File GSB-065: Counsel

The library in the Hall of Explorers was large, and full of books. Lenna smiled at herself. Well of course it would be, but she loved the shelves upon shelves of carefully penned works of knowledge, neatly ordered thematically by numbers. A Dwarf named Dewey had neatly ordered the whole of Knowledge itself, which was one of those things you would never think of doing unless you had to find back a specific book from a pile of thousands upon thousands. To do it, though, Mr. Dewey had needed to invent a new number for Literature, and one for History, Geography and Biology. For some reason, though, he’d never seen fit to include a category for spellbooks. Perhaps spells refused to be classified. She’d just dropped Bieslook off in Mr. Munninn Magellas’ group. He’d be telling the children all about the history of the Titans. Knowing Bieslook, she’d take it up like a spunge, especially the gory bits. Right. Home to change, then up to the Mystic Ward for some target practice. Lenna walked to the bridge over the lake of molten rock. From a professional standpoint, the lake was a magnificent feat of magecraft. Transport of heat from where you didn’t want it to somewhere it would do some good. Lenna grinned. Griggin had asked whether it would be possible to let out a bit of heat to boil water. Um… no dear. You don’t poke holes in something that keeps the entire city from going up in smoke. So now they were drilling down to the magma stream that fed the lake. Lenna hoped they knew what they were doing. Griggin usually did. When he didn’t, she was there to help him. Lenna looked up at one of the large cauldrons as it poured lava into the smelting furnace. Of course, it worked the other way round as well, oh yes. Without Griggin Brassmelter, Lenna Greenhollow might never have lived to give birth to two wonderful… well, tolerably nice children.

Back in the day, when she first found out that she could see and direct the flow of energy with her mind, and do it quite well if she said so herself, it had been one endless stream of fun. Her classmates were a riot. Her parents had sent her to a girls-only school for mages, and Lenna had divided her remarkable talents between advancing her skills as a fire mage and breaking the rules in as ingenious a way as possible. One of the biggest rules, of course, was No Boys Allowed. Honestly, why did they bother drawing up a rule like that? They knew full well it’d be broken before the ink was dry. And break it, they did. As often and as spectactularly as they could. It had become a bit of a competition between Lenna and her closest friend. Well, she’d won. Ginger had been expelled. Lenna had only been suspended. She’d been lucky there.

Lenna opened the front door, walked in. She got out of her practical green dress and dressed herself in trousers, a loose-fitting white blouse, and robes. Today was going to be full-out high powered barrages, so she armoured herself to the teeth. Tough felt shoulder pieces, bracers, gloves, belt, boots. Each of these items had been enchanted to increase her spell power and her reserves of magical energy. Also, the pieces were designed to reinforce each other, so that the result was more than the sum of the individual parts. Lenna picked up her staff and took a deep breath. Magic flowed through her. Raw power, hers to command with the merest move of her fingers. She didn’t usually go round dressed like this, because the temptation to shoot fireballs at random objects would be overwhelming. With shining eyes, she held her staff aloft, her other hand forward.

“Enemies, beware! The Gnomes are upon you!”

 

Lenna walked home from the Mystic Ward, by way of the Great Forge, grinning from ear to ear. There was something deeply satisfying in letting rip full-force. It was shorter simply to walk South from the Mystic Ward, but that particular way contained almost all the taverns and bars in the city, which was why some Gnomes referred to it as Death Valley. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil, for I shall be completely smashed. Not that Lenna was in any danger of falling off the wagon. Never again. Her smile faded. It wasn’t as though she’d been short of warnings. Like the first time she’d met Griggin. She’d found herself out of school, out of bounds, out of party cheer, head spinning from the booze. Griggin had picked her up, taken her home, to his place. That was usually the way she preferred it as the dorms were clearly unsuitable for the kind of action she was after. And much to her surprise, he hadn’t tried anything with her. Lenna chuckled to herself. At the time, she’d thought that Griggin was one of those rare Gnomes who, as the saying goes, lay with a man as one lies with a woman. After all, he had her, in his bed, and did nothing! What else could it be? Well, he’d taken about ten minutes to explain that to her. What it boiled down to was that she was drunk, he had better taste than near-necrophiles, he did not have to rely on incapacitating his conquests with drink, he did fancy girls thankyouverymuch, and her offer of becoming her Platonic friend to soothe her tormented soul, he politely, yet loudly, declined. Nevertheless, if at any point, she would wish to jump on his bones, he would take the offer under careful consideration. If not, then bugger off. Lenna had screamed at him, she didn’t remember what, turned round and stormed out of the house vowing never to lay eyes on this little geek ever again.

