When Fiel comes home, he finds the tiny hut tucked under the great deck of the Great Lodge of Hoelbrak empty, and cold. It’s unusual, and would have been extremely worrying, had he not found the note left on the bed, penned in the broad, sharp handwriting of his mother: Gone to Farrin

His mother and sister, at the guild hall?

That he’d like to see.

It felt colder here than before, but granted she was rare in the area enough to know the patterns. Still, she tightened the grip on her fur and walked further down the paths, going down below the large pillars to where she began to see an outline of housing hiding just out of the way. There’s hesitance, but she takes in an icy breath and trudges up the smaller path to the large door.

She gives a quick shake of herself to get rid of some snow built on her so not to have it follow inside, then sharply raps on the wood.

Fiel jumps a little. He’s been tense, distracted. Even back into civilization the worry clouding his mind had not left him.

He pushes the entrance cover open. He expects to see a norn, Tove, perhaps. Instead he finds….

“Gal?”

Of all the people to find at his doorstep.

“Gods I hope so,” she responds with a slight hint of sarcasm, careful not to jab too hard. She still gives him a small smile.

He steps aside and invites her in.

“Come in, get yourself out of the snow.” He turns to go and get a fire started. “I just came home myself.”

Then he turns back to her, knowing that it had to be more than a simple social call.

“What happened?”

She does a small kick of more snow from her boots before coming inside, keeping her fur on until he has the fire ready. “Guess I had the right timing. Farrin told me to check here first.”

There’s a grimace, but she shrugs. “Just, ah- It’s complicated, but I just needed a favor mostly….Where have you been?”

Fiel’s face hardens.

“Chasing shadows,” is all the answer he gives. There a pause before he continues. “My father told you to find me here? You were looking for me?”

The eyebrow arches, but she moves on, finding herself one of the larger chairs in the room and sinks deep into the seat.

“We all do, but you were quiet I-” A pause, but she shakes her head. “Ah yes, I was asking your father the past couple weeks where you were, trying to find some material to specific needs I have. Couldn’t help, so he said to keep looking for you. Went from there… Your mother is lovely by the way. Silent as death, but stunning.”

It’s Fiel’s turn to arch a brow. He can’t help laughing a bit at that comment.

“I… can’t believe she actually made it to the guild. I mean, of course she would, but…” he shakes his head in disbelief. “I bet she’s miserable in that heat.”

Gal can’t help but laugh too, burying herself into the fur still wrapped around her. “She was suffering. Pretty sure she was nervous too, but she at least found the bar. Then the fountains. Farrin got time with your…sister? Sister, yes. They loved it I think.”

Fiel chuckles some more, and clears his throat.

“Ah… ‘specific needs’, you said?”

Her frown deepens. The hands worry the trim, but she’s cautious. “Yes… Part of that complicated. I had a bit of a shift in my time, things have opened up. So I got some plans I wanted to get from you.”

“…. is it about your husband?”

It had to be. He rarely talked about anything else with her.

There’s a noise, one close to a groan. “Really, it’s that easy to guess by now. Not even a guess if there’s a second family or a lost pet.”

He offers her an empathetic smile.

” ‘fraid so.”

“Fine, more work for me. Should go start my own bandit crew to pass time and throw you off the trail,” Gal says with that sarcastic tone but returns to her frown and worrying the fur trim.

“It is. I think it’s time I help him in some way. You have ideas, so you’re the first stop.”

Fiel sits on the bed. Besides the brazier, the crib, a chest and a weapon rack, the hut is very modest and does not have a lot of furniture.

He sighs. A lot happened, and he had time to forget about… that.

“I assume my father gave Nemo my letter. Did he tell you about that?”

“I know he got the letter, but I dared not look past that. It wasn’t my place. In short, no.”

She leans back, shrugging the fur off as the heat grew so it pooled around her. To be honest she forgot about the letter as her mind was still stuck on the incidents that happened weeks back.

“Huh. Well. It seems like a well timed coincidence.”

The norn takes a deep breath.

“I… want to operate on him. Fix what has not been set properly. They healed him, yes. But they healed him wrong. Someone needs to… get into it.”

“But only if he’s willing,” he adds with a sigh. “And I doubt he is. He holds onto the pain like it’s his own identity.”

Gal remains quiet, staying curled and watching the fire, but listening. Coincidence indeed, in various ways.

“Well, things were rushed and…difficult. On top of the crash, there was so much loss of life and supplies and then the dragon- He dealt with so much there.” She sighs as well, looking onward. “He still deals with it, even now. It’s not easy just to let go…… Operating. What, thinking of resetting bone and new muscles?”

“Hold on…”

He left the guild hall in a rush, but he is sure he at least kept his journal with him. He always does. He searches through his pack and, sure enough, there it was.

