(scene below the cut)
Pavlis, forty seven summers ago
Katarinne of Narles sat in the middle of a busy pub in Pavlis, her back straight and her eyes closed, utterly unconcerned over the two young men at the corner table oggling her and her friend. Drunk or not, lecherous or not, they were immaterial, invisible, mere transparent shades in the quiet sphere of her mind.
Magic, however, glowed from the generals meeting in the room behind her, an intriguing pile of smallish items buried by an outhouse at a farm on the far side of town, and from an armed rider rushing from the North. And, of course, from Ori.
Still all clear. Katarinne sighed and opened her eyes. But couldn't we have met somewhere, anywhere, but a crappy old pub? The stink of cheap pipe smoke, frying fish, and old beer had only increased her nausea. One hand fell to her glurgling belly as her friend, Oriana, finally returned with a mug of water.
She plunked down onto the bench beside Katarinne, back to the two lechers, and handed over the mug before sipping her own beer. "You sure you don't want me to get some mint leaves? I know I saw a patch by that shed near the creek."
Katarinne braved a sip. "No. We both need to stay." Her belly clenched as the water landed, but decided to hold its contents a little longer. One of the fellas in the corner winked at her. She rolled her eyes and looked aside. "It's too bad about Millien."
"Yeah," Ori said before taking a deep draught of her beer. "And Faie, and Birril, and Glerra."
"And all the others dead this past moon," Katarinne sighed. With her eyes open, she let her gaze refocus and the tavern's front wall faded to nothing, its patrons, the houses and shops outside... Nothing but people moving through an empty void.
She looked to her right and left, and saw no magic other than on the rider, only a furlong or so away now. Magic always shone as beacons in an otherwise transparent world, and using line-of-sight to Seek was as easy as breathing. Full-sphere Seeking for more than a few moments, however, often left an unpleasant tickle in her head. Thank the Goddess Ori had come to watch behind; she didn't need a headache to go with the nausea. "You clear?"
Oriana leaned back, elbows on the table, and she stretched out her legs as she took another sip. "Yup. Still just buried at the farm and with the guys. Nothing else as far as the mind can see. Oh, geesh, Brushgoat's upset about something again. Isn't that a surprise?"
She sighed, head falling back until her dark braid pooled on the table, then turned her head to frown at Katarinne. "This is bullpiss and you know it. They're in there planning the end stages of the war and we should be part of the decision. Hells, each of us has killed more mages than all of them put together." She nodded her head toward the rider dismounting outside. "Including Siddael."
"Can't," Katarinne replied around a burp. Ah, relief! "We're common. They're Royal."
Oriana returned to watching the western arc and muttered around her beer, "You mean they all have dicks and we have to piss sitting down."
"I didn't say that."
"Yeah, well, they'd be dead if it wasn't for us." Without looking back, Oriana flung a furious salute at the door as a road-weary nobleman limped in, coat speckled with sleet and bandages visible on his neck and hands. Lord Marrick's dark gaze met Katarinne's and she nodded a returning hello.
"He looks awful," Katarinne whispered.
Still staring at the back wall, Oriana finished her beer. "Yeah, I know. But Millen died, didn't she?" Siddael walked past and Oriana called out, "She died saving an idiot's ass, didn't she, Sir?"
Katarinne laid a quieting hand on her friend's arm. "Ori, don't."
Siddael Marrick sighed and returned to face Ori. "Now is not the time," he whispered. "You, of all mage killers, should know there are risks--"
"Nuobir bounces me all over the Goddess damned continent to do you Royals' dirty work," Ori snapped, leaning forward and gesturing at the closed meeting-room door. "I've saved every one of your asses Goddess knows how many times, but no one could bother to send me to Deitrel to help Millen? She was only fifteen and facing her first bone mage, and you all knew it! With Reid! Reid! He can't even point his finger at a measly mind mage follower without wearing a goddess damned diaper."
"Ori," Katarinne whispered, watching the bar patrons and their sudden, wide-eyed attention. The barkeeper flinched and struggled to maintain a grip on the glass he'd been wiping. Katarinne let her right hand fall to her dagger. Dangit, Ori. Not here, not now. People are staring. "Shh. Please."
"Oh, shush yourself. No one gives a piss what I'm saying." She took a breath and snarled at Siddael, "They're hunting us mage killers and none of you pegging cares. How the hells can you win this war if we're all dead?"
The meeting room door burst open and Sett Nuobir, the King's High Sage, rushed through, his homely, mashed face reddening. "We'll talk about this later. Privately," he muttered, then Katarinne's vision blurred white as he drew a sigil before his chest and muttered four lyrical syllables.
The white rapidly faded, and, as Katarinne blinked past the last wisps of brightness, she saw that the barkeep had returned to whistling while wiping glasses and the lechers to their drunken leers, Oriana's outburst wiped from their mundane minds.
"Goddess-damn cowardly asswipes!" Ori called out to Nuobir's hunched back. "We never talk about shit later!"
Nuobir merely followed Siddael to the meeting room and closed the door.
Oriana cursed and stood. "I need a refill."