Red War P.5
Message 11 on The Critic's BoardBella stared blankly a moment, then managed to focus enough to make out that it was a woman's face. Blonde hair spilled from her head in styled waves and her face glowed with goodnaturedness. '...Vickie,' Bell managed at last.
'Nice to meet you!' Vickie's blonde bangs trailed down her face and she blew them out of her eyes with an irritated puff of air.
'...You...too.' Beyond the beaming elf, Bella saw Victor being dragged away by a number of elves. His legs looked misshapen and he was out cold. Their black glares swept her with cold and the dark promise of more pain just like this.
'You're not in good shape. Come on, I'll take you to Linnea.' Vickie's arm around her hurt, a lot. But Bella gritted her teeth, sensing that weakness would not go over well. She felt her ribs move but she was walking. Her arm hung loosely at her side and she found she couldn't lift it. That frightened her more than anything, more than the pain. How could she defend herself if she couldn't raise her arm?
'It's fine, Bella,' Vickie said and her thumb wiped away tears Bella didn't even know she was shedding. 'Look at you. Tough! Tough as your mother!'
'...Mother's...not tough,' Bella mumbled. Her lips stuck together when she tried to talk. She realized only then that her nose was broken and her blood was getting sticky on her face.
'Tough as your father then!' Vickie said agreeably. 'Tebryn's good for a beating.'
'...not my...Father.' Her breath was coming a little easier now, and they moved a bit more quickly down the corridor to the infirmiry.
'Fine!' Vickie said, rolling her eyes. 'You're a big old softie. But you can take a hit.' The elf's grin was so infectious even Bella smiled. Especially when her hair fell in her face and she blew it back out again.
'So you're my...Aunt Vickie,' Bella said.
Vickie gave her a look. A muscle in her face twitched. 'But that makes me sound ooooold!' the Legendary Rogue whined, just like another girl Bella knew her own age. It was so funny she laughed. That hurt.
'Sorry,' Bella said at last, when she got her breath back.
'Just call me Vickie. Here we are.' Bella staggered into the infirmary, Vickie supporting her as best as the much taller elf could. The interior was cluttered with a surprising number of scrolls and books and little in the way of the traditional medicines and poultices. Instead, strangely carved sticks, powders and needles were the only things there that she couldn't read.
The half-elf at the desk looked up as they came in and shook her head slowly. Linnea frowned in consideration before gesturing to a bed. 'That's rougher than I usually see,' Linnea observed. She folded her hands in front of her, looking regal and priestly. The half-elf wore her gray robes like armor but her expression was kindly enough. In one hand, she held a silver-worked feather.
'You know how us kids are,' Vickie said. Did she have an expression that didn't involve a smile?
'I know how you Coborel's are,' Linnea snickered. 'This looks quite a bit worse than that.'
'Victor,' Vickie said, and she was almost solemn in the way she said it.
'Ah, of course,' Linnea said. She, too, stopped smiling. 'He's trouble. And his kind of trouble's growing.'
'Maaaaaybe,' Vickie said with a nonchalant toss of her hair. 'And maybe he'll have an accident.'
'Accident?' Bella asked, managing a grin before Linnea's fingers touched her face, subtly assessing the broken nose.
'An accident. You know, he'll slip. Fall. Land on a sacrificial altar to Zaal.' The glint in her eyes suddenly looked less mischievous and more zealous. Bella felt a kind of awe, seeing a disciple of Zaal in her power, able to send whoever she wanted into the grave. Death came to everyone but until it did, some people mastered it. For now, Vickie was its master.
'Hold still.' Linnea's fingers glowed a pale light tinged violet, almost purple, as she quietly prayed. A silver feather in her hand glinted darkly and Bella watched it, fascinated, as cooling warmth trickled into her body. Where the fiery frost went, the pain fell back before it.
'You're not a cleric of Ianthe?' Bella asked, as Linnea finished her work.
'Me? Azi, no. I follow the Master. Can you imagine what a Life cleric would think, working here?'
''Oh Ianthe, oh Ianthe, they're coming after me next?'' Vickie joked. Bella was shocked into laughing. She'd never heard anyone take the Lady's followers so frivolously.
'The Halls all have clerics on hand, to handling training accidents,' Linnea smirked. 'The Mages and Clerics, for example, are served by the Lady's servants. The Monks are tended to by strong clerics of Odhrean, as is only fitting in the Monastary. The Fighters make do with a cleric of Makkairi and good armor. Or perhaps they're less worried about permanent injury from training. But the Rogues make do with me, a follower of Vndyrwynd.'
'Why would a cleric of Vndyrwynd want to be here?' Bella asked, puzzled.
'A good question,' Linnea smiled approvingly. 'Here's your answer. Of the classes, only Mages cultivate more knowledge than Rogues, and we have many Mages in our number. Very few Rogues serve the Master, but many spy out secrets, gather intelligence and force information from blackmail. Vndyrwynd prizes knowledge, all knowledge. And by being of use to the Rogues, so the Rogues are of use to me.'
'Don't you think you're a little free in saying that? Someone might hear!' Bella glanced around, but saw no one. Not that it meant anything in the Rogue Hall.
'So?' Vickie asked. 'She helps us, we help her. We know her price and she knows ours. All aboveboard. Saves so much hassle!' Vickie laughed, noticed neither Linnea or Bella were laughing...and stopped abruptly, looking a little sheepish.
'Self interest is something Rogues understand very well,' Linnea agreed. 'Of all the clergy, only those of Vndyrwynd remain perfectly neutral. The Rogues respect that and know what we gather will not be used to expose their operations. They benefit well from our talents. And we have our own ways of finding things out, if the Rogue Hall chose to be deceptive with us.' A steely glint in Linnea's eye was not so dark as the one Vickie had, but it was fearsome all the same.
Bella nodded slowly. 'Vickie? And Linnea? Don't tell Mother about this. I don't want her worrying. She wouldn't understand.'
'Sure!' Vickie said, and she ruffled Bella's hair. 'Besides, if I do,' Vickie's voice dropped into a conspiratorial whisper, 'she'll kick me in the shin for not stopping the fight!' Vickie grinned, and it was such a happy expression that Bella half-wondered if she was taking something. Yet, Vickie's eyes were clear and Bella had already seen a hint of death in the woman.
'Well, you're all better. The arm might be a little tender but it's as strong as the rest of your body now.' Linnea smiled in satisfaction. 'I'd tell you to be careful, but Rogue training doesn't allow for that.' Her expression turned serious. 'Stay out of Victor's way. He's bad enough, and he's more than a match for you right now. But some are starting to listen to him. You'd do best to just stay out of notice.' The cleric folded her hands together again and returned to her desk, looking regal and priestly and all formal again.
'Yeah, fine, whatever,' Bella said irritably. It was only now dawning on her how dependent, even submissive she'd been since the fight. Linnea and Vickie might be trying to be nice, but it was impossible to forget that Vickie had rescued her and Linnea had healed her. Dependency. Debt. It made Bella's jaw ache, so strong was the tension of sudden realization.
'See you around, Bella,' Vickie said. 'And when you're trained here, Rykilde asked me to take you as an apprentice. We'll have lots of fun!' She laughed and moved to the door. 'Unless you have a problem being around a Zaalite like me,' she added.
'I have nothing to do with Ianthe. Might as well see what Zaal's like.'
'I knew I'd like you,' Vickie grinned.
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11:07, Vaigday, Altki 5, 165 AD.