Chapter 23.5


She retreated back to her room.  She stared around her with glassy eyes, her neck thick with tension, her jaw clenched so tight she thought her gums were bleeding.

A moment later, she realized she’d thrown something out the window.  She didn’t know what.  But the window was broken and the length of her arm throbbed as if it had wrenched a muscle.  The wind whistled forlornly around the jagged glass.

Elmiryn’s breath came in knife-like takes of air–sharp and stabbing.  Her throat was so tightly constricted that the phlegm nearly blocked her airway.  She kept clearing her throat till it hurt.  She tried to keep the trembles down, but they seized her whole body like she were caught in cold.  The sweat on her skin felt frigid.  Her head started to hurt from all the hot blood.  Hot, cold, hot, cold.  One second she was all fire and certainty and movement, and the next she was frozen and lost and seized up.  She took the back of her hand and swiped it over her brow.  The warrior unbuckled her sword belt, trying to keep her hands steady.  She let it hit the ground and tripped over it as she drifted to the ivory cloth she spied beneath the remnants of her old life.

She picked up a cotton shirt lucky enough to avoid any stains, and tried to put it on.  She got one hand through a sleeve before she swooned and forgot the task, her eyes instead setting on the wine bottle she had set down next to the bed.  She lurched toward it.

There was a knock on the door.  Elmiryn paused, but hesitantly.  When she looked, she saw it was Sedwick.

The man stood with an uncomfortable expression on his face as he rubbed his cheek.  The cut he’d suffered at the hands of the undead Belcliff soldiers was looking much better.  It was already turning to a scar.  Not quite a therian’s rate of healing, but still miraculously fast over so few hours.  Strangely, he looked more human to her.

“Do you want me to leave you alone?” he asked carefully.  His eyes flickered to the edges of her face, like he were resisting the urge to stare at the disaster that was her bedroom.

“You came up here just to ask me that?” Elmiryn returned with a caustic laugh.  A sharp shiver blasted through her, and she cursed the trembles that still plagued her.  She turned away from him and resumed seeking her prize.  With a snatch, the bottle was in her hands.  The warrior smacked her lips and took a long drink.  The man didn’t interrupt her, but she heard him sigh.  With her unsteady hands, some of the dark wine dribbled out of the side of her mouth and down her neck and chest.  Then, she was sucking at air, and looked at the bottle mournfully.  The drink was finished.

Sedwick spoke even slower.  “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”  His voice gave away that he already had his answer.

Elmiryn turned with some effort, blinking as she felt a wash of warmth.  Ah!  Glorious weight, glorious feeling!  She swore the trembling was fading away.  “I haven’t got a piece of glass against my wrist, if that’s what you mean.” She chuckled darkly as she sat on the bed.

“I figured it was either me or Quincy.  Even she thought it best I come up.”

There was still a whole cask of drink for her to plunder.  Her mind wandered to it.  When she responded, it was with a distracted air.  “So you got the short straw.  Congrats.”  The warrior belched and her eyes watered from the way it burned her nose.  She wiped at her mouth and gave the elemental a half-hearted glare.  “C’mon, really.  Whad’ya want?”

The man still didn’t move.  “I’m worried about you.”

“Well don’t be.” Elmiryn rubbed at her eyes quickly and turned her face away.

Sedwick finally approached her.  She turned her head just enough that she watched from her peripherals his watery legs come and stop at her side.  Then he sat down, and the mattress bounced a little.  This set her off her balance, and the woman tilted toward him before catching herself on his knee.  Touching his leg when it was turned to water felt weird.  Her hand came away dry, but cool.  “Fuck, sorry,” she snickered.  Then she put her hand on his knee and pulled it back quickly.  “Huh.  Interestin’.”

Elmiryn tossed the empty bottle onto the floor and rubbed at her face.  Her hand was steady now.  Trembles gone.  Even the cold was leaving her, but maybe that was just the numbness setting in.

She was…still thirsty.

“Sedwick,” she murmured.


“…Hey.  You…do you remember much?  From my memories?”  Then she chuckled and shook her head.  “Lissen’ta me.  ‘Do you remember MY memories?’  Who on Halward’s plane…” but she trailed off and stared forward at nothing.

