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Kumse Beetles
and
Pixie Dust!

Kumse Beetles
and
Pixie Dust!

Timeline:

With the unexpected help of the half-born, Anglenna finally finds the possible whereabouts of the missing Udoorin Shieldheart and Princess Alor’Nadien ne;

 

The Gull’s Perch…

 

..the home of the Summer Fey
and Queen Titania, herself!

 

This, however, presents issues on its own,
as Mortals, in general, are banned from the Perch,
and half-borns, being part demon, in particular,
are never allowed to even come near
the sacred valley of the Summer Queen..

 

This story takes place shortly after
The Liaison.
and starts at the end of
The Discovery.

 

 

A depressed and depleted procession oozed down the dim halls of Serenity Home Temple as Perigren Ostlanna Temez lead her brothers and sisters down the long, spiraling stairs and into the dim cavernous crypt. 

With a grim expression on his face, Hal Mali followed her as he dragged a pale and drained-looking Cee Lingerith Demelze by the hand.

And right behind them, Hamna Vir slouched with a stubborn expression on her sharp face, as she fiercely hugged the little, slumbering Dar Derune in her arms.

“I could walk.”, came Dar Derune’s slurred voice as his head bobbed back and forth.

“I know you can, love.”, Hamna Vir said kindly, but the fire in her eyes told otherwise. She was a savage, bitter half-born to begin with, and the fact that no other than Titania, the Summer Queen, had backhanded her little Dar Derune just a few moments ago and from as far away as Gull’s Perch, had been like a slap on their collective faces. Sort of like a wake-up call, that there were things much, much more powerful than they were in this Mortal world after all, and that fact, so casually displayed, had hit them all quite hard, quite literally. And that it had been their little Dar Derune on the receiving end had made Hamna Vir, in particular, quite vexed which was putting it rather lightly, for at that very moment, the girl with the sharp features had nothing but murder in her eyes and that it had been the Summer Queen, a being way out of their league for any kind of retribution or retaliation had merely added to the insult.

“You are pulling too hard..”, whimpered a glazed Demelze.

“Ow. I am sorry, Demelze. My bad.”, said Hal Mali and with a swift scoop, he grabbed her, spun her up with a flip, and landed her in his powerful arms. “How’s that?”

“You are just taking advantage of my moment of weakness Hal Mali.. and I am liking it!”, she said, her words garbled and stumbled over each other as she smiled at him with a sloshed and woozy face.

“Aren’t you a darling?”, Hal Mali smiled back.

“I am, aren’t I?”, Demelze swooned.

“Too bad you are not going to remember any of this when you come around.”, he fumed to himself.

“Why don’t you just ask her out Hal?”, Temez asked from ahead.

“Hal? Why do you call me Hal, Perigren Ostlanna Temez?”, asked Hal Mali, a bit confused and hurt. “Have I ever upset or disappointed you in any way that I am not aware of and warrant such admonishment?”

“Never, love. But I have noted the Mortals refer to one other by shortening each other’s names. Thought perhaps we could also try it so we do not stand out when we finally come out in the open.”, she replied.

Hal Mali mused over that, as he unwittingly hugged the befuddled Demelze closer to his chest.

“Let’s see if I have understood this correctly; they not only butcher one another, they also butcher each other’s names?”

“Yes. But do not ask me why, dear. Apparently, either they do not give much importance to names, or they do not believe names have power, or they are merely ignorant. I have been studying them, but I have yet to uncover the exact reasoning behind them. Take Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel Songsteel for example. Rarely have I heard anyone call her by that name. They summon her by saying only Bremorel. Young Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood, on the other hand, calls her fondly as Morel. I have witnessed on one occasion where someone referred to her as just ‘Bree’. She, herself, never calls her mate by his full name either, and summons him as Thomas.”, Temez tried to explain.

“That is heresy, that is.”, Hal Mali said with an ugly face. Then thought for a moment. “Or maybe not. You, my brothers, and my sisters rarely call me Hal Mali Volent Pierce. Much like we rarely call Demelze or Hamna Vir by their full name, either, and it has nothing to do with the power the name has as a whole, but everything to do with practical efficiency.”

“I think you just answered a rather vexing dilemma, dear. You are indeed as practical as you are efficient.”, smiled Temez wanly.

“If any of you calls me Vir, I will haunt you in your dreams until you wet yourselves!”, hissed Hamna Vir.

“We shall pick up this practice but only those of us who want to, and if they are comfortable with the idea. Henceforth, you may call me only Temez.”

“Well. I would rather everyone called me Hal Mali. But I will try my best not to retaliate should any of you calls me Hal. Is that acceptable?”, Hal Mali said dubiously.

“Perfectly, dear.”, Temez smiled again. “Which brings us back to my previous question; Why don’t you ask her out? It’s quite obvious you like Demelze. Actually, pretty much all of us have noticed your rather transparent interest in her. She’d make a troublesome but fiery mate. You would never get bored of life..”

Hal Mali signed.

“Am I truly that obvious?”

“When it comes to Demelze, yes, dear.”, smiled Temez.

“Yup!”, said Hamna Vir.

“Yea..”, slurred Demezle vaguely but it wasn’t clear as to what she was agreeing for her eyes were closed and her slender, diminutive figure danced limply at each step Hal Mali took down the long flight of stairs.

Hal Mali sighed again.

“No point.”, he said a bit depressed. “Demelze despises me.”

“No she doesn’t.”, objected Temez.

“Yes, she does.”, Hamna Vir inserted from the back.

“Hamna Vir!”, said Temez reprovingly.

“What? She does despise him and you know it!”, she snapped irritably.

Temez sighed this time.

“Girl, you are never going to understand the hearts of Mortals nor men if you just say everything that comes to your mind.”

“I have no interest in Mortals and the only heart that matters to me is sleeping over my shoulder. And I don’t say everything that comes to my mind. If I did, I would have said, Demelze makes fun of Hal Mali whenever he’s not around!”, Hamna Vir said waspishly.

Hal Mali’s face deflated and became mournful as he drew Demelze even closer to himself.

“Hamna Vir, dear.”, Temez said.

“What?”

“Do shut up—”

“Why?”

“—just about, NOW?

 

Hamna Vir scowled and gave Temez her best searing gaze.

 

“It’s alright, Perigren… uhhmm.. Temez.. Really. I wasn’t aware she went as far as punning me but I had my suspicions. Guess we don’t all get what we want and that’s the same whether we are in Hell or in the Mortal coil.”, Hal Mali mourned. “I will just have to be happy with the short few moments while she is nice to me like this and in my arms.”

“Don’t be sad, Hal.”, Temez tried to comfort him. “I learned a saying among Mortals that people change. I am not certain if that includes us, but my guestimation is that it does because we all did change. We were in Hell just last month, learning how to sow dissension among Mortals. Now we are among said Mortals and are actually helping them. Had you said then, I would never have believed Demelze would have done what she did for a Mortal’s son, but here we are, and here she paid her trial in pain.. a lot of it.. Give her the chance to change, Hal. I think she deserves that much.”

“Yea, Hal. What she said!”, inserted Hamna Vir with a scowl.

 

The long, spiraling stairs ended and the little group came to a large, steel-lined, heavy-looking double door.

Temez pulled at one of the rings on the door and opened it, revealing a deep, cavernous chamber lined with five hundred years of deceased temple guardians lying in their enclosed, unadorned sarcophagi. Silently, they walked up to the far end and stood before the one that had ‘Demos Lightshand’ chipped on a plaque and fit into its side.

Then they all knelt, Hal Mali still holding Demelze in his arms and Hamna Vir hugging Dar Derune in hers, closed their eyes, and prayed.

 

“Darling Demos.”, Temez whispered. “Again, we have come to thank you, for it was your kind heart that made Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood to also be kind and to accept us at our direst moment of need. Here, he has given us food and shelter, and here, he protects us from unwanted eyes and the ire of sinful men. We have come, today, in hopes of finding wisdom in your presence for we are hurting and we do not know what to do..”

“She means, we are screwed!”, mumbled Hamna Vir from behind, causing Hal Mali to snort.

 

There was a dormant silence while Temez signed in frustration.

Her BFF —Best Fiend Friend, Merisoul Xyrotwo had given the responsibility of their brothers and sisters to her, but hadn’t told her how it was supposed to be done. True, all of them had had extensive training pertaining to Mortals and their ways but said training had gone as far as the Erinyes, Autie Irine had understood them, which was at best, at a most basic level and ‘targeted’ in its sensual in nature. The ‘real world’, as ironic as that sounded, had turned out to be much, much more complicated than any of them had anticipated. They had been here merely a month or so and under the protection and sanction of a temple guardian and Temez sorely wondered what would happen when the said sanction would end, and she had no doubt that in the end, it would because eventually, everyone would have to go their separate ways. The fact that the young Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood had accepted them in the first place had been a grand gesture of just how much he trusted her BFF, even though he barely knew her and she’d once tried to ‘eat’ him and consequently gotten struck by the temple’s protection and branded because the young man had been sorely in love!

 

Temez gritted her teeth.

 

She would hold on!

And hold all her brothers and sisters together and in one piece, safe and sound, just until her Arezme Ara Serraphym, or Merisoul Xyrtwo as Mortals knew her, returned. Then she’d be free to go and find her own young man. The one she had ‘eaten’ many years ago and subsequently had gotten herself burned.

It had come as a colossal surprise to her when she’d found out the ‘boy’ had lived, though damaged.

The ‘eaten’ never survived!

Temez did not understand why that had happened. As far as she knew, it shouldn’t have happened like that at all; the boy to have survived, and her getting burned like that..

Had the boy fallen in love with her, and not just smitten by her rather ravishing countenance and blatantly wanting figure, but truly fallen in love with her in the space of a few, short, heartbeats?

Was that even possible?

As incomprehensible as that sounded to her, apparently, such a senseless infatuation had been, in fact, quite possible.

 

“Come on, doll.”, she fumed and pleaded with her eyes closed. “Please come back and fast. Your brothers and sisters direly need you..”

✱ ✱ ✱

This is rather impressive, Liaison Constance. I don’t remember the last time this office looked so tidy.”, Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart said, though just a tad grudgingly.

Constance tried very hard not to, but failed.. and beamed at him.

“Would you like to see how the new filing system works? Perhaps a demonstration is in order.”, she offered.

“Very well. Master Aager, do get me the drunkard fight involving Franderson vs. Kor’gral, our orc blacksmith apprentice if you will.”, he said.

Aager checked on the relatively short alphabetic list in his hand, got a reference number, cross-referenced it with a second list and got a second reference number from that, then went over to one of the newly crafted ‘drawer shelves’, the one with the second number, pulled it open and ran a quick glance and tugged out a specific scroll and gave it to the sheriff, with a mild grin.

The sheriff cocked an eyebrow at him.

“Alright. Unknown Strangers vs. Udoorin case, then, if you will!”, he said.

Aager repeated the same process but went to a different drawer shelf and pulled out a rather thick roll of many scrolls and brought them over to him.

Standorin gave him a suspicious look.

Constance beamed some more.

“Master Nibletyne Tinkerdome vs. Moorat Maelstrom!”

Aager gave it to him.

“Franderson vs. Demons Lightshand!”

Aager grinned and brought that one over too, in under fifteen seconds.

“Morel and Liala vs. Udoorin, Dervel and Lucious!”

Aager didn’t even bother with the lists nor the drawers for that one. He just pulled it out of his pocket!

“What the..?”, the sheriff said scowling at him.

“Thought you’d ask for that. Had it ready at hand, sir.”, Aager grinned.

“Very well.”, Standorin said, fuming at him. “I will admit this filing system of yours seems to work..”

“..as opposed to looking for a specific case file for more than half an hour at times.. Sir, you really ought to give the Liaison a bit more credit.”, Aager said, meaningfully.

Standorin gave him one of his best scowls, cleared his throat, then turned to the tall, elegant half-born in her long, not quite conservative, but decidedly refrained dress, and said, “Thank you very much for your filing system, Liaison Constance. I… we.. could talk it over lunch, perhaps? I am sure the mayor could also make use of a similar system installed in his offices..”

“But of course, sir. I will have to see their needs and how they segment their files first though.”, Constance said, smiling happily. “In fact, I would like to go see the mayor on this matter at once, If you wouldn’t mind. I shall also drop by the temple to see how things are going with the project you ordered and report its progress to you.”

“Thank you, Liaison Constance. I shall await your findings eagerly.”, Standorin replied with a flushed face.

 

After the tall half-born girl took her leave, Aager turned to the sheriff and looked at him with amusement etched all over his face.

I shall await your findings eagerly?— Really, sir? That one was a tad overdone, don’t you think?”

“I am out of practice, young man. I haven’t dated anyone since.. well.. for a good dozen years and more. Not to mention, Limnia and I never did this dating thing. We just took long, eager walks in the woods, went on patrols together, and counter-ambushed bandits! And we both enjoyed it.”