And then, of course, the time had come when she finally got herself in over her head, and couldn’t threaten or charm her way out. Among the most virile, attractive Gnomes were the Gnomeregan Guards. They had hard muscles in all the right places, moved like they owned the city, in their gleaming armour, and they were always looking, looking for, oh, a beautiful light-brown-haired Mage girl in her early twenties. A girl who knew exactly how to impress these fine figures of Gnomehood. By downing a whole bottle of wine in one go. She could even do it twice. That, lucky girl that she was, had qualified her for a whole evening in the company of Gnomeregan’s finest. She thankfully remembered very little of the whole experience, too far gone to notice anything. She regained consciousness in the guard’s shower room, cold water sloshing over her, clothes nowhere to be seen. Left on her own, in a pool of her own vomit. A nearby cupboard yielded a towel, which she dried herself with, with arms made of rubber, then wrapped round herself. She staggered out of the guard house, either unseen or ignored, and tried to find her way home, somewhere in the haze surrounding her head. A haze that became more dense, not less, with every uncertain step. She grabbed hold of something solid, the railing of a bridge, a lamppost, something cold and metallic. Lenna Greenhollow realised that she was rapidly getting worse and worse. Her teeth started to chatter, and suddenly she was afraid she might die here, be found naked lying in the gutter the next morning. This wasn’t happening! Not to her! She always came out alright. Whimpering, she tried to make her legs move forward, and found she couldn’t. She fell, and her arms weren’t strong enough anymore to hold on to… whatever it was. She heard, more than felt her head hit the hard cobblestones, and darkness closed in.

How long she had lain there, unconscious, she didn’t know, but she felt something warm and soft touching her, and there was a vague noise from a long way away, which only later she realised was someone calling her name. Someone pulled her mouth open and stuck a finger down her throat. Lenna tried to pull away, but couldn’t. She threw up, tasted the foul acid taste in her mouth, felt the rough feeling on the inside of her teeth, and was vaguely aware of someone holding her head away. For a completely pointless few seconds, full sight, and sound, and pain, returned.

“Oh no, Lenna. What have you done?”

“So… Stupid.”

Lenna passed out again.

 

Even now, two children and forty years later, Lenna could still feel the ice cold fear she had felt that night, feeling her life draining away, into the ground, cold, cold. Griggin had saved her life that night, keeping her warm and carrying her to help. She still felt cold when she woke up in the school’s infirmary, nauseous, shivering. The school nurse looked up from where she was sitting, put her book down and walked to Lenna’s bed.

“How do you feel?”

Lenna looked up at the nurse’s friendly face, soother of hurts, comforter of small children, the final answer to the bumps and bruises that were part of life for young girls. As long as the nurse was here, life couldn’t touch Lenna. Life couldn’t drop the enormous pile of trouble on her that she was due.

“All right,” said Lenna. “Just a bit upset in the stomach.”

“Can I get you something? Something to drink?”

“No thank you.”

“Apple juice?”

Lenna closed her eyes for a moment.

“My head hurts.”

“I can make you some willow bark tea. Unless it’s really bad; then I can call the Priest if you want.”

“Tea’s fine, thank you.”

“Good. I’ll make you some, and then you must go back to sleep. You need plenty of rest after what happened to you.”

Lenna closed her eyes, wanted to disappear. The nurse’s hand was cool on her forehead.

“At least they got the Gnome who did this to you. He won’t bother you, or anyone ever again. Now sleep, my child.”

Lenna took a deep breath, settled back into the pillows. Only then did she realise what the nurse had said. Her eyes opened wide.

What?!”

A brief flash of pain passed over the nurse’s face. She shouldn’t have talked about that.

“Don’t worry, dear. Go to sleep. That’s for the guards to deal with. You just think of getting better.”

