. Koca Orken, bir anda felç olmuş bir şekilde elinden baltasını düşürür ve öylece durduğu yerde çakılır kalır.

Kız bekleme yapmaz. Geriden gelen diğer Orken’lerin arasına pervane gibi dönerek dalar ve bir an bile yerinde durmaksızın birisinin kolunu zehirli hançerleriyle çizer, bir başkasının yanağını, üçüncüsünün baldırını ve dördüncüsünün adem elmasını açar. Kız dönerken uzun, koyu kahve deri pardösüsü, ve giydiği elbisesinin etekleri yelpaze gibi saçılır ve kendisini hayretle seyredenlere; “İşte. Ölüm meleğini gördüm. Bu o!”, dedirtir.

Darly Dor ise kızın çizdiklerini, kısa kılıcıyla aksi istikametten kesmeye başlar ve Orken’ler böğürerek bir o yana, bir bu yana ellerindeki kılıç ve baltaları savururlar ama bir türlü tutturamazlar.

Ajan Largo ise ikiliyi sadece kısa bir anlığına seyreder, sonra, “Onlara dokunmalarına izin vermeyin. Devirin hepsini!”, diye emreder.

Gönüllü muhafız ve elf’ler, kendi silahlarını doğrulturlar ve karmaşaya dalarlar.

 

İki dakika içerisinde, hedeflerine doğru giderken karşılarında peyda olan bir düzine Orken ölmüştür.

 

“Bunu bir daha yapmamanızı tercih ederim, Lilly hanım.”, der Ajan Largo ciddi bir ifadeyle.

Lilly Venom, olgun bir yakışıklılığa sahip ajana bakar..

..tek kaşı kalkmış bir şekilde.

“Neden? Yapmamış olsaydım, sanıyorum bir çok adamınız ölmüş olurdu. Yoksa siz şu ‘kızlar arkada durmalı’, diye düşünen tiplerden misiniz?”

“Hayır. Ben kızların arkada ve güvende durmaları gerektiğini ‘dileyen’, eski kafalı tiplerdenim, ama bunun konumuzla bir alakası yok. Adamlarım ve elf’lerin hayatları benim için önemli. Ancak onlar ‘gönüllü’ oldular ve işlerini yapmalarına müsaade etmelisiniz.”, diye sakince cevap verir Largo.

“Daha hedefimize varmadan yarısını kaybetmiş olurduk o zaman.”, der Lilly Venom.

“Bunun farkında olmadığımı mı düşünüyorsunuz? Bu yüzden buna ‘gönüllü’ deniyor.”

“Aynı şeyleri züppemsi’ye de söylediniz mi?”, diye kaşları çatılı bir şekilde sorar kız.

Largo omuzlarını silker.

“İkimiz de onun tam olarak ne kadar disiplinsiz ve sorumsuz olduğunu biliyoruz, Lilly hanım. Dahası, o benim sorumluluğumda değil, babasının sorumluluğunda. Babasına, oğlunun hayatından sorumlu olamayacağımı söyledim. Ben sadece buradaki gönüllü muhafızlarımdan, elf’lerden.. ve sizden sorumluyum.”

Lilly Venom hayretle Ajan Largo’ya bakar.

“Benden sorumlu olduğunuzu da nereden çıkardığınızı sorabilir miyim?”, diye sorar kız.

“Buradaki herkesin bir ‘sahibi’ var, Lilly hanım.. Sahipsiz bir siz varsınız. Ben asla bir centilmen olmakla suçlanmadım, ama sorumlu olduklarıma sahip çıkmamak, kötü huylarım arasında da asla yer almadı.”, der sessizce Largo.

Lilly Venom ‘fırk’lar.

Sonra adamın yüzündeki keskin ifadeyi görünce gerçekten şaşırır.

“Siz ciddisiniz!”, diye ünler.

“Sizde ne zaman lakayt birisi olduğum izlenimini uyandırdığımı merak ettim doğrusu. Ve benimle saçma sapan, hararetli bir tartışmaya girmeden önce, fikrimi değiştiremeyeceğinizi de eklemek isterim.”, der adam aynı sessiz ve sakin sesiyle.

Lilly’nin kaşları çatılır.

“Benim ne olduğumu biliyorsun..”, der neden sonra.

“Tabii ki. Drashan’dan ayrılmadan önce yaptıklarının belirgin bir kısmı, ayrıldıktan sonra işlediğin cinayetleri ve iş olarak almış olmana rağmen son anda pas geçtiğin kontratlar da dahil olmak üzere..”

“Ve bunlara rağmen—”, diye hayretle sorar Lilly.

“—Hanım efendi. Etrafınıza bir bakın. Sizin ne gördüğünüzü bilmiyorum ama benim gördüğüm sadece bir şey var, o da ‘oyunun bittiği’.. Bununla beraber, Endless Watch Lordu Trimdel Kandara suikastı için daracık bir havalandırma deliğinde sabırla 80 saat beklemiş olmanız hayret vericiydi.”

“84..”, der Lilly Venom sessizce.

“Efendim?”

“84 saat bekledim doğru an için. Uyumadan ve kıpırdamadan..”

Largo gülümser.

“Dediğim gibi.. Hayret verici..”

“Asıl beni takdir etmeniz hayret verici, Ajan Largo. Ve ben sadece basit bir kiralık katilim.. Bir kesici.. Gözünüzde büyütülecek bir yanım yok.”, der ekşi bir suratla kız.

“Aaa.. Hayır, Lilly hanım. ‘Basit’ kiralık katiller 84 saat tek bir kontrat için aç, susuz, uyumadan ve kıpırdamadan, sizin omuz genişliğinizden bile daha dar, taş bir delikte beklemeyi göze almazlardı. Hiç birisinin bunu düşünemeyecekleri ise apayrı bir konu. Kesici olmanıza gelirsek.. Kimse bir ‘ajan’ olarak doğmaz, Lilly hanım. Ve inanın sizden çok daha fazla ‘kesmişliğim’ olduğunu söyleyebilirim ve bunlar arasında kimlerin olduğunu bilmek bile istemezsiniz.. Adıma bir kontrat olmayışının tek sebebi ise, bir ARİS memuru olmam.”, der Largo ve sonra da sessizce ekler. “Ve küçük Korodin hala hayatta ise, onu bulup saraydan çıkartabilecek tek kişi de sizsiniz..”

Lilly Venom adamı, Ajan Largo’yu sessiz bir an süzer.

“Ve..”, diye ekler Largo. “Ben kişinin yaptığı işe baktığım kadar, yaptığı işin kalitesine.. ve yapanın ahlakına bakarım. Beni yanlış anlamayın, Lilly hanım. Sizi gözümde büyütmüyorum ve siz de kesinlikle bir azize değilsiniz. Ama kendinizce bir ahlak ve onur anlayışınız var. Yoksa Serenity Home Baş Tapınak Muhafızı Demos Lightshand için aldığınız kontratı yerine getirmiş olurdunuz.”

Kız kaşlarını çatar.

“Yaşlı adam öttü demek. Bana bunu yapmayacağını söylemişti..”, der dişlerini gıcırdatarak.

“Hayır, Lilly hanım, Demos ‘ötmedi’.. Ama vefatına yakın, kimlere ne borcu varsa hepsini imtina ile ödemeyi de ihmal etmedi. Sanıyorum kendisini size karşı borçlu hissetmiş olmalı ki bu konuda sadece Serenity Home şerifine, onun vasıtasıyla da bana bir mektup gönderdi.. Şayet bir gün yakalanır ve idam edilmeniz söz konusu olursa, tapınağı ve yetimleri için yapmış olduğunuz ‘büyük bir hizmet’ dolayısıyla sizin affedilmenizi isteyen bir mektup..”

Lilly Venom tamamen şaşkına dönmüş bir şekilde bakar Ajan Largo’ya. En sonunda hafif boğuk bir sesle mırıldanır.

“Demek Demos öldü.. İyi bir adamdı.. Onu öldürmek için tapınağına sızdığımda, iki gün alışkanlıklarını öğrenmek için takip ettim kendisini.. Yetimlerin ve ziyaretçilerin kendisine gösterdiği sevgi ve saygıdan anlamıştım.. Gerçek sevgi ve saygı.. Gece uyurken yanına geldiğimde bana ne dedi biliyor musun?”, diye kendi kendisine soruyormuş gibi konuşur kız.

“Hayır. Ama bilmek isterim.”, der Largo.

“‘Beni öldürmeye mi geldin, kızım? Güzel.. Demek ki bir şeyleri doğru yapmışım..’ —bana söylediği şey buydu. Bomboş odasında, yamuk bir yatakta uzandığı yerden. Ve gülümsüyordu.. Ben adamın kaçık olduğunu sandım. Daha sonra anladım ki bir şeyleri eksik olan ben mişim..”

“Büyük insanları anlamak zordur, Lilly hanım. Ve Demos Lightshand de büyük bir insandı. Şimdi.. Bahsettiğiniz şu gizli tünelin yeri tam olarak neresidir?”

Lilly Venom, karmaşık duygular içerisinde muallak bir el hareketiyle yanmış Heaven Park istikametini gösterir.

Ajan Largo, gönüllü muhafız ve elf’lere başıyla işaret eder ve toplu bir şekilde yola koyulurlar.

 

Arashkan, Lilly Venom için hiç beklemediği kadar çetrefilli tecrübeler sunmuştur. Ve şehir ölmüş olmasına rağmen hala sunmaya da devam etmektedir. Arenada yaşadıkları, azılı düşmanı olarak bildiği Aager Fogstep’in gerçekte ağabeyi olduğunu öğrenmesi, bit kadar canı var gibi görünen Inshala adındaki kızın onunla arkadaş.. daha doğrusu onun küçük kız kardeşi olabilmek için gösterdiği insan üstü çabası, Gar Thalot’un isyanının bir parçası olarak surlardaki mangonelleri, bilmeyerek de olsa yok etmeleri, Orken ordusunun ani ve beklenmedik saldırısı, surlardan kaçışları, High Spires’a sığınması ve en nihayetinde de Birinci Lord Kaladin’in hayatta olduğunu umdukları sekiz yaşındaki küçük yeğeni ve Arashkan tahtının son varisini bulup kurtarmak için çıktıkları bu ölümcül yolculuğu düşünür Lilly Venom ve farkında olmadan kendisinin yepyeni bir farkındalık seviyesine ulaştığına ayılır zira eskiden olduğu gibi artık pek az şey ‘aldığın kontratı yerine getir, paranı tahsil et’ kadar kolay ve basittir..

 

Darly kızın omzuna hafifçe dokunur ve kız etrafına baktığında, ağır dumanla kaplı kömür olmuş Heaven Parkına varmış olduklarını görür. Lilly sanki bir şeyleri hatırlamaya çalışıyormuş, yada konum belirlemesi yapıyormuş gibi etrafını inceler ve aradığını bulur; yangından kararmış, köşeli bir dikili taş..

“Bu taraftan.”, der ve herkesi taşın olduğu yere getirir.

“Bunu devirmemiz lazım..”, diye taşı gösterir.

Muhafızlar ve elf’ler on yarda boyundaki, dikili taşa bakarlar.

Largo taşa yaklaşır ve yoklar ama taşın yükü ağır olduğunu görünce ister istemez kıza bakar.

“Her şehirde rüşvet almayı seven memurlar vardır, Ajan Largo.”, der Lilly Venom gülümseyerek. “Ve bu taş dikilirken, ilgili bazı memurlar neden basit bir anıt taşı için rüşvet yediklerini merak bile etmediler..”

Kız anıtın dibine gelir ve elleriyle zemininde bir şeyler arıyormuş gibi yoklar. Neden sonra yüzü hafif aydınlanır ve Ajan Largo’ya başıyla yaşlaşmasını işaret eder. Largo geldiğinde kız bulduğu şeyi gösterir ona.

Taşın dibinde, toprağa gömülmüş, bir yumruğun rahatça içine sığabileceği, demirden dökülmüş bir halka vardır.

“Nedir bu?”, diye sorar Largo.

“Bu bir zemin pimi. Bunun gibi üç tane daha var. Her biri bir kenarında. Hepsi aynı anda çekildiğinde, dikili taşı yerinde tutan çelik kelepçe gevşer ve taş devrilir.. Ama sadece üçünü çekerseniz, taş sadece bir yana meyleder ve orda durur. Bir kaç kişi, taşı tekrar yerine yerleştirir ve pimleri tekrar soktuklarında, taş yine eskisi gibi sapa sağlam durur. Orijinal anıt taşı devrilmesin diye en az bir yarda daha derine gömülmüş olması gerekiyordu.”, diye parlayan gözlerle açıklar Lilly.

“Akıllıca.. Ve potansiyel kullanımı itibariyle de ölümcül..”, der Largo düşünceli bir şekilde. “Başlayalım o zaman.”

Lilly, Largo ve muhafızlardan bir tanesi, toprağın altına gömülüp gizlenmiş iki halkayı daha bulurlar ve üçü aynı anda kendi demir halkasını çeker..

Anıt taşı bir an kıpırdamadan öylece durur, sonra ağır bir devinimle yan yatmaya başlar.

“Bence biraz uzaklaşsak iyi olur.”, diye keskin bir şekilde tıslar Lilly. “Bu taş ve kelepçeler çok uzun bir zamandır burada duruyorlar.”

Kızın uyarısı bir kehanetmiş gibi taş ivmesini alır, büyük bir çatırtıyla yarılır ve son altı yardası bir anda yere düşüp parçalanır. Geri kalanı ise rahatsız edici bir açıyla öylece durur.

“İşte burası.”, der Lilly ve dikili taşın altında belirmiş karanlık ve daracık bir tünelin ağzını gösterir, ardından keskin hançerlerinden birini çıkartır ve manalı bir şekilde bıçağın sivri ucuna dokunur.

“Evet.. İlk hanginiz, ‘Önden bayanlar’, diyecek?”

✱ ✱ ✱

Nefes alamıyorum..”, diye inler biri arkadan ve fevkalade ağır bir şekilde sürünerek ilerleyen herkes durur bir anda. Darly arkasına bakmaya çalışır ama dar toprak tünel buna pek de imkan vermez. Onun arkasından gelen Lilly ise içinden küfreder. “Lanet olsun, dar ve kapalı yerlerde bulunamayacaklar gelmesin diye özellikle uyarmıştım!”, diye tıslar haşince.

“B.. bırakın beni ve devam edin.. Kumanda Lilly hanımda!”, der aynı ses zorlukla.

Lilly bir anda basık ortamdaki sesin sahibini tanır. “Ajan Largo?”

“Size.. devam edin, dedim. Veliahttı bulun ve çıkarın saraydan. Ben.. geri çıkmaya çalışacağım..”, der kesik seslerle Largo.

“Aptal adam.”, diye burnundan solur Lilly Venom ve beklenmedik bir kıvraklıkla olduğu yerde, bir yay gibi kıvrılır ve tam aksi istikamete dönüverir. Sonra arkasından sürünerek gelen adamın üstünden zorlanarak da olsa geçer ve bu geçişi bir kaç defa daha tekrarlar. En sonunda ise Ajan Largo ile burun buruna gelir ancak adam sadece nefesi kesilmiş bir şekilde kendinden geçmiş değil, hiç nefes almıyordur!

“Lanet olsun..”, diye tekrar tıslar Lilly ve sürünerek adama daha da yaklaşır. Sonra adamı çenesinden kavrayıp nefes borusunu doğrultur..

..ve suni teneffüs yapmaya başlar.

Lilly dar, toprak tünelde ne kadar nefsini adamla paylaşır tam olarak kestiremez ancak kendisi de havasızlıktan başı dönmeye başlar. Buna rağmen inatla devam eder. En sonda Largo’dan derin bir inleme sesi duyulur ve kendi kendine nefes almaya başlar.

Gözlerini açtığında kesici kızla burun buruna olduğunu fark eder ve utanmış bir şekilde mızmızlanır.

“Bundan daha utanç verici sadece bir şey düşünebiliyorum..”

Lilly gülümser.

“Nedir o?”

“High Lady Anglenna’nın bunu yapmış olması!”

Lilly’nin gülümsemesi kaybolur.

“O kadına gizli bir hayranlığınız olduğunu bilmiyordum, Ajan Largo. Beni şaşırtmayı başardınız.”

“Aaa.. Hayır. Açık yada gizli, kendileri için olumlu hiçbir şey düşünmüyorum. Prenses hazretleri, benim ona şans tanımam hususunda şahsen ricada bulunmuş olmasına rağmen ve ne kadar denersem deneyim, olmuyor bir türlü.”

“Madem kapalı ortamlara karşı bir sorunun vardı neden geldin?”, diye azarlar kız adamı.

“Kapalı ortamlara karşı herhangi bir sorunum yok, Lilly hanım. Ama olsaydı bile yine de gelirdim..”

“Neden? Aptal mısın sen?”

“Hiç şüphesiz. Ama anlamalısınız ki, kendim yapmayacağım bir şeyi de başkalarından istemem. Hele o iş için gönüllü istemişsem. Sanıyorum sabah High Spires girişinde gerçekleşen arbede de aldığım yaradan dolayı biraz fazla kan kaybetmişim. Bununla beraber itiraf etmeliyim ki harika bir nefesiniz var. İşimiz acil olmasaydı, inanın uyandıktan sonra hala baygın numarası yapardım.”, der Ajan Largo ama bunu da ciddi bir ifadeyle dile getirir.

“Erkekler..”, diye burnundan solur kız. “Hepiniz domuzsunuz!”

Asabîce önceki yaptığı kıvrak hareketi tekrarlar ve daracık tünelde döner, sonra da arkasına bakmadan sürünmeye başlar..

