Private Tales Scorched Earth

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
Fife listened, eyes forward and trained on his as she absorbed every word. When he finished she nodded in understanding. The boy – Leifric, Masselin had called him – was probably a preteen. The only reason she could estimate his age was because there had been several kids his age training at the Silver Coin headquarters. Early to be showing signs of practiced use of his abilities, but not extraordinarily so.

She had been shockingly young, she realized; Fife hardly recalled life without Empathy. Tamping that thought down for later rumination, she chewed her lower lip and folded her arms across her chest.

What did she want to do? Fife's brows twitched, caught between incredulity and surprise. What did she want to do? She started to lift her hands, to tell him she couldn't do anything, regardless of her feelings, but she lowered them just as quickly. Could she do something? Was there more than one option? How had he known what to do?

Without answering his question, Fife sat down on a wrought iron bench.

Deciding what to do when Raigryn had been in peril had been easy. She had recognized what needed to be done and had done that. Much of her life had been making a choice today to carry her into tomorrow. Even then she had barely had agency, resorting to her limited options.

Now the endless possibilities of true agency overwhelmed her. They could do many things, but which one was the right one? Fife turned over each possibility in her mind. She mulled on them, thought of their various outcomes and the dozens of unknown variables that could upset any one of them.

It felt like Fife sat pondering for hours, yet her silence lasted for only a few breaths before she answered.

I want to know more. About the boy. About the father. Reconnaissance. If they knew more about his situation then they would know how best to help Leifric. Ultimately that was what she wanted. She wanted to help him.

Her dark gray eyes slid upward to meet his gaze momentarily before she sighed.

You will have to do the talking, she resigned with the huff. Start with Masselin. Tomorrow, she added after a brief pause.

Her brother's mood had been raw that afternoon when they had left the tanner's. Fife could have compared it to the fresh scrape of the palm after falling on rocks. He would need time to recover, for his emotions to settle and replenish.
 
There were times when it sat a little uncomfortably that he had to continue to be the mentor, even as their relationship found a more even footing.

Regardless of his feelings, Raigryn continued to be both. The way he taught his lessons might have changed, but she still had a lot to learn.

With the sword he only really guided her training herself. With Empathy they had entire swathes of topics to cover. In planning and making decisions, Raigryn was here to guide her forwards. He had to watch her make her own mistakes when it was appropriate.

"I will," Raigryn replied.

He realised he had been signing less. He'd lost a little dexterity in his right hand and needed to practise more.

"What do you want me to reveal to Masselin?" he asked. This time he signed at the same time.
 
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Her gut instinct said tell him. She wanted to confide in her brother. Of course she understood why they shouldn't, but that didn't make it feel any more right.

Not about Empathy, she told him after some silent deliberation. She wasn't going to disagree with Raigryn today; no matter how much she wanted to be honest with Masselin, it wasn't her secret alone to keep. Tell him the boy has magic, the same as ours.

She scooted over on the bench and gestured for him to sit. When he was settled beside her she took the simple liberty of lacing her fingers with his and leaning her head against his bicep. After a few moments of quiet she sighed and, lifting his arm and putting it around her, placed their laced hands across her stomach and wriggled in against his side. She placed her free hand on his thigh and closed her eyes.

Resting against his chest she could feel his pulse, a light flutter against her temple. He was warm and steady. She breathed in deeply, allowing the tension to bleed out of her for the first time in hours.

When she was sure she felt calmer, Fife sat up but didn't fully extricate herself from his embrace. She lifted her hand from his thigh to sign.

I'm sorry. I was upset. I feel better now. The plan made her feel better. She offered an apologetic smile and ran her hand down his chest affectionately. Fife smoothed out his shirt and straightened the lapels of his coat. It would look better on him if it was red, she thought.

How was the walk home? she asked, changing the subject completely. And lunch with Romelia?
 
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A lie was something that could easily start growing. It's weight would become hard to balance and then it would all come crashing down.

"I'll tell him. You trust him, so I do," Raigryn said.