He thumbs through the latest pages and presents it to her.

Inside there are several schematics, diagrams, notes. They show bones, incisions, suture zones, and more importantly, a precise drawing of a prosthesis, from several angles, complete with measurements and composition.

Repair him. Replace what is crippling him. What is in there cannot be mended, only removed.”

She takes his journal and begins to go through the pages, taking time on each idea with small mutters now and then. When she gets to the ideas of prosthesis, her head tilts and there’s more muttering. The eyes dart, her fingers tap the leather binding, and her gaze returns to Fiel.

“This is a tricky operation in several ways. Not only do you have to remove those broken, its finding the right substitute. Then recovery, relearn. It’s not an easy road.”

There’s a pause, but she continues with a more determined tone. “What does it require to start.”

“Well, his consent, for one!” he repeats with a scoff.

Her expression turns to one of annoyance and she glares for a moment. The journal gets shut with some force, then it’s passed back to Fiel. “I know that you tit, I meant just materials, equipment, but you seem to have ideas.”

His chuckle gets strangled in his throat. “Uh… forgemetal. Lots of it. Luckily for you, I still have some from a– a previous… project.”

Fiel’s mind wanders towards his shadows again, but he continues. One project to distract him from another.

“I might still have just enough. Then, someone who’s a skilled metal worker, and who already has experience working that type of metal.” He smiles brightly at her.

“And, as luck would have it, she’s already at the guild hall as we speak. Truly, all our stars are aligned.”

“Then there’s the matter of a clean operating room, but that can easily be arranged.”

The only tricky part is to convince Nemo that he deserves to be healed, he thought.

As he goes into detail of what he needs and what will work, she only sits there to listen. She can’t seem to stop worrying that trim on the fur, and the eyes dart around. It was no small task. The good news was that they had enough to work with, and others to help.

“Well, it sounds simple enough. Though, now it raises the question of what we need to do to bring him to the table. And post, if we go so far.”

Fiel shrugs.

“Have you asked him? Really asked him if he ever wanted to get better?”

“I- I haven’t. Not directly.”

The worrying stops, but the hands are still tight on her clothing. ” We speak about it, daydream of the day he’s good, but when it comes to a point of doing anything… He gets so bad sometimes, with his fears and pain I get so concerned. Hells, you’d think I would have after just a few weeks back. He felt so broken….. I assume he does.”

Fiel nods as he wearily rubbed the stubble growing on his face. He has been gone for a little while…

“Well… maybe the skills of a familiar hand might assuage his fears some. I mean, I am pretty familiar with his bo–“

Fiel probably switched spirit patron sometime during his trek in the snow from Raven to Deer… because he is now emulating one caught in a charr buggy’s headlights.

“I-I mean… he’s been my magister for years, you know! Back at the Priory! I’ve had time to… observe him. Yeah…”

Gal won’t even look at him directly, but her mouth does twist into a weird smile and she chuckles.

“At some point someone is going to be honest about that…. You know I wouldn’t be mad at this point, if I were to find out things became….heated, at some point. Least it meant he was cared for while I was gone.”

Fiel is feeling beyond awkward. Getting impaled by a demon lord on top of that desiccated ship was looking a lot more preferable than sitting in front of her right this second…

At least she wasn’t trying to kill him.

“Yeah, that was… ” he lets out the breath he realizes he’s been holding. “Listen. I was young…er. And stupider. I was trying to move up the ranks at the Priory quickly, and he was lonely, and… and…”

I knew it, It’s the first thought that comes to her, smile following after. They knew each other well enough, so when Fiel become nervous around her she knew it was something else. But she still wasn’t mad. He made him happy then, that was enough.

“Least you didn’t break him. The Priory is isolating, and difficult when alone… What matters is that he trusts you as well.”

“Well… No matter what happened then, what fondness I have for him now is neither faked, nor selfish. I do care for him, and I do want him to get better.”

He pats on his journal.

“And I believe you’re the best person to bring that up to him. He loves you, and I sense he trusts you better than anyone. I’ll… give you a cleaner version of my notes. With more details I’m sure he’ll be able to make sense out of. Spirits know the magister would like things clean and detailed,” he adds with a faint, awkward chuckle.

Finally she looks to him again and listens, going to back her worrying of fur trim but at least smiling now. Yes, there were nerves, but this… This felt like a chance for him.

“As long as you’ve covered enough. Hopefully he’ll see what we’re asking as concern.”

There’s a bit of an awkward silence floating between them. Everything about Nemo has been said, Fiel thought. And definitely more than intended.

“Uh, well then… I was about to rest here before going back to the guild. Were you planning on going back right away? I’d offer you hospitality, but…” he gestures to the relatively cramped hut, even for a human. “Unless you think you can fit in a crib,” he adds half-jokingly.

“Yes, about that.”

She chuckles lightly, going to run a hand through her hair. “I would love to stay and rest, but I won’t be going to the guild for a bit. Events happened and… I’ll be on travels for a moment. I should be back now and then though, help with our situation.”

“You are?” He frowns. “Just… what happened… when I was away?”

“No, no, it’s not- Well.” She makes a face, then shrinks into her seat. “You recall me speaking about a Whispers agent with me, Adilia. On top of her blackmail work, she was working on getting information on me and… I may have broken my desk and office and caused my possible removal from the Ministry.”

“I am giving it time to have it blow away.”

Fiel can only stare in silence, eyes wide.

“Well then.”

He leans back, hands resting on the bed, and thinks for a little while.

“Just how… detailed is your friend’s intel on all of us?”

“She knows ranking, who’s there, but not far past that. She knows us though, knows about this….mess we have. ” She gives a motion around the room as if it was explaining the romantic mess they both have. ” She knew my buttons, it was enough.”

“Do you think she’d know about who I was or where I’ve been before the Priory, though?”

Gears are turning in the norn’s mind. Slow, sleep-deprived gears.

Gal can see the concern in his face and sighs, pushing down the fur and getting to her feet. It’s a quick adjustment of herself before coming closer to Fiel. She reaches for a free hand, just to give it a small squeeze and her best smile.

“Look, all I can say now is that she was mainly dealing with things I held close. She hasn’t bothered past that. I am going to stay focused, keep my eyes on her. But if she does know anything, I’ll have her dealt with so no harm comes to you or the family.”

“Whatever happened out there while you were gone brought things up.”

“No… I mean, yes, but… What I mean is: if you’re looking for a place to disappear, I might know of one.”

“I….You made it sound like we should be worried to find out the past. Dwayna above, you made me worry… Fine, what is this place you’re talking about.”

“My old house. In the Godslost swamp.” He shrugs. “Not glamourous by any means, but I don’t know of anybody else who really knows of the place. In fact, people tend to avoid it that spot, what with all the mosquitoes… and the ghosts. But if you need to lay low…”

He was right about the ghosts. She recalls passing through, stopping in the swamp even, but not long enough. No one came through for long though, it may be the perfect spot for now.

The hand pulls away from his now, and she thinks, wandering back to the chair. “It might. If it’s clean enough could be another place for resting. I’m not sure, it just happened so quickly…But I will keep it in mind.”

Fiel grimaces.

“I wouldn’t know about clean… it is a swamp, and it has been a couple years. But, here…”

He produces a pendant from a pocket inside his coat. It’s a broken piece of bone with runes etched into it, tied to a thin strip of leather.

“The wards on the cabin should still be working. That’s the key. Knock on the door with it thrice.”

She wants to make another comment, more sarcastic, but she keeps the mouth shut. He is being kind to her, best not test it.

Gal takes the key and runs her fingers over its etchings, tracing each and going on to feel the leather tie. Old, rugged, but sturdy. If it’s the same as the home, she’ll be fine.

“Thank you.”

“Now if a ghost comes, just tell them to go away. They can’t get in without an invitation, so you’ll be fine.”

“Really that often, eh,” she must laugh at the thought, but proceeds to tie the leather around her neck so to keep it on her body for now. A small pat and she sighs. “Should be fine, no issues with ghosts. We have dealt with Orr before, place full of ghosts.”

“Now, will you be fine? Once rested and all?”

“Yeah…” now that the topic of discussion was once again on him and his… search… he was suddenly feeling the full effect of several days pushing himself through blizzard and mountains, engaging fight after fight with hordes of frozen minions with barely any time to sleep or eat…

“I need to sleep. So I’m gonna do that… then head back to the guild.”

“Best get food as well, or else you’ll come back looking like a pole” She chuckles, but remains close out of some concern. “You need all the help seeing as you look so ragged.”

The norn smirks. “Very small chances of that ever happening.”

“What… should I say to Nemo when I see him? Should I wait for you to come back before mentioning… this?” he says, nodding at the journal.

She does pauses about Nemo, then shrugs. “Ask him when you feel its deserving. Now, later, at dusk, it doesn’t matter. I will be there to help when it’s time.”

He nods knowingly.

“Don’t mean to be impolite, but…” he pauses to yawn. “I can feel myself slipping away. Good luck on your journey, Gal. Don’t be stupid like me, come back soon.”

He begins to shed off his heavy coat and boots, and settles for the night, waving the woman goodbye.

“You know me, I have my moments of foolishness.”

She gave a small bow as another thank you, then grabs the fur to get it wrapped around herself tightly. There’s one more “Thank you”, then she exits the tight quarters of his home and back into the icy domain to find a place to hold down for that night.

It will work out, she knows it will. But now, it’s time to rest.

Author BluJ
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