..ama yüzünde gülümseme tekrar oluşmuştur —ki bu da ilginçtir zira Lilly Venom oldukça somurtkan bir kızdır. Kendisini tanıyanlar onun alay dışında kahkaha attığını yada sırıttığını görmemiştir. Sadece, ve çok nadiren gülümsediğine müşahede etmişlerdir.

✱ ✱ ✱

Tünelden en son Largo çıkar. Adam üstünü başını temizlemekle vakit harcamaz, tünelin açıldığı karanlık, rutubetli ve hafif küf kokulu mahzeni inceler. Mahzen oldukça küçüktür ve ne amaçla kullanıldığı da belli değildir. Belki bir zamanlar, çok eskiden, kolay bozulmayacak yiyeceklerin saklandığı bir kiler olarak değerlendirilmiştir ama artık boştur ve kullanılmamaktadır.

“Lilly Hanım?”, diye sorar Largo.

Lilly omuzlarını silker.

“Daha önce buraya hiç gelmedim, Ajan Largo. Unuttunuz mu? Akıllı bir kesici asla iki tür kontratı almaz; halk tarafından sevilen ve sayılan biri.. ve krallar.. Bu iki çizgi arasında kalan herkes ise mubahtır!”

Largo hafif kaşlarını çatar.

“Öyle olsun bakalım.. Efendi Darlius ve Lilly hanım, sizler bu konuda en tecrübeli olanlarsınız ve otuz yarda önden gideceksiniz. Herhangi bir sorun çıkarsa bize bildirecek ve en arkaya geçeceksiniz. Anlaşıldı mı?”

Darly omuz silker ve ileri doğru yürümeye başlar. Lilly ise kısa bir anlığına itiraz edecek gibi olur ancak bundan vaz geçer ve o da önden yürümeye başlar.

“Senden hoşlanıyor..”, der Darly sessizce yürürken.

“Kes sesini, Darlius!”, diye hararetle tıslar Lilly.

“Aaaa.. Demek sen de ondan hoşlanıyorsun.”, diye sırıtır yakışıklı half-elf. “Senin iki katından daha yaşlı olduğunun farkındasın, değil mi?”

“O da bir half-elf. Bu da onu ‘otuzlarında’ yapıyor. Dahası, sana ne!”, diye hışmeder kız.

“Bana ‘hiç bi şey’, sevgili Lilly. Adam yakışıklı, olgun, ciddi, disiplinli ve plansız iş yapmayı sevmiyor. Ama sanıyorum seni cezbeden en belirgin yanı, onun bir ‘amacının’ olması.”, diye analitik bir ifadeyle sıralar genç hırsız.

Lilly cevap vermez.

Birincisi, yılışık adam haklıdır.

İkincisi ise, ‘yeterince cevap vermezsem belki bıkar ve susar’, umududur..

Ancak yılışık adam ne bıkar, ne de susar!

Ve iki saat boyunca kızın sabrını sınar.

Sustuğunda ise bunun sebebi söyleyeceklerinin bitmiş olmasından değil, yakınlardan bir yerlerden çatışma seslerinin duyulmasındandır.

Lilly arkasına bakmadan bir elini havaya kaldırır ve yumruk yapar. Kısa bir süre sonra da Ajan Largo sessizce yanlarında belirir.

“Sanırım yüzeye yaklaştık.”, der Largo. “Bundan sonra daha temkinli olmamız gerekecek zira karşılaştığımız herkes bize düşman muamelesi yapacak. Şayet saray muhafızlarıyla karşılaşırsanız, ‘Elmanın yarısı nerede?’, diye sorun. Size, ‘Asıl kurdun yarısı nerede?’ diye cevap verirlerse, bu yaklaşmanıza izin verecekler anlamına gelir.”

Darly ‘fırk’lar.

Lilly ise sadece, ‘Tam hoşuma gitmeye başlamıştın ki bir anda ve tamamen düşüverdin gözümden!’, der gibi alık alık bakar adama.

“Ne?”, diye hafif utanmış bir ifadeyle sorar Largo. “Şifre ve karşıt-şifreleri ben hazırlanıyorum. Canları sıkılmış ve yapacak başka işleri olmayan, bir oda dolusu linuxçu ajan yumurtluyor bunları..”

Kız rezil olmuş adama gözlerini yuvarlar ve Darly ile tekrar önden ilerlemeye başlar.

✱ ✱ ✱

Elmanın yarısı nerede?”, diye seslenir Darly, karşılaştıkları ilk barikatın arkasındaki askerlere.

Darly Dor, Lilly Venom, Ajan Largo, gönüllü muhafızlar ve elf’lerden oluşan grup, barikata ulaşıncaya kadar dört ayrı yerde Orken’lerle çatışmışlar ve ilk kayıplarını vermişlerdi. İlk üç çatışmada iki muhafız ve bir elf hayatını vermiş, ancak sonuncusunda Orken’leri leş gibi kan kokan, mebus bir Orken şaman desteklemişti ve çatışma bittiğinde geriye sadece üç muhafız, yedi tane de elf kalmıştı. Ajan Largo ise habis şamanın tam ortalarına bıraktığı ‘Ateş İnmesi’ büyüsünden dolayı mı tütmektedir yoksa hiddetten mi belli değildir. Kaybettiği gönüllü adamlarına sinirden delirecekmiş gibi bakmış ve harlayan gözlerle yola devam etmelerini emretmişti.

 

“Uhhmm.. Asıl kurdun yarısı nerede?”, diye cevap gelmişti uzun bir sessizlikten sonra.

“Yaklaşıyoruz. Ateş açmayın!”, diye seslenir Darly ve açıkça görünecek şekilde barikata doğru yaklaşır. Onun hemen arkasından Largo ve Lilly, onlarında arkasından hayatta kalan diğer gönüllüler gelir.

“Kimsiniz ve ne istiyorsunuz? Burası tekin bir yer değil, farkındaysanız.”, der barikatın arkasından bir ses.

“Burasının tekin olmadığını biliyorum, seni ahmak!”, diye hırlar Largo. Barikatı açacak mısınız, yoksa onun da, sizin de üstümüzden mi geçmemiz gerekiyor?”

Barikatta yine bir sessizlik oluşur. Neden sonra ıkınma sesleriyle barikat azıcık aralanır ve Ajan Largo, diğerleriyle birlikte içeri girerler. Barikatın arkasında iki düzine kadar saray muhafızı mevcuttur ve temkinli ifadelerle yeni gelenleri süzerler.

“Ben Kıdemli Ajan Largo, ARİS. Bunlarda meslektaşlarım ve gönüllüler. Komutanımız nerede? Bana durum raporu verin.”, diye emreder Largo.

“Komutan Kenny öldü, efendim. Ölmeden önce bize her ne olursa olsun bu noktayı korumanızı emretmişti. Durum bu.”, diye özetler askerlerden biri.

“Prens Korodin.. Nerede olduğunu biliyor musunuz?”, diye sorar Largo.

Asker omuzlarını silker.

“Emin değilim, efendim. Bizler bu noktayı günlerdir koruyoruz. Kimse vardiya değişimi için gelmedi. Yaralılarımız öldüler ve erzaklarımız da bitmek üzere. Orken’ler günde bir kaç defa bu noktayı yokluyorlar.. Rastgele zamanda. Bu yüzden dinlenme şansımız da fazla olmadı.”, der muhafız bitkin ve umutsuz bir sesle. “Genç prensimiz hala hayatta olduğunu umuyoruz. Şayet öyle ise, onu Birinci Lord Kaladin’in odasında götürmüşlerdir çünkü—”

“—Savunma protokolü bu ve orası en iyi müdafaa edilebilir nokta.”, diye bitirir Ajan Largo. “Verdiğiniz bilgilerden dolayı teşekkür ederim, asker. Yolumuz üzerinde bulabilirsek sizin yer ve durumunuzu ilgili birilerine bildireceğiz.”

“Şehrin.. tamamen düştüğüne dair rivayetler var. Bu doğru mu? Bir umut var mı, efendim?”, diye sorar asker.

“Umut her zaman vardır, asker.”, diye cevap verir Largo düz bir ifadeyle. “Bu noktayı korumaya devam edin zira geri döndüğümüzde bu barikatın güvenli ve ayakta duruyor olmasına ihtiyacımız olacak.”

✱ ✱ ✱

Neden onlara doğruyu söylemedin?”, diye sorar Lilly Venom sessizce, barikatı ve saray muhafızlarını geride bıraktıklarında.

Largo hemen cevap vermez. Mebus Orken şamanının tepelerine bıraktığı ‘Ateş İnmesi’nden sonra olağan dışı bir sessizliğe bürünmüştür.

‘Hayır.’, diye düşünür Lilly. ‘Ateş İnmesi’nden sonra değil, adamlarını kaybettikten sonra.’

Açıkçası, hayatı boyunca tek başına ve yalnız çalışmış.. ve yaşamış olan kesici kız başkalarının hayatlarını pek önemsememiş, kayıplarının ağırlığını hissetmesi de kolay kavrayabileceği bir şey değildir. Özellikle de bütün ‘başkalarının’ potansiyel birer hedef yada onu öldürmek isteyebilecek kanun adamı yada kelle avcısı olabileceklerini düşündüğünde.

“Onların doğrulara ihtiyacı yok, Lilly hanım. Onların ihtiyacı olan şey ‘umut’. Bu şehir.. ve bu saraydaki herkes ölecek. Onların hayatta kalmalarını çok isterdim ama buna yetecek ne gücümüz, ne de zamanımız var.. Bu da onlara sadece iki seçenek bırakıyor. Ya onursuzca kaçarak ölecekler, ya da onurlarıyla savaşarak. Bu bizim için küçük bir avuntu belki. Ama onlar için değil zira onlar için bu hayatta yapacakları son şey olacak; onurlarıyla ve savaşarak ölmek. Bir askerden daha fazlasını isteyemezsin.”

“Seni üzen nedir peki?”, diye sorar Lilly Venom.

“Onların hayatlarını en yüksek fiyata vermelerini sağlamak.. Bu da benim görevim, Lilly hanım. Ve biz, ARİS olarak başarısız olduk. Düşmanın oralarda bir yerlerde olduğunu biliyorduk, ama delilimiz yoktu. Hasmımız ne kadar delil var idiyse, biz onları bulamadan yok etmeyi başardı —ki bu bile başlı başına bizim için bir delil teşkil etmeliydi. Ama kodamanlar bunu da kabul etmediler ve Arashkan ordusunun şehre getirilmesine izin vermediler. Ve sonuç itibariyle de Arashkan düştü, ordusu da buradan iki gün mesafede, kendi karargahında ablukada sıkışıp kaldı.. Otuz küsur bin asker gün be gün eritilerek öldürülecekler.. boşu boşuna.”, diye acı ve nefretle söylenir Largo.

“Ajan Largo..”, diye sessizce yaklaşır Darly Dor önden. Genç, yakışıklı hırsız olağan durmaya çalışmaktadır ancak yüzünde kasılmış bir ifade vardır ve iki eli de silahlarının kabzasındadır.

“İleride oldukça ciddi çatışmalar olmuş. Duvarlar yıkılmış ve yanmış. Her yerde kan ve cesetler var. Lilly ve ben önden gidip güvenli bir geçiş ararsak daha iyi olur gibime geliyor. Siz burada sessizce bekleyin. Bir saate kadar geri dönmez isek bilin ki ifşa olunduk ve sizlerde ne yapmak istiyorsanız yaparsınız artık.”

Largo kaşlarını çatar ve genç hırsıza bakar. Sonra benzer bir ifadeyle sorumsuz hırsızı kesen Lilly Venom’u süzer.

“Neler oluyor, Efendi Darlius?”, diye sorar.

Darly bir omzunu silker.

“Çok fazla kan ve ceset var. Karşılıklı sağlam büyüler atmışlar gibi.. Kan.. hele bu kadarı, benim olayım değil. Ve bir parçası olmak gibi bir niyetim de yok. Sizler çok gürültülü yürüyorsunuz. Hepimiz topluca gidersek cesetlere yenilerini eklemiş oluruz.. Lilly? Geliyor musun?”

Lilly Venom, Largo’ya beklemelerini söyleyen bir el hareketi yapar ve Darly’nin peşinden gider. İkisiyle grup arası yeterince açıldığında ise durur ve kendi elleri de bıçaklarının kabzasında olduğu halde genç hırsıza döner.

“Neler oluyor, Darlius? Ceset gördüğünde midesi kalkacak naif tiplerden değilsin.”

“Aaa.. Ben gerçekten naif bir ‘tip’im..”, diye zorlama bir sırıtışla cevap verir Darly. “Ama haklısın, sevgili Lilly, ceset gördüğümde midenin kalkacağı kadar değil.”

Lilly Venom derin, esef dolu bir nefes verir. Bu.. yılışık şey, yaptığı işte çok iyi olduğu bellidir. Ancak bir türlü susmaması ve lafı uzatıp durması, kendisi gibi pragmatik bir Drashan kızı için çekilmez bir huydur.. ve ona karşı hiç olmazsa asgari seviyede bir saygı duymasını da imkansız hale getirmektedir. Kız, ağabeyi Aager’in bu adama neden bu kadar uyuz olduğunu bir anda çok daha iyi anlayıverir, zira o da lafın uzatılmasından hiç haz etmez. Lilly Venom için laf uzun olacaksa, ya kullanılan her ifade özlü ve farklı bir bilgi içermelidir, yada sonunda mutlaka biri kanamalıdır!

Genç hırsız ilgili mesajı almış gibi, bir anda ciddileşir.

“Sanırım ‘paranı’ kazanma vaktin geldi, sevgili Lilly..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Ne düşünüyorsun?”, diye sorar yakışıklı adam sessizce, ve bir yandan yıkılmış duvarın arkasında kendisi gibi sinmiş, yumuşak çizmelerine kadar dökülen koyu kahve deri pardösülü kıza, bir yandan da duvarın öbür yanında, neredeyse dört yüz yarda ilerde, kara cübbeler içerisindeki bir adamla tartışan, kızı kadar boylu kadına bakar; High Lady Angrellen Sunsear’e..

Darly “Darlius” Dor, kendisini bile şaşırtacak bir sükunete sahiptir nedense. Halbuki yıllardır görmeyi.. Hayır. Öldürmeyi beklediği kadın, iyi bir okçu mesafesindedir.

 

Genç hırsız ister istemez geçirir aklından.

“Laila Wolvesbane’in burada olmasını ne kadar isterdim şimdi..”

 

“Sence mümkün mü? Yoksa bekleyelim mi?”, diye devam eder Philius Silveroak ve Rimel Auburn’un oğlu, yanındaki kızdan herhangi bir cevap alamayınca.

“Sana hiç çok konuştuğunu söyleyen oldu mu, Darlius?”, diye sessiz bir tiksintiyle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Müteaddit defa…”, der Darly Dor sırıtarak.

“Bunu söyleyenlerin seni övmek için söylemediklerinin farkındasın, değil mi?”, diye ekşi bir suratla tıslar Venom.

“Etrafımdakilerin hakkımda söyledikleri yada düşündüklerine göre davranmış olsaydım, sanıyorum bulunduğum yerde olmazdım, sevgili Lilly.”, der Darly çok hafif alınmış bir sesle.

“Bulunduğun yer..”, diye burnundan solur Lilly Venom. “..yıkılmış, harabeye dönmüş ve yanan bir şehir!”

“Doğru. Ama ve en nihayetinde ben, yaşadığım şeylerin sadece bir kümülatif sonucuyum.. Aslına bakılırsa sen de öylesin, sevgili—”

“—Bana ‘sevgili’ diye hitap etmemeni tercih ederim, Darlius. Bu sana tek uyarım olacak.”, der Lilly Venom, yakışıklı half-elf’in lafını keserek.. “Ben senin yada bir başkasının ‘sevgilisi’ değilim.”

“Bugün biraz sinirli gibisin. High Spires’da seni güldürmeyi başarmıştım halbuki. Şehir ilk saldırıya uğradığında ve sizler surlardan kaçarken, benim gelip seni bulmamdan ötürü de için rahatlamış gibi bir halin vardı.. Ne değişti?”

“Beni bulduğunda sevinmiştim çünkü müteşekkirdim. Buna hakaret ederek karşılık vermemi beklemiyordun herhalde. Babanın evinde gülmemin sebebi ise, senin komik olman değil, kendini düşürdüğün ahmak durumdan dolayı idi.”, der Lilly Venom asabice.

“Bu iki durum da, neyin değiştiğini anlatmıyor bana.”, der Darly, önündeki kara cübbeli adamla tartışmaya devam eden High Lady Angrellen’i süzerken. “Ben aramızda profesyonelce bir samimiyetin olmasını tercih ederim.”

“Ben ölülerle samimiyet kurmam.”, diye keskin bir sesle cevap verir kiralık katil kız.

“Evet. Bir gün öleceğim. Muhtemelen yakın bir tarihte. Bunu anneme de, babama da söyledim. Yapmayı düşündüğüm şeyle beraber.. Ama şu anda hala hayattayım.”

“Sen ölümünü kendi kafanda tasarlamış bir ahmaksın. Ve buna da kitlemmişsin. Seninle samimiyet kurmakta herhangi akıllıca bir yan görmüyorum. Bu sadece yapacağımız işi zorlaştıracaktır.”, der Lilly Venom.

Darly Dor bir omzunu silker.

“Hmmpph.. O açıdan bakıldığında, haklısın.. sanırım.. Kara cübbeli adamı tanıyorum. Şahsen yada ismen değil ama daha önce gördüm onu.. bi sefer.”