Lenna sat up, breathing fast, looking at Nurse with panic in her eyes.

“Did they arrest someone for this? Who?”

The nurse put her hand on Lenna’s shoulder, pushing her back down onto the bed.

“Some Gnome. He tried to get away after he dropped you on our doorstep, but the guard wouldn’t let him. They arrested him. He won’t get away with it.”

“They arrested Griggin?”

“I don’t know his name, my child. But it’s all going to be alright. Don’t you worry.”

“He didn’t do it! He found me by the roadside! He’s not the one you want!”

“Oh calm down, child. You’re not helping anyone by getting all excited.”

Lenna’s eyes bored into the nurse’s. Her voice was deadly calm.

“Where. Is. Griggin.”

“In the guard house, dear. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Like the rampaging Titans there isn’t!”

“Miss Greenhollow! You’re not allowed out of bed yet!”

 

Lenna looked into the eyes of the guard at the desk. The guard looked back at her, with the unhelpful air affected by all civil servants who want you to go forth and multiply.

“Griggin Brassmelter. Let him out.”

“Can’t do that, Miss. Pending investigations. Can’t let him out when investigations are still pending.”

“What by the Titans is there to investigate? He brought me home, like you sods should have done.”

The guard gave a small, not really amused laugh, as though Lenna had just told a joke that used to be funny when it was new.

“I don’t know what you are talking about, Miss. Presumably the alcohol is making your mind play tricks on you.”

“Damn you. You know full well that he didn’t do anything to me.”

“Sorry, Miss. Can’t talk about Pending Investigations. It’s against the rules.”

Lenna had to stop her hands from glowing.

“You know, and I know, first-hand, that the Gnome you have in the cells has nothing to do with what happened to me. Do you think I’m just going to stand by and let you chuck him in jail for the rest of his life?”

The guard narrowed his eyes. He looked round to see if anyone could hear him, and lowered his voice to a whisper.

“Look, you little slut. You didn’t look like you were sorry to be where you were. And if we’re forced to come out with all this, you can be sure that they’ll throw you out of that nice clean school of yours. So why don’t you keep your pretty little mouth shut and let the grown-ups handle this?”

Lenna didn’t even blink.

“I remember you. You are the guy with the battle scar where it doesn’t show. I remember it because you shoved it in my face. I think I can produce a pretty accurate drawing, in fact. On one of those anatomically correct dolls that you bastards use for the purpose.” Lenna bent forward a bit. “Do you fancy dropping your trousers in front of a magistrate?”

“That’ll still get you expelled, bitch.”

“I’ll survive. It’ll get you fired. What are the job prospects for an ex-guard thrown out because he couldn’t keep his hands off the local wildlife?”

The guard looked into Lenna’s eyes, and saw nothing but fierce determination. He swore silently. How old was this little bitch anyway?

“Let him out,” said Lenna.

 

Griggin came walking out of the guard house, looking tired, but unhurt. He saw her at the same time she saw him. Lenna’s eyes filled with tears. Her first impulse was to wrap her arms round him and pull him close, but given what had happened, it didn’t feel right. They ended up standing in front of each other, simply looking at each other for a long moment.

“Let’s go,” said Lenna.

They walked off, not really knowing or caring where to, but away from the guard house. Lenna felt that her feet were leading her to the place where she normally went if she wanted to be alone, up the ramps, up the stairways. Griggin looked up at the massive crane, but said nothing. Lenna pulled at the old, rusty padlock that no longer worked, and opened the door to the control room. The place where she usually sat down was only large enough for one, so she moved up a bit. Griggin looked at the large hook that hung from the chains, then at the hatch, which was closed today. He closed his eyes, and sat down next to Lenna, his shoulder not quite touching hers.

Lenna looked at Griggin’s face. His eyes were closed. He wasn’t smiling. There were a few wrinkles at the corners of his mouth, and in the corners of his eyes, but he couldn’t be older than, what, thirty? He opened his eyes and looked at her.

“Thank you for getting me out,” he said.

Lenna shook her head. “No. Thank you. Whatever happens, I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”

There was a faint look of irony on Griggin’s tired face. “There is no need for that. I feel it would be in rather bad taste to demand that of you.”

