Part 9: Dawn
Boil it, I wanted to avoid the wizard! But I have no choice. He's the one who wanted the girl in the first place. No time to waste. "Naros! Naros of Miir! Show yourself!"
I wait. The faint clink of silver, the tread of boots, and a whiff of rose perfume mixed with sawdust announces his presence. He stands in the shadows of the closest watchtower.
“Here you are. Finally. I'm disappointed in you, Gaven. I expected your summons much earlier, and now dawn arrives.”
I look over at him, then at the corpse at my feet. There's a lump in my throat. “Right. Whatever. I have your prize here, just like you asked. I'm ready to make a deal.”
“Deal? A deal, you say? I believe a bargain was already made, and my patience with you is wearing exceedingly thin.” I watch the shadows around him move as if cast by a flame, ebbing and flowing around the darkness he's concealed in.
“Look. Do you want her or not? I'm sick of playing your games. I have her. You want her. What will you offer?
He sighs. "And yet the game has rules. Rules which you have ignored. I warned you to bring her to me before dawn, Gaven. Repeatedly."
“What, you don't want her now that she's dead?” I say, trying to put pieces together in the back of my mind. “You know, if you take her now, it'll be easier to keep the spirit inside her from getting away.” He seems taken aback by that. “Yeah. I know all about the deal you made with the fallen god thought things. I'm betting that whatever kept you alive all these centuries starts to fade if any of them escape your little spirit prison.”
“You are remarkably perceptive, Gaven. Perhaps if you have been so earlier, you wouldn't have been Exiled. You have some generalities correct, though you are gravely, even dangerously, wrong on the particulars. Hand her over to me. I will deal with the guards that are, even now, on their way to arrest you. This is my offer, Gaven. Hand her over to me, and you can escape through the Cobwebs. You can be free.”
Dragon take him. Dragon take and swallow him to His Boiling Belly. I look down at the corpse at my feet. If her eyes weren't open like that, she'd almost look asleep.
“What will happen to her?”
“What? I have no time for-”
“No. Dragon take you, Naros, you will answer me. What will happen to Jessamine when you get your spirit?”
He sighs, then speaks slowly, as if to a small child. “The girl was dead long before the spirit touched her. When I remove the spirit and return her to her rightful place, there will be nothing remaining to stop nature from taking its course.”
“So she'll die, is what you're saying.”
“Have you not been listening? She is already dead! A cadaver that sometimes remembers what it was like when it was alive, and only when the spirit riding it chooses to do so.” He gestures back towards the rest of Miir. "Miir is not just a sanctuary for these dark and fallen spirits. It is a prison, keeping them contained. You cannot comprehend the horrors that would be inflicted on the world if they were allowed to roam as they pleased."
Ha. Like he cares. I look at Jessamine again. Perhaps he's right, and there's nothing left of the girl she was before this spirit overtook her. I look over the wall again. It's a quarter mile through the Cobwebs to the desert. I can make it if I run.
"Make a better offer." I whisper.
He loses his composure. “Listen to me! She has named you her guardian for now, but she is a fiend. A monster in an innocent guise. Surely you realize this! Eventually, she will turn on you. It's her nature. Don't be fooled! Relinquish your protection, hand her over to me!”
"You want her?" I say, hauling the corpse to her feet. "Then go get her." I release her. She slips over the wall, into the shadows. Naros screams in rage as she tumbles. I wince at the sick crunch as she makes as she lands. With any luck, the guards will think she jumped to her death.
There is a sound from down below. I look, forgetting Naros for the moment. The corpse is standing, broken bones grinding. She looks up. I see her glare at me with hollow eyes, then her face softens. She whispers something...I think she said "Thank you." Then she shambles away. The sun must have been what was keeping her from moving.
"During the night, the thoughts are free to wander." I mutter. I turn to Naros. "It's over, wizard. Go back to your tower."
"This is not over, Gaven.” he says. “You will regret this. Even I cannot protect you from all the enemies you have made.”
“Tell them to get in line.”
And with that, he's gone. I sit against the battlements. I won't get out of Miir today. I hear the clank of guard boots already. But, for what its worth, at least Jessamine can, and whatever spirit is animating her will leave with her. I've hurt you, Miir. Badly. You want to play games with these people? Feed on their misery, expose them to demons and monsters? Teach them to fear the dark? Alright.
But remember, Miir. I still face six more nights of Exile. I've hurt you once already. Imagine what I can do with just a little more time.
The guards arrive. "What took you so long?" I ask.
The head guard looks a me. It isn't the one I spoke to last night. "Gaven Morren. You are to be taken back into custody. Your wounds will be tended to, but when midnight rings you will be returned to the mercy of The Shadows." I figured as much, thank you.
Well, one night done. The guards haul me to my feet and relieve me of the dagger. Then I am hauled through the streets, back the way I came.