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Once more, in the light

   
The healing staff nodded to Iliana and quickly took their leave of the room. Aria's fellow prisoners slept on; the man next to Aria and Lady Violet opposite.

"Thank you," Aria drew herself up in bed with a wince. "We may not have much time. I doubt by now I have to tell you this but be very careful who you trust and how far you trust them."

"You realise now your true purpose in visiting the monastery, in finding- what you found there. You did find it yes? Now, I and many others like me want to keep that knowledge secret forever, would bury it if we could but there are others who feel differently. Some wish to simply cause havoc and mayhem. These I don't worry about so much; there are always ways to create war, always some excuse; their attention will wax and wane with the seasons. The third group I worry about much more are those who genuinely believe the knowledge should be acted upon, that change should be enacted for the greater good. These people are misguided zealots and, most worryingly, we don't even know who they are."

"We need to know who they are. Can you help with this?"

"We found it, yes," Iliana confirmed. Her voice sounded peculiar, as if suspended, a hung note between heartbeats. "Those that would use this knowledge to change --"

Everything.

"You don't know who they are. Perhaps more information has been gathered by your collaborators since you last --?" Since you last heard from them, since you were arrested, lost, presumed dead or worse. Then, soft and certain, "And of course I will help."

Sweeping a hand through her cropped hair, Iliana missed the length and heaviness of it. She needed a bath, needed a comb, needed to sleep. "This Winter and his ir'Sarr, are they on the right side of this?"

Then, her dark gaze softening as she searched Aria's face: "Where did Jakob ir'Borren fit in?"

"Perhaps," Aria smiled with a wince. "Since last- you're right, and I hope so, but this has been a slow investigation, many years in the making. I fear little has progressed. Soon, I shall discover what more we have learned and I will pass that straight on."

"What does seem to have changed recently is the make-up of the sides. I don't trust Winter for a minute but I know he is dead set in stopping House Cannith from achieving a victory here, well, any kind of victory at all. As long as House Cannith oppose us - and I truly believe they do - he'll be on our side, approximately at least. His ir'Sarr is a well-trained attack dog. Feral, devious and frighteningly loyal. He takes a little too much joy in what he does for my liking."

"Another change is Jakob ir'Borren. As far as I can piece together it was your- our- actions at the Ball that brought ir'Borren into the mix. We created the environment for him to be recruited. He can be a thorn in our side I would imagine. A man like him does not give up easily."

Having been abandoned by his current company, Callach returns to the infirmary.
He walks up to Aria and bows courtly. "It pleases me to see you are regaining your strength, Lady Aria.
You have not seen me in this disguise before, but it is I, Callach. I have many questions, which I will not trouble you with until you are up for them. In the meantime, is there anything I can do for you?"

"Jakob is dead," Here, Iliana took a breath, acknowledging Callach with a nod. "He was a dead man, I am told, before the thing was even done. Having abandoned some important task in Sharn, Gant said the ir'Borren family was behind the cover-up."

"But I am the one who ended his life. His cousin still lives."

Iliana pressed her lips together at the quickening of her heartbeat, though she was unafraid.

"Perhaps we would do well to speak to Gant? He will be pleased to know you are safe."

Aria nodded, "I know you Callach. I am pleased to see you have survived. I will tasks for you, each of you soon, but first I need to catch up."

"Jakob is dead?"
Aria queried, eyebrow daintily raised. "That does surprise me. I had thought him indestructible, in the way of a colony of rats or roaches. His cousin, that does not surprise me at all. I see him as indestructible like a mountain or a sea."

"I have already asked word to be passed to Gant. I've been assured such will happen."


A pause.

"I'm sorry. For what you had to do. I can see it saddens you."

Iliana frowned. Was she saddened by what she had done? She hadn't thought so: Jakob was a powerful, cruel, and violent man. He exercised his power through coercive means, even going so far as to invasively control the minds and actions of those around him. He had come for Jody, to hurt him. She had killed evil men before.

There had been little resistance when she pressed her sword into Jakob's belly.

"I don't regret protecting my friends," she said softly. "But I wish he had not come."

It was difficult to look squarely upon the truth in the matter of Jakob's death. She regretted less the loss of his life than what it meant for her that she had been the one to kill him. Shamefully, perhaps, she regretted most the way Jorn had looked at her, and the heat of his words lingering against her heart: I know what you have done.

Everyone she'd ever killed was a person, loved and grieved by someone; Iliana had always known this and had held that knowledge close. But it had never before been so immediate. Never before had anyone looked upon her, their face naked with grief, while the stain of blood upon her blade was fresh.

"What was your plan for Jakob, at the ball? With the hair?"

Aria smiled and shook her head, "It all seems so irrelevant now, so pointless. Such a waste when held in retrospect. It was House business you see-"

She paused, frowned. Clearly, she had misspoken, a rare event under usual circumstances.

"Anyway, it was an attempt to draw some unwanted attention onto Jakob. It went quite, quite wrong as you know. I think someone else was trying to act that night too, possibly even against the Queen. I think we stumbled into each others' plots and became intertwined. The other party, whoever they were, came out on top. I was too slow to react, and for that I have to apologise."

Of course Iliana immediately understood Aria's misstep. The warrior didn't nod or otherwise acknowledge it. Instead, she found a nearby chair and moved it to Aria's bedside, setting down upon it.

"You have nothing to apologize for," Iliana insisted, holding fast Aria's gaze. "Not to me, in any case."

"Do you have any questions for me? So much has happened that I hardly know what is important to tell you."

Callach kept in the background not to interrupt the two, but he made no effort to hide he was there or interested.
Instead, he stood there, smiling genuinely in relief the lady was recovering.
I have a lot of questions, but I'll let her come to her senses first.




 

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