"Midnight Rendevous"

"Midnight Rendevous"

It was almost a week later when, one night, I was awakened in the middle of the night in much the same manner as before-- a scuff in the corner.

I snagged my book off the nightstand and immediately threw it toward the sound, rolling out of bed as I did so. It's odd how such things come easier with repetition.

I heard the soft sound of book hitting flesh, but no other noise. This did not bode well. "Randy? Please say it's you..." I conjured a light.

There was a brief snarl as I got the light ready, and suddenly, I was bowled over by a body; I hit the floor with a solid *thud*, and got my bearing just in time to see the silver glint of a knife as it rushed at my throat.

I finally did what I should have done from the moment I heard the noise - I screamed, throwing up my hands to try and block or deflect the knife. "HELP!!!!!" And, in an odd moment of sheer, panic-stricken inspiration, conjured a lead weight about a foot above my attacker's head.

The knife struck deep into my forearm, but I managed to knock it out of his hand as *Thud!* the lead weight hit his head and bounced onto my shoulder, stunning him for a brief moment, at least.

I took advantage of the moment to skitter away from him, yanking my bedcovers onto him as I bolted for the door.

He was cursing, still entangled in the bed clothes, as I reached the door. He did a blind tackle, however...

"SOMEBODY HE-" And I was slammed into the door as he tackled me from behind. I managed to elbow him in the solar plexus with my good arm and heard the air rush out of him as he doubled over, groaning.

I was running on pure adrenaline at that point. I couldn't feel the wound in my arm, though I was sure I had seen the knife go in deep. I yanked open the door, ready to bolt, and pulled the blanket away to get a look at my attacker. Brownhaired, tall, stockily built, good looking, except for the snarl on his face as he came up for another attack, pushing me out of the door and away from him.

I aimed a kick for his groin, once again yelling for help, but he danced away, heading for the window.

I gave up at that point. Cradling my injured arm, I leaned against the wall outside my door, but found myself sliding down to sit on the floor as my knees gave out. It was eerily quiet; I couldn't seem to hear anything at all from the rest of the house. Deciding that sitting around wasn't going to do me any good, I headed off to Jero's room. The fact that no one had come at my cries worried me, and I hoped by the Bright Lady that my attacker had been the only one.

About ten feet from my doorway, I noticed something strange-- something wrong with the sound of my footsteps.

I walked a few more steps to see if I could figure out what was wrong but it was just in that one spot. Everything returned to normal in a few more steps. I didn't dwell on it as I called out again, becoming a bit more concerned that I was bleeding on the floor. And before I made it quite down the hall, a puzzled and sleepy-looking Jero met me, and I obligingly passed out in his arms.

When I awoke, I was in one of the guest rooms. Jero stood in a gloomy corner, arms crossed, slumped against the wall.

"Ugh. Jero?"

"I'm here, Elaine." He came over to me. "How do you feel?"

I grimaced. "Like I've been woken out of a sound sleep and stabbed in the arm. How long was I out?"

"About an hour. How's your head?"

"My head?" I was confused. "Fine."

He went through a whole routine. How many fingers? Was my tongue dry? etc... I felt fine though, even if my patience was a bit thin.

"All right, already, Jero!" I finally snapped. "Short of a hole in my arm, I'm fine." Then I sighed at the look on his face. "I'm sorry, Jero. I didn't mean to snap at you."

"Elaine," he said, ignoring all of that, and kneeling by the bed. "That dagger, according to the physician, was poisoned. Lady bless, I think the physician is wrong..."

"Poisoned?" I looked down at my arm.

He nodded gravely. "But you're obviously all right. The surgeon stitched you up... and I sent to the Archmagi to have someone investigate the spell on your room."

"What spell on my room?" I asked as I started to sit up.

"Lie back!" he said sharply. "It was a sound-proofing spell," he added in an apologetic tone, helping adjust me pillows so I could half sit up. "So no one in the rest of the house could hear you call out..." I could understand his irritation. It doesn't do much for the mood of the House Guard captain when someone manages to sneak in and almost assassinate his head of house. Of course, Jero's also my best friend, which only made it worse.

I settled back against the pillows, looking disturbed as the reality of what just happened starts to sink in. Unbidden, flashes of the grisly scene in the gardens, five years ago, went through my mind. I started shaking slightly. "Someone really wanted to kill me..."

Jero's face bore a mix of mortification and concern as he leaned over me and grasped my hand in his. That simple contact helped me get myself under control a moment later, though I didn't let go of Jero's hand. "Well, he didn't, so there's no point in having fits about it," I commented with my usual aplomb. "Who is coming from the Sorceror's Guild?"

"The Sorceror Acrost, and an apprentice."

"Acrost, good." I was relieved to hear his name. "Jero, I'd like to keep this incident within the confines of the House. I don't want the Councils or the King to know, if at all possible. When is Acrost to arrive...?"