tagSci-Fi & FantasyFeldare Tales: High Society Ch. 06

Feldare Tales: High Society Ch. 06


" " ‘ ' The healer stood beside the narrow bed. Crissa rested soundly, her wounds mostly healed. Peris smiled happily at the soft-spoken healer as he turned toward her. "She will be fine, but needs a day or two bed rest," he said. He face then shifted to a rather sardonic expression. "It's good that you forewarned me that her wounds might seem as if earned in a fight, else I surely would have thought them such."

"I feared they would, those steps can be tricky," she said, with utter solemnity. She stepped over to the cot and pressed a small, cool hand to Crissa's brow. "You're sure she's well? She was hi - er - rather she struck her head many times falling."

"Yes," said the healer, "she had some swelling in her mind, but I've seen to that, and the worst of the wounds. As you likely know, though, magic cannot mend a body fully, except that granted by the One, and that's hardly magic at all."

She nodded agreement. "More a miracle, I would think," she said.

A bright smile crossed onto the face of the healer. "As would I, young woman," he said.

He had been extremely gentle in treating Kenett and Crissa's injuries, his hands moving delicately over them as he expended magical energies from small red mana crystals. Peris had never seen those used before, but to those who had not the gift of magic, it was the only way to practice the art.

"Could I learn magic with those?" asked Peris, eyeing the crystals as he slipped them into his black sack.

Pallin looked at her a moment. "You seek to learn the arts?" he asked. "As a healer?"

Peris shrugged. "It seems an honorable and noble profession," she said.

"And a tiring one," said the healer, grunting as he lifted the sack. "You implied favors for my services, yes?"

Her eyes looked down shyly, this had been the moment she feared, or hoped for, as her whim flipped and turned in her mind. "Yes," she finally said, after achieving a rather appealing shade of pink to her cheeks.

"Good," he said, his voice filling with desires unspoken, softening and hardening all at once. "My home has not had a good scrubbing and cleaning in at least a year, life of a bachelor and all that," he said. "I expect you to be there by noon, and you clean until I am satisfied that the place is spotless."

Peris was not sure if she was pleased or annoyed by this change in tack. Surely any other forms of favors would be over quicker. However, he thought he was doing her a kindness in having her clean instead of lie down for her payment. She donned a bright smile that became truth in but a moment, as she realized how kind he must truly be. "It will be, then," she said. "If you are asked about injured parties this night?" she asked, suddenly worried for Crissa and Kenett's safety and the watch's possible investigation of the break in at the asylum.

"What injured parties?" he asked, suddenly appearing quite shocked. "I was called out by a fearful young woman who worried that her beau may have passed her something in their loving that she had not bargained for."

Peris barked out a laugh that caused Crissa to half stir in her slumber. She covered her mouth with both hands. "That's almost worse," she said, giggling. "But imminently believable, I should say."

The middle-aged man nodded. "Aye," he said. "One advantage of being a healer is that most folk believe whatever you tell them." He thought for a moment. "Which is why we do not lie lest we believe the need great."

The young noblewoman nodded. "I understand," she said.

"If I find that you have mislead me, and your part was ignoble in the events that led to these injuries. . ." he let the threat drift off into the night.

Peris looked up at him and said, "It's not, though rumors may say otherwise, please give us two weeks for you to see that."

"Two weeks, then," he said, giving her a nod and picking up his black sack.

She hugged his wide chest and squeezed hard. "Thank you," she said.

The healer patted her back and laid a small kiss upon her brow. "You did tempt me, you know?" he asked.

Peris nodded at that, then asked, "Why did you not demand the offered price, then?" Her expression was nonplused.

"I'm too old to be taking a girl's innocence," he said, smiling at her. Then he grinned even more broadly at the shock on her young face. "Of course a healer can learn these things," he said, patting her shoulder. "Had you been more experienced, I'd likely have gladly taken the offer."

"I'd have given it without complaint," she said, her eyes now again shyly looking downward.

The healer walked toward the door. "I know it," he said, chuckling. "Which is why I also know you will clean my house extremely well."

Peris pushed the door shut as he walked out into the thick fog of the night. She slid the long wooden bolt back into place to secure it and looked back at Crissa and Kenett, both sleeping quietly on the bed. She crawled onto the bed, as well, leaving on her clothes, and cuddled up beside Crissa, putting her head on the tall girl's shoulder. Crissa murmured something in her sleep, but did not awaken.

