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Hero's Song - Chapter Fourteen

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"She insists on speaking with you," said Nevalle as we walked down into the depths of the Watch House.

"And you have her in jail because...?" said Shandra behind me. She had insisted on coming with me, and so, ironically enough, had Bishop. Casavir had been incredibly solicitous of me during my recovery; I'm positive he was blaming himself for his inability to have fully healed me, and had taken it upon himself to fulfill my every need. I was also positive that it was driving Bishop insane, and that fact was giving me no small amount of guilty pleasure. Whether Bishop's sudden selfless interest in my well-being was a sign of any growing feelings, or simply a reflection of his complete and utter hatred of the paladin, I wasn't quite sure...and I was betting on the latter to be more accurate. But it warmed me to the tips of my hair when he announced he was coming with me, "just to make sure you don't trip and break anything else." Shandra had just rolled her eyes.

Nevalle led us past a few cells, replying to Shandra, "Because we don't know whether she's a threat or not, and until we do I'm keeping her behind an inch of barred steel." He glanced as me as I walked stiffly next to him. "You know, I always figured that when you'd finally see these cells, it'd be because I was dragging you in to one."

I grinned at him. "I never figured that, because you never would have caught me." I chuckled at his stony expression. "Besides, Axle's never done any real evil; in fact, the Docks are probably your strongest district right now. If Neverwinter were attacked..."

Nevalle nodded ruefully. "Aye, as much as I hate to admit it, you're probably right. Still, I hate having the people beholden to Axle...

"Beholden to Axle or beholden to Brelaina; you'd still owe someone." I paused as Nevalle unlocked the farthest cell, a shadowy figure moving behind the barred doors. Nevalle pushed the cell open and said, "All right, she's here."

A green-skinned woman stepped into the light; she looked remarkably like a githyanki, but the brilliant blue of her eyes held me, wisdom and compassion swimming in their depths. She was dressed in un-assuming monk's robes, and a sheer veil covered most of her face. I nodded at her uneasily. "What did you want with me?"

"Long have I sought you out, Kalach-Cha," she said; her voice was deep and resonant, and it echoed through my head as she spoke. "Know that my people have felt the stirrings of your enemy, the King of Shadows. My purpose, here, in this place, is to aid you in your fight against him."

My eyes narrowed. "The last time the githyanki attempted to fight the King of Shadows, it would have meant my death."

"I am not githyanki. Know that the githyanki are the enemy of my people, and that in our opposition of them, we are already allied." She stepped closer to me. Shandra sidled slightly in front of me, and Bishop growled; I heard the slithering noise of an arrow being drawn from his quiver. The githyanki paused, and looked me in the eye. "And you must also know this; I have knowledge of an ancient ritual of Illfaern's making, one that will enable you to defeat the shadow."

"You aren't going anywhere until Lord Nasher decides what to do with you," said Nevalle sternly.

I looked into her eyes. There was an infinite sadness, and an unnerving, peaceful detachment in them that reminded me poignantly of Daeghun. I said, quietly, "Will you help us, if I persuade the Watch to let you go?"

"You can't just-" began Nevalle.

I waved my hand at him impatiently. "We need all the help we can get. If she can aid us, then Nasher will have to let her." I nodded at the gith. "Please, tell me. Will you help us?"

"Yes. In exchange for my freedom."

I looked at Nevalle, one eyebrow cocked. He sighed.

"You're responsible for what she does," he said. "Lord Nasher won't like it."

"I'm sure that once we have a way to damage the King of Shadows, maybe even destroy him...well, his 'lordship' might just get over it."

Behind me, Bishop chuckled.

o o o o o o

We stood on the battlements of Crossroad Keep...or what was left of it. The wind buffeted us gently, toying with my loose braid, rustling our cloaks. Nevalle had brought us up here, and then told us to wait for a moment while he took care of something. I leaned against the crumbling stone, looking out over the ruined farm lands around me. Zhjaeve, the githzerai, stood slightly apart from us, lost in her own thoughts, and I studied her closely, thinking of what she had told me earlier. The Sword of Gith, I thought, somewhat in awe. Shattered. And a piece of it, lodged inside my chest...

