Categories > Books > Patricia McKillip

Fondest of Farewells

by white_aster 0 reviews

(Riddle-Master of Hed) Before setting out for Erlenstar Mountain, Morgon has to thank someone one more time.

Category: Patricia McKillip - Rating: G - Genres: Drama - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2005-05-08 - Updated: 2005-05-08 - 1178 words - Complete

Author's Note: After Morgon regains his memory and they drive off the shapeshifter, this is set in the small hours of the night before Morgon leaves Heureu's hall in "The Riddle-Master of Hed". It's meant as a sort of insert scene, to be placed before this quote. :)


"They left at dawn the next morning, so quietly only Heureu and the half-blind Ymris land-heir knew they had gone." Patricia A. McKillip, "The Riddle-Master of Hed"

He found Astrin, oddly enough, by following the rose-and-wisteria scent of Lady Anoth's perfume to a room not so far from Morgon's own. The healer herself was gone, but in her place were two spear-flanked guards on either side of the door. Evidently Heureu was taking no more chances with his land-heir.

Wariness darkened the guards' eyes at Morgon's approach, their spears crossing to bar his way. "We were told to ask you, lord, what was on the bowl you broke?"

Morgon chuckled. Not Heureu, then. He should have guessed. "Red figures in a purple mist."

"And what were the figures doing, lord?"

Morgon's lips quirked. "We were interrupted before we could decide."

The guards nodded, their spears uncrossing to let him pass. "Shall we call an escort to take you back to your rooms after, lord? You shouldn't be out alone in the halls."

Morgon shook his head, pulling Yrth's harp from where it hung over his back. He set his finger to the lowest string, and the guards exclaimed, one of them nearly dropping his weapon as that mere touch made the ashen shafts of their spears tremble. "I don't think that will be necessary. I aim to be a hard man to surprise from now on."

The bed was mussed, as if someone had been made to lie in it, but Astrin was no more asleep than Morgon. The low fire gave him away, picking out his form on the windowseat. Shadows swallowed his dark robe but played fire-tipped fingers over pale skin and hair, turning him golden.

"So," said Morgon quietly, "what DO you think those people on the bowl were doing?"

Astrin's chuckle was dry. "I couldn't tell, either. Hunting. Or some ritual, perhaps." His hand went to rub his temples. He grumbled in annoyance, the lines of his face tight when his hand brushed the bandages. "I thought I saw swords. I could have been wrong."

Morgon pulled a chair from the fire closer to the windowseat and sank down into warm velvet. "No, I think you might be right."

Astrin turned to him, a wry smile on his lips. He looked strange and lopsided, with one eye trapped behind white gauze and the other's white iris swallowed by pupil, dark as night.

Morgon groped for words. "Will you...?"

"Lose the eye? Yes."

"You don't sound too concerned."

Astrin shrugged. "There is an enemy threatening my people that can slip into our hall, live here for years, and nearly kill the land-ruler of Hed. Twice. I don't have time to be concerned about it. Besides, I still have one left."

"Point taken." Morgon's eyes strayed to Astrin's dilated pupil. "Did she give you something for the pain?"

"Yes. Old bat. Badgered me into it. I think she meant for it to make me sleep."

"You should."

"Tomorrow I'll sleep." Astrin's eye, strange as it looked, was still keen. "After you've headed off for Erlenstar Mountain."

Morgon's smile mirrored Astrin's, wry and spare. "What gave me away?"

Astrin snorted, nodding his chin at Yrth's harp snugged over Morgon's arm. "No man who's rejected his fate carries such a large part of it with him."

Morgon nodded, his hand gliding over the wood.

Astrin shifted on the cushions. "Do you play it? Other than to split the shields in the main hall, that is."

"Yes. I'm no master, but yes."

Astrin's eye closed. "Play something for me?"

Morgon did, his fingers dancing slow and thoughtful over the strings, floating from tune to half-remembered tune. Playing something from Hed would have been too painful, and that was suddenly all that he could remember all the way through. He let the harp wander, and neither of them seemed to mind.

When his fingers stilled, silence fell soft between them, comfortable and familiar. When Astrin spoke, his murmur barely rivalled the crackle of the fire. "I wish I could go with you. That this faceless enemy had chosen some other time to harass us, or that my brother could think in aught but straight lines. He called for the guards outside, but I had to tell them to question whoever entered." He shook his head, his face turning out the window again. "I would go with you."

"Your fate is here. With your land...." Morgon's throat constricted suddenly. He swallowed. "A pair we make. You wanting to get away from yours, and I willing to give nearly anything to go back to mine."

The fire slid over the curve of Astrin's smile. "Perhaps we could trade?"

"Fates?" Morgon laughed, and it was more than a little bitter. "I think that I might get the better of that deal."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Astrin's eye looked huge, a dark pool into which anything might fall. "Something has spoken for you. I doubt that it did so just to ruin you." Astrin's fingers found Morgon's wrist. They were cool from sitting by the chilled window. "And even if it did, don't let it."

Morgon wrapped his two warm hands around Astrin's cold one. "Thank you."

"You've already thanked me."

"So I'm thanking you again. You saved my life again. I'm entitled."

A shiver went through Astrin's body, making the fingers between Morgon's palms twitch. "Luck."


"For a man who was telling fate to soak its head in the Thul not too long ago, you seem very sure of it now."

"Well, there's no need to do this halfway, now is there?"

Astrin chuckled at Morgon's smile. "You were a much easier conversation partner before. At least then I could tell myself that I was winning and you couldn't argue."

Morgon's fingers squeezed his. "We could change the subject? I'll let you win a few, if it would make you feel better?"

Astrin snorted and didn't dignify that with a response. A few minutes later, he said, "You should sleep, also. You've a long journey ahead."

Morgon leaned his head back against the chair, velvet soft under his cheek. "After tonight? I doubt I'll sleep ever again."


"I will if you will."

"You drive a hard bargain."

"I've learned a thing or two, bartering beer and sheep."

Astrin sighed, his eye closing, his head resting back against cool stone. "Very well. On one condition."

"And what's that?"

"You come back. I'll make you paste together that bowl again."


Silence again, as the fire muttered to itself, dying in the grate.

Morgon's voice was soft, "I really am sorry about breaking the bowl."

"You came in here just to tell me that, didn't you?"


Astrin sighed, and Morgon smiled, and they slept.

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