Something's up with Ivy. Hard to tell if she still crab'd because of me or if something else bugs her. She sure got ol' Gathord all wrapped, getting his tower and all. Makes me wonder if he's knocked her up. It would explain the moods.
Looking for her, I bump into the big, grumpy bully. Just when he is telling me he's skipping town, Ivy walks up, wearing her happy face. Gathord wants us to walk with him to the 'Beekeeper's wife'. Some hussy he needs to say goodbye too. Considering he's inviting Ivy too, this promises to be interesting so I tag along. On the way we spot Marcuis, leading two fresh women to his denn. He fancies himself quite the top diver of this town. We wave, all smiles.
A slim, dusky woman opens the door to us. She's prime, superior, but in a quiet way. No wonder Gathord is shuffling his feet. He misses my chuckle. The woman introduces herself as Neftera. We go up to her rooms and Gathord says his piece. She's clearly not amused about his leaving, even looks pained.
Ivy seems out-of-sorts with the situation. She needs some chearing up. I think of the candied figs, laced with Golden Halo, in my bag. Nice, but first this Neftera and Gathord should have a go at them, to see what it does. I offer the figs and get Ivy out of there, pretending to get some drink for all. She seems glad to leave.
We return half an hour later with the last of my wine and rum. I think it will be worth spending it. Gathord and the woman are sitting quietly. I think two or three figs are missing, but can't be sure. We have the drinks and talks turns to Stygia and its mysteries. Gathord means to go there. Ivy cracks some jokes about Stygian women, but the laughter seems sour. I can feel the tension building.
I break out some cheese I brought as well and offer it with the figs. Finally, Gathord eats some of them and Ivy as well. But Neftera declines, offering me a polite smile. Did she make me? I can't tell, the woman's face is a studied blank. Ha! One worthy to test my wits against. I almost grin.
It's all plummy from here on. Ivy shows her best, quipping, laughing, getting Gathord nuts upon her. Looking at them, I would say it's mutual. Bemused, I sit with Neftera, drinking of the rum and trying a chat. The woman is glib! I learn hardly anything. We stow the talk and watch the lovebirds, until Ivy almost gets him to stay. Neftera decides she's had enough.
She calls Gathord and he almost jumps to her. She whispers to him, earnestly. I strain to hear it, but don't get more than: "Leave ... back .... found .. attracted .. time .. Khemi .. priest" Damn! This queen is playing me! But I smile, liking it.
The show is nearly at an end. Gathord is excusing himself, Ivy looking away. It's a fine service I did her. Distracted, I start talking to Neftera about her dead beekeeper. She tells me it was quite recent. Without warning, I am thinking about Arrian, the vast hurt clouding my mind. I can't help but show it to her, surprised at her compassion.
Gathord leaves, mumbling goodbyes. Ivy just sits their, awkward, perhaps a bit dazed. Just for awhile, then she leaves too. It's Neftera and me know and I can tell she's ready to show me down. I slip into my new role, educated and sharp, playing it smart. I can hardly imagine her falling for it, but it is worth the try.
She's tweaked, but goes easy on me. No angry rants, no threats. Just an understanding, that I am not to try and drug her again. I parry best as I can, but she has the better of me. Not on my level, no, way, way up there. I dissemble and tell her about the house, the bodies, the scrolls, Blackthorn and the Golden Halo.
She's mighty keen on the scrolls, but did I find a ring with them? I have no clue, one of the others must have palmed it. I offer to find out and she promises two cases of honeymead. Quite a fortune in Tombstone, she assures me. The conversation dies quickly after that. Still, I have learned a valuable thing: this woman is more than seems to be. No ordinary beekeeper's wife, oh no. She's observant, smart and, for now, way out of my league.
Up on the hill, I can smell the camp below,
The heavy scent of horses, woodfires and even unwashed men.
It makes me long for him.
We plunge down, through long grass and sturdy shrub,
My fiery colt and I, driving as one.
Until we meet him.