There was something in the quiet he enjoyed. Sitting with Fife's head against his shoulder and her little hand in his own made him think if quiet times at Indretar. When they had been fresh and new and through the sudden, dramatic realisations.

He thought of her spot, high up on the rocks. Raigryn glanced up and at the ramparts of the city. The high towers where the griffins could land. There were not many quiet spots around the city, beside the gardens of the rich families. Like Romelias.

"Do not be sorry," he told her firmly. He practised signing with shirt firm gestures to emphasise the point.

"Lunch..."

Rsigryn took a breath.

"...she had friends around. And you are going to need some dresses because apparently it would not be appropriate for me to attend without you. And apparently that's been decided already. Far too many single working female professionals - and you can imagine how Romelia said those words - for me to be alone. "
 
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Do not be sorry. It was a simple affirmation, permission to not be okay sometimes. Her heart surged, a flutter in her chest that made her ribs tight and her breath hitch. Gods be merciful. Was it possible to fall in love with someone over and over again forever? She basked in the feeling.

Fife was listening with a contented smile as he recounted lunch. He’d made a great personal sacrifice, taking on the full force of Romelia’s attention while she was out with her brother. However, a small voice suspected that her gossip-loving old man found as much pleasure as trouble from his little chats with her. She could picture it in her mind: the two leaned in conspiratorially, snickering behind their hands over saucers of biscuits and tea. Her smile widened.

The smile quickly slanted into a frown when he mentioned Romelia’s scheming in his direction. The cutting gesture she answered with was one that Aretta had made when Fife or Ylerial had done something incredibly bad that more or less meant, ‘absolutely fucking not’.

Which is more dangerous? To appear single to Romelia? Or to appear together? It might spare Masselin the same trouble, either way.

She laughed and settled her hand back on his thigh. A simple gesture, but one that reinforced the connection she needed to him at that moment. Fife struggled to keep a lid on her emotions in the wake of such a simple remark. Not that she needed reassurance of his feelings; she had plenty of evidence that she was the sole object of his affection. Still, the thought of single working female professionals stirred up her possessiveness quite effectively. At least she’d found something to reliably fuel her Avarice.
 
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Raigryn felt an urge to push the matter a little further. To tease Fife with an imaginary army of middle ages single women of industry who offended her sensibilities, but she would gladly shove at Raigryn.

He had been an Empath for a long time. He knew when exploring the darker feelings was right and necessary and when it would form the wrong foundation for a relationship. He was, he reminded himself, almost all she had. She had to know that she was safe with him.

"Nothing to worry about," he said, drawing short black hair over her ear with one finger.

"We might as well tell her, or ask Massellin how to word it. It might be easier to suffer her in that respect than any other. Yes?"
 
She’d expected him to tease her, at least a little. Instead, he leveled her with that deep, dark gaze and lovingly tucked her hair behind her ear. Fife’s skin hummed and she drew in a shallow breath as her eyes dipped to his lips. She contemplated leaning up to kiss him, but she didn’t dare move. Moments like these were still rare and special and worth savoring as much as humanly possible.

Snapping her gaze up to his, Fife blinked in surprise. She’d meant the question as a joke rather than an honest dilemma. Color spread from the tip of her nose to the shells of her ears and she broke eye contact to survey the dimming light over the garden. She didn’t want him to misinterpret her hesitation for reservation, however.

Are you sure?

It was a stupid question but one she had to ask. There was no room for questioning the depth of his feelings, but being publicly together… She’d never considered how it would feel, how it would be. And the implications of telling Romelia, of all people, made her mind falter, going totally blank. Still…

Fife looked back up at him and a tender smile curled her lips. Her fingers, still laced with his, tightened in a firm squeeze. She nodded. She’d like that. She’d love to.
 
"You had to think about that, didn't you?" he asked rhetorically. Raigryn smiled down at her. "And I think you quite like the idea. Remember that ball we went to, when I didn't quite catch that dance?"

"It will be fine. And if it is not...well, we have enough coin to go back to an inn," he laughed.

Raigryn sighed as a hazy edge of melancholy touched his thoughts.

