Spacer Turn 18
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Spelljammer | Turn 18 |



Turn 18

First day, afternoon, Val and Hiro:

    More 3 Trees security is in evidence - the plank is watched by a lone guard, who checks their ID chits before allowing them on board. The ship is quiet; there is a soft mutter of voices behind the door to the captain's quarters, and Inez is chatting with the second mate, but there doesn't seem to be anyone else on board.
    "Interesting," Val comments to Hiro indicating the guard at the plank. He feels a bit guilty, as he's certain they are there because of the incident with Victor. However, Val takes a certain amount of comfort in having someone there. He takes more comfort in having the swordsman with him, however.
    Upon seeing who is on deck, Val steers over towards Inez and the second mate. "Have you seen Brother Pham or Alais?" he asks without preamble. He glances back to see if Hiro is still with him.
    "Not since they went off with Emmett," she sighs. "Wish they'd hurry the hell up with whatever it is; I'm getting tired of waiting."
    Hiro's eyebrows inquire of Inez. There's something oddly catlike about the expression, but it's intent registers all the same. Thankfully, the crew's had some time to become accustomed to his non-verbal communication.
    "Do you know where they were off to?" Val asks after seeing that this was news to Hiro as well. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he's actually quite happy for Emmett and Inez. But right now, their happiness seems to remind Val just how miserable he is feeling right now...
    "Hall of Records. Captain's business," Nolan replies brusquely.
    Hiro bows his head, says, "Thank you." And then outstretches his arm suggesting that Val lead the way.
    Val looked as if he might say more, but does not. He steps aside with Hiro, but chooses not leave the _Cat_ just yet.
    "I don't plan on hunting them down right now," the young man tells the Kensai, "but I'd better leave word with someone that I need to speak to them. I also wanted to find ibn Fadil. I'm pretty sure he's the one that asked about Teague already, but I want to make certain."
    Val takes a moment to look about the deck of _The Lazy Cat_. For the first time in six months he was going to be sleeping in a room rather than a cramped cabin. Of course, it was going to be an equally cramped room in a run-down boarding house, but it was still off-ship. This wasn't exactly how he'd planned things to be....
    "You know, Hiro," Val says after a moment, "I *do* appreciate you coming with me today. But right now, I think I need some time alone. I feel like I'm two steps behind everyone else, and I'm having a hard time catching up. I need to think a few things through."
    Val is being quite honest, and it probably shows how worn he is. The day's events have frayed his nerves badly.
    "Know that I am at your call when you wish to take action. There are all manner of mousetraps set to bite our feet on Janik. I wish you to not suffer them alone."
    "Thanks," Val says, offering his hand to Hiro, "I'll try to be careful," he says with a wry grin.
    "I guess I'd better report to the captain," he says after a moment with a heavy sigh. Val had not been looking forward to it, and had actually been avoiding it since Victor came on board. "This might be worse than any mousetraps set in Janik... How about I treat you to lunch tomorrow?" Val asks, changing the subject. "We can meet at the first room and find something suitable nearby."
    As that plan meets with no objection, Val makes his way to the captain's captain. Eventually the voices cease and Delmar emerges. He looks surprised to see Val.
    Val is nearly as surprised, but he tries to maintain a calm outward appearance. "I've come to report to the captain," he tells Delmar. "Is she..." he begins, but starts again, "What happened after we left?"
    The laconic mate shrugs. "Himself is less than pleased. I'd stay out of his way." He leans back through the door. "Captain? Val here to see you."
    "Thank you," he tells Delmar. He was doing an awful lot of thanking people lately. He'd better be able to repay all this kindness pretty soon.
    He waits for the captain's consent before entering and takes the brief opportunity to calm his nerves. At least he couldn't be thrown into wildspace right this moment for all the trouble he feels he's caused.
    "Come in. What is it?" Theo inquires with something of a distracted impression. Val is reminded that important though this matter is to him, it is doubtless not the captain's primary concern.
    "Valarin reporting, Captain," the young man says in a steady voice as he enters the cabin, closing the door behind him. "I wanted to take the opportunity to apologize for any troubles I have caused, and to find out if I am needed to bear witness for the events back on Bral..." Val is hoping the latter would be enough to take the captain's mind off the confrontation with Victor earlier on deck.
    "Eh? *You* cause problems?" He gives an amused snort. "This is my ship, lad, and I know what I'm about. As for the meeting, I think not. It'll be a long circus of a day as it is. Is there anything else?"
    "No sir," is Val's crisp reply. He'd been expecting worse, and feels more than a bit relieved. Of course, the young man is curious about Theo's amusement over the incidents of the day. There is more here than meets the eye as well.
    "I'll let the first mate know where I can be found if I am needed for that," Val says politely. "By your leave, Captain..." Yes, definite relief.
    After speaking with Delmar again, Val leaves the _Cat_ in search of a quiet place to think, which for him means someplace high up where he won't be bothered. As it's still daylight, some caution is in order, but it's not long before he finds a way up onto the roofs, and a sheltered spot where he can brood for a while.
    There is some evidence that others have done the same; some of the nearby roof slates bear what look like deliberate scratches. Though it's hard to say what they might mean, they don't appear to be random doodles. Once he's had his fill of both solitude and thought, he returns to the second, more secure, room to try to sleep.
    Hiro remains aboard the _Cat_, where he puts in some practice with his sword, fixes himself a simple supper, and ignores the baffled looks from the few whose duties compel them to remain on the ship, but who would far rather be exploring the city's pleasures.
    "There's something really weird about him," Nolan mutters to himself.

