Sarlene's Touch Ch. 46byFuinimel©
Tinberly sat on the edge of the fountain, swinging her legs idly as she watched the crowd go by and chatted with her best friend. Lissica was her own age, eighteen years old, and they'd grown up together, only a few streets apart. They had a lot in common, both having lost a father; in Lissica's case a southern merchant who simply never returned home one day from a long trip abroad. That showed in her fair hair and grey eyes, contrasting against the more typical dark tones of Tinberly's own.
They had a lot to talk about, as they always did, the comings and goings of the neighbourhood, the constant bustling life of the city around them. The afternoon had gone fast, and now the sun was setting, the sky starting to dim, signalling that the day was finally at an end.
"It's getting late," said Lissica, eventually, sitting beside her on the stone ledge. "Maybe tomorrow?"
"I can't go home," said Tinberly, glancing down at her feet, "not yet."
The other girl frowned, a quizzical look on her face. "Why not? Is everything all right?"
"Yes, yes... there's not a problem." Which wasn't exactly true. "What I mean is, my mother has a guest, and, uh, I probably shouldn't, um..." she trailed off, unsure of quite how to phrase things, especially since it wasn't something she really wanted to think about.
Lissica's grey eyes widened, evidently catching the meaning anyway, "your mother has a boyfriend?" she asked with surprise, "why didn't you say earlier?"
She almost said 'because he's a half-orc, and he's really ugly, and I actually heard them having sex, which was gross, and I can't understand why he's still coming round, and why she looks so happy to see him'. All of which would have been true, but was far more than she wanted to share. So instead, she just said, "I'd rather not talk about it," and Lissica caught her expression, and evidently understood that she shouldn't press the matter.
"Well, what do you want to do? I guess we can stay out – we're adults, after all."
"Yes, of course. What else are friends for?"
"Thanks, Lissi," she said, beaming, "I really appreciate it."
The other girl leapt to her feet, long hair swishing around her shoulders, contrasting with the blue-green of her dress and complementing the light copper scarf that she wore about her throat. "So, what do we do? Your decision!"
"Well..." she suddenly stopped, voice frozen as she felt a strange tingling sensation, and a burst of warmth against her chest. It took her a moment to realise what that meant, and, when she did, the alarm clearly showed in her face.
"What is it?" asked Lissica, voice suddenly serious.
"It's... it's something my mother bought for me," she wasn't going to explain how, especially since it involved him, "it's magic."
"You've got a magic amulet! Wow... let me see."
"No, no," she said, suddenly getting to her feet, "you see, the enchantment is that it gets hot when someone dangerous is coming. Somebody that might harm me. And that's what it's doing now."
"Are you... yes, of course you're serious. Oh my gods... what should we do?" The other girl was looking frightened now, catching Tinberly's own fear, glancing about across the square, although nothing in particular seemed to be happening.
"We've got to keep moving, until it gets cooler. That's what she said."
"What who said?"
"We don't have time. Come on, Lissi!" She turned instinctively in the direction of the street that led towards her own home – both of their homes, actually – but, as she did so, she felt the amulet grow warmer. That was where the danger was coming from! She grabbed Lissica's hand, and tugged her in the other direction. "This way, follow me!"
They ran down the street, in the direction of the market, the amulet growing cooler as she did so. So far, so good. She was grateful to her mother now, no matter what the circumstances. The amulet worked, and, tonight, it was truly showing its value.
Suddenly, she stopped, as she felt another burst of heat from the amulet, even stronger than before. She was still holding onto Lissica's hand, bringing the other girl up short, so that she part span around, grey eyes now wide with shock, a wordless question on her face.
"It's coming from up there, too!" Was the amulet supposed to get this hot? It was positively uncomfortable. But how could a threat be coming from two directions at once? Was it tricking her, somehow? Nyvara had hardly been a trustworthy person, no matter what else had happened that night... something else she didn't want to talk about, even with her best friend.
A scream from up ahead answered that concern. Somebody was running towards them, and, in the rapidly gathering gloom, it took a second for her to realise that he wasn't an assailant – he was running away from something! Something really terrible was happening! Was the city being attacked?
"Monsters! Undead! Walking corpses!" screamed the man, trying to warn anyone who would listen.
