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Well, hello thar, and welcome to Tallanvor and Terence's little space on the web. I'll be writing their ridiculously long story here as it unfolds, collecting art for them, and other such activities. I love feedback on my writing, so please do send me a mail letting me know what you thought, questions you have, or, even better, corrections and critiques for stuff I missed! ^^ Thanks for your support and critiques. Now, on to the character introduction (and then the story)!
Yes, Tallanvor is a name from the book series Wheel of Time. I do beg that you ignore that fact when reading his story, because as it turns out, Tal is very much unlike his namesake.
Name: Tallanvor (tahl-en-vorr)
After this introduction you will hear Tallanvor's story from his own mouth, so I'll not reiterate it here in the interest of artistic suspense—instead, I'll give you just a quick character profile. He is distrusting, but not untrustworthy. A life of fear has both strengthened and weakened him, and one who does not know him well must make an honest effort if they wish to. The loss of his eyes induced powerful psychic abilities that he has refined to the point where he is able to constantly and unconsciously direct the part of his energy that would normally be used for sight into the body of the orange bird that keeps him company at all times—in other words, he sees through the bird's eyes. If he chooses he can pour more of his energy into the bird to be able to experience flight, although he does this rarely because he prefers the bird to only see for him and not try to work for the rest of his body. He has also refined his powers enough to consciously occupy two bodies at once, hence his ability to control Terence and himself simultaneously. These abilities make him extremely powerful, and all who have tried to kill or injure him since he lost his eyes have failed.
Name: Zaré (zaw-ray)
Zaré was rescued by Tallanvor after he somehow lost her way over the ocean and barely made it to the ship Tallanvor was sailing on before dropping from exhaustion. Tallanvor nursed her back to health and began to use her as his eyes, practicing with her every day until he could maintain constant and effortless contact with her. In return for her substantial services as his eyes, Tallanvor treats her with loving care and protects her from anything wishing to harm her. Together the two have created a kind of symbiosis and a deep, unbreakable bond with each other.
The assassin shifted uncomfortably on the rough, cold shingles of the roof of the pub, fidgeting with his bow and growling to himself. Where was the man? Intelligence had told him that he would have been here by now, but only a few peasants still milled in the streets, closing up their shops and packing up their wares for the night.
He had been told that it would be an easy kill. One arrow would do the job—after all, his victim was as blind as a day-old kitten, and probably as slow as one. Hardly worth even killing, in the assassin's opinion; what harm could the man possibly cause that his employers would want him out of the way? But he had his orders, and so he waited.
Half an hour passed until the assassin let out a hiss of pleasure when he spotted his victim appear around the corner of the butcher's stall. Fitting, the assassin thought with amusement. He'll die there, with all the other useless animals. The man took a moment to assess his victim before raising his bow.
The man was an intimidating figure, he had to admit. Two long horns curled from his skull, shining bone-white by the few lamps still lit in the street. The man was very muscular, with a thick beard on his strong chin and a weathered look about his face. What really caught the assassin's attention were the man's eyes—or rather, lack of eyes. Where they should have been were two long scars from his temples to the base of his nose, sewn up with thick black thread. The assassin shuddered and nervously felt his own eyelids, fortunately still intact.
A brightly coloured orange bird sat perched on the man's shoulder, tail feathers curled protectively over the victim's neck. It took in the world with unnervingly piecing eyes, and it turned its head abruptly to stare up at the roof when the assassin moved his hand. The assassin froze. Stay quiet, you stupid bird, he prayed. Don't ruin this job for me. But the man had already turned his head to gaze blindly up at the roof, although the bird hadn't made a sound. Very quietly the assassin tried to move back, further out of sight behind the ridge of tiles at the top of the roof. However, he found that he couldn't move. Then his legs began to move of their own accord, carrying him over the edge of the roof toward the man even as he screamed in terror. His leg muscles pushed off from the roof, and the assassin landed with a thud in the street at s target's feet. The assassin watched in terror as his own hands grasped his bow and snapped it in half with a crack. Then he felt the bones in his spine curve, and he whimpered as he was forced to bow before the man.
So, you thought you'd kill me? the man said conversationally, his head turned in the direction of the assassin although his ragged slits of his eyes were most definitely unable to see a thing. It seems, he mused, reaching up a hand to stroke the head of his bird, who was still looking down at the man at his master's feet, That you weren't very well informed by your employers about me. He raised an eyebrow, the scar of his eye shifting strangely over his cheekbone. Walk with me, he said abruptly.
The assassin did not move. Breathing hard, he tried to understand what was happening to him. He tried to move, to run, to get away from this horrible apparition, but he had no control over his muscles.