Soon, Peris joined them in slumber.

- - - - - - - - - -

"How can one man have so many socks?" asked Peris, looking at the huge heap of smelly footwear in the middle of the hall floor.

Pallin laughed from the study, where he was pouring over some musty old tome. "I find it easier to buy them than to have some winsome young lass come clean them," he replied.

Peris was now doubly unsure that he did her a kindness by not bedding her last night. The place, like many homes of unwed men, was a sty. Cleaning for four hours netted her but a room full of dirty clothes and an aching back. She was not the most efficient of cleaners, as cleaning was not a typical duty of young noblewomen, but this seemed a woefully slow progress, even to her.

"Take a break," said the healer as she struggled with a particularly unwieldy pile of clothing. "Come, sit in the study for a while, and have some tea."

She followed him into the study and sat in a proffered chair. Dread filled her eyes as she noted the layer of dust on the shelves and the disorder of the small library in general. "You just wanted me to see my future of indentured servitude, didn't you?" she asked, gazing about the room.

His eyes hardened a bit, more mocking than truly upset. "Do you know how much I normally would have charged for last night's aid?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Fifty marks," he said simply. "Were I to seek to collect that from you, even given a premium value as you are a virgin, which only is good for the first time, it would take you most of a tenday, bedding five men a day."

Peris blanched slightly. "You're serious?" she asked.

"Very," he replied. "Your friends' injuries were serious, especially the young man's, in truth, he was more wounded, more deeply, than the young woman. He was dying, in fact."

"One save me," she sighed out under her breath.

"I'd say he was tortured, by someone who knew what they were doing," said the healer. "If my opinion were asked on the matter. By someone who knew exactly what they were doing."

Peris nodded at him, her face downcast. "He probably was," she said.

"And one might ask how it is that the apprentice of Marrat finds herself grievously injured, as well," said the healer. "Of course I know who she is," he said, noting her look of surprise. "I have to have my manastones charged by his other apprentice, the one who was arrested a couple of days ago. . ." his voice drifted off, something he seemed wont to do. "Oh One's mercy," he said in an exhaled sigh of air. "This is to do with that, isn't it?" he asked.

"It's likely best that you not know more than you do," said Peris. "For all of us."

"I see," said the middle-aged healer. "Still, it begs the question of what passes, though I'll leave it to your word."

Peris sipped the tea, it was strong, and perked her up slightly. Her back also stopped aching quite so much. "This is good tea," she commented.

"Yes," he said, taking a sip himself. "All the better to get a good days work out of a person." He grinned broadly at her mock look of annoyance. They spoke idly of her impending chores and finished the tea, eating some biscuits in the process.

A few more hours of the hard work and she returned to the little inn. Crissa was awake, sitting up in the bed, watching the door impatiently as Peris entered.

"He's not awakened yet?" asked Peris.

Crissa gave her a hard, upset look. "He has, twice," she said. "I've put him back to sleep both times. He's not happy with our ‘rescue'."

"What?" asked Peris.

"He says that he'll be killed," explained Crissa.

Peris thought a moment. "Did he say by whom?" she asked.

"He refuses to," said the sorceress. "Then he gets unreasonable and begins raving. That's when I put him to sleep." She cast an impatient glance at Kenett as he lay, sleeping.

"Whoever put that into his head surely is the same folk that tormented him," said Peris. "He was dying, or so the healer said."

Crissa's eyes widened. "Healer?" she asked. "I meant to ask you about that. Where did you find a healer, and how did you pay him?"

"The pay is still being worked off," said Peris, a tone of annoyance in her voice. "The where was the first one I came across."

"I hope you don't mean you. . ." Crissa let the statement go unfinished.

"No," said Peris, "though I was prepared to."

They both remained silent for some time, each taking their own counsel. Finally, though, Crissa broke the silence. "We need to calm Kenett when he awakens, and I don't know if just attaching him to one of us will suffice."

"He wouldn't get impatient with someone he loves would he?" asked Peris.

Crissa snorted. "It makes them love you, and often love or lust are rather over emotional," she said. "No, we need something more soothing to his nerves."

"Elves," said Peris.

The sorceress looked at him oddly. "Elves?" she asked.

"From what I know of him, elves are his whole life," she said. "He studies them ceaselessly."