Sedwick let out a rumble, like he were clearing his throat.  He scratched at his neck, and fidgeted.  Finally he answered her.  “Your memories were slippery, even then.  I…don’t remember much of it.”

She gave a nod.  She started to speak slowly, for the giddy feeling was invading everything.  “Maybe s’fer the best.”

“Elmiryn, what happened?”

She bowed her head.  “With what?”

“…For heaven’s sake, you can’t be this stubborn.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“Do you really want me to drag it out of you?”

“I’d like to see you try.”

Sedwick let out a huff and leaned on his knees.  He glared at her sideways.  “Am I your friend or not?  Did we not fight together?”

“Ya mean with each other? Or with others?”

The man allowed for a hooked smile.  “Both?”

“Mmm…” Elmiryn looked down at herself and recalled the task she had abandoned before.  Taking the shirt, she pulled on the last sleeve and began to–clumsily–button herself up.  When she was done, she realized she had done it lopsided.  There were two buttons free at the top, and two holes free at the bottom.  “Aw fuck…”  She didn’t bother to fix it.  With the sleeves uncuffed, they flopped around her wrists as she brushed back her hair.  Sedwick’s patience won her over.  “Warner…tha’s his name.  He…well.  Shit.  Jes’ look aroun’!” She gestured around her.  “The asshole did all this.  Wrecked my room, my life–no.  Damnit, no, wait.”  She stopped and rubbed at her right eye with the heel of her palm.  “Sorry.  I act like a kid when I’ve had a little…or a lot…” she giggled.  There was no use pretending the volume of drink she had now.  It was showing beyond all her efforts.  The woman, with head swaying a bit, looked at Sedwick and grinned lopsidedly.  “The Manard family!  In-bred the lot o’ us.  We have silver spoons up our asses, and a poor sense of gravity.”  She lifted up her arm, then let it drop.  “Fer serious sitch-oo-ations, that is.” Elmiryn burped again.

“What’d you and Warner talk about?” Sedwick pressed, his forehead wrinkling as he looked at her.  He was leaning back from her a little.  Then the woman realized she was leaning forward.

“Ah, sorry…sss-orry!  Damn.  Personal space.” She tittered and smacked a hand to her head.  “We–” she inhaled and rolled her eyes open, fixing her gaze on the ceiling.  “We talked…about…how much of an idiot he was.  An’…how much of an idiot I was.  An’ how much of an idiots…an…idiot…ssss…what?” she snickered.

Sedwick stood with another great sigh. “Wonderful.  You’re too drunk to speak coherently.”

“And yer bald,” she returned.  Elmiryn looked at his crotch.  “…Everywhere.

“Elmiryn–your father–”

“Y’know, if you let that shit grow out–”

“Can we stay on topic–?”

“–Oh fuck, never mind, don’ do that, it’ll look like a fucking opossum in a bush, a lil one–”


The woman looked at him, scandalized at his irascible reaction.  She turned her eyes to the floor and muttered sullenly.  “Shit I’m jes’ tryin’ to help.”

The elemental had both hands covering his face.  When he lowered them, the fingers dragged at his features, giving him a ghastly look, before they snapped back into place and he continued.  “As I was saying…Elmiryn.  Instead of just drowning everything out with your drink.  Why not talk to me?”

“Can you leave me face down in my own vomit with no recky-lection of the previous day?”

“…No, but that’s hardly–”

“I rest my case!” she chirped.  Elmiryn stood swaying to her feet.  “Look, ya wanna know what we gabbed about baldy?  After Warner tried ta shoot me, he went on an’ on an on about how ever’thin’ is m-yyy fault. ‘We lost ever’thin on account a’ YOU.  Yer mother was su’ject-ed to such hu-milly-ation!  My dick isn’ big enough!’ On an’ on.  I had ta twist his nuts just to hear what happened to my mother.  She left him.  Fuckin’, finally. Then!  OH!  I go an’ mention Meznik, an suddenly Warner goes all weak on me, like–”

Sedwick’s face hardened.  “Wait, he knew something about Meznik??”