"I'm very tired of hiding things," he admitted to her.
 
Of course she had to think about it. Raigryn might have had more time to be miserable than her, but they had both believed they'd spend their lives alone. There were bound to be many more things that gave her pause, too. Maybe one of these days she would make his mind stumble, too. She did like tripping him up.

Reminding her of the ball, Fife smiled and nodded. I do. At the time it hadn't meant much. Things had changed quite significantly between them since he'd promised that dance.

She watched the subtle shift in his features, and still his remark caught her by surprise. There was so Much that Sue couldn't change but this – this was something she could help.

Fife fully unwound herself from his arms to turn toward him with their hands on her lap. She squeezed his hand earnestly and leaned in. Her gaze was clear and the color had receded from her cheeks.

Then no more hiding. She used their clasped hands to fashion the sign for hide. It was accidentally poignant.

There were plenty of reasons to keep hiding, but there were so many more reasons not to. It was a difficult concept to express in the Silent Way.

I would love to live in the sunshine with you.
 
It was that look in her face that stole his heart. She really believed it. He had been roaming between those few people who even knew he lived when he crossed her paths.

He had drawn his sword when he needed to, called upon his magic to help where no one could see him. Raigryn had been surviving and letting the days roll past.

"I don't know if we could make a life here, but why don't we agree to start thinking about how we might do that?"

He held up his right hand, squeezing it into a fist. It still didn't feel right. Despite her skill, he wanted to feel as if he could protect Fife before they tried to carve out a place for themselves.

"I'm not sure I could live at Indretar," he mused. "Somewhere warm, but less...dry."
 
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The future was such a daunting prospect, but for once Fife faced it with excitement. It had been a while since she had felt this eager for the unknown. She liked plans, liked knowing where she was going tomorrow. Having a goal gave her a sense of purpose, and now that goal was him.

She felt like her heart was going to burst. She nodded vigorously, tears making her stormy eyes shimmer in the evening light.

Of course, not Indretar. That was understandable; as much as the Idemni settlement felt like home to her, it was a constant reminder of something terrible for him. She thought of the scene carved into the narrow pass, of the single looming figure that dominated the scene as he had dominated the battlefield, and stifled a shiver. No, they could visit but that could never be home.

Tell me about the places you love most, she urged him gently.
 
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Raigryn saw the tears welling in her eyes. It would have felt wrong to wipe them away gently with his thumb. Tears like that could stay a little while.

"I'm sure Jocelyn is quite fat and happy in those woods," he said. It was still slightly sad to have lost his only travelling companion for the year before Fife but he believed what he said.

"They come from a dangerous place, the Ixchel Wilds. That is where I met their kind and would return to tame one every few years. Not a place to make home. Dense, swelteringly hot jungles. You can't move without pushing leaves the size of a horse aside. Many, many dangerous creatures which is why they move so quickly when they're unseen."

"North of here the land becomes the Steppes to the east. Boring and flat. But head west, past Dornoch and you reach the Ferrank hills. It's cold there in the winter, warm in the summer. It rains a lot, but it is quiet and safe."
 
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Fife's smile didn't diminish as she listened. Even recalling Jocelyn couldn't unseat her utter joy. She missed the odd creature and not a day went By that she didn't think of her. She thought of the hours they had spent together, just the three of them around campfires and hearths. Hopefully Raigryn was right and the sloth was gorging herself on every unfortunate small creature that had the bad luck to live in that glade.

Of course, she listened to him talk about the world he had seen. There was plenty of it she had yet to see, but perhaps they could travel for a little while longer. Necessity dictated some of their future journey, but it would not forever.

A place that was quiet and safe. She could go for some of that.

I would like to see it.

The air was getting chilly, the sun fully set and the city lights winking in and out.

Let's go in. Romelia will get curious soon. Fife stood, keeping Raigryn's hand in hers. We can talk more tomorrow.

Casting a cursory look at the house to ensure they weren't being observed, Fife stepped between Raigryn's knees and cupped his jaw. She pressed her lips to his and breathed deeply. It took a lot to pull away a few moments later.

