High Lady Agnlenna Sunsear! Sizi burada görmek gerçekten pek şaşırtıcı. Bir grup ‘insanın’ hayatını kurtarmak için kendinizi tehlikeye atıyor oluşunuz bir yana, burada, bu yanan şehirde hala bulunduğunuzu görmek ayrıca hayret verici. Sizi Bari Na-ammen’de, kendi şehrinizi müdafaa ederken bile düşünemiyorum..”, der on-on iki kişi kalmış küçük muhafız birliğinden biri.
Anglenna sesi tanır ve yüzü buz gibi bir ifadeye bürünür..
..buz gibi ve bıkkın.
“Bir bu eksikti..”, diye sessiz bir hışımla burnundan solur.
Muhafızlar tedirgin bir şekilde bir birlerine, aralarında kendisine ‘bir bu eksikti’ diye hitap edilen adama, ve az evvel —ve muhtemelen sonları olacak iki Orken mangasından birisini vahşi bir kıyımla doğrayan iri adam ve ince, ‘zarif’ kıza, diğerini ise harlayan bir ateş halkasında kül eden, uzun boylu, platin-sarısı saçlı high elf kadına bakarlar.. ve ivedilikle kenara çekilirler.
“Abla?”, diye meraklı bir ifadeyle sorar Lorna.
“Abla.. Size ‘abla’ diye hitap edip samimi saygı ve gerçek sevgi gösterebilecek sadece bir kişi düşünebiliyorum, ‘saygıdeğer’ High Lady Anglenna.. O da Prenses Alor’Nadien ne’dir.”, der sesin sahibi ve muhafızların açtığı aralıktan, hafif dalgalı altın saçlı, derin mavi gözleri, biçimli geometrik hatları ve kalın kaşları ile muhtemelen pek çok kadının kalbini kırmış bir adam öne çıkar.
Anglenna ise öne çıkan bu yakışıklı, yakıcı ve çarpıcı adamı şuracıkta kül etsem da uzun, anlamsız, vakit kaybı ve bıktırıcı bir konuşmayı, hiç başlamadan bitirsem mi acaba, der gibi süzer.
Ancak, “Efendi Largo..”, diye tekrar burnundan solumayı tercih eder.
“Haş Teyze?”, diye bu sefer de Udoorin sorar. “Kimdir bu adam?”
Anglenna’nın kendisine ‘Efendi Largo’ diye hitap ettiği adam, ‘Haş Teyze’ ifadesini duyunca yüzü mutlu bir şekil alır ve ‘fırk’lar.
“‘Haş Teyze’.. Bunun sizi ne denli çileden çıkardığını ancak tahmin edebiliyorum, Anglenna.. Görmek için para bile verirdim ve eminim her kuruşuna da değerdi.”, der Largo sırıtarak.
Udoorin ellerindeki baltaları daha sıkı kavrar ve çok hafif bir şekilde Anglenna ve Lorna’ya doğru meyleder ve onun bu hareketi, Largo denen adamın gözünden kaçmaz.
“Buna gerek olduğunu sanmıyorum, Efendi Udoorin. Yada size ‘Prens’ Udoorin diye mi hitap etmeliyim?”, diye bu sefer de genç adama sırıtır.
Udoorin’in bir kaşı kalkar.
“Prens olduğumun farkında değildim..”, der sessiz bir tehditle.
“Prenses Alor’Nadien ne’nin müstakbel nişanlısının, nihai olarak bir prens olacağı sonucuna varmak çok da zor bir çıkarım değil, genç Udoorin Shieldheart.. Baban nasıl? Sağlığı yerindedir, umarım..”, diye sakin bir üslupla konuşur Largo.
“Kimsin sen?”, diye sessizce gürler Udoorin.
“Bu adam..”, der Anglenna, “..Ajan Largo. Kendisi ARİS’ten.”
“Aaa.. Bu ayrıntıyı sizinle paylaştığımı hiç hatırlamıyorum saygıdeğer hanımefendi.”, der Largo alınmış bir sesle.
Anglenna adama uzun bir an bakar.
“Silah kaçakçısı?.. SİLAH KAÇAKÇISI?! Kendini bana bir silah kaçakçısı olarak tanıttığında buna gerçekten inanacağımı düşünecek kadar aptal olamazsın, Ajan Largo.”, diye gözlerini kısmış bir şekilde adamı süzer.
“Kişi umut edebilir, öyle değil mi?”, diye sırıtır Largo.
“Umut, sadece senin gibi ahmaklar içindir.”, diye tiksintisini hiç saklamadan ifade eder high elf kadın.
“Buna alındım.”, der Largo. “Nevarki, Arashkan’ın bu halini göz önünde bulundurursak, bir ahmak olduğum, sanıyorum isabetli bir tespit. Şimdi.. İsterseniz Orken manga ve timlerinin cirit attığı burada değil, daha makul ve tercihen kapalı bir yerde konuşalım isterseniz..”
“Ya istemezsek?”, diye kaşları çatılı bir şekilde hırlar Udoorin ve Anglenna’nın önüne geçer. “Bizim yapacak işlerimiz var ve gereksiz konuşmalarla harcayacak vaktimiz yok.”
Anglenna’nın iki kaşı da kalkar ve arkasında durduğu genç adamın kendisini sahiplenişi hayretle seyreder.
“Yapacak ‘işiniz’.. her ne ise bunu yardım olmaksızın yapma ihtimaliniz nedir, genç Udoorin. Siz bu adamları kurtardınız. Bundan dolayı müteşekkirim. Vakitli gelişiniz olmasaydı, muhtemelen hepsi şu anda ölmüş olurdu. Bizden size bir zarar gelmez. Ancak şehirden ivedilikle ayrılmanızdan sonra, sayınız azalmış olarak tekrar geri dönmüş olmanız, merak uyandırmıyor değil.”, der Largo. Sonra da, “Hele buradaki saygıdeğer Anglenna hanımefendiyle geri dönmüş olmanız.. bazı soruları da beraberinde getiriyor..”
