Tuesday Tales: A Tangled Web

Long Night

CAST OF PLAYERS:

Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master

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Casey sat in stunned silence, tears blurring her vision.  She’d known the satyr so briefly, but after everything they’d been through tonight she’d begun to think of him as a friend.  He’d been so full of life and courage and cleverness and humor….

Alseyne would be devastated.

Pip.

The slow burn of anger rekindled hotly in her.  Pip mustn’t have given his life for a failed cause.  It was up to the rest of them now to make sure his death had meaning; that he had played his own vital part in a successful mission.

Casey eyed Mardmor’s Fae henchman, covertly sizing him up.  This could be the best chance she’d ever get at escaping this room.  She sifted quickly through ideas, weighing hazards against desired outcomes.  The most promising tactic she could think of was also the riskiest, but this didn’t seem like the time for playing it safe.  

None of this showed in her face.  As soon as she’d settled on a plan, she made a conscious effort to appear as small and helpless and vulnerable as possible.  Giving the Sidhe the full benefit of her wide-eyed blue gaze as a single tear trickled down one cheek, she asked, “Were you there when it happened?”  She deliberately played up the raw huskiness in her throat, keeping her voice low and soft.  “Did Pip … did Sir Norfolk … die bravely?”

The sidhe looked over to Casey. “No, I was not there. But I understand that he died defending Aulaudin. It was stupid. Really, a waste. No reason for it.”

Her eyes lowered, wet with unfeigned grief.  “A waste….”  There was a long, brooding pause, then she frowned faintly.  “But I heard … I thought … that he was going to be killed anyway?”

“There is a significant difference between a meaningless death,” he answered, “and a meaningful sacrifice.”

Casey looked back up at the Sidhe, swiftly revising her plan in mid-stride.  This was no slow-witted toady; the ‘fragile waif’ act was probably going to be wasted on him.  

Fair enough.  She straightened in her chair, pushed her emotions aside.  She could mourn the dead later, after they’d been well avenged.  “What would have made his sacrifice so meaningful?”  Pause.  “I’m Casey, by the way.”

“Burton,” he nodded, by way of introduction.

“I’d like to say it’s nice to meet you, but to be honest I’ve had nicer nights.”  She indicated the metal restraints with a wry shrug.

“I can see that.” He sounded neither malicious nor sympathetic. “Without going into too much detail, his sacrifice would have laid the way for the opening of the gates.”

Casey absorbed that, connecting the dots.  The ‘Machine’ Pip and Alseyne were to be fed to was somehow crucial to Mardmor’s scheme — stopping the whole thing might be as simple as finding and destroying it.  “I see.”

“I know you don’t understand,” he continued earnestly, “but Arcadia! Our time is nigh. This time tomorrow? We will be reunited with cousins long forgotten. Once again, we will be whole. No longer forced to wear two faces.” A smile of eager anticipation. “It will be so grand!”

It was hard not to smile at his enthusiasm, even if he was talking about the end of the world as Casey knew it.  “I really don’t,” she commented in a bemused tone.  “Understand, I mean.  I’m not all that knowledgeable about the Fae, I’m sorry to say.  I get the ‘two faces’ thing, but the rest of it’s mostly over my head.  Could you tell me about Arcadia?”

“It is our home,” he said simply. “The mother land. It is a place of surpassing beauty. The air is sweet, the waters cool. Or so I have heard. I’ve not ever been there. But I yearn for it… as all my folk do.”

“And once these gates are opened you’ll able to pass freely between this world and that one?”

“Yes,” his head bobbed, “As easily as you go to the grocery store.”

She was quiet for a moment, deep in thought.  Then she said wistfully, “It does sound wonderful.  Makes me wish I were going to be around to see it.”

“Why do you say that? There’s no reason to suspect you won’t witness the return.”

She shook her head.  “I know Mardmor’s going to kill me as soon as I tell him what he wants to know — that’s why I haven’t talked.  I’ve got nothing against Fae going home, but as soon as I give up my information I’ll be of no further use to him.”

“You misunderstand the King.” He shook his head. “Truly, he has no desire to harm you … though make no mistake, he will if such is required. No, he’d much rather you surrender your secrets and join him. But even if you fail to join him, you will be released after the gates are opened. Once they are open, you and your friends will pose no threat to his plans.”

Casey quirked a crooked smile at the Sidhe.  “Yeah … that’s what he keeps saying.  I wish I could believe it were true.”  She shrugged skeptically, but then gave Burton a long, searching look.  “You really think I can trust him?”

“I do. I have never known him to lie. Ever.”

Casey sharply stifled a snort at that, thinking of the lies Mardmor had told her just in their very brief acquaintance.  She was careful not to let the thought show though; she appeared to be giving Burton’s statement earnest consideration. “He’s so … scary.”

“Power is often frightening.”

Hope and doubt warred transparently on Casey’s face.  “You don’t know how much I want to believe you.  But … well, let’s be honest, you’ve got a pretty strong motivation to say anything that might convince me.  You want the gates opened as much as Mardmor does, and I can only imagine how well he’d likely reward you if you persuaded me to talk.”

“True enough,” he nodded.

