Part Seventeen in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)
Part Four: Blood and Lies (pt. 4)
Part Five: Blood and Lies (pt. 5)
Part Six: Blood and Lies (pt. 6)
Part Seven: Blood and Lies (pt. 7)
Part Eight: Blood and Lies (pt. 8)
Part Nine: Blood and Lies (pt. 9)
Part Ten: Blood and Lies (pt. 10)
Part Eleven: Blood and Lies (pt. 11)
Part Twelve: Blood and Lies (pt. 12)
Part Thirteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 13)
Part Fourteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 14)
Part Fifteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 15)
Part Sixteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 16)
Oliver’s thoughts are vague as he following the scholar as he storms out of the house. He cannot say what it is he hopes to achieve by following him, simply that he feels that it is the right thing for him to do. They pass the line of houses and are well into the clearing towards the forest before Rubin finally stops. Oliver waits at a respectful distance, quietly watching as the scholar seems to deflate as the anger that had been driving him seems to disperse.
Letting out a loud sigh, Rubin sits heavily on the grass staring out towards the forest. Still uncertain Oliver remains distant until his friend beckons him to join him. The pair sit together in the space between the village and forest, silently watching and listening to nature around them.
“Do you think I was wrong to hate her?” Rubin’s question surprises Oliver, they’d enjoyed each others company discussing magic theory but this was the first personal issue they’d spoken of.
“I don’t think you were wrong. Your home, your family, it must be difficult to see her and to see how and see everyone accepting her with what she represents to you,” Oliver states slowly, trying to be diplomatic with the unfamiliar topic, “Zsófia seemed like she understood and respected that. Do you think you were wrong?”
Rubin looks up at Oliver searchingly, “I don’t know.”
The awkward silence extends between them. Oliver watches Rubin carefully through the corner of his eyes, the scholar seeming deep in thought with his head rested on his knees. The sorcerer thinks back on his own life, his master’s magical tradition was seen by many as the same as a practitioner of black magic. The hermit sage tradition predated the kingdom and had been replaced by the universities and churches, now they were distrusted and often the first blamed whenever any magical crimes occurred. He empathised with Zsófia in that manner, but even more with the curse of her birth deciding her life for her.
He knew he couldn’t tell Rubin about the truth of why he had been given to the hermit as a child. The secret of the affair between the Earl and the Princess could never come out, but the feeling of kinship for Zsófia made him want to help his friend understand.
“I never knew my parents,” Oliver’s voice surprise him more than they do Rubin, he hadn’t decided what he would say and a lifetime of secrets had taught him to always consider his words, “I was given to my master as a baby to be raised in his tradition.”
With Rubin’s gaze upon him Oliver continues to speak, hoping he will realise what he was going to say soon, “He was the closest thing I ever had to a father and when I was hardly more than a boy, he was arrested for practising black magic. It wasn’t true, but everyone knows us hermits are wicked so they took him anyway. He made me hide so they wouldn’t know I was there. He never came back. When you and your companions came to arrest me, I hated you. To me you were the same people who took him from me.”
Oliver’s momentum peters out, uncertain of his point. He hopes his friend would understand what he’d meant.
Back in the village, Vahkragg wakes feeling the same bedroll as last time beneath him. The heat of fever has taken him, likely due to his previous overexertion. He senses he is not alone this time, the presence of someone else awake with him. Opening his eyes slowly, the young looking woman who had been sleeping before now is seated beside him. Soaking a cloth in a bowl of water she doesn’t notice him waking until she turns back to face him and jumps in place when met with his alert gaze.
“You’re awake,” she exhales to calm herself, placing the soothing cloth on his forehead. He appreciates the cooling sensation, but his memory is clear this time. From Rubin’s words, he supposed this woman must be the necromancer he had spoken of. Vahkragg slowly sits despite the woman’s voice telling him, “You shouldn’t get up, you need to rest.”
“You are the necromancer,” his deep voice phrases it like a question though it obviously isn’t. He reads her eyes seeing her try to hide hurt behind an attempt of authority.
“I’m Zsófia. I saved your life.”
“With necromancy.” The giant’s words carry no accusation, a simple statement of fact inviting her reaction. She blushes, looking down at her hands clenched on her lap. Vahkragg senses she resents the fact, but doesn’t deny it.
She fights back tears, trying to sound braver than she is she answers in a hard voice, “I’m sorry. If I’d known how hurt everyone would be I wouldn’t have.”
“Thank you,” Vahkragg states, stunning her from her tears. “Why do you practice necromancy when it shames you?”
“I- I don’t, not the way you think,” she answers, “My power comes from The Wild God’s tradition, I never asked for this responsibility but it’s my duty.”
“Are you ashamed to do your duty, then?”
“I- no, I mean, I’m proud of the good I can do for my people.” She says, Vahkragg can sense the uncertainty in her runs deep. A deep fissure in her resolve. He simply nods, laying back down and closing his eyes, considering the danger she may represent in the future.
After carrying Vahkragg back into the house with Jacob’s return to the field and Zsófia tending to the giant, Pan and Telfor are left alone for the first time since everything had started.
Telfor keeps his head down, watching his tea intently with his attention focused on the revenant. Breaking the silence he asks, “How are you holding up?”
“I’m alright,” obviously a lie, not one he would generally force but he’s going to need Pan’s trust before long and the longer he waits the harder this conversation will become.
“I know you loved her,” he says, “and I suspect you blame me for her death.”
Pan is silent.
“You’re right, her life was my responsibility. I pushed her to fatigue herself during our flight and forced her to protect me in the fight. If not for my mistakes she would still be here, if you hate me because of that I understand. But until we make it back to Pike’s Reach, I need to know I can trust you, I am still responsible for the rest of your lives and I do not intend for Veru’s sacrifice to go to waste.”
Pan nod’s silently. He’s suffering, Telfor thinks, he can’t decide where to direct his anger and it’s turning inwards. I’ll need to keep an eye on him.