A spymaster?s musings
Aarin Gend, Neverwinter?s spymaster, was leaning casually against the grand hall?s far wall, looking at their battered hero trying to keep to her feet throughout Lord Nasher?s discourse.
What is it with me and elven thieves?, he wondered in the secret of his thoughts, behind his emotionless fašade.
Chamaedaphne was hardly an image of seduction right now. She was covered in blood: hers, Grimgnaw?s and the Old Ones?. The smell of fire and acid spells lingered in her clothes and was diffusing the stink in all the room. She had just recently removed her helm, and her hair was splattered to her head unattractively. There were bloody gashes on her arms, torso and legs, some of those burned, and you could smell the roasted flesh.
She could hardly stand on her feet, but Aarin knew quite well that it was not her body that caused her difficulties. He had tasted first hand the coldness of her mind and temperament. He knew that if she willed herself to stand, there were no wounds that would force her to her knees.
It was her resolve that he felt that was in torment now. More than that; she seemed? shaken. And he had never thought he would ever see Chamaedaphne Indiwasi looking shaken.
You would think that, after Calliara, he would learn his lesson and never fall in love ever again. Least of all with another elf. Least of all with another thief. And leastest of least of all with an elven thief with such a shady past and a cruel demeanour as Chamaedaphne.
But there he was, leaning against the wall, looking at her so wounded and feeling torn because she was injured and Lord Nasher would not stop talking. Aarin stayed motionless, ignored at the back of the assistance ? he could so easily make himself forgotten. Sometimes it hurt; sometimes he wished someone would notice him even when he acted as though to be forgotten.
But not tonight. Tonight, he was absorbed by the surroundings. He reasoned himself; Nasher had to thank Chamaedaphne personally and officially, and the old ruler was in no mood himself to go on for a lengthy discourse. Aarin could feel Morag?s despair washing out of him, and he was drained for having fought against it for days. He could only imagine what it would feel like for Nasher, exposed closer for a longer time.
Aarin was staring at Chamaedaphne, the streams of blood, soot and grime on her cheeks, the bloody wounds, and the most uncharacteristic lack of steadiness of her stance. He puzzled, fascinated against his will, at the sudden vulnerability of the stone-hearted elf.
Aarin was aware of her cold ambition and cruelty, and he knew that it was most strange that he felt for her what he felt for her. Was it her intelligence? The way she put things together in her mind and came up with surprising theories? Was it her grace? The panther-like carefulness in her step, the elven litheness? Or maybe his own heart and mind were darker than that. Maybe what he was drawn to was the strange coldness in her eyes, the expressionless mask that his spymaster?s eyes could not pierce, the heaviness of the air that she carried around her, the aura of death and remorselessness that surrounded her. Maybe it was the darkness in her he was drawn to against his will, even if he knew the dangers, as a moth is drawn to indifferent flame.
Was he so dark? Was he doomed to the Hells still, after all those years of service in Neverwinter? Would he always be drawn to women of dark hearts, who he would have to oppose one day or another as his duty?
He had killed Calli long ago. He had sacrificed love in the name of duty then. Even if Chamaedaphne was obviously capable of much darker and more direct evil than Calli had ever been, he was not sure he could ever strike her down. Even if Chamaedaphne would probably have been judged as deserving of death by many courts ? he was a spymaster after all, and he had done some research on her past ? he could not kill out of duty and over love ever again.
But that night, watching the stone-hearted elf swaying on her feet, he observed her well; he was a man whose survival often rested upon his ability to judge if people were honest with him. And that night, there was trouble in Chamaedaphne?s features, and it was neither faked nor concealed very well.
Aarin began to hope that maybe he would never have to worry about striking her down. The trouble in her eyes resembled guilt, pain, and fear; ?usual? Chamaedaphne was way too cold to ever be touched by those mortal feelings.
Facing the Queen of the Old Ones, brushing against Death itself and losing your comrade in arms must force some examination of oneself, Aarin reflected.
Lord Nasher?s forced and dispirited discourse finished then, and he shook Chamaedaphne?s hand. She shook it back, and was congratulated by the palace?s guard and by the few nobles present in the castle at the moment. The spymaster waited for a while, just to confirm to himself that she would not want to stay alone and take advantage of the occasion to flee into the dark night.
She shifted from foot to foot as she was congratulated, looking progressively more distressed. At the end Aarin walked forward, careful to be heard as his feet crossed the floor to her. She stilled as he neared, acknowledging his presence but not turning to him; she often did this. It was a way to force him to ask, to beg for her attention. He was not sure if she did it on purpose or not, but he had abandoned the idea to ask her a long, long time ago.
Finally, surprising him, she turned around slowly, her face grim and her eyes haunted and troubled. She did not say anything, just looked at him in mute inquiry and distress.
The intensity of despair in her eyes was unsettling. He cleared his throat. ?Would you like a cup of tea??
She blinked at him, staring in confusion at his totally unexpected statement, but finally she nodded, frenetically, a few times. She was still frozen in place, though, and he felt he should reassure her by encouraging her to follow him. He gently took her dirty hand and put in on his arm. She clutched to him with the strength of a shipwreck grabbing a piece of floating wood ? he had a private smile; he knew, he had done so on occasion.
He wondered what was going on behind her high elven forehead that made her clutch to his arm like she was adrift amidst the great dark sea; her, the cold and lonely elf, the master of both the shadows and the arcane arts, the Hero of Neverwinter. And she was shaking. Chamaedaphne Indiwasi never shook. Not when she faced a dragon for the first time. Not when she emotionlessly slit a man?s throat because he was a traitor who had tried to follow her. Not when it was cold and wet outside with the wind and the melting snow on the Uthgardt plains.
It did seem like she was having a seizure of conscience. Aarin cleverly asked himself if maybe it was her first one, or if she had regular ones but just hid them. Judging from the way she clutched at his arm, he doubted she could have hidden that kind of torment under any circumstances.
And then he had an idea. He smiled inwardly, but his emotionless fašade hid everything from the rest of the world.
There was no one still living in this world who had cared to get to know him well enough to be able to see through his deception. But the spymaster always walked alone in the shadows, and he seldom thought of his own happiness or loneliness.
And so, he walked confidently, content to know that he might help Chamaedaphne now. He forgot in that moment that, for a while, he had wished she would be one to break his loneliness, one he would be happy with. He forgot that he had wished she would find peace here in Neverwinter with him, and not far away in Hilltop with an old dwarven master in the magical arts?
Edited by Dalre´Dal, 22 September 2006 - 04:35 AM.