Crissa stared at her for a moment. "Okay," she said.

- - - - - - - - - -

Kenett awakened and looked down at the coverlet. Beside him slumbered a pretty young woman with straw-colored hair.

"You have finally awakened," a feminine voice emerged from the darkened corner of the room, she was speaking elven.

He peered into the dim corner and his eyes gradually adjusted to make out the form of an elven woman sitting at the room's tiny table. As he watched in delight, she stood and walked toward him.

"Do you not speak?" she asked, walking fully into the light.

Kenett stammered a moment, and then said, "Yes, I speak, of course."

A huge smile formed on the elven girl's lips. "I am called Thenaldis," she said, placing her hand over her heart and bowing at the waist.

Kenett swallowed hard, almost bursting out of his skin with excitement. The only thing that kept him in the bed was his nudity beneath the coverlet. He had never actually spoken with an elf, and had only seen one once, when some elves passed through Norboro, heading northward.

"I am called Kenett," he said, his name sounded ugly to him, when spoken amid elven words.

"I am pleased to meet you," said Thenaldis. She smiled down at him, as he seemed to nearly twitch with excitement.

Kenett had never imagined an elven woman would be so appealing. He knew they were lovely beings, naturally, but to see one, up close and speaking to him, interacting with him was overwhelming. Thenaldis sat on the edge of the bed and the scent of cinnamon that he heard they gave off reached his nose. He sniffed deeply of it. Her silver eyes flickered in the candlelight of the room.

He glanced toward the tall girl beside him. He knew her name, but for the life of him could not remember it just now.

"You were badly injured," said Thenaldis, "and Crissa asked me to aid you."

The young man smiled at her. "Thank you," he said, performing a curt, elven head-bow.

Crissa, feigning sleep, was in truth working very hard, thinking very hard. She was filtering his perceptions of Peris, and even some of himself. He believed he was speaking and hearing elven spoken, while in truth, both spoke Westron. She ran their words through the lens of his perceptions with the result that he heard her speak and believed he spoke in elven.

Further, his perception of her appearance was likewise being changed to resemble what he thought an elven maiden should look like. Surprisingly for Crissa, convincing his mind was easy, as she could summon forth things that people felt affection for easily, and he loved elvenkind.

Long, delicate fingers reached to Kenett's brow and brushed back an errant curl. "We must know what you saw that night," she said in a soft voice.

Fear chased the mild pleasure from Kenett's face, a sudden panic quickly set in. "No," he stammered, "I cannot speak of it." He glanced at the door into the tiny room; sweat beginning to form on his brow. "They will know if I do."

Peris leaned forward, and Kenett saw the elven maiden widen her silvern eyes. "Who will know?" she asked. "Please, you must tell me for me to stop more horrible things happening."

He began to curl up, drawing his legs under the coverlet up to his chest and turning onto his side. "NO!" he screamed and pushed Peris away, knocking her from the bed, she managed to keep her feet under her and moved back toward him on her knees.

"You must!" she said in an urgent whisper. "Do not tell me I expended myself for one who puts fear before truth." She touched his shoulder, which had slipped from beneath the covers, her cool fingers moving over the warm, smooth flesh of his upper arm. "I was told you were a lover of all things elven." Her expression hardened, her silver eyes darkening to the color of steel. "Now I find that healing you was a mistake."

"No," he begged as she stood up and walked toward the door, a wash of cinnamon-scented air wafting over him. "Do not go."

Peris glanced over her shoulder and Kenett saw the elf give him a cooly regarding look. "You will speak?" she asked. "Or will you protect a murderer?"

- - - - - - - - - -

Some five miles north of Norboro, amid the ruins of an old farmstead, long abandoned, was pitched a concealed tent.

Cherle slipped through the flap of the tent and knelt before the seated figure. "We have done as you commanded, my lord," he said in a sober, placating voice.

"Yet?" asked the seated man. He had cruel and handsome features, with slicked back dark hair and hard, brown eyes.

The young nobleman found he could not meet those accusing eyes. "The elf-lover, our picked witness, was kidnaped from the asylum," he said.

"You were to watch him!" shouted the seated man, his eyes flashing to sudden rage. "I sent my best torturer to soften him and make him ready to tell the story we wanted to be told."

"And it was working my lord, he truly believes what we have told him to say," said Cherle.

