Author Topic: Before the Walls  (Read 2118 times)

Offline nazlan

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Before the Walls
« on: August 25, 2008, 04:08:39 PM »
Twilight settled over the house on the hill three miles from Berdusk, and Maera Coltrane was pulling her squirming daughter from the bathtub when Corra Brightfoot poked her head into the little girl’s bedroom.  “Maera,” she said, “there’s a man at the door.”

“At this hour?  Does he need a room for the night?”  Maera asked, not looking up as she toweled off Kylia, eliciting a storm of giggles.

The halfling woman shifted her weight.  Kelsey and Maera had hired her to help around the house in the days immediately prior to Kylia’s birth, but she’d made herself so indispensable in the years since they couldn’t imagine doing without her now.  “Kelsey said I should fetch you.” Corra replied. 

Maera glanced at the door, concerned.  “What’s wrong?”

“He said he’s your brother.” 

What would Balthazar be doing here now?  Maera’s brow furrowed.  “Not quite as tall as me, bald head?”

“Well, he’s bald…”

Maera’s toweling ceased, and her lips compressed.  She looked back at her daughter.  “Ky, finish drying off and let Corra help you get ready for bed.  I’ve got to take care of something, but I’ll be back really soon.”  Kylia nodded and, taking the towel in her hands, made great show of carefully drying herself.  As she left the room, Maera dropped a hand to Corra’s shoulder.  “I won’t be long.” 

Her husband stood at the base of the front stairs, arms crossed.  “He’s outside.”

Maera sighed and shook her head.  “What the hell is he doing here?”

“Dunno.”  Kelsey shrugged.  “Want me to come with you, honey?”

“No, it’s okay.  I can handle him.”

“All right.  I’ll go start stories with Ky.”  He squeezed her arm as he headed up the stairs, giving her an encouraging smile.  She squared her shoulders and stepped outside into the darkening courtyard.

“Sarevok.”

The tall, bulky man was cloaked, despite the mildness of the spring evening.  “The sorcerer was not pleased to see me.”

“I can’t imagine why.  You two always got along so well.”

Sarevok snorted.  “Facetious as ever.”  He eyed her, mouth twisting in disapproval.  “You’re wearing a dress.”

“It’s comfortable, and I think it looks good on me,” she replied, smoothing her mossy brown skirt.  “I assume you have reasons for being here other than commenting on my fashion choices?”

“I don’t know what I was expecting.  I knew you were on a collision course with mediocrity, ” Sarevok said.  He gestured about at the courtyard and the house behind her.  “But this…playing house with the sorcerer.  I had higher hopes for you.”

Maera heaved a deep breath, and rubbed a hand over her face.  “You knew this was what I wanted.  And damn it, Sarevok, he has a name.  It’s Kelsey.  He’s not just ‘the sorcerer’, he’s my husband.  A little consideration would be nice.”

“I must admit I hoped for a warmer welcome.”

“And you might have gotten one if you hadn’t just vanished into the ether after the solar sent us back. You disappeared without a word!  What was I supposed to think?” She took another breath.  “So do you want from me anyway?”

Silence stretched between them.  When Sarevok spoke, it was slowly, as if the words did not come easily.  “Your help.”

“My help doing what?”

“The city of Westgate suffers beneath the boot of a tyrant.  I intend to raise an army and liberate it.”

“Uh huh.”  She folded her arms.  “And where do I fit into this wacky scheme?”

Sarevok stepped towards her, eyes suddenly burning with urgency.  “Come with me!  People would follow you!  The name of Maera of Candlekeep carries great weight.” - “Try living under it.”  - He continued, as if she hadn’t spoken.  “With your sword added to the cause, we cannot fail!  None shall stand before us, and we shall be as we were meant to be, brother and sister, laying waste to those who oppose us, fighting for glory and victory!”  His triumphant voice trailed off before her expressionless face.  “This does not please you?”

“Why should it?  I’ve never fought for glory.  I fought for my survival, and my freedom, and to protect the innocents caught between me and the people trying to kill me.”

“And you will not fight to protect innocents now?  Then you have grown soft.  Soft, and selfish.”

Her eyes blazed suddenly and she crossed the distance between them in two long strides.  She was a tall woman, but he towered over her by nearly a foot.  That didn’t stop her from glaring up at him.  “Selfish?  How dare you!  Don’t pretend your motives are so pure, marching on a city without provocation!  Whatever twisted impulses are urging you to do this, figure them out on your own!  Don’t drag other people into it!  Especially not me!”

A slow smile spread across Sarevok’s face, and he leaned closer to her.  “That is the Maera I know.  That fire…this is my sister.”

The air grew uncomfortably intimate.  She could feel his breath on her face.  Maera took a step back, averting her eyes.  She’d tried to ignore it before - the way his eyes would settle on her, follow her around a room - and though they had never talked about it, she had known it infuriated Kelsey.  “Don’t look at me like that and call me sister.”