She paused for a moment to let the image of the King’s appreciation sink in, then looked up swiftly as if an idea had just occurred to her.  It seemed to hover on the tip of her tongue for a long minute before she ventured slowly, “You know … there might be a way for all of us to get what we want.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t ….”  She stopped, biting her lip indecisively, then plunged ahead.  “Did you know I can read minds?  I’m not very good at it yet, but I can pick up surface thoughts and stuff.  Mardmor put this silver thing on my head to block me, so I wouldn’t be able to read him during the interrogation.”  She studied the Sidhe intently.

He was listening with intense attention.

  “If I could be sure — truly sure — that you’re not trying to trick me, I would tell you everything I know right now.  We’d all win: Mardmor would get his information, you’d get tons of brownie points for being the one who convinced me to talk, and I’d finally get out of this cursed chair and maybe be given some useful task to do.  Just take this thing off my head so I can ‘hear’ whether or not this is some kind of ploy.  If you’re telling the truth it’s a win/win/win solution.  If I can see that you’re lying ….”  She shrugged philosophically.  “Well, then I won’t talk, and you’re no better or worse off than you were before.”

Burton scrutinized her, ruminating over what she’d said. Clearly, he was on the fence. “The King said ‘do not touch’…” he muttered.

“He meant not to hurt her,” Houseman clarified. “Besides, if you lift real careful, you won’t actually have to touch her.”

Casey felt a rush of gratitude for the help, but she only said, “That’s true, you wouldn’t have to touch me at all.”

The Sidhe looked hard at the talking vampire head.

Brow furrowing, he looked back to Casey. She tried to appear suitably hopeful, without actually looking as desperate as she felt.

He looked back to the door.

“You could put it back on me before he gets back,” she pointed out helpfully.  “I don’t need to tell him *how* you convinced me.”

Sighing, “I suppose you have a point.” He crossed to Casey and placing his hands carefully on either side of her head, he gently lifted the band off. She sat motionless for the removal, careful not to make any worrisome movements.

It was like someone had flipped a switch. The light went on within her dark mind; her powers were returned. Keeping her hands and body reassuringly still, she lifted her gaze to meet Burton’s. “Go to sleep.”

“Wha…?” And didn’t finish the word before he crumpled to the floor.

She would have liked to snoop through his brain a little before she put him out, but Mardmor might return at any moment; she could’t take time for intelligence-gathering.  With an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu, she frowned at the silver band in the Sidhe’s slack fingers. It crumpled into an unusable lump with little effort on her part. With another thought her metal bindings flew away from her.

Casey rose, glancing down at Burton with a twinge of regret.  She had nothing personal against the unfortunate Fae; he seemed like a nice enough fellow, just misled by the Goblin King as so many others had been.  Mardmor would probably kill him in some horrific manner when he returned to find Casey gone.

The kindest thing might be to give him a quick death right now, while he lay blissfully unaware of his fate.

It would be the *smartest* thing, for sure.  If she and Mardmor both allowed Burton to live, the Sidhe would be a bitter enemy of hers from the moment he awakened.  She really didn’t need more enemies hunting her down.

Sighing, she stepped over Burton and moved to the selection of surgical equipment, unable to seriously entertain the idea of slaying a man in his sleep.  Finding the heavy surgical blade again, she slid it carefully between her belt and pants: a much simpler task now that she had fingers to work with.  

Still trying to shake the ominous sense of déjà vu, and half-expecting history to repeat itself, she walked over to Houseman’s head.  “Thanks for the help.  So, unless this is another of Mardmor’s tricks I’ll be going now.  Anything I can do for you first?”

“Take me with you,” he answered softly. “I may yet be of help.”

“I’m sorry, but no,” she replied without hesitation.  “When Mardmor finds out I’m not here he’s going to send stuff after me, and I won’t be able to fight and run and carry you at the same time.  Besides, for all I know he can track me through that piece of magic you’re impaled on.”  She shifted impatiently, glancing toward the door.  “Pick something else.”

He appeared stunned by this. “Then end me.”

“Fair enough.”  In his place that would have been her first request.  Still, the brusque note in her own voice struck her as a bit harsh, even under the circumstances.  Making an effort to soften her tone she added, “I really am sorry that all of this happened to you.  I’ll do everything in my power to see that Mardmor pays for everything he’s done.”

“And Bronwen. Kill him slow.”

“Kill Bronwen slow,” she nodded.  “Will do.” Lifting the head gently — it came off the spike with a wet SCHLURP — she set it on the tabletop.  No longer did it show any sign of life. It was just a dead thing.

Casey incinerated the lifeless head down to ash, and headed for the exit.

She paused, hand on the door, attempting to read through to see who might be standing guard beyond. She sensed no thoughts on the other side of the door. She could feel her mind move through the door and into the corridor beyond. She felt none of the sensory limitations she’d experienced earlier in Sanctuary or beneath it.

That was unexpected. She hesitated a moment longer, suddenly apprehensive now that the time had come to venture out alone.  For whatever good it might do, she utilized the gift of “invisibility” that Falco had given her.  It wouldn’t work on the black phantoms, probably wouldn’t work on the green sconces — heck, it probably wouldn’t even work on Mardmor.  But the regular rank and file like poor Burton … she should be able to pass unseen amongst them now.

She drew the heavy blade from her belt, gripped it tightly at her side.

Then, taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped cautiously through.

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