Walk with me. The man's voice grew harsher, and the assassin once again felt his legs moving of their own accord to stand and follow as his target continued to stroll down the street. I'm going to tell you all about me, the horrible man said over his shoulder, So you can go back to your employers and tell them why you can't kill me.
You're not going to kill me? the assassin said in surprise, his voice rasping with a mixture of fear and relief. The man wasn't going to kill him, although he still had no control over his body.
No. I can't possibly kill you if you can't kill me, the man chuckled. It wouldn't be fair. But I do want you to listen to what I'm going to tell you now.
My name is Tallanvor, the man began. What is yours, in the interest of easier conversation?
Terence, the assassin answered.
Interesting—I cannot say pleasing quite yet—to make your acquaintance. So, I'll begin now.
My early life was… normal. Grew up on a farm, couldn't wait to get away… when I was sixteen I ran away from home. My parents were enthusiastic about raising children, and I had so many brothers and sisters that I doubt they even noticed I was gone—or if they did, they didn't miss me much.
How many? Terence asked, finding himself suddenly a bit curious about this man's past.
How many what?
Twenty-three, Tallanvor said shortly, with a chuckle. But anyway, I ran away from home. Where could I go but to the sea? That's the first place every young runaway goes, to jump on a ship and find adventure. Well, I found my adventure all right. It wasn't an epic battle with other pirates, or an adventure on a tropical island—it was on the ship itself. All of the sailors were of course much larger and more experienced than me, and I became the victim of their evil nature. Several of them were cruel enough as to make earnest attempts on my life, but I was rescued from these incidents by the captain, who had a soft spot from me and usually managed to keep the men mostly in check. Tallanvor sighed, and Terence imagined that if he had eyes, they would have taken on a misty, faraway look. A great man, was that captain. He died several weeks after we set out for Krawk Island, falling from the crow's nest. And so I spent several months with the crew, left entirely unprotected. I sustained a lot of minor injuries from their cruelty, he said, pushing up his sleeve to reveal the ends of several ragged pink scars that presumably stretched across his back. But nothing that really crippled me until the day I made the mistake that cost me my eyes.
What happened? Terence asked, once again unable to contain his curiosity. He began with surprise to notice his growing respect for this man that had endured so much and come out alive.
Tallanvor sighed. I worked for the cook at times, bringing the men their meals. I was bringing food to the first mate when my foot caught on an uneven floorboard and I tripped, dumping hot soup into his lap. I'll never forget the look in his eyes as he stood and drew his knife… it was the last thing I saw from my own eyes. Tallanvor's lips tightened, and he fell silent for a moment.
At that moment, the second I lost my sight, my vision shifted. I suddenly saw the first mate wrestling me to the ground and heard us both yelling from the eyes and ears of the second mate who was standing and watching on the side. He was a big man, the second mate, full of power and evil intent. As I saw what was happening from his eyes I tried to run forward and stop the fight—and I did. I moved his muscles as if they were my own, but much stronger and faster than I had ever been. I threw the first mate from on top of my own body and looked at myself. By then it was too late, and my eyes were gone courtesy of the first mate's knife, but I, in the second mate's body, prevented my superior from killing me outright. I dropped into a faint and my presence left the second mate's body. I was told by the ship's doctor as he tended to me later that the man fell to his knees as I left him, whimpering and crying like a baby.
It's a horrible feeling, Terence commented, although for some reason he felt no anger. Tallanvor jumped.
Oh dear, I'm terribly sorry, he apologized, and the assassin felt his knees weaken as the strange presence he had first felt on the roof left him.
As my power and control is refined, I forget I am doing it, Tallanvor explained, helping the startled Terence to his feet from where he had fallen. You should have said something. I really only did it in the first place to save my own life.
That's all right, the assassin gasped, steadying his shaking knees, weak with relief that his body was his own again.
I don't suppose you'll continue to keep me company, Tallanvor said, beginning to turn away.
I want to hear the rest of your story, Terence said quickly, and for the first time a smile broke across Tallanvor's craggy features.
So be it, he said. Let us continue.
So, the ship's doctor tended me back to relative health. Tallanvor ran a finger over the stitching on his eyelid, and Terence shuddered. Somehow Tallanvor noticed and grinned. Not pretty to look at, I know. But he did an excellent job under the circumstances, and he was a great man.