Three taps on your window tonight? she asked with a grin.
 
"So we're planning how to tell Romelia tomorrow, " Raigryn said, as he couldn't face up to that without more of a plan. He didn't want to hide, but he wanted to have a little more of a think about the delivery.

"Two taps will do it but...what if we excused ourselves when there was some light still?"

He kept a light grip around her slender waist.

"I would like...to be able to see a little better," he said with a smirk.
 
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She nodded. As Raigryn suggested, they could ask Masselin for advice. Which meant telling him. That, at least, would be easier. She and Masselin had said nothing to each other about crossing paths sneaking out of their rooms the night before, but it had been apparent they had both been caught doing something – particularly something they didn't want Romelia to know.

Regarding the latter comment, she was a shock of color… which he wouldn't see well enough in the dark. Fife smirked and nodded again. It was hard not to acquiesce any of his requests when he smiled at her like that.

She cupped his face, pressed a quick series of kisses against his lips, and wriggled out of his grasp with a hiss of laughter. Tomorrow would be a day of awkward chats and generally feeling bad about really difficult stuff she shouldn't be putting her nose into. Tonight, however, she set those thoughts aside, tugged at Raigryn's hand, and returned to the bright, warm house.




"As I assumed, after seeing you climbing in his window. But isn't he a bit old for you? Ha! Don't look at me like that," Masselin chided as Fife scowled at him. He went on just as she was putting chalk to slate. "I don't mean to contest it. He's a marvelous fellow and he clearly cares about you. Has nobody else said it, though? People are bound to say it."

It had taken her most of the morning to find the right moment to talk to her brother in private. It had then taken every drop of courage to write the words, burning from collar to hairline. She'd hastily erased the words when he had smiled like a cat who'd caught a mouse, and now he was teasing her. What a prick! Fife huffed and set herself to scratching at the tablet once more.

She flipped around the slate. And who were you going to see? Masselin's smile vanished, as well as most of the color on his face.

"Okay, I get it. No more teasing." He looked around nervously. "I'll tell you, but only if we agree to keep one another's secrets."

Fife held out her hand. They shook on it.



Fife's eyes were bright when she and Masselin sat down with Raigryn after lunch. Romelia was off on a social call, which meant they had the rare opportunity to see her son alone. The staff always took a break after cleaning up the midday meal, which also gave them a small but

Her fingers had twitched all through the meal to tell him the wonderful gossip, but that had to wait. Her brother's secret would be chewing a hole in her while they discussed something more important.

Masselin was smiling in his broad, boyish way, filled in on his own share of gossip. He greeted Raigryn and his even his words were smiling.

Fife sighed and sat down beside her old man. She sat back int he deep cushions and crossed her legs.

I told Masselin we wanted to talk together, she signed to Raigryn. This discussion was going to be a whole lot more than her slate to convey. She was far better at writing and spelling, but it was easier to let the expert mage talk about his craft than to fumble through her explanation.

Masselin was watching her hands intently with his brow furrowed. They weren’t related by blood, but both he and Fife wore the same crease between their brows when they concentrated. Fife couldn’t help smiling and he looked up.

“Oh, forgive me. Was I eavesdropping?” Fife shook her head, and he smiled. “It’s fascinating. I’d love to learn more while you are here.”

Her chest was tight around her lungs. Fife smiled brightly, then quickly looked over to Raigryn. Uncertainty crept across her expression. The Silent Way wasn’t hers to share. Fife might not have seen the harm in teaching one man in Oban, halfway across a continent from the Idemni, but it could still put the others at risk.

Raigryn had enough to talk about today. She pulled her slate into her lap and scratched out a reply.

Masselin

He eagerly looked at the text, then looked up with a confused expression. Fife made the sign she’d coined for his name: an M that brushed her chin. Like the color red – and the coppery whiskers that he sported. He beamed and repeated it.

Satisfied, Fife folded her hands around her slate and turned to Raigryn. It was time for business.
 
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He missed waking up with Fife curled up against him. Raigryn spent some time thinking about that as the morning light rudely forced its way through his curtains.