Anglenna sesini çıkarmaz..
..ve Lorna’ya küçük bir bakış atar.
Largo’nun gözünden bu da kaçmaz ve ‘enteresan’ bulduğu bir cihaza, yada ‘zamazingo’ya bakar gibi, tek kaşı kalkmış bir şekilde Anglenna’ya bakar.
“İlginiz ve koşullar altındaki misafirperverliğinizden ötürü müteşekkiriz, Efendi Largo. Sizden tek dileğim, işimizin çok uzun sürmemesi, zira vakit hususunda kaçınılmaz bazı kısıtlamamız var.”, der Lorna samimi bir üslupla.
“Leydim. Anlayışınız ve zarafetiniz, hakkınızdaki söylentileri fakir bırakıyor. Eşsiz güzelliğiniz ise kelimelere sığmaz. Lütfen, bu taraftan..”, der Largo ve nazikçe onları ve muhafızlarla birlikte seri adımlarla yanan şehrin doğu yakasına doğru yönlendirir.
Giderlerken toz ve dumandan zorlukla seçilen, Arashkan şehrinin merkezindeki koca sarayı görürler.
Görebildikleri kısmı itibariyle sarayın duvarlarında ciddi hasar ve yarıklar mevcuttur ve kulelerinden bazıları da kapkara duman eşliğinde harlanarak yanmaktadır.
“Birinci Lord, Princeps Kaladin?”, diye sorar Lorna yüzünde samimi merak ve korkuyla.
“Kendisinden haber alamadık ancak öldürüldüğüne dair dedikodular var. Sizinle karşılaşmadan önce bizler saraya sızmaya çalışıyorduk ancak Orken’ler bölgeyi fena halde sarmış durumdalar ve içeriden gelen çatışma sesleri ve patlamalara bakılırsa, mücadele hala devam ediyor. Princeps Kaladin’in kendisi olmasa da, en azından ve hayatta kalan küçük yeğenini kurtarmayı umut ediyorduk.”, diye ciddi bir ifadeyle cevap verir Largo.
“Princeps Kaladin’in oğlu ve kızlarına ne oldu?”, diye solgun bir ifadeyle sorar prenses.
“Oğlu, babası Kaladin’den önce, saldırının başladığı gece öldürüldü. Kızları ise zehirlenerek öldürüldüler.. Gar Thalot’un kendisi tarafından. Bu da Arashkan tahtına varis olabilecek sadece iki isim bıraktı bize..”, der Largo ve gizleyemediği bir hiddetle Anglenna’ya bakar. “Biri pek hürmetkar, sevgi dolu bir hanımefendi olan Felisia Fremeir adındaki yeğeni ve Korodin adındaki diğer yeğeni.. Ne yazık ki Leydi Felishia Fremeir, bir kaç yıl önce evinde öldürülmüş olarak bulundu. Dolayısıyla Korodin tek varis ve kendisi daha sekiz yaşında..”
“Çok üzgünüm Efendi Largo. Princeps Kaladin’i şahsen tanımasamda, babam kendisi hakkında her zaman iyi şeyler söylerdi. Oğlu Haradith ile bir sefer karşılaşmışlığım oldu. Saygımı cezbeden, zeki ve umut vadeden bir gençti. Kendisi, kız kardeşleri Ariles ve Ylara ile beni, High Spires’a geçen gelişimde ziyaret etmişlerdi. Genç ve toy bir prensese, bu alicenap davranışlarıyla büyük nezaket göstermişlerdi.”, der Lorna esefle.
Largo sesini çıkarmaz.
Uzun ve sessiz bir yürüyüşten sonra Largo, yanındaki şehir muhafızlarıyla durur.
“High Spires?”, diye hayretle sorar Anglenna.
“Evet. An itibariyle şehirde en güvenli yer burası. High Spires’ın efendisi Philius’un burada bildiğimiz, üç bine yakın askeri var. İki bin dokuz yüz doksan sekiz, kesin konuşmak gerekirse. Kanunen kendisine izin verilen asker sayısı bu. Ancak içeride bunun en az iki katı askeri olduğunu biliyorum. Princeps Kaladin bu konuda sesini çıkarmamayı tercih etmişti, çünkü Ri Grandaleren’e, dolayısıyla da Philius’a güvendi. Dahası, High Spires büyülü korumalarla çevrili.”, diye cevap verir Largo mekanik bir şekilde.
“Efendi Largo..”, der Anglenna, çekimser bir sesle. “Ben..”
“Sizin High Spires’dan, Philius’un kararı üzerine men edildiğinizi biliyoruz, saygıdeğer Anglenna.. Nevarki koşullar değişmiş durumda ve Philius’un, eşi ve halkıyla Arashkan’dan sağ salim çıkarabilmesi için bizimle iş birliği yapması gerekliydi ve kendisi bu konuda onurlu bir şekilde de sözünü tuttu. Buraya kaçak olarak sızdırdığı asker ve okçuların büyük bir kısmı şu anda şehrin kuzeyindeki muhafız birliği kampına yardım için gönderdi. Oradaki sekiz bine yakın muhafızı ve o bölgede hayatta kalmış halkın rıhtıma kaçabilmeleri için bir güvenlik koridoru oluşturmayı umut ediyor.”, diye açıklar Largo, sonra dişlerini gıcırdatarak ekler, “İçiniz rahat etsin, hanımefendi. Hayatta sizin için en önemli şeye herhangi bir zarar gelmemesi için elimizden geleni yapacağız..”
