Written Permission

1628, Dark Season, Early


Mellia comes back to the house and is terrified to meet Lord Raven Session SA3.13.


The house is still awake, with lamps on and the fire burning down. In the half-dark Praxian room is the tall, familiar silhouette of her husband, wrapped in a soft blanket, by the dying fire.

There is something odd about him1Pass Scan, and it takes a few moments to figure out out, but she does. From the door his skin seems far too dark. He did not jump up to greet her, but perhaps he did not think it was his wife. He makes a casual movement, and for a moment it seems that Mellia can see the fire dimly through his arm.

Mellia is seriously frightened by this and calls out, “Sweetheart? I’m back.”

The man looks around, and in a voice just like Venlar’s says, “Close, and yet entirely missed.” He has just the right trick of twisting to look over his shoulder. “You would, I infer, be his wife?”

From the door to their room, sleepily, Venlar calls, “Hello!” He is probably in bed.

Mellia snaps, “Yes, whoever you are. Give me a good reason not to rouse the house.”

“No?” The man favours her with a horribly familiar grin that has a touch of fire flickering at the edges, and turns back towards the fire again, ignoring her.

Mellia tries really hard to remember that grin. Is that the awful person she ran into on the Lightbringer quest, the one who had no heart?

It’s… Venlar. Just made of smoke.

He’s her husband, and not, at the same time.

Mellia asks, “What are you?”

“Tired, and annoyed,” comes the reply. “You?”

“Are you staying up for a bit?” calls the same voice, but from the room where Mellia will be sleeping.

“Tired and annoyed,” Mellia says. “Also frightened.”

“Sweetheart,” she calls out, “I have a letter for you.”

“On my way!” Venlar will probably be a few moments.

“Nothing to fear here. Please go away.” The figure by the fire pulls the blanket up closer.

Venlar walks out of his room, his hand on his cheek so that his fingertips can rub at his scar to soften it. That means he looks to the left – to Mellia – and not to the right, where the figure is by the fire. “Darling. Hello.” He is as solid and reassuring as ever, even in bedclothes.

(Lord Raven has heard Varanis but is pretending not to.)

Mellia runs to Venlar and hugs him tightly.

He scoops her up to kiss her.

Varanis appears, unannounced. She’s wearing the white linen shift that she sleeps in and little else. Her hair is mussed from sleep, but there’s a naked sword in her hand. “What’s going on? Oh.”

She glares at the pair. “Could you two be more quiet about that? I thought we were being robbed.”

Mellia kisses Venlar before answering, “There’s a Venlar made of smoke by the fire.”

Venlar looks astounded. “Thane?” He holds Mellia protectively for a moment, and then her words catch up with him and he turns to look.

“My name is not Venlar. Nor Sweetheart, for that matter. Other endearments only with written permission, and I have no pen.” The not-Venlar by the fire rolls out his shoulders like Berra preparing for a fight.

The effect on the flesh and blood Venlar is to make him freeze and stare. His arms slowly loosen around Mellia.

Mellia tries to land on her feet.

Varanis sighs and lowers her sword. “Right, Venlar, Mellia, this is Lord Raven, Eril’s Wyter. Lord Raven, Venlar is Eril’s nephew and Mellia is his wife and my cousin. Please be nice, I’m too tired to deal with nonsense right now.”

Venlar is good enough to put Mellia down carefully, but he is suddenly preoccupied with staring at something like him.

“So am I,” mutters Lord Raven. “All I wanted was something to eat and a few minutes by the fire.”

The Vingan lays her sword on the table and collects a blanket from the chest by the hearth. She wraps it around her shoulders like a cloak. “Did you find something good to eat?” she asks the spirit as she drops onto some cushions close to the warmth.

“Lord Raven, I wish we’d met under different circumstances. I thought you were going to murder the lot of us.” Mellia is calming down.

“The company was good as well,” it – he – replies. “I found mostly uncooked food, but there was a stew pot.” He pointedly ignores Mellia.

“Is that what I look like from the back?” Venlar asks Mellia. He seems very skittish.

Varanis rubs her face with the hand not clutching the blanket. “He’s no murderer,” she says to her cousin. “He’s sort of like a mix of Eril and Berra.”

Mellia tells Venlar, “Yes, but I love you.”