“Oh, but I wasn’t…” Lenna fell silent. She would do anything for him, including… that. She’d happily leapt into the arms of other Gnomes for far, far less. It seemed… cheap somehow. Not enough.

“I’m sorry. That was insensitive of me.”

Lenna looked into his eyes. Griggin was one of those figures in the background that you don’t have any immediate use for. You didn’t think of them as, well, people. Relevant people. That’s it, they were the irrelevant people. She had seen him look at her now and then, but thought nothing of it. More interesting people to think of. But now, he had just become the most relevant Gnome in the city. Would she have done the same for him that he’d done for her? She didn’t answer that question. She didn’t dare. A sudden desire came on her to touch his face, but she didn’t. Lenna thought back on the last time she’d seen him here. He had scared her then, but not in the sense that he might hurt her.

“When we were last here, what were you doing? Really?”

Griggin bowed his head, closed his eyes. Lenna could see the struggle in the way he held himself. Then, he looked up at her, decision made, eyes steady.

“I was going to throw myself down that hatch,” he said.

Lenna breathed in slowly, staring. Why?

“Because I am a Warlock,” said Griggin. “Every hour of the day or night, the creatures that live in the Twisting Nethers are assaulting my mind. They want to possess me, control me.”

“Daemons?”

“Yes, Daemons. Sayaad, Ered’ruin, creatures from the Void. I was born with the… gift that lets me speak with them. Their voices, they are never still. They do not sleep, they do not relent. It is my fear that one day, they will have me, to the ruin of all round me. I wanted to prevent that from happening.”

“Did you… not do it, because I was there?”

“Yes.”

“Are you suffering now, because I kept you from, uh, jumping?”

Griggin smiled, and shook his head. “My teacher taught me how to deal with the voices in my head. I can do it in my sleep now. Back then, I couldn’t. In my sleep. And I was afraid.”

Lenna felt a chill run up her spine. Griggin looked back at the hatch.

“If you hadn’t been here, that day, then I would be dead now.”

Lenna reached out, and put a hand on Griggin’s cheek.

“If you hadn’t been there yesterday, then I would be dead now.”

Griggin put his hand on Lenna’s wrist, said nothing. Lenna’s eyes filled with tears. There was nothing that she could give to this Gnome, nothing that would be enough. The possibility that he might be feeling the same way about her hadn’t even occurred to her. Lenna took a breath. And then, as though someone lit a candle in a dark cavern, the darkness was lifted from her mind.

“Can I kiss you now? I really feel that I should.”

“No,” said Griggin, with the tiniest glint in his eyes. “That sort of thing only leads to goings-on, and I don’t think the situation calls for that.”

“Tough luck,” said Lenna, and kissed Griggin anyway.


There was a winding road that led from the valleys of Dun Morogh to the gates of Ironforge, for uncountable years part of Ironforge’s defences. At its very top, would-be attackers were greeted by a huge statue of a Dwarf, hammer and axe raised above his bearded head, defying any who meant to harm this city, to come and have a go if they thought they were hard enough. Nix was sitting on one of the shoulders of this statue, peering out over the road.

“Three Dwarves, swift rams. Wearing Ironforge tabards.”

Nix’ classmate looked up, and added a few ticks to her notebook. For some reason, cruel Fate, or in this case Trainer Fenthwick, had chosen to re-unite Nix with the woman named Raven who’d tried to punt him, in the library, with the leather boot. She had made herself comfortable lying on Old Beardy’s outstretched arm, cloak rolled up under her head. Because she knew full well that her paltry Human capabilities were no match for Nix’ far superior Gnomish eyesight, she had closed her eyes in shame, willingly relegating herself to the menial task of administration. Her hand, with the pencil in it, lay on her knee. Her other hand was under her head. Her face betrayed quiet, simple contentment with her place in the order of things.

“Incoming Griffin. Human woman, guild tabard sable, Human skull and crossbones argent. Two pallets argent, sinister and dexter.”

Raven looked up, disturbed at this sudden influx of information.

“Sable is blue, right?”

“Black.”

“And what’s a pallet when it’s at home?”

“Vertical thin line.”

Raven scribbled on her pad.