Tinberly's heart almost skipped a beat. No wonder the amulet was so hot! And she, really, really, didn't want to see a walking corpse. Still less be attacked by one.
"What do we do?" wailed Lissica, her hand now gripping Tinberly's tightly.
"Side alley," she said, breathlessly, and pulled her friend in that direction. Normally, a dark alley would not be the best place to avoid danger, but right now, she didn't feel she had much option.
She wasn't sure how much later it was that they finally stopped running. She wasn't even sure where they were, they had taken so many back alleys to get here. Somewhere not far from the city outskirts, that much was clear, and probably on the far side to that with which she was most familiar. Whatever sudden disaster had suddenly raised the unhallowed dead seemed to have mostly affected the central areas, and the amulet had, so far, prevented her from actually seeing any of the monsters. At least, if they weren't on the outskirts, that meant her mother should be safe... and whatever she thought of Rolgor, he was as able to protect her as anyone else she could think of.
The amulet had, at least for the time being, returned to its normal self, no longer warning her of danger. She leaned up against the nearest wall, regaining her breath as Lissica leaned over beside her.
"We're safe... for the moment," she gasped.
Her friend nodded, still panting too much to speak. At last, she straightened up, long hair in disarray, sweat beading her brow. "Where are we?"
"I don't know." She looked at the building whose wall they were next to. "Nice house... the ones over there," she waved at the opposite side of the street, "aren't bad, either. Doesn't look like anyone's home, though."
"What do we do, Tins? We're lost, it's dark, and there's monsters killing everyone."
"We don't know that, Lissi."
"There was screaming. And your... magic doodad said we were in danger. I mean, come on, undead? What else would they do?"
She nodded. Whatever was happening was clearly very, very bad. "Perhaps..." she said, "perhaps we find some shelter? Somewhere dark to hide until dawn? Then we can see what's happening, get home." Right now, she really wanted to be at home, curled up in her bed, whether Rolgor was in the next room or not.
They found an alcove at one side of the building, something intended for water run-off, although, with the clear night sky, there was no fear of that tonight. They hunkered down in the shadow, the wall protecting them from even the light of the double full moons, deep in shadow, eyes staring out into the street beyond.
Tinberly felt Lissica's arm around her shoulder, the other girl pressed up close to her in the small space, and tried to avoid thinking about what else had happened on the night she had gained the amulet. Not that Lissi was at all like that, of course, but she was glad that her friend couldn't see her blushing at the memory. Awkwardly, she put her own arm around her friend's waist, and they huddled together, sharing their body warmth.
She really shouldn't be thinking like that, not at a time like this. But the alcove was dark, and she was tired, and Lissi was warm and soft... For all that she tried to keep her eyes open, she found herself nodding off, and soon surrendered to a fitful sleep full of running, and invisible monsters... and kissing. She wasn't sure how the kissing had started, in the way that you often weren't with dreams, but it was certainly pleasant, and things seemed to be looking up – when she suddenly awoke, to find Lissica's hand over her mouth.
There were voices in the street, and she realised, with horror, that her amulet was heating up again. But she had been asleep, and it had been her friend who had noticed the danger before she had. Now, there was nowhere to run, not if anyone was out there, in the moonlight.
"You don't need to scarper!" a man was saying, "that's what I'm tellin' yer!"
"But they're all dead – you said it yourself!" The second speaker was a woman, her voice creaky and nasal.
"Yeah... kind of. But not all of 'em. Yeah, it's gone a bit tits up, but we still got a chance. Some of 'em's alive, and I still got contacts in the Guild. I still got power. I dunno what's happened to Amloth, and the rest of 'em, barely got out of there in one piece, but I know some of ;em are still out there, and the ceremony ain't failed."
He paused, and then continued, sounding puzzled "Ain't you getting any of this? I know it don't speak in words, but it's still tellin' me. It wants us to go back."
"I've lost control of my horde," snapped the woman, "I'm back to my normal power. Which means that, no matter what you think, you've failed, and I'm leaving!"
"But it's in my head! It's like an itch, it won't let me leave, even if I wanted to. And it don't want you to leave, neither. We're all in this together, the Presence is in you, an' all, Yelvann. How the fuck do you expect to leave with that in yer?"