So he nursed me back to health, and as soon as I was well I began trying to refocus my powers again, to be able to go back into the body of something else so I could see once again. I practiced on the rats in the brig, mostly, although the doctor occasionally let me try it on him. He felt sorry for me, I suppose, not being able to see anymore. But I felt strange occupying him, so I rarely practiced on him. One day a bright orange bird flew to our ship, dropping onto the deck from exhaustion. Nobody knew where it came from, because the nearest land was miles and miles away. The first mate was all for killing it, but as he approached it and reached out an arm to snap its neck, I reached into his mind and turned his fist on himself. By that point I knew that I could feel pain inflicted on a body I was in as well as the owner of the body I was occupying could, but I took the blow and ran forward in my own body to scoop up the bird.
So you felt the pain when I fell off of the roof, Terence commented.
Yes I did, Tallanvor said apologetically, and I am sorry now that I know you slightly better. The assassin nodded in acceptance, and Tallanvor continued.
I ran with the bird to the rigging and began to climb. The first mate was right behind me, raging madly, but I reached back with my mind and released his hands from the ropes so he fell back to the deck. I sat up there in the crow's nest, cradling the bird, while all the men stood at the base of the mast shouting that I was a devil child and they'd kill me or die trying. None dared to climb up though, after seeing what I did to the first mate.
I knew then that I was safe forever from them. Despite their hate, they feared me and anything they could try to do I could easily deflect. And as I sat up in the crow's nest, I realized that this bird could be my sight, and see for me all the time if only I could focus my powers well enough. As soon as the animal was fed and rested, I began to practice.
At first I was very tentative, Tallanvor continued. But soon I discovered that she—I can tell the gender of any creature I'm occupying, it's a strange feeling and different for each gender—had a very strong mental presence and was not at all weakened by my use of her eyes as some of the rats had been. However, it was difficult to control my impulses, as I was young and just beginning to use my powers. I longed so much to know the feeling of flying, and one day as I soared with her over the ship I let my influence extend a little further into her wings. I was flying with her! I could feel the wind over her feathers. Tallanvor sighed a little wistfully. But it didn't last long. In order to control the muscles of a creature, you have to know how to work them. I don't have wings, and didn't have the proper knowledge to control them. She was paralyzed by my influence, and since I could not fly for her, she dropped into the sea.
But you rescued her? Terence asked.
Yes, albeit indirectly. Tallanvor grinned mischievously. I took over the body of the first mate and jumped into the water and swam to rescue her. I used his hand to hold her, and the other men threw over a line for him and I. I took her from his hands and left his body, walking away perfectly dry and happy while he stood there sopping wet from the cold ocean water. Tallanvor laughed, and then sobered again. But now that I am older, I understand that I should never do that again. Forcing someone to my will by controlling them mentally just to spare myself some effort is a horrible thing, and I believe it left a mark on my soul, although I didn't know it at the time.
Anyway, I reached land safe and sound, and since then I've sailed with several crews much kinder than my first in many positions; I've been anything from ship's boy to cook to the captain himself. I also spend a lot of time on land, for the pleasure of feeling the earth under my feet instead of a rolling ship now and then.
By the time Tallanvor finihed with his story, the two had reached the edge of the seaside town and continued out along the cliffs that edged the wild and foaming sea. Tallanvor turned to face Terence. Do you have any questions for me? he asked kindly.
Yes, the assassin said. Why was I hired to kill you? Who have you ran afoul of so badly that they'd want you dead?
Tallanvor raised an eyebrow. Oh, right, he said, sounding slightly amused. That.
It's simple, really, but terribly ridiculous. It's all because I have a soft spot for animals. You see, at first I could only enter the minds of organisms in a ten-foot radius. A week of intense concentration expanded it to twenty feet. Another month made it two hundred feet. Now, after twenty years or so have passed, I can influence someone hundreds of miles away—the only catch is that I only have complete control if I can see them; or rather if Zaré here can see them. At the mention of her name, the bird nipped affectionately at the tip of Tallanvor's ear. When it's entirely necessary I can ask her to fly miles away to locate someone, although that for a time leaves me dangerously unprotected-
Wait, Terence interrupted. How do you ask her?
I can communicate with animals while in their minds… not through any method of language, mind you, just by a sort of impulse. It's difficult to explain the sensation, really. But that is part of my explanation. So I was saying that Zaré has to see the person in order for me to control them fully, but I only have to know they exist to just communicate with them.
So now we get to why I've angered some people. Well, with my ability to communicate with animals and people, but animals especially, that are inaccessible to physically communicate with, I've taken it upon myself to save some lives. I can feel a hunter and a deer in the same forest and tell the deer where the hunter is. What I do the most, because of my connection with the sea, is inform whales and fish of the whereabouts of the ships of whaling companies and commercial fishermen so they can steer clear. I spend enough time doing this that it's put a noticeable dent in the whaling boats' profits, which is causing some people to get quite irritable. Tallanvor chuckled. However, my old friend the first mate of my first ship has gotten into the whaling business, and he knew right away that this wasn't bad luck—it was my handiwork. A few choice words of his to the heads of the commercial fishing operations and a price was put on my head… a price, I daresay, you'd be able to name to the number.
