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June 3, 2011 / Bika

Fiction Friday: The Right of All Horde VIII

Please enjoy Part VIII of this series, written by Verdus, co-authored by Claire (and me!). Missed any of the previous posts? Visit the links below:

The end of this series draws near, with only a couple more posts left to chronicle Verdus’s attempt at vengeance. After that, a more lighthearted follow-up on Cersei… and a bumbling troll who finds something special without realizing it.

* * *

Ysani stood over Cersei. Vines coiled loosely around the warlock’s body, ready to tighten if she tried to cast a spell or run away, though Ysani doubted very much there was any danger of the latter. Cersei was so weak that she could barely move her head.

A handful of candy pulled from Ysani’s stash kept Fenn busy while she examined his sister, prodding gently, asking questions and getting nothing but glassy stares and gibberish in response. The swamp was smelly and hot. It made what was a very unpleasant situation feel even worse, and as Ysani crouched beside the incoherent woman, increasingly sweaty, frustrated, and grim, Verdus waited shame-faced at her elbow for judgment. After a tediously thorough examination in which she attempted every healing prayer at her disposal, she straightened up and put her hands in the small of her back, stretching while she looked over her shoulder to check on Fenn. He still sat on the edge of a hollowed-out tree stump, right where Ysani left him.

Broad-shouldered tauren and slim elf stood side by side for a few moments in silence while Ysani gathered her thoughts. When she spoke, she didn’t look at him. “This… this is really, really bad. I think she would be better off dead.”

Verdus flinched. She was trying very hard to sound calm and quiet, so as not to upset Fenniel, but the druid could tell she was having difficulty doing so. He couldn’t tell if she was angry, disappointed, horrified, or a combination of all three; either way, he kept his mouth shut.

“She needs help we can’t give her. Fenn needs help. This is a very bad thing, and you have to make it right if you can. Take her to Silvermoon. Turn yourself in.”

“Turn myself… in?” Verdus was taken aback by the suggestion, but quickly came to a grim understanding.

“Whatever she did, even if she deserves this… it isn’t right, Verdus. You can’t make right out of two wrongs.” Her voice wavered a little but she kept her composure. “Whatever she was, she’s not anymore.”

Verdus was silent for a time, contemplating the paladin’s words. “What else should I have done? I’m not trying to be defensive, I… I really don’t know. It all seemed so clear at the time. She killed Libby. Cersei tortured her, murdered her, ripped out her soul, and destroyed it right in front of me. I saw everything, like I was right there.” Verdus nodded back in Fenniel’s direction. “Do you really think that she wouldn’t have done that to him? I think she would, I still do. I know that what I did was wrong, I just… I don’t know what else I could have done.”

“Keltyr and Dorri would have killed her,” she murmured. The warlock had fallen into a fitful sleep and Ysani watched her twitch and moan, mind racing. “They might still. But do you think that will help Fenn? Just ending her?”

“He was never supposed to know…” Verdus muttered, as much to himself as to Ysani, eyes fixed on the sleeping form in front of him.

“It’s too late for that.” Ysani chewed on her lip and looked over at Fenniel. He sat oblivious to their conversation, methodically unwrapping and eating candies one by one. “Dorri–” An idea came to her in a flash and she looked up at him with her eyes wide as saucers. “What if we give him his sister back?”

Verdus glanced over at the relatively tiny elf, confused. “What do you mean?”

The idea agitated the paladin and made it hard for her to speak quietly, but she caught herself before it had a chance to disturb Fenn. “Dorri. She did something once she wasn’t supposed to and got… she got in trouble with the Magisters, right? And they re-educated her somehow. I didn’t really see for myself but Dir told me it was like they just… erased who she was and started her over. Made her a new person.”

The druid’s eyebrows shot up in a mixed expression of surprise and horror, and it was a visible effort for him to keep his voice down. “They… Your people can do that? And you think this is wrong?! You’re talking about unmaking a person, destroying who they are, their very spirit. That’s…” Verdus paused for a moment, thinking through the implications, then slowly nodded. “That’s just like what she did to Libby. Do you think this is what we should propose? Because we’re not the ones who get to make that choice. He is.”

“I didn’t say it was a good thing. It just might be the only thing,” she said. “If she dies, Fenn will be hurt. If she lives, Fenn will have to see her like this. What if she gets better and decides to go after him? Fenn could be hurt, just like Libby was. And don’t you think that Kel and Dorri will be out for blood when they find out what happened? If they kill Cersei, Fenn will be hurt. I just can’t see a good way out of this, but if there is, it’s whatever will hurt Fenn the least. He never deserved any of this.” Ysani’s voice broke and she wept, covering her face to muffle the sound and keep it from her friend’s ears.

