Friday, June 14, 2019


Ruin laid his weapons out on the floor of his room, regarding each of them in turn as he considered what his mother had told him.

The fighting-knife had forward-curved edge that made it capable of delivering powerful blows; it would never be his first choice, but it could be worn in places where larger blades were not acceptable.

"I need you to travel with Fartathren and Lelilian Elisbian to Annun," his mother had said.

"I thought I was coming with you to treat with the Dwarves." Ruin had frowned.

"You were, but Councilor Marigill has asked that you go with them to gather information, and send it to us as you can. The word of the True King, and then his arrival with this... war-leader of his... has thrown everything out balance. We need more information."

"Councilor Marigill fears I'll spoil the negotiations with the Dwarves."

"Councilor Marigill is less worried about having you with us among the Dwarves than she is about sending you unsupervised to Annun. Still, she recognizes that you are the only one among us who can travel to Annun without attracting notice -- and the only one who might be assumed to have left this delegation en route for reasons entirely of your own."

The two-handed scimitar was next, with its heavy-tipped, curved blade and its elegant handle and guard. It was an unusual weapon, not one favored by True Elves but not wholly foreign to them, either. They trained in the one-handed versions of the weapon readily enough. To focus on this weapon was to depart from his heritage without disregarding it entirely.

"So she will make my savagery work for the greater good?"

"She wishes you to use your reputation for willfulness to our advantage. Council Loraan may see your behavior as reckless and savage, but Marigill recognizes that your desire for blood is a desire to fight on behalf of our people." Baethira Anthelorn paused, meeting his gaze directly. "So do I."

The glaive was a polearm, essentially a single-edged shortsword mounted on the end of a staff. Ruin had asked for it when the High Provost offered to provide them with equipment, just in case he needed to strike farther away than the scimitar could reach. Using it, he could attack opponents before they had the chance to close in, and it could do more damage than the two-handed scimitar... though perhaps not as reliably. It was also possible that he'd end up using it as a walking stick more than anything else; travel, and any trouble they got into, would give him a better idea of whether or not it was worth carrying around.

"So what are you expecting me to find?"

"Information. The return of the True King has been affirmed, but it still seems... improbable. As True Elves, we are on the edge of extinction. The appearance of a True King upsets the fragile balance that we've held with the Humans... and upsets all manner of political balances throughout Duendewood."

"Do we work to support him?"

"Do the people support him? Does the High Provost? Does the Senate? As a center of trade, Annun is also a center of power. It is not all of Duendewood and does not reflect all of Duendewood, but what happens there will be important to what happens elsewhere. And our host is a very old friend of the High Provost, who will likely be open and receptive to his children.
That is why I want you to travel with them."

The longbow was the last of the weapons he'd brought. No True Elf, he'd once been told, should be without a bow. And he'd infuriated his would-be instructors with his insistence on charging in to do battle at close quarters. Still, a bow offered stand-off capability, and he would have been a fool to refuse that.

"So we have no idea where all this is going?"

"None," his mother had answered. "Even the mission to Dwarves has changed in character. We sought a defensive pact; now we explore the possibility of a military alliance."

"You don't sound pleased about that."

"I am..." she had sighed. "...uncertain."

"And sending me with these others is also uncertain?" He'd been thinking, especially, of the cleric who had joined them at dinner: a worshipper of Artemis, but also a human.

Baethira Anthelorn had sighed. "Sometimes when you loose an arrow, you know the path of your target and where it will arrive. But sometimes when you loose an arrow, you fling it into the chaos of battle and hope it will find a worthwhile path."

She had stopped then, reaching into one of the small pouches on her belt, and withdrawn an amulet. "Take this," she said. "It belonged to... an old, dear friend. I think she would have liked for you to have it. She said it helped her to understand the worlds..."

Ruin reached out and took the amulet, feeling equal parts puzzled and wary. This seemed a little too orchestrated to be an afterthought, but he couldn't imagine why his mother would
arrange to give him something when she could simply ask him to take it.

With a sigh, he turned and fetched the amulet from his pack. It was a small circle, no larger than a curled finger, with a loop at the top where it hung from a simple silver chain. The design was odd, circles within circles, divisions overlapping divisions, and... it seemed as if it could move. He laid a finger on the surface, pressed and tried to twist...

For a brief moment he was looking over a desert, seeing both the emptiness and the life within it. He felt the dragging heat of the sun, the draining cold of the night, the absolute darkness when the moon set. Then he let go and was back in his own skin, looking at the weapons on the floor of the guest room.

Well, that was interesting. It wasn't a scrying tool, whatever it was. He'd had no control of what he was looking at. It was almost as if the amulet itself was selecting the views to show him. Still... the chance to explore other places, from the relative safety of this guest room or anywhere else he found shelter? He'd have to experiment more with this amulet.

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