Quest

Twenty-Seven: The Train

“Am I really here?” Raizel muttered to the Diamond Raven.  It felt unlikely.  She had been trying for this for what seemed like months, even if it had only been days, and here they were, on the platform, buying two tickets for the train.  

That she had the Diamond Raven with her, that she was carrying a kitten, and that she was being followed by a rich woman who still hadn’t quite stopped muttering about her husband, the sword – none of that seemed unusual anymore.  That she still had to unthrone a Poison King, tell stories about a Jade Knave, and that she still owed several other quests to several other beings – she was beginning to think that this was her life, to go from place to place solving other people’s problems.

“If you are not here, then neither am I, and I am fairly – although not totally – certain that I am here, and so must you be, too.”

“Did you really just bargain me an entire stable of assistants?”

“Slaves.  Remember that they are slaves.  They have been slaves for some time.  They may be slaves for longer, depending on your wishes.  But it is entirely at your disposal what happens to them – and to me.  Remember that, Raizel ry’oya Ennizaba of Grey Mountain, Raizel who Searches, Raizel who Finds.”

“Neither of those are my name.” She shifted from foot to foot. She lifted her hand up towards the gold wrapped around the Raven’s throat and then dropped her hand again.

“Raizel who controls the Diamond Raven,” he murmured, so softly she wasn’t entirely sure she’d heard him right.  Then he was turning towards the ticket counter.  “Two tickets to the Capital, please.”

“I have money,” she protested, as he pulled out his purse.

“And I am called the Diamond Raven for a reason,” he countered.  She fell quiet as he counted out the coins for the tickets.  “Besides, I might have just acquired you a really large obligation.  And there’s the kitten.”

“Your logic is-”

“Impeccable?”

“A little bit strange, but I shouldn’t expect any different from you.”  She tensed.  The woman’s attendants – slaves – were coming back with five more in similar garb.  

“And here’s tickets for all of them.  They are yours.  Here’s the paperwork.”  The woman took papers from the attendant and pressed it into Raizel’s hands.  Raizel handed the papers to the Raven.   He looked them over and pocketed the papers.

“It’s all in order.”  He nodded.

Raizel found a nice tall post to lean against.  “Spectre, I ask of you a question.”

Between her and the matron, the spectre appeared, a black shadow with wavering outlines. Ask.

“This woman’s husband became a Blessed Sword to save his life.  How can he brought back to human-”

“-living-” the Raven filled in.

“Human, living form?”

For a moment, the spectre said nothing.  Then it seemed to shake, the whole waiting-platform quaking.  

Finally, she made out a chuckle in the midst of the shaking.

You are more clever than we thought, Raizel-who-opens.  This woman’s husband may be brought back, alive and in human form, should his blade form be plunged into the heart of another.  But here is the problem: The other must be willing to endure this pain, and must understand that this pain may mean death.

“What?”  The woman stared at the spectre and at Raizel.  “No, I can’t!  I can’t do that!  There has to be another way!”

The Blessed Swords are a way of cheating death.  To come back from such a blessing, one must invite death in.

The woman sputtered.  “So- so in order to have him, I have to – oh.”  she shook her head slowly.  “Oh, my.  All right.  You- oh, that’s right.”

She looked not so much broken as grieving.  “Is there anything else?” Raizel offered, although she had nothing else to give this woman.

The woman shook her head.  “No… no.  Take good care of them.  Some of them have never been free.  Some of them don’t know how to live on their own.”

“I’ll take good care of them”  Raizel studied the woman and could not tell if she was  about to plunge a sword through her chest or not.  “I am sorry there wasn’t an easier answer.”

“There isn’t an easy answer; I think that’s the nature of life.”  She barked out a humorless laugh.  “May the road be smooth and easy for you, Raizel who Knows, and may you find what you wish to find.”  She bowed shallowly.  “You have given me what I asked for.”

Raizel bowed back.  “Then our business is done.”  

The train whistle sounded.  It was time to board.   

“I’ll herd people, you get yourself on the train.”  The Raven moved her gently with a hand on her back.  “You’ve been going for a long time to get on this train.  You wouldn’t want to miss it.”

She thought for a moment he would take the chance to escape, but he followed her, steering the people she had so recently acquired.  “Do you think she’ll do it?” she asked the assistant who had been there for most of the conversation.

“She might,” the assistant answered slowly.  Something in the tone made Raizel look sharply.  

“If I freed you, right now, would you go back to her?”

‘Of course  She’s all alone in the world now.  She need someone to look after her.  She doesn’t know how to live on her own.”

“If I freed you, right now, would you go back to her?”

‘Of course  She’s all alone in the world now.  She need someone to look after her.  She doesn’t know how to live on her own.”

“Then go.”  What else was she going to say to that?  “I release you.  Be free and do as you will with her.”

Raizel turned her back, not sure what to do with the expression she saw on the assistant’s face. “Come on,” she said to the Raven, to her – to her new slaves.  “Let’s board the train.”

3 thoughts on “Twenty-Seven: The Train

  1. Curiouser and curiouser.

    • “If I freed you, right now, would you go back to her?”
    ‘Of course She’s all alone in the world now. She need someone to look after her. She doesn’t know how to live on her own.”
    > These two paragraphs are repeated.
    -> “Of course. She’s
    > (double-quote & period)
    -> She needs

    -> She doesn’t know how to live on her own.”
    > As the woman said of the slaves: “Some of them don’t know how to live on their own.” A good balance.

  2. Well, at least a few things are getting tied up. I have a feeling Raziel is right though; she won’t be going back to “normal” life after this. I look forward to the next chapter! 🙂

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