Part 5: Eccentricity

“Excuse me, dear. Could I ask you something?”

Mareva looked behind her. She was buried up to the armpits in one of those equipment lockers that the public hopefully never get to see the inside of. If they did, panic would ensue. She was following one of the many wires from its start to its end, and trying not to disconnect the wrong one.

“Do you have a moment?”

The old lady gave her a wrinkly smile. “Of course, sweetie. When you’re ready.” After a moment, she added. “There may be a cup of tea in it for you, you know?”

“Bliss,” muttered Mareva. Her fingers found the terminal lead she was looking for. Number twelve. Good. She pulled out the wire, gingerly extracted it from the tangle, disconnected the other end and tossed it behind her. She looked in her toolbox for a replacement.

“Hey. When will the network be up again?”

Mareva looked up. A man was looking down on her, clearly expecting her to know off the top of her head who he was, what part of the network was not working and basically point her finger at it and make it work again, and faster than it ever was.

“Which cabin are you in, Sir?”

“The cabin with the broken network, like I’ve been telling you for weeks now. Were you planning on fixing it any time soon? Like this century?”

Mareva took a deep breath, fighting the temptation simply to shoot a few lightning bolts into the equipment locker and declare it irrevocably broken.

“Which particular connection were you expecting us to fix, Sir? Your cabin number would be helpful in determining what’s wrong.”

“Look. Don’t you bloody stokers realise who I am? It is imperative that I have a decent network connection. I’m not asking for too much, am I? I have important things to do.”

Mareva looked at the old lady, who was standing there, patiently, quietly.

“Excuse me, Madam. I’ll have your heater fixed in no time. Just after I update the status on this gentleman’s network issues. We may have to escalate.”

“Damn right,” said the man. “This is costing me gold. I’ve got a good mind to sue you stokers and get the damages out of your salaries.”

The old lady sniffed. “But… I’m so cold. So very cold. I can’t feel my legs anymore.”

The poor old woman stumbled forward, and Mareva could only just catch her. She held her up gently.

“Thank you, sweetie. Oh, my poor legs.”

Mareva carefully balanced the old lady on faltering legs, gingerly let go of her, and closed the equipment locker. She turned to the man.

“I’m sorry Sir. This has priority. This poor woman is freezing to death in her very cabin. Heating problems take precedence over network issues. It is about absolute zero out there, after all.”

The man started breathing flames. “Oh, that’s just great! And what the hell am I supposed to do while you play with pipes?”

Mareva put an arm round the old lady and made to walk off. She cast an unfriendly glance over her shoulder.

“Try to seduce a real live girl. Just for variety.”

The old lady’s shoulders moved in gentle sobs, or so it seemed. With Mareva supporting her fragile frame, they walked off to her cabin.


“More tea, love?”

Mareva took her screwdriver from between her teeth, and closed up the panel in Mhaari’s cabin.

“Please. What is this? It’s not like any other tea I’ve had.”

The old lady poured more tea into Mareva’s cup. Her eyes glinted.

“That’s because it’s real tea, from tea leaves. The tea you get here, from powder… well I suppose it will do in a pinch, but this is much nicer. I don’t have much, but I do have a lifetime supply of tea leaves.”

“It’s lovely, thanks.”

Mareva called up the heater dial and turned it to ‘high’. Somewhere, a fan started to turn and warm air flowed out of the grate at the bottom. Mareva nodded with a satisfied smile, and turned it down to a more normal setting, so Mhaari would not be blown about in her cabin by the hot winds. The old girl looked frail enough to.

“There. Just a breaker popped. The things don’t like it if you block them. Move your suitcase away from the grate, and you should be fine. So your heater was really broken. Imagine that.”

Mhaari nodded. “Much better. I can feel the place warming up already. Drink your tea, dear. It would be a shame to let it go cold.” She chuckled. “And then you can finally return to that poor man’s network. He’ll be ever so happy.”