Terence ducked his head, feeling his cheeks flush with embarrassment and shame. He did indeed know the number, and had been drawn very quickly by how large it was.
No need to be ashamed, Tallanvor said kindly, making Terence feel even worse. You didn't know, although I must say you're too softhearted to be in the profession of deathbringer.
The assassin bristled. And just what do you mean by that?
Well, you've already had several thousand opportunities to kill me since I released you, but you chose to listen to my story. No, you're not cut out for the profession you're in, even if you are good at it.
Terence nodded, slightly pacified and knowing that Tallanvor had a point. So it's not the profession for me. How do I get out of it? he asked, making a challenge.
He could have sworn Zaré's eyes had a spark of amusement in them as Tallanvor grinned. I think I can help you, he said with a nod.
Terence paced nervously in the entrance hall to the grand and intimidating manor. The pompous-looking butler had imperiously told him to wait where he was while he informed the master of Terence's arrival. Terence went over the plan in his head yet again as he nervously paced. Suddenly, a strange sensation in his head announced the arrival of Tallanvor's presence.
How're you doing? What's happening? Tallanvor asked, and Terence felt the man's presence unobtrusively shift to his eyes as Tallanvor looked around. Ah, you're in the entrance hall. Good.
Whise are you? Terence asked.
I'm in the bushes outside the manor, Tallanvor answered. I'll stay with you for now, until it's time for me to make my entrance.
Suddenly the butler reappeared. Giving Terence a look equating him to a filthy stray that had wandered into the house, he muttered, You may go in now.
Terence nodded and crossed the room to the door of his employer's study. Stiff chap, isn't he? Tallanvor commented in his head as the door swung open.
Terence stifled a laugh as he entered and bowed before the man lounging importantly behind an ornate desk at the end of the room.
So? the man asked, leaning forward and twining his sausage fingers, attached to hands like slabs of meat and thick, hairy arms. His piggish eyes were trained on Terence, and Terence looked away for fear that he would somehow see Tallanvor there with him. Did you get 'im? the man said cruelly, leaning back.
Terence glanced out toward the study's balcony. Come on, he pleaded. Where are you, Zaré?
She's right there, Tallanvor answered, and Terence felt his eyeballs swivel to look at the branch of a tree just to the left of the balcony rail. Zaré sat perched there, and gave Terence a wink as he saw her.
Well? A note of irritation crept into the waiting man's voice.
Yes, he did manage to find me. The words came both from the mouth of Terence and, shockingly, the beak of Zaré as he fluttered to perch on the windowsill. The man looked astonished, and then his beady eyes narrowed. You! he shouted, throwing himself at the bird. Terence felt his body leap into the action, springing over the desk, his momentum as he slammed into the man bringing them both to the floor. You already tried that once before, remember? Terence hissed in Tallanvor's voice. It didn't work then either.
The terrified man stared at him, and Terence felt himself step back as the man got to his feet. What now? Terence wondered.
The former first mate, now glaring murder at Terence, raised his fist, but instead of connecting violently with Terence's nose, it snapped open and began to flutter. The man stared in wonder at his hand, and yelped as his other hand began to mirror the first.
Terence stared in amazement. What is going on? This wasn't part of our plan...
As the first mate whimpered in fear, his legs leaped into motion, adopting a strange waddle that carried the whimpering man out of the door. Terence felt himself follow and he and the first mate walked out into the crowded marketplace. An incredulous grin spread across Terence's face as he watched his new friend's former tormentor bend his knees and elbows, and begin to waddle around the crowd, making absurdly accurate chicken noises. People pointed and laughed, and Terence felt tears of mirth streaming down his face at the sight of the burly man's poultry imitation.
He felt Tallanvor's presence withdraw abruptly from his mind just as the first mate crumpled to the ground and Tallanvor himself stepped out from the bushes. Let that serve as a lesson to you of what I can still do, Tallanvor said triumphantly, and then, his face turning a horrible shade of grey, crumpled into Terence's arms.
Oh, he'll live all right, the doctor responded patiently to Terence's worried inquiries. He just over-exhausted himself. I can't imagine how he did it—his body just gave out from stress.