“–Like dried dog poop, or–or–crumbly cheese, y’know, the s’pensive kind–”

“Elmiryn, MEZNIK?”

“Ah!” She raised a finger and looked at him with an expression of luminescence.  “Y’know what Warner did?”

“I’m waiting for you to tell me,” Sedwick grumbled.

Elmiryn came up real close, pressing the man up against the wall.  Her eyes stared wide into his, and she whispered.  “He sol’ me out.  Like fuckin’ cattle.  A sack o’ damn flour.  ME.  The froot o’ his fuckin’ loins!  This curse, this mis-for-shun, this MADness?  He’s the reason!  Fer it all.  He made a deal wi’ Meznik over stupid dreams, and now we’re all wallowin’ in our own shit.” The woman pulled away, a ghostly version of her rage manifesting itself in her as her body seized up and she glared with bared teeth at the man before her.  She gnashed her teeth a few times thoughtfully, then said off-hand, “I wish I could’ve ripped out his throat, but I couldn’t touch him.”  She laughed mutely, her shoulders shaking as she brushed back the loose strands of hair in her face.  “Why are all the things I need ta kill outta my reach?  Warner.  Meznik.  Fuck, I’m…I’m…” her chin started to crumple and her eyes started to water and Elmiryn looked away.  “Forget this. I’m thirsty.”  She started to leave the room.

All this time, the elemental had stood watching her, transfixed and horrified by the open pain on her face, the rage, the confusion.  It was clear he didn’t know what to do.  But all of a sudden, Sedwick moved with great speed to block the door.  “Are you really going to do this?” he asked.  “Just drown?”

“I’m a swimmer,” the woman snapped.  Then her eyes brightened.  “Oh!  Heey!  You could…ummm…you could clean my room!”  She looked at his feet and grinned.  “Jes’ blast alla this shit outta the window.  Clean the floors and the walls and the sheets.  Would do wonders for the smell.”

Sedwick let loose a weak smile.  “Ah.  Well your father certainly did a number.”

Her grin waned.  “Warner isn’t my father.” Elmiryn said this with a calm she didn’t feel.

“…Okay,” he said.  The man’s pale white eyes blinked several times before averting to the floor.  Elmiryn stepped closer, her breath coming through her mouth and her free hand going up to grab Sedwick’s face.  He looked at her in surprise.  She was pinching his cheeks together so that his mouth smushed.  “Elle, vhat–?”

“Who sez you can say Elle?  Is Elley here?  Is Elle the Idiot right here?” She laughed in his face before throwing an arm around his shoulder.  “I’m Elmiryn.  Elmiryn o’ the House o’ Manard.”  Then her attention turned and she patted the man’s scarred cheek.  “I like this scar.  It looks good on you.”

The man tried to grab her hand.  “Okay, Elmiryn.  Okay.”

“I like it, so don’t get…rid of it.  Y’hear?  Sed.  Hey…Heey.”

Sedwick leaned away from her finally managing to grab her wrist.  “Elmiryn, you’re drunk.”

“An’ reppy-tition will get ya no wheres.  Hey.  Sed.  Sedwick.  Y’know?  Yer…I’m lookin’ at yer face right now but it’s ssssss-super creepy.  Sorry.  Does Nadi go for that?  She hasn’ got nipples, innit weird for you?”




She giggled.  “Sedwick!”

“You’re drunk,” he said again more firmly.  He shoved her back toward the center of the room.  It was all she could do to keep from falling flat on her face.  The warrior always had a funny way of manipulating her own drunkenness.

“And yer blockin’ th’fuckin’ door.”  Elmiryn swiped at her nose with her feet planted beneath her shoulders.  “Who sez I wanted you up here?  Who invited ya?  Ya aren’t like me.  This is a hu-man matter, now.  Y’know.  Us an’ our messy fuckin’ families.  Our blind, backstabbin’, motherfuckin’–” she paused here.  “Ah…never mind.”

“Fine.  But I’m not letting you waste yourself when we’ve more important matters to deal with!”

The woman glared.  “Get outta the way!”


“Move or I move you.”

A snort, and she heard her own dare echoed back at her.  “I’d like to see you try.”

