akashi waits for any questions, that she might have and then continues, "I guess you are quite hungry after such a hardship, shall I bring you something to eat?"
She smiles wryly. "If you bring water as well, I wouldn't take it amiss. You have my gratitude and my blood-debt, healer."
At this last line Frenil's eyes narrow. Then he grins at himself.
[David's note: Frenil isn't too clear about the meaning of these last words, but will asume he misheard. In his culture blood debt is way too important to be mentioned in such a instance. His grin is for what he assumes is his misunderstanding.]
[In Kitseya's culture, a blood-debt is any debt involving a threat to health or life. They toss the term around rather more frequently, especially in the subculture from whence she came.]
"Where were my thoughts?" he silently asks no one in particular, then says to Kitseya, "Of course. I'll fetch you some water."
Slowly Takashi rises - obviously he is still a bit shaken from the sudden confrontation with the wraith - and looks around in the infirmary. He isn't familiar with this particular infirmary, but in a way all infirmaries are the same to a skilled healer. After a few seconds he finds what he seeks and fills a cup with water.
With the cup in both hands Takashi moves over to Kit and hands it over to her. Reasoning that Kit must be very weak, Takashi remains close to her.
He then moves to one of the assistants and asks him to bring some soup or some other easily digestible food for Kit reasoning that anything else might be too much for her stomach after a long delirium. While he waits for the attendant's return he will fill another cup with water and hand it to Kit.
[Karsten's note: I'm aware that Takashi per se has no authority to issue commands to one of the infirmary's assistants, but under the given circumstances I assumed that this would be no problem. After all he was called to assist and the attendant's job would be to assist the healers...]
The attendant soon returns with some oxtail soup and rice, which Kitseya accepts.
Frenil sits quietly and requests his weapons back, pointing out with a smile that he would never have needed to break the flask if he had had his swords.
Aris frowns, and orders two of the soldiers to clean up the broken glass, which they do with a minimum of grumbling. "You may be right," he says pensively. "If the healers will allow it--*and* if you concentrate on recovery--you can have your swords. With your permission...?" If Frenil permits, he will send the 3rd soldier to fetch Frenil's swords.
Frenil grins wryly to himself, amused that his permission is asked, and readily gives his assent with a slight bow.
[Enter Qoren Talos.]
Qoren's superiors are all too happy to give him leave, when he has the executioner's request behind him; Cat's reputation combined with Qoren's own (not to mention the eyepatch and scars) must have done the trick.
It is but a short ride to the Stronghold from his post on the Black Wall. As he and Cat ride away--Qoren on a docile military mount, Cat on his notoriously ill-tempered blue roan--Qoren glances back and thinks of the long nights, long days he has spent guarding Qenar from the wraiths.
And now, in the Ashen Lands, there are wraiths wearing human faces...wraiths who bear no allegiance to Qenar's law.
Soon the Stronghold rises before them, a fortress of the same grey stone as the Wall. For the first time, that simple fact seems an ill omen. Cat himself is quiet, saying only, "Some shadows know no walls."
[GM's note: The Black Wall isn't actually black, except as a silhouette. It takes its name from the Black Priest, a past marshal who was responsible for building it against the Ashen Lands.]
And once inside, once past the wary salutes of the Stronghold's guards and the stables' hay-and-dung smell, Cat leads Qoren into the heart of the fortress, pausing for no argument. He had spoken of others who would journey, perhaps, into the Ashen Lands; perhaps this is where they have gathered.
"I must meet with Rahen for what he asks of me," Cat says as they pass through the magelit halls, "but first there is someone to see to, and people to ask--ask if they will accompany you. I much suspect they will."
They turn the corner and reach the infirmary, where a man with commander's insignia stands at the doorway, facing inward and speaking to others. Qoren feels the ephemeral touch of magic, already fading and soon gone.
Those in the infirmary hear footsteps, two sets: one numbered and precise, one soft and shadowlike.
The first, it seems, belongs to a man with one eye; three scars trail from the eyepatch covering the ruins of the other. He hasn't yet had time to put down his gear, and he wears the uniform of a Qenaren soldier...though the axe, the axe is unusual. One of the infirmary attendants appears and frowns at him.
Takashi curiously eyes the warrior. He has seen many soldiers in his travels of Qenar and the surrounding lands, but this one looks quite unusual. Without moving Takashi takes a look at Qoren's eyepatch and the scars trailing from it. For a few seconds he thinks of what could have caused such an injury, but then Takashi decides that this is not place nor the time for such thoughts.
The second is a man with both his eyes, clad in black; the third of the three daggers at his belt is a magistrate's vaesjenar, drawn only to kill--only for an execution. He doesn't have the soldier's height or musculature, but his reputation casts ahead of him, like a long shadow. Cat, Qenar's high magistrate.
'What is he doing here ?' Takashi thinks to himself. The incident with the wraith was hardly an hour ago. 'Could it be that he has come to investigate the matter or is it a simple coincidence?' he asks himself. If a coincidence, it is a disturbing one. But he has heard that this man, too, is a mage, and a deadly one--was he aware of the goings-on before he entered?
Two dangerous men, all in all...except they are not enemies.
For his part, Qoren sees the commander, two soldiers cleaning up broken glass (broken glass? in an infirmary, and particles of glass glittering on the wall?), a Bereshi physician, an Ashenlander who looks as if he's seen too much bloodshed, an islander woman in the bed, sitting up.
