Thursday, December 31, 2009

Twenty Three

            I leapt to the side just as the pole axe came crashing down where I’d stood.  The Balaur screamed its frustration and I quickly spoke the word of command firing off the spell that would save me.  I felt the infusion of vitality and dodged again, backpedaling as Nepech’s fiery wrath struck the fetid creature full in the face, toppling it to the ground where it smoked and twitched its last.  I planted my mace firmly against the ground and heaved myself to my feet with a groan.  Nepech rifled through the stinking lizards many pouches looking for something.  He finally rocked back on his heels and looked at me.

            “Try not to piss them off or draw their ire Siona.  That’s my job.  You’re just supposed to heal me.” He said.  I caught my breath and nodded straightening up.

            “You can have their attention Nepech, you can have it all you want.”  I replied, making the sign against evil on my chest.  Nepech laughed the sound booming and startling in the stillness that was the Eye of Reshanta.  We had been picking off guards for quite sometime near the Divine Fortress.  Each Balaur that fell, Nepech would stoop and search but when I had asked he had said he merely sought anything that may be of interest.  I did not prod further but at least once I had seen him discreetly tuck a sheaf of leather wrapped parchment in his robes.  It had the distinct look of scouting reports I myself had carried for Sin a time or two.   I caught Nepech looking me over.

            “Don’t just stand there Neppie, kill something.  I can’t very well heal you if you aren’t hurt and you aren’t getting hurt standing here gawping at me.”  I smiled as I said it and stuck my tongue out at him as I finished.  He laughed at me and ice collected at his fingers.  He spoke the arcane and flung his arm at me, the frost passing my shoulder and catching a Balaur at the top of a nearby rise unawares.

            I stepped passed Nepech several paces and flung a healing prayer at his back the words slipping passed my lips easily and familiarly keeping the prayer in place over him, protecting his well being over a time, remedying his condition almost as instantly as he was hit.  When we next paused I chanted the prayer of rebirth, placing the self imposed geas on my soul to remain with my body, should I fall and felt some of my vitality secret its self away within my self should such a situation occur.  It was a secret known only to clerics and very useful, though also very taxing. 

            The light in the Eye was diffuse, being in the shadow of upper Reshanta as it was.  Nepech had explained that this was what gave us our advantage, explaining Balauric anatomy in great detail and how their eyesight was imperfect in twilit conditions, even though they see well in darkness or in bright light.  It was macabre at first listening to this dissertation as he annihilated the very creatures we spoke of, but my pity for these fearsome brutes was very short lived when one attempted to ambush me.

            Nepech signaled to me to back away and follow after he finished off the Balaur scout and I followed him as we eased our way passed yet more of the stinking dragon-kin.  We took wing and found a free floating shard of rock mercifully devoid of anything living to land upon.  

            “We rest, we eat and we go back at it for a while.  We’ll head back up to Roah for the night; one of our Legions took control last night, so it’s safe for a time while the enemy regroups.”  He sat heavily and I joined him opening up my cube and pulling free some dumplings I’d made the night before.  He made a face at me and pulled out something of his own.

            We ate in silence for a time before he finally spoke, I knew it was coming, Nepech did not strike me as one to let go and I know he knew I had not been forthcoming; still I had almost convinced myself he wouldn’t ask.

            “Who were they Sirona?”  He asked, taking another bite of his food.  I tried not to still or to flinch and I think I did a passable job at it as I took another hasty bite of my food and chewed slowly to give myself time to think.  I decided to try and play dumb. 

            “I said in my report, the sorceress responsible for my abduction is Kuraia; the Gladiator with her was unknown to me and later Kuraia brought the assassin Switchkin to torture me for our Legion’s location in Heiron.”  I looked at him and he sighed groaning a little.

            “So much for this being simple with you.” He stated. “You know that is not the ‘three’ I am talking about.  I mean the Ranger, Chanter and Sorcerer that had you at the rift.  You know that is who I meant, and you are not stupid.  Nor am I baby girl, I would appreciate it if you would at least give me the courtesy to not treat me as if I am so.”  He gave me a patient look but beneath it I could see he was barely controlled and that I should not test him, or push him too far.  I felt suddenly guilty at his words and decided to be as straight as I could yet remain within the bounds of my written report.

            “When I woke in that room and the sorcerer that had me at the rift came, I was burnt, bloody, and broken.  I did not know who he was or why he was there but at first I assumed the worst of him.”  I stared at the half eaten remains of my dumpling and I was suddenly not very hungry.  “He wrapped me in his Legion Cloak, picked me up and I lost consciousness again.”  I wrapped the half eaten food in a square of cloth and placed it neatly in my cube.  Wonderful things, cubes, so small yet magical in such a way that the interiors held so much more than their compact outside allowed for.  Nepech broke me out of my idle musings by impatiently clearing his throat.  I stared at him for long moments; I would not volunteer any more information.  He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

            “I was there in the days after your return.  You’re one of the most singularly stubborn women I think I have ever met baby doll.” He rocked back and settled himself again after letting out an explosive breath. 

            “I want to know who they are Sirona.  If I thought it would get me anywhere I would torture you myself, but you have all ready proven that it would gain me nothing.”  His mouth set in a grim line he stared at me. I looked him in the eye and stared back defiant. His words had cut to a certain degree and a line had been drawn now all that was left was to see how far either of us would cross it.

            “I can’t tell you.” I said.

            “No, you won’t tell me.” He shot back.  I let out my own breath and slumped a little, but I was not defeated.

            “No, Nepech. I mean what I say, I cannot tell you.” He rocked back again and the anger was there painted across his features in one of the darkest looks I have ever beheld on anyone’s face. I took a deep breath and plunged forward, deeper into my lie. “I swear to you Nepech, I can not tell you, because I can not say what I do not know.”  I watched his face and in a last ditch effort to protect my friends I prayed with all my heart and soul, a silent plea from my soul to Aion’s ear.

            Please Father, I would do anything you ask, please Father let him believe me.  Please, just please let him believe me and let them be safe.

            “Damn you Sirona!’ he slammed his gloved fist into the stone at his side. “I do not want to believe you girl, but you have given me no reason to disbelieve you.”  He crossed his arms disgruntled.  “I should report you unfit for duty to Sin you piss me off so.” He looked at me hard. “I don’t think I will though, because so far, it isn’t true and I am a man of my word.  Let’s get back down there.  Those Balaur reports aren’t going to find themselves.

            It was a testament to how upset he was that he let information like that slip in front of me.  I swallowed hard and rose, dusting off my chain.  What in Atreia was Destiny into that we would need Balaur reports?  I pondered this for only a brief while, for Nepech was angry and he was determined to make everything in his path pay.  As his healer, I was very glad I now stood behind him.

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