"I can hear it, Scaggs," said the woman, "but I choose to ignore it. You think that, with my skills and knowledge, I would let it control me? I know how to deal with demons, how to avoid their mental tricks. It doesn't master me, and, once I've left Haredil, I will find a way to get it out. Unlike you, I am not weak, and I am not without resources."
"Well, fuck you, 'cos I ain't..."
"We're being watched."
That seemed to take him aback. "Huh?"
"I can see in the dark, remember? I have senses you cannot dream of."
"No, not one of us. Somebody new. Just let me focus, and I can tell you."
"Point 'em out, and I'll fucking kill 'em. Can't 'ave no witnesses."
Tinberly heard the sound of a sword being drawn, and the amulet against her chest surged with almost unbearable heat that made her whimper in sudden pain.
"I 'eard something! Come out, so I can stick yer good and proper!" She could see him now, walking into her field of view, sword drawn. An ugly, rather brutish looking man, in rumpled clothes.
There was a loud bang, like a thunderclap, and a brilliant surge of white light. An arcing blast of lightning struck the man, and, for a second, he stood there, mouth open in mute shock as the light played around him. There was a horrible smell of singing flesh as the alley plunged back into regular moonlight. The man – Scaggs – convulsed, then collapsed to the ground, sword clattering on the cobbles beside him.
"I'd run, if I were you," said a new female voice, and Tinberly heard the sounds of somebody doing just that. Then there was silence.
"You can come out now," said the new voice, after a while.
Tinberly gingerly dipped her hand into the front of her dress, feeling the amulet. She was afraid that the earlier heat had numbed her chest, but, no, it wasn't that: the amulet was cool again. She stood up, and Lissica suddenly grabbed her legs in panic.
"No, we're safe now. I think it's over, at least for now."
"Oh, thank all the gods!"
Tinberly could only agree, and sent a silent prayer of gratitude to whichever one might be listening. "Let's thank our benefactor." Lissica stumbled to her feet, and they both stepped out into the alley, Tinberly's hand still gripping the amulet through the fabric of her clothes, just in case it changed its mind.
The woman standing before them as they emerged was, Tinberly supposed, relatively young, although certainly a good few years older than herself. Maybe thirty or so, which was old, but not old old. So far as she could tell in the moonlight, she was tanned, with jet black hair and dark eyes, and she wore some kind of white dress beneath a hooded blue cloak. Tinberly had never seen her before, and judging from her expression, neither had Lissica.
"You saw us?"
"Only when the lightning bolt went off."
She looked down at the blackened husk lying in the street, then turned away with disgust. "Is he...?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"And the woman?"
"Gone. Which is just as well, since I won't be able to cast anything like that again for a while. I think she wanted to go, and, well, I see no reason not to let her. I don't want a fight that I don't need. It sounded like she wanted to leave the city and not come back, anyway."
Tinberly nodded, mutely. The woman had sounded dangerous, but what this other stranger said made sense, under the circumstances.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" asked the woman, "I don't recognise you from around here."
"We were running. I think we got lost."
"Yes, there is something bad in the city tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if that witch who just fled had something to do with it," she smiled suddenly, "I'm Shamira, by the way. I'm a magician, as you might have guessed."
They both introduced themselves, feeling more secure already. The amulet had not warmed up again, and nothing seemed to be coming their way. Not even guardsmen alerted by the sudden flash of lightning, or nosy neighbours. Perhaps the former were busy and the latter were hiding. It was what she had been doing, after all. Or trying to, at least.
"I think it may be dangerous trying to cross town tonight," said Shamira, once they had told her what part of the city they lived in. Then she sighed, "but I can't just leave you out here, either. Come inside, and we'll sort something out in the morning. Maybe we can see what has actually happened by then."
Shamira had done something with the body. Tinberly wasn't entirely sure what, but she had gone outside, and when she came back she told the girls that it was gone. Tinberly didn't want to ask how, although, either way, she was glad that it wasn't there any more...she really didn't want to think about a corpse of some dead ruffian lying out in the street, quite apart from what the law might have to say about the matter.
They had been offered the spare bedroom. There was only the one, and while one of them could have taken one of the couches in the living room, neither girl wanted to be alone tonight.