“Yüzü görünmüyor.”, der Lilly Venom hafif kaşlarını çatarak.

“Dediğim gibi. Daha önce bir defa gördüm kendisini. O zaman da yüzünü görmemiştim. Ama cübbesinden tanıdım adamı. Benimle beraber, çaldığımız bir şeyin teslimatı için bekliyorduk ve teslimatı almaya bu cübbeli gelmişti. Bir anda aramızda peyda oldu ve diğer ikisini yıldırımlarla yakıp kömüre çevirdi —ki buna çok da üzülmedim açıkçası. İkisi de aptaldı ve ikisi de birer kesiciydi..”

“Sen neden hala hayattasın, peki?”, diye sorar kız, cübbeli adama kendisi de dikkatlice bakarak.

Darly tekrar bir omzunu silker.

“Ben sıranın bana gelmesinde bir fayda görmedim ve kaçtım.”

Lilly Venom ‘hıh’lar.

“Burası uygun değil. Çok istediğini biliyorum. Ama şimdi şansımızı denersek, bu sadece başarısızlığımız için kötü bir bahane olmuş olur, o kadar. Ve açıkçası, ne seni, nede Lady Angrellen’i, kendimi ahmakça bir şekilde feda edecek kadar sevmiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom, taş gibi bir ifadeyle.

“Alındım.”, der Darly yine sırıtarak. “Ama onun burada ne işi olduğunu merak etmiyor değilim. Şirret kızına, Prensese ve o şapşal Udoorin’in söylediklerine bakılırsa, onu en son Bari Na-ammen sarayında, Ri Grandaleren ile çatışırken görmüşler. O burada olduğuna göre, sanırım çatışmayı kimin kazandığı da belli olmuş oldu. Grandaleren’i pek sevmezdim. Ama Prensesimin babasıydı. Sevgili Alor’Nadien ne bunu duyduğunda yıkılacak.”

“Seni anlamakta zorluk çekiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom. “Sen umarsız, sorumsuz ve yılışık herifin tekisin. Ama iş prensese gelince o çiroz şeye hayranlık üstü bir saygı gösteriyorsun. Hakkını vermeliyim. Kız gerçekten güzel, zarif, alımlı, ağırbaşlı, zevkli, içten ve türünün nadir örneklerinden biri. Ama beni şaşırtan, senin ona gösterdiğin saygı, onun görünür güzelliği dışındaki her şey.”

 

Gerçekte Lilly, neredeyse hiç tanımadığı prensese, küçük Inshala dolayısıyla olmuş olsa da, onun giyinmesi için seçip gönderttiği elbiseden dolayı teşekkür etmesi gerektiğini düşünür. En nihayetinde, hayatında asla yapmadığı bir şeyi yapmış ve pardösüsü gibi koyu kahve deri pantolonu yerine, şu anda bile o elbise vardır üstünde..

Lilly, abisi Aager gibi pratik ve pragmatik biridir. Evet, belki daha huysuz —çok daha huysuz— bir mizaca sahiptir ama elbise, ayakkabı, saç ve tırnak bakımı ve makyaj gibi kızsal lükslere de hayatında yer vermemiştir.

Prense Lorna’nın gönderdiği bu elbiseye kadar.

Elbise rahattır. Fevkalade hafiftir. Etekli olmasına rağmen yan yırtmaçları dolayısıyla hareken kabiliyeti kısıtlamamaktadır, kir göstermediği gibi, gerçekte kir de tutmaması gibi hayret verici bir özelliği de mevcuttur ve korsesi de.. her şeyin yerli yerinde durmasını sağladığı gibi, zariftir işte!

Tıpkı elbisenin tamamı gibi..

 

Darly kendisine sorulan soruya bir süre cevap vermez ve cübbeli adama kızmaya başladığı açıkça görünen High Lady Angrellen’i kesmeye devam eder. Neden sonra kısık bir sesle cevap verir.

“Prenses Alor’Nadien ne Feymist.. Benim kulvarımın çok, ama çok dışında bir hanımefendi. Onun görünüşünün, zarafetinin, inceliğinin, anlayışının ve samimiyetinin hastasıyım. Ama bunlar sadece benim, ve benim gibi kendisini tanıma şerefine nail olmuş herkesin hissettiği şeyler. Bunlar, o salak Udoorin’in ne kadar şanslı olduğunun asla farkında olamayacağı şeyler.. O hödüğü kıskanabileceğimi aklımın ucundan bile geçirmezdim. Ama Prenses aynı zamanda High Woods’un seçilmiş ‘kalbi’..”

“Seçilmiş nesi?”, diye hayretle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Seçilmiş ‘kalbi’.. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış Lilly ama bu mefhum, insanların anlayabileceği bir şey değil. Bu.. kadim bir his.. Sanıyorum bende elf kanı olmuş olmasaydı, bende algılayamazdım.”, diye açıklamaya çalışır Darly.

“Hala hiçbir şey anlamış değilim.”, diye başını sallar kız.

“Dediğim gibi. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış ama sen bunu anlayamazsın. Abin, Aager.. O da anlamamıştı. Sadece kategorik olarak ‘Bilinmeyen, ama var olan bir şey.’, diye kafasında tanımlamış olabileceğini düşünebiliyorum.. Onu biraz olsun tanıdıysam, sanırım öyle yapmıştır. Grupta sadece İzci Onbaşı Laila’nın hissedebilmiş olabileceğini düşünüyorum bunu —tıpkı benim gibi. Ve.. ironik bir şekilde de, Anglenna. Ama o bunun ne olduğunu TAM olarak anladı çünkü kendisi hem bir high elf, hem de High Woods’da doğup büyüme birisi..”

“Bu.. o sırık boylu kız hakkında kötü olmayan söylediğin ilk ve tek şey.”, diye not eder Lilly.

Darly omzunu tekrar silker.

“Beni yanlış anlama, Lilly. O kadından ne kadar nefret ettiğimi sana tarif bile edemem. Ama kendisine saygı gösterebileceğim kadar değişmeyi de başardı. Belki bir gün ondan nefret etmeye dahi bilebilirim.. O güne kadar yaşarsam..”

Lilly’den “Huh!”, diye bir ses çıkar ve bu haliyle abisine ne denli benzerlik gösterdiği hayret vericidir.

“Gidelim. Ajan Largo nereye kaybolduğumuzu merak ederse gelir ve Angrellen’i görür.. ve ahmakça bir kahramanlığa kalkışmaya kalkar.”

“Kalkışsın. Bu bizim lehimize işlemiş olmaz mı?”, diye sorar Darly.

Lilly Venom, bir salağa bakar gibi genç hırsıza bakar.

“Senin gerçekten ne kadar aptal olabileceğine bir türlü karar veremiyorum Darlius.”, der burnundan soluyarak.

“Niye yaa?”, diye alınmış bir sesle sorar Darly.

“Anglenna şu anda o kara cübbeli adamla tartışıyor. Ama ortak bir düşmana karşı birleşmeseler bile, en azından aynı istikamete doğru hiç de hoşumuza gitmeyecek büyüler yapacaklardır. BİZİM İSTİKAMETİMİZE DOĞRU!.. Ama farz edelim ki bir yanlışlık oldu ve Largo o şirret kadını alt etmeyi başardı. Bunun sonucunda ya onu esir alıp sorgulamak, sonrasında da bir savaş suçlusu olarak günü geldiğinde adalet karşısına çıkarmak için bir yerlere tıkacaktır —ki o kadını zapt edebilecek bir hapishanenin olduğunu düşünemiyorum bile— yada onu öldürecektir. İlki olması halinde, senin ona dokunmanı bırak, yanına bile yaklaşmana izin vermeyecektir. Diğer ihtimalde de sen intikamını alamamış olacaksın, ben de ‘paramı’..”

Darly “Darlius” Dor kaşlarını çatar ve nefretle yüzü kararır.

Hayır..

Para onun için önemini kaybedeli çok uzun bir zaman olmuştur. Hayatında önemini kaybetmemiş olan iki şey vardır sadece ve biri çoktan ölmüştür. Diğeri ise ‘intikamdır’..

Genç, yakışıklı hırsız yanan gözlerle yanında sinmiş duran kıza, Lilly Venom’un cesur bir kalemle çizilmişçesine keskin hatlı yüzüne bakar.

Sonra sessizce hırlar.

“Gidelim..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Orken’ler ve büyücüler..”, diye rapor verir Darly Dor geri döndüklerinde. “Çok Orken ve çok büyücü.. Oradan fark edilmeden geçme ihtimalimiz yok. Dahası, sanıyorum yeni bir saldırı için hazırlanıyorlar. Tahminim, Orken’leri önden sürecekler, büyücülerde arkadan ateş toplarıyla saldıracaklar. Aralarında Orken şamanlardan da var..”

Largo, bir yandan genç hırsızın raporunu dinlerken bir yandan da sessiz kalmayı tercih eden Lilly Venom’u süzer. Ajan, yılların verdiği keskin algılara ve kişi ve mizaç analiz kapasitesine sahiptir ve bu kapasitesi ona Darly Dor’un ‘çok konuştuğunda’ bir şeyleri ört bas etmek için bunu yaptığını, Lilly Venom’un ise susmayı tercih ettiğinde, söylemek istemediği şeyleri, söylemek zorunda kalmak istemediğini ona ‘söylemektedir’ —ve bu ona ilginç gelir. İlginç gelen kısmı Darly Dor değildir. Kızın, yalan söylemekten hoşlanmayışı da değildir. Yalan söyleme işini, ona, Largo’ya karşı yapmak istemeyişidir..

‘Benim saklayacak bir şeyim olsa, ben bana yalan söylerdim.. Yada lafı bu sorumsuz çocuğun yaptığı gibi dikkatleri başka bir şeye çekmeye çalışırdım.’, diye geçirir içinden.

“Özel diplomat koridorlarını kullanalım o zaman. Pek nadiren kullanılırlar, dolayısıyla düşman o koridorlardan haberdar olmaya bilir.. Bu taraftan..”, der sesli bir şekilde ve grubu başka bir istikamete yönlendirir. Yaklaşık yarım saat süren sessiz ve temkinli bir ilerlemeden sonra Largo yarı yırtılmış, yarı yanmış bir duvar halısını kenara çeker ve duvar taşlarından birisini sert bir şekilde iter ve halının arkasında dar bir geçit belirir.

“Efendi Darlius. Siz önden gidin. Ben ve Lilly hanım arkadan geleceğiz ve kapıyı kapatacağız. Bir şeyle karşılaşmanız halinde geri gelin ve bizi bilgilendirin lütfen. Babanız, Efendi Philius’a cesedinizi götürmek istemiyorum. Eminim bu onun kalbini kırardı.”

Darly ‘fırk’lar ve sessizce önden gider, kısa bir süre sonra da gözden kaybolur.

“Onu başından savmak için bu kadar ince çaba göstermenize gerek yok, Ajan Largo.. Nezaketle, ‘Git başımdan.’, derseniz de eminim hiç alınmadan gider. Kendileri biraz yüzsüz biridir.”, diye söylenir Lilly Venom.

“Ona olmasa da, babasına saygım var, Lilly hanım. Ve hayatta öğrendiğim bir şey varsa, o da gerçekte kimsenin tamamen umarsız olmadıklarıdır. Özellikle de kendilerine yapılan saygısızlıklara karşı. Bunlar azar azar birikir ve beklenmedik zamanlarda da patlar. Şu an, kişisel krizler için uygun biz an değil.”

“Bu yüzden mi bana devamlı Lilly ‘hanım’ demekte ısrar ediyorsunuz?”, diye kırık bir ifadeyle gülümser Lilly Venom.

“Aklı başında kimse size saygısızlık etmez, Lilly hanım.”, diye cevap verir Ajan Largo. “Ama gerçek sebebim bu değil.”

“Nedir gerçek sebebiniz?”, diye sorar kız.

“Bunu burada açıklamamayı tercih ederim. Bununla beraber, duruşunuz, ciddiyetiniz, benim gibi lakaytlığa ve sorumsuzluğa gösterdiğiniz…”

“..Tiksinti?”

“..tiksinti ve lafı dolamadan ifadelendirmeniz.. bende belirgin bir hayranlık uyandırmadı değil.”, der samimi bir ciddiyetle Largo, sonra da ekler; “Kapasiteniz olmasına rağmen de yalan söylemek istemeyişiniz..”

Lilly Venom kaşlarını çatar.

“En önemlisini, en sona saklamanız da benim dikkatimden kaçmış değil, Ajan Largo.”, diye hafif kızmış bir şekilde söylenir kız.

“Aaa.. bu en önemlisi değildi. Ama dediğim gibi. Bunu burada, şimdi konuşmamayı tercih ederim.”, der Largo sakince.

“Darly Dor kendisinin ‘yem’ olması koşuluyla, beni bir kontrat için kiraladı. Merak ettiğiniz şey bu ise söyleyebilirim. Bu kadar zorlanmanıza gerek yok. Kendince lafı dolamasının sebebi ise, kontratta adı geçen şahsı, ‘kontrol’ etmek için gittiğimiz yerde, ve Orken’lerin ortasında, bir başkasıyla tartışırken gördük. Kendisine kontratın gerçekleşebilmesi için yer, ortam ve zamanın uygun olmadığını söyledim, çünkü kontrattaki kişi söz konusu olduğunda Darly doğru düşünemiyor. Aptal gibi ikimizi de öldürtecekti.”, diye didaktik bir şekilde anlatır Lilly Venom.

“Bunları neden bana söylüyorsun?”, diye sorar adam.

Lilly bir omzunu silker ve ona gülümser.

“Çünkü kontrat çoktan geride kaldı ve siz de artık geri gidip ona bir şey yapamazsınız.. Öldürmeye kalkmak, tevkif etmeye çalışmak, kahramanca hayatınızı vermek, gibi..”

Kaşlarını çatma sırası Largo’ya geçmiş gibidir.

“Neden böyle bir şey yapayım ki? Buraya gelme sebebimiz fevkalade önemli. Yan eğlencelere vakit ayıramayacak kadar önemli..”

“Kontratımın, High Woods ve Bari Na-ammen High Lady’si, Angrellen Sunsear için olduğunu bilseniz dahi mi?”, diye cevap verir Lilly Venom, daha da gülümseyerek.

 

Largo olduğu yerde durur..

..ve kısılmış, haşin gözlerle kıza bakar.

 

“Bu.. bu bilgiyi benden saklamaya hakkınız yoktu, Lilly hanım.”, diye hararetle fısıldar.

“Bu bilgiyi sizinle o zaman paylaşmış olsaydım, tam olarak ne yapardınız? Onu şahsen öldürmeye çalışmanız, tevkif etmeye kalkmanız.. yada kahramanca ölmeniz dışında..”, diye sorar Lilly Venom ama gülümsemesi gitmiş, yerini, en az kendisine yöneltilen kadar haşin ifadeye bırakır.

“Bu kararı vermek size düşmezdi.”, diye hırlar Largo.

Kız sessizce adama bakar.

“Size herhangi bir şey söyleme zorunluğum yok, Ajan Largo. Siz bir kanun adamısınız.. teknik olarak. Ben ise kanun dışı bir kızım. Hangi hesabınızda size ve sizin ‘kurallarınıza’ ayak uydurmam gerektiği sonucuna vardınız? Burada bulunmam bile sadece bir nezaket meselesi. Size gizli tüneli tarif edip, High Spires’da sıcak çayımı yudumlayıp, kremalı çilek pastamdan yiyor olabilirdim. Konsolosluğu terk edecekleri için mutfağı ve kilerlerinde ne varsa hepsini mültecilere açtılar. İnanın, elf yapımı bir kremalı çilekli pasta gibisi yoktur.”

Ajan Largo burnundan solur.

“Neden şimdi söyledin bunu peki?”, diye sorar kıza.

Kız yine bir omzunu silker.

“Orken orduları tarafından yok edilmiş Bari Na-ammen’in bir high lady’sinin burada, sizin şehrinize saldırmış aynı orduların ortasında ve sizin birinci lordunuzun sarayında görüldüğü bilgisinin sizin ilginizi çekeceğini düşündüğüm için, olabilir mi? Yada belki bir başka sebepten dolayı?”

“Hangi başka sebepten dolayı?”

“O kadarını da sizin düşünmenizi tercih ederim, Ajan Largo.. Doğru sonuca varamayacak kadar aptal olmadığınızı umuyorum. Lütfen bana o kadar aptal olmadığınızı söyleyin..”, diye tekrar gülümseyerek cevap verir Lilly Venom, ve adımlarını hızlandırarak gönüllü muhafızların arasından geçer, ve kısa bir zaman sonra, o da gözden kaybolur.

✱ ✱ ✱

Elmanın yarısı nerede?”, diye keskin bir sesle tıslar Ajan Largo, kalın, oyma çift kapının arkasına. Çift kapı, üzerindeki muhteşem bir zarafetle işlenmiş çiçekler, yapraklar, dikenli sarmaşıklar ve ‘uçuşan’ orman perileriyle kaplıdır ve elf el işçiliğinin de nadir örneklerinden birisini sergilemektedir. Pek azının bildiği bir şey ise, gerçekte kapı sadece elf işçiliği barındırmamaktadır. Kapı, plaka halinde içine yerleştirilmiş mitral çeliği ile de desteklenmiştir. Ajan Largo bu kapıyı içeridekilerin rızası olmadan kırabileceklerini düşünmez.

“Elmanın yarısını ben yedim, hain!”, diye boğuk, alaylı, ve umutsuz bir ses gelir kapının ardından.

“Lanet olsun.”, diye mırıldanır Largo.

Yan taraftan Darly ‘fırk’lar.