Commander Aris recovers first and bows deeply to the new arrivals. "My welcome...and apologies for the state of the infirmary." Frenil can be seen to grin wryly.
Kitseya says, absently, "It's no fault of yours." Her eyes go to Cat. "I was told you had left...upon my waking not an hour ago."
It would seem Cat should be glad of her recovery, but there's an odd tension in him, shadow straining against the boundaries of light. "Aye," he says, nodding toward Qoren. "I had someone to fetch." He waits, letting Qoren and the others introduce themselves. "What has happened here?"
Frenil begins laughing silently, to the others' puzzlement.
Since Commander Aris is in charge here, Takashi decides that it is best to at least let him try to explain what happened.
As Qoren scans the scene before him he wonders who Cat was intending for him to accompany. He can only assume that the recovering islander was Cat's wounded partner on his latest trek. Perhaps Cat is intending this commander to lead the mission if his comrade is not yet well enough. As these thoughts go through Qoren's mind he introduces himself to the commander and others present.
Saluting the commander sharply, but speaking clear enough for all present, he says, "Sergeant Qoren Talos, sir. I've been stationed on the Black Wall for the last 5 years. However, extraordinary circumstances and the High Magistrate have brought me here." Cat's mouth is pulled to the side in a curious expression. Qoren wishes he knew how to interpret it.
Qoren's eye for a moment leaves the commander's and moves to the soldiers cleaning up, and in an almost ironic tone continues, "Although, you seem to be having your own extraordinary circumstances."
Frenil responds to the tone with an ironic grin of his own.
Qoren then waits for a return introductions from the commander and any others who might feel a need to introduce themselves. He also awaits with Cat as to an explanation of what happened to cause such a mess and the presence of 3 military personel.
Kitseya coughs, almost apologetically, and quickly swallows some water. "We met a wraith, and it stayed with me," she says simply. "An old, old magic was holding me prisoner--but the healer here"--she nods at Takashi--"freed me of it, and the Ashenlander"--this time at Frenil--"was brave against the wraith, as well." Frenil's smile at that comment doesn't quite reach his eyes.
Involuntarily Takashi's eyes widen a bit.
Aris' smile is tight. "I assure you, Executioner, we did our best. I went for reinforcements, who didn't turn out to be so needful after all." One of the soldiers, still searching for fragments of glass, makes a face at his back. "A wraith in the Stronghold, with no advance warning--it would be no pleasant thing."
Qoren agrees with Commander's thinking. Having seen first hand what a hostile wraith can do, he's in no hurry to see it again.
Cat only wears a sardonic smile.
He gathers his breath, then says, "Kit was in coma since you brought her here." He almost succeeds in keeping the accusation from his voice; it seems that the islander is well-known and liked, here.
Cat says patiently, "My duties were elsewhere." He gestures at Qoren. "He has...experience with wraiths." He leaves a silence for Qoren to elaborate or not, as he chooses.
Qoren, for his part, wonders at the tension he feels...and tension between two mages is nothing he wants to think about too long.
Kitseya looks at Qoren and says, "I will be accompanying you, then." She pauses, as if waiting for Takashi's rebuke, a wry look on her face. Then she coughs, and eats more of the soup.
Takashi opens his mouth as if to speak, but remembering his earlier perceptions of Kitseya, he decides that it would be pointless to object and closes his mouth. Instead he begins to contemplate his next action. She favors him with a small, rueful smile--as if to apologize for her lack of concern for her health.
Takashi, too, has an explanation:
"Well, it all began about an hour ago, when I and Frenil," at that point Takashi gestures at the ashenlander, "were called to the infirmary. We were told that a patient might need our help. Upon arriving in the infirmary we were showed to that young lady and asked if one of us - I as a physican or Frenil as a former inhabitant of the ashen lands - might know what had befallen her."
"Fortunately Frenil remembered a tale, that was passed down by his people for generations." At that point Takashi waits for Frenil to reiterate his story.
Frenil does no such thing, merely smiles wryly and waits, as long as no one specifically asks him to speak.
Qoren notes Frenil's silence with a considering glance. Silence, Qoren thinks, can sometimes tell as much about a person as action.
"You can recount it later," Aris says gruffly, puzzled by Frenil's silence. "I suppose there's a lot we need to learn."
"Having no better idea, I decided to act on Frenil's story and began to search Kit for any residues of magical engergies that a powerful enchantment might leave behind." Here Takashi pauses for moment considering how to continue. "What I actually found when my senses had fully shifted to the ethereal realm was something different though. Suddenly a shadow emerged from her and spoke to us - or at least I think that it spoke to all of us."
"I don't remember it," Kitseya murmurs.
Waiting a moment for a reaction from Cat (or Qoren) he continues, "'A promise made, a woken shade. The bargain was yours, not ours.' And then it attacked us by summoning a bird of snow and ice ..." with that Takashi's voice trails off.
Takashi and anyone else who is watching notice that Cat flinches almost imperceptibly; his hands are steady, but the scars turn impossibly white. Old scars, but the pain is new.
"He unravelled the bird," Kitseya finishes, without mentioning her own part in it. Takashi eyes Kitseya thoughtfully. She looks back at him with innocent eyes.
"A useful skill," Cat says. There is a shadow on his voice, a warning. It is a time for warnings, perhaps.
Torch image provided by Clipart Castle.