The woman growled and lurched forward, but the next thing she knew, she was flying with a powerful punch of water in her gut.  She crashed back against the headboard of her bed.  Elmiryn rolled onto her side, clutching her gut, and felt nauseous.  Pain spidered all along her upper torso and up into her skull.  For a moment she tried to raise her head.  The vomit came up faster than she could register.  Some of it got onto the corner of the bed, and she dragged herself with weak arms to the edge of the mattress to better send her illness to the floor.  She didn’t stop for a couple of minutes.

“Everything alright up there!?” she heard Quincy shout up the stairs.

“It’s fine!” The man bellowed back.  She saw him out of the corner of her eye look at her with a pained expression.  “I’m sorry, Elmiryn.  I had to.  If you were even half sober…but I don’t think you can ever quite stop there, can you?  You have to be completely smashed, don’t you?” Sedwick said mournfully.  “I don’t know why I bothered pushing you so hard.  Nadi says…spirits tend to feel more, so I–I–”

“Fuck you,” Elmiryn bit out.  She wiped the vomit from her lips and rolled with a groan and a wince to the other side of the bed.  She turned her face into the sweaty sheets.  They smelled even worse now that they were wet.  Her shirt clung to her and she shivered as the broken window whistled again.  The pain still stabbed at the base of her skull and her left shoulder blade.  Old bruises from their recent adventures reminded her of their presence too.  In the face of such discomfort, Elmiryn found her eyes willingly falling shut.

Sedwick cleared his throat.  “I’m sorry about your…about Warner, Elmiryn.”

In her head, she thought, For fuck’s sake, I haven’t got daddy issues, but the nausea made spoken word a treacherous thing, so she kept her mouth shut.  That didn’t stop the torrent of thoughts that followed:

You ass, you gods damned, fucking–oh, Halward help you the moment I can get up, I swear to the gods, Sedwick, I–

…Oh fuck it.

“We–We’ll talk about this more later.  When you’re…um…ready.” There was a pause.  Then Sedwick added, with his voice turned gruff, “Elmiryn, I’m sorry.”

Silence reigned after that.  The warrior didn’t lift her head for a long time.  Time slipped away from her, and her mind reeled.  She felt the whole room shift, and shimmy.  She groaned and clutched at her head.  The glorious weight, the glorious feeling, the glorious expansion of her universe–it all felt so poisoned now.  Elmiryn resumed thinking in her head, trying to get her bearings:

Your saying it too much, Sed.  I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  Shit, maybe if Warner said it ONCE–well, no.  I still would’ve tried to kill him.  I overuse it too. (gods this bed stinks)  I like the way the Ailurans say it best.  Och oeni.  I can ask Nyx to teach me more. (I miss her)  All I have are bits and pieces.  (Are those the stairs creaking?)  All any of us have are fucking bits and pieces, and we try so hard to find the parts that make us whole.  We look for it in others. (It’s a damn scavenger hunt)  I think our parents are supposed to give us enough to work right.  (I don’t feel right…was there something in that wine?)  A…uh…foundation.  Yeah.  That.  Like a house.  (Sedwick…isn’t a bad guy.)  Only, I’ve got a house of cards.  Thanks, Warner! (…I want some cheese.) Wait, I’m losing my train of thought.  Wasn’t I talking about bits? (And pieces?) And cards? (And homes?) Or was I rambling and babbling and thinking in languages I do not speak and and and

Ooooh…No.  Reign it in.  Need the boundaries.  These.  Let’s put in two..  Let’s put in three… Let’s put in six……  ……Let’s put in six on BOTH ends……. [What about these?] {Or these?}  <Or these?>  “No these.”  “And if I look up and out and see the stranger peering into my life I might–“

“Ah, wait.  WAIT.  I’m going out of bounds.  Hah.  No.  Nooo…I’m not gonna lose it.  Somehow I think things would unravel if I do that.  Ha!  But wouldn’t that get Meznik’s knickers in a twist?  He seems to hate it when I don’t play by his imaginary rules…”

(Oh.  Did I go to sleep?)

She stirred.  Her head was killing her.  The taste of vomit still lingered in the corners of her mouth.  Elmiryn kept her eyes closed, knowing the fury of light that awaited her.