Lilly Venom ise kaşlarını çatmakla yetinir.

“Ben Kıdemli ARİS Ajanı Largo. Arashkan Kimlik Numaram: 767-513-8814! Prens Korodin’i güvenliğe, şehirden çıkarmaya geldik. Açın şu kapıyı.”, diye burnundan soluyarak seslenir içeriye.

“Benim numaram da; 777-İYİ-VAKİT-İÇİN-ARAYIN!”, der içerden gelen boğuk ses.

Darly gülmeye başlar.

Lilly Venom ‘fırk’lar.

“Harika!”, diye ellerini hayaya kaldırır Largo, sinirden çatlamak üzere.

“Hiç olmazsa saray soytarısını bulmuş olduk!”, diye mırıldanır Lilly gülümseyerek.

“Largo amca?”, diye tiz bir ses gelir içeriden.

“Korodin? Sen misin?”, diye bir anda omzundan büyük bir yük kalkmış gibi sırıtır Largo.

“Evet, Largo amca. Neler oluyor? Şehir saldırı altındaymış. Kaladin amcam, Haradith abi ile Ariles ve Ylara ablalarım neredeler? Kimse bana bir şey söylemiyor. Beni amcama ait olan bu odaya getirdiler ve kapıyı barikatladılar.”

“Sana her şeyi anlatacağım genç Korodin. Şimdi. Yanındaki saray muhafızlarına kapıyı açmalarını emredersen buradan gidebiliriz.”, der Largo, sonra da fena bozulmuş bir şekilde fısıldar. “Lanet olsun. Kimse çocuğa amcasının ve kuzenlerinin öldürüldüklerini söylememiş..”

İçeriden bazı boğuk konuşmalar duyulur. Ancak sonunda kapının ardından ağır bir şeylerin çekildiğine dair gürültüler gelir ve kapı açılır.

“Hanginiz Largo?”, der yaşlı bir ses ve bir zamanlar belki uzun boylu ve açık kahve saçlı, şimdiyse sıska, bükülmüş ve saçları aklaşmış, sesi kadar kendisi de yaşlı bir kadın peyda olur.

“Largo benim, Lady Ferrara.”, der Ajan Largo sakince.

“Beni tanıyorsun.”, der yaşlı kadın.

“Evet, efendim. Ancak yüz yüze hiç tanıştırılmadık. Geçmişte iki defa sizin gizli korumalığınız görevinde bulundum. Bundan sekil yıl önce Büyük Arashkan Şenliklerinde ve ondan önce de Arashkan Arenası protestosuna katıldığınızda —yaklaşık otuz yıl önce..”, diye açıklar nazikçe Largo.

Yaşlı kadın önünde duran adamı uzun bir süre süzer, sonra da yanındakileri tetkik eder.

“Prensi nereye götüreceksiniz?”, diye sorar Lady Ferrara.

“Kendilerini önce sarayın en altına, unutulmuş bir kilere, oradan gizli bir tünel vasıtasıyla Heaven Parkının, Büyük Arashkan Kütüphanesi tarafına, oradan da şehirde güvenli kalan tek yere, High Spires’a götüreceğiz. İskelede gemiler hazırda bekliyor. Prensi High Spires elf’leriyle birlikte o gemilere bindireceğiz ve şehirden ayrılacağız. Nihai hedefimizi söylememeyi tercih ederim, efendim.. Şimdilik.”, diye sakil bir şekilde anlatır Largo.

“Korodin seni tanıdığını söylüyor.”, der yaşlı kadın.

“Evet. Birinci Lordu bir kaç defa şahsen ziyaret etmişliğim oldu. O ziyaretler esnasında kendileriyle tanışma fırsatını yakaladım. Beraber oturup ‘Gezgin Ozan Blom Bundlebim Hobim ve Hayret Verici Maceraları’nı okumuştuk.. Bir seferinde de Lordum Kaladin, okçular turnuvasını seyretmesi için onu bana emanet etmişti. Beraber güzel zaman geçirmiştik.”, der Largo çok hafif gülümseyerek.

“Öyle olsun bakalım.”, der yaşlı kadın. Sonra arkasını dönmeden içeri seslenir. “Prensi getirin. Soralım bakalım beyefendiyi tanıyor muymuş?”

‘Prens’, sevinçle kapıdan fırlar ve Largo’ya sarılır.

Yaşlı kadın kaşlarını çatar, ama gülümsemesine de mani olamaz.

“Sanırım bu sorumuzun cevabını vermiş oluyor. Ne zaman gideceksiniz, Efendi Largo?”, diye sorar yaşlı kadın, küçük prense sarılmış adama.

“Hemen. Orken’ler yeni bir saldırı için toplandılar. Ve bu sefer büyücülerini de getirdiler.”, der Largo ciddi bir sesle.

“O zaman prens sana emanet, Efendi Largo. Onu hayatınla koru.”, diye emreder Lady Ferrara.

“Siz gelmeyecek misiniz, Lady’im?”, diye hayretle sorar Ajan Largo, yaşlı kadına bakarak. Yaşlı kadına, ve odada sessizce bekleyen bir düzine kadar taş suratlı saray muhafızına bakarak..

“Hayır. Saraya gelmelerinin tek bir sebebi var, o da kök, dal ve budak.. ailenin tamamını ortadan kaldırmak için, zira başsız bir halkın geleceği de olmaz, gideceği yeri de.. Size vakit kazandırmak için bizler tekrar kapıyı barikatlayacağız ve içeri girdiklerinde de onlarla sonuna kadar çarpışacağız.”, der yaşlı kadın sakince.

Largo kadına hayretle bakar.

“Burası benim evim, Efendi Largo. Evimi bir avuç çapulcuya bırakmak gibi bir niyetim yok. Ve bir hanımefendi evinin sadakatini temsil eder.”, diye ışıl ışıl gözlerle cevap verir yaşlı kadın.

“Prens Korodin.”, der çocuğa bakarak.

Küçük Korodin yaşlı kadına döner ve kadın çocuğa sarılır.

“Largo amcanla gitmen gerekiyor. O ne derse hemen yerine getir, sesini çıkarma ve ağlama. Ama büyüyünce, ve zamanı gelince tekrar bize geri dön, çünkü bu şehir senin.. Beni anlıyor musun?”, diye yaşlı gözlerle sarılır küçük prense.

Korodin hayret verici bir sükunetle bir iki defa burnunu çeker ve o da yaşlı kadına sarılır.

“Gidin. Şimdi..”, diye emreder Lady Ferrara..

 

..sonra arkasını döner, içeri girer ve oymalı kapıyı arkasından kapatır..

..ve kapının arkasına ağır bir şeylerin yığılma sesleri tekrar duyulur.

✱ ✱ ✱

Tekrar geldiniz! Ve bu sefer yanınızda Prens Korodin de var!”, diye ünler hayretle ilk barikatta karşılaştıkları saray muhafızı. 

“Prensi güvenli bir yere götürüyoruz. Sizin de burada durmanız için bir sebep kalmadı, asker. Adamlarınızı toplayın. Bizimle geliyorsunuz..”, der Ajan Largo.

Bunu duyan saray muhafızları birbirlerine bakarlar..

..ama yerlerinden kıpırdamazlar.

“Ne bekliyorsunuz?”, diye hafif burnundan solur Largo.

“Sanırım gelmeyecekler, Ajan Largo.”, diye fısıldar Lilly Venom. “Bunlar bağlılık yenimi etmiş askerler, sanırım.”

“Hayır, hanımefendi.”, der kendileriyle konuşan asker. “Ama bu bina sadece bir saray değil. Bu bina, bu şehri, halkını, kültürünü, hayatını ve onurunu temsil eden son kale. Ve bizlerde bu sarayı koruyan son askerleriz. Sadece ve en sonunda bizler de öldüğümüzde bu şehir gerçekten ölmüş olacak.”

Asker saygıyla küçük Korodin’in önünde bir dizinin üstüne çöker ve ona gülümser.

“Bizleri unutmayın, Prensim. Ve bir gün geri gelip şehrinize tekrar sahip çıkın.”

“Büyüyünce geri geleceğim, efendim. Söz..”, diye mutsuz bir ifadeyle cevap verir küçük Prens Korodin.

Yukarılardan bir yerden büyük bir patlama sesi duyulur ve saray muhafızları sesin geldiği yere dikkat kesilirler.

“Kıdemli Ajan Largo. Prensimiz ve onurumuz size emanet. Şimdi gidin.. ve çabuk olun..”, der asker ve kısa bir emirle barikat tekrar aralanır.

“Adın ne senin, asker?”, diye seslenir küçük Prens.

“İsimsiz..”, der asker, gülerek. “Bizler bu şehir için ölen isimsiz askerleriz.. Elveda Prensim..”

✱ ✱ ✱

En sonunda.”, diye mırıldanır Ajan Largo ve hafif tepinerek çıkar toprak tünelden. Sonra tünele geri uzanır ve küçük Prens Korodin’in elinden tuttuğu gibi tünelden çıkartır. Başta biraz korkmuş olsa da, etrafındaki herkesin ıkınarak sürünmesine nispeten kendisi çömelerek yürüyebiliyor olması küçük prensin eğlenmesine sebep olmuştu. Tünele ilk girdiklerinde göreceli bir şekilde sabah saatlerde olmuş olmasına rağmen, şimdi ise gece çökmüştür. Buna rağmen şehrin bir çok farklı noktasından hala patlama ve çatışma sesleri ve acı dolu çığlıklar duyulmaktadır.

“Evet.”, der bir ses karanlıktan ve yanmış Heaven Parkının kömür olmuş ağaçları arasından. “En sonunda.. Bir ARİS ajanı olarak ‘acele’, ‘ivedilik’ ve ‘dakik’ ifadelerinden bu kadar uzak olmanız biraz utanç verici.. Ama zaten ARİS olarak başarılı olmuş olsaydınız, bu hale hiç düşmüş olmazdınız..”

Largo olduğu yerde durur ve genç prensi arkasına alır.

“Prens..”, der aynı ses. “..onu rica edeyim.. Hepinizin ölmesi gerek miyor. Aslına bakılırsa gerekiyor, ama ayak işleriyle ben ilgilenmiyorum.”

“High Lady Angrellen Sunsear.. Yanlış şehirdesiniz sanki..”, der Largo burnundan soluyarak.

“Ahahaaa.. Bana daha ziyade ‘yanmış şehirdeyim’, gibi geldi.”, der sesin sahibi ve kömür olmuş ağaçların arkasından, uzun, örülmüş, bembeyaz saçları, yay gibi kaşları, olağanüstü güzelliği ve ürkütücü zarafetiyle High Lady Angrellen Sunsear belirir. 

“Yanmış kendi şehrin.. kendi ülken yetmedi sanırım. Komşularına ihanet etmeyi, bir davranış bozukluğu olarak kabul edemesem de, yine de anlarım zira sizden daha azını beklemezdim asla. Ama kendi halkınıza nasıl ihanet ettiniz? Sizin yüzünüzden üç gün içerisinde on binlerce elf hayatından oldu.”

“Bu ne şimdi? ‘Son boss’ konuşması mı yapacağız? Peki. Yapalım bakalım.. Muhataplarımın cahilce ölmelerindense, aptallıklarının ne denli büyük olduğunu bilerek ölmelerini hep tercih etmişimdir.”, der High Lady Angrellen gülümseyerek.

“Hayır Angrellen. Sen bir ‘boss’ değilsin. Asla da olmadın. Sen sadece ve her zaman ikinci, her zaman bir başkasının ‘kulu’ oldun..”, diye sırıtarak cevap verir Largo ve yanında gönüllü muhafız ve elf’lerden geriye kalanlar da tünelden çıkmaya başlarlar.

Muhafızlar Angrellen’i görürler ama tanımazlar. Elf’ler ise Ri Grandaleren’in ablasını anında tanırlar ve bir anda yüzlerinde korku belirir.

Ve onların arkasından da Lilly Venom çıkar tünelden.

“Beni kızdırmaya mı çalışıyorsun, Ajan Largo? Buna gerçekten gerek yok. Zira sana kızmamış olsam bile öldürmekten keyif alırdım. Ama senin canın benim değil. ARİS’e katıldığından beri kaç tane düşman edinmiş olduğunu tahmin bile edemezsin. Şimdi.. Çocuğu verecek misin, yoksa hepinizin cesetleri arasından mı toplam gerekiyor onu?”, der High Lady gülümseyerek.

“Sırf merakımdan sormak isterim. Bu gece bizi burada nasıl buldun?”

“Zavallı Lady Ferrara.. Ölürken çok acı çekti. Ama ruhunu çekip aldığımda benden saklayabileceği pek de bir sırrı kalmamış oldu. Bu tünele gelince. Bunun kazılması için yıllar önce Arashkan kesicilerine kimin sponsorluk yaptığını sanıyorsunuz?”, der Angrellen gülerek.

“Kendi halkına değdi mi? Sana ne vaad ettiler, Angrellen? Hangi ödül, sonsuza kadar bir hain olmaya değer?”, diye hırlar Largo.

“Tam da üstüne bastın, genç adam.. SONSUZA KADAR! —bana vaad edilen şey buydu. Ve bir kaç bin ölümlünün hayatı buna değer.”, diye cevap verir Angrellen aynı gülümsemesiyle.

“Hiçbir şey sonsuz değildir, Angrellen.. Senden önce aynı şeye sahip olabileceğini düşünen kaç bin ahmağı ağırladı bu dünya, herhangi bir fikrin var mı?”, diye neredeyse bağırır Largo.

“Evet. Var genç adam.. Senden çok daha iyi bir fikrim var. Ama sanıyorum bu konuşma kendi kökünü kazıdı gibime geliyor. Ben seninle yada adamlarınla ilgilenmiyorum. Bana çocuğu getirmem söylendi, ben de tam olarak bunu yapacağım..”, der High Lady, sonra da sırıtarak ekler. “Ama canlı olup olmaması hususunda kati bir talimat verilmedi..”

“Canın cehenneme, Cadı! Neyin varsa görelim!”, diye hırlar Largo asice.

“‘Neyim varsa görelim..’ Peki o zaman.. Görelim bakalım.. Lilly!”

Ve Largo bir anda irkilir.

Zira ensesinde keskin bir hançerin ucunu hisseder.

“Prensi ben alayım, Ajan Largo.”, diye fısıldar Lilly Venom. “Ve lütfen. Ani hareketlere yada son dakika kahramanlıklarına da kalkışmayalım. Sizden hoşlandım.. Lütfen bu durumu bozacak bir şey yapmayın.”

Ve Lilly Venom, hayretle kalakalmış Largo’nun elini tuttuğu küçük prensi alır..

..ve onunla beraber High Lady Angrellen’e doğru yürümeye başlar.

✱ ✱ ✱

Seni takdir etmemek elde değil, sevgili Lilly..”, diye kedi gibi mırıldanır Angrellen. “Etrafındaki herkesi bir Lir gibi oynadın. Bu iş bittiğinde benimle gelmek istemediğinden emin misin? Seni tahmin edemeyeceğin kadar zengin yapabilirim..”

“Bunu düşüneceğim, Hanımefendi. Ama önce kapatmam gereken bir kaç başka hesabım daha var.” der Lilly Venom donuk bir ifadeyle.

“Nasıl?”, diye hayretle tanıdığını sandığı kıza bakar Largo. “Neden? Seni Efendi Philius tutmuştu..”

Lilly Venom bir omzunu silker.

“En başta Philius’un beni High Lady Angrellen ve kızı Anglenna’yı öldürmem için tutması fikrini —oldukça dolaylı yollardan— Angrellen hanımefendinin ta kendisi önermişti ona ve Philius, olduğu ahmak gibi, bunu fark etmediği gibi, asla da bu gerçeğe ayılamadı. Efendi Philius kendi çapında iyi bir idareci olabilir, ancak ‘büyüklerin’ oyunu için fazla toy. Kendisi beni kiraladığını sanıyordu. Halbuki Angrellen hanımefendi, onun beni kiralaması için çoktan beni kiralamıştı bile. Bu şekilde onun yanına kadar rahatça sokulabildim. Asıl hedef ise önce Prenses Alor’Nadien ne idi. Ondan sonra da sırada Philius’un kendisi ve eşi vardı. Ancak arenada prensesi öldüremedim çünkü karşımıza beklenmedik bir yaratık çıkardılar ve işler bir anda karışıverdi.. Şunu anlamalısın Largo. Ben kimseye ihanet etmedim. Sadece kiralandığım kontratı yerine getiriyorum, o kadar.”

“Bir kontratı yapıyor olman, seni ihanetinden paklamayacak, kesici.. Daha önce sadece kiralık bir katil olarak çok da fazla umursanmıyordun. Prens Korodin’e karşı yaptığın bu eylemle her zaman, ve her yerde aranıyor olacaksın.. Bunu bilmen gerekiyor!”, diye hiddetten kıpkırmızı olmuş bir suratla tıslar Ajan Largo.

Lilly Venom ise buna da omuz silker.

“Bugüne kadar beni bulamadınız. Bugünden sonra da bir daha görmeyeceksiniz —ki bir iki güne Arashkan da zaten kalmamış olacak..”

“HAİN!”, diye küfreder Largo ve belinden hançerini çektiği gibi kıza fırlatır!

Ama kız, bir dansöz gibi kendi merkezinde, trençkotu ve eteklerini yelpaze gibi saçarak döner..

..ve küçük prensi kaptığı gibi kaçar!

 

Hançer ise High Lady Angrellen’in karnını kıl payı ıskalar.. ve bacağını çizerek arkasındaki ağaca saplanır.

High Lady Angrellen’in gözleri bir anda kararır ve gördüğü herkese —ama herkese saldırır.