“Black tabard, white skull, vertical lines… How can a line be sinister?”

“Means left. Dexter is right. Only it’s left for the wearer, not the viewer.”

Raven turned over her pad so Nix could see it.

“This about right?”

“Yeah.”

“Bloody heralds. Why don’t they use normal words like everyone else?”

“Mmm,” said Nix, as the griffin passed over their heads. Fenthwick had assigned them an observation task, but his mind wasn’t really on it. He wasn’t sure whether the last Gnomes had been riding the last model Mechanostrider with the turbine enhancers and catalytic converters, or whether they were the Old Smokies, which were fast, but burnt fuel at a massive rate. It still nagged at him. Not as much as other things, though. He turned his head to Raven. Hmm.

“Hey. You’re a girl, right?”

Raven looked up, eyebrows raised. She pulled out the collar of her red-and-black checkered lumberjack’s shirt, and peered down.

“Yep,” she said.

“And you’ve had boyfriends.”

“So many that I have given up counting,” said Raven, with a vague smile.

“Great. So… What did they have to do to, um, get you to, er, you know…”

Raven’s calm grey eyes turned to Nix with quiet, amused deliberation.

“My little Gnomish friend, are you trying it on with me?”

“Not you. There’s this girl in my sister’s warrior class.”

“Oh, warrior girls. That’s simple. They won’t be with a man unless he defeats her in fair and open combat. So what you do is walk up to her, punch her in the face and tell her she’s your bitch now. Gets painful if you lose, of course, but if you win… Ooo baby! They’re honour-bound to do anything you ask of them….” Raven gave Nix a smouldering look. “Anything,” she breathed.

“Very funny,” said Nix. “I’m serious. I really don’t know what to do. All she does when I try to talk to her is point sharp things at me.”

“What, like swords?”

“Like the look in her eyes. So how do I get her to, well…”

“Take her clothes off?”

“Oh come on! I’ll settle for her giving me the time of day for now.”

Raven thought about it. Her most memorable boyfriend had been her partner in Eastvale logging camp. Eastvale was rightly proud of its stables, and they had thought of acquiring a few of its finest horses without bothering anyone with the palaver of administration, transfer of ownership papers, handing over gold, and all those things that make commerce such a bore. Being young then, naive in the ways of stealth and subterfuge, they had been spotted. Now the Eastvale people were a friendly lot, who did not send people to the gallows. Not if they could simply bludgeon them to death with stout sticks. Raven and her partner had run for their lives, hiding with beating hearts as riders thundered past looking for them, slowly making their way to the relative safety of Redridge. They had watched from a hiding place on one of the sandstone hills, as the Eastvale riders gave up and turned back. Raven’s friend had grinned at her, and the sheer joy at still being alive had provided all the excuse they needed. A dream-like expression was in Raven’s eyes. The nice boy had even been so courteous as to let her go on top, while he lay back on the hard rocks.

Nix snapped his fingers. “Oi. Azeroth here.”

“I don’t think I’m the girl to ask, really,” said Raven. “Why don’t you find something she likes doing, and develop an interest in that?”

Nix nodded. He could have come up with that himself. Go not to the Humans for counsel, for they will say… well, nothing useful.

“Thanks. Three Humans, on horseback. Eastvale palominos.”

Raven’s head snapped round.

“Those are not from Eastvale. Trust me. I know.”

 

“Hello? You’re… Genna, aren’t you?”

The giant woman turned round to Nix, putting down her pen.

“Gemma, lad. Easy mistake to make. What can I do for ye?”

“Well, um… I’m Nix. Trixie’s brother. You know Trixie, right?”

Gemma laughed. “Should do, she caught me a right ding on the midsection this morning. Should know better than ta try and be quicker’n you little buggers. I’ll get ‘er tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Well, there’s this other girl.”

“I see. Ye got yer eyes on young Dora, have ye?”

“You know?”

“Gods, yes. She’s been moanin’ about it to us. Mind you,” Gemma grinned at Nix. “She’s been moaning ’bout it a hell of a lot. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

Nix frowned. “Doesn’t the ‘methinks’ come at the end? And anyway, ‘protest’ didn’t mean back then what it means now.”

“Och well spotted, young man.”