“Hayatta benim için neyin en önemli olduğunu bildiğinizi pek sanmıyorum, Efendi Largo.”, diye serin bir şekilde cevap verir Anglenna.
“Aaaa.. sizi tanıyan herkes, hayatta sizin için en önemli şeyin ne olduğunu bilir, hanımefendi.”, der Largo ve high elf kadına nahoş bir şekilde sırıtır.
“Neymiş, bildiğinizi sandığınız şey?”, diye tek kaşı kalkmış bir şekilde sorar Anglenna.
Largo bir omzunu silker.
“Kendiniz, hanımefendi. Kendiniz..”, diye cevap verir.
“Bu da beni gerçekte ne kadar az tanıdığınızı gösteriyor, Efendi Largo..”, diye soğuk bir sesle hışmeder Anglenna.
Largo tekrar omzunu silker.
“Sizi ne kadar tanımış olmamın artık bir önemi yok, hanımefendi, ve açıkçası umrumda da değil. Arashkan varken bu önemliydi ve eğlenceliydi.. Ama Arashkan artık yok ve oyun da bitti.!”
✱ ✱ ✱
Udoorin hiçbir tereddüt göstermez.
Dev balatasını kaptığı gibi fırlatır ve balta ölümcül bir ark çizer..
..ve elf muhafızın göğsünü, omurgasına kadar açar..
Anglenna ise ondan sadece iki saniye kadar gecikir ve bir şeye uyanmış gibi aksi istikamete döner..
..ve silik yeşil gözlerinde vahşi bir kıvılcım çakar.
Kendi tarafından saldıran diğer elf hedefine iki adım kala birden çıra gibi alev alır, elindeki uzun, eğimli kılıcı düşürür ve kulak çınlatan bir çığlıkla yere yıkılır. Elf, bir dakika boyunca ağzından, gözlerinden, burnundan ve kulaklarından ateş kusar ve söndüğünde yerde sadece sıcaktan kuruyup çatırdamış kara kemikler ve bir yığın halinde kül kalmıştır!
Largo eşliğinde Prenses Lorna, Udoorin ve Anglenna, High Spires’ın girişine vardıklarında onları üç bine yakın tam teşkilatlı high elf asker karşılamış ve anında prenseslerini tanımışlardı.
Üç bine yakın elf asker, bir anda dizlerinin üstüne çökmüş ve sessiz bir saygı ile selama geçmişlerdi.
İlk ayağa kalkan, neredeyse bir ay önce karşılaştıkları manga komutanı Hariadin’den başkası değildi.
Hariadin, Prensesini saygıyla selamlamış ve kısa, keskin bir emirle askerleri, High Spires’a açılan bir ‘koridor’ oluşturmuşlardı.
Prenses, Udoorin, Anglenna, Largo ve şehir muhafızları High Spires’a girerken saldırı gerçekleşmişti..
Birliğinin içinden üç elf bir anda Prenses Lorna’ya saldırmıştı!
Sonuncusunu ise Largo, geçmiş yaşından beklenmedik bir çeviklik örneği göstererek elfin kılıcını, kolunu boydan boya yarması pahasına saptırır ve muhatabının adem elmasına yumruğunu indirir..
Elf yerinde bir and tökezler, sonra nefesi kesilmiş bir şekilde yere devrilir.
“HAYIR!“, diye kati bir sesle emreder Largo ve suikastçıya inmekte olan kılıçlar bir anda dururlar.
“Canlı.. Onu canlı istiyorum!”, der ajan, sıkılmış dişleri arasından.
“Manga komutanı Hariadin! Elflerinizin neden kutsal prensinizi hedef aldığını bana açıklamak ister misiniz?”, diye kapkara bir suratla hırlar Udoorin.
Kaşla göz arasında gerçekleşen saldırı ve karşıt saldırı karşısında bir an dona kalan Hariadin, olayın gerçek tekabülüne uyanıverir.
“Hanımım..”, diye zorlukla hiddetine hakim olur bir sesle konuşur. “Olanlardan dolayı sizden şahsen özür dilerim. Bu.. bu kabul edilemez bir durum.. Bu askerleri yıllardır tanıyorum. Üçü de fevkalade çalışkan, aklı başında, bu güne kadar hiçbir taşkınlıkları olmayan, emir komuta zincirine sadık adamlardı!”
“—Ve annemin de köstebekleriydiler..”, diye sessiz bir nefretle ekler Anglenna. “Prenses Alor’Nadien ne.. Sizin ivedilikle ana binaya girmeniz gerekiyor. Annemin verdiği son emri hatırlıyorsunuz, değil mi?”
Bütün olup bitenleri hayret ve sonrasını da kahrolmuş bir ifadeyle seyreden Lorna sesini çıkarmadan, bir elini Udoorin’in koluna yaslar ve High Spires’a girerler.
Onları şehir muhafızları, acı ve kan kaybından zorlukla ayakta duran Largo’nun diğer koluna girip destek olan Anglenna takip eder.
“Bu benim için biraz utanç verici bir durum.”, diye inler Efendi Largo.
“Neden? Eminim sarhoş halini taşıyan ilk kadın ben değilim.”, diye soğuk bir ifadeyle tıslar Anglenna.
“Sorun da orda. Ben hayatta asla sarhoş olmadım.”, der Largo sıkılmış dişleri arasından.
“Sorun nedir o zaman?”, diye sorar Anglenna, ama bir yandan da soluk gözleriyle etrafı süzer.
“Utanç verici olan, sizin beni taşıyor olmanız..”, der adam mutsuz bir ifadeyle.
“Kes sesini Largo. Bilmelisin ki senden hiç hoşlanmıyorum. Ve her Arashkan’a geldiğimde peşime köpeklerini takmandan da hiç hoşlanmamıştım.”, diye hışmeder elf kadın.
