Mar. 7th, 2012 11:56 pm
thulcandran: (Default)
[personal profile] thulcandran
It's funny, I seem to write in here a lot from love, both romantic and platonic. This is, I think, the first time I've written something dealing with - or attempting to deal with - platonic love when it tangles with power, if not power struggles. I'm not entirely ready to take on the character balance of friendship between the Fierce Independent and the Organized Overlord. If I can figure out how to make it work IRL, I'll consider taking the struggle to a page. Meanwhile, there's this. I'm not entirely satisfied with the ending, but it'll do for now, I guess.

(It wasn't written in Write Or Die, nor in ten minutes, nor from a three-word prompt. It was written after a show sparked an idea that worked better in my own world than as fanfic.)

Liron shrugged as she pulled the last knot tight.

"A shrug is hardly an adequate answer."

Half smiling in the gloom, she stopped herself - barely - from shrugging again, and stood. "What do you want me to say?"

Basir cocked his head slightly, a dangerous smile playing about his face. "If I wanted my own answer, dear," he said, "I would not have spoken aloud."

The easy grin on her face faltered, just a bit. She tossed the rope behind her, guiding it to wind around her shoulder.

"I mean it, though," she said, grabbing the trunk with both hands. "Pick a reason of your own, it's bound to have more rationale than mine."

Basir watched her from the ground, his arms folded, tilting his head as she climbed higher. "I mean it as well," he replied, in deceptively cheerful tones, "And that is rather more important, as you know."

Easily ten feet off the ground, with one arm wrapped around her next perch, she winced; the bundle hanging from her other arm shifted, though her grip did not. "Well I do, at that," she muttered, and swung up onto the slimmer branch.

"You still have to fetch it in the morning, you know," he called, shaking his head.

She grinned down at him like a cat from about twenty feet up, and pointed to a crooked limb, two or three strides out from the trunk along a branch the width of her neck. Basir shook his head and deliberately turned away, a small pouch appearing in his hands. He didn't exactly need it, but keeping up appearances was a good habit to be in.

When he'd fixed the perimeter, he turned to find his bedroll laid out on the wind-sheltered side of the fire, and Liron kneeling over the fire, engaged in something in the coals.

"So," he said, walking over. The fire, as always, was just a bit aside from the center of their camp - an old tradition, part superstition by now.

She glanced over her shoulder at him, briefly. "So?"

The rock sent up sparks, and a loud clap from the ground where it struck - where her head had been, a moment prior. She looked up, still sprawled on her back from a very sudden reflexive roll, to see Basir tossing another up and down, his expression completely blank.

"Sorry," she muttered. "Am I allowed to get up?"

He gestured to the fire with the remaining stone, and she pushed off the ground and moved back to the fireside. "Speak, girl," he told her, his voice low and dark. "I do not ask questions unless I want answers, and your gambols are treading dangerous waters."

Liron took a deep breath. "I don't flatter," she began, her arms huddled around her knees, her gaze fixed on the flames. "So it's just a fact, you know, that you are the most powerful force of our time."

A few strides off, Basir tossed the rock into the fire before sitting down, rather more gracefully, across from her. "I am aware, yes."

"Caius, he doesn't come close, I know; even traveling his watched seas was fairly simple work for you, and would be doable for Rhia, and maybe Arran. But to the rest of that region, he's all but immovable; a despot, old as the hills, solid as the stone beneath their feet, and he's crushed at least two different rebellions in the last decade. He's terrifying, say the Tyran folk; they've got songs about his footsteps, Basir, songs they don't sing but in the more quiet towns, on the borders.

"Rhia has strung up two people in the past year for trumped-up offenses, because spellwork in their name began to attract notice. Three winters back, she had someone drawn and quartered for teaching that kind of power. On charges of 'threat to the realm,' just short of treason. Not even half-breed changelings travel through her roads if they can avoid it, and you're the only one I've ever seen enter and leave her borders uncloaked. And Arran's just as bad - you know better than I how much blood can be traced to his doorstep.

"As you may recall, Erlan has spent the past ten years in hiding after his spell won that fortress for Caius. The story goes that he found a dagger behind a curtain, and fled in the night, but from what I know of their intrigue, once the victory wine had been passed around, he probably didn't need to wait for a signal that obvious, or deadly." Liron looked up from the fire at him, her face drawn, entirely stripped of its usual laughter. He watched her for a moment, before she shook her head and looked back down at the dying flames.

Basir pointed at the fire, stirring it up a little. The warmth spiraled out around them - an unnatural effect, but they were both used to it. "You're with me," he said quietly. "You've been with - here, a servant, a squire, a student, for longer than Caius has watched the seas. Rhia is the only name you have there, in fact, that would remember you as mortal at all." The girl opposite him continued to stare at the fire, but his eyes remained on hers. "You cannot fear a dagger in the night from any of those jumped-up horse thieves; none of them would dare to breathe in your direction, if only for the implied insult to myself. But we both know that. Do you trust me so little, then?"

Her shoulders slid, and she seemed to shrink, to twist down into the shadows, but he knew her shape had not changed; no magic save his could be worked here, not after his perimeter had been set. "No," she said finally, her voice barely audible above the crackle of the fire. "Of course I trust you, Basir."

"Speak up, girl," he growled, pushing on the fire again. "If I was to kill you, it wouldn't be over this, and whispering and trying to burrow into nothing would hardly stop me."

Straightening a bit, she bit back a habitual laugh; he suspected it might have come out as a sob. She cleared her throat, and her voice was nearly steady when she spoke again. "Having that much power fucks with people. Maybe not with you, I don't know. Most likely I just don't see it, being not quite whole myself - and given the amount of time at stake. I don't know what you were like before you came into this - all of this.

"But power - it changes things. If it hadn't been a mage who won the battle, Caius would've promoted them. And Arran, he spent years under Garth before his training. It was only after he returned with the arsenal of a wizard that he turned on his liege. I don't think you'd put a knife in my back if I started learning how to throw fireballs around, or turn lead to gold. Even aside from the - from..." she trailed off, and was silent a moment before continuing. "Aside from - from all else, I could spend another century in deep meditation and I'd be about as much threat to you as a gadfly's sting, and you know that better than I do.

"It's a game for those with the mind for it, Basir. It's a game that leads an honest steward to incinerate his king's bedchamber, a path that leads to a dagger in the back, and it's a noose I don't want around my neck." She paused, a smile echoing the raised eyebrow he'd pointed in her direction halfway through the last two sentences. "Yes, I know. I have power over my own shape, and that is all the power I want. More than, sometimes, but it comes in too handy to leave. And - before you point out the error, there, how often have I used it to your benefit?"

Basir smiled then, a slight and quiet expression, as he kicked an errant spark back into the coals with a toe. "I'm hardly going to demand your neck in cold iron for the tricks you do know, Liron. If it's any comfort, I'd be considering the eventuality of you committing self-destruction in some ridiculous fight or vainglorious stunt more than I would any attempt on my own life."

"You know me too well," she told him dryly, curling up on the ground. He grinned at her, and blew the fire out with a word. The night descended around the camp, and the coals between them hissed softly before growing cold, dead, silent.


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May 2013


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