Wednesday, December 8

Edrin Meets up with Elain

It was late on the fifth day after her meeting with Edrin Northstar, that he appeared beside her, catching Mangus off guard, and dis-arming him before Mangus could fully react. He handed the warrior back his sword belt, and asked him for a little privacy with his daughter. Mangus gave a short, if abrute bow, and backed off, just out of ear shot.

They were in Shanty town, Elaine was distributing some of the collections she had gathered from the rouges who came to see her, and welcome her to Mithril, to the poor in this part of the city. She was also learning quickly that a cleric of Drendari was not always a welcome sight to a thief. Espessially if that thief's prey was normally the poor or the helpless.

A rouge's life was a life in battle against a force he can't hope to win against head on. It was the battle of a poor and helpless person, who decided he was going to battle anyway. The war was personal, private and secret. The target may never know who his opponent was, only that there was someone, somewhere, willing to hurt him any time he could. And that pain was through the removal of objects, or belogings of other kinds, he held dear. And also, the reminder that anyone could be killed, no matter how careful or powerful he was. In this way, the rouge was a counter balance, a pointed lesson to the powerful, and the cruel alike. A lesson that said, "Don't go too far, or else I might go too far as well."

It was true that often, a rouge of this kind, would lift the purse off a complete stranger, only knowing that the stranger was probably able to loose the contents of that purse and not miss any meals from it. These things happend, it was true, and when they did, the thief normaly thought of it as a failer on his part, by not being more successful in the hounding of his true mark. But it was a nessessary thing, to get a bit of coin so the battle could continue.

Rouges had little time for anything else than being rouge. It was a costly profession, requiring specialized tools and skills, both tools and skils not really aplicable to any other trade.

Then there were the theives and the cutthoats. These were not really rouges as Elain, or Drendari saw them. They were not the underdog, the single warrior of the night fighting against the evils that power an coruption create, using only their wit and guile. These were those that were corrupted already, and trying to gain power by stamping on those less powerful than themselves. These were, in fact, future marks of any true rouge. And Mithril had more than its fair share of them.

To an outsider, watching this dance in the shadows, the distinction between rouge of Drendari, and a group or guild of thieves and cuthroats, might be hard to make. To a cleric in that shadow world, Elaine saw the difference very clearly, and understood the need for a cleric to help her rouges from crossing that very hard to see line in the darkness. Her floak were no angles. She knew that, but they were good men and women in their souls. But men and women, who by choice or circumstance, could loose their way and fall more easilly than the normal person of the world. When is theft an act of defiance, and when is it an act of evil?

Her Jason, and his Mithril Knights, saw any theft an illeagle and immoral act, no matter what the reason for it was. He was completely unbending on this matter. And yet, when questioned on the use of spies, he admitted their need, and place in war, and the defence of a city. In fact, he admitted that without spies, the knights themselves could not hope to maintain any law or order at all.

"But isn't stealing information, still stealing? In fact, isn't stealing information more damaging than stealing your purse in the market place?" She asked.

Jason didn't answer for a very long time, and then he said, "I love the people of this city. Really, I do. The only reason I'm a knight is because I grew up here, and I wanted to insure that every person in this city was safe, and could sleep at night, with some assurance that they would not be killed in their sleep, or their children stolen for food, or worse. It is not a love that comes between man and wife, you understand, it is something far deeper. I love every man woman and child in this city with every bit of my soul. And because of that, I am willng to face what ever evil, whatever horror, that comes to these gates looking for trouble. And I spend most of my days training ot make sure that when that evil shows up, it knows better than to return.

But I, unlike Master Narrin, am not blind. And even Master Narrin can see the suffering of the people in Shanty Town, and the gangs that prey on them, and the shoppkeepers who have lost their life savings from a burglar, or the woman who was rapped. I see them. Every one of them. And like many of the knights, make a point of walking through the dark places of our city, to make sure we see them. And my heart is in a constant state of pain and sunder because of it, because I know there is nothing I can do about it right now. I am a knight, but I am still only human. I have to sleep, eat, and have days where I do nothing except go to dinner with a pretty young girl.

Many things are changing, even the orcs of the plains, some of them are seeking out other means of survival than war. It is hard, but they are changing too. There may come a day when I will not be required to spend 15 of the 20 days a month fighting off the titan spawn that threaten this cities survival every day. There may come a day when the threat to our nieghbors and frineds in other countries are not so active. When that day comes, I will be able to do more for the city I love.

Until that day however, I understand the rouges and the spies. I understand them, because in a way, it is my failure to keep this city safe that creates them. I understand them as a need that I have to do my job in the field. I don't agree with them, and I seek other answers, not only for myself, but for them as well.