İki elinden de uğursuz, turuncu-kızıl yıldırımlar sıçrar ve daha ilk hamlesinde önce Ajan Largo yere yığılır, ardından gönüllü üç muhafız ve elf’lerden de dördü, göğüslerinde koca birer delikle, gıklarını bile çıkarmadan yere yıkılırlar. Kalan son üç elf ise kılıçlarını çekerler ve “BARİ NA-AMMEN!”, diye çığlayarak High Lady’nin üstüne atlarlar.

‘Cadı’ya kılıcıyla vuran ilk elf bir anda acıyla kıvranır ve tamamen donmuş bir şekilde olduğu yerde devrilir. İkincisi ise isabet ettirir ancak kadını sadece kolundan sıyırır. Anglenna anında karşılık verir; lavlı bir ateş, kadının elinden sıçrar ve elf acı bir çığlık atarak yarı kömür olmuş halde can verir. Kalan son elf ise tamamen ıskalar ve bu şekilde de kendi kaderini belirlemiş olur.

High Lady Angrellen tekrar ellerini kaldırır..

..ve bir an olduğu yerde tökezler.

Kadının suratında hayret ifadesi belirir ve ağzından bir oluk kan boşalır ve..

“FELİSHİA FREMİER’İ HATIRLA!”, diye bir tıslama duyar arkasında.

Angrellen arkasını döndüğünde, karşısında elinde kanlı bir hançerle durmuş, daha önce hiç karşılaşmadığı, genç bir half-elf bulur.

“Sen de kimsin, çocuk?”, diye hırlar High Lady.

Genç half-elf ona sadece sırıtır.

“Ben, ‘fili öldüren mızrağım’..”

“Hayır, çocuk. Sen sadece ölüsün!”, der yanan gözlerle Angrellen ve beklenmedik bir çeviklik örneği göstererek uzanır..

..ve genç half-elf’e dokunur.

 

Darly “Darlius” Dor..

..yüzünde hayret ifadesiyle kaybolur!

✱ ✱ ✱

Cadı.. nerede?”, diye acıyla inler Ajan Largo.

Uzun, ince parmaklar, adamın yüzünü tutmaya devam eder. Largo gözlerini açtığında, Lilly Venom’la burun buruna olduğuna ayılır. “Her uyandığımda seninle böyle mi karşılaşacağım?”, diye hafif ekşi bir suratla doğrulmaya çalışır, ama acıyla tekrar yanmış, kuru toprağa çöker.. “Yanlış anlama.. Nefesin hakkında söylediklerimde tamamen samimiydim, ama bu durumun bir alışkanlık haline gelmesi biraz garip olurdu..”

“Benim de kaç defa sizi ‘öperek’ uyandırmam gerekiyor, Ajan Largo? Halbuki bir kerecik olsun beni yemeğe bile çıkarmadınız. Pek de centilmence sayılmaz..”, diye cevap verir Lilly Venom hafif kırık bir gülümsemeyle.

“Söz.. bu işten sağ salim kurtulursak, sizi bulabildiğim en lüks lokantaya götüreceğim.”, der Largo inleyerek.

“Bu sözünüzü size hatırlatacağım. Bununla beraber, lüks olması gerekmiyor, Ajan Largo. Sessiz, sakin, mum ışığında.. ve loş olması yeterli olur gibime geliyor.”, diye vurgular kız.

“Lütfen hatırlatın. Ama sizin için biraz fazla yaşlı değil miyim?”

Lilly Venom bir omzunu silker.

“Bu konuda benim bir şey söyleme hakkım yok mu? Bunu mu ima etmeye çalışıyorsunuz, Ajan Largo?”, diye tehlikeli bir şekilde gülümser Lilly.

“Var tabi ki. Sadece hatırlatmak istedim.”

“Ben genç ve yakışıklı bir delikanlı aramıyorum, Ajan Largo.. Onlar hiçbir zaman ilgimi çekmediler. Benim aradığım, olgun, aklı başında, lafı uzatmayan, zeki ve mütemadiyen kendisini ispatlama ihtiyacı duymayan birisi. Ve bu vasıflar asla toplu olarak genç erkeklerde olmuyor ne yazık ki.”, diye sakin olmaya çalışan bir sesle cevap verir kız.

“Benim yakışıklı olmadığımı mı ima ediyorsun?”, diye alınmış bir sesle sorar Ajan Largo.

Kız hemen önünde yatan adama bön bön bakar.

“Bütün sıraladıklarım arasından çıkarabildiğiniz tek şey bu mu? Lütfen bana bu kadar aptal olmadığınızı söyleyin, Ajan Largo..”

Largo gülmeye çalışır ama bu sadece daha çok acı çekmesine sebep olur.

“Prens?”, diye sorar en sonunda.

“Burada ve kusmakla meşgul.”, der Lilly Venom ve başıyla adamın göremediği bir yere işaret eder.

“Prens neden kusuyor?”, diye sorar Largo yattığı yerden.

Lilly Venom tekrar bir omzunu silker.

“Onu kaçırabilmem için bir iki yudum ‘Gaz İksiri’ içirmek zorunda kaldım. O iksiri Arenada, Anglenna’yı öldürdükten sonra kaçış stratejimin bir parçası olarak kendime saklıyordum. Nasip küçük prenseymiş. Ama korkarım bu onun midesiyle pek de iyi geçinmedi.”, diye açıklar kız.

“Muhteşem Gökler adına! Sekiz yaşındaki bir çocuğa, hem de prensimize bir ‘Gaz İksiri’ mi içirdin?”, diye inler Largo.

“Gaz iksirlerinin kimseyi öldürdüğü duyulmuş bir vakıa değil, Ajan Largo. Sadece nadir hallerde mide bulantısı ve kusmaya sebep olabiliyor.. bu durumda olduğu gibi..”, der Lilly Venom didaktik bir ifadeyle.

“Cadı? O nerede?”

“Kaçtı. High Lady Angrellen fevkalade tehlikeli ve ölümcül bir büyücüdür. Ancak çok zorunlu kalmadığı sürece her zaman kaçmayı tercih eder.. Hırslı ve kindar olduğu kadar özde korkak bir kişiliğe sahiptir.. bu durumda olduğu gibi.. Angrellen bir çatışmaya girmeden önce her zaman elinde hazır en az bir kaçış planıyla gelir. Ve onun kaçışına engel olamadığınız sürece de onu yenemezsiniz.”, diye cevap verir kız aynı ses tonuyla.

“Senin için söylediğim şeylerden dolayı özür dilerim, Lilly hanım, ama sanırım gerekliydi.”, der Largo.

Lilly Venom’un tek kaşı kalkar.

“Huh.”, diye ünler. “Kimse benden özür dilemez, Ajan Largo..”

“Largo. Sadece Largo yeterli. Her defasında ‘Ajan’, demenize gerek yok.”, der Largo.

“Aaaa.. Hayır, Ajan Largo. Söz verdiğiniz yemeğe kadar Ajan olarak kalacaksınız.”, diye muzırca gülümser Lilly Venom. “Yemekten ve muhabbetinizden hoşlanırsam, düşünürüz.”

Ajan Largo gözlerini kapatır ve inler.

“Sadece üçümüz mü kaldık?”, diye sessizce sorar neden sonra.

“Sadece üçümüz ve gönüllü elf’lerden bir tanesi kaldık..”, diye kısmen onaylar Lilly Venom benzer bir sessizlikle.

“Darlius?”

“Bilmiyorum. Angrellen ona bir büyü yaptı ve ikisi de bir anda kayboluverdiler.. Aynı yere mi gittiler yoksa farklı yerlere mi bilmiyorum ve hangisinin daha kötü olabileceğini ise düşünmek bile istemiyorum..”

“Shit!”, diye küfreder Largo.

“Çok ayıp, Ajan Largo. Ama isabetli.”

“Babasına ne diyeceğim ben şimdi?”, diye inler Largo.

“İki doğrudan birisini; öcünü almak ve onurunu geri kazanmak için cesurca savaştığını.. yada her zamanki gibi fevri, sorumsuz, plansız ve düşüncesizce davrandığını.. Onunla bir anlaşma yapmıştık. Anlaşmaya göre o ‘yem’ olacaktı ben de ‘asıl’.. Ama o plana uymadı ve bunun sonucunda da sadece yem oldu..”, der Lilly Venom sessiz bir hiddetle.

Ajan Largo gözlerini açar ve yanı başında eğilmiş, kendisini seyreden kıza sessizce fısıldar.

“Angrellen seni ve ona olan ihanetini asla affetmeyecektir.”

Lilly yine bir omzunu silker.

“O kaltağın benden önce halletmesi gereken çok daha önemli işleri var. Dahası, bu işte benim hiç bir ihanetim olmadı bile. Her ne kadar o öyle düşünse de. O, Philius’un beni kiralaması için beni kiralarken, gerçekte senin beni ondan bile önce kiralayarak aynı numarayı ona çekmiş olman oldukça zekice idi.”

“Bunun için bana değil, rahmetli Efendi Demos Lightshand’e teşekkür etmelisin. O mektubu yazmamış olsaydı, bu geceki sonuç çok daha farklı olurdu.”

“Belki.. Gitmeye hazır mısın? Burada daha fazla oyalanmamız pek de akıllıca olmaz ve sanıyorum genç prensin de çıkartacak bir şeyi kalmadı.”

Largo biraz daha inler ve tekrar doğrultmaya kalkar. Lilly Venom adamın koluna girer ve ona yardım eder.

“Sen gerçekten hayret verici birsin Lilly. Bilmiyorum bunu daha önce sana söyleyen oldu mu?”, diye sessizce koluna girmiş kızın gözlerine bakarak itiraf eder Ajan Largo.

Lilly Venom, yüzünde garip bir ifadeyle koluna girdiği adamın mavi gözlerini, hafif bronzlaşmış yüzünü, kalın, altın sarısı kaşlarını ve ince kesim sakal ve bıyıklarını seyreder.

“Ferra. Benim adım Ferra Ferrea, Ajan Largo..”

 

 

 

“Benim, Dexter adında öldüğümü sanan, senden büyük bir oğlum var..”

“Huh!.. Benim de, beni öldürmek isteyen bir abim var!”

“…”


dungeons and dragons duygusal groups modül role play serenity the plot thickens tundra walkers Whispers; A Cabal

After Her..

After Her..

Timeline:

This is a recollection of certain events taking place from around the Themalsar War to centuries later and ending somewhere amongst the ruined lands of Demon Plains and Arcanton Mordenon’s faulty demon gate..

This is a story on how the letter-scroll Prince Gordigon gave to Arcantonic Palecog traveled through time and space to end up back in the hands of the little gnomic girl after she lost it during their hurried flight from the war zone of Themalsar.

It is also, however, a projection of the story
Left Behind (18+)

 

 

Brom Bumblebrim gets bit, again, by whatever it is that keeps biting him on occasion as he brushes by the Tinker-guy on his way out of the Great Arashkan Library. And on an impulse, he burglarizes him, unwittingly taking back the letter scroll that Tonic had lost, some 800 years ago, just past Ogre’s Foot during their first prophecy.

Stories:
Birthright (18+) – first part,
Quiet In The Library

 

As to how the scroll comes by the gnome, Gnine Tinkerdome is an adventure all by itself;

About a week after its loss, the scroll is first discovered by one of the scores of scouts belonging to Durkahan Paladins and the Koruxan Knights heading towards the battle against Themalsar. The document is handed over to the Keeper of Durkahan Archives who is killed, some two weeks later, along with hundreds of other military personnel during their final push against the Themalsar’s forces when goblin sappers strapped with fused bombs charge out of their hidden trenches and into the ranks of the Durkahan Paladins and Koruxan Knights..

 

When the war finally ends, the paladins, the knights, the elves, and the dwarves refuse to loot the bloody, stinking, corpse-infested battlefield. They collect their dead and wounded, and head home, leaving the Arashkan Military to deal with the mess.

The not-so-happy Arashkan Army loots everything they can find and take them back to their own city, inadvertently raising the economical level and power of the city by tenfold while all documents and writs found are sent to The Great Arashkan Library to be sifted and eliminated; a long and tedious process that unwittingly forms the foundations of ARIS, Arashkan Intelligence Service.

Some of the writs and documents are forwarded to the department of history, and some are handed over to the military, while others are sealed and archived in the royal palace vaults.

 

Many centuries later, a disreputable and quite a drunkard professor is excommunicated from the University of Arashkan for selling antique books and documents in the black market, also finds himself on the wrong side of the law for forgery and falsifying official documents.

Afraid of being locked in jail or worse, he seeks sanctuary among the Thieves Guild of the same city. The thieves ‘hire’ him to work for them in their ‘information department’, for a small fee to prove his loyalty; the professor is to bring his whole batch of pilfered antique books and documents.

Story: Birthright (18+) – second part

 

Unfortunately, the conflict between the thieves guild and the cutters known as Them Friggin Bastards escalate and turn into a bloody, open street warfare after the seemingly unexpected murder of a high standing aristocrat, a Lady Felishia Fremeir, over some stolen ‘royal gifts’. The professor, along with his marketable antiques are ‘shelved’ and put on hold, and shortly after, are totally forgotten when the professor’s liver finally gives in and he dies of over abuse of alcohol.

Story: Neye bulaştın, Felishia? (18+)

 

A few years later, a young half-elf thief named Darly ‘Darlius’ Dor searching for a means to avenge his unspoken lover, the Lady Felishia Fremeir brings his ‘friends’; Aager Fogstep, Laila Wolvesbane, Inshala Frostmane, Merisoul Xyrtowu, and Gnine Tinkerdome to the ‘information department’ of the thieves guild to ‘help’ them in their search to find the whereabouts of the highly wanted and elusive rebellion, Gar Thalot.

During their hours-long excavation among thousands and thousands of documents and bits and pieces of parchments with various information on the city, the city denizens and officials alike, the keen ranger corporal Laila Wolvesbane stumbles on a very old letter scroll. To the great surprise of everyone in the group, the letter is written by a Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome some 800 years ago to his father, King Drine Tinkerdome of Silent Hills. The letter scroll is handed over to Gnine Tinkerdome, also a member of the same company.

Story: Birthright (18+) – second part

✱ ✱ ✱

Historically, when the Demon Fog settles over Silent Hills, some few colonies of gnomes do manage to escape the disaster. The majority of these gnomes travel far south and west, never to be heard of again as they are hunted down and slain by some very large, orc-like creatures, possibly the first-ever sighting of the Greater Orken. Some few, though, secretly settle at Tinker Hills to form their own small and ‘silent’ community. Nearly three hundred years later, a highly intelligent, and dangerously proactive young gnome is born into this community; Gnine Tinkerdome.

 

Burning with curiosity about his possible heritage, and with the help of his bond, Whimsi Lola, the gnome, Gnine, starts to secretly break into The Great Arashkan Library in hopes of finding more information in the restricted, official archives, where he meets a rather unscrupulous hobbit named Brom Bumblebrim, who, upon a familiar sting, burglarizes the gnome and inadvertently retrieves the letter-scroll and returns it to Tonic..

Story: Quiet In The Library

 

This, seemingly minor ‘hiccup’, would constitute the basis of the obsession in the little gnomic girl, Tonic, and inadvertently trigger the events that would lead to the story; Left Behind (18+), some 180 years in the future, pushing and urging her to find a way to open an Astral Gate where time and space get distorted, to get back to her one and only love; Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome..

✱ ✱ ✱

In an unprecedented irony, Tonic follows her uncle, Arcanton Mordenon’s researches on ‘gates’ , and after decades of trials and errors, she finally constructs her own functional gate. Not a gate leading to the Abyss to summon demons, however, but something ultimately more destructive; an Astral Gate.. A plane of pseudo-existence where time, space, and matter are torn apart, shredded, and corroded down to their base moments, units and elements..

 

What becomes of Arcantonic Palecog after she steps through the Astral Gate to get to her prince is never quite clear. Rumors assume her to have been, inevitably torn apart in the Astral Void, as she sought, for relative centuries, to find a counter exit point to reach the moment she met her desire. But rare historical records found after the lifting of the Demon Fog in Silent Hills’ long-forgotten and crumbled vaults, however, mention one of their greatest kings to be a King Gordigon Tinkerdome son of King Drine Tinkerdome son of King Knine Tinkerdome, and speak of his fiery little queen.. The identity of the said queen, however, is never discovered as it seems to have been diligently never recorded!..

Interestingly, the name of King Gordigon’s firstborn is recognized in The Silent Archives; a beautiful little gnomic girl named Seressa Ton Wraiven!

Story: Left Behind (18+)

 

Having fulfilled its prophetic purpose, the letter scroll thus finds its way back, like the song, ‘Time’,

 

‘..Linking places, spaces, events, and relations by the simple expedience of relating the past to the future..’

to its true owner; Arcantonic Palecog!

✱ ✱ ✱

As for her pair, Seressa Wraiven slowly deteriorates into the madness of hopeless despair at the loss of her pair and is rumored to have last been seen roaming mindlessly, like the broken ghost of her former self around the devastated and rotting lands north of Durkahan City and Kahan Mountains, among the ruins of Demon Plains, ferally seeking a way to get passed the endless sea of undead and fiends, streaming out of Arcanton’s faulty demon gate.. and enter it, in hopes of finding a way, through the Abyss, to her pair or to just end it all..

Story: Post Left Behind (18+)

✱ ✱ ✱

Late one night, many hundreds of leagues away, a certain hobbit gets bit, perhaps one final time as he dons his lorica, his sword, his cap, and his cloak.

 

“There really was no need, my friend..”, Brom Bumblebrim mumbled quietly.

