Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 197,496,222 Issue: 986 | 30th day of Relaxing, Y25
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Return to White River


by hzoo_26

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Author’s Note: Thanks to Rose (rosemmary) for letting me borrow the Arriola family as characters in White River!

     Dinner was a tense affair, the only sound being the tinkling of silverware against Helene's fine dishes. She refused to talk to him, summoning him through a note delivered by the one household maid in residence. It was short and simple.

     DINNER AT 8.

     -H.R

     Nothing more was said. Now they sat at the ends of a very large table, staring at each other past fine glasses, silver candlesticks, and a small vase of wilting roses. His sister had changed into a formal dress, the same dull shades of black and grey as the rest of her wardrobe.

     "How long are you planning to stay?" She asked.

     He swallowed slowly, his mouth dry. She had broken the silence, and he was still unsure of how to respond.

     "Surely you have places to go, things to run away from." She mentioned, waving one hand in the air casually.

     "I do no-"

     "Oh really, brother?" She replied, placing her palms flat on the table. For a second, he saw the old Helene, the fiery imp that had tormented and yet adored him in childhood. But in the next instant, she was gone as a heaving cough rattled through her chest.

     Charrie rushed to her side, kneeling beside her chair.

     “How long has this been going on, Helene?”

     “About a month now. My sickness is getting…worse.”

     “What about the doctors I’ve arranged to visit? Surely one of them has some idea of the cure?”

     She shook her head sadly, before beginning to cough once again.

     “Charrie. I know it’s hard for yo—“

     “Hard? Of course, it’s hard. Seeing my own sibling, my little sister, have her joy and her spirit stolen from her by a….by a…”

     “Runaway wraith?”

      Charrie let out a breath slowly, nodding as he did so.

      Helene smiled if one could call it that. It appeared more like a pained grimace, her mouth twisting at a slightly odd angle.

      "Brother dear, I don't know why this happened. I will admit. One day I'm out in my garden tending to my dragonbuds and the next thing I know I'm being toppled over by a wraith. The moment it touched me, I could feel it pulling something out of my very body Charrie. I don't know what happened, but it was almost as if a pallor was put on everything." Helene shook her head sadly.

      "I know you don't want to hear this brother, but I don't think my problem can be solved by doctors alone. I've even consulted the wanderers at the camp outside Neovia, asking what they think of the situation. Their best fortune teller looked at me and told me the problem did not lie within my body, but rather within other parts of my "self". She muttered something as well about strange magic."

     "You think that it's a magic issue?"

     "I am unsure, Charrie. I was never as gifted in it as you and Phoebe. You two always had the knack for it. You with your magic hats, and her with her potions. I was always light and earth aligned. Phoebe was fire aligned. And you....we never could figure out what you were exactly."

     Charrie shrugged.

      "But now, I don't know. I cannot feel my connection to my magic anymore. I haven't been able to since my accident."

     "Very unusual."

      "Indeed, brother. But that is not the important matter now." She squared her shoulders, looking him dead in the eyes.

      "You must promise me that you will do what is necessary to face this problem of yours."

      "But Helen-"

      "No buts, Charrie. I am not well, and I don't know how many days I may or may not have left. Fyora knows that I could take a turn for the worse one day and that be the end of it. Or I could just be so stubborn and tenacious that I outlast both you and our dear sister."

      "Don't talk like that."

      "I'll talk how I please, brother mine. You may be the eldest, but you aren't the smartest. Being stuck in this house with only a maid gives me time to think, and ponder the mysteries of things. And all I know is that if there is one thing I want in this world, it's for you and Phoebe to be happy." Her voice quivered slightly.

      "Aw, Helene. Please."

      "Promise me Charrie. Please? Promise me you'll try."

      He stared down into her clouded eyes, and slowly ran a hand over her cheek. He nodded, trying hard not to let unshed tears fall from his eyes.

      She gave him a wobbly smile, then straightened.

      "Well, it seems to me you have some packing to do." She remarked.

     "I suppose so."

     ---

      The Rusty Wheel was quiet, save for the slight clicking of Valerie Smoke's most recent project. Portia sat at the long counter in the tavern area, swirling her glass of Kadvo thoughtfully. She was thankful for Val's friendship, particularly when the Pirate-colored Eyrie had surprised her with a glass of her favourite Ursian drink.

      "Talked to that Tsar friend of yours and asked for a recommendation. He said you preferred it over grog from Krawk Isle. Got half a case, as I'm always looking for something exotic." She'd mentioned, winking.

