Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Eight

Dr. Anderson listened patiently as Becca Smitts spewed out her conjectures about the behavioral changes in the patients Ryan Pellin, Emery Landers, Vale Stapleton, Lydia Rhys, and Joanna Bailey. In watching recordings of their interactions with each other and their time alone, she noted that each of them had frequently used the phrase “sun setter”. Since all of them had done it at one point or another-- Ryan using it most often and Lydia the least-- it had to have some significance. But her research only brought out the literal meaning, or perhaps a setting sun as a metaphor for death. But her instincts told her it was something different to the patients. They spoke of it with some emphasis, as if it were proper-- the name of something.


Life around Necras finally returned to normal, and it infuriated Senne. The majority of the Seekers had left a week ago, the stragglers within the last four days. But some remained, a handful who seemed more interested in sitting in taverns, trying to keep the festivities going by drinking themselves into a stupor every night and picking right back up when they woke in the afternoon. She had trouble believing that her quarry was one of those who lingered, but there was always the chance, so rather than throw her lot in with someone who had already departed, she had chosen to remain and hope that one of the stragglers was the one.

What it really came down to, though, was that she was at a loss of where to go from here. Her master had said Sonsedhor’s master was one of the Seekers in Necras, but she had had no hints pointing to anyone in particular. It would be found, and where would she be when it happened? Still in Necras, waiting for one of the braid-wearing men with his face buried in a mug of ale and a serving girl’s bodice to suddenly produce the sword from underneath his chair? That thought brought a sneer to her lips. Maybe she should have followed after some random Seeker.

She ignored the hoots and lewd suggestions aimed at her as she walked through the common room of the inn, past the Seekers who were already out of control of their mouths even though it was still an hour before dark. She walked undisturbed to another inn, where she rented her room. The simple curtains at the window were pulled back, letting in the warm mid-evening light. Light that fell on the far-from-warm figure of the Dark Father himself, leaning back on his elbows on the bed, dressed in black accented by metallic blue and gold embroidery. He looked not at all pleased.

What more could she do than fall to her knees before him? She did, pressing her face to the floor.

Becca’s discussion with Dr. Anderson was cut short somewhere in the middle of discussing possible meanings for “sun setter” by the notification that one of the patients was having some sort of an outburst. When they reached her room, they found Joanna on the floor of her room. She had fallen from her wheelchair and was on her knees. The woman’s injuries had not left her completely immobilized, but movement from the waist down was very difficult for her.

She was crying, but whether it was from pain or something else wasn’t something she would explain. In fact, she didn’t seem to notice anyone around her at all.

“Have you already found my sword?” The Dark Father was outraged she could tell, although there was still no face to go by, only the black nothing where a face should be. “Or have you given up already? Is this task, simple as it is, too difficult for you?” She could hear the sneer on his nonexistent lips, feel the contempt coming off him in waves, settling on her shoulders like a mountain of weight. She pressed herself further to the floor, trying to flatten herself against the floorboards, or better yet, to sink into them and disappear. “You have proven yourself to be well below worthless. Give me one more reason why I should not strike you dead where you grovel.”

Silence. Did he want her to speak? He had asked questions, given her an order to answer him. “I… you… you gave me the powers…”

“And I can take them away, if I chose. But that would take more effort on my part than it would to destroy you. So I ask again, why should I not strike you dead? You have made me ask twice, flea. I will not ask a third.”

“I am faithful, master,” she blurted, her voice quavering and weak and desperate. “I can find him. No one else…”

“Do you think you are the only one searching? Are you so arrogant to think you are my only servant? Don’t you believe I have others? Dozens, hundreds of servants, both human and not? With your behavior, you’ve fallen below even the beasts! Get out of my sight!”

Her body twitched. This was her room, and he could come and go as he pleased, she knew, but he had ordered her away…

“Get OUT!”

Without even bothering to gather her skirts to keep her from tripping, she flew out of the room, out of the inn, out of Necras completely.

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