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Hero's Song - Chapter Seven

Author: 
Avariel
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
319

I shivered. Gods, it was cold out here. I huddled as close as I dared by the fire; the heat of it was scorching my face, while the bone-deep chill of the night air clung to my back. Stupid vigil. No wonder I never wanted to be a knight.

This was Axle's big plan. Squire me, make me a member of the nobility, and Luskan wasn't allowed to just drag me away. They called it High justice; I was to be tried at Neverwinter's court, which meant that I'd actually get a real trial. For something that I didn't do. Believe me, I was overjoyed. Really. Although...I reminded myself it could have been much worse. I could be hanging from a gallows right now, yes? Instead of later on some time in the future.

Sir Edmund had left me here at Solace Glade a few minutes earlier, after telling me tales of how he had snuck away from his first vigil and ended up despoiling a farm girl down the road. I couldn't help but grin to myself as I thought about it. Supposedly the girl's father had chased him off, and Edmund had gotten back in time for his patron knight's return. Some people just have that lucky edge, I thought. Maybe I could get Neeshka to steal it from him for me.

The silence was smothering out here. I should have brought my new fiddle. Just thinking about the instrument made my insides churn with delight and confusion and desire, and...well, a million other things. Not only was Bishop's craftsmanship fairly remarkable, but while everyone else had merely expressed their sympathy over my lost instrument, he had done something. For me. It seemed so uncharacteristic of him. Besides, I had thought that only another bard would have understood losing an instrument. Everyone had patted me on the back and told me I'd find another one, but it just wasn't like that. Unless an instrument spoke to you, you didn't even pick it up, and finding another one that I connected with would have taken time. I had never felt so disoriented in my entire life.

But just seeing that little violin on my bed...well, it had been made for me. It was mine, and it recognized me, and my meager magic had reached out and claimed it when I had laid my hands on the wood. I hardly knew what to say to Bishop. The gesture was...incredibly personal, and I hadn't had the time to even speak two words to him on the way to Axle's; what with Sand instructing me on what to say and what not to say, and that I wasn't even allowed to think about speaking unless Sand was present to save me from my conversational foibles.

So I sat here, shivering, and holding the idea that the ranger had done something wonderful for me close to my heart. At least, until he actually opens his mouth and says something about it, and completely ruins the whole thing, I thought wryly...but I smiled when I thought it.

"Are you out here? I can barely see anything!"

A shadow stumbled down from the closest set of hills and became Shandra as it got closer to the firelight. I blinked. "Shandra, what are you doing here?"

"Look, no way am I letting you stay out here by yourself, not with the way you get into trouble." She smiled at me and then rolled her eyes. "Besides, Khelgar found Duncan's stash of Enderwine, and the tavern's gotten pretty rowdy, what with Axle's boys always hanging out there now. Elanee was actually dancing."

My heart sank. "I missed that? My god, woman, you torture me!"

Shandra laughed. "Can I sit?"

I sighed, and scooted over, giving her some room. "Aye, I could care less if Edmund sees you. He doesn't seem such a stickler for the rules, anyway. What the hell is the point of this?" I hugged myself for warmth. "This might be why all the noblemen are so stodgy...their damn balls froze off on their vigils, and they've lost all zest for life."

"Harper!" Shandra burst into laughter.

I grinned, and she shook her head, chuckling. "I don't know how anyone could think you've slaughtered a helpless village." She sobered slightly at the thought. "I wish I knew who really did it." Her voice had a steely edge to it.

"Aye, you knew those people, didn't you? Or at least they knew you." I stared at the fire. "Look, I know what it must feel like...people I knew all my life died at my village when the githyanki attacked it." I patted her awkwardly on the arm. "When the trial's over with, we'll find out who really did it. Well; at least the others will help you, if I end up become a gallows ornament."

"Oh, don't say that! Even if the trial goes badly, we won't let them have you, Harper. We'd...break you out, tear the walls down, do something. Qara would probably set something on fire in the process." She gave me a hooded glance, her look mischevious. "I know someone who's pretty familiar with the woods that would probably be willing to hide you somewhere...

I blushed furiously. "Gee, that's subtle."

"Well, you two aren't. Gods, girl, the way he looks at you sometimes, I feel like I should leave the room before something happens." She paused. "Of course, then he opens his mouth, and I'm consoled that even you wouldn't throw yourself on him after what he says." She grinned at me. "And when he comes in the room, you kind of go cross-eyed..."

"I do not!" I hesitated. "Cross-eyed, really?"

A branch snapped. We both jumped, and I peered into the darkness, making out three figures approaching the fire. I narrowed my eyes, and stood, drawing my weapons. Shandra, of course, couldn't see them in the dark, and jumped up, startled. "What is it?"

"Company."