“I had already made up my mind.”

 

He hauls his backpack, grabs a simple, nondescript walking stick, and picks up his antique lyre, gives a final, mournful look at the empty depths of his home..

..and leaves.

 

Once more, he drops a note to his, now quite a bit older friend, Gamwise Samgee. Unlike the note he scrabbled nearly two centuries ago, this one would be a bit longer;

 

My dear Gamwise Samgee,

 

Due to quite expected reasons, I will be leaving and I am afraid there will be no coming back this time. You will find the deed for my home and everything I own, all listed and cataloged, in the small chest, in the study; my garden, my lands, my roses, my phloxes, my cherries, my books, my songs, my mother’s tea cups.. have all been transferred to your name and properly notarized. I would greatly appreciate that the aforementioned lands and properties stay in your family and never be sold and the roses, the phloxes, and the cherries are allowed to remain.

 

I have but two boons to ask of you; a package containing various odds and end, and a staff I had been trying to mend and repair for the past few years.. You will find them both hidden behind the seed sacks, down in the cellar. The package and the staff are to be taken to a certain house at Salt Woods. You will find the exact location marked on the map I left with the package. I am afraid you will personally have to make this trip as you are the only one I can trust for this delivery. You will have to approach the site from the north side and use a password to safely enter as the boundaries of the house is heavily warded.

 

For my second boon;

 

Live, my friend.

 

Live and be happy.

 

Well, that’s it, then..

 

I must now part with the acceptance of a curse to find what I should have taken when I had the chance. The time for me to shed my cowardice, my ignominy, and my disgrace has arrived.

 

I shall take up the mantle of my love and my passion, and wear it, even though I do not deserve it. I go to redeem my self of a sin I did by abandoning my heart for reason.

 

I leave to seek a lost soul and to right a wrong. A wrong I let happen one hundred and eighty years ago..

 

Farewell, my dear friend.

 

Yours truly,
Knight Laureate Brom Bumblebrim.

 

P.S. Be particularly gentle with the staff, if you would, please. I had meant to finish it before this journey, but I am afraid, my time is up.

 

When people come to call and ask about my grandfather’s rusty old sword collection, they will want to know if they are magic. Never answer that question. Always smirk —silently. The way I did. It will drive them crazy, but the legend must go on!

 

The password for the wards is;

 

“The Wonder In Pinks”..

✱ ✱ ✱

For many days and deep into the nights, he traveled north, skirting The Savage Plains and Endless Watch. He passed Tinker Hills, then Silent Hills, and decided to skim by Serenity City, rather than stay. He didn’t want this venture to turn into a parade. And just when he’d passed Gulls Perch, there she was..

Standing at the side of the road was a particularly grim-looking tundra elf barbarian bearing deep, frostbite scars, whirling dark blue storm tattoos, long, snow braids, and wearing the mark of a Riserin —the sign of the Princess of Ironfrost.

“You decided then..”, she said gruffly.

The hobbit nodded mutely.

“Took you bloody long enough.”, she scowled.

“Didn’t want you to come.”, he said quietly.

“Didn’t care what you wanted!”, she said bluntly. “You don’t get to make choices for others, Brom. Made her choice for her that one time, and look where it got you. Where it got her!

“We both paid the price.”, he replied inaudibly.

“Seems like only she paid any price.. ALL THE PRICE!“, the barbarian girl glowered. “You know, you are a lucky little hobbit, and my friend, because I so want to beat you into the ground, right here, right now!”

“Yea..”, replied the hobbit morosely. “..lucky me.”

“When you made her choice, you abandoned her, Brom. You made us abandon her. Do you think she would be the way she ended up, had you been with her?”, she said mercilessly.

“There really isn’t anything that you can say, that I haven’t already said to myself, Cora.”, Brom replied quietly.

“That is possible. But I shall give it my best!”, she bit savagely.

 

A few days later, when they were passing Misty Forest, they came out of the filmy haze like a pair of wraiths and joined them; a cold, sinister-looking man in dark, patchy clothes, holding the hand of a very pretty, ‘still needs some filling’ little girl with sad, forlorn eyes, strawberry lips, long, silky hair, and beautiful, curving horns. The man silently nodded at them and they start walking in the same direction.

“Dear, dear Brom.”, said the skinny girl, with misty eyes. “The heart wins when the mind submits. He wanted to beat you. But I said please, don’t. He asked me why he shouldn’t and I reminded him how I had to sneak up to him all those times and whispered into his ear, just to get his attention, the first time we met, and he barely took notice of me..”

“I noticed you. Four years before we ever met. You had my attention. Grilled those two, mule-headed ranger girls, Laila and Morel, for hours, but they refused to give me anything about you.. When we met, you were just too young..”, the sinister-looking man, Aager, growled. “I didn’t want to make choices for you. Nor take away your options..”

 

“Yet, by doing that, did you not do just that? Take away my choices?”

..she replied, but there was no rancor, nor rebuff in her voice. Inshala turned to Brom and spoke with a conversational, matter-of-fact voice.

 

“I had decided I wanted him. He knew I wanted him. He knew he wanted me. Yet he decided it was better for me to wait. He wanted me to stay as a baby, not a girl. And wait we did..” Then softly she added. “And lost years.. Years I wanted him.. Nothing is as sweet as the moment you want something.. One can live with regrets, but never with lost opportunities.

 

I carry no regrets. But I do miss the lost opportunities.”

“Told him pretty much the same things, all those years ago.. just more bluntly.”, inserted Cora. “But our hobbit here is a bit thick in the skull!”

 

They passed the ruins of Arashkan and decided not to stop at High Woods, even though Inshala very much wanted to.

They traveled further west, resupplied at Vodgar, and followed the road past Dark Forest.

They took a boat across Kahan Lake and beached at the dying shores of Demon Plains..

Carefully they traveled towards the dreary lands and there, at the very edge of the Demon Plains, they beheld the slight figure of another tired and desolate soul.

 

The beautiful heart of High Woods silently rose and told them that she has thus passed her legacy and her heritage to others and that she would accompany them in their sojourn to help find a friend and perhaps, find her twin sister as well.

With a steely determination, she would join them, and perchance her own Dorin..

“Is this what he would have wanted, my Queen?”, asked Brom sadly.

 

“I am queen, no longer, dear Brom. I shed my burdens ere I came. Nons shall take pride over my death, nor carry my burden as a trophy.”

..replied Alor’Nadien ne with her soft, brushing voice.

 

“You will always be my Queen and hold the throne of my heart.”, said the hobbit sincerely.

 

“Methinks your heart’s throne already has her queen, dear Brom, but my King is not here and by his stone, my grief is no longer bearable.

 

I have been offered many prospects since then; other kings and princes, merchants, and royalty. They never understood; I have never wanted to be queen. Yet I chose to be one for he was there to bear its burden with me. Much like he chose to be king, for that was the only way we would be allowed to be together. And by his hollow seat, day and night, year after year, for a century and more, I sat, appearing like the person I no longer am; strong, alive, and willing.

 

I no longer hold the strength nor the will to carry on. And I see no point to stay any longer, my friend. Where he is, he awaits. Where I go, will be there.”

 

“The fight. Who will—”, asked Brom, words failing him now.

“If the fight has come down to a tired, broken soul such as I, then surely we are lost already. New hands with vigor must pick up that mantle now, and bear its burdens. Not these tired hands.”, she replied solemnly.

“What of High Woods, my Queen?”

 

“My youngest granddaughter, Alor’Derune, the Allure of Dorin, has been chosen and the mantle passed. I shall miss the heart and the breath of my forest. The spirit of High Woods promised I would cherish and prosper. So I have. From the ashes of my forest, I have lived to see my kingdom reborn, and by my King’s love, my children and their children strive. But everything must come to a close. We thought we saved so many but lost so much more. We gave our all, and more until we had none..

 

I relish my moments in this life. And I cherried my beloved friends. But like my King, most are gone, now. This life no longer offers me favors, nor passions. Thus I yearn for the other and for over a century now, I have counted my days. I have kept him waiting because he asked this one boon of me; that I live and be happy.

 

I have lived, but he did not know, he had bereft me of all happiness when he left. Nay. I think I have kept my promise. It is time he honors his and accepts me.”

 

Brom quietly nodded. That was all he could do. When a person talked in a language one could understand, but not relate, one knew, they were on two, very different levels of perception; the Queen of High Woods, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist Shieldheart was already gone. What stood here, was nothing but her shade.

 

Yes.

They had given their all.

And more.

But such was the required sacrifice of the few, select mortals to save their world from annihilation.

 

“It’s a bit late to start. We have lost the noon sun. Will make them stronger as the hours pass. Might as well make camp early, and start at first light.”, Brom said.

“Did I ever tell you how much I hate ghosts, wraiths, and zombies? Ow, and demons.. Especially the ones with the long, barbed tentacles..”, he added with a voice that was barely audible.

“Yea.”, replied Cora said from somewhere behind him. “They always go for the little, fat ones!”

Brom snorted.

He squinted at the distant lands, dead and rotting. He took a deep breath and faced his preening destiny.

For a long, long moment, Brom thought of the very tall, very dark girl that had ruined him for everyone else..

He remembered the time when she had whispered into his mind. The time when he and Cora had thought they were going up against a terrible demon, all those years ago, on Ice Wolf Horde’s request. It had also been the time they had first met.. Thinking back, she could have whispered at Cora, yet she had opted to whisper to him.

He remembered the way she had flopped and klutzed, face down into the snow, displaying all her curvy glory in pinks.. After nearly two hundred years, he could still remember that image, and so vividly..

He remembered when she had gone up against Cora in defense of her pair, Tonic, at Mount Dreadmaw, and had so dearly paid the price.

And he remembered the way she had blushed so furiously and had been so embarrassed that time when he had caught her with Tonic’s foot in her mouth.

“This isn’t what it looks like!”, she had blurted in unveiled panic, with Tonic’s foot still in her mouth. “I am not eating her!”

Brom wondered why she had feared that he would think her eating Tonic.

Had she done something silly as she often did, in her past, and someone had said something stupid to her? What kind of a demented idiot would be so cruel, he wondered.

 

And suddenly he knew he needn’t seek the cruel idiot far away.

That cruel idiot was right here.

 

Then, just like that, he started to shake.

And silently, Brom Bumblebrim wept..

..he wept while staring at the dead lands where ‘The Wonder in Pinks’ was off, somewhere, not even sure if she were alive. Her beautiful mind gone, as she crept and crawled in the filth of the rotating land towards the demon gate.

 

“I will not offer comfort by saying it isn’t your fault. Because as sure as it is, it is mine as well, Brom Bumblebrim. When you chose to do what you did, I chose to stand by you. Many things could have been different if I had ignored you and just picked you up and threw you at her! Knowing her, she would have caught you, and kept you.. along with her dignity and sanity..

You are not the first to think less of themselves and feel unworthy, Brom. And Seressa was a great soul..”, Cora said.

“She always was. And like the coward I am, I turned away from her, thinking she deserved better, deserved more.. Never bothered to ask her what she wanted. Just like all the other animals out there who never bothered to ask her what she felt.. I sinned her, Cora..”, Brom shuddered as he wept. “I burned her when I abandoned her.. I did her wrong and now, I dragged you into this.. I deserve everything you want to do to me.”

“Well, when you say it like that, makes me wonder just what kind of a girl you think I am. Shall I fetch my whip? Would you rather pole lashing or have me do it while you are stretched on a rack!”, she said mildly. “As for the dragging, I doubt you could drag me anywhere even if you tried.. That’s what friends are for; being dragged without being told. It was my choice to be your friend, Brom, and so was accepting you as mine. You were there when I was down. You let me lean on you. Yes, I never cried on your shoulder, but I did know that your shoulder was always available should I ever needed it.. Now I am here for you to lean back. Doesn’t mean I am not pissed off at you. This one, though, I am doing for her.”, she said.

She looked down at the shuddering hobbit, removed her heavy fur cloak, and settled it over him.

“Go on. Get some sleep. I will cover the first watch with that Aager-guy. He is worse than I am. I didn’t use to talk because I was so ‘can’t be bothered’ and ‘cool’. He doesn’t even care about cool. The only one I have ever seen him smile is his wispy little wife. Wonder if I should ask him just how old he is.. and why! Pain to get him to talk.. And creepy as hell, the way those two just ogle at one another like newly eloped teens, without ever saying a single word.”

“Tomorrow is going to be one, long day..”, sniffed Brom.

“Yes.”, agreed, Cora. “Tomorrow, we enter Demon Plains and retrieve a friend. Two, if we are lucky.”

Then she looked at the shade of the Queen of High Woods, Alor’Nadien ne, lost in her own sorrows; loved ones and friends..

“But I mean to leave no one behind. A girl of her stature and grace needs a proper stone and a decent shrine. Not a ditch in the ground..”


The twin sister referred to here, is the recorded kinship of Arcantonic Palecog as a Feymist, on the day Alor’Nadien ne is born, by Nadine Graciousward. Both of their names are entered into the royal archives of Bari Na-ammen on the same day, making them, ‘technically’, sisters and twins..

 

The staff Brom refers to, is the Staff of Blooms that belonged to Seressa Wraiven since shortly after her graduation from the Academy of Melshieve.

During the story, Left Behind (18+), Seressa breaks the staff in wroth and despair, never wanting to see the beautiful, pink cherry blooms that it would sprout. During one of his visits to check in on her, Brom finds the broken pieces of the staff and takes them, in the hopes that he could fix it, and return it to Wraiven, proving to her that the broken can be made whole again and that nothing is beyond repair.

 

And that is the summed-up story behind the mystery of how in the blazes did that letter even get here.. Good luck discerning any sense out of that paradoxical loop! This is where an unforeseen variable is introduced into a perfectly linear equation, turning it into an infinite loop, causing it to either freeze or crash your processor.


arashkan şehri dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi modül role play serenity the plot thickens tundra walkers Whispers; A Cabal

Quiet In The Library

Quiet In The Library

Timeline:

Arcantonic and Brom slip silently into the night to do somethings that might very well break the prophecy they were sent for.

Adamant that she must do what she set out to do, Brom has little choice but to help accompany the ‘cute little demon’ of a gnomic girl.

 

This story takes place on the same night as
“Benim gitmem lazım.”
The Returning of Shal -ah Galad
Geleceğin Adımları
“Not Yets” and POV’s (18+)
and right after
Between The Blinds.

 

 

THAT. WAS. AWSOOOOOME!“, Tonic half shrieked, half cackled with manic fervent and triumphant hysteria. “I can’t believe she held me.. No!.. She hugged me! The Riverin of High Woods, The Princess of Bari Na-ammen, the daughter of Ri Grandaleren and Rise Nadine Graciousward.. THE FUTURE QUEEN OF THE HIGH ELVES, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist herself, my twin sister by adoption, no less, and she hugged me! Oww my Gosh, she smelled so nice.. So warm.. And you know what? I think I will go visit her again, once this is all over. Just for more of that!”

“Girl.. She offered you the throne of Bari Na-Ammen, literally, and all you can think of is her hugs? I’ll be the first one to admit, she is a beauty, par to Wraiven, but really, now.. Your priorities are a tad eschewed.”, Brom said with a bemused tone.

“Look here, you little hobbit!”, she said pointing a tiny finger at him. “This here is the hair of a Princess. And not just any princes, but that of Alor’Nadien ne, herself! And not just a snippet, either. She gave me a whooooole strand!”

 

Her tiny finger, the one she was pointing at Brom, was nearly all black! Because her fingers were so small, and the Princess truly had had very long hair, flowing nearly all the way down to her feet. She had enlaced the hair around and around her finger until it had all but covered it.

And now, the little gnomic girl was skipping and hopping like she was the proud owner of one of the rarest wonders in the kingdom..

..which, she was!

 

“You are such a dork, Tonic.”, Brom smiled. “..And a fangirl!”

 

The two had left the huge Dorin guy and the beautiful, graceful, and pretty princess behind and were heading to their next, and hopefully, last stop for the evening; to the Great Arashkan Library.

Why was every officious building in the city named ‘Great’, Brom had wondered.

The Great Arashkan Courthouse, The Great Arashkan Library, The Great Arashkan Arena, The Great Spires, The Great First Lord Princeps Palace.. It wasn’t like there was another city just over the hill with a courthouse, a library, an arena, some spires nor another first lord that one would confuse, now, was there?

Or perhaps there was some ‘baby’ Arashkan courthouses, libraries, arenas, spires, and first lord palaces and hence, the ‘great’ ones had real and practical significance.

Brom couldn’t imagine a conversation where some stranger would ask; “Excuse me, mate, where’s the First Lord’s Palace?”, and get a reply, “Which one? I mean, we have so many!”.

Brom suspected, that conversation would devolve into something like;

“The ‘great’ one..”

“Yea, okay, but which one? We have a lot of ‘great’ first lords in Arashkan. You’ll have to be a bit more specific, mate!”

“How many First Lord’s do you have, in this city?”

“19,876 by the last count. We had a new First Lord spawn just the other day!”

 

Apparently, Brom’s live imagination was at play again!

 

But there was, however, some truth in his creative perception. All these ‘greats’ didn’t make the city anymore endearing.. Only pompous! No one, it seemed, was near-honestly humble like hobbits in this world. Hobbits lived in nice, quiet, rolling hills. They didn’t build giant monuments, nor put awesome statues to impress others. Seemed a little like too much work for no gain at all. Hobbits made their homes in the hills and.. well.. they lived in them.. Happily too!

The near-honestly was because hobbits were just unenthusiastically lazy to be bothered by such frivolities!

Elves, humans, gnomes, dwarves.. none of them ever seemed satisfied with what they already had. Always they would thrive for more..