“I went after many fools, myself, with my Inshala, sir. We even fought against a treacherous paladin lord together and I saw the exhilaration in her face. But at the end of the day, it is when we are going home, arm in arm, that I see her skip and hop and glow because with me and home is the only place that she can truly be herself, and with her and home is the only place that I can truly be myself. Don’t get me wrong, sir. Whatever makes people happy. But intimacy beats them all.”

“After this war. And should we win, I am dead set on firing you, young man..”

Aager cocked an eyebrow at him.

“..just so you could become a poet!”, snorted the sheriff.

“Never happen, sir. Ow and, a ‘business lunch’ doesn’t count as a ‘date’, just so you know..”, Aager said with another grin.

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?”, the sheriff growled.

“I do, and I am off. Noon-trainees!”

✱ ✱ ✱

This is the problem we have been having, Lady Inshala ‘le Fey’ Frostmain Bolgrig Hoo—”, Temez was saying, deep down in the crypts under the Serenity Home Temple.

“Please, dear Temez. Just Inshala will do, even though it despairs me as well when Mortals do cut names and words the way they do. When we are alone, please call me Inshala.”, the pretty little half-fey said with a smile.

 

Temez had taken a liking to Inshala quite immediately when they had first met several days ago and when she, Inshala, and Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel had played a cunning game of catch against Lady Lilly Venom, her ‘hubby’, Largo Summersong, and his son, D.D. Dexter Summersong, who was, somehow not Lady Lilly Venom’s son, which only made sense because he was older than she was! Just that information had made Temez feel concussed all by itself and learned her just how much she and her kin were out of their debt when it came to their pitiful knowledge of the Mortal coil.

 

“Alright..”, said Temez, trying very hard to suppress a shudder. This name cutting was something they really needed to get over, but their inner, demonic core just refused to accept such blatant use of names.. After all, misuse of names could and often did cause very volatile results.. But at least this girl, Inshala, seemed to understand their plight. Perhaps it was due to the fact that she, too, was a half-something.. a fey..

“..Inshala,”, she continued. “We were able to enchant grinded sand, kibbled light wood, certain cosmetic powders, and even flour with fire, thanks to Demelze, here, to light up under specific conditions, such as coming in contact with magic auras. Magically attained invisibility, to be exact. Our dilemma is, the powders, the sands, and the flour works but for an extremely short duration, as the material immediately settles, and hence, becomes part of the said invisible creature, or area. If we use what we have at the moment during battle, or to sprinkle it in an area where we suspect and Orken army is hidden under the veil of whatever device they are employing, it will hardly be visible during daylight, and barely be discernable during night hours. We need something, a plant or herb that we can grind that can stay afloat long enough to be practical and at the lightest magical ‘fragrance’, so to speak.”

Inshala frowned a bit as she tried to digest the issue at hand, and at a certain level, she felt relieved, for when Aager had told her she was being ‘officially’ invited here to meet with the half-born, she had dreaded that she, herself, might be put to task on some social-thingy, which she knew she was sorely lacking. This, however, was something that had to do with knowledge, something that she was good at, as opposed to something she constantly banged her head against her mental walls to comprehend.

 

As dire as the problem was, Inshala grinned!

 

And all the half-born, some one hundred plus of them silently watched her, all so very curious about this ‘very pretty’, ‘also a half-something like us’, and quite famous, Ritual Guardian-girl,  as though expecting some sort of miracle to appear at the wave of her slender hands.

At that very moment, Inshala remembered something her Aager had said, though she had vaguely understood.

 

“The answer to that is quite elementary in its simplicity.”, she said with a well-hidden smile.

Well, perhaps it wasn’t so well-hidden, as she was grinning when she said it. Aager hadn’t grinned at all.

Her Aager was awesome like that, she thought!

 

A murmur of awe spread amongst the half-born as Hal Mali grinned as well and with open admiration, while Demelze ‘oooow’ed, and Hamna Vir ogled at her.

“She.. she said that so smoothly!”, she exclaimed in a hushed voice.

“Awesome.”, someone whispered.

“Awesome.”, someone else repeated in agreement..

..and the word, ‘awesome’ rippled in low, hushed, and awe-struck whispers among the half-born!

 

Inshala beamed.

 

“Tell us!”, Temez asked eagerly, her own face flushed with excitement.

“Here.”, the little half-fey said and produced a tiny little pouch from one of her many tiny pockets hidden in her dress robes.

Temez carefully took the pouch, undid the knots, and looked into it to see some very fine, dark-red powder.

“What is this wonderful thing?”, she asked.

“Kumse Beetle shells, grinded down into a fine powder. I use it to season the food I cook and it tastes delicious!”, Inshala replied happily.

“Hal..”, she said. “..do your thing, please, dear. And Demelze, love. See if you can enchant this powder the way you have been practicing.”

“Sure.”, Hal Mali said..

..and suddenly vanished!

“That is awesome!”, Inshala said looking at where the young, pretty half-born man had just been.

Demelze took the pouch from Temez and carefully dumped its content into a small iron pot scorched with burnt marks, sat on the floor, closed her eyes and her pretty face frowned in concentration. Soon enough, the dark-red powder began to smoke.

“Careful, love.”, whispered Temez. “You are going to burn it.”

 

Demelze frowned more and the smoke dissipated.

And then, with a sharp flash of light, the iron pot poofed and Demelze opened her eyes, beads of sweat running down her face.

 

“Done.”, she said with a sniff and wiped her brows.

 

Temez reached down and took a pinch of the ‘enchanted’ dark-red powder and looked around.

“I am here, Temez. Standing just a foot in front of you.”, came Hal Mali’s voice.

Temez flung the powder in his direction!

The powder clung onto something barely discernable as someone’s arm, as it glowed, once, twice, then died.

Temez felt her shoulders slump.

“It didn’t work?”, Demezle asked, totally flustered.

 

A low murmur of consternation and despair rippled amongst the half-born.

 

“It worked.”, Inshala said confidently.

“How?”, Temez asked.

“The powder is still there and is still visible if you look closely.”

Temez, Demelze, and quite a number of others leaned over and stared at where they presumed Hal Mali was.

“She’s right.” Hal Mali’s voice was heard. “The powder is still there and try as I might, I can’t incorporate it with my shadow-aura! This is fascinating!”

“Indeed.”, mused Temez. “But.. it won’t be of any practical use if it isn’t visible from a far-off distance. Perhaps you can pour more power into the powder, Demelze?”

“I can. But it still won’t work. Either the powder will charr, or it will blink a few more times and that’s it. Unless we find a way to preserve the magic I infuse into the powder, we are, again, at a standstill.”, Demelze said somberly, an expression quite unexpected and unprecedented on her otherwise mischievous, naughty, and smirking face.

 

They all fell silent and mulled over that, and the cavernous crypt was suddenly very still. It was quite a disconcerting sight, really.

 

“Whimsi Lola!”, Inshala exclaimed suddenly!

 

The half-born all turned to look at her.

Inshala blushed a bit when she promptly became the focus of attention of so many ‘people’.

 

“I have never heard of a plant or herb by that name.”, said Temez dubiously. “Has anyone heard of this herb?”, she called to the crowd at large.

The half-born shook their heads and any number of ‘No’s and ‘Nopes’ echoed in the crypt.

“No, no.”, said Inshala hastily. “Whimsi Lola is not a plant or an herb. She is a sprite! A fey! She uses her own pixie dust from her wings to enhance her spells! That’s what we need.”

Temez looked at her curiously.

“And where may we find this Whimsi Lola sprite-fey and what would she want for her pixie dust?”

“Hmm.. That may be a problem. She is not here. But many of her friends are.. However, the fey folk, and the little ones, in particular, will not come here; too many Mortals and too much iron here, nor will they go anywhere near.. uhhmm..”, Inshala said, then faltered in embarrassment.

“Demons?”, Temez offered.

“Uhhmm.. Yes.. I am sorry.”, Inshala apologized immediately.

“Why are you apologizing, Inshala? You didn’t make us. You had no hand in our foul existence whatsoever. Never apologize for the things you didn’t do. Never.”, Temez said sternly.

“I.. was trying to be polite..”, the fey-girl faltered some more.

“This is not something to be polite about, my dear. We are what we are. We are sorry for having been made. But we are not, however, sorry for existing and we shall never apologize to anyone for that, and neither should you. We are our own now, just like you are your own..”, Temez said with harsh defiance. “Now. About this pixie dust thing. How and where may we get some?”, she asked, all business-like!

Inshala was a bit surprised at how strong-willed the Temez girl was and how she was not sorry for what she was, even if she hated being what she was.

And she felt a certain shame, there. Unlike Temez, she had loathed herself very nearly all her life for what she was or what she thought she was and had always believed her existence had been one, colossal mistake. Looking at these half-borns who had braved out of literal Hell, she promised herself to be braver and certainly to never feel guilty for being.. 

..which had been what her old Father, Cathber, and later, her Aager had been telling her all along.

 

“Well..”, she thought. “..Apparently I am just a stupid little girl.”

 

“Umm.. perhaps we could go near the forest just up north and I could call a few of the small fey-folk and bargain for some of their pixie dust?”, she said hopefully. “Then we can mix this powder with the pixie dust and gorgeous Demelze, here, can enchant it and we can test it on Hal Mali, maybe?”

“Ow.. She said I am gorgeous!”, whispered Demelze happily.

“Your offer is sound, Inshala, but not practically possible. We may not leave this temple. Not yet. I have left it a few times but carefully and only to observe the area just around the temple, and that one time when we played catch. Only Constance leaves and that is because she is our designated Liaison with the Mortals. This.. ‘test’.. however, is not her area of expertise. Is there any way you may be able to bring this dust to us?”

“I am afraid not. Pixie dust loses its potential soon after the sprite or the pixie removes it from his or her wings. Otherwise, the forest would be sparkling everywhere they went and all the time.”

“Perhaps there is a way.”, offered Hal Mali quietly as he stepped out of his ‘shadow-aura’ and became visible again.

“Do tell, dear.”, Temez asked him

“I can go out unseen.”

“Yes, dear. But you alone will not be enough. Demelze needs to go with you and Inshala.”

“I.. she can come with me.. I can hide her as well.”, he mumbled.

“I am not going anywhere with you, Hal!“, sneered Demelze. “And you can not hide me and we both know it!”

“I can.”, Hal Mali said quietly. “If I carry you in my arms..”

 

Demelze just stared at him for a moment.

“Incoming..”, murmured Hamna Vir.

 

And Demelze burst out laughing.

“Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Haaa!”

“That’s a very convincing laugh, that is..”, Hamna Vir barbed. “Can you get any more vapid, Demelze?”

“Shut up, Hamna Vir!”, spat the fiery little succubi half-born.

“What did I ever do to you, that you would hate me so much, Demelze?”, Hal Mali asked with a hurt voice.

“I saw the way you look at me, Hal! Even when we were in Hell!”, Demelze scorned at him.

“Yes. Because I find you attractive. Hence the looks.”, the handsome half-born admitted plainly. “How would you rather I look at you?”

“Never?”, scoffed the girl.

“Demelze!”, Temez very nearly snapped. “You will refrain from such attitude at once! We are all we have, here. There’s no one else to look after us but us.”

“But, Temez—”

“You will go with Hal and with Inshala and do this. For us and for yourself. Hal has looked after many of us and took a beating and burning for you at the hands of Autie Irine at least once that I know of. You may not like him, but you will show him the respect he deserves!”, Temez cracked like a whip.

 

Demelze froze.

 

“When? Why?”, she asked.

Hal Mali did not reply for a good while.

Then murmured.

“I would really rather you hadn’t told this, Temez.”

“Good done, unknown, must become known sometimes, dear. And we are running out of time. Even if this works, we must find a practical way to make it so Mortals may use them, and we must make many, many of them.”, Temez said, but not unkindly.

“Why? When?”, asked Demelze, her voice somewhat subdued.

“When.. you.. when you failed to turn in your Mortal Studies paper in our first year, I switched mine as yours and deliberately got caught with another paper of my own to avoid suspicions. And that other time when I found out Auntie Irine was going to punish you when she found out you had punned her behind her back and I deliberately tripped and fell and knocked her down. She was so angry with me that she forgot all about you..”

“What? Why? You think I couldn’t have taken a beating from that bitch?”, sneered Demelze.

“She had her fire barb whip with her..”, replied the young Hal Mali quietly..

..and an ‘owww’, chorused among the half-born.

“Fire barb whip hurts a lot because its burn is not only physical but psychic as well, and it leaves permanent marks. I.. didn’t want you to carry such ugly marks on you..”

 

Hamna Vir approached him and quietly hugged him.

I will thank you for what you did for her, Hal Mali, even if Demelze is a bitch and too vain to thank you.”

“Demelze is only scared.”, said a small, vague voice, and everyone turned to see Dar Derune sitting a short distance away, playing with some plain wooden blocks, next to a sarcophagus. “What she feels, she feels much more intensely than any of us. That is how beautiful her heart is..”

