A trap!

Some people expected it to be a trap –even Raith did– but nobody expected it to be this. And not even I expected the other thing until I was on the bike the day after this session and thought about it. I think it was sparked by the GM saying something like “she’s actually quite happy in her quarters in this city”.

Hallei Raith in Kushesh to Alysei Ayneth astin Velain in Veray. Sometime near the Feast of Naigha.

Dearest Ayneth,

I hope you can read my scribbling, because I’m only now regaining the use of my right hand after four days of uselessness. And of my left hand, and both legs, and some more embarrassing parts of my anatomy.

Remember I was so curious about the ships? Beguyan sent a little scout boat out, and when it hadn’t come back after three or four days we all got worried, so I went to have a look, out of my body because they were too far away to see without doing that.

I could find Erian (a journeyman of ours) and Lan (a master of the other side) and Sashila (dandar, gifted enough, but not aligned to anything we know) quite easily, but they were under the strange veil we’d seen earlier. The ships were a lot closer now, so easier to see, but the veil made it impossible to see much detail except which one the people I knew were on. I could also see Valdyan-looking flags flying from each one, and something that looked very much like a royal standard on the one with the scouts on it. But it definitely wasn’t Athal or I’d have recognised –well, perhaps not him, because he loses all his gifts while at sea, but some of the people with him. I thought for one moment that it might be Reshan, I don’t know his seals, but I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have come openly. Athal wouldn’t have either, come to think of it.

You know me: I’m terminally curious. I tried to poke a hole in the veil to see through, and surprisingly it turned out to be easy– except that something started to suck me in immediately and I had to choose between resisting (and not learning anything) and going along (and not knowing whether I’d ever get out). I went in, of course, and the veil closed behind me with no sign of my passage. I couldn’t reach Bebakshi any more, or see my body.

All the scouts were there. Tied to the biggest mast. There was also a cage on the deck of the ship with about a dozen gifted Síthi (and one dead Síthi) in it. All other people I could see were Khas. One was a mage, in what I think was the steering cabin with one other man. I could still talk to Lan and Erian with my mind, thank Anshen, and they told me that the whole hold of the ship was full of Khas; it was a trap, and now I was trapped as well. “How long before you die?” Lan asked, and I thought about that for a while (strange how one thinks more slowly, though more clearly, without one’s body) and told him a day. The longest I’ve been away from my body was a bit more than that, but not in such a hostile space as this one, and I did come out of it very battered.

That reminded me that I really had to do something. I explored the ship a little. When I observed the mage (without him seeing me, I didn’t dare to come too close at that point) I saw that he was a youngish man, frantically doing something that apparently kept the veil-seal going, and at the same time talking to an older man who was pacing up and down in the cabin, as far as there was room for it. It wouldn’t even be hard to take him out, I thought. All the scouts, and also the Síthi after Sashila had asked them in their language –must really learn at least some Síthi as soon as I get the opportunity–, said that I was free to use any anea of theirs that I needed. I gathered it, while I focused on the mage in the cabin, and made it into something hard with a sharp point, and when it was on its peak I threw it with all my might.

It hit. The mage faltered and fell, and about half the seal fell with him, but it wasn’t weak enough for me or anyone else to get out. Again– and this time he lost consciousness, went blue in the face, and the seal was gone. There was hardly anything left of me then, only a spark, it seems. I don’t remember much after that. I think it was Erian or Sashila who told me what else happened: Lan seems to have proposed doing something that our Guild doesn’t approve of but if I’d prevent it we’d all die, and I seem to have said that even if I had the strength to prevent it I wouldn’t do so. Then he ripped anea from all the Síthi with force and kept me alive with it, while the ship sailed on, after a while with another seal but much weaker. Erian says it was more than half a day before they –we– got close enough to shore that someone (Bebakshi?) could get at me and pull me in.

I came to my senses, well, some time later, with Bebakshi and some other people hovering over me anxiously. They already knew it was a trap; I still don’t know whether whatever I did was useless after all. Apparently the Khas mages had been taking anea from the gifted people on board –the Síthi– so eventually they’d have drained them dry; but Lan keeping me alive must have killed a dozen people, and I don’t know whether I actually saved more lives by killing the mage and making myself so weak that I couldn’t come back to warn.

It wasn’t long (though, being paralysed almost from the neck down, and without much use of my mind either, I lost any notion of time) until the ships arrived at the harbour– seemingly unsteered, without stopping, the flag-ship crashed into the harbour, and some other ones behind it, and a messenger came running to say that there were two more on the salt-flats. Lan was standing on the prow of the flag-ship cloaked in the power of the Nameless. “Is he warning us or is he with the enemy?” Beguyan asked, and I said that he’d saved my life twice over so I’d be surprised if he was with the enemy. There was a lot of chaotic fighting then, lasting for days I think, and in the end all the Khas were either dead or captured, but not easily.

According to Beguyan it wasn’t a trap to capture or even weaken us, or take the city, but to make us not trust our own reinforcements any more. But, as I said before, any real Valdyan reinforcements would come uncloaked.

They brought me Lan, barely alive, and still in the tatters of his cloak, which I couldn’t have touched even if I’d been fit. Who did I know of the Nameless who I– well, not exactly trusted, but thought could be depended on to handle this? “There’s a man called Arin,” I said, “a trader living near the harbour. Get him. And his apprentice– his journeyman.” It took some time, but eventually the elder and the younger Arin were brought in. “I don’t dare,” he said, “Let the boy do it, he’s just become a journeyman, he can handle it. I haven’t exactly been– well, I can’t.” Afraid that the Nameless would burn him? I’d never have put him down as suffering from feelings of unworthiness. The younger Arin had no such qualms and he did his best on Lan. The fiery tatters came off eventually, not without difficulty (and sweat, and I think a few burns on the young man’s hands). Lan was breathing more easily now and someone took him away. Once again, someone asked “is he a hero or a traitor?” and once again I wasn’t completely sure. But ultimately, he did it for the king. According to Beguyan, Athal will have to deal with him.

After the fighting was over Mehili came with wine and brus. I said at first I’d only have some wine, but she kept imploring me to smoke, so I passed on the wine– I know by now that I can’t stand both at once. After we’d shared the water-pipe for a while we were more than sisters– sharing so deeply that our minds were almost overlapping. She’s only just not gifted, I think; sometimes I think I’d like to be able to give her that final push, sometimes I’m convinced that she’s better off without that burden.

Now I’m going to write something that’s very hard to write, and I wish I could ask you face to face but I’m not sure that I’d have the guts to actually do it. I’ll take a deep breath; here goes:

If the rumours are true and they are going to offer me the governorship of Solay, will you come and join me? Don’t be afraid that you’ll lose me if you say no; if you say no so will I, because I don’t think I could do it alone anyway. You have the gift of putting things together, whereas I only have a gift for either keeping things together or calling wind and lightning to break them apart.

I don’t see how I can fit in Valdyas any more anyway, not after all of this. If I survive the final battle, which isn’t at all a given in the light of what we’ve seen lately, I won’t be the same woman who started out from Lenay last year. Never before has anything changed me so much in such a short time, not even finding out that you loved me.