..and still, be unhappy.

Just how stupid was that?

 

“Brom.”, Tonic said sternly. “I know what she offered. Think of my history. I know what power is. I lived with my uncle for years. And I know what power can do to you. My uncle.. He had power. Lots and lots of it. Even his demons feared him and it really is hard to instill fear in a demon. And look what it brought him. Banishment to the depths of hell he is never coming back from. It is possible he is still alive. And burning perpetually there.. And Heavens willing, he should burn for more, and then some.”

“I.. can’t say I admire his disposition. But why? Why did Nadine banish him and not just kill him and be done with? Death seems kinda more permanent, don’t you think?”, asked Brom a bit taken aback by the little gnomic girl’s savage tone.

“No. Death is not always thus permanent. Not for guys like my uncle..”, she replied, her tone much more subdued now than just a moment before.

“Ow? How do you mean?”

“My uncle, Arcanton.. He made many deals with many beings.. Outsiders.. Creatures that do not belong to our plane of existence. Planes where time and space get distorted. You literally can’t kill those creatures, Brom. You can only banish them from your own reality and hope some fool will not summon them back.. At least not in your lifetime!”, Tonic said quietly.

“Hmm.. So Arcanton made deals with things out of our plane of existence. But so did Wraiven, come to think of it, did she not? I mean, The Raven Queen doesn’t exactly belong to our plane of existence either, you know.”, Brom said carefully.

“Seressa did not make deals with the Raven Queen, Brom. Not in the sense that my uncle did. My pairs soul is her own. And belongs only to her. I doubt under any circumstance would she give up her soul to anyone.. or anything! Seressa is bonded with the Raven Queen via a pact. She does her bidding in return for her queen sharing a part of her power and knowledge with her. It is sort of a mutually beneficial agreement between two parties. She can, if she wanted, dissolve that bond. Yes, she will lose the Raven Queen’s favor and the power she imparts to her, but the fact remains; she can end the bond..”, Tonic tried to explain.

“So she can.. But I still don’t see the difference.”, said Brom as he squinted into the night.

“The difference is, unless you got more balls than brains, you literally can’t break the deals you make with Outsiders. Once the deal is done, your soul is on the market! It’s ‘Going.. Going.. Going.. Gone!’“, she said seriously.

“Well, that sucks.. I suppose. I like it that Seressa is free. I like her free. And she should always be free. Social rhetorics do her enough injustice and chain her as it is. She doesn’t need any more constraints.”, Brom said quietly.

 

The two walked on for some time in companionable silence. As it turned out, they ended up going the longest possible way around, taking the streets between the Officers District and Heaven Park, behind the Archery Military Camp, and by the Lights Temple. For some reason, the First Lords Palace and the streets surrounding it seemed to be teaming with burly, scowling patrols and neither Brom nor Tonic needed any complications or altercations with the city’s law enforcement’s that late, that night.

 

“Don’t.”, Brom said finally.

“Don’t what?”, asked Tonic, a bit surprised.

“Don’t ask the question you have been meaning to ask all night, Miss Tonic.”, he said with a destitute voice.

“Actually, I wasn’t going to ask anything.. And you really don’t need to ‘Miss’ me you know. Every time you say ‘Miss Tonic’, it sounds like ‘I miss Tonic!’ in my head, and that’s just weird.. and creepy!”, she said.

“Well, now. That is weird.. And creepy..”, mused Brom, but it seemed his mind was elsewhere.

“I did wonder though..”, Tonic began.

“And that.. is what I meant when I said, ‘don’t’!”, Brom frowned.

“You know. It isn’t fair you get to do all these psychoanalysis on me and then fend me off when I want to ask you some personal questions.”, she sniffed.

“I am not the one with the accumulated issues, Miss— Tonic.”, replied Brom, but there was no heat nor beration in his voice.

“So only people with decent backgrounds get to analyze others, then?”, asked Tonic mildly.

“No.. There just isn’t anything there to analyze.”, Brom replied allusively.

“Ahh.. I see.. So it’s perfectly alright if I did ask you a few personal questions, then?”, said Tonic with a victorious smirk.

“What? No.. How did you even get to that conclusion, girl?”, replied the hobbit feeling exasperated.

“Using awesome logic!”, smirked Tonic again.

“Using logic..”, snorted Brom. “You are not going to let this go, are you, girl?”

“Nope.”, replied Tonic happily. “So.. What do you see in Seressa?”

“Thought I already told you that. Just this evening. At least twice.”, frowned Brom.

“Yes, and no. Your description of her was a bit.. too intimate and heartfelt.. One could argue it’d make an excellent book cover, let’s say.”, said Tonic tentatively.

“I don’t know what kind of books you are into, girl, but I would suggest you read something that has actual literature in them.”, Brom scowled now.

“So you don’t like her, then?”, she blurted.

“Now why wouldn’t I like her? I mean, what is there not to like?”, replied Brom honestly.

“So you do like her..”

“Ow. My. Gosh, girl. You are going to push this in your direction whatever I say!”, exclaimed Brom, waving his hands.

“I just want you to give me an honest, and straight answer. Is that too much to ask? I mean, we are friends, right?”, persisted the gnomic girl.

“Just because we are friends, that doesn’t mean we share everything..”, said Brom exasperated.

“But you said, ‘We suffer. We mourn. We sing and we celebrate.. We do. And what we do, we share!‘. Your words, not mine.”

 

Brom ‘hoo boy’ed.

The little demon was persistent.. and she stuck on him..

..like a tick!

 

“That is possibly the worst misuse of a friendly conversation, Miss Tonic!”, Brom said angrily. “But I will tell you, just to get you off my back!”

“Yeshh!”, Tonic fisted her hand into the air. “Victory!”

 

“When I see your pair.. No.. When I see Wraiven, I sometimes wish I was a taller man. And better looking, perhaps. ‘Cooler’, so to speak. Maybe a bit more muscular.. You know, the type girls like to ogle at.

 

I love everything about her and she sees me only as something that she can, perhaps, cute into her coin purse. Not that I would mind being pursed by her, but that will still not make her see me in the light that I would rather have her see me.. If that makes any kind of sense to you.

 

We are so impossibly different, yet she makes me simply not care. Which is the core of the problem. She doesn’t see me that way, period. I mean, what am I to her, really, but a bushy little hobbit?”, said Brom then fell silent. This night had offered him many wonders. Just not the ones he would have wished for.

 

Tonic stared at the back of the hobbit as they once more fell silent.

She had been surprised by this unscrupulous hobbit a few too many times this evening. But this last bit gave her a whole new insight about him because he hadn’t been staring at her pair for the simple visual pleasure of having ogled at a very beautiful, proportionately curvy, comely buxom, life inducingly vibrant, deservingly exhilarating, darkly mysterious, and honestly alluring figure, counter-underlined by some macho male animal instinct, but for something more. Something that was intimate. Something that had real depth.

Tonic suddenly felt angry and jealous.

For all her pretense otherwise, she didn’t feel like sharing her pair with anyone, even though she had taken her pair a bit too much for granted.

Then she felt shame.

The hobbit —No! Not the hobbit.. ‘Brom’, had done nothing but give his best to help a cranky, cantankerous, contrary, grumpy and surly little girl his all, and not just that evening, but carefully, every day, ever since they had met. And for some reason, Tonic didn’t think he’d done any of it to gain favor with her pair, by proxy. For all his seeming indifference towards everything, lack of base enthusiasm, exasperation level of sloth, and blatantly unscrupulous attitudes, he was smart, cunning, always seemed to show unsolicited kindness, and he was loyal, educated, and well-spoken, even though he hadn’t been to an academy such as Melshieve and thus far, he’d more than pulled his weight in fights.

Much better than she had!

Hells bells, he’d also played that lyre like a siren! She remembered all the times she’d thought he was just staring at her pair’s butt, while he had persistently claimed he was composing a song.. in his mind!

And he had been telling the truth all along.

‘The Endless White’.

The tune he had played, back at the inn that very evening was something that was simply ‘mad’..

..and Tonic had loved it!

And now she didn’t want to share her pair with him?

Like her pair was hers to give or not..

Just how arrogant was that?

 

“Yes.”, inner Tonic said. “You really are selfish, you know.”

“Whose side are you anyway?”, blazed Tonic but her heart hadn’t really been in it. She’d flared more out of ‘muscle reflex’ than true intent.

“Does it matter? It was you, who wanted to try ‘this way for some..’, wasn’t it? Now you want to quit? I wasn’t aware it would be this short. Must have missed the memo. Had I known you’d be this fickle, I wouldn’t have fought against it so hard, knowing you’d come around on the morrow..”, inner Tonic said, and she didn’t even bother with the sarcasm.

Tonic shut up.

From the inside!

 

No. The hobbit was not just ogling at a very beautiful, proportionately curvy, comely buxom, life-inducingly vibrant, deservingly exhilarating, darkly mysterious, and honestly alluring figure.

Brom was staring at the heart of all that and desolately knew, he could never have it.

The ogling was just his way of fooling those around him..

..and himself.

 

“You could tell her.”, she braved mutely.

 

“To what end? There’s nothing neither of us can do about it, particularly if she doesn’t see me that way. If I tell her, all I will get is either the basic ‘You are my friend’, talk or the infamous ‘But I love you like a brother’, talk, which I would rather forgo and Heavens forbid, will never happen. However Seressa sees me, I never want her to love me like a ‘brother’..”, replied Brom, and not without a good dose of bitter disgust.

 

“So you are going to do nothing?”, asked Tonic incredulously.

 

“I never claimed to be a brave man, Tonic. As a matter of fact, I did say I was a coward, this very evening, I might add. Being refused by someone as awesome as Wraiven is not something I ever want to experience. I’d rather just ogle and make sure she sees me doing it.”, he said quietly.

 

“Make sure she sees you? Why? That doesn’t make sense.”, said Tonic befuddled.

“I don’t like sneak-peaking at her. Feels wrong. Feels like cheating.. Feels immoral —and yes, I am fully aware of the monumentally depraved irony there. That doesn’t change the way I feel, though.”, said Brom, frowning a bit.

 

“But.. but you are suffering and she doesn’t even know!”, bewailed Tonic.

“What’s got you so riled. It’s my problem. I’d rather look at that beautiful and wonderful, and beautifully wonderful girl with the impossible dream of a ‘chance’, than never to be able to look at her again when I get refused or be declared as ‘loved like a brother’!”, said Brom, gruffly.

Tonic ran up to Brom and stopped right in front of him and looked him in the eyes.

“That’s.. That’s just wrong, Brom.. and sad..”, she said with brimming eyes.

“Well. I am a sad sort of man. I got a problem, and I am using the cowardly way out. Nobody is feeling bad and no one is getting hurt..”, he said flatly.

“Accept you.”, she said quietly.

“Yea, well. There you have it. Chew on that psychoanalysis if you will, Miss Tonic.”, said Brom, brushed past the gnomic girl and with determined steps, started towards The Great Arashkan Library..

✱ ✱ ✱

Tell me again.”, said Brom with a mute, stoic voice. “What do I say to this Tinker-guy, again? And how in the blazes am I even going to get up to that window anyway? It must be at least fifty-five feet up there. Probably more, since this is a library. They would require higher ceilings to store all the books.”

 

Brom didn’t feel well. He had never wanted to divulge his feelings about the very tall, very dark girl to anyone. And certainly not to Tonic. Not because he thought she couldn’t keep the knowledge to herself, but perhaps, and because, he thought, she would keep it to herself.

“Damit.”, he thought. “Why now? Why tonight, of all nights?”

Had it been the tune he’d played to the audience that evening?

The one he’d named a tad grandly as; The Endless White.

He knew he should have named it just The White... or even White... but white was just too generic.

Or perhaps it was the song he’d sang after that; Time.

In all honesty, Brom Bumblebrim knew, he just knew, it wasn’t him, who’d written that song. Unlike any other song he had written, this one had ‘come’ to him.. and in the most literal sense possible. Word by word, the song had written itself in his mind and heart during his two-year sojourn from Bowling Hills, all the way to Shakehands.. Which is when he’d met Cora. But tonight had been the first time he had actually put it on display, so to speak. And now, the song was out..

..and out of its ‘time’, Brom thought with a sardonic inner snort.

Or perhaps it was because of having met an angelic being.. or seen that dark, the very sinister-looking man he’d ended up feeling ‘distaste’ at best, then getting all his emotions totally eroded when he saw the same, sinister man looking at the sweet little skinny girl the way he had. And the look she had given him had been emotionally ruinous all by itself for Brom.

He was a bard, damit, and love was the bread and butter for all bards.. But the thing between those two.. he found he couldn’t define it..

..because he could not comprehend it.

It had been so.. nubile in its beauty..

So primevally intense.

There had been no decorum to it. Only base, raw, savage, and somehow, awe-inspiringly tender and desperately lonely longing in the look the two, very unlikely man and girl, were giving one another.

And they were giving it in a sense that was singularly unique! It made other people’s love seem like they were merely and briefly lending their hearts to others, while those two had already and literally given theirs.

So much so that what beat in one, was actually the heart of the other..

 

What man, woman —or bard— could truly comprehend that?

 

The intermixed irony that was put under the broad beam of a bright spotlight was not lost on Brom at all;

One, inhumane human, and one, infinitely humane, inhuman!

It was likely that very destitution the two had, that’d sparked the fire that had previously been a mere and happy little kindle..

..into searing pain.

 

“Damit!”

 

Tonic gave Brom an even look.

Whether she surmised what was really going through the hobbit’s mind, she kept it to herself.

For now, at least.

Which was a grace, all by itself.

 

“I have seen you climb walls before, Brom. That cloak of yours will more than suffice. If you want, though, I can give you a potion that will make you climb pretty much any surface. Another for you to pass through any gap, or to safely float down. I can send a rope all the way up there.. The window is in range.”, she listed methodically. “I suppose, if you want, I can bring out Mechaber. He can give you a fifteen feet head-start sort of a jump. But I haven’t really had the opportunity to field test that. And I can’t promise a quiet landing. Likely, it will bring a lot of patrols upon us. I am guessing you’d rather avoid that.”

“I am guessing, you would rather avoid that!”, scowled Brom.

“Yes. Yes, I would.. Very much.. The technology behind Mechaber is not out yet, and I would rather it didn’t. Not yet, and not until it’s perfected and certainly not until I install the self-destruct unit in it.”, she said seriously.

“The self— what?”, asked Brom incredulously.

“Self-destruct unit.. You didn’t think I would artifice something as dangerous and deadly as Mechaber and then hand it over to the irresponsible humankind, or have it stolen, now did you? I designed it. I must make sure it never falls into wrong hands..”, Tonic said like she was paraphrasing from a blood-signed doctrine!

“Ooookay.. Good, we got that cleared, then.”, Brom said.

“Mechaber is serious business, Brom. Nothing to joke about. The fact that you have seen it, let alone know about it is a sign of how much Seressa trusts you because if it were up to me, you’d have never seen, nor heard mention of it.. Well.. not for some time, anyway.”

“Ooookay.. Good to know where we stand too, then.”, Brom said with the same tone.

Tonic scowled.

“Look, just because you like someone, doesn’t mean you hand over the nuclear launch codes to them, alright!”, she said with an exasperated voice.

“The what lunch codes?”

“Never mind.”, said Tonic. “Read it in some silly futuristic sci-fi book.”

“Psychic-what? What are you talking about, girl? Just what the hell kind of books are you reading?”, Brom asked.

“Look, the story begins when a pretty Erossian spy falls in love with a mad and delusional Camerican nuclear scientist—”, the gnomic girl promptly began..

“Tonic!.. It’s late. I am tired and in all sorts of ways.. Let’s just get this over with, shall we? I am sure Cora and your pair have noticed we have been too quiet by now and gone to your room to check and see as to why! I think the story about some mad psychic-whatsit can wait, don’t you?”

“Right..”, said Tonic and blushed a bit. “Just tell him what I told you. Don’t loiter. Don’t chit-chat. Get in. Tell him. Get out. And..”

Brom cocked one eyebrow.

“And?”

“..And, thank you. I made you do things tonight you would rather not have done.. At least not with me, nor for me.. So.. Thank you..”, she said with a small voice.

“You are welcome, Miss Tonic. And no, I wouldn’t have done any of this, not tonight, not ever, but not because of you. I just wouldn’t have done them because I would rather have taken a light snack, cleaned and tuned my lyre, and then went to sleep. Thanks to you, it is unlikely I will find any light snacks nor find the time to neither clean nor tune my lyre. And because it’s nearly the end of the night, I will not be getting any sleep either..”, Brom said.

Tonic frowned.. and felt a bit.. hurt..

“But I did do all the things I would rather have not, and I am now a better man for it.. All because of you.. So.. Thank you!”, he added with a smile.

Tonic’s eyes teared.

“Go.. Now.. Or I shall call you an ass and totally ruin the moment, Brom Bumblebrim!”, she sniffled.

 

Brom smirked, turned around, pulled his magic cloak around him..

..and started climbing up the side of The Great Arashkan Library like some odd lizard or possibly, an arachnid!

✱ ✱ ✱

Who is there?”, a slightly tenoric male voice whispered harshly in the darkness.

“It is I, The Ghost of Silent Hills Past, Present, and Future!”, spoke Brom, with a hoarse, hollow voice as he produced a very high, very eerie, screaming tune from his lyre.

 

The poor antic instrument wept at her misuse.

 

Brom had found the ‘Tinker-guy’ with relative ease. The gnome was taller than Tonic but while the gnomic girl was proportionally slim, this gnome, the possible great, great, great-something grandson of Prince Gordigon was a bit on the stocky side. Though he looked quite young and robust and had keen, intelligent, and pursuing eyes.