* * *

First day, evening, Emmett:

Inez is waiting abovedecks to greet him with a sly, "What took you so long? I got us a place, not too far from here...."
    "Captain wanted to talk. Have you seen Val anywhere?"
    "He came by earlier, looking for you. Talked to the captain and then went off again. Left word where he's staying."
    "OK. lets do the same, and then swing by where he is. Something's come up, but we've only been in dock for 12 hours - how bad can it be?" Emmett says with a shrug. "Anyway, we'll check up on him and then hit the town."
    He gives her a quick hug, then leads her off the ship, arm around her waist. "I heard them calling what sounds like a great show near the square. So how about dinner somewhere, catch 'the Wonders of the Northern Woods' and then back to the inn for some drinks?"
    "Wonders of the Northern Woods? What's that?"
    "Sounded like a take on the "group of kids from a small town" legend. Must be a comedy - the crier was going on about noble orcs and toad rustlers." Emmett chuckles. "Sounded worth checking out. And maybe we can find a place with open dancing when we get dinner."
    "Sounds like fun," she agrees. "Nothing against ship life, but it's nice to be on a planet again!"
    Val is not at the room when they get there, so the two continue on in hopes of making it to the show, whatever it turns out to be. It's a traveling act - Emmett is sure he can think of several ways to improve the designs for the breakdown pieces. At the entrance is a small tent where a beautiful young woman collects their silver and, while waiting for a group to accumulate, guides them through a series of paintings depicting the varied forests of the planet below, from massive pillars two hundred feet high and with ten times that many years behind them, to firs so dense the artist could have saved time by painting the canvas black, to tropical zones harboring a riot of bright and deadly creatures. Though there are some human cities, Maekelan is largely inhabited by elves and centaurs. The show's owners, a dracon clan, have friendly contact with the latter especially, which has been a great boon to their exhibits.
    When an audience of about a dozen has gathered, they are led past a curtain and into the exhibits proper. Among many examples of flora and fauna are a collection of cleverly trained talking birds, several sorts of deer, a giant toad of impressive size (stuffed), butterflies with wings the size of a man's hand, and a bear which at first appears asleep but which opens one eye to glare balefully at the audience through the heavy bars. As the group goggles at a section of a tree that when living was wider than three oxcarts, or at a glass box of acid ants from the equatorial jungle (capable of stripping the whole group to the bone in minutes should they escape), their guide tells and sometimes sings stories collected (she says) from the planet's natives. Young heroes and heroines from unlikely places accomplishing great deeds, romantic quests, mysterious (to the visitors) gods, epic battles....
    In short, the two enjoy themselves. Afterwards, they head back to the room Inez reserved, order up a couple of bottles of expensive wine, and enjoy themselves even more. The couple does attract some curious looks, the pretty young woman with the heavily armed and oddly repaired marine, but if anyone has any comments they're wise enough to keep them quiet.

