Chapter Seventeen - The Better Things

After a couple of glasses of wine, Alanna was in a strangely happy mood considering the previous encounter she'd had. Who knew Terrin kept alcohol in his cabinet? The boys probably sneaked drinks without me. She knocked a thimble of wine off the desk and watched in rapture as it shattered on the floor. She giggled and poured herself another drink with shaking hands.

Holding it to her lips, she tipped the glass and drink sloshed over her closed mouth, dribbling down her dress. She giggled again, almost choking on the drink. Coughing and still laughing, she pushed herself up to a standing position. A shadowy form was coming closer from outside the door. Probably just Terrin. Or maybe the Duke. She giggled harder.

"Terrin? Lady Alanna?"

Was that Terrin's voice? No, it sounded a bit like the Conté Duke. "You're Grace," she hiccupped and returned to giggling, collapsing on the floor.

The man approached her, hesitant. "Lady Alanna?" He glanced over to the desk and winced. "I guess she found the hidden stash in Terrin's room. He sighed, why did he have to be the one who found this? Wasn't it enough just being the Prince?

"I'm going poison the Prince's wine, like you said," the violet-eyed woman spoke up suddenly. Amazingly, her speech was only a bit slurred even after all those drinks.

The said Prince blanched. What? She said something about a Grace earlier--a duke? At the end, Jonathan settled on the thought that she was too drunk to know what she was saying. Nervously and slowly, he approached her. "I'm going to take you to Terrin, is that alright with you?"

As expected, he didn't get an answer. Sighing, he tucked one arm under her knees and the other to support her head, lifting her up with a few jerky motions. He just hopped that she wouldn't remember this. From what he had learned, she wasn't the type who liked to be carried around, drunk or not.

For now, though, Alanna only shifted in his arms to a more comfortable position, her head resting nonchalantly on his chest. "Terrin," she mumbled. "There's something I want you to know." Jonathan's eye's widened. Now she thought he was her betrothed, and was going to confide in him. "I am the real Alanna of Trebond, and Thom really was my brother. I was supposed to come to the palace, but..." Jonathan stopped just outside the doorway. He looked down at the bundle in him arms, frowning.

He waited for her to go on, but it seemed that she had already fallen asleep. Just what did she mean she was the real Alanna of Trebond? Wasn't that who she was already? And what did she mean by 'I was supposed to come the palace?' If they weren't already, the pieces of the puzzle were getting more and more confusing. He almost wished for the more quieter days of his squiredom.

With quickened steps, he found himself in his own wing of residence, also were Gary resided. Where is Terrin supposed to be, anyway? Deciding that it wouldn't be good if he dropped the fiancé of his friend on his own bed, he headed for Gary's room.

A small kick on the door alerted his cousin of his arrival. The taller man's eye's popped at the sight of him. "What are you doing with--You don't mean..."

He glared at the chestnut haired knight. "Get your mind out of the gutter. She got drunk."

"You got her drunk, too?" His eyes widened even further.

Jonathan continued to glare.

Gary lifted his shoulders. "Well, how else is she supposed to get drunk? She's a noble lady, and even if she found that stash of drink we gave to Terrin for safekeeping, she wouldn't have drunk that. --Oh. She did? I knew it wasn't a good idea to keep it there. Why didn't you listen to me?"

The prince placed her gently on the bed and turned around. "If I remember correctly, it was your idea to steal it from the cellars and put it there."

Duke Gareth's son feigned ignorance, suddenly intrigued by a spot on the ceiling. Jonathan sighed and shook his head. "Why don't you find Terrin and tell him about this?"

The other man looked surprised. "And leave her alone with you?"

His mouth turned down. "What?" he questioned the look his friend had given him.

"You know how wrong that would look and sound, Jon? You're the heir to the throne and she's already betrothed," he stated matter-of-factly.

Jon rolled his eyes. "I swear, your mind is thinking nasty things every time someone speaks."

"Hey, I don't do that usually. It's just that one's cousin showing up with an uncurious woman in his arms isn't a usual occurrence. Especially if..." He stopped, catching sight of Jon's hand making a slitting motion at this neck. "On second thought, why don't you get Terrin and I stay here? I came and read some papers, yeah, um read."