“O ‘köpekler’ sadece sadakatlerinin gereğini yapıyorlardı. Tıpkı senin gibi. Aradaki farkı açıklamama gerek var mı?”, der Largo sessizce ama sesinde pek az kin vardır artık.
Belli ki bilinçli bir şekilde yaptığı seçim, dolayısıyla da seçtiği ‘taraf’, o kadar kolay kabul görmeyecektir.
Açıkçası high elf asilzade bunu beklemiyor değildi, zira Anglenna Sunsear pratik, zeki ve hayata dair pek az hayalperest düşleri olan bir kızdır. Babası Selvius Brightleaf’in ani ve beklenmedik ölümü, ona bütün ‘mutlu’, ‘güzel’ ve ‘umut’ içeren düşünceleride yok etmişti ve annesi Angrellen’de bunun böyle kalması için elinden geleni ardına koymamıştı.
Yinede.. etrafındakilerin kendisine gösterdikleri kuşku, itibarsızlık ve neredeyse açık nefret, kızın canını yakıyordu.
Ve işin en ironik yanı ise, halen annesinin kuklası olduğu zamanlar da dahil, her zaman kendisine güvenen.. hayır, güvenmeyi seçen.. ve seven tek kişi, annesinin bütün husumetinin odağı olan kişinin kendisiydi;
Prenses Alor’Nadien ne..
..ve onun yanından ayrılmayan, daha bir ay öncesine kadar ‘aptal’ ve ‘hödük’ olarak gördüğü genç Udoorin.. Dorin.. Rin.. denen çocuktu!
‘Tencere-Kapak!’, diye mırıldanır Anglenna. ‘İkisi de ya kaçık, ya aptal, ya saf yada enayi..’
Sonra platin sarısı kaşları çatılır.
Kaçık? Belki.. Biraz.. Muhtemelen..
Özellikle de ikisinin mütemadiyen, ‘kol kola’ ve ürkütücü bir cesaretle en önden düşmanlarının arasına dalmaları göz önünde bulundurulduğunda..
Ama aptal, saf yada enayi değil.
Dürüst ve.. samimi..
..ve Anglenna birden High Woods’un neden bir yarı elfi ‘kalbi’ olarak seçtiğine ‘gerçekten’ anlayıverir..
..ve zincirleme kaza gibi Anglenna bir şeye daha ayılır..
High Woods’un, Prenses Alor’Nadien ne’yi ‘kalbi’ olarak seçmesiyle prensesin de Udoorin denen çocuğu ‘kalbi’ olarak seçmesinin altında yatan sebepler gerçekte aynıdır!
“İnanılır gibi değil!”, diye ünler Anglenna acı bir hayretle. “Bunca zamandır hep gözümün önündeydi ve ben göremedim bile..”
“Efendim?”, diye sorar Largo.
“Hiç hayatınızda, gözünüzün önünde olup da fark edemediğiniz muhteşem bir şey oldu mu, Efendi Largo?”, diye sorar Anglenna.
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.
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.
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 the 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.
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 Felisia 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.
A few years later, a young half-elf thief named Darly ‘Darlius’ Dor searching for a means to avenge his unspoken lover, the Lady Felisia 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.
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..
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!
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..
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..
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 passed 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 Queenof High Woods, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist Shieldheart was already gone. What stood here, was nothing but her shade.
They had given their all.
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 hour’s 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!”
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.
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 were 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..
“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 wonderfulgirl 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, 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.
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.
“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, 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.”
“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.”
“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.
“Never.. mind.. Not a story.. for now..”, Brom said with a harsh scowl.
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 a 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..
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..
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.”
BY ALL MEANS, PLEASE READ FURTHER AND TOTALLY RUIN A PERFECTLY AWESOME MYSTERY
Bu hikaye, Anglenna Sunsear’ın Arashkan şehrine, annesi High Lady Angrellen’in First Lord, Princeps Kaladin’e verilmek üzere gönderdiği hediyenin takibi için, High Spires efendisi Philius Silveroak’u ziyaretinden sadece birkaç gün önce gerçekleşir.
Seni tekrar görecek miyim, Darling?”, diye kedi gibi mırlar orta yaşlarındaki uzun bukleli sarışın kadın.
Daha tam olarak uyku uyuşukluğundan silkinememiş olan alımlı kadının gözleri hoş bir şekilde kayıktır ve üstünde, dağılmış, ince bir gecelik dışında pek de bir şey yoktur..
“Tabii ki, en güzelim!”, diye gülümseyerek karşılık verir, önündeki kadından en az on beş yaş daha genç olan yakışıklı çocuk.
“Eminim bunu beraber olduğun bütün kadınlara söylüyorsundur.”, der kadın, sesinde çok hafif bir hayıflanmayla.
“Sadece en güzellere..”, der genç adam.
Kadın, önünde sırıtarak duran yakışıklı gencin gözlerindeki samimiyeti görünce içi biraz olsun rahatlar..
Gerçekte Felishia Fremier, Arashkan zenginleri ya da aristokratları arasında ne en genç olanıdır, ne de en güzeli. Yaşı otuzun üstündedir ve hayatı tam anlamıyla ve tamir edilemez bir şekilde kırıktır. Ama en azından ve bir geceliğine de olsa, şu anda olduğu gibi— girdiği pencereden çıkmakta olan genç onu, kendi kategorisinde bile ‘en’ güzel olarak görmüş, görmese de, bir yalan olarak bunu söyleme nezaketini göstermiştir.
Bu bile, yaşadıkları geceden daha kıymetlidir Felishia Fremier için.
Darly Dor, pencerenin diğer tarafındaki hanımefendinin elini, tam bir centilmene yakışır şekilde öper.. ve kendisini üç katlı malikanenin camından yer çekimine bırakır ve gözden kaybolur.
