Friday, October 16, 2015

It's a moderately busy night at the Tavern, not frenzied or anything, but not quiet either. Patti is constantly threading her way between tables and groups of people, delivering drinks and appetizers. I sip at my beer and watch the crowd... maybe the threat to Ru has made me paranoid, but I find myself studying people more and more these days. Raina is here, with the crew from the Lodge, and Rowan - waiting for Marc? - and even Mortuis, making one of his rare appearances. Guunnar is holding forth at the bar, surrounded by some three or four women, drinking mead and laughing uproariously from time to time.

My eyes light on a man sitting alone - the nasty drunk type, if I'm not mistaken - and my hand goes back to the hilt of my sword. Mortuis renewed the glamour on my weapons - something referred to as a "slide-away" glamour among the hedge-wizards I used to know.  The gaze rests on the weapon, then slides away to something else without the mind taking note of it. It's the next best thing to invisibility.

Mortuis renewed the glamour readily enough once I explained what I wanted it for; I have always found the sorcerer approachable, despite what others say of him. He's not one for idle chatter, it's true... his mind is on serious business, and he won't thank you for wasting his time. Get to the point, though, explain what you want - and sometimes why you want it - and he can be gracious enough. He discourages familiarity, which only makes it easier to keep matters on a businesslike basis.

Jack and Eira enter - how did he manage to find a woman like that? - and make their way to his usual secluded booth. It seems to be accepted that that's "Jack's booth", and no one else will attempt to sit there, not even the belligerent drunks out looking for a fight. Jack is in his usual jeans and button-down shirt, Eira in a short skirt and tank top. My gaze follows them to their table - and then there's a choked cry from the bar. Guunnar has gone down on one knee - did he finally drink so much he can't stand up? - and then I see the bloodstain spreading on his shirt.

I draw my sword - but too late. The mage's voice is like thunder and darkness and cold, all rolled into one. "You dare?" There's a streak, something yellowish-green, so bright it leaves afterimages on my retinas - and then one of the men standing at the bar bursts into sickly green flame.

I stare, sickened and horrified. The mage's spellfire has been described to me, but no one ever explained how it seems like a thing alive - and hungry, devouring flesh with avidity... it clings like napalm, burning inward to reach the succulent treats beneath the flesh and the man screams and screams and screams... awake and aware till the last iota of consciousness is consumed.

Within seconds, it is over. All the remains is a charred, black, smoking skeleton - and not so much as a scorch mark on the floorboards.

Mortuis is on his feet. "Rowan, bring your vehicle around and make ready for a patient. Nekron, lift him, but be careful not to tear the wounds further. Erik, get some towels from the bar and wrap them around the weapon. Bring it to the Manse, someone will admit you when you arrive. Now hurry!" I see it lying on the floor next to the not-body, an odd twin-bladed dagger - and then I'm in motion, getting towels from Monty. I kneel, my throat constricting at the acrid smell of charred bone and carefully lift the dagger, place it on the towels. I fold them carefully around the weapon - and swear as the blades slice through the fabric with ease.

Mortuis has his cell phone out, speaking urgently. "Nadji? Open up the infirmary and make ready for a patient... Guunnar has been hurt and will be en route to the Manse in a few moments. Send Gmimaor to the gate, ready to drop the wards when they arrive... I expect possibly more than one vehicle, but keep them away from Guunnar until Rowan and I have seen to him.... Yes, if you can be at the Gate, that would be even better...."

Someone nudges me and I look up to see Gareth handing something dark down to me. "Here, use this."

I unfold the package - it's surprisingly heavy - and find that it's a vest of brown  suede, lined with chain mail. I place the dagger, towels and all, within it and fold the vest around it. Gareth gives me a hand up and makes a path for me to the door. "Brendan is waiting... we can get there faster than with any mortal vehicle."

Brendan is currently in the form of a fire-engine red Corvette... we pile in and we're off to the Manse.

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