Two Are Better Than One Chapter 10
Whimsical Water Spirits
By Samara Secor
Note: The words to the song in this chapter were written by me to the Meribian Sewers Theme, otherwise known as Track 17 of the Lunar:SSSC Soundtrack.
Conch rode in on Edreas shoulder, figuring that he would be less conspicuous that way. But since nobody in the cafeteria wanted to eat the slop that was being served, they were only too happy to turn their attention to whoever happened to walk in. Consequently, he felt like he was on display for the whole world to see. He almost felt like doing something to make them really stare, but he was more interested in getting his paws on some real food. He realized when he looked around that he didnt see either Arvad or any of the three Plains tribe youths. Evidently, Edrea was wondering the same thing, because she said, I dont see them... And I dont see Wein, either. I swear, if I find out that hes gone back on his word, Im going to...
Edrea stopped when she noticed the shadows that were visible through the kitchen doorway. Theyre not in there, are they? That equipments not exactly for beginners, she said and strode over to kitchen doorway.
She peeked around the corner tentatively, and her jaw dropped. She was expecting things to be in utter chaos. At the very least, there should have been a mess somewhere... But no, everything was spotless. Neil was whistling while he cooked some type of meat dish on the stove top. Alicia and Laticia were fixing a salad, but exactly what kind, Edrea couldnt tell, because Arvad and an apprentice she recognized were sitting on the counter, blocking her view. Keefe, what are you doing here? Edrea asked.
Supervising, hoping that the cooks will take pity on me and give me something decent to eat, too, Keefe grinned and nodded his head toward Arvad, ...and chatting with our new Minister of Finance, here.
Minister of Finance... You? Edrea stared at Arvad. This has got to be some kind of a sick joke.
Im afraid its not. I made the mistake of looking too interested in the paperwork, so Guildmistress Orielle decided to hire me to do it for her, Arvad looked and Conch and asked, Hey, Conch, what happened to you? Your furs all... poofy.
Conch stuck his tongue out at Arvad and refused to answer. He really didnt want to admit just how stupid hed been, especially to someone who knew what he was. Instead, he flew over to where Neil was and asked, I dont suppose you would be willing to cook some fish, too, after youre done with that, would you?
Well, I dont mind, but I dont know if theres any in the freezing room, Neil replied. Hey, Arvad, since youre not doing anything useful at the moment, would you mind taking a look in there?
Sure. No problem, Arvad slid off the countertop and strolled over to the door and opened it. He yelped slightly as the blast of cold air hit him through his somewhat threadbare clothing, but he wasnt about to give Edrea the satisfaction of hearing him grumble over that after the way hed professed that he didnt care. Hed just make sure he got in and out as quickly as possible.
Of course, what he was looking for just had to be at the very back of the ice-covered room. I wonder how they manage to keep it so cold in here? This room must be spirit driven, too, just like the oven, Arvad thought and reached up for a packet of fish. He froze in place at the feel of cold, wet fingers on his shoulder accompanied by a series of high-pitched giggles. He turned with the fish packet in his hands and saw three female sprites that appeared to be made entirely of water. He gulped and laughed nervously, Hey, ladies, Im sorry if I disturbed you or something, but I just came in here to get some fish... Arvad began edging stealthily towards the door. And I really should be going now. Bye!
Arvad made a break for the door and threw the fish at Keefe. Here, you deal with it. Ive got other problems right now, Arvad called over his shoulder as he dashed out of the kitchen.
Keefe and Edrea exchanged glances and, finally, Keefe wondered aloud, Now what do you suppose has gotten into him?
A chorus of laughter was followed by the three water sprites heading in the direction that Arvad had gone. Oh... Keefe said, grinning. The spirits really do like him, dont they? Ive never seen them act quite like that before.
Even though his back felt like it was on fire, Wein still had to eat. He moved slowly and carefully down the hallway, glad that most everyone had already gone to dinner, so he wouldnt have to pretend like everything was fine until he actually got to the cafeteria. He sagged against the wall just out of sight of anyone inside and took a few deep breaths before straightening and striding confidently into the room.
Soon, he realized that he neednt have bothered with his pretense as every eye and much amusement was following a boy, that Wein recognized as Arvad, being chased around the room by three water sprites. Just go away! Leave me alone! I never did anything to you! Arvad yelled.