* * *

First day, evening, Alais and Pham:

Pham sees that Alais is simply not interested in socializing, and decides that a night off from his fellow pilot is in order. He looks for a tavern -- not a dangerous tavern, hopefully, but one where sailors are prone to congregate, and finds himself at the simply named Cask. The crowd there is on the older side, less likely to start a fight just for the sheer joy of having room to swing after getting off a ship.
    Once there, he sits down, buys a drink, and looks for a chance to trade stories. He'll trade one for one for anything the sailors have to say (stories, that is). A particularly interesting or novel tale (although at least believable rather than a pure fabrication) is worth buying the teller a drink. This, of course, makes him very popular very quickly, as a half dozen old-timers trot out their best yarns and others simply listen, the presence of a new audience making old stories fresh again.
    Pham has been far too long away from his true calling.
    At the end of the evening, with his newfound acquaintances hoping he'll return for more talk if he can, he finds a room at a nearby inn - small and simply appointed but clean - and sleeps deeply. In the morning he's not sure if he heard two people arguing in the next room, or if it was a dream, or in either case what they were arguing about.
    Alais, meanwhile, finds his dinner from a street vendor and then goes looking for places of historical or philosophical interest in the area. The entertainers and rumor-mongerers are still going about their business as he wanders, and he hears the word "delphinids" a couple of times in passing, but can't locate the speaker when he turns. The other buildings in the square itself hold the seat of the business/government. There does appear to be a small museum, with a statue of the company's three founding brothers out front, but its doors are locked. South of the main square, a long, curving avenue serves as the city's religious center. Temples vary from a grove of trees that probably predates the city itself, to a massive gilt-encrusted edifice that serves as local headquarters for the Path and the Way, to the efficiently constructed Temple of Gond with its slowly turning windmill (which not only grinds grain for the impoverished but drives a pump bringing water to the neighborhood from deep underground).
    At last realizing that it has grown late, he turns his steps back toward the docks. A life on Bral has if nothing else taught him how to tell a good inn from a dangerous one. The night seems to pass very slowly, but finally it's morning again and he can go back to the library.

* * *

First day, night, Victor:

"What do you mean you *lost* him?" the oligarch-out-of-water snaps.
    "It was very crowded, sir," the guard replies apologetically, not adding that there's no way in any hell one man can do a decent tail job in a place this size where they don't know their way around.
    Victor growls and paces and clenches his fists, and for a moment looks like there might be an outburst on the way, but he regains control. For one thing, there's not enough room in here for truly satisfactory raging, since unexpected circumstances have confined him to his ship. He won't stand to have his movements watched by whining Tree bureaucrats, and here he can best keep an eye on the stupid cow's friends. Or so he could if his men were halfway competent, that is. "You two, keep an eye on the ship. I want to know who comes and goes. The rest of you, into the city. Find one and we can find the rest of the rats. Any more failures and I'll have you thrown to the scavvers. In pieces."
    _Make me the laughingstock of Bral, will you?_ His fists clench harder as the men file out. _Laughed at! By those roaches in their fetid cesspit of a city! _ It's something to have recovered the jewelry, but he'll have satisfaction as well....

* * *

Second day, morning, ibn Fadil:

Having risen bright and early, and leaving Nyala enviably asleep, ibn Fadil's trip to the nearby market in search of fresh apparel meets with success; after some haggling he leaves the shop somewhat poorer for cash and richer for two gently used outfits, one a couple cuts above his usual clothes. The shopkeeper is not particularly talkative, perhaps due to the hour.
    Next stop, a cobbler, who quotes 17 silver yav as his price and insists there's no better to be found. Of course, he would, and that can wait. Ibn Fadil heads back to the _Gilded Vine_ to change clothes. Nyala stirs at last while he is patiently folding a length of dark red cloth into the proper shape for a new sash.
    "Good morning," he says cheerfully, extending one arm to show off his new sapphire-blue shirt. "What do you think?"
    "Much better - a good start," she judges with a luxuriant stretch. "I think I could stay here all day."
    "Tempting thought," he smiles, going back to his folding. "What do you mean, 'a good start'?"
    "That it's better than what you had yesterday," she smiles back, refusing the bait. "And tempting though it is, I suppose I must rise eventually. I must inform our princess of your progress in tracking her love if nothing else, and spare her worrying more than need demands."
    "Mmm," he says, deciding to leave the matter of 'our' princess alone. "I do think he stayed with the _Swan_, you know, but if I have a chance today I will start asking after him all the same." He stands and begins wrapping the sash around himself with the ease of long practice. "I have no idea when I will be back," he adds.
    "Fair enough, 'nor do I. I will most likely keep my brother company while he explores the city hereabouts," she adds.
    "While I work, eh? Well, a meddler's work is never done," he says whimsically.
    "Away then, meddler," she grins, throwing a pillow at him. "I'll see you later."
    Appearance repaired, he heads for the docks, where ships are already in motion. Neither the captain nor Delmar is present, but the second mate tells him that Theo would like him to be at the steps to the central offices at eleven o'clock.
    That leaves a couple of hours in which to look for a way to get hold of Teague. If he holds to the same behavior he showed on Bral, he would look for a place to spend whatever money he had in the brief time the _Swan_ was on the moon. Standing at the dockyard gates and looking out, a systematic approach is called for. Directly ahead, the wide streets lead toward the city's center and the corporate offices, where he'll be headed later, and the buildings are solid and administrative-looking. To the north, the streets he has already passed through once today are lined with unremarkable taverns and houses of ill repute; his quarry would probably be looking for something a bit more exotic if given the chance. South it is, then. He is feeling too cheerful this morning for the probable futility of this quest to bother him.
    On the corner of Dock Street and Beech Avenue stands a large building with a whimsically painted and somewhat crowded sign proclaiming itself (in several languages) to be the Beckoning Trout, for the discerning traveler, all welcome, kender to be accompanied by three responsible adults of other species and subject to search, entertainment nightly. The stained glass window under the sign suggests it's in the right price bracket, at any rate.
    It being early in the day yet, there are no customers; a glance within shows workers sweeping floors, polishing flagons, refreshing candles, and so forth. There is a small stage to the left, looking dull and barren as these things do by the prosaic light of day. Near the bar in back, a tall woman is talking with a couple of halflings. Assuming an uncertain expression, ibn Fadil takes a couple of steps inside the room.
    Noting the door's opening and closing, the woman glances over. "We don't open 'til noon."
    He starts across the floor toward her. "May I have a moment of your time?"
    "If you're selling something, you can make an appointment. If not, wait a few moments," she suggests. He stops a polite distance away from her conversation, and waits. "Now, then. Who are you, and what can I do for you?" She looks him over with some curiosity.
    "My name is Yusuf ibn Fadil Manwar," he says, with his customary bow. "I have undertaken the somewhat preposterous task of trying to find someone who arrived here about twenty days ago, and may already have left." He shrugs with apologetic good humour. "I have a message for him from a friend on Bral."
    Her glance grows more critical as she sizes him up, trying to decide if he represents trouble. "Bral, you say? What ship you from?"
    Ibn Fadil does his best to look like no trouble at all. "The _Lazy Cat_; we got in yesterday."
    "Fair enough. Who's this friend? We get a lot of custom, and I can't say I remember everyone who comes through these doors."
    "I know," he says ruefully, "but I did promise to try. His name is Teague." He gives a quick physical description of the man, and adds, "I am told he spends his money freely."
    "Hm. Three weeks ago, you say?" She frowns, thinking it over, calls to one of the women working. "I think so, but... Gillian? You remember this guy at all?" She repeats the description.
    Gillian nods immediately. "Yeah, he was here. Didn't get his name, but I remember *him.* He bought a round for that table of dwarfs."
    "And that was about three weeks ago?"
    "Some time around then. I only saw him that one night," she adds with a shrug.
    "Bought a round? Whatever for?"
    She shrugs again. "Beats me, I was working."
    "Well, thank you for your time," he says, giving both the ladies another bow. "You have a nice place here," he adds with another smile. "I shall have to mention it to my friends."
    He pauses on the doorstep, not really expecting to see any of Victor's men in this district but checking all the same; there's no one suspicious in sight. Then he heads on up the street looking for the next likely place to inquire. One gets him nothing, the second an uncertain recollection of someone who might have been his quarry. Not proof, but a good indication that Teague was here, and left. That will have to do; ibn Fadil returns to the main square to await the meeting, listening to the conversations around him.
    There are the usual doomsayers claiming that the end of the world is nigh because a black goat with three heads and the power of speech - though with only vile things to say - was born in a village to the west, among other omens. Odd how often it seems doom can be averted by generous donations to a certain temple, too.... The political news is of more interest to him. Each member of the board carries his or her own set of rumors.
    From what he can gather, the current chairman, Ivan Jorstoian, has been assailed -- though not formally -- by accusations of corruption ever since his election. This might be because of his fondness for displays of personal wealth, a willingness to sell anything to anyone that borders on that of the Arcane, or because members of his immediate family represent the largest single block on the board and seldom if ever disagree with him.
    Of course this is not particularly strange behavior for a chairman, and 3 Trees is still a family business; there's only one board member right now who isn't part of the extended family. This appears to be another source of discontent for some speakers in the square; no matter how long and well a nonhuman may have served the company, one has never been elected to the board. On the occasions when it's even come close, the attempt has been followed by a personnel shake-up ensuring that those in a position to vote are solidly under the board's control.
    On the other hand, one or two people seem to be of the opinion that not only should the current system be kept, nonhumans shouldn't be allowed to run - or in extreme cases even crew on - 3 Trees ships, in case there are hidden agendas in play. Most in the crowd seem to find this attitude more amusing than anything else; a band of hadozee gather around one of the pro-human speakers and extemporize filthy limericks incorporating phrases from his speech.

