We had been gone for 3 weeks now, and nearing the end of our journey. It was four days at a leisurely pace ‘til we reached the city. We could certainly make it in two at the pace we had set for ourselves. It was already darkening before we started to look for a good site to stop and that didn’t even take long after we moved off the roadway.
“This is a good place for it,” the Priestess commented with a distant smile as the woman looked around the clearing. She spotted a small setting of rough stones in the grass. She nodded to herself and pulled her bag around. It was scarcely a moment of fiddling before she started taking things out for the evening prayers.
“I’ll set things up, if you could just run my cup over to the river. You know how I love fresh water.” She threw a wide smile to me and I felt my heart drop in my chest. I smiled back, naturally.
“Of course, would love a bit myself after all the conjuring we’ve had the past few days.”
She pulled out the familiar goblet and I took it gladly, placing my own sack on the dry ground. It was not the decanter as predicted, but close enough in purpose. A breeze passed through and I could practically taste the vile of guilt in my throat. How many times had she saved my life? Despite my wretchedness or unwillingness? Regardless of the ways she followed, she did not deserve this. To be betrayed by someone so close.
I made my way to the river, following the peaceful hum of the flow. I briefly glanced back in her direction, trees beginning to interfere with the line of sight. Soon, neither of us would be able to see the other.
I glanced back at the goblet in my unsteady hand and scolded myself. Was this what I had become? To taste such betrayal. It was a flawless plan. She was so damned trusting. And yet…
My heart leapt with hope as my mind flickered over all the options. If I only just disposed of the vials, she would never know one way or another. I would have to answer to the Lord Sarkyrr, but surely the punishment would be minimal if any. I could claim she discovered me. I could go to her! She would understand, she would help me. But how would she trust me after I confessed? Could she?
I stood at the river’s edge, my mind a whirl of thoughts and fears. I knelt by the water, letting my hand enter into its cool grasp. The metal against my skin chilled and I gave an unwilling shutter. I would prove this to her! Then, she would have to understand that I could never betray her.
I got back to my feet, a full goblet in hand. With my free one I nimbly adjusted a satchel hung at my side, retrieving the two vials that seemed to scream at me to do their bidding. I was far from caring at this point. The lids popped off with ease and I quickly emptied each one out before letting the containers fall on dampened ground.
I couldn’t help but smile at my new determination as I made my way back to the temporary shrine to the Lord Cyric. He was never my god.
The priestess was focusing herself on a symbol she had placed in the earth. Far too focused it seemed as she took a few minutes to notice my approach. I could feel tears threatening and I moved quicker, attempting to keep the goblet steady in my hand as I practically threw myself at her feet. I couldn’t bear to look at her, the confusion and naivety showing strongly.
“Rensi? What is this?”
“Please, forgive me, My Lady!”
I could feel my voice quiver. I held the goblet up, my face to the ground as I remained on my knees.
“Please, you must not drink from this cup until you know that it is not tainted!”
“I don’t understand…” Her voice flickered with a moment of fear. Only a moment before she replaced it with a stern demanding approach that I recognized far too well from the Priestess. “What have you done, Rensi?”
I looked up pleadingly, the cup still in my hands. I cursed myself as a tear fell, but I couldn’t stop it.
“I was commanded, but I failed. He knew that you would take the water from the river and commanded me to poison it. Three days, he told me. I cannot do it though. You have done so much for me. I cannot betray you, not like this. You would never know. You would never have a chance. You know me, as very few ever have.”
She remained standing silently, the hurt clear in her expression. But she did not turn away.
“Please, help me, My Lady. He was very clear on this task and I’m afraid of what will happen when we go back. When he learns what I have done.”
My eyes were sore from unshed tears. I could barely hold them in. She held the goblet out to me.
“Stand, and drink it!”
I didn’t waste a second, doing as commanded. The water was refreshingly cool. I hadn’t even noticed how sore my throat had become with all the strong emotions. I held it back out to her.