Sedwick spoke upon seeing her move.  “…Would you like some water?”  He sounded like he were across the room.

Still assailed with her curious thirst, the woman nodded her head mutely.  A moment later, a cool glass was pressed to her shoulder, and she turned with cracked gaze to see it was the wine bottle, filled with water now instead.  It was still dark out, she must not have been out long.  The warm glow that came in through the broken window was merciful on her senses.  She took the bottle, and with an unhappy expression, sipped.  Elmiryn knew it wasn’t what her thirst was asking for, but the disappointment came just the same.

“How long have we been here?” she asked, staring at the sheets.  She couldn’t look at Sedwick at all, now.  She was starting to feel bad for how she behaved.  Her inebriation still dragged at her, but the giddiness was gone.

“It’s been more than an hour since your father left.”  This was Quincy, not Sedwick.  The warrior looked to see the wizard leaning against the door frame.  When did she come up?  How long had she been there?  Sedwick, after giving her the water, had taken up sitting in the chair.  Elmiryn sat up and scooted to the edge of the bed.  She eyed the wizard warily, but the brunette had taken to looking at her bandaged fingers.  “I got bored down there.  Figured a fight with you’d be more interesting, if one should happen,” she said mildly.

“I don’t…want any comments.  About anything you just saw,” Elmiryn muttered.

The wizard shrugged.  “Fine.  I wasn’t planning on killing you anyway.”

“Don’t you mean I would kill you?

Quincy smirked and looked at her.  “You think you could without churning out your insides?”

Elmiryn returned the smirk.  She looked down again.  Her thoughts eventually trailed off to Warner.  He claimed to love her mother, but could a person commit such an act and feel love for anything? Her hand clenched around his imaginary throat.  It made her furious that she kept finding enemies that eluded her.  Her entire life had been about direct conflict, clashing head on with all threats, and driving away opposing forces.  Meznik was out of her reach.  Warner was out of her reach.  Halward was…  With a grimace, she drank some more water.  It felt like sucking down medicine.  Her stomach protested.  Maybe it was the close call with blasphemy.

But then her eyes glazed over, as she recalled something.

I can get you within arms reach…

She shook the thought away and looked guiltily at Quincy, as if afraid the woman could hear her thoughts.  She might actually have to worry about that, if she ever found Lethia.  How did enchantment work, again?

“You guys are free to refresh yourselves.  Help yourselves to…whatever.  I’m sorry.  I’m a shitty host,” and she found she meant it.  Elmiryn had never had true guests over to her home.  Figures that the first time she did, the event would be plagued by spectacle and misery.

She stood to her feet and rubbed at her head.  Her stomach gave a lurch and she grimaced.  Her legs felt cold and trembly. “I think I’ll take a bath or something.  We’ve a tub downstairs.”  She looked down at her self sheepishly.  She was still damp from Sedwick’s swift water punch, even her hair, and the buttons of her shirt were still wrong.  “That is, if Sed hasn’t done the job.”

“Is that nickname going to stick now?” Sedwick mumbled, blushing a little.

She grinned at him as she set the bottle down.  “Well if you’re gonna call me Elle…”

The man blinked, then smiled.

Quincy frowned.  “Oh?  Can I call you Elle, too?”

Elmiryn blew her a kiss.  “Only if you let me call you Muffin!

Sedwick chortled.  Quincy flicked her hand under chin and bit out, “Msagaji!”

“No, no, no.  Elle.  E-lllle!”

“Elmiryn.  Shut up.

And the warrior started to feel better.  At least for now.

She brushed by the wizard with a winning smile, and the other woman just rolled her eyes at her.  She could feel Sedwick’s eyes on her as she went.  She imagined while she’d taken her unintended nap, the man had gone looking for her wine and found it.  It wasn’t something he could do anything with.  She giggled at the idea of Sedwick throwing a white sheet over it and sitting a sign on top that said, “NOPE. NO WINE HERE!”  Elmiryn didn’t resent his behavior.  If she had to deal with someone behaving as she was whilst on the battlefield, then she would be even sterner.  It wasn’t that she’d never gone into a fight less than sober, but what she was doing…Elmiryn saw the recklessness in it.