"Which serves us in no good stead if he isn't there to act as witness in the young wizard's trial," said the seated man. Massive arms flexed in the dim candlelight of the tent. "It falls then to you and your coterie's word against his and his friends'."

"We are nobleborn!" exclaimed Cherle, his eyes widening.

"You're fools!" shot back the man, rising from the chair and pushing the kneeling youth back onto his rump. "They have a noble witness, as well, and they are gifted people, they are not commoners who can be simply shoved down the path to execution." He brushed past the young man as he walked to the far side of the tent. "You were to bring Lentan over to our camp gently," he said, forcing patience into his voice. "He was ripe for recruitment, yet you sprang the secrets upon him too quickly and he balked."

"Yes, milord," said Cherle. "He was not ready."

"So, instead of a new, influential Dark Alcolyte, we have a son of a nobleman dead and suspicion falls onto your very group of friends," said the powerfully built man. Even out of his armor, he was impressively large and powerful. "And now you lose the one key to throwing suspicions into another camp?" His dark eyes glinted with anger as he turned them upon Cherle. "Are you trying to destroy my hard works?"

"No, milord," said Cherle. "I serve the One as you do!" Panic was now set in his blue eyes. "I wish to serve as you do, milord."

"You could never be a Templar, boy," growled the man. "But you may yet become a true Alcolyte of the One, and serve me, and gain power as I gain power."

Cherle smiled hopefuly. "Yes, milord, I will serve you and take whatever gifts you deem me worthy to receive."

The Templar snorted. "Right now you deserve a slow death," he said. "However, I've need of you. Pray I change my mind of your worth before that need ends."

"Yes, milord," said Cherle, the smile flashing out of existence as quickly as it had come.

"Who kidnaped the elf-lover?" asked the Templar.

"The wizard's whore," said Cherle. "Or whores if you believe the rumors."

The Templar's eyes widened. "You couldn't stop a witch and a pitiable noble girl from taking him?"

"The sorceress is not a frail creature," said Cherle, again not meeting his lord's eyes. "And Peris is not a foolish girl, herself. We set two of the most violent and deadly of the asylum's inmates upon them, then called the watch to retrieve their bodies."

"A sound plan, all in all," said the Templar. "Yet it failed, I take it."

"The girls defeated the inmates, we know not how," said Cherle. "Assumedly, the sorceress did for them."

The Templar's expression became contemplative. "I fear we've underestimated Crissa's abilities and intellect," he said. "We've taken her rumored whoring as a sign of feeblemindedness or insecurity, which it apparently is not."

"No, milord," said Cherle emphatically. "She is smart, and strong willed. Carsten, who has been asking about her believes she beds the men because she enjoys it."

A wicked smile turned up the lips of the Templar. "A woman after my own heart," he said. "Were she not a heretic. You have to find them, and the elf-lover," said the Templar, coming to a decision. "Peris is expendable, do with her what you wish. However, this girl, Crissa, the sorceress, is to be taken captive, unless you must kill her. The elf-lover must be returned to the asylum to provide you your alibi."

"Yes, milord," said Cherle.

"Use the ritual of seeking which I taught you," said the Templar. "Use one of the lesser of the circle as the seeker, someone you can do without."

"Yes milord," repeated Cherle. "I know just the one."

Carsten had been showing signs of weakening in his loyalty to the One. He had also been something of an annoyance to Cherle of late. He would do nicely.

The lanky youth bowed again and kept a wary eye on the Tempar as he idly lifted his sword from a wooden stand. "And Cherle?" he said.

"Yes, milord," said the young nobleman.

"If you fail me again, hope I don't find you," said the Templar.

Cherle scampered from the tent and off into the darkness of the rural night.

"What do you think, witch?" asked the Templar, apparently speaking to the airs of the tent.

A shape shimmered in the dim light, and then became solid, as if a mirage was gaining solidity. She was a young, slender woman with long white hair. "He tells the truth," she said in a soft voice. "He is loyal still, Lord Grendahl."

Grendahl smiled. "I know he's loyal," he said. "Is he smart enough for this task?"

"Yes," she said. "He comes off a buffoon, but it is mostly show. He is up for the task."

"Go into Norboro," said Grendahl. "I want a second tine on my spear, seek for the two girls and the elf-lover. Kill Peris if you like, or play with her, your choice. I want Crissa, though, brought to me."

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