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03 March 2010 @ 12:27 pm
Midsummer 1372, Night  
It was late when Nim Tagen was through with us, and in light of our agreement, we were transferred from our cells to more comfortable rooms for the night. They didn’t lock us up, but the windows were barred and there were guards at the end of the hallway, to make sure we didn’t leave. We would be allowed to go home in the morning, under guard, to get out of our festival finery, such as it was now, and to gather supplies for our expedition. We were to set out the following morning, at first light. I stepped out of the chamber Seledra and I shared and leaned against the window at the end of the corridor, feeling sorry for myself, and feeling weak even for that.

“I'm sorry; I had no choice.” It was Tordrin, coming down the hallway. I couldn't believe he had the gall to come talk to me, after what he'd done. I'd been such a fool to trust him. I should have followed my instincts. He came up behind me. “There are worse things to be wanted for, you know.” He tried to caress my hair, but I jerked away.

“Than something I didn’t do?”

“Than espousing the cause of a good goddess. Look—“

“You betrayed me!” I whirled on him.

He looked a little bewildered at my behavior. Maybe he thinks he can still fool me.

“Listen,” he said, “I don’t know what happened at the festival. I’m already working on that. I know you and I know Seledra, and I know Kronk, sort of. I’m sure someone planted those tokens on you, but it’ll take time to find out who, time the Guards in Silver won’t give. In the meantime, I couldn’t withhold the information they wanted, not this time.”

“This time?”

He put his hand on my shoulders. “You know very well that Thralia and I knew about your other . . . identities . . . since Everlund, and I suspected more, even if I didn't know all of it. The guards here ask questions when there are drow around, even when they've been vouched for. Especially when their activities in the city are slightly suspicious. We’ve been questioned since we came back into the city and our recent association with you became known, and we've covered for you. I've covered for you. A lot."

"Well, of course you did. You hadn't gotten everything you wanted from me, yet."

Tordrin looked stricken. "You can't really think that. . . . You must know how much I care about--"

"If you truly cared, you wouldn't have told them everything," I said coldly. "You would have kept your promise. Why couldn't you just tell them that I'm a thief and mercenary from Menzo? Why, if not because exposing me was your plan all along?"

"I had no intention of exposing you. You have to believe me!"

"Then why?"

"Because it was better for you that they know the whole truth."

"How? So they can extradite me back to my own people, as punishment for my crimes here? At least if they just imprisoned me as a thief, I would've had a chance of escaping!"

"Do you really--" Tordrin stopped and let out a deep breath. "Ralenthra, can't you see that I'm only trying to protect you?” He leaned toward me, but I pushed him in the chest, hard.

“Protect me?” I was shouting, now. “I was doing just fine protecting myself, you know!” I moved to hit him, but he grabbed my arms, tighter this time.

“Were you?" Tordrin raised his voice at first, but took another breath before continuing. "Your elaborate misdirection last week may have thrown people off your scent for a while, but not forever. What are you going to do when they find you again? Because they will. You can’t pull the same trick again. Will you just slip away and move to a new city? How many times can you do that?”

“As many times as it takes.”

“What about the friends you’ve made here? There are people who actually care about you, you know.”

“I’d have been able to hide here longer than I will now that you’ve let everybody know who I am! You may as well have sent a letter to all my enemies inviting them to Silverymoon to kill me! Drow don’t just throw you in a cell and give you bread and water every morning. For all I know, by the time I get back from this—this suicide mission—if I get back—they’ll all be here waiting for me. And it’s your fault! You’ve probably been planning this all this time; you’re just as bad as those people from Olostin’s Hold! I wish I’d never met you!”

I heard Magnos shout from his room, “There are people trying to sleep around here, you know!”

A gruff voice called out “What’s going on out there? Agent Windweaver, d’ya need some help?”

Tordrin turned to respond to the guard, “I’ve got it covered, thanks.” His momentary lapse of attention allowed me to wriggle out of his grip, and I ran toward the door to my room, where Seledra had just stepped out to find out what was going on.

“If you want to protect me, leave me the hell alone!” I shouted as I flung myself onto Seledra. I wasn’t going to look at Tordrin again. He betrayed me; I don’t care how much I hurt him.

Seledra hesitated, then drew me into the room and locked the door behind her. She sat me down on a bed and held me as I broke down and cried for the first time since my childhood.

*********

Weak. My parents, Rizzen, they were all right; I’m just weak. He fooled me so easily, and I actually began to trust him. I should’ve known better. I did know better, and I ignored my instinct. My father was right; trust is a weakness. Love is a weakness. I’m even crying over him, like a fool.

They all lied to me. Tordrin, Thralia, and especially her. All those dream visions—she promised peace. I haven’t had a single moment of peace since I started following her. Another moment of weakness.

Why couldn’t he leave me alone? Why did he have to dig into my past? Why did he work so hard to make me trust him? Why did I fall for it? I’ve hidden from my family for over ten years; they never would have found me here, until now. It won’t take long for this information to reach my father.

Seledra hasn’t said anything, but she’ll probably back him up. She won’t understand. She’s never been hunted.

I will never let my guard down again.


Seledra interrupted my reverie. She was still trying to comfort me, but she hadn't spoken until then.

“Why does it matter, that anyone knows your real name? The people from Menzo are after Corael, aren’t they? They won’t keep coming after you just because you’re involved with Eilistraeeans, will they?”

“Them? Probably not for that. But they’ll find out that Corael and I are the same person, and Corael made them lose favor with Llolth. It’s . . . a big deal. They'll probably stop looking for me eventually, if I can keep away from them. It’s a waste of resources. But they won’t hesitate to kill me if I run into any of them”

“Then what are you so worried about?”

“My father. You think you’re family is messed up? My mother wanted to kill me when I was a small child, because I was small and sickly.” Seledra looked horrified. I shrugged. “It’s the drow way. Someone, my aunt, I think, convinced my father not to, that he should wait until I grew some more, to see if I had other talents that made up for it.

“My mother was furious, but my father forbade her to harm me. He’s a high priest of Vhaeraun, so he had enough authority in the clan to make that decision. My mother left soon after; she had never fully bought into the idea of equality, and she rankled under the authority of a male. She went back to the Underdark, I’m not sure where, to serve Llolth.

“But my father let me live, at a time when the Auskovyn were struggling to carve out a home on the surface. He gave me precious resources that could have gone to someone who would’ve better benefited the clan. He invested in me. When I was training to be a ranger, he knew I cheated, but he let it go on, because I’d finally proven I had a skill that could be valuable. When he caught me with the Eilestraeeans, it was more than a crime; it was personal. He will never stop hunting me, because he invested in me, and I proved to be a waste.

“Maybe he was right.” Seledra drew a breath, as though to speak. To protest, no doubt. The fair elves are so emotional; they don’t see the weakness in it; she wouldn't see my weakness. "I told him, you know." I could feel Seledra's shoulders grow tense. "I told Tordrin everything. And he used it against me, the first chance he got. He told me he'd never tell anyone, and I believed him. I'm such a fool, Seledra. Such a fool."

Seledra's voice quavered a little when she finally spoke. “Maybe this mission is a blessing in disguise for you. It . . . it'll give you some distance, some time to think, you know? And if you stay moving with the rest of us there to all watch each other’s backs…okay, Magnos will probably only be looking to save his own skin, but still…on the run or in Silverymoon, you will be safe with us. Maybe you’ll be able to keep using ‘Mayurra’ as your identity here. Maybe the Captain will keep his word and ‘Ralenthra’ will remain a secret.”

“That’s a lot of maybes, Seledra.”
 
 
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