Terence fell back in his chair from where he had been leaning over the unconscious Tallanvor, sighing with relief. Almost as if on cue, Tallanvor said hoarsely, Don't get so worried. It's not my time quite yet, dear friend. Terence jumped. Of course Tallanvor couldn't have opened his eyes or given any other indication that he was conscious.
Zaré fluttered from her perch on the windowsill of the doctor's cabin to sit beside Tallanvor's head. He grinned and reached a hand up to stroke her little orange head. I did over-exhaust myself, he admitted. I've never tried splitting my energy between four beings before—it wasn't a wise decision to try it without experimenting first.
Why didn't you tell me you'd never done it before?! Terence exclaimed indignantly. I would never have let you do it.
Tallanvor smiled. That's exactly why I didn't tell you.
Tallanvor sat atop the largest of the long, rolling cliffs that lazily would along the edge of the foaming sea. A deliciously sweet breeze with a salty bite gusted past his nostrils, and he inhaled the sweet smell of his home with a feeling of absolute contentedness. His life was once again heading in an interesting new direction—could it be possible that this time, for once, this direction could be a good one?
Of course, the man still wanted to kill him. Even his recent abject humiliation of the monster hadn't changed that. Tallanvor smiled, remembering. The first mate wouldn't forget it in a hurry, and probably wouldn't send an assassin the next attempt. He'd want something that Tallanvor couldn't control—poison, or a pre-arranged "accident". Tallanvor sobered at the thought; his powers couldn't detect any danger of that nature, and the first mate knew it.
With a shake of his head, Tallanvor laid back in the tall, waving grass surrounding him. Zaré called with worry as she saw his form disappear into the waves of grain. She wheeled out over the ocean, dipping to let the ocean spray mist her feathers and then angling back up to circle over where Tallanvor lay.
I'm here, darling, he thought reassuringly, and she called again, lower and softer, as she—and Tallanvor, through her eyes—spotted his body laying relaxed in the grass. Tallanvor smiled, seeing himself. It was always a strange feeling to look at his own form through another's eyes, though he supposed he should have grown used to that paradox by now.
Zaré, seeing that all was well, circled back out over the ocean. I'm going back now, Zaré, Tallanvor thought. He withdrew his vision back to the limits of his own blindness so rarely—only when asleep, unconscious, and presumably would when he died—that Zaré usually interpreted the action as a sign that something was wrong.
Most people assumed blindness meant blackness; that the two always went together. Tallanvor wasn't sure if it was because of his powers that his blindness wasn't actually black, or because he had once been able to see, or that perhaps blindness never actually was black. Trying to understand it just confused him, really. What he felt and "saw" was just… nothing. Not black or white or anything in between, but an emptiness so profoundly desolate of any color or movement that, in the first few months after losing his eyes, Tallanvor had felt sure that he must go insane. Only the sound of the ship's doctor's voice constantly in his ear telling him what the world looked like and the smell of the salt on the waves had kept him from being sucked down into an inescapable hole of despair. That, and the new discovery of his power that had come the moment he'd been blinded.
Tallanvor only withdrew his powers completely into himself when he needed to think, or sleep. He so hated, and yes, even feared, being completely alone that it was a rare occasion for him to ever leave Zaré's eyes. However, right now he needed to think.
For a long time the only sounds were the whoosh of the grass as it waved tranquilly in the ocean breeze, the ocean crashing against the rocks of the coast, and Zaré's happy cries as she dipped down to drag her feet along the crests of the waves. Finally, Tallanvor rose slowly to his feet, calling Zaré to his arm. To be able to walk and function, he needed Zaré's head close to his own. When he saw from any other angle while trying to move, he was always unable to do it gracefully; he needed vision as close to where his own eyes used to be as possible.
The orange bird circled once overhead and then dived down to her companion, settling with a squawk on his shoulder and digging her talons into the fabric of Tallanvor's coat. He had had that particular sleeve and shoulder reinforced with thick canvas after her first few painful landings.
With a backward glace at the ocean, courtesy of Zaré, who was probably ruing a lost opportunity to fish for mackerel jumping on the crests of the waves, Tallanvor set off across the drier sea of waving grain that stretched out to bump against the border of the town on the horizon. I must speak to Terence, he thought with a sad smile. I don't think he's going to like the news I have for him.
We're going to go to sea?! Terence yelped when Tallanvor entered the local tavern where Terence had been sitting and brooding—Tallanvor knew how much Terence hated it when Tallanvor went off alone. The man worried about him more than a fawning mother; sometimes Tallanvor wondered with amusement how Terence thought Tallanvor had survived before they met.
Not necessarily WE, Tallanvor pointed out, sliding onto the stool next to his friend.
