Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Darvinin: Homecoming 1

"They smell like elves," Evrimon said quietly, reassuming his elvish shape. "In fact, they smell quite a lot like you."

Darvinin nodded matter-of-factly, and was pleased to find that he was firmly in control of his emotions. Then he turned and walked all the way to the far side of the tavern and stopped beside the fireplace to stare into the flames.

He wasn't in control of anything.

Mistra came and stood beside him but didn't say anything, and after a time he took her hand. They were standing there, backs to the room, when Shanna said sharply, "Ruin?"

And from the far side of the room, Ruin -- very clearly -- said, "Shanna?" The tavern, not terribly loud in the late afternoon, had gone completely silent at Ruin's arrival.

"Ah," said Evrimon, "before you start trying to murder us all, I just want to let you know that I'm not--"

"You were the dog," said Ruin. Then: "He's with you?" 

"Yes," Shanna answered immediately, and Darvinin stayed very still -- though he realized suddenly that he was gripping Mistra's hand far too tightly. She hadn't flinched, but he made a deliberate effort to relax his grip back to something more comfortable. With any luck, Ruin's attention would be on Shanna, and he wouldn't notice them at all. "We heard you came back from the dead, and we wanted to make sure you were you."

Ruin said something absolutely blasphemous in Draconic. Despite the best efforts of their mother and their tutors, he'd never actually learned the language; but he had committed a few choice phrases to memory and apparently still recalled them.

Sam laughed. Apparently Ruin turned to her, because his next words were: "Who are you?"

"Your cousin's lover," she said, in a tone that lay somewhere between speculative and challenging. "And her protector, if it comes to that."

There was a pregnant pause; then Ruin said, "I dearly hope it doesn't. We need allies, not more enemies." There was a scrape of wood, a chair dragging across the floor, and then he continued more quietly. "So, I'm going to assume that you aren't secretly a bunch of Vecna-worshippers."

Darvinin should be doing something. He should be... going over there, or turning to observe, or... something.

He couldn't. He was panicked; he was paralyzed. He wasn't ready for this and didn't know how to cope with it.

Shanna said, "What?" just as Sam firmly said, "No." Evrimon stammered something half-coherent about mostly being an animal.

The tavern started to return to its own business, and the murmur of unrelated voices made it harder to hear, but Darvinin caught Ruin's voice saying, "...how we got here. We got too close to the cult of Vecna and whatever they're up to, and..." Some nearby idiot said something to his companion about the tax levies, and Davinin missed the next bit. "...guarded against magical spying, so we were watching for something else. Your friend doesn't make a particularly convincing stray dog."

Evrimon's voice broke in: "...told you that!"

"...should have set the fire and had the archer covering us from the rooftops," added Leander the Elf.

"Hush," said Shanna. "No, we were just..." Their voices faded into the background noise; Darvinin wasn't entirely sure how much was in the tavern and how much was in his head. "...lost as you are."

Mistra leaned in and put her head on his shoulder, doing her best to make them look like a normal couple and offering him comfort at the same time. He was too frozen, too lightning-struck, to respond.

"Darvinin was right," Ruin said. "The Provost is behind it, or at least in it up to his eyeballs. I really don't see why Mother won't let me kill him."

And Darvinin thought, Corellon Larethian's hairy left testicle, it really is him. And he still couldn't move. He was as frozen by the knowledge as he'd been by the uncertainty. His brother was alive. My brother is alive! He should be across the room. He should be clasping his brother and grinning like a maniac. And instead he stood there, staring into the fire, unable to make himself move. He was honestly afraid he was going to piss himself, stone cold sober in the middle of the afternoon.

And that was when Ruin said, suspiciously, "What?" And then, with unexpected certainty: "He's here, isn't he? Where is he?"

And Darvinin, very slowly, drawing Mistra with him, turned around.

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