The group of you stand there and watch Tonk walk right out the door. “I….I don’t think he’s coming back,” comments Traavor after several moments of silence.
“Well I could have told you that,” responds Cesa with a roll of her eyes.
From there, the group begins a lengthy discussion around the future plans for the Spicy Harlot. Opinions are varied, to say the least. As usual, it’s only a short time before tempers flare. You watch several of your fellows attempt the impossible task of trying to convince a devout Cleric of Light why owning a den of prostitution would be a “good thing.”
“This looks like it’s going to take a while,” says Cesa to you in a low whisper. “Can we go somewhere private to speak?” With a nod, you follower her to one of the tables towards the back of the main area.
The normally cool and calm Assassin seems out of place somehow. While still dangerously serious, there is a softness about her (or at least whatever version of “soft” applies to Cesa Alera). However skilled a killer she may be, she can’t hide this change. Not from you, at any rate.
“So…should I start or should you? I assume you’ve got some questions.”
“Um, hi,” Jeric responds with a shy smile, “Wow, I’m really surprised to see you here.”
Immediately gathering himself though, he clears his throat and sits up straighter, leans in closer and in a low voice, “It tells me you must still be following me. So, know this, although I don’t have a dagger sticking out of me yet, I’m not naive Cesa Alera, I know there are ways besides violence for beautiful women such as yourself to get what they want.” Now he leans back and in an even tone, “But you did help me yet again and I’d like to know why. So, why are you here?”
“I understand your mistrust Worgrave,” she begins. “To be honest, I wouldn’t believe me either. I barely believe it myself. As far as helping you, I’m settling the score. I know what you did with that monster Terminus. You were a dead man walking – you and all your idiot friends – and yet you STILL faced him. It’s a miracle you survived. But the whole reason you went after him was because of…” She trails off with this last part. Then you see something that could be considered one of Majeria’s Wonders.
Cesa Alera, the renowned Sharian Assassin, blushes.
Aside from filing it in the “Things You’d Never Imagine You’d See” section of your brain, the event stirs great emotion in you. You thought Cesa was beautiful before. Now she is simply incredible. Your face resembles a wide-eyed child. Luckily, none of your friends are near enough to see it.
Alera clears her throat and continues. “Damn you, Worgrave. Why? Why did you have to be so damned DIFFERENT??!!”
With the same dumbfounded expression on your face, you stare at her without a reply.
“Why…why are you…Stop looking at me like that you NIT.” she hisses. You shake off the wonderment and regain your composure.
“Anyway, I just couldn’t shake the magnitude of that stupid act no matter how much I WANTED to. My code requires me to repay such a deed with something of equal value. So I did. I went to see someone for you…”
Jeric reaches over and grabs her hands from across the table, “My family!”. Looking down at her hands in his and realizing what he’s done Jeric looks away momentarily “I’m sorry” and releases his grip. “Was it my mother or sister? I believed you. I believed that you were speaking the truth when you last spoke of them to me.”
When you release your grip and look away, you’re not certain but you think you may have a caught a wry little smirk on Alera’s face. It was probably nothing though.
“Yes, about that,” she responds. “I told you that to toy with your emotions, to throw you off guard for the next time I’d get a shot at you. I knew it would give me a huge advantage over you being, well, being how YOU are. The thing is, your face. You looked so…” The softness you noticed at the onset of the conversation fills her eyes. “Shadow’s tricks, Worgrave, for some reason it KILLED me to see you that way. I wish to the Gods it hadn’t but there you have it. So, when you pulled that asinine stunt with Terminus, I realized there was only one true way to repay the debt.”
At this point, the softness doesn’t entirely fade but much of it is supplanted by intensity. “Worgrave, what I’m about to tell you isn’t going to be easy to hear. Also know that I’m not doing it to hurt you – I think we both know I’m done with that. But you need to brace yourself. Can you do that?”
Jeric swallows hard, looks her in the eyes and nods for her to continue.
“I saw your mother, Worgrave. She is…she’s a lovely woman. And she cares for you and your sister deeply. Her life is not a pleasant one. Talarra has her locked away in a tower for most of the day. He apparently only brings her out when social functions demand it. Even then, he is cold, distant and harsh. Apparently it’s due to the fact that Sera won’t give herself willingly to him. She’s not shy about telling him so either, especially when it comes to Jenissa. Worgrave, she doesn’t look well. It could just be the stress of it all. But I have experience with physiology. She may be ill. I just thought you should know.”