"You take the bed," said Lissica, "I can take the couch here. She certainly seems to have a lot of them!"
"No, you take it; I don't mind the couch. Really."
"You;ve earned it, after what you did for us, Whatever was out there... it frightened me, and without you and your magic amulet, we could both be... ugh... I don't want to think about it!"
"That was just good luck. It wasn't really anything I did, You should be thanking my mother, if anyone. She bought it."
"Still, I..." Lissica suddenly shivered, holding her arms around herself, "actually, why don't we both take the bed? It's big enough."
"Only just," Tinberly pointed out. For a reason she couldn't quite explain, she felt uncomfortable at the suggestion. The girls were standing there arguing in their shifts, and seeing Lissica's bare and slender legs was giving her flashbacks to the night her mother had acquired the amulet, thoughts that didn't really seem relevant now, but were nonetheless... rather less unpleasant than she felt they should have been.
"That's all right, I don't snore."
"How would you know?"
"Because I heard only boys snore!"
They laughed at that, a sudden release of tension, and that was that. Without undressing further – Tinberly, like most inhabitants of Haredil, normally slept naked, but that didn't seem a good idea right now – they climbed into the soft bed, and pulled the sheet up and over themselves.
It was quite tight, and there was no way to stay apart. Tinberly was glad that the near darkness hid the flush on her face as she thought back to Nyvara once again. Damn that woman! Why did she have to be so... well... good?
She felt even more awkward when Lissica put her arm around over her shoulder, almost embracing her.
"Thank you," the fair haired girl said, "even if you think it was nothing."
"Let's just get some sleep," suggested Tinberly, and with that, settled her head against the pillow, conscious of Lissica;s warm breath on her face, the two just inches apart.
She drifted off almost immediately, surrendering to the soft feel of the sheets, and the body warmth of her friend. She felt safe now, despite the unfamiliar surroundings. The amulet certainly had not given any indication of further trouble, but even without that reassurance, she felt comfortable and relaxed. She was with her best friend, and the world was somehow back to its normal self.
There was kissing in her dreams again, But this time, there was cuddling, too, a lovely warm feeling, as if she was swaddled in a cocoon of peaceful comfort, where nothing could interrupt. The dream was just starting to get really interesting, when she felt somebody pinch her arm, and she found herself awake again almost immediately.
"What are you doing, Tins?" It was Lissica's voice.
Still muddled by sleep, she struggled to think of an answer, until she suddenly realised that her right leg was wrapped around Lissica;s left, the other girl's shift hitched up around her waist, warm soft skin caressing hers, her free hand resting gently on her friend's rounded buttocks.
She jerked away, muttering a meaningless apology. That was embarrassing!
"You must have been having interesting dreams," said Lissica, teasing.
"Uh, kind of, Um, yes. I think."
"Don't worry about it. It was just a surprise, that's all."
They were silent for a while, listening to the house, and peering into the near darkness, illuminated only by a stream of double moonlight pouring between two window shutters that were slightly ajar. Tinberly wasn't getting out of bed to close them.
"Lissi?" she said, after a while, voice hushed to a whisper.
"Do you think about boys a lot?"
Lissica giggled, "what do you think?"
"I mean, in bed. Have you ever really thought about what it would be like?"
"I guess," she seemed faintly amused, not worried by the question. "You?"
"Mm hmm." She was silent for a little longer, not entirely sure herself what it was she was asking. "Do you... do anything when you're thinking? To... help?"
There was silence for a while, and then, "Yes." They were still whispering, the hushed voices of two young women discussing a forbidden subject.
"Me too. It's good."
Lissica giggled again, a more knowing chuckle, this time. "Oh, yes."
"Lissi," she said, after another pause. "There's something I want to tell you. Something I should have said before."
"You and a boy! Oh my gosh, I knew it!"
"No! And hush – we don't want to wake our hostess."
"Well, what then?" asked Lissica, back to whispering once more.
"Somebody showed me something. About what we were just talking about."
"About...? What could anybody possibly show you about that? And... how?"
"They, um... they showed me it's better when you have help."
"Help how?" Lissica's voice was even quieter now, yet clearly intrigued.