Footsteps echoed from the far doorway, and then Nevalle appeared again, panting. He had a scrolled document in his hand, and as he walked towards us, I could feel the heavy hand of fate tapping me on the shoulder...

"Harper Kross," said Nevalle, and his voice took on that imperious tone that he used when speaking to the general assembly at Lord Nasher's court. I cleared my throat nervously and stepped forward, away from my friends, feeling completely ridiculous. I faced Nevalle, my eyebrows up, questioning, but he merely unrolled the scroll in his hand, and began reading.

"To all these who see these presents, greetings; know ye that on this day, imposing special trust in Squire Harper Kross, I do hereby proclaim thee a Captain of Greycloaks, Soldier of Neverwinter, and that henceforth you shall carry out all duties and instructions as befits a soldier of your standing." He looked into my eyes. "Signed, Lord Nasher Aloganndar, Ruler of Neverwinter." He rolled up the promotion warrant, and handed it to me.

I took it in a daze. "Um," I said.

Nevalle actually laughed. "Honestly, I've heard worse promotion speeches than that. But it brings me no small amount of pleasure seeing your sharp tongue rendered speechless for once." He sobered almost immediately, but his eyes twinkled with amusement. "This keep, and the lands surrounding it, are to be your responsibility. Lord Nasher would have you rebuild it, gather troops and prepare the people for battle against this King of Shadows." He turned, and gestured for me to follow. "And thankfully, you won't have to do it alone."

I followed as he lead us all through the crumbling keep. He stopped in the decrepit throne room as a tall, striking, dark-haired woman approached us, her armor polished until it shone. "This is Lieutenant Kana," said Nevalle, and the young woman bowed formally.

"I am honored to serve you, Captain," she said, her voice crisp and succinct.

I couldn't quite stand it. "Don't bow to me, Lieutenant," I said, my voice shaking with laughter. "I'm a singer of tavern songs and barroom ballads. Your courtly formailty isn't nessecary."

She shot a confused glance at Nevalle, who swiftly pulled me away, chuckling. "I've hired a builder by the name of Master Veedle. He's...uh...a bit eccentric, but he should be able to help you with the rebuilding of the keep..."

"My good lady!" said a short, wizened man with huge glasses. He was wearing a brilliant blue coat and scuttled towards me like a beetle, taking my hand and pumping it up and down enthusiastically. "I am so pleased to be working with you! Such plans I have for this keep...such plans!!"

I gently disentangled my hand before he ripped it out of the socket. "Thank you, Master Veedle."

I was, over the course of the next hour, introduced to various workers, carpenters, and soldiers, all who were apparently under my command. I shook hands, learned and then soon forgot names, and received a bone-snapping bear hug from Miss Jen, the cook, who was almost as wide as she was tall. Through it all, a smile was fixed on my face, but my heart was sinking. I was longing for my Uncle's tavern...for the back room I slept in, with the crookedly stuffed mattress and the quilts with holes in them, and the uneven floorboards that sometimes made me trip in the midst of the night.

Underneath it, I hated to admit, I was craving to be near Bishop, speak with him, touch him, anything. He had stayed close to me throughout the past day, of course; but barely a word had passed between us about what had happened in the forest, and now I was getting shoved into a pair of boots that were no doubt going to prove to big for me...I didn't want a damn castle. I wanted music, laughter, a warm bed and food every day, and the long, tender embrace of the road to comfort me. And maybe the arms of a certain ranger...

"Captain," said a clipped voice near my ear, and Kana was at my side once more. "I need to ask you about some of the men, if you could come with me...

"My lady!" Veedle was at my elbow. "If you and I could go over some of these building plans, for just a moment..."

I stepped away from them all neatly. "First things first. My companions and I are exhausted, and the sun is almost down. We'll need food, and some clean clothes, and rooms made up in the inn for us, seeing as how the castle can barely hold it's own walls up." I looked at my two "assistants." "Tomorrow, I will seek you out. Tonight, don't come near me."

And with that, I turned on my heel, and walked towards the shambling tavern, who's lights were glowing warmly through the open windows. I tried not to break into a run.

Hero's Song - Chapter 14 © Avariel

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