Outsider Within: Face of Evil - Part Twelve
“Stop this, Anna,” D.A. said. “Someone will get hurt and it will have no point. You are as good as captured.”
“It’s not over until it’s over,” she growled. D.A. could see in her eyes that she would take down as many as she could before her defeat. Someone would get killed.
D.A. sighed and let her sword taper down. “There is a fourth alternative, although it is no guarantee...”
“...You are the daughter of a Meridellian Knight.”
Anna’s eyes faltered in their fire.
“Stop this now and surrender. I will speak to Lord Darigan to have your sentence lessened, perhaps to only a few years—on the condition that you are exiled from the Citadel and return to the custody of your father. Lord Darigan will do as I ask, and your return will even be viewed as a gesture of good will by Meridell. You can have a new life, Jenna. All it will cost you is a few years with Master Vex in the prison.”
The Anna’s muscles relaxed and a softness replaced the rage in her eyes. “Why would you do that?”
“Because you could easily kill a few of these good soldiers before your capture. And,” D.A. said with a small smile, “because sometimes, people like you and me need to believe in something, or else we risk sacrificing our very soul.”
Anna let the tip of her sword fall and handed it to D.A. “Here, take good care of it for me. My father gave it to me, very long ago.”
D.A. took it and bowed. “I am honored, Miss DeRaimes.”
She smiled. “I am always up for a new adventure, I suppose.”
“You will have to tell me how you started on this adventure sometime.”
“I will if you tell me yours.”
“Perhaps another time, then.” D.A. stretched her arm out toward the doorway, and Miss DeRaimes went out to the soldiers.
D.A. followed and was met by Henka.
“You saved lives by getting her to surrender,” he said.
“So that was Mr. Aimes?”
“Yes, Mr. Aimes is actually Miss DeRaimes. I remember hearing of her when I was working under Lord Kass. A most surprising woman, I will be speaking to Lord Darigan on her behalf.”
“Really? How very generous of you,” he said with a skeptical eyebrow.
“I suppose it is. Who was the man in the shadows?”
Henka shrugged. “A Mynci. We don’t know who he is yet, but obviously he knows enough to be trusted with impersonating Mr. Aimes. Will you be speaking on his behalf, also?”
D.A. shook her head. “I have no reason to.” She looked up and saw Draezen following a pair of soldiers outside. “Why isn’t he shackled?”
“Who? Auric? He said he had been blackmailed by the guild. He actually held a sword against Jason until we could get to him. I may ask that his sentence be waived in return for his assistance.”
“Don’t. He is a liar and an opportunist. He only fought with you because he knew you would win.”
Henka turned to her, surprised. “But I thought you were friends with Auric? You have been seen with him around the Citadel a few times.”
D.A.’s eyes turned cold. “He was a liar then, too. And his name is Draezen. Auric is his street name.”
Henka nodded. “If you say so.”
“Now if you will excuse me, I am going to get some sleep. I will report to you first thing in the morning.” She touched her head as she left the building.
As Henka stood starting after the Zafara, General Galgaroth’s giant figure walked up next to him. “We have Anna, Jason, and the Mynci.” Galgaroth followed Henka’s line of sight. “Where is D.A. going?”
“To sleep. She is behaving very strangely, Galgaroth. I admit I am worried about her.”
“It is no easy thing, living among people and never telling a single one who you really are. Give her time; she will recover.”
“I hope so.”
* * *
Over the next several weeks, Jason Marcov and Anna, AKA Mr. Aimes, AKA Jenna DeRaimes were tried and sentenced. Jason confessed to many of the more gruesome acts perpetrated for Mr. Aimes, and so would not leave the dungeon until his old age. Jenna DeRaimes, on the other hand, could be charged with relatively little, and received a four-year sentence followed by exile
Draezen, the soldier of Mr. Aimes, was sentenced to six months, the minimum sentence in return for his bravery in fighting Mr. Aimes.
One month after the sentencing, much was back to normal. The economy had stabilized, the Guild having resumed its usual smuggling practices. Crime dropped, and General Galgaroth was happy. Henka, as always, found something else to worry about.
D.A. spent more of her time in the Chambers than she had before, keeping tabs on what Henka was fretting about, and assisting her Lord where he asked her.
She had not visited her favorite tavern since the event, nor any other.
One cold afternoon, D.A. sat in Henka’s office as he rambled about a small group who still felt that Meridell needed to be conquered and punished for their sins against the Citadel.