The water sprites only giggled in reply and split up, one remaining behind him while the other two tried to head him off. Arvad saw this and changed direction, leaping onto a table top and vaulting off the other side. Unfortunately, his zigzagging, haphazard path was taking him straight into a collision course with Wein. There wasnt too much Wein could do about it without causing severe damage to the dining area, so he fell back on an old trick hed picked up in an otherwise apparently useless spellbook. With a single word, Weins hand began to glow brightly and he moved it in an intricate pattern, drawing the attention of the sprites away from Arvad. Finally, he let his hand come to a stop, edgewise between his hands. This effectively drew their eyes to meet his, and he asked softly, Now, would you like to tell me why youre harassing this young man?
The one on the right sniffled, We just wanted to play with Arden...
The one on the left looked sad, Its been so long since any of the spirits have seen him.
And hes forgotten all about us, the one in the middle wailed, bursting into tears.
Arden? Just what in the world are you talking about? My names Arvad, not Arden. And I dont play with spirits, I play with knives, Arvad said, removing a few from their hiding places and juggling them in a circle to emphasize his point. Obviously, you have me confused with someone else.
The three spirits thought about that one for a moment and, suddenly, the righthand one brightened, I know! Youve got amnesia! Youd better go to Althenas Temple and get help right away!
Arvads fingers faltered in their juggling and the knives clattered to the floor. That hit a little too close to home since he really couldnt remember much of anything before a certain point. But that had been at least ten years ago. Surely, they couldnt have been waiting for this Arden person to return for that long, could they? Arvad bent over to pick up the knives and took his time resheathing them before replying, I am not going to Althenas Temple... ever. Then, he paused slightly before grinning and amending, Unless such a trip is required of me in my new position here at Vane. Then, I guess Ill have to. Regardless, I wouldnt seek healing for that kind of condition even if I did have it. Memories get blocked out for a reason, and either they should return naturally or not return at all. End of story.
The righthand sprite started sniffling again, Does that mean you dont want to play with us any more?
Any more! Im not... Gah, I already said that more than once, so Im not saying it again, Arvad said exasperatedly. If you really want to play that badly, why dont you ask some of the younger members of Vanes indigenous population? Im sure that theyd be thrilled. Now, if youll excuse me...
Wein cleared his throat. There was a collective gasp from the watching students who knew what he capable of doing when Arvad turned to meet his gaze. Unfortunately, he had promised Edrea that he wouldnt do anything, and he did keep his promises. I dont see my roommate, Keefe, out here. I dont suppose that you know where he is, do you? he asked.
In the kitchen, Arvad and the three sprites said simultaneously.
Arvad glared at the sprites. They merely giggled again. Why me? Arvad shook his head and said, Look, Ill make you a deal. Ill go back in my room, get my sitar, and bring it back over here to sing a nice, long song for all of you. In return, you agree to go back to your freezer so that I can have some peace and quiet. Fair enough?
With squeals of delight, they enthusiastically nodded. Anything to hear the golden voice of the singer that could make the magic folk weep with envy, the middle sprite said, and Arvad imagined that he could almost see the hearts floating around her head.
Now, youre getting way too carried away. I doubt that Id make anyone weep with envy. Sheesh... Arvad said and walked out the door, calling over his shoulder, Be right back with the sitar!
Wein looked at the rejoicing sprites and shook his head. He cut off the light spell that hed placed on his hand and walked into the kitchen.
Finally, Neil put the finishing touches on Conchs fish and nudged the plate in his direction. Have at it... As soon as it cools off a bit, that is, Neil said.
Oh, wow. Thanks, Conch flew off Edreas shoulder and settled down by the plate. By the way, is Arvad ever coming back for his food, or did those water spirit thingies chase him off?
Ah, you mean your minstrel friend? a voice queried from the doorway. Keefe grinned, Hey, Wein, glad to see youre up and about. Feeling any better?
....Not really. I just didnt feel like going hungry, Wein replied.
And what was it that you were going to say about Arvad? Edrea asked, an almost imperceptible edge to her voice.
Well, hes gone to his room to get his sitar. It seems that the only way that those water spirits would be persuaded to leave him be was if he agreed to sing for them, Wein frowned. Frankly, I find that rather odd. Any normal magician would have to get down on his knees and beg for a chance to even see the spirits at all, and a newcomer like him has to fight them off with a stick, so to speak. He hasnt shown any other signs of... unusual abilities, has he?
It only took him one try to light the stove, Wein. I think hes just some kind of talent that managed to go undiscovered by guild recruiters, Keefe said. You know, its possible for that to happen if you live in an out of the way place.