 

Hamna Vir parted Hal Mali and came up to him and with blurry eyes, she scooped up the boy and hugged him fiercely.

 

“Demelze?”, Temez asked, looking at the burning girl.

 

“I will do this. For Mali..”, she said with a stricken face.

✱ ✱ ✱

You found them?”, Constance gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me, dear?”

“We found about it just today, love.”, Temez replied and there was a tired quality about her.

“What’s the matter, Temez?”, the tall, alluring half-born asked.

“We.. me and Hamna Vir shared what Demelze went through when she cleansed the Anglenna Sunsear elf. It wasn’t fun. Gave me a very unique insight into what our brothers and sisters must go through, each with their unique abilities. I burn. But that is something I did to myself. She.. she burns so much hotter whenever she feels something —anything. Suffice to say, I can remember only one other occasion that hurt this much and that was when my old Master burned me when Merisoul and I first came up with the plan to get away from Hell.”

“I am sorry to hear that, dear. Where is the boy, then? Where is the esteemed sheriff’s son?”, Constance asked.

“East of here, some two or three days travel, there is a place called Gull’s Perch. They are there, though we could not figure out why they landed there and not in this town as the Anglenna Sunsear elf did.. I asked a bit about it to the Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel, and my findings are quite dire.”

“Gull’s Perch. Why do I know that name?”, mused Constance.

“You should. It is one of the places that we were warned never to go near, during our Mortal geography studies. And you can see it from here on a clear day, easy.”

“Titania!”, Constance gasped in horror!

“Hush, dear. Not so loud. We don’t want her to hear us, now do we?”, Temez warned.

“But how? How do you know they are there?”, the tall half-born girl asked slightly panicked.

“Dar Derune. He looked into the elf girl and sifted through her memories and saw our query. Then he did his thing and found them at the Perch. The Mistress of the Perch did not appreciate his intrusion and backhanded him, our Dar Derune, all the way from the Perch!”

Constance just stared at her.

“Is he alright?”

“He will be. Hanna Vir has been hovering over him like a Mortal hen mother!”

“Dear Hamna Vir..”

“Yes, yes she is.”

“Should I go and tell the esteemed sheriff about this?”, Constance asked.

“No. Mortals are not allowed in there, dear. Telling him where his son and the princess will only rile him and he will go there with iron and that will only win him the ire of the Summer Queen. And should he go there to bargain, he will be left out of his debt. He is a good and decent man but woefully unequipped for such a meeting. We must find something to bargain in his stead. Something She would want and only we may provide.”

“I may have something she may want.”, Constance said quietly.

“No, dear. Whatever She may want, we must all give. It must be a collective effort, not individual, for such singular bargains can only end in misery.”, Temez said with a tone that had a certain finality to it.

 

And that marked the first time a half-born chose to disagree at an individual level.

Constance Alure Smithen nodded..

..evasively.

And changed topic!

 

“Did the Winter Knight’s mate, Lady Inshala arrive?”

“Yes, she did. And she is a lot more smarted and wiser than she lets on. I suspected a cunning mind in her when she, Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel, and I were playing catch against Lady Lilly Venom, her mate, and her mate’s son. The plans I made were twisted and convoluted and made us win. The ranger lieutenant’s plans depended more on stealth and ambush, and they also made us win. Lady Inshala’s plans were neither. Her plans were rather simple and straightforward but surprisingly efficient. Of all the games we played, the ones she planned ended the quickest and the other team never knew what hit them. Even I didn’t understand we’d won!”, Temez said with some residual surprise.

“Her hubby, the Winter Knight shows similar traits. Neither seems interested in showing off but goes straight for the source of any given problem.”, Constance mused. “Though I suspect what he accomplishes by dread, she does by care!”

“Very astute, love. Very astute, indeed. She, Hal Mali, and Demelze went to the forest just up north to work on the project we have been working on.”

“You sent two of us out? Let alone Delemze with Hal Mali? She.. doesn’t really like him all that much and does tend to make a lot of noise when he’s around.. I hope you know what you are doing, dear.”, the tall girl asked a bit surprised.

“Hal Mali went under his guise. And we.. convinced.. she should be carried by him and take advantage of his special talents..”, Temez said lightly.

 

Constance made a very strange noise that sound truly unlady-like. Something between a snort and hiccup!

 

“I am sorry I missed that.”, she said with a brilliant smile. “No, wait.. you didn’t tell Demelze about what Hal Mali did back in Hell and that he got a beating for her, did you?”

Temez sighed.

“Yes, yes I did, love.”

“Ow..”, Constance said with a bemused expression as her bright red lips made a perfect imprint. “That must have put a dent in her self-esteem.”

“It did. Or maybe not. We are demons, love. And we are humans, as well, and we all react to fear, surprise, excitement, anger, and love in different ways. Demelze being Demelze, merely goes to her usual extremes.”, Temez said thoughtfully. “What will you do for the rest of the day? Did the esteemed sheriff like your new archiving and filing system?”

“I believe he did. Albeit a tad grudgingly. But in time he will get to appreciate it more, when he can find any given file in under ten seconds, as opposed to spending half an hour to find them. And every time he does, he will remember me. And every time his men do, he will feel a certain pride.”, replied Constance with a happy face. “I should head out now. There are so many things I must learn and so many more people I must meet. Just so they learn to see our kind, if for nothing else.. I shall also carefully hint that more of our kind will arrive to help them in their coming battle.”

“Very good, love. You truly were made for PR and would have been wasted in Hell.”, Temez said admiringly.

✱ ✱ ✱

Constance calmly stepped out of Serenity Home Temple and looked up and east. It was a clear day that day, quite unexpected of the season. She could see the storm clouds loaded with sleet, snow, and hail, but they seemed to sort of skim far and around this odd town and its surrounding fields. She had overheard the pretty ranger lieutenant, Bremorel Songsteel, talking in hushed voices with her young husband, the senior temple guardian, Thomas Dimwood, about reports of savage and violent weather, quite unheard of, occurring far to the west, beyond Scowling Hills and the name Inshala had cropped up any number of times, with nothing short of awe, during those conversations.

It seemed everyone was doing everything they could.. and more.. Eventually, whatever these Mortals did, or however they did them, time would come to face their consequences. Quite dire ones. Even a creature of Hell such as herself knew, when one dabbled with certain things, even if for a good cause, there would be consequences.

When she had first arrived to meet the sheriff’s men in the small courtyard, she had ended up ‘demonstrating’ her skills with her three-yard long pike on a young and overly enthusiastic man. There had even been bets.

After the duel, as short as it had been, was over, the bets, owed and owned, were being passed around, she had heard one of the guards snicker, “Payback is a bitch!”, as he took his winnings with a grin.

“Well..”, Constance murmured, still looking east, and the Gull’s Perch, a vertical, single ‘rock’, some half a mile at its base, reaching up and up and fading off among the clouds. It was a beautiful, awe-inspiring sight and the tall, alluring girl admired it.

 

Truly admired it.

 

“..as unlady-like, as it may sound, yes, I believe payback is a bitch!”, she said.

And with a sub-sonic boom, she shot up, high and swift!

 

At several hundred feet, she finally lost velocity, and for a bare, spectacular moment, she stood in the air, still, silent and majestic..

..and plummeted back to the earth!

 

With a sharp bank, she spread her arms, and a pair of dark, black-brown eagle wings suddenly sprouted out of her slender back, and like her slim arms, they spread out and wide..

..and she speared, not unlike a bird of prey, and with a shrill shriek, towards east, and the Perch!

✱ ✱ ✱

Lady Inshala!”, exclaimed Perigren Ostlanna Temez with surprise. “You are back!”

The little fey-girl face flushed shyly but her face was glowing with an accomplished grin.

“We did it, Temez. I called a few of the little folk and told them what we wanted, but they refused when they saw Hal Mali and Demelze. I told them they were my friends and that they were here to help protect the forest. They mulled over that for a bit then they decided perhaps they were, indeed, ‘maybe-friends’ but wanted something in return for their pixie dust. I asked them what they would want and they told me many things, but we didn’t have any of the things they wanted with us. Then they asked if we had any candy. Demelze said they didn’t have candy, but that she had something even better, and gave them sugar canes. They looked at the sugar canes, took one each, and tasted them. My eats still hurt because they all squealed with glee and just dropped on the ground gnawing on the canes.”, Inshala told her impromptu story with a seamless giggle and Temez just ogled at her, quietly mesmerized.

“When they were done with the sugar canes, they were so out of it, they were slurring and just waved their tiny hands and said, ‘Take.. Take what you want!’, so we took some of their dust and mixed it with the Kumse Beetle powder, Demelze infused it with her fire and enchanted it, then she threw it on Hal Mali and he was all glowing red and sparkly!”, she finished, her eyes alight with accomplishment.

 

Temez stared at her some more.

 

Then shook her head to come around.

Wow, the little girl had an encapturing way to tell her stories. She, herself, was a succubi half-born and knew how to enthrall. After all, it was her base thing. But this girl said what she said with some odd, bubbling, earnest, and genuine sincerity!

“Where are Hal and Demelze?”, she asked.

“Well, Hal Mali was still glowing and sparkling and quite unhappy about it, and Demelze couldn’t come back alone because she said she wasn’t wearing her correct Mortal dress for the occasion, though I am not sure what she meant by that. She did laugh at Hal Mali a lot, though, which made him angry so he started chasing her in the woods so she started running and screaming in delight!”, Inshala replied with an ‘out-of-breath’, bubbling voice.

 

Temez sighed.

 

“They are like sugar-loaded kids! Will they be alright?”, she asked, a bit worried.

“They should be. I drew a big circle and laid a camping spell and told them not to leave the circle. As long as they stay in it, not many will notice them. When the pixie-effect fades, Hal Mali can return with Demelze.”

“I hope they behave. This is not a good time for dire mistakes. That said, I am thrilled that our efforts have not been in vain. Thanks to you, we can now mass-produce this ‘pixie-effect’. We now have to find a way to make them practically useful for any Mortal to be able to use them. We also will need a lot more of your Kumse Beetle powder and the pixie dust.”, Temez mused.

“I can get you the Kumse Beetle powder. I could ask my Aager to ask his mayor, Artanboss, to ask the refugees to look for them in the forest. The pixie dust will still be a problem though. Convincing two or three sprites or pixies in one thing. Asking hundreds of them is another. We.. we might have to ask the Summer and Winter Queens..”, Inshala said a bit worried.

 

Temez looked at her for a moment, then smiled, a tad brittle. She was worried too but was trying very hard to hide it.

 

“Thank you, Inshala. You have helped us much today. Should you ever need any help, please don’t be shy.. And.. do thank your.. mate on our behalf, if you would?”, she said sincerely.

“I will, dear Temez. Merisoul was my friend. I.. I was afraid of her when we first met. But she was so sweet and pretty. And always answered the questions I asked her. She.. never judged me for what I am, and from her, I learned to accept who I am.. And.. she saved my life, once, very nearly ending her own. Thanks to her greatness, I found the time to know my Aager and be with my Aager. That would never have happened if it weren’t for her.”, Inshala said quietly and hugged Temez, and inadvertently, their horns clashed!

 

They stood looking at one another, then burst out laughing.

 

“We will need permission from one of the Queens should we want more of the pixies and the sprites for the amount we require, dear Temez.. Thinking a bit over it, I am now sure of it.. Only they can order them to come to us in such great numbers..”, said Inshala somberly.

 

And that cut right through their merry moment.

✱ ✱ ✱

Constance swooped down from the cold, moist clouds and noticed the sun had gone lower than she had expected. Soon, it would be gone altogether and she’d be forced to fly in the dark. True, she wasn’t afraid of the dark, and up to a certain point, she could even see in it, even if it were in some odd shades of violet. At the screeching speed she was flying, however, being able to see that ‘certain point’ became somewhat moot, as she would only have a bare second or two before registering she was about to smash into something and die a horrible, total body-shattering death!

The lovely, alluring girl was also an optimistic soul, though. She believed an honest and generous smile could solve more problems than displaying her other, rather.. magnetic features.. as those tended to cause more complications than they seemed to solve. She also believed in being punctual and prompt.

Constance was not an obsessive girl, strictly speaking, but merely well-organized and quite dedicated at whatever she did, and also had the uncanny ability to recognize similar attitudes or patterns in others.

Which was likely why she had noticed the esteemed sheriff of Serenity Home the first time he had come to see them and the young senior temple guardian, Thomas Dimwood, had introduced all the half-borns to him.

Yes, one might argue that all the other half-born girls had also noticed him, since, other than the senior temple guardian himself and his dozen or so junior guardians, who were all ‘off limits’, the sheriff had been the only Mortal male specimen they had been in contact outside of Hell. But the other girls had looked at him with.. well.. either as a curio or simply as something ‘edible’.. The sheriff was, after all, a handsome man, even if he was a bit older than average, as Mortal years went.

