Caveat Emptor

The retired corsair watched Laegir walk away and across the bridge of the Scholar’s Stair.

The retired corsair promptly kicked over a potted plant.

A wave of guilt washed over him as the pot shattered, revealing the shrub’s lace-like roots.

He hated the Gondorians. He hated Laegir for his boasts, and above all he hated the new life he chose that prevented him from proving those boasts wrong.

He missed the power, he missed the respect of those around him, he missed the men that had died leading Laegir into the storm that would change his life forever.

“When I let go of what I am I become what I might be.”

He pushed each word out one-by-one, not meaning them but saying them none the less.

He forced himself to remember the orcs, the half-starved men with empty eyes, the rattling of chains as oars slapped the water.

He began picking up the shards of clay from around the toppled shrub and placed them in a pile on top of the low garden wall where the plant once stood.

“When I let go of what I am I become what I might be.”

He meant the words this time.

The familiar pangs of guilt caused his stomach to twist. A murder, a slaver, a blood-hungry husk of a man. How dare he miss that life?

The biggest shard he used as a shovel.

“When I let go of what I am I become what I might be.”

The whole world seemed to hang on those words and the smell of fresh dirt.

He thought of his music.

He thought of the way it made people feel. He thought of Aston and Oron and Thyrlian. He thought of warm stew on a cold night.

He thought of waking up shivering beneath a pile of hay in the middle of said cold nights.

He had been a murder, a slaver, and a blood-hungry husk of a man. What was cold compared to what they had felt?

“When I let go of what I am I become what I might be.”

He thought of Lunet. He thought of her warm smile and the softness of her skin.

What right did he have to that life, he who had ended the lives of so many others? He thought of those that he had condemned to a fate worse than death. There would be no such happiness for them.

“When I let go of what I am I become what I might be.”

He placed the plant inside the hole that would be its new home. Its owner would see the broken pot and know what happened. The plant could grow and flourish here as he had, free from the hatred that bound him.

He smiled, satisfied in his work.

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Folded Memories

handpaperfinalAnd then Aerelin was gone and all was as it had been before.

The dusty silence crept in around her, suffocating in its emptiness. In the dim light of the mill the brigand’s fingers traced the worn creases of the page. Someone had held on to this for a good while; several someones, she hadn’t a doubt. The thought made her head light and her lip curl up into a sneer. She could still hear that awful woman’s voice echoing against the molding wood.

That paper you are holding is signed by Arion of the Watch, yes. It states that someone close to you may be responsible for the death of many of your friends, I mean, your men. It says that a Valthier had revealed the location of a group of brigands living near Trestlebridge to Arion, in exchange for a blind eye when a Cyndyn accused him of aiding you in marking her face.

The attack had been devastating, leaving nine dead and their hideout a pillar of smoke. Nothing can compare to the smell of burnt flesh and the sight of unrecognizable faces twisted in melting anguish. Valthier had been with her when she arrived on the scene. Scorney had fled, his body badly burned. Aston too had survived and claimed Drew’s horse before riding off to seek solace where only men can find it. She had buried her men, her friends, by herself. Where had Valthier ridden off to?

She could not read the words on the page, apart from the large ‘A’ with which the Justice had signed his name…or what was probably his name. She would need to have the report read to her, and yet she had no doubt that it would say exactly what Aerelin said it did—forgery or not. “It is a forgery.” she reminded herself and the world at large, “Some plot cooked up by that bitch Haneth or those Southrons from Andrath.” Logic told her otherwise. Logic was a lying whore that could go bugger itself where the sun didn’t shine.