Verdus grimaced to see another of his friends hurt because of what he’d done. “You’re right. I don’t see any other way out of this either.” He paused, uncertain what else to say. “Do you… do you need a minute? Before we talk to him?”

Ysani could only nod.

They went to Fenniel together. Cersei slept in the cradle of vines that was meant to be her grave. Ysani sat next to her friend and gently put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, Fenn.”

Fenn stared at the ground, unwrapped another piece of candy and stuffed it in his mouth. “Hi.”

Ysani looked to Verdus in case, by some miracle, he knew the right words to say, then shook her head. “Your sister is pretty sick, Fenn.” She rubbed his back in a small circle, not sure what else to do. She hoped it was a soothing gesture that wouldn’t upset him further.

“I know,” he said. “I guess I thought maybe she didn’t really hate me. But she does.”

She swallowed hard around a sudden lump in her throat. “I… I don’t think she could hate you unless there was something wrong with her already, Fenn. You’re a good person. I think this was always Cersei’s problem, not yours.”

“She’s right though. I don’t know what to do.” He started to cry again. “I don’t know what to do about this. Or about anything.”

“Right about what, Fenn?”

“I am useless.” He wiped his nose on his sleeve.

“You are not!” Ysani bit off the anger in her voice. “You’ve accomplished so much and always tried your best, even when it scared you half to death. You’re one of the bravest people I know. Anyone who tries to make you feel small is just doing it to make themselves feel superior. Their opinions aren’t worth a…” Ysani looked at Verdus to finish the sentence.

“They’re not worth the dung crapped out by scavengers,” Verdus finished for her. “You’re a good man, Fenn. One of the few truly good people I know. You… you didn’t deserve this. Any of it.” He stopped at that, too ashamed to say anything more.

Since he showed no signs of pulling away, Ysani put her arm around the despondent elf and squeezed. “I want to help you and your sister. I know we can’t undo it, but I have an idea and I need to know what you think.” She paused a beat and cleared her throat. “Do you want your sister back? Not like this… or the way she was. A new Cersei.”

“I don’t want her to die. I don’t know what to tell Aedoren. She can’t know about any of this.”

“We’ll worry about Aedo later, okay? Right now we have to focus on Cersei. I think we might be able to fix her, but I need to know if you’re willing to let… Fenn. It’s not easy to say this, but I think we should send her to the Magisters.”

“You mean…” He frowned. “Like Then’liath said they would do to me. For marrying Libby.”

Ysani winced. “There’s a big difference, Fenn. There was nothing wrong with you when you wanted to marry Libby. Cersei is… pretty far gone. I don’t know if she’ll ever be right again without it.”

Fenn started sniffling again. “Do you think she’s going to die?”

“Probably not, but she needs a lot of care. I don’t think she’ll ever be herself again. And if she does recover from this without the Magisters, you might wind up in serious danger.” She rummaged through her pocket with her free hand and dug up a little butterscotch disk wrapped in cellophane. “Here.”

“I shouldn’t eat so much candy,” he said as he unwrapped and ate it.

“Fenniel.” Ysani reached out and took both of his hands in hers. They were cold and clammy even though the air was still wretchedly steamy in the half-dark. “I can’t make this decision for you. We don’t have many options, and she needs to be moved before much longer.”

Fenn took a deep breath, and finally looked up into Ysani’s face. “Okay. We take her to the Magisters.”

She nodded and wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. “Okay. Don’t worry. We’ll do the best we can.” Over Fenn’s shoulder Ysani nodded to the druid. There were a lot of vines to untangle and she wanted to get everyone out of the swamp before night fell.

Freeing Cersei turned out to be simpler than they would have guessed. Although the prison had never been intended to be unravelled, the roots and vines still responded to the same magic that bound them in the first place. Once free, Verdus lifted her gently from the ground, taking care to support her head as if she were an infant. As Fenniel got into the sidecar of Ysani’s motorcycle, Verdus placed the catatonic warlock in his own. Neither of his companions had come out and said that Fenniel should ride with her, but Verdus could tell that neither wanted to be around him just then.

“Before we get going,” Verdus said over the pair of engines, “you’re going to need to think about what’s going to be done with me, Fenn.”

Fenniel looked blankly over at Verdus, eyes unfocused and uncertain.

“Whatever my intentions, you’re my friend and… I’ve hurt you. I didn’t want to, but that doesn’t change anything.” Verdus paused, eyes locked on the ground in front of him. “You don’t need to come up with an answer right now. We’ve got a long trip ahead of us to get your sister back to Silvermoon. Talk it over with Ysani. I’ll wait for you two at Grom’Gol Outpost, then we can take the zeppelin up north.” Not waiting for a response, Verdus flipped up the kickstand of his bike and began the drive west out of the swamp.

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