We turn away about 300 men and women a year from joining the ranks of the knights. That is not the full number, it is really more, but these 300 are those that in their heart of hearts are turly Mithril Knights. Paledons in every sense of the word, except physical stature. They are simply too weak to make it through the training and survive in the field. They have all the love I have, all the purity I have, in fact some might even have more, but they just don't have the physical body I have, and because of that, we turn them away. Many of them have all the pain I have as well, and I can see in their eyes the crushing blow we have given them, the day we turned them away, unable to help fight the evil that killed their mother, or daughter, or wife.

And then, some night, many months later, I see the same man I crushed with my denile of admitance. I meet him in a back alley, and he hands me a slip of paper, and I hand him a small pouch of gold, and that small slip of paper kills off many evils that have hounded his life, i make sure of it with my sword, and that small pouch of gold lets him continue his private war, and he does. I pray for his soul to find peace, and I believe that what he does is wrong, I do. But, I understand it, and I give him the gold to continue it, and I pray for a day where I hand him the gold and say, 'good work my friend, it is over now. Go in peace, there is no more need to walk in darkness again.'

He is not really a wise man, her Jason, but he is a lot deeper than she imagined at first. A wiser man would know that such a day will never come, because the world need balance. And the gods make sure that there is a balance, by their very existance. No Jason, you do not ever want to say that to my rouge, because in that world you would find that the evil you distroied, was your very life, and your blade just killed all the children of your beloved city. That day I do not wish on you, because I kindof like you, and you don't deserve that hell.

She gave the little girl she had been talking to a copper piece for reading the small page of words Elaine had given to her yesterday to learn, and gave her a new piece of paper as well for tommorow's copper piece. The girl smiled and hugged Elaine, then ran off to find her mother. Copper was safe, silver a bit tempting, gold was not a good thing to give to the poor. She smiled at the guild tough, in the alley watching her, and cracking his knuckles, and almost laughed when that same tough almost bit off his tounge when she said, "Good afternoon Father, come to see how I spend my allowance?" and the tough saw Edrin come up behind her.

She knew now that Edrin could never sneak up on her, no matter how good he was, and he was more than aware of that himself. She made a note never to forget that, because he probably felt the tone of their souls meeting each other, long before she did.

"No, I've come to make sure I'm giving you enough." He said, keeping the line going, without the need for winks or elbows. "I see that I am not, and will make the nessesary arrangments with Marrian when I get back to the house. There are so many here, more than last year I think."

"You fought for these people last year didn't you?" She asked, not sure how she knew that. She just suddenly got a flash of him surrounded out here on the the docks by monsters, trying to get to the people here in Shanty town, out here, unprotected by the walls, and unable to get inside because the doors are already closed. Helpless, defensless, except for him, out here alone... Why was he alone? Where was Heland? Sorlaya? Natalie? Where was Narrin, who so loved these children, or at least said he did.

She suddenly turned on him, angery, "Tell me about that day, I need to know." she demanded suddenly. "Why were you out here alone? Why? Where were those that keep saying how much they love you? Why were the gates closed on you? Why!

He put his hand on her shoulder, and made a motion that 'it was alright' to Mangus, who was approaching fast. "I see my gift for divination may have been inherited by you afterall. They call it 'the sight' back home in my city, I call it, the 'bane' myself. Knowing only parts of things, certain view points. Can really mess up your mind when you meet people. I'll give you a bit of advice before I answer, don't ever make an opinion on someone based on your 'sight', it will always be wrong."

She laughed and hugged him suddenly. "I think Mangus was telling me the same thing the other day, and see how quickly I forget simple rules?"

"Then I'm glad he is around you, to help you remember. Forgetting little things like that can be really upsetting. And maybe Mangus should be able to hear our 'private' father daughter chat, if he would like to, if he is such a good stewart to my daughters wellfair." He said loud enough for Mangus to hear.

Mangus responded by coming closer, but not so close as to be part of their group. "I think I could use some of the lemon drink they make down here." Edrin said, "Have you tried it? It is very good, and quite inexpensive."

With cups in hand Edrin led them to the spot, "Let's see, if I caught your vision right, I was out there on the dock, near the water. If you could see me, then the eyes you borrowed were up there on the wall, right near that balista, yes?"

Elaine nodded, and was a bit in awe at his accuracy. She had visions before, but never questioned things like the 'eyes she borrowed' aspect of them. Could that be a factor in her inical feelings about what she saw as well? Was her reaction to the vision really the reaction of the person she saw them through? An interesting question to be sure.

