Posted by Darth Krzysztof
Casidhe awoke on the Corwins’ overstuffed couch. Jaedar Corwin sat at the table, eating from a heap of scrambled eggs. A sturdy sword lay within his reach; Jaedar’s eyes made it clear, without leaving Casidhe, that he’d seen that the duelist had noticed. Teresa was nowhere to be seen.
“Welcome back,” Jaedar said. “Care for some eggs?”
Casidhe suddenly sat up. Breakfast? Damn it, did I sleep through the night?! “Time is it?” he half-said.
“Sun’s going down.”
“Thank the Maker.” There was still light outside. Teresa still had time. Casidhe sighed, then blinked at Jaedar. “Eggs? At this hour?”
“Mother always said, ‘When you grow up, you can eat whatever you want.’ Well, I want eggs. You look terrible, Fionnlagh.”
“Feel terrible. Well, a little less terrible now.” This had been the most sleep he’d had since… well, since he’d been with Gheris. This was no time to dwell on that, though; dragging himself away from more sleep would take everything he had. “Sorry to impose on you like this.”
“It’s no trouble. Teresa’s not in Lothering, though. If you’re here looking for her.”
“Actually, she is.” Casidhe carefully made his way from the sofa to the table, where he took a seat and a fork. He picked at Jaedar’s plate of eggs, trying to revive his long-neglected appetite. “We got back this morning.”
“Where is she, then?”
In the process of telling him, Casidhe found himself going further and further back, explaining and explaining, until he’d told Jaedar about why he’d left Lothering in the first place.
“Well,” Jaedar said, “She came back with you, so there’s hope for you yet.”
“She could have just killed me.”
“That might have been a blessing, considering what else she might have done to you. And even that would be the lap of luxury, compared to the things I will do to you if you ever break my little girl’s heart again.”
Casidhe swallowed, thinking of the… creative ways Jaedar could apply his Templar training. “I believe you, sir. And I won’t. I swear it.”
“Good.” Jaedar fixed Casidhe with one eye. “I want to be sure you’re serious. Because you can be sure as the Fade that I’m serious.”
“I have no doubt,” Casidhe said, unable to keep himself from smiling.
To Casidhe’s relief, Jaedar returned the expression, hauling himself to his feet. “Come on, then,” he said. “We’d best make ready.”
“But, Teresa said – "
“I know what she said, lad. But if she isn’t here in the next hour, do you want to waste another hour making ready?”
“Good lad.” Jaedar limped across the room to the weapon rack, saying, “These, I believe, are yours.” He turned back to Casidhe, offering him Brandeouf Fionnlagh’s gleaming blades.
The duelist gazed upon them for a brief moment, thinking: I suppose they are mine, now. For better or for worse. He took the weapons, finding comfort in their familiar weight, and tied the sheaths to his belt. “Did you need a sword?” he asked, pointing to the one he’d been carrying, on the floor near the couch. “It’s very well-balanced.”
Jaedar turned around again, cradling a massive greatsword adorned with parrying hooks – the sort of weapon they called a Zweihänder in the Anderfels. “Got one,” the old Templar said with a wink. “What we need is a plan.”
Casidhe winked back and said, “Got one.”
- – - – -
The Templar breastplate was too large for Casidhe, but Jaedar’s reputation and demeanor diverted everyone’s attention. As they made their way through the chantry, into the Templars’ part of the complex, Jaedar told anyone who asked that he was giving a tour to his friend from Denerim. Flimsy as it was, the story seemed to satisfy.
Jaedar waited in the mess hall as Casidhe descended the long spiral stair to the torchlit dungeon. By the time the duelist reached the bored-looking jailer, Casidhe was ready.
“Good evening,” he said, retrieving a scroll from his belt pouch. “Templar Fionnlagh, from Denerim. I’ve come for the redhead.”
“Teresa Corwin. She tried to steal one of the Prophet’s scrolls from the chantry in Denerim. My commanding officer wants to know who hired her to do it, so: back to Denerim she goes.” He offered the scroll to the jailer, who took it, unrolled it, and pored over it.
“You got here fast.”
“I’ve been tracking her.”
The jailor spent a long moment squinting at the orders that Jaedar and Casidhe had forged together. Finally, he handed the scroll back, saying, “Bloody shame, Templar’s daughter in this sort of trouble.”
Casidhe nodded. “I hear Jaedar’s more furious about it than anybody.”
“Down that hall on the left,” the jailer said, pointing. “Second cell on the right. Key’s hanging on the wall.”
“Much obliged.” Casidhe gave his best salute and followed the corridor, glad to be out of the jailer’s sight as he approached the cell in question. Teresa jumped to her feet when she saw him.
“Casidhe!” she hissed. “You’ve got to get out of here.”
“Not without you.” He reached for the single iron key.
“There’s no time. Listen to me: your friends are in danger. You’ve got to get word to them. The Templars will be waiting for them in the Brecilian Forest.”
Casidhe frowned. “The Brecilian Forest? There’s no way I could get word to them in time.”
“You’ve got to try. And you’ve got to get out of here. There’s a man, a duelist. Very dangerous. He’s been watching me. I don’t know where he went, but you have to leave before he comes back.”
“Not. Without. You.” He slid the key into the lock, but froze when he heard someone coming from the other end of the hallway. Better to hurry, he thought. The forged orders aren’t likely to stand up to more thorough examination…
A man stepped into the shadows at the far end of the hall, approaching Teresa’s cell with easy, fluid grace. “Well,” the man said, “this is a surprise.”
“That’s him.” Teresa whispered. “That’s the man who caught me!”
Casidhe turned to face the stranger. “I have my orders, sir.”
“Sure you do. I was expecting someone to come and spring Corwin. I never dreamed it’d be you… Casidhe.”
A queasy feeling stole over Casidhe as the stranger approached. The way he moved, the way he spoke, had something familiar beneath them… something impossible.
Casidhe stepped away from the cell door and clapped his hands to the hilts of his weapons, as the man stepped into the torchlight, revealing the face of Brandeouf Fionnlagh.