Constance, on the other hand, had noticed another quality about him; he had stood before each and every single one of the ‘a hundred and plus something’ number of them as if memorizing their individual faces and names, had politely nodded at them, and bid them a formal welcome to the town and should they require anything, that they were welcome to ask, and that he would do his best to acquire said needs, but to be patient about it, as the town was under the threat of imminent Orken attack. That, for Constance, pointed to the fact that Standorin Shieldheart was indeed a very organized, disciplined, and dedicated man.

The fact that he was also handsome and well into his mature years had been sort of a bonus.

 

Constance was also a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl..

 

Suffice to say, none of the above had anything to do with the setting of the sun nor would it help her should she fly into something and end herself quite abruptly, and certainly had nothing to do with the matter at hand.. But Constance liked to go over things in her mind when she flew, which didn’t happen as often as she wanted. An uncharitable person might think she was daydreaming. Constance would, quite strenuously, disagree with such unkind assumption since (a) it was not day, so much as it was evening now, and (b) girls did not daydream but had intricate, multitasking minds, hence they went over things which had happened, things which might happen, and even things that had already happened but how they should have actually happened..

 

That sure explained why they lived longer than their male counterparts and being Mortal or not made little to no difference.

 

“Alright.”, she mused as she went over her mental TO-DO list;

 

Find Her.
Talk to Her.
Give Her.
Get the boy.
Get the girl.
Come back.

 

“There. Everyone happy at the cost of a little pain and loss.”

 

“I doubt, dear.”, said a rich, throaty, and enthralling woman’s voice.

And a long, jagging streak of lightning came down from the clear dusk sky!

 

Constance yelped and banked right and the lightning very nearly tore through her.

Another jarring streak of lightning lit the dimming sky and the half-born girl did a sharp left turn and escaped with a singe.

 

“Stop! Please! I come in peace!”, she yelled in panic.

“No, dear girl. You only come. You are a demon, and can not come in peace, nor can you bring it here with you..”, replied the same rich voice.

“No, I am not a demon! I come in good faith and only desire to help the Mortals..”, she screamed and a swirling, columnar hurricane jabbed down from the sky, all the way down to the forest below.

“Did you not come from Hell, my dear?”, asked the throaty voice.

“Yes. Yes, I did, but..”

“There you have it, then. You, dear girl, are clearly a demon, you can not have good faith, and helping Mortals can never be your intention, nor be part of your true agenda..”, said the voice..

..and another shaft of lightning forked downed, and this one zapped the half-born girl quite savagely as more wildly dancing hurricanes came down like some demonic fingers, tearing at everything they grasped..

“My mother was a Mortal!”, shrieked Constance, her face distorted with pain for she felt something hurt dreadfully at her hip.

“I feel sorry for her, but dabbling with the damned is never wise. Every Mortal knows this.”

Constance did another sharp turn and escaped the next strike.

“She.. she was taken.. by Mortals!”, begged the girl.

“Yes. Mortals with sin in their desires, deceit in their minds, and greed in their hearts tend to do that. Which is why I banned them all. But demons were never welcome.”, said the throaty voice.

“T.. Titania?”, Constance gasped.

“Yes, dear child. I have been watching you for some time now. I had hoped you would vier from your course, but apparently, you are not as smart as I had hoped you would be.. And now you are in my domain.. and in my jurisdiction..”

Constance took a dive, the wind shrieking as she attained her combat velocity, then spun, at a whip lashing speed, and flew straight towards the Perch..

..and more hurricanes stabbed down mercilessly, and Constance slammed right into them!

With a shriek lost in the howling, swirling and enraged, dark purple-gray fingers tore into her and shredded her and tossed her!

Constance dropped out of the sky like a moot rock..

..and with a last-minute display of aerial agility, she took a sharp, right-angle turn and shot up again!

“You are a persistent one, aren’t you?”, Titania said, and three more flashes of lightning came jarring down simultaneously.

 

With a determined expression on her face, Constance banked, right, then left, then left again, barely avoiding the deadly, jarring shafts and the wrathful fingers piercing down everywhere now.

 

“Mo.. Mother Titania.. Please.. I.. We are not all demon.. We are also human. I beg of you. I truly come in peace..”, she pleaded as tears ran down her face and were whipped away by the savage wind. “I speak the truth..”

“You must see the irony of a demon claiming to speak the truth, child. And a succubus, no less. Truth or lies, it matters little, as willy-nilly, the means to ends matters not to your kind.”

“I am Constance Alure Smithen, Mother.. Thus I have given you my name and claim nothing in return.”, she very nearly blubbered for the jagging streaks of lightnings came seamlessly now and the desperate half-born was zig-zagging mindlessly through them.

“Impressive. Perhaps you hoped, by giving something, you would get something back. Surcease, perhaps? Bargains do not work like that, dear child. I must want something from you for you to offer something else in return.. I do not!”

“I merely come to inquire as to the health of two Mortals, Mother! They are dear to some in the town called Serenity Home, just west of here.”

“Ahh.. Perhaps I may consent to give you that.. for your name, even though I have not asked for it. The princess of the homeless elves is indeed, here. She is healthy, though her health deteriorates as days go by and is quite troubled, for she has dire decisions to make for her mate-to-be, who is dying. I have put him in stasis to buy him time, whilst the princess makes her choice or comes to terms with his dire predicament. It appears, someone put a hole in the boy’s heart with iron.”

“Is.. is there nothing I can do to help? Nothing at all? Her people desperately need their princess and his father and his friends desperately need him.. For them, I am willing to give that which is most precious to me!”, Constance asked as she felt her heart plummet for a hole in the heart with iron only meant one end, and little did it matter if they were Mortal, fey, or demon..

“And what may that be, my dear?”

Constance told her.

 

There was a pause as Titania seemed to mull over something for the lightnings and the savage hurricanes ceased!

 

“As intriguing as your offer is, child, the princess of the homeless elves must be the one to make the choice I have offered her as said choice pertains to her own future, the future of her mate-to-be, and their line.. There is, literally, nothing anyone else may do, for she came here, with her mate-to-be, unsummoned and uninvited, though quite unintentional, also.. Should you still want to help the Mortals you claim to want to help, however, perhaps there is some room there for bargains for you have managed to garner my admiration, if not curiosity.. Settle down Constance Alure Smithen, the child of a Mortal woman and a demon father.. I would like to take a closer look at your offer and further test your mettle.. and see if your claim is worth a bargain.”

✱ ✱ ✱

Sheriff Standorin!”, exclaimed the young guard as he burst into the sheriff’s office. “Come. Quick! You.. you had better see this!”

Slowly and calmly, the sheriff of Serenity Home rose from his seat, buckled on his sword over his shoulder as he looked at the young, excited guard.

“What is it young man?”, he rumbled, giving an assessing glance at him.

“I don’t know how to describe it, sir. Lights.. Hundreds and hundreds of them. And they are all coming here!”, the young guard said with an awestruck face.

“Lights? What lights?”

“I don’t know, sir. You must see them yourself!”, the young man said, almost jumping where he stood.

Standorin mumbled something about young and easily excitable kids but waved at the guard to lead the way.

 

The two walked over and all the way to the north gate of the town while other guards ran back and forth with already lit torches and lanterns as evening slowly settled, just to see the multitudes of refugees, all on the other side of the stone bridge that stretched over the Great Arashkan River, and all of them were standing still and staring north..

..where there were hundreds and thousands of sparkling lights hovered amongst the trees bordering the Ritual Forest and quite luminous in the settling evening.

 

“What is this?”, Standorin asked, somewhat disturbed.

“We.. I do not know, sir. Ranger Masters Devien and Moorat have gone to check, but they have not returned yet.”, replied the young guard in a hushed voice.

“Where is  Master Aager—?”

“—Here, sir.”, replied a growling voice and Aager Fogstep appeared next to him as if summoned by magic!

“What is this?”, the sheriff repeated his question.

“I am not quite sure, sir.”, Aager said in his low voice.

 

“Are you seeing this, love?”, he silently cast his own question at Inshala.

“I want to. But there is a whole crowd of people standing in front of me and I can’t get past them.”, she replied. Then with a sigh, she added. “And they are pushing at one another.. I don’t want to get trampled.”

 

Aager turned to the guards standing nearby and growled at them.

“You! Form two lines, one on each side of the road and make a gap. We cant have a crowd plugging the town’s main entrance!”

“Yes, sir!”, the guards replied hastily, saluted the right hand of the sheriff, and guards started pushing the people back and to the side of the road leading in and out of the town.

 

“That was very smart!”, Aager heard Inshala’s admiring voice.

“People should know better not to mob the town entrances by now.”, he fumed.

“They are only curious, my Aager.”

“A stupid excuse for trampling each other. This could be a diversion for an attack!”

“Very true. Almost there..”, she replied and indeed, she appeared next to him.

 

They both stared at the odd, sparkling phenomena for some time until Inshala said a bit awed, “Pixies.. and sprites! Many of them.. Thousands!”

Sheriff Standorin turned to her and asked.

“Are you sure, Lady Inshala?”

 

Inshala flinched.

She just couldn’t help it.

Big, large men scared her!

 

Standorin must have noticed this as well, for his always-stern face softened a bit and he knelt down before the little girl and spoke in a low, calm voice, though it still rumbled.

“I apologize wholeheartedly, sweet Lady Inshala. I meant neither to upset you nor to abuse your good sensibilities. You are a wonder to us all, beautiful beyond words, and your wisdom leaves us in shame.”

 

If anything could have sufficed a good blush, this was it!

 

Inshala turned bright, bright red, and covered her face with her slender hands.

“You.. you have put me to shame with your honest and kind words, sir. The lights you see are fey folk. I would plead your men to not harm them. If they have come here and in such great numbers, there must be a good reason. If you would, please tell your men, and the people all around to make room, for they will not come any near, as things stand now.”

Sheriff Standorin smiled at her, then slowly rose.

“Master Aager, if you will, inform all the guards to put away their iron and clear the way, from all the way here to the fey. No one is to stand near them, get near them, hinder them, or harm them.”

“Yes, sir.”, Aager said with a curt salute and growled orders.

 

Soon, the town’s northern entrance, the bridge, and the refugees near the woods were all cleared and a historical first occurred; the tiny, sparkling lights, the small fel-folk hovered towards Serenity Home..

 

It was an inspired possession..

..as each luminous globe carried a tiny, humanoid creature inside, or perhaps, the globes of light were there because of the tiny, humanoid creatures..

..and they bobbed, back and forth, left and right, and up and down with easy leisure and leaving a long trail of sparkling pixie dust from their tiny, barely discernable wings and entered the town and slowly but surely, they gathered before the Serenity Town Temple where the Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood, Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel Songsteel.. and Perigren Ostlanna Temez met them, as Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart, Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane, and Aager Fogstep also stood nearby.

 

A tiny, tooth-pick sized creature came forth, and with demanding attitude, she spoke;

“I am Biberbell and I speak for my kin and the rest of the fey-folk gathered here, and we have come upon the command of Titania, the Summer Queen, and in retaliation, Mab, also, the Winter Queen, in hopes to partake our pixie dust much needed for the defense of this Mortal town.”, she piped.

 

Thomas, Bremorel, and Temez just ogled at the tiny thing.

 

“We have been promised satisfactory accommodations and.. CANDY!”, she squeaked.

“Uhhmm.. Candy?”, Thomas blurted a bid dumbfounded.

“Yes. Candy! But we will settle for sugar canes, too.”, she buzzed, paused, then added..

“LOTS AND LOTS OF SUGAR CANES!

..with a very lustful expression on her tiny face as she rubbed her hands together, barely refraining from a possible;

 

“GIMME!”

 

“Said conditions can be arranged, Biberbell. But we have not made any bargains with either of the Queens.”, Thomas replied with a very much freaked expression on his own face.

The tiny sprite turned to Perigren Ostlanna Temez and said with nothing short of a patronizing tone.

“The bargain has already been struck, and the debt paid in full and done.”

“Who? Who has bargained with the Queens and who has paid in full and done?”, demanded Temez.

“How should I know, demon? I am not privy to the details of what the Queens do!”, Biberbell sniffed at her.

“Ask a Constance Alure Smithen!”

“Ask her what it means; Wings for Wings..”

 


 

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a witness or two..

a witness or two..

Timeline:

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

 

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

 

 

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

Lilly Venom: That so?

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

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

Agent Largo: You pun me.

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

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

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

Agent Largo: Ow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agent Largo: You are quite the target-oriented girl aren’t you, Lady Lilly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: No.

Agent Largo: No?

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

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

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

Agent Largo: That’s.. sad..

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

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

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

Agent Largo: No.

Lilly Venom: Why?

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

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

Agent Largo: (replies with silence)

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

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: My contract with you was—

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

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

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

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

Agent Largo: Like I said; The best..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: Yes. I do.

