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original fiction: Tin Man [16/16] - Diary of a Necromancer
Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense, you're just not keeping up
original fiction: Tin Man [16/16]


Viparring's vines hung heavy with madly prospering fruits by the time the last of a succession of healers to lay hands to my head and heart had proclaimed himself definitively stumped and advised me to make the best of things; and so it was that the shortest night of the year found me hovering, at a loss, at the edge of a dance-floor, watching with a mixture of regret and glee as my mercenary cheerfully disappointed a succession of hopeful admirers, and trying not to look too much as if I were some stray Elder who had been set to guard the punchbowl. I still didn't know where Liane had come by the skirt. I did know where she had come by the hoydenish excuse for party-braids, and I was rather enjoying some of the looks of frustration she was getting when she teasingly explained matters to her partners of the moment.

I had already scared off three attempts to spike the punch and apparently missed at least two more by the evolving taste of it when a hesitant voice from somewhere below my shoulder distracted me from my clumsy efforts to fill another cup for myself by saying, "M'lord necromancer?" It was the first time anyone had gotten it right in days, nearly the first time since I had stopped braiding my hair as Tremare, and I turned in startlement to see a boy not quite old enough to wear a man's hair yet looking up at me with a mixture of fear and curiosity and -- respect? He put a hand to his mouth to hide a giggle, and I realized that my unsupervised left hand had dropped my cup into the punchbowl. I set down the ladle and tried not to glare at him. "M'lord necromancer, my uncle asked me to come and find you, he wants to... Uncle Marrun?" The boy half-turned and began waving at someone at the edge of the crowd; "Uncle Marrun, here he is, this is him."

And the gangly young man with the streak of silver running along his part turned, and I recognized him as the Pridening apprentice we had camped with on the way to Roadmeet, even thinner now and still looking as if he couldn't quite believe whatever they'd told him when he'd gotten into town; he blinked at my unframed face and said, "Oh, yes, you are the Tremare we... You, um... something like this happened to you, didn't it."

"Something like," I said.

"Horrible business," he said, glancing in the direction that his Keep would have been in if it were visible from the party grounds. "We started hearing rumors a few days back, I rode on ahead to see... Horrible business. I expect the others will be wanting to talk to you when they get in tomorrow, if you'll still be here?"

I thought, for a long, long moment, and finally I said, "I had been planning to leave in the morning... but... I think I'd like that. To talk to them. It's been too long."

"We, um... I've been up to the Keep already, I couldn't not..." He took a deep breath, and apparently decided that the fact I hadn't already bolted was a good sign; "I oughtn't to presume to speak for the others, I'm still in my apprenticeship," he waved absently at his unbraided hair, "but -- m'lord Tremare -- we have so many ghosts to settle..."

Unspoken in the air between us the guilt he felt that the question existed to ask, and that he had to ask it of me... "That would take some rearranging of my plans," I said.

I turned back from my glance to the dance floor in time to see the Pridening stifling a grin. "I saw your poor golem, up there in our courtyard," he said. "With that dreadful maudlin inscription the townspeople have put on it." I shrugged embarrassment, remembering how my first instinct upon being shown the proposed marker had been to skulk out of town under cover of darkness. Viparring's imager had a waiting list for posing with the golem. "My Master knows a bit about golems; if you could stay a while, maybe... maybe he can help the healers work out what's happened with you. Since I'm sure your lady wouldn't mind having you able to dance again?" he added slyly, and I felt a blush starting.

"It's hardly 'again' if I couldn't before," I mumbled, and he clapped me on the shoulder in a brotherly sort of way.

"Well, good luck learning," he said, as I felt a playful tugging at my single braid and Liane slipped in under my arm, "I won't keep you from it; sometime tomorrow, then?"

"Tomorrow?" Liane echoed as we watched the Pridening wade off into the crowd. "I was thinking of getting an early start for Jareza, but... if this is what you need."

"I think it might be," I said. "If you think Jareza could do without us for a while longer."

"And to think I had to talk you into staying in Viparring for tonight," she said, squeezing my waist. "For all that anyone could tell that you know you're at a party. I do seem to recall you promising to learn how to have fun," and here she turned me by the chin so she could look me in the eyes, "so do you think you could manage to look a little less grumpy at least once before this is over, so our hosts don't feel as if they've failed to please you?"

"They're doing this for themselves, not for me," I said stubbornly, glaring at the merrymaking. While the energy and spark of the gathering had ebbed somewhat, and the musicians long since faded into a slower tempo, no one who was still capable of standing up at all seemed to have given up on greeting the sun yet.

Liane shook her head in resigned amusement. "At least try to dance with me, then, just the once." Over my protests she turned me around to face her and settled us into a simple snug dancing position.

"If I'd known what you're really like I'd have left you in Three Mountains," I muttered.

"Too late now," she replied, and gently guided me out onto the edge of the dance floor. It wasn't so awkward as I had thought, actually. The top of her untopknotted head just fit under my chin, and I found that so long as we moved slowly enough my left leg would hold me up. "You dance divinely," she murmured against my chest.

"Ah, there you are!" boomed Viparring's mayor near my ear, and Liane raised her head to glare at him. He was far too drunk to notice. "I heard you'd be leaving us after the festival and I wanted to thank you one last time." He frowned at us unsteadily, the notion that perhaps he had interrupted something apparently penetrating past the alcohol, and I bit back a sarcastic remark: what, you didn't know necromancers could dance? He probably hadn't. I hadn't.

"All in a day's work," Liane said, not very graciously. The mayor beamed muzzily.

"Quite, quite, but still. Er. Carry on, then," he said, backing away. "And may the Lady of Ripening bless you for all of your days!"

And I felt Liane laughing secretly as she laid her cheek over my heart, and as we turned slowly under the slowly turning stars, I began to wonder if she knew something I didn't know...

the end

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2 responses | moved to respond?
owensheart From: owensheart Date: June 28th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
This was a wonderful story and beautifully written.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 29th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)


"Oh, yes, you are the Tremare we... You, um... something like this happened to you, didn't it."

What happens when the quest is already over by the time you realize your home has been destroyed and vengeance is called for?
2 responses | moved to respond?