✱ ✱ ✱
O kadına aşık olduğunu söylemeyeceksin, değil mi evlat?”
Darly, az önceki dramatik ayrılışından beri, yanındaki yaşlı hırsızla beraber sessizce yürümektedir.
Gün daha tam olarak doğmamıştır, dolayısıyla bölge şerifi, adamları ve daha da önemlisi diğer hırsızlardan emin bir şekilde loncaya, sırtlarındaki ‘kaldırılmış’ malları içeren çuvallarla yürümektedirler.
“Hayır”, der Darly. “Sadece..”
“O cümleyi bitirme istersen, evlat. Aslına bakılırsa hiç başlama bile.. O bir hedefti. Başka bir şey değil. Yaptığımız basit bir ticaretti, o kadar. O ‘bi şeyler’ aldı, bizde karşılığını tahsil ettik. Nokta.”, der yaşlı hırsız, genç adama.
“Biliyorum, efendim. Sadece, o kadını tanıyordum.. Eskiden. Eski hayatımda. İyi biriydi ama çok yanlış kişiye aşık oldu ve bu onu bitirdi. Kırdı!.. O zamandan beri yalnız. Hep yalnız ve acı içinde. Ve benim ona yaptığım, yıllar önce onu kıran, o şerefsiz piç kurusundan hiç de farklı olmadı.
Felishia hiçbir zaman çok da zeki bir kadın olmadı. Ama gündüzleri oturup beraber keyifle yemek yiyip muhabbet edebileceğin, yüzünde salak bir gülümseme, kolunda o kız, gezip tozabileceğin, geceleri usulca fısıldaşıp onun sıcacık kalbine sevgiyle sarılabileceğin ve mutlu, güzel bir gün yaşamış olarak yanında uyuyabileceğin, dürüst, samimi, içten, her şeye rağmen başkalarına karşı iyimser, kendisine uzanıp dokunmak için can attırtan ve buna da müsaade eden cinsten bir kadındı. Felishia Fremeir’in her zaman ve tamamen kendisine özel bir yer çekimini vardı. En güzeli de, asla senden o muhteşem gülümseyişini esirgemezdi.
Hayatımda, etrafı onunki kadar kalabalık olup da gerçekte onun kadar yalnız bir başkasıyla karşılaşmadım. O kız, o hergelenin ona yaptığını da, benim ona yaptığımı da hak etmiyordu..”, diye, sessizce ve kararmış bir yüzle yürümeye devam eder Darly.
“Bu yüzden sana o cümleye hiç başlama, demiştim.”, der yaşlı hırsız. “Ama içini rahat ettirecekse, o kadın hakkında yaptığın tarife bakılırsa gerçek bir hergele olman dışında, seninle o herif arasında çok büyük iki fark var.”
“Varsa da bunları ben göremiyorum, efendim.”, der Darly.
“Birincisi, senin menşeyin belli, dolayısıyla bir piçin kurusu değilsin..”, der yaşlı hırsız, sırtındaki ağır bohçadan dolayı yorulmuş ve nefes nefese kalmış bir şekilde.
Darly acı bir şekilde ‘fırk’lar.
“O kadına hiç bir vaatte bulunmadın —bir gecelik eğlenti dışında.. Onu da yaptın.”, der adam. Sonra, “..Yaptın di mi? Bana çok mutlu gibi görünüyordu!”, diye sırıtır ihtiyar hırsız.
Darly’nin yüzü kızarır ama bir şey demez.
“Aferin sana. Bir erkek her zaman verdiği sözü tutmalı. Özellikle de kadınlara verdiği sözleri.”
✱ ✱ ✱
Felishia Fremier, dağıtılmış odaya öylece bakar.
Solmuş, kerpiç gibi bembeyaz olmuş yüzünde daha herhangi bir ifade oluşmamıştır. Gözleri, ne kadar dolap, ne kadar çekmece varsa açık.. ve boş duran oda da gezer. Neden sonra bulduğu ilk koltuğa, ruhu çekilmişçesine çöker..
Yüzünü ellerine gömer ve hüngür hüngür ağlamaya başlar.
“Neden? Neden bunu bana yaptın, Darling?”, diye inler.
“Çünkü ben basit bir hırsızım, yaşadığımız şey bir yalandı ve sende sadece aptal bir kızsın!”, diye bir monolog cevap verir kızın zihninde..
“Onlar High Woods’dan gelmeydi.. Princeps Kaladin’e verilmek üzere Ri’si adına High Lady Angrellen’in gönderdiği şahsi hediyelerdi!”, diye korku içinde titreyerek ağlar Felishia.
“Bunu bilmiyordum Felishia. Seni iyi hissettirecekse, özür dilerim.”, diye cevap verir, zihnindeki monolog.
“Beni öldürdün, Darling.”
“Bunu asla istemedim, Felishia.”
✱ ✱ ✱
Lanet olasıca kesiciler”, diye, yüzünde çirkin bir ifadeyle küfreder Darly Dor. “Ne zamandan beri Hırsızlar Loncasının kaldırması olduğunu bilmelerine rağmen bizden çalmaya kalkılıyor?! Bilmiyorlar mı, bu aradaki tüm anlaşmalara aykırı. Bir loncanın işine bir başka lonca karışmaz, müdahale etmez, musallat olmaz, onlardan çalmaya kalkmaz.. Eski, sokak çatışmalı günlere mi dönmek istiyorlar? Onlar iyi olabilir ama bizden çok daha fazla var!”
“Boşuna nefes tüketiyorsun, evlat.”, der yaşlı hırsız, yüzünde göstermemeye çalıştığı acı ifadesiyle.