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

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

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

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

Agent Largo: Apparently, me..

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

Agent Largo: I suppose we are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

✱ ✱ ✱

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Good afternoon, sir.

Agent Largo: Good afternoon.

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

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

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

Agent Largo: He.. he has?

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

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

Serenity Home Gate Guard: Very well, sir?

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

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

Agent Largo: Of course..

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

Agent Largo: (sigh) Very well..

✱ ✱ ✱

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: Also, it is immoral to lie!

Agent Largo: (stares at Lilly)

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

Agent Largo: Touché.

Lilly Venom: (shrug) It’s the truth.

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

Lilly Venom: I suppose..

Agent Largo: It won’t be a lie..

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

✱ ✱ ✱

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

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

D.D. Dexter: (stunned) Dad?

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: (snort)

D.D. Dexter: Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

Agent Largo: (going down in flames) I…

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

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

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

 

(many footsteps approach)

 

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

D.D. Dexter: What the..

Agent Largo: Ow crap!

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

Lilly Venom: (sigh) Well, bugger..

Agent Largo: (more than flustered) Sheriff Standorin—

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

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

*wham*

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

Lilly Venom: (shrug) No, I’m good..

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom: How are you?

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: This is sort of embarrassing for me, to be honest. The first time I come to a town with no contracts nor clients, and I am detained and put to jail. Remind me again why we are here?

Agent Largo: The boy.. Where’s he?

Lilly Venom: Which one?

Agent Largo: Both, I guess?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agent Largo: (sigh) Yes, Lilly.. I personally care for him. He’s young but I suspect he understands what’s going on around him a lot more than he lets on, making him quite brave. He didn’t cry once during our plight from Arashkan, nor on our way to here on the ships.. And we read The Amazing Adventures of Blom Bundlebim Hobim. Anyone who reads that book together, are bro’s for life!

Lilly Venom: (snort) Boys!

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

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

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

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

We have no dinner, Agent Largo..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: (silence)

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

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

Agent Largo: The name is Lauca, actually.

Lilly Venom: Lauca?

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: La-yu-ka.. Law-ka.. Am I pronouncing it right?

Agent Largo: Do you want to pronounce it right?

Lilly Venom: I would, yes.

Agent Largo: Why bother?

Lilly Venom: Why bother with Ferra Ferrea?

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: I think, I like it..

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

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

Agent Largo: We do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inshala Frostmane: Hello, Ferra.

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

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

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

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

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

Aager Fogstep: (shrug)

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

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

Agent Largo: (confused) Me?

Lilly Venom: (silent smile)

Agent Largo: (somewhat horrified expression) YOU?

Lilly Venom: (sumgly) Yup!

Agent Largo: (stunned silence)

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

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

Lilly Venom: I do not know what that means.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agent Largo: !

Lilly Venom: (snort)

Aager Fogstep: (snort)

✱ ✱ ✱

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aager Fogstep: (total silence)

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

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

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

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

Agent Largo: (cough)

Sheriff Standorin: You can’t be serious!

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

Lilly Venom: (smile)

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

Agent Largo: I resent that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(silence for a long, smoldering moment)

 

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

Agent Largo: Agreed.

Lilly Venom: I suppose so..

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

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

Agent Largo: (stammer)

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

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

 

(after Agent Largo and Lilly Venom are escorted out)

 

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

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

Sheriff Standorin:

✱ ✱ ✱

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

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

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

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

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

Aager Fogstep: (silent stare)

Lilly Venom: (returning the silent stare)

Aager Fogstep: Where’s your.. Largo?

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

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

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

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

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

Aager Fogstep: So you love—

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

Aager Fogstep: (confused) What?

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

Aager Fogstep: Fair enough.

Lilly Venom: (sigh) I don’t think we will ever be like the way you and Inshala are.

Aager Fogstep: What way would that be?

Lilly Venom: Wierd?

Aager Fogstep: (snort) Huh!

Lilly Venom: To be honest, I wouldn’t want to, either.. Too much effort, too much work, too much pain.. and too many emotions for my taste. I just want honesty, care, and reliance —both ways.. But I also want a certain amount of privacy reserved for ourselves too..

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

Lilly Venom: You.. you are?

Aager Fogstep: (shrug) Yes.

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

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: (scowl) I knew it!

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

Lilly Venom: Why don’t you?

Aager Fogstep: (quietly, and after a pause) I can’t.

Lilly Venom: Why?

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

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

Aager Fogstep: Why marry him then?

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

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

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

Aager Fogstep: You are an idiot too, then!

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

Aager Fogstep: The elder brother of an idiot!

Lilly Venom: (scowl)

Aager Fogstep: (snort)

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

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

Lilly Venom: Do I even want to know why?

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

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

Aager Fogstep: Speechless?

Lilly Venom: Well, yes!

Aager Fogstep: She loves you.

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

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

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

Aager Fogstep: I am funny?

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

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

Lilly Venom: (scowl)

Aager Fogstep: It’s alright, really. We will take our rest in the temple dormitories, or more likely next to some campfire —it’s a bit too crowned in the temple for my taste. We still have a lot of work until the day’s end, though. Inshala has to coordinate and make sure the ground stays warm and the weather mild for the refugees and I have two teams I need to continue training. One in the afternoon, which I should be heading soon, and the other at night and will take all night. ‘Infiltration, Blind Fighting, and Ambush!’

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

Aager Fogstep: No.

Lilly Venom: Why not?

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: (quietly) Aager?

Aager Fogstep: Hmm?

Lilly Venom: Thank you.

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

Lilly Venom: (hug)

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

Lilly Venom: I just might..

Aager Fogstep: Care for a slice of advice?

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

Aager Fogstep: Lose some, to win some.

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

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

Lilly Venom:

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom: Are you done?

Agent Largo: Almost.

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

Agent Largo: I am sorry Dex. After what happened to your mother, I wasn’t going to trust anyone from ARIS where you were concerned. This town was the safest place I could think of and still give you a happy life. You know what is coming. You know the score.. I was ARIS and I had to do something for Arashkan without a constant threat on your life.. I can’t even tell you how many of my friends, my co-workers, and their families were assassinated in the past thirty years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

D.D. Dexter: (cough)

Agent Largo: (blush some more)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✱ ✱ ✱

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lilly Venom: He is with Inshala.

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

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

Agent Largo: I am here, aren’t I?

 

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

 

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

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

Inshala, baby girl.. Thank you..

✱ ✱ ✱

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

A home where people ‘belong’..

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

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

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

 

Lilly Venom: Will you have me now?

Agent Largo: Lilly? What’s wrong—

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

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

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

I am scared.

And I do not want to kill you..


 
Epilogue

 

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

 

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

Agent Largo: (stares at the girl, silently)

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

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

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

Agent Largo: (still silent)

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

Agent Largo: (persistently silent)

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

Agent Largo: (absolute silence)

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

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

Lilly Venom: (scowls while still looking down)

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

Lilly Venom: (stares at the man)

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Agent Largo: There. Your turn!

 

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

 

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

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

A red glare appears over the Gull’s Perch to the east, and very slowly, the sun starts to rise and Serenity Home stirs with a lazy and reluctant yawn.

The night, however, hasn’t all gone to waste;

Lilly Venom loses some and wins some..

book 05 books dungeons and dragons karakter analizi komedi role play serenity home tarihçe the plot thickens tundra walkers

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” II

A Bard’s Tale XIV
“a Bit of a Bite” II

Timeline:

Bu hikaye, Brom Bumblebrim adındaki, Bowling Hill’de yaşayan kendi ırkının diğer bütün üyeleri gibi ‘normal’ ve hayatını olabildiğince keyifli ve tembel geçiren bir hobbit’in, beklenmedik bir şekilde ne idüğü belirsiz bir şey tarafından ısırılmasıyla başlar.

Genç hobbit’i her ne ısırdı ise, o günden sonra Brom bir türlü yerinde duramaz ve en sonunda, gecenin alakasız bir yarısında, eski arkadaşı ve aile dostu olan Gamwise Samgee’ye evini ve gülleri emanet ettiğine dair bir not bırakarak yollara koyulur. Uzun bir gece boyunca nereye gittiğini bilmeksizin, öylece, istikametsiz bir şekilde yürür durur..

 

Bu hikaye,
A Bard’s Tale XIV, “a Bit of a Bite” I ‘den
sonra başlar ve ta Büyük Kuzey Tundralarındaki Shakehands kasabasında son bulur..

 

 

29.11.7588 B.Y.S (-19 Yıl)
Kasım sonu, Aralık başı.
Bowling Hills, sonrasında da Endless Watch’ın güneyi..

 

İnanamıyorum buna!”, diye inler genç Brom.

“Bütün gece yürüdüm, dere tepe düz gittim ve gele gele buraya mı geldim?”

Brom Bumblebrim, yeni doğmuş, mutlu bir Kasım sonu güneşinde, doğduğu, büyüdüğü, ve gece boyunca ayrıldığını sandığı Greener Kasabasını yukarıdan, bulunduğu tepeden seyreder.

“Bu nasıl mümkün olabilir ki ama? Bütün gece yürüdüm ve hepi topu koca bir daire mi çizmişim yani?”, diye, çökmüş, fena halde bozulmuş ve neredeyse ağlamaklı bir şekilde söylenir.

Mevcut hayal kırıklığı yetmiyormuş gibi, Brom bir de göbeği istikametinden derin bir gurultu duyar ve bu konuda da yapabileceği hiçbir şey yoktur zira yanına aldığı ve en azından bir kaç gün kendisini idare edeceğini düşündüğü bütün kurabiyeleri, kaşarlı, salamlı ve taze naneli sandviçleri ve peksimetleri gece boyunca yürürken yemiştir!

Belli ki iş yemek olduğunda bir hobbit olmak hiç de kolay değildir ve bu konuda tutumlu olması gerektiği, Brom’un daha birinci geceden öğrendiği ilk acıklı ders olacaktır..

..Yön bulma kabiliyetinin olmadığını anlamasından hemen sonra!

Halbuki tam on altı defa okuduğu o hobbit hikayesinde, yemek bulmanın zorluğu, ancak üstü kapalı bir şekilde geçilmiş ve yön bulmak konusunda da hiçbir ip ucu da vermemiştir! Yani, tamam, o hikayede de kahramanlar kaybolmuştur ama bunu yoğun ağaçların olduğu büyülü bir elf ormanında yaşamışlardır. Kendisi ise Bowling Hills’in açık arazili, naif, yeşil tepelerinde gerçekleştirmeyi başarmıştı bunu..

 

Brom acıklı bir şekilde, gezginleri yanlış yönlendiren kitaplar hakkında uzun, bir ozan olması dolayısıyla da muhtemelen ‘kafiyeli’ bir belagat dizecekken, bir anda asıl soruna ayılır;

Sorun kitapta değildir zira ve en nihayetinde, on altı defa okuduğu o hikaye, tam olarak da budur:

BİR HİKAYE!

“Off yaa.. inanamıyorum! Nasıl olurda bir hikaye kitabında okuduğum şeyleri referans olarak alabildim ki! Bu gerçek dünya Brom Bumblebrim, bir roman değil!”

 

Brom acıkmış, yorgun ve uykulu bir şekilde, Greener Kasabasına yukarıdan seyrettiği tepenin üstünde yere çöker ve “Ne yapayım, ne yapayım?”, diye düşünürken uykuya dalar ve suratının tam ortasına isabet eden kocaman bir damla ile yerinden fırlayarak uyanır!

Gece olmuştur ve yağmur yağmaya başlamıştır..

 

Brom, bütün bir günü, dışarıda ve soğuk Kasım’ın son güneşi altında nasıl uyuyarak geçirebildiğini merak eder.

Genç hobbit nedense kendisini kazıklanmış hisseder ve tepeden aşağı inip evine gitmeyi düşünür. Hatta bu saçmalığa bir son vermek için, eve varır varmaz da kapısını ve pencerelerini, tekrar dışarı çıkamamak için bulabileceği en büyük çivilerle sıkıştırıp sabitlemeye karar verir..

..ve işte tam o anda bir şey onu ısırır!

 

Brom küçük, biraz fazla tiz bir çığlık atar ve can havliyle yerinde hoplamaya başlar.

“Beni bi şey ısırdı! Muhtemelen zehirli bi şey!.. Ölüyorum! Ölüyorum! Muhteşem Gökler adına, ölüyorum!..”, diye kalçasının, tam da göremediği bir noktayı eliyle tutarak yerinde zıplamaya başlar.

Brom, yağmurlu ve karanlık gecede, tepeden aşağı, “İmdat! İmdaaat! Bana tabip getirin! Bana güzel bir hemşire getirin!..”, diye çığlayarak koşmaya başlar..

Kalçasının, tam olarak göremediği noktadaki ‘ısırık’ acısı geçtiğinde, Brom ne kadar koştuğu, dahası, hangi istikamete doğru koştuğu hakkında en ufak bir fikri yoktur..