“I tell you, D.A., these people are unbalanced. Now I can understand not being fond of Meridell—I wouldn’t trust most Meridellians to keep the peace without Jeran and Skarl around—but these people want us to demand that Meridell surrender. Surrender!”
“There are many foolish and short-sighted people in the world. You know that, Henka.”
A sly grin spread across his scaled lips. “If only they knew, D.A., that I have a former Kass loyal in my office. They would get really upset.”
“Maybe I ought to tell them, just to take their minds off the Meridell situation.”
She said nothing, only rifled through some reports.
Henka frowned. She had not nibbled on a single piece of verbal bait he’d dangled in front of her since she got back from the Mr. Aimes incident.
She circled a paragraph in a report.
Henka sat up in his chair and laced his fingers together. “D.A.”
She looked up.
“This report is lacking certain key details.”
“I’m not talking about the report.”
He could see in her eyes that she knew very well what he was talking about. “D.A., you don’t tell me much of anything. I don’t mind, really, but you can’t keep everything bottled up forever. Something happened to you while you were with the Guild. I don’t know what, but it’s like a spark in your eyes died. You were never a bubbly person to begin with, but now you just seem . . . sad . . . all the time.”
“Chief Henka, I can assure you that nothing has changed in my behavior. If I am not willing to argue with you as I often have, it is because I’ve grown tired of it.” She stood and set the papers down on his desk. “If you will excuse me, I have other matters to attend to.”
After she shut the door behind her, Henka sighed and shook his head. “Poor girl.”
* * *
D.A. folded her arms and walked down the hallway. She did have something she needed to do; what was it again?
When she looked up again, she saw she was at the entrance to Vex’s dungeon. Without faltering, she opened the door and descended into the fire-lit dungeon.
“D.A.! Long time no see!” greeted Vex. “How have you been? I expected you to be with the soldiers when the Mr. Aimes group was brought in.”
“I was very tired.”
The Mynci shrugged. “So what’s the occasion?”
“I would like to speak with Jenna DeRaimes. We will be contacting her father soon, and I wish to ask her if she has a message for him.”
Vex grabbed his keyring and led D.A. down a row of cells.
She glanced into the black, iron-lined cells, wondering how many of their inhabitants she knew; how many were left over from Kass’ reign.
She turned to her left, and a red Zafara stepped up to the bars
“Draezen,” she said.
“I have to talk to you.”
“You may find me when your sentence is up.”
Ahead of her, Vex had stopped to see what was going on.
She turned to go ahead with Vex, but Draezen thrust his arm out of the bars after her. “Wait!” The vehemence in his voice caused her to stop.
“Hey,” called Vex as he stomped back to Draezen’s cell, “one more word out of you and I’ll put you downstairs.”
“It’s alright,” said D.A. “I do not fear him.”
Draezen’s eyes were pleading. “Let me talk to you for five minutes, and I promise to never bother you again.”
She paused for a moment. “I will speak to him,” she said to Vex.
Vex’s eyebrows twitched in surprise, but he let the prisoner out and led them both to a locked but clean and well-lit visiting room. As he left them, he said, “D.A., usually I insist on being present in this room, but I trust you can handle yourself.”
D.A. nodded her appreciation, and once Vex had gone, waited for Draezen to speak.
“You’re still angry, aren’t you?” he asked.
“You lied to me and betrayed me.”
“Please understand, I don’t expect you to forgive me. But that you do not even doubt your self-righteous fury is what gets me.” His tone turned angry. “I was blackmailed into doing what I did, and when I had the chance, I helped you. But you made up your mind in one instant that I was never to be forgiven. That says something about you, D.A. Do you have any friends? I mean clearly you must ‘have friends’ in the Chambers, but do you have one friend? I doubt it, because we all make mistakes, Miss D.A., and you are a very unforgiving person.”
“I will not sit here and be lectured by you. You want to know the truth? That you sold me out to Mr. Aimes is not what bothers me. You lied to my face for two weeks, you accepted my sword, you made me believe something you are not. That is what I cannot forgive.”
“So you don’t like me because you can’t read me like a book? Well that’s something you’re going to have to learn eventually, D.A. You can’t expect to be able to read every person you meet. What makes you mad is not that I lied to you, but that you didn’t suspect me of lying. That’s what really gets to you.”