“What’s wrong with me?” she wondered, smacking her parched mouth with a grimace.  “Why do I feel this way?”

She could feel Sedwick’s wariness as she passed the other room and proceeded down the stairs.  For every ounce of wariness he felt, she felt an anxiety to match it.  But whereas Sedwick prayed for her to keep going, the woman felt her legs fight to turn and go back.

She made it down all the steps and resisted the urge to pause and look back up.  As she started to cross the parlor to the small kitchen in the back, she heard the city clock tower chime twelve times.

She paused and listened to it till it finished.  The festivities would really pick up, now.  Elmiryn entered the kitchen, a small space with a little wooden stove and an assortment of fresh herbs and vegetables.  Pickled meat, condiments, and cooking utensils sat on the shelves.  She took up a bucket (because she had no idea where the servant kept the pitcher, and didn’t feel like looking) and started to fill it up with water at the pump.  That done, she placed the bucket on the stove.  With a few pieces of wood and a bit of flint, she had the stove going.  Knowing it would take a while before she got enough hot water to fill the bath tub, the woman pumped some water over hands and tried to rinse her mouth of the foul taste.  She went back into the parlor and sat in her favorite chair.  Knitting her fingers together, she gazed out the window.  The crowds were quite large this year.  She wished she were there–really there–to enjoy it.

Elmiryn didn’t want to think about him, but she couldn’t help it. Warner.  Her father.  He’d betrayed her even before she was born.  Did he teach her that infernal song?  Meznik’s melody?  Or did it already come in her blood?  Did she eat the fruit of the tree Warner had planted and found herself changed?  She felt a throb in her chest and rubbed at it, a pained expression seizing her features.

There was a creak at the stairs.  She turned her head and saw it was Quincy.  “Sedwick took your suggestion to heart.  He’s cleaning your room,” the wizard said.

The warrior grinned.  “I wasn’t serious…or I might’ve been, but that’s even worse.  He isn’t blasting everything out the window, is he?”

Quincy raised an eyebrow.  “It’d be an improvement.”

“Yes.  It would.”

They chuckled together.  Quincy stood with arms crossed and gazed toward the family portrait.

“You have your mother’s smile,” she said quietly.

Elmiryn looked away, out the window.  “Yeah.”

“And your father’s frown.”

“…Did I not ask for you to keep your comments to yourself?”

“I’m just trying to say…You come from your parents, but are not of them.  Make your own choices.  You’ll do fine.”

“Sedwick told you what I said before, didn’t he?  When the wine was talking for me?”

“Only what was relevant.  The things about Meznik.  I’m sorry about that, by the way.  Just remember what I said, Elmiryn.  Not everyone has a pretty portrait to hang up.”  Quincy pointed at the portrait over the fireplace.  “Sometimes, I wish I had even that much.  I was never even treated to the illusion.”

“Lucky you.” Elmiryn rubbed at her face.  “My family…no, I don’t want to talk about it.”

The wizard just shrugged one shoulder.  “Okay.  I just wanted to say that.  Beyond that, I don’t care.”

“No?” Elmiryn looked at her sideways.

Quincy shook her head, but there was something suspicious about her determination not to look into Elmiryn’s eyes.  “No.”

“There’s a story there, isn’t there, wizard?” she thought.  But she didn’t press.

Elmiryn looked back out the window.  Men and women, girls and boys, all dressed up and having fun.  Perhaps there were families out together, celebrating.  The phantoms paraded past her eyes, and the warrior shrank back into her seat.  She felt cold.  She’d have to check her water and set up another bucket.  She’d need at least three or four big bucketfuls before the tub was full enough.  She flashed a brief mental image of Sedwick blasting out all her ruined things out the ersatz window and smiled, showing all teeth.

“Hey Quincy.”

“What.” The wizard had taken a seat at the end of the stairs.  She’d drawn her sword and was staring at it with distant eyes.

“Can I tell you a secret?”

“So long as it won’t be something I’ll regret.”

Elmiryn chuckled and shook her head.  “No.  I…”  She ducked her head and felt her eyes burn.  She lifted her face again and stared sadly out the window.  “The demon is out there.” She bit her lip and stared at her hands.  The redhead looked up again with a sigh.  “But sometimes I’m afraid he’s in me too.”