* * *

Second day, morning, Alais and Pham:

"Back again, my pups?" the big wizard grunts upon seeing them at the library door early in the morning, but he seems to be warming to their presence, as he offers no obstacle and indeed assumes that they know where they're going now. Alais has to ask which way to the astronomy section.
    The two are growing accustomed to the way things are organized in this place, and set to work with confidence. The hours pass swiftly as they pore over the old books, looking for clues to a mystery whose shape remains hidden.
    In the Chamber of Stars, Alais is having little luck. The term "Star Change" does not seem to be found anywhere else in the collection, and there is nothing to say what it actually refers to. Changes in constellations are common enough, due to magic or the acts of the gods, and of course in some places like Bral the stars are constantly in motion. He does find the rest of the journal entry that spoke of the delphinids, with the poem attached. Over the years some of the librarians have taken a stab at translating it, with some disagreements:

    Dark (winds? currents? blood?*) cried among the (worlds? nations? people? stones?*)
    Drove all (????) (like? as?) (overpowering? very tall?) flame
    Up down, east to west was turned (line also translated as "things were different then" and "life became death, death life"*)
    In the years of (dust? famine?) the (strangers? nightmares?*) came

    The (lights? stars? landmarks?) are changed -
    What (???) was
    Must be again.

* Obviously a translator with a very different view of the language. Or possibly of life.

    Meanwhile, in the Chamber of Beasts, Pham runs across a handful of references to unusual large gatherings of creatures, but these are stories thousands of years old, and all have been marked as apocryphal by the library's guardians, tales told by men clearly mad or intoxicated.