..ama doğuya, güneşin doğduğu yere baktığında, bunu bütün gece boyunca yapmış olduğunu fark eder!

 

“Nasıl yaa?”, diye iyice tırsmış bir şekilde, ağlamaklı bir sesle inler küçük hobbit.

Bütün bir Aralık başı gecesi buz gibi bir yağmurun altında ve karnı fena halde guruldayan Brom, bulduğu ilk yaban çileği çalısına dalar ve avuçlayabildiği tüm acı çilekleri ağzına tıkar..

Çalıların arasında işi bittiğinde, ellerinde, kollarında ve yüzünde sızlayan bir düzine çizik ve biri ensesine, diğeri ise ayak parmakları arasına yapışmış bir-iki inatçı çalı kenesiyle uğraşırken gök yüzünden kızgın bir homurtu gelir.

Brom göğe bakar ve inleyerek söylenir;

“Ama zaten beni yeterince ıslatmıştın.. Daha fazla ıslanamam ki!”

Brom yerinden fırlar ve ortalıkta başını sokabileceği bir yer —herhangi bir yer— aramaya başlar..

..ama aç karnına yediği onca acı çalı çileğinden dolayı bir anda midesi bozulur!

 

Brom Bumblebrim, hayatında yaşadığı bütün kötü an ve anıları bir araya getirdiğinde, bu iki gün içerisinde başına gelenlerle kıyaslayabileceği bir olay düşünemez.

Üşümüş, fena halde ıslanmış, hala aç, her tarafı çiziklerle dolu ve midesi bozuk bir şekilde bir o yana bir buyana koşturur durur.

Yorgunluktan ve açlıktan, dahası, midesine musallat olmuş kramplardan bitkin düşmüş bir şekilde ne kadar koşturduğunu bilemez ama uzaklarda bir yerlerde gözüne ilişen kamp ateşini gördüğünde hava çoktan kararmıştır.

Brom, nefes nefese kalmış bir şekilde kamp ateşine doğru yaklaşır ama içinden bir ses, belki biraz temkinli olsa, bunun kendisine daha az acılara sebep olabileceği düşüncesini uyandırır.

Genç, ıslak, üşümüş ve şiddetli karın ağrılarıyla kıvranan hobbit, karanlığı aydınlatan kamp ateşine temkinli bir şekilde yaklaşır. Ateşin önünde oturmuş kimseyi göremeyince iyice içkillenir. Sessiz adımlarla biraz daha sokulurken birden alnının ortasına bir şey, müthiş bir hışımla çarpar ve Brom, acının yepyeni bir mertebesine ulaşıverir..

Taş..

Birisi karanlıkta ona taş atmıştır ve olduğu salak gibi o da bunu yemiştir.

“Niye yaa!”, diye inler Brom. “Neden kafama taş attınız ki? Beni soyacaksanız, bunu rica ile de yapabilirsiniz. Açım, donmuş vaziyetteyim, sırılsıklam ıslanmış durumdayım ve şiddetli bir karın ağrısıyla uğraşıyorum.. Tek istediğim ateşinizi paylaşmaktı ve daha merhaba bile demeden kafama taş attınız! Bu.. Bu çok ayıp ve hiç de medeni bir davranış değil!”, diye de acı içerisinde bağırır Brom.

Ancak genç hobbit’in bu ağıtına herhangi bir cevap gelmez.

Brom, yağan yağmurun burada biraz daha sığlaştığını fark eder ve kamp ateşi sayesinde karanlıktaki ağaçları görür.

 

“Ne istiyorsun, bücür!”, diye horlayan, tiz bir ses duyulur ağaçların arasından.

“Az önce söyledim ya! Sıcak bir ateş, o kadar.. Biraz yemeğiniz, kuru bir de battaniyeniz varsa, benim de biraz param var.”, diye acınaklı bir şekilde cevap verir Brom.

Aradan ancak bir kaç dakika geçtikten sonra cevap gelir.

“Kamp ateşinde ısınabilirsin. Orada küçük bir tencere dolusu yiyecek ve kuru bir de battaniye var.”, der aynı tiz ses ve Brom konuşanın ya küçük bir kız, yada eşit büyüklükte bir sincap olduğunu düşünür. “Geceyi ateşin başında geçirebilirsin. Ama yerinden kalkar ve bize.. uhhm.. bana doğru yeltenirsen, fena halde de-kompoze ederim seni!”

“De-kompo-NE?!”, diye hayretle sorar Brom.

“De-kompoze!.. Neresini anlamadın?”, diye sorar tiz ses.

“De-kompoze nedir? Hayır, beni öldüreceksen, en azından ölürken nasıl öldüğümü bilmek isterim. Sürpriz ölümler hiç hoş olmuyor!”, diye cevap verir Brom ve ateşe doğru sokulur.

Genç hobbit, kamp ateşinin yanına varır varmaz, adı geçen küçük tencerenin yanında duran teneke tabaklardan bir tanesini kapar, tencereden içine, nezaketin kabul edeceği ‘azami’ miktarı doldurur, ateşin diğer yanında duran battaniyeyi donmuş bedenine sarar, sırtını ateşe verir ve küçük, iki büklüm bir topak halinde sıcak yemeği kaşıklamaya başlar.

Yemek, kendi standartlarına göre pek de iyi değildir. Daha doğrusu, yemeğin tadında bir gariplik vardır; sanki iki alakasız kişi, kendi hoşlarına giden ne varsa içine atmışlar gibidir. Ancak şu anki aç haline bir şölen gibi gelir ve istediğinden çok daha kısa bir süre içerisinde de biter.

“Gece orada, kıpırdamadan dur. Yoksa—”, diye arkasından aynı tiz sesi duyar.

“—beni de-komoze-şeysiden edeceksin, hatırlıyorum”, der Brom. “Ama sanıyorum ki ben zaten de-kompoze olmuş durumdayım.. Ateş, battaniye, yemek ve de-kompoze uyarısı için teşekkür ederim.. Parayı ateşin yanına bıraktım. Size iyi geceler.”

Brom hayatında hiçbir zaman böylesi bir nezaketsizlikle karşılaşmamıştır. Ne bir başkasından, ne de kendisinden. Ama takati, sabrından önce tükenmiştir ve yeni yeni ısınmaya başlayan vücudunu battaniyenin içinde, sadece burnunun ucu dışarıda kalacak şekilde, biraz daha topak yapar ve kendinden geçmiş gibi derin bir uykuya dalar.

 

“Neden bu salağı aldık ki kampımıza?”

“Sırılsıklam olmuştu, üşümüştü, açtı, acı çekiyordu ve korkuyordu.”

“Tamam, onu anladım da, neden bu salağı kampımıza aldığımızı anlamadım? Bence tehlikeli. Hazır uyumuşken kafasına odunla vuralım, tam uyusun!”

“Lütfen kafasına odunla vurmayalım. Başkalarına karşı biraz anlayış gösterebilirsin bence..”

“Neden? Sen gösterdin de ne faydasını gördün bu güne kadar?”

“Faydası için değil, eksikliğinin zararlarından kaçınmak için yapmalıyız.”

“Saplantılı fetişlerin yetmiyormuş gibi, üstüne üstlük hem safsın, hem de biraz aptalsın.”

“Bu.. bu biraz ağır ve kırıcı olmadı mı?”

“Beraber olduğumuz süre boyunca seninle geçinmem opsiyonel. Bir zorunluluk değil. Seni ben istemedim. Aslına bakılırsa, kimseyi istemedim. Hiç istemediğim bir şeyi resmen kakaladınız bana!”

“Benim ise çok istediğim bir şeydi ama kim olacağı kısmı nedense bana da sorulmadı. Ama bir tercihim olsaydı, bu yine sen olurdun.”

“Dediğim gibi.. sen hem saf, hem de biraz aptalsın!..”

✱ ✱ ✱

06.03.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Mart başı.
Giants Hutt Ormanlarının kuzey sınırı..

 

Brom, üç gündür saklandığı daracık ağaç kovuğunda, uyuşup yine karıncalanmaya başlayan bacaklarına, yeni öğrendiği bir egzersizi uygulamaktadır —sessizce! Evinden uzakta, bildiğini sandığı her şeyi sıfırdan ve canlı deney faresi gibi öğrenmek zorunda kalmış olması, genç hobbit’i iki aydan birazcık daha uzun bir süre içerisinde çakı gibi yapmıştır ve iki ay öncesinde olduğu gibi bütün erzakını bir gecede bitirmemiş, elindeki kurumuş bir dilim ekmeği küçük ısırıklar ve uzun süreli çiğnemelerle yemektedir. Buna rağmen üç gün içerisinde sırt çantası neredeyse boşalmıştır.

“Gidin.. gidin artık..”, diye sessizce mırıldanır Brom ve üç gün önce yanlışlıkla fazla sokulduğu haydut çetesinin kamp yaptığı yerin dibindeki oyuktan ‘ev sahiplerini’ izler. “Sizin gidip basacak bir köy yada kasabamız yok mu?”

Brom birden söylediği şeye ayılır ve utanır, zira bu rezil haydut çetesinin bir köyü basması halinde, oradakileri muhtemelen öldürecekleri anlamına geleceğidir.

Bitkin ve aç bir şekilde, neden ana yoldan saptığını ve neden Giants Hutt ormanında ‘macera’ aramak istediğini ve hangi ahmakça fikrin ona bunu yapmanın iyi bir fikir olacağına ikna ettiğini düşünür. Şayet hayatta kalırsa, aynı ahmaklığı tekrarlamaması açısından bu önemlidir..

‘Macera’ imiş..!

“İşte tam olarak bu yüzden hobbit’ler sıcak evlerinin güvenliğinde, mutlu bir şeyler atıştırırken macera kitapları okurlar, ama macera peşinde koşmazlar!”, diye geçirir aklından..

..ve farkında olmadan sırt çantasına elini sokar ve kalmışsa, yiyecek bir şeyler bulma umuduyla içini karıştırmaya başlar.

Çantanın içinde dolaşan Brom’un eli herhangi bir yiyecek bulamaz ama yanlışlıkla, rahmetli annesinin yadigar Lir’inin tellerinden birine dokunur ve Lir, keskin bir nota çıkartır!

 

..Ve bu..

..bir anda..

..beklenmedik,

..zincirleme bir reaksiyon başlatır!

 

“Neydi o?”

“Neydi o?”

“O neydi?”

“Ne neydi?”

“Bi ses duydum!”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Bi ses!”

“Ne ses?”

“Bi sus..”

“Ben de duydum..”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Bi ses!”

“Bi sus!”

 

Brom, saklandığı ağaç kovuğunda, kollarıyla daha da eğdiği başını kapatmış, çömdüğü yerde terleyerek kendi ayaklarını seyreder ve haydutların duydukları şeyden ivedilikle bıkıp vazgeçmeleri için bildiği her şeye dua eder..

..ve lanet şey, her ne ise, onu ısırmak için tam bu anı seçer!

Brom Bumblebrim, kontrolsüz, tiz bir çığlık atar..

 

“Aha! Yine duydum!”

“Ben de duydum..”

“Neydi o?”

“Neydi o?”

“O neydi?”

“Ne neydi?”

“Bi ses daha duydum!”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Bi ses!”

“Ne ses?”

“Bi sus..”

“Ben de duydum..”

“Ne duydun?”

“Ne duydun?”

“Can’t touch this!”

“Bi ses!”

“Bi sus—

 

Brom, haydutlardan korktuğu kadar, aptallıklarına da hayret eder ve içinden acıklı bir sesle söylenir;

“Bi grup salak tarafından öldürüleceğim.. İnanılır gibi değil!”

 

—Brom korku ve panik halinde, neden son haydudun sözünün bir anda kesildiğinde ayılamaz. Ama kendisine garip, ıslık gibi gelen sesler, çeliğin çeliğe vurmasını andıran çınlamalar ve bunları takip eden çığlıklar, en sonunda genç hobbit’i, haydutların kampında bir şeylerin olduğunu söyler..

Brom, saklandığı ağaç kovuğundan başını kaldırdığında, kovuğunun neredeyse dibine kadar gelmiş bir haydudun, kafasının arkasına bir buçuk yardalık haşin bir okla, yüzü koyun kapaklanmış olduğunu görür!

Brom etrafına bakındığında, hemen ileride başka haydutların da benzer kaderleri paylaştığını görür ve birden onlara karşı hissettiği korkunun gerçekte ne denli küçük olduğunu anlar..

..zira ortama daha büyük —çok daha büyük— ve tehlikeli bir ‘balık’ gelmiştir ve bu balığın hiç şakası yoktur..

Brom gözlerini kısarak ana haydut kampında yoğunlaşan çarpışma seslerine baktığında, orada iri cüsseli, haşin suratlı bir adamın, elinde savurduğu kocaman kılıcıyla önüne çıkan bütün haydutları, tırpanın arpa başlarını biçer gibi biçtiğini, dehşet içerisinde seyreder! Ve adam yalnız da değildir. Göremediği birileri de, haşin suratlı adamın etrafını sarmaya çalışan haydutları birer ikişer, bir buçuk yardalık oklarla şişlemektedir.

Brom kıyımın ne kadar sürdüğünü bilmez. Ama bittiğinde ortada canlı bir tane bile haydut kalmamıştır..

İri cüsseli, haşin suratlı adam son haydudu kestiğinde nefes nefese bile değildir.

“Bu da sonuncusuydu.. Moorat, Davien.. Etrafı kontrol edin. Bu hayvanlardan kaçıp kurtulan olsun istemiyorum. Aynı işi bir kaç ay sonra tekrarlamak niyetinde değilim.”

İri adamın çağırdığı adamlardan biri kısa sarı saçlı, yakışıklı bir elftir.. Yada belki de bir half-elf, Brom saklandığı yerden tam olarak kestiremez ama adamın duruşundan mıdır, nedir, onun birincisinden ziyade diğeri olabileceği izlenimine kapılır ve elinde Brom’un neredeyse üç katı boyunda devasa bir yay vardır.

Sarı saçlı yarı elf gibi elinde benzer bir yayla sakladığı yerden çıkıp gelen diğer adam ise genç hobbit’in hayatında gördüğü en çirkin adamdır. Adamın eski kayış derisi teni, kara —kendim, ekmek bıçağımla kestim— izlenimi veren parçalanmış saçları ve bir gözünü kıl payı ıskalamış yara izi yetmiyormuş gibi, suratında da pis bir sırıtış vardır.

“Harika iş çıkardın, Şerif. Geri döndüğümüzde Efendi Thokan’a olanları anlatmalıyız. Eminim sana özel, epik bir şarkı yazacaktır.”, der Davien denen yarı-elf mutlu ve biraz da muallak bir sesle.

“Nasıl bu kadar iyi ok kullanıp, aynı zamanda da bu kadar salak olabildiğine hayret ediyorum, Davien!”, diye hırlar, diğer, adının Moorat olduğu tahmin edilen çirkin adam.

“Alındım.”, diye cevap verir Davien gerçekten alınmış bir sesle. “Senin kadar zeki olmamam, beni salak mı yapıyor, şimdi?”

“İkiniz..”, diye burnundan solur Şerif. “..ve bitmek bilmeyen dırdırınız.. Hatırlatsanıza bana, sizler gerçekten nasıl izci oldunuz?”

“İyi ok attığım için..”, diye mutlu bir ifadeyle cevap verir Davien.

Moorat denen çirkin adam ise omuzlarını silker. “Sıkıcı bir gündü ve yapacak başka da bir işim yoktu. Ben ozan olmak istiyordum ama o karga sesli Thakon yerimi kapınca ben de izci olayım bari, dedim..”

Davien buna kahkahalarla güler. Haşin suratlı şerif bile gülümser.

“Sanıyorum buradaki işimiz bitti.”, der şerif. “Bu şerefsizler kimseye bir daha musallat olmayacaklar. Etrafı kontrol edin, özellikle size ait bir şey kalmış olmasın.”

“Neden? Bunlar kötü adamlar ve bizde bu bölgeyi onlardan arındırdık.”, diye aynı muallak ifadeyle sorar İzci Davien.

“Evet, ama teknik olarak bu bölge Endless Watch’ın sorumluluğu altında ve bizim gelip onların bölgesinde ‘Serenity Kanunları’ uyguluyor olmamızı pek de hoş karşılamaya bilirler.”, der şerif sakince.

“Ne fark eder ki? İşlerini yapmış olsalardı, onlar da haydutları öldürmüş olurlardı.”

“Ama onlar haydutları önce yakalar, sonra şehre götürür, ardından büyük, teatral bir mahkemede yargılar, ancak ondan sonra asarlardı. Onlar kıçlarını kaldırıp bunu yapıncaya kadar da bu hayvanlar bir kaç köyü daha talan etmiş olurlardı.. Serenity Home’un böylesi gösterişli mahkemelerde harcayacak lüksü yok ve açıkçası bu şerefsizleri kasabama sokmak gibi bir niyetim de yok —asmak için bile olsa. Sanıyorum Tinker Hills sakinlerinin yardım için Endless Watch yetkililerine gitmektense bize gelmeleri bundan kaynaklanıyordu.. Geri döndüğümüzde, yüzümüzdeki ifadeden herkes gerekli mesajı alacaktır. Yuleman’da Tinker Hills gnome’larına ‘Halledildi.’, diye kısa bir not gönderecektir.”

Moorat yine omuzlarını silker.

“Bana farkmaz! Ben bir izciyim. Bu iş gelip beni ısıramaz.”, diye hırlar.

“Beni de!”, diye atlar Davien.

İzci Moorat, Davien’e tiksintiyle bakar sonra tek kaşı kalkmış bir şekilde şerife döner.

“Bu yüzden sen ‘tatildesin’, Standorin!”, diye ayılır birden.

Şerif, Moorat’e sırıtır.

“Bu iş geri dönerse, Serenity Home’a dönmeyecek. Kişisel olarak, tatilde dolaşırken saldırıya uğramış olan bana geri dönmüş olacak. Bu yüzden ortalıkta size ait bir şeyler kalmadığından emin olun ve kırık da olsalar tüm oklarınızı toplayın.”, diye emreder şerif.

“Ben hiçbir şey anlamadım..”, diye itiraf eder İzci Davien.

“Sen gidip oklarını topla, kasabaya geri dönerken ben de sana tane tane anlatırım.”, der Moorat hırıltılı sesiyle.

“Benimle alay edip dalga geçeceksin yine, öyle değil mi?”, diye saf bir şekilde sorar Davien.

“Evet. Ama yine de anlatacağım!”, der Moorat sırıtarak.

 

Brom Bumblebrim, saklandığı ağaç kovuğundan sessizce çıkar..

..ve kaçar!

Brom, Serenity Home denen yer neresidir bilmez, ama öğrenecektir ve oranın yakından bile geçmeyecektir..

Brom sessizce kaçarken arkasında bıraktığı haşin suratlı şerif ve iki izcinin konuşmalarını hala duyar..

 

“Limnia nasıl? Dahası, doğum bu kadar yakınken senin eğlenmen için buraya kadar gelmene nasıl izin verdi?”

“Lady hanımefendi başında duruyor. Ve bana da ihtiyacı olmadığına dair.. tam olarak bilmek istemediğim bazı şeyler söyledi..”

“Bahane böyle sunulur işte. Gör ve örnek al, Davien. Geçerli, şahitli ve kadınları kendi aleyhlerine kullanarak!”

“Söylesene, Moorat. Sen hala nasıl oluyor da bekarsın?”

“Akıllı olduğum için.. Onu sana vererek hem ablamdan kurtulmuş oldum, hem de dırdırından!”

“Sanıyorum yeni bir izci adayım var!”

“Davien.. Kim senin gibi aklı bir karış havada birisine evladını teslim edecek kadar ondan nefret eder ki?”

“Kimsenin sana çocuklarını eğitmen için vermiyor olmaları, görüyorum ki seni biraz huysuz yapıyor.. Sanki buna ihtiyacın varmış gibi.”

“Güzeeel. En sonunda senden kabul edilebilir hakaretler duymaya başladık artık! Kimmiş bu yeni adayın?”

“Efendi Darien’in pek sevdiği kızı, Laila.”

“Huh.. O küçük, süslü şey mi?”

“Evet, ama yaşı biraz küçük. Efendi Darien’e kabul ettiğimi, ancak bir-iki yıl daha beklememizin daha akıllıca olacağını söyledim.”

“Daha akıllıca.. Bunu sen söyleyince kulağa ne kadar komik geldiğinin farkındasın, değil mi?.”

“Alındım.”

“Siz ikiniz.. ve bitmek tükenmek bilmeyen dırdırınız..”

✱ ✱ ✱

18.04.7589 B.Y.S (-18 Yıl)
Nisan ortaları.
Croaking Mire..

 

Brom üç gün takılıp kaldığı haydut çetesinin kampından kaçtıktan sonra çok önemli bazı şeyleri öğrenir. Bunların ilki, ERZAK’ın asla yeterli olmadığıdır. Bir diğeri de elini kolunu sallaya sallaya ortalıkta dolaşmaması gerektiğidir.. Ancak bu ikincisini öğrenmesi —gerçekten öğrenmesi— çok daha uzun sürecektir çünkü kendisi bir hobbit’dir ve çok küçük yaştan itibaren özel eğitimden geçmemiş her hobbit’in ortak bazı özellikleri mevcuttur. Bunların arasında ve muhtemelen de en başında yemek yemek, eğlenmek, tembellik etmek ve hiç şüphesiz, mutlu olmak vardır. Bunların kümülatif olarak bir araya gelmesinin tekabülü de, elini kolunu sallaya sallaya dolaşmalarıdır!

Ve bir hobbit’in bu ‘içsel’ huyundan vaz geçmesi için önce yemekten, eğlenmekten, tembellikten ve hiç şüphesiz, mutlu olmaktan vaz geçmesi gerektiği anlamına geldiği için bu da temel olarak ‘düşünülemez’ bir durumdur..

İşte bu yüzden dünyada hobbit nüfusu az olmamakla beraber, macera peşinde koşan hobbit nüfusu ise yok denecek kadar azdır.

Bu nadir ve ‘isteksiz’ istisnalardan biri de şu anda, elini kolunu sallaya sallaya girip, çok kısa bir süre içerisinde de saplanıp kaldığı Croaking Mire bataklığındaki Brom Bumblebrim’den başkası da değildir.

İşin gerçeğine bakıldığında da aslında suçun tamamı Brom’a ait de değildir.

Genç hobbit keyfince bir yerlere gitmeye başladığında, içindeki bir ses —yada kıçındaki ısırık acısı— ona o yönde değil, bir başka yönde gitmesini söyler.

Söz gelimi, bir sefer Brom’un bunu sınamaya kalkması aynı gün içerisinde ardarda tam üç defa ısırılmasıyla sonuçlanmıştı.

Brom güneye, geldiği genel istikamete dönüp, “Hmm.. Bugün nereye gitsem acaba? Belki de güneye, Melshieve Akademisine gitmeliyim. Orasını hiç görmedim..”, dediğinde ilk ısırığı yemişti.

“Peeeki.. Güney değil. Batı nasıl? Orda Sisters Lake gölü ve Witch Sisters bataklığı var sanırsam. Rivayetlere göre orada yaşayan üç cadı kız kardeş, görülmüş en güzel kızlarmış!”

Buna yediği ısırık ise özellikle acıtmıştı Brom’un canını..

“Tamam.. Öyle olsun bakalım..”, demişti Brom, kalçasının, tam da göremediği noktayı acı içerisinde kaşırken. “Doğuya gidelim. Bu kadar yakınındayken denize girmemek yazık olurdu. Şanslıysam denizde fazla sis olmaz. Rivayetlere göre açık havada, Drashan ta buradan bile görülüyormuş..”

Gerçekte Brom’un, ne Aralık ortasında buz gibi bir denize girmek, ne de mebus korsanların olduğu Drashan’ı —uzaktan yada yakından görmek gibi bir niyeti vardır. Sadece aklında oluşan bir teoriyi sınamak niyetindedir o kadar.

Brom, teorisini üçüncü bir ısırıkla sınamış olarak kuzeye doğru yürümeye başlar..

Aynı ısırık onu hanlardan, genel olarak yolları takip etmekten, şehir ve kasabalardan da uzak durması gerektiğini.. eh.. ısırarak söyler!

Brom, kendisini bu pis kokulu bataklığın ortasında getirip, sonra da terk eden ‘ısırığa’ lanet eder ve yapış yapış balçık ve sulu-vatuzlu vıcık vıcık çamurlu ‘bi şey’lerin içinde bulur.

“Niye yaaa.. Niye getirdin beni buraya ki? Ne var burada? —Aaaa bak, vıcıklı sülüklü balçık dışında gerçekten ne var burada?”, diye acıklı bir sesle hicveder.

Genç hobbit, o bataklıkta iki gün cebelleşir ve gece mi daha kötü, yoksa gündüzleri mi, bir türlü karar veremez zira gündüzleri hareket eden, ve bazen de etmeyen her şey onu yemeye çalışır. Geceleri ise bataklığa olağan dışı, nereden peyda olduğunu bir türlü kestiremediği bir sisle beraber, boğucu bir de sessizlik çöker ve Brom sislerin arasında devamlı ‘bir şey’lerin sessizce ve süzülerek uçtuğunu görür.

Geceleri sessizliği bölen sadece, arada bir duyduğunu sandığı inleme sesleridir.

“Lanet olsun..”, diye geçirir içinden Brom. “..hortaklar ve hayaletler! Neden hortlaklar ve hayaletler olmalıydı ki?”

Brom bataklıkta geçirdiği ikinci gecenin boğucu sessizliğindeki inlemelere yeni bir ses daha katılır..

 

“Brom..”

 

“Efendim.. Ne? Eh? Kim var orda?”, diye tiz bir çığlık atar Brom.

 

“Brom.. Kurtar beni Brom, boğuluyorum..”

—diye çok uzaklardan, yankılanarak gelen, yumuşak, hafif titreyen, ipek gibi bir kadın sesi duyar Brom.

 

“Ne.. neredesiniz? Sizi göremiyorum!”, diye cevap verir Brom tırsmış bir şekilde.

 

“Yardım et bana, Brom.. Çok yalnızım.. ve yardımına ihtiyacım var, kurtar beni bu bataklıktan..”

 

“Ama ben kendimi bile kurtaramıyorum. Neredesiniz? Göremiyorum sizi. Sabaha kadar dişinizi sıkabilirseniz, sizi kurtarmak için yardım getirmeye çalışacağım.” 

 

“Brom.. Lütfen yardım et bana.. Boğuluyorum..”

 

“Ben.. adımı nerden biliyorsunuz?”, diye korkmuş bir şekilde sorar Brom.

 

“Brom.. Yardım et bana.. Kötü adamlar beni zincire vurdular ve beni bu bataklığa kurban ettiler.. Yok olmak istemiyorum, yaşamak istiyorum, Brom..

 

Brom duydukları karşısında korkmuş olmasına rağmen yine de fena halde hiddetlenir çünkü yaşadıkları bu dünyada, bir şeyleri def etmek için böylesi ‘bakirelerin kurban edilmesi’ alışkanlığı duyulmuş bir şey olmasa da, imkansız da değildir.

Genç ozan, özellikle kadınlara karşı yapılan kötülüklere, cürümlere ve cinayetlere karşı içsel bir hassasiyeti vardır ve bulduğu göreceli ‘kuru’ topraktan kalkar ve sesin geldiğini düşündüğü yöne doğru vıcıklı balçıklı bataklıkta, kör bir şekilde sislerin içine dalar..

..ve çok kısa bir süre içerisinde de ayağı takılır ve yüzü koyun, pis, bulanık ve buz gibi bir bataklık göledinin içine düşer.

Brom, anında ve panik içerisinde, buzlu bulanık suyun içerisinde debelenmeye başlar ama su, dışarıdan göründüğü kadar bulanık değildir.. daha ziyade, bir şekilde sadece ‘puslu’ gibidir..

..Puslu ve aydınlık!

Brom, suyun derinliklerinde ışıl ışıl bir şeylerin parıldadığını görür ve ister istemez tepinmeyi bırakır ve suyun dibine doğru batarken, hayranlıkla o pırıltılı ışıkları seyretmeye başlar.

Ve hobbit battıkça su sanki berraklaşır ve Brom orada, surun derinliklerinde, daha önce hiç görmediği, garip, çapraz örmelerle bir birine eklenmiş, zarif denebilecek kadar da ince zincirlerle ayaklarından, bileklerinden, belinden ve boynundan prangalanmış genç, sıskası çıkmış kızı görür..

Brom bir ozandır ve her ozan gibi hayal gücü gelişmiş bir ruhu vardır. Dahası, bir hobbit olması dolayısıyla, biraz da hayalperesttir. Ancak o buz gibi suda gömülürken, zincirleriyle boğulan sıska kızı gördüğünde içinde bir şeylerin kıpraştığını hisseder..

..ve aklından, “Kim böylesi güzel ve zavallı bir kızı buz gibi bir suyun içinde zincirlere vurur ki? Bu açıkça bir cinayet!”, diye geçirir.

Bununla beraber, zihninin derinliklerinde ise, “Bu sıskası çıkmış kız suyun içinde nasıl hala hayatta?”, diye küçük bir ses de duyar ama o ses, üst üste binen hayret verici şeyler karşısında biraz cılız kalır ve boğulur.

 

“Brom.. Yardım et.. Boğuluyorum.. Daha fazla dayanamayacağım.. Ölüyorum.. Lütfen.. Ölmek istemiyorum..”

 

Brom suyun içinde kulaçlarını açar ve kıza doğru yüzmeye başlar ve ona yaklaştıkça, kızı prangalıyan zincirlerin, göletin derinliklerindeki, üstünde ne olduklarını anlayamadığı bazı rünlerin kazıldığı büyük, yosun tutmuş bir sütuna çivilenmiş olduğunu fark eder.

 

“Boğuluyorum.. Daha fazla dayanamayacağım.. Ölüyorum, Brom.. Ölüyorum..”

 

“Geliyorum, dayan..”, diye bağırır Brom, ve bağırmasıyla birden boğazı buz gibi, çamurlu ve bulanık suyla dolar!

 

Genç hobbit, gerçek, katışıksız, akılsız paniği hayatında ilk defa ve o anda yaşar.. Ve hayatta kalma iç güdüsünün ona söylediği tek şeyi yapmaya çalışır; Brom var gücüyle yüzeye çıkmak için çırpınır ama farkında olmadan ne kadar derine inmiş olduğunu anlamamıştır bile..

..Küçük hobbit’in göğsü sıkışır, yanan ciğerlerindeki son hava da panik kabarcıkları halinde ağzından ve burnundan kurtulur ve Brom, gözleri kararmış bir şekilde tekrar dibe çökmeye başlar.

 

“HAYIR.”

—diye güzel, etkileyici bir ses duyar kaybolan farkındalığının derinliklerinde..

 

“Burası ölmek için uygun bir yer değil, ölümlü.”

 

Brom acı içerisinde gözlerini açtığında, hala göletin derinliklerindedir, ancak daha önce gördüğü parıltıların hepsi gitmiş, geride sadece buz gibi soğuk ve bulanık pis su kalmıştır. Brom açısından farkı ise, ilginç bir şekilde nefes alabiliyor olmasıdır..

Genç hobbit, hayret ve panikle etrafına bakındığında, kendisini kocaman bir hava kabarcığının içinde süzüldüğünü görür. 

 

“Burası küçük bir hobbit için de uygun bir yer değil. Ve bu, o mebus yaratığın ilk defa bir ölümlüyü zincirlerinden kurtarması için bu tehlikeli sularda boğuşu değil. Ama ben burada olduğum sürece, o da bu bataklıkta kalacak.”

 

Genç Brom sesin geldiğini sandığı yere döner ve karşısında, hayatında gördüğü en yakışıklı adamı görür.

Brom bir ozandır ve ozanlar için kelimeler ve nüansları çok önemlidir. Bu yüzden karşısında duran ‘adam’ için sanki ‘yakışıklı’ kelimesi yetersizdir. Yada sadece ‘anlamsızlaşmıştır’ artık.

Önünde duran adam, uhrevi denebilecek kadar ‘güzeldir’..

 

“Kim.. kimsin sen?”, diye tırsmış bir şekilde kekeler Brom.

 

“Sana adımı vermek isterdim, genç Brom Bumblebrim, ancak isimim seninle yayılacak olursa, bu benim buradaki görevimi zorlaştırır zira beni adımla bulabilirler ve gördüğün o şer yaratığın müritleri, mahpusumu kurtarmak için ellerinden geleni yapmak için burada toplanırlar. Nerede olduğu bilinmeyeni kimse kurtaramaz.”

 

“Be.. Beni kurtardığınız için te.. teşekkür ederim.. sanırım..”, diye kekelemeye devam eder Brom.

 

“Teşekküre gerek yok, genç hobbit. Bununla beraber, seni buraya getiren küçük misafirine, yüzmesini bilmeyen birisini okyanusa atarak öğretmeye kalkmanın kendisi için biraz masraflı, senin için ise ‘can alıcı’ olabileceğini hatırlatmanı rica edeceğim.”, der uhrevi güzellikteki adam.

 

“Sö.. söylerim ama beni dinleyeceğini pek sanmıyorum..”

 

“Denemekten bir zarar gelmez.. Dinleyebilir. Seni kaybederse, yerine yenisini bulması çok uzun sürebilir. Dahası, bunun için vakti de kalmayabilir.. Şimdi. Giymeye hazır mısın?”

 

“E.. evet, Efendim. Kesinlikle hazırım. Ama gitmeden önce bir şey sormak isterim.”

 

“Sadece bir şey mi?”, der adam ve gülümser.

 

“Sen.. Uhhm.. Siz bir melek misiniz?”

 

“Öyle de denebilir, genç Brom. Teknik olarak ben bir ‘Muhafızım’. Bizler bazen —nadiren— bir ölümlüye atanırız, onu korumak için. Bazen de bir yere.. Fesat bir yaratığın dünyaya saçılmasını engellemek için. Bu döngüde, ben buraya atanmış durumdayım.”

 

“Döngü?”

 

“Daha değil, genç hobbit. O bilgi senin için okyanustan bile derin. Öğrendiğin zaman, sanıyorum öğrenmiş olmak için de hazır olmuş olacaksın.”

 

“Uhhm.. peki.. Efendim..”

 

“Hazır mısın?”

 

“Evet, hazırım.. Ama bir şey daha sormak isterim.”

Uhrevi güzellikteki adam, derin, esef dolu bir nefes verir.

 

“Tabii ki sormak istersin. Ölümlüler ve onlarım ölümcül merakları.. Aşağıdaki yaratığın kim olduğunu merak ediyorsun.”

 

“Aslında ben sadece neden evimden alınıp zorla ta buralara kadar getirildiğimi sormak istemiştim..”

 

“Bu sorunun cevabını bilmiyorum, genç Brom. Birimizin bildiği bir şeyi, hepimiz bilmeyiz. Bununla beraber, sanıyorum hedefine vardığında bunun cevabına da muvafık olmuş olacaksın.”, der Muhafız gülümseyerek.

 

“İş işten geçince yani..”, diye cevap verir Brom somurtarak.

 

“İş işten sadece öldüğümüzde geçmiş olur, genç hobbit. Ki bazen öldüğümüzde bile geçmiş olmayabilir. Ama sen buradaysan, bunun bir sebebi olmalı. Tıpkı gideceğin yerde sana ihtiyaç duyulabileceği gibi.”

 

“Ben sadece basit, küçük bir hobbit’im. Kimin bana ihtiyacı olabilir ki? Bu koca dünyada nasıl bir etkim olabilir?”

 

“Bu ‘koca dünya’ dediğin şey gerçekte ve tamamı, bir çok küçük şeylerin bir araya gelmesidir aslında; ağaçlar, binlerce küçük yaprağın bir araya gelmesinden, şehirler, binlerce insanın bir araya gelmesinden, ordular, binlerce bireyin bir araya gelmesinden oluşur. İnsanların kaderlerini de, binlerce ‘küçük şeyler’in bir araya gelmesi belirler. Bunlar bazen niyetlerden, bazen eylemlerden, bazen de ‘sadece basit’ küçük hobbit’lerden oluşur..”

 

“Hiç bir şey anlamadım ama verdiğiniz alicenap açıklamadan dolayı teşekkür ederim, Efendim.”, der Brom ciddi bir ifadeyle.

Uhrevi güzellikteki adam tekrar gülümser.

 

“Gidelim mi?”, diye sorar hobbit’e.

 

“Evet, lütfen.. Ama hazır konu açılmışken, aşağıdaki kim di?”, diye soruverir Brom.

Muhafız yine esef dolu bir nefes daha verir.

 

“Ah şu ölümlüler..”, diye söylenir.

 

Brom içinde bulunduğu ‘hava kabarcığının’ daraldığını hisseder ve gözleri kararmaya başlar. Etrafındaki buz gibi su üstüne çuvallandığında ise kendinden geçer. Farkındalığını kaybetmeden önce duyduğu son şey Muhafızın sesidir.

 

“Zuggtmoy.”

 

Brom, muhteşem bir Nisan güneşine gözlerini açar.

Güneş daha tam tepede değildir ancak pırıl pırıl, masmavi gök yüzünde keyifle dolanmaktadır. 

Brom, her tarafı ağrır bir şekilde doğrulur ve etrafına bakınır. Aşağı, güneye baktığında, Croaking Mires bataklığını görünce biraz şaşırır. Belli ki Muhafız onu sadece yüzeye çıkarmakla yetinmemiş, onu bataklıktan da tamamen çıkarmıştır.

 

“Zuggtmoy..”, diye geçirir içinden ama bu isme tekabül eden hiçbir bilgi gelmez aklına.

“Aptal şey..”, diye hışımla söylenir ama bunu, suyun altındaki ‘sıskası çıkmış, ürkütücü kız’ için mi kullanır, yoksa olur olmaz zamanlarda onu, tam da göremediği yerden ısıran şu ne idüğü belirsiz şey için mi, belli değildir..

Brom Bumblebrim’in hayret verici maceraları
A Bard’s Tale XIV “a Bit of a Bite” III ile
devam edecek..