A Marksman's Tale

Four: Martinís Mansion

Level Sixteen Acrobat

By Aaerdan

DUNAEL Aaerdan sits quietly at his table in the corner furthest from the fireplace, oblivious to the merriment of the patrons of the tavern on the seedier side of town.

In one hand is a flagon of the foulest smelling brew he had ever tasted, in the other an arrow with his thumb rubbing the sharp edge of the point hard, but not quite so much that it draws blood.

The archer is, of course, depressed.

Are you alright? Darkflame asks.

Dunael does not reply immediately.

_____

BARELY an hour earlier, after having carried Lena to Martin the Magician and having made sure that she would recover, the ancient man had led him to his study to grill the youth about what had transpired.

"Hmmm ... what you have described is called a Power Swing, I believe," Martin said gravely after hearing the youth's account. "An unusual move taken against someone so much weaker."

Dunael said nothing. He had seen the Power Swing with his own eyes, and felt its shockwave.

"Unless..."

"Unless?" the youth repeated.

"Unless this ... Akuryu fellow had reason to think Lena was far stronger than she actually is," the magician stated.

Whitefire did say that this Akuryu was surprised that Lena didn't remember him or Lady Kazeko, Darkflame offered.

"Whitefire?"

Yes, that's the name of Lena's Aevo.

"What was that?" Martin asked. "You said something? Feeling cold?"

Dunael shook his head. Then: "Well, yes, a little."

Martin nodded and got up. "I'm sure I know the spell to raise the room temperature, but my memory escapes me. I'll see to getting more wood for the fire."

"I'll go," Dunael said.

Martin waved him off. "No, no ... I am old, but not infirm. I do enjoy some exercise. Please wait here."

Once the ancient man had left, Dunael whispered: "Whitefire?"

Yes. I just knew that that was the Aevo's name when we made contact outside the Arena grounds earlier. Darkflame added: I don't know how I know. I just do.

After a moment, he asked: "Do you think Lena knows this Akuryu or Lady Kazeko?"

That's not possible for me to tell, Darkflame replied. What you should be more concerned about is that both of them have Aevos, though they did not initiate contact like Whitefire did. Maybe they couldn't detect us.

"You didn't detect Whitefire too until it made contact," Dunael pointed out.

True. Whitefire can also leave Lena and wander around.

Martin returned at that point, visibly worried.

"Something's not right," the magician said.

"Lena?"

Martin nodded. "When we left her just now in Clerica's very capable hands, her wounds have mostly healed."

"And now?"

"Well ... nothing's changed ... no further improvement at all," the ancient man stated. "Clerica is herself perplexed. It is highly unusual, of course, for her curative powers to be somehow ... blocked."

"Blocked?"

Oh dear...

Martin nodded again. "I have my suspicions, as does Clerica. But for now, I have an errand for you."

Dunael stood up. "I shall try my best."

The magician smiled. "No need to be so dramatic!" He went to one of the desks in the room and obtained a rolled-up scroll.

"I need you to take this to Dior in Flaris," he told the youth. "You wonít have trouble finding her Ö she is an attractive young woman who wears a cap. Very nice to old folk like me. I will, of course, send word to her right away to expect you."

The archer took the scroll and put it in his knapsack.

"It's urgent that Dior gets this as soon as possible," Martin added.

"Right."

Without further ado the magician showed Dunael to the door, and after quick farewells, the door was shut.

"Does something feel odd to you?" the youth whispered as he began to make his way to the Saint Morning airport.

Yes. Let's wait around first. I want to contact Whitefire.

Dunael found a spot under a tree that won't hurt his back too much and leaned on it.

Moments later he felt Whitefire's presence.

Hello again, Dunael!

"How is Lena?"

Doing okay! You know, just now she gave us a fright when the lady's magic stopped working! Whitefire said.

"And then?"

Martin came back and told her to try again, and voila! Lena's bruises went away and she started breathing normally.

This is not good, Darkflame remarked.

What isn't? Whitefire asked. Then: Oh, I gotta go. Lena's having nightmares. Contact you guys later!

Dunael got up slowly, then began walking towards the airport.

_____

THE archer sits alone in the tavern in the less savoury part of town. The arrow point draws blood, and the pain jolts him back to reality.

Dunael? Are you alright? Darkflame asks.

He takes another sip of the brew and decides to leave it. He rises and makes his way to the door.

Dunael?

"I am alright," he whispers once outside. "I'm not sure I know what to make of what has transpired today."

He adds: "There are so many questions that need to be asked, and need answering."

What will you do now?

Dunael smiles. "I have an errand to run. After that-" he pauses, "-I'll be visiting Martin again."


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