Terence gave Tallanvor a look that made him laugh out loud. The SEA?! You mean, on a ship? Terence wrinkled his brow in distaste.
No, I'm going to be riding a dolphin, Tallanvor said sarcastically.
You know how I don't like the sea.
As I already pointed out, I never said you had to come, Tallanvor said patiently.
Well, of course I'm coming, Terence said impatiently, as if this point had been decided long ago and Tallanvor was being unreasonable in bringing it up again. But why? Tallanvor, I thought you were perfectly happy here.
I'm neutral, Tallanvor corrected. I'm not happy, per se, and I'm not unhappy either. But I'm anxious to get back to the sea—it's my home, and I've been on land far too long for comfort.
Terence stared at his friend for a moment, then seemed to see that Tallanvor was not going to be swayed. Guess I'll start packing, then, he sighed.
Early the next morning Tallanvor and a grumbling, sleepy-eyed Terence went down to the docks. Like many other rural costal towns, the few houses and shops that made up the actual town were just the bare necessities, a convenient extension of the real reason anything existed there at all: the wharves and shipping yards where hundreds of men swarmed, loading and unloading cargo from one ship to another and shouting to each other in lusty, cheerful voices. The presence—and smell, Tallanvor noted—of life hung heavy over the docks, and even Terence felt a tingle of excitement and adventure as they entered the bustling vortex of the harbor.
Well, Terence! Which ship should we check out first? Tallanvor said, turning to his companion and flashing him a grin. As if he understood him (although, he probably actually did, Terence reflected), Zaré tilted her head in a questioning manner, her eyes fixed on Terence.
How about that one? Terence suggested hopefully, indicating a small, beat-up dinghy bobbing daintily at the end of a dock. Tallanvor snorted and turned away, surveying the available ships with Zaré's eagle eyes.
I'd say we should go to that one, he said, pointing to the largest ship in the harbor. He swayed in the wind, ropes snapping and loose ends of sailcloth billowing. Tallanvor saw the rolling deck through Zaré's sharp eyes with anticipatory delight, but Terence groaned and turned a peculiar shade of green.
I'm already seasick, he moaned, following with a pronounced drag in his step as Tallanvor strode toward the ship. When they reached it, a grim-looking, burly man greeted them. As the pair approached, he straightened up from where he had been kneeling tying lines to tower above them. He glowered down at Tallanvor and Terence, arms as thick as barrels folded over a massive chest covered in swaths of hair.
What might you be wantin'? the man asked suspiciously, looking Tallanvor over with beady eyes. Terence noticed that those eyes lingered for more than a moment on Tallanvor's scars and almost bristled—he didn't understand how Tallanvor could walk down the street, getting that kind of look from every single passerby, and not say something.
Tallanvor seemed to know what Terence was thinking and raised his hand slightly. Would you really want to cause trouble with the likes of him? Tallanvor's voice suddenly spoke in Terence's head, and Terence jumped. He still wasn't used to the way Tallanvor could sneak into his head like that. He nodded to signal that he understood, and stayed silent.
My friend and I are looking to sign on with a ship, Tallanvor replied to the man, a hint of amusement in his voice. Are you this hostile to every sailor that would join you?
Terence sighed inwardly. I thought you just said we didn't want to make trouble.
Relax, Tallanvor replied in Terence's head. I know how to deal with this type well enough.
The mans eyebrows jumped at the answer. He seemed to be slightly surprised and maybe even a little humbled by Tallanvor's bold answer. Beggin' your pardon, he began carefully, But it seems t'me that ye might be takin' on more of a job than ye reckoned.
If you mean my lack of eyes, Tallanvor said, with a bluntness that made Terence and the big man wince, I can function as well as, and I daresay even better than you can.
The man narrowed his eyes and set his jaw at this unexpected challenge. I'll be needin' proof of that.
Tallanvor shrugged. What kind of proof are you looking for?
Mhrmm… let's see ye climb the mainmast, then.
Without a word Tallanvor unslung his bag from his shoulder and strode up the ramp to the ship and across the deck to the mainmast. Zaré wheeled above him, staying as close as possible without getting tangled in the rigging. However, it seemed to Terence that, like eating and getting dressed, this was one of the actions where Tallanvor didn't really need Zaré's eyes to know where to put his hands and feet. In less than thirty seconds he was astride the crow's nest, gazing down at Terence and the big man on the dock far below. Suddenly Terence's heart plummeted as Tallanvor leaped from the edge of the crow's nest out into open air. Mouth dry, Terence watched his friend swing from the ropes of the sail, somersault into the rigging, and drop to the deck with a barely audible thump. Straightening, he strolled back to Terence and the large man with a rare smug grin on his face.