Chest bared, hands dripping blood of the skinning,
He looks up to smile his crooked smile,
And I turn to water, looking at him.
We ride to the river, in silence, together.
We bathe and we dine. We laugh, and we make love.
Me ... and him.
Inhabitant of [url=http://www.tombstone-aoc.net]Tombstone[/url][/size]
People had come and gone. Looking out of the window in my new home, I had seen many people. Some new and some old, many of whom I hadn't even taken the time to greet. It is funny how you think you are sure of a thing and then suddenly you realize you haven't been acting on it. I was sure I would lay low in this hamlet only long enough until I deemed the time right to slip out again and find a proper place to live. And now, I didn't know any more.
I knew what had changed. What had changed my resolve to leave as soon as possible. Or better, who. Only, I had no idea how it had actually happened. The guy didn't spark the slightest interest in me when I first saw him, other than perhaps the surety that he were someone that I could easily persuade to help fix me up with a place to stay. Which, of course, he did, but not in the way I had expected. Still, he had been cold to me when he showed me around the tower. Or had I been mistaken, and had he in reality been sizing me up in there?
Gathord. That visit at the bee-keepers wife had opened my eyes, and shown him as he could be. Warm, funny, pleasant to be with. Interested in me! Where he'd been the one who had to leave to give me my own place to live, now, I wanted him here with me. If I had been able to clear my head and think straight, I would have run after him when he left that evening. I would have wooed him and given him no other choice than to forget about his silly travelling plans and stay with me. But alas, I didn't. He went on this stupid trip to visit the dark lands of Stygia. Soon, he would be surrounded by exotic beauties and would forget all about me.
I stayed up at the tower most of the days, looking out into the distance. Perhaps hoping to see him return for me. I avoided Marve. She made me think of that last evening I got to spend with him. But at last, I couldn't shut her out any more. I had to tell someone, and she was still the closest to a friend that I had here. Of course we were interrupted when I did pick up the courage and walk up to her. Wilpur being his usual rattle-brained self. So I had to put off that chat with Marve until later, after we had that incident with the half-mad stygian rat named Ipoth. But all that came and went, and finally Marve suggested we talk. I said yes and walked out on that bunch without so-much as a goodbye.
Marve took me to the place she had been spending her nights. I felt ashamed I hadn't known about that. In fact, I thought she was still using the stables like so many have done in the beginning, including me. She took me up on the roof of her tower, which, I might add, was in a worse state of repair than mine by far. But she seemed to be comfortable there, and that was what mattered. She softened up on me and offered me to answer any question I had. I skirted the subject at first, pretending I were interested in the raid on some shack that I had just heard about, but pretty soon it became clear that that wasn't the thing we both needed to talk about.
She had seen how I had fallen for him that night. Not only that, she admitted she had known all about it in more ways than I would have given her credit for. She was vague at first, saying she had seen how sad I had been, how unhappy. And that she had wanted to help me. When she said that I thought she meant that she had been trying to arrange something with the bee-keepers wife for me. That hadn't been it, she said. She had drugged me. I still didn't understand what she was saying, probably because I didn't want to believe she had done such a thing to me. But she made it real easy for me and told me everything about the powder she had found in that shack and how she had recognized it as an aphrodisiac. How she had added it to the figs which she gave me and Gathord. I was stunned, I was so stunned that I slapped her and shouted some curse and left.
I ran to my tower, slipped into the silks and cried for hours. At first I cried because I felt betrayed by a friend. Then, it dawned on me that she had actually done it to please me, to make me happy. The realization of that, the knowledge that someone would go that far to please me was more than I could take, and I cried again. Then I realized that I still missed Gathord, and even though I knew I had been drugged into falling for him, I knew that there had to have been some trace of affection for that drug to grow upon and blossom. So what did I feel now? Did I hate Marve, or admire her for her act of compassion? Did I want Gathord to catch some bad disease at some Stygian whore, or did I want him to catch me and carry me to our tower? Too bewildered to know which was true, I fell asleep and drifted into oblivion.