He cocked his head.  “You do not step away when Imoen is near.”

“That’s different, and you know it.”

“Then I may not be familial?”

She dropped her head.  “I think you’re confused, Sarevok.  I think you always have been.”

Sarevok’s customary dour expression returned.  “You can’t tell me you don’t miss it,” he said, obviously changing the subject.   “The power of life and death over others.  The knowledge that no one could match you.  The freedom to go anywhere and do anything.  Think of who you were, sister, before the walls hemmed you in.”

Maera stared at her feet for a moment, then met his eyes again.  “Sarevok…I’m not trapped here.  No one is holding me here against my will.  For right now, this is what I want.  Besides,” she said, a bit more forcefully, “I’m not retired.  I’m just taking a few years off.”  As she spoke, he turned, staring up at the slowly appearing stars, and when she was done, he said nothing.   She rolled her eyes in irritation.  She had not missed his talent for making even the simplest conversation awkward with his over-long pauses.

Eventually, mercifully, he broke the silence.  “I had purpose again, in your service.  I bent the knee because I felt you had earned it.  All my life I had clawed to command, because no one was my equal.  Do you not see?  You were my better.”

She sighed.  “This isn’t about me.  It never was.  I thought…I thought we understood each other.  I thought by the time it was all said and done that we’d made peace.  Maybe we’d never be friends, but at least…” She spread her hands.  “Then poof!  You’re gone.  It’s been five years, Sarevok.  How was I to interpret that?”

His voice was so low she could barely hear him.  “You changed me.”

“How?”

“The manner in which I was resurrected.”

“Which was your idea,” she pointed out.

He chuckled, a short, rumbling sound.  “Yes, I was over clever, wasn’t I?”  The night sky must have been fascinating indeed, the way he continued to stare at it.  “The crux of the matter is that I died by your hand, and was raised by your soul, and I…found I no longer quite knew myself.  I am still not entirely sure that I do.”

She bit her lip, weighing her words carefully.  “Not everyone knows themselves, Sarevok.  There’s no shame in that.”

He laughed again, quick and harsh, and faced her once more.  “But you always did.  You knew who you were and you bent the planes themselves to accommodate that.”  She flushed.  “And I envied you, and the sorce-” His mouth twisted to force out the words.  “And Kelsey.  You found a way to be happy in spite of your circumstances.”  A memory flashed in Maera’s mind, of a pale, beautiful woman whose canted eyes reflected a love lost, just beyond her grasp, that she was still willing to die for.  Tamoko’s name hung unsaid as Sarevok continued, “You have found balance in your life.”

“Jaheira would say that’s the purpose of every life.”

“I never liked the druid, but she was wise.”

Maera smiled in spite of herself.  “Yeah, she is.”  She stepped closer to him, head tilted, eyes thoughtful.  “The thing is, Sarevok…it isn’t me you should be trying to emulate or impress.  It’s you.  You have to be the man you want to be.  Trite as that sounds.”

“And what if you do not approve?”

“We’ve crossed swords before.  But I don’t think we’ll have to again.”  The door opened behind her, and a small nightgown-clad figure hurled itself at her legs.  Maera scooped her daughter up in one quick motion.  “Ky!  You should be in bed!”

“You said you’d come right back!”

Kelsey appeared in the doorway.  “Couldn’t stop her.  Apparently Daddy-only story time was unacceptable this evening.”

Maera rolled her eyes fondly and shifted Kylia to one hip.  “You spoil her.”

He grinned, reached out, and ruffled his daughter’s hair.  “You know I’m no good at being the bad guy.”

Sarevok watched.  Five wasted years clawed at his back – time he’d spent pitying himself, while she had made the most of her peace and plenty.  But didn’t she always manage the make the most of every situation in which she found herself?  Kill her father and leave her stranded in the unknown and she would survive.  Steal her friends and her soul and she would take her retribution.  Threaten the world for her power and she would save it instead.  She was wrong, he thought.  She did deserve at least a little emulation.

She seemed to feel his eyes and turned back towards him, and before she could say anything, he said, “I am been here too long.”  He nodded curtly.  “Kelsey.” 

Maera could not stop her mouth from gaping ever so slightly, but she recovered.  “You’re still going to Westgate, aren’t you?”

He shrugged expressively.  “I have still yet to determine what sort of man I am, sister.  Perhaps I will learn there.”

“And if you don’t?”

“The world is vast, and I have yet seen very little of it.  But this time, at least, I will leave you with a word.”  He inclined his head.  “Good-bye, Maera.”  The child was looking at him, and he met her gaze.  “Be strong, little one.  Be a fitting heir.”

He disappeared into the night.  Kylia Coltrane was not quite five, but she would remember the encounter for the rest of her life.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2009, 01:04:37 PM by nazlan »

Offline nazlan

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Re: Before the Walls
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2009, 03:43:53 PM »
Well, that needed a good sound revising! 

 

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