* * *

Second day, morning, Emmett:

Having been released from mage-sitting duty, in the morning Emmett makes his way back to the temple of Gond, where he spends a few minutes wandering about while a novice looks for Aram. It's a pleasure just to be in a building constructed with such care and skill.
    "Friend Emmett! Good morning to you! How are you this day?" the man greets him with a wide smile.
    The half man stifles a yawn. "Excuse me. Tired and overbooked. Stayed up too late checking out the sites of the city, and have an appointment with my employers at eleven bells. Sorry this is so short. How is the poor guy? Any more sane?"
    Aram shakes his head with a sad expression. "I'm afraid the news is bad. We took him to the Contemplator temple - Benevolent Order of the Contemplation of Serenity, they're the closest with a really well-trained doctor. Then I recruited some of my brothers and sisters here to play detective and we did our best to find out about the man's past."
    He sighs quietly. "We did uncover a trail that suggests he's been getting steadily worse, that even a few days ago he was more... here than he is now, though still with this fixation on fire - people remembered that well enough. He may even have been trying to make his way to this part of the city to find help. Naturally, they'll do everything they can for him, and perhaps some peace will be of help. I certainly wouldn't wish this fate on even a Hextorian. Just like them to abandon him here to fend for himself when it happened and go on their way."
    "He's a Hextorian?" Emmett asks.
    "We're fairly certain. We back-tracked him to an inn on the outskirts of the city where their group had been staying."
    "Oh Bugger. How long has he been in town - did he just fly in?"
    "No, they appear to have been on Janik for some months now - gods know what they were up to." He grimaces in distaste. "They had their own ship, of course. It's possible that whatever happened to their comrade was the occasion for their untimely departure." He cocks his head curiously, noting Emmett's reaction to this information.
    "Our ship's priest is a Hextorian too. Aram, you know that certain point where the gears all start to mesh in your head but you have no idea what the machine will do? I hate that point."
    Aram nods understandingly. "Patience and prayer, friend Emmett. But you say your *ship's priest* is one of theirs? This is... extraordinary, to say the least, and something of a cause for concern."
    "I don't think so, at least, not in that way." Emmett says. "I've usually got good people instincts and I think he's on the level. He's from a sect that worships Hextor just in his role as a herald, a bringer of news, rather than any of his martial aspects.
    "Remember how the priests of Gond were driven from Tyrlee for the war crime of bringing smoke powder - 'every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.' If you're really worried about Pham, I'll ask him to come by so you can talk with him," Emmett continues. "I'm more concerned about Pham having fire dreams, and now this other priest of Hextor is having fire fixations. That focuses things a bit, but I don't know how or where."
    The priest nods. "It is a interesting correspondence, to say the least. We must not lose hope; perhaps the young man will regain his senses, be able to tell us more. If it is something to do with the god himself...." He shakes his head. "I do not know. If you would like to introduce your friend, please feel welcome," he adds with a smile.
    "I'll see him later today, ask him to come by. Since our charge is one of his brethren, I'm sure he'll be interested. You said the guy was at the Contemplator's temple?"
    At Aram's nod, Emmett continues. "OK. I'll tell him that too. I'm sorry to have to run, but I do have to make it back to my job soon and I had another stop to make. Can you recommend somewhere in Janik where I can get some quality leather to work with?"
    "Certainly! There's a livestock market - follow the avenues to the southeast and you can't miss it. I'm sure you'll find something satisfactory."
    Emmett stands and makes his way to the door, again dropping a few coppers in the collection box. "Thanks for your help, Aram. For everything. I'll get back as soon as I can."
    And with that he heads to the livestock market, following his nose to the tanners buildings that would undoubtedly be nearby, before making his way back to the Three Trees building.

* * *

Second day, morning, Nyala:

"Are you planning to spend the entire day in bed?" the voice at the door inquires.
    "No," she sighs back. "What's your hurry?"
    "You, sister, are on leave. I am looking for work," he reminds her. "The sooner found, the better."
    "I'm sure you could take some time off without seeing destitution immediately." She makes a face and pulls on her shirt, breeches, boots; it seems like she's been wearing these clothes half her life. Maybe while on Janik they can find a place where more display will be appropriate. Rapier balances dagger, a comb and a quick shake see to her hair. "In any case, you're on your own this morning," she tells Nahele as she opens the door. "I have to visit the infirmary by the docks."
    "Ah? There is news, then?"
    "Some, enough that we may hope for more. Shall I meet you here for lunch when my errand is complete?"
    "Not here, there's a place down the street I'd like to look over, the Swan Garden."
    "Very well." It is very strange, she reflects while walking toward the docks, how for a hundred years she had been used to her brother coming and going, never staying long, so that until the day she took ship as well they had not really known one another. Now it looks as if he is finally ready to root himself, and she who will wander, perhaps forever. _Although not by choice,_ she adds to the thought with a bittersweet vision of home.
    The docks are busy as they were the previous day; she can't tell if anyone is watching the building, but it is probably best to assume so. Let him watch; perhaps he'll have a apoplectic attack in one of his rages. Ginevra looks both excited and worried to see her again so soon, giving the elven woman a slightly awkward hug of greeting.
    "Is everything all right?" she wants to know immediately.
    "So far as I know." Nyala seats herself at the end of the bed, as there are no chairs in the room. "I came to let you know that Teague's ship has been here, and will likely return within six weeks. Ibn Fadil will ask this morning and see if he can find out anything more, but that much at least is known."
    "He is? I mean he will? Oh, thank you!" Her eyes shine with grateful tears. "Then it's... it's not hopeless, is it?"
    "Of course not," Nyala tells her briskly.
    "Do thank him for me, will you? This is wonderful. I'm a bit surprised by his involvement in all of this," she admits with a small laugh. "I thought he didn't like me."
    "He can be a rather surprising man," she sidesteps that question, smiling slightly. "Puzzling."
    "Is that why you find him... interesting?" Ginevra asks.
    "Partly." He had certainly surprised her last night, several times. She had not known the strength of his feelings - or if she had, had been careful to keep the thought from her own mind, lest she ask herself a question that demanded an answer she was not prepared to give. _You are a warrior of Windhold,_ she has had to remind herself, _and as such may not take life for granted, or lightly refuse its gifts. Certainly not for thinking that you know the future._ And so she had answered....
    Ginevra smiles too, no doubt thinking she understands; perhaps she does. The smile fades into some sudden discomfort, and she changes position to try to ease it. "I'm sure you must think I'm very foolish," she says suddenly, in a rather forlorn voice.
    "I beg your pardon?" Nyala shakes herself out of her contemplation.
    "To have gotten myself into this situation."
    "You had few choices," the elf shrugs. Her own solution to the problem would probably have been more direct and violent, but the only use Ginevra had for a knife was at table.
    "I mean really, there's no way of knowing if he'll even want to see me again," she continues bleakly. "I've changed, there will be the baby, I've no money, nothing to offer but a burden. What reason could he have to return?"
    Reasonable fears all, but, "Love is a remarkable motivator," Nyala smiles more gently than is her wont. She has seen these moods come upon the woman before. The question has been asked, the answer remains to be given -- indeed, the one to answer is not even aware of the question yet -- and the nearer comes the time of determination, the more skittish Ginevra has become. "Come now, we have spoken of this before. Even if things are not resolved as you might hope, you are not without friends, and not without resources."
    "Or enemies," she adds quietly.
    "He would be a fool indeed to try something here, so far beyond the bounds of his lawful power," Nyala replies with a certainty she doesn't feel. "No doubt he will grow bored and go home when he realizes that he won't be given his way."
    "I hope you are right." She stares through the small window for a few moments. "Have you seen Valarin?"
    "Not since we parted yesterday, after leaving here," she shakes her head slightly. "Do you wish me to pass a message?"
    Uncertainly, "No... I only wish to make sure he is safe. I fear I have not done well by him."
    "I do not think he feels that way, lady." She's fairly certain that Val is incapable of having even a slightly negative thought toward Ginevra. It's remarkable to see an adult human so smitten. "I am sure he knows to be careful while we are here."
    "I hope you're right, about everything."
    After doing what she can to cheer the human up a bit, Nyala pays a visit to the _Cat_ to make sure things are secure as promised, still somewhat irked by the city's laws; that bow is the only object that matters to her in the slightest, and if anything happens to it.... All seems well on the ship, however, so she leaves the docks behind to further explore the city. Perhaps she should follow Yusuf's lead and find some new clothing.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson