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Hero's Song - Chapter Six

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"Surely you can think of something?" I asked desperately.

Shandra shrugged at me helplessly. "I'm sorry, Harper, I can't remember much else about him. My mother told me about the Haven, but not where to find it."

I laid my face flat on the table-top. "Then we're stuck. You know, the urge to scream and pull your hair out really creeps up on you, but when it gets there, oh boy..."

"Look, you've found out a lot of information about these shards already, and a lot of that was trial and error."

I looked up at her helplessly. "I know that, but we can't afford to blunder around blindly anymore! I mean, we've already caused too much damage; your entire farm's burnt, the Archives is in shambles, we've utterly destroyed a possible ally..."

"Has anyone seen Bishop?" called Duncan, sticking his head from around the back door.

Neeshka shrugged. "I saw him out chopping up some wood from your little spruce glade, earlier. Thought you were making him fetch you some firewood, as part of that little deal you have going with him." She grinned at the thought.

Duncan frowned at her. "Why would I make him do a stupid thing like that? Sal does things like that." His frown deepened. He glanced at me. "Well, if you see him, tell him I need to speak with him."

"I honestly don't think the githyanki were ever really an ally," said Casavir gravely, calling our inturrupted conversation back to the table. "Their route to the King of Shadows would have involved your death, and that's...not exactly the type of victory over him that we want."

"Well, I'll agree with you there." I sighed. "I wish the answer would just walk through the door, for once, instead of having us chase after it."

The door to the Flagon slammed open, and a man stepped inside. The patrons grew quiet, looking him up and down. He wore court garb; what a noble was doing in this part of the docks, I hadn't the faintest idea.

"Harper Kross?" He called. "I'm looking for Harper Kross. Her Uncle runs this inn."

Grobnar blinked, and looked up at me. "Wow, that actually worked." He called out to the door, "I want a Netherese flying machine! And a wizard's hat! And..."

Neeshka groaned. I stood up, gesturing to myself. "I'm Harper," I said to the man. "What can I do for you?"

He glanced uneasily at the patrons...they were shuffling closer. One of them said, "Ye got a problem with our girl, have ye?"

I rolled my eyes. "Look, sir, there's a table over here...just have a seat?" I shot a warning look at the men giving the newcomer trouble; they were Axle's, of that I had no doubt. He sat across from me; looking him full in the face was an eyeful, I'll grant you that. If I didn't know better, I'd assume every chisled statue of the Warrior God in the city was modeled after this one.

He seemed to be measuring me up as well. "Well, you're...certaintly not what I would have expected from your reputation. And certaintly not what I expected from one of Axle's theives."

I smiled disarmingly. Come on, charm, do your thing. "We do what we have to, to get by, milord." I quirked an eyebrow. "Your name?"

"Nevalle. Sir Nevalle." He looked at me gravely, his pale eyes serious. "We've received word from Luskan that one of their villages was attacked last night. Ember. Completely sacked."

I didn't comprehend what he was getting at, so I shrugged. "Forgive me if I don't weep into my morning tea for Luskan, but what does this have to do with me, exactly?"

"They have a witness claiming that you lead the massacre. A survivor that identified you at the town."

I blinked. "What? But...that's not possible. I was here!"

He raised an eyebrow. "So someone was with you the entire night? Saw you here the whole time?"

"Well, no!" I was flustered by that. "I mean, I sleep alone."

Nevalle gave me a hard look, then he sighed. "Look, Harper," he said quietly, leaning forward. "I know you didn't do this, but Luskan's got a witness that says you've done it, and since you've chosen outside of Neverwinter's laws, there's not much I can do to help you."

I narrowed my eyes. "Can do, or will do? I know how nobles don't like to get their hands dirty, and lowering yourself to help a Dock's bard? And one of Axle's girls, no less? Heaven forbid what that will look like on your record..."

His lips tightened angrily. "It's not about how it'll make me look! It's about my hands being completely tied, and you can thank your involvement with Axle for that." He simmered somewhat when he realized his voice had risen, and said quietly, "I may know of someone who can help you, all right? I need to speak with him, and maybe I can get him to speak with Axle." He leaned back and stood up, looking down at me. "Until then, you need to stay in the city. Lord Nasher's orders, so don' try to leave, or we will hand you over to Luskan."

I smiled at him wryly. "It's nice to know the officials of Neverwinter care about my safety. Shall I show you to the door, my 'lord?'"

He gave me a measured look, turned, and strode out of the tavern. I waited until the door had slammed behind him, and sank weakly back down onto my seat.

I was instantly surrounded by people. "What'd he say about Luskan? I mean, not that I wasn't trying to listen, or anything..." Neeshka had placed herself directly in front of me.

Shandra frowned. "I heard him mention Ember; that's where the githyanki set up that ambush for you guys, isn't it? They drug me through there on their way up into the mountains. Has something happened?"

My face must have been a quick study. Casavir bent down to look me in the eyes. "My lady...Harper...what is it?"

I covered my face. "Ember's been attacked. Everyone's been massacred, and they're saying...well, the survivor is saying I'm the one that did it." My voice sounded surprisingly calm. Where was that coming from?

Khelgar scoffed. "Well o' course it ain't true, ye've been with us the whole time! What bloody nonsense is Luskan trying to pull?"