Yaşlı hırsız kalçasına tuttuğu kanlı ve kirli bir bez parçasını, bir yandan üstüne ucuz rom dökerek sabitlemeye çalışmaktadır.
“Neden?”, diye huysuzca sorar Darly.
“Seni duyamazlar..”, diye acıyla buruşmuş bir sırıtışla cevap verir yaşlı hırsız.
Darly yaşlı hırsıza bakar. Neden sonra ‘hıf’layıp yaşlı adamın yanına gelir.
“Ver şunu!”, der ve yaşlı hırsızın elinden kanlı, pis paçavrayı alır.
“Senden çok şey öğrendim, yaşlı sansar. Ama yaralara nasıl müdahale edilir, asla bilmediğin bir şeydi.”, diye söylenir Darly.
“Bu sansar, yaşlı olacak kadar uzun yaşamayı başardı, evlat.”, diye cevabı yapıştırır, ihtiyar hırsız.
“Gel benimle. Seni revire götürelim. Şu pis romu da döküp durma yaranın üstüne. Bi bok işe yaramadığı gibi, yaranın iz bırakmasına sebep olacak.”, der Darly ve yaşlı hırsızı nazikçe kolundan tutup kapıya yönlendirir.
“Eminim kırışık kalçamdaki bir yara izini kimsenin fark edeceğini sanmıyorum.”, diye büzüşük bir şekilde kıkırdar.
“Öyle deme. Yaranın kendisini ‘Büyük Anne’ye’ nasıl açıklayacaksın, asıl sen onu düşün.”, diye sırıtır Darly.
“Bu çok acımsızcaydı, Darly.”, diye çelimsiz, cılız bir sesle cevap verir yaşlı hırsız.
Darly, yaşlı adamı götürmeden önce, manalı bir şekilde odadaki diğer hırsızlara bakar.
“Mallara dokunmayın. Bunlarda bir şey var. Ederleri Felishia’nın sahip olabileceğinden biraz fazla.. Çok daha fazla.”, diye kati bir şekilde talimat verir ve yaşlı efendisini revire götürmek üzere odadan ayrılır.
Aradan bir saat kadar geçmiştir.
Darly, yaşlı hırsızı revirdeki lonca hekiminin kirli ellerine bırakmış, o gece kaldırdıkları malları incelemek için geri dönmektedir.
Kapının önüne geldiğinde odanın biraz fazla sessiz olduğuna ayılır. Fark ettiği diğer şey ise, burnuna gelen pis, lağım kokusuna karışmış yarı pişmiş et kokusudur.
Genç hırsız, temkinli bir şekilde kapıyı aralar ve bir anda daha önce aldığı koku, muazzam bir katla ona çarpar.
Kokudan Darly’nin gözleri yaşarır ve içeride gördüğü şeyin ne olduğunu ilk anda algılayamaz. Algıladığında ise çok geç kalmıştır ve gördüğü şeyi hayatı boyunca asla zihninden silemeyecektir.
Odanın her yerine —yere, duvarlara, tavana— her yerine kanlı, yanmış, yolunmuş ve kopmuş kızıl insan parçaları yapışmıştır. Sanki odanın ortasında bir şey, muazzam bir şiddetle bir anda patlamış ve odadaki herkesi parçalamıştır. Ne var ki, odada bir patlama olduğuna dair hiçbir iz ya da yanık yoktur. Dahası, çaldıkları mallar tertemiz bir şekilde odanın ortasında durmaktadır.
Üzerinden sadece çok hafif bir şekilde tüten koyu bordo, mel’un duman olmasa bile bu katliamın mümessilini tahmin etmek çok da zor değildir.
Darly, arkasından gelen koşturmalara aldırmaksızın öylece odaya, parçalanmış cesetlere ve hepsinin ortasında sessizce duran ‘suçluya’ bakar.
Neden sonra, koşup gelen diğer hırsızların dehşet ve korku dolu çığlıklarıyla kendisine gelir. İstemsizce boğazına kadar gelen ekşi suyu yutkunur ve fısıldar.
“Neye bulaştın, Felishia?”
✱ ✱ ✱
Nereye gidiyorsun, evlat?”, diye tıslar yaşlı hırsız, Darly’nin kolunu tutarak.
“Onu uyarmalıyım!”, diye fısıldar Darly.
“Bu senin sorunun değil, evlat. Bırak peşini.. Burada ‘büyüklerin’ bir oyunu var ve bizim gibi küçük insanları ilgilendirmez!”, diye harlar yaşlı adam.
Odada olanları ve geride kalanları Hırsızlar Loncasındaki bütün hırsızlar görmüş ve dehşet içerisinde kalakalmışlardır.
“Felishia saraydaki sanat eserlerinden, antikalardan ve asilzadelere gelen hediyelerden sorumluydu. Sence o mel’un şey nereye gidiyordu sanıyorsun?”, diye kaşları çatılı bir şekilde sorar Darly.
“Bu bizleri ilgilendirmez, evlat. Bırak gitsin..”, diye ısrarını yineler yaşlı sansar.
“Sence o şey sarayda.. her ne yaptıysa, orada yapmış olsaydı bu bizi etkilemez miydi? Düşün ki bu Princeps’e gönderilmiş olsun ve içerde gördüğün, dokunmamaları söylenmiş olmalarına rağmen kurcalayan bir avuç salak değil de Princeps’in kendisi olsun.. Bunun için suçlu aramayacaklar mı? Sence, “Bu sizin yapacağınız türden bir iş değil, rahat olun!”, deyip bize dokunmayacaklarını mı sanıyorsun. Emin ol bir günah keçisi arayacaklar. Onu buluncaya kadar da bizden yüzlercesini asarlardı..”, diye haşin bir şekilde fısıldar genç adam.
Yaşlı hırsız bir süre sessizce durur.
