Alchemical Marriage, part 3

Sunday, November 16, 2008 - 5:33 PM

The concept and design of the crebath is expounded upon and used here by permission of the creator, Nigel Sade.

People staring at a crebath wasn't unusual. Even though there was not much to see, nor were they unexpected, Brigantia knew the three of them would get the attention. Here, in a war camp, the attention was limited to some staring from new recruits and the occasional glance or two from veterans, even though Brigantia went openly armed. Just three gray-wrapped figures, two unloading jars and boxes from a covered wagon and the third keeping watch.

The dark-haired man, however, had glanced briefly at them, paused, and then stopped to peer at them again.

At her, specifically.

She'd touched the rim of her hat in a polite greeting, but this had only elicited a peculiar mix of puzzlement and surprise in the stranger. Assessing him, she saw a fit, sharp-eyed man, and she certainly would have believed him a combat veteran. In this area, surely he'd met crebath before. One might have even saved his life.

To her surprise, he started walking towards them.

Behind her, Lavinia and Aloysius had been chatting quietly in the Old Tongue as they worked, Lavinia's cool rationality balanced by the subtle banter of her partner. Brigantia greeted the fellow before he got too close, to let them know.

“Good day, sir,” she offered. touching the rim of her hat again.

The man stopped at a polite distance, and seemed to be trying to get a better look at the small uncovered space under Brigantia's hat brim.

“...have we met?” the man asked, wary but curious.

“No, sir,” she said pleasantly, which was not how she felt. The man made her uncomfortable, and it irritated her that she did not understand why. As Aloysius offered greetings of his own and the usual polite questions started going back and forth, Brigantia tilted her head enough to hide her eyes with the hat brim.

But she kept watch on the man from the neck down.

“I am Alembic,” said Aloysius by way of introduction, indicating Lavinia and Brigantia in turn. “She is Aludel, and this is Athanor.”

“Erich,” the man said, as if he wasn't used to saying the name, and Brigantia looked up at him involuntarily. There was loss in his voice, only partially hidden, and he was probably unaware of how much it showed.

But when she looked up, his eyes were waiting, and pounced. Then, they seemed to recoil, the questing light in them leaping back as if burned.

“Who are you?”

The question was an arrow, straight for Brigantia. There was a desperate need to know, and she felt sympathy for wherever that need came from, but she was a bit affronted.

“...I am named Athanor, sir,” she replied quietly. “It means the alchemical furnace...”

“Don't play games with me,” he said in a quiet, deadly tone.

Grief and anger in a trained fighting man were a dangerous formula. She tilted her head slightly, hat brim back, and shifted the set of her shoulders in readiness, resting a thumb in her belt. If he did anything brash, she would stop him.

Her slight movements had a profound effect on the fellow, however. He took a half step back, his face gone dead white, and his eyes were full of confusion.

“Sir,” came Lavinia's voice from behind Brigantia. “Are you feeling well?”

Dawning realization mingled with horror in the man's eyes, quickly burned away by rage, and in an instant, his sword was out, moving for Lavinia. But Brigantia was just as fast; her sword rang against his, binding it, and drove the point to the ground while her own point flicked up to guard his throat.

“Stand down, sir,” she said in a cool tone.

His anger burned to nothing, and a pair of hollowed out, sad eyes stared back at her. He hesitated, blinking heavily, and then sheathed his sword to bow with a muttered apology before briskly walking away.

Brigantia sheathed her own blade, and noted the amount of interest around them. They all know this man, she thought. They know him and respect him. Who was he, and what has happened to him?

She became aware that Aloysius was talking to her quietly.

“Brigantia, we were misinformed on a matter that seems to have become rather important.”

She turned, looking at her father, whose shrewd eyes regarded her evenly.

“That man is supposed to be dead.” he continued. “The usual Anvil House contract allows us to salvage those remnants which do not have living kin, or kin who relinquish the remnants for a fee. A remnant we took from the field a year ago was exemplary for a Monitor like you. It figured heavily in your build; female, prime conditioning, very finely tuned nervous system...ah, in any case, that remnant originally belonged to Cybil of Tirburg, who was once that man's wife.”

He paused again before continuing. "You have her eyes, among other things."

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