"Ah, so from this angle" Edrin was saying, as if laying out a scene for a play, "you can't see a great many things. For instance, you can't see over here, a crowd of terrified children and mothers, and unarmed fathers, facing a hord of sea monsters and blood tainted titan spawn. You can't see that the only reason they are still able to scream is a little hobbit between the children and the monsters. You can't see a young Knight back behind me, trying to keep the doors open just a little longer, so he can get those people inside. You don't hear him cry out as if stabbed through his soul as the doors are finnaly shut, and barred. You don't see three warriors, jumping down off that wall, to fight along side Narrin, knowing they are only giving their lives away so these people can live a few more minutes.

You don't see that young knight finaly convincing his captian to let him and his squad get outside the city and try to save those people, so our lives being lost are not a complete waste. There are many things you don't see from this angle. Keep that in mind, your teacher here, Mangus isn't it? is very correct in his lesson."

She looked at the dock, and willed the vision back into her mind. It took some effort, and then suddenly she was there on the wall again, the sun had just gone down, the children were screamning, fathers, knowing they were going to die stood in front of their wives and family, so perhaps there was a chance they might get out, as they themselves were taken. But her father down there was the center view, she couldn't turn her head, because the 'eyes' never quit looking at him. Who were these eyes, she wondered, so focused on Edrin as they were. And yes, she could feel a since of panic surrounding the scene coming from her borrowed eyes.

He is fighting like a whirl wind, against huge monsters. It is inhuman,his speed and power. He cuts one of these monsters in half with his blade. His power is emense. Sure, he's strong, by any standard, but there is something wrong with this, something terrible about his speed, and strength. One of the monsters strikes him with a wicked looking blade, it tears into his chest, but his only reaction is to turn and cut that monster down. His chest is ripped open, she can see the wound, but there is no blood on his shirt. This is wrong. This can't be what happened. Her 'borrowed eyes' are not seeing reality. She shakes herself out of the vision, willing it away. She looks at him, sipping his lemon drink, smiling at her. Not knowing what to say to him, but needing to have so many answers.

"Family is hell isn't it? I've always thought so. Get people in your life that close, and you don't know where you stand. Now, if your vision was of Mangus here out there on the docks, you would have already asked him, right? No problem at all, but your Father out there, well, that's a whole different story isn't it. Get all tied up in what you want to know, and what you don't want to know, but need to know."

"I can tell you one thing, if having a Father means having someone around that can look inside you that well, then you are right, family is hell, and I'm moving back the Shelazar in the morning." Elain said, sourly.

Magnus spit just a bit of his lemon drink out, trying to hold back a laugh, and failing miserably.

"Dad eyes, girl, might as well get use to it, I had to. I always wondered why my father knew everything just by looking at me, and now I know. Dad eyes are every where." He smiled. "So out with it, might as well get this behind us as you have already seen it, besides, it will give me a chance to go through it myself before I have to face my father and his eyes."

She looked out on the dock again. Not using the vision, just remembering what she saw. A few children have gathered, just in hearing distance, trying to hear the tale as well. Some of these children, she thought, were probably here that day.

"There are seven of them out there, surrounding you. You are fighting with two swords. You aren't moving back to the gate. I know someone is calling you inside, they have to close it. A general panic is surrounding you. More of these things are coming out of the water, and still you fight." She chants, going through the vision.

"Where is the blood, father? You were hit several times. Where is the blood?" She turned to look at him for answers but the children interupt.

"You're talking about the day the monster saved us, aren't you?" A boy calls out, coming closer, others behind him, daring because he dares. "He was great, you should have seen him. Whosh, Whosh whosh!" He shouts, making the motions of a sword fighter with two swords, chopping through imaginary beasts. "He was the best. The monster saved us." He says proudly.

"No!" says another, finding his voice, outraged that his hero was forgotten. "Master Narrin saved us, and used his bare hands, Kia!" He shouts, making several punches in the air and some awkard kicking motions. "The monster had to use swords." He says, sticking his tounge out at the other boy.

"Yeah, well Master Narrin can't afford swords, cause he's so poor, that's all. Keeps giving us all his money. He would have used swords if he had them."

"I think the dwarf was the best, his axe cleving through them like they were fish sticks at the diner cart." Says another boy. They all agree that the dwarf was pretty cool, and jumping off the wall like that was probably the best thing they ever saw.

"Too bad the monster died like that." One said. And the rest lost their joy of the moment and nodded their heads, thinking of the fallen hero.

"He came back though. That was him that got Sarah and her mother out." Another said.

"Yeah, but getting eaten by sea spawn can't feel good." Said the first. This was agreed by all.

Elaine's blood is cold, she's smiling at the children, but there is a chill in her that won't go away. She kneels down and gives each a copper piece and tells them she will come back to hear their story, but she wants to talk to her father right now.

Edrin watches them run off, waving back at her. She is their princess, he thinks. The princess of poor children and lonely rouges. That is his offspring's choice in rein.

