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4 - Reunited

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IN WHICH Osmorn discovers the full meaning of family ties.

Sister?” Ivy said, incredulous.

“My sister Andraste…well, half sister. Our father recognizes her, since she’s full-elf.” I said but Ivy wasn’t listening.

“Captain, really? Thomas captured your brother?”

“Well, half-brother. Half-elf half-brother.”

“Yes, thank you, Andé, my non-elf-hood has been well established at this point.” I said. 

“Oh, by the dragons, this is even worse than we thought…but what do you mean he isn’t a lordling? He’s your sibling, isn’t he? That means a noble father!” Thomas said.

“Thomas, you’re as common as river mud. Yes, we have a noble father. But Osmorn is un-recognized—“

“And exiled…” I added. Again.

“—And exiled, and Father has no interest in having him back.” Andraste finished.

“Indeed he’s threatened me with death if I go back. Like I told you.” 

“So he wasn’t lying,” Ivy said.

“I don’t know all of what he told you, but no, as far as any of that goes, he wasn’t lying. But, Ivy, what were you saying, and where is everyone?”

“Perhaps that’s a discussion for your tent, Captain,” Ivy said and I watched my sister’s features freeze. She looked at Ivy’s face, and Ivy cringed a little bit. 

“Very well. Osmorn, we’ll catch up later. I’m guessing you’ve been working on assignments from Thomas? Okay, keep at it then. Ivy, with me.”

“Really? You’re her brother?” Thomas asked. 

“I mean, yes? We have the same father. Her mother is obviously an elf, mine obviously isn’t.”

“Who is older?”

“Oh, she is, by a ways. She was full grown and out in the world doing things when I was born. We’ve seen each other a few times at home, she even spent a year or so in the House when I was, oh, around twenty.”

“She doesn’t look older than you.”

“She wouldn’t, would she? Elves don’t age like mortals. Physically, she probably won’t look old until we’re both long dead.” 

“What about you? How long will you live?”

“Half-elves can reach two hundred-ish years. There aren’t a ton of us in my home elf haven, I’ve only met a few others, so maybe I’m wrong.” 

“Two hundred years…I’ll be lucky to make it to eighty.” Thomas mused.

“Honestly? So will I, Thomas. You of all people should be aware of that.”

Thomas half-laughed in response to that. 

Just then Ivy and Andraste came back. Andé’s face looked troubled, but she hid it well. Ivy had clearly been crying, and hadn’t hidden it well. But neither Thomas or I were stupid enough to comment on it.

“I’m very sorry my orders didn’t reach you in time,” Andraste said, but neither Thomas nor Ivy responded. Ivy shrugged. 

“Fortunately we have a new recruit with us, my own dear brother Osmorn, which is good, because we’ve also got a new mission, and he can be helpful there.”

“Whoa, now, Andé, slow down, I’m useless in a fight. I’m trained for nothing.” 

“Trust me, I’m well aware of that, Osmorn. But we don’t need a fighter in this case. We need a distraction.”

“Ah. I’m bait then.” 

“Not really, we’re not planning on you getting attacked by anyone. We just need them looking elsewhere when the rest of us swing into action.”

“Covert, then?” Thomas asked. I was sure there were meant to be other words in that sentence. 

“Not exactly. Nobody is likely to know who we are in the area of operations. Which is the point. The client has received news that there will be an attempt on their principle’s life during the Founding Day celebration in Madreach. We are meant to neutralize the attackers if possible, but to protect the principle at all costs.”

“Who is the principle?” Ivy asked, shifting into a soldier mode. Her body was subtly taut, held, perhaps unconsciously, alert and ready for action. 

“A gnome prince. Specifically the Prince of Qouva.”

“Dragons’ bones!” Thomas swore quietly.

“The value of this contract is enough for each of you to retire to any little place you like, and get out of this business, should you want to.” Andraste said.

“Why would we want to?” Ivy asked, suddenly even more tense.

Andraste just looked away. “I’m not in this business forever. Nor should you be. The little border fights in this area are fun, but...oh, I don't know. After this…I’m moving on.”

“Without us.” Thomas said. Andraste didn’t respond. For a long moment none of us spoke. Finally Ivy broke the silence.

“I guess that’s the nature of mercenaries. We work to the job. This is no different.”

“No different at all,” Andraste said. 

“Fine. What’s the job?” Thomas asked, but he was still clearly bitter. I could understand his feelings; this was rough. Being left out of your “Captain’s” plans, told that you’re on your own from here on out…well, the pile of money was probably helpful, but still, the feeling of abandonment was undoubtedly real and painful.

“You’ve got most of it. We’ll make our way to Madreach and position ourselves near the prince. We have a vague idea of who we’re up against, and we have a pretty good idea that the attack is going to go down during The Founding Day celebrations. The prince is attending to show the good faith of the Kingdom of Oulia—“

“There’s no such thing,” Ivy said.

“Don’t tell him that. Perhaps he’s there simply as the prince of Qouva then. But whatever the case, he’ll be outdoors, mobile, and therefore compromised as far as his security detail is concerned. So we’re extra security.” 

“And a hit squad,” Thomas said, looking down. He reached for his sheath knife and started meditatively running his thumb across the blade, sideways, testing the sharpness.

“Don’t get hung up on that detail, Thomas. If we keep the prince safe we get paid. Eliminating the competition is just icing on the cake as far as our employer is concerned.”