The man's jaw worked for a moment, trying to think of something to say. I can see you've been on a ship afore, he said at last. What positions have you held in the past?
Ship's boy, cook, doctor, sailor, first and second mates, and captain, Tallanvor said. The big man looked alarmed and began to shuffle his feet uncomfortably.
Begging your pardon, cap'n, he said, bowing his head, But this ship already has a cap'n and he in't the kind to give up any positions. Mayhap if ye—
I'm not asking for a captain position, Tallanvor interrupted. My friend and I are seeking positions as simple sailors if you'll take us.
Oh! Well, we'll take ye all right then, the man said, looking relieved. Been needin' a good sailor, more'n just a young boy run away from home to go to sea. But, he said, now directing his gaze to Terence, Your friend has yet to prove himself worthy to sail on the Madman. A glace told Terence that this was the name of the ship, painted on her broad side in deep black, curling letters.
Terence's throat felt dry as he swallowed. He didn't know a thing about sailing—he got sick on ferry rides, for God's sake!
If ye aren't a sailor, I don't s'pose you can sail with us, the man said suspiciously, and Terence tried to quell a surge of panic. To be separated from Tallanvor would like losing a limb…even after a fairly short time together, Terence wasn't sure he'd be able to function without his friend.
If I go, he goes. Those are my terms, Tallanvor said firmly. The man eyed him.
Don't think I can allow that, he said shortly.
Then we'll take our services elsewhere, Tallanvor said promptly, picking up his bag and turning to leave. Terence, however, let his own bag fall to the deck as he removed his bow from its strap and drew an arrow from the quiver always present on his back. He took aim and fired.
The arrow flew straight up with a whoosh and a shudder, and then fell back toward Terence, who caught the shaft between two fingers. The man looked disbelieving. You didn't hit anything, he pointed out, looking confused and grumpy.
Terence shook his head and held the tip of the arrow out for inspection. Peering closer, the big man saw what Terence had been aiming for all along—a minuscule, iridescent green beetle speared on the very tip of the arrow's blade.
Even if I'm not a sailor, Terence said evenly, I can be of use to you. I daresay your enemies, if you have any, are a larger target than this beetle.
The big man straightened and raised an eyebrow at Terence. You're hired, he said abruptly. A slow smile crept across Tallanvor's face as he turned back.
We sail early tomorrow morning, the man said, shaking hands first with Terence and then with Tallanvor. If anyone asks who hired ye, my name is Derek, first mate. He flahed a gold-toothed grin. Seeya bright an' early, boys.
That seemed… informal, somehow, Terence commented to Tallanvor as they walked down the wharf. Tallanvor chuckled.
If you're looking for a bureaucracy of some sort, you don't look on a ship, he said. Most ships'll take anyone with an ounce of talent that might be useful to them. Especially pirate ships, because a lot of sailors, regardless of what they've done commercially, don't quite have what it takes to sail with pirates. He coughed delicately. Physically or mentally.
Wait—pirate ships? Terence was confused for a moment, and then realization dawned on his face. He stopped in his tracks and stared in horror at Tallanvor. We just signed up with a pirate ship?!
Tallanvor raised an eyebrow. Well, of course. What were you expecting?
Something… reasonable! Terence exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. Shipping or something like that! Not piracy!
Tallanvor's laugh rang out across the docks. My dear friend, he said, placing a hand on Terence's shoulder and resuming his casual walk. We're hardly lifelong friends, having known each other for all of a two months, but you must know enough about me to realize that I wouldn't be content shipping figs from one coastal town to another or that kind of nonsense. I take my adventure in healthy, robust doses.
By this time Terence was glaring murder at his friend. Don't give me that face, Tallanvor said mildly. For the third time I'll remind you that you don't have to come with me.
Terence pretended not to have heard these last words. So, you said you've been captain of a ship… does that mean you were a pirate captain?
There's no question of "were", dear fellow, Tallanvor answered. Once a captain, always a captain—that's the rule of the sea. Didn't you notice how the first mate called me "captain" as soon as I mentioned it? I was, and still am, a proud pirate captain.
Horrified and fascinated at the same time, Terence asked, You mean you've killed people? And sunk ships? You?! It was hard for Terence to imagine Tallanvor, who always seemed so good-humored (now that he knew him better—their first meeting had a rather hostile start, after all) killing and fighting like a pirate.
Tallanvor's brow furrowed, and he shot Terence a sidelong glace that was a bit irritated. It seems strange to me, he said coolly, that you criticize a trait in someone else that you used to make a living off of yourself.