"Why do they call you Monster, dad." She says, her eyes filled with tears and terror. "Why weren't you bleeding after that horrible weapon ripped your chest apart? Why are you alive?"

He looks at her, knowing that not telling her might cause her more pain than telling her everything. There is so much pain there, he thinks. Will she have to live every painful moment of his life? Is this her fate?

"I am alive now, because I was dead then." He says. "The dead don't bleed, nor do they fall from weapons not blessed by a good force. The creatures were evil, to the core, created by evil itself. The weapons they held were no threat to me, but mine were death to them. I was never in any real danger at all. There was no hero in my actions. And I knew it as I fought. I didn't go back to the gate because I didn't want those that cared so much about this lone warrior out on the dock, fighting for their lives, to see who they were caring so much about. That would have been cruel. So, after Narrin and Tordek and the young knight, along with the others risking their lives, were able to get everyone inside the city, I faked my fall out here, and slipped away."

The vision rushes in on her, taking over every sense, sight and sound. Terror grips her throat, she's right up next to him now, she can hear him growling, the sound is terrible, and demon like. The things around him, the sea spawn, she can see he even affects them, there is fear in their horrible evil eyes as he rushes at them, his face full of furry and hate, and ... joy? Yes, he is loving every second of this, every death, every blow. His eyes are blazing red, and his teeth... oh Goddess.. his teeth, those eyes, she's seen them before, he's not, elf.

He howls suddenly, it is a terrifying howl, like a hell hound and it shakes her soul to hear it. She turns and sees wolves pouring out of the Shanty town area. Three full packs of twenty wolves each, answering his call. He's in a frenzy now, shouting for more to come up from the sea and meet their doom. His cloak and shirt are in tatters. His skin is ripped open by countless wounds, she can see bones, white as chaulk, and just as dry. Suddenly he lunges at her, faster than thought, coming to kill her borrowed eyes, this demon, this Vampire. He sliced through her neck so fast she can't see the sword as it passes through. She screams, and the world snaps back in on her. Mangus is alert and staring at her, Edrin is calmly looking out at the docks. One of his ships is there.

"That one is probably more true than your last." Edrin says calmly. "I mean, the perspective. The borrowed eyes, this time, had less hidden places, and a clearer view."

Elaine is sucking in deep breaths, trying to calm down, her terrified scream has attracked quite a bit of attention from the dock areas. She trys to ignore them, and their stares. Most of them think she is a sweet innocent girl who comes down to help the pour. Going through this with him here is not a good idea, if more of the same is to come. Thinking like a rouge helps calm her mind, she looks inside for the silver line, between dark and light, finds it, follows its clarity, it changes, calming her mind and body. "We should go I think, finish this some place else, like maybe my room."

"I would love to, but I'm afraid I have to go. There are things I still have to do today, and the night is coming. But some other time I'm sure will come up that we can go over my dark and sorted life." Edrin said, taking his cup back to the drink stand. Saying on his return, "If you are going to keep coming down here, that fear of spiders you have has got to go. That was just a little one. They have some really big ones down here on the docks." A few people chuckle and go back to their own business.

Elain smiles nervously at them, and ajusts her hair, and turns to go to the gates. "I need to know father. Why did I see ... what I saw? How is that ... and you standing here, possible? Was my vision wrong?"

"You should always question that." Edrin said. "I've been privy to many false visions. The future and the past are not certain, never trust visions of them fully. But in this case, it is dead on, so to speak. But I don't have time, as I said, to go into that, so it will give us something to talk about the next time we meet. It was good to see you, and you too Mangus, feel free to come to the house any time, both of you, together or alone if you need something, or just want to visit." He walked forward into the crowd and then her eyes lost track of him.

"Do you see him Mangus?" She asked suddenly, "Can you still follow him?"

Mangus scowled at the crowd. "No, I lost him. Damn he is good, or bad, depending on how you look at it."

"So many things are." She answered. "I want you to be able to follow him Mangus. That is your task, and goal. Learn how to do it, it may be very important some day."

"Yes my lady, I will."

"We should go home. I'm tired, drained."

"If I may ask, what did you see your father as. I know you had one of your sights, what was he then?"

"A Vampire Mangus. He was a Vampire, and not a cutesy little vampire you hear about in some of the Bard tales, but a real devil spawn nasty vampire, that the children call Monster." She answered, picking up her pace, wanting to be home.

"By the Goddess." Mangus whispered in surprise and shock.

"Something tells me that she may be in this tale, yes." Elain answered, and then wondered why. She almost broke into a run then, but found the silver path inside her, just in time. It's winding complex pattern holding her mind away from panic, and terror, clearing her thoughts to what is now, and real.

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