Neden sonra, “Bazen çok düşündüğünü sana hiç söylemiş miydim?”, der ve Darly’nin kolunu bırakır.
“Müteaddit defa..”, der Darly.
“Git.. Git ve kurtar sevgilini.. Kimsenin seni görmediğinden de emin ol.”, der yaşlı hırsız, yılmış bir şekilde.
“O sevgilim değil..”, der Darly hafif alınmış bir şekilde. “Sadece sevdiğim birisi, o kadar.”
“Ben yaşlı bir ahmak olabilirim ama halk arasında ‘sevdiğin’ bir kadına ‘sevgili’ dendiğini unutmuş olacak kadar da yaşlı bir ahmak değilim.”, der ihtiyar hırsız.
Darly çok kısa bir an sırıtır. Sonra kaşlarını çatar ve kararlı bir şekilde Hırsızlar Loncasının en az bilinen ‘arka kapı’larından birinden, sevgili Felishia Fremier’i uyarmak için sıvışır..
✱ ✱ ✱
Kapı aralanır ve ardında yaşı biraz geçkin, hizmetli kıyafetleri içinde bir adam belirir. Adamın saçları kırlaşmış ve kısa kesimlidir. Koyu mavi gözlerinin kenarları, geride bırakılmış yılların etkisiyle kırışmış ve çatallanmıştır.
“Ben..”, der Darly ve durur. Kendi içinden, ‘Ben ne?!’, diye geçirir..
‘Ben dün gece evin hanımını ayartıp sonra da evini soyan hayvanım!’
“Ben evin hanımının bir tanıdığıyım ve kendisiyle görüşmem gereken önemli bir husus var.”, der.
“Evin hanımı şu anda müsait değil ve kimseyi görmek istemiyor.”, diye soğuk bir şekilde cevap verir hizmetli.
“Lütfen. Konu önemli olmasaydı ısrar etmezdim.”, diye rica eder Darly
Kapının arkasındaki hizmetli tereddüte kalır ve kısa bir anlığına gözleri seyirir gibi olur.
“Bu mümkün de—”, diyerek kapıyı Darly’nin yüzüne kapatmaya kalkar ama genç hırsız keskin çevikliğini ortaya koyar;
Bir ayağını kapının arasına sıkıştırır, sonra da kapıyı aşırı güçle omuzlar ve bunu beklemeyen hizmetli geri düşer..
..ve düşerken Darly çizmesinden çektiği ince, uzun hançerini hizmetlinin gözüne sokar!
Hizmetlinin ağzından hayretle karışık bir acı çığlığı kaçar ama Darly işini yarım bırakmaktan hoşlanan biri değildir; hançeri hizmetlinin gözünden çıkartır ve üç hızlı hareketle adamın boğazına, kalbine ve karnına sokup çıkartır.
Hizmetli yere düşmeden ölmüştür!
..ve kapının arkasında sakladığı diğer elinde tuttuğu geniş ağızlı hançeri de, onunla beraber yere yuvarlanır.
“Seni adi kesici.. Bir hizmetli asla kapıyı yarım açmaz. Kapıya geleni de ya kovar, ya da efendisine bildirir. Kendisi düşünüp karar vermeye kalkmaz zira zenginler ve aristokratlar, kendi kafalarına göre davranan hizmetlilerden nefret ederler. Ayrıca bir aristokrat hizmetlisi saçlarını berberde kestirir, kavgada tutulup çekilemesin diye seninkisi gibi satırla kendisi kesmez.. Ve kapıyı açan hiçbir hizmetli ‘Buyrun.’ demez. ‘Buyrun efendim.’, der. Öğrenin bu ayrıntıları artık!”, der Darly kindar bir şekilde ölü kesiciye.
Sonra kapıyı kapatır ve yukarda karşılaşacağı şeyi bilmesine rağmen, malikanenin geniş merdivenlerine yönelir.
✱ ✱ ✱
Darly, yerde yatan, uzun bukleli sarı saçları her bir yana dağılmış kadına bakar.
Kadının göğsünde kesicinin geniş ağızlı hançeri ebadında bir yarık mevcuttur ve kadının kanı yarıktan hala sızmaktadır.
Darly yavaşça kadının yanına çömelir ve onu yerden kaldırıp kucağına çeker ve onun yüzüne bakar.
Kadının simasını seyrederken, dağılmış, uzun bukleli saçlarını düzeltir sonra da yanağına dokunur.
Kadının yanağı hala yumuşak ve..
Darly’nin içinde bir şeyler kırılır.
Kadının siması bulanıklaşır ve Darly’nin gırtlağından bir hıçkırık kaçar.
“Özür dilerim, Felishia.. Çok, çok özür dilerim..”, der kırık bir sesle.
“Üzülme, güzel Darling. En nihayetinde ben sadece basit, aptal bir kızdım ve yaşadığımız da bir yalandı ..”, diye bir monolog cevap verir Darly’nin zihninde..
“Senden çaldıklarımızın ne olduklarını ve kimin için olduklarını bilmiyordum. Seni uyarmak istedim ama geç kaldım..”, diye inler genç hırsız.
“Bunu bilemezdin ki, Darling.. Seni iyi hissettirecekse, iyi ki de çalmışsın. Farkında olmadan bir savaşı engellemiş oldun.. Bunun için aptal bir kızı kimse özlemez.”, diye cevap verir, zihnindeki monolog.
“Seni öldürttüm, sevgili Felishia..”
“Bunu asla istemedin, Darling.”
Darling; Sevgili/Sevgilim. Felishia Fremeir’in, adını bile bilmediği Darly’ye verdiği isim.
“Do nots w’rry thyself, mine quite beautiful Darling, f’r I was allweyes and m’re a foolish girl with an unhealthy desire f’r a warme heart and delusions of a devotious love.