Quincy didn’t say anything.

The warrior sat gazing for a while longer at the crowds.  Then they heard an earsplitting screech.  It rattled Elmiryn down to the marrow, and she bolted upright, blinking.  A shadow flashed over the crowds, and she started to rise from her seat, her hands gripping the arm rests with a white-knuckle grip.  “What the hell–?”  She whipped her head to stare at the wizard.

The brunette was sitting straight too, her eyes wide.  “What do you think that was?” Quincy hissed.  She cocked an ear as the sound came again, but softer.  “It doesn’t sound the same as what we heard before.  It’s something else.  It’s–I think–” the wizard didn’t finish.

What came next just about set Elmiryn off.  There were little explosions in her brain, to match the fireworks, the rapturous blossoming of colors.  Like an undercurrent of sewage, too, was her soured inebriation, the alcohol in her system like an inimical army, compromising her coordination and her stamina and her strength.  Knives stabbed through her skull.  But the ache in her chest was gone, and she felt a warmth to combat the cold that swept over her body.  Colors mixed with pain.  Excitement laced with illness.  Heat swirling with cold.

Elmiryn wasn’t seeing things wrong.  She knew it.

Three figures ran past the view of her window.  They were swallowed by the phantoms, so it was like seeing them through milky glass, but she could tell.  They were solid.  They were–

Shit!” Elmiryn slammed against the window pane, her eyes bugging.  She pressed her face to the glass, smushing her features comically.  Her eyes strained as she watched the figures run out of her line of vision.  Muttering fast under her breath, she ran to the door, feet tripping over themselves as her nausea came back almost full force.  Quincy jumped to her feet and tried to grab her. “Don’t you idiot, you don’t know what’s out there!!”

Elmiryn swatted at her.  “Leggo!  I gotta–fuck!” She escaped Quincy’s clutches and ripped open the front door as if tornado winds had blasted her back, but really, it was just her haste, her drunken movements, her wild thrill.  The warrior leapt over the stoop to the street, sweat rolling down her skin in fat drops.  She could see the figures up ahead, and cupped her hands around her mouth.  “Hey!” she bellowed.  The noise around her–the people laughing, the fireworks whistling overhead–it drowned her out.  They couldn’t hear her.

The warrior tried to run after them.  Her vision started to fuzz at the edges.  “HEY!  HEY!”  Nothing.  She ran for a while longer, but knew she was losing them.  She wasn’t as fast as usual because of her little binge.  Panting, the woman slowed.  If she pushed herself any harder she’d collapse.  She leaned onto her knees and watched her quarry grow more and more distant.  Then her eyes widened.  With frantic hands, she patted her chest and felt the whistle beneath her shirt.  Scrambling, she grabbed the string and pulled it out.  With shaking hands, the woman gave one last look at the figures before she put the whistle to her lips and blew as hard as she could.

This has to work.

Just as before, she could hear nothing.  For a moment, she despaired that it was too late.  Then, up ahead, she saw one of the figures come to a wild stop.  They turned and searched for the source of the sound.  Her heart pounding, Elmiryn jogged through the crowd, blowing her whistle all the way.  She cut through the phantoms, her mind singular in its goal.  And that was–

“Nyx!  Nyx! I found you!”

Her vision cleared as the last of the phantoms between them was passed.  Tawny eyes fixed onto her cerulean gaze.  The girl was wearing new clothes, popular among teenage boys in Fiamma.  She looked so good in them.  The warrior was vaguely aware of the people with Nyx, but her attention would not be broken.  There was something to the girl’s eyes, the way her head sat straight on her neck…  Sweat dripped from Elmiryn’s chin, and her knees felt like they were about to give out, and her stomach just about loathed her at this point–but none of that mattered.

The Ailuran’s eyes immediately teared up, and her lip trembled.  “E-Elle?”

The warrior underestimated the amount of pleasure she’d feel just hearing Nyx say her name.  “I found you,” Elmiryn whispered.

And judging by the screech that pierced the air over their heads, she wasn’t the only one.

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