D.A. stood up from the table. “Now that I have heard you out, Draezen, I expect to never be bothered by you again.” She headed for the door.
“I had almost completed your sword before I left. It’s still in my shop if you want to go get it.”
“That is not my name. My father named me Adler.”
“Draezen is your name until you prove otherwise.”
“And you are the Double Agent until you prove otherwise.”
Her back cracked straight, and her eyes flashed vulnerable before they narrowed, incensed.
“There are lots of people in these cells who worked with you under Lord Kass,” he said. “And now you are condemning yourself for what you were. Earn a new name, D.A.”
She climbed the stairs out of the dungeon, walked out of the Chambers, through the courtyard and into the marketplace. Just beyond that tavern where they met, palace guards were boarding up the blacksmith shop. As she passed a baker’s shop, she heard the baker talking to his wife.
“It’s a sad thing. Auric was such a nice lad, the last good blacksmith on the Citadel.”
She came upon the shop and the guards parted for her to go inside before the last boards were nailed into place. D.A. looked over the workstation; so many unfinished pieces. She came to a locked cabinet and motioned for a guard to come open it.
The guard fumbled through a ring of keys until he found the right one and opened it for her. Inside, D.A. picked up a round package. She nodded her thanks to the guard and left them to her work. She clutched the package in her hands as she walked out of the market. It did not fall to her side as she made her way through the rows of young corn. Upon stepping over the threshold of her home, D.A. pulled the cloth off the blade; her circular sword, its new handle fully shaped, not polished, no leather grips yet. And in the wood handle that leather would soon have covered, an inscription: “The sword of D.A. by the hand of Adler.”
D.A. clenched the dull blade to her chest, groaned and fell to the floor. Her shoulders throbbed with the violence of her sobs; her throat turned to fire with her cries.
Four months later . . .
D.A. escorted Jenna DeRaimes out of the dungeon. The Kougress had contacted her father, and the elated Knight had beseeched Lord Darigan to let her serve the rest of her sentence in a Meridellian prison, where he could visit her. Lord Darigan, having a soft heart and being eager to make Meridellian friends, had authorized the prisoner transfer.
“I must admit, D.A.,” said Jenna she was lead to the Eyrie transport, “I think I am rather going to enjoy being a Knight’s daughter.”
“It is a life of privilege.”
“Yes, there’s that too, but I was more referring to the politics of their little world. I have been reading up on Meridell and the Order of the Knights with my free time, and you know, they do a lot of organizational work.”
“Plenty of room for you to stir up trouble?”
“Trouble? Me? Don’t be silly.”
“People like you and I do not change, Miss DeRaimes. You cannot give up power like that of Mr. Aimes very easily.”
“True, but you forget, I have been caught red-handed. I can never come back to the Citadel. As for Meridell, it is a fresh market, but I do not wish to cause quite that much trouble for my father. He does not deserve it. He has not seen his daughter in six years, and she is not going to disappoint him.”
“I hope so, Miss DeRaimes. But the Meridellian authorities are not likely to give you much freedom even after your sentence is up.”
“I suspected as much.”
“You never told me how it is you became Mr. Aimes, or why you so easily gave yourself up.”
“Easily? You call that easily giving myself up? D.A. my dear, I obviously had no satisfactory alternatives.”
They arrived at the dock at the edge of the Citadel, where several large Eyries awaited her to take her down to Meridell. Miss DeRaimes carried only one small bag of belongings.
“Until next time, Miss D.A.,” she said with a bow. “And I expect I will be a very different person when you next meet me. A Duchess, perhaps?” She giggled.
“I hope your new life suits you. Not all of us can change our ways so easily.”
The Kougress’ eyes became serious for a moment and she put her shackled hand on D.A.’s shoulder. “Changing what is at our core is never easy, D.A., but sometimes it is necessary to try. Just as sometimes we must risk trusting those we really shouldn’t.” She smiled and picked up her bag. “Well, I’m off! Do come visit me. You realize you are my only friend who is not locked up in a dungeon, don’t you? Well, perhaps you can bring Draezen when he gets out. That would be nice.”
Two Eyrie took each of her arms and lifted her off the Citadel. She smiled and waved at D.A. as she was carried to Meridell below.
“His name is Adler,” D.A. whispered.
A New Beginning
Author’s Note: If you would like to read more about D.A., Henka, and Lord Darigan, please read the series that preceded this one, Outsider Within: Web of Deceit. Neomails are always welcome.