“Do we get paid extra for it?”

“Not significantly.”

“I’ll be the judge of that, Captain. Does your contact know the likely identity of the competition?”

“No, they are most likely hired help just like us.”

“Makes it harder, but not impossible,” Thomas said. For a long moment Andraste just looked at him, then said spoke again. 

“Founding Day is on the first of Brightmoon, and as far as anyone knows that’s actually pretty close to when Storest was founded. But we’re not worried about the history, just keeping the prince alive.”

“Who is the prince of Qouva these days?” Ivy asked.

“A gnome, like I said. Prince Bribis Heavybrass,” Andraste said.

Thomas snorted quietly. “That’s a lot of name for a gnome.”

“He’s a lot of gnome, or so they say. Not really our concern. He can have whatever name he likes as long as he wakes up alive and healthy on the second of Brightmoon. Leave the politics to the politicians, let’s just do our job.” 

“Right you are, Captain” Thomas said, still running his finger across the blade of his knife. He turned and walked back to his tent. 

Ivy had also left at some point in that conversation, so it was just me and Andraste. 

“Andé, what are you doing leading a band of mercenaries?” I asked. 

“What do you mean? I’ve been leading bands since before you were born, Ozzie.”

“I thought, I mean, Father told us that you were an officer in the army.”

“I was for a bit. Actually I’ve been part of a few armies. But they get tiresome. I prefer working freelance. But what are you doing out here?” 

I filled my sister in on what was going on. She only stopped me a few times.

“Chaedi, as in the daughter of Baron Ildroun? Oh, Ozzie you idiot. She used to babysit me, you know. Well, I guess that was before your time. Maybe she thought she was just babysitting you as well!” 

“Yes, very droll. Thank you for that.”

“I don’t understand. So you were courting her. How is that a banishment offense?” 

“Ah, it was more or less how our love was discovered. You see, her mother found me sleeping in her bed.”

“Oh, Ozzie you idiot.”

“You’ve already said that.”

“Some things bear repeating. So Baroness Ildroun discovers a half-elf is—courting—her daughter, but that could have worked out. Mother and the Baroness have often discussed joining our houses. I think if I had been a male she would have married us off to one another. You would have done just as well.”

“Your mother would have had to recognize me as legitimate.”

“Ah. Yeah, But what about ——, surely he stood up for you?”

“Who?”

“——. Father? Osmorn, what’s going on? You keep blanking out.”

“Are you perchance saying the name of our shared paternal parent?”

“——,yes.”

“Oh that’s not good. You say I blank out when you say that? You see, the person you are naming had me enchanted so I can never speak, write, read, or hear his name.”

Andraste looked at me blankly for a moment, then her eyes widened. “Oh, Ozzie…you’ve got to get far, far from Rhys. If someone found out about that…”

“They could paralyze me.” I finished and she nodded. 

“For a half-elf you don’t do things by half measures, do you? You either quietly hang around our home, going entirely unnoticed, or you blow up the entire society of Rhys.”

“It wasn’t my choice! I didn’t decide to get banished and enchanted.” 

“But you did decide to…court…Chaedi Ildroun.”

I nodded. “I guess so. Anyway, moving on, to bigger and better things. You said you need me as a distraction.”

Andraste smiled. “Yes we do. I’d ask you to volunteer but apparently you’re a captive, so I’m just pressing you into service. Time-honored military tradition, that. But you won’t be fighting.”

“And what if I decide I don’t want to be part of your little murder-for-money scheme?” 

“Then I sell you or kill you or something.”

“Everyone should have a sister like you, you know that?”

“They’re not all that lucky. Anyway. Do you still play the lyre?”

“I switched to the lute some fifteen years ago. A, ah, friend of mine suggested that it was a more pleasing instrument.”

“Huh. I wouldn’t have pegged Chaedi for a folk music enthusiast. Wandering minstrels and the like. Anyway the lute works just fine for our purposes. We need you wandering out in the open, working a few key words into your song to communicate with us, and generally drawing attention. People watch a minstrel, which means we can move behind their backs. Also we can watch for anyone who is ignoring you. If someone isn’t paying attention to the minstrel they’re either up to something, or have better taste than your old girlfriend.”

“Every word you say is like a dagger through my heart, you know that, don’t you? When did you get so jaded?” I asked and Andraste just smiled at me. 

“Grow up, Ozzie. Can you play? You were getting okay at the lyre, and fifteen years of doing nothing other than practicing probably gave you at least some semblance of skill. Get your lute and show me.”

I got and I showed. I tuned up without thinking and just started playing. As it always did, my mind sought out what should be woven into the melody. I found Andraste’s humor and, somewhat surprisingly, her sympathy. I found Ivy’s hurt and Thomas’ anger. It wasn’t the prettiest song I’ve ever played. I shifted keys and started into a ballad that had circulated Rhys for centuries, instead of my own creation.

When I finished Andraste was quiet for a moment, then said. “You have talent, that’s undeniable. And perhaps…not just with the music. There was something…something there when you were playing that first part, not the old love song.” She looked at me for a second longer and said, “Perhaps you could get some training. I might know someone in Madreach that could give you some pointers. Still, that’s for another day. For now we need to break camp and get to Madreach. We’ve got a little under two weeks to get things together and scout out the area. Come on, little brother. Let’s get to work.”


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