watching the lights go down

other worlds through sunglasses


meta-analysis, cunning plan, writers are liars
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[Dragaera] Not A Dragon
For dbzlives, rather belatedly.

Set in pre-Empire time. Dolivar chats to Drien about Sethra and Keiron; if you know who all those people are, no spoilers.


*

I don't know what Sethra saw in me, I really don't.

Oh, shut up, Drien, you've never seen me naked. Well, I don't think you have. And she hadn't until that night, so I'm fairly sure that wasn't it. No, I'd like to think it was my charming wit and debonair nature, or my handsome golden hair, or something like that, but Sethra's smarter than me by half - and if you tell anyone I admitted it I'll challenge you to a duel - and debonair doesn't do a thing for her. She's just not impressed by noble natures. I suppose she has a right not to be impressed.

Maybe she's taken me on as her pet, although if this is what she does to greeterbirds I fear for the genetic purity of the avian population. Not that Sethra's shown any inclination toward motherhood. No, quite the contrary. I was nervous - remember the mess with Kieron and that little Yendi? - but she said she didn't want kids, especially not kids with a Dragon. Which made me blink. I asked her, "So what, you'd prefer crossbreeds?"

And she said, "Dolivar, it may have somehow escaped your Hawk-like observational powers, but I'm not a Dragon."

Now this suprised me. She looks like a Dragon, doesn't she? And she hangs out with the Dragons. So I said, "Yes, it had escaped me. What are you, a Dzur?"

And she says, "No. I'm not any of the houses you know."

Now, I came to the obvious conclusion. You've heard the rumours, I'm sure - what, you havn't? Alright. They say that in addition to the twenty tribes we all know and love, there's a Tribe of the Coyote, who live in the wilds near Dzur Mountain, off in the east. Nobody seems able to describe a coyote - they say it's something like a fox - but they can all describe a Coyote, and they agree they are incredibly powerful sourcerers, and tricker than the Yendi, and more mysterious than the Tsalmoth. Remind you of anyone?

Exactly.

I didn't mention it to her, of course. I had other things on my mind, and I was pretty sure if I asked her right out, "Are you a Coyote?" she'd say, "Of course not. Whatever gave you that idea?"

And what with one thing and another, I pretty much put it out of my mind.

Now, it happened that next week Kieron came up to me while I was trying to have lunch in my room and said, "I don't trust Sethra. Keep an eye on her." What was I supposed to do? Turn him down? He's my brother. I told him I would, and he said, "Good. Maybe that hobby of yours will be useful."

I was mad, I don't mind telling you. Well, I don't mind telling you, Drien, but don't let it get out. My first impulse was the pick up my bowl of soup and upend it on his head, but one simply doesn't to that to one's brother if one is over fifty, and one doesn't do it to Zerika's favorite general at all, if one is attached to one's head. My second impulse was to challenge him to duel, but I like my head, and there was no way I cold beat him with a sword.

That was half the problem. He's a good man, but he doesn't think anything that can't be done with a piece of sharp metal is worth doing. Witchcraft drives him quite mad. He's never quite gotten over my leaving him to toady up to the Phoenixes all alone while I went out and lorded it over the Easterners, and the thought that the Easterners have some good ideas never even passed into his damnably thick skull. Whatever else you say for witchcraft, though, you can't complain of its unsubtlety. Sorcery is all very well for destroying a regiment in one blow, but if you want to make someone see things your way, you have to turn to witchcraft. Like I said, he doesn't like things that can't be done with a sword. He doesn't even like the Shamans. He puts up with you, because you can swing sharp metal bits with the best of them, but me he just resents. Is it my fault my instinctive reaction when someone tries to remove portions of my anatomy with a piece of sharp metal is to head for the trees? And I have a real talent for witchcraft. I could help him a lot, if only he'd let me. Using it to spy on my lover, though, did not seem the most promising of openings.

What would you have done?

Okay, let me rephrase that - What would you have done assuming you were really quite enamoured of life and unwilling to let it go lightly?

... Thought so.

Anyhow, I thought about it, and it came to me that this had to be Kieron's idea and only Kieron's idea. Zerika would not have liked the notion of spying on Sethra, for fear of annoying her unduly. Learning as much about her as possible through the usual channels, yes, that's just politics. But there was a line, and Zerika does have honor.

Then it struck me that so does Kieron. So what? Did he consider Sethra a special case? He's not honorable without exception. He must suspect her of something.

This was quite a dilemma, but I realized there was an honorable way out of it. That night I told Sethra everything Kieron had told me, and explained I was likely to be spying on her with witchcraft. I felt it was only right that she be warned. Oh, don't look at me like that, he hadn't actually told me not to tell her. Perhaps it's just my idosyncratic sense of honor, but I consider Sethra a friend, and my obligations to Kieron are not enough to wipe that out.

She didn't seem suprised. "Kieron suspects me of disloyalty," she said. "In a way, he's right. I would cheerfully destroy him, if it was in the best interests of the Empire."

And I said, "What's an Empire?"

Well, this was before Zerika gave that rather stirring speech. I'm glad you were back in time to hear that. Did my soul good. The thing is, Zerika explained it as something we could all believe in. But when Sethra explained it to me then, it sounded ... like a good idea, but not a very likely one. I wanted to think that this wonderful thing would really happen within my lifetime, but I just couldn't quite wrap my mind around it.

So I set up a spell. It wasn't my best work; I more or less had to make it up as I went along. For a month or two, that was the end of it. Kieron didn't even ask me about it - I presume he figured if I saw anything dangerous, I'd tell him. And Sethra didn't seem to mind. I think she thought it was sweet, because I was taking rather a lot of time when I really should have been doing other things to watch that spell. I even watched her in the bath once. I think she knew I was watching - but. Doesn't really matter, does it? Not now. Anyhow, I figured out a way for the spell to make me know if anything strange happened, so I didn't have to watch it all the time. Didn't have to watch it at all, if I didn't want to.

I wanted to, though.

It happened Midsummer's Eve. Sethra had asked me if I wanted to go watch the stars with her for a while. She displays more interest in the stars than anyone else I've met. They're just points of light, after all. Half the time you can't even see them. But that night it had cleared up, for once. So we went up to Old Tower Hill, right outside the city gates, and we found a nice place to lie down on top of one of the stones.

It turned out Sethra had brought salad rolls. And blackberries. And wine. Well.

She started pointing out stars to me and telling me their names. It turns out the Serioli have names for the stars. Can you believe that? I couldn't pronounce half of them.

Now, I shouldn't have been half suprised. Tower Hill is a nice place at night, and people like to go walking there. I just hadn't applied that knowledge to the fact of our being there, and I definately hadn't thought of Kieron as the sort of person to do something so frivlous as look at the stars. Only he wasn't there for anything frivolous. He walked right up to us, apparently quite ready to ignore the fact that Sethra was only wearing about half her shirt by then and mine was in a bush several feet away, and declared that he had come to speak to me.

I told him I was busy and went back to what I was doing.

... Oh, shut up, Drien. I'm sure your imagination can supply the details. Anyhow, he sort of growled and blustered and then Sethra sat up and started doing her shirt up and told him it couldn't be that urgent or he wouldn't have come himself, but since he was here, why didn't he explain?

And he said he only wanted to talk to me, not her.

"Forget it," I said. "Anything you have to say to me, you can say to her." It was really a rather stupid thing to say, because Sethra was not in his good graces right then and the idea that his own brother would side with her was just twisting the knife. And I still hadn't figured out what he was mad about.

So Kieron sort of growls and looks at me funny and says, "You can take that spell of yours down. I have other ways. More reliable ones." And he spins around and walks away, and I realize that he looked really upset, and so I run after him, leaving Sethra sitting on the rock. Continued stupidity. Kieron has that effect on me.

When I finally caught up with him, he was looking more grim than upset. I told him, "I'm sorry if I offended you."

Yes, Drien, I am a Dragon and I am capable of apologizing. We do exist. I've seen YOU apologize to people, so you must know it can be done. He looked at me for a long time and then said, "What is it you see in her? Can't you tell she wants something? She only fights beside us because it suits her purposes for the moment. In a year or two, her purposes might be something else entirely."

There wasn't a lot to say to that, so I finally settled for, "No. I think she wants the same things we do."

"What do you think she wants?"

"Peace and stability," I told him. "Between all twenty tribes. And the Easterners."

Kieron's face sort of clouded over at that. "There can be no peace with the Easterners," he said. "Unless it is the peace of conquest. I don't trust Sethra, is all. She's up to something. She plots to take Zerika's place, perhaps."

"Why would she want it? Right now she gets the best of both ways. She has Zerika's ear, which is a lot of power, but she doesn't have to make the decisions herself, only hand out advice."

"I don't know," Kieron said. "But - Be careful, Dolivar. Be on your guard. Don't let her snare you in her web."

So I hugged him. Shut up, Drien, I do that sometimes. I mean, despite his being an annoying prig with a giant sword, he's my brother, and I love him even though I don't like him. And he hugged back, sort of. And he said "Take care" again, and then he clanked off.

When I got back to the boulder Sethra was fiddling with that funny blue dagger of hers and looking extremely pleased. "What's so funny?" I asked her.

"Just that something I was hoping would happen did," she said, and refused to say more. We did finish the blackberries eventually, and I even found my shirt the next morning.

The next three days I didn't see her at all. She was off somewhere with Zerika, plotting and doing strange magical things. Finally, on the afternoon of the third day, they called me into the workshop. Have you ever been inside it? Well, then, you know how weird it looks. I still havn't figured out what the thing with the brass rings and the marble balls is for. Sethra calls it an orrery, which doesn't help me at all. They'd drawn the shades and were standing together next to a table with a number of little bottles on it and a big chalk circle.

Sethra told me, "Dolivar, we need you to do something for us."

"Whatever you need, within reason," I told Sethra.

"Remember the time you saw the Sea of Chaos?" My throat went a little dry. I had passed by there on my way back from the East, but I hadn't liked the area at all. It felt like the sea was calling out to me - trying to pull me in, make me part of it - I couldn't really say. It wanted to be my friend. But I didn't like thinking of it like that. I nodded.

"We need you," Sethra said, "to remember it as hard as you can. Not the surroundings - the sea. It tried to make contact with you, didn't it?"

What could I do but tell them the truth? "Yes. It did."

"Then you still have a bit of it in you. A link to it. It only likes people from your family, you know." Sethra smiled. "Think about it. Bring that link to the front of your mind." And she reached out and touched my temples, and I remembered as hard as I could.

You're a Shaman, so maybe you could have told me what happened next, if you'd been there. I certainly couldn't. It seemed like there was a twisting sensation, and the whole room turned several directions all at once, and when I opened my eyes again I was seeing double and the air smelled purple and in the middle of the chalk circle was this sphere of something blueish. Zerika looked happy. Sethra just looked smug.

"Thank you," she said, and reached over and picked up the blue thing and smiled at it. "You can stay if you like, but I'm afraid we're about to have a discussion about why that worked when nothing else did that can hardly fail to confuse you."

"I'll go," I said. I was burning with curiosity, but when Sethra says something is going to go over your head, she means it. "You can tell me all about it later."

"Yes. Later."

She did explain to me eventually more or less what she was up to, but most of it went over my head even then - I mean, we were in bed when she tried. And. Well. Maybe an Athyra could have concentrated on what she was saying, but I'm no Athyra. I'm not an expert on the arcane magical stuff, either. It sounded like what she'd done was take a little bit of amorphia and put it into the big blue stone. Which just left the question of how she got the amorphia. Well, it seemed that somehow, she'd gotten it from me. It was a family thing, she said. I hadn't taken it from the Sea - that had just been to help me focus. No, I'd made it on the spot.

That might be a useful trick, if I could figure out how to do it deliberately. And how not to let it spread.

I would have liked to say I didn't have time to worry about any of this, but the truth was, I had a lot of time to worry. Zerika was tied up with negotiations with the Athyra, most of the Shamans were helping, and the fighting had stopped entirely. Kieron was restless. He's always restless when there's nobody to fight. He'd spend a lot of time pacing around the city walls, swinging his broadsword at anyone who got too close. Sethra was doing her arcane magical things with the pretty blue rock. It was strange - during the day I didn't see her at all, but she'd show up in my room every night, and she'd stay for breakfast, too. One time that strange valet of hers - Tukko, I think his name is - came in at about three in the morning and woke her up, and she rushed right out. She came back three hours later, looking very tired. Didn't tell me why. Nobody tells me anything.

No, that was not an iniviation to tell me the details of your campaign against the Iorich.

Very well, your neogitations withthe Iorich. I'm sure they were fascinating, but I'm not in the mood right now. I don't think I'll be in the mood for seventeen years.

I was spending most of my days, therefore, fretting. Fretting and practicing. I'd go out each morning and spend three hours sweating myself dry swinging a sword around. If anybody else was handy I'd try to spar. Sometimes I even won. I used up so much hot water - I pity the poor Teckla running the boilers. But hot baths are a weakness of mine, and after a few hours on the training ground most of my muscles were aching. You know how that is.

The worst of it was that Kieron wasn't speaking to me. I could tell something was eating at him. I hate watching him like that. But I couldn't just go up and ask what the matter was, because he'd take a swing at me and he might forget to miss.

I was about ready to snap and take somebody's head off. Kieron's for preference. But one day Tukko came up to me and said, "My mistress desires to speak to you in the workshop, at your earliest convenience."

I was trying to read, and I'd been on the same paragraph for an hour. My mind just kept sliding off it. I told him I'd be right there, and went and changed my shirt. Well, a man can try, can't he? When I go there Sethra and Tukko were communing over klava, and they had the big blue stone out.

Sethra said, "Thank you for coming. I'm come up with something rather interesting, with some advice from Verra and Nyssa." She said that so casually, too, like everybody could call up the Lords of Judgement for a bit of advice. "I thought you might like to see it."

Of course I wanted to see it. Tukko gave me a cup of klava, and Sethra went closed the curtains. It wasn't until she'd done that I noticed that the big blue stone was glowing, very faintly.

Sethra picked up this lump of something I'd thought was a paperweight off another table. "This is trellanstone," she told me. It was rather pretty, actually - it looked like it had veins of pinkish quartz running through it. "Nyssa provided it. She is prepared to provide another sample, if the experiments work out. But for the moment - " She held it out and frowned in concentration - she gets a little line between her eyebrows when she frowns that has an unfortunate tendency to turn my knees to butter - and the blue stone started glowing more.

After a few seconds it started to rise off the table and hum. Not loudly or annoyingly, just hummming. I half expected it to break into a rousing chorus of "The Dragon's Tentacles", which I am sure you are far to upright to have ever heard, Drien, and which I am not going to sing for you. Shut up. Not even if you buy me dinner.

Sethra began to hum too, very quietly, and traced a circle in the air with her other hand. The stone bgan to give off heat - lots of heat, like we were standing in front of a fire. Tukko was watching it with a very peculiar look in his eyes.

And then Sethra took a deep breath and shouted something that I believe is the word for "STOP!" in the secret tounge of the Issola. And it all stopped. The rock fell back to the table. It all went very quiet.

Finally Sethra smiled and held out the trellanstone and said, "You try it."

"I have no idea how you just did that," I told her.

"That's alright. Try it. Just wish for it. Here." She handed me the trellanstone and came over and leaned against my back, putting her hands on my temples. I felt a lot better right away. "Go on."

So, feeling rather stupid, I tried wanting the stone to start glowing again. And it did.

Now, I was so suprised I stopped wanting, and of course the stone stopped glowing. Sethra told me that was alright; she'd seen all she needed to. And of course I'd see the implications of this. It would be very important to the Empire someday.

That evening the conclusion of the negotiations was reached and it turned out we weren't going to be fighting the Athyra anytime soon, either. Poor Kieron, deprived of his only joy.

I had to sit down and think about things. And what I came up with was this: of the nineteen tribes, we had five on our side if you came back with good news, and it seemed pretty likely you'd come back with good news.

Yes, nineteen. I don't count the Wolf in that. And you know why? Because by the time this Empire comes to fruition, there will be no more of the Tribe of the Wolf. I can do simple figures. How many of the Tribe of the Wolf live in the city now? Four dozen, of which three dozen are past two thousand. And outside the city, fewer than half that. I'm good friends with one of the Wolf - Mariido, her name is. She's nine hundred. She's the youngest living Wolf by four hundred years. A good woman, the best bare-handed fighter I know, and fiercely loyal to her friends, of which I am honored to be one. She also does a good kethna stew. But the truth is that in a thousand years, she will not be the youngest living Wolf anymore, she'll be the last living Wolf. And while the tribe will go down with nothing but honor to their memory, memory is short. No, I don't count the Wolf. They don't have the influence anymore.

I do count the Pheonix, the Dragon, the Issola, the Athyra, and the Iorich. If I were betting I'd put the Jhegaala and Lyorn down within a decade or three. And of course some of the Teckla were with us, but only as many as you'd expect - maybe a fifth of the whole population, all those whose lands we defended.

And it turned out one of the things that had swayed the Athyra was that trick with the trellanstone. She hadn't planned to, but after she showed it to me Zerika had asked Sethra to demonstrate its mysterious powers to the Athyra delegation, who were very impressed. The idea of being able to heat their own klava appealed, I guess. Well, you know what they really liked - the idea of being able to blow up their enemies from a great distance, once Sethra and her clever little gang of Shamans and klava-brewers had worked out how to use this stuff a bit better. And they wanted in on the finding out.

After a while I realized I was thinking in circles and not getting anywhere, so I went down to Mariido's house and talked her into making stew, and we had a nice chat about using your legs proprely in wrestling. It's funny how talking about something else entirely can help you think about something that's troubling you. I felt a lot better when I left.

I'd finally worked out what I was so upset about, at least. Either the tribes would be united under Zerika, or there would be bloody war, or both. Frankly I'd prefer it if they just agreed to stay out of each other's way.

Sethra worked out I was worried. She's perceptive like that. That night she asked me what was the matter.

"That there's going to be a war, if we aren't careful," I said. "And probably even if we are. Not everyone's going to be as receptive as the Athyra."

"And there hasn't been already?"

Well, there hasn't been, has there? There have been a lot of - scuffles. Forays. Defending our perimiter. And right now we weren't even doing that. No wonder Kieron was restless.

Sethra told me those things were a war, really, albeit one conducted on a small and irregular scale. She explained quite a lot of military strategy to me. I knew most of it already - I am a Dragon, and I'm not stupid - but she explained it a lot better than anyone else who'd taught me, and besides I loved the sound of her voice, so I didn't say a thing. Just let her talk.

When she was done I told her, "I'm worried about Kieron."

"He'll be fine," she said. "Wait and see."

"Wait for what? What's going to happen? He's so - " I had to take a deep breath. "He hates to compromise. But we have to compromise, don't we? He'd rather go down fighting. And yet, he's a good man. Just - not very flexible."

Sethra nodded, looking sad. "There will be a war," she said. "Not every tribe will come into the fold so easily as the Athyra did. Zerika will do her best, but there will be a fight. And Kieron will lead it, because he knows that having a united empire will be the best thing for us, in the long run. He'll learn. He'll do what's best for everyone."

"Yeah. I know."

It was only a week later that you came back. You know more or less what happened then. I've never seen Kieron looking so proud and glorious as he did right then, when Zerika finished her speech and yelled out "For the Empire!" and everyone started cheering. And Sethra just looked smug. She'd seen this coming. She'd known. It was exactly what she'd wanted, what she'd worked toward, and someday when there really was an Empire - well.

That night I went to see Kieron, because I just couldn't let it go any longer. I wanted to know why he'd been so suspicious of Sethra, and what he was going to do, and what he really thought of me.

I knew what I was doing. I brought a bottle.

When I got there Kieron was staring at the wall. He does that sometimes. His valet, whose name I have never been able to pronounce, was hovering and looking fretful. I told him to scram and he did. He's not a bad fellow, for a Teckla. Has a lot of sense.

As soon as the door closed I set down my bottle and took the other chair, and then I leaned back and stuck my feet on the table, which never fails to annoy Kieron out of a funk. It worked. He blinked a few times, then he growled.

I ignored him and started to whistle "The Dragon's Tentacles".

... Shut up, Drien.

He sort of blinked a few times, then he said "Do - li - VAR!" Just like that. It was rather funny, really. I grinned at him and tipped over the bottle with my foot, and he grabbed it and tried to knock my feet off the table. I decided to go down easily.

"What? Can't a man decide his little brother needs a drink?"

"You barged in here without my permission - "

"Because you were too busy debating new curtains to stop me. Relax, Kieron. I'm not going to hurt you."

He deflated a bit. "I was thinking," he said.

"You should be celebrating. I brought a bottle. Go on, open it."

He scowled, but he did open the bottle, and we both had a long swig before we said anything again. He spoke first - I had all sorts of things I wanted to say, but I figured it would be better if I let him have his say. "You worry too much," he said.

I wanted to fall over laughing. Kieron, the man who has been known to work out plans for defending the council house with ten soldiers against an uprising of the entire population of the city, accusing me of worrying too much? Except it was perfectly true. So I just took another swig. "What's not to worry about?"

"We'll win the war," he says, like there was never any doubt. "Dolivar, you like to talk like you're no good, but you're a brilliant strategist. Unconventional, but brilliant. I'm honored that you chose to serve under me."

"That's not what I meant," I said. And it wasn't. Sethra has assumed I was talking about the war, but that was because I'd lied to her. Kieron assumed I meant the war because it was all he thought about. "What do you have against Sethra?"

"Nothing."

"What? You wanted me to spy on her for you!"

"I've seen the truth," he said. "Sethra's aims are the same as ours. She only wants what's best for the Empire." His eyes were glowing again. Well, metaphorically. You know what I mean. They had that look in them.

It sat there for so long I was starting to worry, and then he added, "I'm not so sure about you."

I blinked a few times and asked him what he'd just said.

"I'm not so sure about you," he said again. "Sometimes it seems like you have plans of your own. You're my brother, and I don't want to suspect you of anything, but I suspect there's something you want more than the stability of the Empire."

Well, and that's the ringer. I do.

But I couldn't tell him that, because he'd take it as an excuse to do something painful to me. And I didn't want to upset him, which it would to tell him the truth. Instead I, with my usual panache, decided that now was the moment for a Big Dramatic Gesture. Drien, if you ever see me get the urge to do a Big Dramatic Gesture again, smack me one, will you? Or hold me down until the urge passes.

Thank you. I hope I shaln't need it.

What I did was to to practically fall out of my chair and kneel in front of him. "Kieron," I said, and tried my best to look humble. He just looked kind of drunkenly suprised - his hand had gone right to his sword when I moved, but I hadn't made any attemt to threaten him, so he just looked suprised. "Kieron," I repeated. "I swear to you that I will never threaten the Empire, and that all my energies will be put into making it strong and mighty, and that I will never betray it." Actually what I said went on for quite a bit longer, because I was using flowery language, but that's the gist of it. And when I'd gotten through five minutes of solemn oath, I finished, "I swear by your sword." Because that was the only thing I could think of he'd believe.

And, miracle of miracles, he was crying. Just a little, just one tear, but it was so astonishing to see even that. "Brother, I'm sorry for ever doubting you," he told me. "If you meant all that - but of course you did. You're an honorable man. I'll hold you to it."

"Of course I meant it."

"Thank you," he said, and he looked like he meant it. So what could I do? I gave him a hug, and he, wonder of wonders, returned it, and he chatted amiably for a bit about how wonderful it was going to be when the Empire was really on its feet. And then I left and went back to my rooms. Sethra was there. I told her to go away.

Reasonably enough, she asked me why.

"Because," I said, "I am going to get truly, utterly, completely drunk, and I don't want you to see me like that."

She nodded. "Look, Dolivar?"

"What is it?" I was a little nervous, because she had that funny serious look she gets sometimes, that means she knows something you don't, and she wonders whether she ought to tell you or take care of it herself.

But she just put a hand on my shoulder. "You can talk to me about it, you know," she said reassuringly. "If anything's the matter." And she walked out bfore I could figure what I wanted to say.

So there you have it.

And the reason I'm talking to you and not Sethra, Drien, is that ... hell. You're a good listener. I wanted somebody to ramble at. Sethra would have asked intelligent questions and gotten me right to the point. Which is.

The point is.

The point is that there is something I want more than the stability of the Empire, and that is to not watch my little brother die slowly of stress from trying to keep all his promises and be the stable point, the negotiator, the one who makes all the factions work together and stays honorable and honest, when all he really wants to do is fight. He's not an Issola. He'll do the right thing, but he wasn't meant to do the right thing.

Sethra wants the Empire. It scares me sometimes how perceptive she is, and how clever. And whatever she is - enchantress, Coyote maybe, eternal outsider - she still wants the best for everyone. She thinks that the Empire's a good thing, that it will make people happy, that all these wonderful things will come out of it. And she's probably right. In the end, it will do a lot of good. Maybe there's no other way for that good to happen, and it'll sure happen faster if she helps out. And I'm going to do my best to make it happen, too.

I was still lying. Giving a false oath. I don't give two sticks for the Empire. I care about Kieron.

And Sethra. And you. And a lot of other people, in fact. But that's the point. I care about people. I'll fight for the Empire, but I'll do it because Sethra and Kieron want it so badly and I want them to be happy. Kieron cares about ideas and he's going to die for one. Sooner or later.

I don't want that to happen. He's my brother and I love him.

Drien...

I don't know what to do.

Your icon causes in me a good lot of squee. :D

This is awesome. Also, I think Vlad will explode if he ever learns that Dolivar and Sethra were lovers. :)

Thank you! I expect he would, so I assume Sethra would never tell him. ^_^

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