Terence looking down, cheeks burning. He said at last in a quiet and slightly bitter voice, Killing wasn't ever something I enjoyed doing. It was a way for me to stay alive, nothing else. I never wanted to go back, and I wouldn't be if it wasn't for your choice of a ship.
Tallanvor whirled around to face Terence, looking for the first time since they met truly angry. I never forced you to do a thing. You and I both know you're as capable of climbing masts and acrobatics as I am. It's something you've had to learn. Don't try to lay guilt on me because of your own decision. Tallanvor jerked his hand at Terence, and Terence felt a repelling force so strong that he involuntarily stumbled back. I won't hear another word about how unhappy you are, and let that be an end to it. With this last shout, a wave of energy hit Terence with enough power to knock him to the boards of the dock. Tallanvor froze when he felt the vibrations from Terence's landing, and he stared at his friend through Zaré's eyes, who stared back from his sprawled position on the ground in utter shock.
Oh, God… Terence… Tallanvor said at last, sounding panicked. He swiftly knelt and gently lifted Terence to his feet. Terence brushed himself off and then just stood, looking at his friend in silence. Tallanvor rubbed his hand over his scars, and for a long moment the only sound between the two was the rustling of Zaré's feathers and Tallanvor's ragged breathing. When he spoke again his voice shook. After all these years, I was convinced I had total control. I thought I was finally the master of myself. To let that happen not even to an enemy but to a friend—one of the only ones I have—is unforgivable. Zaré looked at Terence, and Terence could see Tallanvor's anguished eyes behind those of the bird. I'm so sorry.
Terence sighed and looked up to meet Zaré's eyes. In the last month he had grown used to communicating with Tallanvor by speaking directly to the bird, since Tallanvor had told him that it made for uncomfortable conversation when people always looked slightly to the left of where Tallanvor's eyes actually were. You're right, Terence said at last. I shouldn't be complaining. It's an honor to be in your company, especially for someone like me who, under the assassin masquerade, doesn't have a brave bone in his body.
The corner of Tallanvor's mouth turned up a bit. A coward you may be, Terence, he said bluntly, But you're the bravest one I've ever met. For a second Terence just looked at Tallanvor in confusion, and then both broke out into hearty laughter so loud that men looked up from their crates and ropes to stare at the pair ambling along the wharf still chuckling like madmen.
Back at the tavern and inn where Terence and Tallanvor were staying, however, Terence was lost in his thoughts. After a couple attempts to make conversation, Tallanvor eventually decided to go for a walk and let his friend brood. As he stepped out into the evening, Zaré perched as usual on his shoulder, Tallanvor felt a sense of dread. His mind kept returning to the afternoon's events.
Terence too felt a sense of foreboding. He's never shown any sign that he wasn't completely in control before, he thought with worry. I'm not sure what to think… he'd never mean to endanger me, but what if his anger got the best of him again?
He's not going to come, Tallanvor thought to himself with trepidation as he wandered along the beach. I've betrayed his trust by letting my powers harm him again. Even if it was accidental, I'm responsible for making sure that kind of thing doesn't happen.
Terence was suddenly aware of feeling lost again for the first time since he'd met Tallanvor. He stared into the bottom of his glass. A voyage at sea could put me in a much more dangerous position should he lose his temper again.
Ever since I lost my eyes I've been alone, Tallanvor said aloud, stroking Zaré's head. Except for you, darling. Sometimes I wish I never had any power—better to be blind and a trustworthy friend than to have power that can hurt those I care for. He turned and retraced his steps with a heavy heart. I'd best tell him not to come.
Terence stood as Tallanvor entered the tavern. The two looked at each other for a moment, and then Tallanvor said, Terence, I think it's best that you don't come with me, just as Terence said, I've decided that I'm still coming with you.
Terence. Tallanvor sighed. I told you earlier, if I'm still not entirely in control of my powers, it's not safe for you to-
Shut it, Terence snapped abruptly, and Tallanvor was startled into silence. I'm coming with you whether you want me along or not, and you might just have to deal with me.
Tallanvor stared for a moment, and then laughed. I'm thirty-six, Terence, he said, and amusement twinkled in Zaré's eyes. Do I really still need a nanny?
Yes, Terence replied promptly. And now it's time for bed, young man, because tomorrow is a big day.
With that exchange, the two headed upstairs, their laughter ringing in the stairwell. The other guests must think us completely insane, Terence gasped, wiping tears from his eyes.
Then I suppose it's appropriate that we're sailing on the Madman, Tallanvor replied with a grin.
To be continued~
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