Elaine 12: "The Weight of
We returned to the tavern,
things a bit more settled between us, but I was still uneasy with the
revelations in my heart, and the revelations spoken between us. It seemed
that circumstances were determined to make our relationship as difficult
I settled in
the only open seat, which happened to be next to the redhead I'd noticed
earlier. She looked me up and down for a long moment, with a scrutiny far
more intent than one would expect of a casual meeting in a tavern.
Her eyes passed over the blade
at my side once, twice, then studiously ignored it. That alone gave me
the impression that there may be something more to Gillian, as she later
introduced herself, than a young apprentice sorceress. Settled in its
fairly nondescript scabbard, Weirwindl is not something that draws the
eye. Granted, that a woman who looks not the type to wield such a weapon
carries it may be something to note, but her continued diligence in not
noticing it after that fist inspection made me wary.
We both told each other more by
what we didn't say than what we did. I made no mention of my connection
to the royal family, and she spun a story that seemed initially awkward,
though she seemed to gain some confidence in it as it gained momentum.
We parted with standard
pleasantries when it came time to haul the again inebriated Harlan home.
My curiosity about Gillian would have to wait.
I sent Baron, who had come
to fetch Harlan, on his way and escorted my drunken companion home
myself. A comical sight we must have been, but I managed to get him back
to his room with little incident. He collapsed on his bed, and stared
mournfully at his boots. "They're so far away...."
I removed his boots, and tucked
him into bed. I was about to leave when he mumbled something about his
pillow not being soft. Supressing a chuckle, I fluffed it for him, and
saw from the somewhat sour expression on his face that that wasn't quite
what he'd had in mind. "Man's about to die," he muttered.
I sat on the edge of the bed.
"You had best not die," I admonished him, "or I am going to be quite cross
with you." I leaned over to kiss him, and he grabbed my hand, tucking it
under his cheek with what I think would have been a sly smile had he more
control of his motor functions.
"Harlan, it's not going to be at
all comfortable with you sleeping on my arm like that."
"Then you'd best lie down," he
said with perfect drunken logic, holding my hand firmly.
I watched him for a long moment
before kicking off my shoes, and curling up against him, smiling softly as
he began to quietly snore.
It was still dark when a
discrete pounding woke me. My arm was by this time almost numb, and I had
to pry it out from under Harlan, who was still snoring contentedly.
Smoothing my skirts and hair,
I made my way out to the parlor and opened the door to a very startled
"Yes?" I asked, as if nothing
were out of the ordinary, the best route I have found for dealing with
possibly compromising circumstances.
"Uh... um... I'm here for
I stepped aside and gestured for
him to enter. "He's sleeping."
Trying not to stare, he quickly
made his way to Harlan's room, and they both emerged a short time later,
Harlan looking at startled as the young knight had upon seeing me. He
shooed the knight out. "Why are you still here?"
"You fell asleep on my arm," I
reminded him wryly.
"Oh." He stood there, looking at
me for a long moment. "It's a strange thing..." he finally said, "I'm
being sent to face my greatest fears... and I don't think the Chamber
will hold any surprises for me."
"Because you think you've
already faced them?" I said lamely, for lack of anything more profound to
He laughed slightly. "I said
it wouldn't hold any surprises-- I didn't say it wouldn't be difficult. I
think I know what my fears are."
"And what are your fears,
Harlan?" I said, even as I realized I was somehwat afraid of the
"They're all about losing what
I moved over to stand before
him, and reached up to touch his cheek. "Some things are not so easily
He smiled tenderly down at me.
"And one has to have something to lose it, right?"
Unsure of how to respond, I
could only stare up at him. He took me into his arms, and rested his chin
on my head. "You're so independent," he said musingly, as if trying to
further explain his coment "It's hard for me. I think I need you so
much... but I don't think you need me at all."
I settled my head against his
chest. "'Need' perhaps isn't quite the right word, Harlan. I've had to
make sure I didn't 'need' anyone, just to survive in the political
atmosphere of Glorethien. I mean, I don't 'need' Jero, but I can't
imagine my life without him. And you... well, I was so angry because I
was so afraid I wouldn't have you in my life anymore, either."
His arms tightened around me
and he stood still, just holding me, for a long moment. "Thank
"For what you said. It means
much to me." He dropped his arms, slowly. "I need to go."
"I know," I said quietly.
"Just... come back."
"I'll give it a shot," he said
with such an attempt at bravado, I couldn't help but smile and reached up
to kiss him. Eventually, I pulled away, with great reluctance. Taking my
handkercheif from my sleeve, I tucked it into his pocket. "A lady always
sends a favor with her knight, when he goes off."
He looked vaguely mystified.
"So, if I need to wipe up a spill?"
I chuckled. "No, silly. It's
a token, a remembrance... A reminder of my affections for you."
"Oh." He tucked it in his
sleeve with a sheepish smile.
"Now, go," I said firmly, and
handed him off to the knight, watching him round the corner before I left
to return to my own rooms.
The note from Keir took some of
my attention away from worrying over Harlan, and I soon found myself even
more distracted as he detailed the events that were to take place in
I found Jero a short time
later, having lunch, with of all people, Gillian. She quickly took her
leave, and I filled him in.
"Actually, I have a small
favor. "I'd like you to keep an eye on Raphael while I'm gone."
"Keep him away from certain
redheaded sorceresses?" He said with a sly smile, and then it was his
turn to fill me in. "This Gillian is quite interested in you, and him. I
told her all lies of course, but the interesting thing was is she seemed
to know I was lying, but didn't care..."
I left him with instructions to
find out what he could, and returned to meet up with Christoph and Eve,
the possible repurcussions of Gillian and her motives weighing heavy on my
Shortly after our arrival in
Lindahl, Eve and I were shown to a two room suite. The inner room held
three beds, the one closest to th window already bearing what appeared to
be Desire's belongings. And, I noted, she'd taken most of the closet as
I took the farthest bed, leaving
Eve with the one in the middle. Given my interactions with Desire of
late, that was probably for the best. I settled my bag on the bed, and
leaned my bow against the wall nearby, then began to unpack. "Well,"
I said, "This should be interesting."
Eve only nodded as she peered
out the window for a moment before turning to the closet. She
uncerimoniously shoved Desire's belongings there to one side, leaving
space for her own, and as she indicated, mine. Trying not to chuckle, I
hung the one nice kirtle and overdress I'd brought. "Somehow I'm glad I
grew up as an only child," I remarked with dry amusement.
"That might be our downfall. We
all grew up as only children." Eve
An interesting notion, and one
that might prove eerily close to the mark...