Mareva held her cup between her hands, looking at the old lady. Her hair was white as snow. Her horns had been filed short, no doubt after having been broken at some point. Old people’s horns had a tendency to become brittle. She was thin, so thin that Mareva couldn’t imagine how she could keep moving. Only her eyes still shone brightly, with a mischievous glint that betrayed a sharp mind behind them.

“If I fix that man’s network, then he will undoubtedly find something else to complain about. Zlotnik.”

“Tut tut,” said Mhaari. “That’s not a nice word, however accurate.”

“Hmm. Here we are, having saved his sorry tail from being used for target practice by the Burning Legion, and he complains about the network. Honestly. It’s not like he cannot find one of the public terminals in the Traders’ Tier.”

“Oh but dear, perhaps he has sensitive, important information to work with.” Mhaari sniffed. “With much of the screen being taken up by different shades of blue.”

Mareva snorted, almost spilling her tea. There really was no such thing as a little innocent old lady.

“Oh, I am sorry. That was naughty of me.”

“Yes, it was,” said Mareva, and finished her tea. “Well, back to the grindstone. Thank you for the tea.”

“Do feel free to come back, dear. When you feel like a cup of tea or a chat.”

Mareva smiled. “I will. Thank you.”

She picked up her toolbox, and went back to the equipment cabinet. She opened it, pulled a fresh wire out of her toolbox and connected it. She looked at her handiwork. One of these days, she should probably rip out every wire in that cabinet and re-do them properly. Just like everybody before her. Mareva sighed, closed the panel, realised that she still didn’t know which cabin the man was in and wandered off.


“Oh, I’m awfully sorry to bother you again. Mareva, was it? It’s my heater again. Could you possibly have a look?”

“Hmm. Did you put your suitcase back where it was when last I found it?”

“Of course not. I’m not stupid. I put it beside my bed.”

“I will have a look.”

Mareva popped off the cover to the cabin’s electrics, and sure enough, the breaker had gone again. She flipped it back up, and the heater sprung back to life.

“Thank you dear,” said Mhaari. “Tea?”

Mareva gave her a look. Then, she smiled.

“Please. If it happens again, tell me and I’ll install a bigger breaker.”

She sat down on Mhaari’s bed, watching her shuffle round her cabin with cups and a teapot.

“Do you live alone here?”

“Yes, love. My husband remained in Shattrath. Said he had to do his bit against the Burning Legion. If only to make them think they’d killed us all. Put me on the cart, and had me carted off. Silly old man.”

Mareva stared. “Was he in Shattrath when it fell?”

“Yes, he was. He was a Paladin, you know? Couldn’t run away. But he put me on the cart, and said he’d follow me when they’d beaten off the Burning Legion. Silly old man. Your tea is getting cold, love.”

Mareva drunk her tea. She’d heard about the people who had remained in Shattrath. Old men and women. Just enough able-bodied people to put up a semblance of a defence. Futile. Useless. And still, they probably owed it to them that they were here now. They had bought them the time to board Exodar and run. They had known they were going to die. They were a bunch of scarecrows against a full Horde batallion. And still, they had stayed. Mareva swallowed. And here was one of them.

“Well, I mustn’t keep you. Thank you for fixing my heater.”

“You are welcome. My pleasure. Take care.”


“Old Mhaari,” said Farseer Nobundo. “I know her. Her husband was there when Legion hand us our arses. Got himself killed in first attack. He is the lucky one. He never was broken like some of us, and wasn’t there after the surrender. Saw it happen. Big demon. Over very fast. Others not so lucky.” He looked at his hands, lying still in his lap. “Not lucky at all. Drive poor Mhaari mad to know it.”

“She didn’t seem very mad to me,” said Mareva. “Just lonely. She can’t have many friends.”

“You caught her on good day. Would visit her,” said Nobundo. “But she look at me and screams and hides.”

Mareva stared at nothing in particular.

“She broke her heater on purpose, just for someone to talk to. Her suitcase was hot. I felt it. Poor woman. Hope she’ll be alright once we get to Azeroth.”

Nobundo gave Mareva a sad look. “She will not make it to Azeroth. She is sick. Will die on board. Few months maybe.”

“Maybe she should have stayed with her husband. They would have been together till the last.”

Nobundo’s face darkened. “No. Curse them. Every Draenei man or woman not killed by those Kor’kluk is victory to us. Every woman, no matter how old, not tossed into the pit like garbage, not slaughtered like cattle. Every breath Mad Old Mhaari take, is one she take despite Legion not wanting her to. You are not dead. This is victory. Every time you make love to that armoursmith friend of yours, and feel glad, is victory. Mhaari’s husband is part of reason why you are breathing today. She die, and no Orc or Demon make her. That, too, is victory.”

Nobundo closed his eyes, took a deep breath.

“I am sorry. Should not have got angry with you. How your meditations go?”

Mareva blinked, shook her head.

“The Spirit of Air has not spoken to me since last time. I have not found any of the other spirits.” She sighed. “Perhaps they have nothing to say to me.”

“Do not lose faith. Remember how long it took me. Already, you are much more open to the Spirits. When there is reason to, they will speak to you. Just you keep listening.”


“I thought this was an officer’s club. I didn’t know they let stokers in.”

Mareva looked round at the light-brown-haired female standing next to her, noted the number on her official Deviants’ badge, looked down the list. Mareva saw that she was seven points ahead of her. She had ten more to hand in. Smug? Never.

“Helmsman Debaar. Why should they not let us in? We have the good looks, the endurance, and the expertise. Also, we are almost as bereft of morals as the people behind the mast.”

“Hah. You can’t possibly expect us to rub shoulders with you people?”

“Well, not for a very long time. It gets boring. I can think of at least a dozen better places to rub.” Mareva sniffed. “Problem is, the officers tend to conk out before I do them all. Then they complain that I do not give them full marks.”

“I find that hard to believe. We are trained for stamina in the army. If I’d let any of you, I’d outlast you by hours.”

“Half of that is in enchanted gems on your armour. I must admit there is a certain… appeal in sampling someone in chainmail, but eventually, you do need to take it off.”

They were facing each other now. Mareva sized up Helmsman Debaar. She looked fit enough. She was wearing a sweater tight enough to show the muscle on her arms. She was perhaps half an inch shorter than Mareva was. Her horns swept back and out, framing a face that was, admittedly, very pretty. But in months of sampling all kinds of males and females, club members or not, Mareva had found that the most handsome or pretty ones usually weren’t the ones she enjoyed most. Good looks were nice. Confidence was nice. The right frame of mind was essential. Turning a sampling into a sparring match of some kind, was… Hmm. Mareva suddenly thought of this arrogant piece of work, helpless under her fingers, unable to resist, unable even to want to resist. Begging for her to stop, and still, begging for more. She could do it. She had before. Had it done to her, as well. Something started to stir in Mareva’s stomach. It fought its way to the surface, and escaped as a little smile on her face.

“You wouldn’t last half an hour with me,” said Helmsman Debaar.

“Would that be from disgust, or from boredom?”

“Exhaustion. If I really wanted to, I could make you beg for mercy in ten minutes.”

“My cabin is three corridors away.”

“Have you showered recently?”

“This way, bitch.”


“Another round, Helmsman Debaar?”

Helmsman Debaar was lying next to Mareva, on her stomach. Mareva slowly ran a finger from Debaar’s neck down to her tail, wrapped her hand round it and squeezed, not too tightly. A shudder ran up Debaar’s spine. She slowly lifted her head.

“How many have we done?”

“Six, I think. The first sitting up together, to determine who would be at the bottom, then two with you on top, then three with me. I believe it is your turn to be on top.”

Debaar blinked slowly.

“Weren’t we side by side last time?”

“Only briefly. Your turn to do the hard work.” Mareva turned onto her back, looked into Debaar’s eyes. “Are you ready?”

Debaar smiled. “We have been sampling for, what, three hours? I concede that you have lasted more than half an hour. I feel I am taking up an inordinate amount of your time. No doubt you have others to sample.”

“Well… maybe,” said Mareva. “Shall we proceed to the administrative part?”

Debaar found her clothes, produced her little black book and presented it to Mareva. Mareva handed over hers.

“Can I borrow your pen?”

“Of course.”

Debaar wrote, closed the book, and handed it and Mareva’s pen back. Mareva wrote in Debaar’s book and handed it back. She put her hands behind her head, and watched Debaar pull on her clothes. Debaar turned round to Mareva.

“Well, this was… interesting, Engineer Mareva.”

“It certainly was, Helmsman Debaar. Good hunting.”

“And you.”

Mareva waited till the door closed behind Debaar’s tail, then closed her eyes, took a deep breath. Thank the Light. Even at the bottom, she didn’t think she could have lasted another round. It had to be said, Helmsman Debaar knew what she was doing. She suddenly grinned. But she had given up first. Mareva tilted back her head, raised her fists in the air, and cried out.

“Do not mess with the Engineers!”

She opened her little black book, to see what Debaar had written. She laughed quietly, shaking her head.

“Three points. Most memorable. Not bad for a stoker.”

 

Debaar stepped out of Engineer Mareva’s cabin with a spring in her step, pressed the button to close it, then leaned with her back against the wall and closed her eyes. Oh my… What are we feeding these stokers, that they can keep going like that? She opened her book. She’d better have given her a decent score. A smile appeared on Debaar’s face.

“Three points. You’ve earned it, bitch. You’ll need them if you want to catch me.”

Debaar threw back her head and laughed loudly and long. Something moved in front of her. A Follower of Hut looked disapprovingly at her messed-up hair, and her hastily-thrown-on clothes. She blew a lock of hair out of her face.

“What are you looking at?”


“Look, Mhaari. If you wish me to drop by for a chat, then there is no need to break your heater. It doesn’t like it. If the heating element goes, I am not sure we have a replacement.”

Old Mhaari closed her eyes, a little blush on her wrinkled face.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to cause you any trouble. I just…”

Mareva put a hand on Mhaari’s arm. “I understand. Don’t worry. I don’t mind. I love your tea.”

Mhaari looked up at Mareva. “That’s nice, dear. I’ll just make some for the three of us. I do wonder what’s keeping that man. He should have been home hours ago.”

Mareva blinked, took a short breath.

“Well, perhaps you should just make him another pot when he gets here. Otherwise, it’ll just go cold.”

“I suppose so,” said Mhaari. “He was a Paladin, you know? He was ever so brave, staying behind. I do wonder what’s keeping him. He’s usually home for dinner.”

Mhaari fell silent, staring at the wall. She bit her lip, and blinked.

“He’s not coming back, is he?”

Mareva didn’t know what to say, what to do. She watched old Mhaari start shaking, tears starting to roll down her wrinkled cheeks, quietly sobbing. She sat down next to her, wrapped her arms round her. Tears ran down her own cheeks, but she didn’t notice.

“Everything that is, is alive,” she whispered.


“Look. I’ve seen you walk in and out of that old bat’s door for days now. I think she does it on purpose. Let her feel the cold for a while, that’ll teach her to waste everybody’s time. Meanwhile, I still can’t get to the pages I need. When are you going to fix that?”

Mareva looked up, into the face of her most valued customer.

“Auctioneer Fanin. I have given your problem all my attention. Because you have not seen fit to inform me which particular pages you were trying to access, it has become necessary for me to access the logs of the pages you have been able to access before now. I have found nothing wrong with your connection.” She scowled. “However, the relevance of most of these pages to your office puzzles me. Would you like to go over this list with me now, so that we can trouble-shoot them individually?” She pulled a few papers out of her toolbox. “I have the list right here.”

“That… is privileged, private information!”

“Indeed. Fortunately, I am privileged enough to access it. I see successful attempts to access the auctioneers’ page. I also see a great many attempts to access images that do not exist anymore for some reason. I suspect they have been removed from the system, so I cannot retrieve them for you, though the names of these images show a trend. The words ‘young’ and ‘juicy’ feature prominently in them.” Mareva’s eyes narrowed. “I really could have done without finding out about your taste in women, Auctioneer Fanin.”

Fanin opened his mouth, then closed it again, staring at this, this, woman in abject horror.

“Get lost,” said Mareva.

Fanin turned round and made a hasty retreat. Mareva shook her head, and walked into Mhaari’s cabin, papers in hand.

“Hello dear,” said Mhaari. “I saw you talking to that nice man again. Did he give you a hard time?”

“Yes,” said Mareva, “but I think this has been the last time.”

She put down the papers on Mhaari’s table and accepted her cup.

“I’ve pulled up a list of people from your village who are on board. Would you like to see which ones of them you know?”

“Oh my…” Mhaari looked at the list of names, reading. “Do the Naaru even know the people in my village?”

“Well, they asked you for your name and where you lived, no? This is a list of everybody on board who used to live in Lower City.

Mhaari suddenly stopped, pointed at a name.

“I know her! She used to live, oh, five houses away from me.”

“Great!” said Mareva. “Let’s go look her up. She’s in a cabin on the other end of the Hall of Lights.”

Mhaari frowned. “Can’t stand the sight of her. Interfering, gossiping busybody. I have a feeling she was after my husband.”

Mareva’s face fell. Mhaari smiled at her, patted her hand.

“It’s very sweet of you to go through all those papers. I do appreciate it, really. Thank you.”

“Well, is there anyone on that list that you do not wish to punch?”

Mhaari laughed. “Oh sweetie. Punches leave wounds and bruises where you can see them. The right word in the right place, and they’ll not bother you again.” She picked up the list, looking at names. “I think I have said everything to these people that I want to.”

Mareva said nothing, looked into Mhaari’s eyes. Mhaari looked back.

“Yes, dearie. I know. Just a few more weeks, or a few months, and I’ll leave. Maybe I’ll see him back.” She looked at the wall. “Sometimes, I think I can see him already. People think I’m going mad.” She put her delicate earthenware cup back on the saucer. “I find it hard to disagree with them sometimes.”

“Farseer Nobundo told me,” said Mareva.

“Oh, that devil-worshipper? He used to know my husband. Before he, well, changed. Imagine him talking about me. Gives me the shivers.”

Mareva did not trust her voice, so she said nothing.

“Twenty five hundred years,” said Mhaari. “Give or take a decade or two. When you get to be this old, you won’t care. I have nothing to complain about. I have done what I wanted. I have loved, been loved.” Her eyes flashed at Mareva. “I’ve hated, too, and you’d better believe that I’ve been hated. You’re nobody until you have one great love and one arch-enemy. Well, she’s welcome to the world. I am leaving.”

“Have you seen a healer?”

“Oh yes. Such a nice young man. But he can’t do a thing about it.” Mhaari raised an arm, and waved it back and forth, showing the empty skin. “Don’t worry. This is part of the disease. There’s no reason you couldn’t live to be as old as I am, and still look as beautiful as you do now. But the Light never intended this disease to be cured. At least not before my time is up.”

“Are you in any pain?”

Mhaari shook her head, smiling. “I’m quite comfortable. Not as quick as I used to be. Not a bad way to go, really. I can’t digest food as well as I used to. I’m starving without hunger.” Suddenly, she stuck out a hand and poked Mareva in the ribs. “Enough about me. How about you? My goodness. I don’t even know if you’re married!”

“Well, I’m seeing someone.” Mareva laughed quietly. “Actually, I’m seeing lots of people. It’s this club I’ve joined. But Viral is special.”

Mhaari simply smiled, and said nothing, and waited for Mareva to keep talking.

“He’s… great. Just being with him, I feel better. I deal with zlotniks like our Auctioneer Fanin every day, all day. And then I walk into his cabin, and try as I might, I can’t remember why I am so annoyed.”

“Have you known him long?”

“Met him here, on Exodar.” Mareva looked at her empty teacup. Her eyes looked in the distance. “Almost got him killed, actually. If it hadn’t been for Farseer Nobundo, we’d be toast.”

Mhaari’s mouth tightened. “Vindicator Nobundo. A very rude man even before he turned away from the Light. I can’t imagine what he’s like now.”

Mareva wasn’t quite listening, recalling their mad dash to the Seat of the Naaru. She chuckled. Their first date. “He’s teaching me about the Elements. I’ve only heard the Elemental Spirit of Air once, but I’m learning spells that tap into Elemental powers. A bit disrespectful, really. We try not to inconvenience them too much.”

“Are you taking lessons from that man?”

Mareva smiled. “Yes. He is really very kind.”

“What possible good can come of that? You’d be better off concentrating on the Light, like decent people.”

Mareva looked up, only now noticing the sharp edge that had crept into Mhaari’s voice.

“What?”

Mhaari sniffed. “Unbelievable. They let him on board from the kindness of their hearts, and the first thing he does is try to turn more people to these fel magics.”

Mareva frowned. “They are not fel magics! They are the spirits of all things that are… are!”

“Well, I’m sure that’s how it starts. Honestly. You’d be better off concentrating on the Naaru for a while. Do you good.”

Mareva blinked. “Oh d– O’ros asked me to come down to him…” she looked at the clock. “Three minutes from now! I have to leave!”

“Well, don’t let me keep you away from the Naaru, dear.”


“Damn!”

Viral looked at Mareva, standing in front of the scoreboard in the Deviants’ club house.

“What’s up?”

“She’s gained another point. And I thought I had a good lead on her. Only four points ahead now.”

“Oh… Debaar. Hmm.”

Mareva slowly looked round at her beloved, sizing him up for lightning bolts.

“Don’t say you…”

“Fraid so. Sorry, Mareva. She’s good. Didn’t have a reason to refuse her, and she worked for those points.”

“Huh. Well, you know what this means, don’t you?”

“Oh no…”

“Oh yes. If you need me, I’ll be in the Traders’ Tier. Don’t wait up for me.”


Mareva sprinted through the Hall of Lights, towards one of the living areas, hooves clunking on the transparent bridge. How someone had thought to tell her, she really didn’t know. In the distance, she could hear the commotion.

“Let him out! Let him out! I know you’ve got him in there! Let him out!

Mhaari was throwing herself against one of the doors, beating on it with her fists, screaming. Two Peacekeepers were standing behind her, unsure whether to grab her or not. She looked fragile enough to break under their fingers.

Mareva ran up, grabbed Mhaari’s fists before she could hurt herself. Then she wrapped her arms round the small, bird-like form and held her to her.

“Easy, Mhaari. Shh…”

“That woman has him! I’m sure of it! Get him out!”

“Mhaari.” Mareva put a hand on her face, and looked into her eyes. “Mhaari. It’s not the right house. He is not here.”

Mhaari looked at her, lips trembling.

“He’s not?”

“He’s in Shattrath, don’t you remember?” Mareva looked Mhaari up and down. “Oh, he would kick my butt if he saw the state I’ve let you get into. Come. I’ll take you home.”

“Oh…” Mhaari blinked. “Oh… yes. Shattrath.”

She leant on Mareva. Hardly any weight at all. One of the peacekeepers, a woman, tapped her shoulder.

“Will you be alright, Ma’am?”

Mareva nodded, looked at Mhaari. She put a strong arm round her shoulders and almost carried her home, put her to bed.

“How many bags to a pot?”

“Just one, dear. It’s very strong.”

“Right. Tea coming up.”

Mhaari put her hands in front of her face, bent down.

“Oh my goodness, I’ve made such a fool out of myself.”


“She called you a devil worshipper.”

Farseer Nobundo shrugged. “Been called worse. By people who should know better than she. She does not have all facts.”

“Nor all faculties. Poor woman. Most of the time, she’s alright. And then suddenly…”

“She sick. You do well to visit her. Makes her feel good.”

“Don’t know. She doesn’t seem to approve of Shamanism.” A little smile appeared on her face. “Seems to be fine with the Deviants, though. She asked me how I was doing. Didn’t know what to say, really.”

“Heh. You think old people become virgins again? Lose interest, perhaps? Forget what was like?”

“Well… no. But…”

Nobundo chuckled. “Twenty-five centuries of experience there. Remember her husband come in tired now and then. We all jealous.”

Mareva’s cheeks flushed.

“Anyway… I don’t discuss religion with her. Or magic.”

“Probably good. Not for casual chat. Old Mhaari not the only one who not like Shaman. Especially not Krokul Shaman.”

“That’s stupid. The way of the Elements is worth walking. I can do so much more now than I could when I still thought I was a sucky mage. I can heal. I can make people stronger. Protect them. Even if I could, I would not wish to be different.”

“People are ignorant,” said Nobundo. “They have not been told. Or if they have, they not believe. Cure is to tell them. Be kind to them. Show them that those who follow the Elements can be their friends. Not shove down their throats, mind. Can go down wrong way.”

Mareva nodded, saying nothing.

“And then, people are stupid. Will not learn. Cannot understand. Too convinced they are right to change. No cure for that. Poke them with a sharp stick. Find better people.”


She tapped in the code to Viral’s room. The door opened. She walked in and turned the light up. Viral’s head snapped round to her, a startled look on his face. The young lady with him snarled.

“Get lost!”

Mareva’s eyes bored into hers. As soon as the girl saw the expression on Mareva’s face, she lay perfectly still. Her chest rose and fell in nervous breaths.

“You a member?”

The girl nodded.

“Give me your book.”

With trembling fingers, she reached into the pocket of her skirt on the floor, pulled out her book and handed it to Mareva. Mareva wrote a few words, then handed back the book. The girl looked. Mareva. Three points. Best ever. Recommend for style points. Her mouth fell open.

“I… I have to counter-sign.”

Mareva handed over hers, and the girl wrote, then gave back the little book. Mareva didn’t even look.

“Good. Get dressed. Make something up. I’ll counter-sign at the next meeting. Now get lost.”

The girl scowled at her, pulled on her blouse and skirt. She walked to the door, and turned round, looking at Viral. She pointed at her eye, then at him. Viral nodded, and she was gone.

“What is the matter, Mareva?”

Mareva lay down on the bed, head on his chest, took a deep breath and burst into tears. Wailed, howled, tears streaming from her. Not a word came out of her as she lay there in Viral’s arms. Finally, she became quiet. Viral still had her in his arms, him fully naked, she fully clothed. He put his finger under her chin. She looked terrible, dark spots on her face, wet with tears and snot, sobbing quietly.

“Viral. When I die, nobody will call me Mad Old Mareva. I will not run round thinking all my dead friends have just walked down the merchant. I will not allow that to happen.”

Viral closed his eyes for a moment.

“Your friend. She has died.”

Mareva wiped her hand over her face. It didn’t help. She nodded.

“Somebody heard her screaming for the Light only knows who. Maybe her husband. I don’t know. They sent for me. When I arrived, she was gone.” She bared her teeth. “And everybody said it was all for the best. Bastards!”

She laid down her head on Viral’s chest.

“I will not allow it.”


It was a small ceremony. There was a priest, Mareva, Viral, and Farseer Nobundo. The priest led a few prayers, and then they watched the simple coffin slide down into the incinerator.

“Travel well, my friend,” said Nobundo.

Mareva looked at him. She had brought plenty of handkerchiefs, but for some reason, her eyes were dry.

“Did you know her well?”

“Loved her,” said Nobundo. “Not like large fire, cannot live without her. But she was a friend. When I have problems, I go to her, talk, feel better. She the same with me.”

“She said you were a very rude man.”

Nobundo’s eyes lit up. “She right. Was very rude to her. She was quite right to slap my face. But had to ask. Nobody came before her husband.” He looked into Mareva’s eyes. “When you find someone like that. Maybe your big friend there. Maybe someone else.”

Nobundo looked at the hole in the wall where the coffin had disappeared.

“Taste every moment as though could be last.”


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

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