“Please, test it. I know you have ways. Spells, potions? It was a slow acting toxin from what I was told. The effects could take days.”
The Priestess nodded, with a sad expression. “We will sit here until they are completed.”
We both sat as she began the work of testing the liquid for something I knew could not be found.
The moon had come up high by the time the woman was satisfied with the results. There was nothing that had shown. A small fire shimmered in the small camp we had created. My stomach had lost its hunger pains a small while back. I briefly thought about getting something to eat, but pushed the idea away. There would be no food tonight.
My eyes widened in surprise as the Priestess took the goblet to her lips and began to drink. My heart caught in my throat, but I didn’t risk giving the small smile of hope I felt. Her eyes closed and she placed the now empty container on the ground between us.
“There are not many that we can trust in this realm or the next. Gods, busy playing games with hearts and wills.”
Her voice sounded tired and distant.
“Tonight, you have earned my trust, my friend.”
She looked up at me and smiled softly.
“We will sleep now and move again in the morning. We will continue to Waterdeep as planned, although my purpose there will change. I will send word to Sarkyrr about the events of this evening and we will plan a meeting about it when we return.”
I felt the anxiety creep in at the thought of having to explain myself. It must have shown. She stood. I didn’t. She placed a hand on my shoulder. I think it was to be comforting.
“You have done well. I’ll make sure that he knows this.”
That didn’t help me feel any safer. She moved to a grassy area not far, setting out her bedding. Left the fire for me to handle. I rolled my eyes, briefly musing over what would have happened had I chosen the other way. The flames blurred in and out of focus. Sleep was threatening to claim my body. I dispelled the fire away before reaching for my sack.
The flask was pulled first and I took a deep swig, wincing at the bitterness. I knew my body would focus again soon. I had almost waited too long. I had to laugh at myself, thinking about how often I seemed to find myself wanting a good ale. I laid down, soon to be asleep.
That morning it didn’t take long to pack my things. Nice thing about having so little. The sounds were so vibrant. It was wonderful. Even the river could be heard clearly. I wondered if I should take a quick bathe. I decided there would be time enough for that once in the city again.
I made a joke to the Priestess that she should hurry it up. She was always the one ready first.
I spotted a bit of color under some brush a while away. It was deeper into a wooded area. I had some time still. It turned out to be a flower. Red mingled with a pale yellow hue, streaking across the petals like veins of thinning blood. Was rather beautiful. I decided to take a few.
The camp was quiet when I came back. Don’t even think the birds were around, not that I was paying attention to them. The Priestess was laying still. Eyes closed as if in prayer. To what god, I truly wondered. I knew Cyric didn’t give a flying rothe’s behind.
I casually held my hand out, flowers encased tightly within. I crumbled them, letting the petals fall over her frozen form. I felt the smile on my lips as I knelt beside her. I didn’t chance touching her; hated to get personal. I knew she would be cold.
“Trust is a wonderful thing,” I whispered, knowing she would never hear it. “Yet I found my loyalty came at a little higher price.”
I left all her things. Well, except for a small silver ring she kept on her thumb. It had a small carving underneath, but I couldn’t make it out. Something to remember her by. I did respect her, despite my action. After all, it was requested of me. I was sure she would have understood.
It was as he had said, there was no trace of the mixture found under magical means. However, it worked out a little differently than Sarkyrr had expected. Two days drawn out, or one day up front. There was no reason for him to learn the difference. It was done, on my terms. None of this betrayal behind the back. Never liked things done that way. Not to those who deserved, no, who earned my respect. She was shown what was asked of me and chose. I may have nudged her a little bit, sure, but she was a smart one. She could have figured it out. I liked the timing. Hunger and a long day did wonders.
I stood and pulled my sack over my shoulder and shuddered as a linger of aftertaste of the antidote made one last appearance. There was no turning around as I started making my way parallel the sounds of the river. It wasn’t long now. Soon, I would reach Waterdeep.
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