Brom had thought of a dozen different ways of approaching the gnome, including stepping up to him and saying, “Hallo there, matie. Got somin te tell yer! Go there them Silent ‘ills an’ grab what’s there fer yer self and be quik ’bout tit! And while at tit, quit mawnin’ ’bout things ‘cuz non wuz yer falt! But I’d suggis yer watch yer arse cuz sum fellers wantsit!”

And now he was gnawing his knuckles, hiding a few rows, behind and above him, stuck on the ceiling!

 

“Whot?”, the gnome, Tinker-guy, said in a baffled and spooked voice.. And one of his hands formed claws as a huge ball of fire appeared in it!

 

“Ow crap!”, thought Brom. “A trigger happy fireballer!.. We are in a bloody library, damit! Who uses a fire hall in a library? That is a universal reason for contempt, almost akin to speaking aloud in a theater! Doesn’t he know there’s a special kind of hell for people like that? And this idiot is the heir to Silent Hills?”

He produced his own Wand of Ice, just in case the fool actually did fire his ball and he had to put out the fires!

 

And just then, they heard a monotonous, matronly voice echo.

 

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, OR YOU WILL BE FINED! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

 

“What the..”, said the gnome, Tinker-guy.

Brom snickered. Ow, this was going to be fun!

“It is I, The Ghost of Silent Hills Past, Present, and Future!”, he repeated, with the same hoarse, hollow voice.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 50 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“And I have come to give you tidings from the beyond, young Tinker-guy!”, hallowed Brom.

The gnome, Tinker-guy, cocked an eyebrow, his face puzzled.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 100 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“What the hell?”, the Tinker-guy said.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 150 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Brom snickered, some more. If Tonic caught him doing this, she’d have his hide, and then some!

“You shall go to Silent Hills.. There you will find your kin..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 200 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You must reclaim your heritage..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 250 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Ow. My. Gosh!”, exclaimed the Tinker-guy. “Can you please stop?!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 300 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“No. I can’t!”, moaned Brom.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 350 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“For I..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 400 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..am the Ghost of Silent..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 450 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..Hills, Past..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 500 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BARRED FROM THE LIBRARY FOR A WEEK. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..Present and Future!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 550 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop!”, cried the gnome!

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 600 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“And you shall do my bidding..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 650 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop. Just stop!”, shrieked the Tinker-guy in desperation.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 700 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“No. I can’t..”, repeated Brom, his eyes shut, his face flushed and he had started doing strange, snorting, bubbling noises.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 750 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BARRED FROM THE LIBRARY FOR A MONTH. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You shall go to Silent Hills, and into the Demon Fog to reclaim your birthright..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 800 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“You must also know, young Tinker-guy..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 850 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Stop! You are going to get me permanently..”, cried the gnome.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 900 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Brom could hardly breathe by now.

“..what befell you in the past..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 950 CREDITS! PLEASE BE ADVISED; YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING CONDEMN LIMIT. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“..was not of your doing!”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1000 CREDITS! YOU ARE NOW BANNED FROM THE GREAT ARASHKAN LIBRARY. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Whot?”, exclaimed the gnome and there appeared a haunted expression on his face. A face that bespoke of shame, self-loathing, relief, pain lived, and pain endured..

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1100 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Those who put your heritage into desolation sent their minions to slay ye and yer line..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1200 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

The gnome’s face paled. He tried to speak, but words utterly failed him.

“..to ensure, none would ever bring ‘voice’ to Silent Hills..”

And now, Brom wasn’t snickering anymore.

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1300 CREDITS! PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Hence an evil plan they hatched.. A heinous plan.. And they brought down your home and buried you, and yours..”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1400 CREDITS! PLEASE PLEASE BE ADVISED; YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING CIVIL RIGHTS LIMIT. STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

Tears appeared in the Tinkey-guy’s eyes and ran down shamelessly.

“My mother? My father? My brothers and sisters by the dozen? Terrah Doodlebellz? All my friends? My neighbors? —They all died because of me?”

“QUIET IN THE LIBRARY, 1500 CREDITS! THE CIVIC GUARDS ARE ON THEIR WAY. PLEASE STOP BY THE CASHIER FOR THE PAYMENT AND WAIT FOR DETENTION! THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.”

“Nay, young Tinkerdome. They all died because someone slew them. They all died to kill your line. Make their sacrifice worth the world, young Tinkerdome..

Reclaim your Heritage.

 

Reclaim your Hills.

 

Reclaim your Kingdom.

 

Reclaim your Throne.

 

Reclaim your Destiny.

 

Reclaim your People.

 

And be a King!

 

And with a job well done, Brom Bumblebrim silently climbed down the ceiling.

Quite as a mouse, he brushed past the devastated Prince Gnine Tinkerdome, the great, great, great-something grandson of Prince Gordigon, got out the window, and skimmed down the walls of The Great Arashkan Library..

✱ ✱ ✱

WHAT DID YOU DO?!“, nearly shrieked Tonic in panic as she grabbed the hobbit and started running back the way they came. “The place is suddenly crawling with civic law enforcement!”

They ran past the Lights Temple, along the Archery Military Camp, and cut through the street between Heaven Park and Officers District.

“I said, just talk to him, say the things, and get out!”, spluttered the gnomic girl.

“Which is pretty much what I did, girl!”, panted Brom, his face flushed and he truly felt tired, both physically and emotionally. And he was scratching the upper end of one leg, near the buttock, just where he couldn’t see.

“What is the matter with you?”, Tonic asked, her eyes wild now.

“I got bit.. Again!..”, spat Brom, and mumbled to himself, “This is the last time I fall for a cute face!”, as they heard someone shout “HALT!“, from behind them.

“Whot?”

“Never.. mind.. Not a story.. for now..”, Brom said with a harsh scowl.

RUN, THEN!“, hissed Tonic.WE CAN’T GET CAUGHT DAMIT! OW. MY. GOSH!

Aaaand the gnomic girl was about to get hit with a full-blown panic now!

Something neither of them needed at that very moment.

“Calm.. down.. girl!”, said Brom harshly, as he huffed, and puffed.

 

The marching footsteps were getting closer.

HALT! HALT I SAY! HALT IN THE NAME OF THE FIRST LORD!“, repeated the same voice from behind, but much closer now, than before.

 

“Can.. you.. disappear?”, Tonic gasped as she ran next to Brom.

“Umm.. Yes.. But only myself!”, breathed Brom heavily.

“Ok, then.. Go.. Shoo! Vanish! Scram!”, she said.

“NO! Not.. leaving you.. Not happening..!”, Brom breathed.

“I can.. take care of.. myself.. damit!”, snarled Tonic.

“Together.. or not.. happening.. I.. never want to.. face a Wraiven.. with you.. missing!”, he gasped.

“Damit!”, she said, produced two vials with green, vaporish something in them, and a tightly packed clay sphere out of her artificer’s satchel. “Here, drink this in ten!”, she said and handed one of the vials to Brom, as she tossed the clay sphere behind her.

“You know, disintegrating civic guards is not a good idea, Tonic..”, Brom said lightly.

There was a stunning bang, and the civic guards on their heels dropped to their knees and slumbered face down.

“Neat..”, admired Brom.

“Won’t keep them down for long. Now shut up and drink! The effects of this potion should last about an hour, possibly more. I am usually generous —or heavy-handed— with ingredients, depending on your point of view.. Meet you at the inn.”, she said and topped her own vial.. and suddenly, Tonic fell apart!

“I like you, Brom Bumblebrim.”, she said in a warbling, escaping, gaseous, and fading voice. “If you are so bent on martyring alone, I shall abide by your wishes. But you shouldn’t decide for Wraiven without bothering to ask her. That truly is cowardly. And not really any different than all the other animals out there who only see the pinks and never wonder what’s in it.. I made that mistake and it cost me—”

Whatever it had cost Arcantonic, she couldn’t say.

Her form drifted away in a hazy wisp of smoke!

 

Brom scowled after the now gone gnomic girl.

“Inserting the last word right before the disappearing act.. Cheap, Miss Tonic. Very cheap! Well, I am warning you now, girl, there’s a whole slew of pain coming your way..”, he said darkly and drank his own vial..

 

It was the strangest sensation he had ever felt.

It was like his whole body was flying apart into tiny, dust-sized bits! He felt the hair on his bushy head rise on their ends, accept he had no hair left either. Every part of him just.. puffed into smoke, and he got carried off with the slightest wind.

Now all he had to do was somehow steer himself in the general direction of the inn, preferably away from the scores of civic guards.

✱ ✱ ✱

Had a good evening, did you?” asked Cora as she stood in the hallway up the stairs to their rooms in the inn.

Her arms were crossed.

She was scowling at the little hobbit.

And her lips had that pout again.

Brom was smart enough not to comment on how cute Cora looked when she pouted.

Or rather, when she pouted while she was angry!

“Ummm.. Had a good evening yourself, did you?”, replied Brom, as he peered into their room.

 

The room was a wreck!

Everything, including bits of the floorboards, the windows, the window sills, the curtains, the flower pots, the walls, the feather bed, the nightstand, the lamps.. were either broken to bits or were cracked beyond repair. Feathers from the bed matres and the former pillows floated about and covered everywhere while food crumbs, empty and broken plates, bowls, and further cracked mugs and bottles were tossed and scattered haphazardly.

“This is not mere destruction.”, thought Brom in awe. “This is very nearly art! I could literally write an epic on this!”

 

“What did you do, Brom Bumblebrim?”, she fumed from her nose as she loomed over the hobbit, glaring down at him with her glacial blue eyes.

“Again with the ultimatum name use! What is it with my name and ultimatums, girl?”, asked Brom, frowning a bit. “And, I could ask you the same thing, Cora Sleet!.. What did you two do here?”

“We had a girls night. What does it look like? Seressa said we had to wreck the room at the end, so we did.. Was fun like I never had in my life!”, she replied seriously.

“And did you wear pinks too? I know for a fact, neither of you had pajamas!”, smirked Brom.

 

Cora’s eyes blazed and her face pinked.. just a little.. Barely visible, really, and if Brom hadn’t known the barbarian girl for as long as he had, he would have totally missed it.

 

“So.. how did you like it? The pinks, I mean..”, he asked blandly, and secretly kicked himself for having missed perhaps the only chance he would have ever gotten to see a Cora Sleet in Seressa’s mini pinks!

“It was a bit drafty but otherwise comfy!”, she replied with a straight face.

“Any chance for me to—?”, he asked.

“Never happen!”, Cora replied and now she really was scowling. “WHAT. DID. YOU. DO. BROM? We left you so you can calm Tonic. Not make her cry more!”

Brom sighed. He’d really wanted this to be kept between himself and the gnomic girl. Just to preserve her dignity, if nothing else. He didn’t want the cute little demon, as she at times became, to be seen as a ‘break down’ or a ‘cry baby’ and hence, an unreliable ‘loose end’, but there was no going around Cora when she got stubborn as she did now.

“Best way is to pull at it fast and sharp, and get it over with.”, he thought, took a deep breath, and spoke his piece.

 

“Before, she was crying for dubious and barely justifiable reasons.. I, on the other hand, gave her a genuine reason, so now, she is crying for real!”, said Brom and sure as he was a short, bushy-haired hobbit, his voice was now quite low, unsophisticated, and kind. “I am sorry Cora, but the current storm is inevitable. Once it blows, however, she will be done. She will then thank me because she will be feeling much, much better, and be stronger for it!”

 

Cora looked down at the hobbit. But the ice in her glacials were gone and she was looking at him, not with her looming glare, but with the one that said..

‘You and I..’

‘We are equals.’

 

“Something happened.”, she murmured softly.

“No.. Maybe..”, Brom replied evasively.

“Must I drag it out of you, my friend?”, she said with part annoyance, part amusement, and part.. wonder, perhaps?

“I’d rather you didn’t. This one isn’t about me, Cora.. Please.. Let this one go..”, he said without looking up at her.

“Grilled you, did she? Alright, then, go.. You look beat. Missed me in pinks, though.”, she smirked.

“Yea. Missed a lot in pinks tonight.”, he mumbled quietly and left for his room.

✱ ✱ ✱

Tonic, luv..”, said Seressa softly. “Do tell me what’s wrong. It pains me to see you thus.”

Seressa had silently entered the room they had planned on staying that evening like a whisper. She had skimmed the wooden floor, went over to the large, feather bed, scooped up her pair, and cuddled her in her arms.

And like a broken little girl, Tonic had clung onto her very tall, very dark pair and shook violently as she’d wept.

“Tell me, luv. I am your pair. We share.. Share me your hurt.. Please..”, she’d said into her ear.

Arcantonic Palecog clung to pair, spluttering with uncontrollable manic and desperate tears, unable to form words.

“He saved him.. He brought him back!”, was the only thing Seressa could discern out of her.

As to who had saved whom, or brought who back, Tonic’s comprehensibility had ended there.

Clutching something in one hand, she’d wept and wept until she’d slumbered right there in her pairs arms like a cotton doll, as the exhausting venture of the night, unbeknownst to her pair, had finally caught up to her.

Seressa had hugged her pair to her heart’s content, long, long past her slumber with all the love and compassion she could muster, then sighed, “My little luv. You mean the world to me. Please understand that.. And never cry. Be happy!“.

She got up, and lightly limped as she carried her pair, and slowly put her into her bed.

“Hmm..”, she frowned. “I could have sworn I had taken her shoes off before..”

Being careful with the left one, she unlaced her little, cup-sized boots, took them off, and put them down near the bed.

Then she went to the wardrobe and pulled down a heavy quilt and covered her pair with it. Tonic looked more like a sad little kitten, curled up the way she had. Even smaller, the way she slept in a feather bed six times her size and eight times her length.

Seressa walked up to the window and pulled the curtains and closed them. The sun would dawn soon and her pair needed sleep. So did she, for that matter.

The very tall, very dark girl wondered if her pair would mind if she curled right next to her. The feather bed was certainly big enough and the idea appealed to her.

It had been one hell of a night. If she’d known girls nights was this much fun, she’d have patronized Tonic into one, years ago. She did feel a bit guilty though. Her pair had been stuck here and crying all night while she and Cora had partied like there was no tomorrow. Seressa felt like she’d abandoned her pair at a moment of her dire need.

Then she inevitably smiled.

Damn, that barbarian girl knew how to party, though!

She thought she would also have to find a proper way to thank the hobbit, Brom, as well, for keeping Tonic company while she and Cora had dismantled a goodly part of the inn. Seressa loved her pair, but she was not totally blind to her shortcomings, either. She didn’t need to bet to guess her pair had probably made the hobbit’s life miserable during his stay with her.

 

Tonic sighed in her sleep and lost grip of the thing in her clutch. It rolled off the bed and dropped on the floor.

Seressa looked down and frowned.

It was a very, very old, tattered, and crumbled scroll now.

And it looked vaguely.. familiar somehow.

Seressa had a very good memory for things; what people said, their faces, and objects she’d seen, which was why she’d rarely bothered taking any notes back at the academy. She could recite the things her tutors and professors had said almost verbatim, and identify an innumerable variety of objects and readily label them.

It sure had drawn the envy of many of the other students to no end. Seressa had given them a good lesson on ‘humanity’ that being pretty and somewhat ‘silly’ and ‘honestly vain’, didn’t equivalate to ‘stupid’.

Seressa liked feeling ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful’, and ‘pretty beautiful’, damit..

So, there!

 

Deep down, though, she knew her appearance was mere ointment for the blunt void she felt at never to have felt the love she desperately wanted. The love she wanted had to emanate from a man like the heat from the core of an oven. Like it had to be something that was tangible.

The only problem with that was, the oven was there, men just weren’t emanating the fire.

Only.. temperamental and ephemeral sparks..

Men, it seemed, were definitely into her. And that’s about it. They were never interested in what went through her mind, nor her heart. And none of them wanted a dark, lumbering klutz of a girl with horns, a tail, and a fetish for pinks looming over them for a mate. Only as a plaything, at best..

A curio.

Might as well be an obsidian doll!

Which is what she was now.

She didn’t mind the ‘play’ part. She was very nearly sure it’d be fun. But it was the ‘thing’ that turned the whole idea stale. She just refused to be a ‘thing’ for anyone.

And no one worthy should be seeing her as a thing anyway, right?

She’d gone after the pretty ones. When that failed, she’d gone after the smart ones.. Apparently, whether they were pretty or smart, neither equivalated to ‘heart’, where men were concerned.

But then, what did? What did really equivalate to a heart?

Seressa felt bitterly cheated in life.

And sorely confused.

She was given all these amenities.

They just weren’t of any use..

She perpetually felt like she was a beautiful flower who only attracted pests and wasps, but never the bumblebee..

 

She sighed, and silently she reached down and picked up the rather worn scroll and carefully, tenderly, even, she unrolled it, and with a shocked expression, she read the very old and tattered scroll that had somehow been preserved through centuries, persevered against impossible odds, and had traveled all the way from the depths of Ritual Forest, through a bloody, demon-infested war zone, to here, to find its way back to her pair..

 

“Dear, dear Bumblebrim..”, Seressa said softly with brimming eyes, and a curvy little smile, as she finally figured the ‘who’ in ‘whom’, and remembered too, when and where she had seen the old scroll before; some relative eight hundred years ago, when they were waiting for Tonic, and the Prince Gordigon had given this letter, rolled into a scroll, carelessly laced, but not cased, in the hopes that the ‘courier’ herself would read it!

“I have no idea how you did it, but you have given back my pair a life, and a world of joy.. Thank you, for you are truly, and inexplicably amazing, luv.”