They argued for a few moments, and I said nothing, my mind racing. Obviously, I had another enemy here. Think...didn't the mage from the Sea Ghost claim something about a master of his? Well, he did right before I killed him, anyway. And they were from Luskan. Has to be one and the same person, or I'd eat my fiddle. Well...the fiddle that I...oh, hells.

"Quiet," I said evenly, and the ruckus died down. "It doesn't matter if I did it or not, it matters if I can prove it."

"And that is exactly what we're going to do," said a voice from the doorway. Seven heads turned at once to watch Sand walk in, brushing the street-dust off his robes.

Duncan scowled. "Sand! What in the hells are you doing here?"

"I'm actually here for your kin, Duncan, so if you would be so kind as to go back to...whatever it is you think you do that constitutes work, I'll just speak with her." The dark-haired elf sat next to me at our table, which was beginning to become incredibly crowded.

"I'm going to assume Nevalle's already been to see you, given the general miasma of dismay you all seem to be wallowing in," he said wryly. "Nevertheless, I'm to help you try and prove your innocence; when Nasher lets you leave the city we'll have to get evidence, anything, that'll help your case." He looked at me seriously for a moment. "And trust me when I say, you're going to need it. Torio Claven will draw and quarter you without hesitation."

Khelgar sighed. "I'm going to be surrounded by elves for the rest of my days, aren't I?"

Elanee and I looked at him. Sand quirked an eyebrow. "That depends on how long the rest of your days last, I'd assume."

"Oh knock it off, everyone. Look, I can't even go anywhere yet, at least not until I see Axle, so let's this one step at a time." I patted Khelgar's shoulder affectionately. Hard for him, being the only dwarf. He grumbled something deprecating about my sentimentality, but I noticed the flush of pleasure on his face.

I stood, stretching. "I'll go get my things ready, and you all should too. Once we figure out Axle's plan to get me out of this, I have a feeling we'll have to implement it as soon as possible, so we need to be prepared." I turned to go, and stopped. Looked back at Sand.

"Hey, wizard," I said, and he looked at me questioningly.

I smiled at him. "Thanks."

He looked somewhat startled. "Don't thank me, I have to do this. But...I're welcome."

As I turned the corner to head down the halls towards my room, Karnwyr, Bishop's wolf, ran past me, stopping for a fraction of a second so that my fingers could scratch behind his ear before heading into the common area. As I looked up, I saw Bishop not far behind him, walking towards me from the back rooms we used as sleeping areas.

I frowned at him. "Where were you? A lot's just happened, and Duncan's been looking for you..."

"Oh, has he?" His lip curled. "Can't keep him waiting, now can I? As for where I was, I don't recall you being the one that held my leash."

"Look," I placed a hand on his chest to keep him from walking by. "Something big's just happened; that village we went through, where we were ambushed? It's been completely sacked."

"So?" His eyes were cold.

"They're saying I'm the one that did it."

He blinked, his rugged features puzzled. "You? When?"

"Last night. And since my only alibi was that I was sleeping, well...I really have no alibi at all."

He glanced up and down the hall, then stepped closer to me, his hand closing over mine, which still lay pressed against his chest. "You know, if you didn't sleep all by yourself, you wouldn't have that problem..."

"Oh stuff it, Bishop!" My voice was angry...and my heart was hammering. Damn this ranger, how did he get such reactions out of me?

He grinned down at me...I heard footsteps down the hall and stepped away from him quickly. He let go of my hand, and shrugged. "Well, I'm sure your friend Axle will have something planned. I suppose I should pack my things up, hmm?" He sidled past me, and dissappeared into the common room.

I leaned against the wall to catch my breath. Casavir turned the corner, scowling back the way he came; probably at Bishop. He turned and saw me, stopping in his tracks. "Are you all right?"

I smiled weakly. "For a falsely-accused murder of villagers, I couldn't be better."

He frowned at me, concern etched in his voice. "I shan't see you hang, Harper. I promise you that."

His words encouraged me, like they were meant to. That paladin charm, I thought. My smile became more genuine. "Thanks, Casavir. You know, I appreciate you sticking with us. I mean, you didn't really have any obligation to, you could have stayed at the Well, but..."

"But, your need was greater, and I made my choice." He smiled ever so slightly. "You should get your things and get some rest while you can, my lady."

"Right." I turned, and headed towards my room, my thoughts boiling. Casavir was like a shaft of brilliant light compared to Bishop. He thinks a few smooth words will get him past my defensees? HA! Bishop doesn't know anything about loyalty, or selflessness, or...or caring for people...

I opened my door, deciding firmly to put the ranger out of my thoughts...and stopped.

Lying on my bed, gleaming, was a freshly carved violin.

The room was full of the smell of new-cut spruce, and it tingled in my lungs as I inhaled. I took a few faltering steps forward and sank onto my bed, staring at it. Intricate feathers were carved along the soundboard, which was polished until it shone. And it was the highest quality wood you could use for any stringed instrument. The sound you'd get out of it, I couldn't even begin to imagine. Something like this would have cost me...well, I cringed at the thought. I picked it up gently. All it needed was some strings and a good tuning...and I'd need a bow...oh. There, across my pillow; and the strings, too.

I had everything I needed. My heart ached.

On the back of the baseboard, carved so small I could barely read them, were the words "Vanima'lindo."

Hero's Song - Chapter 6 © Avariel

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