Lord Raven says, “That is a horrifying notion. At least I am no longer hungry.”

Venlar squeezes Mellia’s hand. “Let me see the letter?” he suggests. He might be trying to ignore the Wyter.

Mellia gives Venlar the letter. “It’s from the Temple of Humakt.”

Varanis asks Lord Raven with a shrug, “Truth hurts? Anyway, was she any better today? I know you don’t know what she was like before, but you’re more closely attuned to her than any of us can be. You might sense change sooner. Has she stayed the same or has there been something? Anything?” She watches him closely, hope in her eyes.

“Oh. I see why you might call on me. My uncle’s writing, and seal. It seems to have been handed off while still wet. The name is blurred. A carrier put his fingers on it.” Venlar twirls the letter in his hands before breaking the seal, making sure he has seen all parts of it.

Lord Raven sighs, thoughtfully. “I cannot say ‘better’, but for the first time she seemed to be happy to have done something, even if it was only her duty. Did you mark how casually she spoke to you, after the ceremony?” Maybe he is fading away. It seems the light of the fire is more visible through him, and maybe the room is getting lighter.

Mellia lets Venlar read. She tells Varanis, “There’s two possible explanations for Berra’s behavior. One of the two has been taken care of, I was told.”

Varanis nods. “And the other?”

“Lord Eril referred me to the blacksmith and also told me to get all the details of what went on from you.”

Varanis sighs. “As I understand things, he,” she nods at Lord Raven, “is made partly from her. A big piece of who she is… was… is what makes him possible.”

Venlar reads, and apparently listens too.

Lord Raven stares moodily at the fire. Only Varanis is in a position to see his expression, but the set of his shoulders indicates that some part of him remembers being a teen whose parents were Very Unfair.

“Hmm,” comments Mellia. “I may have to pass on binding a Wyter. If Berra’s memory and vitality went to make Lord Raven, they should grow back, like hair.”

“It’s like Ikadz cut out her Movement and rebellion and shaped him from it. Did you notice how her Movement runes have been cut with Death?”

Both Venlar and Lord Raven put a hand to their brows to push back their hair. The movements are identical.

Varanis adds, “I’m sorry, Lord Raven. It’s impolite of me to speak about you as if you aren’t here.”

Mellia nods. “I hear that people lose memories on that quest. Irillo didn’t, but we interrupted the cutting.”

“Oh, I’m used to it already,” he points out. “Rather more than half the time I have, I’m trapped in a sword and people talk about me even in its presence. Like I’m an object.”

At Mellia’s reference to ‘the cutting’, Varanis looks at Lord Raven, then up to where Berra sleeps and shivers violently, looking more than a little green. “We couldn’t do that for her,” she whispers. “We had to let it happen. We had to make it happen.”

Lord Raven is definitely more seethrough now. He stares into the fire, ignoring the others.

Mellia turns green.

Venlar’s expression twitches, and he rubs at his cheek, and the scar.

Mellia tells Venlar, “Let’s go to bed. You can tell me about the letter in the morning.”

“He does not want you to visit his blacksmith,” Venlar says. “That is the short version.” He looks at the fading figure by the fire and shudders. “Yes. Bed.”

In the morning, there is a lack of ghost or spirit or Wyter anywhere. Venlar reads the letter for Mellia, after he has had breakfast.

“He’s not very happy, I’m afraid. He’s really informal – he doesn’t use any of the usual phrases of politeness…”

The letter reads:

Lord Venlar,

I return to you this messenger, your wife. She seems to have wandered into my Temple, and felt fit to use me for information already available elsewhere. No matter how you feel about her, please be assured that the Black Sword of the Temple does not feel the same way, or wish to meet her. Kindly keep her from disturbing him until she has had time to speak to Thane Varaena.

Give my regards to the rest of your family, at the same distance, if you would.

Lord Eril Cracksrock, Sambar.

At the end of it, Venlar winces.

Mellia sighs. “Fine, I’ll stay out of there. I think I may have to ask for a divination or two.”

“After, apparently, talking to Thane Varaena.”

“I hope she can tell me something that will give me more hope than what she said last night.”

“Last night there was a Wyter shocking us all, and then we went to bed. I am sure there will be more.”

“I hope so, because I am beginning to have a bad feeling about Berra’s situation.”

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