I have died and nones shalt miss mine hand nor shall I be wont f’r mine tender embrace. But shall I miss thine wh’re I go, mine beautiful Darling, f’r I have lived but a mere night in this world.”
— from the letter Darly found, clutched in Felishia Fremeirs’ hand.
Bu olaydan sonra, ‘kaldırılmış’ malların imhası için odaya giren hırsızlar da feci bir şekilde can verince, büyük paralar karşılığına lonca bir büyücü tutar ancak o ve ondan sonra çağrılan papaz, işi kesin yapabileceğini iddia eden bir druid ve son olarak da işi yapması halinde serbest bırakılacağı garanti edilen bir paladin kanlı et yığınına dönüşünce, hırsızlar odayı mühürler. Odanın civarındaki koridorlar ve odalar boşaltılır ve bulabildikleri her tuzak, büyü, yığma kum torbası, tahta ve çiviyle onları da mühürlerler. Zamanla mühürlü yerler terk edilir ve unutulur.. Uzun aralıklarla mühürlü koridor ve odalardan ürpertici inlemeler, nahoş kokular eşliğinde sürünme sesleri ve mel’un, kahır dolu çığlıklar duyulur.
Bu duruma daha fazla dayanamayan hırsızlar yer değiştirmeye karar verir ve Darly Dor’un, kesicilerin iyi olduklarına, ancak hırsızların sayı olarak çok daha fazla oluşlarıyla ilgili söylemi bir kehanet kabilinde gerçekleşir; arkasında üç yüze yakın ceset bırakan büyük bir sokak, ardından da yer altında gerçekleşen kanlı, uzun çatışmalardan sonra Hırsızlar Loncası, Lanet Piçler olarak bilinen kesiciler loncasını yok eder ve onların merkezine taşınır. Arashkan’da yeni bir kesiciler loncasının ortaya çıkması neredeyse beş yıl alacaktır. Bu süre, Arashkan şehri tarihinde herhangi bir kasıtlı cinayet ya da suikastın gerçekleşmediği tek dönem olacaktır.
Hikayeye, hikayenin konusuna ve içeriğine uygun bulduğum için bu şarkıyı seçtim:
Indila, Dernière Danse
Oh ma douce souffrance Pourquoi s’acharner tu recommence Je ne suis qu’un être sans importance Sans lui je suis un peu paro Je déambule seule dans le métro Une dernière danse Pour oublier ma peine immense Je veux m’enfuir que tout recommence Oh ma douce souffrance
Je remue le ciel le jour, la nuit Je danse avec le vent la pluie Un peu d’amour un brin de miel Et je danse, danse, danse, danse, danse, danse, danse Et dans le bruit, je cours et j’ai peur Est-ce mon tour? Vient la douleur Dans tout Paris, je m’abandonne Et je m’envole, vole, vole, vole, vole, vole
Que d’espérance Sur ce chemin en ton absence J’ai beau trimer, sans toi ma vie n’est qu’un décor qui brille Vide de sens
Je remue le ciel le jour, la nuit Je danse avec le vent la pluie Un peu d’amour un brin de miel Et je danse, danse, danse, danse, danse, danse, danse Et dans le bruit, je cours et j’ai peur Est-ce mon tour? Vient la douleur Dans tout Paris, je m’abandonne Et je m’envole, vole, vole, vole, vole, vole
Dans cette douce souffrance Dont j’ai payé toutes les offenses Écoute comme mon cœur est immense Je suis une enfant du monde
Je remue le ciel le jour, la nuit Je danse avec le vent la pluie Un peu d’amour un brin de miel Et je danse, danse, danse, danse, danse, danse, danse Et dans le bruit, je cours et j’ai peur Est-ce mon tour? Vient la douleur Dans tout Paris, je m’abandonne Et je m’envole, vole, vole, vole, vole, vole, vole
Ah benim tatlı ıstırabım Kavgaya gerek yok tekrar başlıyorsun Fakat ben onsuz sıkıntılıyım Metronun etrafında tek başıma dolanıyorum Büyük acımdan kurtulmak için Son bir dans Uzaklaşmak istiyorum, Her şeye yeniden başlamak istiyorum Ah benim tatlı ıstırabım
Gökyüzünü, günü ve geceyi karıştırıyorum Rüzgarla ve yağmurla dans ediyorum Birazcık sevgi ve balın bir damlasıyla Dans ediyorum dans dans dans dans dans Ve gürültüde koşuyorum ve korkuyorum Bu benim sıram mı? İşte acı geliyor… Bütün Paris’te, kendimi terk ediyorum Ve uzağa uçuyorum Senin yokluğunda bu yolda Yalnızca umut Deneyebileceğim kadar deniyorum, sensiz hayatım yalnızca anlamsız parıltılı bir dekor
Gökyüzünü, günü ve geceyi karıştırıyorum Rüzgarla ve yağmurla dans ediyorum Birazcık sevgi ve balın bir damlasıyla Dans ediyorum Ve gürültüde koşuyorum ve korkuyorum Bu benim sıram mı? İşte acı geliyor Bütün Paris’te, kendimi terk ediyorum Ve uzağa uçuyorum
Bu tatlı ıstırabımda Kimi kırdıysam bedelini ödedim Büyük kalbimin nasıl olduğunu dinle Ben dünyanın çocuğuyum
Gökyüzünü, günü ve geceyi karıştırıyorum Rüzgarla ve yağmurla dans ediyorum Birazcık sevgi ve balın bir damlasıyla Dans ediyorum Ve gürültüde koşuyorum ve korkuyorum Bu benim sıram mı? İşte acı geliyor Bütün Paris’te, kendimi terk ediyorum Ve uzağa uçuyorum