Their time apart had felt like a haze. There were times when it felt like no time at all. Others - like now - it felt like they had a lot of catching up to do. The sheets still carried her scent from some of that catching up, but he missed waking up with her.

Whether that would change or not after Romelia was informed of the situation was another matter entirely.

Hopefully they wouldn't be tossed out. He was really quite fond of the breakfasts here. And in not having to pay for lodgings.



Satisfied, Fife folded her hands around her slate and turned to Raigryn. It was time for business.

"We need to talk about Leifric," Raigryn said. "The tanner's boy."

Raigryn, by contrast, was more concerned about Masselin's safety if he was taught the Silent Way. There were not many idemni around in the world, but he didn't want the lad to end up on the wrong side of idemni steel.

Fife had a connection with the Masselin. They connected in a way that she might never have with Ylerial. Perhaps they could consider owning a cottage outside of the city. It was time for his wanderlust to settle down.

"He used magic. Magic that can be a little dangerous. When are you going to see him again?"
 
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She had been right to let him do the talking. Raigryn got right down to the heart of the matter. Fife nodded beside him, her eyes earnest. Masselin's smile faltered and the telltale crease reappeared on his brow.

"Leifric? Dangerous?" His short laugh was dry and laden with confusion. "No, he's a sweet boy, despite his terrible father."

He glanced between them and, seeing their serious expressions, his attempted smile dwindled.

"I'll go back in a week or so. You're serious? What sort of magic do you think he has?"

Fife could easily follow his line of thought. He thought they meant pyromancy or some other elemental magic that could be destructive without discipline. He had no idea.

She was suddenly very nervous. What would Masselin think of her? Would he understand how she'd used Empathy in the limited time she'd had it before he'd left? Would he look at her differently?

Clamping down on a rising sense of panic before it overwhelmed her mental barriers, she glanced at Raigryn and nodded. It was time Masselin knew before she changed her mind.
 
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Raigryn nodded back at her. The situation was serious, but seeing the slight flush of colour on her cheeks drew his mind to when she had been so very brave and trusting before slinking back late in the night.

He mentally shrugged off that thought and turned towards Masselin.

"Have you ever heard of Empathy, as a magic?"

He shook his head.

"The first thing to know is that we would prefer you didn't tell anyone about it. Myself, Fife and that boy, we can draw power from other people's emotions. It was outlawed in Elbion years ago, where the school was. The power is rare, it is not inherently dangerous.

"You understand, I'm sure," Raigryn said. A question, but not phrased as one.
 
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Masselin frowned gently, a momentary deepening of the crease in his brow. He listened, his attention never leaving Raigryn, and Fife didn't look away from him. Finally, he pursed his lips.

"I understand," he offered. Her brother turned to meet her gaze. “You noticed when we were there. That’s what happened – when you grabbed the lad’s hand. It was magic.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement.

Fife nodded.

She didn’t need to tell him that Leifric had been using his magic on him; Fife would never tell him that part if she could help it. It was a minor detail that might only do to worsen his opinion of the magic. She held her hands clasped firmly in her lap, focusing on the feeling of them twining tightly together to keep her mind from wandering. He was listening and was calm. She could be calm, too.

Masselin looked back to Raigryn and his young face was drawn in long, serious lines. "Do you think Ulric is aware of it, too?"

Fife shrugged and looked up at Raigryn. He didn't respond when it happened. I don't think he is an Empath. Everything beyond that was speculation.
 
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"No, Fife doesn't think so," Raigryn replied. "I think we might have to teach you some more sign language."

His change of heart came quickly. Fife had exactly one long term friend in her life that wasn't him. Letting them communicate more easily was worth the risk. He also started to think about where they might be able to live closer to Oban.

Romelia would certainly know someone with land in the country around the city that might have a cottage for someone who could write and help with the land.

There were more immediate issues to tackle, he reminded himself.

"We are still working up a plan at this point," Raigryn admitted. "But we need to know as much about the boy and his family as we can. An empath who has more power than they control can... They can be a danger."
 
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