"Read?" He raised his eyebrows.

"Maybe not read, but I'll just sit here and watch the plants grow, you know." Gary pointed out the window. "Might be a tad more, uh, more interesting."

"Okay...I'll get Terrin and you stay here since you seem to portray me as, well, you." Jonathan quickly left the room.

It took Gary some time to register the remark. He rushed to the doorway. "What do you mean me? I'm now categorized as a type of pervert! Who do you think you are? Come back here now and explain how I'm supposed to be--"

"Shut up, Thom."

"What?" He turned to face the roused woman on his bed. She grabbed a pillow and threw it at him, covering the remaining one over her head. He ducked it easily.

"Can't you see I have a headache?" She groaned and turned over, digging deeper into the bed. "Go fall in a ditch something until I feel better..." She yawned and returned to sleep.

The chestnut-haired knight scratched his head. "...Thom?"

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The ray of light pulled at the corner of her vision. Blurred images passed through her mind and returned forgotten. She opened her eyes and sat up. Jonathan was backed against the wall and Terrin leaned silently in the doorway. She smiled and ran her fingers through the mess that was her hair. "Been waiting long?"

The two looked up at her. "I heard someone raided my stash of wine."

She batted her eyes innocently. "Why would someone want to do that? It's not like the wine was any good."

"And you'd be one to judge?"

She stretched, messaging her shoulders. "Are you sure Gary doesn't mind me using his room like this?"

Jonathan gave a small grin. "Oh, but he does. But he couldn't refuse."

"Of course." She pushed herself off the bed. "Where are my shoes?" He shrugged. Alanna rolled her eyes in annoyance. "Some of these days, I'm going to be reduced to the point of killing someone."

Terrin moved from his space on the door closer to her. "You shouldn't speak of killing so easily, my dear." She turned her eye to him wearily. She knew the word that was hanging on the tip of his tongue. "There are some things better to be left alone."

She sighed and sat back down. "Is that supposed to be some meaningful hint about my personality?"

"No, just your actions."

Jonathan frowned, looking to from the couple. "I'm not sure I understand."

Terrin continued as if he hadn't heard. "Alanna." He stressed the name and repeated, "There are some things better to be left alone. I need to be going soon; whether to leave or not is up to you." Alanna stared at him openly. He nodded. "Jon, I think you'd better go. We have some things to talk about."

He opened his mouth, as if to speak, but then thought better of it. He nodded and left, closing the door silently behind him.

"This isn't about me getting drunk, is it?"

"No, of course not. Let's just say I've had a falling out."

"Typical. But I'm not going. I have more than one price weighed on his head and I'm not leaving it alone until it's done." She turned away from him and studied her nails. "It's really not my fault."

He paused before walking over to the other side. She continued staring at her hands. He put a finger under her chin and forced her to look him in the eye. "It is, and you know it. You want revenge that you know is unreasonable. You want to blame someone for your brother's death and he's the best suspect. You don't want to turn back and admit that you wasted you—"

She tore herself away, fuming. "What do you know about all of this? What do you know about me? What is it you have on me anyway? I don't know how you get all your little pieces of information, or why you change your mind so fast. And your little sermons about killing—aren't you doing it to?"

"Maybe I was wrong. Have you ever thought that I might have a reason for taking on this job? Have you ever thought that I might not be a real killer?" He laughed quietly. "Go back to Carthak, Hunter. Leave Tortall and its Prince alone. I won't pry anymore; the truth is that you're just exhausting to be around."

Alanna narrowed her eyes. "And what's that suppose to mean?"

"Nothing," he replied. "Just...nothing. I'm leaving tomorrow, if you want to know."

So much for things starting to get better.

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I found this chapter like this when I was thinking about updating. I also found some chapter summaries (unfinished) that were leading up to the grand finale, but I hadn't penned down enough to write what the ending was and I don't remember. But I decided to post this because, well, I felt a bit guilty. So this is probably year-old work. And what I'm writing now is an explanation to why it's so…short. It's not really complete, you see. Someday, when I have more time, I'll re-read this story and see if I can pick up the plot again.

My apologies.