      She could taste the bitterness of some of her homeland's fruit on her lips, taking her back to the cold nights at the military academy where she and some of her comrades would warm up after drills. In her mind she reviewed all of the strategies she could remember, trying to find some solution to her problem.

      The door opened with a sharp creak, and Valerie muttered about oil and hinges. Portia paid no attention until she heard the clank of a sablya hitting the counter. Sword. She must get used to that term. She looked left and smiled when she spotted Draikriel Arriola taking a seat further down.

     With a lazy wave of her hand, she motioned the White Draik over, pointing towards the seat closest.

     "What brings you into town, Draikriel?" she asked, lifting her hand to signal Val over.

     "Oh, nothing much, Mayor. Just returned from getting my da's sword sharpened at the Blacksmith's." The Draik mumbled, pausing a moment to tuck a lock of blonde hair behind her ear.

     "Is Drairren back in town, then? Valerie, a drink for this lady if you please."

     "Oh, no no. This is his old one. It was lying 'round the farmhouse, Ma leaves me alone out there to tend the flowers. Too busy selling those candles in the shop, I suppose. And well, I thought it might be handy to get this old thing sharpened. Lots of thieves in Meridell, aye. Not that we 'ave much to steal on our farm..."

     Portia eyed the young girl with some suspicion. Rambling was often a sign of untruth, although she hated to admit it. The Draik's face was flushed from exertion, and although the sword did look sharp, it did not look clean. She chose, however, to keep her opinions to herself. Valerie poured a small glass of grog, setting it in front of Draikriel. The Draik smiled at Portia, then took a sip.

     "So good of you to do that for your father," Portia mentioned.

     "A-aye. I hope he'll be returning 'ome. He always comes 'ack during the winter months. Can't sell many fireworks in winter, 'cept for new 'ears. But I'm sure he's stocked up enough for our celebrations in town."

     Portia nodded. "Charrie left some notes in the mayor's office about that, and something about hiring your da during the winter to light lamps?"

     Draikriel nodded. "Oh yes! He's wonderful at that. He wasn't sure if the town would want to hire 'im though. Since...you're the one in charge now and all."

      "Not to worry. I don't see any point in changing something that has been working. Messing up a working system is disastrous while running a town, or fighting a war."

      Draikriel's eyes lit up, and she leaned in closer.

      "Madam Mayor, can you please tell me about what it was like fighting? Did you ever use a sword? Did you ever get 'urt in battle? What about cannons? Do they use cannons in Ur-"

      "Slow down, slow down Devushka." She answered with a chuckle.

      "Sorry. It's just....exciting to hear 'bout things like that."

      "I suppose to some it is. War, however, is not a laughing matter. Trust me, Devushka, when you hold a...sword...in your hands, it is a lot of responsibility. Life or death, da?"

      Draikriel nodded. "It's...Da tells me so many stories, 'bout his adventures. And Shaylin...I mean...Mr. Moore. He tells me 'bout the wars. He fought in 'em."

      "I understand. It is exciting. But..." For a moment, she paused, taking a deep breath in.

      Had anyone been looking closely, they would have seen pain flash through Portia's eyes for a moment. She steadied herself, then continued.

      "There is a lot of pain in war. Some of which those who have seen it are still trying to forget. Enjoy your innocent days, Devushka. For there will be a time where you can't avoid it any longer. It is then that your training is the only thing that saves you."

      Draikriel flushed slightly, then looked around the room quickly. Her voice dropped to a whisper.

      "Don't...tell Mr. Moore. But I sort of borrowed one of his books."

      "Borrowed with permission? Or without asking?" Portia replied, her eyebrow raised.

      "He's never...coherent long enough for me to ask. And Miranda is..."

      "Intimidating?"

      "Aye. I've been reading all of these strategies and things. Like..."Never take a knife to a bow fight. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend an-"

      "Wait a second. Repeat that again?"

      "The story or--?"

     "The strategies." Portia replied, running her hands through her hair.

     "Uh...don't you know these alread-. Oh. Okay then. Never take a knife to a bow fight...The enemy of my enemy is my friend..."

     "That's it! Thank you Draikriel!" Portia shouted. She stood quickly, taking a second to gain her balance before rushing out the door.

     Valerie looked over towards the young Draik, and shrugged.

     "Well, I guess the question now is...when will she be back to pay her tab?"

To be continued…

 
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