Like I was... Found by accident when I was abandoned in the mountains bordering the Frontier, Wein finished mentally.
Ive got to change the subject before somebody asks just where Arvad came from. Orielle might have second thoughts if she learns he came from Reza... Laticia thought and asked, So... Does anyone besides me think it might be a good idea to bring our food out to the dining hall so that we wont miss Arvad playing?
It took a little longer for Arvad to get the sitar than hed planned. He sat for a moment and tuned the strings. One of them felt funny to him somehow, like it was stretched thin and waiting for the worst time possible to break. Dont you dare break on me... he said, thinking, Oh yeah, sure, Arvad. Like the string can really hear you.
As he hurried back towards the hall, he wondered what he should sing. A love song was the last thing he wanted to sing in front of those seemingly enamoured sprites. They didnt need any more encouragement as it was. And singing the song hed sang back in Reza was definitely out of the question as far as he was concerned. There was no way he was going to sing the same song twice in so short a space of time. Maybe a heroic song. People liked those a lot, but could he think of one that just any old minstrel didnt know? He didnt want to give those spirits any excuse to say that he hadnt done his best. Maybe that one song that a minstrel, Chiron, had written a long time ago would do the trick. It was really in the second person instead of the third person unlike most heroic songs, but it could work... provided his string didnt give out during the instrumental a little over halfway through. He sighed, Well, theres nothing I can do about it if it does. I can sing it without accompaniment if I have to...
He walked in and saw that Edrea was seated at one end of the table with Laticia, Alicia, and Neil in the middle and Keefe and Wein on the other end. Conch was sitting in the middle of the table and smiled up at him from his mostly eaten plate of fish. He grinned back and whispered, Hey, fish breath, if that slobbering of yours on the strings earlier makes one of my strings snap while Im playing, youd better cough up the silver to replace it. Understand?
Uh... Do would you be willing to accept something thats worth silver instead? Conch asked. I dont exactly keep cash on me at all times, you know. It makes it hard to fly.
No problem, Arvad said, and with that, he sat down on an empty bench that somebody had thoughtfully dragged away from a table and began to play.
In deep shadows of the night,
Evil works its fear...
When most are put to flight,
We must continue on.
No one knows what lies beyond.
We must find courage to press on.
To press onward.
We cant let terror enter in...
To weaken our resolve...
Looking for the answers...
To the riddles we must solve...
A dizzying maze of illusions fair,
That dissolve when held up to the eye.
No longer waiting, beyond hesitating,
Marching on to war.
The price is dear, but some do fear,
The prize is not worth the pain.
Summoned to a tourney., continuing the journey,
Pressing on towards the goal.
Eager we may be, but let us see...
That darkness wont swallow us whole....
Okay, heres the instrumental. String, youve lasted this long. Dont fail me now... Arvad thought as he played.
The destined battle will soon draw nigh,
Determining our future...
Going forward carefully,
Hoping not to die...
Open the door. Head to the fore.
The time, at last, has come.
Banish the fear. Take hold of what is dear.
We wont fight this one alone.
A clash of swords, slammed into the boards,
Trying to overcome the strain...
A song ringing on high separates truth from the lies.
Our quest was not in vain.
As the last note faded, Arvad breathed a sigh of relief as the appreciative clapping filled the room and he bowed his head in acknowledgment. Yes... It lasted. It made it. It.. Arvads thoughts were interrupted as the string suddenly broke with a loud snap, whipping into his face. Luckily, he closed his eyes before it hit. Ow... That hurt, he said, feeling his face gingerly where the wayward string had connected.
Oooh.... Now, you really need to go to Althenas Temple, the center sprite said.
Absolutely not, Arvad said firmly. And werent you gals supposed to be going on back to the freezer right about now?
Okay, but youre going to need some ice on that you know... the center sprite said and headed back, the other two sprites trailing behind her.
I do not... Arvad grumbled. And even if I did, theres no way Im going back in there. Id rather face the gryphons.
Here you go, a soft voice said.
Arvad looked up to see Thalia Ausa holding out a somewhat moderately sized piece of ice. He took it from her with gratitude and said, Thanks. Where did you get this from? Then, he remembered where he was. Oh, gee, thats a stupid question considering that Im in a city of magicians.
Arvad noticed Keefes expression was a mixture of envy and amusement and Laticias... I can understand Keefes feelings, but whats she so upset for? I didnt do anything wrong, did I? he wondered.
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