Three men, tattoos covering their features, stepped into the firelight. The shortest of them glanced at my un-sheathed scimitars, and back up into my resolute face, uncertainty flashing through his expression.

I grinned. "Hello, boys."

o o o o o o

Hours later, Sir Edmund found me, sitting peaceably by my dying fire, three corpses scattered around me. Shandra had left long ago.

He quirked an eyebrow at me, noting the bloodstains on my clothing. "Do you dislike men in general, or was there something particular about these three?"

I smiled. "They thought I was a farm girl, and asked to spend the night."

"Ha!" Edmund chuckled. "I know that isn't what happened, girl, but you acquitted yourself well enough. Come on...you're a Squire now, and Nasher will want to see you."

o o o o o o

"...so try and listen to me when we're collecting evidence, and maybe we can get you out of this mess."

Sand had been talking my ear off non-stop, and to be perfectly blunt, I was about to drop. I hadn't slept all night and my eyes felt grimy, like if I didn't close them soon they were going to leak out of my face. He did pull himself out of his lecture long enough to open the door of the tavern for me, and I stepped inside. Wonderful...my bed was only a few feet away...

"Harper!" Duncan un-characteristically threw his arms around me in a bear hug, nearly shouting in my ear. "Thanks the gods! How'd it go? What happens next?"

I gasped. "Air!"

My half-elven uncle let go of me quickly; he was no Khelgar, but he was burlier than my frame, and frequently hauled unruly drunkards out on their ear every night all on his own strength. Well. Nothing like being crushed in a vice to wake you up in the morning.

I blinked. "If you want me to talk, coffee. Now. Otherwise, I'm falling asleep in the middle of the floor, and you won't be able to move me."

Duncan patted my shoulder and hurried back to the kitchen. I wiped my face with the back of my hand, and looked at my companions, seated randomnly around the room. My eyes fell on Bishop, leaning against the hearth stones, watching me...always watching me. He had an arrow in one hand, and his fingers were absently stroking the flight-feathers. The image immediately entered my mind; those nimble fingers, sliding down my--no! I glanced up into his eyes again, guiltily aware of the heat creeping into my face. Apparently, I wasn't as tired as I thought.

He quirked an eyebrow at me, noting the bloodstains on my clothing. "All right?" His voice was cool, impersonal, but the look in his eyes told me he had known exactly what he was doing. And he knew it had worked.

My voice failed me, the traitor. I simply nodded.

"Do you need healing, Harper?" This from Elanee.

"I need a bath. And a bed," I said wearily, stolidly keeping my eyes away from Bishop's face. I sat down, and moments later, Duncan shoved a mug of coffee in my hands, and I felt slightly more like a person.

Sand, mercifully, spoke up. "We need to get evidence for her case. She's a squire, now, so she'll be tried in Neverwinter, and she'll be able to leave the city, so long as she comes back for her trial." Sand glanced at me, and said, "We..ah...should probably plan on leaving tomorrow."

"So it's settled then. Everyone should rest and prepare; we might not be back here for a few days, maybe a week." Casavir stood, and hesitated for a moment. "If you need anything from me...us...just let any of us know, Harper."

"Thanks...thanks, all of you." My voice wavered momentarily. "Look, I know I'm not exactly..uh...figurehead material, but you've all stuck with me thus far and I honestly think I'd be dead by now if it weren't for you."

I was instantly surrounded by bodies, hands patting my back, mussing my hair. Smiling faces looked at me; even Qara stood at my side, grinding her fist into her palm. "Hey, just say the word and I roast 'em, you know?"

"I feel like I've always known you," said Elanee, smiling. "I'd never forgive myself if I left you know."

"Aye, we're with ya Harper, no doubt about it! I'll be damned if I ever find another elf that can drink like you again! Why, you're probably the only one of your kind who can stomach my Stoutbeard Whiskey!"

Sand snorted. "The first sip of it probably killed her taste-buds and spared her the rest."

Khelgar looked at Sand narrowly. "Ye don't taste it, wizard. Ye just drink it."

They joked, and harassed each other, and filed out of the common area. I stared at my coffee, my thoughts buzzing around my head like a whirlwind until they finally landed on the fiddle, lying by my beside in my room. I glanced up as I saw Bishop sidling out the door.

"Hey," I said softly.

He looked back at me. I nodded at him wearily. "Thanks."

He didn't say anything for a moment, just regarded me, that slight scowl he always seemed to carry deepening slightly. Then he shrugged, and looked away from me. "You owe me a song, bard," he said. His voice sounded rougher than usual. "And none of that horse-piss elven pandering you sharp-eared halfwit minstrels are known for. Something with some life to it." He left the room, calling over his shoulder, "Or I'm turning that fiddle into firewood again."

I smiled to myself.





Hero's Song - Chapter 7 © Avariel

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