As if this information isn’t bad enough, Alera take a moment to close her eyes seeming to brace HERSELF for the next part.
“Then there’s your sister. I think this is what causes your mother the most pain. She’s one of them, Worgrave. According to Sera, she’s denounced you, your brothers and your father wholesale. Views you all as traitors. Talarra’s been training her for military office for years. She’s as invested in serving the State as any other up and comer in Shar. She calls him ‘father.’ She calls that rotten son of a wyvern her father. And I think it’s killing your mother.”
The fire in her eyes subdues. It’s clear she has developed some strong kind of affection towards your mother. At the same time, the enmity she exhibits towards Jenissa is less than comforting. But, you think to yourself, can you blame her? Something has changed in Cesa; something YOU caused. Your former assassin risked life and limb to bring you this precious, albeit tragic, information. Anyone who knows your mother loves her. It’s just how it’s always been. Jenissa has chosen a side. Alera has chosen hers. In the middle of all it, is you.
It’s just how it’s always been.
“Are you alright? Worgr…Jeric. Jeric. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry if anything I’ve said has brought you pain. That is something I never want to do again.”
Jeric was bracing for the worst, and what she says hits hard, but in truth without it being her intent Alera likely did Jeric a favor with her psychological attack from their earlier encounter. Shadow’s tricks. In comparison this is a little easier to swallow, plus the method of delivery softens the news. As it is Jeric takes a few moments to close his eyes and process everything he’s heard and then looks her in the eyes again, “This is indeed upsetting news. Mother being ill, and my sister… NO. I don’t believe for a second Jenissa would willingly become one of them. Not MY sister. She would never… She must be under some kind of dark spell or something of the sort.” Jeric takes a deep breath and exhales. “This changes nothing, they need to be BOTH be rescued from Shar, and the evil surrounding Talarra needs to come to an end. And it needs to happen as soon as possible.”
Jeric softens his tone, “You really did see them didn’t you? You risked your life for this. For me.” As he’s saying this Jeric realizes that although she’s no longer an enemy and may even feel a little bit of tenderness to his situation that with her contract over and her favor repaid she may now altogether disappear from his life. The thought that he may never see her again spurs Jeric to continue and he reaches for her hands again, “Come with me. I have strong feelings for you Cesa Alera (with a smirk) and I obviously can’t hide them from you. Talarra will now be a threat to each of us, but regardless of the mutual benefits of watching each others back… I just want you near me. Whatever comes next let’s do it together.”
He feels more vulnerable to her in this moment than he ever has physically, and he knows there is more that he could say, but thinking less is more he falls silent and waits for her reaction.
There is a long silence between you. For what feels like an eternity, the beautiful woman across from you never averts her gaze. She stares at you with such fervor you can feel it in your soul. The thing is about a moment like this is that it goes both ways. Her soul is also revealed. What it shows you is that she feels the same way. The silence continues and then…
“Alright. I’ll go with you.” She smiles broadly. It’s only then you realize you’ve been holding hands this entire time; neither of you let go. The silence is no longer piercing. It feels warm. Comforting. It feels right.
“I almost forgot,” she says as she begins fumbling for something within her dark cloak. “This is what I really came here for.” She produces a small, ornate bottle inscribed with runes. You know immediately that it’s windwhisper glass. They only exist in Shar. The military uses it to deliver messages similar to a sending spell. The advantage, from a security standpoint, is the receiver knows for certain the authenticity of the message. Furthermore, since the contents of the sending spell are delivered via the bottle, the message isn’t blocked by anti-scrying magic.
“Go on,” she says offering it to you. “Take it.”
You unplug the cork and your heart soars.
As the tears stream down your face, you cannot hide the joy and pain. But is is a new day. Your mother and sister still live. You WILL see them brought safely out of harm’s way; you know it in your heart. You think of your father as well. His sacrifice was not wasted. And in that same vein, a new love is by your side to see you to this end. You’ll do it together.
And through this whole moment, Cesa Alera never lets go of your hand.