“They’re bludgeoning us to death with Spearshaker in Literature. Like he was the only Dwarf who could hold a pen back in the day. Anyway, yeah. Dora. I want to know if there’s something she really likes doing.”

“So you can do it with her?”

“Yeah.” Nix looked at Gemma’s face. “In the sense of ‘doing that thing she likes with her’, not do ‘it’ with her.”

Gemma’s face was completely serious. “Aye. That comes later.”

Nix gave Gemma a sad look.

“Please? What does she like doing?”

Gemma chuckled, thought a while.

“Fighting,” she said. “Though I think that’s not the sort o’ thing you’re after. Let me see… Ah. She does have a liking for the fine floors in the valley.”

“Floors,” said Nix, blankly.

“Aye, floors! Peacebloom, Kingsfoil, Bluebells. Floors. She’s a fine herbalist, is our Dora.”

“Ah, flowers. Right.” Nix thought a bit, then slowly started to smile. “Well, if it’s floors she likes, floors she shall have. Thanks a lot, Gemma.”

“That’s the spirit, lad.”


Lenna sat down with her back to the lava. She had about an hour of freedom left, before Bieslook would be back from class. Make the most of it. She went over the magic spells in her head. Some of these spells did little damage in and of themselves, but opened up the pathways for the more potent spells to follow. The heavy blasts would come to her only with preparation. She opened her eyes, watching the Dwarves at work. Lenna loved work. She could watch it for hours on end. At the other end of the bridge, she saw a Gnome woman, walking in the direction of the great anvil in the middle of the bridge. She had pulled her hood over her face, but still, Lenna thought she could recognise her… Beatrice! Lenna sighed. The woman had tried it on with her husband. She should feel angry about that, but looking at her, she couldn’t. The woman was in pain. Not in possession of all her faculties. And didn’t have a chance with Griggin any more than anyone else would have a chance with Lenna.

Beatrice slowly made her way across the bridge, and then stopped, turned to the fire. Lenna frowned. Griggin did the same thing; stare down into the roiling cauldron of sheer infinite power, thinking on how to make it his servant. But something in Beatrice’s bearing was… off. Slowly, Lenna got to her feet, looking intently at Beatrice. Beatrice pulled her hood down over her eyes. Her shoulders were hunched. She took a step forward, onto the raised edge of the bridge. Lenna took a deep breath and sprinted towards her, staff in hand. Beatrice had one foot on the ground, one on the wall that did little more than remind people that this was where the bridge ended. Lenna ran faster, gathering up her mana. With a shout, she raised a hand, and let her magic flow. A block of ice appeared from nowhere around Beatrice’s feet, pinning her to the bridge. She swayed back and forth between the fire and the hard stone of the bridge, crying out in fear. Lenna closed her eyes and blinked. She disappeared, then re-appeared next to Beatrice. Dropping her staff, she grabbed her, both arms round the middle, and dragged her back from the edge, landing on her back with Beatrice on top of her. She rolled Beatrice off her, then held her in her arms as if she were a child. Tears streamed down Beatrice’s face, and her teeth were chattering.

“Lenna?”

“Yes. Easy now. I’ve got you.”

“Lenna…”

“Shh. You’re safe.”

Beatrice looked up into Lenna’s face.

“I… I made a pass at Griggin. I’m so sorry.”

Lenna slowly rocked back and forth.

“I know. He told me. Don’t worry. You’re safe. Everything’s going to be alright. Everything’ll be just fine.”

“He told you?”

“Yes.”

Beatrice sobbed.

“You’re so, so lucky. You’ll never know how lucky you are.”

“I do know. Trust me, I do. Come with me.”

 

Lenna dragged Beatrice to her feet, held her arm as she walked with her to the Stonefire Tavern, to a quiet dark corner. Mr. Smolt recognised her, and came to the table.

“Good morning Mrs. Steambender, Mrs. Glowpipe. How may I help you today?”

“Hello Stephen.” Lenna looked at Beatrice, then back at Mr. Smolt. “Could you bring us one red wine and a glass of cold milk?”

“Of course, Mrs. Steambender.” He moved in the direction of the bar.

Beatrice sat at the table, head bent down, elbows on the table, quiet, miserable. Lenna reached over, and put her hand on Beatrice’s wrist. She looked up, and Lenna shuddered at the expression on her face.

“Beatrice, why?”

Beatrice sobbed.

“Why not? Nobody wants me anymore, and what I want, I can’t get.”

“Nobody? Anton?”

Beatrice gave a small nod, quietly.

“Is he divorcing you? Leaving you?”

“No.”

Lenna looked at Beatrice. Beatrice looked back at her.

“He doesn’t even see the point in divorcing me.”

Lenna gently stroked Beatrice’s arm, noting, in the background of her mind, that there were no scars on her wrists. She breathed in, and there was no alcohol on Beatrice’s breath.

“Why don’t you just leave?”

“Can’t,” said Beatrice. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

Beatrice looked up into Lenna’s eyes. Lenna shuddered at the sheer desperation in that look.

“I love him. He’s not a bad man, and I love him.”

Lenna shook her head, suddenly resolute.

“You need to get out.”

“That’s what I-“

“Shut up. Do you have any family? Who aren’t living on your doorstep? Friends? Anyone at all?”

“I don’t-“

“Beatrice, answer the question. Family? Do you have any? If so, where.”

“My… my sister, she’s moved to Thelsamar by Loch Modan.”

“Perfect. Go visit her. Fresh air, maybe some hard work. Maybe you’ll come back, maybe not. But you can’t live with Anton for a while.”

“My sister hates my guts.”

“Good. About time you made it up with her.”

“But… Anton?”

“He’ll be here when you get back.”

“He’s not a bad man, Lenna. Please, believe me.”

“I believe you. Still, you need to be away from him for a while.”

“I… I can’t. He, he still needs me.”

“His loss.” Lenna put her hand on Beatrice’s cheek. “You know you have to.”

Mr. Smolt came to their table, a tray in his hand with one elegant long glass of red wine, and one large glass of milk. With a quick glance at both their faces, he put the glasses on the table between them. Lenna reached for her purse, but Mr. Smolt waved a hand at her.

“These are on the house, Madam.”

“Thank you, Stephen,” said Lenna.

Beatrice lifted her arm to pick up the wine glass, but Lenna was too quick for her.

“Cheers,” said Lenna, and drained the wine in one long draught, leaving Beatrice to stare first at her, then at the dew-covered glass of cold cow’s milk on the table in front of her.

Lenna put her glass down, and turned her eyes to Beatrice.

“Go on. Drink it. It’s good for you.”

 

Griggin came home to find his wife lying on the sofa, a cold towel over her eyes, clutching a mug of tea in her hands.

“Are you alright, dear?”

Lenna groaned.

“I went to Stonefire today, and had my first glass of red wine in forty years. Could hardly get Bieslook home. Ye gods, I’m such a cheap date.”

Griggin hung up his coat by the door. Lenna lifted the towel off her face, and squinted at his astonished face.

“I may have caused IGNITE to lose an engineer today,” she said. “Sorry.”

Griggin lifted Lenna’s legs, sat down on the sofa and put them back on his knees. Lenna put the towel back over her eyes.

“Beatrice?”

Lenna nodded, carefully.

“She wanted to jump into the lake of lava today. I could only just stop her. She’s gone. Put her on the bird today.”

“Jump into the lake? Oh my… She wanted to kill herself?”

“I don’t suppose she wanted to get nice and clean.”

“My goodness. Does Anton know?”

“Not that I’m aware of, but I’m having a hard time caring about how Mr. Glowpipe feels about it all.”

“Hmm…”

Lenna peeked out from under her towel.

“And you’re not telling him where she’s gone. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

“So where is she, then?”

“Friends. Family. Does it matter?”

“I suppose not. Oh my. Poor Beatrice.”

Griggin sighed, and put his hand on Lenna’s head.

“You did well. Hope she’ll be alright.”

“I don’t know if I did well. Poor woman couldn’t stay, though.”

Griggin’s hand slowly stroked Lenna’s leg. He stared at the opposite wall, the corkboard with notes on it about who was to go where, and when. One of Bieslook’s drawings, of a Titan wielding an axe.

“Let’s try not to do what they did, my love.”

“Working on it.”


Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.

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